Tag Archives: sci-fi

Shelved: Sandman by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman is another graphic novel series, this one by Neil Gaiman. It is very famous, and was so from the time it was first published in 1989. The Wikipedia page details it's history well.

Having recently read the Saga series, Sandman is quite different which probably colors my reaction to it. It is very dark and dense, using every bit of space on the page for either a lot of text or illustration. That's not a bad thing, it's just a very different style. Many of the pages seem busy, overwhelming the reader with detail. Panels are heavily used, appearing more like a comic strip in someways. Saga though would often use a whole page to tell a scene of the story instead, with sometimes very minimal, if no, text.

The story itself revolves around a character called the Sandman, or Dream or Morpheus depending on who is talking about him. No matter his name, he rules dreamland and makes it possible so that people can sleep and thus dream. However, the story starts with him being accidentally captured by a cult whose spell went wrong, leaving the whole world without proper sleep and dreams for around 70 years. The main plot meanders away from Sandman and covers various other people, making it difficult to connect with the main character since he is barely mentioned and focused on for quite some time in the first volume. In the second volume, he is the main focus but by then I felt but I was barely connected to him as a reader and so didn't care very much whether or not he reclaimed his kingdom and built dreamland back up again.

About halfway through the second volume, I put the graphic novel down and have it picked it up since. I just didn't feel connected to the story or compelled to read more. Having not read Gaiman before, I wanted to give Sandman a chance since it is a very popular, famous work of his. Compared with more modern graphic novels, it just didn't speak to me. I know that it means a lot to many people, I just think I picked it up too late.

Recommended?: To Neil Gaiman fans and anyone who loves classic graphic novels. For the most part, the content is just dark but there is some brutality and a side plotline of brutal violence in a diner that lasts for quite a while. This is another adult graphic novel, due to its violence and sophisticated story, which likely would be too high level, slower-paced, and philosophical for younger readers anyway.

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Read: Saga, volumes 1-7 by Brian K. Vaughan

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Saga is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. The story itself is gripping but the artwork is truly engrossing. A friend recommended the series and it was the perfect quick read when I wasn’t feeling well earlier this summer. Thanks to the public library’s subscription to Hoopla, I raced through the entire set that’s been published so far and now have to wait for the next!

Saga takes place in space, set in a very different universe from ours, with many different alien and creature races. They have spaceships for interplanetary travel and distinct cultures that don’t always get along. The two main characters include a man whose race is at war with the race of the woman that he comes to love while he is in prison. She is a guard who watches him and feeling drawn to him, busts him out and escapes. They marry and have a child which is at once both appalling to both races who are at war and shocking as they refuse to believe that such a union is possible between their two people. The main action of the plot is to catch these Marko and Alana and punish them for their crimes. Different people of all types are trying to track them down, including famous bounty hunters.

Very quickly the story balloons in the number of characters and plot lines. You start first with Marko and Alana who then have a daughter named Hazel, get multiple people chasing after them who are intertwined with others, and then we’re introduced to a whole different society who also has a vested interest in tracking them down, and on and on. However, as complicated as it gets, the story’s main focus is on Marko, Alana, and Hazel as a family. For a while, they get separated from each other and so it’s also a struggle about reuniting and what it means to truly be a family. This consistent, main plot line makes the story all the more compelling. It is through the tangents connected to them that we learn about their world and universe.

Very quickly, the characters are made into deep and complex people with touching and sometimes heart wrenching stories of their own. Even side characters have a lot of depth and the little bit we find out about them is meaningful and paints a fuller picture of them. There is so much emotion in that only the plot lines but also the characters, which draws me in as a reader even more. It is easy to connect with many of the characters and their situations. For being a graphic novel, there is so much packed into the limited dialogue and illustrations. It really does feel like reading a lengthy novel, in a good way.

While the illustrations are gorgeous, they can be very brutal and occasionally gory. This graphic novel is truly for adults only, as there are at times explicit sexual acts as well as graphic violence. They do further the story and showcase the true nature of certain people, but some of it can be difficult to read and, as this is a graphic novel, look at. Regardless, Staples’ drawings are incredible and for most of them, I could stare at them for quite a while, captivated by her unique style. Amazing.

Recommended?: For adults who love sci-fi, especially space, and complex alien and creature races. Considering that I haven’t read many graphic novels, I rank this series very highly among them and think it would be good for someone just getting into them. They are easy to read and, as long as you don’t mind the adult content, they are wonderful. I can’t wait for the next volume to see where the story goes!

Read: Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut has been on my list for a while, especially since he is my uncle’s favorite author. After seeing him this winter, he recommended starting with Welcome to the Monkey House. What a great suggestion!

Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of short stories. Other than labelling it fiction, there is no consensus on what type of stories make up the collection. They are a combination of varying sorts, some military in theme (but not about war or battles) while others are science fiction. Even then, the range for both includes stories that are more realistic to fantastical and magical realism. The variety is remarkable, with each story being distinct from all others.

The sheer imagination in every story gives each such a weight that they feel more like mini novels than short stories. Vonnegut crafts detailed worlds, norms, cultures, and characters that enrich the handful of pages that encapsulate them. Even within the limited space, Vonnegut takes the reader far beyond by expanding the bounds through his in-depth, comprehensive stories. Due to the heft of each, reading the collection took me extra time as I never knew what was coming next and needed a break before jumping into the unknown of a new story. While the variety was certainly enjoyable, it also made for a choppier reading experience as there was no overall commonality other than examining humans and the human condition. The sci-fi stories that were dystopic and bleak were of human creation (or folly)–either overpopulation and highly advanced medicine, or strict social norms, or a division between a new way of life and the old. No monsters or aliens enslaved everyone or caused in-fighting; we did that to our selves.

While most of the stories start in medias res, Vonnegut’s detailed and vivid writing quickly gets the reader up to speed, which is crucial as these are short stories. Vonnegut focuses on action and uses minimal dialogue to tell the tales, without offering too many explanations. Vonnegut is a master storyteller, that is clear.

Recommended?: Yes! This collection is great especially for anyone new to Vonnegut. I can see why my uncle suggested it as my first encounter, as it gives the reader a taste of all the different types of stories. In just 330 pages, there are 25 stories and many are 6-7 pages. It is just incredible what he accomplishes in so little space. I look forward to picking up a novel of his to see how it compares–first up, Slaughterhouse 5.

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Read: Captain Vorpatril’s alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold

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One of the great things about library conferences is that vendors, publishers, and authors eagerly handout books as you walk by. It is also the worst if you have no room in your luggage and don’t want to pay shipping to send a box home. At annual last year, I received Captain Vorpatril’s alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold during a talk that also included George R.R. Martin–all his freebies were gone by the time I arrived. Each speaker was good and since I didn’t know a thing about Bujold other than what I’d just heard, my hopes were up for the sci-fi book that I gladly packed in my luggage. Now having finally read it, I’m not sure it was worth hauling back.

To preempt any of her fans, apparently there are a lot, that might take issue with my review of the author, who has a few Hugo awards too!, let me be clear that this is the first book I’ve read by her. The world and characters are new to me and after checking out fan reviews online, there is enough agreement that this novel isn’t the best introduction to the series. It is the 15th in the series, by the way.

Heinlein is a favorite of mine and I love a good sci-fi book, even if it is pulpy. But Bujold didn’t hook me. The story felt too explanatory, dwelling on history and family, making connections and tying up loose ends for everything it seemed. Stilted describes it well. As in, they went here and this is why, how, and the necessary history related to it that you need to know. An info-dump as we called it in creative writing courses. Sci-fi and Fantasy are usually focus on adventure and action, a get-up-and-go sense of urgency for one reason or another. Bradbury’s Something wicked this way comes wasn’t fast-paced but made you lean in and intrigued to continue, and had many eerily cautious portions. Unfortunately, this novel lacked any of those aspects for me.

Usually I am completely agreeable and give benefit of the doubt to books but there are a few cases in which writing style turns me off. This is one of those times. And I probably won’t pick up another of hers, again fans of hers please forgive me, because I have too much on my shelves and other book lists to get to reading. I understand being a fan and reading everything someone writes, I love Terry Goodkind’s Sword of truth, but we all have our favorites.

Recommend?: For fans of Bujold and her Vorkosigan saga, also anyone who is looking for a massive inter-galactic space adventure series. From what I gathered, her world is as large and diverse, and complex, as Star Wars, which all of the different relations and planets.

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Read: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

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Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

The latest of my sci-fi reads, and a favorite author of mine ever since middle school when I first read him. However, reading Friday reminded me of the reasons that I like and dislike Heinlein. Yes, like and dislike. Let’s start with the likes!

The best parts of Heinlein novels are always the characters, always. I loved Stranger in a strange land and A door into summer mainly because of the characters; they felt like real people. Oddly enough, Friday is an artificial intelligence creation that is so realistic she is indistinguishable from actual human. This becomes her downfall because she knows and other humans claim that they could spot an A.I. piece of cake and are prejudice against them which bothers her greatly. The other great part about his novels are the ideas that drive the story and fuel the characters. An A.I. who longs to be accepted like any other human though she is mistaken for one–a man raised by martians on Mars then practically worshiped as a deity when he returns to Earth–a man who tries to right all the wrongs with his time traveling machine (FridayStrangerA door, respectively).

The writing isn’t the greatest but it’s more like a script and still very readable. They aren’t really novels to be read and reread, and I had one friend who really didn’t enjoy Stranger as much as I remember liking it. Since middle school, I’ve tried and failed to reread that one of his, getting stuck early on just after Michael leaves the hospital. That’s when the realization set in that the writing and steering of the plot were just okay. Heinlein has a way of enticing the reader and spurring them on, though, so he’s still a fave author of mine but not one that I will reread.

It just so happened that last week at the ALA Annual conference, I heard George R.R. Martin speak, saying that Heinlein’s Have spacesuit will travel started him reading and thus lead to him later writing. I’ve not read this YA novel of Heinlein but again, it might be one that I pick up to find out what about it hooked Martin all those years ago. It’s always fun to connect with someone on authors, and especially particular books because, at least to me, they really become a part of who I am and it’s something that you can tangibly know about a person–a shared bond over a story and characters. While Friday wasn’t as quick a read for me as I hoped, after hearing Martin praise Heinlein, I delved back in with renewed vigor and finished it while at conference; fun reading for an otherwise packed week.

Recommended?: It depends. If you like Heinlein or sci-fi then maybe/yes. This is a fun read, an adventure story more so than a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, beautifully written novel. Like I already said, I won’t reread it but I’m glad that I read it and now have Friday in my life as another very strong woman to draw upon. She’s feisty, fearless, and speaks her mind–right up my alley.

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Infinite update: On page 109 and footnote 46. My next challenge is to try to get through this before the end of August so I need to crack down on DFW and get reading him more!

In other news, Camp NaNoWriMo didn’t go as well as I hoped; gee, going to conference last minute sure didn’t help my productivity! However, I did write 20,000 for my novel so it is a great chunk that I can now work further with. There’s always August for another chance, or November if I wanna try and get some real reading done this summer. Steve going to Cyprus for a week will help!

Read: Neuromancer by William Gibson

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Last week kept me busy with posting to my other blog, so even though I finished this book then this post got delayed until now. And with the gloomy, extremely windy weather outside tonight, it’s a perfect time to blog and read more books!

Neuromancer by William Gibson, make sure that is neuro-mancer and not necro-mancer which autocorrect thinks it should be, is a sci-fi action novel famous for the genre cyberpunk. If you don’t know what that is, it is what it sounds like: futuristic wired-in (as in Internet) dystopia.

My love of Robert Heinlein fed my collection of other sci-fi works, and of them this novel is well-known. The best way to describe it in comparison to other fiction works is to juxtapose A clockwork orange with Do androids dream of electric sheep? First, Clockwork because Gibson creates his own setting in which new terms and ideas remained unexplained throughout the word and the reader has to figure out and cobble them together as the story progresses; with both books, I feel I missed a lot on the first read and when I finished each, I had an urge to start them again–they could easily be re-read repeatedly with new discoveries with each reading it seems. It is like Androids because of its pulp fiction, action-adventure, movie-script-feel; they both are visual novels that readers can easily watch in their heads like movies, especially since the works are not as concerned about the language and beauty of the writing. However, there are some breath-catching lines that make you pause, either for their diction or meaning. The opening line is just that:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Would I recommend this novel? Only if you like this sort of work. I know many people who would dislike or not care for it, while I know some who would be crazy for it.

Now that I’ve dipped my toes back into sci-fi, my tastebuds crave more–and there are several more books of that type waiting on my bookshelf. Remember?

Next up are a couple of sci-fi classics. You’ll just have to wait for the next post to find out more!

Infinite update: p. 95, footnote 43. Another puzzle piece examined yet not much further along. Although the next section looks to get us back to the tennis school, where most of the action occurs so who knows, maybe I’ll pass page 100 by the next post and be cruising right along for the next 800+ pages.

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