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12-question book meme

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“For a lazy Saturday”, says SF Signal (see here). It’s Saturday, I’m feeling lazy, so why not? Twelve SF/F/H-related questions on which to do the meme thing:

1. The last sf/f/h book I read and enjoyed was:
I just reread Eric Brown’s four Starship Seasons novellas – Starship Summer, Starship Fall, Starship Winter and Starship Spring – and enjoyed them. The last genre book I read that really impressed me was M John Harrison’s Empty Space.

2. The last sf/f/h book I read and did not enjoy was:
Moonstar Odyssey, David Gerrold. A palimpsest novel in which Gerrold uses various stories and testimonies to build up a picture of the terraformed world of Satlik and its inhabitants, who chose their gender at puberty or “blush”. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way Gerrold forgot about his plot – three-quarters of the book is scene-setting before an actual plot is squeezed in at the end. I now have a copy for sale.

3. A sf/f/h book that I would recommend to new sf/f/h readers is:
Dark Eden, Chris Beckett. Yes, it won the Clarke Award this year, but as sf texts go it’s quite low-level. By that I mean, despite being set on a rogue planet between galaxies, which features an entirely invented ecosystem, the story itself is as old as the Bible and even readers unfamiliar with the genre and its tropes should have little trouble sympathising with the book’s cast.

The same is also true of Joan Slonczewski’s The Wall Around Eden. It’s set in a small community protected from a post-apocalyptic Earth by a mysterious alien forcefield. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot works like a well-oiled engine, and there’s nothing in the book at which a non-genre reader might balk.

Um, the Eden references in the titles are purely coincidental…

4. A sf/f/h book that I would recommend to seasoned sf/f/h readers is:
Obviously, I would recommend all the sf novels I most admire. But perhaps I should instead recommend a non-genre book that I think genre readers would enjoy – such as Girl Reading by Katie Ward, or The Explorer by James Smythe. Both were marketed as literary fiction but use sf tropes, and both are considerably better-written than is the norm for genre fiction. Girl Reading is, to my mind, the better of the two, but both are certainly worth reading.

For someone looking for fiction in smaller bites, the sf collection that comes to mind is The Universe of Things by Gwyneth Jones.

5. The sf/f/h book I most want to read next is:
I am so bad at deciding what to read that I have to make a list. Some of my reading is dictated by SF Mistressworks – I have to read and review books to keep to its one-a-week schedule – but that’s no real hardship. Genre books on the list to read some time in the near-future include Principles of Angels, Slow Apocalypse, Rapture, Cyclonopedia, Never at Home and Watermind. Plus a lot of non-genre, such as Under the Volcano, Stonemouth, The Cleft, Killer in the Rain and The Sweetheart Season.

6. My favorite sf/f/h book series includes:
Tricky. I love the Dune series, but I don’t think the individual books in it are especially good. And the whole thing has been poisoned by the McDune books churned out by Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert. L Timmel Duchamp’s Marq’ssan Cycle is a series I really want to reread; the same is true of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. But there’s no actual series, in which one novel follows directly on from another for more than three, four or five books, that I’d call a favourite. There are series that contain books I like a great deal and/or admire – the Culture, Eight Worlds, Hainish Cycle, Jurisdiction, Alliance-Union, Dumarest saga… But despite the many seemingly endless series currently being published, there’s none that I eagerly buy each installment the moment it is published.

7. I will read anything by this sf/f/h author:
Easy. Gwyneth Jones.

8. The first sf/f/h book I read was:
It was a Dr Who novelisation: Doctor Who and the Zarbi. Then, at school, a classmate introduced me to proper science fiction when he lent me Heinlein’s Starman Jones. After that it was EE ‘Doc’ Smith and I was hooked. Now, I can no longer read those books.

9. The sf/f/h book I’m most surprised that more people don’t like is:
Probably Coelestis by Paul Park, which I feel deserves to be in the SF Masterworks series. In the past, I’ve championed both Take Back Plenty and The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, and they’re now in the series so I live in hope.

10 .The sf/f/h book I’m surprised so many people do like is:
Basically, anything by Asimov. Especially the Foundation series. More recently, I’ve been baffled by the acclaim given to, among others, Wool, The Windup Girl, Leviathan Wakes, or A Song of Ice and Fire. And while I’ve read and enjoyed books by China Miéville, I still can’t see why he’s the poster boy for British genre fiction.

11. The most expensive sf/f/h book I own is:
A hardback first edition of The Dune Encyclopedia. Paperback copies are rare and not cheap, but I was lucky enough to find a hardback copy. It was very expensive, but it was worth it.

12. The number of sf/f/h books I own and have yet to read is:
Not sure; somewhere around the 300 mark, I expect. I did try reading a book on speed reading once, but it took me ages to finish it… But seriously, I typically read three to four books a week. Even so, it’s going to take me years to whittle down the TBR. Especially given that I continue to buy new books all the time…

3 thoughts on “12-question book meme

  1. The Dune Encyclopaedia is rare, then? I’ll look after my copy rather more, then.

    You ask why China Miéville is “… the poster boy for British genre fiction”. Isn’t the clue in the phrase you’ve used? He’s a writer (which is pretty cool), he’s metropolitan, he’s leftist and he looks cool (at least, I’m told, to those to whom that sort of thing matters). You can’t tell what a writer’s books are like when you look at a poster.

  2. Can you put the author names in #5?

    • It’s the Culture (Iain M Banks), Eight Worlds (John Varley), Hainish Cycle (LeGuin), Jurisdiction (Susan R Matthews), Alliance-Union (Cherryh), Dumarest saga (EC Tubb).

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