Good reads (and duds) in 2007 SF

Great reads: 

Charles Stross, Halting State.  Starts with a band of Orcs making a raid on a bank in an online game, nearly ends the world (well, the parts that Charles Stross lives next to, anyway).  Well drawn characters, decent plot that had me guessing, lots of in-jokes and references to online games, some decent ideas on what gaming might look like ten or fifteen years hence.

Bruce Sterling, Ascendencies.  I generally can’t stand Sterling’s novels, but his short stories are not to be missed.  Bicycle Repairman is one of my favorites, included in this comphrensive collection.

K J Parker, The Engineer Trilogy (Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil, The Escapement).  Parker is a pseudonym, rumored to be Tom Holt (and the work certainly reads like the earlier and more serious Holt, as in The Walled Garden).  The series starts with a mid-level engineer doing something Really Bad (and also somewhat silly) that gets him condemned to die, whereupon he escapes, and hilarity (and tons of medieval style bloodshed and political maneuvering) ensues.  Parker/Whomever is definitely up on the available technology where the crossbow is state-of-the-art, and makes it clear that the people living in that era were (mostly) not dummies.

Gene Wolfe, Pirate Freedom.  I like every second Gene Wolfe book (which held true for his recent two-book series, so that I liked The Knight, but hated the second book, The Wizard).  When Wolfe is not being oblique and basically hiding stuff from his readers (his favorite trick is to embed important details in actions merely implied by the idle conversation of his characters) he is a fantatic writer, and Pirate Freedom is a great example of what he can do with situations, characters and logic.

M John Harrison, Light.  This was published the year before, but I finally got around to it, and wish that I’d read it earlier.  Light is a terrific space opera with well drawn characters and a twisty plot.  (The sequel, Nova Swing, starts out promising but then turns French [1]).

Disappointments:

Charles Stross, The Merchant’s War.  I’m afraid that I’ll have to re-read the previous three books in order to make sense of the fourth book in his Merchant Princes series, and I’m nearly at the point of not caring.  I got to this point in Zelazny’s Amber series around book 6, but they were a lot shorter.  I hate having to take notes.

Kage Baker, any “Company” novel past The Graveyard Game.  Just don’t bother.  Really.  (Though Graveyard has some very, very funny moments: Stop there so you won’t be disappointed).

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[1] French: In the 1970s there were a number of SF books written by French authors in which nothing happens.  There would be characters going about their day, encountering minor annoyances, hearing the latest about the war against the Wgxxlt, maybe tripping over a time machine in the driveway, but the stories were ultimately pointless and empty of resolution, in any sense of the word.  My dim memory: Barry Malzberg wrote a column in which he ranted about this style . . . or possibly it was someone else, ranting about Malzberg using the style to rip off his readers.  [Update: It was someone else, ranting about Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo, which was indeed unreadably boring and pointless as hell . . . Harlan Ellison liked it, q.e.d. 🙂 ]

 

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0 Responses to Good reads (and duds) in 2007 SF

  1. Raoul Duke says:

    maybe some day i’ll stumble across the Ellison foreward i once read where he ranted about how the world was politically going to to shit (i think it was wrt i have no mouth) and that we’ve all done it to ourselves. from what i recall of it, it really made sense and resonated with my world view.

    great.

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