TTLB Book Club

So, what to do when news is light; the blogger is lazy and inspiration is fleeting with regards to good topics for the ole’ blog?
Why, get your readers to do your work for you by throwing out “discussion topics” which are simply thinly veiled attempts to avoid doing any real work on your own, of course!
(Hey, it could be worse: I could just go on about reform.)
So in that fine spirit, I present: TTLB Book Club!
No, I’m not swanky enough like Andrew to actually get authors to show up here (well, at least I don’t think I am). But I was thinking about doing some book reviews of my own, and figured I’d make it a group activity (see above, re: lazy).
So: What are you reading this summer? What new tome would you recommend to fellow TTLB readers? Share your literary recommendations!
Just to prove I’m not completely lazy, I’ll start with a few capsule notes on what I’ve been delving into lately.
Chasm City, by Alastair Reynolds, is a damned fine SF novel. Reynolds made his long-form debut with Revelation Space last year, which was itself a great read. The two are linked by virtue of being set in the same future universe, but share no characters or central plotlines; Chasm City, therefore, stands on its own perfectly well and one might begin with it or Revelation Space without fear of confusion.
Reynolds (no relation, far as I know) is now on my short list of SF writers who are still working on the Big Canvas of galaxy-spanning, Big Idea stories. (Other folks on that list would be Iain Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, and Ken MacLeod, incidentally. ) In Revelation Space, he gave us a broad tale of far-future humanity encountering some of the most original alien artifacts ever to make your hair stand on end. Real “wow, this makes so much sense it might be true but damn, I hope it isn’t” kinda stuff. In Chasm City, he zooms in, and focuses more narrowly on a much more limited set of characters to tell the tale of the mysterious city of the title, which has been stricken by a bizarre nanotech plague that affects both the city’s inhabitants, and the very structures of the city itself.
The result is that where Revelation Space occasionally felt unfocused — while still remaining brilliant — Chasm City is a tigher, cleaner read. I find myself torn: I enjoyed reading Chasm City more, but actually think Revelation Space might be a more significant work for the ideas it explored. But no need to decide: they are both fine work, and well worth your time.
Another new author who’s grabbed my attention is Richard Morgan. Morgan treads classic ground in his debut novel, Altered Carbon, which serves as a fine example of the SF noir mystery. It’s a classic setup: take an ex-soldier with superspooky combat training and place him in the middle of a murder mystery. Except since this is SF, the murder didn’t slow the victim down much — he’s been restored from his backup and wants our hero to prove to the world that he didn’t commit suicide, despite having been found in a classic ‘locked room’ having blasted his own head off with a laser.
Carbon reminded me very much of a sleeper novel from a few years back, Nocturne for a Dangerous Man, by Marc Matz. Both are excellent reads, if you like the SF-mystery genre. And both are first novels — Matz, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have published anything since his debut.
One note, however: Carbon isn’t available directly in the US yet, so you’ll have to order via Amazon UK or other means; the link above should help you out.
OK, those are my two picks of the moment: now your turn!