‘The Four Loves’ By C.S. Lewis

I bought this because I had recently read a book about the Inklings and because Solid State Books has a wonderful selection near the bar (yes, they have a bar) on the philosophy shelves.

While I always bring my nook with me to Thailand, I always bring at least one paperback book. Something that is not too big and which stands rereading. Past international travel selections have included Wordsworth and Wuthering Heights (which I once read three times on a summer trip to Spain).

I had forgotten what an engaging writer Lewis can be (the last book I read of his was the turgid conclusion to his Space Trilogy). He reminds me of Thomas Merton and the G.K. Chesterton of Orthodoxy. Perhaps more like Chesterton’s conversational style, but even more so. I know that he honed a lot of his style via radio broadcasts and this has that feel of a fireside chat to a small group of curious acquaintances.

A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet

Space opera but almost totally lacking in shots fired. Those fired are key to the plot but, notably, the protagonists never fire back.

A good ensemble piece that steals greatly, but not badly, from Firefly (but with aliens).

I enjoyed it and agree with all the great reviews, but it felt a little thin on its own. In honor of the Firefly reference, it felt like the pilot to a very good show. The pilot is good, but is really intended to set up the season. I’d rather it had felt like a whole season than just the pilot.

‘Station Eleven’ By Emily St. John Mandel

A loan from a friend from my D&D group who thought I’d like and I did.

Despite technically being sci fi (post apocalyptic dystopia), it most resembles the books I have read by Michael Ondaatje, especially in that plot is besides the point and perhaps describing it would do a disservice, especially since the piling up of unlikely coincidences (Ondaatje again) is too much out of context. Suffice to say, everything revolves around a talented and famous but sad sack actor who died before the world as we know it now ends in the book. The rest is all just marvelous writing.

Ace Double: The Sun Smasher & Starhaven

Edmond Hamilton’s The Sun Smasher is a surprisingly slow paced (but not boring nor lacking in excitement) novel for something barely one hundred pages. A man on earth is told his life is a lie and he’s actually the brainwashed heir to an old empire. Swift, but not blunt hints are dropped that maybe that old empire wasn’t so great. An apocalyptic weapon too powerful to ever use. Oh, and giant psychic spiders.

Ivar Jorgensen’s Starhaven isn’t as good and is also something like 25% longer. Some interesting ideas (also involving, like its companion volume, brain wipes and implanted false memories), but a little disappointing after the more traditionally exciting Sun Smasher. Somehow, he made a rogue planet of criminals living in a social Darwinist paradise kind of meh.

The Cold Commands

He lost me. Seven hundred odd pages culminating in some poorly explained gobbledygook that reminded me of a lot of earlier gobbledygook, albeit less densely packed, that I had deigned to overlook.

You see, Morgan does some exciting fight scenes which encourage the reader to overlook how underexplained his fantasy world is, but when the poorly explained junk comes so fast and furious, you can no longer forgive.

The Curse Of Chalion

I can’t remember where this was recommended to me as an excellent fantasy novel by a female writer whose work is in danger of being overlooked these days, but it made enough of an impression that I bought this when I saw it at library book sale near my house. Unfortunately, Ms. Bujold will boy get royalties on the dollar I gave the Southeast library. Fortunately, I did get a good book. I devoured it as quickly as I could over the first few days that I had it.

A damaged hero. A princess (not meant for the hero; but he has his own love interest, holding a more suitably lesser status). Interesting and brutal (though not unnecessarily grim) politics and a religious system that I suspect George R.R. Martin of having borrowed from and an interesting magical ecosystem. The setting, despite stabs at new nomenclature, is basic western medieval. The ending drags on, but that’s not the worst sin.

The Engines Of God

I no longer remember where I heard about this book, but it stuck in my mind as something I should read if I got the chance.

I spoke to a fellow aficionado with very specific tastes. Among other features of his personality, he really only considers so-called hard science fiction to be genuine science fiction; the rest is just fantasy with space ships.

By those standards, The Engines of God is not science fiction, but it is closer and I recommended it to him.

It is a science fiction (by my lights) novel, but centered around discovery and investigation and despite having one action sequence with ‘blasters’ (here called pulsers), a sequence that is gritty, unnerving, and realistic in feel, it resolutely not an action book. There are alien ruins but the aliens are long gone.

The highest praise I can give is that it makes a semi-sentient, apocalyptic space cloud seem realistic and explainable.