Mike’s Prattle

Miscellaneous

Adam-Troy Castro – Vossoff and Nimmitz (collection), The Funeral March of the Marionettes;” George R. R. Martin “Weekend in a War Zone,” “Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring;” “Ursula K. Le Guin “April in Paris,” “The Masters,” “Darkness Box,” “The Word of Unbinding,” “The Rule of Names;” Larry Niven “Intent to Deceive,” “Grendel;” Lewis Shiner “Tinker’s Damn;” Ellen Kushner “Red-Cloak”

Posted by Mike on March 16, 2010

Alright, time to remember more reading stuff, I think I’m always about three weeks behind, which often means I’ll forget. Anyway, this groups starts with a couple books/several stories that are part or perhaps part of Adam-Troy Castro’s AI Source Universe. The first book is a series of stories that were printed in Science Fiction Age in the late 90s that were all an attempt to mine Douglas Adams or Robert Sheckley territory, that is stuff I don’t tend to read all that often. I probably don’t mention it much but there’s a whole crazy Virgo logic behind what I read that’s probably a bit too complicated to go into (since it’s a given it’s crazy anyway) but it roughly has to do with award books, sometimes authors I really like I discover from this chart, sometimes books that have nothing to do with either, parts of series, a smattering of non fiction. But I do like to read lots of stuff chronologically, maybe I have the weird idea I might learn something about writing mechanics via development or something, I have no idea.

Anyway the Vossoff and Nimmitz stories are a lark, a self-professed bumbling super villain and his idiot sidekick, linked as it goes via the former’s ex wife and the latter’s now wife, anyway most of the stories start due to the machinations of the former and they almost all end hilariously and badly. They were fun and easy to read, but as such a style goes, more of a lark than anything meaty. The other novella, however, was a Hugo and or Nebula finalist and was much more interesting, as an alien dance ritual that ends in suicide surprises the audience and one man in particular when a human joins the ritual. Was quite clever and attempted to do one of the things I think SF does best – clashing cultures.

The two Martin stories here are perhaps minor, the former something of a thematic predecessor to the Michael Shea book I wrote about a few weeks ago, about a guy who spends a weekend buying his way into a real war and the smashup that occurs due to his personal instability. “Star Ring” is the second of two in that universe, you know the whole “Stargate” thing rife in science fiction, except this is about a scientific crew investigating a ring that leads to nowhere basically, sheer blackness. I liked the construction of this one quite a bit and it, as always, kept the focus on the human experience.

The Le Guin stories are all very early work, well within her first 10 shorts. A sorcerer in April in Paris waves his hands and manages one by one to summon people out of time and in doing so the story makes an interesting statement on the loneliness of the outsider. “The Masters” is a fairly typical story about an anti-scientific future society and the rebel trying to discover forbidden knowledge, it’s a definitely an age old story probably told better elsewhere. “Darkness Box” is a neat little fantasy about what seems to be somewhat typical high fantasy characters stuck in time. The final two are the precursors to the Earthsea series, one about a wizard imprisoned who ends up only discovering one way out and the latter about a village’s wizard and the secrets he embodies as a second wizard shows up on a ship. While both seem a bit tried now, I kind of doubt they were so much when they were written. Anyway this early it seemed to me that the shorts were a lot more enjoyable than Le Guin’s first few novels, but now I’m up to the first Earthsea (which I probably read as a kid and have totally forgotten), so undoubtedly I’m now at the beginning of a long string of classics.

The Niven duo continue the Known Space series, the former a short piece reflecting on an early version of a robotic restaurant and what happened when it stopped working right. The latter, another in the Beowulf Shaeffer series about an alien kidnapping (although perhaps the puzzling out of who the Grendel is in this story is part of its subtlelty as it didn’t quite end up being the alien). This latter one finished the Neutron Star collection up.

Lewis Shiner’s “Tinker’s Damn” is online somewhere and I believe is his second published piece, kind of a typical science fiction story about building an artificial intelligence and the tragedy that occurs when they try to make it “love.” I ended up liking the story quite a bit, but can see why this didn’t make the Collected Stories volume.

And finally, Ellen Kushner’s “Red Cloak” the first in her Riverside series of books and shorts, this one a very short piece that has a very Leiber-ian flair as the couple (who assert their personalities very quickly and efficiently in this piece) decide to go for a drink in the evening only for the swordsman to be virtually challenged to a duel. Quite looking forward to the rest of this series if something so viginette-sized can end up being so strong.

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