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!(less)
It's Ur-steampunk! Can you still call a story steampunk when it was written in 1909?
I just about fell over backwards when I found out this morning th...moreIt's Ur-steampunk! Can you still call a story steampunk when it was written in 1909?
I just about fell over backwards when I found out this morning that E.M. Forster (Room With A View, Howard's End, Passage To India) wrote a short dystopic story in 1909. Must. Read. Now. Luckily this story is available for free all over the internet, such as here: http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2073
Forster does an amazing job imagining an automated, mechanical future. He describes mass-market airships, even though this was published a mere 6 years after the Wright brothers had "the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight." Forster thought of telecommuting, before it became cool. Somehow he also manages to cover: religion, euthanasia, family relationships, bureaucracy, punishment, and apathy.
Of course a few details are a bit off. "The forests had been destroyed during the literature epoch for the purpose of making newspaper-pulp." Newspapers? I'll let him slide on this one; it was 101 years ago, after all. We also get the original meaning of 'tabloid!'
The story reminds me a lot of Asimov's Spacer universe, where people become so accustomed to living alone, 'normal' human interaction is virtually impossible.
"And of course she had studied the civilization that had immediately preceded her own - the civilization that had mistaken the functions of the system, and had used it for bringing people to things, instead of for bringing things to people. Those funny old days, when men went for change of air instead of changing the air in their rooms!"(less)
Part of my "Finish the series already!" month. _______________________
I really, really loved this book! I don't use love very often with books - partly...morePart 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.(less)
Another book with flying robot monkeys! (I might be pushing it with the flying adjective, but it's close!)
If you ever dream about nanobots, and you ju...moreAnother book with flying robot monkeys! (I might be pushing it with the flying adjective, but it's close!)
If you ever dream about nanobots, and you just know they are right around the corner, oh boy do you want to read this book. If you are interested in nitty-gritty Istanbul with a sci-fi bent, yup, this is your book. If you're looking for a more literary sci-fi and a book that plays and relishes in its language, then give this one a shot.
Sadly, life has been getting in the way of reading at my normal pace. Luckily I read the first third quickly and in a couple of long sessions. I'll say up front, this book challenged me.
The story has a large cast of characters, and a somewhat opaque way of telling the story. McDonald has a stylized way of telling the story, and the characters are all Instanbul natives (or close to it). Readers are not introduced to Istanbul through a Westerners eyes. It's a totally immersion. I could see this putting off a lot of people. McDonald is asking his readers to follow the threads and trust his story telling.
And yet, I felt utterly rewarded by the end.
This paragraph sums up Turkey, and mirrors the struggles of the characters in the story:
"In our five thousand years of civilization, our history has often been the handmaid of geography. We lie exactly midway between the North Pole and the Equator. We are the gateway between the Fertile Crescent and Europe, between landlocked Central Asia and the Mediterranean world and beyond that, the Atlantic. Peoples and empires have ebbed and flowed across this land. Even today sixty per cent of Europe’s gas supply either passes down the Bosphorus or runs under our very feet through pipelines. We have always been the navel of the world. Yet our favored location by its very nature surrounded us with historical enemies; to the north, Russia to the south, the Arabs; to the east, Persia and to the west, the Red Apple itself, Europe."
Sorry I don't have many deeper things to say, but life keeps calling me back.
Some day I'm going to get around to reading more about Turkey. This list of the top 10 books about Turkey will be a good resource when I'm read. -----------------------
I wish I had read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in 1988 - I was in high school, totally into TNG and Asimov. It's a pulpy, fun, sci-fi law-an...moreI wish I had read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in 1988 - I was in high school, totally into TNG and Asimov. It's a pulpy, fun, sci-fi law-and-order-esque romp. Each chapter is like a mini-story with a little twist.
Read this when you want a robot & android filled escape. It would be perfect for a cross-country flight, or staying at home with a cold, or avoiding the family when you're home for Christmas. It's fun, but I wanted more background, more detail, just more. It was over too quick!(less)
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.
I really love the concept here: in 2054 cybernetic robot "surrogates" have become the virtual replacement for real people. You stay in the comfort of...moreI really love the concept here: in 2054 cybernetic robot "surrogates" have become the virtual replacement for real people. You stay in the comfort of your own home controlling your beautiful surrogate at it navigates the world at your behest. Work, travel, human interaction all have this surrogate buffer, but you feel all the sensations as if you are really there. The immediate upside is that violent crime and disease have mostly been eradicated. People can do jobs their real bodies wouldn't normally allow them to; disabled people can become rock climbers, a frail woman can be a buff security guard, and an aging overweight man can be a police lieutenant.
However, the surrogates also create a human disconnect, and not all humans like the way society is reshaping itself. Someone is violently frying surrogates and wants to ultimately shut down the whole surrogate operations.
This is an incredibly intelligent graphic novel that will leave you thinking about the rife ethical and technical issues. The style of art is much looser than a typical comic. It's quite sketchy in places with lovely color washes.
A comment on the 2009 movie adaptation. This is one of those rare instances where they movie gives you some rich expansion and details the novel lacks. This is probably due to the original story only comprising of a miniseries of 5 comics.(less)
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 follows...moreQuestioning 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.(less)