What I read in July 📚

Unholy Land, Lavie Tidhar. I loved the last book he wrote; I skimmed the second half of this one in about 30 minutes. Not my thing.

That’s it. Lousy month, almost exclusively eaten by a dumb web-app project.

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Things I read in May 📚

Non-fiction (tech):

Fiction:

  • Home and The Night Masquerade, Nnedi Okorafor. Books 2 and 3 of this series. I said of the first, “A little thin on plot but a refreshing character…” The plots got more interesting. I liked ‘em.
  • The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie. I liked this, too. I gather this is a continuation of a fantasy world she’s already built in short stories over the years; it was all new to me.
  • Revenger, Alastair Reynolds. I didn’t finish this until June but I was still on vacation so it counts in May. A little different than most of his stuff but pretty good. (I don’t love it when he leans into ultraviolence; happens in Revelation Space books here and there, too. I guess I’m just a squish.)
  • Permafrost, Alastair Reynolds. An unexpected time-travel thing from AR. Novella-length maybe? I read it on my Kindle while on vacation. My complete Goodreads review: “Good, but Connie Willis has mined this vein so deeply it’s hard not to compare.”

In May I said, “I got 10% of the way through an absolute doorstop of a fantasy novel.” I ran out of newer books while travelling, and plowed through another 20% or so of The Dragonbone Chair. Having put this much time into it, I’ll probably finish it, but it really is such a pastiche of better work that I won’t mind putting it off.

Things I read in April 📚

Non-fiction (tech):

  • Man-Computer Symbiosis, JCR Licklider, 1960. That link is to the text, @MIT. Not really a “book,” but I wanted to remember that I read it, so I put it in Goodreads. “The 15 [years until AI is sufficiently advanced] may be 10 or 500, but those years should be intellectually the most creative and exciting in the history of mankind.”

Fiction:

  • I, Partridge and Nomad, Alan Partridge, Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan. After going on a binge of all the Alan Partridge shows last year, I queued these up and they finally came around. Surprised at how well A.P.s mannerisms translate from show to text. Also now binging on the new show (I think we’re on the 3rd watch-through now, after acquiring the series 2 weeks ago.) These seemed longer than I expected; part of the reason I only read a few books this month. Well, that and the fact that I read another big Alastair Reynolds book.
  • Elysium Fire, Alastair Reynolds. I like this Prefect series a lot. The Glitter Band has so much more story-telling potential than the Rust Belt. (Open it up to other writers, maybe?) I was worried at first that the plot was going to be too-much an allegory for 2016 politics, but it snaked away from that stuff. For the record I don’t buy the deep premise of the voting machines and the Prefects, as “really” politically workable, but it’s a fun idea to chew on.
  • Binti, Nnedi Okorafor. A little thin on plot but a refreshing character, part of sci-fi’s general widening in the last decade or two. I have the next two queued up; I hope Binti keeps being interesting.

Last month I said, “now at the end of the month I’m stuck in another long sci-fi novel that I’m not even enjoying. I may give up on it.” And I did! It was a time-travel concept, and at one point the traveller got “dropped off” in the past. He found the digital macguffin and “sent it forward” to his own time, acknowledging that the transmission speed for that process was a matter of hours. Then a few pages later he’s having a real-time full-duplex conversation with his “handler” up there in the future where his document is headed. If you can have a live chat, you should be able to send your email in a flash. Claude Shannon and whatnot. C’mon.

Anyway at the end of April I got 10% of the way through an absolute doorstop of a fantasy novel. I like it well enough but it may be something I read in bits and pieces over the course of a year. Feels like a broad pastiche of Arthur & Merlin/Fairies/Chronicles of Prydain/D&D/etc. Comfort food of a sort.

So, coming up: more Binti, a Claude Shannon bio (speaking of), another Alastair Reynolds paperweight, maybe more of this fantasy stuff…

Things I read in March 📚

Non-fiction (memoir/bio):

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzeli. Someone said this was far superior to the Walter Isaacson one. They’re just different, not better/worse. This one is too apologetic for his King High Emperor Dickhead behavior. “He was my friend so those people are wrong.” Mokay. I love the fact that this is the top question (of 4) about this biography, on Goodreads:

Fiction:

  • Blindsight and The Freeze-Frame Revolution, Peter Watts. I no longer remember where I saw P.W. recommended, but these were just so-so for me. (The first was Hugo nominated, so obviously I’m wrong.) Good ideas but the writing was kinda try-hard. Fun to imagine Niven in his prime, doing the same idea.
  • Golden State, Ben Winters. This was okay, sort of a lightweight 1984 at first, but then a twist that you maybe saw coming. I liked his previous series better, but this was a good read.
  • The Black Cloud, Sir Fred Hoyle. Someone asked a question on Metafilter, “What did this person mean when they said science-fiction doesn’t have to be all aliens and sentient clouds? What works of sci-fi involve clouds?” and of course there was a immediately a Trekkie in the thread, but then someone mentioned this 1957 chestnut, which sounded interesting so I found a PDF of it.The plot wasn’t super amazing but I like Hoyle’s style. Hemingway-esque short, declarative sentences. No one does this anymore.

That’s it. I got stuck in the Jobs one for much of the month, and now at the end of the month I’m stuck in another long sci-fi novel that I’m not even enjoying. I may give up on it.

Things I read in February 📚

Non-fiction (essays):

Non-fiction (memoir/bio):

  • Easily Distracted, Steve Coogan. If you like his work, worth reading. Comes off a little defensive, seems like. More thin-skinned than he wants to admit. His acting plus the “new” writers still have a tiger by the tail though.

Fiction:

  • Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon. Holy shit I finished another Pynchon novel. The older he gets the easier they are to read? This was really just a CSI:LA’68 episode though. Funny, for anyone old enough to catch all the references (I think I missed a bunch).
  • Exit Strategy, Martha Wells. The fourth and last (?) of the Murderbot series. I said last month, I really love the voice in this series. I figured out why; it reminds me of a supergenius I know. (I can’t say more!)

Things I Read in January ’19

Non-fiction (tech):

  • I liked B. McCulloch’s How the Internet Happened as a pretty breezy history of the 90s and 00s.
  • I finally finished The Friendly Orange Glow, a history of an internetworked, federally-funded computer system that happened from the 60s to the 80s. “You mean ARPAnet?” Nope. A whole other thing that ended up losing. Glad I read it but it was sort of exhausting to get through.

Non-fiction (memoir/bio):

  • How Not To Be A Boy, Robert Webb. Autobiography of half of the Mitchell & Webb comedy team. I didn’t expect a lot of humor here and it gets pretty heavy. Strong message about husbands and fathers and sons and toxic masculinity, though a bit disjointed. Recommended whether you like Mitchell & Webb or not.

Fiction:

  • Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson. A little bit like Stross’s Laundry Files, but in the Middle East, so that’s fun. Felt a lot like a Cory Doctorow book, though, which is not as fun (to me).
  • Artemis, Andy Weir. Okay. He really caught lightning in a bottle with The Martian, and it’s hard to recreate that.
  • Thin Air, Richard Morgan. Glad to see RM back in the sci-fi genre. This is not quite up there with his earlier sci-fi, which I really really liked, but entertaining for sure.
  • Rogue Protocol, Martha Wells. I love the voice of this series. Fourth one is waiting for me at the library now.
  • “A Dead Djinn in Cairo,” P. Djèlí Clark. This was a short story on Tor’s website that was great.
  • Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett. RJB might be my favorite world-builder lately. Book 1 of a new series, now that The Divine Cities has concluded (?).
  • “White Nights,” F. Dostoyevsky. I figured I should balance all the genre fiction with something else, and I stumbled across an ePub of this so I gave it a try. Eh.
  • This Book Will Save Your Life, A.M. Homes. I would’ve liked this when I was 25, just like I liked Bret Easton Ellis at the time. Is L.A. really like this?
  • Things You Should Know, A.M. Homes. I like collections of short stories so I grabbed this along with the novel. It’s been 3 weeks since I finished it and I have literally no memory of any of the stories. I gave it 2/5 on Goodreads…
  • Culdesac, Robert Repino. A brief novella I read on the treadmill. Anthropomorphic animals; imagine a gritty, humorless version of Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series. This was marked “1.5” in a series, so I’ve added Book 1 to my to-read.

This post originally appeared at https://www.rich-text.net/posts/2019/02/01/81718/.