Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The State of the Art

Hey, look! I'm on SF Signal!

Mount Toberead grows ever larger. I don't know if this linked to some theories about why people overeat (i.e., we grew up as a race starving all the times, so we're hardwired to overconsume as we expect another famine just around the corner), but I always buy more than I have time to read. This has been made doubly true as the Crackdle, I mean, Kindle, makes buying eBooks so dang easy (one click, and away it downloads). The pile, real and virtual grows and grows.

On the plus side, I have always been able to read several books (sometimes several dozens of books) simultaneously and over long stretches of time. I even put one book down for two years (to be honest, it got shelved incorrectly, out of sight, out of mind), spotted it, picked up the thread of the story where I left off, and read until the end. So my current reads is big, and up next to read is as big.

So current reads? The biggest batch are the books and stories in the Hugo and the Campbell Not-A-Hugo-But-We-Keep-Awarding-It-At-The-Same-Time-So-We-Are-All-Confused. You can find those titles here. I've gone through most of the shorter works at this point and I'm simultaneously reading Embassytown, Leviathan Wakes and Among Others.

Other current reads include:

The Blade Itself: The First Law: (Book One) by Joe Ambercrombie. Recommended, insistently, by author Myke Cole; about 50% done and I've bought all the sequels; gritty fantasy, puts me in mind of Glen Cook's Black Company tales. Excellent so far.

The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher. Short works in Asher's Polity series. I've read a few randomly here and there, it is nice to have them between electronic covers. I've also been acquiring electronic copies of all of Asher's books that I didn't own in paper (he's been hard to find in the US, alas).

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Thoughts of a Roman Emperor. His philosophy, boiled down as it were.

Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. A collection of stories set in Baxter's Xeelee cycle. Revisiting the book after many years.

Welcome to Bordertown as edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. A collection of new stories in a well-regarded old series. Somehow I managed to miss Bordertown and similar early entries into urban fantasy, but I'm enjoying this reboot. Hope it does well enough that the older out-of-print volumes come back out again.

The Dresden Files Collection (Books 7-12) by Jim Butcher. An eBook omnibus of the second half of Butcher's fantasy noir series. I've bought them in a variety of forms over the years (paperbacks, hardcovers), but I recently gave all my paperbacks away and bought the set in eBook format.

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole. Military Fantasy? Military Urban Fantasy? Whatever the label, a kick-ass book. When's that sequel coming? (Not soon enough!)

Tales from Gavagan's Bar by L. Sprague de Camp. Before Callahan's, before Draco's, around the time of the White Hart, but after the club that Jorkens attends we had Gavagan's. Connected by the setting, each entry has a similar format (tall tales...or are they?). Somewhat aged, but still fun.

The Jewel-Hinged Jaw by Samuel R. Delany. One of several non-fiction collections from Delany. I read this in the original version, years ago. I even read one entry in its first appearance in a multi-author collection and saw Delany at a convention where I heard the basis for one of the other entries.

The Planet Strappers by Raymond Z. Gallun. One of my favorite books, by an author that all too many of us have forgotten. Get your free copy at places like Gutenberg or Manybooks and see what you've been missing.

Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson. Read it when it first came out, re-reading it for a much overdue review.

Spook Country by William Gibson. Another re-read. As Gibson keeps getting closer and closer to "now" he continues to keep a SFnal lens on the subject matter, no matter how mundane.

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. I saw a television movie based on this years ago and laughed endlessly. It is quoted by Heinlein and others. The best time I had reading this was when I took my daughter raining and I had to put up a recalcitrant tent in a torrential downpour. I read it in the tent as we dried off and laughed enough to scare away the bears. Fun stuff.

Blackhorse Riders by Philip Keith. The story of a combat in Vietnam that was forgotten for years. Amazing stuff, somewhat overlaps the service of genre author David Drake (his same unit, but not the same cav troop). Reading it a second time with an eye to adapting it for a game.

Countdown: The Liberators by Tom Kratman (military thriller; lots of gun pr0n, more than slightly right of center, but Kratman tells a fast-moving story).
Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (started it, got pretty far into, got sidetracked despite enjoying it immensely, will need to go back...if I take a vacation this year!).

Roadside Picnic by the Brothers Strutatsky. What if you had a picnic and left your trash scattered around. What would the ants and other small critters think of your discards? The Strutatsky's write of the trash discarded by alien visitors and what grows up around those discards. I first read this in the early 1980's, this is a new edition (and a new translation).

The New American Bible by Various Hands. An ongoing continuous project.

Stuff I intend to getting to Real Soon Now include:

Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams. A collection of power-armored tales by various authors (a very nice lineup here).

The Mongoliad: Book One by Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson and Diverse Hands. Stephenson got interested in swordfighting and wanted to show it "done right". This is one of several projects linked to this desire. The series will be written by well-known folk (e.g., Bear and Stephenson) and others. Marketing tool? Literary experiment? Well-known author gone wild? It'll be interesting to see (already bought a prequel and ordered the sequel).

Existence by David Brin. It seems about forever since David Brin has written a SF novel and whiile this is not the book I really want (I want another Uplift story, even a standalone!), I will read it very soon. Hard SF from one of my favorites? Yes, please. Heck, I even re-bought his collaboration with Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet, as soon as it came out as an eBook.

The Monster Hunters (omnibus, three novels) by Larry Correia. So, what happens when your boss turns into a werewolf? Why, you gun him down and toss him out the window, of course! Pure action adventure, tons of fun, interesting...ummm...people and page-turners through and through. I love books that know exactly what to do with a vampire: stake him in the sun, fill him with garlic, sprinkle with holy water and make him sparkle by filling him with tracer-tipped high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds.

The Year's Best SF (29th Annual Collection) as edited by Gardner Dozois. An annual purchasing tradition. Another annual tradition is not to finish it in the year in which it is published. Will I break that tradition this year? And, almost as interesting for trends, will I purchase the paper copy as well as the electronic copy?

God's Mechanics by Brother Guy Consolmagno. Brother Guy is an astronomer. And he writes great books about observing stars, hunting for rocks from Mars that have fallen into the Antarctic and more. In this he talks about geeks and God. Geeks and God? Can it be possible?

How to Build an Android: The True Story by David F. Duffy. So this company built an android that looked like Philip K. Dick that even was programmed to speak the words of Philip K. Dick. Then they lost him. Which lead to jokes about "Bring me the head of PKD" and this book. Looks amusing.

Zombiestan by Mainak Dhar. Zombies, Afghanistan and lots of bullets; how can one go wrong?

Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. Before Dan Brown spewed his malformed conspiracies upon the world, Umberto Eco wrote a well-thought and carefully constructed conspiracy novel that treaded on some of the same ground. Time for a re-read!

The Infinite Library by Kane X. Faucher. I bought this eBook because (a) it was cheap; (b) had a kick-ass cover; (c) have I mentioned the cover? Take a look.

The Year's Best SF 18 as edited by David G. Hartwell and Katherine Cramer. As with Dozois, I rarely finish the collection in the year it is published. For this series I've already jumped from paper to electronic only, in fact, the last three volumes were purely electronic and I'm purchasing the volumes in reverse chronological order and given away my paper copies.

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. While Heyerdahl's theories on migration may have been at least partly-discredited (until people change their minds again and he is "rediscovered" or such), this is one amazing story about building a raft out of balsa and sailing it across the ocean.

Lost Horizon by James Hilton. One of several books I bought on sale when Amazon had a special "books that have been made into famous movies" promotion. Read it in high school (sometime around the Pliocene Era), so it is time to read it again.

Going Interstellar, edited by Les Johnson and Jack McDevitt. Another themed anthology from Baen, similar to Armored. Baen is providing reading guides and such to attract school use, it'll be interesting to see if any science and/or literacy teachers follow through.

Danse Macabre and On Writing by Stephen King. Read them both, years ago. I still have my paper copy of On Writing but my paper copy of Danse Macabre was probably stolen by ghosts (both these are electronic copies). I've run hot and cold on King for years, but these two have been long-standing favorites.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. As with Lost Horizons, above.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence. I've seen the movie! I use his visage as my internet icon on several services! I really should read the book! In actuality, I've sort of read the book, more than once, in various abridged versions. Now I have the full version.

What It Is Like to Go To War and Matterhorn: A Novel of Vietnam War, both by Karl Marlantes. Marlantes came to my attention about a year ago with the publication of Matterhorn and a series of interviews on various sites. As it relates to a long-standing interest (generally and specifically), I picked up both in a heartbeat.

The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell. Fantasy wars from the viewpoint of the other guys. For when I get tired of all this serious stuff I read.

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell. A quest novel! What is the mysterious force behind a belovd comic and will the author ever meet him?

The Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna. As with Lost Horizons, above.

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. An omnibus of McPhee's separate books on geology. Worth it for McPhee's wonderful narrative style, dense with information. A highpoint is a thirty-odd-page narrative table of contents.

Weekend Warrior by Mervin Kevin. Kevin is a reservist in the United Kingdom who served in Iraq. Reservists? In the United Kingdom? An instant purchase, just based on that and from looking within, a good true story as well.

Solstice Chronicles by Jeff Patterson. How can I resist a book by a fellow SF Signal Irregular?

One More Book Before I Die by Lyndon Perry. With a title like that, I had to read it. My philosophy!

The Bible Repairman and Stories, The Stress of Her Regard and Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers. Powers is one of my favorite fantasy authors. He specializes in writing "secret histories", books that could be set in our world except for one tiny little thing that blows your mind apart. Bible Repairman is a collection of his short works to date, often published as chapbooks or other hard-to-acquire means. The Stress of Her Regard is a re-read as it relates to the subject matter of Hide Me Among the Graves.

The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Two works by Pynchon that have had a lot of influence upon genre writers. These are both recent eBook versions, so I'll re-read them "soonish". I was preparing to re-read Gravity's Rainbow this year anyway, so the eBooks are serendipity-do-dah!

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds. As with Brin and Robinson, a new book by Reynolds is an instant purchase, especially if it is Hard SF or Space Opera. It will be hard to decide between this and the Brin and Robinson books as to which is read first!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. After a long series of side trips, Robinson again visits the territory of books like his Mars series or Antarctica. Decisions, decisions, this first or Brin or Reynolds!

Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales. Alternative Apollo missions by a new-to-me author.

Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. Saving this one for when I have read too many serious works.

Jump Gate Twist by Mark L. Van Name. An omnbius of the first few novels and tales in Van Name's Jon and Lobo series. Re-reading before working up to the newest entry. Great combination of commentary, Space Opera and Hard SF.

With all the titles I've listed, I'm just scratching the surface. Remember when I said I buy books faster than I read them...there are 369 titles in the Current Reads folder of my Kindle. Those are books I'm really currently reading, books I intend on reading next, books I'd like to read after that and so on.

And...all my back issues of Analog, Apex, Arc, Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Fantasy, F&SF, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus and whatever else I've subscribed to electronically that I haven't gotten to. Instead of slick and pulp paper piling I, I have the electronic magazine equivalents.

They keep saying that the short story is dead, but I don't see it. They also say that print is dying, but I don't see it. So many books, so little time, so many ex-lover's to bury!

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