These days, my fiction reading is largely confined to when I travel, but over the past few months I’ve traveled a bit and can report on a few books I found worthwhile in some fashion or another. One that surprised me was Anne Charnock’s A Calculated Life, a seemingly almost pedestrian novel about a “vat-grown” young woman who has been educated to be a truly outstanding securities analyst in Manchester,England, which, as I read it, became both more entrancing and quietly and truly frightening. Definitely not feel-good, but thought-provoking. I also finally got around to reading Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, and I frankly don’t understand either the rabid praise about the book or the furor it seemingly caused in some quarters. I thought it was a good book, but neither as great as those who raved over it nor as evil as those who hated it. I’ve heard a great deal about Catherynne M. Valente for the last several years; so I read an early novel of hers, Speak Easy, which was fun, although I did think that the language was more florid than necessary for what she was doing, but that could well be a matter of taste. I also read several other books, one of which I mentioned in my regular blog, and others which I don’t wish to mention, simply because they were all too forgettable, if fun, in one case.

6 thoughts on “”

  1. Sam says:

    I just finished reading Ancillary Justice the other week. It had been sitting on my pile of shame for a couple of years and I finally got around to reading it.

    The book I read just before that which had also been sitting on my pile of shame for a few years was the Ancient Future trilogy omnibus by Traci Harding.

    The difference in quality – in my opinion – was significant. I could not believe how badly written the Ancient Future trilogy was and the fact that the author apparently has been published a number of times since that first outing.

    Ancillary Justice on the other hand was a solid read and introduced me to a couple of concepts that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

    The idea of a society where the concept of gender doesn’t exist is fascinating to me. No men or women, no male or female just people or all women using the author’s language from the novel. No language in the culture that divides people into two distinct groups. I keep asking myself how would it work/could it work? I almost think it could but I’m not sure.

    Anything that makes me think/question is generally a good thing in my view.

    I don’t know if it was the best science fiction novel that year but I think it was a good one. I don’t think much of awards for the most part since it all seems pretty subjective to me.

    I certainly thought it was worth the read.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      E.E. “Doc” Smith’s ultimate villains in the “Lensman” series were utterly sexless, and it’s implied that’s why they were totally in it each for themselves, to the point of only having a common interest when reduced to those that were too strong to kill each other.

      Without at least aspiring to some bond with others, that seems a plausible enough speculation.

      1. Sam says:

        I don’t know if you’ve read Ancillary Justice but as far as I understood it the characters in the society weren’t sexless they just didn’t acknowledge the divide in their culture. They didn’t have separate language for male or female or different clothing or hairstyles.

        People raised in that culture couldn’t tell the difference between a man and a woman because they hadn’t learnt to tell the difference.

        They still had sexual relationships though.

        I’m not sure it would work in practice but it did make me think about how much gender is constructed in our society through our language and other things such as fashion. Our culture deliberately divides people into two groups because of different physical characteristics. We don’t divide short people from tall people though – at least not in the same way.

        Also even if they were sexless there are other sort of bonds such as between parents and their children or just plain friendship.

        I do think sex can be the glue that helps hold a relationship together but other ingredients are needed to make it a positive relationship such as respect and caring for the others welfare.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    Thanks for mentioning “A Calculated Life” – it was inexpensive in Kindle format from Amazon, and is interesting if strange, thus far.

    It reminds me a bit of “Speed of Dark” by Elizabeth Moon, which was written from the perspective of a high-functioning autistic, gradually adapting, only to be offered a cure, or perhaps a remake of himself; the narrating characters resemble each other considerably.

  3. Andreas says:

    I liked most of the books you describe as worthwhile, have you read any books recently that deserve that appellation?

    1. Since I haven’t been traveling, and since I’ve been immersed in finishing the latest Recluce novel, I haven’t picked up a piece of fiction in the last few months, and probably won’t for a while.

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