Well, that's a change. The original verbiage here said, "One of my very favorite pastimes is getting totally lost in an actual printed-on-dead-trees book. EBooks are unlikely to ever catch on well with me, because they can't replace the portability and convenience of the real thing—and they have no chance of overcoming a lifetime of positive memories of all the incredible books I've read."
At some point in the last ten years, that obviously changed a lot. E-readers and ebooks got a lot better, and now traditional books can't beat them for portability and convenience. I regularly carry around hundreds of books on my Nook, and could carry thousands if I cared to do so. I don't even know what I meant by the last part of the above, because I'm still making positive memories of incredible books. I still read the occasional old-fashioned book, if the content isn't available digitally, but that's more and more rare.
While I've spoken elsewhere on the site about other kinds of books, I decided to move the SF&F books to their own page here (since they were taking over the page anyway).
Adrian Tchaikovsky's work is some of the most original I have ever had the pleasure to read. I simply can't get enough of ir, despite the fact that his Shadows of the Apt is very dark, and that would normally be a huge vote against it for me. If you have not yet read Empire in Black and Gold, I urge you to do so right away. Just be aware that you'll want to have Dragonfly Falling, Blood of the Mantis, Salute the Dark and The Scarab Path on hand to read right away, too.
The Golden Globe by John Varley is set in the same universe as Steel Beach. I'm struggling with it some, because there's a lot of material about the main character's relationship with his abusive father, and it's getting to me. It's been a few years since I read Steel Beach, and while I remembered that it as well-written and thought-provoking, I'd forgotten that it was also fairly depressing.
Doug Beekman's cover art for Such a Pretty Face caught my attention immediately while I was browsing the shelves of the Science Fiction & Mystery Bookshop in Atlanta—it's beautiful! Then I saw that the book was edited by Lee Martindale, someone I remembered encountering (and respecting) in the size acceptance newsgroups. At that point I probably would have bought it no matter what, but the theme of the anthology cinched it—every story features a person of size. I finished it within 48 hours of getting it, and it was wonderful. As usual with any anthology, I enjoyed some pieces more than others. I think Demon Bone by Teresa Noelle Roberts had to be my favorite story. The poem Fat Is Not A Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's tale Worse Than The Curse were awfully good, though. Paula L. Fleming's Polyformus Perfectus left me wishing it were the beginning of a novel rather than a short story.
I have to admit that I picked up The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown because of the cover art. While it was better than reading cereal boxes, I couldn't help wondering if the author had simply written up a long-running (very, very long-running) D&D campaign.
I ran across Luna Marine while browsing the paperback racks at the library one day. The Marine Corps emblem caught my eye, and I honestly figured the book had been misshelved at first and belonged wherever Tom Clancy's books are kept. It was science fiction, though, and since it was book two of Ian Douglas'1 Heritage Trilogy I found myself seeking book one, Semper Mars. Both were good enough that I read on through to Europa Strike and am looking forward to reading more in the series.
Sometimes, though, picking a book because of its cover or title without knowing anything about the author works well—I certainly haven't regretted picking up The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro. Since reading it I've gone on to her Skolian Empire series and enjoyed those, although I think Veiled Web is actually better writing than any of the books in the series. I read The Phoenix Code, which is in the same universe as The Veiled Web, and while I enjoyed it too, I didn't relate to it quite as much.
Back in the late 80s, I read Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden novels—Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, and Carpe Diem. I loved them. Unfortunately, they went out of print and I couldn't find them for a long time, and the trilogy ended with some major plot lines totally unresolved, which was somewhat unsatisfying—especialy considering how very engaging I found the characters. Happily, they were republished recently in an omnibus edition, Partners in Necessity, by Meisha Merlin Publishing. Even better, Plan B, the next installment in the series, was released shortly afterwards. The next volume, Pilot's Choice, is out now! My sweetie gave it to me as a Valentine present, and so far it's every bit as good as the others. The marvelous chapbooks have since been made more accessible to all, as they've been released as ebooks (available through Amazon) and there are new novels available in the series, too.
If you have any interest at all in our future in space or in libertarian philosophy and have not yet read Victor Koman's Kings of the High Frontier, just stop reading now and go get a copy from Amazon or somewhere. I was impressed by Solomon's Knife and enjoyed The Jehovah Contract, Kings is in a class by itself.
To Say Nothing of the Dog and Bellwether by Connie Willis were both very difficult to put down, and both were funny and very well-written. I honestly found Lincoln's Dreams very slow going and almost didn't finish the book, probably because it's much darker. Blackout and All Clear, however, are incredible novels set in the same universe as To Say Nothing of the Dog (the Oxford Time Travel series).
When I first ran across Tanya Huff's Victory Nelson books, I'd just finished reading Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde novels—and to be honest, they were too similar for me to really enjoy the Huff books. After being pleasantly surprised by Sing the Four Quarters several years later, I tried the vampire books again and did enjoy them. I think, but am not entirely sure, that Summon the Keeper is set in the same universe. In any case, I enjoyed it even more. When Huff moved on to science fiction in Valor's Choice this past year, she did pretty well with that as well. I don't know if she's getting better or my tastes have improved (probably both), but I'm certainly looking forward to reading more of her work.
Ammonite by Nicola Griffith is the best first novel I've ever read, bar none. I can't really say that I was as impressed with Slow River, but it wasn't a bad book. She's written a mystery series as well that's very good.
Who could resist a title like Chicks in Chainmail? Not me. Edited by Esther Friesner, it's an anthology of short stories inspired (as far as I can tell) by all those paintings Vallejo and similar artists do of busty women wearing armored bikinis. Something must have struck a nerve, because there are four books in the series now and they're all hilarious. Number two is Did You Say Chicks?! : Smile When You Say That. The third had my favorite of the titles—Chicks 'N Chained Males. Margaret Ball expanded her Riva Konneva stories from the anthologies into a novel, Mathemagics, and while it was a pleasant enough read the idea works best in the short stories. I was happy to see Riva back in The Chick Is in the Mail.
Robert A. Heinlein is my all-time favorite author/philosopher, bar none. I just reread Stranger in a Strange Land for the umpteenth time, and I find that I see new things in it every time I read it. My copy of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long is much thumbed—I need to replace it with a hardback. Quotable Heinlein is one way to get a quick taste of Heinlein's thoughts.
David Brin is, in most cases, a reliably fantastic author. I think I'm one of the few people who read Glory Season, and even I have to admit it wasn't really up to snuff for him. I loved all the books set in the Uplift universe, though, and wish he'd write more in it!
I've really liked C.J. Cherryh's science fiction—especially the Foreigner, Invader and Inheritor trilogy2 and the Chanur series. Every time I've picked up one of her fantasy books, though, I just haven't been able to get into them for some reason.
Allen Steele is shockingly unrepresented on the web. What on earth has happened? He's one of the best hard SF writers out there today--if Heinlein has a successor, Steele is it.
Happy happy news! In a post to rec.music.filk, I mentioned how much I want to see more Middle Kingdom stuff from Diane Duane, and she actually replied! I had no idea that she hung out there! They're due to be reprinted by Meisha Merlin Publishing, with The Door Into Fire and The Door Into Shadow released as one volume in May 2001, and The Door Into Sunset and Door Into Starlight coming as a second volume sometime after that. Our entire family has also enjoyed her Wizardry series, and Sam and I have also read the two adult books set in the same universe, The Book of Night With Moon and To Visit the Queen several times. She mentioned that The Wizards Dilemma will also be out in June 2001!
I first stumbled on Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion series, so when she coauthored Sassinak with Anne McCaffrey I scooped it right up. The Planet Pirates series was uneven (the bits by Jody Lynn Nye were not up to par) but worth reading. I the Serrano Legacy series, too. There are seven books in that series now. I've read and enjoyed the first six, and plan to read the seventh shortly:
- Hunting Party
- Sporting Chance
- Winning Colors
- Once a Hero
- Rules of Engagement
- Change of Command
- Against the Odds
The first few volumes of the series really reminded me of David Weber's Honor Harrington books, probably because both feature heroines who must overcome politically-engineered dishonor in their pasts. As the Serrano series has continued, though, it has developed into far more than military SF.
Speaking of David Weber—I don't have the military background to say that he is one of the best authors writing millitary SF right now, but I can certainly say that he creates some excellent space opera, and I've enjoyed all of his books so far. John Ringo is right up there, too.
Any time I'm in a used bookstore, I look for paperback copies of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. If they're in readable condition, I buy them. I started doing that because I tend to recommend this book to every geek I meet, and every time I loaned out copies of the book, they didn't come home, because the people to whom I loaned them loaned them to their friends. It's simply to just give out copies. I re-read this one every year or so, and every time I find something I'd missed before. I'm started to get to the same place with Zodiac : The Eco-Thriller, a much earlier work. Cryptonomicon, is good but just doesn't sing to me the way Snow Crash does. I finally got to read his first novel, The Big U, which was fun although not SF. His most recent book, Reamde: A Novel, feels very much like Cryptonomicon (a near future-thriller) without the historical flashbacks. It's a little slow in parts, but I finished the last few hundred pages in one sitting because I couldn't put the book down.
At first Gibbon's Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper had much the same chilling effect on me as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale did a few years ago (I consider that one to be the 1984 for my generation). It got more positive as I continued reading, though, and it's one of the most powerful books I've read in years. Her Beauty is a very interesting retelling of several classic fairy tales. As dark as Tepper can be, she's so good that I keep returning to her books almost in spite of myself. I didn't enjoy Grass nearly as much, but it is extremely well written. I've intended to read The Gate Into Women's Country for several years--but there's no way I can read more than one Tepper novel in a row!
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is great for light fantasy, like The Godmother, The Godmother's Apprentice and The Godmother's Web. They make nice, mostly positive counterweights to Tepper's version of some of the same fairy tales. I also read Nothing Sacred recently—definitely not light in any sense, but a good read. I haven't read The Healer's War (her treatment of Vietnam) yet—it seems to be out of print.
Spider Robinson is another very enjoyable author with definite libertarian leanings. I'm happy to see that the Callahan series is being re-released, as it was either out of print or hard to find for a few years.