Whenever I try to read science fiction lately I find myself thwarted by my own expectations. Over the years I’ve been paging through the Nebula and Hugo award-winners, apparently setting my literary demands higher and higher with each read. Here is a quick list of the books I’ve been unable to complete lately:
Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder – a friend implored me to read this based on its fascinating setting. I worked at it a few times, but I couldn’t get past the ridiculous characters. I wish Schroeder had emulated Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama strategy: use a collection of forgettable mannequins to explore an awesome science fiction concept. Unfortunately for me, the early goings of this book featured a small ratio of Schroeder’s interesting scifi concepts to the roughly hewn characters and dialog.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – science fiction stories that involve time travel back to an earlier part of documented human history are usually a turnoff for me. When I pick up a scifi book I want science fiction, not a goddamn Renaissance “faire”. After a few halting starts, I finally began to make headway in Doomsday Book… then I discovered a misprint in the form of a duplicated chapter combined with a skipped chapter. That annoyance, along with characters that I didn’t really care for and a plot that I wasn’t super keen about, was enough to cause me to put the book down.
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson – after reading both Red Mars and Green Mars, I apparently couldn’t bring myself to delve into another of these rambling tomes. I’m not dismissing these books; the series has fascinated me with believable technology, rich characters, and ideas on alternate societies and economics. While this is the trilogy on Mars colonization, there are chunks that feel like a bit of a grind. Maybe when I’m feeling more patient I’ll try to get into this one.
Sometimes I start to wonder whether video games, Netflix Instant, and HDTV have spoiled my love of literature. But then I recall my thoughts on the Hyperion Cantos and start to look forward to that next great read.