More stuff from the Free Press from this past year, all fiction. It’s been long enough since I’ve done an update I think it’s worth highlighting a couple. In fact, almost all of these titles come from favourite authors of mine (a couple newbies in there as well), but Death’s End, the final book in the trilogy by Cixin Liu (my new favourite foreign-language writer), is a must-read, along with its predecessors. Seriously, one of the all-time best science fiction trilogies, even in translation. You simply cannot skip it.
Also, Kelly Link, if you haven’t read her, do it. She’s so busy as an editor and rarely releases a collection, but she is one of the great short story writers. Get In Trouble meets the high bar set by her earlier work and I very much enjoyed it.
Get In Trouble
The Collapsing Empire
The Last Neanderthal
So what happens after first contact? Leaving aside War of the Worlds scenarios where one race is completely destroyed, after the initial shock, what’s it like five or fifty years into a universe where we know we’re not alone? Human history provides several possible outcomes: ranging from genocide to colonization to occupation to friendship and political alliance to the innocuous missionary outposts or even lone, Marco Polo figure.
Each of these come up in Second Contacts at one point of another, but this is a Canadian anthology . . .
Read my full review at AE.
Link writes magical realism, many-layered tales of complex, fully realized human beings in settings and situations far less constrained to reality than traditional mainstream works. The marriage of literary style and character depth with the surrealist plots and settings traditional to fantasists dates at least as far back as the adjectival German-language writer Franz Kafka.
Read my full review at the Winnipeg Free Press.
I’ve finally gotten around to reading some of A.E. van Vogt’s longer works, specifically, the future fix-up, Empire of the Atom, and the serialized follow-up novel, The Wizard of Linn. This also happens to be the first time AE has covered its Canadian namesake. The full review is here.
I’m very fond of animal tales. Sometimes you can tell a story featuring non-human characters that just wouldn’t work with regular people. Check out my full essay at AESciFi.
Wilson imagines how a series of neurological, psychological and physiological tests might determine a sort of modern-day Zodiac, sorting humankind into “affinities” based on their deepest truest selves. Early on, he makes the point that the families we’re born into might be arbitrary, but he does suggest that being loved because you’re part of the same affinity with someone rather than because of a shared genetic lineage comes with its own problems.
Read the full review at AE.
I forgot to post about this short essay that ran on AE last spring. I take a tour of alternate societies from Jo Walton’s version of Plato’s Republic, Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal society in a parallel universe, and the Big Three on human society in the next few centuries, millennia, or even eons.
Well, time for some updates. I’ve still been writing, just not here. For this September past I penned a little essay for AE, appropriately, on education-themed science fiction. Perhaps just as appropriate a topic as the school year draws to a close.
You’ll notice my opening paragraph refers to the proverbial cocktail party. Often, when a person is going to pontificate on their career, and especially public perceptions thereof, they start off with, “When I meet people at cocktail parties . . .” I don’t actually go to a lot of cocktail parties, but in fine speculative as well as Einsteinian tradition: assume a perfectly spherical cocktail party. . . .
No, I’m half-kidding. But really, if I’m at the proverbial cocktail party, or some near analogue (gas-station nacho bar), and introduce myself as a teacher, I really do find it gets people talking. But I’m more interested in the deep thinking of smart writers on the topic than your typical non-educators. Thus, the essay. Please read it here.
As time goes by and I keep thinking about the ideas in this novel, I’m increasingly convinced that Three Body Problem will go down in science fiction history as one of the all-time great works. This novels asks some of the deepest questions there are in science, and in a compelling and imaginative way.
No quote from the review this time. I just wanted to give my heartfelt recommendation for this work. You can read my (perhaps understated) review at the WFP.