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A short list of fiction books I enjoyed

I promised in the previous review a few more reviews for the month, especially as Christmas gifts for geeks. I decided to publish this group-review of titles, as I don’t think it would have served anybody to post separate book reviews for all of these. I would also suggest you take a look at my previous reviews so that you can find more ideas for new books to read.

Let’s start with a new book by a well-known author: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is, as it’s usual with him, difficult to nail (ah-ha) to a genre quickly. It starts off as the story of a kid’s youth but builds up to… quite something. I have listened to the audiobook version rather than the book, and as it started it seemed something perfect to make me sleep well, but then again it mixed with my own dreams to form something at the same time scary and full of warmth.

It’s common to say that it’s the journey, not the destination, that is important, and I find that is a very good description of what I like in books. And in the case of Gaiman’s book, this is more true than ever. I was not looking forward for it to end, not because it’s a bad ending (even though it did upset me a bit) but because I really wanted to stay in that magical world of the Ocean at the end of the lane.

Next up, two series from an author who’s also a friend: Michael McCloskey who writes both fantasy and scifi — I have yet to start on his fantasy series, but I fell in love with his scifi writing with Trilisk Ruins. I think it might be worth retelling the story of how I found out about it, even though it is a bit embarrassing: for a while I was an user on OkCupid – so sue me, it feels lonely sometimes – and while I did not end up meeting anybody out of there, my interest was picked by an ad on one of the pages: it was part of the cover of Trilisk Ruins but with no text on it. I thought it was going to be some kind of game, instead it was a much more intriguing book.

Michael’s secret is in talking about a future that may be far off, but that is, well, feasible. It’s not the dystopia painted by most scifi books I’ve read or skimmed through recently, although it’s not a perfect future — it is, after all, the same as now. And technology is not just thrown up from a future far away that we can count on it as magic, nor it is just an extension of today’s. It is a projection of it in a future: the Links are technologies that while not existing now, and not having a clearly-defined path to get to them, wouldn’t be too far fetched to be existing.

Parker Interstellar Travels – that’s the name of the series starting with Trilisk Ruins – is mostly lighthearted, even though dark at times. It reads quickly, once you get past the first chapter or two, as it jumps straight into an unknown world, so you may be stunned by it for a moment. But I would suggest you to brace yourself and keep going, it’s fully worth it!

There is a second series by Michael, but in this case an already-closed trilogy, Synchronicity, starting with Insidious, which is set in the same universe and future, but it takes a quite different approach: it’s definitely darker and edgier, and it would appeal to many of the geeks who are, as I write, busy reading and discussing potential AI problems. I have a feeling that it would have been similar in the ‘60s-‘70s after 2001 was released.

In this series, the focus is more on the military, rather than the individuals, and their use, and fear, of AIs. As I noted it is darker, and it’s less action-driven than PIT, but it does make up for it in introspection, so depending on what your cup of tea is, you may chose between the two.

The fourth entry in this collection is something that arrived through Samsung’s Amazon deals. Interestingly I already had an audiobook by the same author – B.V. Larson – through some Audible giveaway but I have not listened to it yet. Instead I read Technomancer in just a week or so, and it was quite interesting.

Rather than future, Larson goes for current time, but in a quite fictionalized setting. There’s a bit of cliché painting of not one, but two women in the book, but it does not seem to be as endemic as in other books I’ve read recently. It’s a quick-bite read but it’s also the start of a series so if you’re looking for something that does not end right away you may consider it.

To finish this up, I’ll go back to an author that I reviewed before: Nick Harkaway, already author of The Gone-Away World, which is sill one of my favourite modern books. While I have not read yet Tigeman which was on this year’s shortlist for the Goodreads Awards, last year I read Angelmaker which is in a lot of ways similar to The Gone-Away World, but different. His characters once again are fully built up even when they are cows, and the story makes you want to dive into that world, flawed and sometimes scary as it is.

Have fun, and good reads this holiday season!

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