published in 1989
where I got it: have owned forever
Sheri S. Tepper’s Arbai trilogy consists of Grass (1989), Raising the Stones (1990), and Sideshow (1992). Although they take place in the same universe and a few characters cross over, you can read these books as stand alones, or in any order you want. Sideshow is my favorite of the bunch, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. In the trilogy, humanity has colonized many planets, and colonists live rather pastoral lives on these mostly empty planets. We’ve come across tons of alien ruins, but very little in the way of living aliens. Like many space operas, there is politics and intrigue, back stabbing and the loss of innocent life. Grass was nominated for the Hugo and the Locus award, but sadly these novels seem to have passed into obscurity. It’s really too bad, because all three are freakin’ fantastic.
At first blush, the plot of Grass feels a little like Frank Herbert’s Dune – political family goes to secretive planet, has no idea what they are getting themselves into, intrigue and attempted murder ensues, family must connect with the locals if they hope to survive. Tepper of course takes things in a completely different direction, but if you liked Dune you’ll probably like Grass, and if you’re interested in Dune but have maybe felt a little intimidated by it, give Grass a try. Grass is a planet on which nothing is what it seems, and everything you don’t understand is so old even its history has become a myth.
The “nobility” of Grass have no interest in hosting the Yrarier family or in allowing their children to fraternize with the Yrarier heirs. Ostensibly ambassadors of the Church, the Marjorie and Rigo Yrarier have just enough upper crust-ness to hopefully be accepted by the Bons of Grass. But more important than that, the Yrariers were chosen because both Marjorie and Rigo are retired equestrian olympians, and the entire family is highly skilled in horsemanship and hunting. It sounds very old fashioned, but what are nobles if not old fashioned? And everyone on Grass is simply obsessed with hunting.
What happens when an obsession become something you are no longer in control of, something you are no longer able to choose for yourself? I’m not talking about a cult, I’m talking about something much worse.
The big mega-grocery store near us sells live lobsters at the fish counter. I’ve never bought one, I don’t know if they knock it out before you take it home, or what. But they always have live lobsters in an aquarium, and I am fascinated/terrified of them. A few times a year, I get brave enough to wander up to the tank, maybe tap on it a few times, and watch the writhing mass of articulated legs, eye stalks, and rubber-banded snapping claws crawl over and around itself. To the amusement of the folks working at the fish counter I last about 10 seconds before running away like a scared little girl. Those lobster critters really creep me out!! But every time we go to that store, a little voice inside me says “let’s go look at the lobsters!”. because although they creep me out, I still want to go look at them. see if maybe I can last more than 10 seconds.
(East coasters forgive me! I am a midwesterner!)
Sheri S. Tepper’s Sideshow is one of my all time favorite novels. the 3rd book in a very loose series, you can read the books as stand alones and in any order, but if you read them in somewhat chronological order, you’ll want to read them Grass, Raising the Stones, and then finally Sideshow. It’s a very loose series, the books take place on different planets in the same universe, but there are some behind the scenes things that make more sense if you read the books in the order they were published. I’ve read Raising the Stones a handful of times, and Sideshow probably six or seven times, but I’ve only read Grass once. All I remember about Grass was something about horses that were not horses, and that the book scared the shit out of me.
But, I wanted to reread this trilogy in the order in which it was published, so I took Grass down from the shelf on Saturday morning. By Sunday night, I’d read about half of it.
I remembered this book scaring me. I remember being disturbed by it. I didn’t remember how viscerally terrifying it was. But I can’t put it down. Every time I’ve put it down, I keep coming back, touching the cover, thinking to myself “I’ll just read a few pages, then I’ll go do something else”, and suddenly I’ve read 40 pages and an hour has gone by.
This book is a lobster. It scares the shit out of me and makes me feel all creepy crawly and I’m afraid of the nightmares it might give me, but a little voice inside me keeps saying “let’s go read that book!”.
published in 2015
where I got it: purchased new
- Protagonist and supporting characters who you’re pretty sure are lying to you and to each other?
- Dialog that can be inferred in multiple ways?
- Not much of a pay-off at the end?
- Feel like you need to read the whole book again to figure out what’s going on?
If you answered Yes to all those questions, you might be reading a Gene Wolfe. In classic Wolfe fashion A Borrowed Man answers all those questions with a resounding Yes, and I’m tempted to read the whole thing again, just to see what additional hints I can pull out.
In the far future, not only can you take discs out of the library, but you can take an entire person out the library. Famous authors, artists, and poets have been “re-cloned” – they talk like a person, act and walk like a person, need to eat and sleep like a person, are a person, but are owned by a library. Reclones are property. When someone takes out author A.E. Smithe, he has no choice about what they do with him. But if enough years go by with no checkouts? He might get sold at a library discards sale, or he might get tossed into the incinerator without a second though.
To Smithe, his life is normal. He lives on a shelf in the library, he gets up every day and washes his hair and has breakfast. He paces, he reads, he fights with his ex-wife. If no patrons come to consult you, life is easy but boring. Smithe remembers everything (or nearly everything) his original remembers, but he also remembers everything he’s experienced since becoming a reclone. Many libraries have E.A. Smithes, all with the same core memories. Reclones are forbidden from writing or creating art, it would cheapen what their originals did. Yet, A Borrowed Man is told in first person, so . . . is Smithe writing this story?
Regardless of who is writing this story, Smithe gets taken out of the library by one Colette Coldbrook, who says she needs his help solving a mystery. Both her father and brother were recently killed, and the only thing found in her father’s safe was a copy of the book Murder on Mars written by E.A. Smithe, yet our Smithe has no memory of every writing it. Are his memories incomplete? Was the book actually written by someone else (a law-breaking reclone, maybe?)?
published in 1950
where I got it: purchased used
I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at the end of January as part of Vintage Month, but as you can see, I’m not getting the review up until now. As these are short stories, this counts towards Tip the Wink’s Short Story February. Win!
This collection of short stories and episodic microfiction that chronicle humanity’s conquest of Mars is a fun read for a lot of reasons, foremost that early stories take place in 1999. I always get a chuckle out of reading something that was written in the 50s and the author places it at the turn of the next century thinking “that’s so far in the future!!”. Well, the future is now, or it was 18 years ago. Fun little time slip there!
As the story goes, in the late 1990s, we sent expeditions to Mars, and the first few were complete failures. (Which makes me wonder – how much did we know about Mars in 1950? That’s the worldview that these stories were written in) Some of the short stories at the beginning of the chronicles are from the Martian’s point of view, and they basically see humans as annoying curiosities. The Martians are telepathic and can appear in any shape to us, so sometimes they appear as humans as to help us feel more comfortable. One of the expeditions comes across an entire Earth village filled with the astronauts parents and grandparents, who “welcome” everyone home. There’s a darkness here as well, as the Martian’s goal is be sure we never attempt to return. I viewed a lot of that with gallows humor, but I don’t believe it was ever meant to be funny.
Remember when you were a kid, and someone read you a story? Didn’t matter if you liked the story or not, but I bet you enjoyed being read to.
If you’re a parent, I’m sure you read or have read to your kids. Didn’t matter if you liked the story, but I bet you enjoy the experience of reading to someone.
Ever notice how the feel of the story changes when you read it out loud? When you’re reading out loud, you can control the pace of the words, where the pauses between phrases are, you can use inflection how and when you want. The words on the page take on entirely new dimensions when they become sounds in the air, and if you are one doing the reading, you can connect with those words in an entirely new way.
I picked up an anthology the other day, and flipped right to a story by one of my favorite authors. One of the many reasons I love her work is because much of it is a combination of organic and cyber, and metaphors that shouldn’t make sense but work perfectly. This is a lady who speaks my language through her words. This particular story was especially gorgeous, with the words practically making music on the page. While chatting with my husband that evening, I wouldn’t shut up about how much I loved this story, and that this story was such a perfect example of why I love this author’s work.
I told him This is why I love her work, and I read out loud to him the first few sentences.
That’s really good writing, he said.
So I read a few more sentences.
he said he liked it.
And the entire story is more of that, I told him.
As beautiful as this story is to read to myself, I do wonder how much prettier it would get if I read the entire thing out loud. Would I find a metered pattern in the metaphors? Would a rhythm rise from the words and the pacing of the action? Would my pace of speaking speed up right at the end, or slow down? During the dialog, would I pause a long time between the lines, as if the characters were thinking about what they wanted to say next? Would I play certain lines for laughs, for sarcasm, or seriously? So many different ways to experience this (and any) story!
I’m sure plenty of you are thinking “duh, I listen to audiobooks! it’s the same thing that Andrea is talking about!”. That’s *nearly* the same thing, but not quite. When you listen to an audiobook you are on the listener side of the equation. What’s I’m getting at is being on the speaker side of the equation. I do listen to the occassional audiobook, but I often get so distracted by the narrator’s voice that I tend to lose track of what they are saying (yes, i’m weird, but you guys knew that already!)
By the way, the story is Synecdoche Oracles by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, out of Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke.
Seems like every time I sit down and chat with my book buddies, the following phrase comes up over and over again:
“That was such a good book. I should really reread that sometime”
As a book blogger, once I’ve read something and posted a review, what’s the point of reading it again? I’ve already reviewed it,right? Shouldn’t I move on to bigger, better, and brand newer things? Netgalley is all about reading the newest stuff, we all brag about ARCs we’ve received, and all that jazz. Isn’t that what being a book blogger is all about?
there is a huge chunk of my brain that is saying “screw that” right now.
I *want* to reread stuff I enjoyed last year, or two years or five years or ten years ago. I want to see if it’s still as good if it still gives me chills if it still scares me shitless if i still have an emotional reaction to it if it still blows my mind and shows me that words are magic. All these books that I keep telling people how good they are, I want to experience again how good they are, damnit!
Books I’d like to reread this year and experience again include:
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Grass/Raising the Stones/Sideshow by Sheri S Tepper
Jeff Vandermeer’s Ambergris books
The Scar/Iron Council by China Mieville
Scale-bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Just about anything by Iain. M. Banks
Defenders by Will McIntosh – will it scare me as much the 2nd time around? I want to know!
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – I’ve read this I don’t know, five times? Even though I know what’s going to happen the book is a shot to the heart every single time
Faith by John Love
Habitation of the Blessed / The Folded World by Catherynne Valente
I’m sure there are more, but these were at the top of my mind as books that made me fall in love with reading, and made me want to share that love with everyone I meet. I’d like to experience them again. And this isn’t to say I won’t be reading new and new-to-me books in 2017. In January alone I bought 5 books that are new-to-me, and some of them are brand spanking new.
So who knows? Maybe 2017 will be the year of the reread. It’s certainly going to be the year of not feeling guilty about not reading new stuff all the time.
what books would you like to reread, if you had time?
You guys, I can’t wait to be 80 years old. I’ll be there in about 45 years, and by then we’ll have flying driverless cars, our smartphones will be embedded in our skulls, we’ll have androids and robots, and we’ll be flying all over the inner solar system.
But besides all that, I can’t wait to see what “Vintage Science Fiction” will look like in 30 years.
Dictionary.com includes the following in their definition of the adjective Vintage:
representing the high quality of a past time: vintage cars; vintage movies.
old-fashioned or obsolete: vintage jokes.
being the best of its kind: They praised the play as vintage O’Neill.
When used as an adjective, there is no specific year or time period attached to the word vintage. It’s fluid. Personally, I define “Vintage science fiction” as anything published before 1979. The year is arbitrary, and if someone else defines Vintage science fiction differently, their definition is just as correct as mine.
Which means. . . when I am 80 years old, someone somewhere will be defining Vintage Science Fiction as anything written before 2016. And they’ll be discovering for the first time authors like Robert Jackson Bennett, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Iain M Banks, Julie Czerneda, and Will McIntosh.
Talk about something to celebrate!!