What Sci-Fi Book Are You Reading?

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Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
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Sorry but I somehow I missed your post, it was during the week where 4 days out of 5 I left at 6 in the morning and got home at 10 at night. I didn't like it at all and think I rated it 2 out of 5. Not sure if I read it in order but I assumed Patternmaster would be the first book in the Patternmaster series. But she didn't explain how the "magic" worked at all and she didn't really explain why they were fighting with the other group. The explanation of the inter group fighting made since but the rest didn't. It is a pretty high rated series though so I am in the minority.
Patternmaster was the first book published in that series but was not the first in story chronology. I read this omnibus with 4 of the 5 novels, starting with Wild Seed, and it made a lot more sense that way. The whole pattern thing is built up in bits and pieces in the stories that were set earlier (although published later).

http://www.amazon.com/Seed-Harvest-Octavia-E-Butler-ebook/dp/B008HALOVO/
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
Sorry but I somehow missed your post, it was during the week where 4 days out of 5 I left at 6 in the morning and got home at 10 at night. I didn't like it at all and think I rated it 2 out of 5. Not sure if I read it in order but I assumed Patternmaster would be the first book in the Patternmaster series. But she didn't explain how the "magic" worked at all and she didn't really explain why they were fighting with the other group. The explanation of the inter group fighting made since but the rest didn't. It is a pretty high rated series though so I am in the minority.
"Patternmaster" is the very last novel by internal chronology, though the first to be published. By internal chronology, they are: Wild Seed / Mind of My Mind / Clay's Ark / Survivor* / Patternmaster.

By order of publication, which is how I read them, they are: Patternmaster / Mind of My Mind / Survivor */ Wild Seed / Clay's Ark.

I can understand your dissatisfaction, especially since most are used to fantasy works nowadays where [magic] systems are thoroughly explained. What might be troubling to most starting with "Patternmaster" is that the story opens midstream in a future history without much background, which is constructed in later writings. Personally, I didn't find that to be a problem and was quite intrigued by it all. It's a very short work (in line with much of published SF at the time) which also doesn't leave room for much explanation. I will say that though "Patternmaster" wasn't her strongest novel (it was her first published book, after all), you shouldn't overlook Butler. She's a fine writer, in my opinion. Frankly, I really, really liked the book.

I don't think Butler ever wrote these books with a consistent series in mind, so most of them could be read independently, though as @Sneaky Burrito says, it might make more sense reading them by internal chronology. I liked reading them in order of publication because I could trace how she developed her themes with the succeeding volumes.

"Patternmaster" leaves a lot of unanswered questions and is slightly problematic thematically. Not only does it present the world from quite a misanthropic lens, the social commentary that Butler is very good at (always in the subtext) isn't really fleshed out in this first effort, which works more as a fairly typical 'power-struggle' type adventure story. The theme which she introduces here is a very good one, that superhuman does not necessarily equate to better human, but is not properly developed. "Patternmaster" did work as a pretty grim, anti-superhero story for me:
You'd think that the story is an allusion to slavery, but the protagonist has no desire to unravel the society he's stuck in, he just wants to be top dog and uses his control over others just as easily/freely as any master would.

One other problem was that the Clayarks, their motivations and actions, were never properly explained (that doesn't happen till "Clay's Ark"). I felt sympathy for them, and they get brutally dealt with.

The origin of this 'pattern' is described in "Mind of My Mind", which suffers slightly for one of the reasons that "Patternmaster" does -
the foregone conclusion that is the inevitable duel to the death
- but Butler already had a better grasp of her writing and characterisation by her second pubished work, so it was less of a problem and the story was compelling.

"Survivor" is the odd one out, and one that was not reprinted because Butler herself disliked it. I'm not sure why, because I did. It's not included in the "Seed to Harvest" omnibus, which is the best buy for the story, especially if you intend to read them in chronological order. "Survivor" does tie into "Clay's Ark", but I agree that it's not essential reading for the story.

I'd encourage you to give Octavia E. Butler another chance at some point (if not her Patternist works, then something else). I do understand why some might be disinclined after "Patternmaster", but like I said, I still thought it was very good and remains a good introductory novel to Butler for me. "Wild Seed" might work better for others.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
Finished Old Man's War today. I'm so confused by this book. It started out amazing and sucked me in. There was a trudge there in the middle where the dialogue was some of the worst I have ever encountered. I tried to view it through my "Catch-22" style lens and kept reading. I think the writing was utterly awful......

....however, I could not put this book down. I'm not sure what it was about this book but despite the relatively weak characterization and writing, there were actually two occasions that literally almost brought me to tears. On top of that, the last 30% of this book was almost impossible to put down. I'm so confused, I've never thought so highly of such a bad book in my life. :)

I just started "The Real Story," book 1 of The Gap Cycle by Stephen Donaldson. I've never read his fantasy so it's new to me. Really enjoying it so far. I guess I'm on another Sci Fi kick.
The sequels are great too! Very easy reads; but the sequels have better plots! The third book, The Last Colony, was my favourite.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
About 60% through Neal Asher's Prador Moon. I think it was Boreas who said these are great and he's right, and this book is considered by reviewers to not be one of the good ones. Look at the publication dates and all, seemed most recs were to start with Gridlinked, but I wanted to start at the beginning and then read in internal order, so the prequel to Gridlinked is next.

This is like grown up modern sci-fi versus all the new stuff I sample by the new big young writers who seem to publish another in a series every other month that must have a teen/YA audience. Quite pleased that I have such a long list of books ahead of me here with this series. Although Peter Hamilton's new Commonwealth book is waiting and keeps wanting to be read right now, I'm going to save it. I think his Commonwealth series is the best sci-fi I've ever read, with the Pandora's Star duology at the very top.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
Nice, I'm going to be reading "Prador Moon" very soon. I've now started on "Polity Agent", another Cormac novel. I just couldn't help myself despite my intention to take a break after "Brass Man". I'm also glad that there is a substantial back list of books that are available to read. I'd been seeing Neal Asher titles in bookstores continuously post-2005, but since I wasn't reading much SF & F at the time, I never picked one up. Unlike you, @kenubrion, I am glad that I didn't read the prequel to "Gridlinked" first. I find my motivation to find out about the history of Cormac to be higher after reading the main sequence books. I've mostly been following publication order, though I skipped "The Skinner" (Asher's second published; while part of the Spatterjay trilogy, it also stands alone), which most people recommended as a starting point, and which many that I've come across consider one of their favourites.

I think his Commonwealth series is the best sci-fi I've ever read, with the Pandora's Star duology at the very top.
Gah, you must weigh nearly the same as a particular, hydrophilic, fair feathered creature. I will grant that Paula Myo is one of my favourite female characters in SF and that MLM is one scary mofo. Otherwise, I found the Commonwealth duology to be mediocre, like his Night's Dawn trilogy. I will read the sequels, but only because the duology left so much unanswered (when it was supposed to be a complete and self contained story - it drove me crazy that it wasn't) and because there will be more Paula Myo featured. If PFH ever writes a book purely centered around Paula Myo, I'll snap it up happily instead of grudgingly, which is how I currently feel about his books. The best I've ever read of PFH were his short stories.
 
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fbones24

Journeyed there and back again
Wow. I finished "The Real Story," book 1 of The Gap Cycle by Stephen Donaldaon practically in one sitting. I was blown away by this book. There is very little action or drama. It is basically a character study on the three main characters with the main focus being on the protagonist, Angus. Without thinking twice, I immediately purchased "Forbidden Knowledge: Gap Into Vision," book 2 of The Gap Cycle.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
Wow. I finished "The Real Story," book 1 of The Gap Cycle by Stephen Donaldaon practically in one sitting. I was blown away by this book. There is very little action or drama. It is basically a character study on the three main characters with the main focus being on the protagonist, Angus. Without thinking twice, I immediately purchased "Forbidden Knowledge: Gap Into Vision," book 2 of The Gap Cycle.
It is an epic story. Like a Wagnarian opera. The first volume is very slim. The subsequent books keep getting fatter.
 

sopranosfan

Journeyed there and back again
The Fall of Hyperion. It has started off slow but I remember thinking the same about Hyperion and it is now one of my top 10 favorite books in all genres.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
Wow. I finished "The Real Story," book 1 of The Gap Cycle by Stephen Donaldaon practically in one sitting. I was blown away by this book. There is very little action or drama. It is basically a character study on the three main characters with the main focus being on the protagonist, Angus. Without thinking twice, I immediately purchased "Forbidden Knowledge: Gap Into Vision," book 2 of The Gap Cycle.
When I tried reading Thomas Covenant I found it very, very difficult to read. But recently I read a sample of book 1 of The Gap Cycle and it looks to be written totally different which I kind of expected, you know not as grandiose, pretentious, etc.

Gah, you must weigh nearly the same as a particular, hydrophilic, fair feathered creature. I will grant that Paula Myo is one of my favourite female characters in SF and that MLM is one scary mofo. Otherwise, I found the Commonwealth duology to be mediocre, like his Night's Dawn trilogy. I will read the sequels, but only because the duology left so much unanswered (when it was supposed to be a complete and self contained story - it drove me crazy that it wasn't) and because there will be more Paula Myo featured. If PFH ever writes a book purely centered around Paula Myo, I'll snap it up happily instead of grudgingly, which is how I currently feel about his books. The best I've ever read of PFH were his short stories.
I thought Pandora's Star was a really good book. Judas Unchained not so much. I guess one of the main issues with this series is that there are too many plot threads and not all of them really come together and then it can seem quite a bit derivative of other sci fi writers. PFH is certainly way above mediocre though.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
I thought Pandora's Star was a really good book. Judas Unchained not so much. I guess one of the main issues with this series is that there are too many plot threads and not all of them really come together and then it can seem quite a bit derivative of other sci fi writers. PFH is certainly way above mediocre though.
Hmm, we'll have to disagree on PFH. Multiple plot lines I can deal with, and PFH usually does a decent job of bringing them all together, so my grievance doesn't really lie there. He's competent, but his writing is just so lackluster - there's no pizazz to it. I also find his endings too neat; the deus ex machina with the Night's Dawn trilogy and the manicured conclusion to the Commonwealth duology. "Pandora's Star" didn't really start getting interesting for me until the main antagonist was introduced, and that happened what...like around page 500/600? That's half the book.

I'm also someone who doesn't mind exposition and info-dumping that much, but he takes it overboard and I invariably find myself skimming large sections of text - all this exposition/info-dumping does lend itself well to world-building, which he does with great aplomb, I'll admit. There was a 14 year break between my last and most current PFH read, and I only picked him up again because I was told how great the duology was compared to Night's Dawn. For me, it was...just average. After having read PS/JU, I find I need to read the 'sequels' (a trilogy - with his mammoth sized installments) to find some sort of resolution to the overarching plot. I liked the Paula Myo and MLM angle (just about all other characters got on my nerves to some extent, none more than Mellanie Rascorai, who was featured too much for my liking), so that makes picking up the sequels seem a little worthwhile, but I'm no hurry. I can read him (like I said, he's competent), but so far I've never been gripped by any of his novels. I keep wanting to like his books, but it never seems to happen. Also, it annoyed me that two central ideas were derivatives of those introduced in Simmons' Hyperion Cantos and Banks' Culture. I expect cross-pollination of ideas in the genre, but maybe the degree of separation wasn't great enough for my liking? I'm not sure, but it did annoy me and I can't come up with a reasonable explanation as to why.

I'm finding with my current Neal Asher reads that he's also rehashing many ideas introduced in Banks' Culture and Reynolds' Revelation Space universes, but he'd doing a far better job of it with books around a 1/3 the size.
 
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kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
Nice, I'm going to be reading "Prador Moon" very soon. I've now started on "Polity Agent", another Cormac novel. I just couldn't help myself despite my intention to take a break after "Brass Man". I'm also glad that there is a substantial back list of books that are available to read. I'd been seeing Neal Asher titles in bookstores continuously post-2005, but since I wasn't reading much SF & F at the time, I never picked one up. Unlike you, @kenubrion, I am glad that I didn't read the prequel to "Gridlinked" first. I find my motivation to find out about the history of Cormac to be higher after reading the main sequence books. I've mostly been following publication order, though I skipped "The Skinner" (Asher's second published; while part of the Spatterjay trilogy, it also stands alone), which most people recommended as a starting point, and which many that I've come across consider one of their favourites.


Gah, you must weigh nearly the same as a particular, hydrophilic, fair feathered creature. I will grant that Paula Myo is one of my favourite female characters in SF and that MLM is one scary mofo. Otherwise, I found the Commonwealth duology to be mediocre, like his Night's Dawn trilogy. I will read the sequels, but only because the duology left so much unanswered (when it was supposed to be a complete and self contained story - it drove me crazy that it wasn't) and because there will be more Paula Myo featured. If PFH ever writes a book purely centered around Paula Myo, I'll snap it up happily instead of grudgingly, which is how I currently feel about his books. The best I've ever read of PFH were his short stories.
I imagine you are aware of his short stories compilation, all eleven about Paula I believe? Manhattan In Reverse.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
Hmm, we'll have to disagree on PFH. Multiple plot lines I can deal with, and PFH usually does a decent job of bringing them all together, so my grievance doesn't really lie there. He's competent, but his writing is just so lackluster - there's no pizazz to it. I also find his endings too neat; the deus ex machina with the Night's Dawn trilogy and the manicured conclusion to the Commonwealth duology. "Pandora's Star" didn't really start getting interesting for me until the main antagonist was introduced, and that happened what...like around page 500/600? That's half the book.

I'm also someone who doesn't mind exposition and info-dumping that much, but he takes it overboard and I invariably find myself skimming large sections of text - all this exposition/info-dumping does lend itself well to world-building, which he does with great aplomb, I'll admit. There was a 14 year break between my last and most current PFH read, and I only picked him up again because I was told how great the duology was compared to Night's Dawn. For me, it was...just average. After having read PS/JU, I find I need to read the 'sequels' (a trilogy - with his mammoth sized installments) to find some sort of resolution to the overarching plot. I liked the Paula Myo and MLM angle (just about all other characters got on my nerves to some extent, none more than Mellanie Rascorai, who was featured too much for my liking), so that makes picking up the sequels seem a little worthwhile, but I'm no hurry. I can read him (like I said, he's competent), but so far I've never been gripped by any of his novels. I keep wanting to like his books, but it never seems to happen. Also, it annoyed me that two central ideas were derivatives of those introduced in Simmons' Hyperion Cantos and Banks' Culture. I expect cross-pollination of ideas in the genre, but maybe the degree of separation wasn't great enough for my liking? I'm not sure, but it did annoy me and I can't come up with a reasonable explanation as to why.

I'm finding with my current Neal Asher reads that he's also rehashing many ideas introduced in Banks' Culture and Reynolds' Revelation Space universes, but he'd doing a far better job of it with books around a 1/3 the size.
So he does certain things well but yet he's mediocre? o_O
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
I imagine you are aware of his short stories compilation, all eleven about Paula I believe? Manhattan In Reverse.
Yep, I've got the paperback, but haven't yet read it. I think there's just one or two Paula Myo stories in there.

So he does certain things well but yet he's mediocre? o_O
Sure, nothing inconsistent about that. And I did say 'decent' as opposed to 'well'.

Although, the prize for mediocrity in SF should go to Kevin J. Anderson.
 

Kseniya Malakhova

Killed in the battle against the Mad King
Now I am reading Strugatsky brothers ''Roadside Picnic''. It is a very interesting and exciting story about the post visitation worlds which are full of phenomena and unexpected strange things. People named Stalkers are allowed to enter into these worlds, so they go in and get the artifacts for investigation. The plot of the novel is very involving, so I could recommend this book for reading for those who prefer Sci-Fi futuristic stories.


Kseniya Malakhova
writer / poet / book illustrator
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
Now I am reading Strugatsky brothers ''Roadside Picnic''. It is a very interesting and exciting story about the post visitation worlds which are full of phenomena and unexpected strange things. People named Stalkers are allowed to enter into these worlds, so they go in and get the artifacts for investigation. The plot of the novel is very involving, so I could recommend this book for reading for those who prefer Sci-Fi futuristic stories.


Kseniya Malakhova
writer / poet / book illustrator
I finished this recently. Enjoyed it too, just felt it could do with a bit more flesh on the bone! Would disagree with you about it feeling like a futuristic story though. To me it felt like it was something that happened in the 1980s having been written in the 1970s (as an example, I can't remember the publication date )
 
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fbones24

Journeyed there and back again
For anyone that has read "The Gap Cycle" by Stephen Donaldson, am I alone in thinking that Angus Thermopyle can be a case study on characterization perfection? He is one of the most repulsive, monstrous, psychopathic characters I have ever come across, fiction or non. I mean, I hate him. ...but at the same time, I feel this true sympathy for him on a human level. That sympathy is real. How do I hate and feel for this character at the same time so deeply? It is almost impossible to create these types of dimensions in a character through words on a page. I would almost have to know a person in real life to have similar dyadic emotions towards them. I apologize to those who have not read these books but had to put this out here to share. Kudos to you Stephen Donaldson.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
For anyone that has read "The Gap Cycle" by Stephen Donaldson, am I alone in thinking that Angus Thermopyle can be a case study on characterization perfection? He is one of the most repulsive, monstrous, psychopathic characters I have ever come across, fiction or non. I mean, I hate him. ...but at the same time, I feel this true sympathy for him on a human level. That sympathy is real. How do I hate and feel for this character at the same time so deeply? It is almost impossible to create these types of dimensions in a character through words on a page. I would almost have to know a person in real life to have similar dyadic emotions towards them. I apologize to those who have not read these books but had to put this out here to share. Kudos to you Stephen Donaldson.
I'm sure there's enough material for a Master's thesis, especially on how it relates to the Ring cycle. Does your copy of "The Real Story" have Donaldson's afterword? What I also like is how the first volume essentially feels like a microcosm of the themes that play out through the grander arc, and how the complexity keeps increasing as the story cycles through different viewpoints. As you read each volume, it's like a camera lens slowly pulling back, revealing an always wider panorama. Glad you're liking it, and I'd like to hear what you think when you're done with the Gap cycle, or even as you read each volume (maybe a separate thread?).
 

fbones24

Journeyed there and back again
I'm sure there's enough material for a Master's thesis, especially on how it relates to the Ring cycle. Does your copy of "The Real Story" have Donaldson's afterword? What I also like is how the first volume essentially feels like a microcosm of the themes that play out through the grander arc, and how the complexity keeps increasing as the story cycles through different viewpoints. As you read each volume, it's like a camera lens slowly pulling back, revealing an always wider panorama. Glad you're liking it, and I'd like to hear what you think when you're done with the Gap cycle, or even as you read each volume (maybe a separate thread?).
I'm glad someone is on the same page as me. Yes, my copy did have the afterword and it was an interesting read. I'm glad I got that behind the scenes glimpse into the story.

I am about 50% done with book 2 and I have to say that the storytelling is different. It's less of a character study and the underlying story is starting to develop. It's a slow burn and I love it for that reason.
 

Kseniya Malakhova

Killed in the battle against the Mad King
I finished this recently. Enjoyed it too, just felt it could do with a bit more flesh on the bone! Would disagree with you about it feeling like a futuristic story though. To me it felt like it was something that happened in the 1980s having been written in the 1970s (as an example, I can't remember the publication date )
yes, agree with you! by '' futuristic'' I have meant that the authors predicted some events happened in far future ( maybe I have chosen an incorrect word, still under impression of reading :) ) Almost all books written by Strugatsky are as a prediction concerning future things/events, so it is really incredible!
 
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