behind on reviews
, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built
by Becky Chambers
· published 2021 · read 2023-01-23
After not getting on too well with Wayfarers (I liked it, but too fluffy, no desire to go back), this book worked much better for me. Some of that is "right place, right time", of course, but definitely more my thing than Wayfarers. Discounting the emotional bits, I do think the book could stand to be built better – the narration is occasionally very plain and sometimes approaching shoddy. But hey, the ideas and feelings make it easy to gloss over that and enjoy it regardless. (Also, I cannot read this kind of fiction without thinking of how Delany would dissect it.) This book is part of the 2022 Backlog Incident.
by Greg Bear
· published 1985 · read 2023-01-07
Big Dumb Object, but without the Dumb, as the Object is actually load-bearing and has context and faux-science attached to it. Sadly not great for me: The old sci-fi disease of being better at conjuring up scenarios than at having characters interact. The best indicator is that while the Big Dumb Object wasn't dumb, the protagonist (genius field-medalist scientist) had all the feeling and impact of a prop with a hand-written "genius btw" sign attached. That sounds a bit harsh: The book did start out pretty cool, but then just dropped off and failed to convince. To be fair, there were long stretches where the characters don't interact and just think, and those worked surprisingly well! But especially the second half had way, way too many ideas and zero coherence, and then descended into science babble + "oops, we need an ending". Cool things: The fact they had procedures to take people through the shock-and-awe they experienced when seeing the object the first time. The handling of crew relationships. Got smartphones about right. Stupid things: the Russians (good god, the potato). The futurist alien society – there were enough cool ideas in there to fill three books, and none of them got to shine. The ending. The sex. Side note 1: It was pretty hard to judge how old the book was: the mood is very "processing the height of the cold wars", but the characters (and particularly the treatment of women) felt modern. I only looked up when it was written halfway through, and was a bit surprised. Side note 2: this was the first book I read for my now-beloved book club! And the discussion was a lot of fun – as always, more interesting when only some people like the book. This book is part of the 2022 Backlog Incident.
Prayer for the Crown-Shy
by Becky Chambers
· published 2022 · read 2023-01-24
Even more fluff, lots of recaps, no new conclusion, some unwarranted angst immediately alleviated with more fluff, an ambivalent ending, and too much focus on a non-workable economy. Not a fan, but if you loved the first one and just want more, then this is what you want. This book is part of the 2022 Backlog Incident.
Sea of Tranquility
by Emily St. John Mandel
· published 2022 · read 2023-02-08
Inoffensive to a fault. Read for book club. Feels odd in several ways: feels slice-of-life even when it's not; doesn't feel sci-fi even when it isn't. The characters are cool but I won't remember them. The author stand-in is awkward. The tie-in with the other novel … not sure, but I'm not a fan. Also, everything is really bloody obvious. You always try to find out who the time traveller is, where he's meeting himself unwittingly, etc. Annoyingly predictable in that regard. Well-written, I suppose. Also it's like there are only 10 people in this world and they keep running into each other. Book club had a fan theory:
Since this world is canonically taking place in a simulation, maybe the fact that there are only 10 people is just … a fact, to preserve CPU.
The Glass Hotel
by Emily St. John Mandel
· published 2020 · read 2023-02-09
Again with the flat emotional affect and the repeating characters. Jumbled, didn't go anywhere, and wasn't compelling enough to convince as a slice-of-life. The only things I slightly cared about were the less obvious connections to Sea of Tranquility, and I didn't even like that book in the first place. No idea why I read this one. Props for this bit of dialogue though: “Vincent,” he said, “do you know what a Ponzi scheme is?” “Yes,” Vincent said. Claire, from the sofa, still crying: “How do you know what a Ponzi scheme is, Vincent? Did he tell you? Did you know about this? I swear to god, if you knew about this, if he told you…” “Of course he didn’t tell me,” Vincent said. “I know what a Ponzi scheme is because I’m not a fucking idiot.”