Has there ever been another science fiction novel where language plays such a central role? Embassytown is a unique, frustrating, challenging read aboHas there ever been another science fiction novel where language plays such a central role? Embassytown is a unique, frustrating, challenging read about the nature of communication and the power of words.
It takes place on a world in which a human colony has developed a peaceful existence with an alien race known colloquially as the Hosts. The Hosts have two mouths that speak concurrently, they have no written language, and they do not understand the humans' mode of speech. To establish relations with the Hosts, the human colonists grow Ambassadors, unique pairs of cloned people who are raised from before birth to speak and think united as one. One day, a new pair of Ambassadors arrive at Embassytown. Unlike all other Ambassadors, Ez and Ra (get it?) were two individuals who trained to speak as one. Their arrival changes the Hosts and life on Embassytown forever.
So, I really don't think there's anyone else who treats strange and outre ideas with respect and thoughtfulness like Mieville does, but a lot of this one seems sort of half-baked to me. We learn that (view spoiler)[for every pair of functioning Ambassadors, there are several failed attempts living in various states of disability in a halfway home and this is really not brought up again. When Ra and Vin are killed, their other halves, Ez and Cal, are able to pair up and become a new, functioning Ambassador. The rules of this world seem very pliant and I guess you just have to roll with it. (hide spoiler)]
I've read most of Mieville's back catalog now, looking for another adventure as wonderful and weird and engrossing as Perdido Street Station or The Scar, and I'm yet to find it. I hope he has something as inventive as that in him still....more
So the back of The Martian compares the story to “a cross between Apollo 13 and Cast Away,” and that's essentially all you need to know. It's impossibSo the back of The Martian compares the story to “a cross between Apollo 13 and Cast Away,” and that's essentially all you need to know. It's impossible to get more succinct and more accurate than this. So if you liked those two movies, you know what you need to do. You're not going to find a lot of character development here – it's an adventure story about survival in a hostile environment – but I found it thrilling and really engrossing. I'm also a mechanical engineer and I always enjoy positive portrayals of my profession....more
I wanted to like this! I did! Ancillary Justice has won acclaim and awards and praise from pretty much every corner of science fiction fandom, and somI wanted to like this! I did! Ancillary Justice has won acclaim and awards and praise from pretty much every corner of science fiction fandom, and some outside of genre fiction, too. There are some interesting ideas explored here, and I hate being what feels like the only person who didn't like this, but I found it a chore to get through.
The premise is unique - in the far future, sophisticated AIs can be duplicated and stored in many human bodies ("ancillaries") so that a person can be in many places simultaneously, each sharing consciousness and sensory input, and making the wealthy and powerful nearly immortal. After all, if you have enough ancillaries, it becomes impossible to kill them all simultaneously. Our hero is a ship AI and/or one of its ancillaries, who embarks on a mission of revenge after her ship and most of her are killed by the Emperor. Gradually, we learn more about the nature of the Emperor and why the ship was destroyed.
For the most part, the plot is unique and there are some intriguing ethical questions - what makes a person a person, particularly if that person is one of thousands of him- or herself? What role do our environment and our personal biases play in defining and classifying people, particularly in terms of gender?
But it was a chore to get through. The book jumps forward and backward in time, it becomes difficult to follow our hero(ine?) through the stages of the plot, and I found myself wondering how many pages were left. It might just be me, but I was not sufficiently interested to read the other two books in this trilogy....more
Judging only by its title, Toxic Truth sounds like some kind of political polemic, maybe something denouncing vaccines or antidepressants, doesn't it?Judging only by its title, Toxic Truth sounds like some kind of political polemic, maybe something denouncing vaccines or antidepressants, doesn't it? Fortunately, the book is better than its title.
It's actually about Clair Patterson, a geochemist who set out to determine the age of the Earth, and ran into problems when he found that his measurements were unreliable due to environmental lead contamination. So he developed and built the world's first clean-room laboratory, solved the age-of-the-Earth problem, and set out to quantify the extent of the contamination issue and measure its impact on human health.
As Patterson's body of evidence builds, the petroleum and lead industries apply pressure to attempt to discredit him, his science, and his acolytes, and the book really takes a turn. The corporate suits say and do some really appalling things to try to fight the inevitable destruction of their industry. It's really disgusting to see how these people casually brush aside the clear evidence of their destructive behavior, particularly when it's young children who suffer the most.
I was first made aware of Patterson by the excellent updated Cosmos series, in the episode “The Clean Room.” I love these kinds of books – accounts of actual events that very few people know about....more
I felt that this one had a little lower batting average than the other cross-genre anthology I read this year, Warriors. This has got an incredible liI felt that this one had a little lower batting average than the other cross-genre anthology I read this year, Warriors. This has got an incredible lineup of authors, though - Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, GRRM, Neil Gaiman, etc. Most of these stories were just okay, in my opinion, although I really enjoyed the Scott Lynch one, "A Year and a Day in Old Theradane" - that man can do no wrong, at least not yet - and Rothfuss's story, "The Lightning Tree," was memorable, too. Some good variety in these stories, but too many of them were just okay for me to really be totally wowed.
In between this and Warriors, Martin and Dozois did another anthology called Dangerous Women that I suppose I'll have to read, too. Confusingly, Martin's story in this book, "The Rogue Prince," is a prequel to the previously published story from DW, "The Princess and the Queen," so while I've read these out of publishing order, I will have read them in chronological order, so there's that....more