?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Lois McMaster Bujold, Maureen F. McHugh, Lauren Beukes - Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

Serious Business | Flickr
Bounty Information | Wanted Dead or Alive: Mad Scientess Nanila
Deeds of Derring-Do | Full of Wild Inaccuracies and Exaggerations

Lois McMaster Bujold, Maureen F. McHugh, Lauren Beukes [20120425|18:12]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
[Tags|, , , , , ]

One of the positive things I got out of the discussion about EasterCon was a heap of recommendations for science fiction authors to check out. I started with the three listed in the subject line and bought, respectively, two collections of short stories and a novel to help me decide which ones to pursue.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Proto Zoa (author recommended by [personal profile] pbristow)

This is a collection of five early short stories. The first three are prosaic modern-life tales of woe in which the petty problems of ordinary people are solve humourously by the intervention of powers sufficiently advanced to look like magic. I was amused, but not engaged enough to consider reading something novel-length by this author.

Then I read the fourth and fifth stories.

These make the leap to wonderfully developed future worlds and hint at the potential for masterfully crafted space opera. The first, "Dreamweaver's Dilemma", is a psychological/technical suspense thriller in which an artist tries to solve a crime before it is committed. The second, "Aftermaths", is a gentler character exploration that deals, with melancholy tenderness, with the unpleasant business of post-war tidying up. It could easily have been transplanted from its setting in space to many points in humanity's history. I understand these last two are related to the Vorkosigan saga. As an introduction to and appetizer for those books, this pair of short stories performs beautifully.


Verdict: Moar please. What's the first book in the Vorkosigan cycle?

Maureen F. McHugh, After the Apocalypse (author recommended by pax_athena)

The first of these stories seemed promising. It reminded me of "I Am Legend", with a main character of unelevated social status (a convicted criminal) forced to survive in a collapsed society overrun by zombies. But the unsatisfying ending was, unfortunately, a harbinger of what was to follow in the remaining stories. Many of them can't rightfully be called short stories, but are vignettes. I couldn't find one that had a clear resolution and some of them seemed to be character sketches that made little sense without the context of a larger work. I found a few characters appealing enough to overlook the thinness of the plot, such as the Chinese girls taking on their corporate masters (and winning). But the attraction was to the characters rather than their context.


Verdict: I'm glad I sampled this, but I probably won't seek out more by this author.

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City (author recommended by [personal profile] ceb)

Ah, now this was satisfying to read. It's set in alt-present Johannesburg, with a highly intelligent sharp-tongued cynical ex-junkie anti-heroine (whom most other authors would probably have made male) named Zinzi December. Outcast in more ways than one - she's an aposymbiot as well as being an indebted ex-con - she ekes her living off her uncanny ability to sense what other people would very much like to keep hidden. Until someone hires her for an improbable sum and she senses that something is very wrong indeed. The twisted cyberpunk setting is well developed and woven cleverly into the plot, which can be read as a highly enjoyable detective novel or as a complex exploration of cultural mores or both. I note that some reviews of the book found the ending abrupt or slightly unbelievable, but I found it perfect. The good guys don't always win. And they're not always good. Or guys.


Verdict: There is only one other novel available, Moxyland, which I'll certainly be reading.

Up next are Octavia Butler, Seanan McGuire and Ben Aaronovitch. Further suggestions are most welcome.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2012-04-25 22:27 (UTC)
The Vorkosigan stories start with Cordelia's Honor. And while Miles Vorkosigan is interesting, I love Cordelia best of all the characters in the Barrayar books. So, I am glad things started with her.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:41 (UTC)
I'm hearing Cordelia-favouring sentiments from many respected quarters. I must get to reading about her quickly!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: belladonna_
2012-04-26 01:01 (UTC)
Ahhh! I'm so glad someone recommended Lois McMaster Bujold. I meant to after reading your post, but procrastinated. </p>

The first book is Shards of Honor, which is often sold packaged as an omnibus edition with the second book, Barrayar. They're really one long book, so if you can't find the omnibus, do try and get both. Cordelia is a WONDERFUL female character - and a math nerd to boot.

So those books deal with the mother of Bujold's main protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan. Who is my favorite character in most of books. I love him so much I named my baby after him. True story!

If you like the Vorkosigan Saga, and I so hope you do, Bujold wrote a fantasy series that's also (mostly) tremendous. The first book is The Curse of Chalion, and it's wonderful. But the *second* book, Paladin of Souls, is one of my favorite books ever, in genre or out of it. So many things to love about that book. In fact I think I should reread it right now. The third book, The Hallowed Hunt, was probably the most meh thing I've read of hers. I should probably re-read it to see if I'm judging too harshly. But I recall it being distinctly disappointing.

One of the things about the Chalion series that was so wonderful is that it *makes sense.* It has consistent internal logic, and though there's magic, it doesn't just deus ex machina all over the place. It's so refreshing to not feel insulted by a fantasy writer.

She has another fantasy series called The Sharing Knife that I enjoyed a lot, but it's kind of quiet and poky. I'd only check it out if you read and love the Vorkosigan and Chalion books.

I am so jealous you're starting this trip - wish I could experience the Vorkosigan-verse for the first time.

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: belladonna_
2012-04-26 01:09 (UTC)
Oh, and the omnibus edition is called Cordelia's Honor. Der. The first Miles is The Warrior's Apprentice, followed by The Vor Game. You can find those in an omnibus called Young Miles. Of course, if you're Kindling, omnibussing doesn't matter.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:42 (UTC)
It turns out that Baen offers all the Bujold books in e-book format for free:

http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/24-CryoburnCD/CryoburnCD/
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:48 (UTC)
Eee. Thank you for the very enthusiastic and comprehensive listing. I'm all excitable about this now. Must have more hours in the day for reading. :)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: pax_athena
2012-04-26 01:39 (UTC)
I did not like what I've read of Bujold so far, but Zoo City has wandered onto my wishlist :) Thank to you and to [personal profile] ceb :)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:45 (UTC)
Hurrah! I've totally cheated on my "Next Up" list with Moxyland. I regret nothing.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: returntosender
2012-04-26 07:23 (UTC)
This is odd. McHugh is one of my favourite novelists - but I have never touched her short stories. Maybe try reading China Mountain Zhang - I can lend you my copy if you like? I really, really love that book and would like to know what you thought of it.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:44 (UTC)
Ah! Well, if she's one of your favourites, I shall give her another try. It doesn't appear to be in e-book format and I'm banned from dead tree editions until after we move, so I'll ping you then if that's okay!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: returntosender
2012-04-27 13:56 (UTC)
Understandable! Most of her books are not in print anymore - after wailing about it I decided to buy a few ex-library copies a few years ago.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: purplecthulhu
2012-04-26 07:56 (UTC)
You can follow Lauren Beukes on twitter if you're interested.

Other recommendations - not sure what your rubric is- but you could try Jo Walton (esp. the Small Change series which starts with Farthing - I can lend you this if you want - and I have a lot of what could be called 'neo-hardSF' from the likes of Al Reynolds and Ken MacLeod.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:46 (UTC)
Why yes, I am interested. Done.

One of my labmates has mentioned Al Reynolds before. After I post my next swathe of reviews (and hopefully once I've moved and am no longer barred from dead tree editions), I'll ping you for a loan. :)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: imyril
2012-04-27 00:39 (UTC)
I'll admit to enjoying Ben Aaronovitch - who knows his way around London, and whose tongue-in-cheek romp is too much fun. On a similar note, did I ever get you to read Nick Harkaway's Goneaway World (if not, do). His latest (Angelmaker) has just come out, and imagine the joy I felt on opening the first page and discovering the protagonist is called Joe Spork - son of Papa Spork. Don't tell me you're not tempted...

My only other rec is Brit scifi noir author Richard Morgan. Never pretty, and worth sampling a little to see if you can stomach the style; I enjoy the satirical notes on modern politics and business wound into the hardboiled high-octane adventuring. Favourites are Altered Carbon (his first novel, introducing Takeshi Kovacs, disenchanted ex-space marine turned criminal trying not to be a pawn) and Market Forces (um, Death Race meets Goldman Sachs).
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nanila
2012-04-27 07:51 (UTC)
No, I didn't read Goneaway World. I shall rectify that...as soon as I get through the the next three samplings which I'm totally cheating on at the moment with Lauren Beukes' Moxyland shhh.

Nick Harkaway and Richard Morgan are on the list! (Please tell me Goldman Sachs gets a comeuppance. Instead of control over everything. Way too much like real life. :P)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: imyril
2012-04-27 11:14 (UTC)
You know, I honestly can't recall. Morgan doesn't really do happy endings, but does have his own definition of upbeat that is an acceptable alternative, so I'm assuming it's close enough. I think I read it last time I was here in Aus, so 3 years on I may be permitted a reread...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)