What SF books have you read recently?

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This topic contains 36 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Patrick Mahon 4 years ago.

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  • #7833

    George Berger
    Participant

    Hallo Patrick. Yes, the book is in English. It is published in paperback by Wesleyan University Press in 2011. The Book Depository has (or had) it at a decent price. It is quite readable.
    I shall write about Embassytown when I figure out how to discuss some of its notions about language and truth. First I must read one more article and an entry in Wikipedia. Then I can order my thoughts.

    #7834

    George Berger
    Participant

    Something might have gone wrong, since I posted here about one hour ago. Hence this might be superfluous. I mentioned that the book was published by Wesleyan University Press in paperback, copyright 2011. I hope to write about some philosophy that I see in ‘Embassytown.’

    #7859

    Patrick Mahon
    Participant

    Thanks George for the very helpful info.

    On a different note, I’ve just read Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 novel ‘The Road’, a post-apocalypse novel following a man and his son as they try to reach the coast without getting attacked by the few other survivors of the unnamed disaster that has destroyed civilisation. It’s certainly bleak, but the prose is beautiful and the love between father and son is portrayed with the deftest of touches. Have others read ‘The Road’? If so, what did you think? For that matter, has anyone seen the 2009 film version, starring Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films)? I’m wondering whether I should get hold of that as a follow-up to the novel…

    #7861

    George Berger
    Participant

    Hallo Patrick—I have ‘The Road’ but haven’t read it. I have heard both good and bad things about it. I guess the opinion depends on your reactions to densely horrifying post-apocalypse novels that might be allegories. One friend said I might be tempted to put it down, but that I should not. He thought it was wonderful. I also own McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian,’ which many claim is his best work to date. One friend described it to me, roughly as ‘a great novel in which every character is a bastard.’ That whets my appetite.
    About ‘Embassytown,’ I’ve given up on it. I think its reflections on language cannot be pinned down to any one coherent view; it’s completely unclear what philosophy or psychology to use. There are several candidates: a form of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (there are two forms), the correspondence theory of truth, and an invocation by Adam Roberts of Martin Heidegger’s notion of truth as ‘openness.’ I prefer the second, but I haven’t succeeded in constructing one line of thought using correspondence that is adequate to the entire book. I have a vague idea that might work, but have had too little time to think about it. Also, I read Heidegger on truth last week, in German. It turns out that ‘openness’ is not a clear notion in Heidegger’s main work, ‘Sein und Zeit’ (‘Being and Time’). It is described as an aspect of human existence that is somehow prior to any explicit judgement, true or false. That is, something that makes it possible for me to assert with belief that, say, the Earth is round. Heidegger’s discussion, or rather, dogmatic statement (i.e. take it or leave it) of this takes less than five pages of German spiced with terms from ancient Greek. Unless I’m missing something due to my having no Greek, I simply see no argument given for this notion. Hence I am putting my plans on hold.

    #7862

    George Berger
    Participant

    PS. Since I don’t know how to edit posts, I’ll correct myself here. Instead of ‘openness,’ I would use ‘being uncovered,’ or ‘the revealed.’ Martin Heidegger is, next to Hegel, the most unclear and turgid philosopher I have ever tried to read. I think he’s trying to say something like this: that in order to make an explicit, true judgement, say ‘It is raining now,’ one must be mentally involved with the natural world in such a way that relevant features of the world are ‘uncovered’ (by the judging person) from a background in which little if anything is so explicitly noticed that the person involved can call it ‘a fact.’ This background is somehow prior to the particular act of judging (here: that it is raining now). Without more explanation I can say little more about this. One problem is that Heidegger would not use phrases like ‘mentally involved’ and ‘involved.’ He wanted notions that describe human existence as abstractly as possible and without mentalistic notions suggestive of a soul, or a thinking mind. He would probably have considered the quoted terms as misleading phrases that hark back to Descartes and perhaps some texts in Aristotle. For him, these thinkers caused an intellectual disaster in European philosophy. But as one prominent logician said to me, ‘European philosophy has never recovered from Heidegger.’ I agree with the logician.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by  George Berger.
    #7865

    GeoffNelder
    Participant

    George, your comments on Heidegger, et al, reminds me of the novel that started me writing again. The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer has this pre-Millennium era ideas as its premise: 1) most bank robbers get away with it; 2) most bank robbers are below average intelligence. What if the protagonist – an unemployed philosopher, gathers a gang of philosophers and go on a bank-robbing spree? Surely they’d be on to a winner? Fischer has a love of words, an impish SOH and intelligence beyond necessary for such a book. Strongly recommended even though it isn’t SFF.

    #7866

    George Berger
    Participant

    Geoff. Thanks for that. It brought a smile to my face. Bertrand Russell was in jail for a while, I think during or right after WW1. I don’t remember what the charges were. Well, when asked about his fellow prisoners, Russell replied that they were as intelligent as anyone else, but had the bad luck to have gotten caught. I think a gang of philosophers is a good idea. Obviously, being well above average intelligence on average, they’d do quite well at crime.

    #8007

    Patrick Mahon
    Participant

    I’ve just finished reading ‘World’s Collider’, a shared world anthology novel edited by Richard Salter. It’s based on the premise that the Large Hadron Collider accidentally opens a rift in reality, through which horrific creatures from a parallel universe travel, and set about destroying humanity. It’s an impressive achievement, melding 21 separate short stories into a coherent novel-length narrative. Well worth checking out…

    #8011

    George Berger
    Participant

    I just finished Keith Brooke’ The Accord< \i>, an excellent novel about virtual reality and uploaded personalities. It is quite complex, far more so than any other book on this subject I know. In fact, there are several kinds of complexity in the story. This makes for a fascinating but demanding reading experience with a surprisingly complex, moving. Well worth the effort.

    #8020

    Patrick Mahon
    Participant

    Thanks George – I’d heard several good things about The Accord already, but on the basis of your praise I think I shall have to try to get hold of it now.

    Last night I finished a hard SF novella by Ian Sales, called ‘Adrift on the Sea of Rains’. It’s very much a story for those who hanker after the Apollo era of spaceflight, with lots of technical detail included, but there’s a real human story in there too, and Sales brings that across convincingly. It’s the first in a quartet of novellas apparently, and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for volume 2.

    #8317

    Patrick Mahon
    Participant

    I’ve just started on Iain M. Banks’s latest novel, ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’. It’s good so far, but I’m only a couple of chapters in. Anyone else reading this? If so, what do you think?

    #8318

    Matt Freeman
    Participant

    I am exactly a few chapters in to the Hydrogen Sonata. Have to say, I’m a sucker for Culture novels. I’m enjoying it so far and I think I can see a picture building of where it is going – looking forward to being wrong and surprised as per usual.

    #8332

    Martin McCallion
    Keymaster

    Hi guys, I read The Hydrogen Sonata a few weeks ago (Banksie is the only author whose books I buy automatically as soon as they come out). It’s great. Though in some sense it’s just another Culture novel.

    Yeah, I know: “just another”. If we could all write “just another” novel like that, hey?

    #8599

    thechroniclesofhope
    Participant

    Recently read

    #8671

    GeoffNelder
    Participant

    I’m reading Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi and enjoying it. Roll on telepathic cities.

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