Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Claw of the Conciliator - Gene Wolfe

This is the Eighty-eighth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I could post this book just for the eye-catching cover art and as a Halloween tribute, but in fact it is a 'new' addition to my bookshelf and the second book in the Gene Wolfe Book of the New Sun series.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Valentine Pontifex - Robert Silverberg

This is the Eighty-seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

It is funny how one thing leads to another. I was 'recycling' some no longer wanted books at a local second hand bookshop and wanted to use the credit straightaway. Browsing the shelves I found three books which would complement books already on my shelf. This book in the Majipoor cycle is one of them, and another fine work from Silverberg.

You may know that the term 'pontifex' has become better know in recent times as the twitter handle of the current Pope and which is a correct use of the ancient term but nicely appropriated by Silverberg for this series.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Once I realised that I didn't have this on my bookshelf I kept an eye out and purchased a copy. As the cover rightly says, it is a classic of (science) fiction, and one cannot have too many Le Guin books on the shelf in case one gets snowed in for a week.

Tehanu - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-fifth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

There are nearly twenty years between the last in the original Earthsea trilogy and this work. Often this is a recipe for disaster and one might chose to discard the late comer, product of an author revisiting an earlier very successful work (perhaps at the nudging of a publisher?). This is certainly true for a number of books and series that I've added to the bookshelf where I've declined to include the latter-works (Herbert and Brin come to mind) which are worthy enough but do not reach the same heights. 

However this is still a quality work from Le Guin, though the subject matter is probably too sombre for the younger audience that could enjoy her first three Earthsea books. This work also reflects the author pondering the structures of her imagined society as her perspective on society has matured over the years. So there, read this if you wish or stop at the end of The Farthest Shore.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Farthest Shore - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-fourth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

It was Tolkien who said, in the Hobbit, that good times go quickly for the people involved and make dull telling. Unfortunately this is true and good times don't make compelling stories. The' lived happily ever after' is usually the end and not the beginning!

This last of the original trilogy of Earthsea books nicely demonstrates the truth that trouble makes for a good tale, and things are troubled in the Archipelago. There is also a darkness to this book that reflects the darkness in the heart of the author and shows that a writer will reveal themselves when they write, and so they should. I always very much enjoy this book but it isn't so comfortable reading as the author also holds up a mirror to our own heart.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-third in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

For many years this second tale from Earthsea was my least favourite of the trilogy. Yet as I grew older I found that it had become the one I preferred. How did that happen? Not sure, but perhaps it reflects that a book stays the same but the reader changes! Perhaps there is more underlying darkness in this book and that was less palatable to my younger self, or perhaps I developed a taste for a slower moving, slow burning plot - gathering pace until the tension is at breaking point. Good book this one.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-second in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The books in the Earthsea canon are my favourite Le Guin books.

She weaves so many elements of fantasy and morality into this first story that it verges on being a fable but never becomes cliched or gratuitous. As with her science fiction universe the imagined fabric of Earthsea is a rich tapestry against which she explores her characters and yet the plot drives the reader to turn page after page.

As well as being a benchmark for writers of fantasy, this book is an exemplar of the children's book - a book that is accessible to a child but doesn't disappoint an adult.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Dispossessed - Ursula Le Guin

This is the Eighty-first in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Ursula Le Guin creates a compelling alternative universe in which to set her story, an achievement in itself, but she is mostly interested in the moral and ethical challenges that face her characters. I think this statement is true for all of her works. She does both brilliantly.

I don't believe that I need to say any more.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Shadow of the Torturer - Gene Wolfe

This is the Eightieth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I feel almost literary with my next couple of posts. Works of science fiction fiction that are beautifully written, engrossing and confronting. Not usually my taste and while I've read the other three volumes in The Book of the New Sun I don't have them on my bookshelf, but I do have this one. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nightfall - Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

This is the Seventy-ninth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

As any science fiction reader worth their salt will know already, Nightfall (the original short story by Asimov) is a seminal work in the canon of the genre. This is an adaptation of the original story into a novel.

I am not a fan of works with more than one author (though I have already included a couple, just to show that there are always exceptions in life to any rule) and especially works in later life by a luminary of the genre with a younger co-author (or worse a progeny of the author). These are usually to be avoided.

However in this case Silverberg is a luminary in his own right and the end product is a worthy addition to my bookshelf.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Songs of Stars and Shadows - George R.R. Martin

This is the Seventy-eighth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I discovered Martin's science fiction many years ago and particularly enjoyed his short stories. I'm not a great fan of short story collections as a rule but I am a great fan of Martin's writing. This collection is the one that I have on my shelf, but I would commend Tuf Voyaging for those wanting a great read in a connected set of stories.

I would also note that I found the Game of Thrones books too bloody and dark for my taste, sorry George, and will certainly not be watching the very popular series. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Glory Season - David Brin

This is the Seventy-seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is a departure from David Brin's Uplift series, telling a road trip narrative on an imagined world, but similarly using a science fiction setting to place his characters and explore their reactions. Worth a look and I still have my copy on the bookshelf after many years.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Uplift War - David Brin

This is the Seventy-sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This story follows close on the heels of Startide Rising and maintains the tension and pace (and mind bending alien and uplifted earthling names). Not for the fainthearted, this is for the science fiction fan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Startide Rising - David Brin

This is the Seventy-fifth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The Uplift story continues, some time down the track from the original novel, and it is this second book that is the stand out of the series in my opinion. It is gripping, has a great, slow build climax and keeps you turning the page.

Also has a great title - Startide Rising. Not sure what it means but it is evocative!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sundiver - David Brin

This is the Seventy-fourth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I continue my run of science fiction with this first novel in what became the very well regarded Uplift series by David Brin. Written in 1980 it isn't the high point of the series - and a first book often isn't - but it is a fine example of creating a universe in which the author can set his characters (human and otherwise) and explore the way in which they navigate the realities of that time and place, with some drama and science thrown in for good measure. I particularly like the concept of the 'library' as repository of ALL knowledge (how can that be a bad thing) and the effect that it has on innovation and creativity.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lord Valentine's Castle - Robert Silverberg

This is the Seventy-third in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I am surprised that this Robert Silverberg novel and other books set on the extraordinary planet Majipoor are not better known. They are well crafted, complex and thought provoking - and very good science fiction. Perhaps they lack a certain popularism, but I suspect they will endure over the years.This one stands up well after more than 30 years.

I wonder how many readers have been inspired to take up juggling?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cyteen - C.J. Cherryh

This is the Seventy-second in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Dense, difficult to follow, engrossing and intellectual. You often feel - when reading Cherryh - that you have come late to the party and have missed out on the introductions and entree - or that you have joined a guided tour but didn't get the handout and don't know if it is the right tour. However that is just her style and if you can live with it, read and enjoy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Downbelow Station - C.J. Cherryh

This is the Seventy-first in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Cherryh is an author that passed me by for many years. I think that the cheap, garish covers on her books may have influenced my avoidance, as I had seen them on the shelves but had never opened one or explored the interior. One of my cousins is a serious reader and has been collecting Cherryh's books for years. She introduced me to this amazing author and I have been a big fan ever since. Unfortunately I don't have many on my bookshelf, having borrowed from my cousin's private collection, but I am on the lookout for some titles that I must have. Unfortunately Cherryh is not a supporter of the ebook format otherwise I would be adding them to my Kindle instead of being disappointed in their availability in new and secondhand bookshops. Some of her earlier works are only in print as omnibus and I don't like that. However I will add to my bookshelf in the fullness of time.

This particular title is an excellent example of what makes Cherryh's science fiction so good. I don't claim that she is always an easy read or that her books don't occasionally have flat patches and can be a little dark and uncomfortable but she captures the reader's sense of perspective in a manner I've not encountered before and then turns you on your head. Traveling and living in space, being a human amongst aliens or being an alien - she is a genius. Seriously. Iconic. Must-read for the serious science fiction fan.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Time for the Stars - Robert Heinlein

This is the Seventieth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

The last in my current sequence of Heinlein books but not my last!

The picture on the cover of this version describes something that happened in the story and which stuck with me since I first read the book as a youth. There are primal fears in that image!

I think that one of the enduring attractions of Heinlein is his ability to capture the imagination of the reader and to influence how the reader thinks about things - the renown Heinlein philosophy of life. There is a great deal to like about this book and I recommend it to you.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Rocketship Galileo - Robert Heinlein

This is the Sixty-ninth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Apparently, when Heinlein pitched this book, the publisher thought that travel to the moon was too far and initially rejected it. It was 1947 and the publisher was right in a sense. The moon is an awful long way! Not one of Heinlein's best books but very readable and has all the elements that I like about his juvenile works.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Double Star - Robert Heinlein

This is the Sixty-eighth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

I am happy to return to the world of science fiction for the next run of titles from the bookshelf.

This Hugo award winning novel has a plot device that is timeless but handled masterfully by the master!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them - Newt Scamander

This is the Sixty-seventh in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This is the last of my Rowling books on the bookshelf, though I a book on Quidditch wouldn't go astray and I suspect there will be other Rowling books to come. The Casual Vacancy was a little bleak for the better half and I've not attempted The Cuckoo's Calling yet but am getting very good word of mouth reviews.

Newt Scamander will be the lead character in a new film series with the script being written by Rowling. I look forward to it and especially to see if she can imbue her film script with the light humour present in this book.  

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K.Rowling

This is the Sixty-sixth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

Those who have read the Harry Potter series to its conclusion know that the stories in this collection are integral to the plot. Even if you knew little or nothing about the world of Harry Potter the tales in the collection are gripping. Rowling totally gets the ancient tradition of fairy tales.

For those who are avid fans of the series then this allows you to revisit the world for a brief while.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K.Rowling

This is the Sixty-fifth in my one-book-at-a-time bookshelf.

This last and much anticipated book in the Harry Potter series was released in July 2007 amidst great secrecy and extraordinary logistics. The attempts, largely successful, to embargo the book and release simultaneously worldwide created an hysteria. We were not immune. However - we were travelling by car during its release, a long journey that had two overnight stops, to an isolated place on the Western Australian coast called Coral Bay. The last major town we passed through before our week in relative isolation was Carnarvon (which is not major by world definitions of a town, google it if you want to see what I mean). At this time my daughter was also reading the series and we both wanted the last book. We dropped into a newsagent in the town, expecting to get a copy, but their long faces told us the sad news. The shipment of books hadn't arrived. Carnarvon was the town Harry forgot.

We survived the disappointment and enjoyed our week at the coastal resort - despite being tormented by the sight of another guest who was clearly reading the Deathly Hallows by the pool. The day after our return to the city the kids went to school and the better half started a new job and I went to the shops and bought me a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I sat in the car and read the first chapter before I drove home. During the next week my daughter read it during the day and I read it after she had retired for the night.

This last book, which has such a convoluted plot to disentangle that it required two movies, was a bit of a struggle at times, but, the last 100 pages are magnificent. The first time I finished the book I went straight back and read those last chapters again. I will read all seven books again, and again. That is why they are on my bookshelf.

I'm a big admirer of Rowling. I think she has some real talents as a writer, particularly her naming of people and things, her twisty plots, her humour and her endearing (and not) characters. I think she is under rated and that her books will still be in print in a 100 years. However I am even more impressed by the fact that she likes to write and despite the global hysteria that surrounded the growing popularity of her books and the films, and the squillions of money she was making, and the subsequent off spring she had, that she managed to complete the series and bring it all home in a fabulous, satisfying and complete finale. She is one tough woman and clearly a compulsive writer. Hooray!