Saturday, February 02, 2008

So Here We Are

And I have done just zilch -- zip-squat, nada-zero[1] -- in the last week, in the last two weeks, other than fix stardrives and their support widgetry, eat, sleep, bathe and read.

At least I've read. The Book Is My Friend and has been at least since third grade when I discovered A) illustrated encyclopedias and B) Science Fiction. And I have been a no-good bum of a bookworm ever since. ("Put down that book, Bobbi, and go do something." Man, were they ever befuddled when "doing something" involved stringin' antenna wires above the back yard an' popping the occasional circuit breaker, or crawling through muddy, dusty caves or spidering up sheer mountain sides in Wyoming[2]. Hey, you read about this stuff enough, after you get a little bigger, you want to go do it, or as much of it as you can manage).

So what've I read?

- Going Postal, Terry Pratchett -- already mentioned. I need more Discworld books, a shortage I hope to rectify today[3].

- Engaging The Enemy, Elizabeth Moon -- The third of four books following starship captain Kylara Vatta, in a very well worked out setting. I've read the previous two and enjoyed them, this is equally as good. Not world-shattering SF in any sense of the term; it's a well-written, good adventure story that happens to take place in an imaginary future. It's hard SF with three-dimensional characters, something that was in short supply for a long time.

- Three Days To Never, Tim Powers -- Either you get Powers or you don't. I do. Previous books have featured such characters and notions as the ghost of Thomas Alava Edison, a child star who died of fright a very long time ago but stubbornly refuses to admit it, the ghost-trapping properties of palindromes and a loudspeaker that depends on the electrically-variable slipperiness of wet chalk to work. (The latter is an entirely real effect, by the way). This one's a realistic treatment certain aspects of time travel and includes Mossad operatives, a loving father (and one who's not), outright mysticism, emergency tracheotomy, remote viewing, nice ways to conceal guns and probablistically-created clones. It's also an edge-of-the-seat chase tale, with enough suspense for five movies -- and a few good shoot-outs. I don't know if this stuff is for everyone, Powers' imagination puts us in a very strange but familiar world, but I enjoyed it.

- Once A Hero and Rules Of Engagement, Elizabeth Moon -- The first two of four books following the career of Regular Space Service officer Esmay Suiza, a Horatio Hornblower-type heroine from a rather isolated and somewhat backward planet. Esmay's an engaging character; the society of her homeworld (think simplified version of South America, along about 1950) and the wider civilization (a bad-as-17th-Century-Britain late-feudal monarchy, more-or-less, in which the First Families of settled planets are well and truly entitled) I find both plausible and ethically repellent. Still, if you liked Hornblower, you'll like these books, and I do. I just wouldn't want to live there. The first book has rather more depth of characterization than most SF.

- The Mitzvah, Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith -- I like L. Neil and I like what Zelman's got to say. It is not all that strong on plot; the story is fairly straight-line and the (very good) points to be made that underpin it kind of poke through like the springs of a well-worn couch. Considering the vivid imagery and characters and that it is their first book togther, it's not bad, merely a little rough around the edges.

- Hope, Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith -- This book is a great deal better than their previous work in terms of the mechanics and how plot and message work together. One of the most readable and polished "If libbytarians ran the world" novels I have yet read. If El Neal had been elected President, he'd've sounded and acted a great deal like Alexander Hope. Although the Usual Villians get skewered and Our Guys are both noble and talented, there was some effort made to avoid caricature in portraying either side. Could it happen? I doubt it, and more's the pity. Read it anyway; if you don't have aspirations, you'll remain breathlessly hopeless and the authoritarians will win easily. Don't miss the cameo apperance of Lucille Gallegos Kropotkin!

Just started Micheal Z. Williamson's The Weapon, which is the first of his I've read. Ninety pages in, I'm hangin' on for dear life, as he moves more quickly than any writer I have read. Very reminiscent of Robert A. Heinlein and not by chance. I'm liking it so far.
1. If you don't know the NATO "phonetic" numbers that go, "nada-zero, una-one, bisso-two..." and so on, consider looking them up. The notion is that most folks can understand them if they speak one of the major languages (other than Mandarin, that is, the PRC not exactly being a NATO member). If you've got numbers in common, you have the tools to negotiate prices. And if you've got that, what more do you need? :)

2. Yellowstone's nifty but I'd just as soon spend my time in far less crowded Grand Teton National Park. Less boiling mud to look at but a lot more to do. Either way, if the Yellowstone caldera decides to blow, you probably won't have much time for screaming.

3. Despite having a tiny bit more stardrive work to accomplish as soon as I'm done here.


Tam said...

1) Don't get too carried away buying Discworld books... ;)

2) For your entertainment: Microcars!

Anonymous said...

If you like "The Weapon" make sure you also check out "Freehold." Its the first book set in that universe.

BobG said...

Powers has always been one of my favorites for years since The Anubis Gates.
An author that I really have missed due to his untimely death is H. Beam Piper.

Anonymous said...

Piper was a sad loss indeed. I sure wish I had known him. I wish I'd had the chance to know him.

Carteach said...

As I was walking in Barnes and Noble this evening, truing to decide if I really NEEDED another copy of Atlas Shrugged... I thought to myself....
Wish I could call Roberta.... she would steer me towards something good....

I bought a good blues CD.... too many books here waiting my eyes already.

Roberta X said...

I buy Atlas Shrugged any time I find it at used book stores and give it away. Hey, it can't hurt.

"Something good:" H. Beam Piper, Christopher Anvil, Elizabeth Moon, George O. Smith, Alan E. Nourse, Murray Leinster, Eric Frank Russell, L. Neil Smith, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Avram Davidson, R. A. Lafferty.... :)

Tam said...

I picked up a spare giveaway copy of The Probability Broach last time I was at McKay's. You don't find those very often...