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Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny June 24, 2007

Posted by taryn in sci fi.

Lord of Light - Roger ZelaznyAgain, like Light I found the first few chapters a challenge, but once I got a bit deeper into the story I was hooked. What’s not to like about a scenario where humans have colonised a new planet with their own offsrpring and exert control by being Hindu Gods and quashing any new technology? Enter Sam…

“His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god.”

(George RR Martin wrote the intro for this reprint and says that this short para drew him into the book. Another reason I liked the idea of Lord of Light – if George RR likes it… it must be good.)

Sam is one of the ‘Firsts’ who doesn’t agree with the status quo, wants to bring heaven down as it were and you are drawn into his struggle, a karmic society with reincarnation, prayer machines, ‘sky’ chariots and a raft of mad aliens – all written in a semi religious buddhist/hindu context.

I like Diary of a Phanatique’s review and synopsis of the plot. Another interesting review from SFsite too.

Now I need help, I started the book knowing that there is a massive pun . I’m rather embarassed to say I missed it. If anyone would like to illuminate me that would be fab.

I love the cover, the illustration of the lotus is fantastic. The Gollancz crew did a great job on the covers of this series.

Light – M. John Harrison June 23, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, sci fi.
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Light - M John HarrisonThis book was recommended to me by some great spec fic lovers and has been widely touted as the best thing to hit spec fic in years. I hate to disagree but in my opinion Harrison hasn’t outdone Iain M Banks, who is still my favourite author in terms of mind blowing science fiction. However, Light was a riveting and challenging read. My favourite character was the seriously derranged Michael Kearney, an astrophysisct and serial killer obsessed by numbers and a fractal/alien/figment of his imagination that stalks him. Jump forward a few thousand years and the story follows a K-ship captain, the captain-ship relationhsip takes on new meaning here when you’re part of the ship, and down on the planets a crazy ‘twinker’ who is addicted to living his life in a holographic story (sounds pretty fun to me). It is all set under the wacthful eye of the Kerfulci Tract – a bizarre galaxy with no event horizon.

I loved the threads of the story, the merchant-corp world that Harrison creates in the future and – having moved to London recently myself – Harrison’s modern London.

Definitely worth a read. Check out these much more articulate and imaginative reviews – SF Site which delves into the Harrisons style and another at Bookslut – I do have to agree here the first few chapters were a bit hard going but its well worth it in the end.

I was v dissapointed to find that I missed out on this fabulous cover (Thanks VanderWorld).Light M John Harrison - Trade Paperback

The Dispossessed – Ursula Le Guin June 11, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, sci fi.
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the dispossessedThis was fantastic, although I found some of the physics a bit hard going.

I loved the style, structure and ethics of the book. I have seen a range of Ursula Le Guin’s books in stores but had never been convinced enough to pick one up. This book is a great intro to her writing.

I really like the world she created, the possibility of a section of humanity splitting from the capitalist and creating a quasi communistic lifestyle on a planet so harsh that it is a struggle to survive and luxury is considered a fruit juice or a room to share with a partner. The society is certainly not simple, not farmers and still corrupt, unfair and unjust but decidly human and decidly anartchistic. I found it interesting as an exploration of of their anarchistic society. The details, social norms and the structures that the society has had to create after a few hundred years being anarchistic, isolated and to survive in a barren wasteland. Very believable, very intricate and logical.

I like the untraditional story style, the flashback style chapters. Definitely worth a read. Another one of Gollancz’s top ten.

I was suprised to read this comment (Review by Nicholas Whyte) that Ursula Le Guin described it as “a heavy, argumentative book”, I’d struggle to find it either. Yes for the time probably a radical critique on someone from the West writing against capitalism, but apart from some of the physics I wouldn’t call it heavy. I found it pretty fast paced and easy to read myself. Certainly compared with the massive tomes that are the norm for spec fic today.

Jonathon Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke June 1, 2007

Posted by taryn in fantasy.
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9780747579885.jpg I had seen this book on the shelf for ages and I kept picking it up, reading the back, flicking through the millions of pages and thinking ‘is this going to be worth it?’ and ‘should I?’

Yes, I darn well should have! The book is HUGE…but its definitely worth a read.

What I loved most about this book was the footnoting – like Terry Pratchett the footnotes are separate stories in themselves and often go over a few pages. Its a great way of introducing background and context. Not too much info, good writing and a fun aside from the main plot.

The most frustrating thing in the book was the plot with the wife! I found it so annoying that they kept coming so close to revealing and fixing all …but no. It is kind of fitting in the end.

Funnily, I kind of expected this book to be similar in world to the recent Magician movie, but was pleasantly suprised. The setting is quite similar to Temeraire, so no wonder we enjoyed it.

-David says- I loved this book too. Long drawn-out period dramas don’t usually do it for me, but I couldn’t get enough of this. The challenge to the magicians of York had me interested, and the talking stones in the cathedral had me hooked. The pacing was fine for me, I just dived in and didn’t bother coming up for air.

This is a great synopsis from Waterstones:
Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation’s past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Gradisil – Adam Roberts June 1, 2007

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9780575076310.jpg‘Revenge needs to space to grow’ is the hook for this book. And it certainly does grow throughout the book as we follow a family through three generations of obssession with the ‘Uplands’, a belt of space above the atmosphere where the rich or technically able can live without interference from those down below.

The plot follows the characters in their efforts to become Uplanders, make the Uplands a political force or avenge their beloved leader, it is also like a mini history of the Uplands search for independence.

Politically, the people seem isolated, ethnocentric, disconnected and involved at the same time.

I kept going away and coming back to this book. The world is interesting, some characters are great, others awful. I couldn’t stand old Gradi and felt quite sorry for them all at the end.

I loved Salt but I’m not sure whether I would recommend it straight away… but you can read an extract here.

Temeraire (Book 1) – Naomi Novik June 1, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy.
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TemeraireThis is a great read, what a joy after Kylie Chan! Great plotting, each chapter leaves you wanting more – this is the kind of book you’ll end up reading until 4am.

The Dragons are fantastic creatures – intelligent and possessive of their riders. The bond developed between the rider and dragon reminds me of Robin Hobb’s Fitz and Wolf relationship. Except they are HUGE – can you imagine running a dragon like a ship? After reading this it’ll seem to make perfect sense. The geneology of the dragons has been well planned with a myria of species

The historical setting is primed for conflict with Napolean Bonaparte, a great nemesis, his plans for world domination (mwah hahah), and of course stragically cunning with his use of offensive dragons. And

And hurrah, although the lead character is male, there are plenty of women in the book who are jumping into the fray on the backs of their dragons.

You can read an excerpt at Naomi Novik’s website.

NB: Naomi was a computer programmer who found she liked writing more than programming while on Neverwrinter Nights.