In the springtime of 2013, mere days after moving to Taiwan 台灣, I am browsing the many books at the famous Eslite Bookstore 誠品書店 near Taipei 101 in Xìnyì District 信義區, Taipei 台北. Most titles are in Chinese, of course, so I amuse myself by surveying the science fiction section. I grew up reading science fiction almost exclusively so I am naturally very curious to see what their selection of translations is like. It is also an opportunity to appreciate a different design aesthetic, as many of the books I see have distinctly different covers from their English language counterparts.
I haven’t been reading much in the way of fiction these last few years. I fell out of the habit in university thanks to a crushing course load. More recently, since moving to Taiwan 台灣, I have struggled to find anything interesting at bookstores1, and I stubbornly refuse to order books online. Part of why I read books has to do with the physicality of the act—from point of purchase to the slow turning of pages. I like for the books I read to have a bit of personal history.
When I was in Chiang Mai a few weeks ago I made a point of stopping to browse the used bookstores near the old east gate. For whatever reason the science fiction selection at one of these stores was downright amazing—I could have picked up dozens of interesting books but only returned to Taiwan 台灣 with three.
2312 was definitely the best of the lot. I’m not in the business of writing book reviews so I won’t say too much about it, though I have collected a number of links to build a picture of what it’s about and whether it’s good or not. The Independent has a good review, as does The Guardian, and this interview in Wired is quite fascinating. There are, of course, several things I don’t like about the book—the ending is both anti-climatic and contrived, for starters—but I totally appreciate the post-modern pastiche style made famous in Stand On Zanzibar. If you’re in search of a good modern science fiction book to get lost in, 2312 is not a bad choice.
I went to the cinema in Yuánlín 員林 last night to watch Interstellar. Although I absolutely love science fiction I tend to avoid blockbuster science fiction films. Too many of them look pretty but lack substance, playing fast and loose with the science out of sheer laziness rather than any real need to advance the plot. Sadly, this particular film is guilty on all counts. I don’t think anyone expects perfectly sound science out of Hollywood—bad science to advance a good story is perfectly acceptable when it’s handled right—but Interstellar pushed the limits of credulity too many times for my suspension of disbelief to survive the three hour runtime intact. At least it looked cool. And I’m still glad I went to go see it. I get out so rarely these days.