Tag: literature

SF reading list

Posted by – August 8, 2009

I’m getting together a list of important science fiction books I’m going to read in some sort of recommended reading order. Suggestions are very welcome. Entries with asterisks are ones I’ve already read. Numbers refer to position in the reading order. I’ll be updating this entry periodically.

A note about importance: I want to include only books that are both important and good. For example, I’d very much like to include John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes but it just isn’t important enough. Conversely, I may be taking out some books after I’ve read them and found out they’re no good.

A note about the definition of science fiction: I’m only including “obvious” sci-fi, meaning that some books which have become classics of general literature are excluded. Briefly, this means stuff like Fahreinheit 451, Slaughterhouse Five, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Nineteen Eighty-One and Brave New World.

Title Author Year
1 The Time Machine * H. G. Wells 1895
2 The Caves of Steel * Isaac Asimov 1954
3 The Naked Sun * Isaac Asimov 1957
4 The Robots of Dawn * Isaac Asimov 1983
5 Robots and Empire * Isaac Asimov 1985
6 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? * Philip K. Dick 1968
7 Stranger in a Strange Land * Robert A. Heinlein 1961
8 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress * Robert A. Heinlein 1966
9 Dune * Frank Herbert 1965
10 Solaris * Stanisław Lem 1961
11 2001: A Space Odyssey * Arthur C. Clarke 1968
12 The Gods Themselves * Isaac Asimov 1972
13 Ubik * Philip K. Dick 1969
14 Prelude to Foundation * Isaac Asimov 1988
15 Forward the Foundation * Isaac Asimov 1993
16 Foundation * Isaac Asimov 1951
17 Foundation and Empire * Isaac Asimov 1952
18 Second Foundation * Isaac Asimov 1953
19 Foundation’s Edge * Isaac Asimov 1982
20 Foundation and Earth Isaac Asimov 1986
21 Neuromancer William Gibson 1984
22 Ender’s Game * Orson Scott Card 1985
23 Hyperion Dan Simmons 1989

Second string:

The Kraken Wakes * John Wyndham 1953 A compact, relatively minor but quite fascinating story
The Complete Robot * Isaac Asimov 1940-1976 Recommended as an introduction to Asimovian robots to those who want one, but the collection is rather uneven (especially the first half). There are gems too.

Under consideration (books which may belong on the list but I want to read / learn more about before including)

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale Philip K. Dick 1990
The Persistence of Vision John Varley 1978
Red Mars Kim Stanley Robinson 1992
Green Mars Kim Stanley Robinson 1993
Blue Mars Kim Stanley Robinson 1996
The Fall of Hyperion Dan Simmons 1990
Endymion Dan Simmons 1996
The Rise of Endymion Dan Simmons 1997

Nummern, Zahlen, Handel, Leute

Posted by – August 8, 2009

I’ve gone several years now without buying practically any books or records (maybe a total of 10 in three years). At one point I felt I was accumulating too much stuff, so I stopped getting more and started selling/trashing/donating it. But now I’m starting on a sci-fi reading kick, and the library isn’t really good enough. So I bought some stuff.

How the ecstasy of buying, gaining and owning once again floods my mind! How the dread pain of parting with money grips it! Sweet possessions, horrible mortality.

I just bought three books off Amazon marketplace, where the independent booksellers get to try to undercut Amazon’s prices in exchange for a cut of the profits. It must be a slim cut indeed:

1 Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel £0.01
1 Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun £0.01
1 Isaac Asimov, The Robots of Dawn £0.01
3 Postage & Packing £3.94
Total £11.85

This isn’t exactly how I thought reading books would work in 2009, but I guess it’s better than the way it was before (or…?)

I did buy some stuff from a regular bookstop as well: Asimov’s The Complete Robot and Emergency by Neil Strauss, a book about the dangers of the modern world and how to escape them. The latter is pretty disappointing, but it does give me some additional paranoia-fuelling ideas.

One of the things Strauss does in it is get a second citizenship (St. Kitts) as part of a “life backup plan”. This re-reminds me of something a friend reminded me of recently: that I should be able to get a UK passport if I wanted to. According to said person, getting the passport in Helsinki would cost me at least 154 euros. That’s a bit much for a bit of paranoid fun. Also, when the zombies attack it’s hard to see how the UK will be safer than Finland. But still, it’s tempting. Of course, for meaningful security I’d ultimately have to establish a base / financial presence of some sort there, which would take some doing.

I still dream of Canada and South Korea, but in paranoia terms Canada is pretty similar to Finland and South Korea is about as bad in a bad situation as anywhere.

Lawless and incertain verse

Posted by – November 18, 2008

This is a repost of an earlier Finnish entry.

A Shakespeare question came up recently regarding the following:

Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: ’tis too horrible!

(from Measure for Measure)

The question concerns the interpretation of the last two lines (I kept the rest to give some context). What is the subject of imagine in the last line? At first glance it would appear to be those from the penultimate one, but if so, what were the things thought lawless and incertain? And if imagine is just an exhortation to the reader, what does the penultimate line mean? Some suggestions:

-how lawless and incertain to imagine one’s own future to be “worse than worst” of those in the aforementioned scenario; imagine the howls of those who end up in Hell

-it is too horrible to endure even worse than the imaginings of those of lawless and incertain thought which manifest themselves as howling

-it would be too horrible to imagine the howling of those who, when they lived, were of lawless and incertain thought

-to suffer worse than those who according to people’s lawless and incertain thoughts howl in Hell; something altogether too horrible

The last is perhaps closest to the mark. The picture becomes clearer if you replace “thought” with “thoughts”. I guess it was possible to contract like that in Shakespeare’s time, the expansion being “lawless thought and incertain thought”.