Category Archives: Science Fiction

Janissaries

So I promised after reading What Makes This Book So Great that I would slowly work my way through some of the picks in it that I found most interesting. I’ve read some of Jerry Pournelle’s work before, notably his collaborations with the better known Larry Niven, but this was quite recent and I somehow I missed out on reading any of his stuff back when I was first discovering the genre. I picked this one because it has a premise that turns up often in crack fiction or fan-fiction and shows what can be done in the hands of a professional writer.

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Stories of Your Life and Others

As you might expect this rereading of the stories of Ted Chiang was prompted by watching Arrival. In fact, I didn’t just read the eight stories collected in this book. I read pretty much everything that I could find by Chiang since plenty of his stuff is readily available online and easily found via the author’s Wikipedia page. I’ve read almost all of it before of course with the notable exception being The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate and The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling.

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What Makes This Book So Great

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I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a couple of years now but only recently bought it on Google Books. This one is a collection of essays, all of which you can actually read for free on the Tor website as a series of blog posts by Jo Walton. The original idea of the column was that, as the subtitle states, she would re-read the classics of science fiction and fantasy and write about her thoughts on them. I found it more convenient to read a curated set of the best ones in the form of a book and it turns out that it’s not so much about the classics of the genre as some of Walton’s favorite books.

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The Eternal Flame

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It’s been over a year since I read the first book of Greg Egan’s Orthogonal trilogy and I make no apologies for that. I can enjoy pretty much every single one of this author’s book but they require significant mental work and consequent preparation to fully appreciate. Reading The Eternal Flame requires having read the first book as Egan wastes no time in explaining how the physics of this universe work or the biological details of the alien species who are the protagonists of the story. Consequently I also assume this prior knowledge in this post.

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The Three-Body Problem

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My wife had been bugging me for ages to read this book, arguably China’s best known science-fiction work for the moment. Written by Liu Cixin, it was first serialized in a magazine some years back. Of course I had to first wait for it to be translated to English and for it to be released at affordable paperback prices. In the meantime, the book went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel last year, though it was amidst the chaos created by the Raid Puppies and the Sad Puppies. The version that I eventually got was on Google Play Books. Note that this write-up will be full of spoilers as it will difficult to say much about it otherwise.

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Echopraxia

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I was a big fan of Blindsight and really enjoyed discussing it in various places so it’s no surprise that this sequel was one of my most anticipated books. Unfortunately even after I’d gotten my hands on it (I chose to buy it as an ebook from Google Books), I took my time reading it because I ended up being very annoyed by it. After finishing the book, I went around the Internet to read up on various discussions. The regulars at Broken Forum mostly liked it but on Reddit and other places, I find that mine is not an uncommon opinion.

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The Martian

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As the impending release of the movie based on it makes obvious, this is one of the most prominent science-fiction novels in recent years. It started life as a piece of original fiction freely available on the web and was picked up by a publisher only after it gained popularity. Appropriately enough for our time, the print version of the novel is the last version to become available as both the ebook and audio versions preceded it. Personally I became interested in reading this because it shows up often in lists of recommendations in rationalist fiction circles, a sub-genre that is now burgeoning thanks to Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

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