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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Philip Jose Farmer : 1918-2009

   
Author Topic: Philip Jose Farmer : 1918-2009
plaid
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PJF passed away this morning

[Frown]

The Riverworld books were some of the first SF books I ever read.

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Puffy Treat
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I still remember reading his Wold-Newton stuff, years ago.
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Noemon
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[Frown]

When I was in early junior high and my interest in SF was dimming, it was the River World books that drew me back in. PJF was one of those authors whose hand I hoped to shake, eventually.

I recently picked up a couple of collections of his stuff. I read one of them (except for Riders of the Purple Wage, which I've read often enough over the years to know that it doesn't do a whole lot for me), but had been holding off on the other. I'll bump it to the top of my stack in his honor.

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Tatiana
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Riverworld was a great concept, but he didn't really know where he was going with it, I don't think, which is why it meandered like a river and didn't really have an ending. I remember being very disappointed at the end that it didn't live up to the set-up.

But I read him for a while. I'm sorry he's gone.

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plaid
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Re: Riverworld -- PJF said at the end of book 2 that he was going to finish it in book 3; I think that he liked writing the books, and knew they were popular, so he ended up making things more complicated to drag things out. (And there was a lot of great stuff in books 3 and 4, but I'd have loved to have read a more economical book 3 that finished it.)
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plaid
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Ah. This page at PJF's website says that the first 2 books were originally serialized in SF magazines. That probably helped to keep the story moving faster.
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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
Riverworld was a great concept, but he didn't really know where he was going with it, I don't think, which is why it meandered like a river and didn't really have an ending. I remember being very disappointed at the end that it didn't live up to the set-up.

But I read him for a while. I'm sorry he's gone.

Rereading his stuff as an adult it seems fairly clear to me that he was an author of middling talent. When I was an early teen, though, I devoured his books, and found them incredibly satisfying.
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Kwea
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A lot of authors don't write fantastically, but their ideas are so wonderful that that doesn't matter.

I'd rather read a great idea for a book that is written fairly well than a fantastically written book about nothing. (Which explains why I hates Ulysses)

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Noemon
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I'd argue that both the ideas and the writing are important. I can't think of any authors whose writing it truly horrible whose work I've enjoyed, even when their ideas were intriguing. Likewise, I can't think of any books that I've liked that haven't had an interesting plot, regardless of the quality of the writing itself.

And Farmer wasn't a horrible writer; he just wasn't in the same tier as, say, pre-1996 Card, or Octavia Butler, or earlier Ursula K LeGuin, or Maureen McHugh, or George R. R. Martin. That didn't prevent his work from having a huge impact on me when I was a kid.

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Tatiana
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I agree with Noemon completely in all particulars. You definitely need both. I'll definitely have to check out GRRM and MMcH now.

Actually, I've read some GRRM, his original Sandkings story was in Omni long ago back when he and OSC were some of the new kids in SF. They were fantastically good but also very creepy and disturbing. I get the impression that's true of all his work. Is it? I remember he was an amazing writer with wonderful ideas, but the stories themselves always left me deeply disturbed in a way that even Dostoyevsky doesn't (who is someone many people tell me they find disturbing.) For some reason I haven't ever enjoyed horror movies or books, and though he's not horror, maybe the elements of his work that disturb me are something like that. Did I give up too easily on him? I know many people think he's great.

I love Octavia Butler and UKL both. I think I've read everything they've written. It seems Maureen McHugh is someone I've overlooked.

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Noemon
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Hm. I wouldn't say that all of Martin's work is creepy, necessarily, but he's written horror, and certainly lets it color his other fiction now and then. his Song of Ice and Fire series is definitely his best work, and while I wouldn't describe it as creepy at all (though there are horror elements in it here and there, including the prologue of the first book, A Game of Thrones), be forewarned that he doesn't hesitate to kill characters if the narrative demands it. The third book in the series is, I think, the only book I've ever actually thrown across the room in upset over something that happened to characters I cared quite a bit about.

Maureen McHugh is just fantastic, Tatiana. She hasn't written much, but most of what she has written is well worth reading. Her debut novel, China Mountain Zhang is really breath-taking; it may be the best book I've read. There's definitely a reason why it won the Hugo, Locus, and James Tiptree Jr. awards. I don't really want to spoil it by offering a summary, but I can't recommend the book highly enough.

Her second book, Half the Day Is Night is basically about the fact that human governments and corporations simply aren't organized and coordinated enough to be able to pull off the massive conspiracies that people like to attribute to them. Its true, but it doesn't really make for a great novel. Much as I love McHugh's stuff, I'd probably skip this one.

Her third novel, Mission Child is flawed, in that the pacing is a bit off, causing the middle of it to sag a bit, but is still a beautiful novel, and well worth reading.

Her most recent novel, Nekropolis, is probably her most solid work after CMZ, although I personally like Mission Child better.

Finally, she's got a short story collection, Mothers and Other Monsters, that is well worth reading (though I think that her skill as a novelist outstrips her skill as a short story author by quite a bit, personally).

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Tatiana
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Thanks, I'm ordering CMZ right now.
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Noemon
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[Smile] Sure! I'll be curious to know what you thought of it, once you're done.
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Tatiana
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Are you on goodreads? If so, friend me. I'll be sure to post a review.
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Tatiana
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CMZ has already shipped, and it's due here in 2 days. I'm really excited.
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Starsnuffer
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quote:
The third book in the series is, I think, the only book I've ever actually thrown across the room in upset over something that happened to characters I cared quite a bit about.
While I'm sure I know exactly what you're talking about my response was to sit there and yell "WHAT! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!" Repeatedly, before going back and re-reading a few times.
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by Starsnuffer:
quote:
The third book in the series is, I think, the only book I've ever actually thrown across the room in upset over something that happened to characters I cared quite a bit about.
While I'm sure I know exactly what you're talking about my response was to sit there and yell "WHAT! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!" Repeatedly, before going back and re-reading a few times.
When I read that part, I had to put the book down and go sit in the bathroom, because I thought I was about to throw up. Just out of utter shock. I have never before had such a visceral reaction to a surprise in a book.
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Tatiana
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My book, courtesy of the free 2 day shipping thing that kaio got me, has arrived. [Smile]
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Noemon
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I actually saw it coming, and was just sick with dread as I read the relevant chapter. I was hoping against hope that Martin would take things in a direction other than the one that it seemed like he was headed in. When he didn't, the book went flying.

Sean, have you read Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet (well, the three books of it that have been published, I mean)? I had a visceral reaction to the events near the end of the third book in that series that was pretty intense (although there was no book hurling).

Tatiana, that's great! I hope you don't read it and think "what on earth was Noemon thinking, recommending this one to me?" (not that I think you will, but you know--hope you like it!).

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Tatiana
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So far it's already very engaging. You know how you don't understand why but you just care a whole lot about the characters right away? I just started the chapter called Kites, and the viewpoint character changed, which is usually off-putting, but I particularly want to know what happens to the smart ugly political girl. The books is named after the first viewpoint character so obviously he's important but somehow I care more about the girl. Anyway, just getting started so only have vague impressions so far.
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
Sean, have you read Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet (well, the three books of it that have been published, I mean)? I had a visceral reaction to the events near the end of the third book in that series that was pretty intense (although there was no book hurling).

I haven't. Sounds interesting, but if it's unfinished, I might have to hold off on it. Jordan had me angry for a long time, and Martin is starting to make me grumble...

EDIT: Not to mention Card. *cough* alvinmaker *cough* rasputin *cough*

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Noemon
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Tatiana, CMZ was probably my favorite of the books characters, but I liked a couple of them quite a bit. The woman you're talking about was definitely one that I cared quite a bit about.

I love how utterly lived in CMZ's world feels.

I also love how delicately interconnected the various plotlines are.

I'm wanting to post some quotes that I particularly love from the first chapter or two, but unfortunately my book never came back from the last person I loaned it to. I'll have to either get a new copy or borrow my girlfriend's (once I'm done the the other books of hers that I've borrowed).

Sean, the final book in the Long Price Quartet hasn't been published yet, but it's been finished for quite a while; the publisher has been sitting on the books and releasing them one at a time. I think that the 4th book is due out this year.

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Tatiana
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I finished it and I really did like it a lot. I'm still thinking about it so I'll post more later.
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Noemon
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[Smile]
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Tatiana
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I put my goodreads review up. Did you want me to cross-post it here?
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Noemon
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Yeah, that'd be great. I should create a goodreads account, but I haven't gotten around to doing so yet.
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Tatiana
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Okay, I'll post mine, then I want to hear your thoughts about the book as well. Here's what I posted on goodreads.

This book is one of those that sneak into your high regard. It's not flashy or sensational, it's just very real. The author has the knack of writing characters you care about. All the various subplots weave together, touching at points. You find that you care deeply about what happens to each of them, and the story of their struggles, their loves, and their accomplishments makes really good reading. The world is extremely well-built and realistic. I totally do think China will be the world's main power in not too many more years. Everything about it feels true.

While I was disappointed at the story of my favorite character, the supervisor's daughter, (I thought she got a raw deal, and I would have liked to get more resolution on her story line), I found all the plot-lines engrossing. I want to know, too, what happened to the goats, and if our Martian contingent was able to get their system repaired or replaced in time to prevent any harm to the goats or people.

I thought it was interesting how the author chose a gay man for her title character. I thought it was rather sad that she depicted a world in which gays are no more accepted than they are today in ours. I would have hoped in 250 years or so that things would be better than that for gays and also for women. But not so.

In all things the book is understated. The struggle is not to save the world or to battle evil, but just to find a place, to make some room in the world in which the characters can live. In that way it's very like our own struggles in life, to earn a living, to pay medical expenses, and so on. It's a book that bears thinking about, one that grows in the imagination, and in the depth of the characters portrayed. I really liked this book.

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Tatiana
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<bump> <reminder that I'm still waiting for your thoughts on the book>
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Noemon
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Oh, I'm sorry Tatiana, I didn't see your March 9th post.

It's been long enough since I read the book that my comments will probably be far less interesting than they otherwise would be.

I love the understatedness of the book. Everything, from the exposition to the way the plot lines relate to each other, to the way almost mundane challenges that the various characters face--it all comes together into something beautiful.

You know, it occurs to me that you might enjoy reading what a bunch of us had to say about the book when we read it together here in 2004. The discussion petered out, as book club discussions here always seem to, but it was interesting while it lasted.

Here's the the thread.

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