Last week I read a science fiction novel I’d seen in a number of “must read” lists: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2014), by Becky Chambers. The title certainly appealed to me, and, along with the book’s cover, it seemed like it might be fun, funny, or even zany.
I like to let things unfold, so I usually avoid trailers and reviews until after I’ve seen or read for myself. A few months ago I wrote about Axiom’s End, which I really liked. I was anticipating a similar ‘great new author’ experience. (I’ve also mentioned the S.L. Huang Cas Russell books. I kinda liked those, too, so I’m definitely feeling favorable towards new authors.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book at all.
Originally 95 cents each!
In a post six years ago I mentioned that I’d finally gotten around to unpacking a box of books that had been sitting in a closet since I moved into the place. The problem I always have when I move (aside from all the book packing) is shelf space. I prefer the kind of shelves mounted on the wall, so I have to recreate shelf space every time.
Not that my memory for what I mentioned in a post six years ago is sharp. Or even exists. I noticed the post had some views recently, so I re-read it. The line caught my eye because last week I opened the last unopened box of books.
And I found some old science fiction friends!
I actively try to avoid “the buzz” — for most definitions of the word (“beer buzz” is a whole other thing than I’m talking about here). I mean the buzz of current memes and all the popular things I’m supposed to think, feel, and be. As I’ve said before, I’m deliberately allergic to trendy — I refuse to swim in the main stream.
That applies especially to the books, TV shows, or movies, that I’m supposed to see. I’m even more resistant to things I’m supposed to either hate or love. (I still have never seen ET — never will.) I generally don’t read or watch reviews until after I’ve read or watched what they review.
Which brings me to Axiom’s End (2020) a debut novel by Lindsay Ellis.
I watched the first season of The Feed (2019), a British SF-horror series on Amazon Prime. I can’t say I was terribly whelmed by it. By the time I watched the last two episodes (of ten) I was mostly kinda over it. It has some neat ideas, but far too many tropes and cliches.
Full disclosure, I am not generally much of a horror fan. As with fantasy, I need a bit of something special — original — in my horror (like alien face-huggers or alien trophy hunters). Ordinary horror stories (especially outright slasher flicks), or, for that matter, ordinary Medieval magic fantasy stories, just don’t make the cut.
The problem I had with The Feed was finding it pretty ordinary.
Synchronicity pops up a lot in my life. Between working on drafts about my disappointment with a science fiction series, I took a break to read my news feed and saw an article asking why so many popular SF TV series are so awful. The article made a number of points that resonated a lot with me.
The article calls out Westworld (season three), Star Trek: Picard, and Devs, as examples of awful science fiction television, which seems to match what I’ve read. By which I mean, just about everything I’ve heard, both negative and positive, doesn’t incline me towards these shows (I might check out Devs at some point).
Unfortunately, I don’t think the author answered the question.
My last post was about my disappointment in the science fiction novel series, The Expanse, starting with book four. As it turns out, for me, that’s just the start of my disengagement — it goes seriously downhill from there. To be clear I’m speaking strictly in terms of my personal taste. As the saying goes, ‘One person’s mead is another person’s poison’ (not that I’m a fan of mead).
Given the steep downward trend, book four seems better in comparison. While I like it much less than the first three, I like it much more than what follows. It has some good protomolecule bits, and frontier colony stories are pretty standard science fiction fare.
But I’m particularly struck by what the TV version changed and added.
I feel like a jilted lover. Or a very disappointed one. I found what seemed a delightful bit of science fiction color in an otherwise increasingly grey and dismal world. I let myself get attached (despite a few alarm bells going off in my head). I thought I’d found something truly worthwhile — something to invest myself in.
And it seemed really good at first. There was all the excitement of exploring something new and interesting. But after that great start, there came a most unwelcome left turn into a stinking swamp I want no part of.
This isn’t a Sci-Fi Saturday post or a TV Tuesday post… this is a spleen vent.
If you know me at all, you know I was already a science fiction fan when Star Trek began. (It’s a rare occasion I get in on the ground floor of something.) I adored Kirk and crew. It took some episodes, but I came to love Picard and crew even more. The Trek story still unfolds, but I left that fold around the fifty-year mark. (Or rather, Trek left me.)
More recently (the rebooted) Doctor Who became my favorite SF TV series, but it’s starting to look like it won’t have the staying power that Trek did. I haven’t been as engaged the last many seasons, and the shift to the 13th Doctor hasn’t worked for me.
Currently I’d have to say my favorite SF TV series is The Expanse.
Sunday I binged through all eight episodes of Solar Opposites, a new cartoon from Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. It was originally created for Fox, but shelved. Now it’s on Hulu, released just last Friday (May 8).
Roiland is well known to Rick and Morty fans as, not only half the creative team (along with Dan Harmon), but as many of the voices, in particular both of the titular main characters. (Apparently considerable drinking and ad-libbing goes on during voice recording.) In Solar Opposites, Roiland restricts himself to just one main character.
If you like Rick and Morty, you’ll probably like Solar Opposites.
Neal Stephenson, like Greg Egan, is a hard science fiction author who never fails to delight me with something new and tasty. Both Stephenson and Egan seem able to leave footprints in otherwise well-trodden ground. Stephenson, in particular, often makes me LOL.
That’s not an acronym I use very often, but it seems especially appropriate here given this post is about The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. The book has so many tongue-in-cheek military acronyms (DODO, DTAP, DEDE, MUON, etc) that it has a glossary at the back.
The story concerns parallel worlds, wave-function collapse, and witches.