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Radiance1979: though in some cases such as the wheel of time or the discworld series ( which is in fact just as much as a personal diary as anything else ) i would certainly refrain from reading the last books done by others how well written as ever.
Well for me as always, it is about context.

Brandon Sanderson did a fantastic job of finishing The Wheel Of Time series, and it needed finishing.

No-one except Terry Pratchett could ever fully do a Disc World story justice, in my view, and it would be quite unnecessary to do so on many levels. That said, it could be interesting to see someone try. Terry had a way of viewing the world and people that was incredibly insightful and humorous. I cannot claim though, that it would be impossible for someone else to be that clever, just unlikely to do it as well and as uniquely as he did, and I would rather they did not even try, in a Disc World context.

As a comparison though, look at Middle Earth. A wondrous very fleshed out place, with barely anything written about activities in it. It calls out for even demands, more stories set in it. However, I think it would be wrong to conflict with anything Tolkien has written or to even do stories about any of his major characters ... Gandalf aside perhaps, certainly in any major way. Definitely no harm in fleshing out things Tolkien mentioned briefly though, or completely new tales, if done respectfully ... meaning no conflicts on any level. That said, I do have an interesting ebook, that is written from the perspective of Orcs etc ... treating the whole LOTR as a conspiracy written by the winners ... so I guess you can have credible exceptions, that just present an alternate view ... it is a tricky one though.

P.S. Funny you should bring up my two all-time favorite authors - Pratchett and Jordan. Dan Brown is perhaps a close third, and the formidable team of Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts are also right up there ... not to mention many other greats.
Post edited April 20, 2020 by Timboli
I have now finished the first book of the Foundation Trilogy - Foundation. It was quite enjoyable, and has several very clever elements. It is certainly a classic of its time, and remains a classic in that context, though due to a few dated elements, cannot be considered a classic for modern minds .... unless you couch it in an alternate dimension, where those elements are not dated. Of course, I wish I had read it way back when, where it would have a had a bigger impact on me, but alas for a variety of reasons, that never happened. Still, I am glad I read it, even now, and it was great Science Fiction.

I will continue reading the trilogy, and no doubt the whole series. However, I will intersperse other books or stories between each novel.

Sometimes when I read a series, there is enough of a cliffhanger, to drive me immediately onto the next book, if it is available ... the Foundation series so far, is not like that. I can afford to take a short break now, and let things fester and gel, which is usually a good thing to do anyway, in my experience.

Isaac Asimov continues to impress me ... a great thinker and author.

P.S. It took me about 7 days to read what is a fairly slim book by today's standards, so clearly it wasn't a riveting read. It finished at page 149 in the hard cover omnibus. To be fair though, I have also been engaged in doing many other things ... including updates to several of my programs, watching TV, games, chatting (@TheDcoder I blame you, especially) and web browsing etc.

Note: The review refers to the edition included in Free-Wrench Collection: Volume 1.

Must say that, after what was in fact just a NaNoWriMo project laid an interesting foundation, I expected more from what should have been a proper sequel. Yes, the world remains interesting and a few more details are presented, but Skykeep is just as short as Free-Wrench and more focused on action, leaving little room for worldbuilding, character development or making those points about some of the things that are wrong in our world. The call to fight against them still exists, however, being a part of the action. Still, there are some good things to be said about the development of Lil, perhaps to a small extent even Coop, and quite clearly about the inspectors. And the action is sufficiently gripping, the final chapter delivering on what was building up until then.
Taken like that, as just a story, and if you leave aside the few spots requiring better editing, including one where Coop apparently takes Gunner's place as well even though he's also in that scene at the same time, it's good enough, reads quickly and keeps you interested to the end. It does seem more of a simple adventure, however, just a story taking place in a certain setting instead of the "proper" next book in a series. Then again, the Collection including the first three books in the series is probably the only one that should really count as a "proper" book...

Rating: 3/5
2132 - Kim Stanley Robinson

As always with K.S. Robinson, it's more a monument than a novel! As its name indicates, action takes place in a distant-not-so-distant future, in 2132. And again, it's partly about terraforming the solar system, as colonies on Mercury, Venus, Mars and Netpune satelites have been installed for quite a while.

But, as in his trilogy about terraforming Mars (not the board game, mind you ^_^), the "science behind" is not the only thing that he writes about. There is a complex political, sociological, ethical, psychological canvas underlying. Especially when you see that, despite all the technological progress, the change in social "rules" in the "spatians" society, old problems like war, terrorism, food shortage, balkanization still plague the human world.

So, yes, it's a deep book, sometimes a little bit too long maybe, but solid and thoroughly enjoyable if you like "hard" Sci-Fi.

So far in 2020:
The Man who ended History: A Documentary - Ken Liu

What a strange short story... A chinese-american historian and his japanese wife discover a way through science to watch first-hand events of the past. He decides to focus on the infamous "Unit 731", the japanese equivalent (or maybe even worse) to Auschwitz, where japanese scientists and doctors conducted atrocious medical experiments on chinese prisoners. Problem: watching the events destroys the particles that kept it, meaning that you can only watch once a moment in time, after what it is gone forever.

I'm really uneasy on that book. It's quite well written, quite documented while still being fiction (apart from the unit 731 and its crimes, which are very real). Maybe because I'm a trained historian, so I know the value of the remains of the past. But I can't help to feel strange: why choosing to tell the story of unit 731, when the author himself is american-chinese, born in China? Published in 2011, one cannot help to link the topic to real-life events and the heated relationship between Japan, China and the former japanese colonies in Asia. Yes, the story of unit 731 must be told and the crimes never forgotten, very much like the Shoah, but they way it is dealt with in that book feels... partial, uncomplete and non satisfying. To my opinion, if the author wanted to deal with such a sensible topic, he should have done it on a more thorough way. But again, it's just my opinion.

Still, I think it's a book worth a read, but be cautious...

So far in 2020:
The Black Cloud (1957) by Fred Hoyle 3.5/5

The first novel, and indeed the first piece of fiction, by the man who was perhaps best known for his rejection (and naming!) of the Big Bang theory in favour of the Steady State theory to explain the Universe.

It's 1964 and in the US astronomers detect a dark gas cloud heading for the Solar System, while in the UK astronomers detect variations in the orbits of the outer planets which suggest gravitational pull from a massive object that is already within the Solar System.
It soon becomes clear that it's heading straight for the sun, and will cause massive weather disruptions on Earth in about 16 months, and in a worst case scenario wipe out all life.
Led by the brilliant and outspoken Chris Kingsley (no doubt based on Hoyle himself), a new secret research station is set up in England to study the cloud.
But it becomes clear that The Cloud is not behaving as it should, suggesting an alien life form.

This was quite an impressive first novel from a scientist.
Like most novels written by scientists it's the ideas and the sound science that carries the book, while the prose and characterizations are rather amateurish. It's workmanlike and, apart from some detailed mathematical equations, easy to read, but not exactly poetic or vibrant stuff; much of it reads like a report. But fortunately we are spared the agony of having to learn the background of all the characters, and of the minutiae of their domestic situations and problems, like in Greg Bear's Eon which deals with a similar situation, but which I never finished due to all the boring fluff (or at least I thought so back then).
The first half of the book is rather slow going and at times even boring, but it really picks up when Kingsley realizes what The Cloud really is, and communication is established; much more interesting than things like the prolonged discussions about radio wave lengths that bogs down the middle of the book.

The book is also a vehicle for Hoyle to discuss some his theories, mainly the origin and propagation of life in the Universe. And he couldn't resist a stab at the Big Bang theory:
Kingsley and Marlowe exchanged a glance as if to say: ‘Oh-ho, there we go. That’s one in the eye for the exploding-universe boys.’

Of course the heroes are Steady Staters while the Big Bangers are like the lunatic fringe.
Paranoid politicians are the real villains of the story, though.

So overall a pretty enjoyable book, with quite an original idea for 1957, I think.
Post edited April 26, 2020 by PetrusOctavianus
The Robots of Dawn - Isaac Asimov

Part of the largest Foubdation cycle, it's alos the 4th book of the adventures of Elijah Bailey, an inspector from Earth who had to solve mysterious crimes linked to robots, first on Earth, then on outer planets too.

It's a classic, like almost all Asimov's books, and as it has been written after the Foundation cycle, Asimov is able to add pieces to link it to the Foundation cycle, to make a coherent bigger cycle. Here Elijah Bailey must solve the mystery of the "death" of a robot, where the obvious culprit has obviously not done anything but is also the only one in the whole universe who would have been able to commit that crime.

Very well written (with a very good translation since I've read it in French), it's a masterpiece and it has aged very well. I plan to read all the books of the greater Foundation cycle in the order Asimov himself recommended, so for the moment, it's still pre-Foundation, but it's really a very good book!

So far in 2020:
I updated my list with these:

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The Emissary (also known as The Last Children of Tokyo) by Yōko Tawada
Prawiek i inne czasy (Primeval and Other Times) by Olga Tokarczuk
The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Plagi. Historia bez końca by Józef Krzyk
xa_chan: The Robots of Dawn - Isaac Asimov
A very enjoyable book.

I read all his Robot short stories and essays first, in the order he wrote them or chronological, then I read the series of Robot novels, starting with The Caves Of Steel first.

I later read the expansion of his story The Positronic Man, that he co-authored with Robert Silverberg.

Sounds like you are doing as I have done .... Robots first, then Foundation. :)
Post edited April 26, 2020 by Timboli
Not so sure reading the stories in the order they happen, instead of the order they were published, is such a good idea. The difference in style between 1940s Asimov and 1980s Asimov is too jarring IMO. At least I found that that was the case when I read the Foundation series.
And I would probably be annoyed by the characters in the old stories lacking some of the traits from the newer and more detailed stories.

I guess it's more rewarding to read them in Asimov's suggested order on a second reading.
Post edited April 26, 2020 by PetrusOctavianus
PetrusOctavianus: Not so sure reading the stories in the order they happen, instead of the order they were published, is such a good idea. The difference in style between 1940s Asimov and 1980s Asimov is too jarring IMO. At least I found that that was the case when I read the Foundation series.
And I would probably be annoyed by the characters in the old stories lacking some of the traits from the newer and more detailed stories.

I guess it's more rewarding to read them in Asimov's suggested order on a second reading.
No doubt, which is why for first reads I tend to always read in published order.
However, for later re-reads, if any, it can be an interesting exercise to read in chronological order.
It does very much depend on the material though.
It is also why I usually take short breaks between novels in a series ... especially on subsequent reads ... unless the material itself urges you to keep reading. That latter case is not likely to occur for books written many years apart ... unless it is something like Game Of Thrones etc. LOL

P.S. Some series are a bit of a dilemma when recommending to others. Take Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. While I read it first time around in published order and enjoyed it, it was kind of very niche in the beginning, and the first few books in the whole series are midway through the overall arc, and in some ways not as exciting or interesting as books later and earlier, that were written decades later. Objectively you should read in published order, or the first few books written will be diminished. But if you are trying to convince someone to get into the Pern world, the newer books are probably a more convincing bet.
Post edited April 27, 2020 by Timboli
Ichor Well

Note: The review refers to the edition included in Free-Wrench Collection: Volume 1.

Somewhat to my surprise, Ichor Well is more like a proper book in terms of size, albeit at the low end of that range. The final chapter again delivers in terms of the action, while until then there's space for more details and dialogues, a slower pace and more of a focus on the characters. In terms of this latter aspect, more nuances are added to the fug folk and a few are fleshed out a little more as individuals, though I'd say enough with the names, especially last names, that are variations of white or white objects already! On the other hand, not much is being done for the Wind Breaker's crew, the only visible effort being to continue to develop Lil but even that failing to produce worthwhile results.
Another notable problem is that it often feels like the author is thinking with his fingers. Effort is being made, but the "guts" are showing, many of the thought processes going into worldbuilding and potential outcomes of the action seeming rather dumped on the page, often by putting them in the mouths of characters. The clear impression is that, by attempting something more ambitious, the limits of the author's skill become far more obvious in every way.
Admittedly, Lucius is such a caricature of a villain that it's hard to take anything seriously with him in the picture, and the fact that those points previously made about some of the things wrong in our world and the calls to fight against them are also lost in the details would also seem to indicate a story that's not meant to be taken too seriously, at least not anymore. But, in that case, the pace is too slow and the real action too little, too late, leaving Ichor Well uncomfortably straddling between the simple adventure that Skykeep was and the much more ambitious work that at other times it seems to strive to be. I'd still call it the better book, but its flaws are harder to dismiss.

Rating: 3/5
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Even though it is released more than 70 years, the story it describe still stay true.
And the place I am living seems like at the later / ending sad...
Overall, it is an enjoyable short reading.
wongheiming: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Even though it is released more than 70 years, the story it describe still stay true.
And the place I am living seems like at the later / ending sad...
Overall, it is an enjoyable short reading.
I love this book, I read it again last year. Sorry to hear about the way things are where you live. Here in Venezuela it's also easy to find similarities between the book and what we've been going through the last couple of decades. :(
The Big Time (1958) by Fritz Leiber: 4/5

American SF was in a bit of a rut in 1957 and there were signs that the center of creativity was shifting towards England where promising new writers like John Brunner, J G Ballard and especially Brian Aldiss had appeared. And the last three novels I've read were by English writers.

But then Fritz Leiber, who was totally absent in the magazines in 1955-56, came up with this short novel, published in the March and April 1958 issues of Galaxy. It was also published in book format in 1961 as part of an Ace Double, and there doesn't seem to be any revisions, not even in later editions.

The story reads like a play, with everything taking place in one room during a few hours. But the room is not just any room, but a Recuperating Station located in The Void outside normal time where time traveling soldiers fighting the Change War come for R&R. The story is told by Greta Forzane who is one of the Entertainers of the Station.

So quite a novel premise, similar in some ways to Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity, H. Beam Piper's Paratime series, and Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, and probably inspired Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion to some degree. While Leiber's story is much more limited in actual plot (but with a very rich setting), it's much more stylistically original and more philosophical.

It's also partly a locked room mystery story, the solution involving an object never referred to, but which can possibly be deduced, so not entirely fair to the reader, maybe.

Some quotes to better illustrate what's it about:

There are a lot of things in the Gallery and I can always find some I haven't ever seen before. It gets you, as I say, thinking about the guys that made them and their thoughts and the far times and places they came from, and sometimes, when I'm feeling low, I'll come and look at them so I'll feel still lower and get inspired to kick myself back into a good temper. It's the only history of the Place there is and it doesn't change a great deal, because the things in it and the feelings that went into them resist the Change Winds better than anything else.

Right now, Erich's witty lecture was bouncing off the big ears I hide under my pageboy bob and I was thinking how awful it is that for us that there's not only change but Change. You don't know from one minute to the next whether a mood or idea you've got is really new or just welling up into you because the past has been altered by the Spiders or Snakes.

Change Winds can blow not only death but anything short of it, down to the featheriest fancy. They blow thousands of times faster than time moves, but no one can say how much faster or how far one of them will travel or what damage it'll do or how soon it'll damp out. The Big Time isn't the little time.

And then, for the Demons, there's the fear that our personality will just fade and someone else climb into the driver's seat and us not even know. Of course, we Demons are supposed to be able to remember through Change and in spite of it; that's why we are Demons and not Ghosts like the other Doublegangers, or merely Zombies or Unborn and nothing more, and as Beau truly said, there aren't any great men among us--and blamed few of the masses, either--we're a rare sort of people and that's why the Spiders have to Recruit us where they find us without caring about our previous knowledge and background, a Foreign Legion of time, a strange kind of folk, bright but always in the background, with built-in nostalgia and cynicism, as adaptable as Centaurian shape-changers but with memories as long as a Lunan's six arms, a kind of Change People, you might say, the cream of the damned.

But sometimes I wonder if our memories are as good as we think they are and if the whole past wasn't once entirely different from anything we remember, and we've forgotten that we forgot.
But I'm forgetting that this is a cosmic war and that the Spiders are conducting operations on billions, trillions of planets and inhabited gas clouds through millions of ages and that we're just one little world--one little solar system, Sevensee--and we can hardly expect our inscrutable masters, with all their pressing preoccupations and far-flung responsibilities, to be especially understanding or tender in their treatment of our pet books and centuries, our favorite prophets and periods, or unduly concerned about preserving any of the trifles that we just happen to hold dear.

Have you ever asked yourselves how many operations the fabric of history can stand before it's all stitches, whether too much Change won't one day wear out the past? And the present and the future, too, the whole bleeding business. Is the law of the Conservation of Reality any more than a thin hope given a long name, a prayer of theoreticians? Change Death is as certain as Heat Death, and far faster.

Every operation leaves reality a bit cruder, a bit uglier, a bit more makeshift, and a whole lot less rich in those details and feelings that are our heritage, like the crude penciled sketch on canvas when you've stripped off the paint.

"If that goes on, won't the cosmos collapse into an outline of itself, then nothing? How much thinning can reality stand,

Can we tell the difference between the past and the future? Can we any longer locate the now, the real now of the cosmos? The Places have their own nows, the now of the Big Time we're on, but that's different and it's not made for real living.

"The Spiders tell us that the real now is somewhere in the last half of the 20th Century

"The Spiders also tell us that, although the fog of battle makes the now hard to pin down precisely, it will return with the unconditional surrender of the Snakes and the establishment of cosmic peace, and roll on as majestically toward the future as before, quickening the continuum with its passage. Do you really believe that? Or do you believe, as I do, that we've used up all the future as well as the past, wasted it in premature experience, and that we've had the real now smudged out of existence, stolen from us forever, the precious now of true growth, the child-moment in which all life lies, the moment like a newborn baby that is the only home for hope there is?"

poets are wiser than anyone because they're the only people who have the guts to think and feel at the same time.

This was the first story in Leiber's Change War series, so it will be interesting to read subsequent stories.
Post edited May 04, 2020 by PetrusOctavianus