Ancillary Justice (review)

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Parallel Visions: City of Angels City of Demons ebook and trade paperback available on Amazon (or here).
The question of whether Vance was dead or not became more than academic when he found himself in a bathtub up to his chin in ice water like some forgotten cocktail garnish, a demonic woman standing over him, and no memory of how he got there.
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The Red Rook, sequel to Dispensing Justice and the second novel of Nova Genesis World is now available for Kindle or as a paperback at Amazon.
Read free chapters of Dispensing Justice here (or get it here).
Read free chapters of The Red Rook here (or get it here). -- Fritz Freiheit

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I really wanted to like Ancillary Justice (2013) (Kindle, Paperback, Audio) by Ann Leckie, but, alas, it was not to be. Let me rewind. I picked up the audio version of Ancillary Justice in early September of 2014. I had heard that it had won a Hugo, Nebula, and an Arthur C. Clarke Award and was curious about a novel that had won all three awards previously noted in one year by a debut author. Very impressive indeed. I was also intrigued by the idea of an AI main character that was a fragment of its original self. I started listening. And listening. I wondered what all the fuss was about. Honestly, if Ancillary Justice hadn't won the awards it did and I hadn't been listening to an audiobook, I wouldn't have made it past the first few chapters. Why had this book won so many awards? I was bored, but I persevered, hoping that I would stumble across a plot or find some reason to care about the main character. Or any character, frankly. The writing was good, at least at a sentence and paragraph level, but it lacked the ability to engage me. I should note that I enjoyed the challenge of the non-gender pronouns. Ann Leckie handled the challenging issue of translating a non-gendered language into the gender-encumbered English form. The most interesting part of Ancillary Justice was the worldbuilding, and that was tepid at best. I reluctantly laid it aside and pursued other reading material.

15 books (one of which was a real door-stopper), 3 months, and several more attempts to finish Ancillary Justice later I forced myself to the end. The plot had wandered in at about the half-way point, and it was okay, becoming more intriguing as the glacial pace of worldbuilding caught up. Also, by the end, I was finally beginning to like the main character. Unfortunately, the climax wasn't much of a climax. It would have worked somewhere way back in the story, but it left me bereft of any sort of payoff for the 14 hours I had spent reading.

I spent some time thinking about what didn't work for me in Ancillary Justice. It was obvious that the lack of plot was off-putting (but not definitive, as I loved Among Others, which has less plot than Ancillary Justice). Certainly that lack of engagement with the characters was noteworthy (but I actively disliked the characters in Bitter Seeds and finished it despite that). No, in the end, it was because, dare I say it, there was a complete lack of sense of wonder to be had in the entire book. The worldbuilding, while well crafted, was ultimately a serious meh for me. The technology was SFnal but lacked depth (deliberately, I suspect) giving me the feeling that references to space-travel, FTL, AI's, augmentation, etc. were just there as hooks to hang things on. In a way, the story could have been told in a fantasy setting equally well. I'm not trying to trash fantasy for lack of technological depth, I have no problem with this, and am a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy despite Tolkien's predilection to use magic as an arbitrary plot device.

It's unlikely that I will read another book by Ann Leckie.

My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.
—Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
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A Brief Overview of Superhero Fiction

In the past fifty years I would venture to say that less than fifty novels and anthologies have been published that fall within the superhero genre, excluding Marvel and DC media spinoffs. If you include Marvel and DC, I think the number is somewhere between 100 and 200. So I set out to prove or disprove this supposition. The following overview of superhero fiction is the result. In this overview, I won’t be including graphic novels. Link to the full wiki version of this article.
Continue reading “A Brief Overview of Superhero Fiction”

Joy! Book order arrives

My book order arrived yesterday and I am wallowing in writing book goodness.  A week ago or so I broke down and ordered a number of books on writing and criticism that I have been lusting after.  They are:

Now I just have to find time to read them all

Have any notable books arrived in your life recently?  Or just books that you are reading now and want to comment on?

16 well-regarded books on the craft of writing compiled by Patrick

Patrick handed out the following list of recommended books at yesterday evening’s AAAWG meeting.

In descending Amazon.com users’ 5-star ranking percentage.

  1. On Writing: Memoirs of the Craft by Stephen King (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 94% (638/682)
  2. Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye by Katharine Sands (Amazon) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 88% (21/24)
  3. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 85% (76/89)
  4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 83% (105/127)
  5. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 80% (37/46)
  6. Creating Poetry by John Drury (Amazon) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 80% (8/10)
  7. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 79% (312/394)
  8. Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein (Amazon) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 78% (49/63)
  9. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinseer (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 76% (135/178)
  10. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 75% (15/20)
  11. Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenber (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 73% (11/15)
  12. How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 72% (71/98)
  13. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 72% (43/60)
  14. How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 65% (20/31)
  15. Give ‘Em What They Want by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook (Amazon) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 63% (5/8)
  16. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman (Amazon search) — Amazon.com 5-star rating: 58% (81/140)

Note: Amazon.com title searchs are used when there are multiple editions.

Date: 2009/10/06 AAAWG Tuesday night meeting at Borders Books, Arborland, Ann Arbor

Wiki version: 16 well-regarded books on the craft of writing compiled by Patrick

Various

A list of various things that I have been up to recently and/or are currently engaged in (in no particular order):

  • I started reading Charles Stross’ Halting State and have been enjoying it.
  • Turned “The Shaper’s Daughter” over to a friend for copy editing while I work on researching markets.
  • Finishing up the new scene to begin “The Alchemist of Liberty”.
  • Built a double loft (basically from scratch) for Merideth over the weekend.
  • Porting a bunch of my old wiki articles to the new wiki.
  • Started watching Torchwood. Three episodes and liking it a lot.
  • Researching a PHP based bookmark tool to add to fritzfreiheit.com
  • and someone at UofM has developed a new plastic that is as strong as steel and transparent.

Orphan Stars Against A Dark Background

I ran across an article in physorg.com about orphan stars and this made me think of one of book that I quite enjoyed. So I thought I would go back and find a mini-review (transplanted to the wiki) that I wrote on Against A Dark Background by Iain M. Banks back in 1993. Here it is:

A profoundly dark book. Banks kept me on the edge of my seat both with his intricate culture and well organized plot. Rather than giving all the pertinent details of the history and character backgrounds he leaves them lying like small mental land mines. As I made my way through ”AADB” I found myself stumbling over these cunningly crafted bits of information and each time I experienced an explosion of implication that would light up the background only to fade away leaving a spectral images of potential. An excellent read.

Wired Love by Ella Thayer

Seeking Wired Love — or, at least, I am looking for the full text of Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes, a prophetic novel by Ella Cheever Thayer. Published in 1879, Wired Love is not SF, rather it is a novel of two telegraph operators who fall in love over the wire. I first encountered a reference to this book in the Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (which is well worth the read, particularly if you think that Internet age is completely unique) and ever since then I have been looking for copy to read. I have seen copies of it available online through used book sellers, but the price was rather dear, and as much as I would like to own a physical copy of it, I would be quite satisfied with an electronic copy. So if you know where I might find an eCopy or a cheap physical copy (reprint would be cool), I would be grateful.

Update 2007/09/25

Added a wiki page for Wired Love.