Science fiction seems to have faded. At least, when I go to a library, or a bookstore, or more likely browse the Amazon Kindle library, I find a lot more good, really original fantasy being put out by new names and in modern times than I do science fiction. I can’t claim to know why this might be, but I do know that it hasn’t always been this way; my dad has often said that when he was younger it was the opposite, with fantasy in a kind of rut, and science fiction the blossoming flower. This present situation is perhaps why I find that I read today much for fantasy than I do science fiction, which is really shame, since every time that I pick up one of these older science fiction novels I invariably enjoy it.
The world is a dangerous place. That's true any time, and at any point in history, but certainly this year the point has been emphasized repeatedly. Although it is often easy to imagine that either it is hubris to think that we live in important times, or alternatively that what is happening right now must be a matter of grave and unprecedented significance, the objective truth is that this year has already seen more uncertainty and tumult than usual. So, naturally, I read a book written to scare people.
There are certain novels that you can read again and again, and you’ll always get something a little different out of them. It can be because you’re at a different point in your life, or because you’ve read other things and are approaching the story with a different context, or simply because the story is that intricate and beautifully written that, like any other great work of art, there are always more mysteries to be revealed. When it comes to literature, these are often the books that first got you into the genre, and that you come back to time and time again. These are the books that are thumbed through and dog-eared and well-worn. There might be pages trying to fall out, maybe even a tear here and there. These are well loved books.
I don't read a lot of Stephen King, not because I don't like his writing, but because I'm not a big fan of horror. I actually very much enjoyed one of his fantasy novels, Eye of the Dragon. My own horror writing tends to not remain in the genre for long, as you may recall from reading Zombies, and I don't especially enjoy reading it from others. To me, reading is usually about escaping to a better world of the imagination, not a darker one. However, a friend recommended this book to me, as it was rather topical, and so I figured I would give it a read.
I love classic, hard science fiction (we've talked about the difference between hard and soft science fiction before). Verne, Wells, Asimov: I've read most of what they wrote. These stories, exploring scientifically rigorous possibilities and ideas, hold a unique place in the huge volume of work classified as science fiction. To use the MICE quotient, these are idea stories, through and through. I'd heard about Ringworld in a few different places, and decided that this was something I needed to read.
I know, I know. I only do one review a week, and Tuesdays are reserved for other thoughts and writings and musings, so that you don't get bored of reading my reviews. Reviews are supposed to come out on Thursdays. Well, don't worry: you'll have your book review on Thursday. I think I deserve a pass, though, since this isn't a book review. Now, I don't review a lot of shows or movies, mostly because I don't watch a lot of shows and movies, but also because this is supposed to be a writing website, not a video production website, and therefore book reviews seem more appropriate. Shows and movies are still story-telling, though, and exceptions can be made.
To be perfectly honest, I did not have high expectations when I picked up Skyward. But it did say Sanderson on the cover, so I did eventually read Skyward. I have to say this was a case of not judging a book by its summary, because Skyward genuinely did draw me in, and I found it to be a unique, compelling story. So when Starsight came out, I may have wished a little that he had been working on Stormlight Archives, instead, but I was eager to read this second installment in the series.
Ultra-tough, misunderstood desert cultures can be a slightly overused trope in fantasy writing, especially alternative world fantasy. They often crop up as the much-needed army for the beset hero, at just the right time, after the hero properly impresses them and meets some ancient prophecy. It might be that the origin of this tendency lies with DUNE.