July 11, 2015
This post is not a full review just an update on my memories of reading Asimov as a teenager and reading him now.
My faith in Isaac Asimov is restored. On rereading I did really enjoy the Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. They were written in the early 1950’s so they are dated, but it didn’t bother me quite as much as in some of the other novels. He has a few female characters who have meaningful roles in the plot. His writing style is a little stiff, but his ideas are very interesting.
Unfortunately, I was not as happy with the last two Foundation books that Asimov wrote in 1982 and 1986: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. He takes great pleasure in long drawn out explanations of various physical phenomenon and repeating the same arguments between his characters over and over. The plots in both books were drawn out, almost as if he was trying for word count. The books are longer than many of his earlier works. According to his forward, his fans and publisher really wanted him to write these two books and I think the publisher may have been hesitant to edit the books. John Campbell probably had a great deal to do with the way the original Foundation Trilogy turned out. These two books remind of the late Heinlein works that became a way for him to express his political viewpoint. Asimov’s political views were diametrically opposed to Heinlein’s libertarianism and favored a liberal society that placed the good of the whole over the individual.
My conclusion is that the original Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation is well worth the reread, the last two books not so much. I would also recommend some of the robot books and stories: The Rest of the Robots or The Complete Robot, The Caves of Steel, and The Naked Sun. The robot stories do get repetitive. I liked Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation which were written in 1988 and 1993.
Hope this might encourage someone to read or reread one of the greats of science fiction!
June 1, 2015
I recently finished The Best of Connie Willis. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16085458-the-best-of-connie-willis. What a great read! I really like Connie’s writing. She has a very straightforward and enjoyable style. She writes science fiction with a variety of topics and settings. Her stories deal with everything from post-apocalyptic life to alien visitations to spirits. Most of her books and stories have some humor which always comes with a point, often sneaking up on you at the very end. Her time travel stories are probably some of my favorites, she manages to let her characters travel through time without running into the usual paradoxes. Perhaps part of the reason that she appeals to me is because she is close to my age, so I identify with her. It is also fun that some of her stories happen in Colorado so I recognize the places.
I am having a very hard time choosing a favorite from these stories.” The Winds of Marble Arch” has a wonderful appreciation for life. “The Fire Watch” makes life during the Blitz in London for the normal person real.
I think the great thing about Connie’s writing is that she takes the everyday aspects of an average person’s life and puts a spin on them that makes them interesting and touching.
March 3, 2015
One of my goals when I retired was to read Asimov’s Foundation Series from the beginning – all the robot stories & novels through the Foundation books in the order that they happened not the publishing order. You can find a list on Wikipedia. It has been enlightening. I am up to Prelude to Foundation, although I have skipped The Currents of Space for the moment. So far most of his writing does not hold up very well. His style is stilted and so tied to what the world was like in the 50’s and 60’s that it is very difficult to read. He did not seem to be able to envision changes in culture. His infodumps interrupt the flow of the story while telling you much more than you really need to know. His characters are caricatures not people. His treatment of women for the most part is dismissive: they just don’t exist in his world except as possible love interests without personality. Susan Calvin may be the one exception, but even she does not feel like a real person. Many of the early robot stories have great ideas, but they tend to be repetitive.
As a teenager in the 60’s and into my young adulthood, I thought Asimov was a great writer. His ideas are still wonderful. His writing not so much. I guess you can’t go back again. I need to reread Bradbury and see how his stories hold up with the passing of time.
May 9, 2013
I recently finished reading Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Nation together. The contrast between the two is interesting. Little Fuzzy was written in 1962 by H. Beam Piper and nominated for the Best Novel Hugo in 1963 which it lost to Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Fuzzy Nation is a reboot of Little Fuzzy written by John Scalzi and released in 2011.
The two, LF and FN, are very different books. The original was only 118 pages and FN is nearly 3 times as long at 368 pages, so Scalzi’s story is much more complex. In LF, the characters are one-dimensional. Scalzi’s Holloway is a complex character with lots of layers and motivations. Piper tends to use the info dump method of exposition, while Scalzi is more subtle. Scalzi strained a little to get Little Fuzzy to have a skill he wanted him to have by the end of the book. I think Piper’s development of the Fuzzy language was more effective. Some of the differences may also be due to the difference in eras when written. I seem to remember that things were much more black and white in the 60’s. We are more aware of the shades of gray now.
I enjoyed both books very much, but FN was more engaging. LF toward the end was very predictable.
Piper and others wrote sequels to Little Fuzzy that I have not tracked down.
January 6, 2012
I just finished reading Embassytown. I read Miéville’s The City and The City when I was reading for the Hugo Awards last spring and really liked it. It had an interesting premise and was well carried out. Embassytown has some really interesting ideas: language that is not symbolic, faster than light travel, organic tech. Unfortunately, the book is a very difficult read. The story moves very slowly and gets really bogged down. I thought the characters were not very appealing. I couldn’t sympathise with Avice, the viewpoint character, who was very wooden. Great ideas deserve an enthralling story.
December 29, 2011
I originally intended to review the books that I have read in this blog. However, many of the books I have read recently have been by authors that I have met through Carrie. If I don’t love the books, I am having a hard time reviewing them when I have talked to the authors and know how much of themselves they have put into the books. I seem to be of the old school “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything”. Here are a couple that I can talk about at least a little.
The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross is the latest in the Laundry Files series. I have enjoyed all the Laundry Files books and stories. They are more accessible than some of the books that Stross writes since they have less computerese in them. This one again is well written. The story is not as light and humorous as the earlier ones. The plot is scarier and more edge of the seat. If you haven’t read any Laundry Files stories, I would start with some of the earlier ones.
The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale. The stories in this anthology are uniformly dark and many are just weird. The editors include essays on the growth and development of Urban Fantasy which are interesting, although many current writers of Urban Fantasy may disagree with their conclusions. I did like some of the stories, but they were on the whole pretty depressing.
Carrie has a story in the anthology which is probably one of the darkest Kitty stories she has ever written, Kitty’s Zombie New Year. The editors also classified it as Paranormal Romance, which doesn’t seem quite right.
A Bird That Whistles by Emma Bull is a very sweet story and less depressing than most in the book. She writes about the 70’s and brings elves into our world.
The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman was an interesting story about life as a writer and the movies with just a touch of fantasy.
Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs is really creepy, but well written.
Have a Wonderful New Year!
September 19, 2011
I recently finished reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. I heard about the Dust Bowl from history classes, but this book gave a more in-depth and personal view of the reality. Mr Egan follows several families through the original development of the High Plains and the Dust Bowl days of 1930 – 1939. The problems that people had to face were terrifying. We hear about the people who left the area in the 1930’s, but others stayed and survived. Beyond the history, the book contains lessons about learning to live with the land and climate and the role of government in helping people survive a disaster. It won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2006. I highly recommend this book.