The Dispossessed (1974) by Ursula K. Le Guin

‘Time did not pass. There was no time. He was time: he only. He was the river, the arrow, the stone.’ (p.9)

 

Winner of the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards for Best Novel, The Dispossessed is a book that demands reading. I first read it some years ago, but for some reason it left me cold. I think I got a bit lost in its many themes as Le Guin explores the ways in which an anarchist utopian society might be made to work. The level of detail in her world building as she constructs this society is very impressive, but it could put some readers off. At times, it reads more like a work of anthropology than a “science fiction” novel. Continue reading

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The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) by Douglas Adams

DON’T PANIC

This is the sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I originally read the first four books in this “trilogy” when I was a teenager. (I haven’t read book five Mostly Harmless yet, but it’s on its way to me as I type this.) I’ve seen the BBC TV adaptation as well as the 2005 movie version; I enjoyed them both. I decided to re-read this book because I wanted some “light” reading. I remembered the comedy and general bonkers-ness of this series and approached it from that perspective. What surprised me on this re-read was how profound it is, as well as how moving in places.

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Pan Books 1981 Cover Art by Chris Moore

The story picks up where Hitchhiker’s leaves off. Aboard the stolen spaceship ‘Heart of Gold’, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian and Marvin the paranoid android are about to have a Vogon encounter of the worst kind. Resistance will no doubt be useless. But their ship has powerful defenses, so everything should be fine, right? Well, theoretically yes, except Arthur has tied up 99% of the ship computer’s processing power with his request for a cup of tea. Continue reading

End of the World Blues (2006) by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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End of the World Blues opens in a Tokyo subway station where a young woman, Nijie, is stashing a suitcase full of money into a coin-locker. It then jumps to Roppongi Hills, a popular drinking area in Japan’s capital where Kit Nouveau owns and runs a bar with his wife, Yoshi. Kit’s bar, ‘Pirate Mary’s’, is frequented by a mix of regular drinkers, art students, foreigners, and bosozoku bikers. One night, Kit is walking back to his bar when a stranger attempts to rob him. As the robbery looks to be turning deadly, a good samaritan’s sudden and shocking intervention turns Kit’s world on its head.

Kit stared drunkenly at the man’s Colt automatic, then at his own watch. ‘Okay,’ said Kit, ‘it’s yours.’
This was not the response his mugger had been expecting.  (p.27)

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Oh, to Be a Blobel! (1964) by Philip K. Dick

“Pete, I can’t go on. I’ve got a gelatinous blob for a child.” (p.11)

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First published in the February 1964 issue of Galaxy magazine, Oh, to Be a Blobel! is a satirical short story about interplanetary war veteran George Munster. The Blobels, large amoeba-like aliens, arrived from another star system prompting the Human-Blobel War.

“I fought three years in that war, […] I hated the Blobels and I volunteered; I was only nineteen.” (p.1)

George became a spy, which required him to be medically altered into the jelly-like Blobel form. The problem was, when he returned from the war he was unable to fully relinquish this ‘repellent form.’ Despite his doctor’s best efforts, every twelve hours George reverts to a Blobel. Continue reading

Project TBR Kill 2018

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The dreaded TBR pile. Can it be stopped? Can it be killed? Can it ever be read to the end?

Aren’t you curious about other readers’ TBR piles? I know I am. I’d love to hear about yours!

How many times have you decided that “enough is enough, this year I’m going to substantially reduce my tower of unread books”? Then how far did you get? Okay, you read 3 or 4 TBR books each month. Good for you! But you also bought 3 or 4 new books each month, returning the tower to its full height. Because you just couldn’t resist that “special offer” or “deal of the week,” right? I know because it’s been happening to me since February 2016 when I got my first Kindle.

I propose a “name-them-and-shame-them TBR Reading Challenge” starting this year. If we all post our lists, we might feel more inclined to dig into our respective piles. We can cheer each other on or start buddy-reads of books we have in common. Then, post a review and link it to our TBR list, effectively crossing it out as we go. What do you think? Who’s with me? C’mon! We can DO this! Continue reading

The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts

How to begin to review this book?

‘Start here: how do we know there’s anything out there?’
‘What – in space?’
‘No: outside our own brains. […] We see things, and think we’re seeing things out there. We hear things, likewise. […] But maybe all that is a lie.’ (p.18)

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The Thing Itself is a science fiction thriller about two men working for SETI on an Antarctic research base in the 1980s. It tells the fascinating story of what happens to them one long south-polar night, and the repercussions of this event. It does this through the intertextual lens of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, the Fermi Paradox, a dash of James Joyce, some H.G. Wells, a sliver of John Carpenter, and more. (A lot more references than I was able to pick out on a first reading.) Continue reading

Impostor (1953) by Philip K. Dick

From January to December 2016, I took part in a Philip K. Dick read-along hosted by Nikki of Bookpunks. The challenge was to read The Exegesis of P.K.D. accompanied by one of his novels each month. You can find the first of those posts here.

 

I won’t lie, The Exegesis was challenging to get through, but the 12 novels kept me going. They were so much fun, as well as being bonkers in a uniquely Dickian way. Well, reading those books has turned me into a PKD fan.

In 2017, I didn’t read anything by him. After a while, I started to miss his quirky worlds and mind-blowing ideas. I even missed his everyman characters and their – at times – unintentionally hilarious dialogue. (Or maybe it was intentional, only PKD knows).

So, this year I am going to read and review some of his 150-ish short stories, starting with this 1953 tale “Impostor”.

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Continue reading