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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Comments on two current books: Kathe Koja and Greg Bear; Updates to several older book posts (by Liviu Suciu)

When I found out about Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja with the short description/blurb below, I was very interested though a cursory check of the author's previous work (horror and YA) made me wait for a sample. The short sample online from Amazon was interesting but did not "scream" read me, though luckily after only a short while I got a copy from my library system and what I read there made me decide to buy the book to read it at leisure since this is a complex novel and requires large chunks of continuous reading time.

I will have an update when I finish it - most likely this week since this is one of my current three main reads - and hopefully a full review in December too, but this one has the potential to make my top 25 2010 list with an outside shot of displacing Aurorarama (same narrative space to a large extent, though this is fantasy-nal, that is sf-nal) from the top five also. The book's website has lots of cool stuff including a trailer HERE.

"Love: it’s a triangle. War: is coming. Betrayal: is inevitable. Sex: watch out for the naughty puppets."

Here is a longer blurb, but the short one above is just perfect to make me want to look at this novel.

"From a wartime brothel to the intricate high society of 1870s Brussels, Under the Poppy is a breakout novel of childhood friends, a love triangle, puppetmasters, and reluctant spies.

Under the Poppy is a brothel owned by Decca and Rupert. Decca is in love with Rupert but he in turn is in love with her brother, Istvan. When Istvan comes to town, louche puppet troupe in tow, the lines of their age-old desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war. Hearts are broken when old betrayals and new alliances—not just their own—take shape, as the townsmen seek refuge from the onslaught of history by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan's naughty puppets . . .

Under the Poppy is a vivid, sexy, historical novel that zips along like the best guilty pleasure."


Greg Bear is a famous name in sf and his novels of years ago (Eon is the most notable) were highlights for me at the time; while most are dated today, I still have a fondness for Moving Mars which has remained strongly in my memory and it is the only one of the author's older work I would recommend for today's readers; a novel of politics, love and revolution in a sfnal context, Moving Mars is less dependent on any particular sf trope, so it is one that has "time legs" imho.

Slant which takes place in Moving Mars' milieu may still be of interest too, though it never connected that well with me even at the time and it's very "cyberpunky" with the now dead subgenre's combination of prescience (social computing, Internet's pervasive reach and transformative power) and hilarious naivete (human nature, politics, history), cyberpunk being the Jetsons of the 90's and a perfect showcase for why and how sf dates so quickly.

After his move towards thrillers (sfnal or more conventional) about which I have no interest and last year's City at the End of Time which was unreadable for me, though I may give it another try soon - sometimes with hundreds of books competing for one's attention, if a book does not scream "read me" or entice me with a great blurb like Under the Poppy above, it just slips away from my attention - I had no real expectations of Hull Zero Three despite its considerably more enticing blurb below.

But I checked the book on its publication day yesterday and I have to say I was hooked and Hull Zero Three hijacked my reading time, so it will be most likely the first novel I finish of my current reads with a full review hopefully coming here in December. Very compelling so far - more than half in - stream of consciousness hard-sf and it just works, however strange the combination sounds. Read the first few chapters HERE and see what I am talking about!

"A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space. Its destination-unknown. Its purpose-a mystery. Its history-lost. Now, one man wakes up. Ripped from a dream of a new home-a new planet and the woman he was meant to love in his arms-he finds himself, wet, naked, and freezing to death. The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting other survivors he meets might be the greater danger. All he has are questions-- Who is he? Where are they going? What happened to the dream of a new life? What happened to the woman he loved? What happened to Hull 03? All will be answered, if he can survive. Uncover the mystery. Fix the ship. Find a way home."

There is a cool trailer too:

Edit later 11/23: As expected I finished the novel in my library evening reading and it was excellent to the moving end; I would say an A+ for me, though I am curious how it will stay in my memory;
I was sad to leave the milieu of our heroes; the tale about a deep space huge ship hurling through space at 20% light speed and the humans "produced" on it for reasons that will be revealed keeps one guessing to the end. The book is a bit too short in some ways and I would have loved an epic tale with the characters/setting here; one great quote from the book:

"I don’t know which is more unsettling—meeting myself dead or meeting myself alive"

Note that for a limited time (till Dec 7) Zero Hull Three is available free online at Starbucks; for more details check HERE; I completely forgot about that until a commenter reminded me on Goodreads and I am very grateful for the reminder!


Since if there is one thing I think missing in a lot of today's sff blogging, it is follow up on reading plans/books showcased even if of the "slipped down on my reading pile" variety, I like to have as many updates as I can. So I added comments and impressions to older posts about upcoming books about the following novels (links lead to my original posts):

The Soul Mirror/Berg (A++, awesome, very likely top 25 2011 novel)

The Shadow of the Sun/Friend Ish(C, traditional fantasy that is not really for me, but may appeal to people who appreciate that)

The Fallen Blade/Grimwood(B, surprisingly fractured prose and weakish "convenient" plotting take away from great world building/atmosphere and superb characters)

The Midnight Palace/Zafon(A/A+, YA with its limitations thereof, but great narrative power and inventiveness, presaging the author's two masterpieces The Shadow of the Wind and The Angels' Game) Reading The Midnight Palace will give you a perfect taste of what the fuss with TSotW and TAG is about in a short, fast and engaging read, or of course you can jump to those and then read this one as an "I want more".

All That Lives Must Die/Nylund(C, too much YA here, the inventiveness of Mortal Coils is lacking though the book is still a page turner; this one turns into Harry Potter wannabe and there are enough such clones out there to need one more ).

Edit 11/24: Finally got around to (fast) read Prospero in Hell/Jagi Lamplighter(C,too much of the same) and like the book above another dropped series where I liked the first book on novelty mostly, but the second book read same and I quickly lost interest.


Chris M said...

Reminds me of that film Pandorum.

Ron said...

Lovely posting, thanks for nice read!


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