A couple of science-fiction book recs

For the past few years I read very few, if any, fiction at all. Techie books, check, biographies and other real-life-documentary-like books, sure, but for some reason I couldn't stick to fiction storylines anymore.

Then a couple months ago I rehashed an old pet peeve of mine to a friend, about how most science-fiction books try so hard to focus on an idea that they don't care about making interesting, believable characters and sometimes don't ever bother that much with plot either. It's all about "the idea" and it makes for a dull read, that has been keeping me mostly away from SF literature.

In response I was lent "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, and wow, what that interesting and moving and with absolutely non-bland characters! I really enjoyed it, and finished it in a few days once I actually took the time to sit down and start it. It was a very good read. The summary on the back cover kinda gives away a lot, but it doesn't take at all from the story, because the point is following the main character's evolution and changes and personality and struggles. I hear there's a movie too, I'd like to watch it at some point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I was walking in Waterstones and saw a book with this awesome cover (and a title that can only attract a software developer, "The Turing Test"!) Who cares about not judging a book by its cover, it inspired me. It's actually a collection of short stories by Chris Beckett, who I hadn't heard of before (the introduction by Alistair Reynolds is interesting in a meta sort of way), and the stories are just fantastic. They use SF as a way of exploring inherently human concepts like identity, life, art, soul, with characters that are profoundly humans (except when they're not... or are they, really?) and endearing. The stories suck you right in. Many of the worlds keep vividly haunting my mind long after I moved on to the next story. Some of the stories overlap, either set in the same world at different times or having you meet similar characters or concepts again. It's awesome. I loved it. I'd say I loved them all but I actually had a bit of trouble understanding the first story which gives its name to the book... Do not let this stop you!! Keep reading!

After this, the next time I saw another book by the same author, Holy Machine, I acquired it and happily realised it was set in the same world than one of the stories I really-really enjoyed in the Turing Test, likely set a bit later in the world's history. It was a delightful read and I finished it in a couple of days. Recommended too! I'll definitely keep looking out for the author's other books. :)

Thanks for hooking me again on reading fiction, Barry!


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