Radio Free Albemuth (1976) by Philip K. Dick

 

‘As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he saw the floating patches of colour, but they were receding from him faster and faster as his thoughts – manic, the psychiatrist had said – matched their velocity. They’re escaping, he thought, and so is my head; my mind is going along with them.’

 

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Cover art by Tony Roberts

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Back cover

Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 and published posthumously in 1985. It has been suggested that this was only a first draft which Dick abandoned before going on to write VALIS (published in 1981). He wrote it between A Scanner Darkly and VALIS during what is referred to as his ‘mature period’. It’s a short novel, one which I found easy to read. I enjoyed its simple, autobiographical style and fairly simple plot, especially after the bizarre reading experience of Ubik, which I loved.

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‘2016 Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge’

 

(c) Worlds Without End.com

Here are the rules: read 12 books by 12 new-to-you women authors in 12 months. One of your author choices should be totally random. Have a friend pick one for you and you pick one for your friend.”

On the wonderful Worlds Without End website they offer a number of Reading Challenges each year. This year, I am joining three of them. The one I am looking forward to the most is the ‘Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge’. The main reason for this is my unintended neglect of reading female authors up until now. I have only read a few works by authors including Ursula K. LeGuin, Hope Mirrlees, Margo Lanagan, Virginia Woolf, Susanna Clarke and Mary Shelley. Compared with the number of works by male authors that I’ve read, it’s pretty paltry.

There are a number of lists of recommended books by “women of genre fiction” available on the net, but I decided I’d rather ask my fellow speculative fiction bloggers for their suggestions. I put the word out on Twitter and got enough responses for two years of the challenge. Thank you! Continue reading

The Moment of Eclipse (1970) by Brian Aldiss

I can’t help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it’s psychological truth. -Brian Aldiss

 

This is the first Brian Aldiss work that I’ve read. It won the BSFA award in 1971. It’s a collection of fourteen short stories he wrote between 1967 to 1970. It includes ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ which was the inspiration for the movie ‘A.I.

I didn’t know much about Aldiss or his writing, but I’d heard his name before. Coincidentally, just before I began reading this book I saw him in a Phillip K. Dick documentary I watched on youtube. He came across very well and spoke highly of PKD.

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A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter M. Miller, Jr

“I’m not so sure he’s mad, Father. Just a little devious in his sanity.”

Published in 1959, ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ won the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel. It has since been described as “the first major post-holocaust SF novel.” It is the only novel its author Walter M. Miller, Jr released in his lifetime. The sequel, ‘Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman’, was completed by the author Terry Bisson and published posthumously in 1997.

I’d never heard of it until a fellow blogger recommended it to me via the wonderful Worlds Without End website. It is a novel made up of 3 novellas which Miller originally released individually. Each novella focuses on a different period in the future after there has been a planet-wide nuclear holocaust. The story is told from the point of view of an order of monks whose task is to preserve any surviving texts or “memorabilia” from before the war. Continue reading

Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson

‘Case’s virus had bored a window through the library’s command ice. He punched himself through and found an infinite blue space ranged with color-coded spheres strung on a tight grid of pale blue neon.’ (p.63)

On the most basic level, computers in my books are simply a metaphor for human memory: I’m interested in the hows and whys of memory, the ways it defines who and what we are, in how easily memory is subject to revision.” William Gibson quoted from an interview with Larry McCaffery in 1991.

I first read Neuromancer when I was 18. I don’t recall how much of the book I “got”, but I do remember being impressed by the action scenes involving Molly, the future-noir setting of Chiba City, and the stripped-down strangeness of Gibson’s cyberspace. I was also delighted to find a ninja in the story.

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Inverted World (1974) by Christopher Priest

‘I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.’

I have read about the importance of opening lines in drawing a reader into a novel. Well, this book has one of the most original and intriguing opening lines that I have ever read. It made me so curious to know more about the “I” and his unusual age.

Christopher Priest won the BSFA 1974 Best Novel Award for this work. I first heard about him when the film adaptation of his book ‘The Prestige’ was released in 2006. When I decided to begin my BSFA Best Novel Reading Challenge, I discovered that Priest had won the award 3 times. Considering how good this novel is, I am really looking forward to reading his other two award winners, ‘The Extremes’ (1998) and ‘The Separation’ (2002). Continue reading

The British Science Fiction Association’s Best Novel Reading Challenge

Phew! That’s quite a mouthful.

Having been inspired by a number of bloggers who have undertaken various “Book Award Reading Challenges”, I have decided to attempt my own. Here is the challenge I am setting myself. I am going to read all of the Best Novel winners of the British Science Fiction Association’s Awards. I will need to read 46 books, (so far), to complete this challenge. One of which I am currently reading, 1974’s winner ‘Inverted World’ by Christopher Priest. Five of the books I have read before so will experience for the second time. For each book I complete I will write a *spoiler-free* review and post it on this blog.

And here is Wikipedia’s brief entry on the BSFA Awards:

‘The BSFA Awards are literary awards presented annually since 1970 by the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) to honour works in the genre of science fiction. Nominees and winners are chosen based on a vote of BSFA members. More recently, members of the Eastercon convention have also been elibigle to vote.’                                                                                                     [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSFA_Award] Continue reading

Ender’s Game (1985) – Orson Scott Card

This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It is usually rated very highly in “Best of Science Fiction” lists and reviews. It is well written and easy to read. Some parts of it are exciting, other parts are emotionally moving. A lot of praise has been heaped on it. But something about it just didn’t work for me.

Ender is only six years old at the beginning of the story. He is just a young child and it is (mostly) written from his point of view. Being a child and undergoing the experiences he does is one of the main themes of the story. It’s the fact that he is a child that is supposed to make his treatment all the more shocking. Yet for me, he doesn’t feel like a child. He is too intelligent, too calculated, too strategical to ring true. I realise he is supposed to be advanced for his age but I couldn’t connect with him. Continue reading

The Peripheral (2014) by William Gibson

I’ve read most of Gibson’s novels before, starting with Neuromancer (1984) when I was a teenager. (I can’t believe it was published over 30 years ago. That makes me feel old.) I skipped the other two novels that make up the Sprawl Trilogy, and got back into him with 1993’s Virtual Light. Since then I’ve read all of his works except The Difference Engine, the latest ones being the Blue Ant Trilogy.

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