I shan't deny it, I enjoyed their caveman porn aspect.
Except, maybe, the one million and one exhortations of how his cock fits just perfectly into her pussy...
After returning here, I felt like there was no way around it... and started re-reading Anne Rice's Exit to Eden
, which I had dropped 4.5 years ago. But, I must confess, I have not finished it yet. I got to page ~ 100 (~130 was where I had stopped earlier) and then just gave up for some other stuff. I am going to finish it soon... ish, though.
But the following Sunday, I switched:
Michael P. Kube-McDowell: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 1: Odyssey
: In the late '80s, after he himself had written multiple (extremely awesome, I may say) "connection volumes" establishing a common universe for his most successful series (e.g., Robots and Empire
, the Second Foundation Trilogy
), Asimov finally changed his mind and began allowing others to write novels based on his creations. The first series deriving from this decision is the hexalogy Isaac Asimov's Robot City
. These books came out of a writing competition and are still based directly on Asimov's specifications, and the grand master reviewed them all afterward as a kind of "referee", and wrote introductions to them. As I found out digging around on Wikipedia, this series is followed by a second hexalogy, Robots and Aliens
, which I don't own any of (and which is at least extremely hard to find here in Germany), and then there are multiple other series by different authors which partially also feature the two lead characters from Robot City... I have some of these books but none of the series is complete so far.
So, the first novel is something of an origin story. A young man, still a teenager, awakens in a lifepod on a barren asteroid. He has a weird selective amnesia. He does not know who he is or anything of his past, but can speak normally and will soon find out that he has had a lot of factual knowledge crammed into him, for example, he is an expert roboticist. He is soon rescued by a bunch of strange robots who seem to be mining this asteroid... no, sifting it, looking for something. The asteroid is attacked by an alien raiding ship [and anyone familiar with Asimov's main works will be astonished here, as there have never been any aliens, it's always only mankind and the robots!], in the last moment, the young man, who calls himself Derec, flees, and the object the robots are looking for is found and gets into his hands. It is one of the "Keys to Perihelion", a small artifact which can transport you to Perihelion, a nothingplace which is "closer than any other place to all places in the universe". On the alien's ship, he befriends a servile dog-like alien and meets a young human woman who claims to know him. They manage to flee, and following further adventures and of course disingenuous ways of using the laws of robotics, they end up in... Robot City, at the end of the book. On top of a giant pyramid. They climb down, hide the key, and are welcomed by the city's population of advanced robots (who turn out to be the same general type as those on the asteroid). BUT...
Mike McQuay: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 2: Suspicion
: BUT they are also arrested, and accused of having commited murder! For before them, one other human had come to city, and now he is dead! And robots, of course, can't kill. So the two other humans must have done it. At the same time, construction work in the city, which is made up of small modular units other systems might label "computronium", is running amuck and getting out of hand, threatening the city's destruction. Here, I discovered a continuity error. At the end of Book 1, Derec, who is allegedly David, and Katherine spent a day and night on the flat top of the pyramid, but now it is stated that each afternoon, torrential rainfall drenches the city, and this has been ongoing since shortly after the other man - named David... - was killed.
William F. Wu: Isaac Asimov's Robot City Book 3: Cyborg
: The computer systems of the city report that three further entities have entered the city who are not recognized as robots. One, we find out, is a cyborg, a human brain transplanted into a robot body, and it is becoming more and more unstable. But how to find a robot that is not a robot, and one that is not bound by the Laws and could become a killer??
I liked the first book of the series, it was a good adventure story. The other two dropped off somewhat, and in general, I was not terribly motivated to continue the series immediately. So I decided to switch gears. I dug deep into my book stacks and found two further books by Ursula K. Le Guin which fit into my Book Project in terms of length.
Ursula K. Le Guin - The Eye Of The Heron
: It's several hundred years in the future, and things have not gone well for Earth. Wars, famine, climate disasters... In a move I personally deem unrealistic, interstellar travel is developed on the one hand, but on the other hand, what does the great nation of Brazil-America use it for? They pack up several thousand criminals in two ships and send then to a moist but very habitable planet that is named Victoria, to form a new kind of Australia. Sixty years later, a movement named the People of the Peace forms, who begin a march from Moscow to Lisboa, and on to Montreal, generally pissing off the world superpowers by being insufferable hippies.
So the great nation of Canamerica buys the last remaining starship from Brazil-America and sends another 2000 People of the Peace to Victoria... Another fifty years pass, and the two groups of unlikely colonists have not really merged. There's the city, a despotic Latin-American banana republic full of dominating machos and servile women, and the Town, poor but proud, who till the fields and feed the city on semi-slavery. You can pretty much imagine the rest. Revolt, uprising, being beaten down, etc. While, like always, nicely written, the whole social morality seemed very heavy-handed and black & white to me. Not one of Le Guin's better works, and in that way, quite similar to The Word For World is Forest
... But I did not despair, and it became better!
Ursula K. Le Guin - A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
: A rather new (mid-'90s) short story collection. The first 80 pages contained multiple stories, some funny, some very bleak, some good, some rather boring. It's the last three I'd like to talk about more, as they belong to the Hainish Cycle, and all of them were excellent.
The Shobies' Story
: A new technology is being theorized about and developed in the temporal physics labs of Urras and Annares and Ve: churten
, which seems to be the Cetian word for "skip". It is the matter equivalent of the ansible. To quote an old techno song: "Travel to any place in the Universe... without movement." Instant teleportation, goodbye NAFAL. The technology has been implemented in AI craft - worked perfectly. Then they loaded "Laika and Co." on board - the animals came back completely unharmed. Now it is time to test a human crew. These are the Shobies. And mixed bunch who mostly did not know each other beforehand, they first spend a month at a beach resort, a traditional get-to-know-each-other ritual. This was a wonderful part of the story and reminded my wistfully of Firefly ("You're flying with us! You're not looking for a destination, you're looking for a crew!"). They then travel out of the system and churten
to a "shit planet", a cold world covered in perpetual brown smog, with nothing but bacteria as lifeforms. But it's a destination, something that can be examined to prove churten
works. But soon, they discover that their perceptions of reality are becoming more and more warped...
Dancing to Ganam
: After the Shobies finally got back, Commander Dalzul, the Great Hero of Earth, who ended the fundamental terror reign of the Unionists (fanatic monotheistic religious guys who make the Tea Party look like left-wing intellectuals) and was revered as a God, has a brilliant idea. Since churten
seems to mess with perception of groups, why not travel alone? So he takes a ship to a new and as-yet unexplored habitable world (a NAFAL ship was dispatched decades ago but is still 30 years out), but instead of appearing in orbit, he manifests over the fields right in front of the city Ganam! He comes out of the ship as a large number of people approach him (their technological level somewhat reminiscent of ancient Egypt, or perhaps the Middle and South American pre-Conquistadores cultures). To show he is unarmed, he strips completely naked (and since I kept envisioning him as either Buzz Lightyear or Mr. Incredible, this was not a pretty sight in my mind!
). He is approached by a voluptuous woman who does the same, and then she drags him into a temple and gives him the night of his life.
Exploring the Universe - SO AWESOME! Anyway, Dalzul returns, and his recollection of events and the recordings of the spy eyes (yep, made a porn movie right away!) are in complete agreement. It worked! Now Dalzul has gathered three more Terrans, building on the theory that he will be in a kind of harmony with his planetmen and -women (the other man is one of the Shobies, actually), and so churten
even with a larger group should work. To really harmonize, they start singing and dancing on the way out (thus the title of the story). Everything seems to work fine, and soon after arrival, it seems Dalzul is to become the new king! But for some strange reason, his queen-to-be has, um, returned to her husband's house, and soon enough, the story develops differently for Dalzul and the other three...
Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
: This story, temporally, takes place over a long time period which encompasses the two other stories above. It begins as a coming-of-age tale on the planet O, where the main pastime is marriage brokering. You see, on O, everyone (or almost) is fully bisexual. And depending (iirc) on which part of the day you were born in, you are part of the "moieties" Morning and Evening. Now, marriages consist of FOUR people, a "sedoretu". Two male, two female, and two each of one moiety, always one male and female. You are expected to have sexual relations with both the male and female of the opposite moiety, but sex with the other-gendered person of your own moiety is absolutely taboo and considered incest (such two person marriages do happen but these couples usually leave the planet!). Anyway, the protagonist is a middle-aged, simple (?) farmer writing the scientists of the Ekumen about his life. The beginning is another coming-of-age on his family's farm, which contains a small oddity. His mother is a true Terran of Japanese ancestry (and he likes to hear her tell the Fisherman story). He grows up with his older othersister (daughter of his othermother and thus not biologically related) and his younger wombsister, and finally, he decides to go to Ve (the second planet of the Hainish system, "only" 4 ly away) to study temporal physics. On the night of his departure, his othersister admits her love for him. He reacts kinda like Gary, and she runs out crying... On Ve (he is 21, everyone on O four years older), he hears about churten
theory and dives into it! He had promised his parents to return after two years to visit (i.e., ten years on O), but he gets so caught up he spends ten years on Ve (and during this time the occurrences from the other two stories happen) before finally returning to set up a churten
receiver on O and test his "double field theory". He goes to visit his family, he is 31, but they all have aged 18 years, his othersister and wombsister have married as part of a sedoretu (including a homosexual lover of the protagonist in his youth), his parents are old... It is not a happy homecoming. He returns to the capital, finishes his lab setup, and... churten
to Ve. It works. He discusses with his colleagues for some days, then travels back... to an empty room. He soon finds out his special double field has transported him 18 years into the past, exactly to the day he first left via NAFAL for Ve. You can imagine how the story ends. ;)
I read several of Le Guin's most famous works many, many years ago (The Earthsea Trilogy
, The Left Hand of Darkness
, The Dispossessed
), and distinctly recall not liking Earthsea that much, I guess the other two books were good... Anyway, against this uncertainty of the past, I'll still claim that Another Story
is the best thing I've read by UKLG so far.
Ursula K. Le Guin - City of Illusions
: And now back into the past, 1967 (and it seems my book is indeed from that year or shortly thereafter), the third novel of the original Hainish trilogy. A man awakens in a forest, he is prime of body but empty of mind. He stumbles around, is found by a group of humans, who recognize him to be an alien! For while his body is that of a man, his eyes are those of a cat. A 15-year old girl is assigned to teach him, and in the coming years, she becomes his lover. He learns again quickly to speak and control his body, much faster than a baby does, but his past remains tabula rasa. After nearly seven years, he decides he must leave. He has heard he is on Earth, and once there was something called the League of All Worlds. But then, the Enemy came, the Shing, the Liars, and they conquered the League and dispersed it. Now they hold dominion over the Earth, destroying any larger gathering of Humans to prevent them from ever rising up again. The semi-farmstead where he lives, called a House, is the only human settlement for 40 miles! It is seemingly placed in the Adirondacks. He travels west, the the great Inland River, across the plains where now the buffalo roam again, and finally into the (Rocky) Mountains and to Es Toch, City of Lies, stronghold of the Shing, where he will discover his true identity, and his fate - the fate of dozens of worlds...
The first part of this book was, well, I described it, one of those rather typical "travel across a post-apocalyptic landscape involving loads of dangers" tale similar to Zelazny's "Damnation Road" or King's "The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger", with the difference that in this case, the apocalypse was rather forgiving and Earth has quickly renaturalized. The second, less good part, was more typical for Le Guin, a kind of psycho thriller set against an SF background. The book sits in a somewhat weird place in the chronology of the Hainish Cycle, before the founding of the Ekumen but obviously long after the League of Worlds period, and it is, so I have the feeling, a period rather ignored by later works (no idea if it is referred to in Left Hand of Darkness which seems to be early-Ekumen period). I don't think there is any UKLG story which actually tells of the defeat of the Shing.
Well, now my interest was piqued! My Day 2.4 had been the first of a 2.5 week vacation, and instead of returning to Robot City or starting on Wheel of Time, I continued with Le Guin.