What a fun read! A gripping science fiction romp that will leave you dazed, thinking about the size of the Universe, the effects of world-wide crises,What a fun read! A gripping science fiction romp that will leave you dazed, thinking about the size of the Universe, the effects of world-wide crises, and our small place in both of these.
The difficulty is being able to tell you much about the book. Every chapter contains either a huge game-changing twist, an important turn in the characters' story, or both. The twists start happening so early on, that I can't even breathe a word of them, lest I ruin the fun of the surprise.
The best I can do is give you the setup. In a very near future, the Earth is suddenly surrounded by a temporal shield, the Spin, that blocks out light from the stars and moon, replicates the sun and tides, but otherwise leaves the Earth intact. Outside the Spin, the Universe is aging at a rate of 100,000 years to one year back on the Earth. The consequences of this disturbance are complex, both scientifically and sociologically. We follow the story of three characters as their personal stories intersect with those of the Spin and its aftermath for decades after the event.
There is so much cosmology, astronomy, exobiology, sociology, and evolution to keep you thinking and guessing at each turn.
Seriously, I haven't had this much fun being absorbed in a science fiction story since I read Darwin's Radio.
I just wanted to add that Spin is the first in a planned trilogy, the second volume, Axis is already out. The ending sets up the second book, so it might come across as unfulfilling. ...more
Questioning moral of the story: Is life worth living if it's without some strife?
Slant is not, strictly speaking, the second in a series, but followsQuestioning moral of the story: Is life worth living if it's without some strife?
Slant is not, strictly speaking, the second in a series, but follows the events and several characters from Queen of Angels. Although Slant is a better story than its in-universe predecessor, sadly you need to read QofA to really be able to easily fall into the story. As others have reviewed here, Bear does not explain most of the background information, language and culture of this near-future world. So things like hellcrowning, Emmanuel Goldsmith, Hispanolia, the combs, transforms, history of Jill, etc, will be left mostly to your imagination if you haven't started with QofA.
At any rate, Slant is a fairly tight story in typical Bear fashion. Several (7, 8, or 9?) relatively unconnected threads of story-line are followed in each chapter until they slowly start to intertwine and connect until there is a testosterone-laden cyberpunk confrontation. I quite liked some of the concepts: the lego-like nano-spray, the "thinker" computer, the conservatism/religious reaction to the state of the world, the therapied vs. high-natural castes, and the personal and societal consequences of living a perfectly healthy, therapied life.
Neat stuff, but not so well executed in the overall plot line. There were too many initial story-threads, several of which were given short-shrift. I think he could have accomplished the same story line while stropping or integrating some of the threads. I was also disappointed that the idea of physical transforms, so important to QofA is mostly ignored in Slant. Lastly, the all-out cyber-warfare-porn was just not my cup of tea, and I found myself getting lost amongst the yeasty smells, heat and smoke.
If you're trying out Greg Bear for the first time, give Slant a miss. Go for Darwin's Radio instead....more
In a near-future world, where genetic engineering of embryos is as possible as choosing the color and features of your new Prius, scientists create peIn a near-future world, where genetic engineering of embryos is as possible as choosing the color and features of your new Prius, scientists create people who lack the need (or ability) to sleep - for the right price. The knock-on effect is that these Sleepless are smarter, more emotionally stable, and more rational than us Sleepers.
Around the same time, a brilliant scientist creates a new power source, eliminating the need for fossil fuels or distributed power grids - a cold fusion fuel cell for every home and vehicle! America enters a long era of economic prosperity. However, the Sleepers and Sleepless have problems coexisting peacefully, both socially, economically, and philosophically.
Although it has genetic manipulation and technological advancement at its heart, Beggars in Spain is not just a fun cyber- or bio-punk story. It's more a study of social and philosophical consequences of creating a small group of superior humans. When the Sleepless are shunned and hated even as children, their reactions will set up a chain of events that spans generations.
The story is at its most interesting when Leisha, an original Sleepless child, interacts her twin sister Alice, a Sleeper. Theirs is a complicated sisterhood, full of misunderstanding, regret, jealousy, love, and more. The novel generally lacks a lot of characterization, however Leisha, Alice, and at the end, Miri, are the most fleshed out, dynamic characters and make the story sing.
As enjoyable as I found the epic story, I would warn that if pushing a philosophical agenda turns you off, you might well hate this book. Yagaiism, Kress's version of Rand's Objectivism could be considered to have the starring role, and she pushes the philosophy endlessly. Despite this, there are so many fun concepts and situations to think about long after you put the book down. Seriously, how much fun is that?!...more
***STOP*** Axis is the sequel to Spin, the second book in a trilogy. If you haven't read Spin, and want to read it unspoiled in the future, don't even***STOP*** Axis is the sequel to Spin, the second book in a trilogy. If you haven't read Spin, and want to read it unspoiled in the future, don't even think about reading my review or any reviews about Axis. Don't ruin your experience of Spin -- it's so, so good on its own.
Otherwise, if you've already read Spin or Axis, or have no intention of reading them, feel free to continue...
The vast differences between Spin and Axis make the sequel hard to digest and hard to rate. It has a different structure, different levels of characterization, a different narrative timescale, and so on. The biggest difference is the action in Axis takes place off-world, in the New World, Equatoria, the distant planet past the Arch. Perhaps Wilson was trying to make an entirely off-Earth book feel different? If so, he succeeded, but to the story's detriment.
Like Spin, the story in Axis is propelled by a single apocalyptic event. However, the vast dust storms blanketing Equatoria just aren't as compelling as the temporal membrane blocking out the stars in Spin. It just isn't a game-changing event for all of humanity. In addition, without a main character like Jason Lawton, we have little scientific discussion or evidence through most of the story.
In effect, Axis reads like much less of a Hard SF book than Spin. Whereas Spin opens up new scientific and sociological questions for the reader, the main question in Axis is just an extension of those posed in Spin. What is the nature of the Hypotheticals, and are they sentient? To me, the answers to these aren't answered in a satisfying way. The story remains in a philosophical, almost mystical realm. Maybe Wilson will continue the discussion in Vortex (as yet unpublished), with the type of scientific and sociological commentary that was so brilliant in Spin....more
This book has Killer Robot Chimpanzees. (I'm not sure how I forgot to mention them the first time around.) If that's not enough for you, read on...
I hThis book has Killer Robot Chimpanzees. (I'm not sure how I forgot to mention them the first time around.) If that's not enough for you, read on...
I have to say I really liked this book. Once I got into the story (not an easy thing to do) I really disappeared into the world of Bas-Lag every time I picked up the book. The world was complex, dank, dreary, alive, mystical and fascinating. I don't think I've ever read a book that sat comfortably balanced on that delicate precipice between fantasy and science fiction.
The world is so complex, that when I was explaining the first 50 pages to a friend, he thought I had described a whole book!
Seriously, this book is a huge commitment. I would say that you need to make sure you have time for a few good, long reading sessions for at least the first 1/3 of the book. For me, it took that long before I felt comfortable in the mythology of the story and the style of the prose.
Here's the thing about difficult and descriptive writing: Bad sentences stand out like a sore thumb and pull you right out of the story. Good ones mostly disappear in the imagination and flow of the in-story world.
He loves them so much, he uses them over and over and over. So if you haven't read Perdido Street Station yet, make sure you're acquainted with their definitions.
Here's my suggestion: if you like or at least can look past very descriptive writing, and you have the time to devote to the book, Perdido Street Station can be a very, very rewarding book. ___________________
Just a quote that shows how crazy Miéville's writing can be:
There was a sudden burgeoning swell of foreign exudations. The surface tension of the psychosphere ballooned with pressure, and that hideous sense of alien greed oozed through its pores. The psychic plane was thick with the glutinous effluvia of incomprehensible minds.
Part of my "Finish the series already!" month. _______________________
I really, really loved this book! I don't use love very often with books - partlyPart of my "Finish the series already!" month. _______________________
I really, really loved this book! I don't use love very often with books - partly because I can't choose a select few to elevate above the others. Mostly I don't say I love a book in a review because who am I to say that you will love it too? But this book? Loved it.
Like Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress focuses on societal development as seen through the eyes of different caste individuals in the United States. I don't want to give away any more details than that, except to say that the time period, time span, and layout of the story are quite different than Beggars in Spain. I half expected something quite different, mostly because Beggars in Spain started as a novella (first third of the book), then expanded to a novel, then expanded to a trilogy. What I didn't expect here is a totally different social commentary, and done so damn well. Right now in the hours after finishing it, I think I enjoyed this more than Beggars in Spain.
This is always the tricky thing with second-in-a-series: when the author chooses to do something so different than the beloved first book, she risks alienating folks that wanted more of the same. Despite the differences in Beggars and Choosers, the reader does get more Sleepless, more social commentary, more mind-blowing ideas of how small changes can effect the core structure and belief system of the country.
At any rate, if you've read and enjoyed Beggars in Spain, make the effort to find a copy of Beggars and Choosers. I don't think you'll be disappointed....more
Kress starts off with a simple premise: what if we could genetically modify our children so that they didn't need sleep? She follows all the complicated, society-changing implications from there. (Hint: there's way more than you'd think!) Honestly, after reading the Hugo-award winning novella, I didn't see how it could continue; I thought she had explored all the moral and societal issues with the Sleepless. How wrong I was! Each book has a new simple premise (or two or three) and explores the outcomes and knock-on effects from various individuals' points of view and the wider-reaching societal complications. The brilliance lies in each book presenting a different commentary on society - following a slightly different cast of characters, through new political, economical and emotional terrain.
Specifically about Beggars Ride: It was a good, satisfying conclusion to the series. Sadly, this is the weakest of the three books, but still holds up. For a book that has a couple of huge events, not much action happens. There is too much thinking and talking about stuff, and not enough doing. In most chapters we're inside a character's head, alone with their thoughts. That's just not very compelling. On the other hand, Kress explores new society-changing questions only touched on in the previous books. In addition, this book was grittier, dirtier with depressing elements and reluctant heroes. Yay for grit and dirt!...more
But that doesn't really do the story justice. Set in modern-day Kenya in a small village named Gichichi, Tandeleo is the oldest daughter of the village Episcopalian priest. An alien life form called the Chaga has landed on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and transforms the landscape in unthinkable ways. Luckily Gichichi is far from Kilimanjaro and Nairobi, and the people in the village are more concerned with their crops and animals and living their lives. But the Chaga is spreading and will soon reach Gichichi and Tandeleo's family home. What happens next to Tandeleo is a story of fear, adaptation, migration and acceptance.