Read my new Bleeding of Genres piece over at AE. The traditions of the Homeric epic and Grimm tale continue. The all-important world-building of modern speculative fictioneers depends on such narratives, since no culture is without its tales of legend.
But there are stories where the math is simultaneously central to the story, while also speculative enough to count as genre. . . . [Like] Robert Heinlein’s “—And He Built a Crooked House,” where a design based on a 3D projection of a four-dimensional shape actually shifts to an upper dimension during a minor earthquake.
Mathematical fiction! For a math geek who is also a literature geek, this is the sensation of geek squared. Read my full essay at AE.
You can tell that Ashes of Candesce is a series finale. The heroes of the four previous books all come together for the first time. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. And almost every dangling plot thread, including some from the very first book, is finally tied off. If you weren’t entirely sure if the saga was finished or not, the book is capped with an epilogue for good measure.
Read my final Virga review at AE.
With book two of Virga, we pick up directly where we left off in the previous book, at least in one sense. . . . [But] [i]f Sun of Suns was sci-fi Treasure Island, with elements of coming-of-age, saving the day, and finding the long-lost pirate hoard, then Queen of Candesce is Henry VIII or Julius Caesar. . . . It’s a tale of intrigue and courtly politics, unlikely alliances and sudden reversals of fortune.
I forgot to post this, apparently. I’ve had the draft with the pointer to AE sitting here since June. Since my final Virga review goes up next week, here, belatedly, is Book Two.
In four books Schroeder has had four completely different main characters, in four completely different locales within Virga, with four completely different (immediate) plots. There’s a larger story, but Schroeder has almost been building it up by sonar. We’ve been getting a sense of larger, looming events by a series of glancing blows — collisions between our many protagonists and the greater story, as they pursue their own ends. But with Book Four, The Sunless Countries, one gets the distinct impression that we’re almost at the main event.
Read all about it at AE. One more Virga book to go.
“They had provided him with two torturers today.” With this, probably one of the greatest opening lines in literary history, Schroeder sets the stage as quickly as possible, and then we are right in the thick of it. An action-packed jailbreak precedes a novel-length journey for home, through foreign lands, an ongoing war, and the machinations of a larger extra-terrestrial plot the Admiral’s only seen hints of.
My full review of the third Virga book is up now at AESciFi.
The nice thing about reviewing books is, in those rare cases I’m really feeling, shall we say, antsy about an upcoming book release, I can almost certainly get a copy weeks, if not months, before its actual release. It’s the literary equivalent of a backstage pass, except not being really like that at all.
Frankly, aside from the long-worn off novelty, this doesn’t usually matter in any case. I’m always behind in my book reading, so what’s the rush to add to the pile? There are a few titles, however, that I genuinely am impatient for, and you know what? Sucks to be me, because I still have to wait, and wait good.
William H. Patterson wrote an excellent biography on Robert Heinlein, and even though it approached 1000 pages and had lots of end notes, I immediately wanted to jump into Volume Two. The problem, Volume Two was still in manuscript form and far from its publication date. So I’ve waited, and waited, and waited. Every few months I pop over to Patterson’s seldom updated blog to see the progress, if any.
And now? Finally we’re at a point where an actual publication date might be settled on in the next couple of months. The book will probably be out in 2014. Yes, I’ll be going after an early copy. But they haven’t even copy-edited it yet. I’m not getting that early of a copy.
On the fiction side of things? Lev Grossman wrote a book called The Magicians that I heard a little something about and thought sounded kind of interesting but it wasn’t enough for me to actually seek it out, especially as the particular review I first saw was a little mixed (though a good reviewer gives the reader a sense of what the book is like and allows for a prospective reader to recognize if there’s something they might like even if it wasn’t to the reviewer’s taste).
It came up for review along with its newly-released sequel, which was even better, and I devoured both. Extremely readable, fresh, and with the hallmarks of true classics. Two or three years have gone by and I think Grossman has just now started writing the conclusion of the trilogy this year. Hurry up, won’t you? But also, make sure you take your time and don’t screw it up. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?
Then there’s Murakami, the Japanese writer with an English fan-base most native speakers wish they had. It’s great being a fan of a foreign-language author, because you get to hear about his latest Tokyo book launches and how great this new novel is and what the critics are all saying and you get all jazzed up and then you wait two years for the translation. Awesome.
See you in 2014, English version of 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年. Unless I die before then.
Dinosaur Comics: “We enter a world where the Internet never got invented. Broadcast media, like fries, rules supreme.” Fast food references and alternate history go together like two beef patties and special sauce.
Space is the New Canada:“In Canada, the wild is slow, certain death. Nature is an unstoppable destructive force and there is no overcoming it. Canada has not been conquered by man, we have simply built fragile fortresses in which we huddle, praying against the day the dark and the cold erode them and take us.”
Canada’s Boreal Forest is the Amazon of the North: And I daresay it’s as much in danger.
A post-console world: “Has the concept of a dedicated gaming machine become outdated?”
The Human Division isn’t a spoof or a straight-up comedy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be funny. It is set in a future wherein hundreds of technologically similar alien races are fighting each other. Humanity is, in this universe, forever on the brink of extinction.
Read the full review in the Free Press.
The working out of the physics is one of the great joys of this novel. The combination of a microgravity environment that nevertheless contains a breathable atmosphere makes for some fascinating possibilities, and Schroeder takes us through them one by one. But it’s also a rip-roaring story.
I’ll be covering Karl Schroeder’s complete Virga series at AE over the next several months. Read along with me, starting with this one.