The collaborative world presented in METAtropolis and sketched out by the authors is an interesting one, exploring the place of urbanity after the eco...moreThe collaborative world presented in METAtropolis and sketched out by the authors is an interesting one, exploring the place of urbanity after the economic and environmental collapse that seems, on bad days, imminent. This is not a world of atomic wastelands and cannibals, nor is it an utopia of nanobots and post-scarcity; like the modern world, it is in between these extremes. I too have wondered if urban areas might be the most sustainable form for human life in the future, and the authors here explore some very interesting interpretations; from Cascadiopolis, a hidden enclave of hard greens tucked into the forested mountains south of Portland, to a car free Detroit, the zero-footprint New St. Louis, and the global virtual “cities” made possible through augmented reality, the world of METAtropolis deals with a lot of interesting ideas. Too bad these stories, almost novellas, more often than not expressed these ideas with plot and characters that stuck to well worn sci-fi cliches.
None of the stories really innovated in this field, unfortunately and in particular, the first story, Jay Lake’s overly grandiose, meandering story “In the Forest of the Night” annoys more than it intrigues. When the mysterious messianic Tygre Tygre (men love him, women love him, he is invincible in a fight and a master chef to boot, everything he says wise and profound) comes to Cascadiopolis, a radical environmentalist haven hidden in the Cascade Mountains, I found I could not really follow what exactly was happening, or why.
“Stochasti-City” by Tobias Buckell was a nice change, a noir-style caper following a down on his luck bartender’s life transformation in the fight to end the influence of cars in Detroit and transform the city. A fun story, leaving me actually wanting to read more and an interesting depiction of the abandoned suburbs of Detroit.
“The Red in the Sky is Our Blood,” by Elizabeth Bear, also set in Detroit, was unfortunately a rather boring story full of exposition and typical sci-fi characters where nothing really happens, except a needless fight scene to end it off.
"Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis" by John Scalzi tells the story of New St. Louis, a zero footprint planned community where everyone has a job to do, and though some jobs are unpleasant, they are essential and someone has to do it; young slacker Benjamin Washington finds this out the hard way when he finds the only job he is qualified for is taking care of genetically altered pigs that may be more important than they seem. one that came together best and had the most compelling plot line, though it was a little cliched how things came together. Still, an entertaining and funny story and a good use of theme.
The last tale, Karl Schroeder's "To Hie from Far Cilenia," was the most thought-provoking and interesting tale, though almost too ambitious for the limits of its length, and follows a Ukrainian nuclear specialist working for Interpol to track down some missing plutonium, but is drawn into an intriguing alternate society created by people around the world using augmented reality. The ideas discussed in the story were almost too difficult to comprehend, but it was a cool thriller that provided some cool food for thought.
In conclusion, METAtropolis does bring up some interesting ideas, but it feels like it was only really scratching the surface of the possibilities of the topic and the ways chosen to express these ideas were not always the most effective; still, there was some futurist fun to be had in METAtroplis as well. Perhaps I will check out the sequels.
On the advice of a friend, I recently watched the First Season of Adventure Time on Netflix and I became quite engrossed in the show, I must admit, so...moreOn the advice of a friend, I recently watched the First Season of Adventure Time on Netflix and I became quite engrossed in the show, I must admit, soon obtaining as many of the DVDs as I could. I guess I have a soft spot for whacky kids cartoons with inside jokes for adults, it might be a side effect of growing up with the likes of Freakazoid and Rocko’s Modern Life, but anyway, the series’ weirdly retro post-apocalyptic fantasy drew me in pretty quickly with its nostalgic non sequitur humor and geeky references. Seeing the comic at the library, I thought I might check it out, too.
It is amazing how well Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics fame) and artists Branden Lamb and Shelli Paroline captured the kinetic, quirky, childlike imagination of the Adventure Time world and characters from animation to static panels. For anyone who has seen the show, you can imagine the superb voice acting work in each of the character’s speech bubbles. An original story involving the series’ most frightening villain, the Lich, Finn, Jake, Princess Bubblegum, and even a few new characters band together to stop his destroy the world plot, and much witty banter and quirky situations result. I particularly enjoyed the short interlude starring Beemo, who might just be my favorite character, an eccentric robot who seems to be nothing more than a sentient Game Boy with arms and legs. Weird stuff, but very entertaining.(less)
Tribes: The Dog Years is a post-apocalyptic romp set in the ruins of Seattle two hundred years after a “nano-virus” infected humanity which kills ever...moreTribes: The Dog Years is a post-apocalyptic romp set in the ruins of Seattle two hundred years after a “nano-virus” infected humanity which kills everyone soon after their 21st birthdays. I had reserved this comic from the library after stumbling upon its depiction of a ruined Seattle skyline, but was ultimately disappointed by it’s rather uninspired, hackneyed plot and characters. In spite of a kernel of a thought provoking premise and some evocative post apocalyptic landscape art, I can’t recommend its cliched, stereotype driven plot-hole filled story line.
A few members of the low-tech Sky Shadow tribe, who live in harmony with the earth, toss ridiculous saw disk weapons and wear bikinis, become involved with an elderly “ancient” from a high-tech undersea settlement who wants to return science to the surface world and cure the nano-virus, along with a standard issue prophesy. As the centuries passed, these surviving settlements of adolescents have created elaborate tribal hunter-gatherer societies in what is left of the Pacific Northwest, but never really seem plausible. Their weirdly formal, stilted super awkward diction aside, our heroes speak English, but drop in gibberish made up words for common concepts, for that exotic "noble savage" feel; the new agey messages seem cobbled from a ‘90s kid’s movie with some incongruously gruesome violence. I am not sure if the writers are siding with the "science as savior" trope or with the "follow your heart, trust your destiny" version, the plot is so muddled. As if in so much of a hurry to get to the “epic” chosen ones save humanity story, such niceties as introductions of major characters are neglected in favor of fights with hoards of identical sharp-toothed 12 year old “headhunters” who conveniently kill off all other tribe members. Finally, to make matters worse, it ends on a literal “to be continued,” and there seems, four years later, to be no signs of a sequel currently in the works. Sadly, I am not sure if I would feel the need to continue in any case. (less)
Recently, I obtained a new iPhone (yay for joining the 21st century!) and decided to try out its capabilities and start reading a few ebooks. Thro...more2.5
Recently, I obtained a new iPhone (yay for joining the 21st century!) and decided to try out its capabilities and start reading a few ebooks. Through my local libraries' ebook collections, this was the first book that was immediately available and seemed interesting, so I said, why not? and downloaded it. I had not heard of "Shit My Dad Says" before, which had begun life as a Twitter feed before becoming, apparently, an ill fated sitcom starring William Shatner. Who knew? In any case, it seemed like a nice, short, funny read to try out reading on a phone.
Justin Halpern, comedy writer, finds himself moving back home with his acerbic, no-nonsense, hilariously foul mouthed father, a retired doctor of nuclear medicine who always has a pithy, profane, and folksy word of wisdom for many of the day's concerns, from the proper use of ketchup, to reality shows, to relationship issues. Sam Halpern seems like a legitimately interesting person, fiercely intelligent and blunt and I often found myself laughing at his often inappropriate nuggets of philosophy. It is easy to see why he is so quotable and the samples of wit enticed me to read more. However, I was surprised that much of the contents were more about the younger Halpern's slightly uneventful childhood and his own relationship to his father. Halpern's style did not really appeal to me (not surprising, as he has been an editor at such publications as Maxim- not really my cup of tea). In the end, while there was some light humor and heartwarming family stuff, it was just a bit too facile to stick with me.(less)
I really enjoyed this super nerdy, futuristic ride through OASIS, the virtual reality wonderland of 2044 allowing the downtrodden masses to escape fro...moreI really enjoyed this super nerdy, futuristic ride through OASIS, the virtual reality wonderland of 2044 allowing the downtrodden masses to escape from the post peak-oil, corporate indentured "real world," with its mass unemployment, decaying infrastructure, and environmental collapse. Sounds a bit grim, I know, but really, "Ready Player One" was fun, just fun, just really, really fun. Wade Watts lives in a miserable stack of trailers on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, but when he stumbles on a clue to an easter egg hidden in the universe of OASIS by its Steve Jobs-esque founder James Halliday, he soon enters a battle to control OASIS itself, against the monolithic communications corporation IOI, which is willing kill any number of people (in the real world) to obtain the late Halliday's secrets and consolidate its power over the virtual, as well as the real, world.
Ernest Cline is a master of pacing, making each chapter end on just the right cliff hanger to satisfy yet leave the reader itching to continue on to the next chapter, or the next; a pager turner, I think those are called. Even if the plot, characters, and world are cobbled from dozens of different sci-fi stories held together through blatant geek references and homages to '80s pop culture delivered through massive info dumps, I actually liked it even better, grinning when certain obscure elements were mentioned (though I certainly could not identify every name-drop). Cline also writes with heart, making you truly root for "Parzival" and all of the "gunters" against the soulless corporate villains. The idea of OASIS is actually fairly plausible, even if I think an "augmented reality" version would be more likely, and in spite of most of the novel's events taking place in OASIS, I found the real, dying world of 2044 to be equally compelling and the novel even ends on a hopeful note. A highly entertaining read, in particular if you were born in the '70s or '80s and ever enjoyed movies, video games, or any of that sort of thing. (less)