How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu

How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu

What’s frustrating is that the setup is so clever, so thoroughly unique, and promised so much, and then the narrative completely loses it’s way halfway through, and never regains its composure. What’s frustrating is that this was a good book, even a terrific book, and then suddenly it wasn’t. What’s frustrating is that it had so much potential, that it squandered so completely. What’s frustrating is that the majority of the second half of the book keeps saying the same things over and over and over again, in ever so slightly different ways, with lots, of, unnecessary, commas, just sort of drawing it out as long as it can, kind of like this review. What’s frustrating is that there was a story that was setup very well, it would’ve been… Continue reading

Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others

Ted Chiang’s name continually comes up in lists of great short stories. He’s never written a novel, but has won nearly every SF award that exists. 4 Nebulas, 3 Hugos, John W. Campbell, Locus, and on and on. He’s greatly admired among authors and almost entirely unknown by most readers. I’ve heard him referenced as an inspiration by several authors that I enjoy reading. Specifically Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (who collectively write the Expanse series under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey) cite this collection as massively influential. I figured I should probably do myself a service and at least check it out. It turns out that It’s completely mind-blowing. High concept science fiction that is grounded heavily in the real world. Every single story is incredibly unique, tonally… Continue reading

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games

Synopsis: “The Culture–a humanoid/machine symbiotic society–has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.”  The first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, did a lot of world-building heavy lifting from a Culture antagonistic POV. Having read that previously, this one is allowed to come in and really flesh out the world from a pro-Culture POV, which was really fun. Reading them in order… Continue reading

Axiomatic, by Greg Egan

Axiomatic, by Greg Egan

Hugely original ideas, not every story is a home run but there are enough 5/5 stories here to make this very recommended for any fan of hard science fiction. The concepts are extremely unique even 20 years later. Very similar to Ted Chiang’s writing. I have no idea why Greg Egan isn’t a household name in SF. “As the unknowable future becomes the unchangeable past, risk must collapse into certainty, one way or another.” “We think of our lives as circumscribed by cultural and biological taboos, but if people really want to break them, they always seem to find a way. Human beings are capable of anything:torture, genocide, cannibalism, rape. After which — or so I’d heard — most can still be kind to children and animals, be moved to… Continue reading

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

There are 2 kinds of difficult novels: those that you don’t enjoy while reading, but you genuinely enjoying having read, and those that you only enjoy while reading because the small picture stuff is infinitely better than the novel as a whole. Infinite Jest is one of the latter, and I think that’s why people never really stop reading it; it’s only good while you’re reading it. You finish and then start right over again, trying to piece things together until you create something in your mind that slightly makes sense of it all. This thing is a real love/hate affair. There are moments of true brilliance that are exceptional achievements, and the characters are fantastic, the world-building absolute top-notch, but if you have to leave the “ending” up to… Continue reading