Books read in September 2012

Dan Abnett: Embedded.

I dislike the protracted fights in many sf novels and I have thus avoided “military sf”. I am sorry to say that it fulfilled these expectations. One major problem was the names of weapons and vehicles that told me almost nothing, and another problem was that in a supposedly future world where other planets are inhabited, the political divide is between the English-speaking United Status (sic) and the Russian-speaking Bloc. OK, there were a couple of nice ideas, like the embedding of a journalist (the main character whose story we follow) in the brain of a soldier who is then seriously harmed in combat, and the almost Dick-ian use of  commercials in the form of expletives. The final sf trope felt completely unnecessary. Still, the story was at times thrilling and both characters and setting were convincingly described even if hardly plausible.

Samuel R. Delany: Stars in My Pockets like Grains of Sand.

A flawed masterpiece or a magnificent failure, a tough book to read but containing a lot of interesting ideas especially regarding sex and gender issues. Thus, all humans and aliens are called women and she, except when you regard them with sexual interest, then they are men (he). The main love story is homosexual, and there is also sex with aliens. The crab-like aliens have two tongues and can talk with both simultaneously, like in Miéville’s Embassytown, and all information can be reached by (almost) everyone in a galactic internet. The book suffers from drawn-out episodes and a complex setting, and I think this is the kind of book that you have to read twice to really appreciate.

Eva Holmquist: Kedjor känns bara när du rör dig. (Chains Are Felt Only When You Move)

A YA generation starship novel that was pretty hard to get into since the person in focus changed too often. A love story with the unreasonable father felt more like a medieval story than sf set in the future, and I had problems to get interested in the life of the characters. Sadly, this was no improvement on classics by Heinlein and Aldiss where also the purpose of the space travel had been forgotten. However, for kids below the age of about 13 the book might serve as an introduction to sf.

John Jakes: Mask of Chaos.

Surprisingly enjoyable half Ace double from 1970. The cyborg protagonist gets stranded on a planet where everyone is masked and together with an unmasked girl who “works as a woman” he gets caught and set to perform in a deadly game with unknown rules. Interesting depiction of a closed and totalitarian society and its weaknesses.

 

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