Shadows of Eternity is a novel set two centuries from now. Humanity has established a SETI library on the moon to decipher and interpret the many messages from alien societies we have discovered. The most intriguing messages are from complete artificial intelligences
I just finished reading Nettle and Bone, by T. Kingfisher. A bit darker than her usual fantasy (she also writes horror and I haven't read any of that, but I imagine it is darker still). The beginning was very intense and compelling. But as usual, quite imaginative, and with engaging characters. I enjoyed it a lot.
Just finished The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran. Good mystery/thriller with a premise that could easily have gone over into horror, and there are a few scenes that lean that direction. Really though, for all the promotion of its erotic content, it's much more about love and life, how the former makes the latter worth enduring, the accomodations and compromises forced on us by the tragedies and hardships we face, and the cost of having your wishes fulfilled. The titular book may or may not be directing events and Gran does a good job of keeping us wondering about that until near the end of the book. The ending itself reminds me of the parable of Flitcraft in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon but explaining that would be telling too much.
I've finished Bright Morning Star by Simon Morden. I find this book very hard to review or characterize. At 199 pages it is either a small novel or a novella. It was published in 2019.
First, the set up for the book is brilliant. The idea is that an alien world has sent an autonomous survey probe to earth. The probe itself seems a lot like a 20th generation Mar's Rover. It isn't a scary 10 foot high monster with the ability to crush everything in sight. It's programing is such that it is intensely curious about all manner of things and life on the planet. It has vast computational resources and a small array of tools which can be used to support its observation. It's programing is largely self generating, save the need to report back to "Mom" (its ship) on a regular basis. As it encounters humans its self awareness grows and rapidly involves itself in human struggles.
Second, the robotic probe (everyone calls it "Robot.") has landed in the middle of a war zone. (The setting is almost certainly Ukraine, and since it was published in 2019 it can't have exactly the current struggle in mind, but it certainly sounds like the current war and was very likely set in the first Russian invasion of Ukraine.) This makes for a story with more contemporary relevance than your average S.F. story.
Third, the actions of "Robot" as it interacts with people can only be said to be pro-life. It is looking to ease suffering, stop killing, and help heal each human it encounters as soon as it understands what's going on. It cares nothing at all for politics, ethnicities, nor anything else which is used to kill and/or belittle human life. I found the purity of purpose and the willingness to help at danger to itself and its loved ones very moving.
For me the story built very nicely through about the first 150 pages, and then the story becomes more like a series of reports, which while interesting really didn't grab me like the more action part of the book did.
Some of Robot's abilities in languages pushed the boundaries of believability for me. How quickly it could grasp human language, process it, and speak coherently was mind boggling. But to be fair, there was a period of learning.
For about 3/4's of this book I was going to give it one of my very rare 5 star book ratings. The last quarter of the book pulled that rating down to a very solid 4 stars.
I'd be interested in reading a sequel, as the situation is far from finally resolved by the end of the book, and of course because the story is about humans who are endlessly fickle.
I've started something which might be better done as a graphic novel or a Super Hero Movie. Alien Hunters by Daniel Arens. I keep thinking I'll just ditch this because it doesn't have sufficient gravitas. But I find myself already more than a third through it. It is sneaky good? Am I too easily amused? Stay tuned.
I am well into Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner (2013), published posthumously. It's a slim, informal little book, containing the recollections of the famous mathematical recreationist/exposer of pseudoscience/amateur magician/philosopher/etc.
Rereading Geoffrey of Monmouth's violent History of the Kings of Britain, which I'll probably comment on at the Camelot Clearinghouse thread. I have a ton of Arthurian material coming on interlibrary loan to look over. Reading some Arthur Machen too. Just reread Anstey's creepy Statement of Stella Maberly, which may be read for free online. Orwell Life in Letters.
Stanislaw Lem "Solaris"
A bit disappointing. Early on I thought it was a real breath of fresh air, but I was bored for much of the second half. I saw the Tarkovsky film years ago - I was probably disappointed by that too (unlike "Stalker" which I thought was brilliant).
Bill Morgan "The Beats Abroad: a Global Guide to the Beat Generation."
A guide to various places/countries lived in or visited by Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac and others. Easy reading and interesting if you follow these writers. Better than expected.