July 18, 2006

Fixing the internets [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at July 18, 2006 2:16 PM

I'm going back through the archives and fixing internal links and images, as well as tagging old posts. This is proving to be a time-consuming process, but the category pages will gradually fill up. I also need to fix the archive templates so that they display the tags on each post, and set up the list of tags on the sidebar. Meanwhile, Google Reader continues to ignore me.

Zero 7: The Garden: I'm willing to defend Zero 7 against charges that they play glorified elevator music. Their previous album, When It Falls, may have been mellow and calming but was filled with interesting emotional undertones. Unfortunately, their new release doesn't measure up: while I'm not ready to consign them to the elevator yet, these songs really are fairly boring. Generally I warm up to new music over time, but this is one of those CDs that I find myself liking less every time I listen to it. The tracks that aren't merely forgettable are actually annoying. You can listen to samples at their website or a few full tracks at their MySpace page; "Seeing Things" is better than most, but skip "Pageant of the Bizarre". Or, just listen to the older tracks: "Somersault" from When It Falls is recommended. Rating: 2/5

Tags: Music, Open Thread, Website
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In riding the BART ~2hrs. per day almost every day of my life, I have just about read out the science fiction shelf (and yes I do mean one) at the Union City Library. As part of my mis-spent youth I have read out many of the 'classic' authors, and also punched out many of the lesser authors as well. I'd like to hijack Mr. Gazebo's open thread to solicit suggestions, and also post a few guarded reservations of my own, mostly so you see the kind of junk sci-fi I've been reading on the way to/from work so we avoid suggestions of high minded, hippy, or liberal literature that might overstress my brain.

Here they are, sorted by type:
Trippy:
Charles Stross (esp. Accelerando which gets an award for extreme trippiness and good use of Russian net-based sentient lobsters)

Easy Reads/moderately intelligent
TimothyZahn (esp. Night Train to Rigel)(avoid his star wars books unless you're a genre fan, but then you've read them all, and avoid the Dragon and Blah series as they're for pre-teens)

C. S. Friedman (esp. Infinity's Shore and the Coldfire books but NOT In Conquest Born or its boring sequel)


Blowing Stuff Up
David Weber (esp. the series beggining w/ Crusade and In Death Ground, but NOT Wind Rider's Oath or the Honor Harrington books(just too many of them))

John Ringo (David Weber's somewhat deficient apprentice, be cautious when picking something he wrote alone)


Posted by: Iskander | July 18, 2006 3:32 PM

Infinity's Shore was David Brin, not Friedman. I remember In Conquest Born being my favorite of hers, but can't remember anything else about it. But she's one of those "always good" authors, anyway.

My latest discovery was Naomi Novik's Temeraire series - Napoleonic Wars with dragons, baby!! :-D I think I got that from the previous SF thread earlier this summer - if so, thanks, whoever recommended them!

Presumably you like Ringo's Posleen series, right? I think those actually manage to outdo Weber's Starfire novels at the blowing up of stuff. With bonus Sluggy references, too! That's about the limit of my Ringo knowledge. Why not start working through the Honor Harrington series? If lack of reading material is your problem, the length of the series would seem to be a feature rather than a bug. Much good blowing stuff up in those, though some are much better than others for that. Some of the stand alone volumes (in particular the one with Saganami in the title) might be a good compromise.

Eric Flint is usually a good choice for light entertainment; tends to be less explosion-oriented than Weber and Ringo. Mother of Demons was excellent. His 1632 series is quite entertaining, too, though I've fallen behind on that one.

David Drake's Lt. Leary series is also very good. Be wary of his current fantasy series. He's got a real hard-on for Belisarius, with a nice historical fiction series coauthored with Flint (Byzantines with gunpowder, fighting in India) and an older sci-fi retelling of Justinian's historical conquests coauthored with Stirling (IIRC). Lots of spinoffs from the latter.

Posted by: Justin | July 18, 2006 4:31 PM

If you're including fantasy books as part of what you have in mind (I'm not sure who broadly you intend to be using the term sci-fi), then I can highly recommend many books by Weis and Hickman. (Perhaps they've also done true sci-fi, but I haven't read it and I can't currently recall if they've written it.) Their Death Gate Cycle (7 books) is really good, and I've enjoyed many of their Dragonlance books immensely. (Start with the Chronicles on those.)

Getting collections of short stories (from a single author) could also prove very fruitful. For this purpose, I heartily recommend Harlan Ellison. He has written tons of excellent short stories.

It's also amusing to slug your way through a Lovecraft collection. Make sure it includes "The Dunwich Horror" and watch for the heartbeat synchronization near death.

By the way, I'm amused at Travis being called "Mr. Gazebo." AG, you should seriously get an official name change.

Posted by: Mason | July 18, 2006 5:00 PM

In my first post I meant This Alien Shore, not Infinity's Shore (thanks for the correction). The first I enjoyed more than the latter, which as I recall involved some combination of monkeys, dolphins, and talking, rolling, wax-filled sentient bongs (who came in two versions, philosophical and angry).
I do enjoy the Posleen series, and in fact am re-reading it at the moment for want of another book. The only book in that series which was sub-par was Cally's War.

Of those mentioned, I have read all but Novik and Ellison (who I will try) and Lovecraft (who is too freaky for me). I would agree with endorsements of Stirling, Flint, and Drake. It seems to me that Flint, Drake, Ringo, and Weber form a little bit of an incestuous community which is a bit sad as many of their books seem to borrow too heavily from each other. I do find it amusing that Ringo wrote a book in which he portrays either Drake or Weber (I forget) as having sold their soul to the devil to get better sales, prompting a demonic transformation and slaughter at sci-fi convention.

I would add to my list of reccomended authors of author's still writing:
Cherryh, R. Jordan (though only if you have a LOT of free time, and don't mind delayed gratification), Robin Hobb, Dave Farland.

Hobb and Cherryh I recommend especially for the care they put into the books they write.

Posted by: Iskander | July 18, 2006 6:29 PM

Dunwich Horror is amazing.

The Coldfire Trilogy is amazing.

I'm currently splitting my projects between Hunter Thompson, Three Kingdoms, and the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

Posted by: Josh | July 18, 2006 7:51 PM

Do you remember the title of that Ringo book? Sounds amusing! Better that kind of spoofing than the literary masturbation of Niven and/or Pournelle. IIRC they cast themself(ves?) among the sci-fi geeks advising the resistance against the aliens in Footfall.

I've heard the new Jordan book actually had stuff happen, but I'll wait until the last book to pick those up again.

Brin's novels tend to involve chimps and dolphins. The aliens in the Brightness Reef trilogy were among his more creative, now that you mention it... On Mason's short story point, Brin's first collection River of Time has some great stuff in it. Thor Vs. Captain America is one of my favorites.

At the risk of suggesting high minded hippy liberal literature, I'll mention Iain M. Banks and Lois Bujold. Both fit the "always good" category I mentioned. Not sure I'd want to try following a Banks novel as BART reading, but Bujold might be workable. It's usually a safe bet to read an author with so many Hugo award pins she made them into a necklace... :-)

As for fantasy, Dave Duncan is quite good, particularly his Blades books. Most Lawrence Watt-Evans books would be perfect light reading, but a few of them suck...

Posted by: Justin | July 18, 2006 8:04 PM

I'll second Bujold, either any Vorkosigan book, or the Chalion series (if you can call it that, same world setting, different characters in each with some people showing up in more than one).

For weird/trippy, it's hard to not recommend China Mieville - Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and others are all very interesting but odd settings, and good stories. Also, his short story collection, Looking for Jake, is very good as well.

For military-ish sci-fi, I just read John Scalzi's Old Man's War, as well as the sequel, Ghost Brigades. Very good.

Finally, Charles Wilson's Spin is just a great book and people should read it.

Posted by: Zifnab | July 18, 2006 8:58 PM

I'm definitely going to have to post here more often, there posters appear to be people with admirable taste in BART reading.

I agree with the Bujold suggestion wholeheartedly, I've read all of the Chalion, and will look to see if I can get one of the Vorkosigan series. To answer a few poster comments/suggestions:

The Ringo book is 'Princess of Wands' which is actually quite bad.

Yes, stuff does happen in the last two or so Wheel of Time books. In fact, the last one is the only one which, to my knowledge, actually fulfills more lines of the Dragon Prophecy than it introduces new ones. This can only be a good thing.

Many thanks for the advice.

Posted by: iskander | July 18, 2006 9:56 PM

I will second China MiƩville and Spin, and third the Coldfire trilogy. I don't think anyone's mentioned Richard K. Morgan yet but his Takeshi Kovacs novels are good pulpy sci-fi. (Iskander: I might have mentioned these in one of our earlier discussions?)

I have everything I just mentioned in my personal library (except for Friedman, and MiƩville's short story collection, but I have the Bas-Lag novels) if you'd like to borrow any of these.

The fact that we're all reading in the same genres gives me an idea: I wonder if a reading group type thing would be viable on this blog? I'm envisioning a thread where we collectively pick a book to read, and then after a few weeks have a discussion thread on it. As much fun as it is for me to post book reviews, it's a lot more fun when other people have also read the book and can comment on it. Is there any interest in this?

"Mr. Gazebo" isn't bad, but I'm looking forward to a year or two from now when it'll be "Dr. Gazebo". :)

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | July 18, 2006 10:57 PM

And I'm looking forward to the time I, as your little brother, get the chance to disrespect that title completely.

Posted by: Josh | July 19, 2006 12:26 AM

I forgot to mention: Gazebo gave his lowest rating in this entry since he started including numerical ratings in his reviews.

A book club is not a bad idea, but I suspect that I'm not going to be able to do my part. I read excruciatingly slowly at times (and just slowly at others) and depending on how busy I am, I doubt I'll be able to meet these deadlines. (Additionally, I have a tendency to read whatever it is I'm in the mood to read, so unless I get myself to finish that first, I doubt I'll be able to join in effectively.)

Posted by: Mason | July 19, 2006 1:44 AM

If I had reviewed The Hills Have Eyes a couple weeks later, when I started the numerical ratings, it would have received the coveted 1/5.

Generally, though, it's rare for something to score below 3, partly because I give priority to reviewing the items I enjoyed most.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | July 19, 2006 11:00 AM

You should do it the other way around and review things you don't recomment. Roger Ebert's best reviews are the ones in which he tears apart a movie like a snarling dog.

Posted by: Josh | July 19, 2006 12:14 PM
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