Here are my thoughts on Shikasta, the first book in Doris Lessing’s “Canopus in Argos” sequence, a very ambitious work taking in pre- and world history, origins and future of humanity; but also covering origin and failing of all major religions, human sociology and its failings, politics, ecology; and builds it all into a cosmological framework to make sense of who we are, and what we do. Sprawling, impressive, but not always easy to read.
The rather large cover image is here to covey the full title of the book, which (with the styling of the cover) conveys some of the content and styling of the story:
Doris Lessing Canopus in Argos: Archives Re: Colonised Planet 5 Shikasta Personal Psychological Historical Documents Relating to Visit by Johor (George Sherban) Emissary (Grade 9) 87th of the Last Period of the Last Days
This is a review of Radon Daughters by Iain Sinclair, a “mad trip through the underbelly of East London to Oxford, Cambridge, and beyond” , as I think, or “a voyage between art and terror, from the Mound of Whitechapel to the limestone pavements of the Burren” as Vintage has it…
A welcome breath of fresh ideas, a master of language, and a highly recommended book, if you ask me!
I found Empire of Bones, Liz Williams' third published book, well written, engrossing, and steeped in Indian culture and the politics of caste, which makes for a welcome change, and adds some exotic flavour to the seeding/galactic guidance/’Childhood’s End’ style plot.
This book is a collection of short stories playing in a 30k-long shopping Mall out in the Solar System, which itself is encased in an isolated pocket universe for humanity’s sake (or so the Selespridar say). The stories are linked by the Selespridar Auditor checking a sample of humans to see if humanity is ready to be released into the Galaxy and it’s civilization at large. But let’s start at the beginning...
Zoe McOmar is a ‘lonely unsatisfied Bible Belt Virgin’ as she puts it herself. She lives in Godzone, one of three Cylinder Worlds (plus the Vatican Asteroid) that make up the Bible Belt. Godzone is reserved for the reconstructionist Neo-Amish-Buddheo-krishna-ologism faithful (in contract to the recreationist and reformist strands), but not for Zoe anymore – she grabs her parents Toyochev (hurhur) and makes her way to Mallworld, the 30k long shopping mall and centre of the cilivized Solar System, obviously. Everything is on sale there, from babies at Storkways to your own death at the Way Out Suicide Parlors.
A short review of Crystal Express, a collection of early short stories by Bruce Sterling, which turned out to be, not surprisingly, a mixed bunch, ranging from fascinating extra stories in the Shaper/Mechanist Universe, through some run-of-the-mill SF, to slightly unconvincing attempts at Fantasy. Overall quite readable, but non-essential, unless you’re hooked on Mechanist/Shaper stories, or Bruce Sterling in general.
Here's a classic: Ringworldby Larry Niven, the 3rd Novel to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards (there have been a few more since).
I feel that the ‘Hard SF’ tag is rather undeserved, but consider this tale of strange aliens, unfathomable artefacts, and the rise and fall (mainly the latter) of galactic races and civilizations highly entertaining. ‘Wizard Of Oz in Space’, was what came to mind...
Louis Wu is celebrating his birthday with a huge party. But, given that it is his 200th birthday, he feels 24 hours are not long enough, and at midnight he embarks on a trip around the world, from town to town, always ahead of the new day, to extent his Bicentenary as long as possible. During one of these jumps his Transfer Booth is tampered with, by Nessus, a Puppeteer, who want to hire him for a top secret mission.
Here's a a short review of Dark Light, the 2nd book in Ken MacLeod’s Engines of Light series – a classic intermediate chapter building the setting for the final instalment whilst re-visiting a load of old-Earth politics, leading to a classic clash of Philosophies and Ideologies, with the usual violent results for the local civilization.
The book picks up where the first one left the story – or, actually, it picks it up a light speed journey later, which means a lot of time has passed in the Universe, but none for the travelling protagonists. And, as they are at the event horizon of their event cone, it could as well have been an instantaneous transition, as Matt Cairns, the old Cosmonaut from Earth finds (his internal clock is still on 2049 plus the years he’s lived. Never mind a few centuries passing whilst travelling at the speed of light!).