Sunday Status Update: January 3, 2016

This week, more Star Wars. Look, it was this or Galadriel again, and sweet Ilúvatar does she go on and on…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Rey: This week I haven’t had time to read anything but my inbox, which is full of people telling me about how I’m definitely, positively, indubitably not a Mary-Sue. Whatever that means. Thanks, everyone, for what it’s worth. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to save the galaxy. There’s some sort of death laser/sun eater thing… ? I keep wondering how the First Order managed to build this thing without somebody noticing (or, you know, build it at all). You’d think someone would’ve torpedoed it before it became operational. But for some reason, no one but me seems to give a single hot damn about it.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill:
The past two weeks, along with all the holiday hoopla, travel, and family interaction, I managed to squeeze in a few books, including:
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen: one of my best genre reads of December

The Rising by Ian Tregillis: a great follow-up to book one of THE ALCHEMY WARS, my other best genre read for the month

Libellus de Numeros by Jim West: a book with good intentions that unfortunately falls short in craft and execution

The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wootton: An original exploration of the era through the unique (for me at least) prism of language shifts

After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover The Essays: a mostly strong collection of modern essays, each of which uses one of Montaigne’s original pieces as a jumping off point

In other genre non-reading points, I was sorely disappointed by the lack of creativity in the new Star Wars and so far very pleased with SyFy’s adaptation of The Expanse

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Brad: This week I’ve been reading more Elric, because I seem to never tire of him. I’ve been enjoying some nonfiction as well: Writing Across Contexts: Transfer, Composition, and Sites of Writing by Kathleen Yancey and Liane Robertson (a five-star book on teaching writing); The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein (a five-star book on psychology and Buddhism); Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris (four stars, so far); and 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris (a four-and-a-half-star book by an investigative reporter who trained under Peter Jennings). I highly recommend Epstein’s book if you’re at all interested in the topic (but do not listen to it on audio). However, Dan Harris’s book is read extremely well by the author, since he is a television reporter. I’ve been re-reading William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (a five-star classic memoir). I’ve also started listening to Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn while I read the adapted comic book version of the novel, an activity that has given me additional insight into the creation of comics. On audio, I’ve continued to listen to The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, which is as painfully slow to listen to as the first book seemed short. When I get bored, which is often, I switch back to Friz Leiber‘s FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER, which is a pure delight, particularly on audio. Finally, I enjoyed a few new star wars comics: I read and reviewed the comic book Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes (four-and-a-half stars). I also read (and still need to review) the comic book Darth Vader: Vader, the first trade volume collecting the storyline that takes place during the same period as Skywalker Strikes (both of which take place between Episodes IV and V). Both of these comics are written by two of the best comic book authors in the business, Jason Aaron and Mark Waid. I highly recommend them, even to the casual Star Wars fan. I love them, and until this week, I’d never read any Star Wars novels or comics.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews João: Started reading The Peripheral by William Gibson but had to give up on it and I returned it to the store to buy another book. I had never read Gibson so I did not know what to expect from it, but the neologisms, the hard to imagine descriptions, coupled with how he writes, were a huge turn off because it did not pull me in into the world of the novel. Weird way to describe it but it felt like the words I was reading weren’t being translated into concrete images in my head and I don’t care enough about Gibson to put time into the book considering the sheer amount of other novels I could be reading. That’s another problem right now, I have a lot of good books ready to be read right now but can’t really decide which to start. I’m inclined to start The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata because everyone keeps saying good things about it and it won a Nebula while it was a self-published novel, which is no small feat.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: In case you didn’t notice, I haven’t submitted a Sunday Status Update in a few weeks. That’s because the end of the semester was kind of crazy for me and I read very little fiction in December. What I did manage to read since last you heard from me was Luna by Ian McDonald (like Dynasty on the moon), The Martian by Andy Weir (my son and I listened to this while working on a puzzle at Christmastime), Modesitt’s THE FOREVER HERO trilogy (has aged well), Ruffleclaw by Cornelia Funke (a short story for children), and Claire North’s novella The Serpent (the best of all these I’ve listed). Alas, my winter break is almost over and it’s time to get back to work!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kate: I’ve noticed that my reading has slowed down recently, and I’m not sure why, unless it’s just because of my writing and teaching workload. I’m looking forward to picking back up in this new year and reading a lot of great books and short stories (especially since I subscribed to several SFF magazines for my birthday this past year). This week, I finally finished Catherynne M. Valente‘s Radiance, which was … startling, strange, beautiful, and moving. It is one of the most immersive books I’ve ever read, which is quite a feat given that the story Valente’s telling isn’t necessarily the “real” story–just several versions of a mystery that remains, at the end, mysterious. Now I’m on the second GORMENGHAST book by Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast. It’s just as good as Titus Groan, and there’s a whole new cast of crazy characters living in the castle–the Professors. I’m really enjoying another peek into Peake’s wildly inventive imagination.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: I finished Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older and I’m about two-thirds of the way through the sequel, Midnight Taxi Tango (which I wish they would have named Medianoche Taxi Tango, but that’s just me). I’m enjoying Older’s playful approach to language and the way he creates the world of Brooklyn. I also read a Dashiell Hammett story collection called The Big Knockover, and finished up A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of that one; the two main characters are seriously unlikeable from the first pages, but Goolrick’s precise, disciplined descriptions; an arctic-quality winter in Wisconsin, with the snow covered prairie plainly standing in as the “blank canvas” on which this story plays out, the convenient mansion the man has abandoned but still keeps heated, cleaned and polished; and actually the characters themselves finally won me over. I would never have made it past the back cover on my own, so I’m grateful to the person who gifted me with it. I’ve spent some time browsing Matt Kaplan’s two books, The Science of Monsters and the Science of the Magical. I like his prose and his approach.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Rachael: This week I am devouring M. R. Carey‘s zombie novel, The Girl With All The Gifts. I can usually take or leave zombies, but this is a pretty good addition to a very oversaturated market. I’ve also got lots of lovely new books from under the Christmas tree, so am starting another year with an unrealistic reading list. Hurrah. In other news, I am about to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the third time, and trying to persuade myself that this is acceptable behavior for a grown-up person…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stuart: Our holiday back home in Hawaii is sadly over, but it was great fun. I managed to finish The Fifth Season on the flight back to Tokyo, but the story was so intriguing that it demands a second listen without jet-lag and better concentration, especially the intricate plot which only becomes clear at the end. My daughter and I spent a lot of time at Barnes & Noble in Honolulu, sadly the only major new bookseller left in Hawaii now, and she used her Christmas money to purchase some graphic novels/comics: Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, and Harley Quinn. She wanted to get Watchmen and Batman: Hush, but they sold out before she could get them. As for me, I finished Alan Moore‘s Watchmen and Batman: The Killing Joke on the iPad at Ala Moana Beach Park with Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach in the background. Such dark and complex stories amid the beautiful backdrop, but I love that dichotomy. I will write a proper review of Watchmen after watching the Director’s Cut of the Zack Snyder film version. I also need to finish the last episode of The Man in the High Castle before adding that to my review of the book.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: I’ve been reading the most recent three issues of Apex Magazine in order to get Magazine Monday up and running again.  Good stuff!  Happy New Year to all our readers; may you all have lots of time to read, and good books aplenty.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I reread Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, as it’s had a new release with extra material. I honestly didn’t detect much difference, but it’s been nearly a decade since I last read it, so perhaps that’s to be expected. My sister and I also listened to part of Patrick RothfussThe Name of the Wind while on a car trip (she’s preparing for her second run at Wise Man’s Fear).

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Joao — Man, I think The Peripheral would be really hard to start with! If you decide at some point to you want to read Gibson, I’d start with his early stuff from the 80’s. It’s dated in many ways (and shockingly current in many ways) but it lets you see how he builds a world and tells a story. Neuromancer is still a good place to start.I think you have to “train up” for The Peripheral.

    I thank Terry for introducing me to The Girl With All the Gifts.

    • I completely agree with you, Marion — they should have named the book “Medianoche Taxi Tango!” It would have fit in perfectly with the Medianoche Car Service! Ah, missed opportunities…

      • I think the publisher underestimated the audience. And maybe they thought “midnight” sounded more eerie/urban fantasy-ish. Definitely a missed opportunity.

        • I don’t want to be grumpy and cynical, but I could guess that they were worried about sounding too “urban” and alienating a WASPy portion of their audience. Hopefully that isn’t the case! Hopefully they just wanted to use “Midnight” to send the clear message about the book’s genre.

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