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What would make a society burn all its books? Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury June 5, 2010

Posted by taryn in best books ever, good covers, sci fi.
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“Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.”

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyGuy Montag knows this only too well. He’s a fireman, tasked with burning any books that Americans are hiding in this alternative future, for the good of humanity.  In this America, books are forbidden, learning is looked down on and they’re perpetually at war.

Fahrenheit 451 considers what kind of society would allow this to happen. Montag’s America is one full of violence and hate. Stories have no meaning. People are glued to their screens, but can’t articulate what they’ve involved in with their “family” of screens. Children are spoon-fed facts; they’re not allowed to ask why, to question the facts or history. They’re encouraged to drive fast  and murder seems to go unpunished.

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Let’s play ball! Summerland by Michael Chabon June 5, 2010

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy, good covers, young adult.
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Cover of Michael Chabon's SummerlandThis is on my list as a must-read for young and adult readers.

Pulitzer prize-winning author Michael Chabon creates an incredible fantasy world where an unlikely hero has to save the world … with baseball

In Summerland, Chabon sets his literary sights on creating an American fairytale, it’s like a modern American version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe featuring the greatest of all American sports, baseball.

Summerland is a place where the sun always shines and it never rains, not in the entire history of Clam Island. It’s where everybody plays baseball. The people of Clam Island are obsessed with baseball, as is Ethan’s dad. But Ethan is hopeless at baseball. He is so bad, he often just stands at the plate and lets the balls go by, much to the despair of his teammates.

But one day it rains in Summerland and everything changes. Ethan is recruited by a bunch of baseball-mad ferishers (American fairies) who want him to save the four worlds … with a baseball team.

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A lovely fantasy twinset May 28, 2008

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What do you call two books in a series? A twinset? Musings aside, this is another great offering from Orbit, one of my favourite sf&f publishers. A fast-paced classic fantasy tale, this is one of my must-reads.

The Innocent Mage

The Awakened Mage

Asher is a strapping young fisherman living in a small fishing village of Lur. He heads to the big city to make a bit of cash to buy his own boat and look after his Da. He scores an excellent job liaising between the races and advising the young and magic-less (and disabled) Prince Gar.

Lur is ruled by the Doranen, an arrogant and magical elf like race. They escaped to Lur from the evil tyrant Morg and now a magical barrier is all that protects them. Asher is an Olken, one of the original inhabitants of Lur. They are banned from using Doranen magic, on penalty of death, but rumous abound of their own ‘earth’ magic, forced underground. Asher of course has loads of this new magic, is the prophesised one and is pulled this way and that as Morg tries to break the barrier and underground Olken magickers try to use him.

The characters are fascinating and flawed (kudos to another strong female character) and the world itself is very entertaining. Love the magic scenes, the weatherworking (love a bit of blood in magic). The world Miller has built is very cool and easy to get absorbed in.

The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage are called the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker series. I read these back in October 2007 and have also passed them over to my 14 year old sister who loved them. Albeit she found the ending not quite to her liking and a bit depressing.

Read an extract of The Innocent Mage and The Awakened Mage.

The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 1), Karen Miller, Orbit, April 2007.
The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker 2), Karen Miller, Orbit, September 2007.

Jennifer Fallon – The Demon Child Trilogy February 7, 2008

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Medalon by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is another one of those authors, who I’ve heard of but yet to sample. Over Christmas I got seriously stuck in to her first trilogy:- Medalon, Treason’s Keep and Harshini. If you’re looking for some quality medieval magical fantasy then this is it! And don’t just trust me, Medalon was nominated for the Aurealis Award.

Medalon is a world where four countries live very different lives. Medalon is ruled by the Sisters of the Blade, female atheists who abhor religious ‘pagans’. They have spent years purging their country of paganism and a race called the Harshini. To the north there is Karien, a country of religious fanatics. To the south and south west smaller pagan fiefdoms. The gods are at war and so are their followers. There is a prophecy of a Demon Child who will be half Harshini and who will kill a God.

Treason’s Keep by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is a great writer and storyteller, her characters have depth and irrationalities – they change their minds and they create animated and sparring relationships with each other. There is magic and atheism in her world, gods who behave like stubborn children, politics and strong female characters. The books kept me awake and I just had to get to the end.

Book 2 suprises with some fantastic new characters and subplots. Book 3 is a satisfying conclusion and keeps the tension running high.

Looking forward to diving into a few more Fallon books. Luckily for me she has got a few more books up her sleeve. Hooray!

Harshini by Jennifer Fallon
Her blog is great reading as well, check it out. I particularly enjoyed these entries: Must Love Dogs and ‘The great debate of our time’. She also tips for aspiring writers, movie reviews, author’s notes and all sorts of extras about the world she created.

Will definitely be reading more Fallon

These covers are the best and I think for the latest UK edition.

best of 2007 January 17, 2008

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A quick round up of 2007, from my perspective…

best sci fi author

neal asher (narrowly beat marianne de pierres and sean williams)

neal asher was a new discovery in 2007. He wins my best sci fi author of the year, for having a great style, galaxy and a multitude of stories to read.

best fantasy author

naomi novik

naomi blew me away this year with the Temeraire series. Enthralling medieval fantasy writing, each book has its own complete story. It’s a great alternate history earth with fantastic dragons I’d like to jump on. Plus muskets, ships and battles. What more could you want? I’m looking forward to the new release due later in 2008.

I also hope Peter Jackson gets on and does the movies! Read the article.

biggest disappointment

william gibson, pattern recognition

This book was an ordinary mystery. I was expecting some sci fi blow your mind stuff. It’s not to be. I think the biggest disapointment was being recommended this book by so many esteemed friends and colleagues. Boo. 

Also, as a marketer and generall ‘spread the word-er’, the brand and ‘cool hunter’ aspects were weak in my opinion.

(william gibson narrowly beat out trudi carnarvon for the black magician series).

Marianne de Pierres – Dark Space January 9, 2008

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This is a fabulous book by a great author – Marianne de Pierres. If you like any of the Parrish Plessis novels you will enjoy this one. It’s very different from the Parrish Plessis world, but like those novels rich in its details, its culture and technology.

This is a riverting space opera with an italian edge. Capisce! Politics, action, masses of strange aliens and a good dose of sci-fi theory make it a fast-paced and intelligent read.

Amazon’s synopsis is not bad:

“While drifting in space, lost, due to navigational failure, a mineral scout discovers God. When word gets out, academics from the studiums across Orion scramble to gain the Entity’s favour. However, not all the sentients of Orion hold this ‘god’ in awe – some, like the philosophers of Scolar and the Transhuman’s of Extropy are deeply suspicious. Onto the grand stage of inter-planetary academic politics, intellectual conceit and dubious theology walks Baronessa Mira Fedor. Her planet has been torn apart by the invasion of a race of giant tardigrades. Only the Orion League of Sentient Species can lend aid, but OLOSS are preoccupied with communicating with god. Mira, together with the larrikin, misogynist Jo-Jo Rasterovich, is left to her own resources to find help. In doing so she unmasks a galaxy-size intrigue. But will she live long enough to tell anyone…? ”

She’s done an interesting trailer for Dark Space. But, it doesn’t really give any teasers for the book’s plot at all…

She also has a very cool website, great illustrated design.

Gridlinked – Neal Asher September 26, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, sci fi.
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Gridlinked - Neal AsherI picked up this book after reading Pmarc’s list of the top ten sci fi books of the noughties. Its well worth a try. This is another one that I couldn’t put down – I’ve had a great month of reading :)

In this world, AI’s run the universe and honestly, why would you trust any one else to?

Ian Cormac, Special Agent, has been ‘gridlinked’ for thirty years, ten over the max, and is going through serious withdrawal. He has been sent to investigate the destruction of the AI, city and ‘runcible’ on a far off way world. He is being chased by a terrorist hell bent on revenge and his team of mercenaries cum robot golems.

It’s classic spy mystery pumping action.

And the good news is – there are loads more to come.

Check out this review over at Sci Fi site.

Saturn Returns – Sean Williams July 28, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, sci fi, space opera.
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Saturn Returns - Sean WilliamsThis is great – go out and get a copy now, I couldn’t put it down :)

Orbit describes it as a “space opera balancing cosmic-level threats with a very human murder mystery”. I think its a fast paced guns-a-blazing-mystery dealing with questions of identity PLUS a central character with partial amnesia, what more could you want?

Sean Williams has created a fascinating gothic galaxy recovering from a galactic-wide disaster. Humans have spread far and wide across the galaxy, some remaining in one body, Primes, living and dying others, Singletons, opt for having many clones and absorbing and sharing memories and then there are the group minds.

The hero, Imre Bergamasc, is a Singleton and has been resurrected with half of his memories wondering who tried to kill him. He is driven to reunite with his old comrades from the ‘Corps’, find ‘Himself’ and discover what kind of person this Imre Bergamasc really is.

Williams uses the idea of Tempo and being able to manage the rate of time passing with relish in car chases, starship clashes and travel.

PLUS there is a character who speaks only in Gary Numan lyrics (what the? you think) …but it works.

This is the blurb from Sean Williams’ site

Dark experiments, dangerous ruins, fleeting ghosts and deadly conspiracies…

On the edge of the galaxy in a distant and terrible future, Imre Bergamasc reborn into a pieced-together body with the certain knowledge that he was the victim of an elaborate murder plot. But neither his mind nor the history of his former life are as easily reassembled, so he sets out to follow the fragments of his memories and discover the reason for his elimination. Through interstellar graveyards megacities and bizarre star systems, he pursues whispers connecting the death of the worlds he once knew to his own murdersp. Tracked by forces determined to thwart his efforts, Imre combs the wreckage of the future for the truth about himself–no matter how unbearable it may be.

Here’s another good review from Graeme. You can also visit Sean’s blog.

Q> What the heck is gothic-noir? I’m not even sure the difference between space opera and sci-fi… but I like it!

UDPATE – Sean Willians has just completed Book 2 – and a book 1.5 is coming out in October in the UK. I’m looking forward.

Top ten sci fi of the noughties July 27, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, cyber punk, sci fi.
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Check out this great post by Marc Andreessen on the top ten books of the noughties. Its a great list. Some of them I’ve read, some I was thinking of reading. In fact I went out and bought Gridlinked by Neal Asher and I am completely loving it!

Thanks, Marc.

Light – M. John Harrison June 23, 2007

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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

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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.

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

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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.

I am Legend May 16, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy, horror.
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I am Legend

While I was waiting for crappy Kylie Chan to arrive, I delved into some other much better sci fi/fantasy and landed upon I am Legend by Richard Matheson.

This is a great book, well worth a read. Since it was published in 1958, there are bound to be some copies in second hand book stores for a song!

Stephen King himself wrote a glowing introduction to this book and I have to agree – Matheson manages to keep upping the tension and the pace.

“When you thought it had to be over, that your nerves couldn’t stand any more, that was when Matheson turned on the afterburners. He wouldn’t quit. He was relentless.”

I was very dissapointed to read this review over at Book Covers Blog, I think you have to think a little bit about when this book was written – 1958. Sure this story of isolation amidst an end of the world type virus might seem obvious now – think 28 Days Later, Cell, etc etc but it was first.

I really empathised with the hero, he is so flawed, teetering on the brink of madness and I loved the ending – won’t say anything to spoil it but very refreshing.

You can read an extract and a bit of Stephen King’s essay here.

I found this book through the Orion/Gollancz books series, they all have great covers. I love this cover- stylish, simple and scary! The texture is also really rough and the book has rounded edges too. V old school.

The titles in the Gollancz series are:

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, Cities in Flight by James Blish, Ubik by Philip K Dick, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, Gateway by Frederik Pohl and The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. (Thanks to Diary of a Phanatique)

I’ve read most, so I’ll try and add the reviews here.

One of the first books in our book club was The Forever War….thanks David!

Iain Banks March 28, 2007

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j12.jpgI saw Iain Banks at The Oxford Writing Festival. He is my new hero, hilarious, self-deprecating and witty, what a legend.

His latest book Garbadale is great – v funny and bittersweet. It is dedicated to lost loves. Definitely worth a read – get it now! Iain is a great storyteller whether its sci fi, the intricacies of unrequited love or general family madness. There are some cool settings in Singapore, Shanghai and HK and if you’ve been to any of these places you’ll recognise them. Banks is great at painting different (but accurate) pictures of places.

At the festival, I asked Iain for some reading recommendations but I forgot to write the authors down and now I’m kicking myself!

Some things you might not know:

– Don’t ask him “Where do your ideas come from?” or some other variant, he doesn’t know he just loves to explore all these ideas and see where they go.

– He is writing a new sci fi novel at the moment, he tends to alternate between mainstream and sci fi.

– He works very closely with Ken Mcleod – Learning the world author – which I have read but have yet to review…

– His favourite whiskey is Laphraig, and he had the best time writing and drinking and being driven around when he wrote the book Raw Spirit.

– He loves to read.

– He wrote a novella at age 14 and rewrote it into a novel at age 16.

– He reads alot of new scientist and has loads of ideas written down, but doesn’t have any unfinished manuscripts hanging about…

Scott Westerfield – The Risen Empire January 8, 2007

Posted by taryn in best books ever, fantasy, sci fi.
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The Risen EMpire

I know this wasn’t on the list to read, but I picked it up at Dymocks before I left and really enjoyed it! Read it, I command you.

The book has a host of things I liked: A love story (I’m a sucker, yes, but when you’re parted from your loved one its much more intense) between two likeable, strong and complex characters, a great female character battling with her empathic abilities and her job as Senator, awesome AIs who have character and finesse, battleships, honour and action and of course the old political subertfuge, rebellion and betrayal.

This is a fast paced book, with a lot going on on the different planets. The world itself is great medieval yet sci-fi – and I love a personlity cult dictatorship. Facsinatingly evil.

Anyways, if you haven’t read it, do and let me know what you think.

Scott Westerfield’s Blog