Monday, January 26, 2015

What are you reading right now?

I hope you're reading something! Give your brain a rest from television and dig into a book if you haven't in a while.

I've been reading science fiction lately from three very different authors and it struck me how very different their books are from one another. Is it because of the intended audience? Two are set in space and the third is about interdimentional travel, which is maybe more fantasy than scifi, but oh presented as if it's made possible by science.

The first book was Dawn by Octavia Butler set in space on an alien ship where the last remaining humans are being held captive until the Earth has recovered enough from WW III to be habitable again. And woah is it weird! Mainly because the aliens are rather sea slug-like and they want to hybridize with us humans. The humans don' thave a whole lot of choice because they wouldn't even be alive if the aliens hadn't saved them, but they sure don't want to be "owned" by these aliens.

This book gives an interesting look at what might happen if you throw the survivors of a catastrophic war in a room together. I'm afraid Butler's take is the worst of human nature comes out, not the best. It's like Survivor the TV show meets Animal Farm. (Butler wrote this long before Survivor ever came out.) It's well written and somewhat disturbing, but there's no purple prose. It moves along at a steady clip and has you wondering the entire time.

The next is Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. Great cover, huh? I have to admit I'm nowhere near done with this one. It's like 1,000 pages long. I chose it because I've never read the usual popular science fiction, hard core stuff, (aside from Dune) and I thought I should give it a shot. It's all about world building, lemme tell you! Humans have colonized dozens and dozens of planets and are expanding their range. They've figured out how to rejuvenate their cells so they can live for hundreds of years and they've got wormholes to make interplanetary travel easy. The actual plot is a bit fuzzy for me because so much time is spent on this world building and hopping from one seemingly random character to the next. I'm sure they'll all meet eventually, but just how or why I'm not sure. So far, it strikes me as a detective/mystery story in space. There's something going on way out on a new planet and humans want to go see what's happening there, so that new discovery aspect is kind of cool.

Overall, I find myself wishing for a hero.  None of the characters sticks with the reader long enough for me to get attached to them or care about what happens to them. I'm really a character-driven story kind of person at heart. I need that to really enjoy a  story, I'm afraid, so while I can read this, I don't see myself falling in love with it unless something changes really quick! My biggest gripe with the book is humans are still driving cars on the ground. All this technology and we still don't have flying cars?? Really??

The last book is A Thousand Peices of You by Claudia Gray about some teens who have the ability to jump to other dimensions parallel to our own in persuit of a supposed murderer. While the Peter Hamilton book describes how every technology works in great detail, this book doesn't describe it's technology at all!  You just have to buy that it works because a teenage girl is telling this story, and she's not too wrapped up in the technicalities of it all. And I suppose that difference is because the audience is teenage girls, not scifi geeks. Which is fine. I'm all for knowing your audience and tailoring your writing style to that audience. Maybe call it scifi lite? Really, really lite.

It think this fact might have been the downfall of this book as science fiction, asking the reader to suspend TOO much disbelief. It follows 3 main characters that travel to like four different "dimensions", but some how these other dimensions seem way in the future or far in the past. One is very similar to the real one they live in with only a few changes, but the others are vastly different: futuristic London, czarist Russia, and a climate changed water world. They're supposedly jumping into the bodies of their parallel selves living in these other dimensions. Maybe the idea was, if something different happened at a key point in history, the dimension would be vastly different, but it's so glossed over I missed that along the way. The places they went, while cool, seemed very random. There wasn't a lot of reason so go to any of them, just that they were pursuing a supposed murderer.

I guess the take home lesson for me is each author brings a different story to a different audience. All of these books are well loved, best sellers for various reasons. What's your favorite science fiction novel?

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