Dreams in Print

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.

Cover of Such a Pretty Face
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.

Cover of The Unlikely Ones
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.

Cover of The Veiled Web
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.

Cover of Partners in Necessity
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).

Inter­est­ing Times by Ter­ry Pratch­ett kept me in stitch­es. How does the man con­tin­ue to stay fun­ny and fair­ly fresh with the Dis­c­world series?

Heavy Weath­er by Bruce Ster­ling is one of the best sci­ence fic­tion books I have ever read–ever. Read it.

Cover of Sing the Four Quarters
Cover of Summon the Keeper
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.

Cover of The Chick is in the Mail
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.

Trou­ble and Her Friends by Melis­sa Scott is a great cyber­punk read with more char­ac­ter devel­op­ment that I’ve seen in most of the genre.

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!

Cover of Someplace to Be Flying
Charles de Lint has to be the best urban fan­ta­sy writer I’ve ever encoun­tered. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed Some­place to Be Fly­ing.

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.

I’d love to see Lar­ry Niv­en return to the world of Fall­en Angels or the Dream Park series.

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:

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.

1 aka W. H. Kei­th

2 While the refer­ring to the tril­o­gy is cor­rect, the series itself has gone on to 14 books, and the ones I’ve read are all won­der­ful!

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