Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday Salon : Talking About Books

The Sunday

I've missed talking about books. I've missed you, my dear Book bloggers. It's good to be back.

Yesterday I was writing about Flashforward, a book I wasn't quite done reading yet. I finished it this morning, and I have a few things to add about it, and science fiction writing in general.

Firstly, I need to say that there is some very, very good writing in science fiction. There always has been. If you're interested in the best science fiction has to offer, than start with the Hugo (this year's winner was Neil Gaiman for The Graveyard Book) and the Nebula (this year's winner was Ursula K LeGuin for Powers) awards reading lists. From there, check the Locus (link is on the sidebar) best novels of the year. I think I felt a little guilty last night when I couldn't come up with more writers who are excellent right away! Gosh, there are so many - Lois McMaster Bujold, Elizabeth Hand, Paul Park, Naomi Novik, Mary Gentle, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Orson Scott Card. There are classics that I think should more widely read just for the ideas and the future examined, as well as characters and plot. Urusula K. LeGuin, Larry Niven, Neal Stephenson. So many. So when I say Flashforward is an average read, I feel guilty on two fronts; one, Robert J Sawyer is Canadian and I desperately want most of our books to be really good! and two, I feel like I'm perpetuating the stereotype that science fiction is about tomorrow and science ideas first, and good writing second. It's not. The best science fiction transcends the genre and becomes a very good book about people in the future. And how cool is that, to be able to imagine what we could be and to, tomorrow?
Flashforward - Canadian Book Challenge 3 review
So, with that said, my final review of Flashforward is that it is a decent read. It ends better than I thought it would. There still isn't enough characterization to satisfy me, but then I read Middlemarch at the beginning of this year and so far many books I've read this year haven't come close to it yet. Which sometimes I think is unfair, but again, if the best book I read this year was written two centuries ago, doesn't that say something amazing about how literature survives past its immediate time? I don't think Flashforward will - although the idea it presents is so interesting - but some of the very best SF, oh yes, we'll be reading into the next 100 years. So, if you are watching the tv show and it's going too slowly for you, read this book - the tv series is different enough that I think you can do the two at the same time. If you are interested in Canadian science fiction and need a book for the Canadian Challenge, this is a fun one to read for it. And if you want to know what life could be like in 2023, as well as 2008, this is also enjoyable. And the characters are fun, but I can't take them seriously. Some of their motivations aren't explained, and how they react could be more explored, but he took a philosophical bent and that was interesting to think about too. I understand the Schrodinger's Cat physics theory better after reading this book! This book is about the science, but it is enjoyable to read also. 3/5

Talking about best books of the year, Bart at Bart's Book Reviews has a very good post up about choosing your favourite books of the year, since we are approaching that time of year again. He is interested in how readers go about choosing their favourite books. Please let him know, he wants to hear from anyone who goes through this process! How do you choose your favourite book read? I will be doing a post about this later, so all I'll say for now is, yes, there are certain criteria a book has to meet in order to make my list of best books of the year.

I have one last thing before I finish this post. This is for you, my lovely Bad Bloggers. I have a journal now that I keep my list of books I want to read because of YOUR REVIEWS. When I was compiling my list of books I want for Christmas, that was merely what I'd seen in one bookstore this week. I had an idea last night, and went into my bad blogger journal. Here are some books I'm adding to my Books I Want For Christmas List that I began yesterday, that are due entirely to YOUR REVIEWS (bad bloggers are highlighted)


- Book of Lost Things - John Connolly (Robin, A Fondness for Reading)
- Voodoo Season - Jewell Parker Rhodes (Chris, Stuff as Dreams are Made Of and Eva, A Striped Armchair- reviewed closely together, both equally guilty!)
- Monkey Beach - Eden Robinson (Stephanie, Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-Holic)
- Company of Liars - Karen Maitland (Margaret, Books Please)
- The True Story of Hansel and Gretel - Louise Murphy (Wendy, Musings of a Bookish Kitty)
- Looking For Alaska - John Green (Tanabata, In the Spring It is the Dawn)
- Leviathan or the Whale - Philip Hoare (Bride, Bride of the Book God)
- The Way the Crow Flies - Ann-Marie MacDonald (Ann, Table Talk)
- Sea of Trolls - Nancy Farmer (Book Pusher, The Genteel Arsenal)
- Rosemary and Rue - Seanan McGuire (Joanne, Book Zombie)
- An Instance of the Fingerpost - Iain Pears (Ann, Table Talk)
- Mortal Love - Elizabeth Hand (Nymeth, Things Mean Alot)
- The Night Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko (Memory, Stella Matutina)

*Eva at A Striped Armchair is also responsible for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie review she did recently, which also brought to my attention that Alan Bradley is Canadian. So she gets another point even though I mentioned it yesterday.....

The best of all? Many of these books are books that you loved and posted about. Some you mentioned to me in comments, or in separate emails. All are books I made a note of, and then looking through my journal, thought, "yes! yes, I'm ready to read this now." So thank you, lovely bad creative book bloggers. That's 13 books easily added to my Christmas list. This does NOT include the books from the library I've been getting out and reading because of your blogs, although alas, I'm not doing very well at posting about the books I've read because of you this year.

******Oh! Added just now: just found this one on Genteel Arsenal and MUST find this book asap:
The Bog Child - Siobhan Dowd.

Yes, I'm back. Happy Sunday reading, every one!


Kathleen said...

Thank you for the SF recommendations. This is a genre that I am interested in trying more of and having a list of recommended authors will help me get started. I've heard so much about Neil Gaiman that I went ahead and picked up American Gods. I really want to try The Graveyard Book but haven't found it at my local bookstore or at the library yet.

Staci said...

SF is a genre that I tend to shy away from. Not sure where I would start if I wanted to read these type of books.

Anonymous said...

I love Elizabeth Hand's short stories! They are so strange and unexpected.

Susan said...

Kathleen: American Gods is good! I read it several years ago and really enjoyed it. I read Neverwhere earlier this year, and really liked that one, and recommend that too. Graveyard Book is also very good - deservedly winning its awards - and has some scenes that a year after reading, are still lingering in my mind. A book I'll be reading again! I hope you like him, and also some of the other authors listed in the awards. Let me know how you find science fiction.

Staci: That's ok, science fiction either interests you or not! I was exposed to it early - Isaac Asimov by age 14 - so it's part of my reading heritage. In my family, we don't read a lot of romances or general fiction. So if you wanted to start, I'd ask if you wanted to read fantasy - myths, fairy tales, fairies - or science fiction, first, then help you from there.

StephanieD: I've heard many good things about Mortal Love! so I'm hoping I can find a copy really soon. I don't know if I've read any short stories by her, do you recommend any collections out by her?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say so glad your back blogging!

Susan said...

Book pusher: Thank you!! I missed you too :-D