Recreational Literary Endeavors

seitora

Well-Known Member
I recently realised that for all that I supposedly love science-fiction, I have apparently read almost no hard science fiction in my life, outside of the Foundation series, and not even that much soft science fiction outside of Star Wars. Now trying to catch up and read some things.

I read Sundiver, the first book in the Uplift series. I guess this one is actually a little divorced from the timeline of the rest of the series, basically showing the very basic beginnings of the new era humanity finds itself in? The writing style in this book seems really strange. It's more than just the stereotype of hard science fiction presenting cool ideas but having a relatively lacklustre story proper. A lot of terms and background events are thrown at the reader without ever really trying to elucidate on it, outside of a few repeat mentions to give ever slightly more context. The writing itself seems flighty, sometimes having scenes that are literally only a half a page long before skipping over to another point of view. There's a weird crescendo and rising action for a false climax about two thirds of the way through the book, and it struggles to build up after to the real climax. There's innuendo, both sexual and otherwise, that feels strangely sanitised. More amusingly, the story is actually a mystery novel wrapped up in a science fiction shell.

My library offered this as a digital read, so that's what I used, otherwise it would take weeks to get a physical copy. I feel like I should have, since apparently the book would have had a map of the in-story starship about half the book takes place on, which would give a better read on a lot of the scenes. Also, this may be the first book I've read in...maybe ever, where I absolutely struggled to visualise the scene descriptions. A lot of that was descriptions of the sun surface, trying to describe filaments and spicules in ways that never really clicked.

Anyways, I'll still give the next book a rise, since that's apparently the proper start of the series.
 

PCHeintz72

The Sentient Fanfic Search Engine mk II
Hmmm... How are you defining HARD vs. SOFT Science Fiction, meaning just where are you drawing that line in the sand between the two...

I've read Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and others like Douglas Adams... I quite liked things like Mote in Gods Eye and the Ringworld saga, Hitchhikers Guide and Dirk Gentley Sagas despite their age.

- I've read literally hundreds of Star Trek, dozens of Babylon 5, a number of older Star Wars expanded universe novels.

- I've read literally a few dozen Star Trek tech manuals and even a couple tech manuals for Babylon 5.

- I've read some old Harlequin Super romance, which includes some sci-fi and mystery, even though it centers on romance.
 

da_fox2279

California Crackpot
To be honest, I couldn't get into hard scifi. I tried Asimov's Foundation series, and found it just too dense for me.
 

da_fox2279

California Crackpot
Thanks, I'll give them a look.
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
Hmmm... How are you defining HARD vs. SOFT Science Fiction, meaning just where are you drawing that line in the sand between the two...
I don't quite go with the nominal hard vs soft definition where they divide it up into hard sciences versus social sciences. To me, 'hard' science fiction would be anything where the plot or setting relies on futuristic technology and/or scientific concepts to drive the plot, or at least substantially alter how society is formed. Whereas 'soft' science fiction would basically be a story that could potentially be set in modern day Earth or the past, but is instead set in the future, in space.

Star Wars would be almost 100% soft science fiction by that standard.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would be also mostly soft science. It uses some scientific devices such as the Infinite Improbability Drive or concepts like the Total Perspective Vortex to drive absurdist comedy, but itself doesn't drive the plot or the setting.

Ender's Game would straddle that line. It's essentially a bloody boarding school followed by a counterattack war against invaders, but global resource scarcity and the overhanging threat of another potential alien invasion drive a subtle change in the setting's society and politics, and the zero-g battle school drives over half the plot of the book.

Foundation series I would classify as being hard science by my above standard. Psychohistory alone drives the very core of the series.
 

PCHeintz72

The Sentient Fanfic Search Engine mk II
Hmmm... I was envisioning it being split more along the lines of just how much science a storyline relies on in the plot, vs. instead just relying on characterization and glossing over of the science fiction portion.

By *that*, I would think Star Wars, B5, and Battlestar Galactica would be soft, Star Trek would be borderline depending on the individual episode or book, and stories like those by Larry Niven or Jerry Pournelle would be hard.
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
I read Furies of Calderon, the first book in the Codex Alera series

The middle part of the book feels kind of exhausting, in that it becomes very obvious for a while of time that the protagonists can essentially never have anything go right for them. Every time it looks lie they may have a ray of hope, somebody gets killed, some really bad weather happens, or an unexpected third party somehow intervenes at the exact worst timing.

A couple of interesting things that went in a different direction than I would expect. The protagonist rescues a girl out in the middle of a storm. Normally, you would expect the protagonist and the girl to hook up. Instead, the girl ends up hooking with the protagonist's uncle, Bernard (who, to be fair, is still an important figure in the book in his own right). The protagonist, Tavi, is also special in a negative way. Essentially, he is a cripple, since he cannot wield elemental spirits like every other human can at an age that he really should have contracted one by then. And there's no payoff whatsoever in this book. There's only a very couple of vague hints he might even be the son of somebody special, instead of anything blatant. Tavi lives with his uncle Bernard and his aunt Isana (siblings, not husband and wife). Interestingly, it's not once said if it was a brother or sister of theirs that is Tavi's parent, or even a name. There is a girl from a foreign tribe Tavi goes off on a dangerous expedition with about two-thirds through. It's implied they have some sort of spiritual bonding at the end, and maybe it is possible that she is actually his elemental spirit, somehow. Of course, this is the first in a six-book series, so the rest only will get revealed later.
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
I read Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code, the third book in the series
 

AoMythology

Apparently a report-er
I read Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code, the third book in the series
Is that the one with that device, The Cube? Which Artemis made and his attempt to sell it- backfired spectacularly...
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
Yep, that is correct. That is the one. Borrowed it to read for while I was on my flights (well, it only lasted through my first flight, but better than nothing...)
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
Writing style and plot flows alright. I think the biggest disappointment is that after the initial set-up at the start of the book, Artemis basically never gets tripped up by a single thing after that. Not even an inconvenient third-party interference or anything. The Cube also becomes a plot MacGuffin after it gets stolen, where the only things that it's convenient for is getting Holly up to the surface again, and for Foaly to remote server into it to pretend to be an AI.
 

AoMythology

Apparently a report-er
Writing style and plot flows alright. I think the biggest disappointment is that after the initial set-up at the start of the book, Artemis basically never gets tripped up by a single thing after that. Not even an inconvenient third-party interference or anything. The Cube also becomes a plot MacGuffin after it gets stolen, where the only things that it's convenient for is getting Holly up to the surface again, and for Foaly to remote server into it to pretend to be an AI.
From what I remember, the book basically consisted of a Xanatos Gambit by Artemis, with the tension mostly being about what exactly he had set up. Honestly, I don't think I would mind that kind of plot even today. Whether I would find it especially engaging... it's a tossup.

As for the Cube, it's meant to be highly obsolete by fairy standards, so, yeah. It couldn't have been more useful than that...

If you read one of the other installments, please write about it so that I can remember and feel nostalgia. :p I mean, so that we can talk about it... :D
 

seitora

Well-Known Member
I read Pennyroyal Academy, written by M.A. Larson. The story takes place in a world where basically all fairy tales are true. No, not the world of Remnant. The setting is that all witches are evil and all princesses are good, and the two are essentially mortal enemies. There are dragons and knights in there too with dragons being nominally bad guys, somewhat perpendicular to the main conflict. The main character, Evie, is a semi-amnesiac girl raised by dragons who decides to go enlist in a school for training princesses, which focuses on both mental grit and actual goodness and courage of the heart.

The prose is actually really good. Lots of description and metaphor blended in well.

Perhaps the strongest part of the book is that it's one of the rare times I feel the protagonist's development as a person is actually realistic and on a timely pacing. Evie goes from being a timid, mousy girl at the start to truly beginning to shake off her flaws by the end of the book and facing her fears head-on. With that, one of the confusing elements is...I can't actually tell how old the main cast is. I think Evie is supposed to be 15, but it feels all over the place. Evie honestly feels like a pre-teen at some points in mentality, and that may be more a result of her being raised by dragons than literally being 11 or 12, but the actions and mentality of some of the other girls seems stuck in that same age, too.
 
Atrocity Archives, the first book in The Laundry Files. It's honestly a bit of a chore to trudge through at times, buried in mathematical lingo in parts, but once I get caught up to speed on some of the references, it was nice to read. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to read up on said references and learn some math history. It feels weirdly episodic in three parts, even if the first two parts are close together.

@Glimmervoid I'm tagging you since I think you wrote several fanfics for this series some years back?
 
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