I owe John Scalzi for twenty bucks. And a Blockbuster coupon, if memory serves. It was Oscar night at the VampireNomad's sister's place, many years ago. She was having an Oscar pool. John Scalzi was in the habit of posting his Oscar picks on his Whatever, so I kind of borrowed his picks. Maybe even stole them outright. And I won! Thanks Mr. Scalzi! I spent the $20 long ago but I might still have the Blockbuster coupon kicking around if you want it.
I don't think he'll be too blockbusted up about it, to be honest. He just signed a $3.4 million deal to write thirteen books for Tor over the next decade. Nice! And congratulations. I've enjoyed all the books of his that I've read, which is most of them. He's got an easygoing style that makes him very readable without being fluffy- his sci-fi is not dumbed down or anything, but it is easily digested.
Let's see, there was You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing which is geared more towards writers but is quite helpful if you are one. It was kind of a limited release thing in print, but it might be available digitally. If only there were some way to check.
Of particular interest to the other two writers on this site, and presumably our readers too, is his book Redshirts. It shares some DNA with GalaxyQuest, as you might be able to glean from the title, without being a clone of it.
Oh and he did a sort of cover version of one of my favorite books, Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. Do yourself a favour and read Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens, then read Scalzi's reboot. All good. Scalzi updates it a bit but the original books stand up I think. Scalzi's version is called Fuzzy Nation.
He's probably best known, and rightfully so, for his series of books set in what's known as the Old Man's War Universe, since the first book is called Old Man's War. There's quite a few books, some proper sequels, some collections of shorts, all good. I even have the last one on my nightstand which I'll get to soonly. First I have to finish Seveneves.
Ha! I tricked you! You thought this post was a tribute to John Scalzi! But it's really a love letter to my favorite writer, Neal Stephenson. Nothing against Scalzi, he's great. But Seveneves came out last week and I am loving the hell out of it, and also carefully rationing it out so I don't finish it too soon.
Have you read it yet? I'm kind of surprised a national week of holidays isn't declared every time Neal releases a book so that everyone can hunker down and read it and then we can all talk about it afterwards. I've got all these articles and audio interviews I've saved up to read and listen to after I finish reading, I don't want anything spoiled. Right?
Wait, some of you have never read Neal Stephenson? Hunh. Fair enough.
For almost two decades now, Neal Stephenson has been my favorite writer. But for some reason never really looked forward to reading any of his books, at least the first six or seven. I first read The Diamond Age as a class requirement in university. I still remember being skeptical about the cover and blurb, but then everything about it completely drew me in- the nanotech, the Chinese setting, the neo-Victorians and even the way it was written with the Victorian chapter headings ("Bud is prosecuted; noteworthy features of the Confucian judicial system; he receives an invitation to take a long walk on a short pier"). I loved it and read it several times. I would even say it stands as my favorite book of all time.
Then a room-mate had Snow Crash and I read it, even though it didn't sound anywhere near as good as The Diamond Age. But of course it kicked ass, right from the first scene with the Deliverator.
Then Crytponomicon came out and I was worried that the emphasis on code-breaking would be a little uninteresting to me. And no science fictional elements at all! Even then-roomie VampireNomad was convinced I should just give up on it after watching me work on it for a month. But it was great. Imagine my dismay when I found out his next project was going to be a gigantic three volume historical epic prequel series entitled The Baroque Cycle! But but . . . I want more nanotech!
So I bought the books, all three of them as they came out. And they sat there on my shelf for several years staring balefully down at me with their weighty historical fictionness. I read one of his earlier works instead- Zodiac. I was sure that book wasn't going to be very good since he wrote it when he was much younger but of course it was great. It even features a two-umlaut fictional 80s hair metal band! So I finally decided to tackle The Baroque Cycle, if only to clear them off my pile of books I needed to read. And was there ever a more genius and hilarious and interesting book about calculus and economics ever written? The answer is no, my friends. No.
So you would think I'd have learned my lesson when Anathem came out. I sort of did- I asked for and received the book for Christmas last year. But the premise didn't totally excite me- I vaguely knew it was about monks who did math instead of theology and weren't allowed to have cellphones. On some other planet or something? But it was unbelievably good. So good. I might even pause and read it again right now. Oh wait, deadlines. I have to send this in.
Reamde was his previous book before Seveneves. Kind of a fun romp, if 700-page tomes about MMORPGs and terrorists and computer security can be considered a romp.
So yeah. Go get Seveneves. It will suck you in from the first sentence and then before you know it you will know way more about ballistic coefficients than you ever would have imagined.
Like I could honestly just read all of Neal's books in a cycle, finish one and then start the next one. That's how awesome he is.
He never helped me win $20 though, so I'll try and find some time to read Scalzi's books too.
- Nathan Waddell