The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introductio*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introduction to a world where the dead suddenly return alive, The Sparrow delves into the moral issues that arise from it. Are the Returned human? Are they still the people they were when they died? How is this possible: Is it magic or can science explain it? And do we sacrifice our humanity in seeking the answers to these questions?
Married couple Heather and Matt face these questions when they discover Returned little girl Tatiana. Heather embraces the child, accepting and caring for her while husband Matt treats the Returnee as a thing to be exploited:
"These things aren't people. They're something else. And if there's a way for us to capitalize on this, then I'm all for that."
Heather is appalled at his reaction but replies with compassion, hoping to change his mind:
"If I could see my mother again... If my mother somehow shows up in all of this, if I get a call that she's been found in some far-off part of the world, I'd pray to God that the person who finds her would take care of her, that they would get her back to me, that they would have the decency to let me decide whether or not she was real, whether or not I could love her again."
Fear and uncertainty in the face of this bizarre phenomenon is to be expected, but the actions taken driven by these feelings have shown to be, in some cases, unaccountably violent and homicidal. In an attempt to understand Matt's rejection of Tatiana, Heather believes that since he's never experienced loss, he's unable to reconcile what the Returned can mean to those left behind in their grief:
'Heather was certain that Matt's problem with Tatiana stemmed from the fact that he had never lost anyone. Both of his parents were still alive. His brothers and sisters, even his grandparents, were all still alive. He had never known the loneliness of waking in the middle of the night from a dream of spending time with a mother who had been dead nearly a decade.'
The object of contention, Tatiana, is shown to be a normal human child and nothing indicates that she is otherwise. She possesses memories of her former life with loving parents, who took it in turns to make up bedtime stories to entertain her. Unfortunately her short life, and that of her mother's, was cut short when violence came to her home in what I assumed to be the Rwandan genocide in 1994, leaving her father bereft and alone (who was away at the time, helping those in need).
I'm definitely looking forward to the next installments of this series....more
Realistic portrayals of the bureaucratic response to an unexplainable event and the emotional turmoil experi*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
Realistic portrayals of the bureaucratic response to an unexplainable event and the emotional turmoil experienced if you were to find out a dead loved one was in fact alive, drew me in as the scene was set for the rest of the series.
However, upon finishing, I was left feeling a mild mixture of indifference and curiosity, reminding me of the way short stories in anthologies are written; leaving what comes next, or reasons for what takes place, up to the imaginations of readers. Although the last sentence is ominous, indicating a not-so-happy ending.
As I own the other currently published installments in this series, I'll definitely be continuing, especially as there's a TV series based on it in the works....more
This scene says it all. Sheldon is the cyborg Einstein (formerly IQ221) disconnected from emotion, socially Sheldon & Amy in The Big Bang Theory
This scene says it all. Sheldon is the cyborg Einstein (formerly IQ221) disconnected from emotion, socially awkward with an off the charts intellect, and completely disinterested in sex. The only difference is that Einstein kisses and awakens his Sleeping Beauty as a last resort as nothing he'd tried to fix the cyborg female worked.
Fair warning: I ❤ Sheldon and Eve Langlais did him justice. *fangirl squee*
Bonnie as our Sleeping Beauty is a unique heroine. She's a former good-time girl, regularly binge drinking and sleeping with so many men that she loses count.
“Hey, the more the merrier. You should try it sometime. A good, old fashioned gang bang might loosen you up.” Bonnie leered at her. Chloe’s lips tightened. “No, thank you. Some of us prefer to be choosier about our partners.” “Prude.”“Slut.” The vulgar word, so crude and unexpected, hung in the air between them. Hurtful. True. A slap that almost sobered her. Anger swept through Bonnie, anger and… shame.
That's until Bonnie calls her sister Chloe to pick her up when she's too drunk to get home and Bonnie causes them to crash, which sees them both repaired by turning them into cyborgs.
Bonnie gets lucky in that the military outfits her with the ability to turn off her pain receptors at will, gifting her with the means to withstand the torture the female cyborgs were subjected to in order to break them. Among the torture techniques was rape.
Funny how it never occurred to any of the jerks that perhaps she’d never possessed a choice. That perhaps she’d done the things she had out of self-preservation or to protect the others, protect the ones less mentally able to handle it. Men always assumed because she didn’t put up much of a fight that she wanted sex with them. Not really, but back then, while she’d not been given a choice and had to let them do as they pleased, now she called the shots.
...she’d been around enough to handle the emotional and physical rape. But poor Chloe. She never deserved it. But she’s found happiness finally, despite it all.
When rape failed to cow Bonnie, she was subjected to further torture in the pit where she lost her organic eyes. In Bonnie's place, I'd have submitted by now but she was determined not to let the General win. It gave her perverse satisfaction. However, when our male cyborg rebels liberate Bonnie's sister, the General lies to Bonnie by telling her:
All the female units are being terminated, except for you. You, I think we’ll keep. I hear the prisoners on Gamma thirty-one have been rioting since they broke their last sexdroid.”
As soon as he'd told her Chloe was dead, she gave up the fight and gave up living.
Poking, prodding, and the other things they did to the shell encasing her conscience didn’t touch her. The military did its best to wake her, but stopped short of killing her. A shame, because she wanted to die. However, suicide was not an option for a machine meant to live forever. She gave it her best shot, though. Holding her breath achieved nothing. Refusing oral sustenance just sent her nanobots into overdrive drawing nutrients from the objects around her. How could she kill herself when her very body betrayed her? With no other available option, she did the only thing she could. She shut down her mind. Inwards she pulled her senses, imagining her synapses going dark, closed her eyes against a world that long ago lost all color. She pictured herself turned to stone, a true robotic statue, unresponsive to all stimuli.
It worked. Bonnie appeared to be a malfunctioning, ultra-realistic sexbot that the brothel manager is about to dump in the trash because he's been unable to figure out what's wrong with her despite many attempts at repair, until Einstein comes upon her while trading his technical expertise in exchange for payment so his fellow male cyborgs can fulfil their sexual urges and control their testosterone levels.
Einstein's first impressions of the brothel workshop are true to life:
Einstein couldn’t help but make a sound of disgust as he saw the mess some of the female robots were in. “What are they doing to them?” he muttered. “Anything and everything, ” Bob replied, running his hands almost lovingly down the intact arm of one bot whose head hung askew. “It’s why we don’t use human girls anymore . It’s easier to reattach a robot arm than a flesh one. Less messy and noisy too.” Einstein didn’t ask why someone would want to remove a limb during sex in the first place. Some things, a cyborg really didn’t need to know.
Real Dolls -woman replacements for the men who buy them. They're tailored to a buyer's exact specifications and can basically do whatever they want to them without consequences. An interview with a repairman is disturbing: 'he spoke about badly mutilated dolls with their breasts hanging off, their hands and fingers severed.' Whether they're men turned off real women by porn, simply intimidated by independent women, or unable to attract a woman for their misogynist attitudes, isn't clear but the danger they might represent to a real woman in future, is.
Einstein is Sheldon through and through.
“You mean you brought a sexbot back?” Seth’s brows arched up. “Einstein, you dog.” “I possess no canine DNA.”
Where his brothers enjoyed lusty appetites for food and flesh, Einstein ate because he had to and as for sexual relief, well, he just didn’t see the appeal. Inserting a part of himself into the lubricated orifice of another for a few minutes of friction? Why? He just didn’t understand it, like he didn’t grasp their excitement at visiting a bordello featuring robotic females programmed to aid with ejaculation. Again, he couldn’t figure out where the appeal lay. However, not grasping why his fellow brothers needed sex didn’t mean he spoiled it for them. Much. “Don’t forget to run decontamination protocols when you’re done evacuating the semen from your testes,”
Einstein's kiss awakening Bonnie is life-changing. Bonnie feels completely safe in his care, probably because he's the first man not to rape or hit on her. This has an unusual side effect: he presents a challenge, so she does everything she can to seduce him.
His geeky, stutter-y trying-to-hide-arousal embarrasment just eggs her on. Einsteins reaction to her flummoxes him and for the first time ever he has no idea what to do, so he runs.
He took to hiding out in the gym and when she found him there and insisted they spar, pinning him more than once to the mat with a triumphant grin when he just couldn’t bring himself to block her, he almost gave in to his baser human urges. He found a new hiding spot in the engine room, but the cyborgs there ribbed him about his “girlfriend” and gave him up when she came looking. Heck, even Seth ridiculed him, using their mental communicator to call him a “chicken ,” and “an idiot for not eating the cake.” What did food have to do with it?
Finally succumbing opens Einstein up. He gives her treats, starts to fear for her life, feels jealousy and defends her honour:
“So we’ll take turns. Although, if you’re the Bonnie the soldiers used to talk about back on the base, then the way I hear it, you used to handle more than two back in the day.” Lucky her, even years later in space, her reputation preceded her....
“How.” Whack. “Dare.” Kick. “You.” Punch. “Speak to her that way,” Einstein shouted, enunciating each word with distinction. “No matter what her past or what the military made her do, Bonnie is a guest on our ship and a lady. As such, you will treat her with respect!” “Yes, sir .”
Insecurity starts to bother Einstein. He's too inexperienced when it comes to sex and relationships.
What did he have to offer her? He was a science geek among his brethren. The weakest in battle. The smallest cyborg among a horde of giants. She deserved so much better.
He underestimates himself:
"I was a juvenile delinquent in foster care who came to their attention because I hacked a secure website.” “Must have been some hack.” “Apparently, the CIA took offense at a fourteen-year-old getting past their safeguards.”
“According to records? Twenty-five. Apparently, they kept me incarcerated for quite a number of years before entering me in the cyborg program.” “No wonder you’re so clueless. You never really had a chance to live.”
A smart computer capable of thinking was a risky prospect. A smart computer capable of thinking who discovered he possessed free will and was enslaved? That made a menace the human military couldn’t tolerate. If they’d caught on. Once Einstein discovered what they’d done to him, he easily circumvented the programming of his creators without them suspecting a thing. However, freeing himself wasn’t enough. He also quietly began to liberate others, starting with the other two IQ models stationed on other bases. In an uprising they planned under the military’s very noses, they released their brothers in bondage from the reins shackling them. But they didn’t count on the rage of the cybernetic solider units when they discovered the perfidy done to them.
It's wonderful watching Einstein grow in confidence:
“Nothing a shower and some therapy won’t fix.” “Therapy?” Bonnie’s brow arched. “I thought you said you were okay?” “Physically, but mentally, I think I need some healing.” Immediately, her face creased in concern. “What can I do to help?” “Get the shower going.” “How is that supposed to help?” Seth laughed. “Oh, princess. I think you’ve created a monster. Brainiac here needs some sexual healing, which means I should get out of here.”
“Emotions are hormonal imbalances. I control my hormonal levels. Or did until I met you.” She wrinkled her nose and laughed. “You know that wasn’t exactly the most romantic declaration.”
"I might have woken you from your sleep, but you woke me to my humanity.”
Like a flower unfurling in sunlight, or more aptly, the sleeping princess who wakens at the gentle kiss of her prince, her eyes popped open and she awoke.
“Just like in the fairytales, good triumphed over evil.” “Your stories forgot to mention the fact the hero almost dies of a heart attack in the process.” She chuckled. “Oh please. You have a biomechanical heart and I have healing nanobots."
Because I am more than a machine. More than a tool for the military. I am Bonnie. Flawed princess, enhanced human, and cherished lover of the most wonderful man in the universe. Despite what the future might bring, she had everything to live for. And best of all? She was loved.
I won’t let anyone, and I mean anyone , take away my happily ever after without a fight.
And I love how the other male cyborg rebels accept Bonnie into their family:
“Why? Is it for boys only? Are you all hanging around in your underwear telling fart jokes? I can fart on demand if I have to. Heck, I can even belch the alphabet. Want to hear?” “No!”
“Just following protocol, Pita.” “Pita?” Her nose wrinkled. “My name is Bonnie.” “Not to me you aren’t. In my books, you’re P. I. T. A. PITA as in pain in the ass.”
This is the first book I read after migraine stopped me from indulging in my addiction. And I enjoyed it immensely. Einstein is adorable and I absolutely loved watching his transformation. B785 was just the right thing to cheer me up and supply a quality fix. Funny, sexy, romantic - and okay, the cheese was thick in the second half - that's the reason for 4 instead of 5 stars. ...more
I never thought I'd ever 1-star anything JCP had written, and I feel bad for doing so now. I don't know what exactly happened, but I just can't believI never thought I'd ever 1-star anything JCP had written, and I feel bad for doing so now. I don't know what exactly happened, but I just can't believe the quality of this final instalment. I can only assume Price didn't quite know how to end the serial, in which I expected a big sci-fi reveal on the reason for Bermuda's turbulence and why Marlin killed himself. What we got didn't make much sense and was completely unsatisfactory. I hope one day Price revisits and rewrites the ending. ...more
A chapter's worth of writing, a prologue if you will, of a girl waking up to find her house on fire, but despite this the last words are intriguing, iA chapter's worth of writing, a prologue if you will, of a girl waking up to find her house on fire, but despite this the last words are intriguing, implying more is going on than meets the eye....more
There's nothing like a bit of necrophilia in the morning.
Our RoboZombies (the zombies are actually referred to as 'steins', as in Frankenstein)don'tThere's nothing like a bit of necrophilia in the morning.
Our RoboZombies (the zombies are actually referred to as 'steins', as in Frankenstein) don't decompose and still retain all of their bodily functions so there are no ball sacks falling off during fellatio or penises detaching mid-coitus (oh look a new dildo!) so my tea and toast stayed happily in my stomach.
Our heroine, Josie, is a newly made RoboZombie sex doll. Her memories have been wiped in favour of rudimentary programming to engineer her to need, and be submissive to, a 'husband'. Her obviously abusive maker had no other use for her than that. Free will is only for the living. She's child-like in her curiosity and discovery of new concepts and sensations, but she's very much able to learn and grow beyond her original programming.
The hero, turned Peeping Tom during recon, is also a RoZo of the soldier / assassin variety with PTSD, employed by a pro-free will organisation. Bane's been working towards earning a memory and programming reset to relieve his mental anguish to become blissfully ignorant of the deeds he's done while his free will was taken from him.
Bane's mission is to retrieve the heroine from her maker by any means necessary before an evil RoZo corporation can swoop in and recover the scientist and his research. As the heroine had been designed to require biofeedback via touch and an electronic mental connection from a husband, the hero has to fill that hole role to prevent her programming from degrading to the point of leaving her a lifeless rotting corpse.
It's important to note that Bane doesn't rape Josie, the very thought disgusts him. Josie's personality, that of a 'virtual child', also unnerves him so he's very careful about how he handles her, leaving Josie to decide what she wants.
I'm riding the line between love and hate, hiding in the no-man's-land of meh. Predictable paranormal romance that isn't too cheesy, worldbuilding and character development of the supporting cast is lacking, but it possesses an interesting, and I suppose plausible, possibility of cyborg RoboZombies in the future. I'd still take Langlais's cyborgs over Harris's though.
But all idealism faded if exposed to enough reality.
I'm glad I read this after Scarlet as it details Wolf's origin story - becoming a genetically modified soldier at age 12, brutally graduating to AlphaI'm glad I read this after Scarlet as it details Wolf's origin story - becoming a genetically modified soldier at age 12, brutally graduating to Alpha of his pack 5 years later - all before he meets Little Red Riding Hood aka Scarlet. Sadly, he had to become the thing he wanted to avoid - an animal - in order to prevent being physically transformed into one.
A tale of two halves. An excellent, attention-grabbing opening which gradually deteriorates into an uninteresting and contrived mess made for skimmingA tale of two halves. An excellent, attention-grabbing opening which gradually deteriorates into an uninteresting and contrived mess made for skimming.
What I loved:
And invisible to me because it was so remote and small, flying swiftly and steadily towards me across that incredible distance , drawing nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles, came the Thing they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so much struggle and calamity and death to the earth.
the arrogance of man believing he is alone in the universe
Yet so vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer, up to the very end of the nineteenth century, expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level.
realistic emotional responses ranging from terror, panic and post-traumatic stress from witnessing the horrors of war to determined attempts to ignore and deny this frightening new reality
“It’s a movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’, and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it . I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
Suddenly , like a thing falling upon me from without, came— fear. With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the heather. The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do.
At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me; I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.
intimate brushes with death
I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end.
It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire. Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
...enormous volume of heavy, inky vapour, coiling and pouring upward in a huge and ebony cumulus cloud, a gaseous hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the surrounding country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of its pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes.
They did not eat, much less digest. Instead, they took the fresh living blood of other creatures, and injected it into their own veins.
The man was running away with the rest, and selling his papers for a shilling each as he ran— a grotesque mingling of profit and panic.
I put out my hand and felt the meat chopper hanging to the wall. In a flash I was after him. I was fierce with fear. Before he was halfway across the kitchen I had overtaken him. With one last touch of humanity I turned the blade back and struck him with the butt. He went headlong forward and lay stretched on the ground. I stumbled over him and stood panting. He lay still.
men clutching at religion
“Why are these things permitted? What sins have we done? The morning service was over, I was walking through the roads to clear my brain for the afternoon, and then— fire, earthquake, death! As if it were Sodom and Gomorrah! All our work undone, all the work— What are these Martians?”
“Be a man!” said I. “You are scared out of your wits! What good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent.”
cold hard comparisons between the relationship between Martians and man and man and the animals
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us.
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races.
“It’s bows and arrows against the lightning, anyhow,” said the artilleryman.
Did they grasp that we in our millions were organised, disciplined, working together? Or did they interpret our spurts of fire, the sudden stinging of our shells, our steady investment of their encampment, as we should the furious unanimity of onslaught in a disturbed hive of bees? Did they dream they might exterminate us?
“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”
the artilleryman's postulating on the post-apocalyptic rebuilding of society
And we form a band— able-bodied, clean-minded men. We’re not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings go out again.”
Able-bodied, clean-minded women we want also— mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical ladies—no blasted rolling eyes. We can’t have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It’s a sort of disloyalty , after all, to live and taint the race.
actual science in this science fiction
In particular I laid stress on the gravitational difficulty. On the surface of the earth the force of gravity is three times what it is on the surface of Mars. A Martian, therefore, would weigh three times more than on Mars, albeit his muscular strength would be the same. His own body would be a cope of lead to him.
Apparently the vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of having green for a dominant colour, is of a vivid blood-red tint. At any rate, the seeds which the Martians (intentionally or accidentally) brought with them gave rise in all cases to red-coloured growths. Only that known popularly as the red weed, however, gained any footing in competition with terrestrial forms.
As you can probably tell, all of these things I highlighted with a fervor on my Kindle.
What I didn't appreciate was the contrived and rather dull nature of the latter half of the story, most of which I skimmed. Meeting the artilleryman again miles and days away from where and when they first met - the odds of that are infinitesimal, the aliens abruptly dying from Earth's alien bacteria, the narrator's wife not only surviving but is reunited with her husband. And why was the narrator's brother's point of view given? We never see the brothers together. He's just a stranger to us as the reader.
However, I did raise my eyebrows at these unintentional funnies:
'cockchafer' - apparently this is a beetle but that's not what came to mind when I saw it.
His landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating.
Er, what? That's a bit spicy.
I was initially impressed by this classic. Unfortunately the ending left me disappointed....more