📚 The Science Fictional Dinosaur edited by Robert Silverberg, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg

7/2023 – ⭐️⭐️

Dated SF stories (mostly from the ’50s and ’60s) written using now long-outdated science makes for a mostly uninteresting collection of dinosaur adventures. There were two enjoyable entries (Isaac Asimov’s “A Statute for Father” and Robert Silverberg’s “Our Lady of the Sauropods”), the rest are quite forgettable.

Michael holding The Science Fictional Dinosaur

📚 Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

6/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Really impressive. Builds on the universe and characters of Ender’s Game, but in very different ways. Lots of very thoughtful (and thought-provoking) discussions of truth, how people see themselves and others, relationships among different types of people and how they see each other, and the vast differences between assumptions and reality, especially when dealing with other cultures (or, in this case, alien intelligences).

A bit of unfortunate ableism at the very end after a character is injured. While it could almost be explained away as very unsurprising self-pity of someone dealing with new physical circumstances, Card does fall into the trap of having created a futuristic society with space travel and all sorts of technological advances, even allowing a blinded character to see through cybernetic enhancements, but motor and speech disabilities are seen as virtually life-ending.

Outside of that, it’s another book that makes me wish Card wasn’t so problematic, so I wouldn’t feel kind of guilty about enjoying his books as much as I do. Which brings me to copying this over from my review of Ender’s Game:

NOTE: It should be noted that OSC had long held and promoted viewpoints that I vehemently disagree with. The books of his in my collection were purchased before I knew of his standpoints, from secondhand stores, or both. I knew going into my Hugo reading project that there would authors and works I would find problematic, and that there might be situations (like this one) where I enjoyed a work by a problematic author. I do what I can to mitigate those situations by purchasing used copies of books so as not to directly contribute to those problematic authors who are still with us, and by noting when I run into those situations – like here (and again down the road, as one of JKR’s HP books also won a Hugo).

Michael holding Speaker for the Dead

📚 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

5/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It had been long enough since I’d last read this that I only remembered the broad strokes: Ender’s training, the zero-G battles, the simulations, the revelation after his final exam, and a few misty bits and pieces about the fantasy game he explores on his computer. But the threads with his brother and sister and, somewhat amusingly (where was my brain when I read this before?), the entire final chapter where Ender explores the colony world, were almost as new to me as if was my first time reading them.

The parts I remembered were as fun (in their way) as I remembered: the zero-G team combat games and their techniques and strategies, all while watching as Ender is manipulated and molded into what they need him to be. The political maneuvering of his brother and sister were interesting, and in some ways reminded me uncomfortably of the modern world, and in ways that wouldn’t have resonated quite so much when the book was published in ‘85. Now, instead of Valentine and Peter posting to discussion forums on their “nets” to influence politics, we have Qanon and Twitter on our Internet. At a few points, it was more than a little disturbingly prescient. (Plus other little details, like Ender’s “desk” where he can read, learn, program, communicate, and play games — basically, an iPad.)

While it’s perhaps a bit too militaristic to be a five-star read for me, it’s still an excellent book, well worthy of the awards it got, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series (which I’ve never done before).

ADDED NOTE: It should be noted that OSC had long held and promoted viewpoints that I vehemently disagree with. The books of his in my collection were purchased before I knew of his standpoints, from secondhand stores, or both. I knew going into my Hugo reading project that there would authors and works I would find problematic, and that there might be situations (like this one) where I enjoyed a work by a problematic author. I do what I can to mitigate those situations by purchasing used copies of books so as not to directly contribute to those problematic authors who are still with us, and by noting when I run into those situations – like here (and again down the road, as one of JKR’s HP books also won a Hugo).

Michael holding Ender's Game

📚 Line of Fire by Peter David

4/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A short, YA story following Worf at Starfleet Academy. It feels like the first three books (of which this is the middle book) were written as a full-length (~300 page) book and then split into thirds; it references events from its predecessor, and ends with a “To be continued…”. This is the first of this series of Trek books I’d come across, and while not being a full story, it’s fine for what it is.

Really, the weirdest part is that the primary Starfleet Academy instructor is a Professor Trump. Rather unfortunate choice of character name, that one.

Michael holding LIne of Fire

📚 The Children of Kings by David Stern

3/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A pre-TOS adventure with Captain Pike just a few months into his captaincy of the Enterprise with Spock and Number One under his command. A Klingon/Orion/Starfleet dustup gets a little confusing trying to keep track of the players and motivations, with a somewhat out-of-left-field twist at the end that seemed a little too convenient for my tastes.

One amusing bit: The author’s endnote indicates that he thought of this as something of a prequel to the 2009 Star Trek rebook (so still in the Prime universe), though he still pictured Jeffrey Hunter as Pike rather than Bruce Greenwood; meanwhile, having recently enjoyed the first season of Strange New Worlds, I found myself more often picturing Anson Mount as Pike. The more actors we have inhabiting key roles, the more the mental visualizations start to shift as you read, I guess.

Michael holding The Children of Kings

📚 Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson

2/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

You should read this. Memoir, societal and media criticism, and a lot of often-footnoted humor in this examination of persistent and pervasive ableism. I ordered this after seeing the author give the keynote address at Accessing Higher Ground, an academic conference on accessible technology in higher education, which was an excellent keynote and introduced me to the phrase “disability is a multiverse”. Though I’ve been making an effort at broadening my awareness of the ableism around me, as someone who isn’t (currently) disabled, I know that there’s a lot I miss, and there was a lot in this book that I hadn’t thought of. However obvious it is in retrospect, unless you live within these circumstances, they’re often all too easy to not be aware of, and it’s very worthwhile to be exposed to situations outside of our experience.

Michael holding Being Seen

📚 Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

1/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fun to re-read this for the first time in at least two decades, especially so soon after reading Gibson’s Neuromancer. It had been long enough that all I really remembered clearly was the Metaverse and the opening pizza delivery sequence; other pieces I halfway recalled as I read, but much was brand-new all over again. Just as with Neuromancer, it’s fascinating to see how these books have influenced modern technology and tech culture. And I always love diving into one of Stephenson’s books. His tendency to cram everything including the proverbial kitchen sink into his books in overly intricate detail mixed with a healthy dose of snark doesn’t work for everyone, but it sure does for me.

Michael holding Snow Crash

2022 Reading Round-Up 📚

Every year, I set myself a goal of reading at least 52 books over the course of the year — an average of one a week. This year I made it to 68. Here’s a quick (?) overview…

2022 Reading Goal of 52 books met! 131%, 68 books. Fantastic! You've exceeded your reading goal by 16 books.

Continuing a trend from the last few years, this year was almost entirely dedicated to escapist fluff. Surprised? I’m not.

Non-fiction: A few this year, though for the most part, they were very much in line with my usual science fiction choices. The two best were Frederik Pohl’s memoir The Way the Future Was, encompassing the early decades of SF fandom, and Randall Munroe’s delightful What If? 2, where he once again takes answering silly scientific questions to absolutely ridiculous extremes. Also in this category was a series of books looking at the design work for various Star Trek ships across several series.

Non-genre-fiction (where “genre” is shorthand — though, not very short, if you include this parenthetical — for science-fiction, fantasy, and horror): Only one this year, but that one — Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove — was excellent.

Quality genre fiction: About the same as last year; primarily the Philip K. Dick nominees and my Hugo project, with a few others added here and there.

As usual, I read all of the books nominated for this year’s Philip K. Dick awards, and once again, I failed to pick the winner. My personal favorite of this year’s slate was Tade Thompson’s Far From the Light of Heaven. This is the second time Tade has been nominated for a PKD award, and the fourth novel of his that I’ve read (after The Wormwood Trilogy, the last book of which was a 2020 PKD nominee), and I very much enjoy his work.

I added eight books to my Hugo reading project, bringing me up to 54% of the way through. My two favorites from this year’s set were Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake and William Gibson’s Neruomancer.

Fluff genre fiction: Unsurprisingly, this once again ended up being the strong majority of this year’s reading. Almost entirely Star Trek novels, with a few detours here and there. And given everything that was going on in 2020 2021 2022, it was very nice to have a bookshelf full of options that wouldn’t take a whole lot of brain power for me to disappear into.

Finally Storygraph’s stats on my year’s reading tell me:

A graph of my reading over the year tracking number of books and number of pages. January, November, and December are the busiest months; April, August, and October are the slowest.
On to 2023!