Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Books, books and more books

FYI, I've completely given up on even -pretending- that I'll ever read all the books I own, or that I'll stop buying books until I read off a large number of them. Hey! I'm frugal about lots of stuff - just not books. Nevermind that I'd have to take off several months of work just to get all the way through the unread books I have now, or that there isn't nearly enough shelf space for them all. None of that matters...I'll eventually get to almost every book I buy...every book in it's time. Trouble is, I keep adding books... ;)

That said, a few book-related thoughts for you today...

First, had a very interesting interview with Iain Banks, the Scottish writer whom I've been a fan of for quite some time now. The interview came out last week while I was hip-deep in the waters of the meeting.

(Brief aside: Banks writes mainstream literary fiction (lit-fic, as I like to call it) under that name, and science fiction under the "Iain M. Banks" pseudonym. I was introduced to him through his "Culture" series of books. What, you ask, is "The Culture?" Glad you asked. It's a series of unrelated books, all set in the universe of a galactic "empire" called "The Culture." The Culture is a sort of utopia of excess...communism (as Marx would have defined it) on a galactic scale. If you're really curious, check out Banks' online "guide" to the Culture universe. Or better one of the books! They can be read in any order, so...I heartily recommend starting with perhaps the best of the lot, "Use of Weapons" (which can be purchased through - so long as you don't mind the shipping charge for overseas airmail). You can also try his excellent novel, "The Wasp Factory" - which is engrossing and very disturbing.)

Anyway...the interview is interesting reading. I like how Brit authors aren't afraid to wear their politics on their sleeves, whereas American ones get criticized when they do (see the rightwinger backlash against Phillip Roth re: Charles Lindbergh). TBH, I don't read much science fiction anymore and what I do read is fairly to the few authors I know and trust. I've cut out the right-wingers whose politics I can't suffer any longer (David Weber is high on that list), the juvenile, and pretty much -all- fantasy (it just doesn't interest me anymore...). I'm fairly limited, to be honest, to a few writers in that genre. Banks (though I've not read his newest, non-Culture, novel), Ken MacLeod, Kim Stanley Robinson, Allan Steele....that about covers it.

Well...except for the following recommendation/new discovery. I recently came across John Scalzi's weblog, "Whatever" while I was bored and randomly looking at weblogs. Turned out...he had a novel which had just recently come out, entitled "Old Man's War." So I read a snippet and was hooked (hooked enough that I was cheating Amazon's system while trying to read more online). Bought book and rapidly inhaled it. Fantastic stuff. Sort of a "Starship Troopers" or "The Forever War" for the 21st Century, and without the blatant fascist politics of the former and somewhat datedness (it was largely a criticism of Vietnam) of the latter. It also has more humor than both books combined (and then some), probably owing to my generations lack of respect for any "sacred cows." has an interesting "universes" (yes, say more would spoil the book) and tech that make it an engaging and swift read. I look forward to more from Scalzi. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a "fun" read.


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