Ringworld

As mentioned, I’ve been trying to catch up on old, classic science fiction, and after Rendezvous with Rama, I set my sites on Ringworld by Larry Niven, a book I have also been hearing about since I was a kid. Like Rama, Ringworld involves an alien artifact and a crew that visits it. But unlike Rama, I kind of hated it.

Ringworld centers on Louis Wu, a roughly 200 year old human who seizes upon the opportunity to visit the mysterious Ringworld along with a crew consisting of two aliens and a human woman. The journey uncovers secrets about the Ringworld and about each other, culminating in a massive revelation about one of the crew members in particular.

To be fair, the Ringworld concept is cool, a variation on a Dyson sphere, and I wish the novel had spent even more time there, but it takes far too long to get there. The novel felt bloated and meandering and far too obsessed with unimportant personal interactions.

But far more egregious, I thought, was the way the novel treats women. There are two of note — one is an actual space whore (once they find out that she was on a space ship, it seems like the only profession she could be) and the other one is a literal plot device. In fact much of what Louis Wu does is mansplain to his companion, Teela. Of course Louis also has lots of sex with both women. Both women felt underdeveloped to me, whereas Louis, and the similarly male Speaker-to-Animals, have perhaps the most fully realized relationship in the whole novel.

I had other problems with the book — it feels overly sentimental without earning it, its sexism almost seems to border on misogyny in parts, and don’t get me started on the idea of evolved luck. I questioned Niven’s understanding of biology and evolution after reading Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, and there seems to be more of that suspect thinking here.

Ringworld won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Locus Awards, which puts it in a very small group. To be honest, I don’t see its appeal. Disappointing, but at least I can move on to the next book.

If you read Ringworld, though, and liked it, please let me know why in the comments. I’d love to hear from people with different viewpoints than mine.

Rendezvous with Rama

Elisabeth’s been delving into science fiction lately and that got me keen to start picking up some old science fiction classics that I had somehow never gotten around to reading.

The first of these was Rendezvous with Rama, a book I feel like I’ve been hearing about since the early 80s. And yet, I never picked it up. So recently, on my commute, I listened to the audiobook.

I really enjoyed it. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I loved it. Firmly in that old school hard sci-fi realm, and yet still very relevant if you ignore some of the outdated science (though that was remarkably minimal). It didn’t even bother me that Clarke’s characterization is minimal. I was pretty much riveted throughout. It helps that it’s a SF mystery. But honestly, I’m just a sucker for alien artifact stories.

I also saw how it could be adapted (pretty easily, I think) into a film, which is apparently something Morgan Freeman has been trying to do. You’d just have to consolidate some characters. But the structure is there. And I think it would be relatable (Hollywood, call me).

I’m definitely up for reading more Clarke. Obviously 2001 and its sequels are some of the best known, but let me know if you recommend any others in the comments.

 

The Weirdest Year

2016 may just go on record as the weirdest year I’ve seen. It started with the devastating losses of David Bowie and Prince, saw the serious candidacy of Donald Trump, and continues to have people of all ages and lifestyles walking around trying to catch Pokemon.

Just the other day I heard a story about the U.S. government approving a robot landing on the moon from a private company. It’s not entirely out of nowhere, but I keep having to remind myself that this is the world that we live in.

But that’s not as startling as the other story, about the National Institutes of Health lifting a moratorium on experiments involving human-animal hybrids. Without being alarmist about it, this is certainly a science-fictional world that we are living in.

Of course, a lot of these things call to mind science fiction stories of yesteryear. The last story calls to mind The Island of Doctor Moreau, for example. Some of these events even make the science fiction stories of the past resonate more. Octavia Butler eerily predicted Trump’s campaign slogan. And I can’t think of Trump’s candidacy without thinking of the Ray Bradbury story, A Sound of Thunder. 

I first encountered the story many years ago, when I was a kid, on an audiotape that my parents bought me at Waldenbooks. I loved the story the first time I heard it, but over the years, one of the hardest things for me to take in that story was the presidential race it depicted (spoilers for the story ahead):

Here’s what a character says early in the story:

We’re lucky. If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the worst kind of dictator- ship. There’s an anti-everything man for you, a militarist, anti- Christ, anti-human, anti-intellectual. People called us up, you know, joking but not joking. Said if Deutscher became President they wanted to go live in 1492.

Sounds a little familiar to me. Then, at the end of the story (and here’s the real spoilery part, so please look away if you want to read the story — and you should if you never have):

His face was cold. His mouth trembled, asking: “Who— who won the presidential election yesterday?”

The man behind the desk laughed. “You joking? You know 460 very well. Deutscher, of course! Who else? Not that fool weakling Keith. We got an iron man now, a man with guts!” The official stopped. “What’s wrong?”

Eckels, the main character, in going back to the past and stepping off the path and killing a butterfly causes the change that allows Deutscher to be elected.

I never bought that in the past. I don’t know if I thought that someone like Deutscher could never be a real contender for president or else doubted that the time ripple could effect that kind of change. But now, looking at the Trump candidacy, I stand corrected.

So to any time travelers out there, please don’t leave the path. Please don’t kill any butterflies. I don’t think we can live with the consequences.

 

Still here (with bonus modern airships)

In case anyone was wondering.

It’s been almost six months since I last posted (and then about Rising Tide coming out). Since then jobs have been worked, crises have been navigated, and my brain has been allowed to settle back into something resembling a creative state.

But I’ve started to emerge from my coccoon and I am greeted by this news:

Lockeheed Sells New Airships for $480M

The idea of modern airships is a key part of what helped shape the world of Falling Sky and Rising Tide, but I haven’t seen much movement of late, so this is exciting, particularly the heavier-than-light technology that allows them to hover (something I’ve used in the books, without necessarily explaining it).

Helps to invigorate me as I work on the last novel…

 

 

Rising Tide Release Day!

Today is the day! Rising Tide is out today. In bookstores both physical and digital. If you want a copy, go out and get one! And if you do get one, and read it, it would be great if you would consider leaving a review of the book somewhere where people can see it.

Publisher’s Weekly said of the book, “”Khanna crafts a terrifyingly dismal picture of the future, raising the stakes by gradually stripping Ben of friends and support while throwing him into increasingly dire situations. His worldbuilding remains solid and unsettling, and he never loses sight of the human element. The cliffhanger ending is sure to leave readers on the edges of their seats, panting for resolution.”

Hope you’ll pick it up.

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Rising Tide -Out now!


Rising Tide, the sequel to Falling Sky, will be released on October 6, 2015. Publisher's Weekly said, "Khanna crafts a terrifyingly dismal picture of the future, raising the stakes by gradually stripping Ben of friends and support while throwing him into increasingly dire situations. His worldbuilding remains solid and unsettling, and he never loses sight of the human element. The cliffhanger ending is sure to leave readers on the edges of their seats, panting for resolution."

Falling Sky – Out now!


Falling Sky, my first novel, came out October 7, 2014 from Pyr. It's an adventure story set in a post-apocalyptic future with airships. Publisher's Weekly called it a "solid and memorable debut" while Library Journal gave it a starred review and named it Debut of the Month. For more information, please click here.

Upcoming Events

September 8 - NYRSF Reading w/Michael Swanwick at The Commons, Brooklyn. 7PM

October 6 - Rising Tide Release

November 5-8 - World Fantasy Convention, Saratoga, NY

Recent Posts

  • Ringworld
    08/16/2016 — As mentioned, I’ve been trying to catch up on old, classic science fiction, and after Rendezvous with Rama, I set my sites on Ringworld by Larry Niven, a book I have also been hearing about since I was a kid.…Read more »
  • Rendezvous with Rama
    08/10/2016 — Elisabeth’s been delving into science fiction lately and that got me keen to start picking up some old science fiction classics that I had somehow never gotten around to reading. The first of these was Rendezvous with Rama, a book…Read more »
  • The Weirdest Year
    08/08/2016 — 2016 may just go on record as the weirdest year I’ve seen. It started with the devastating losses of David Bowie and Prince, saw the serious candidacy of Donald Trump, and continues to have people of all ages and lifestyles…Read more »
  • Still here (with bonus modern airships)
    03/31/2016 — In case anyone was wondering. It’s been almost six months since I last posted (and then about Rising Tide coming out). Since then jobs have been worked, crises have been navigated, and my brain has been allowed to settle back…Read more »
  • Rising Tide Release Day!
    10/06/2015 — Today is the day! Rising Tide is out today. In bookstores both physical and digital. If you want a copy, go out and get one! And if you do get one, and read it, it would be great if you…Read more »