Sunday Status Update: October 20, 2013

Bill was fooling around with timecapsules and found this update from Hari Seldon:

Hari SeldonHari Seldon: I am Hari Seldon. No, no need to rise. I am, after all, not really here. By now, you have passed through several of the crises I predicted via psychohistory. According to my calculations, you have survived the barren wasteland of literacy, when the youth of your society did not read for pleasure, a wasteland they were led out of, I’m pleased to note (with 86% certainty), by a namesake of mine, although it is 98% likely he spells his version of “Hari” differently. You weathered the popularization of bad vampire fan fiction, avoided the possibility of a sequel to Battlefield Earth, saw fantasy fiction rise to be the dominant force of entertainment in the world. More recently according to the inevitable math of psychohistory, you celebrated the conclusion of the Game of Thrones series, saw the Star Trek series turn its back on the path of the same-old action-type blow-everything-up film and rise again as a new series of movies centered on exploration, first contact, and character development; and marveled at the length of time Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET spent at the top of the best sellers list. I warn you though, even as neighborhood bookstores multiply like aphids, appearing on every corner so that one can travel hardly a mile without seeing another Starbooks, your gravest crisis is upon you. I cannot say more lest I affect the very future I have predicted. But have no fear, for the solution can be found on one of the floppy disks I have left for you (I also left a Betamax backup).  Forward the future!

AlixAlix: First, as the newest FanLit reviewer: I’m so happy to be here!  I’ve spent my free time this week making a whole long list of books I want to read, based on the excellent reviews on this site. I’ve also been reading Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, which continues all the moping and ennui and why-can’t-you-just-be-happy-Narnia-is-real of the previous book. And I’m plodding slowly through R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing, the first book of THE SECOND APOCALYPSE. It’s a book that requires dedication; so far I’ve read the first couple hundred pages as an act of faith, on the assumption that all the pseudo-Tolkien languages and vaguely Islamic religions will distill themselves into a compelling plot. In the event that they don’t, I just got The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin in the mail. All of these have been wonderfully reviewed here already, so I’m planning to head into uncharted territories soon.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsBill: Pesky work continues to intrude, but taking tonight off I managed to read Michael Pryor‘s The Extinction Gambit (review soon to come — spoiler, it’s a 3.5) and Coim Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, as I embark on my usual annual attempt to read the Booker shortlist.  I thought the voice and writing was spare and lyrical, but I think I’m glad it didn’t win, though I’ve yet to read the others. Next up, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

BradBrad: This week I’ve been continuing to read works by the two greats of 20th-century manga: Tatsumi and Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka is the best known because he we influenced by Walt Disney in his creation of characters such as the well-known Astro Boy, the first manga character who broke into U.S. popular culture through cartoons, or “anime.” I’ve been reading Astro Boy, which touches on some serious issues — how could it not in post-war Japan — and have learned that what really made Tezuka stand out was not his Disney-like characters but his cinematic approach to manga, with panels showing a variety of “camera  angles” and stories being stretched out in time with many more panels devoted to a scene than ever before. But I have avoided Tezuka thinking his work was all for children; however, it turns out that after inspiring a young Tatsumi, Tezuka was later inspired by the gritty realism of the adult Tatsumi! With great pleasure I have finished volume one of Tezuki’s eight-volume series about Budha. I’ve also finished volume one of the seventeen-volume Black Jack, one of his most popular stories for adults in Japan. However, only some are still in print in the U.S. But because they are collections of stories about a House-like misanthropic genius doctor, they can be read out of order. I’ve also reread Alan Moore‘s philosophic comic Promethea, Mike Carey‘s The Unwritten (see Friday’s comic book review), and the noir novel The Galton Case by Ross MacDonald, all three of which I’m teaching in various courses at the moment.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews Kat: I read three books this week, all on audio. MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Unappreciated, the third book in the QUEEN BETSY series, was disappointing. It’s paranormal romance, which is really not my thing, but I picked these up when they were cheap at Audible. I think I’ve squeezed all the enjoyment I can get out of this series and I don’t know if I’ll pick up the next book. Probably not. Much better was Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men (a charming and humorous YA story about Tiffany Aching) and Edith Nesbit’s The Phoenix and the Carpet which is a children’s fantasy first published in 1904. It’s a sequel to the wonderful Five Children and It. You can get these free in the public domain.

StevenSteven: Little time for reading this last few weeks, although I did finish a review. (Yay!) What little reading I got in was still in Thomas M. Disch’s critical view of American Science Fiction The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World (1998). Disch had some very interesting insights into why those of us who love science fiction do so, and also some provocative things to say about the men and women who created the genre in it’s present day form. Very interesting reading.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Terry: I finished a couple of books I’ve been in and out of over the past few weeks: Backward Glass by David Lomax (review forthcoming) and Tell My Sorrows to the Stones by Christopher Golden (reviewed here). I’ve also been reading the October issues of Nightmare and Lightspeed for upcoming magazine columns. Purely for fun (though I will review it when it’s complete), I also read the latest installment of Seanan McGuire‘s Indexing. I’m eager to get to McGuire’s latest OCTOBER DAYE novel, but these installments are tiding me over nicely until a time slot opens up for that one.

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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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