gardrastic: (hermit)
[personal profile] gardrastic
Not necessarily in chronological order.

Look to Windward, Iain Banks. Yup, I definitely need to read more of the Culture novels. An element that I've seen mentioned quite a bit in miffed online reviews is the tendency to make the only sympathetic characters in the books either non-Culture, or the Minds (those being the "A"Is who are the real movers and shakers in the big C). The flesh-and-blood people tend to be spoiled arrested-adolescent assholes with various emotional problems. That's a feature of the two Culture books I've read thus far (the previous was Excession) that I actually enjoy for some reason.

The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers. Easy little time-travelling yarn, a little rushed-feeling in parts, and the usual sort of stranded-time-traveller twist revealed too early by approximately a third.

The System of the World, Neal Stephenson. Holy jebus--it actually managed to end instead of just stopping. Good move, dinosaur Neal! It certainly took awhile, but Waterhouse actually finally became an entertaining character as well; I still could have done with a bit more Jack (as I'm sure Jack himself would agree with), if nothing else, to make for a smoother transition between the resurrected-round-the-world swashbuckler of The Confusion to the rather more weary-but-unbowed figure here.

Vitals, Greg Bear. Sort of like the first half of Blood Music, with a what-if of disposing of the quantum mysticism, and the theory that the microbes were already smart and not particularly benevolent. (Sort of reflecting the ambulatory supercolony hosts they ride around the guts of, really.) It felt...unfinished, all in all, paced unevenly and with a few too many twists for its own good.

Dying of the Light, George R.R. Martin. A very nice little novel (possibly -la) precisely as long as it needed to be and no more. Moody, poignant, and oddly peaceful, with a non-ending cliffhanger that counterintuitively felt like the perfect place to end it. Very enjoyable. (Though I still hope he manages to finish that whole Ice and Fire thing before Grim comes for him, scythe whirling on his malevolent rogue pale zamboni.)

Stormy Weather, Basket Case, Sick Puppy, Skinny Dip, Carl Hiassen, he of the two-word titles. I really like Hiassen; he writes within his limits and very entertainingly so. The characters do tend to blur into one another. You've got the fellow more or less rudderless in life on a trust fund/lucky investments/savings-following-a-satisfying-take-this-job-and-shove-it episode, the plucky heroine who's been fucked over in a string of rather stupid relationship choices who will happily end up with aforementioned Rudderless Everyman, the idiot criminal who gets his just comeuppance alone and naked in nature, etc. Plus the Captain, of course, who at least has the decency to keep the same name throughout the books he pops up in.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami. Surreal is a thing that's easy to lose control of--losing control of is when the use of it irritates me. I dug both of these because they did surreal without irritating me; I'm not sure if it was an artifact of the translation (but would weigh against it, as there was a different translator on each novel) or the author (see previous parenthetical on my wager, though), but it was surreal tone carried across in a perfectly that's-how-it-is delivery that just resonated really well with my own temperament. I enjoyed ...Chronicles a tad more than the former largely because of that; the whole thing had a great dream-bleeding-over-into-reality feel to it; also, there's a truly amazingly beautiful bit about the intense flash of noonday light at the bottom of a deep well by way of analogy to consciousness that's likely to coalesce into a future philosophicky entry at some future point from me.

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, Roger Williams. Transhumanist porn. Although the overt pornishness wasn't the disappointing bit of the quick read--I'm pretty sure that, yep, that's how a particular subset of people would behave in a reality where literally nothing could harm or threaten you without your express, explicit consent, and even then you could never truly die. Where it falls apart is at the end; first when the titular character goes through a Larry Mudd-style systems crash only a little more complex in origin than a variant of the Cretean Paradox, and second by surviving characters apparently forgetting who they've actually been in the entire preceding story (and no, "I'd like some tattoos again" does not a convincing refutation of that make).

Speaking of further entries down the road, I expect I'll have one on transhumanist bits, the Singularity and quack-quack-quack (hi [livejournal.com profile] spenceraloysius!), also at unspecified future point.

The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket. Well, now I have to read the whole series, don't I? My inner child is sad that he didn't get to read this when my inner child was actually my inner embryo, but what the hell, better late than never.

Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut. Self-indulgent and rather disappointing. A theme handled rather better in the justly-more-known Slaughterhouse Five. The entirety of the shape of just about anyone's life includes some rather horrible ugliness, but is still a wholeness. So it goes. But the Tralfamadorans still displayed it better. There was one goosebumplingly-good paragraph involving Kilgore Trout describing his job as a forward artillery spotter in WW2 as something like being responsible for turning the ground beneath the enemy's feet and the sky above his head to fire and the space in between into a storm of razor blades, for which he had absolutely no regrets; I'm mangling the phrasing. Unfortunately, it was a paragraph largely lost in the midst of too many others. I'm thinking that I'm best off pretending I've only read Slaughterhouse and Cat's Cradle (and Player Piano to a lesser extent) and that he never wrote another, if this was indicative of his other output.

The Collected stories of Vernor Vinge, guess. All of his short story work--neat in seeing the evolution of his writing ability. The first couple, earliest, stories were really clunky things; around the middle of the book they really started humming, and all things smooth by the end. It also cemented the desire, moreso than the free-for-a-reason webnovel up yonder, to jot out a future post on Singularity quacking.
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February 2005

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