2016

Eep it's been almost a year since my last blog entry. Oops.

Anyhow, currently working at Dots, here in NYC. It's great! I've got a baby due in March, yay! Fell off the running wagon, but did manage to finish up my NYRR 9+1 for guaranteed entry to the New York City marathon, so I need to get cracking on that. Pretty much the only bad news is that an asshole is our president. So the worst news, basically.

Just going to run through this week's entry to get it out, might not hit everything.

Books

Was really bingeing on books the past month or so. Also picked up a new Kindle (the Voyage) because I stupidly cracked the screen on my old faithful. Anyhow, here's a recently read list in no particular order.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons (in progress)

Won't finish it until the New Year. And while it's good so far, I don't think it's as world-altering as the thousands of Amazon reviews make it out to be. On the scale of forgettable to indelible, it definitely leans toward the latter, but I wouldn't compare it to Dune or the Red Mars trilogy.

And it's really tough to put my finger on what bothers me about it. It was written in 1989, and although there aren't really egregious holes in the world-building, you still end up with a world a thousand years from now that retains a remarkable amount of present-day culture. Right from the opening chapter. And I'm not opposed to that idea, mixing in elements of the contemporary with the far future, but it's a little too much.

It's not bad, for what it is. Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth series sometimes falls into the same trap, it's not as cheesy as Hyperion, but it's still noticeable. Maybe it's just a space opera attempt to connect to contemporary readers, but it more often strikes me as just being lazy. Filling in the gaps with the known. Or maybe I just value the alien too much. It's what I hate about normal fiction, that it's so mundane. And along comes Hyperion, injecting the mundane into the year 28XX.

A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf (in progress)

Another thing to be finished in 2017. Interesting to learn a bit of her history, as I've only ever read To the Lighthouse. Which I don't think I was enamored with, though I didn't mind it back in college. I kind of wish I was more familiar with her work though, because this memoir is full of references to it.

It was pieced together from all her journals from the time she started in 1915 to 1941, when she committed suicide (at 59 years of age). That means she started writing when she was slightly older than me. I hadn't realized how out there some of her other books were, I'm definitely going to go through them and give them all a shot.

The Lilith's Brood Trilogy

  • Dawn, by Octavia Butler
  • Adulthood Rites, by Octavia Butler
  • Imago, by Octavia Butler

This trilogy blew me away. It was just so different, and a little unsettling too? One of those books that forces you to confront what your definition of humanity is, and consider different paths for the development of the species. And perhaps even more novelly, what love and attraction are and how those things might change. A what-if story for emotional "technology", as it were.

The descriptions and world-building surrounding the Oankali were also so, so well done. Their motivations and actions were nuanced and you're often on the knife's edge of thinking whether they're acting in the right or not. There was also a lot of food for thought in the pessimistic view of humanity reverted to a "state of nature". Very Children of Men, before Children of Men (the books were published in the late eighthties to nineties).

I think I've read one other novel of hers, a while back, but this trilogy definitely makes me want to check out her other books. It had that vaunted sci-fi trifecta of having perspective-altering ideas, believable characters, and well-crafted writing.

Infomacracy, by Malka Older (unfinished)

I thought the idea of the centenals seemed interesting in the synopsis, but so far I just haven't been able to get into the world or the characters. Even the ideas are a little flat. I might come back to it after letting it sit for a while, but definitely wouldn't recommend it at this point.

Firefall Series

  • Echopraxia, by Peter Watts
  • Blindsight, by Peter Watts

Very well-written sci-fi. Blindsight, which mostly takes place on a ship with a small crew at an alien anomaly at the edge of our solar system, surprised me because of how well it set the mood. It was a legitimate horror book; well, I don't really read horror, so I can't say that with certainty. It was definitely creepy and reading through it very much gave off a vague sense of dread and unease. Awesome to have been made to feel that way. It also did sci-fi vampires in an interesting way.

Echopraxia, the second, was also interesting, in that it fleshed out the world more. But I didn't get that same sense of horror. It was much more typical sci-fi. But good.

Nexus Trilogy

  • Apex, by Ramez Naam
  • Crux, by Ramez Naam
  • Nexus, by Ramez Naam

Very cool series. Sort of a full fledged biohacking story. I remember that old Cory Doctorow story I really enjoyed. Imagine that but much fuller.

Lexicon, by Max Barry

Thought it would be cool, wasn't really that great in the end. The whole words controlling your brain idea was a very compelling idea, but I don't know if I really thought it was fleshed out super well in the end.

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Awesome alien story, sub-par human story.

Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Speak, Memory, by Vladimir Nabokov

I wonder how long it would take to reconstruct as many books I've read as possible. Maybe I should bite the bullet and just fill out a good reads profile. But I'd also like to index all the books that I own as well. I wonder if the library has a list of checked out books.

Movies & Games

Also a few movies I've seen recently, I suppose I could write about that:

Rogue One

  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Sicario (was that even this year? It made such an impression on me)

Hmm, or maybe I haven't seen that many recently. Oh! Games played this year:

  • Tokaido
  • Spyfall
  • Munchkin (Adventure Time Version)
  • Heroes of the Storm
  • Imhotep
  • and others...

Anyway, happy 2017! Goodbye 2016!

 

Andrei Marks

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