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.
Bloodline (Star Wars) (2016) by Claudia Gray is a new Star Wars book that describes how The First Order and The Resistance get their start. For those of you who thought The First Order had something to with a mysterious galactic pizza delivery gone awry you will be sadly disappointed.
So, do you like Star Wars? Have you read other Star Wars books? If yes to both, this book will appeal to you and you will enjoy it. I’ve read the Thrawn Trilogy and a few other Star Wars books. Bloodlines isn’t as good as the Thrawn Trilogy but it’s a lot better than many of the Star Wars books out there. Star Wars is pretty silly, but it’s also a lot of fun. This book is also pretty silly and is quite fun. If you want to know the backstory of The First Order and The Resistance it’s worth a look.
It’s a long way from great science fiction, but Bloodline is worth a read.