SUMMER SF AND FANTASY
Here's a rundown of what I've been reading since the early part of June...
I started with River of Gods by Ian McDonald. I'd heard quite a bit of buzz about it and I always love reading a nice big book (it clocks it at close to 600 pages), plus I'd read a few of the short stories that feature the same setting and had liked those. The book lived up to expectations. It's set it a future India and focuses on a wide variety of characters who come into contact with each other, sometimes having a direct effect on one another. It's a future of drought; trying to keep AIs from advancing beyond human intelligence; where the biggest soap opera is populated by AI actors; new energy sources are being explored; people choose to live as "nutes"; and so much more. It's sprawling and filled with great ideas and good writing and I recommend it highly.
Next up (while driving to North Carolina) was the sixth trade of the comics series Invincible. It's a rare thing for a super-hero series to survive that doesn't come from the Big Two (DC and Marvel) but Robert Kirkman has a winner on his hands here. It's fun, full of subplots and characters, and highly entertaining. A Different World (yes, he names all the collections after 80s sitcoms) sees Invincible traveling to another planet and coming into contact with his estranged father, followed by the consequences of having been gone so long. It's just as good as the rest of the series and I would suggest starting with Vol.1, Family Matters. You'll be hooked.
My other vacation read was Paragaea by Chris Roberson. I've read and liked some of his short stories and the concept behind this seemed one that would appeal - a Russian cosmonaut falls into a tear in space and ends up on another world full of airships and jaguar men and artificial men...a throwback to the pulp era. I was right. It was a fun adventure full of cool ideas and mythologies. My one problem was that it seemed the characters were at arms length; we got to read about them and heard what they thought but never really got to know them. Still, I will definitely be read more of Roberson's work.
I bought DMZ: On the Ground at Midtown Comics when we were in NYC and I read it while up at the lake. It's the first collection of a new Vertigo series by Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli set in a near future where the U.S. is going through another civil war. The DMZ in question is New York City and we get to see what is happening through the eyes of Matthew (Matty) Roth, a photographer who gets left behind while on an assignment. As this is the opening arc, much of this is setup but it works well. The book reminds me of Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan in tone and style but that's not a bad thing. I'll definitely pick up the next volume.
Once we were home I jumped into some short fiction in the form of the August issues of Asimov's and F&SF. Highlights of the former were Stephen Baxter's "In the Abyss of Time," about exploring the future of the cosmos; Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Crunchers, Inc.," about a future where the worth of someone's life is decided by number crunchers; and Michael Swanwick's "Tin Marsh," a tale of nastiness and revenge on a far-off world (Swanwick is always worth reading). I liked the F&SF issue even more but there were again a few standouts - Ken Altabef's ""Pleased to Meetcha," a short idea story with a good twist; Robert Loy's "Jack B. Goode and the Neo-Modern Prometheus," a pun-filled tale that fills in more of the saga of Frankenstein's monster; Robert Reed's "Misjudgement Day," about a mysterious illness affecting part of the brain (Reed is also always worth reading); and Terry Bisson's "Billy and the Spacemen," another installment in the series.
And most recently I tackled Vellum by Hal Duncan. I mentioned that I put it down after 100 pages in frustration but I went back to it. The book focuses on several different characters in several different time periods and across several different world of the Vellum and within a few paragraphs you can be in several different places. It can be difficult. Also intercut with those stories are adaptations of Sumerian myths and Greek myths. I was able to follow it well enough but the sections dealing with Seamus Finnan were very tough for me to take. There wasn't necessarily a whole lot of plot movement through out much of the 460 pages either. Duncan has named James Joyce as an influnce and that is readily apparent. The story does not end here either - a sequel volume is due in the near future. And while I don't agree with all the critical praise heaped on the book I will probably read Ink when it arrives.
Of course, summer is not yet over but since I'm currently reading Talk Talk my streak of SF and fantasy is. For now.