Non-Work 2014

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Non-Work 2014

Reading 2014

2k14/12

  • Neuromancer. Gibson. Still incredible. A lot of it is very trippy, loosely skeined together in flows of sheer dynamism and lights, but there's still character, plot, action, and thought.
  • Iron Council. Miéville. Pretty entertaining, though probably on the weaker side of Miéville's novels that I've read. At least to me the book basically has three acts. The first and third are ok, but not particularly interesting. In particular, they read an awful lot like Davidson's Unwrapped Sky that I just read a few months ago: An archaic, elaborately dense city of an Eastern European dream, ancient lost technology, bizarre citizens and aliens, underground union organizers and agitators, and so on. Granted, Iron Council is the forerunner, but still, much of it was not super interesting. The middle part though is fantastic, part Western, part travel story, part fantasy fever dream. The novel's worth reading just for that section.
  • The Ultra Thin Man. Swenson. The Ultra Boring Book... I had to force myself to power through to the end rather than simply discarding. The characters are all pretty flat, the relationships pat and boring, the plot silly and meaningless, with a number of elements that suspend disbelief and manage to raise questions about the science of what's going on.

2k14/11

  • Lowball. Martin, Snodgrass, editors. Not amazing, but fairly entertaining. I like the introduction of some Eastern European mythology, but it's all basically thrown to the next novel in a major cliffhanger. This series continues to be at its best when focusing on Jokertown, Fort Freak, and the smaller character development stories rather than super heroes slugging it out. Rustbelt is again a particularly sympathy inducing, interesting character.

2k14/10

  • Y: The Last Man. Vaughan. Almost put this down in the first couple stories. The main character's predictable and boorish, the other characters largely cardboard stereotypes, the plot not super amazing. But it does get better over time, not coincidentally at the same time as the main character gets more worldly. The series also does a good job of presenting several compelling theories as to why and how this disaster has struck, all of which make at least some sense in a comic book universe. In general though the series never really hits hard with any particular insights or novelties. It all kind of fits with what you'd first expect from the premise, so it makes sense that it became a mainstream hit that everyone apparently found really original and fresh... The very ending scenes though for the main character are very good.
  • Tuckitor's Last Swim. Cohn. Short story on Tor.com.
  • As Good As New. Anders. Short story on Tor.com.
  • When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami. Blake. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Golden Apple of Shangri-La. Barnett. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Selfies. Tidhar. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza. Vaughn. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Midway Relics and Dying Breeds. McGuire. Short story on Tor.com.

2k14/9

  • The Cold Dish. Johnson. First novel of the Longmire series. Pretty good. Possibly not as good as the TV series? Mystical elements take longer to kick in, aren't as strong. Having seen the show it's also hard to not read the characters as those actors. Good novel though.

2k14/8

  • Unwrapped Sky. Davidson. Takes a while to get going as many of the pieces are pretty slow moving at the start and take even longer to intertwine. Leaves a lot of strands wide open at the end as well. Good universe though, interesting setting.
  • Containment. Cantrell. Really good debut novel. Didn't wind up where I thought it would, which is a pleasant surprise. At a couple points it seems to jump forward a bit in terms of decisions being made without being made, but those instances weren't strong enough that I can actually cite them as problems. The main protagonist by the end is a bit strong in terms of his abilities, but that's also not a huge problem.
  • The Moonshine War. Leonard. Not super deep but a fast read and some interesting characters.
  • A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Proposed Trade-Offs for the Overhaul of the Barricade. Chu. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Colonel. Watts. Short story on Tor.com. Good read on transhumans and hive minds. Seemingly a sequel to Watts' very good novel Blindsight and prelude to his upcoming Echopraxia.

2k14/7

  • Be Cool. Leonard.
  • Robogenesis. Wilson.
  • Raylan. Leonard. Essentially a collection of short stories in the Raylan Givens universe, this was written sometime after the second season or so of Justified. It's kind of weird reading. Some elements are taken straight from the show but morphed, like Dickie and Coover Bennett being switched over to the the Crowe family. Some stories from the book were later taken up by the show, notably the organ harvesting scheme, Rachel Nevada, Delroy, and the plot but not the character revolving around Jodi. Not a ton of meat on this, but a fun, fast read.
  • Pronto. Leonard. I believe this is the introduction of the Raylan Givens character, and provides the back story referenced and slightly enacted by Justified. A fast, fun read. There are some interesting things going on with the characters, though any deep themes would take some thought to extract.
  • Eternity Road. McDevitt. A fast, solid read. The constructed world is interesting, with a lot of nice imagery of overgrown abandoned ruins and such, and some fun trying to guess at what various things are. The tone is a little funny at times. Here and there it injects small commentary explaining various things that would not have been known by people in this time/universe. Most of that is covered up by the book being ostensibly an archival record written later, but it's still jarring, and a bit of a stretch in places. The characters aren't particularly deep or anything, and neither is the plot, but it remains a good read.
  • Cairo. Wilson & Perker. Graphic novel. A good read that's lively but not truly action oriented, and certainly not comic book-ish despite the fantastical elements. It does a good job at being distinctly Middle Eastern. My only concern is how strongly it comes across as (white) Americans yet again coming to save the day. It's not too overbearing: One is basically a suburban college girl dippy-liberal caricature there mostly as a foil for one of the more earnest local leads. The other is definitely the savior of the piece though. He's Lebanese-American but to me at least comes off as distinctly more American, which is unfortunate. That's particularly ironic given that the graphic novel is fairly explicitly intended to be anti-imperialist and empower a more diverse range of characters, but for me at least it ultimately undermines itself completely. A real shame because all the other characters and the story are pretty good.

2k14/5

  • Joe Golem and the Drowning City. Mignola & Golden. Excellent steampunk fantasy tale set in a waterlogged mid-century New York. Mignola has stated that Joe Golem was intended to be a Hellboy replacement if the latter's movies came out terrible, and you can see that pretty clear. Both the character, the setting, and the plot have very similar feels. So much so that some of the monsters and scenes toward the end seemed very evocative of a particular scene I couldn't quite remember... until I realized it was one of the Hellboy movies. That's not a knock, it's not particularly derivative or a clone, it's just very much the same milieu and character types. Great stuff if you like Hellboy at all.
  • Litany of Earth. Emrys. Novella on Tor.com. Cthulhu!
  • Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome. Scalzi. Novella on Tor.com.
  • Kick-Ass. Vol 1. Millar. Not totally sure what to make of it. Definitely pretty good, but I can't help but feel a touch like it's making kind of a smart-ass joke when it could be kind of deep.
  • Animal Man. Vol 1: #s 1--9. Morrison. It's way off the wall at first and doesn't quite deliver on some of the more serious aspects I was hoping for, but it is pretty good once you start getting into its groove. I was really hoping it was going to get more explicit about superheroes and what they can do. I thought it was going that way with the assault on his wife. But, like most comic books, it does keep hitting on that point, but skirts the edges of some really deep points but pulls back before either getting explicitly to it or even just hammering it home. As always, comics are way better in talking about and analyzing them, after you've embellished the mythos quite a bit, than they are in just the raw source text itself. Beyond that, the other real problem here is just that I feel like you can feel Morrison's smugly beaming at his own cleverness throughout. The issue about Crafty, for example, is both brilliant and utterly pretentious.
  • The Mothers of Voorhisville. Ricket. Novella on Tor.com. A very good quiet, sad story.
  • vN: The First Machine Dynasty. Ashby. This book is pretty crazy and fairly original. It fits in some of the same places as Robopocalypse and similar of late, but is more innovative. Maybe a way wacked out A.I.? The only real downside to the whole thing is that the ending is pretty tepid. Though telegraphed in advance, there's a huge literal deus ex machina. Seemed pretty clear the author just didn't know how to take the story any farther and looked for a quick out. Up to that point though it's solid.
  • Pushing Ice. Reynolds. Pretty gripping story of colonization and alien exploration. The hard science-y feel and focus on establishing a colony, but physically and legally, makes it read a fair bit like the Red Mars series. Not nearly the same amount of depth, but much faster moving and dramatic. Wraps everything up pretty neatly by the end.

2k14/4

  • A Rumor of Angels. Bailey. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The End of the End of Everything. Bailey. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Cold Wind. Griffith. Short story on Tor.com.
  • What Mario Scietto Says. Laybourne. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Something Going Around. Turtledove. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Nighttime in Caeli-Amur. Davidson. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Cartography of Sudden Death. Anders. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Price of Doing Business. Jackson. Short story on Tor.com.

2k14/3

  • The Devil in America. Wilson. Short story on Tor.com. I'm not super comfortable with how this pushes some of the banal evil of Civil War era America onto the devil himself, but otherwise this is a really good story.
  • Wakulla Springs. Duncan and Klages. Novella on Tor.com. Not particularly actually a fantasy or sci-fi story so I'm not super sure how it wound up with Tor, but it is a very good story.
  • Anyway: Angie. Older. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Noma Girl. Fama. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Doppel. Smith. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Ugly Woman of Castella di Putti. Dellamonica. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Jubilee. Schroeder. Short story on Tor.com. Interesting take on interstellar society.
  • Cold War. Christopher. Short story on Tor.com.
  • Shakespeare in Company. Non-fiction. Van Es. Great look at the bard and the working context that helped him achieve his potential. Deeper summary and comments.

2k14/2

  • Ekaterina and the Firebird. Staffin-Wiebe. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Intelligence Director. Brody. Short story on Tor.com.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Gaiman. Nothing too dramatic, but it's short and sweet. Basically a short story that's been blown up somewhere around a novella. Has some interesting fantastical aspects of course, and some interesting character things, but isn't too deep. It moves along crisply though and has a nice young voice, a kids story where the kids aren't hyper annoying.
  • Suicide Kings. Martin, editor. Not bad, but not particularly amazing either. Pretty fantastical with its powers, and it gets a bit over the top with so many supers with so many abilities. Some interesting bits though. A couple good relationships, some nice character development and mental things going on.
  • The Unincorporated Man. Kollin & Kollin. Super tedious. I forced myself to finish it, but just barely. The central premise is interesting, but nearly as novel as many people seem to think. The idea of every individual being their own corporation is certainly out there in both fiction and real life. Exploring that is interesting, but this book does poorly at it. The plot is incredibly predictable, literally from the start to the finish. Justin and Neela will hook up at Mardis Gras and then throw caution to the wind, the Chairman will turn out to be a quiet revolutionary and have paid Justin's reawakening fees, Justin will wind up out among the miners in the asteroid clouds to lead the revolution, etc. Compounding that, the characters are all super boring. The lead protagonist is of course perfect: Smart, rich, athletic, ethical, blah blah blah. The women are all of course helpless and dazzled by their immensely more capable lovers. Even above all of that, a lot of the (g)libertarian views coming across here are pretty obnoxious. E.g., real-life current Alaska isn't some bastion of freedom keeping government's hands off everyone's liberties. It's a bastion of inefficient rural living heavily subsidized by oil money and federal taxes paid by the big US cities. All in all I was very let down by this given some of the commentary it's gotten.

2k14/1

  • 1Q84. Murakami. Don't understand the hype at all. Not a bad book, it actually has lots of interesting things. But it drags on for forever, and the fantasy elements aren't all that novel or interesting.
  • The Steel Remains. Morgan. Not a bad book, but not a great one. There are a lot of interesting things going on, some intriguing world stuff. The big problem though is a very anti-climactic ending. From about 2/3 through it starts to become clear that the book is little more than a prologue, getting-the-band-together effort for a trilogy (not otherwise indicated on the book), and is not headed for the apocalyptic, world altering finale that would be due the buildup. Worse, the big bad goes from a single one of them being all-but-unbeatable, scariest thing ever... To a whole group of them being easily defeated by some soldiers and a couple heroes. Yet in the sequel they're apparently again all worried about this menace? Just doesn't make sense. Fair warning, the book has a lot of violence, and a ton of very graphic sex.
  • After Dark. Murakami. An interesting book, really a novella, but it seems unfinished. On the one hand I understand that open endedness, quiet stillness, and a portraiture of the night is what Murakami's going for here. But on the other hand, it'd be great if it actually went somewhere. A lot of interesting dominoes are setup, but nothing falls over. Some of the perspective and storytelling is weird as well. All of the Eri segments actually approach boring with their antiseptic, cold feel, and awkward, forced plural camera narrator, on top of a significantly more fantastical plot line than the rest of the book. The book's not bad, but it's not particularly compelling either.
  • Ship of Fools. Russo. This is almost a great novel, but it comes up tragically short. Great characters with some depth and interesting novelties---the narrator has multiple deformities, overcome with purposefully mechanical aesthetics. The basic setting of a heavily Christianized generation ship lost in space is actually pretty compelling, and stops just short of being too preachy. Combined with a couple great plot hooks like a mysterious planet-bound atrocity, and even more mysterious alien ship, and you've got a pretty good novel. But it's really disappointing. Almost nothing of interest is even remotely explained or tied up by the end. It's almost like the author just gave up on the book halfway through, or the editor trimmed it down by just excising the last third. Up until you realize there's no way to resolve anything in the remaining pages it's pretty good, but after that it's a significant disappointment.
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