Tag Archives: science fiction

“King”: FKA USA

Yesterday I finished FKA USA (2019), by “Reed King” — a pseudonym of a “New York Times bestselling author and TV writer.” It was a new book at my library, and the blurb about it concluded, “FKA USA is the epic novel we’ve all be waiting for about the American end of times, […] It is a masterwork of ambition, humor, and satire with the power to make us cry, despair, and laugh out loud all at once. It is a tour de force unlike anything else you will read this year.”

Sounded good. It had a long wait list, so I put it on hold back in mid-October. It became available in mid-December. It weighs in at over 1000 e-pages, so it’s taken me a few days to finish. The length is one reason though. I didn’t find the book to be much of a page-turner, and I’m afraid I skimmed bits of the last chapters.

Victoria wasn’t amused; I wasn’t engaged. Or amused.

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Whither Doctor Who?

Almost three years ago I asked Whither Science Fiction? That post pondered the state and future of what I see as a platform more than a genre and found both were probably doing okay. Authors still find new territory in a populated landscape (although much of it is well-explored by now).

Today’s question isn’t as deep or important, and my answer is much less positive. It regards a TV series I largely ignored in classic form but came to love as a modern reboot. For a while it was my favorite TV science fiction series. Even when it declined a bit in latter seasons, it still was some of the best SF on TV.

But I think Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who is an unmitigated disaster.

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VanderMeer: Annihilation

I originally planned this Sci-Fi Saturday post as a positive review of the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, but Burns really nailed it about plans “gang aft agley.” I’ll tell you right now I bailed about halfway through the second book because I wasn’t enjoying the read, was utterly bored by the story, and had found VanderMeer’s writing style annoying from the beginning.

So this isn’t a positive review, but I’m willing to credit much of the lack of connection on my taste, both with regard to content and to writing style. The author and the trilogy are held in high regard, and I don’t at all dispute the quality of the storytelling. It’s just not for me.

His Wiki page says he’s compared to Borges and Kafka (which seems apt), and I’ve never cared that much for their writing, either.

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Zer0s and Burning Roses

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, and as much as my college career pointed towards one in movies or TV, I’ve always ranked books as vastly superior. Put it this way: Although I once presumed (and still do) to be worthy of making TV shows or movies, I’ve never felt skilled enough — or driven enough — to write fiction.

Which no doubt contributes to my admiration and appreciation of those who can pull me into their fictional world and entertain, educate, or enlighten me with only their words (no score, no images, no editing).

Last week I read Zer0s (2015), by Chuck Wendig, and Burning Roses (2020), by S.L. Huang, and thoroughly enjoyed both. In fact, I gulped down both of these fast-paced (and very different) adventures in single sittings. Both would make pretty good movies, too.

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Ellis: The Truth of the Divine

Last year I read and very much enjoyed Axiom’s End (2020), a debut novel by film critic and YouTuber Lindsay Ellis. It’s the first book of her Noumena series, which is about powerful aliens showing up on an unsuspecting Earth. It made the New York Times Best Seller list and generated a fair amount of favorable attention.

Earlier this year I preordered the second book, The Truth of the Divine (2021), and it finally dropped last month. I had high hopes and much anticipation about where Ellis would take her story. Sadly, I found myself sorely disappointed by this second installment. This isn’t a positive review.

For balance I’ll mention two books I did enjoy, Neuromancer (1984), by William Gibson, and a new comedy by David Brin.

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Egan: Orthogonal Series

Orthogonal, book #1

Generally I like my SF hard, even diamond hard. I don’t disdain fantasy; some of my favorite stories are fantastic. (As I’ve said often, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is my #1, my proverbial desert island companion.) But I definitely lean towards harder SF.

Growing up it was, of course, the Holy Trinity, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, but there was also Clement, Niven, and many others who stirred a large measure of science into their fiction. More recently the list of hard SF authors includes Forward, Steele, Stephenson, and a particular favorite of mine, Greg Egan.

I can safely say his Orthogonal series is as hard as science fiction gets.

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Butler: Kindred

Not long ago I posted All the Christie as a follow-up to an earlier post about Agatha Christie. I’d read her when I was younger but only realized what an extraordinary writer (and person) she was when I revisited her work recently.

In contrast, I knew Octavia E. Butler only by reputation and some short stories I’d read. This past August I finally set out to correct this egregious oversight for a serious science fiction fan. As it turned out, I sat down to a delicious feast by another extraordinary cook. I relished every crumb, from appetizer to dessert. (I even shamelessly licked the plate.)

The dessert was her finest (and most popular) dish, Kindred (1979). Continue reading


Butler: Parable Series

This past August I posted about Octavia E. Butler, a highly regarded science fiction author I finally got around to exploring. Now that I’ve read all her work (but for one novel), I’ve gone from being very impressed to being slightly in awe. Her reputation is very well deserved.

Recently I finished her two-book Parable series, Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). It’s the story of a woman’s lifelong journey building what she names Earthseed, a modern religion with a concrete goal.

What blew my mind, though, was how eerily prescient her President Jarret was of our POTUS45. Nailed it — including the infamous slogan.

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Octavia E. Butler

Retirement, along with online access to the library, has opened the door to exploring authors I’ve meant to read for ages. For example, I’d always meant to read one of my dad’s favorite books, The Name of the Rose (1980) by Umberto Eco, but it wasn’t until last year that I finally did (and it was really good; I can see why he loved it).

As a fan of literary science fiction for over six decades, I’ve long felt pressure to explore the works of Octavia Butler (1947–2006). Over the years, in collections, I’ve read some of her short stories (and found them tasty). It was only in the last month or so that I finally got into her novels.

And, my, oh my! She is every bit as good as everyone says she is.

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Nolan and Nolan

This has the potential to be short since it doesn’t feel that I have that much to say, but I did want to record a few thoughts. I have neither rant nor rave — just some heavy disappointment in one case. In the other case, for me, it’s more a sense of, “Well, what did you expect from a time-travel movie? Time travel is utterly absurd and inherently contradictory.”

The post’s title may have clued you in. This post is about Tenet (2020), the most recent Christopher Nolan movie, plus the most recent effort by his brother, Jonathan Nolan (and wife Lisa Joy), Westworld, season three (also 2020). I’m a little late to the party seeing both of these, but I was so disappointed in season two of Westworld, that I didn’t much care about season three (and nothing I heard encouraged me).

Last night (and into this morning) I binged on all that Nolan.

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