Hi, I’m new on this site. I’m a writer on Hogwarts Legacy during the week, but today I thought I would share some quick thoughts I had on some sci-fi/fantasy books I read recently:
Axiom’s End, by Lindsay Ellis (novel, 2020) – I used to enjoy Lindsay Ellis’ Youtube videos, so I was excited when her book finally came out last June. Unfortunately, it is overwritten, self-indulgent, and tedious. I guess pointing out the sexism and faux-progressiveness of Disney reboots and writing stories are nonexclusive skills. One passage stands out in my mind as particularly irritating and overwrought: where the alien boyfriend makes the protagonist swallow a can of creamed corn. It went on for either five minutes or five hours, in the same way it’s hard to keep track of time when you’re being tortured.
The year is 2007. The author reminds you of this by frequently shoehorning in references to Fergalicious and My Chemical Romance. Through a series of governmental mishaps, a young woman ends up on the run with an alien. But Cora, the protagonist, is useless and clueless in a fairly unrelatable or unsympathetic way, and all the other human characters are really obnoxious. I rapidly lost interest in everyone involved.
Also, this may not be the author’s fault, but the audiobook is excruciating. The narrator reads all of Ampersand’s (the alien boyfriend) lines in an annoying robot voice that by the halfway point I couldn’t handle anymore. So caveat emptor, this review is only over the first half of the book. Maybe the second half is awesome.
Sorry Please Thank You, by Charles Yu (short stories, 2012) – Bad speculative fiction. Weak humor and boring hypotheses to unoriginal scenarios (what if ? What if [Star Trek]?). Like Ted Chiang, but from a dimension that sucks.
Jennifer Government, by Max Barry (novel, 2002) – a twisty cyberpunk thriller set in a peak-“Capitalizt” nightmare. Lots of thought and attention was put into extrapolating the horrifying directions corporate greed will take society. A fun read!
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie (novel, 1981) – This was a strange and difficult read, and I don’t think I really understood it. The premise made me think it would be some kind of literary proto-superhero novel, The Indian X-Men, for example, but it was mostly magical realism weirdness and sociopolitical allusions that went over my head.
Premise: a self-loathing telepath who barely uses his super power in the whole long book has many gross adventures and family drama as he witnesses India’s rise to independence and its wars with Pakistan. Also present: a 500 year-old whore, an electrified latrine, a warty, hairy aunt, incest, many characters with grotesquely enlarged features (mostly noses or knees), Indira Gandhi bashing, lots of spitting, and chutney. I vastly preferred The Satanic Verses.
The Supernova Era, by Cixin Liu (novel, 2003) – AKA the gritty reboot of the 90s McDonalds ad campaign McWorld (“hey it could happen!” Look it up if you’re not a 90s kid). Stoic child prodigies take control after a cosmic event kills everyone over 13. It was interesting to see the progression of the kids’ attitude towards governance. The nuclear antarctic Olympics was cool. But the country exchange program at the end was a little dumb, and the epilogue was even dumber. The Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy is one of the best things I have read in the last 10 years, but so far I haven’t really been impressed with any of Cixin Liu’s other works.
Earthlings, by Sayaka Murata (novel, 2018) – Young Japanese cousins resort to incest and extraterrestrial fantasies to escape the horrors child abuse, neglect, and undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. Violence and cannibalism follows. This was a very disturbing book.
By Force Alone, by Lavie Tidhar (novel, 2020) – King Arthur: The Gritty Reboot. The chivalrous knights and maidens are now scummy connivers. Lancelot is a Judean assassin, Guinevere leads a team of sexy warrior thieves, and Arthur is an shameless powermonger. The rise of Christianity threatens to extinguish eldritch magic. One complaint I have is the book tries a little too hard to be edgy. The excessive modern profanities are tedious in the same way that listening to Limp Bizkit is. But if you’re a fan of Arthurian legends like I am then you will probably enjoy this book. As a bonus, there are a lot of interesting glimpses into antiquity, which I found fascinating.
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth, by Daniel Warren Johnson (graphic novel, 2020) – Answers the question what would happen if Greek gods were blasted with nuclear missiles? The artwork is pretty awesome. It reminds me of Frank Miller. When Wonder Woman uses Superman’s spinal cord as a weapon that was pretty badass too.
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson (novel, 2008) – Stephenson is one of my favorite worldbuilders, and this is probably the most exhaustive worldbuilding I have ever encountered: Thousands of years of alternate history, parallel realities, monastic rites, globe-spanning cultures and geography, retro-futuristic technology, and quite a few digressions into alternative universe philosophy. The last act features a daring outer space infiltration mission with forking narratives that converge into a wedding. What’s not to like? I’ll tell you what: a few disturbing similarities with my own Creatrix of Strife story, that’s what ಠ_ಠ.
Actually overall it’s not that bad. The two stories explore vastly different themes, and Neal’s tome spans an entire planet whereas my slender volume is contained to a single volcano colony. But his descriptions of cloistered science monks and their invented vocabulary sometimes had me nervously looking over my shoulder to see if I was being punked by Ashton Kutcher.
Organic segue to self-promotion: I wrote a novella called Creatrix of Strife. It’s about a subterranean science-worshipping death cult planning to take over the world. I created a combat system that uses instantaneous genetic modifications. If you like the hard magic systems that Brandon Sanderson writes about I think you will appreciate it. Also there are some really mind-bending hallucinogenic sequences that I am very proud of. I don’t think minds get bent enough these days.
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Thanks for having me!