Locus magazine has released its 2004 recommended reading list. I find their reviews a little hit-or miss (sometimes I can't really make out what in hell they're talking about), but it's usually worth taking a look at what they think is good.
The really striking thing about this is what a small fraction of the list I've read: out of 79 books in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, YA, and First Novel categories, I've read 12 (almost 13). This is partly due to the fact that I just haven't seen some of these books (they list a number of UK releases that aren't out yet in the US), but it's remarkable how many of them I'm just not interested in reading.
The Fantasy category is the one with the highest read fraction (6/21), as I've read the Irvine, Kay, Pratchett, Stewart, and Wolfe entries (Gene Wolfe's The Kinght is listed along with The Wizard, for some reason-- I thought it came out in '03). Of the rest, well, I have Charlie Stross's The Family Trade sitting on the dining room table, and I'll take a look at the Lucius Shepard if I see it, and that's about it. The Steven King books are the tail end of a huge series, and I'm waiting for Kate to finish them and tell me if it's worth starting. I gave up on Perdido Street Station, so I'm not interested in the Mieville, I'm not enthusiastic about another horse-choking Tad Williams book, and nothing else really leaps out as something I want to read.
The Science Fiction list is even worse: I've read two of the 28 books on the list (Newton's Wake and The Confusion, though I'm nearing the end of The System of the World). Now, granted, this is the list that seems most affected by the UK-only problem, with books by Iain M. Banks and Ian McDonald that sound interesting if they ever come out in a place where I can get them. I may check out the Jon Courtenay Grimwood book, as well, if I ever see it. It's also got a fair number of books that I just haven't gotten to-- I have Cloud Atlas and Forty Signs of Rain sitting on a shelf next to me, and I'll definitely read Iron Sunrise. But my interest pretty much ends there. Baxter, DiFillippo, Haldeman, Heinlein, McAuley and Rucker don't interest me (based on previous experience), Sterling doesn't really write novels, and a bunch of the others are really series books, and I'm not interested in the amount of catch-up required.
All in all, my reaction to the lists is pretty much "Enh." I'm not sure if it was really an "Enh" sort of year-- I don't recall it that way, but then a lot of my SF reading in 2004 was from 2003-- or if there's just a major taste mismatch between me and the Locus review staff. Either way, I'm just not wildly enthusiastic about this slate of books.
Posted at 8:55 AM | link |
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A Whack of Westlake
Lost in the shuffle of the big hiatus last year was a big stack of Westlake books. I've been meaning to comment on them for quite a while, and just not getting around to it, but I need to get these off the stack before a full year elapses.
Taking them in the order in which they were written, The Hunter comes first. This is a Parker book, published under the name "Richard Stark," and has been made into at least two movies. It's a much nastier book than The Man With the Getaway Face, though there's still some black humor to the way things play out.
Next in publication order would be The Outfit, which I read over Thanksgiving. It's the book in which Parker finally settles his beef with the eponymous crime syndicate. The centerpiece of the book is a series of lovingly described capers in which friends and associates of Parker's take down a series of Outfit operations. There's also a great speech near the end where an Outfit accountant explains to his doomed boss that they've become too civilized. It's still not Kate's sort of book, but it's nowhere near as dark as The Hunter, and the various capers are fun to read about.
The stories in Thieves' Dozen are scattered over a long period, covering a big chunk of John Dortmunder's career. They're pretty good, but don't have quite the kick of the novels. I think it's because the short-story format doesn't really allow enough room for the increasing levels of wackiness that are the trademark of the best Dortmunder books-- you get one quick caper, and that's it. Without the context of the novels, I'm not sure how well these would work.
Finally, there's The Road to Ruin a new Dortmunder novel in which John and the usual gang set out to steal a bunch of classic cars from a bankrupt tycoon. I was happy when I heard there was a new Dortmunder novel out-- it's been a while-- but this was ultimately a disappointment. There are some good scenes, and the image of John Dortmunder is a great idea, but it never really comes together. The gang is weirdly passive, and only barely involved in the plot. This is really for completists only-- if you haven't read any Dortmunder books before, go read The Hot Rock instead.
I almost think I'm forgetting a book here, but that's as many as I can recall, and Kate's glaring at me in a "get your ass in gear" sort of way, so it'l have to do.
(Chad very foolishly let me read this before he hit publish, so I would like to say that I was not actually glaring at him, just waiting for him to stop typing so I could ask a question.)
Posted at 10:12 AM | link |
Steven Gould's Reflex is a sequel to Jumper, and was reportedly supposed to be called Jumper(s). If that's true, somebody at Tor is owed free drinks for heading off that abomination of a title.
The parenthetical plural isn't a terribly inaccurate indication of what the book is about, though. Davy Rice, the teleporting hero of the first book, has settled into life as a sometime operative for the NSA, doing covert jobs that meet his ethical standards, and otherwise remaining hidden. Early in the book, though, he is snatched by mysterious people, who hold him captive, and attempt to brainwash him. In a development that will shock approximately nobody (certainly not anyone who has read the jacket copy), his wife, Millie, discovers that she, too can teleport, and sets about trying to find Davy.
Jumper was very much a book in the juvenile-SF tradition: a young protagonist discovers special abilities, and sets out to use them to better his lot in life. Reflex, on the other hand, is more or less a thriller plot, with two parallel threads: Davy has been kidnapped by mysterious forces, who are torturing him in an attempt to break his will, and needs to find a way to resist; meanwhile, Millie needs to learn to use her new abilities quickly, and find a way to rescue Davy. Both of them are trying to figure out who is responsible for Davy's kidnapping, and what's going on.
It's not a criticism to say that Davy's plot line makes for some pretty uncomfortable reading. The torture/conditioning scheme that his captors are using is fairly disturbing, and it's effectively described in a fair bit of detail. It's not really a feel-good story, and it's disturbingly well thought-out.
Millie's plot is more fun to read, as she jumps all around the country, and throws herself into the amateur spy game in an effort to find Davy. It's the closest thing here to the feel of the original, too, as she works out the details of how to teleport, and tracks down the people who stole her husband.
The final act isn't entirely successful, as the nature of the sinister conspiracy begins to unfold. It's not disastrously bad, or anything, but it seems designed more to provide creepy atmosphere than to make any real sense.
As a sequel to Jumper, it's mostly a success. The characters remain true to themselves, and the story takes them in some new directions. Some of this stuff is pretty clever, as when Davy finds a way to use his teleporting ability as a weapon.
In tone, though, it's a much different sort of book. It's still a good read, and if he writes another one, I'll buy it, but don't pick this up expecting the exact same sort of thing you find in Jumper.
Posted at 6:16 PM | link |
The author said it was going to be _Jumper(s)_: Usenet post.
His comments about it being a post-9/11 world, combined with the plot of the first, made me really nervous about picking this up. I'm glad to hear (in offline conversation) that my fears weren't accurate.
So how similar to Unreal Tournament's "Telefrag" is Davy's new teleportation-as-weapon ability? 'Cause that's certainly what springs immediately to mind...
So how similar to Unreal Tournament's "Telefrag" is Davy's new teleportation-as-weapon ability?
I'm going to say "not very," though with the caveat that I suck at computer games, and thus have no idea what you're talking about. The way he uses his ability to destroy stuff is not the sort of thing that would lend itself to a video game treatment, though.
In Unreal Tournament there's a device called a Translocator. It fires a small disk into the air, and when the launcher is activated, you are teleported to the location of the disk. If there is someone currently occupying the space above the disk, the individual teleporting in gets "priority" for that space...causing the person that was standing there to explode quite messily in an event called a telefrag.
Really, for /me/, anyway, the first one was rather dominated by, well, the child abuse angle, so I suppose that rampant torture fits fairly well into that tradition.
kate, 01.23.2005, 12:35am | permalink