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Friday, April 15, 2011

Some Quick Updates, Locus Poll, Greg Egan, Paul Hoffman (by Liviu Suciu)

Today it is April 15th and it's a deadline; and no, not the usual one here in the USA, since for some arcane reasons that is April 18th this year, but the Locus Poll deadline about which I talked earlier and you can see my votes HERE.

Go and vote HERE since it is important to have your voice heard; if you want a more balanced coverage of core genre in places like Locus, you have to show that you are interested in reading it since like any sensible business, Locus caters to its audience and one way of measuring that is by what gets voted in the online poll. And again, you do not need to vote in all categories, or for all available five spots, but just where you think you have something that applies.

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The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan has featured prominently in my posts about the books I look forward the most in 2011 (HERE and HERE). The start of the Orthogonal trilogy that takes place into a strange universe where matter is unstable, complex molecules have to be really complex - so the sentient beings that are the heroes of the series like Yalda in this book are six limbed shapeshifters with a strange reproductive biology for example - but people are still people so to speak and they have desires and motivation that we can empathize with...

Well, I just finished the book yesterday afternoon and I *had* to reread it immediately, so powerful it was. I put some very rambling thoughts on Goodreads that need editing at some point in the future and a full review will come here in due course - read those thoughts at your peril since while I do not think they are spoilery, I have to let a little time to pass to really think about this book unemotionally, since besides being a pitch-perfect example of sf and showing why sf is still my favorite genre even after 20+ years of heavy reading in it, the novel is very emotional as literature with characters we care about...

Anyway, while I saw the ending from a long way back it still made me almost cry in a way no sf has done so since the 2005 Honorverse novel At All Costs (FBC Rv) by David Weber whose ending is similarly emotional. Coming back to the Orthogonal trilogy by Greg Egan, the only thing I will add is that I *really, really* want the second installment...

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The other novel I talked about in the two above mentioned posts (HERE and HERE) is the The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman. Somewhat to my surprise, my dual review with Robert Thompson of The Left Hand of God is probably the single most read review of ours here at FBC based on the continual hits it gets daily and of course I am delighted since I *really* loved the book, bought for myself a final edition to complement the review copy I got and I kept inquiring about a review copy for this one for months now.
Link
Due to the quirks of publishing the book will be out in the UK soon, while the print US edition is scheduled for August, but it seems that - in a very wise decision imho - Penguin will sell the ebook in both UK and US (and presumably elsewhere) on April 28 if the Amazon listing HERE is correct.

To my surprise I have received a US edition review copy several days ago and with this the full five books in my original Top 5 Anticipated Post are accounted for - I read the other four and all were superb and will be top novels of 2011.

Needless to say I will get to this one next and will have some thoughts soon, though I have not decided yet when to do the full review. If the Amazon ebook listing holds, I will review it for sure later this month since the book is then officially available here too, otherwise I will see.

Edit 4/16 Some 1/3-1/2 in the book and it is as crazily inventive and good as The Left Hand of God, with the same alternating of styles, tones and narrative modes; there is considerably more backstory and world building and things make sense and hang together well, but the same "all but the kitchen sink" is thrown in and this one has some stuff that's even more outrageously funny than in The Left Hand of God and I found myself shaking with laughter often, though the book is also pretty dark and not for the easily offended.

The Pyramid of Lincoln and (the Bosco ordered forgery to save his and Cale's bacon) The Protocols of the Elders Moderators of Zion Antagonism are among the many early "pearls", and even more than in The Left Hand of God, The Last Four Things abounds with such play on the famous and infamous from history, always well done imho...
And there are battles, treachery, fights, blunders, deep seated plans that may or may not work...

Edit 4/18: About 100 pages to go out of 400+ and The Last Four Things has been all I expected and more; I would have easily finished the book in the weekend but I enjoy it so much that I do not want it to end so every 100-150 pages I reread them before going forward.

Even now and I have no real idea where it will go - I expect a particular ending to this one but who knows, the author keeps throwing surprises as well as underlining how the best laid plans just break because of stupidity, misunderstandings or pure chance. The "all but the kitchen sink" famous and infamous from history continues to delight and the book is just awesome - better than The Left Hand of God in some ways because it hangs things together and makes sense of the "big picture"...

Cale, Bosco, Vague Henry, Kleist and a few more new characters are shining - of course Cale first and foremost - but the rest have also great lines on occasion.

Edit 4/18 later I finished the book and while what I expected to happen, happened, the book went further, twisted again and left me a bit stunned and again without having much of a clue about what's going to happen in the 3rd volume; this time the author has a great two page explanation about his sources, including famous philosophers, Catholic thinkers, poets, obscure manuals of war that are available online and one (in)famous speech of Saddam Hussein (seems to be on YouTube) that *** cribs here before ***.

All in all The Last Four Things takes the promise of the Left Hand of God, fulfills it and more in a considerably more complex book this time with all the world building that was only hinted there, but keeping the narrative switches and the many twists, while the trilogy finale is something I really, really want asap...

Also this is another book like The Clockwork Rocket that will take a while to process, though here I am just somewhat stunned by the ending since the book kept getting darker and darker and went beyond emotion in some ways, more like say The Kindly Ones than the usual sff

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LinkNote: So far this year my highly anticipated novels delivered in spades with The Clockwork Rocket and The River of Shadows being #1 in sf and fantasy for now - though to a large extent just because a book has to be number one - and with five more books: Leviathan Wakes, Naamah's Blessing, The Hammer, Embassytown and The Sea Watch on the same level for me - marked as 1-7 in my Goodreads list HERE they are for most part equals for me this year and the order is temporary, though the truly emotional ending of The Clockwork Rocket above and The River of Shadows (see the review) may keep those as #1.

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