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You guys, I am so disorganised at the moment. I had planned to do a final post for Sci-Fi Month on Irish Sci-Fi Authors and never actually got around to typing it up, I’m behind on commenting on all your lovely blog posts, including those from the tail end of Sci-Fi Month, there’s no food in my fridge and I genuinely don’t understand how it’s the 4th of December already. I fly back home on the 18th, which means I have two weeks to sort myself out. ORGANISATION IS NECESSARY! So even though I never did that Sci-Fi Month post, and I haven’t posted my weekly reads for two (three?) weeks, here’s a Weekly Miscellany so that I can pretend to myself that I’m a little bit on track.
I sprained a ligament in my foot last week, about fifteen seconds after leaving work, so I’ve spent a lot of this week lying down, trying to keep it elevated (so hard!). I’ve done some online stuff, including most of my Christmas shopping. I’ve been planning the things I’m going to bake for people for Christmas, and putting together my Christmas dinner plan (as previously mentioned, this will be my first time cooking Christmas dinner so it’s exciting!). I’ve also been catching up with various television programmes.
First up was Grey’s Anatomy. I’m such a sucker for Grey’s. I know I should abandon it, but I can’t! I’m actually really enjoying the relationship between Meredith and Riggs, but hating the over-the-top ‘DON’T LIE TO ME AGAIN’ storyline between Meredith and Maggie. The Alex storyline has been dealt with really well, and that cliffhanger – argh! The thing that’s really pissed me off, though is what they’ve done with Hunt and Amelia (sidenote: props to Kevin McKidd for featuring an Iain Banks book). Amelia realising that she doesn’t actually want to have kids is such an important storyline, but Hunt. Doesn’t. Deserve. This. He’s gone through a version of this, and I don’t want to watch him do it again. I thought it was hilarious though that he completely forgot the fiancee he abandoned without any kind of word when he was trying to assure Riggs that he wasn’t a good guy.
I’ve also made it half way through the second season of Dark Matter and I’m liking it so far. I wasn’t sure where they were going to go after the end of season one, but I think they’ve handled it well. More Nyx please, is really my only proper comment so far.
And then there’s Project Runway. As I’ve previously discussed, I love Project Runway to a possibly unhealthy level, so I was delighted to realise the new season had started and I had ten whole episodes to catch up on. That delight increased when I saw that Dexter from Styled to Rock was in it. What the flip is with Erin’s designs though? The judges love her and everything she does is so… boxy. You can get away with that to a point, but some of her looks are dreadful. Like this one, that the judges loved but which looks like something a little girl would design. Seriously, I feel like she only got away with it because of the fabric. That ruffle gives me nightmares, guys. Also, her embellishment is painfully unsubtle to me, which is maybe the point, but not something I enjoy.
Finally, I watched Virago: Changing the World One Page at a Time, which was amazing and depressing and inspirational and just brilliant. And I’m not saying it’s on YouTube, for those of you outside the UK (it’s on the BBC iPlayer for those of you in the UK), but it totally is. After watching it I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t own nearly enough Virago titles.
I’m taking inspiration from Book Week Scotland for this Sci-Fi Month post, and focusing on Scottish authors who write science-fiction. I’m also going to plug the Book Week Scotland Reading Dare because it manages to be both fun, helpful and inspirational (one of them is ‘Go into a library and ask the person behind the counter what their favourite book is and borrow it’ and I have to say good luck with that one in certain libraries. I never cease to be surprised at how many library staff don’t read for pleasure). Clicking on the images below will bring you to the Goodreads page for the book or series.
A self-described polymath, Alasdair Gray is best known for his artwork, but has written several novels (and plays and poems and everything else you can think of). Lanark has been on my to-be-read list since I moved to Scotland but I’m tempted to try one of his other novels first as they’re all far shorter. Experimental and often beautifully illustrated, Gray’s work challenges, well, everything really.
I didn’t realise that sci-fi poetry was a thing until I came across Edwin Morgan. The book I’ve linked to above features sci-fi poetry from a range of UK authors as Morgan’s have never been brought together in one volume. A sample of Where Rockets Burn Through can be downloaded here, and includes Morgan’s ‘A Question’.
Gary Gibson is one of those authors whose books I see everywhere, yet I’ve still never read anything by him. If I’d known how much The Apocalypse Duology sounded like Fringe, I’d have picked it up ages ago!
Grant Morrison has written a lot of sci-fi stuff involving superheroes – he just loves tinkering with alternate realities – but I’ve chosen to highlight his non-Marvel/DC work. We3 has been on my wishlist for years so I really must make more of an effort to read it.
Confession time: I have never read a book by Iain M. Banks. I’ve read one book by his non-sci-fi alter-ego Iain Banks, but despite having had him on my radar for decades, I have yet to pick up one of his sci-fi titles. I’m a bit ashamed, to be honest.
I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me to read The Panopticon (whose unreliable narrator makes the genre categorisation of the book iffy at best), but I somehow ended up reading The Sunlight Pilgrims (a more clear-cut sci-fi novel) first. Given that it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, I really am going to have to pick up The Panopticon. If only so Scottish people can stop looking appalled when I say I’ve not read it (ditto: Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory).
Until I started researching for this post, I hadn’t even realised that Julie Bertagna was Scottish.
Continuing the trend of this post, I haven’t actually read anything by Ken MacLeod. If I’ve learned anything putting this together, it’s that I’ve read a pathetically small amount of Scottish sci-fi. (I’ve also learned that it’s quite difficult to get posts to look the way you want them to with WordPress, but I mostly already knew that one.)
This kind of sci-fi doesn’t attract me at all, but I have to admire the success of Lisanne Norman’s Sholan Alliance series.
I absolutely love the sound of The Long Way Back. Flipping British colonialism on its head is a good starting point for any story, but the way Bennett has framed her plot device here is genius. The Furious Masters sounds like a really interesting combination of genres, but it doesn’t light my fire to quite the same degree as The Long Way Back.
What if, after you’ve saved an alien planet from total destruction, you return home and no one believes you? Like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar has written plenty of sci-fi tinged superhero adventures, but his original tales tend to have an interesting spin on the tropes that make up the sci-fi genre.
I’ve not read these, though I’ve seen them around. If you’ve made it this far in the post, you won’t be surprised by that… Worst sci-fi reader ever!
It sounds like Naomi Mitchison’s sci-fi mixes feminism and gender politics with space exploration and first contact with an alien species to fantastic (if slightly dated) effect, and I am itching to get my hands on Memoirs of a Spacewoman in particular.
Time loops. I think we can all agree that they’re awesome. Absolutely soul-destroying to be stuck in, but a joy to read about or watch and Sci-Fi Month is the perfect time to talk about them. As always, I am more than open to recommendations for amazing time loop reads, because I really haven’t come across enough.
Do you feel like I might have already told you to read this book? That’s because I have, and I mean it so much I’m slotting it into two lists (Isolated in Space being the first, and now that you know that, you’re thinking ‘isolated in space AND a time loop? Amazing!’ and you’re absolutely right to think that). The time loop in The Explorer is not fun (for the character experiencing it), but it is clever and more than a little harrowing.
When Stargate Command gets caught in a time loop, only Jack and Teal’c are aware of what’s happening. Working to free themselves, they’re forced to learn an alien language, but as the ten hour loop repeats itself over, and over, and over again, they find it harder and harder to focus on what they should be doing. Easily my favourite episode of Stargate SG-1, ‘Window of Opportunity’ is both hilarious and dark as fuck. Familiar characters are given the opportunity to act without repercussions, but it’s made clear that reliving the same ten hour period over and over is not all fun and games.
On an island off the coast of Wales, Jacob stumbles across an abandoned orphanage that turns out not to be as abandoned as it seems. The time loop in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is interesting because it exists to save a group of children with special powers from a monster than wants to consume them. There are only a few people who can create time loops, and each loop is completely different in setting, but the same in that it traps the children in one day where their bodies can never grow older. For me the time loops, and the ymbryne’s that create them, were the most interesting part of a series that had a lot of potential, but ultimately lost it’s way.
Global Dynamics have a time maintenance guy, because of course they do, and it’s finally his time to shine! Another heart-breaking time loop with brilliant comedic moments, this one sees Sheriff Jack Carter come to realise that something time-related has gone wrong on the day that the woman he loves marries the man he sort of hates. As Jack relives the day, and a Dr Who joke repeats itself to great effect in the background, the only possible solution seems darker and darker. (A Town Called) Eureka messes with time so deliciously in so many episodes, by the way, guys.
I’ve not read this one yet, but it sounds like it ticks a lot of boxes for me. A teenager is killed in a car crash and relives the day of death over and over, but is it so she can save herself or someone else? I’ve enjoyed the two books that I have read by Lauren Oliver (Delirium and Rooms), and I’ve seen Before I Fall described as Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls, so that’s a yes, please from me!
Dean dies. A lot. And, for once, it’s nothing to do with the war between heaven and hell. ‘Mystery Spot’, like the best time loop episodes, is laugh out loud funny at first but it rapidly ditches this in favourite of a horrifying darkness. Try to watch this episode without getting ‘Heat of the Moment’ stuck in your head – I dare you!
Honourable television mentions go to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 05, Episode 18: Cause and Effect, The X-Files, Season 06, Episode 14: Monday and Charmed, Season 01, Episode 22: Deja Vu All Over Again.
I unexpectedly met my Goodreads reading challenge goal of 200 books this week. Go me! I read 211 books in 2015, though, so I still have something to beat.
A wonderful story about family, illness and loss. Catrina and her family move to a new town that has an unusual connection with ghosts. While Maya, Catrina’s younger sister is determined to actually speak to a ghost, Catrina is determined to keep them away from her family at all costs. If this had been a ghost story that had really been about the fear of losing a sister, I would have unreservedly loved this book. The ghosts, however, are connected to the town through the Day of the Dead, which made things a little more complicated. It’s difficult for me to judge how Telgemeier dealt with this particular aspect of the book, though I felt uncomfortable with it at times, but there are a lot of reviews that accuse her of a lack of accuracy. Definitely a read with positives and negatives, this one.
With humanity split between the haves and the have-nots, Violet and her parents are very much have-nots. That doesn’t bother Violet though, she’s too busy making friends and learning how to fly spaceships. When her father goes missing and his employers claim to have never even heard of him, Violet sets out to save him. This is a ridiculously fun romp through a richly imagined universe, with some important things to say about family and friendship. Although aimed at kids, the story is still pretty complex and the humour is pretty wide-ranging (there are a lot of jokes about poo, as seems to be the norm in children’s literature these days, but some of them are actually funny).
It’s never ideal to jump into a story four volumes in, but even taking that into account, Beyond Good and Evil doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The story telling is choppy, rushing from a to c without stopping at the really important point of b. It opens on a story that could have had a lot of emotional resonance – Kara looks at flashes of Kal-El’s life and begins to understand what it was like for him growing up on Earth. Sadly, Kara doesn’t get much time to process what she’s seen, being confined to making faces in the background. We then skip to her apartment, where Superman asks her to do something and, even though the artwork (and dialogue) completely fail to indicate this to the reader, she fails. I’m still not sure how she failed. But it’s bad, and she’s a bad superhero. Something she underlines by saving a boy from a burning building the wrong way. You’ll have guessed by now that I did not love this TPB.
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally gotten around to reading the origin story of Miles Morales aka Spider-Man, and it definitely lived up to the hype. When Miles is bitten by a spider, he gains new super-powers. Which is cool and all, but what the hell is a kid at grade school supposed to do with super-powers? The core of the story is Miles’ struggle with himself as he deals with his new abilities, and it’s really deftly handled. The origin of the spider sets up a nice B-story with the potential to run for a long time, and the elephant in the room that is Peter Parker is fully embraced. Miles himself is an awesome kid, and his supporting cast are admirably diverse (and fun!). I totally get why people keep campaigning for a Miles Morales movie now, and I want one too.
This was a two year jump into the future after Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Volume 1 which took a bit of adjustment. As did the fact that Peter Parker seemed to come back. I’m assuming that the comics really did bring Peter back (an idea I’m not sure I’m on board with) but in this volume no one’s really sure if it’s him which leads to the funniest two page spread I’ve read in a while – clone!!!! There’s so much Peter Parker in this TPB, but it’s still very much a Miles Morales story. Phew.
I don’t know what to say about this really. I did not enjoy it. At all. In an Earth that’s permanently frozen, a train runs on a track, never slowing, never stopping, keeping the last of humanity alive. Okay, you might think, that sounds interesting. And you’re right, it does sound interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make a single bit of sense. We get a throwaway reference to Snowpiercer originally have been planned as a luxury train for rich people, but nothing that explains the construction of an endless track, or the addition of quite so many carriages. Inside the train, society is strictly divided, with the rich living comfortable lives in the front carriages, and the poor living desperate lives in the rear carriages. One passenger manages to escape from the rear carriages, which is where our story starts. He won’t go back, which is where our story ends. In between we get lots of nonsensical plot, poor dialogue and horrifying examples of misogyny. There are no women in positions of power on Snowpiercer, but it’s okay because there are lots of naked women doing whatever the rich passengers at the front of the train want. Even our heroine, who’s supposed to be a political activist, strips off almost immediately when locked in a room with the hero. I gave this two stars on Goodreads, but I’m seriously considering downgrading it.
With a different writer than Volume 1, I was hoping for a plot that made a little bit more sense and a whole lot less misogyny. I was disappointed. For some reason we move to a second train that knew Snowpiercer was there (though Snowpiercer thought it was alone) but still managed to crash into it. So the train is now half Snowpiercer and half Icepiercer, but still subject to exactly the same societal structure as Snowpiercer. Okay. Our hero this time is an ‘Explorer’, someone who is sent outside the train to forage for goods during scheduled stops (which are a thing now). The explorer storyline had potential, but instead we’re treated to a rehash of the plot of the the first volume that somehow makes even less sense than the first. Avoid.
This has been recommended to me by so many people since it came out, so I almost jumped for joy when the library finally got a copy in. And it’s so freaking good. SO GOOD. A compilation of short stories, it’s deliciously creepy, unsettling, lyrical, beautiful and sinister. There was one story that I didn’t love as much as the others, but the book was so good overall that I don’t even really care. I want more, so much more of this type of work!
I’ve not read widely in The New 52, but what I have read has been pretty subpar. I hate this version of Wonder Woman. I hate the inclusion of the Greek Gods. None of it works for me. I’ve never particularly been a fan of Superman, and this version has done little to change my mind. And then we have the relationship. Wonder Woman and Superman? Really? Charles Soule has to contort himself and the characters all over the place to try to get this particular dynamic to work and I’m not sure he pulls it off. There are some interesting moments, but nothing that made me buy into the concept of Clark loves Diana forever.
I’m a sucker for stories about someone all alone in the endless expanse of space. I’m also a sucker for stories about someone all alone in the Arctic, or in a spooky house, or in any kind of setting that is unsettling. But we all know that alone in space wins hands down, so for this Sci-Fi Month post, let’s talk about unforgettable ‘Isolated in Space’ stories. Please feel free to comment with your own recommendations (seriously, give me all the recommendations!) 🙂
A journalist joins the crew of the ‘Ishiguro’, the ship built to undertake Earth’s first deep space mission, recording events as they begin to spin out of control. Mysterious deaths, isolation, seemingly inexplicable events that may indicate a descent into madness – The Explorer, the first of the quartet, has it all. To say more would be a massive spoiler but I loved this book. Everything mentioned in the book blurb happens in the first fifty pages, leaving the reader as untethered as the main character. The story continues in The Echo which follows the crew sent to find out what happened to the ‘Ishiguro’, and it’s not long before things start to go wrong, despite their best preparations. Honestly, this series doesn’t get anywhere near the level of attention that it deserves. The two books that have been published so far can be read as stand-alone but are so much richer when read in order. Read them. You won’t regret it!
A serious of video games, Dead Space (mostly) follows Isaac Clarke, an engineer on the ‘Ishimura’, a mining ship that finds itself at the mercy of creatures called Necromancers. Isaac is one of only three survivors and finds himself having to repurpose engineering tools to destroy the reanimated corpses of his former shipmates. Survival horror, psychological thriller, almost-zombies – what more could you ask for? As it progresses, the universe of Dead Space becomes richer and richer, giving us peaks into how humans live in the 26th Century. Dead Space 2 is easily one of my favourite games, combining a rich science-fiction setting, a character who is traumatised by the collapse of his way of life, and genuinely terrifying scenes.
This movie, you guys. It doesn’t get a lot of love and even I have to admit that it’s not the most subtle movie in the world, but it’s really freaking good. The ‘Lewis and Clark’ is dispatched to find out what happened to the ‘Event Horizon’, an experimental ship which has reappeared on scanners as inexplicably as it disappeared seven years ago. Upon boarding, they discover evidence that the crew turned on each other before killing themselves in increasingly horrifying ways. As they try to figure out what happened to the Event Horizon, they become more and more suspicious of the ship’s designer, who joined them for the mission and who definitely seems to know more that he’s letting on. This is a full-on horror movie, but there’s some solid science fiction underpinning everything.
Honourable mentions go to Good Morning, Midnight by Lily-Brooks Dalton, 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (movie-wise, I much prefer 2010: The Year We Make Contact, but that’s a discussion for another post), and Gravity.
I don’t usually participate in Top Ten Tuesday, but since it’s Sci-Fi Month I’ve decided to go crazy 😉 So please, sit back and enjoy the top ten sci-fi books that are currently sitting in my to-be-read pile. Or tell me that I’m absolutely wrong about all of my choices and recommend better ones.
Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet. That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.
Lianne over at Eclectic Tales sent me this two or three years ago and I STILL haven’t read it. It looks so good though, so I really do have to question my reading priorities.
The first of a six book series set after the end of Stargate Atlantis’s final season, Homecoming sees Atlantis return to the Pegasus Galaxy. But the situation in Pegasus has changed. The Wraith are on the verge of unification under the new and powerful Queen Death. She stages a daring raid with one goal: the capture of the only man able to give their ships hyperdrive and lead them to Earth - Dr. Rodney McKay.
I bought the first few books in this continuation series as they were published, but with Fandemonium making it harder and harder to buy physical copies rather than ebooks, my interest tailed off a bit. But! More Shepherd, McKay, Teyla and Ronon! How can I continue to let them languish, unloved, on my shelves?
1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where has the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man’s Land gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive (some said mad, others dangerous) scientist when she finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a …potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever. And that is an understatement if ever there was one…
When the first book in this series came out, I decided that I’d wait until they were all published before I read any of them. Then Terry Pratchett died, and now they’re loaded with expectation which makes reading them a bit daunting.
In a future when Earth is a toxic, abandoned world and humanity has spread into the outer solar system to survive, the tightly controlled use of time travel holds the key to maintaining a fragile existence among the other planets and their moons. James Griffin-Mars is a chronman–a convicted criminal recruited for his unique psychological makeup to undertake the most dangerous job there is: missions into Earth’s past to recover resources and treasure without altering the timeline. Most chronmen never reach old age, and James is reaching his breaking point. On his final mission, James meets scientist Elise Kim, who is fated to die during the destruction of an oceanic rig. Against his training and common sense, James brings her back to the future with him, saving her life, but turning them both into fugitives. Remaining free means losing themselves in the wild and poisonous wastes of Earth, and discovering what hope may yet remain for humanity’s home world.
This one has been sitting on my shelf since last Christmas which, compared to some of the other books on this list, isn’t too bad.
In a near-future, half-flooded world governed by technobureaucracy and ultraconformity, where human contact is abhorrent and passion unheard of, William Fowke already has a reputation as a trouble-maker. And now he insists that the Wall – the engineering marvel that keeps what remains of America’s East Coast from being inundated by the Atlantic Ocean – is leaking. Convicted of sedition and ‘excluded’, Fowke begins a horrific, thrilling odyssey through a nether world of gulags. With the exception of agent Julia Keller, who arrested him, everyone is hostile, including his former bosses and fellow prisoners, leaving Fowke excluded even by the excluded. And desperate to get back to his threatened Wall to sound the alarm.
According to my LibraryThing account, I’ve had this one since Christmas 2012…
A grand adventure that spans galaxies and lifetimes, A Confusion of Princes is also a page-turning action adventure. These are the three deaths of Prince Khemri. Told in his own words, we follow him as he trains to become a Prince of the Empire, an enhanced human being, equipped with biological and technological improvements that make him faster, stronger and smarter than any ordinary person. Not to mention the ultimate benefit: should he die, and be deemed worthy, he will be reborn…Which is just as well, because no sooner has Prince Khemri graduated to full Princehood than he learns the terrible truth behind the Empire: there are a million princes, and all of them want each other dead, because there can only be one Emperor…
I’ve read a short story set in this universe, and I’m a massive fan of Garth Nix, so why is this still waiting to be read a year after I bought it?
In the aftermath of the uprising, the people of Silo 18 are coming to terms with a new order. Some embrace the change, others fear the unknown; none have control of their fate. The Silo is still in danger. There are those set on its destruction. Jules knows they must be stopped. The battle has been won. The war is just beginning.
I absolutely adored the first two parts of this trilogy, but have yet to start this one despite having had it on loan from the library since *cough* 2014.
ClearVista is used by everyone and can predict anything. It’s a daily lifesaver, predicting weather to traffic to who you should befriend. Laurence Walker wants to be the next President of the United States. ClearVista will predict his chances. It will predict whether he’s the right man for the job. It will predict that his son can only survive for 102 seconds underwater. It will predict that Laurence’s life is about to collapse in the most unimaginable way.
Another one I’ve had out from the library since 2014. I am a terrible book borrower!
Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He’s wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.
I read about six chapters of The Passage when it first came out in paperback, but put it down as it wasn’t what I was in the mood for at the time. Not long after, I bought the hardback, and it’s been sitting on my shelves forlornly ever since.
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone. But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over. Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.
I’ve only owned this one for a little over a week, so my guilt levels aren’t too high for not having gotten around to it yet.