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el dang

Joined 11 months, 1 week ago


I'm currently the coordinator of the #SFFBookClub so a lot of what I'm reading is suggestions from there.

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And yes, I am reading these for the first time in my 40s, one book every year or two. They're fully rewarding books to read as an adult, though I wish I had encountered them as a kid because they'd have been much healthier input than all the macho swordfighting fantasy I did read back then.

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Translated with an Introduction by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

It was in China, late one moonless night, The Simorgh first appeared to mortal sight – He let a feather float down through the air, And rumours of its fame spread everywhere; Throughout the world men separately conceived An image of its shape, and all believed Their private fantasies uniquely true!

The conference of the birds by (15%)'s almost as if this 12th Century poet anticipated what Western Christians would do to all of Persian poetry centuries later....

Translated with an Introduction by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

This translation is sort-of endorsed by who is on a mission to displace all the orientalised / de-Islamicised translations of Persian poetry with ones that they feel actually capture the spirit of the original.

(I say sort-of because it's not that they have an official "translations we approve of" list, but it's in a collection of ebooks they share with subscribers)

The Dark Forest (2016, Head of Zeus) 4 stars

This is the second novel in the "Remembrance of Earth’s Past" near-future trilogy. Written by …


5 stars

This book is in a lot of ways more of everything that Three Body Problem was. It's a huger sweep, a pretty intense exploration of how getting thrown into responsibility can break people, and it builds on a lot of the ideas of the first book about how ununified people would be in response to a threat like this - stuff that now looks rather prescient after a year and a half of covid. It does also suffer from the same weaknesses, perhaps even intensified. In particular there's not much dialogue that is really characters being theirselves as opposed to Liu exploring an idea through his characters. But the good parts were so compelling that this was far from ruining the book for me.

I was left with a few questions, two of which seem like weaknesses of the book: 1) Why did Ye pick Luo to have the conversation …

Content warning Blindsight spoiler-o-rama

Blindsight (2006, Tor Books) 4 stars

It's been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming …

Very mixed bag of a book

3 stars

First things first, some content warnings about the book: it contains a lot of violence, a narrator who uses ableist language and ideas repeatedly, and a sort of sensory-illusion body horror that I thought was one of the book's strong points but could be deeply disturbing for the wrong reader.

I want to like this book. It does a great job of imagining aliens who are very deeply alien and in unsettling ways. And at it's best it's a tautly narrated story of the terrifying encounter with them. It also plays some amusing games with vampire tropes, and poses interesting questions about what counts as life, sentience, intelligence, etc.

But I found some of the author's tics grating enough to really put me off. The voice is irritatingly macho-male, to the extent that it makes me, a cis man, want to yell at the author to shut up and cede …

@Gwenfar Oh, you're right. I was definitely getting an "older SF" sort of vibe from it along with generally thinking I'd have liked it a lot more when it came out. I hadn't connected those two thoughts, nor that the colonialist aspect of this one was so much of a piece with its other flaws.

I feel like it does some questioning of the colonialism, and at least has some female characters who have agency and aren't just there to be a foil for the men. But I am now thinking of it as sort of transitional: it represents some steps forward from bad-old-days SF, but not enough steps that I can enjoy it unreservedly today.

replied to Gwenfar's status

@Gwenfar I agree, but at the same time I really can't see a woman writing this book. I wish I could unpack what I mean by that more explicitly, but a lot of the worst things about the writing style feel intensely male to me, and that's even without the author having fallen into the really cliched male gaze type traps. That's a lot of why I specifically requested nominations not by white men for November.