Another wonderful and sublime piece of science fiction from a man better known for his long running fantasy series. Modesitt isn't ashamed of covering complex and deep issues in his works, and Archform: Beauty is a work that tries to show the role of art in society. It's a multi-stranded novel, set in a nanotech future after the world has recovered from an environmental collapse. Several lives meet, twist around each other and are changed by the events of a few days. A politician, a singer, an industrialist, a news researcher and a policeman all have their stories to tell, and a world to illuminate. Modesitt succeeds again, with a non-commerical work that takes risks and asks big questions. A hugely under-rated writer. Ignore the fantasies, and go straight for his recent SF.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
Big book, short review. The usual formula sees Harry caught up in plots and plans to deal with the return of Voldemort. Despite this, it's a fairly simple story. Harry is in his fifth year, facing big exams, and has his first crush. A new teacher at school is there to set things on a different path, while everyone is trying to protect Harry from something. A secret club to learn Defence Against The Dark Arts is his only solace.It's a catalogue of disasters that will lead to a tragic death and a resolution snatched from the ashes. Not a brilliant book, but fun all the same. Someone should edit J. K. Rowling down a bit, though - there's 300 pages of padding in here.
The Well Of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde.
The third Thurday Next story sees her safely ensconced in the world of fiction. Inside the world were stories are born, she's fighting two battles - against the woman trying to steal her memories, and against whoever it is that's killing Jurisfiction agents? Fforde's humourous prose takes us through a whirl of scenes and places, when characters hop from book to book, the nursery rhymes are about to go on strike, and everything hangs on the 923rd Annual Fiction Awards. And then there's the danger of the speling vyrus. A fun read, but not one that moves the story forward that much. Fforde is having just too much fun riffing on the bookworld, and we're content to join him in his games.
Singularity Sky, Charles Stross
It's hard to write about a book that you've seen grow from an emailed first chapter to one of your best friends' first published novel. I can't pretend to be anything but biased - Charlie's first book is a romp through a very different post-Singularity future. Like Vernor Vinge before him, Charlie finds a loophole that lets him write space operas in a universe where post-humanity leads to things we can't even imagine, let alone understand. This is the story of an invasion, by a touring Festival, and the mission that's sent to stop it (in a retelling of the voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet to the Sea of Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/5)). It's a story of causality violations, of critics, and of one engineer from Old Earth who's more than he seems. Fun stuff, and only a taster of the work Charlie's been doing recently.
The Collected Stories, Arthur C. Clarke
Arthur C. Clarke's fiction has been one of those rocks it's easy to go back to, as you swim through the rough seas of life. Simple books, with simple characters and easily understood problems and plots. And best taken in small doses. This collection pulls together all his short fiction, over 100 stories, dating from 1937 to 1999. Good stories sit next to bad stories, but it's all glossed over by Clarke's unboundless optimism. A good book for a short story or two before bed.
And that's me up to date...