April 27th, 2007

Reading List 2007 (11/101)

Aaand … into the triple digits!

This week’s reading (or, since I missed last Friday, two weeks’ worth):

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Richard Matheson
The Year of the Quiet Sun, Wilson Tucker
Firestar, Michael Flynn
Rogue Star, Michael Flynn
Lodestar, Michael Flynn
Falling Stars, Michael Flynn
The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Edward Ferman and Gordon van Gelder
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree Jr.
Manhattan Is My Beat, Jeffrey Deaver
The Bone Collector, Jeffrey Deaver
The Coffin Dancer, Jeffrey Deaver

The last two weeks have been kind of crazy (finals, grading, preparing for the end-of-year conferences) so I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. Or, more accurately, I’ve been reading stuff that’s light, easy, and quick to finish for the most part.

Right now I’m deep into Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, which is about the maximum stimulation my brain can handle right now. The thriller elements are excellent and it’s nice that, of the three books I’ve read so far, none have been about serial killers. I find the serial killer trope of mystery/thrillers to be way overdone. I’m just not that interested in portrayal after portrayal of people who kill because they’re somehow fundamentally cracked. I like books where there’s actually a motive - love, money, hope, fear, greed, you name it - and Deaver does a nice job of combining the high-tension of the serial killer novel with the humanity of a more ordinary mystery.

On the other hand, the Michael Flynn was disappointing. I had high expectations, since this guy wrote The Wreck of the River of Stars, a beautiful, hauntingly tragic look at social and mechanical failure and its consequences. The Firestar series, though, was embarrassingly bad - at least at first. It started out by combining the worst elements of Baxter and Heinlein: cardboard-thin characters acting out the author’s personal prejudices in a wholly unconvincing near future. Plus there’s a weird technophile-capitalist thing going on that really bugs me wherever I find it. “Our society would be better if our businessmen were unhindered by the government and our schools turned out nothing but scientists!” That kind of thing. Fortunately for him (and my waning patience), the worst of it was in the first two books of the series; the latter two books were clearly written after he’d actually figured out how to plot and characterize. It’s too bad he was stuck with the stupid world-building decisions he’d made in the first couple of books. Sigh.

The Tiptree, fortunately, didn’t just live up to my expectations: it blew them into smithereens, then stamped on the pieces while shouting, “Hallelujah, sister!” I’d read some Tiptree before so I knew she’d be good, but I had only read one of the stories in this anthology before. It was a wonderful treat - so much so that I couldn’t put it down, and stayed up until 4am reading. I do have to say, though, that Tiptree is maybe more in love with ending the world (or at least human existence) than I really feel comfortable with.

The rest were good, solid stuff. The Matheson stories felt incredibly cliche - but not in a bad way. I think it’s because they’re more or less the foundation of modern horror; it was really cool to see what inspiration so much of the genre is built on. The Tucker was an interesting time-travel story which I can’t really talk about without spoiling something, except to say that it’s very tragically romantic. And finally, the F&SF collection was quite good, though with a few clunkers (yes, “Partial People,” I mean you). “The Birthday” alone was worth the price of the entire volume, even if I found it amazingly depressing and anger-inducing. But it’s that good, cathartic, good-book anger!

Have a good reading week yourselves, people. Shabbat Shalom!

Game Chef Finals!

I meant to post this yesterday, and completely forgot: my Game Chef game this year made it into the finals again!

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Game Chef is a two-week role-playing game design contest. I wrote a little game about playing the daughters of the Norns in the late eighteenth century, trying to reconcile your ancient heritage and your visions of the future with life in the modern world.

Although the contest is over, I’ll be continuing development on the game, albeit slowly. You can find posts about it at Omega Kitchen. You can also download a current copy there if you want to check it out. Right now it’s fully playable, but there are a lot of minor details and examples missing from the text. Nonetheless, I think it conveys what I wanted it to, and I’d love to hear what people think!

And hey, if anyone sits down to play it, I will trade you delicious cupcakes for a playtest report!