The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Science Fiction

I love it. I don't know why. I used to think it was boring -I liked Star Wars, but I didn't want to read any books about plasma cannons or aliens. It just didn't seem interesting.

I think it started with Dune, Frank Herbert's book. My great-grandmother gave me her copy (as an aside, my great-grandma and I are the same person, 79 years apart. She sits around and reads all day, wants to be left the hell alone and has a load of turquoise jewelry), and out of respect for her and the prospect of a new book, I started reading it.

Within the first 2 pages, I was hooked. Absolutely hooked. This book wasn't aliens and funny guns that go pewpewpew when you shoot them and no plot -this was politics. This was and human nature and fear. This was amazing!

There are lasery type guns and big-ass sandworms and alien sorts of people, but they make the story real for its setting. The actual story is what got me. The tangled webs people weave, the politics and the science, the theocracy and the myths. It's an absolutely incredible piece of writing. I read it about twice a year, so I don't forget. And every time I pick it up I find something new about it that comes a little clearer, like washing off a muddy uncut diamond and seeing new ways that it will catch the light.

After I read Dune, I didn't have a sci-fi epiphany. I didn't immediately go out and see what there was to see where the genre is concerned. I more or less fell back into my original patterns -mostly fantasy, a little fiction-fiction, eventually some chick it. I hardly read fantasy anymore, honestly, because I have a hard time finding anything new in that genre. The book Legacy actually looks good, but there are just so many same-y fantasy books floating around anymore that it's not worth the effort. Suggestions I'll take, but I no longer have the urge to hunt down good fantasy.

Then I picked up some Terry Pratchett. Some Douglas Adams. And I tumbled headfirst into those -granted, I've only read a few of the Discworld books (I think I'd rather own them than check them out from the library. That doesn't feel right) and I've only read Hitchhiker's Guide once. These books are very different from Dune, but the same general principles applied. The focus was on the ideas, not the pewpewpew and the little green men.

Then came Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 I have loved from the first time I picked up a copy of the book. Now I have it in graphic novel form as well, and oh my god. I can't get enough of it. If there was ever a book I'd sleep with my arms around, Fahrenheit 451 would totally be it. When I was in the hospital for a few days a couple of summers ago, I took a gigantic book with me -Bradbury's collected stories. I can hardly lift that book, but it kept me entertained and thinking while I was hooked up to an IV and getting contradictory results from various doctors. There's a reason the hospital here is known as Death Valley...but that's another story.

Then (then, then, then) I picked up a copy of the Jane Austen Book Club (which I would totally have joined. Also, Hugh Dancy is in the movie and that is just so much win) and discovered Ursula le Guin thanks to a relatively important plot point regarding her. She is by far one of the best sci-fi writers I have ever had the good fortune to read. Like Herbert, like Bradbury, le Guin is an idea writer. She examines a concept in an alien setting that is nevertheless a familiar or plausible concept. What if, she asks us in The Left Hand of Darkness, gender was a non-issue on some world? Thus comes Genly Ai, to explore it and discover what the answer is -in a way. I mean, it's just brilliant. The book is brilliant, the writing is brilliant... wow.

I watched A Scanner Darkly during winter or spring quarter at school, and the movie was decent. I am not Keanu Reeves' biggest fan, but he plays a drugged out narc really well. ;) So once summer hit, I decided I needed to check out the book. The movie made a striking point, and I wanted to see if the books was the same. It was (of course) better. So much better. Philip K. Dick is another writer who has my unending admiration.

All of these examples from someone who, for the majority of her life, claimed to despise or be uninterested in science fiction. Holy shit, man. Now I'm reading (slowly but surely) some Robert Silverberg. Jonah gave me a bunch of his books, so I've been reading those off and on when I remember that I have a bunch of books stored in my laptop (it still freaks me out a little, non-physical books. I like the Kindle, but I don't know if I'd want one, really)...

It's amazing, science fiction. I know as much of it is as pulpy as a lot of fantasy is -but, like with any genre, if you find a book or an author made of gold (or some fantastic otherworldly gem), you hang on with everything you've got.


  1. I recently acquired a faux leather bound and gold trimmed copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, including all 5 parts. (and that's not a typo, that's what it is called.) It is most excellent and I can't wait to dig into them after reading the first one last year. Also, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower recently, which I loved loved loved. And am currently reading The Giver. Yes, I realize it is a children's book, but I don't really care. It is decently interesting thus far. I soon may be reading Ender's Game, even though the friend doing the lending ruined the ending for me. So that's some sci-fi-ish type of book. I think anyway. Even if it is more of a teen to young adult book. Well, that was a large block of text, and probably poor grammar. I don't really care though :P
    Honestly, that is against my grain not to care, but right now I couldn't be convinced to haha. I hope you have enjoyed this long comment.

  2. I totally don't mind large blocks of text lol. I'm super jealous of the Hitchhiker's Guide you got -I've seen that before, and it's basically awesome.