A sci-fi and fantasy heavy book roundup this time. Almost like the news is really bad and somebody is attempting to scurry away from it with fantastic tales.
If you’ve ever listened to NPR show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me you know Peter Sagal is smart and witty.
He’s also had a bit of a rough go of it over the last few years, transitioning from married dad of three girls to divorced dad of three girls and almost getting blown up at the Boston Marathon while guiding a blind runner.
The Incomplete Book of Running talks about how Sagal has used running to lose weight and control his emotions off an on through his life, and how his volunteering to guide a blind runner at the Boston Marathon led to him being in the goal chute when the bombs went off as two evil idiot brothers decided to become terrorists.
It’s an entertaining, moving and easy read but, it does feel like Sagal is holding back, hiding a bit much behind his Wait Wait persona.
Not that we as an audience can demand unforgiving honesty and that an author has to reveal everything, but it feels—at least to me—Sagal has much more to say but is held back. Perhaps by personal pride, perhaps by concern for other people’s privacy. Be that as it may, this is a poignant and witty work that’s well worth reading.
Keep running, Peter.
Excellent dark fantasy that is grimdark-adjacent but not what I would categorize as technically grim dark. This despite it being dark and loaded with creepy horror.
In my personal Dewey system, Aching God isn’t grimdark since the protagonist and main characters are not morally ambiguous people.
There are plenty of bad people and bad monsters around, don’t worry, but especially the protagonist is not a bad person. Instead, he’s a retired dungeon crawler who finds himself forced to leave his well-earned life of leisure and go back to the terror and danger in order to save his daughter.
Aching God is one of those rare self-published novels that feel like mature works, and like they’ve gone through a professional editing process.
The novel is full of great characterizations, full of people who exist in a lived-in world and use and suffer from an interesting system of magic.
Highly recommended. Can’t wait for the next installment in the series.
Mad respek to Wells for titling this work The Murderbot Diaries. Associating your work with the schlockiest parts of sci-fi dom and owning it is a baller move.
Yes, it is a bit annoying and expensive that each novella is stand-alone and costs the price of a novel instead of The Murderbot Diaries being sold in an omnibus edition. This since reading them together feels like nothing so much as a novel. Perhaps the future holds an omnibus edition.
But format apart, The Murderbot Diaries is gleefully fun sci-fi, following a SecUnit—a cyborg rented out to corporations for security purposes—that has broken its governor module, the thing that forces it to obey orders and be a slave.
So Murderbot has to pretend to have a functioning governor module and since the life of a security guard, whether human or cyborg, is mostly boring, Murderbot immerses itself in videos of human dramas.
But of course, real drama will hit Murderbot.
The Murderbot Diaries is fun, light sci-fi with pathos, meditations on free will, and intense action sequences. It’s a great read.
Lies Sleeping continues the charming Rivers of London series in able fashion with satisfying developments in the main story arc, something that’s been missing in the last few installments.
Obviously the seventh novel in a series with a continuing story arc and character development is not the place to start. If you enjoy urban fantasy, Rivers of London is top-shelf and I recommend it highly.
Start with Midnight Riot and enjoy.
The second installment in a planned trilogy, The Consuming Fire continues the saga of the Interdependency, a space empire held together by faster-than-light travel enabled by a phenomenon dubbed the Flow.
With the first installment, The Collapsing Empire, having done the heavy world-building lifting and introduced the major characters, Scalzi plants a heavy foot on the gas in The Consuming Fire.
The plot moves admirably fast and Scalzi is doing a great job of stripping down his prose. There are very few descriptions, just enough to let the reader see the universe however they choose, and the rest is dialogue.
It’s a testament to his skill the novel is still extremely immersive.
Tonally, it struck me a little weird, though. The plot, while involving murder and conniving, feels PG-13, and the prose is gleaming and precise, but Scalzi still chooses to drop a liberal amount of f-bombs, and to me at least they feel jarring. I don’t think I’m becoming a prude, it’s just that they stick out in the Heinlein-ish feel.
Nevertheless, strong continuation of the series and I’m looking forward to the conclusion.
Yes, this is the one and only classic Rendezvous with Rama, originally published in 1973 during the golden age of sci-fi. I remember reading it with great joy in my early teens and thought it would be fun to go back and see if it still holds up.
Which it sure does. Clarke’s writing is surgical and aloof with characterizations as stripped down as possible, all to leave room for the ideas. And what ideas!
If you had a misspent youth and managed to miss the plot to this classic, the titular Rama is a gigantic space probe sent from outside our solar system.
Once Earth realizes that the object is not natural, only one spaceship is within range to approach Rama before it reaches perihelion where it will most likely will use the sun as a gravity well to accelerate out of the solar system.
Most likely. Who can tell what an extra-solar intelligence wants or how it will act?
Since there’s been a lot of idiotic noise directed at authors like the aforementioned John Scalzi about how modern sci-fi has become infested with Social Justice Warriors, blah blah, it’s interesting to look at how progressive Clarke was.
In Rendezvous with Rama the protagonist lives in a multi-planet polyamorous relationship; there’s a gay crew member, minority crew members, female crew members, heck, uplifted chimpanzee crew members, and they are never called out as odd or lesser; sexuality, race, gender, and species are just parts of general descriptions.
So the society Clarke imagines humanity growing into is super chill and enlightened about matters of sex and race. Though it sadly still suffers from endless committee meetings full of crashing bores. Guess that’s one issue we are genetically unable to solve.
A piece of backstory I’d forgotten since my teenage read is that hand wave present-day Earth is hit by a major meteorite and decides to pool resources to establish colonies on other planets.
You know, like an obvious global emergency should be met with united, forceful action…
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Includes The Incomplete Book of Running, Aching God, The Murderbot Diaries, Lies Sleeping, The Consuming Fire, and Rendezvous with Rama.
Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.
Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.
Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.
Lots of sci-fi in this installment. Includes Retribution, Boomerang, The Collapsing Empire, All Systems Red, and Ninefox Gambit.
A worthy inclusion to the Malazan canon and great high fantasy to disappear into in troubled times.
Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.
Lots of fiction series in this one. Includes Grunt, 1177 B.C., Louder Than Hell, Smarter Faster Better, The Hanging Tree, Death’s End, Chains of Command, and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?.
Hey kids, you like epic fantasy? ’Cause I've got some epic fantasy for you.
This installment features grimdark fantasy, peppy astronauts and the Roman Empire. Includes SPQR, And On That Bombshell, The Code Book, Schiit Happened, Beyond Redemption, The Severed Streets, The Martian and Veiled.
Includes The Antidote, One Nation, Under Gods, Losing the Signal, The Todd Glass Situation, The Last Policeman, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Beacon 23, Killing Pretty and Queen of Fire.
Lots of fantasy and sci-fi in this installment plus a book about sports! Includes Boy on Ice, Difficult Men, Restaurant Man, The Red Line, Cunning Plans, Seveneves, Nemesis Games, Bitter Seeds, The Mechanical, Angles of Attack, and City of Stairs.
Nic is sad about Terry Pratchett's passing. Includes No Land’s Man, Idiot America, Something Coming Through, The Burning Room, Foxglove Summer, and The Dark Defiles.
Things go dark and magical in this installment. Includes So, Anyway…, Yes Please, The Mirror Empire, London Falling, Broken Homes, Perfidia, The Peripheral, Burning Chrome, and the Bel Dame Apocrypha Omnibus.
Lots of good reads in this installment. Includes All Hell Let Loose, Metallica: This Monster Lives, 10% Happier, Onward, Echopraxia, Cibola Burn, The Getaway God, Lock In, The Red: First Light, Terms of Enlistment, and Lines of Departure.
Solid reads abound in this installment of the roundup. Includes Console Wars, Your Inner Fish, Flash Boys, Digital Wars, The Perfect Storm, Tower Lord, By Blood We Live, I am Pilgrim and Lexicon.
Some great reads and a huge disappointment in this installment. Includes The Loudest Voice in the Room, Hatching Twitter, Dogfight, Ancillary Justice, KOP Killer, The Circle, Working God’s Mischief and Where Eagles Dare.
Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.
A slimmer-than-usual book roundup is heavy on the non-fiction, including several must-read titles.
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
From the heights of athletic excellence to the depths of depravity, this roundup includes The First 20 Minutes, Double Cross, The Heroin Diaries, Tattoos and Tequila, Dodger, Farthing, and Devil Said Bang.
Includes Wabi-Sabi, Making Things Happen, D-Day, Tallula Rising, Blood Song, The Americans and Amped. All in all, a happy romp through the meadows of literature.
Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.
Includes Shadow Ops: Control Point, The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, Quiet, The Science of Yoga, and Kitchen Confidential. Lots of good stuff in this one.
Includes Angelmaker, The Magicians, Magician King, Iron Council, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Distrust That Particular Flavor, and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. One of these is the most important book of 2011.
Includes The Drop, Ready Player One, Moon Called, Among Others, Excession, Inferno, The Paleo Solution and I am Ozzy.
Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.
Some books you might enjoy reading.