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Joined 1 year, 4 months ago

In 1972 I was nine years old and my Mum bought me a copy of "Trillions" by Nicholas Fisk. We lived on a farm six kilometres from the town of Canowindra in NSW, Australia. I had enjoyed picture books and Australian classics like "Snugglepot and Cuddlepie", "Blinky Bill" and "The Magic Pudding", but somehow "Trillions" seemed like a REAL book, with ideas and characters to relate to.

Farm life makes you receptive to the universal gateway of books. I can remember being so engaged in a book, that when I had to do a chore like feed the horses, I'd work as fast as I can, as if I was missing out on the book the way I would be if I had to interrupt a TV show.

That was the start. I have logged all my reading for the last 15 years or so, and I've now added most of those books here. That can tell you the rest of the story.

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AvonVilla's books

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replied to Elise's status

@throatmuppet I read it ages ago and found it bland and unappealing. I'm not all that surprised at misogyny. In my mind Niven is on team RWNJ, ever since the days of Reagan and his Star Wars nonsense. I saw a panel where another writer called Niven a "Nazi collaborator", to his face. I'm not sure if it was a joke.

reviewed Emphyrio by Jack Vance (Millennium SF Masterworks S)

Jack Vance: Emphyrio (Paperback, 1999, Gollancz) 4 stars

The history of an interplanetary feudalism

4 stars

I found the first part of this book to be gripping. It is set on a planet where the majority of people live under the yoke of a small privileged class. It is a totalitarian society where mass production is banned. This includes printing. Everything has to be bespoke. In return, obedient hardworking citizens qualify for a sort of basic income. But they live under strict supervision of the bureaucracy and the church.

The central characters are a father and son who find themselves unable to tolerate this tyranny. They face perils and revelations as their rebellion intensifies. Vance creates compelling characters and the story unfolds through their passions and personalities. His language is rich, you will learn a lot of new words if you stop to look them up... if you don't then the context will define them enough to keep the story rolling.

Perhaps it was just my …

Joe Abercrombie: Best Served Cold Joe Abercrombie (2009, Gollancz) 4 stars

More bloodcurdling murder and mutilation

3 stars

As the title indicates, this is a story about revenge. A mercenary leader serving an ambitious warlord is shockingly betrayed and her brother murdered. She sets out to kill the seven people who were complicit in this act of brutal betrayal. The planning and execution of each kill gives the book a nice rhythm... although "nice" is probably not a word to use when talking about Abercrombie's creations, where the darker side of humanity tends to dominate. Who is a good person, how do you become one, what makes a good person turn bad? These are the questions posed by the characters in this book. The answers aren't simple, and Abercrombie's world is, as ever, bleaker than the one I WANT to believe in. But he invites you to take a walk in the dark side, and his shadowy paths are lavishly constructed.

John Christopher, John Christopher: Wild Jack (Paperback, 1991, Simon Pulse) 4 stars

Clive Anderson is falsely accused of questioning the status quo and must escape from a …

Dystopia for pre-teens

4 stars

This is the sort of book I loved to devour when I was nine or ten years old. Authors like John Christopher and Nicholas Fisk had a big influence on me and I still enjoy catching up with their work today.

This one is set in a post-apocalypse future where a privileged minority live in high-tech cities. The underclass (called "savages" by the gentry) are banished to the wildlands beyond the city walls, except for a few who are kept as a servant class, effectively slaves.

The protagonist falls foul of the vicious politics of the city leaders and gradually learns how brutal the system is. He finds that life among the rebellious "savages" is better than the comfortable tyranny within the city walls. It's like an inversion of Christopher's earlier novel "The Guardians", where a working class city kid learns about the elite gentry of the English countryside. Both …

Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger: The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith (1993) 4 stars

Sort of psychedelic? Very hard to pin it down.

4 stars

Cordwainer Smith's slim body of work has been packaged and repackaged in many different ways. The first collection I read titled "The Rediscovery of Man" was a paperback, and the first story in it was "Scanners Live in Vain". The SF Masterworks edition seems to be the same as that collection.

A later edition is subtitled "The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith", and it is this more substantial book which I am reviewing here. It's worth seeking out. There could be some confusion about which one you have, possibly exacerbated by the "incomplete" SF Masterworks cover being used for the "complete" edition in some online entries. You can quickly tell if you have the longer one because the first story in it is "No No, Not Rogov", one of four stories detailing the early stages of Smith's so-called future history of the "Instrumentality of Mankind". It also has …

Clifford D. Simak: City (Paperback, 1982, Magnum) 4 stars

[Comment by John Clute][1]:

> We know better now, of course. But they still entrance …

Strange and compelling, brimming with goodness and compassion

4 stars

A strange future history of life on earth and beyond, explicitly presented as a collection of myths. One of them is titled "Aesop", tempting you to think of it as a fable. But that's a deception. There is no simple moral to these stories. Although it's a short book, there's a lot to digest, and I will probably need a bit of time to order my thoughts about it.

A consistent line running through the tales is the way technological progress ends up being a dead end. First it's the demise of the city. Then there's the emergence of a promising new philosophy, Juwainism. It promotes empathy, but the goal of humanity is to harness it to accelerate development and progress. That goal fails, and when Juwainism finally takes hold, it has the opposite effect.

After humans have deserted the earth, or forsaken their own cursed humanity, a super-evolved society …

reviewed Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

Clifford D. Simak: Way Station (Hardcover, 2004, Old Earth Books) 4 stars

Peace, Love and Understanding Under Threat in the Whole Galaxy

4 stars

The premise is that a single human has been chosen as the manager of a galactic teleportation station. He is the only person on earth who is in contact with the broader community of interstellar life. On the outside, he lives a peaceful existence walking through the countryside and chatting with his best friend the postman, but secretly he is in daily contact with strange creatures from all over the galaxy.

The book was written at the height of the cold war, and Simak portrays an earth society on a seemingly inevitable course to nuclear annihilation. The protagonist, Enoch Wallace, discovers that the galactic community of which he is the sole human participant is also on the brink of a destructive crisis.

Simak portrays a universe where god exists as a sort of higher lifeform, and is somehow made accessible by technology. The nature of that technology, in keeping with …