Sigh. Best thread.
Objection! There are still plenty of writers doing hard sci-fi. Alastair Reynolds and Greg Egan spring most readily to mind. Neal Stephenson (when he's not playing with swords - whatever happened with that, anyway?), Vernor Vinge (kinda), Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Peter Watts.
Nor did I take it as such. Just saying: I don't think sci-fi has had a heyday yet - salad days (in its original sense), but not a heyday. And while your Asimovs, Blishes and Clarkes may not be around any longer there are still smart people doing smart things in the genre.
My favorite (borrowed) observation on the genres is this: fantasy is about revolution, science fiction is about exploration. They're often similar, but they serve different purposes. I care deeply about SF, and very little about fantasy.
So I finished "Nostromo" and it really is a masterpiece, the missing link between 19th and 20th century literature. Once you get past the initial weirdness and can situate the plot in your mind, it's a really gripping book. And bleak. So very, amazingly bleak.
Now I'm taking a short break from fiction because EU4 got me in the mood to read some history, so I've started William Jordan's "Europe in the High Middle Ages". Which probably will make me want to play CK2 again. And so my life goes.
(I've been reading Count Zero for what feels like ages, but it could just be that it's a boring and bad book. Gibson slips in enough clever descriptors to keep me interested, but it's gonna be a while before I get around to Neuromancer.)
I just read "Night Watch" & "Day Watch" terrific magical and supernatural read
(Signatures really shouldn't take up more space than the length of your post, that's just silly. Imagine if everyone in the Tropes thread had a signature like yours. It would literally add miles of scrolling.)
@thread: I just finished The Transhumanist Reader, a tight essay collection on the history and substance of the topic including one from my favorite philosopher-critic Russell Blackford. There's also what I consider to be less earthy stuff from the likes of Kurzweil but it serves to round out the 40-some themes. I think such reasoned and passionate writing is worthwhile given stuff like this and the work of the late Barnaby Jack.
On a related note I just got Ramez Naam's Crux; a hardcore working technologist turned onto meditative religion wrote a fast thriller about the sociopolitical fallout of a techno-telepathy nanodrug. The style is the same as in the prequel Nexus (some clumsy word use and cheesy moralism) but the substance is the same and as fun. Not finished, but looks a quick read.
And, as mentioned, the events of (and ending of) Neuromancer lead in to Count Zero, and both feed directly in to Mona Lisa Overdrive. While I would also recommend having read Neuromancer first, it isn't a requirement. Just make sure you have read them both before you move on to the third.
And I recently Chris Holm's latest Collector novel (The Big Reap). I forget if I already mentioned it, but I really liked it. It isn't his strongest work and he definitely tried to do too much and most of the book was missing a strong companion character (if only for dialogues, rather than monologues), but it worked. I would say it is the opposite of his first two books: It is a very strong and intriguing story with weak characters and writing, rather than the other way around. By this logic, his next book will either be a masterpiece or trash, depending if he pulls off both or neither :p
I also read the latest Sandman Slim book. I still feel like Kadrey is treading water now that the Big Bad is no longer an actual person and is instead the nigh unkillable forces that came before God created the universe as we know it, but he is still great at dialogue and characters, so it is a fun book. Basically, it is like a Joss Whedon movie in that the plot has more than a few holes and it really just feels like an excuse for a bunch of strong characters to talk and interact while occasionally blowing shit up. Just, with dialogue along the lines of "The armor was really cool. It was fun to pretend I was fucking Iron Man. But the metal made my boobs cold" with the original(-ish) Lucifer then replying "Well, it is one of the most holy artifacts to ever exist, but we can't allow your boobs to get cold...". Kadrey is also a photographer for bondage fetish art, and it kind of shows in the writing.
One of my favorite writers though, and James "Sandman Slim" Stark is definitely a fun take on the urban fantasy protagonist. He is a former sorcerer who was betrayed by his best friends, thrown in Hell, and tortured by being forced to fight in the arena until he proved himself more valuable as an assassin for the bigwigs in Hell. And upon finding out that his former best friends have tortured and murdered the woman he loves, he proceeds to break out of hell to go murder them. He quickly acknowledges he is too late to save her, but he still intends to inflict horrid suffering on the people who hurt her. Stark never really comes across as a "good guy", but he is definitely a likeable character who is pretty consistent in that he tries to do the right thing, but acknowledges that he isn't always going to succeed and that he isn't the knight in shining armor type. Imagine Harry Dresden if he rarely even bothered to reign in his dark and angry side. Probably one of the defining moments for the character occurs when he watches the donut shop girl get murdered in front of his eyes and Kadrey just plops down one of my favorite lines in the series: "Goodbye green haired girl. How many more of you won't I save?"
And currently reading the second The Witcher novel (fourth book), as the English translation was released in the US last week. I suspect I should re-read the first novel at some point to remember the details.
Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.