So, I have to confess that I read Matthew Mather's books in the opposite order in which they were written. CyberStorm, which I read first, was well-exSo, I have to confess that I read Matthew Mather's books in the opposite order in which they were written. CyberStorm, which I read first, was well-executed and enjoyable, but primarily a solid entertaining novel. Atopia Chronicles is so much more that I found myself truly, truly impressed with Mr. Mather's talent. Not quite five-stars-impressed -- there are still some rough edges in the telling -- but this novel is far more than entertainment -- it's a parable, a warning, and a work from the heart.
Atopia is a, mobile, independent nation-state-island floating around the Pacific. Created by wealthy intellectuals, it represents the promise of the 22nd century. New technology, called pssi, essentially allows humans to exist in alternate realities by stimulating the brain functions that control what we're experiencing. It also allows consciousness to be splintered intentionally so that people can be in more than one place at once.
Great plot device, but Mather takes it much farther, by exploring the moral consequences of such a technology (and without coming across as preachy). What happens when kids are raised with this technology? What happens when couples can experience parenthood without actually having a baby? What happens when the technology is accidentally or intentionally abused? That's essentially what this novel is -- an exploration of the impact of technology.
Not that it's not also a great story. There are power plays at work on the island and external forces who truly do not want this technology unleashed on the world. Atopia itself is threatened with destruction.
The same timeline (except for the ending) is told from roughly a dozen different points of view (another great example of splintered consciousness). This can sometimes make it hard to follow as the personalities, in many cases, don't have a rich enough voice for it to be obvious to the reader who we're working with. So, we have to work a little harder to learn the names. And there's a lot of jumping around from point of view to point of view.
Still, in the end, what results is really a powerful work. After reading this, I went and immediately bought the second book in this series (Dystopia Chronicles). Now if I could only find a way to read this and several other books in parallel.......more
"You know, I think I'll write a novel with three distinct protagonists, but all of them areHere's what I think went through Alastair Reynolds's mind:
"You know, I think I'll write a novel with three distinct protagonists, but all of them are the same person. I don't *think* that's been done yet."
In the beginning, this can be confusing, particularly for readers of the first novel in the series. But it's a neat little plot device that allows the story to span a century and 20 light years (at sublight speeds) effectively without straining credibility too much.
Chiku is the daughter of Sunday and Jitendra (from the first novel) and she has herself cloned and memory implanted so that there are, essentially, three copies of her. Plus, she enables the copies to communicate, so that each copy knows what the other two know. Then, one copy stays on Earth, a second goes in search of Eunice Akinya, and a third boards the holoships bound for the planet Crucible and the mysterious Mandala.
The non-linearity of the telling asks more from readers than writers usually demand and I respect Reynolds for respecting the intelligence of his audience. Still, I enjoyed the first novel a bit more than its successor because I did have more variety in its protagonists (and associated decision-making). All that said, still an excellent novel....more
Not as immediately engrossing as the first novel (Altered Carbon), Broken Angels remains an edgy blend of technology, tribalism, and taboo. The firstNot as immediately engrossing as the first novel (Altered Carbon), Broken Angels remains an edgy blend of technology, tribalism, and taboo. The first book made me feel the way the move BladeRunner did -- that I was peering into the dark heart of a not-too-distant future and couldn't look away. It was gritty noir full of rain and neon, where the rich ignored the rules and the rest of us paid for their mistakes.
Here, it's the same voice, the same feel, but an entirely different setting. Takeshi Kovacs is a mercenary in an elite unit that's fighting on one side of a planetary civil war. In this case, he encounters an opportunity to change sides and retrieve a working Martian portal - millions of times more valuable than anything seen to date. Which side is he really on? What does he really care about here? This time the conflict is bloodier and crueler and, in some respects, more honest because of it. In a world where death is only as inconvenient as your latest backup, it's a remarkable achievement to write a story with this much tension....more
OK, I'm a huge Disney fan, so I read books like this. So take this review with whatever condiments you prefer.
I picked it up because I've always enjoyOK, I'm a huge Disney fan, so I read books like this. So take this review with whatever condiments you prefer.
I picked it up because I've always enjoyed a peek behind the magic curtain -- what's life really like for the cast members that staff Disney's entertainment empire?
Annie is a VIP Tour operator -- one of those cast members that rich Disney Parks visitors hire for $300 per hour (6 hour minimum) to escort them around the park. This book is simply a series of vignettes that cover Annie's experiences during her time in this role -- from wanting the job to getting the job to finally deciding to leave the job. The stories are mostly about the families she escorts, from wonderful "I-wish-we-were-like-them" families to appalling "Even-I-wanted-to-punch-them" families.
What is remarkable here is how well told these tales are. The prose is not flowery or dramatic. It's just honest and well executed. ...more
Lots of hype about this book. Virtually every recommendation software kept shoving this in my face. I took the hint and, well, they were right.
ScienceLots of hype about this book. Virtually every recommendation software kept shoving this in my face. I took the hint and, well, they were right.
Science fiction -- first contact stuff. Big-ass spaceship parked out in the asteroid belt. We've known about it for decades, but only decided to send someone out to have a look once we figured out it was about to get smashed up by an asteroid hit.
Enter Jane, our protagonist with a gift for languages who, upon entering the alien vessel, learns that she can read the language and, in fact, communicate with whoever/whatever is on board.
But what really sold me on this novel was the last page. Dramatic and perfectly executed. I can't wait for the sequel....more
One of the first Scalzi stories I'm not giving five stars. Oh, make no mistake -- this is a terrific novel. Insanely inventive. A disease the leaves fOne of the first Scalzi stories I'm not giving five stars. Oh, make no mistake -- this is a terrific novel. Insanely inventive. A disease the leaves fully-functioning brains locked in unresponsive bodies and the support system/legislation that's grown up around it. In the midst of all this, there are murders and bombings and hostile corporate takeovers. Couple that with a really good protagonist, and awesome "sidekick", and Scalzi's writing skill and you have a great read....more
I am pretty sure I got this one via Amazon's "Kindle First" program, where they pre-release a novel each month in hopes of generating some solid revieI am pretty sure I got this one via Amazon's "Kindle First" program, where they pre-release a novel each month in hopes of generating some solid reviews for it.
I loved the concept -- big data gone wild, privacy a thing of the past, the end of secrets. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the premise -- celebrities faking their own deaths to "vanish" off the grid. But, in the end, the story just strained credibility, which I will happily suspend for talented story tellers, too much for me to enjoy the book....more
I'll go four stars on this one as I admire a writer who can set up an entire storyline four books in advance. Son finishes the quartet nicely (thoughI'll go four stars on this one as I admire a writer who can set up an entire storyline four books in advance. Son finishes the quartet nicely (though I'd've appreciated a lengthier denouement given the emotional struggles of all the characters). Again, not sure what Lowry was really trying to say with the series though. The whole thing feels like it should have been a parable or fable of some kind. Something like "Don't talk to strangers" or "Patience is a virtue" or "Watermelons make poor head gear", but for the life of me I can't put my finger on what she wanted me to know. I felt like the first book in the series, The Giver, really had a strong moral message -- be careful what you give up. And maybe that's the theme of the whole series -- trying to get rid of your problems only makes them worse. If so, I get it, but I think I like I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew's take on the message more....more
Not the strongest of the series, but enjoyable. Messenger ties off the events of Gathering Blue and sets us up for the conclusion in Son. This one wasNot the strongest of the series, but enjoyable. Messenger ties off the events of Gathering Blue and sets us up for the conclusion in Son. This one was a little weird to me. Very nicely written and I enjoyed the continuation of the storyline from book 2. But why was the forest getting sick/evil? Presumably, it was the TradeMaster, but it wasn't clear that the action at the end (avoiding spoilers) was entirely required, particularly given the resolution of Book 4. Not sure what point Lois Lowry was making here....more
Every once in a while, I need to purge my system with a good Jack Reacher novel. One thing I've always enjoyed is the strong sense of invulnerable rigEvery once in a while, I need to purge my system with a good Jack Reacher novel. One thing I've always enjoyed is the strong sense of invulnerable righteousness that surrounds Mr. Reacher. He knows what's right and he'll become unstoppable in its pursuit.
But lately, there's this darkness that has pervaded the series and I'm not sure it's for the better. Sure, there have always been bad guys. The earliest books were wonderfully formulaic and I know Lee Child has been working to mix it up lately. But this book (and the last one) seem mired in kind of an aimless despair, a foreboding that doesn't come to pass. The darkness seems to be inside Jack, rather than external as it has been. I don't know -- maybe it was just all that snow and flatness.
I'll keep reading, particularly after the pregnant end to this entry in the series. But I would like to see Mr. Reacher return to his less troubled days....more
My daughter's school introduced me to this series and I wanted to push beyond the popular first book to see if there was a larger story Ms. Lowry wasMy daughter's school introduced me to this series and I wanted to push beyond the popular first book to see if there was a larger story Ms. Lowry was telling.
Gathering Blue has nothing to do with The Giver at its most basic level. What we have here is far from a utopia -- it's a fallen civilization that, it turns out, has been molded by the hands of a few. In many ways, I enjoyed this story much more than the Giver and I'll be interested to see how all four are tied together....more