jump to navigation

a quality sf novel February 11, 2008

Posted by taryn in sci fi.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Iain M Banks Matter“In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one – maybe two – people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.”

Matter is a slow burn (plot-wise). It’s set in his familiar Culture universe, but manages to mix in medieval fantasy with the sci fi that Banks does so well. The extract publicised by Orbit is actually the whole first chapter, so will give you an idea of the pace. It takes a fair amount of back story/ scene setting before the plot really gets moving. For detail hounds like me though, it’s not really a problem and the subsequent race to the finish gets your blood moving.

Prepare yourself for some lengthly discussions of ‘Shellworlds’. I had to re-read one section a few times where Banks is describing the Sursamen Shellworld. But the artificial planet/Shellworld is fascinating and deserving of much scene setting. Worlds within a world, built by some mysterious and extinct race.

The Ship names are as hilarious as ever, my favourite being Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill. The scenes in the Culture are full of Culture gadgets, environments, Culture versions of holosuites, glanding and AI.

The feudalism of the Eighth [level] on Sursamen is a refreshing counter to the Culture ‘verse. The Sarl are a blood thirsty war race, determined to conquer nearby levels/worlds. They use gunpowder, flying beasts, horses, swords, chariots and pistols.

The dialogue, in usual Banks style, is fabulous. The Sarl are, unsurprisingly, old English in style, while The Oct, a species who are supposed to mentor The Sarl and believe they are descended from the original creators of Shellworlds, speak in a lyrical, philoshophical extreme Yoda style. Confusing, bizarre and completely alien.

I liked Steven Poole’s review in this weekend’s Guardian – cheeky and critical. I didn’t notice the links to Lord of the Rings, 2001 or Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I do agree that the ending leaves a bit to be desired and seems unbalanced compared to the first few acts.

However, Matter is well worth reading and persevering with, this is satisfyingly good sf.

Iain M Banks, Matter, Orbit, Jan 2008

best of 2007 January 17, 2008

Posted by taryn in best books ever.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

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

Posted by taryn in best books ever, space opera.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.