Structured in three distinct parts, this book tackles the slow reconstruction of society after the "flame deluge", when nuclear warheads fall across tStructured in three distinct parts, this book tackles the slow reconstruction of society after the "flame deluge", when nuclear warheads fall across the world like rain. Knowledge and science are blamed for the deluge, and those burning the books and bearers of knowledge proudly proclaiming themselves "simpletons". In amongst this, an engineer by the name of Leibowitz starts an underground network for the preservation of books and knowledge. Six hundred years later, America has retreated to a new dark age, and the Church once again finds itself with the responsibility for preserving the knowledge of the past, specifically through the Blessed Order of Leibowitz. Another six hundred years after that, an Enlightenment is happening, with secular scholars rediscovering the knowledge that had been lost, and the Order of St Leibowitz gaze upon the first electric light for over a thousand years. But with the coming of the Enlightenment, once again there comes strife between the ancient Church and the emerging state. And finally another six hundred years pass and the heavens are once again opened to mankind, as colonies spread amongst the stars. But back on earth, global tensions are high and rumours are rife of construction of forbidden nuclear weapons...
This is a difficult book to discuss. Miller was a convert to Catholicism and the Catholic church is portrayed very sympathetically, as the preservers of knowledge that the secular world would otherwise have completely burned. For the first section of the book, you're unequivocally on their side. The second section reintroduces the tensions between emerging nation states and the Church, and the age old question of whether knowledge should just be preserved for the sake of it or whether it should be brought into the light and used. The final section is more difficult, as the abbot of the abbey of St Leibowitz of that time takes a very hard line stance on euthanasia even in the face of the immense suffering through radiation poisoning that he sees around him: crystallised in one woman and her child who are dying anyway and want to go to the state-sponsored clinics.
The abbot espouses the age-old doctrines of the church, but in the face of immense suffering, I saw it as nothing more than the ancient fact of a bully trying to hold power over the powerless. But then you've got the final few chapters which may be just the ravings of a dying man, or may be something else entirely.
The themes of the book seem to be about the inevitability of the cycle of history; about how man will raise himself up to be like a god, but can never sustain himself and lose his feet of clay. It's quite a depressing message: after the first two sections in which (despite the inevitable death and destruction at the human level) civilisation is on an upwards trajectory, the final one seems to suggest that we'll never be able to overcome our animal natures, and may even spread the cycle to other worlds.
There is a seam of mysticism that runs throughout the book that I'm not entirely sure what to make of, with Rachel in the last section, and the old hermit (or something like him) showing up in all three. Miller does seem to be clearly hinting towards a conclusion (view spoiler)[that God definitely exists and is an interventionist God (hide spoiler)].
This is a slightly odd book. It's composed of four loosely linked short stories and a novella (Picnic on Paradise) mostly with the same protagonist (tThis is a slightly odd book. It's composed of four loosely linked short stories and a novella (Picnic on Paradise) mostly with the same protagonist (the titular Alyx, although the last story, The Second Inquisition does away even with this). The first two stories are entirely set in the past with no SFnal element to them, and reminded me of some of the Conan stories that I've read. The third introduces a 'sorcerer' while the novella relocates Alyx to the far future as she's accidentally lifted from her own timeline and she's recruited to help a group of trapped civilians cross a planet to safety in the midst of a war. This is the contribution that gives Alyx the most depth as she has to shepherd her group and inevitably gets involved with their lives. The final story is set in 1925 and only obliquely references the rest.
The slim volume is dense in multiple senses of the word. The print is small and closely packed but the imagery and metaphor are also sometimes dense, requiring close reading to process and unpack. Not exactly the light lunchtime reading that I was expecting, but mostly worth it.
Russ is, of course, known for her feminist work and this woman who starts as a cipher, a female Conan, develops into something much more complex, having an inner life of her own. She is always an actor, always driving the story, never being a passive character to whom events happen, which is something that I always enjoy in a protagonist.
So an odd set of stories, but enjoyable both in themselves, and for their place in the greater history of the genre....more
I'm a fan of the sort of rambling shaggy dog story that Arthur C. Clarke told very well in Tales from the White Hart and loved this tribute to that.I'm a fan of the sort of rambling shaggy dog story that Arthur C. Clarke told very well in Tales from the White Hart and loved this tribute to that. Ian Whates has assembled quite the collection of authors to contribute to his anthology, all of whom were as fond of those old stories as I am. The stories themselves range from very White Hart-ian shaggy dog stories, complete with puntastic punchlines to more horrific fare to good old fashioned super-science SF. I would have liked to see more women involved, although Liz Williams' story is fun (and gives some back story to barmaid Bogna).
My favourite stories were probably Stephen Baxter's Transients which tells of a stranger brought into the usual group at the Fountain who tells a very particular story, before disappearing again; A Bird in the Hand by Charles Stross, which brings some women to the group and is one of shaggier dog stories in the collection; Book Wurms by Andy West about strange things lurking inside books and the strangers who tend them; and The 9,000,000,001st Name of God by Adam Roberts, riffing off the famous Clarke story.
If you're a fan of the White Hart or Callahan's or any other of those sorts of collections, you'll enjoy this one a lot (and I'd certainly like to stop there for a drink, although perhaps avoid the ploughman's)....more
Right. Wait, what?! The last time we saw Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, she was standing with her best friend, on the roof of her school, waiting for theRight. Wait, what?! The last time we saw Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, she was standing with her best friend, on the roof of her school, waiting for the end of the world. Here, we're dumped right into the middle of the action, the world hasn't ended and Ms Marvel is now an Avenger?! There's no explanation of this, we just get a throwaway comment that it's eight months later and just carry on regardless. This is frustrating, especially given where we left of last time.
Still, it seems that Kamala hasn't been paying much attention since that time too, as she's stunned to find out that Bruno is now seeing someone else, but before they can talk about that, there's a redevelopment in Jersey City that goes a bit Stepford to deal with; her super-religious brother has fallen in love and needs her to be a chaperone; Avenging is trickier than she realised (not to mention the downsides of fame); and then there's a whole stack of Kamala clones that need taken care of... It's all a bit overwhelming, for the reader as well as for Kamala, as she tries to discover just what her priorities are.
As fond as I am of Kamala and her world, this book didn't do it for me as much as the earlier ones. It was still fun, but it all felt a bit hectic, and the whole non-end-of-the-world thing was underwhelming. I understand it was part of some larger Marvel metaplot, but if you're going to do that, it still has to work for people who don't religiously read all the titles. Just a few panels of exposition would have been fine. And now, I see that the next volume is called Civil War II, presumably tying in with another Marvel crossover, and I'm really not sure I can be bothered with that. It's Kamala I want to see, and her family and her friends and Jersey City. I'm happy to leave Spider-Man, SHIELD, the Avengers and all the others out of it. If the focus is going to move away from the characters of this title, to be more involved in crossovers, then I really can't be bothered any more....more
Volume 4 of Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan edition) sees Kamala meet one of her all time heroes (and namesake) and have to save her brother from her evil ex wVolume 4 of Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan edition) sees Kamala meet one of her all time heroes (and namesake) and have to save her brother from her evil ex while at the same time dealing with the end of the world.
This may possibly be my favourite Ms Marvel book to date. I loved the goofy mix of action and emotion, which has always been there, but Wilson has smoothed the edges to perfection in this one. I suspect that I missed a lot of the background with the big planet over Manhattan as I think it was part of some sort of crossover but you don't really feel like you're missing out on anything important.
The scenes between Kamala and Carol Danvers are very sweet and the ones with her and her family are awfully moving. However, it's the last scene of the main story, with Kamala and Bruno that left a lump in my throat.
It was a bit jarring that at the end of that, we get a crossover issue with Spider-Man. It's a complete change of tone, but fun in its own way, even if I get the impression that there's a whole bunch of Spider-Man emo stuff going on ('cos Spider-Man always does, doesn't he?) that I didn't really care an awful lot about. I was there for the embiggening and punching (and Kamala doing her fangirl squeeing thing, which is quite adorable)....more
I enjoyed this collection of SF stories inspired by the Ramayan. I'm familiar with the rough outline of the story from my childhood, but I don't haveI enjoyed this collection of SF stories inspired by the Ramayan. I'm familiar with the rough outline of the story from my childhood, but I don't have the deep immersion that I would have had if I'd grown up in India (in the way that I've absorbed the Christian stories just by living my life in Britain, without ever being Christian). This meant that the book was read with Wikipedia always at the ready, to look up names, places and events that Indians would just know. Still, like I say, I'm familiar with the basic story and it was fascinating to see the various different interpretations put on it in this collection.
Most of the stories were fairly sympathetic to the villain of the traditional story, Raavan and they also tended to pick up on the tail end of the story - the bit that many people tend to forget, where after Raam has won Sita back, he doubts her chastity and rejects her. The book contains stories from across the SF spectrum, from hard SF, through traditional fantasy to the fence-sitting of magical realism. My favourite story was one of the more sci-fi interpretations, Sita's Descent by Indrapramit Das, about an giant intelligent nanite cloud named Sita, who takes the stories that she's based on a little too literally. Other standouts for me include The Ramayana as an American Reality Television Show (with social media fallout after an episode of the show); the somewhat disturbing, dark piece Weak Heart; and the modern day story Kalyug Amended, with its absolute killer final line.
This is a great collection to dip in and out of and makes me think in different ways about the stories of my childhood. I'd be happy to read many of these stories again (I say that about a lot of books, but there's always the next shiny thing to read, so I never get time. Still, this book will stay on my shelves in the hope that one day I do have the time)....more
I first encountered Dave Clements at SF conventions, and he quickly became someone to look out for on a panel or talk, being knowledgeable about SF anI first encountered Dave Clements at SF conventions, and he quickly became someone to look out for on a panel or talk, being knowledgeable about SF and science, as his day job is as an astrophysicist. I started following him on Twitter and when I found his new collection of short stories just out in a convention dealers' room, I grabbed it as a matter of course.
There are two non-fiction pieces in the book; in the first Clements talks about the life and work of an astrophysicist as he works half way up a mountain, in a low-oxygen environment. The second is about the experience of having a substantial chunk of your career sitting on top of a giant controlled explosion, being blasted into the sky. These are lovely insights into the life of a working scientist and are good to read.
As for the fiction, it was Clements' future history stories that I enjoyed the most, although the opening story Re-Creation was an explosive way to open the collection. This tells the story of the rebirth of humanity in the distant future, by way of creatures of practically unlimited power, but which can still make mistakes.
It's these sorts of far-future space opera that have been my bread and butter in science fiction for as long as I've been a reader and after that huge opener, we're brought back to Earth with a bump as we have a few near-future stories where Clements explores some of the more salacious aspects of modern society, including seed patenting in Last of the Guerilla Gardeners and the excesses of bureaucracy in academia in Inquisition. In between there are Lovecraftian horror stories and multi-dimensional do-gooding. Then in the last set of stories at the end, we go back to future. These are all set in a single future history that spans millions of years and sees Humanity fighting a war across the ages. I loved these stories, which also managed to find the time to fit in the responsibility of uploaded humans to those left behind; the place of AI in human civilisation; and the politics of academia.
The little afterwords after each story by the author add to it and give us some insight into what sparked them or where they came from. There are lots of good stories here, recommended to anyone who likes a decent chunk of science in their science fiction. Written by someone at the coal face, these follow in the best traditions of Asimov, Clarke and other greats of the Golden Age, but with 21st century science....more
Barnett is an expat Briton living in Kalimantan, in Indonesia. A momentary act of kindness from him sends Curtis MacKinnon to a trading post deep in tBarnett is an expat Briton living in Kalimantan, in Indonesia. A momentary act of kindness from him sends Curtis MacKinnon to a trading post deep in the jungle. After a while, Barnett gets alarming correspondence from the trading post that sends him to confront MacKinnon.
I'm not familiar with Shepard and from reading this, I assumed he was a literary writer, dipping his toe into the SF genre, but Wikipedia describes him as an SF author, albeit one with "an awareness of literary antecedents." There is definitely a literary tone to this novella and the island land of Kalimantan is lovingly described.
The story straddles the line between SF and fantasy with talk of the spirit of the land, but also crashed alien spaceships on parallel worlds. The story is a bit of a character study, with MacKinnon and Barnett both being examined in some depth.
An interesting story, with a lot of pleasure to be had from the language and descriptions. While there is some action late in the story, this isn't a book to read for that. It's one for introspection and to delve into the landscape. Worth it, but be prepared to have to do a bit of work....more
Patricia can (sometimes) talk to animals and (sometimes) leave her body. Lawrence has built a time machine that can jump you into the future by two sePatricia can (sometimes) talk to animals and (sometimes) leave her body. Lawrence has built a time machine that can jump you into the future by two seconds and an AI in his bedroom. These two outsiders become friends as much to protect them from loneliness and bullies at school, but life gets in the way. They encounter each other again as adults when Patricia is a powerful witch and Lawrence is a tech genius trying to live up to the role.
This is a story of love, betrayal and the apocalypse as we track Patricia and Lawrence through their journey as the world seems to be falling apart around them. It's an odd one. You can tell that it's a first novel, with the pacing and feel veering wildly. The first half or so is quiet and whimsical, even as it encompasses the helplessness and unfairness of childhood. I enjoyed that a lot. The second, as we catch up with our protagonists as adults, is less even. It will annoy some people, being set in the more hipster parts of San Francisco, with people going out for overpriced coffee and locally sourced, organic burritos and agonising over their lives. If that doesn't bother you (and it doesn't bother me that much), then trying to figure out the rules of Patricia's magic, and trying to figure out Lawrence's place in a larger masterplan to save the human race is enjoyable, with some good sex thrown in for good measure.
But (and you knew that was coming) the ending. The ending just sort of threw me. I suspect it's the sort of thing some people will adore, but I must confess that it lost me. There's a lot left unsaid and a lot left undone, and I found that unsatisfying. Most of the characters, other than the protagonists, seem to mostly exist for plot exposition too, they don't get much in the way of development (and it felt like Lawrence's girlfriend, Serafina, gets quite short-changed).
Anders obviously has a lot of potential. I've enjoyed some of her short fiction and this was a decent first novel. I'll keep reading them, I suspect, as I'll love to see what she's like in full flow....more
I've read the occasional short story by Neil Williamson in various anthologies over the years but never a collection of his own. Williamson's style iI've read the occasional short story by Neil Williamson in various anthologies over the years but never a collection of his own. Williamson's style is quite dense and literary, I found I had to read the book quite slowly, taking just one or two stories at a time, otherwise it just got a bit blurry.
The major themes in the book are music and Scotland. He draws on the distinctiveness of Scots and Scotland to set up character portraits and story resonance without needing to go into great detail. And music is present in many of these stories in some shape or other, from the way the system dealt with Punk in Arrhythmia to the the very essence of what art is and if how it should be produced and consumed in The Death of Abigail Goudy, a piece which, it seems to me (and from the author's afterword) came from very deep inside the author.
My favourite piece was probably the most science fictional story in the collection, Lost Sheep, a space opera set in the deep future, yet still coming back to the perennial theme of making and showing art.
It's not what I would call a cheerful book, there's a sense of melancholy running through it, even the stories that don't directly have sad endings leave you with a sense of unease that things are probably going to get worse. There is a streak of dark humour running through it that stops it getting too miserable though.
So a book to dip into for me, rather than to swallow down. I can appreciate the quality of Williamson's writing but he's not an author that I'd want to read a lot of in quick succession....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this third foray into DI Archibald LeBrock's world of anthropomorphic animals and alt-history steampunk noir. This time, an old fI thoroughly enjoyed this third foray into DI Archibald LeBrock's world of anthropomorphic animals and alt-history steampunk noir. This time, an old friend requests LeBrock's help in solving a murder in Paris that has the Paris force stumped. This leads to a tangled web of millionaire industrialists and sinister plots.
Talbot really goes to town on the worst excesses of industrialists and capitalists in this volume, calling on real world examples, which he describes in the afterword, for those of us not familiar with them. This was instructive as every time you'd think that something was absurd, he'd pop up with an example of a brawl between artists of different schools or how the CIA promoted abstract art as a counter to communism.
Whilst we don't learn much about the dapper Roderick, LeBrock himself does get some character development, as does the rather fantastic Billie, who returns from the previous volume and turns out to be just as good with a pistol as she is at, ahem, her day job.
I still love the art style that Talbot uses for this series, it's bold, vivid and very good at depicting action. As with all of these books, however, don't be fooled by the cartoony art, this is violent stuff with many adult themes (not least the conflict between capital and labour)....more
I enjoyed this story mathematics, computer science and first contact. It felt quite old-school, with maths and science to the fore, and the charactersI enjoyed this story mathematics, computer science and first contact. It felt quite old-school, with maths and science to the fore, and the characters being not as well developed - not that I have any major problem with that (I am, after all, a fan of golden age SF). In the midst of China's cultural revolution, a young woman watches as her father is killed for his beliefs. Forty plus years later, a young scientist called Wang Miao is asked by Beijing police to investigate a secretive organisation of scientists known as the Frontiers of Science. His investigations lead to a virtual reality computer game, and beyond into something that may threaten the entire human race.
My favourite scene in the book, I think, was the first in the present day. After everything that went on in the Cultural Revolution period that immediately preceded it, it was a shock to see a scientist "giving lip" to the authorities, and that very nicely showed the passage of time and that things had changed immensely in China in the intervening period.
Although Wang is our main protagonist, he doesn't get much in the way of character development. We know he has a wife and child, but they get exactly one scene and we see little of his life. The character who gets the most development is probably Ye Wenjie, the young woman from the start, whose life dovetails with Wang's in important ways.
The translation by Ken Liu is excellent, with the narrative flowing without much in the way of awkwardness. And it's very interesting to read SF from a different cultural point of view. Liu's take on first contact is unusual and worth reading.
One thing I didn't realise when I started this book was that it was part of a trilogy. The story doesn't really come to any neat conclusion at the end of the book, so be aware of that....more
Several years have passed since the end of the last volume, as this one opens with Hazel now an actual honest-t0-goodness person, not just a baby/toddSeveral years have passed since the end of the last volume, as this one opens with Hazel now an actual honest-t0-goodness person, not just a baby/toddler. Hazel and her grandmother spend these years in a prisoner of war camp on Landfall, and we see several new characters introduced to the cast, including the rather adorable Noreen, Hazel's teacher and the slightly less adorable but very interesting Petrichor, a trans woman who Hazel befriends while in prison.
As usual, Vaughan's twists and turns of plot keep me guessing and he drops a real bomb at the end of the volume, which the always brilliant Staples visualises magnificently, with the expression on Alana's face. It's not just that, of course, but the rest of the art, which continues to be stunning, as she renders both horrific violence and moments of true tenderness with equal vividness. Staples' art is as much of Saga as Vaughan's writing and it wouldn't be the same without her.
So in case it's not obvious, I continue to love this series and am impatient for more! Maybe I should ease the waiting time by picking up the rather gorgeous-looking deluxe edition. It'll be an excuse to read the first 18 chapters again....more
In a future galactic civilisation, robots live and work amongst their biological cousins. One day, giant planet-sized robots appear out of nowhere, wrIn a future galactic civilisation, robots live and work amongst their biological cousins. One day, giant planet-sized robots appear out of nowhere, wreak havoc and then disappear just as mysteriously. Ten years later, anti-robot feeling has run rampant, and most robots are hunted down and destroyed. However, on a distant mining colony, a child's companion robot wakes from a ten year sleep and, as his codex matches that of the now disappeared Harvesters, he is suddenly wanted by half the galaxy.
I really enjoyed this really wide-canvas story. Tim-21 is disoriented and afraid; this makes him relatable (and not as annoying as I often find children in these sorts of scenarios - or even pretend children). The back story of a galactic civilisation pushed to the edge and falling apart in the wake of the attack is nicely played. Some infodumping, but minimal enough to be unobtrusive and almost expected in the comic format.
The art, by Dustin Nguyen, is rather lovely, the watercolours lending a surreal or dreamlike effect to the whole thing, which somewhat offsets the hard SF tone of the story, not to mention some of the horrific things that happen (on- or off-page)!
While the dialogue can sometimes be a bit clunky, the story is compelling, the world-building is well done, Tim-21 himself is someone who you just want to protect (even though he's supposed to be a protector himself) and the cliffhanger has left me wanting more. Roll on volume 2....more
I'll get on to the important stuff in a minute, but did anyone else notice the smell of their book? I don't know if it's something to do with the bindI'll get on to the important stuff in a minute, but did anyone else notice the smell of their book? I don't know if it's something to do with the binding process used, or the glue, but it really doesn't smell like a book at all. In fact, it smells sort of unpleasant.
Anyway, skipping over that, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was very definitely speculative fiction, not science fiction. There was a reasonable amount of fantasy as well as SF and more horror than I would have liked.
Highlights included The Gift of Touch, a space opera about a freighter transporting some passengers, which reminded me a bit of the marvellous The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; The Boy Who Cast No Shadow, a tale of being different, literally and metaphorically, powerful and melancholic; and The Symphony of Ice and Dust about an expedition to the far reaches of the solar system and the remains that they find there.
There were a number of misses for me as well, stories that I just didn't really get, including Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith, which may have been a Jewish zombie tale, but I'm not really sure. I felt completely lost for most of that one. Jinki and the Paradox was going okay until the end, when it lost me again. I'm really not sure what to make of the last story in the collection, A Cup of Salt Tears, it's not the way that I would have chosen to end the book, this Japanese almost fairy tale about a woman whose husband is dying and a kappa comes to her and tells her it loves her. Very odd, a bit melancholic and (there's a theme emerging here), I got completely lost by the end.
I like the little flash pieces in between some of the longer stories. While they weren't all to my taste, they were short enough to not outstay their welcome if they weren't. And they were nice little palate cleansers between the chunkier stories.
So an interesting collection albeit one that I sometimes struggled with. I don't know if that's just the stories picked, or the international nature of some of them. I certainly felt that there were a few where knowing more about the cultural context would help me understand them, but it was good to read stuff from a different point of view to the usual British/American perspective. I'm not sure that I'd buy any of the others, but I might look for them in the local library....more
The Earth in the distant future has been rendered uninhabitable, and its last inhabitants flee in an ark ship cobbled together using what remnants ofThe Earth in the distant future has been rendered uninhabitable, and its last inhabitants flee in an ark ship cobbled together using what remnants of ancient technology that they could recover towards a planet that was, according to the old star maps, terraformed for them and awaiting their arrival. However, when they arrive, they find that they're not alone and their paradise planet has more than they bargained for.
It took me a while to get into this book, although that was partly my fault, as I took advantage of the relatively short chapters to read it in small doses, when I think it really needed a longer run. Throughout, I was definitely rooting more for the green planet's inhabitants than the humans on the Gilgamesh. Apart from our POV character, Holsten Mason, the ship's classicist, none of the others were particularly sympathetic, although chief engineer Lain comes close. I did like the idea that a starship would have a classicist amongst its Key Crew though. The technology that they're relying on, and that terraformed the planet was from a civilisation long gone, so they need him to translate - like having a Latin scholar in a time travel story about ancient Rome, I suppose.
(view spoiler)[I found the chapters following the spiders to be the most enjoyable, as we stepped forward in time, seeing their species and civilisation evolve from primitive hunters to something that can build space elevators and has a ring around their world. And I must confess that I didn't see the end coming. The clash of the two species looked like meaning that genocide of one was inevitable, and the last-minute swerve to avoid it blindsided me entirely, in a good way. The end was uplifting and hopeful and, once I thought about it, entirely in keeping with both the spiders' technology, and the entire span of their history.
It was nice to see Kern get some redemption towards the end of the book as well. She started as intensely arrogant and unlikeable, then went a bit mad so I was pleased to see her 'recovery' into something more likeable and helpful later on. Also, ant colonies as computers! That's a fabulous idea. (hide spoiler)]
So lots to like here, but don't be fooled by the short chapters - I'd definitely recommend setting aside blocks of time and reading chunks at a time....more
I enjoyed this collection of mid-period Asimov. The stories were pretty classic Asimov, short on character, but long on plot and action and I thoughtI enjoyed this collection of mid-period Asimov. The stories were pretty classic Asimov, short on character, but long on plot and action and I thought the forewords and afterwords where the Good Doctor talked both about the story and threw in autobiographical details of his own life were just as interesting. When talking directly to the reader, Asimov has a wonderfully chatty style; I'd have loved to have met him in person (although I can say that safely, as I'm not a young woman).
Of the stories themselves, partial as I am to a good shaggy dog story (I love Clarke's Tales from the White Hart, for example), Shah Guido G. was a good one, with a fabulous pun at the end of it. The title story, Buy Jupiter was a nice one too, with another neat sting in the tail. Does a Bee Care? is one that I've read before in another collection somewhere and still enjoyed on a reread, while Let's Not is one of several dystopic or post-apocalyptic stories in the collection, and the last line is a stinger.
So a strong collection, worthy of the established fan and the Asimov novice alike, but as noteworthy for the biographical detail from the author as the stories themselves....more
I didn't realise this tale of far-future space exploration was part of a series until I added it to my GoodReads list, a couple of hundred pages in. II didn't realise this tale of far-future space exploration was part of a series until I added it to my GoodReads list, a couple of hundred pages in. I found out later, from Reynolds' website, that all three books in the series are intended to be able to be read individually and I've got to tip my hat to the man, I very much enjoyed this without having read the others in the series. Reynolds' world-building is impeccable, he introduced elements that have presumably been major points in previous books with a deft touch, never infodumping, but never leaving me floundering, wondering what was going on.
I feel like I know Eunice and Chiku Akinya even though they never turn up in this book (sort of). The Tantors are fabulous creations and the Risen maintain their air of intimidating creepiness throughout. The themes are very broad, Reynolds' certainly doesn't stint there. The thoughts on machine intelligence, the idea of the Terror (with a capital T) and the constant theme of hope for mankind and the other intelligences it shares the universe with maybe actually getting along. That is worth reading. Kanu is probably the character who espouses that the most, particularly through his relationship with Swift.
I found Goma to be an interesting character, although she sometimes felt like she was there to push the plot forward more than anything else. And even as an atheist myself, I found her hard-line attitude to Peter Graves somewhat bewildering.
(view spoiler)[The only bit of characterisation that I really didn't quite felt worked was Dakota's change of heart on Poseiden. She'd been so focused on getting there for so long, and suddenly she changes her mind and thinks it maybe isn't a good idea? I don't really get that. (hide spoiler)]
This was great space opera (and pleasingly sticking with slower-than-light travel for all concerned). I'm definitely going to go back and read the other books in the series now....more
Three thousand years have passed since Ender Wiggins committed unwitting xenocide in Ender's Game, but thanks to relativistic interstellar travel, boThree thousand years have passed since Ender Wiggins committed unwitting xenocide in Ender's Game, but thanks to relativistic interstellar travel, both he and his sister Valentine remain young, as they search for somewhere to release the last of the alien 'bugger' hive queen. On the colony world of Lusitania another alien species has been found, this time in a primitive state. To prevent another xenocide, the Hundred Worlds Starways Congress enacts a law much like the Prime Directive forbidding interference in the culture of the new species, colloquially known as 'piggies'. However, despite this, the colony's xenobiologist still dies, vivisected by the piggies. Ender, now a Speaker for the Dead, is called to speak his death. Twenty years pass before he is able to arrive (only a few weeks for him) and he finds a colony full of pain and secrets. It's up to him and the hidden AI sentience known as Jane to try and prevent another xenocide.
Although it's been a very long time since I've read Ender's Game, this feels like a very different book. It's a talky book, with a very interesting alien ecosystem at its heart. I was frustrated at by the lack of information about that for most of the length of the novel, as just asking some basic questions would have resolved matters. Regarding that, Ender's explanation of the motives behind the 'prime directive' law makes an awful lot of sense and I can understand it in that context.
I found this a very humanistic and compassionate book. As Ender digs into the life of the man he's come to Speak, he finds many secrets and buried pain, but he excises it like a surgeon, skilfully and without malice. I appreciate that writer and book are different things, but I can't really match the writer of Speaker for the Dead with Card's politics and other views. I prefer the Card who wrote this book.
Although there are unresolved plot threads left hanging at the end of this book, there is closure, so I don't feel the need to read the sequel. This is perfectly readable as a standalone book (although I'd still read Ender's Game first to understand the character of Ender better)....more
This is an appropriately timey-wimey multi-Doctor story by the writer of Father's Day and the novel British Summertime. Clara finds a picture that shThis is an appropriately timey-wimey multi-Doctor story by the writer of Father's Day and the novel British Summertime. Clara finds a picture that should be impossible, and sets out to make sure that it doesn't happen. As you'd expect, the rest of it doesn't go to plan. It's a fun story primarily involving the the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors, although others do make cameos. Clara is travelling with the 12th Doctor, but the companions of the 10th and 11th Doctors are ones that we haven't seen on TV (Gabby and Alice respectively). I don't know if they're been around in the comics for a while, but having just encountered them in this one graphic novel, I can definitely say that they feel like the kind of people that the Doctor would hang out with, so that's a definite bonus.
The Doctors themselves are mostly written to their own characters although occasionally the 10th and 11th feel a little interchangeable (not something that can be said for Spiky Twelve). I found the art a little inconsistent: at times I wouldn't have recognised someone if it weren't for what they were wearing (dunno if it was just me, but the 10th Doctor seemed to suffer from that the most; I don't know if David Tennant just has a difficult likeness to capture).
I also liked the little mini-comics at the end of each issue (especially the one with the Doctors doing various sketches from British comedy, but then I'm a bit of a fan of Neil Slorance).
So, a fun story, although I did have to read it twice to grok it, what with the time travel, alternate timelines (I particularly liked the Time Lord Victorious) and paradoxes, but it's definitely satisfying....more
So Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regularsSo Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regulars? Of course not. Several years later, Jake Stonebender, our narrator through the series, opens his own bar, Mary's Place, and the old Callahan's regulars flock back. Hilarity (or at least puns), as they say, ensue.
This was an enjoyable book to read, but, for me, it misses the magic of the original trilogy. The core theme there was to help those who came in, on the principle that pain shared is reduced, while joy shared is increased. Here, we only get one new person to help in that way: Jonathan Crawford, who is overwhelmed with guilt. Although we have some new characters introduced here, Duck and Naggeneen amongst others, they're not hurting and in need of solace. We don't get to see the gang doing what they do best, which means that, I fear, we don't get to see Robinson at his best either.
This is still an entertaining book, although one for established fans and definitely not a jumping on point for new readers, but it's to the earlier books what Mary's Place is to Callahan's: a good try, but missing a vital ingredient....more
After I finished this book I wanted to hug every single crew member of the Wayfarer (yes, even Corbin). Since that wasn't possible, I settled for theAfter I finished this book I wanted to hug every single crew member of the Wayfarer (yes, even Corbin). Since that wasn't possible, I settled for the next best thing: I hugged the book instead. I absolutely adored this book but I'm struggling to put just why into words. The plot concerns the crew of the wormhole tunnelling ship Wayfarer, recently joined by Rosemary Harper, who is running away from her past. The crew is a heterogeneous affair, captained by a Human but with several other species on board. Right from the start you realise just how integrated they are, the lizard-like Aandrisk navigator, the strange double-minded Navigator, the jovial Dr Chef (whose name encompasses his functions), not to mention the ship's AI, Lovey, as well as the human techs and algaeist who keep the ship running. Rosemary is lost at first, but soon settles into this odd crew, who are just about to get the contract of a lifetime.
The blurb on the cover of my copy uses the word 'humane' to describe the book, and I think that's a great word. There's something about it that gives you hope for Humanity and its future. One thing that I liked about it was that humans aren't top dog in this universe. They're Johnny-come-latelys to galactic society and only by accident at that. Humans messed up their own planet and had to flee, some to the solar system and others built a big fleet and sailed off into the unknown. If they hadn't been found by an alien probe, they would all have died, and this has given them a sense of humility, one entirely lacking in current society. The 'Exodans' (those descended from the exodus Fleet) are mostly pacifist and have an understanding of themselves that I hope that we can achieve without having to lose the Earth.
So yes, humane, joyous, fun. For once, the cover blurbs are entirely accurate, as far as I'm concerned. I grew to care deeply about the crew of the Wayfarer and their very disparate lives and societies, yet bound together with ties of friendship and more. I was welling up more than once while reading this book, and rarely because of sadness. The writing is absolutely lovely and had me going at the good as much as the bad. And there's certainly darkness in this universe. We see that in the "practicality" of the Galactic Commons, in the stories of Rosemary and Dr Chef and in hints at the past. But this is a galactic culture that accepts its history and looks forward as well.
I know there's a companion novel (not sequel) to this coming out, but that seems to have a different focus. I really hope that there's more stories to be told about the Wayfarer. I, for one, am going to desperately miss her crew....more
Karen Memery is a working girl (a "seamstress") in a city something like San Francisco in an age where airships plough the sky, Singer have built walkKaren Memery is a working girl (a "seamstress") in a city something like San Francisco in an age where airships plough the sky, Singer have built walk-in sewing machines and mad science is licensed. One day a girl arrives at their door fleeing for her life, with her pursuer right behind her. This sets off a chain of events that include mind control, murdered street walkers and a US marshal coming to town.
There's an awful lot to enjoy in this book. The setting starts off subtle so you hardly notice when the oversized Singer and nasty electric glove show up. Karen is a great narrator, and the book is written in her vernacular, also helping envelop you into the world of the book. It's nice to see a story where LGBT characters are prominent, yet not playing to that (moreso since much of the book does place in a brothel), not to mention people of colour playing prominent roles (one major secondary character is black, another is Indian [from India, not Native American]). I think perhaps there was one capture/escape cycle too much but the book is very readable and a lot of fun....more
I'm an avid fan of Robinson's Callahan's series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it's notI'm an avid fan of Robinson's Callahan's series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it's not set in Callahan's itself. This series of four linked stories is, instead, set in Lady Sally's, a brothel run by Callahan's wife (the eponymous Lady Sally), which rather than being the usual sort of sordid place that these often are, is instead a 'house of healthy repute', where the 'artists' deal with 'clients' and everyone is happy, in the same way that people are at Callahan's.
I mostly enjoyed the stories, although I can't help worrying that Lady Sally's place feels a little like wish-fulfilment (or is that saying more about me than the author?). As for the stories themselves, the first tells how our narrator, Maureen, comes to work at Lady Sally's, after being saved from her pimp. The second demonstrates why despite their protests, a teenage boy's dearest wish is a bad idea; the third is all about control and is probably the creepiest story in the whole book for me, as control is taken away from everyone we've come to like. The final story is a bit of a heist and introduces Maureen's friend, the Professor.
We do meet some regulars from Callahan's. Mike himself pops up, as do Fast Eddie, Jake (narrator of the Callahan's stories) and Ralph von Wau Wau, but they all pretty much just have cameos. I think for me the thing that doesn't quite gel is that Lady Sally's doesn't have quite the same empathy of Callahan's place. Although the emphasis here, as well as there, is on helping people (clients mostly, in this case) it hasn't got the camaraderie of Callahan's famous pub, where everyone clubs round to help someone in need. Although Robinson does try to recreate that formula, for me, he doesn't quite manage it. (view spoiler)[Also, the whole romance thing in the last story sort of came out of nowhere and didn't entirely work for me. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, and I didn't think the puns were as good as those that get bandied around at Callahan's either....more
I enjoyed Fenn's Downside Girls, the collection of short stories set in the Hidden Empires series, of which Principles of Angels is the first. This,I enjoyed Fenn's Downside Girls, the collection of short stories set in the Hidden Empires series, of which Principles of Angels is the first. This, however, didn't grab me a huge amount. The plot follows two main characters: Taro is the adopted son of the Angel Malia, who was murdered by the man who bought his body for the night; and Elern Reen is a musician who comes to Khesh City on behalf of a group that everyone thinks died out centuries ago to kill an Angel.
I found the book very slow to get started. The two strands are almost entirely separate until close to the end, when Taro and Elern finally meet, although their stories do overlap occasionally around the edges. I really wasn't hugely interested for a good chunk of the book, not finding it bad, it just didn't grab me. It got more exciting towards the end and there's a lot of good ideas in there, but it did feel a little like everything was thrown at the wall to see what would stick: floating city; divided society; state assassins; secret hidden enemies; aliens; and more that would constitute spoilers. I'm probably not going to bother too much in searching out more of the Hidden Empire books.
Through an unlikely series of events, astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars, is abandoned alone, but alive, when his creThrough an unlikely series of events, astronaut Mark Watney, a member of the third manned mission to Mars, is abandoned alone, but alive, when his crew evacuates. He has to figure out how to stay alive, and how to contact Earth, long enough for any hope of rescue.
The first thing that struck me about this book is how funny it was. This is a very serious situation, and some authors might have played it such, but Weir gives Watney an upbeat, optimistic voice that doesn't let him get down, even when the odds are utterly against him. He's an extremely likeable protagonist, and you can't complain that he's uber-competent because he's a bloomin' astronaut. If you can't expect an astronaut to be just as competent at growing potatoes from scratch as rewiring the local oxygen reclaimer then who can you ask?
The whole book is incredibly readable. The writing is kept at a nice level and although the scientific explanations come thick and fast, they never break the flow of the book. And, peering back through to my GCSE and A-level chemistry and physics respectively, it seems that the major science is correct; at least nothing jumped out at my level of understanding as being an utter howler. That's very impressive. The whole book is very impressive and the only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because of the Taiyang Shen plotline, which sort of fizzled out. (view spoiler)[This confused me. Why was there only one possible booster that could do what they needed? Why couldn't a commercial launch from a Soyuz or Arianne be used? And even if the Taiyang Shen was required, I don't get the conviction that only booster of that design would ever be built. After spending so much money on the design of a booster, who the hell only uses it once?? Surely you want to build and use as many as you can to get maximum use from the design. And even if the Chinese wouldn't build another, then why couldn't the original probe be carried on a future American/Soyuz/Arianne booster. (hide spoiler)] This whole plotline fizzled out for me.
But apart from that, I loved this book from beginning to end. Highly readable, very exciting and with a really likeable protagonist to get behind. Definitely worth reading just to remind yourself how good the people we send into space, and the teams backing them up here on Earth, are....more
And so the great Questionable Content binge comes to an end. The fifth volume of QC shows an artist who continues to mature in his storytelling as welAnd so the great Questionable Content binge comes to an end. The fifth volume of QC shows an artist who continues to mature in his storytelling as well as introducing some new characters (Cosette, although not by name, and Marigold). Sven gets an intern/conscience and Faye starts to open up some more. There are several laugh out loud moments, including the last comic in the collection, featuring Pintsize and Momo.
The themes that I know will be coming up are still being explored, including Marten and Dora's relationship and Faye's drinking. And here's me thinking that webcomic writers just made stuff up on the day ;-). There are seeds being sown that will be reaped hundreds, if not thousands, of comics down the line. It'll be a while before I get to binge on paper again since, as of the time of writing, volume 5 is the latest paper collection available (and also, I know what to expect at the end of volume 6, so I may well wait until the one after before buying more).
But for now, I was trying to persuade myself that I have many real books to read, but who am I kidding, I'm going to go online and pick up from where this leaves off....more
Volume 4 of the esteemed Questionable Content has an immediate difference over its predecessors: it's a completely different format. Rather than a larVolume 4 of the esteemed Questionable Content has an immediate difference over its predecessors: it's a completely different format. Rather than a large square book, with two comics to a page, it's a much smaller but thicker book, putting a single comic over each two-page spread. This undeniably makes it easier to read (with less squinting over the text), but it does mean that the books will look different on my shelves, something I detest (I'm looking at you, Laundry Files and SF Masterworks).
As for content, this volume collects comics #900-1200 and both the storytelling and art continue to mature. We see Hannelore's mother for the first time, and while we don't see her father, he's definitely involved. Marten and Dora's relationship matures, as do Dora's insecurities. Speaking of insecurities, we also get to see a different side to Steve as he worries about his relationship with Meena. Faye's drinking gets spotlighted as well, but it's not all doom and gloom. There are a lot of laughs, especially where Pintsize and Wimslow are involved.
Some of the author commentary is quite interesting as well, especially where says that he wouldn't do a joke like that again (often to do with trans issues) or where he disagrees with his characters. I've been binging on QC as I got the whole lot of paper collections in one go. So I've got one more paper collection to go, and then it's back to just one strip a day :-/....more
My Great Questionable Content Binge continues with the third collection of the slice-of-life webcomic. So Marten and Dora have become a couple, but itMy Great Questionable Content Binge continues with the third collection of the slice-of-life webcomic. So Marten and Dora have become a couple, but it's interesting to see just how early that Dora's insecurity over the situation raised its head. I had forgotten about that, from when I was reading it online. (view spoiler)[I had to skip ahead on the webcomic to find out when they broke up, and it's not until about #1800 or so, so there's a good couple of more volumes of Marten/Dora coupledom to come, but if he sticks with the 300 or so comics to the collection, volume 6 will end on a downer :(. (hide spoiler)] It's also interesting to see how early the seeds of Faye's hard-drinking and her friends' worrying about it were sown. That's something that will get reaped 2000 or so strip down the line. Blimey, that's some forward planning, going on there!
The enlargement of the cast continues with Penelope (or is that Pizza Girl?) joining the Coffee of Doom crew as well as Tai and Angus making their débuts. QC has turned from a will they/won't they romance into, effectively, a humorous soap opera, albeit a soap opera with murderous scooters, mischievous PCs and semi-feral roombas. It's a lot of fun to read, and so much quicker on paper than on-screen (those waits between page loads cumulatively add up)....more
The second three hundred strips of the excellent Questionable Content see the format shift. We finally get a resolution to the will they/won't they thThe second three hundred strips of the excellent Questionable Content see the format shift. We finally get a resolution to the will they/won't they thing between Faye and Marten and the introduction of the rather awesome Hannelore. The art starts to mature as well and by the end of this volume we start to see the characters as we know and love them today. The cast also starts to expand as not only Hannelore appears, but we start seeing the family of our already established cast, with Marten's mum, Dora's brother and Faye's mum and sister. This starts to make our cast start to feel like rounded people with real lives that we care about (especially after we find out about Faye's history) and this is something that Jacques has been very good at maintaining to this day. So still early days but evolving rapidly....more