Friday, 7 March 2014

2013 Books Read - Part 2

Probably my all time favourite author is Raymond E. Feist. He is an epic fantasy author whose first book 'Magician' was published in 1982 and sold millions of copies since. Since then he has written over twenty books which follow on from Magician. I've been reading him since about 1993 when I was 13, always reading his new book as soon as it came out. Until a couple of years ago when I paused for a bit. The books were getting shorter and shorter, hardly complete books just small parts of a longer story. Finally though, he's finished and so I read his final trilogy in 2013. They were A Kingdom Besieged, A Crown Imperilled and finally Magician's End. The first two were good, the last one was amazing, an action packed and yet touching finale to a very long running series.

In June I went on holiday for a week to a rural cottage in Shropshire, and wanted to take something suitable. In the end I plumped for 'Waystation' by Clifford D Simak. Simak was golden age science fiction writer, who was famous for writing 'pastoral sf', a combination of galaxy spanning science ficiton, and the quiet pastoralism of backwoods America. Really great book.

One of the things that makes a good year - reading wise anyway - is discovering a new favourite author. In fact I probably discovered several (I covered Hugh Howey in part one), but foremost among them is probably Alastair Reynolds, writer of hard SF, space opera style books. I'd tried his 'Revelation Space' novel in audiobook format, but gave up as I wasn't getting to listen often enough. Normally that's it, I don't go back, but when the book came up cheap on Kindle, I bought it and tried again. It took a while to get going but eventually I loved it. After that, later in the year came books two and three in the Revelation Space series, Redemption Ark & Absolution Gap. Since then, I've read two more books of his, with more to be read soon.

Talking of books I had previously started, many many years ago I tried reading 'Assassin's Apprentice' by Robin Hobb. I didn't get very far, and put it down (I was quite picky then). Well last year I picked it up again and really enjoyed it this time.

2013 was a year of reading mostly fiction, and the majority of that being science fiction. But I used to read a lot of non-fiction, and while I tend to not finish a lot more non-fiction these days. I did really enjoy (and finish) a couple. They were 'The Victorian Internet' by Tom Standage, a historical look at the telegraph in the 19th century, and how in many respects it was remarkably similar to the early days of the internet. It's a short but fascinating and enjoyable book. The other was 'Bang: The Complete History of the Universe by Brian May. It's a - very - short book about the universe and astronomy. A quick, easy but very interesting read.

I read several exceptionally good standalone novels this year to, by first time authors in some cases. 'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline was frankly amazing. A geek's dream, it's a book about computer games, sci-fi films, books, anything retro 1980s.

Next was 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern. A recommendation from my lovely wife, it was a beautifully written book, the kind that is all too rare.

After that was 'Redshirts' by John Scalzi. It won the Hugo Award which was controvertial but I think it really deserved it. It is a very funny book, a kind of spoof on Star Trek but actually with plot. I also read 'Old Man's War' by the same author, his first book. A light but fun military SF novel, I enjoyed this and as a rule I don't enjoy military SF.

Not long to go now - gosh I did read a lot of books last year...

Everyone's been talking about 'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins for the last few years. I finally tried the first book. It was good, but it wasn't great. Definitely had a young adult feel to it, there wasn't much depth there. Interesting world building though.

'Proxima' by Stephen Baxter was a really welcome return to hard(ish)-SF. He's written a lot of quasi-historical stuff in recent years, but good space-based SF is what he's best at. I particularly like stories about colonizing and settling a new world which is what a lot of this is about.

Finally, I requested - on Google Plus - suggestions for an Indie published book I could read, as I wanted to give Indie authors a chance. I had a number of suggestions but went for 'Ships of my Fathers' by Dan Thompson, book one of the Father Chessman series. I really enjoyed it. It lacked the complexity of some other books, but had interesting, well rounded characters and an intriguing plot.