Monday, February 22, 2021
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Occurs in a universe where there are six mounds of rock that when hit in the right combination allow time-travel througout earth's history. They are well known and time geologists use them all the time to not only view history but edit it. This is different from most time-travel stories where the characters are usually worried about changing history and causing unexpected results. They can't make massive instantenous changes (like killing Hitler) to history, the changes have to be slow, like planting a seed of a thought in a person's mind. In this version of the timeline the supression of women is slowly being increased, but a group of women are fighting back by editing the timeline. Learnt a bit about a few historical figures like Anthony Comstock, a special agent in the 1890's who was allowed to read every suspected liberated women's mail and arrest them for anything he deemed obsecene. The book has a parallel story going of the teenage life (in the 90's) of one of the main characters. The novel did peter out a bit at the end, but overall a good read.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
It has been a while since I posted anything. I was way too busy last year to regularly post (I started up a web design business on March 19 -Wangaratta Website Design Services - and before that I did a six week intensive NEIS course on how to start and run a business). I had many long weeks of work, working late into the night some nights and on the weekends. But I still managed to read 17 novels by setting aside a couple of hours on three nights a week to read. Here's what I read:
1. Purity, Jonathan Frazen
2. Testaments, Margaret Atwood
3. The Drowned World, JG Ballard
4. The Wall, John Lanchester
5. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
6. The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Richard Flanagan
7. The Old Lie, Claire G Coleman
8. Engine Summer, John Crowley
9. Wake, Elizabeth Knox
10. Clade, James Bradley
11. Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson
12. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest
13. The Swan Book, Alexis Wright
14. Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
15. Lone Wolf World, Anthony J Langford
16. Embassytown, China Meiville
17. All Clear, Connie Willis.
While many of the books were science fiction written by white guys, there is some diversity in the list. Two of the novels were written by Indigenous Australians about Indigenous Australians - The Swan Book and The Old Lie. The Swan book is a very challenging read as it has a narrator whose life is nearly totally detached from reality. The authors came from:
- Australia (5)
- Canada (1)
- China (1)
- New Zealand (1)
- US (6)
- UK (3)
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Monday, January 6, 2020
It’s been a while since I posted, I have been busy, sick and slack. I plan to
write a few more blog posts this year. As usual they will be mainly about
writing and science fiction, concentrating on apocalyptic and time-travel
fiction. But first a bit of a summary of 2019, my annus horribilis.
2019 started with my finishing three very challenging years of study with a BA in Internet Communications in early March. The degree was easily the hardest study I had done. Way harder than my Master of Creative Writing. I think its difficulty was due to the combination of doing web-design subjects, (I had virtually no knowledge of even html) and getting used to the “Arts” way of thinking, with its huge emphasis on well researched and argued essays. Due to the nature of the degree, I also had to learn many software packages and web platforms, like video editing software to create video mashups for assignments.
I should have been happy when I completed my degree, as I did extremely well, getting distinctions or high-distinctions for all of its 24 subjects. But, unfortunately I had developed a health problem over the three final months of my degree called diabetic lumbosacral plexopathy (what an imposing name). Basically, I had neglected my diabetes due to the degree being full on, with no breaks between 13 week study periods for three years.
I had managed to keep up my extensive exercise regime (well I think it was extensive), which included swimming 3ks three times a week, weights three times a week, 5k walks four times a week, exercises four times a week. But my blood sugar had stayed high due to neglecting my diet and sleep (lack of sleep raises a person’s blood sugar) while doing the degree. As a result, the plexopathy caused my right knee to give way without warning while standing or walking on five or six occasions. I had lost a lot of weight, mainly in the form of muscle, like my bum (the biggest muscle in the body, I think) shrank, even though it was not that noteworthy beforehand. My weight dropped to 72ks. But thankfully, after a neurologist set me on a course of immunoglobin infusions, and I started exercises from a physio, as well as getting my blood sugar under control, I am not falling over anymore and regaining my strength. My neurologist said I was one of the quickest to recover from the condition.
During the months it took to be diagnosed and then heal, I was concerned the
left leg would suffer the same fate as the right and then I wouldn’t be able to
walk anymore. I was using a walking stick for months and walking very stiff
legged and slowly. I also was not sleeping, with worry about my health
combining with totally stuffed up sleep patterns from my degree (I had
frequently worked into the early morning at night.) So, the first three
quarters of 2019 was one big health problem.
Eventually I improved. I am now starting to set up my own web-design business, another big challenge. I am currently working on the website for it, and on proposal for a website for a potential client, having already submitted a proposal for another website for the same client. I am also set to do a NEIS course, starting next week (bushfires permitting), where I learn a bit about setting up a business and I am subsidised by the government for its first nine months.
Reading in 2019
During my degree I read a total of four fiction books, and all were for some writing electives I had done. Otherwise all my reading time was taken up with hundreds of research papers and a few text books. But once my degree finished in March, I started reading fiction again. A total of ten novels for the year, nine of them were science fiction, with the best being The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, set in a near future Thailand in a world lacking traditional energy resources and suffering from climate change and famine. The Thais were trying to prevent the destruction of their traditional food sources from multinational genetic food corporations. The title of the novel refers to a much abused clone. I reviewed it in a previous post.
The second best was This is How the World Ends, by James Morrow, which is part of the Masterworks series of classic science fiction novels. It’s a weird Phillip K. Dick type novel, set after the world has been destroyed in a nuclear war, where six survivors are put on trial for their part in causing the war in a court made up of people from the future who never lived due to the war (huh?).
Writing in 2019
I did very little writing during my degree, but my word count increased after I finished it. It is still nowhere near enough. I am currently about two-thirds of the way through the second draft of a apocalyptic science fiction novel that is just getting bigger and bigger as I get wrapped up in exploring the inner thoughts and fears of my main character. I am going to have to cut, slash and obliterate in the third draft as it risks ballooning out to 200,000 words.
I plan to do a lot more writing this year as well as reading and fill this blog with insightful reviews of the novels I have read as well as tidbits about science, science fiction and writing.
Sunday, September 8, 2019
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I very much enjoyed being challenged in my thinking by the two novellas in this collection. It contains two very different stories: Caught Between Love and Loss, and the title story, A Refugee’s Rage.
Caught Between Love and Loss
This story starts out as if it is going to be a story about Richard, a guy who buys a block of land in the bush and decides to build a house on it, but then gradually becomes a story about his girlfriend, Rachel, as she struggles to define what her relationship with Richard is. Is he just a lover? Perhaps a potential long-term boyfriend? Is she in love with him? Or is she just in love with the idea of building a house and living in a beautiful rural Australia setting? The house becomes a metaphor for their relationship as the reader wonders whether it will ever be complete. The story tugs at the heart as you hope they can find a way to really connect.
A Refugee’s Rage
In contrast to the first story, A Refugees Rage is a very angry story. It is the story of a sixteen-year-old Romanian refugee, Alexlandru, in Rome. He has had to look after himself for most of his life and will do anything to survive. He is a volatile character who readily resorts to violence to survive. The story is written in the first person so the reader sees the world almost exclusively through the eyes of someone who is not only a refugee in a foreign land, but in many ways a refugee from society. One day he meets a Syrian refugee, Ara, and the story revolves around their attempts to survive and whether his desire to survive will allow him to develop a relationship with her.
The linking factor between the stories is, I think, that both main characters are searching for a place in life. The writing is excellent and frequently poetic (Anthony J. Langford has authored a few books of poetry).
I thoroughly recommend the stories in this book as they will engage the reader while taking them out of their comfort zone.
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Sunday, July 28, 2019
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazing world building, peopled with very flawed characters who are mostly looking out for just themselves. The novel is set in a future Thailand in a world that is near apocalyptic as it deals with climate change and rising sea levels, running out of fossil fuels, and famines caused by diseases attacking genetically engineered crops. Thailand is a holdout from food conglomerates who want to introduce their genetically engineered crops into the kingdom and get access to the Thai seedbank which the Thai's have used to create crops that are disease resistant. Add to this mix are windup people or clones, servants that have been create with jerky movements, hence the term wind-up. The plot has four main strings, a battle between the trade ministry, who want to open up Thailand to the overseas food conglomerates, and the environmental ministry who don't. The second plot revolves around a conglomerate agent's attempts to access the seedbank. A third plot is the plight of a windup girl who has been abandoned to degrading work in a brothel and her attempts to escape her predicament. And the final plot is that of a Chinese Malay who escaped slaughter in his own country and is attempting, through dubious means, to survive as a despised foreigner in Thailand. All the stories intertwine and the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion.
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