What are you reading? Cordelia’s Honor

I finished reading Mona Lisa Overdrive and my only disappointment is that there are no more installments in that series.

Once again, in my search for reading material I started to scour Reddit and was pleasantly surprised to learn of a Sci-Fi series posted for free download by the publishing company Baen. The first book that I’m reading in the Vorkosigan Saga is:

Cordelia’s Honor by Louis McMaster Bujold

This is an Omnibus; one book containing more than one novel. In this case, it includes Shards of Honor and Barrayar. I’ve already finished the former and just started the latter. Bujold weaves a very believable future universe where humans have inhabited multiple planets, travelling between them through a system of wormholes. Each planet has been colonized long enough to form their own independent societies that are sometimes at war with each other.

The character development is quite good, and I appreciate it that Bujold has a no-nonsense narrative style that places you in the story. She doesn’t gloss over or romanticize the realities of being human, running a government, or waging war. To complement this unpolished realism she has a keen sense of strategy, both political and military, and uses them to twist the reader’s perspective in a way that makes the story a psychological thriller at times.

Establishing the reading order of this series is a bit of an issue, mainly due to the combinations of several stories into omnibus volumes. I’m using the following reading order which was posted as a Reddit comment:

  1. Cordelia’s Honor
  2. Young Miles
  3. Miles, Mystery, Mayhem
  4. Miles Errant (Note: A book called Memory goes here, not included on that page.)
  5. Miles in Love
  6. Miles, Mutants & Microbes (Includes the book Falling Free, which is the first story in the series’s internal chronology. Also contains the novella Labyrinth, which also appears in Miles, Mystery, Mayhem).
  7. Cryoburn

I usually check out books from the public library, but in this case you can download it in the format of your choice both free and legally:

What are you reading? Mona Lisa Overdrive

William Gibson has a writing style that I just love. It seems like he packs vivid imagery into every sentence without interrupting the flow of the story.

He also as a habit of warning you about what he’s describing. Like using a one work sentence: “Cold.” , then going on to explain the exact type of cold. The way I’ve deconstructed it doesn’t do the man justice, but it’s part of what makes his stories so immersive.

Mona Lisa Overdrive is the third book in William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy. These books (Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive) were written in the 1980’s and there’s a small sense of the time difference in what we now might think of the future. But for the most part, I still think he’s hit the nail on the head for a believable future world. There aren’t flying cars or transporter pads, but there is a ballooning population (The Sprawl) and heavy cyberspace espionage.

The trilogy follows some mercenary-for-hire types of characters, battling against unfathomably rich and powerful people and corporations. The concept of artificial intelligence, its emergence, and threat to humanity has a strong effect on the story line. I’m already about half way through this one, and can’t wait to see how he decides to end it.

Check the books out from the library, or buy your own copies:

What are you reading? Flatlander

I had a really wonderful time reading The Diamond Age, but alas all good things come to an end. I’ve moved on and my current selection is:

Flatlander by Larry Niven

Now if you’re unfamiliar with this author you’ll want to stop to get yourself a copy of his most famous work, Ringworld. Both of these novels occur in the same Sci-Fi universe which has come to be referred to as “Known Space”.

The thing is, Niven does such an excellent job of explaining past “history” in his books to just the right extent so that he’s interesting and never goes too far (I’m looking at you Mr. Tolkien).

To set the stage: We’ve moved past the moon to inhabit the asteroid belts in our solar system, as well as several other distant worlds. Medicine advanced along with space travel and pretty much any body part can be transplanted. Commit a crime and they break you up for your parts. But that’s a hefty deterrent so the organ banks never have enough supply as far fewer people commit crimes.

History tells us that whenever there’s a shortage of a needed commodity a black market springs up. This is no different and Gil Hamilton (the hero about whom all of these short stories are written) is in charge of tracking down the human-organ-trafficking criminals. But Gil’s got a secret, he has a telepathic arm which can reach through objects and even pick up items that weigh very little. Go from there and you’ve got a series of marvelous vignettes.

As always, I recommend using your Public Library, but here’s some links if you’d rather buy:

What are you reading? – The Diamond Age

I’m always looking for the next great book to read and more often than not that’s a science fiction book. I’ve spent my fair share of time trolling through some extremely long comment threads on Reddit that cover reading recommendations and that’s where I found what I’m reading right now:

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.

If you’re not familiar with this author you really need to be. My first experience with his work was the novel Snow Crash. Just like the first few pages of The Grapes of Wrath, you know you’re in for a special treat. Well, it’s really not fair to compare those two books, but when the first several pages are devoted to describing what pizza delivery in the future will be like you’ll either love it or stop reading. If you’re not willing to give an entire novel a try with this new author and if you know anything about operating systems, you’ll love his essay In the Beginning was the Command Line. I read it in one sitting and you can too — he’s published it online for all to enjoy. But I digress.

The Diamond Age takes place mostly in near-future Shanghai. It follows the life of several children growing up under very different conditions in a Prince and Pauper sort of scenario. Warmly embracing the very human story is a rich envelope of plausible future technology, with emphasis in nanotech and how it will change life as we know it. One of my favorite sentiments from this work is when a character looks around at the raised highways, now deserted, and mentions that most of the infrastructure built in the 20th and 21st Centuries was dedicated to moving stuff around. This is a concept that is virtually abolished with the advent of The Feed. Give this book a try, you’ll love it!

I always recommend checking out books from your local library. But if you’re the kind that likes to own your books here’s a quick link to the paperback version and the Kindle version.