LockstepLockstep by Karl Schroeder




Here is another interesting take on the old 'How can we have a space faring civilisation without Faster than Light travel?'. The author's solution is to make all the people populating those orphan planets he assumes there to be in the space between the sun and Proxima Centauri have a synchronised hibernation. They all go to sleep at the same time and sleep for 360 months for each one they're awake, while in the meantime their robots exploit and grow their resources and their ships take them while asleep on those journeys that take years in real time but only weeks to them. It's a good plot idea and although there are possible flaws it mostly works. The story, however, is a little weak and seems to be very much aimed at a teenage audience, complete with cute sentient pets and daring rescues. The characters also follow this trend and are a bit difficult to believe, in particular Toby's 'younger' (now much older) siblings. It is still a good read, however and I enjoyed it.

This was the set book for the Bibliogoth meeting for September 2017.



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A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When reading my first ever Sherlock Holmes story I wasn't expecting a Western, complete with horses, desert, Mormons and six-shooters, to jump out of the book and take over one third of the story. I felt it was a bit meandering and also that the only character that was credible and felt like a human being rather than a plot device in the book was Watson. The resolution of the drama is, alas, predictable once you know where it's going. Holmes comes across (at least to me) as a rather unpleasant, arrogant character but done in somewhat thick brushstrokes. I enjoyed the book to a fair extent but cannot say it was my favourite or that it entices me to read more Sherlock Holmes stories.



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Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


First, a couple of disclaimers: I am not a '80s or '90s computer game kid, I was never that very much into that. Second, I was never a Rush fan. So, the prospects were not good when Bibliogoth set this book for their June 2017 meeting. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Given the many relatively obscure references to things that I'm not that very interested in that I did get, I wonder how many I missed -the book is a geekfest. Some of the corporate behaviour and the willingness of people to surrender real life for a virtual world don't look like they have to wait for 2144 to become real. The story works, the characters are often drawn with thick brushstrokes but again, they mostly work. I enjoyed it.



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Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another apocalyptic story told in two different time frames? This one works, though, at least for me. I could relate to these post-apocalyptic musicians wandering from town to town.

Things I didn't like: at first the strands of the story, told in two different time frames, feel like one is given the story as a shuffled deck of cards that one has to put in order. This is a device that looked clever and innovative when Cortázar was using it in the '60s but today perhaps not so much.

Things I liked: There was a lot that I did like. The characters and the situation felt 'real'. It makes you think, inevitably, on the ways our civilisation is fragile -a pandemic as described in the book is perhaps not very likely (or is it), but so many things could.

I enjoyed this book which a friend described as 'a most Canadian apocalypse story'. Will be seeking other work by the author.



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flaviomatani: (Default)
( Apr. 9th, 2017 11:25 am)
Today I'll be attending the Bibliogoth meeting. There is an FB event for this, here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/664614903749416/

We'll be discussing Kate Morton's 'The Secret Keeper'. My review of this book (as much as it is a review) on Goodreads is here:

The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I often find it difficult to 'get going' with a book and often find the beginning quite hard going, while I get into the universe of the book and get to know the characters. This didn't happen in this one, I liked it immediately. It did get rather heavy going in the middle -perhaps too much detail about the quest of the modern day protagonist about the incident she witnessed as a child and the life of her mother as a young woman in the London of the Blitz. As it approaches the end it does pick up pace and it did grab me in such a way that I read the last third of the book in one night and one day (I'm not a fast reader). The twist at the end was, for once, truly unexpected, at least for me, although looking back the author had left enough clues. I really liked it.



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Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon's Children #1)Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Loved this book, a science fiction novel with a slightly unusual setting: a mid-term future in which Africa is one of the world powers and humanity conquers (and exploits commercially) a good chunk of the solar system. There are a few inconsistencies and loose ends but on the whole the story is solid, nd well told, the characters (at least the main personas) are believable. It does stretch at times your suspension of disbelief but this is something I often find in SF. The author admits that some of the 'science' he posits is made up but a lot of what this future brings is believable, apart from the political distribution of power, which looks mightily improbable from the point of view of this 2017 in which dark forces seem to get the upper hand in the world. I found it a very good, enjoyable story. And there are elephants, what more could you ask



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Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon's Children #1)Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Loved this book, a science fiction novel with a slightly unusual setting: a mid-term future in which Africa is one of the world powers and humanity conquers (and exploits commercially) a good chunk of the solar system. There are a few inconsistencies and loose ends but on the whole the story is solid, nd well told, the characters (at least the main personas) are believable. It does stretch at times your suspension of disbelief but this is something I often find in SF. The author admits that some of the 'science' he posits is made up but a lot of what this future brings is believable, apart from the political distribution of power, which looks mightily improbable from the point of view of this 2017 in which dark forces seem to get the upper hand in the world. I found it a very good, enjoyable story. And there are elephants, what more could you ask



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Snow CrashSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the second time I read this, this time for the February meeting of Bibliogoth. Had forgotten quite a bit about it; I've learnt since that it was to have been a graphic novel, which makes sense -some of the characters, the action and the settings are almost in primary colours, low res comic book style. It works though. The main characters I find engaging and credible (if some of the action scenes a little less so and the names I found slightly annoying at first -Hirohito Protagonist?), the depiction of the internet as a virtual world wasn't that off the mark -and this was written in 1992, before the internet as we know it today became widespread, still in the time of connecting to BBSs using dial-up modems. I may have enjoyed it more this time round. I still prefer Anathem but I suspect I'm quite alone in this.



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Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this. I don't think it was flawless, but I loved the story, its world and characters. The device of making the protagonists live in a time loop (or 'time slip' in the book) where they have to live (but not relive) the same day over and over is not new (yeah, Groundhog Day, etc) but I felt it was effective, even though there might be a few loose ends and maybe one continuity flaw -and the use of language (American & British English in the 1940's sometimes feels wrong and a few terms used are anachronisms, wouldn't have been in use at the time) grates a bit at times. But such a lovely story.

Loved the use of the old, black and white photographs. The author explains that the photos were actually at the origin of the story.

The only thing I'm finding ever so slightly annoying about this kind of story: Modern fantasy comes in threes. At the end of the book you're left on a 'fermata', a suspension point if not a cliffhanger, thenthey pimp the next instalment of the story and the film I didn't know had been made of the book. You know there's going to be a second book (they tell you and give you half of the first chapter) but from all the precedents, you also know there's going to be a third one... it's very worth a read, though; a lot of fun.

This book was the set reading for the Bibliogoth meeting for January 2017.



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Rainbow's EndRainbow's End by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Overall I liked this near-future story, although I did feel the characterisation was far from perfect and I had difficulty connecting to many of the characters, who often felt (to me) less like 'real' human beings and more like plot devices.

The story has a long build-up time, setting up the world and the characters in it, before things actually happen. In this sense it reminded me of some works by Neal Stephenson, although I didn't feel it was quite as successful as Stephenson in its world-building but the world itself, with its many layers of augmented reality, feels like only a small exaggeration of current trends. One of the ways I feel this is the case is the 'belief circles', where people choose what they will believe in and their virtual world will reinforce this view and discard all others, regardless of any evidence on the contrary in the 'real' world. Now, why does this ring some sort of familiar bell in this post-fact world...



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That was rather a good week-end, although I had too many things invited to and that I actually wanted to go on Saturday.

Thursdays was the [livejournal.com profile] londongothsluts meeting at some hipster pub in Shoreditch/Hoxton. I wasn't enormously impressed with the pub but the company was good.. except that at some point the being the one single person in the company of two couples got to me a little bit.

Friday... oh, good grief, what did I do on Friday? I can't remember. Probably nothing, as the week-end was going to be busy. Saturday morning: one of my lessons was with adult pupil who'd just done a Grade 8 and was convinced he'd failed. His results and certificate arrived that morning and far from failing he achieved a very good pass. I chose two of the events I wanted to go to mostly on grounds of accessibility as all people involved in all three parties are lovely people I like. Went to [livejournal.com profile] seph_hazard's birthday picnic in Southward Park, then to Bennie Hero and Zane's sort of farewell picnic (they're setting out this week for the TransSiberian Express destination Ulan Batur! As you do..) in Walthamstow/Leytonstone, which was a lot of fun.

Sunday brought about the combined [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth/Gothic Valley Women's Institute picnic in Kenwood House, which was a blast. There'll be pictures.

Today... well, today was a Monday.
This was the book set for this month's meeting of [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I liked the book quite a bit. Was initially confused about several aspects of the narration -which I think was intentional: the vague situation regarding the nature of the first person narrator (which does eventually become clear) and the gender of the various characters, which is never quite defined -you do get used to this. I had more difficulty with the characterisation -I seldom felt these were believably real, living people, only in most cases just devices to move the story forward.

The world in which the story is set feels a lot like Iain Banks' The Culture gone very, very wrong.



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Just finished reading, maybe for the third time in my life, 'Foundation' by Isaac Asimov. , which is the set reading for the next meeting of Bibliogoth How times change (even though admittedly they need to change a lot more). Apart from the rather quaint galaxy the story takes place in, where everything is 'atomic' (but of course he was writing this at the end of the 1940's so nuclear energy was a promise rather than a threat), the first thing that strikes me is the fact that all the characters of any consequence are men and the only woman that has a voice at all in the book, although fierce, is still just somebody's wife and somebody's daughter.

The book is also an hymn to unbridled capitalism, which Asimov clearly believes to be a force for good...well, what we're dealing with in the world, with the consequences of greed on the part of corporations and banks may have put paid to any such beliefs.

Having said all this, though, I enjoyed the book enormously again. It cannot help being a product of its time and has all the corresponding flaws but it's a very good story and a good example of what I feel science-fiction should be, entertaining and thought provoking, a mirror held at us from a distance
Just finished reading, maybe for the third time in my life, 'Foundation' by Isaac Asimov. , which is the set reading for the next meeting of [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth How times change (even though admittedly they need to change a lot more). Apart from the rather quaint galaxy the story takes place in, where everything is 'atomic' (but of course he was writing this at the end of the 1940's so nuclear energy was a promise rather than a threat), the first thing that strikes me is the fact that all the characters of any consequence are men and the only woman that has a voice at all in the book, although fierce, is still just somebody's wife and somebody's daughter.

The book is also an hymn to unbridled capitalism, which Asimov clearly believes to be a force for good...well, what we're dealing with in the world, with the consequences of greed on the part of corporations and banks may have put paid to any such beliefs.

Having said all this, though, I enjoyed the book enormously again. It cannot help being a product of its time and has all the corresponding flaws but it's a very good story and a good example of what I feel science-fiction should be, entertaining and thought provoking, a mirror held at us from a distance.

The week-end brought the usual assortment of guitar lessons and work things, plus the [livejournal.com profile] bibliogoth meet `(if you can call it that when only three people turned up, but it still was an interesting discussion on topics around the book for the month, about which there wasn't that much to discuss, OTOH). And Dead & Buried at the Latin Groove in Archway, at the back of the Archway Tavern premises of the new Intrepid Fox. It was an excellent night, full of dance and catching up with people, many of whom I hadn't seen for a while.

The book in question at Bibliogoth was 'Mr Penumbra's 24 hr Bookstore'. It wasn't an entirely bad reading but it felt very heavily like a hipster Dan Brown, full of pretend geekery and a big mystery that resolves into nothing, sorry if that's a spoiler -more like a warning, if you were thinking of investing time reading it.

The week-end also closed with the news of the death of somebody who I only knew a little bit and hadn't seen for a long time but who was a good friend of many friends and whose loss has had a big impact. My condolences to those of you that were close to him.

This week should be a little less hectic than previous. This should mean more guitar practice. We'll see. For now, coffee and off to school....

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