wombat_socho: HALO (SF)
[personal profile] wombat_socho
I'm having a hard time remembering to post about things I've read lately, perhaps because so much of what I've read lately has been news articles about politics and/or celebrities, and I'm almost to the point of gouging my eyes out with a spoon from immersing myself in that crap five days a week.

Anyhow...I finally finished Iain Banks' Matter, which is one of his Culture novels. As usual, there's far too much going on for me to give a decent summary in the space of one paragraph, but a couple of things did stand out. Banks rings an interesting change on the old hollow earth concept by having the Shellworld where most of the action takes place be home to not one but many levels of habitation, inhabited by several different races. The plot also does a reverse telescoping viewpoint trick, starting out focused on a regicide and its immediate effects, pulling back to a larger stage on which one of the murdered King's daughters, now an agent of Special Circumstances, becomes aware of the larger consequences of what's happening on the shellworld of her birth and moves to deal with them. Before it's all over, men have messed with Things They Were Not Meant To Know, Unleashed An Ancient Evil, and our main characters are forced to fight a desperate, apocalyptic battle. A bit plodding at times, but otherwise a good read.

More recently, I was digging through some unopened/unsorted boxes looking for my copy of Footfall, which I didn't find, but I did come across a Keith Laumer novel I didn't remember reading, much less owning: The Star Treasure. It's a little bit jarring to find the hero in this novel having the same name as the villain from Laumer's better-known short story "Worldmaster", and there are some other elements that seem recycled from earlier works, but if there's one story Laumer tells well, it's the story of one man against the Powers That Be coming back to win against all odds. In this case, the secret that leads to the protagonist being cashiered from the Navy and exiled to a prison planet is the secret behind the power of the Star Lords: seemingly limitless power flowing from enigmatic alien eggs, a secret that is protected with ferocity by the Public Executive's Security men. There are some familiar tropes here: ancient, benevolent, helpful aliens hiding from an ancient terror; the power of the mind to rebuild the body - and I'll leave the rest out, because I don't care to spoil it. It's decent brain candy, not as chewy and substantial as, say, The Glory Game or the Retief stories, but decent enough to buy used.

Assignment In Eternity is an odd collection of Heinlein stories from the Golden Age. Half of them are borderline SF, dealing as they do with psionics and alternate time tracks reached by means of meditation; the remaining two, "Gulf" and "Jerry Was A Man", are solid SF but the former feels very different to me now than it did when I first read it in high school. The latter is a throwaway tale about answering the question "What does it mean to be human?" and in some ways can be seen as an ancestor of David Brin's The Uplift War .

Taking a break from SF for a while and re-reading Jim Bouton's Ball Four.
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