The Legends of Luke Skywalker (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi) (2017) by Ken Liu is a book that gives the fantastic writer Ken Liu a chance with the Star Wars Universe. He does remarkably well.
I am a huge fan of Star Wars but almost all Star Wars books are actually fairly terrible. I’ve started quite a few more than I’ve finished. Star Wars films are great but when you try and flesh out the universe it often becomes apparent how completely silly it is. It’s a real challenge in a book, that needs a bit more depth, to not write things that are ludicrous.
Liu confronts this challenge and overcomes it. He has managed to write involving and genuinely interesting stories about Star Wars. He’s picked a character who is right for him. He’s also managed to absorb the Star Wars universe rather than it absorbing him.
The stories give a fascinating idea of what Luke might have done since the last of the original trilogy and before the start of the new one. They are clever and have some depth to them and even the way they are told, in a thousand and one night’s style, is clever.
It works well and it’s a delight for people who want something more from a Star Wars book and appreciate Liu’s fine writing.
Count Zero (1986) by William Gibson is the second book in Gibson’s sprawl trilogy. It’s not as good as Neuromancer but it does progress the world of Neuromancer in an engaging way.
The book sags in the middle but the end picks it all up and it ends in a reasonably satisfying way.
Count Zero isn’t great literature, but it is cool and fun and interesting. It’s something I’ve periodically been rereading for almost 30 years. Burning Chrome and Neuromancer are fantastic, Count Zero is the first cyberpunk book Gibson wrote that wasn’t great. It’s still quite good though.
Cosmic Engineers (1950) by Clifford D. Simak is a fun, short, quickly paced sci-fi story that has quite a few clever concepts and ideas. It was originally published as a short story in 1939. It’s a bit pulpy, but some of the ideas that crop up seem to have been revisited many times. While this might not be their first airing it’s still earlier than I’d thought some of the ideas had appeared.
It’s not great, but it’s fun and worth a read.
Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline is a book that combines a comic convention with Neuromancer or Snowcrash. It’s catnip for people who are into recognising pop culture references from the 1970s and 1980s.
The book concerns Wade who lives in a dystopian 2044 but who escapes into a VR game world called Oasis. The creator of Oasis has died but left an Easter Egg in the game that will give the finder a huge reward. Wade and many others are after it including a predictable evil corporation IOI. There is action, 1980s references and romance. I actually started this book a while ago and abandoned it because it seemed so derivative but after picking it up again I got through it and quite enjoyed it in the end.
The book is reasonably well done and the upcoming movie based on it should be quite fun as well. It’s not fantastic, but it is quite fun.
The Paper Menagerie and other stories (2016) by Ken Liu is a great collection of science fiction short stories that includes the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy award winning story in the title.
Liu’s stories are polished, calm and often very moving. They also reflect his identity in an interesting way. Westerners rarely, if ever, write about things like The Great Leap Forward or Japanese massacres in China the way Liu does.
There is hard science fiction in this collection as well as fantasy pieces set in the present, future and the past. For anyone who is interested in speculative fiction reading Liu is a treat.
The Fredric Brown Megapack: 33 Classic Stories (2013) by Fredric Brown is a collection of what are allegedly the best short stories by Fredric Brown. Fredric Brown was a prolific science fiction author from The Golden Age of Science Fiction and a master of super short stories with a twist.
The short stories presented are well done and loads of fun. They are full of clever ideas and twists. Apparently Neil Gaiman, Phillip K Dick, Robert Heinlein and Stephen King were all fans of Brown, after reading some of his short stories it’s apparent why.
Stories of Your Life and Others (2010) by Ted Chiang is a very strong collection of science fiction short stories. Almost all the stories in the collection have won prizes which is remarkable. The film Arrival is based on one of the stories.
Chiang doesn’t write a lot, this is apparently the majority of his writing for over a decade, but what he does write is very creative and very well done. This collection is very impressive.
This is very good work, it’s highly recommended for anyone who likes really creative fiction. It’s like Borges. The stories are really clever and the writing is excellent.