Redshirts is a loving homage to Star Trek and televised SF serials in general, despite poking at some of the tropes. It even goes in the title: a 'redRedshirts is a loving homage to Star Trek and televised SF serials in general, despite poking at some of the tropes. It even goes in the title: a 'redshirt', from the color of the uniforms the security personell on the original Enterprise wore, is an extra killed off solely to emphasize how dangerous the situation is.
The first part of the book is sort of a 'Lower Decks' (Star Trek: The Next Generation episode) take on the flagship of an interstellar civilization's military (which is totally not the Federation you all ;-) ), in that it follows the assignment of five low-ranked crew to the UU Intrepid, combined with a parody of Star Trek-isms, like... well, like the danger of being an ensign on an away mission with senior officers, or the Box that the Xenobiology department has in a closet that makes everyone very uncomfortable but will get you the answer on a tight deadline, or poor (yet veyr attractive) Lieutenant Kerensky (who never dies on away missions, but is some sort of disaster magnet). And as a humor book it works: Scalzi is a funny guy, and he knows his SF.
Then Our Redshirted Heros try to answer why this ship is so damn weird, by chasing down Jenkins the hermit who lives in the Jeffries Tubes cargo tunnels. And things get very meta. And then there is time travel and we get a take on the classic Trek plot of 'travel back in time to when the show is being produced'* and some thoughtful meditations on free will, good writing, love, and mortality. Well, and jokes about culture clashes, because what's the good of having some Future People around if you can't have them wonder things like 'who the hell writes Wikipedia' and if the food in LA is safe to eat**.
* I'm going to be honest, even if this plot is cheesy as hell, and the characters call out how often time travel happens to 'when we're filming' for the lulz of the writers, I have a hell of a soft spot for time travel plots. Even the dumb ones. Maybe especially the dumb ones.
** It is, but it's never a good idea to have that extra burrito, especially right before an important meeting. Past or Future. ...more
I reread this as part of my 'Votin' in the Hugos, Baby!' catch. I also remember the first time I read this which, resulted in me swearing at the authoI reread this as part of my 'Votin' in the Hugos, Baby!' catch. I also remember the first time I read this which, resulted in me swearing at the author for leaving me where she did. Which is the sign of a good book, in my opinion.
It's hard to review Deadline without spoiling the previous book, Feed. Basically, after the events of Feed, Shaun Mason is clearly Not Coping and has gone a bit crazy to avoid going all the way crazy. He's also trying to unravel the loose ends from Feed's plot, run his news site, and not shoot annoying people who want to know why he's no longer poking zombies with sticks for their amusement.
Then a contact drops a woman -- Doctor Kelly Conelley (sp?) -- who is supposed to be dead on his door, and someone is willing to stage a zombie outbreak and firebomb half of Oakland to make sure she is actually dead. And she gets to bring Shaun the next big break, since for some reason a subset of people who have partial-immunity to the zombie flu are dying at abnormal rates... and from everything but 'eaten by zombies'. And CDC research money is being shifted away from 'study and cure the zombie flu'. And Dr. Kelly's team has been all dying.
(Oh, yes, this is a zombie book, BTW.)
So, this really is a wonderful thriller. Even the expected down-times are well-handled. The characters (since we finally get to meet the rest of the After the End Times team, besides name-drops and Mahir being Georgia's best friend) are wonderful. The book is also very self-aware of zombie movie tropes it pulls or not -- one minor character (Maggie, rich pharmaceutical scion, writer of poetry, fan of horror movies and operator of a teacup bulldog rescue.)
Also, the bit with the storm and the Midwest is some of the most atmospheric writing I've seen, and handles the transition from 'horror movie trope' to 'prose' well. ...more
So, this is a Firefly/Serenity comic. About Book. That answers all the mysteries of his backstory. And... well, that's it. Seriously, it's like Joss WSo, this is a Firefly/Serenity comic. About Book. That answers all the mysteries of his backstory. And... well, that's it. Seriously, it's like Joss Whedon, reflecting that he'll never get to give us all the details about Book's Mysterious Past, decided to just write them down in one book.
The basic structure of the book is we see Book on Haven, the planet he ends up on on the movie (and, god help me, I'm trying not to spoil that for all of you who aren't Firefly fans, even if it feels like Everyone Knows all the spoilers), and reflecting on his life. We get successive flashes backward -- the first one showing him on Serenity, then him leaving the abbey right before the first episode, then we start going into the details we don't know.
It's an interesting structure, since the overall story is 'how did Book get the way he is today?', so it's almost like it traces the stream of 'and where did that come from?' until Book's childhood. And I do think it worked well.
But one of the annoying things I found about this was that it was just too damn short. Because Whedon had to condense all his notes into one story, we pretty much get a collection of scenes, rather than going into depth into any one moment of Book's life. So it comes off as a bit superficial. I'd have rather something that felt more novel (or TV episode) length, rather than what we got.
You can read the above paragraph as 'Bitter Firefly fan is still upset over the cancelation of her show'. Also, I didn't like the artist chosen, but... eh.
But, anyway, it's definitely a comic that really only works if you're invested in Book as a character, which pretty much means 'Firefly fans only'. And maybe I'd wait until they come out with a softcover version. ...more
Some of that was probably due to 'book was something different than I wanted'. Which, you know, happens: authors are notSo, my overall reaction? Meh.
Some of that was probably due to 'book was something different than I wanted'. Which, you know, happens: authors are not mindreaders. They don't even get to write the jacket copy. I'm not going to bitch out Condie for not writing to order for a reader she's never met.
So, what I wanted was more play with the Match system -- basically, in the Society, teenagers at 15 decide if they want the 'heterosexual marriage + 2(?) kids' or to be single. If they want to go the spouse + kids, they are put into the system to be Matched for optimum personality and genetic compatibility, then have six years to get to know their Match before they are contracted at age 21, and have until age 35 to have their required kids. So you essentially have a system where there are two options: surrender a lot of freedom of association for kids and domesticity, or end up single, which allows some ability for freedom to romance who you choose, but no Society-sanctioned commitment or children.
And, well, this was ripe to get social satire. And works well with romance -- social commentary usually does, in my opinion. But, well, once we got the back jacket plot going: 'Meet Cassia. She's Matched to Xander, but, just for a minute, sees Ky's face in her Match datacard. Xander is a friend and she cares about him, but she finds herself attracted to Ky', we move into more standard dystopia affair. Which... well, the Society isn't too different than other centrally-planned dystopias. And here is where we get to the 'meh' angle: nothing about this book sets it apart from anything else I could be reading. The romance angle really detracts from the non-romantic plot, in my opinion: really, I was skimming across most of the 'Cassia angsts about loving two guys' to get to the other bits. Cassia's relationship with her grandfather and her love of poetry and running would make her interesting, except most of the investigation she does is motivated by a boy she's got a crush on. Ky has the whole 'outsider' POV that make him interesting, and even Xander and Cassia's parents have some secrets, but because this is strictly in Cassia's POV, we don't know them (yet).
Also, the Society seems a bit... well, like parts aren't talking to the other. And here I'm going to leave spoiler space:
So, we find out that Cassia and Ky's faux Match was part of an experiment to see what would happen, though Cassia expects her initial leak wasn't planned. But the folks monitoring her were aware it was making her a lot more rebellious. But, at the same time, Cassia is being tested to join the government bureaucracy, since she's bright and has good data analysis skills. Her final exam is to sort through workers at the factory Ky works at, to send the better half on 'special assignment'. Not only is it an exposure to an uglier part of the Society -- even before she sees the plant, most of Cassia's classmates know Ky's job is hard, low-prestige work -- but Cassia would have extra sympathy seeing a classmate. Which could be part of the test, I suppose, but it strikes me as a Dumb Move with both things happening at once. At least without some kind of safety net that prevents your subject from, you know, turning into a problem.
Which, I can understand if you want to portray it as a flawed system, but it strikes me that, given the degree of monitoring, it seems like This Should Be Caught. Or, you know, figure out the motivation that will keep Cassia from running off to join the Resistance, since you keep planting clues for her to figure out she's been living a lie....more
Set in an alternate version of the Tokugawa Shogunate, where, eighty years ago, a virus wiped out most of the male population of Japan (and still exisSet in an alternate version of the Tokugawa Shogunate, where, eighty years ago, a virus wiped out most of the male population of Japan (and still exists, such that only a quarter of all male infants born reach adulthood). As a result, the female population took over most of the male roles, marriage became reserved only for the wealthy or powerful, and brothels (and private arrangements with the families of teenaged/adult sons) became the standard way for middle and lower class women to have offspring. It probably says something about me that I got into it a bit to start picking at the virus as something other than 'Act of God kills off most men'.
I was recced this by the blog of Unshelved, which noted the gender dynamics aspect and compared it to The Left Hand of Darkness (A book by Ursula K. LeGuin which explores gender by having a human culture with a single neuter sex (that changes to male or female once a month).) Of course, then I get surprised at the bookstore to find it in the shrink-wrapped manga section. Overall, the manga is rated M, and there is a lot of talk about sex, but most of the sex is fade-to-black. There is an attempted rape scene, but it ends with the victim beating the crap out of his assailants.
The first half of the book features the story of Yunoshin Mizuno, the son of a poor samurai family, in love with swordsmanship and the daughter of a merchant, O-Nobu. Knowing his family was dirt poor and his parents needed to marry off his older sister to retain face, and knowing that he'd never get to marry O-Nobu, due to her lower standings (despite her family's wealth), he requests to join the shogun's harem (the Inner Chambers mentioned in the title). Yunoshin figures that he'll get paid well for it, and he won't have to marry someone he doesn't love or see O-Nobu do the same.
Of course, when Yunoshin gets there, he gets the culture shock of having to deal with a bunch of bored nobility that don't have much to do besides bicker over trivial things (and situational homosexuality, this being one of the few places where there is actually a concentration of men. Then the current shogun, a seven year old, dies, and a member from a provincial branch of the Tokugawa family takes office.
The second arc in the volume follows the shogun in her attempt to deal with the excesses of court life and some of the mysteries. It seemed that a time before the Redface Pox was not remembered well in most records, so most people assumed that how it was now was how it always was, and that things like the head of a family taking a male name or the practice of holding meetings with foreigners in the Inner Chambers with the shogun hidden by a screen and considered too important to speak to the Foreign Devils, were just tradition. Of course, the shogun wanted the truth.
I really got into this, because I really do love specfic involving gender and the details were impressive -- even little things, like O-Nobu noting that men were stronger, but women were hardier. And I want to see how the shogun takes finding out The Truth about her country's history, or what happens if the Dutch learn that Japan is secretly a matriarchy.
About my only problem (besides nitpicking the virology) is the art, which is exquisite, but I had problems identifying some characters, especially when many of them wore their hair in the same ways.
(Interesting fact I learned by checking Wikipedia -- the manga mentions the fourth and fifth Tokugawa shoguns and shows the sixth and seventh. Yoshinaga apparently decided to keep the same names for the shogun, and in real life, the sixth Tokugawa shogun was a child that died after only a few years.)...more
This is book five in Stross's Merchant Princes series, which features tech reporter Miriam Beckstein, who discovered she's actually a noble member ofThis is book five in Stross's Merchant Princes series, which features tech reporter Miriam Beckstein, who discovered she's actually a noble member of a family with the ability to cross between parallel Earths and who subsidize their extravagant lifestyle (and bring high tech toys, guns and medicine to their native world for themselves and to bribe the other nobles) by running contraband on our Earth.
It's hard to write a review about book five in a series, especially since I get the impression that the Merchant Princes series isn't terribly stand-alone right now. For example, I'm not sure whether this book actually has a stand-alone plot, besides advancing the arc from book 4. I enjoyed it, but I couldn't tell you want the actual book-specific conflict was. Sure, Miriam and the progressive faction of her family was stuck between the conservative faction of the family and the US government (who had twigged to world-walking druglords and was not happy). But little is resolved, and the book is left at a cliffhanger, just like the last one was. I suppose the closest thing to a real conflict is Miriam's decision about whether to stay in the Clan and keep at the reform movement, or say 'fuck all of this, I'm going back to Boston'.
As the US government got involved in the last book, you also get more political commentary. It's post 9/11 and the president and VP aren't named except by codenames, but there's anvil-sized hints dropped about who they are. (Seriously, the president 'BOYWONDER' is the son of the president-before-last, and considered a dim bulb, and the VP 'WARBUCKS' is a former oilman who wasn't expected to re-enter politics... and creepy, even offscreen, and quite willing to use this for his advantage.) Considering the secret government black ops, this isn't terribly flattering for Bush 'n Cheney. OTOH, I think Stross makes it clear that even 'our' Earth is an alternate Earth (well, besides that our government didn't discover world-walking in the mid Naughties... or did they?). At one point, he mentions Joe Lieberman as the head of the minority caucus of the Senate, and says that Saddam Hussein was deposed by his cousin prior to the US invading Iraq.
Given how this book ends, it is decidedly not our Earth. That's all I'm saying about that. ...more
Okay, first of all, this is a tie-in for Firefly/Serenity, and you probably won't enjoy this unless you know who characters are and some idea of conteOkay, first of all, this is a tie-in for Firefly/Serenity, and you probably won't enjoy this unless you know who characters are and some idea of context.
That being said, the plot is that the crew comes into a lot of money and gets chased down from past crimes. If you know the series, you know that odds are the crew isn't going to keep the Large Sum of Money, because... well, it's like how Wile E. Coyote will never catch that darn Roadrunner.
Anyway, we get some nice fantasies about how the crew would spend the money, with there being nothing surprising -- I did like Book's fakeout, though, that made me laugh out loud. One thing that bothered me was that Wash got to tell his fantasy, but Zoe just commented that it sounded good, and made a comment on River's, and we never see what she thinks. Even having her and Wash craft a joint tale might have made me feel like she wasn't left out, even if we did get a bit of her backstory in this story.
Oh, and the ending made Mal earn my friends' nickname of him as Captain Asshole. (My two friends didn't care for Mal at all when I showed them the pilot.) It was in-character for him, but... well, it was assholish. ...more
I am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with romanI am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with romance'. There were elements of the story I liked -- most of them having to do with the plot, rather than the romance. But, overall I wasn't terribly happy with this book. Any spoilers I write will be at the end -- just warning you why I don't have the flag up.
So, the basic plot is that Earth's governments have been divided into city-states after wars and eco-catastrophes, with a sort of global police force that our Female Lead, Gina, belongs to. She decides to take some time off to investigate suspicious animal attacks in Arizona. Our Male Lead, the local sheriff, is a mix of help and hindrance, and Gina is trying to figure out why -- and why she finds him so very pretty.
So, my problems are twofold. The worldbuilding was a bit inconsistent -- I could never get a sense if the town Gina visited was the whole of the Republic of Arizona, or just a part, and if so, what happened to the rest of the state -- Arizona is a big place, and the town had a very small-town vibe. Actually, I had scale problems with a lot of the book -- one of the antagonists was a senator, and I could never quite grasp of what, since the US government no longer existed, and yet, he seemed to be markedly US focused. Speaking of him, he was obsessed with the idea of this Other -- modified people with special powers created in the last war and hiding.
The book generally seemed to regard the Other as something that most people thought was about on par with Roswell aliens and Bigfooy, and yet, a popular government official would openly mention them in speeches. If my senator was claiming that aliens were hiding among us, I'd be voting for the other person.
(Also, minor pet peeve with the use of synth- in front of everything -- I can see how things like chocolate and coffee would be commodities, but you do not need synth-alcohol, given you can ferment anything.)
As for the romance, Gina and Morgan hit two of my pet peeves in paranormal romance. The first is that I could never get a sense of their relationship outside of 'OMG, hot' -- I got the fact that they found each other physically attractive, but I never could pull past that to figure out how they worked as something other than a good lay. (Okay, I did get that Morgan was impressed with Gina's sense of justice, but from her all I got was 'OMG hot'.) The book did have a reason for this, but it's a spoiler, albeit one I saw coming.
The second reason had to do with the Others. A lot of times 'wolf' behavior was used as an excuse for Other customs... except, it was more related to the romantic idea of a wolf, rather than actual canine behavior. Someone really needs to read Limyaael's fantasy rants. Now, it could work, given that these are still humans we are dealing with, but I'd like to see something other than 'lol, werewolves' as an explanation.
In conclusion, I wasn't impressed. It might be something I would buy for a plane ride, but not something that will be staying on my shelf.
 Gina turns out to be part Other (werewolf, in fact), through her father, which is why she is attracted to other weres without even knowing it, including Morgan Hunter and his cousin, more than baseline humans. On the other hand, she's got a baseline human mother, which makes me wonder why one wins out over the other. And it still doesn't change the fact that I couldn't pick up anything else about the relationship from her end. ...more
So, I'm told this is a tribute/parody/something to the old Heinlein and Asimov space operas. I can see it -- I read a lot of Heinlein as a teen, incSo, I'm told this is a tribute/parody/something to the old Heinlein and Asimov space operas. I can see it -- I read a lot of Heinlein as a teen, including some stuff that my parents probably didn't know about. It is a little less problematic* than some of the old Heinlein, though, despite the former profession of the character. Seriously, you can feel the allusions to Friday throughout the first half and even the main character's name (Freya is the Norse goddess of beauty, related to the Germanic Frigga, which is where we get Frigga's day, or Friday). The ending is also something that reminded me a bit of the classic Heinlein ending.
Anyway, Freya is a robot -- though that word has developed about the same connotation as (the n-word), and for about the same reasons. She was originally designed as a courtesan (the jacket cover uses the word 'femmebot'), as one of the copies of her prototype, Rhea. Then humanity did Freya the disservice of going extinct around the same time she came off the assembly line, leaving her without a reason to exist and a way to stay alive.
One of the bits I really like in this book is that it takes Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and starts questioning what that means for the robots. (Funnily enough, I remember reading an Asimov essay which was about how he came up with the Three Laws as a premise for stories where the robots weren't destined to revolt against humanity.) Outside of exploration bots that were never intended to operate around humans, everyone in Freya's world has an inbuilt deference to humans, to the point where Freya nearly loses it when she first meets Jeeves, a set of sibling out-of-work butlers running a courier operation, despite the fact she knows that she is in the stratosphere of Venus, breathing carbon dioxide in amounts that might kill a human if the anoxia didn't get to him first. Essentially, what happens when you have creatures literally designed to be slaves and overseer-slaves, and then suddenly kill the masters? Freya notes that her and her sibs (others of her model) could never be aristos (those bots, mostly humanoid personal secretaries and that kind of thing, that seized power as humanity declined), since they had too much empathy**, and her sibs refused to let each other be slaves.
Aside from the robots, the space opera had the old feel of real tech, with people fussing over mass limits and times -- Freya notes that many of the new robots off Earth are built or remade as 'chibi', because they have less mass so can live and travel cheaper. Also, chopping off limbs and buying new ones at one's destination is not unheard of, nor is putting oneself in hibernation or slowing one's internal clock. We also see a lot of the Solar System -- cloud cities on Venus, railed cities on Mercury, space elevators on Mars, a mining town on Callisto, and even a trip to Eris.
Now, Freya was designed to be a sexpot (sexbot?), so you do get some sex, especially with other beings that are far from human-shaped. If this bothers you, I'd reckon you shouldn't read it. There's also some consent issues later in the book.
One of my pet peeves is that the cultural mix seems off. Most of the characters with human names have Western ones, yet we get touches of Japanese culture -- the aristos take on bishoujo (big eyes, small nose, pointed chin -- think CLAMP) and chibi (big eyes and short limbs) forms, to the point where android and gynoids that can pass as human are considered ugly reminders of the past, and Freya herself was made by a Japanese company. Yet, we don't see any evidence of this in given names. I can believe Japan would go head-on into making robots, but I can't believe that we wouldn't get at least one Aiko or Michiru or something.
* 'Problematic' seems to be feminist-speak for 'this has some pretty sexist themes, but I don't think the author meant it that way, and I like it anyway'. Heinlein was very much a product of his times.
** I mean, you want someone created to be the perfect lover to have empathy up the wazoo, so that s/he can understand what you're going through and work with it. ...more
Glasshouse is a loose sequel to Accelerando, but you mostly need to know that for what the world is like. You might be able to read Glasshouse as a stGlasshouse is a loose sequel to Accelerando, but you mostly need to know that for what the world is like. You might be able to read Glasshouse as a stand alone.
Anyway, it's late in the third millennium. Humanity has been kicked out of the Solar System by intelligent computer programs who'd rather turn all solid matter into more memory and RAM and photovoltaics, and has taken up residence living around wormholes linking brown dwarfs throughout the galaxy. The presence of massive amounts of data storage and matter manipulation has changed humanity remarkably -- at this point, you can look like whatever the heck you want (seriously, you can change sex like changing clothing, and things like being a centaur or growing two more arms are no problem), death is unusual (pretty much you have to have a bad accident or be killed), and you can keep a backup copy around anyway. However, a lot of times people accumulate too much emotional baggage in their long lives, so they end up having to wipe out most of their memories to get a fresh start.
Robin is one such person. He's not quite sure why he had it done -- sure, his past self left him a letter, but it wasn't that helpful. And someone wasn't satisfied with the job and is trying to kill him. Between that, a sense of purposelessness, and a woman he met who was also interested, Robin decides to sign up for an experiment that would keep him off of the net for a couple of years.
See, a lot of the late 20th and early 21st century was lost thanks to data forms going obsolete too quickly to be converted. So some social scientists were going to try to reconstruct it using volunteers. They created a clever social system to encourage participants to play their roles (and mimic the social constraints they believed existed at the time) and beamed everyone into new bodies in a simulation of 1950s America (or Western Europe). Robin became Reeve, a woman, and was partnered up with Sam, another volunteer, as her husband.
At first this is a funny (and a bit unnerving) take on the 1950s. Reeve struggles with norms that make no sense to her (like why the salesclerks won't sell her pants), her female teammates who are 'score whores' and obsessed with racking up points for good behavior and making sure Reeve does the same, finding Kay, the woman Robin knew on the outside, and worrying about Cass, who's husband/partner was turning quickly abusive.
Then Reeve gets a dream message from her previous self, who tells her that something is fishy about the experiment. Previous infiltrators were compromised, so her previous self had volunteered to have a memory wipe to better hide himself to get in.
Overall, I enjoyed this -- it had a mix of Stepford Wives and high tech, and probably would have been better than the recent remake. it does get a bit confusing at one point, since you have to accept that being able to treat human consciousness as data means a lot of things that aren't true right now. Can't say much because of spoilers. But, it was a good read, and the fact Robin/Reeve didn't remember a lot of things made it interesting since it allowed for us to discover Robin/Reeve's past as we read without artifice. ...more
There are definitely books that will only appeal to limited audiences. The Sagan Diary is one of them -- if you really are a fan of the Old Man's WarThere are definitely books that will only appeal to limited audiences. The Sagan Diary is one of them -- if you really are a fan of the Old Man's War series, you'll like this peak into Jane Sagan's head. If not, there are probably better things to spend your money on.
The other reason I could see buying this book is that it has some of the prettiest prose I've seen in a while. Perhaps since I got out of Shakespeare classes. It doesn't scan like poetry, but it does flow off the tongue like poetry. I actually ended up reading have of the book aloud to myself just to hear it. While I've been known to do this when I find a particularly apt turn of phrase, and I want to hear how it sounds, this is a record for reading for me.
(Seriously, I want to show this to English teachers as an example of something that is both good SF and a finely crafted piece of language.) ...more
I have to say, Antartica is me coming back to Kim Stanley Robinson after I gave up on him midway through his Washington Trilogy (at the end of FiftyI have to say, Antartica is me coming back to Kim Stanley Robinson after I gave up on him midway through his Washington Trilogy (at the end of Fifty Degrees Below for those of you keeping score at home). Like the Mars trilogy and the Washington trilogy, Antartica has themes of ecology, scientific advance and social organization. While it would be foolish to assume that every author's views match his or her subject matter, one starts to sense a pattern.
Antarctica is that blurry line between contemporary and science fiction that makes it hard to classify. There are some minor tech advances -- face masks that can reproduce a high-def image taken from goggle cameras while getting a narrator's soundtrack, wrist phones*, laser ice borers, and photovoltaic clothing that can keep people alive as they walk through 50 degrees below, by using sunlight to add extra heat and melt water for drinking. (Though really, it would be more efficient to not bother with converting the sunlight to electricity, and convert it to heat directly.) The US government hasn't yet acknowledged anthropogenic climate change in the novel, which puts it a tiny step behind ours (but not by much). On the other hand, politics remains identifiable as turn-of-the-millennium, and aside from a few new toys, it feels like modern Earth.
* Okay, given the size of the average cellphone, we could do this now if people wanted.
We follow four main characters. X (nicknamed for the size of his parka -- he is Very Tall) is a slacker-academic, the kind of bright kid who could have made it in academia except for the inability to get through college without going crazy, who ended up taking a job doing scut-work in Antarctica for the adventure and staying because he fell in love with the place. Val, X's ex-girlfriend, is a trail guide down there, who loves the outdoors, but doesn't care much for showing idiots around a very dangerous place. Wade is the aide of Senator Phil Chase, a kind of Obama-figure, if Obama got his start in the California suburbs instead of inner-city Chicago -- kind of funny, as Obama had yet to appear on the national radar when the book was written. Phil (and Wade, IIRC) show up again in the Washington trilogy as a character's boss -- guess Robinson didn't want to let a good minor character go. The last POV isn't so much a character as a POV; Ta Shu is a Chinese geomancer, poet and nature host, and he is filming down in Antartica, and we get his narration as well.
The big conflict of the book is centered around environmental issues -- the Antarctic treaty is being held up by the US government because There's Oil Down There, and some Southern Hemisphere countries are trying to get a slice of the pie. Here Robinson wins a brownie point from me. The environmentalists aren't always good -- in that they blow up some oil stations and jam communications, causing Val's trail group (already with an injured member and lost supplies from a previous problem), and a party containing X and Wade to get stranded in a spring storm. It's made clear that at least one person would have died except for good luck, despite the saboteurs' best attempt to do it non-violently. And, Carlos, the one oil station worker we get to know, isn't some Captain Planet Villain, out to make money on oil with no concern for the environment. He is legitimately concerned with the fact that the G8 nations have a big chunk of the pie and want to shut down the developing world, and does care about the environment (in that he wants to use technology to keep things clean while they drill). I found him sympathetic, to the point where X is watching Carlos and the saboteurs' lawyer* talk and realizing that both were angry at the same people, but were arguing with each other.
* Who is perhaps the one character who Robinson could get away with writing a page-long speech without sounding like he was talking to the audience, since later, everyone tries to shut him up before he gets going again. Still killed me to read it -- too long, and too much of a rant.
As always, I liked some of the themes of the book, and the setting work (Robinson spent some time in the Antarctic. It shows, in a good way), and the characters were likable. It was a bit slanted towards social and ecological politics, but not enough to impair the story of X and Val's attempts to make homes on a continent they have fallen in love with, the mystery of where the equipment has gone, Val's bad trail trip, and surviving a sabotage attempt in a place where the Environment is not your friend. ...more
All right, this book wins kudos for interesting-ness. It was a bit of a slow start to get into the book for me. The first part, featuring Manfred in tAll right, this book wins kudos for interesting-ness. It was a bit of a slow start to get into the book for me. The first part, featuring Manfred in the early decades of the 21st century hit some kind of uncanny valley for me. It was the future, but within ten to fifteen years, yet it felt too disconnected from the present. Perhaps I had a mild case of future shock, but once the book eased into Amber's section and Sirhan's, I had no problem as seeing them as future strains of humanity. Perhaps even I could have managed Manfred if he wouldn't have been born around the same time I was, if he were real.
I'm also not sure what I think of the ending. I shall have to ponder it. It gave me a lot to think about, but I really shouldn't have read it right before NaNoWriMo, as now I'm worried ideas will leak into my own projects. I shall have to read some more non-SF to clear my palate. ...more
So, here we have pirates! Sadly, no ninja. This book was interesting and fun, and I don't have much to say besides that I enjoyed it. I also liked theSo, here we have pirates! Sadly, no ninja. This book was interesting and fun, and I don't have much to say besides that I enjoyed it. I also liked the ending solution as to what to do when one is trapped between the people who betrayed Hayato's ancestor, and Shido and the Red King's Army. Good, creative thinking there. ...more
So, the story continues as Sarasa leaves home to seek the bearers of the other three swords. I enjoyed seeing how Sarasa handled the tunnel, because iSo, the story continues as Sarasa leaves home to seek the bearers of the other three swords. I enjoyed seeing how Sarasa handled the tunnel, because it showed that she was able to keep calm under pressure and use some smarts. I approve of that in a character.
For that matter, the villains also seem to be smart about dealing with a 'Boy of Destiny'. In the first volume, we had some traps, many of which Sarasa only partially escaped. Here, she manages to only escape with the help of Ageha, and the second half of the story is a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for her.
I also like the parallels between Sarasa and the Red King.
Now, to get a female character on Sarasa's side. (One strong woman is nice, but more would be nicer.) Currently, the only other living female characters are Sarasa's captured mother, and Senju, Shido's fiance. ...more
Irony-chan, the writer of the webcomic Get Medieval, once ran a side comic in which she commented that nothing happened in shoujo anime/manga besidesIrony-chan, the writer of the webcomic Get Medieval, once ran a side comic in which she commented that nothing happened in shoujo anime/manga besides relationship drama. I love Irony's comics, but she is wrong about that. Basara is a shoujo comic (and apparently crazy-popular in Japan in the 1990s) that still has a good dose of action. Plus, it has a strong female character as a lead.
So, the comic takes place in a future post-apocalyptic Japan that has pretty much been returned to the feudal era by massive climactic changes -- I'd say the fantasy level in Basara so far is 'magical realism'. There are some things that are unusual and some that are outright fantastic, but it feels realistic.
Anyway, Sarasa and her twin brother Tatara were born at an auspicious time, causing the local village wise man to declare that the Child of Destiny was born. Things being what they are, everyone assumes he means Tatara, who is raised to be the savior of the nation and leader of a revolution to kick out the corrupt monarchy, while Sarasa is shuffled off to the side. On the twins' fifteenth birthday, the leader of the country, the Red King, kills Tatara and orders the rest of the village to be destroyed and everyone else killed as well. Sarasa, realizing that the loss of their icon was sending the village into panic, quickly chops off her hair and convinces the villagers and the Red King that he got the wrong twin.
Of course, it being shoujo and all, there's also a romance. Sarasa runs into a guy her age named Shuri that is attractive, but kind of a jerk. Want to guess who he really is? (I give the author credit in the second volume she makes it clear that Shuri/the Red King is not secretly a nice guy deep inside. Makes a potential relationship a lot more interesting when it's more than 'opposite sides of a conflict' but also 'one party is very much a jerk and the other party will be pissed when she finds out'. Here's hoping that this is kept up.)
Another thing that I liked was that Sarasa's first win -- reclaiming the village's legendary sword from the Red King's trap -- was shown as taking brains, and it doesn't go perfectly. The series also deals with the fact that even two twins won't look alike if one is a boy and the other is a girl -- Sarasa notes that the rest of the village is so caught up in the idea of the Boy of Destiny that they don't notice that a switch was made. (Which doesn't do much for her self-esteem, since she always felt like she was the leftover, and now that she's supposed to be dead, no one much is mourning her, besides her dead childhood friend's mother.)
Anyway, I recommend Basara, and am looking forward to reading the rest. ...more
Anyway, the reason I mention it is because Old Man's War often gets compared to Heinlein/Starship Troopers. Both are spec-fic war stories where ordinary folks from Earth going off into the cosmos as super-soldiers to seek out strange new life and shoot it in the face. The obvious difference is that Starship Troopers is about your 'normal' high-school grad signing up for the military the way some of my classmates did, Old Man's War has John Perry, a 75-year-old widower who is finally old enough for the Colonial Defense Forces and wants to know how the CDF takes a bunch of retirees and turns them into a fighting force.
But a more fundamental difference is that Starship Troopers themes were about war and patriotism*, while Old Man's War struck me as about love and loss and getting older. Not surprising when your character has already lost his beloved wife (and Scalzi did a good job of making me see Kathy Perry as both a character and someone that John Perry cared enough about to be madly in love with for years and years, even after her death), and is in a job where his friends are regularly shot at.
Not to say that the action doesn't get drowned out -- the action is good, and thrilling, and the aliens are interesting, though only the Consu get much cultural development besides 'they like to shoot at our colonies and occasionally eat babies'. And the ending made me cry sentimentally, but that's also because I'm a sap right now.
Overall, I recommend this book highly.
----- * And the themes were what I was arguing with -- I disagreed strongly with Heinlein's premise in the book. But, this is neither here nor there. ...more