Category Archives: science fiction

forget to remember to forget

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson 2008 (266 pgs)

When Jenna wakes up, she can quote the entire text of Walden Pond, but she can’t remember her best friend’s name. Or even if she has a best friend. The parents she doesn’t remember tell her she’s been in a coma following an accident. As Jenna comes to terms with the disturbing holes in her memory, she finds that there’s more to her past than her family wants to tell her.

Good balance- enjoyable to read, while also tackling larger issues of medical ethics and the nature of identity. Made for a fun afternoon read.

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a modern prometheus unbound

The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem 1959/transl. 1974 (216 pgs)

Oddest of ducks: reads like a straight-up Scotland Yard police procedural in the vein of Agatha Christie (despite being written by a preeminent Polish science-fiction writer.) But it’s about zombies. Or at least risen corpses.

Instead of dwelling on the macabre, the narrative instead focuses on the lead investigator as he tries to locate what he’s sure is a non-mystical cause for the epidemic of moving dead folks. Despite a strong start, my interest waned towards the end, and the conclusion (or lack thereof) was disappointing.

stuck in the middle with you

The ones I gave up on:

Can a Robot Be Human?: 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles  by Peter Cave 2007 (192/read 130ish)

Somewhat interesting, but written in an overly twee style that I could only take in short doses.

Fieldwork  by Mischa Berlinski (320 pgs/read 40) 2007

Love this book, but I’ll have to get it again later. So little time, so few renewals.

The Soul Thief  by Charles Baxter (210 pgs/read 95) 2008

Reads like an art school cocktail party. In a good way. The prose is sophisticated and intellectual without being pretentious. It’s the perfect style for this tale of the entanglements of graduate students searching for connection, while one tries to steal the other’s identity.

Solitaire  by Kelley Eskridge (353/read 213) 2002

Mmm, comfort book. One of my fav books, about a woman sentenced to solitary confinement in a virtual cell in her own mind (which is the point I started this time round). I love the evolution of her character and how being completely alone forces her to face herself.

Unaccustomed Earth  by Jhumpa Lahiri (333/read 45ish) 2008

Short story collection from an excellent author who winningly captures the dichotomous nature of the emigrant experience.

The Third Domain: The Untold Story of Archaea and the Future of Biotechnology  by Tim Friend (296/read 35) 2007

Archaea are microbes older than bacteria that are being discovered thriving in the most extreme environments- from volcanic vents to streams deep within icebergs. It’s a fascinating topic, but the meandering writing failed to grab me.

 

some things are best left unfinished

Chaotic by Kelley Armstrong in Dates From Hell 2006 (112 pgs)

Novella focusing on a couple of sideline characters from Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Twas ok but I prefer her in full-book form.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 1999 (213/read 12)

A thousand worlds of ick. A friend picked this for our “excuse to get together and drink beer” bookclub. Sophomoric writing and moronic dialogue.

Many Bloody Returns 2007 (read 72)

Things that go bump in the night have birthdays too. So just for them- a collection of bday stories of the undead. Read a so-so one by Kelley Armstrong and an enjoyably madcap one by Jim Butcher, both set in their respective series.

Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital 2007 (358/read 23)

In this modern take on the myth, Orpheus/Mishka is a street musician and Euridice/Leela a mathematician fascinated by him. I was less than fascinated. The only thing I find more boring than reading about music (as opposed to actually listening to it), is reading about people listening to music.

Tesseracts 10: A Celebration of New Canadian Speculative Fiction 2006 (301/read 40ish)

There were a couple interesting stories, but mostly the sci-fi was too hard (spaceships & artificial intelligence) to interest me.

Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link 2001 (266/read 240)

Excellent bizzarity and nonchalant weirdness. I’d pecked at this previously, so some stories were re-reads & a couple I’d just read in other collections.

don’t have to live like a refugee

The Necessary Beggar  by Susan Palwick 2005 (316 pgs)

Excellent tale of the refugee experience, chronicling the toll that adaptation takes and the hidden cost of secrets. When one of their number is exiled for murder, an extended family steps through the doorway to an unknown alternate dimension- ours. Together, they must learn to adapt to this new world, first in a refugee camp and then in the larger world. The acculturation process is not an easy one for everything here is truly alien to them. The family strives to fit in without loosing their own identities. The journey is an enjoyable one, spiced with foreign flair, strong voices, and a dash of magic.

a streetcar named bizarre

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology 2006 (288 pgs/read 240)

Slipstream, I never knew I loved ya. This brand of magical realism (or perhaps realistic magicialism) is just my style. Ranging from “realism with a side of weird” to “metafiction with a dash of odd” every story was uniquely enjoyable. There were great ones from Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Carol Emshwiller, George Saunders, Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Chabon, Theodora Goss, … okay I feel like I’m just recreating the content page- but I loved nearly every story in the book (unusual for me with an anthology). My favorite was an exceptional “angelic visitations cause random catastrophes and miracles in every day life” story from Ted Chiang.

torch well-passed

Dragonsblood  by Todd McCaffrey 2005 (438 pgs)

Pern is in good hands. With his first solo effort, Todd McCaffrey has aptly taken over his mother Ann’s long-running dragon series. Not only is his imagining of that rich world spot-on, but he clearly has a wealth of story ideas. The characters are well-developed, and the plots are top-notch. He deftly manages the technobabble, presenting complex information in a manner that is neither dumbed-down nor incomprehensible. And his dextrous time-jump juggling is stellar.