The time travel plot didn't work. There wasn't much tension or meaningful action for the characters to do. For a book that wants to argue that individThe time travel plot didn't work. There wasn't much tension or meaningful action for the characters to do. For a book that wants to argue that individuals can make a different, the story leans exactly the other way. All the events in the book are fixed and everyone just plays their part. The novel ably juggled a book-within-a-book and three time periods without confusing me. I did enjoy young Kirk and company, as well as the new characters. Though I do think the military duo, Nyere and Sawyer, should had been the nexus point where a dramatic choice should have been made. Fat Kirk and Spock weren't as enjoyable because they didn't get to do much and because Bonanno told us that they were very, very close but didn't show it....more
Okay, first just ignore the wrapping this book comes in. I can accept 'Visionary in Residence' but the "13 NEW STORIES FROM THE LEATHER-JACKETED HIGHOkay, first just ignore the wrapping this book comes in. I can accept 'Visionary in Residence' but the "13 NEW STORIES FROM THE LEATHER-JACKETED HIGH DRUID OF CYBERPUNK" is just embarrassing. If I was Sterling I'd be burning my dorky leather jacket and hunting down whoever put that on the back of my book. Okay...
I quite liked this collection there are some pieces that are just... pieces and not really stories, a few exercises, but there is 'User-Centric' which is Sterling working at his best, and his collaborations with Di Filippo and Rucker are really good, though hew closely to his collaborators' styles. The last two stories are interesting in that they show Sterling's chops away from his trademark style, perhaps future possibilities?
The following are notes on the stories I made along the way.
""In Paradise", cell phone as universal translator, but other than that..."
"'Luciferase': Holy anthropomorphization Mr. Disney! Though I did learn much about bug sex. Walt did have a didactic point.."
"'Homo Sapiens Declared Extinct': Wow, crap articles even in 2380, cockroaches and news reporters..."
'Ivory Tower', sad to see that females aren't any more welcome in physics in the future, but still room for sexy camp followers! Sad.
'Message Found in a Bottle', yeah Nature didn't run it, will we take heed either? I don't know if this kind of cautionary piece is all that effective.
'The Growthing', a companion piece without the companion...
'User-Centric': Yes!!!! This is Sterling connecting the knowledge tech with the knowledge of spirit. At first my heart sank with his intro where he is all on about how designers are the coolest folk. The memos of the first half are very gee-whiz, we're Dr. Frankensteins happily grooving in our crack-unit building a better tomorrow. But THEN... the memos break down into private messages between the anthropologist and team coordinator and their failure to have a relationship and the inappropriateness of one and the way "I've never made a man happy in my whole life" disrupts this fantasy.
And the memos are torn (electronically) in two and the marketing story of Albert and Zelda, suddenly becomes real life. And wow, this is not a bright glossy marketing brochure life, this is fucked up life. BUT its not necessarily the technologies fault. Sterling says, yeah, tech is fine, but it is a tool, not the be-all-end-all panacea, or the evil soul sucker: its just the tool. Its the toolmakers and the users who are fucked. Fucked on a pretty fundamental, existential level. But hey, that's life. "What if the story was all about this, instead: What if you tried your level best to be a real-life, fully true human being, and it just plain couldn't work? It wasn't even possible. Period." That, in my experience, is timeless.
'Code',...very mainstream, the makings of a depressingly conventional rom-com, the guy reading off cards, using the manual, laughs ensue?
'The Scab's Progress', colab with my new fav DiFilippo, a nod to Bunyan, as two doofuses may grow up... Particularly like how Fearon & Malvern's bio-cool adventure is show as an adolescent comic book power fantasy....like much of the cyber-punk genre, and to be fair much sci-fi... and hey, I like some of it, but as I get to be an old fart a lot of it annoys me. One of them grows up, so maybe there is hope.
'Junk DNA', a colab with Rucker, two masters of the start-up IPO sci-fi story. Reminiscent of Rucker's "*-ware" series, not as wacky
'Necropolis of Thebes', who says the remorseless march of technology is new?
'The Blemmye's Stratagem', quite different from what I expect from Sterling, a historic-sf story, could be a big thumping novel!
'The Denial', ghost-story with a good twist, small village fable feel in Europe à la Isaac Bashevis Singer - cool!...more
A lot of interesting factoids about the ancient olympic games using the five days of the games as a way of structuring the book. While there was lotsA lot of interesting factoids about the ancient olympic games using the five days of the games as a way of structuring the book. While there was lots of interesting stuff about how the games have always been profession, corrupt and basically gross, I found there wasn't much of a narrative through line (I'm mostly a fiction reader), so I found the book a little too easy to put down and pick up. More bathroom reading than urgent reading. That said, the writing was clear, the facts were interesting. The fuck tents remind me of how prositutes usually stream into modern cities hosting the games to keep up with demand. Either a depressing thought or a reassuring note on the constancy of human existance - probably depressing....more
A book that's subject matter (pulp fiction writers of the 1930s) is more interesting than the story that the author chooses to tell. That a book aboutA book that's subject matter (pulp fiction writers of the 1930s) is more interesting than the story that the author chooses to tell. That a book about pulps has a limp plot that limps along is a grievous sin....more
Ilna, one of the four young protagonists, thinks how when weaving you need to have the pattern in mind before you start or else you'd be a poor craftsIlna, one of the four young protagonists, thinks how when weaving you need to have the pattern in mind before you start or else you'd be a poor craftsman. It's a nod to the reader than Drake has carefully planned out his story and has got the pattern straight before he has begun. And indeed the broad outline of this first book in a nine book series is a familiar pattern of characters raised in humble circumstances rising to heroic nobility. The problem with the book is not the familiar archetypical patterns, it is how David Drake improvises within them.
Now, Drake does action really well. He knows the mechanics, the feel and the energy of people fighting, and he makes these scenes sing. It's not surprising he's known for his military fiction if the action in LotI is any indication.
While I grew to like his 'good' characters (this is traditional fantasy with a heavy demarcation between good and evil, at first I only could really distinguish Nonnus, the warrior turned hermit, and Tenoctris, the old wizard woman, but eventually the four younger characters emerged, mirroring inexperienced youths slowly accumulating knowledge and experience. It was a slow emerging though, and probably listening to the story rather than reading it helped me get through the rather blank character spots at the beginning.
So Drake does good good, but unfortunately his treatment of evil undermines his heroes. To put it bluntly: Drake's forces of evil are all unremitting arses. If you are evil in this book you are an asshole, not only are you an asshole, which I could accept with an evil dude, you're also a complete idiot. In books like this the good characters get to shine when they have a worthy villain to go against, in this book the evil dudes seem to be continually offing themselves, leaving the hero to just stand around and watch. This starts right off the bat with the Hooded One, or one of his incarnations, literally wiping himself and an entire island off the map. (Drake does pause in all this mayhem to make sure a tax collector gets especially killed. I have the feeling he might have issues with the IRS.)
A part of the problem is how Drake uses magic in the book. Except for Tecnotris, who is the goodie, nobody seems to know how to use magic. The evil guys use magic all over the place, indiscriminately and they're always getting blow up cause they don't use it wisely. I mean, why are there any evil wizards in this world? They should have killed themselves in the first five minutes. While in a book like The Wizard of Earthsea the young hero is taught the rules, it feels like the characters in this world are playing with the nets down. It is no fun, frustrating and makes for an anti-climactic ending. Drake would do much better if he followed the examples of LeGuin or even leaned more towards the ethos of someone like George R.R. Martin, who's said that magic should be used very lightly, like a strong spice, not as the main ingredient. If this book is representative, Drake doesn't do magic very well.
So after all those words of wisdom, let me add my special category of guilty pleasures. She's four inches tall, nude and likes to hug her male companion's neck at lot: Milly the sprite. There is one scene where she is lying on Cashel's knee while he is polishing his staff -- I kid you not. This is terrible sexist male fantasy stuff, and admittedly I probably supplied most of the dirty stuff myself, that scene of staff polishing is as racy as it gets. Completely terrible, awful. Really. I should be ashamed....more
Sing a song for Leibowitz. This millennium spanning book isn't just an old cold-war apocalypse tale, it is a look into the moral feasibility of the huSing a song for Leibowitz. This millennium spanning book isn't just an old cold-war apocalypse tale, it is a look into the moral feasibility of the human race. As has happened before, the world plunges into a dark age (this time by nuclear war) and is ruled by ignorance and brutality. Again, the church, this time organized by a former scientist Leibowitz, preserves the knowledge of the time before. But will anything change? Or will it get even worse?
The first two parts of this book remind me of Eco's Name of the Rose (though much shorter). It evokes a medieval mindset with well drawn, sympathetic characters. I especially enjoyed the hapless Brother Francis and how he infuriates his abbot.
This is a Christian book. One of the characters tells another that they should recognize the moral authority of the church, even if the consequence of that is the slow painful death of her child (the alternative is mercy killing). The 'medieval' sections of the book passed smoothly through my modern sensibilities, but in the final third I was turned off by abbot Dom Zerchi's sermons. (This is one of the problems of the novel, the tone becomes far more strident to me: like a fervent anti-abortionist telling his horror stories to bludgeon his audience into his way of thinking. There is a description of a killing of a cat that seems to me to fall into that kind of category.) In this case, when assisted suicide is the alternative to prolonged suffering I stand with the amoral heathens.
Yet the core question of the book: how to live in the world, how to know right from wrong, how to manage our powers of reasons and their products – this keeps the book alive long past the cold war era, and past my disagreements with Miller's Christian Church prescription. ...more
Ummm, busty, bootylicious, self-aware/self-conscious and all tied up in sexy funny situations. Move over Anny Fanny, there is a new girl in town. RealUmmm, busty, bootylicious, self-aware/self-conscious and all tied up in sexy funny situations. Move over Anny Fanny, there is a new girl in town. Really like that it is in black and white, where you can see the artist's lines. Warren gives good 'good girl in peril' fun. Very much a guilty pleasure. Yes, I am going to hell....more