With the month of September behind us, it’s time for me to look back over my recent reads and pick my favorite titles of the past month. It was a pretty good crop but, of the bunch I did read (and not including the book of the month club selections) the, following were my favorites:
Fast Forward 2, edited by Lou Anders
Long-time visitors to this blog are no doubt familiar with editor Lou Anders through his (all-too) infrequent visits here, and his previous SF collection, Fast Forward: Future Fiction From the Cutting Edge, which was a past book of the month club selection. Well, in Fast Forward 2, Lou has assembled a nice group of stories form the likes of Jack McDevitt, Nancy Kress, and Dr. Who’s Paul Cornell. As is the case with most anthologies, I didn’t like everything. But most of what I did like, I liked a lot. Stand-outs for me included Paolo Bacigalupi’s powerfully dead-on commentary on the challenges of maintaining journalistic integrity in a market increasingly driven by hits and eyeballs (“The Gambler”), Ian McDonald’s delightful tale of a young man in future India who relies on an Hindu A.I. to give him game (“An Eligible Boy“), Mike Resnick and Pat Cadigan’s trippy account of a world in which the borders between dream and reality blur (“Not Quite Alone in the Dream Quarter“), and Jack McDevitt’s amusing and ultimately heartfelt tale of a reluctant A.I. named George. Special mention should also be made of the book’s cover compliments of our pal John Picacio.
The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford
Jeffrey Ford is another familiar name to blog regulars, particularly those of you who read his superlative collection The Empire of Ice Cream back when it was a fantasy book of the month club selection. Since then, I’ve read a number of his other works and I can honestly say I’ve yet to be disappointed. The Shadow Year follows a young boy, growing up in 1960’s Long Island, through a particularly memorable summer marked by adolescent intrigue, hilarious familial interactions, and the mysterious disappearance of a fellow classmate. Ford is particularly effective in in his ability to spin a tale that perfectly captures the reminiscences of childhood – the sights, smells, and sounds of a bygone time when even the most innocent-looking details seemed to belie dark tidings: a missing neighbor, the new school janitor, Mr. Softee the neighborhood ice cream man. This novel was based on an earlier novella by the same name and, I have to admit that, at the end of the day, as much as I enjoyed this more substantive version, I preferred the original and its ability to walk that fine line between juvenile imaginings and the supernatural without committing to either. A great book nevertheless.
Inversions, by Iain. M. Banks
Hey, speaking of authors who have yet to disappointment, I’m sure most of you are familiar with Iain M. Banks. He is, without a doubt, one of the most imaginative and engaging SF writers out there and his Culture novels rank as some of the very best of the genre. His Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games make my SciFi Top 10. Make it a Top 25 and you can include Use of Weapons as well. Despite appearances, Inversions is another Culture novel that alternates between two seemingly unrelated stories. The first focuses on Vosil, a female physician from a distant land, whose appointment as personal physician to the king of Haspide, is met with suspicion and derision from the rest of the royal court. The story is told from the point of view of Oelph, Vosill’s assistant, who is under secret orders to spy on his mistress. As the novel progresses, despite his increasing suspicions, Oelph falls in love with the good doctor who may well be much more than she appears. The second story focuses on DeWar, bodyguard to General UrLeyn, the Prime Protector of the Tassasen Protectorate, and his endeavor to safeguard the life of an increasingly unpopular ruler. Is there a connection between the two stories? You bet, but you’ll have to pay close attention in order to piece together the clues. What at first seems a departure for Banks turns into a delightfully subtle addition to the Culture canon.
Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
There’s not finer example of the Golden Age of SF than this novel by the great Arthur C. Clarke. No raging space battles, predatory aliens, or genetically engineered space marines. This is a story of science and discovery. When a thirty mile long space ship enters our solar system, Earth dispatches a team of explorers to investigate. They gain entrance to the enormous cylindrical vessel and, over the course of their scientific survey, encounter surprises from both within and without their object of study. A masterpiece of Hard SF.
Hey, look at what I picked up the other days. More books! And not just more books. More books that you guys have recommended. I’ve taken your names down and, in the coming months, I’ll either be thanking you or requesting you reimburse me for the cost of my various purchases.
Hey, whatever happened to the mailbag?
Ykickamoocow writes: “Your idea for the season 6 episode “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” sounds brilliant to me. Is there any chance of that idea being turned into a Atlantis movie?”
Answer: Highly unlikely. Truth be told, the story was originally pitched as an SG-1 episode. If you’re interested (and nice) I might even post the original color-coded outline for you.
Narelle from Aus writes: “It was strange seeing Christopher Heyerdahl in his original non-Wraithy role. How tall is he?!! “
Narelle from Aus also writes: “He has such a great screen presence, especially when he is Todd. And where do they get all of their leather for those coats? Space cows?”
Answer: Let’s just say that no part of the human is wasted.
Jenny R. writes: “I’ve been wondering this for awhile now… do you have a stage 1?”
Answer: We used to, but gave it up once we scaled back to only one production.
Jean writes: “Out of curiosity, I’ve checked out the previews AFTER I’ve watched the episodes, and I have to say that in general the ones from MGM are not terrible, but the ones from SciFi are either downright misleading (Tracker – “One will live, one will die”??!!?)…”
Answer: Yeah, Carl came into my office and showed me the SciFi promo for Tracker. “One will live, one will die!”. Carl threw me a puzzled look: “Who dies?” “Maybe they’re referring to the wraith,”I suggested. Probably, that’s it.
Paul William Tenny writes: “In Beachhead, objects forming the Ori supergate come out of a normal sized stargate making them roughly the size of Puddle Jumpers. A few shots later you see they are perhaps 1.5 times as long as Vala’s cargo ship and definitely wider meaning they’d have never fit through the gate unless those elements were actually made up of even smaller parts, but that was never shown and isn’t consistent visually with what came later.”
Answer: Great question. File it away for now because Brad Wright (coincidentally the writer/producer of Beachhead) has promised to do a guest Q&A on this blog in the very near future…
Jenny Robin writes: “I just posted Part I of my Texas State Fair Food Foray to my blog. Anyone who wishes to view fried fair food in all its glory, feel free to forage there.”
Answer: I share your disappointment in the chicken fried bacon.
Pl writes: “How is the Physics of Superheroes so far? I’ve considered buying it before, but it costs money.”
Answer: Informative and entertaining. And the author is an admitted comic book fan which makes the book all that more enjoyable. Recommended!
Delynn writes: “So are you writing pilots for new shows you are pitching now that SGA’s run is done???”
Answer: I’m banking pilots so that when the time comes, I can go out and pitch some new shows. As things stands, however, we’re in the midst of SGU discussions, so it’s too early to tell how things will play out next year.
Shirt ‘n Tie writes: “I’m curious, I remember this time last year you said that you had a few ideas for pilots if there hadn’t been a SGA Season 5 pick-up, I am assuming they are the 4 pilots you have written…Are they Sci Fi based or drama or what?”
Answer: One scifi, one horror, one drama, and one blue comedy.
AussieSGFan writes: “And another question (though I’n not sure if you’re the right person to ask), about the Wraith. They have a sould right? So if they weren’t so aggressive by nature and all, would it be possible for them to ascend too?”
Answer: Like dogs and other adorable family pets, wraith do have souls. Whether they can ascend is debatable however.
Terry writes: “How did you get the four dogs to sit for that picture?”
Answer: I didn’t. They naturally congregate in the sunny spots.