I recently polished off Ian M. Banks‘ Consider Phlebas, about a changer named Horza; his Matter, a Culture novel about a shell world with multiple surfaces 1400 km apart; and his Transitions, which is not a book about the Culture but about hopping from one reality to another. I find his books a little hard to get into because it’s hard to care about what happens to the characters. I’ve read a couple of others and they seem very intellectual: Banks is a big-picture guy.
I read The Complete Fuzzy compendium of H. Beam Piper novels. The first is Little Fuzzy. The second is Fuzzy Sapiens. And the third is Fuzzies and Other People, which was discovered in manuscript many years after Piper’s unfortunate suicide. They are old-fashioned space opera. Everyone smokes and drinks; women are called “girls” and work as secretaries. No one worries about alien diseases or incompatible biochemistry; but on the other hand, biochemistry and evolution are elements in the story. The stories also deal with greed and land grabs. They were OK light reading and rather charming. They would also be suitable for young readers.
For fillers, I reread John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, an homage to Robert Heinlein but well done and not as obvious as Spider Robinson’s attempts, and Time Traps, a collection of time travel stories edited by Robert Silverberg, whose asides are full of himself as usual.
Finally, I read a couple of good science fiction cat stories from a big book of cat stories. The novella was Novice by James H. Schmitz, in which Telzey Amberdon first appears and makes telepathic contact with an alien species. The shorter story was “The Game of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith (Paul Linebarger) from Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1955.
There’s a wrenching difference between the convoluted and rarefied worlds of Iain M. Banks and the straightforward stories by the other authors.