Red, Green, Blue

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I started reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars three times before I really pushed through and finished the first part. And then everything changed. It’s really a compelling scifi book about future colonization of Mars and the issues and problems that could arise. I’m enjoying it so much that I just got the second and third books in the trilogy, Green Mars and Blue Mars.

In the last year I’ve changed my approach to reading new science fiction. Whereas I used to read more and more books by the same authors, I’ve now decided that I should read with more purpose and look for better quality books. That is, if I’m going to read new books, I should read really good new books and not random ones. (It’s not a good idea to buy a scifi book by an author unknown to you just because you like the book cover or think the blurb on the back of the book is interesting.)

Therefore I’ve been trying to focus on reading books that have won either the Hugo or Nebula awards, the top literary awards for science fiction. Red Mars won the Nebula and the other two each won Hugos. Once I’ve read one of these well rated books I may then go off and read sequels or other books by the same author, but at least I have a better starting place and a higher probability of a good reading experience.

I don’t think I’ll read all the award winning books, but at least it’s a practical way to look for new scifi books to potentially attack.

I’m also reading the The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I’m really having a tough time slogging through it since it seems rather predictable and very much in the vein of Lord of the Rings. I’m not reading it because I feel compelled to do so, I’m reading it out of convenience when there is nothing else handy. I’ll probably finish it eventually. There are many many sequels to it (18?), but I think I’ll let them be.

Finally, though not scifi per se, I read half of The Stand by Stephen King and then put it away. For me it just wasn’t an enjoyable way to spend my time. It’s a high quality book, it’s just not for me.


9 Comments

  1. If you liked Red Mars, you’ll find that about 1/2 way through Green Mars you just can’t put it down. I envy you to discover the rest of the story for the first time, as it is a very wonderful journey.

  2. A good place I’ve found for books is http://baen.com/

    A wide range of books, a free library and the books that cost money have several sample chapters so you can get a good idea of whether you are going to like them or not.

    The ebooks don’t seem to be expensive and are DRM-free :o)

    You might find Eric Flint’s Prime Palaver worth reading where he goes into the reasons why they are DRM-free…

  3. Buying award-winning books just because they have won awards tends to concentrate the profits in a small number of hands.

    You get effects like Microsoft Windows displacing IBM OS/2, and Microsoft Office displacing IBM Lotus SmartSuite.

    Of course, that’s all history now. Be Free. Work Smart. Download IBM Lotus Symphony at no charge, and set to with Open Standards.

    It’s the way of the future. Go ahead, buy the award-winning books. But don’t neglect the new blood, the upcoming generation who also intend to compete for their share.

  4. @Chris: many different authors have won these awards over the last 30 years or so, and therefore it will be a while before I even exhaust these. I’ll jump outside my scheme from time to time, but it’s nice having a plan of attack.

  5. I was just waving a red rag at a bull.

    In the “Technology” space, we know what the money-spinners of the past have been. IBM Personal Computers, IBM OS/2, and IBM Lotus SmartSuite.

    Of course we hope, and fully intend to drive, that the money-spinners of the future will be IBM Lotus Notes, IBM Webspere Software, and many other products and services that are designed, engineered,and warranted to satisfy the needs of millions.

    But what of the competition ? Is there any ? Or have we left them in the dust, chasing after a ‘commercial home entertainment’ business with Ensemble Studios and XBox360 ?

    All potentially profitable businesses, I’m sure, if you get your prices and your channels-to-market right.

    But the future looks very different from the past.

  6. Red Mars has been sitting on a bookshelf behind my desk for years. I just turned around and picked it up and am going to read it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. For future reading I would thoroughly recommend some of the Sci-fi work by the Scottish author Iain M Banks, and, indeed some of his non Sci-fi work published without the “M”…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Banks

    His style is quite “dark” in many ways but the depth of the charachterisation and environments which he creates is quite stunning. I particularlt enjoyed “Look to Windward: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_to_Windward“.

    For a lighter – but long read – I have also read (about 4 times now) the 10 volume saga by L Ron Hubbard called Mission Earth. It is funny, satirical and for a book written quite some time ago, is amazingly relevant in our world now dominated by the Fuel Crisis and Climate Change. There is also, I feel, a rather interesting insight into the Scientology movement. If you read this book, you might come to think he made the whole thing up as a bit of a joke… (Now ducks from fear of retribution).

    Having just read the Wiki entry about it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Earth) perhaps Americans find less to be amused about than I do being from the UK. For me it is a very funny poke at early 1980’s American Society.

    My other great love is pretty much anything by Terry Pratchett. The Discworld and it’s inhabitants are as real to me as Sainsbury’s or Tesco.

  8. I liked it at first, but then Green Mars just got boring (I got it cheap and read it before I realised there were more). Another frontier-colony revolution story full of dull politics IIRC (it’s been some time). Politics and revolution seems to inflict stories about Mars colonisation quite often for some reason (authors mirror American colonisation perhaps?). But I guess plenty of people like that sort of thing. Much prefer PK Dick myself.

  9. I liked Red Mars, but it went down in my estimation when the main characters got some biological retro-fit that made them immortal. Too much of a Deus ex Machina to enable “human” scale characters to be around long enough for story that had to take hundreds of years. I prefer books like Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men,where the author tries to grapple with the role of human lives in “real” timescales.

    I didn’t bother with the other two – though from the title, I’m guessing Blue Mars involves an IBM take-over,no?

    Round about the same time, I enjoyed The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel. That was quite fascinating… a big intellectual work-out, involving religion, evolution, first-contact, a very gripping story and explicit references (I thought) to Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter

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