Posted by Mike on April 16, 2006
Still working on several short fiction sequences, some of these relate to having old issues of Asimov's I wanted to finish and move out of the way. The first of these is Robert Reed's Sister Alice series, of which I just finished novella #2, "Brother Perfect." This is very far-future SF and introduces a flurry of ideas that really color the world, although to some extent not much has been offered in the way of plot movement to really keep me gripped. The introductory novella set the stage nicely in terms of giving you the panorama of the story, but in a way "Brother Perfect" adds layers rather than developing forward.
Robert Silverberg's Roma Eterna sequence is one I decided to read chronologically in order of the stories released, they're ordered by internal chronology of story in the book collecting all the stories. So it's sort of like moving backwards through the history. The writing is extraordinary, I haven't read much Silverberg yet, but if his latter day material is this strong, I'll have to check out some of his peak writing sooner rather than later. The novella I read last, "Via Roma," is a Celtic royal's vacation, a view of a modern, alternate Rome, still decadent, but about to change in a historical and tragic manner. In fact, it's something of a prologue to "Tales from Venia Woods," my favorite of the four stories in the sequence so far.
Bruce Sterling is one of the main cyberpunk writers and his Chatanooga short story sequence definitely fits squarely in that mode, in fact it's hard not to draw immediate connections to Snow Crash, although Sterling is leaner and meaner than Stephenson. "Deep Eddy" was a very strong opener for this universe, but the Hugo-winning "Bicycle Repairman" was truly amazing, a definitive "show but don't tell" story that reveals the complexity of the universe's future political system through a plot that is short and compelling. "Taklamakan," which seems to be the last story in the sequence, is more an adventure story, one with so many high tech and futuristic ideas it sets a very believable atmosphere while compellingly unravelling a mystery with a climax to match. Unsurprisingly it also garnered a Hugo, as well as a Locus award. All these stories are in A Good Old-Fashioned Future; now I'm going to have to read the first four in that book.
I've also tried to get some novels worked on, a little more progress on the fabulous One Hundred Years of Solitude and nipped a bit at Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes. Both books are extremely dense (and there is an influence on Shepard from Marquez), maybe twice or more so than the above short fiction, but the extraordinary writing makes them instantly compelling. And I knocked out about a third of Gordon R. Dickson's "Soldier, Ask Not," the third chronologically in his Dorsai universe, which leads up to the novella of the same name, which is about the last third of the book. I've liked this series quite a bit in that it tries to see change through military, scientific, faith-based and other viewpoints and how they evolve over time. Part of the impact is reduced by some of the mystical plot twists in the series, but they tend to make more sense in the long run and it's hard to feel that the whole series isn't guided by a sure hand.