This book has picked up a number of award nominations and wins, so I thought I'd check it out as I'm always looking for something good and a little di...moreThis book has picked up a number of award nominations and wins, so I thought I'd check it out as I'm always looking for something good and a little different in the science fiction world.
'Zoo City' is set in a future alternate South Africa, one where a significant chunk of the population have suffered from a particular ailment - essentially, the commiting of a crime leads to an animal becoming attached to you and the loss of that animal is a Very Bad Thing indeed. On the flipside, the posession of that animal is also accompanied by some kind of psychic gift. As a visual representation of someone's past behaviour or failings, the existence of an animal by your side points you out as someone different, with the resultant discrimination.
Our protagonist, Zinzi, is one such - she has a Sloth as a companion and makes her living by being involved in 419 scams and exercising her psychic gift for finding things. In 'Zoo City' Zinzi gets dragged into the search for the missing half of a teeange pop sensation and discovers much more sinister things going on beneath the world she thought she already knew everything about.
It's a clever read, with Zinzi (and Sloth) being well-written and rounded characters; by the end of the book, you feel like Zinzi is starting to realise just what her previous actions have done to others, for the first time since she got Sloth and became very focussed on her own survival. Unfortunately, the author didn't seem to have figured out how she wanted to end the book and it pretty much just stops with the written equivalent of fade-to-black, which is disappointing. Still, I'll be keeping an eye out for future novels by this writer, as I'm interested to see how she follows up on something that was so critically lauded...(less)
I picked up this one at the library after I read and liked something else by this author (The Quiet War) late last year.
The basic premise behind 'Cowb...moreI picked up this one at the library after I read and liked something else by this author (The Quiet War) late last year.
The basic premise behind 'Cowboy Angels' is around the existence of what are called Turing Gates, essentially devices that allow people and things to travel into alternate universes. Each universe, usually described as a 'sheaf', has differentiated itself from the one we know in some way - the main place we see, calling itself the Real, is very clearly not the US we're familiar with, though that particular sheaf also plays a significant role in the storyline.
The main characters include Adam Stone, one of the eponymous Cowboy Angels, a group of orphans trained by the CIA-equivalent in the Real to be special operatives in a number of alternate worlds. For years, the policy of the Real had been to try and create a Pan-American alliance between universes, but then the election of Jimmy Carter puts a stop to all that and Stone heads off somewhere quiet till he's called back into action when a former colleague is working his way through sheaves, killing specific individuals in each.
Unfortunately, while I found the novel itself quite gripping, particularly in its depiction of the machinations of the various agencies, the ending kind of happened and didn't really resolve all that much. It hasn't stopped me from wanting to read more by this author - I'm planning to start with his first book next, 400 Billion Stars, the first in a trilogy.(less)
I went through a phase a couple of years ago of not reading science fiction, preferring to concentrate on fantasy over on that side of the library, bu...moreI went through a phase a couple of years ago of not reading science fiction, preferring to concentrate on fantasy over on that side of the library, but I see I've missed all sorts of good stuff...
Here's an example - the basic premise of 'The Quiet War' is that it's set in a time after the Overturn, a time when the inhabitants of Earth were forced to make some tough decisions about how to save their environment while at the same time colonising elsewhere in the universe. As a result there was a significant shift between the very autocratic governments of the home planet, determined to control everything, and the colonists taking advantage of genetic engineering to set up new worlds for themselves along a more Utopian ideal.
Within this, the book mainly follows the experiences of a couple of individuals - one an important scientist determined to get hold of the colonists' secrets and exploit them, another a genetically-engineered soldier brought up solely for the purpose of infiltration and a third, another scientist who finds herself caught up in other people's plots to the point where her own safety and future is significantly jeopardised. In the end, it's the story of the latter character (Macy) which works best in terms of eliciting the reader's sympathy.
It's clear the author is aiming at a discourse on what it is to be human but doesn't quite make it work like he wants - perhaps the differences between his characters are too subtle at times to strike that point home. As it is, McAuley has also published a sequel - 'Gardens of the Sun' - that apparently follows up a number of the characters in this book. I'm not sure I'll be checking it out all that soon but I'm certainly interested to see what else he's written...(less)
First off, it would be fair to say that this book is barely science fiction, if that matters to you, despite the author's previous award-winning foray...moreFirst off, it would be fair to say that this book is barely science fiction, if that matters to you, despite the author's previous award-winning forays into the genre.
The basic premise of 'Bellwether' is that it's the story of a woman who researches fads for a living and who has been employed by a multinational company to try and discover how they start. While she's looking into something in particular, a chance event leads her to cross paths with people from the Biology department and an unexpected cross-discipline research project is spawned.
There's a nice laconic tone to this book's writing, which I enjoyed very much - our protagonist isn't your stereotypical hero in many ways and her encounters with some of the odder people working in the company are entertaining, as are her observations of their behavioural quirks. Can't say it's made me want to hunt out other books by Connie Willis (particularly as I wasn't overly smitten by 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' which I read last year) but it also hasn't hurt my view of her either, so I guess that's progress?(less)