Monday, September 21, 2020
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020
AIR (2004) by Geoff RymanLife in a remote, tiny Central Asian village is transformed by a new kind of World Wide Web called "Air" (a breakthrough in "cloud computing"). The novel AIR focuses on the life of one single woman in this village where "everybody knows everybody," and how she uses Air to improve her situation.
Eventually, Air causes much more radical change, and there are some quite surprising twists. The village will never be the same again - it has been irrevocably connected to a larger world with immense, ambiguous possibilities.
This is a moving, likeable and optimistic story. You care for the characters, who lead small lives but are caught up in something much bigger than themselves.
Though AIR is science fiction, it also contains (in my opinion) an obvious element of magical realism. (No spoilers, but... get ready for a surprise. )
Recommended for readers of all genres.
#geoffryman #air #bookstagram #bokstagram #bookstagrammer #bookreview #bookreviews #bookcover #bookcovers #bookstagrammers #bookbloggers #reviews #books #literature #novels #novel #book #sciencefiction #fantasy #magicalrealism #www #cloudcomputing #internet #reviews #review #scifi
Friday, August 28, 2020
DUNE (1965) by Frank Herbert
Finally, I've read this novel. I saw the 1984 movie first – a mistake, and I didn't like it.
The book, as the saying goes, was better.
DUNE may superficially seem to be an epic ”space opera” with the hero Paul Atreides fighting villains for the fate of the universe in an imaginative interplanetary setting... but it gets more interesting than that.
The author has created a unique world
with its own societies, complex characters and a plot revolving
around ecology, anthropology, politics, religion and mysticism.
Paul Atreides is not a typical space opera protagonist – he is more of a tragic figure driven by a fate he didn't choose and struggles to control. The novel is packed with foreshadowing, suggesting that Paul has to accept his destiny rather than master it. Also, the power he gains changes him (and not in a nice way).
Exotic drugs play a central role in the story (unsurprisingly, DUNE was a big hit in the 1960s) – and that's where it wanders off from SF into something more like Fantasy. There are several ”trippy” key scenes , where the characters literally get stoned outside of their minds.
Since this is space opera, it is constrained by the same genre limitations as STAR WARS. If DUNE takes place in a galactic empire, why does it seem so small? How can a few characters control the fate of an entire galaxy? How can they travel faster than light?
Why do they fight with medieval weapons in the far future? Why are the women not more liberated? How does an emperor ”rule” a galaxy anyway? Yet, the whole thing still works.
What I admire most about DUNE is the author's attention to characters, detail and style. Frank Herbert simply wrote better than most of his contemporary genre colleagues (and perhaps better than many known SF authors active today).
For example: When Paul Atreides kills a minor adversary, this death has consequences. The killed adversary is painstakingly buried and paid last respects, and the hero is forced to take care of his widow and her children. (How often do you see that in genre fiction?)
DUNE is required reading for any lover of great ”world building” in SF and Fantasy. It's a genuine classic that has inspired many other, lesser works. It can be a heavy read at the start, as the setting is so densely described and detailed... but it will draw you in.
(NOTE: This novel has many sequels, in case you thought the first book ended too abruptly.)
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Wednesday, August 19, 2020
I have illustrated several children's books... and now many of these illustrations are also available as prints!
Check out the shirts with fun cartoon prints in my Merchandise Shop:
Monday, August 17, 2020
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Norsk barnbok med svensk illustratör: "Krokodiller og aper kan ikke være venner" av Elin Anita Straumsnes & A.R.Yngve
Jag har nu bott i Norge i 25 år -- halva livet! -- så det är märkligt att efter all den tiden har jag inte fått någonting publicerat i Norge (bortsett från radioserien "Magiens Arv" som jag skrev manuset till)...
Men: i år har en norsk barnbok kommit ut, skriven av Elin Anita Straumsnes, som jag har illustrerat med många teckningar. (Varje sida innehåller minst en bild.)
I den här intervjun från Porsanger Bibliotek berättar Elin Anita Straumsnes om sin bok, och om hur mina illustrationer kom till:
Läs även denna recension av boken, i den norska bloggen "Boktimmy":
Monday, August 03, 2020
The two principal characters of the novel are teenage girls - one a fighter, the other a necromancer who bosses her around. They go to a space castle, people start dying and The Last Person You'd Ever Suspect is the killer.
Despite living in a "dark" fantasy setting that just screams "Goth", these two protagonists behave very much like real teens at their most annoying: callous, shallow, self-centered, emotionally immature, occasionally psychopathic, obsessed with superficial appearance and "attitude", snarky, sexually frustrated, shortsighted... and sometimes quite stupid.
This novel was on the reading list for the SF/Fantasy reading circle I'm in. Those in the reading circle who had enjoyed GIDEON THE NINTH explained to me what I didn't get: The protagonists were written that way on purpose.
I guess that's true and original and subtly clever, perhaps even a satire pointed at YA fantasy itself. But... those are still a pair of annoying, snarky teenagers! Truth is, I can't stand their company.
Then there's the other "big thing" the reading circle explained to me: The setting.
Basically, the novel can be read as modern Fantasy from the viewpoint of the "bad guys" - who deal with abuse, murder, black magic, plotting and mutual hatred as a matter of daily business. (The phrase "the banality of evil" springs to mind.)
If that is Life On the Dark Side, then its darkest secret is how drab and boring it really is. Maybe it's parody. I have NO idea.
GIDEON THE NINTH has been hyped up as "Lesbian necromancers in space." Should've been "Frustrated High School Mean Girls in Gothland." If you like that sort of thing, good for you. And I mean that from the very bottom of my heart.
FOOTNOTE: After this review was written (it originally appeared on my Instagram feed), GIDEON THE NINTH was nominated for a Hugo Award.
#gideontheninth #bookreviews #books #fantasy
Sunday, August 02, 2020
Saturday, August 01, 2020
1. First it is awarded to someone who has publicly denounced a writer as morally reprehensible, in the loudest, most uncompromising manner.
(Demanding that the works of the accused should be burned in public certainly qualifies. Calling the accused a "fascist" is taken as read, but you may have to try harder than that -- the competition can get fierce.)
2. Said winner is then denounced in turn, for some moral failing (small or large doesn't matter - you must have no sense of proportion)...
3. The award is then taken away and passed on to the most chest-thumpingly self-righteous denouncer of the previous winner...
4. ...and then that winner is "found out" and denounced (for something or other)... the award is passed on to the best of the latest denouncers... and so on.
In the end, everyone gets the award because nobody's pure enough to keep it. (Hence the words "Certified Righteous (for now).")
(Even I might get the award eventually...)
I had heard many good things about this novel - Stephen King has praised it - and I had seen the movie adaptations before I finally read it. (Haven't seen the Netflix series, though.)
And I think it's a remarkable piece of fiction - a successful fusion of psychological horror and the "haunted house" story.
The novel centers around the character Eleanor, who starts out with a clear hint of mental problems... and grows increasingly unhinged as she stays in the haunted Hill House. Somehow Hill House comes to haunt Eleanor, until she loses her mind. How this happens is never really explained, but it works perfectly as an uncanny tale.
One detail struck me: Even for a novel written in the late 1950s, all the characters have way too good manners. No one swears, whatever happens - and they're Americans! (I've grown so used to Americans cursing all the "effing" time...)
A recurring theme in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is parental issues. Eleanor seems to have been psychologically damaged by having to take care of her sick mother. Hill House was designed by a terrifying, creepy father figure. One character laments that he "never had a mother." I leave it to you to figure out how the parental issues are woven into the haunted house itself...
Another striking subtext - not a value judgment, just an observation - is how "gay" the principal characters are. Not one of the male characters seem the least bit sexually interested in women, but the female ones flirt with each other repeatedly and become infatuated with each other.
(I'm not sure how important this subtext is to the story. In any case I assume it was too sensitive for 1950s audiences and had to be "masked" somewhat.)
As for the ghosts, the reader never gets to see them. Rather it is the house itself that is evil.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is both a psychological thriller about a disturbed, lonely person and a weird, modern ghost story. It will make a lasting impression on you. Highly recommended.
#bookreviews #bookreview #shirleyjackson #thehauntingofhillhouse #horror #classics #literature #supernatural #paranormal
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Full disclosure: I think most UFO reports can safely be dismissed as unreliable or false.
I also think we have underestimated the possibility that intelligent alien life is out there but ignores us - that Earth might be, to use a metaphor, the galactic monkey cage.
The author Paul Davies is no crank; he's a science professional who's written several popular science books on physics and astrophysics. .
ARE WE ALONE? is based on his lectures about the search for extraterrestrial life. He outlines the history of speculation about aliens since antiquity; scientific theories about the number of alien civilizations (and why we haven't found any signs of them); and the actual search for alien communication signals by radio telescope.
Most interesting is Davies' argument that life is NOT a "cosmic accident" but an inevitable product of natural processes. That is, there's no rational reason to assume we are "alone" in the universe, since life will spontaneously emerge elsewhere. .
I recommend this book as an introduction to serious study of SETI (=Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence), if you can find it.
See also Davies' "sequel" book THE EERIE SILENCE: RENEWING OUR SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE (2010), where he argues that current SETI methods need to be reformed.
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Saturday, July 18, 2020
I really enjoyed the first book in the series! The second book didn't reach the same heights as the first... but the third part really succeeds. This is seriously epic stuff, spanning the far future and painting a vision of the ultimate fate of humanity.
The plot involves spectacular super-science, scale and size being used repeatedly to evoke gigantic change, vast passages of time... and destruction on a cosmic scale.
You might think that the human characters would be utterly dwarfed by the sheer scale of the story. But the author still manages to make the characters and their actions matter.
I noted that in all three books, Cixin Liu has a great knack for building a crisis and raising the stakes. Disaster is heaped upon disaster, until the odds against the protagonist seem hopeless – and then, at the last minute, comes an almost miraculous rescue, solution or escape from certain doom.
You may appreciate THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM as a standalone novel, but the two sequels do not stand on their own. I recommend the whole trilogy for readers of ”hard SF” with a grand, epic sweep and a unique, somber vision of the universe.
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