Books Read- 203 Books to Read-282 Percent Complete- 41.86%

Just Finished (For the third time) - 'Mirror Dance' by Lois McMaster Bujold

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I've been putting off writing reviews for the books I read on vacation.  I just don't really want to write one for 'The Remaking of Sigmund Freud' because I didn't like it that much, and I want to review China Mieville's work in the order I read it, I think Iron Council would be diminished if you hadn't already finished 'Perdido Street Station' and 'The Scar' before you read it.  I'll write some more reviews here pretty soon.

I started reading 'The Embedding' by Ian Watson.  I didn't make it that far into the book before I picked up something new.  Embedding reminded me a little of 'Babel 17' by Samuel Delany, both books seem to be based on the idea that language can determine thought patterns, and while it's an interesting idea I'm pretty sure it's been disproved.  I don't know why that should affect my enjoyment of the book, and I did really like Babel, but I just couldn't get going on Embedding.

Part of the reason might be that I picked up 'Kiln People' by David Brin.  I do my best to learn as little as I can about the Nebula and Hugo nominees I haven't read yet, it wouldn't do me any good to go spoiling myself, but for some reason I had thought Kiln took place in the same universe as 'Startide Rising.'  It obviously does not, and while 'Startide Rising' is by far Brin's best and most popular work I still really enjoy his 'stand-alone' novels like Kiln and 'Earth.'  These are near future books (set less than a hundred years in the future) that differ quite a bit from what you usually see in SF.  It's a risky proposition for any author to set their story in the near future, there's too much chance that we can actually catch that date and make it seem ridiculous (see the Terminator movies) or that you can be off just enough in what the future will actually be like that it breaks the suspension of disbelief in an otherwise serious and thoughtful story (see the work of John Brunner). 

The standard for SF authors writing in the near future setting is to pick one example from our present day and extrapolate that out to an illogical conclusion and show how it might affect humanity or alter our lives in some way.  This is what Brunner did with his four most famous novels, examining overpopulation in 'Stand on Zanzibar' and racism in 'The Jagged Orbit.'  The problem with this is that one, most people can't do it as well as Brunner did, and two, it's usually a big downer, with authors trying to show how the world will come crashing down and humanity will be all but destroyed. See 'Blood Music' by Greg Bear (though that was still a good book) and 'The Chronoliths' by Robert Charles Wilson.  The difference with Brin is that he seems like the only SF author who is actually optimistic about what's coming, his near future novels always posit a time that is better than the world we are living in now.  He seems to acknowledge that what is around the corner for humanity will not be easy by any means but that humanity will persevere and be better off for it.  It's a refreshing viewpoint you don't see often in SF.

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