The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Back To School Labor Day Book Post

Posted on | August 30, 2018 | Comments Off on The Back To School Labor Day Book Post

— compiled by Wombat-socho
Actually, I’m not going back to school – the spring semester at UNLV went badly, and summer was worse, so I’m punting the fall semester and concentrating on tax & insurance stuff in preparation for the upcoming tax season. Also, reading some good books so I can pass along recommendations to you!

At the top of the list is the debut novel by Travis Corcoran, The Powers of the Earth, which won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel this year. Probably the best short description of the book is by Eric S. Raymond: “…an affectionate tribute to and critical response to [Heinlein’s] The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.” ESR is precisely correct, though there are some major differences in the Lunar revolutions Heinlein and Corcoran are describing, and Corcoran has a ways to go before he’s as smooth a storyteller as Uncle Bob. I myself found the opening chapters slow going, but the payoff is worth it. I’m looking forward to picking up the sequel, Causes of Separation. Meanwhile, I’ll have to content myself with Corcoran’s acceptance speech, which no doubt sent the CHORFs and Social Justice Wankers at ConJose to their fainting couches.

Also coming home with a Prometheus is Karl Gallagher’s Torchship Trilogy, which adds Torchship Pilot and Torchship Captain to the original novel, which I reviewed back in 2016. If you liked the original, or enjoyed either Firefly or Serenity, these will be right up your alley.

Robert Kroese’s The Dream of the Iron Dragon is sometimes described as “Vikings in space!”, but this is a gross oversimplification. The book starts with a scoutship from Earth (which is losing an interstellar war) meeting a dissident faction of aliens, nearly being caught in the destruction of the dissidents’ outpost, and being flung back in time to the Viking era, where they must bootstrap human technology into the era of star travel – or risk losing a war of extermination. The sequel, Dawn of the Iron Dragon, is out already and I’m hoping to get it read before the final book in the trilogy, The Voyage of the Iron Dragon, comes out in December.

I sometimes think Jack Vance is one of the most underappreciated authors in SF history. This is unfortunate, because his skill at creating bizarre human cultures was second to none – and as proof of this, I present the Durdane Trilogy: The Anome, The Brave Free Men, and The Asutra. The land of Shant on the planet Durdane has known peace for millennia, its sixty-two cantons pursuing their own cultures under the eye of the Faceless Man – the Anome, who punishes lawbreakers by detonating their torcs, the explosive collars every adult wears around his (or her) neck. Gastel Etzwane escapes life as a Chilite Pure Boy and becomes a wandering musician, only to find himself swept up in an intrigue to find the Anome and compel him to rally Shant against the invasion of the Roguskhoi. Part of that intrigue involves Ifness, a researcher from the Historical Institute on legendary Earth, sometimes an ally and sometimes an indifferent observer. Every page of the Durdane trilogy contains strange people doing strange things in the service of even stranger cultures, and yet – they are all recognizably human.


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