The OF Blog: Latest Book Porn for May

Friday, May 09, 2008

Latest Book Porn for May


Received some interesting review copies and bought some more (including one due to a reader's rec, so I do pay attention, sometimes!) over the past couple of weeks. I've already commented before on Milorad Pavić's Landscape Painted With Tea, so the very hard to decipher book next to it is the The SFWA European Hall of Fame anthology edited by James and Kathryn Morrow. I hope to review this with a few other anthologies in the next couple of weeks, since there are some worthy anthos that I've read over the past couple of months that I'd like to acknowledge. Beside them is the Clarke Award finalist Daughters of the North (The Carhallan Army), by Sarah Hall. Read it already and time permitting, I might write a short review later.

On the second row, the first book from the left is the English-language edition of Maurine Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated. Read part of it already, but still don't have a firm opinion other than it didn't have me from "hello." In the middle is the ARC for Ekaterina Sedia's upcoming new book, Alchemy of Stone. In a few weeks, Robert of Fantasy Book Critic and I will be co-hosting two related contests for three ARCs of this book. And to the right is the ARC for the Canadian release of Scott Bakker's Neuropath. I'll be writing a different form of review for that book, since I read it in Word format two years ago and there are some interesting anecdotes I'd like to share.

And at the bottom of the picture is Andrew Crumey's Music, in a Foreign Language, which I believe liviu recommended for me to read. Read a couple of chapters the other night and it's not bad, far from it actually, but it might be another week or two before I finish it, due to other reading commitments. And that's it for the past 10 days or so of Book Porn arrivals, but I expect an even larger one in the next week or so, as a whole slew of books are set to arrive, both free and purchased alike. One of them likely won't be available in English for years, if ever, so I'll let you ponder that mystery while I conclude for now.

10 comments:

Liviu said...

Great list of books and I appreciate sharing it. I am really enjoying the Pavic Tarot novel, it became one of the "finish me before anything else" books, despite that I've just finished Cenotaxis and wanted to go to Earth Ascendant next - Astropolis 1.5/2 by S. Williams - and I would not have discovered it without your post about Pavic.

From the list - the European anthology did not impress me - maybe the translations, maybe I was not in the mood, but it fell flat for me

I read some from Cosmos too though in French - another book I want to get to sooner or later

I liked According to Crow, Ms Sedia's debut a while ago, and I like too the Paper Cities anthology - I still read from it since I usually take anthologies slowly in between novels - have not tried the Moscow one since urban fantasy like that is not my type, though I may give it a try from the library. This one sounds great and is on my buy list.

Neuropath is also on my buy list - curious about the hype since I rarely enjoy thrillers - I liked the PoN trilogy but I still find it taking itself too seriously and inviting nitpicking, give me Abercrombie "gotta be realistic" any day over that

I've read now 3 of the 6 Crumey novels and I am reading from Mobius Dick now - I enjoy it and will finish it sooner or later, still has not got to the "finish me now" stage yet.

Larry said...

The European anthology one was okayish to good, but nothing really spectacular, perhaps because I suspect that if fantasy stories had been included, especially that of a more New Weird vibe, it would have been a stronger anthology.

I'm going to be reading Sedia's book later this month and reviewing it here, so I'm looking forward to it, since I did enjoy her Moscow book quite a bit.

Bakker's book will be a very polarizing one. I liked it a lot when I read it in draft form, but there are places where his goals/subject matter really clash with the thriller approach to storytelling. "Disturbing" is a very apt word for it.

And of course, when I get paid next week, I'll be ordering more Pavić.

Liviu said...

I am really curious about Neuropath since it's very hard to find a book that shocks me. I read a lot of controversial authors both genre (Ringo, Kratman) and non genre, and what I heard about Neuropath and the idea that anything in our brain including our identity and so on, is subject to manipulation is quite familiar to me.

Peter Watts is an author whose novels and ss are about that and I liked them fine by and large. In his first trilogy one of the main characters is really a very bad guy - not by choice but just because his brain is wired that way - who likes torture and the like but he chose to work for the powerful, so accepted a modification to his brain that makes him to want to do good - of course good meaning how the powerful define it, so if he needs to kill millions to save tens of millions he will do it. Unfortunately the underground decides to subvert those neural pathways affected and return him and his colleagues to normality - the results are as expected at least for us...

Still, if everyone in the know says Neuropath is controversial I am prepared to believe it and hope not to be dissapointed :)

Larry said...

It's controversial in the sense that it subverts the cathartic elements of a thriller (the "it can't happen to me" realization) and depending upon the reader, it can cause that reader to start questioning things that are generally accepted without testing. That's what I find disturbing, realizing how much the questions raised in NP led to me questioning certain things that aren't comfortable things to consider, such as the degree (if any) of "free will," stimuli/response trees, etc.

I'm willing to bet there'll be some ripping into Bakker for being hamfisted about this; it is something that I'll address in my post, which I'll make after I finish writing all of the Zafón-related content tomorrow and Sunday.

Dark Wolf said...

Larry, I have to put you on my most hated people list, but I don't have one :). Very nice titles you've got.

I saw some time ago on your blog a book, "Los Dias de la Sombra" by Liliana Bodoc. The name sounds Romanian, but can you tell me if she is Romanian?

Also, knowing your aknowledge in Spanish language, can you tell me if you read "Cathedral of the Sea" by Ildefonso Falcones?

Thank you, Larry.

Larry said...

Bodoc is an Argentine writer and her stories have been bestsellers in Spain, so I don't know if she's been published yet outside of Spain, Italy, and Germany (reading her blurbage now).

As for La catedral del Mar, yes, I read it last year and thought it was a fine historical novel set in the Barcelona of the late 14th/early 15th century. I'd recommend it for people to read.

Liviu said...

There are good arguments that the human brain is the most complex object there is in the known universe, and there are some arguments - the "mysterian" school - that we are not going to understand it ever, or at least our self-awareness, our consciousness if you want, because of its self-referential nature. Some people go so far to look at consciousness as an artifact of the Big Bang, but that is speculation so far.

Self-referentiality is tricky, almost all of the famous paradoxes of logic and the famous incompleteness theorems of Godel and others are ultimately based on it.

I am aware of the experiments where your actions take place before your brain seems to be aware of them and similar stuff - in sf Blindsight by P. Watts has a huge appendix with references about lots of weird things discovered about the brain - the book uses some.

So who knows? Personally I think that the universe is much stranger than we can imagine and we are just at the beginning of its exploration - but then I love sf, so I guess this attitude is normal.

Regarding Cathedral by the Sea - I checked it out several days ago but it did not chime for me. The style seemed Follett-like, but it may be my impression or may be the translation...

Larry said...

Bakker views it as being a machine of sorts, which consciousness being a tiny sliver that is easy tricked or deluded, among other things. He's more interested in the perceived limitations of "free will" and how "will" can be manipulated via short-circuiting of certain parts of the brain. It's a view that makes me quite uncomfortable, but I'll discuss it later.

As for the Falcones, I read it in the original and while I liked it overall, I do recall that there were places where it lagged quite a bit.

Liviu said...

I posted my comments on both Music in a Foreign Language and Mobius Dick on sffworld since they both have in common the alt-hist setting of Communist Britain and then return to capitalism - kind of like Eastern Europe

Other than that, Music is mainstream and as soemone who lived 21 years under a Communist regime, the main story of King and Waters and the little day to day indignities and furtiveness that constituted the life then, rather than the 1984 type horrors, are extremely well done. I loved it, but again with the caveat that outside the ah setting it is just a mainstream tale of friendship, deceit...

Mobius Dick though is sf through and through and a clear homage to Philip Dick as the epilogue shows - it boggles my mind that it was so dismissed and even despised in sf circles. I can understand why Times and the literary establishment loved it and propelled Mr. Crumey to relative fame, but I cannot figure what sf bloggers had against it.

Larry said...

Sounds like Jo Walton's alt-history stories involving a Fascist Britain. I'll have to keep that in mind. As for why SF bloggers might not have liked his other work, perhaps it's just a bit of clannishness going on? I know some were leery of Chabon until he joined SFWA and made it official that he writes SF, or something like that.

 
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