?

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)
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
[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)
(Deleted comment)
[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)
(Deleted comment)