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Archive for December, 2012


Neal Stephenson is an excellent Sci-Fi, Cyberpunk and Historical Fiction Author who has met with extraordinary success in the past few decades.

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His book Snowcrash was a game changer for the Sci-Fi world. He is widely regarded as being a major contributor to Cyberpunk, but not content with that fictional genre he continues to push the envelope into what could be considered “Steampunk” with his series “The Baroque Cycle” , although he travels so far back into history and the very origins of Science that it might be better termed “Horsepunk”.

His books are extremely entertaining, virtually all of them are a good read (You might want to skip his earliest works such as “The Big U” and “Zodiac”).

My favorite book of his that is in the Sci-Fi genre was “The Diamond Age”  or by it’s full title “The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer” which takes place in a future where humanity has mastered nano-technology, and much of the worlds goods are supplied by “Matter Compilers” very much like computer compilers. The book has several fascinating characters, such as a  very poor and disadvantaged young girl named Nell, who comes into possession of a book, which is actually one of the most advanced computers of its age, designed not only to educate a young person, but to transform them into a leader, which is an education that necessarily includes some very rebellious ideas.  It’s a very fascinating notion, and not only did I fall in love with the Princess Nell character, but really wanted to get my hands on that book.

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The book also includes a very fascinating character that Stephenson admits is based on the 18th century detective novel series hero  “Judge Dee“, which are quite good stories in their own right and the books have a fascinating origin.

This is one of my all time favorite books, and highly recommend you give it a read, after this alphabet series is finished I will be posting a list of my “Top 25 Favorite Sci-Fi Books of All Time” and this book is on that list.

I actually met Neal Stephenson at a book signing when I was and undergrad at Berkeley, at the time he had a pony tail and long leather trench-coat, and had never heard of him nor read his work, and he seemed pretty impressed with himself, I almost wanted to dismiss him out of hand for his obvious arrogance, however, I have to hand it to him, he is a very talented and imaginative writer and was quickly hooked on his work. I might not invite him to go fishing, but I always eagerly await his next book.

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Rudolf Von Bitter Rucker, is a Mathematician, a computer Scientist, and a Sci-Fi Visionary.

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One of my favorite works of his was his Ware Tetralogy (comprised of the very excellent Sci-Fi Books; Software, Wetware, Freeware, Realware)

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and for a while I was under the impression that those were the first books of his I had ever read, until I later realized that I had read one of his mathematical texts, the very interesting Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension from Dover

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while I was an undergrad Math Major at U.C. Berkeley.

Rudy writes about Sci-Fi in such an original and unique manner, the way that only a Mathematician and Computer Scientist could, his characters are extremely likable,  usually being very intelligent vagabonds, hipsters, hackers and surfers, sometimes even mathematicians, who often times find themselves in extra-dimensional circumstances.

Rucker is also the editor of the online Sci-Fi magazine FLURB, which I highly suggest you read.

In his book Software, he explores what happens when mankind has to share the playing field with AI’s that have free will, a race of Robots known as the “Boppers” that have colonized the Moon. In the books a virtually homeless man winds up becoming President of Earth, Florida has seceded from the union to become it’s own bad-land territory populated by the elderly, people try to steal your brain from out of your skull, and it just gets weirder and more entertaining from there on as the series goes on.

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One of my favorite books of his is Jim and the Flims, a kind of Sci-Fi re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice  where the hero, Jim, must travel to alternate dimensions to regain his lost love, in the process he uncovers a huge inter-dimensional conspiracy to steal life-force and does his part to help over-throw the forces of darkness. Rucker is an excellent writer, and I would lay out good money in the bet that you can’t find quirkier or more lovable characters in any other Sci-Fi world, if I had to make a prediction, I think Rucker’s work is going to become the next big thing in Sci-Fi. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the Ware Tetralogy, and just enjoy the ride.

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Michael Diamond Resnick, born 5 March 1942, is one of the best Science Fiction writers i have ever read. He is the recipient of five Hugo awards, and quite deservedly so.

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If you have never read him, you are in for a real treat. Get up, go to the bookstore, and buy yourself a copy of Kirinyaga, I can pretty much guarantee that you will not read many books better than this one.

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It is an amazing book, which a collection of short stories that take place in a future world, where humanity has colonized space, and colonization has reached the point where even religious and cultural separatists colonize their own worlds, and in this particular book, a group of people from the African tribe of Kikuyu form their own world and live their lives as if they were in ancient Africa, even though they live in an age of star travel.

Living this way comes with many problems, like abiding by superstition in an age of science, like the practice of Mingi, which says it is bad luck if a babies top teeth come in before any others, then that child must be killed by thrown it into a river or exposure. The tribe’s medicine man, who is highly educated and has a satellite communications up-link in his hut, but still lives as, and relishes in his role as a powerful and respected witch doctor, runs into trouble with galactic authorities for killing a child for being one of these bad luck births.

Perhaps one of the most powerful of these short stories is the story called “For I Have Touched the Sky” which is about what happens when a young and extremely gifted child is born to the tribe, one with an intellect like  Newton or an Einstein, but there’s just one problem, she was born a girl, and there is no room in their Utopia for that kind of girl. The story is extraordinarily moving and poignant.

If you have finished picking up the copy, or ordered it online, I highly recommend many of his other short stories, such as The 43 Antarean Dynasties, which can be found in podcast form on the wonderful Sci-Fi podcast site Escapepod, and his delightful short story, “Travels with My Cats”.

I have no doubt that you will find Resnick  a very talented, powerful, and deep writer.

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Frederik J. Pohl, November 26, 1919 (age 93), is a prolific Science Fiction writer with a career spanning seven decades.

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He has won four Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards and the Nebula Grand Master Award, which pretty clearly shows he is an excellent writer.

One of his most successful books is Gateway, the first book in his Heechee Saga. He recently published a novel that he began with Arthur C. Clarke called “The Last Theorem”.

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George Orwell, the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, is not typically known as a sci-fi author, his book 1984 changed the world. to the extent that many people say that the fact that a book like 1984 exists is the best guarantee that it will never happen.

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I am truly amazed at the number of people who have not read this book, nearly everyone I talk to knows that it is an important book, but there seems to be a consensus that we don’t need people to read this book anymore, and in my opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth.

1984

READ THIS BOOK!!!

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Andre Norton, born Alice Mary Norton, February 17, 1912 in Cleveland Ohio, was a prolific writer and award winner.
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She died March 17, 2005 (aged 93). She wrote extensively in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Juvenile Fiction and Historical Fiction. She wrote under several pseudonyms, such as Andre Norton, Andrew North and Allen Weston.

During most of her adult life she worked as a librarian, which added a wonderful depth and texture to her worlds. She was a first class world builder, and will probably be remembered for her most famous and extensive work from “Witchworld.” She was twice nominated for the Hugo Award for novels in that Universe.
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Her novels have a powerful appeal to young readers, and always feature the personal development of a young person, where they must learn quickly on their feet in order to survive the strange worlds and situations they are thrust into.

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Haruki Murakami, born January 12th 1949 is a Japanese novelist and writer.

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His work and writing style is so unusual, and unique, that it is difficult to classify into a certain genre, but he makes such casual and clever use of dimensional doorways, time travel, alternate lives and selves, that I say he belongs deep in the domain of Sci-Fi.

One of the first books of his I ever read was “Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World” which was a brilliant novel in so many ways, and I was so glad that I live in a world with a strange and wonderful mind that could create something like that, and that it was my first book of his.

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It is almost impossible to describe and explain about this book, without sounding completely crazy. Suffice it to say it is rich and complex book that has a “hard-boiled” detective type character who underwent advanced neurosurgery to become a human code breaking machine, there is a beautiful and slender female character who had a sort of dimensional dilation surgery so that she can eat and eat without ever getting full or fat, there is a journey through a secret underground cave system below Tokyo that is filled with monsters, and perhaps the best feature of the book, a fascinating and mysterious alternate universe called “The End of the World” where in order to gain entrance you have to go through shadow removal surgery.

Another excellent book of his is 1Q84, the Q is actually meant to symbolize “?” , the question mark symbol, which is meant to symbolize the quandary that two of the central characters struggle with, they know they have undergone some kind of time travel, they are in some sort of parallel universe that reminds them of the year 1984 in their own world, but some things are so different they cant call it “1984”. One of the central characters is an extremely fit female assassin named “Aomame”, which translates from Japanese as “Green Peas”, a writer and judo expert named Tengo, and their struggle against a mysterious cult that worships “the little people”, who unfortunately turn out to be very real, very powerful, and very vengeful.

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As I said, there is no convincing way to describe Murakami’s characters and plots without sounding crazy, which is what makes his work so brilliant, it has a quality that makes you feel as if you are experiencing a waking dream. I highly recommend reading his works.

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