The Infects is prose stylist Sean Beaudoin's entry in the teen cannibal catastrophe sweepstakes. Loaded with pop culture references and sarcasm, thisThe Infects is prose stylist Sean Beaudoin's entry in the teen cannibal catastrophe sweepstakes. Loaded with pop culture references and sarcasm, this book is fast and freaky and lots of fun. Seventeen-year-old Nero was already having a bad week, sentenced to an Outward Bound-type trip for juvenile delinquents, when all of a sudden everybody but the bad boys on the bus falls victim to a virus that causes zombie-like behavior, i.e. lurching, drooling, and lusting after human flesh. You'll never look at fast-food chicken the same way again.
Another reviewer on Goodreads called this book "a zany romp," and then added that she does not LIKE zany romps. Me, I like a zany romp. I liked The GoAnother reviewer on Goodreads called this book "a zany romp," and then added that she does not LIKE zany romps. Me, I like a zany romp. I liked The Gone-Away World and Year Zero. I very much liked Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and Rule 34.
But there's not enough zany here to make The Rapture of the Nerds a truly funny book, and there's not enough challenging mind-bendy new concept stuff to make it a truly challenging book, as, I will say, most of Charlie Stross's and Cory Doctorow's books... are. Wow that's terrible syntax.
For example, the concept in Doctorow's Magic Kingdom was an economy based on esteem and reputation. That so worked, and it was so fascinating. Rule 34 was a cop story involving quantum porn. So entertaining!
Rapture of the Nerds postulates a post-singularity world, in which computational capacity is equal to anything that can be imagined, and so reality is an immensely mutable construct. You've got the Superman problem here - if anything is possible, what's to stop anything from happening - and it winds up being kind of tedious watching the authors trying to throw up roadblocks and wrinkles.
Certain moments are transcendent, true - round about page 170 I was enjoying myself as much as I have reading any of the books referenced above - but then the plot thumps around a corner and the protagonist finds himself to be irrelevant again, and the reader is left wondering why she is reading about this guy again.
Anyway, you can usually look to these authors to be both challenging and funny, but unfortunately, this one dies of exhaustion before it can make it to either shore. ...more
DEE - lightful. Like Galaxy Quest for grown-ups. Actually, Galaxy Quest was like Galaxy Quest for grown-ups... so this is like a whole book that expanDEE - lightful. Like Galaxy Quest for grown-ups. Actually, Galaxy Quest was like Galaxy Quest for grown-ups... so this is like a whole book that expands on the moment in Galaxy Quest when Sigourney Weaver, surveying "the chompers" which for some reason stand between our heroes and the manual override, loses her shit. "Well, forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was BADLY WRITTEN!"
The ensigns and other junior crewmen on the starship Intrepid, shell-shocked and squirrelly after seeing so many of their mates picked off on away missions by ice sharks, Borgovian land worms, and (inexplicably) armed cargo carts, have developed complicated little dances and rationales to keep from being selected for hazardous duty, or, once selected, to survive. (Here's a hint: if you're going to attempt grossly impossibly science, bring a prominent cast member along. We just saw Battleship this weekend and I am here to tell you - Chief Petty Officer Lynch would have drowned about a hundred times in that movie if he hadn't been in a Zodiac with Taylor Kitsch.) It's like they're living in a haunted house.
It is up to new crewmembers Dahl, Duvall, Hanson, Hester, and Finn - in addition to the freaky hermit living in the walls - to figure out what is really happening, and to put a stop to it.
And you know what? It's a lot like Cabin in the Woods, except a whole damn lot more funnier.
Skip the three codas, though. Redshirts manages to be outrageously clever and blindingly meta without being self-congratulatory or smug... right up until those postscripts.
This is sci-fi set in the real world: non-dystopian secret-agent-type sci-fi, gritty, dark, and extra-violent. Teenagers are recruited to fight battleThis is sci-fi set in the real world: non-dystopian secret-agent-type sci-fi, gritty, dark, and extra-violent. Teenagers are recruited to fight battles so surreptitious that they are invisible to the naked eye.
Delight, delight, delight! It's a digital-age Cyrano story with a disaffected green-haired underdog providing the words that born-to-it golden girl BrDelight, delight, delight! It's a digital-age Cyrano story with a disaffected green-haired underdog providing the words that born-to-it golden girl Brooke Berlin uses to convince the world of her It Girl-osity. What could go wrong?
But, like its predecessor, Spoiled, Messy distinguishes itself from all the It, Clique, Blueblood, and Liar books by featuring characters with character. Betrayals are followed by bouts of conscience, and in the end, loyalty and honesty are rewarded. Friendships are forged and mutual respect is the order of the day. Plus boys!
And I can't comment on this book without mentioning the spectacularly witty send-ups of entertainment media that embellish the plot. There's a director famous for his movie about Twitter - called The Character Limit, that is funny and brilliant in about three different ways. Then there's the MTV reality show about teenage bullfighters that I might just sign up for cable in order to see if it were really a show. And the reboot of Nancy Drew in which Nancy is homeless, living in Baltimore. I know just how she feels!...more
**spoiler alert** I think this book is more ambitious than it appears to be. A thriller set in the world of European high finance and IT, it is decora**spoiler alert** I think this book is more ambitious than it appears to be. A thriller set in the world of European high finance and IT, it is decorated with glass office buildings and large Mercedes cars, but populated with immensely unlikable characters, one of whom creates a monster. Robert Harris is trying for Frankenstein here - after all, it was Dr. Frankenstein's lack of insight and not his technical expertise that really created the monster - and it is a similar lack of insight into the nature of the organism he has created that dooms Harris's protagonist, Alex.
Alex is nominally a physicist, but his expertise really lies in the identification of data predictors and analysis. So he has created an algorithm that analyzes the activity of the financial markets in order to make a shit-ton of money doing microtrades and predicting market events. And in the tradition of bad robots everywhere, the algorithm begins to work too well. It's at this point that one might expect the computer to start maximizing its efficiency by bypassing unpredictable human intervention and manipulating events itself - a la War Games - but that's not what it does. Instead, it appears to have identified so strongly with its creator that it attempts to make all his dreams come true. With hilarious results! No. Not hilarious. I'm kidding.
Where the book fails is in establishing this connection between Alex and his monster. Alex is your standard slightly Aspy science guy, but not until the very end of the book do we find him alone with the algorithm. We don't see the long hours crafting it, fine-tuning it, lovingly placing the bolts into the creature's neck, so to speak. So the book fails the belief test when we are asked to believe that the algorithm wishes to please its master, but also when Alex quite stupidly underestimates its foresight.
On the other hand, I was extremely impressed with the readability of this book. It's truly a one-sitting book. And there are some very cogently expressed insights about computers and about finance. There's a paragraph or two about the tasks we expected robots to take off our hands - housework and labor - and what computers turn out to be actually better than us at - analysis and decision-making - that made me close the book and think for a minute or two. This put me in mind of Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson....more
But it's not like I wouldn't hand this to a teen. I would, I so very very would. In fact, I might suggest it as a class read for a high school class sBut it's not like I wouldn't hand this to a teen. I would, I so very very would. In fact, I might suggest it as a class read for a high school class studying the Cold War - the Cuban Missile Crisis is given a lot of pages here. But Life: An Exploded Diagram is teen reading in the way that Jonathan Safran Foer can be teen reading - not an obvious choice. I have been saying that it's kind of like John Irving by way of John Green.
I think the Acknowlegements say it all, in this case. China Mieville thanks Joan Aiken, Daniel Defoe, Herman Melville, and the Reverend Awdry (the autI think the Acknowlegements say it all, in this case. China Mieville thanks Joan Aiken, Daniel Defoe, Herman Melville, and the Reverend Awdry (the author of the immortal Thomas the Tank Engine stories).
I wish I could write the review this book deserves, as Nick Harkaway (not his real name) wrote the review that Neal Stephenson's Reamd deserved - theI wish I could write the review this book deserves, as Nick Harkaway (not his real name) wrote the review that Neal Stephenson's Reamd deserved - the one I was in the process of writing in my head. Stephenson's book was an action novel taken to absurd lengths, a nonstop global car/boat/bike chase firefight populated by real characters, most of whom you had to fall in love with. Ergo, I think it's no coincidence that Harkaway (still not his real name) felt he had some solid ground upon which to stand while surveying the fatness of Reamd.
Angelmaker is leaner, sprawls less, but is similarly packed with spies and murderers and gangsters who run and drive and use weapons, and they're all real people. Well. Some of them are not. A few of them are... but no, I'm not going to say.
It goes like this: in 21st century London, there's a guy who fixes clocks. Joe. Joe's father was a notorious gangster, but Joe is on the up and up mostly. Because of his talent with clockwork, Joe is recruited to play an unwitting part in a plot, activating a strange old machine. A machine which, regardless of the varied intentions of everyone ever associated with it, has the potential to kill everyone in the world. And let me interrupt myself for a second to say that as doomsday devices go, this one is not only one of the coolest I've ever read, combining the erudition of a Foucault pendulum with the charm of a cuckoo clock; but also the most chilling in its deadly effect.
But because Joe has this heritage of the cool criminal, and his father's friends, and some remnants of his childhood training in London's (literal) underworld, he has the ability to turn his role as unfortunate pawn on its head. Which he does, and oh it feels good. There's a tommy gun involved. You know what I'm sayin. In this way, Angelmaker is like a reverse coming of age novel. Like Updike, but more fun.
I have recently begun seeing certain adventure novels as daydreams. I read The Apothecary by Maile Meloy and I thought it was like the daydream of an imaginative American girl who is desperate for something INTERESTING to happen. Charlie Higson's zombie novels are the daydreams of bored poli sci students. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is what elementary school teachers dream about while cutting animal shapes out of construction paper.
I was almost all the way through Angelmaker before I read the passage that told me who was dreaming this novel. A night shift routing controller who works for the freight rail system is approached by an older gentleman who helps her change a tire. In the process, he tells her that he is working with a wanted criminal in order to save the world, and he bribes her handsomely in order to procure her assistance.
"It's probably because he is fixing her tyre, and in a position so absolutely compromised and vulnerable that it's clear he does not propose to do her harm. It might be because he's a bit like her older brother Peter, who died last year of cancer. Or it might be the feeling she has, that everyone has, that something is happening which is really important. So Sarah Ryce says yes [...] A few moments later, something passes her station going at what must be over a hundred and fifty miles an hour, and the old, rusted track protests, but holds. Sarah Ryce grins, secretly: whatever she's done, it's something big."
You hear that? You hear the old, rusted track protesting, but holding? It's England. England is dreaming this novel. Is something really important going to happen in the next year? Probably. In the next six months? Maybe. Will something big happen in the next decade? Surely. But will it happen in England? No. Will British people be involved? Probably not. Unless Hot Harry possesses unexpected depths. PLEASE let Hot Harry possess unexpected depths.
But really no. So far this century, important news from Britain has largely been to do with hats. What England would dream, if it could dream, would be for pre-Cold War-style field espionage, with its fake mustaches and poisoned cocktails, to suddenly become relevant again. England misses steam engines. Instead of blowup doll models on page three, England would prefer to see Ronnie Kray, his arm slung around a tipsy chorine. Like our man Joe, England looks its best reflected in polished brass, and yes, England would very much like it if hats came back.
That's what I think about Angelmaker. I liked it. There's more to say about it, of course - there are thoughts about our better nature, as implied by the title; there are unusually good women; there is lots about craft - but a discussion of that stuff is the review this book deserves, and I am not writing that.
One last thing: my husband spotted me reading this ARC, with its plain yellow cover. He wasn't wearing his glasses and misread the title, leading him to ask incredulously if I was really reading a biography of Angela Merkel. (I'm really NOT the type of person to read a biography of Angela Merkel.) So if you need a code name for this book, and it's the kind of book that might in some eventuality need a code name, you could do worse than Angela Merkel: a biography, by Nips Harpy....more
Do you know what a lich is? If someone taunts you with, "Answer the question, Claire," who are you being compared to? (Extra points: what's the questiDo you know what a lich is? If someone taunts you with, "Answer the question, Claire," who are you being compared to? (Extra points: what's the question?) What will an oscillation overthruster allow you to do? And have you ever found yourself in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike?
A stray facetious comment worked its way into a discussion about the popularity of teen fiction among adult readers last week. "What about YA novels that are written just for adults?" I'm paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact wording. Just an offhand jokey comment, right?
But then I read Ready Player One yesterday. Ready Player One is a virtual reality adventure with a teen protagonist, a love interest, and a wing man. Our isolated, socially awkward hero must work his way through riddles and duels to win keys, open gates, and sort of save the world; and along the way he will develop leadership skills, learn to work with others, and listen to his instincts. Classic YA plotline.
But this book is not for teens. Not because there's bad language (in fact there's not enough bad language to make this book suitable for teens), or sex, or complicated themes involving generational anguish or crippling guilt. None of that. No, this book is for adults - this book is for ME - because the quest that it follows is set entirely in a 1980's pop-culture hurricane. Characters have to play a perfect game of Pac-Man; recite every line of Matthew Broderick's dialogue in WarGames. I counted as many as three different references in once sentence.
Allowances are made for one or two extra-80's cultural phenomena. You can probably guess which ones. That's right: Rush's 2112 album (1976) and Firefly (2002).
And you know what? It's not obnoxious. It's not 'look how clever I am,' instead, it is 'Oh my god do I really know every line of Real Genius? I'm so ashamed. But it's so funny! I think I'll watch it again.' Ernest Cline made the movie Fanboys, which, yes, I'll watch almost as many times as I've watched WarGames.
The vintage photographs that illustrate Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children perfectly amplify the strangeness of this story, not merely becaThe vintage photographs that illustrate Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children perfectly amplify the strangeness of this story, not merely because they are strange to look at, but because they prompt so many questions. Strange on their face, stranger still when one conjectures the motives and circumstances of their creation. Their truth is established, challenged, and then inverted again, mirroring the journey of Riggs's hero, sixteen-year-old Jacob, as he struggles to reconcile the facts of the ordinary world with mounting evidence of something not ordinary at all.