Since the days of Isaac Asimov, robots have been a huge part of science fiction. With this being true, it’s a wonder that more writers aren’t trying t...moreSince the days of Isaac Asimov, robots have been a huge part of science fiction. With this being true, it’s a wonder that more writers aren’t trying to do what Madeline Ashby has done with iD, and that is make the idea of humanoid androids actually something fresh and exciting again.
iD, which is the second novel in the Machine Dynasty series, takes Asimov’s laws of robotics and uses them to create real ethical dilemmas and just perfect philosophical tension. When androids get to the point where their minds are so sophisticated that they are almost identical to humans, what’s ethical? Twisted humans are taking advantage of androids’ built-in inability to harm or resist humans, and it leads to one killing another against his will. This raises questions that aren’t just simply a matter of personal ethics, but there is an aspect of the novel that seems to ask for religion’s answer to robotics and artificial intelligence.
The subject material may end up being too dark for some. There is sexual assault, lots of general violence, and a lot of things that will make some readers uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. Those who love Asimov and are open to having their view of robotics broadened will definitely find something to love about this book, as Madeline Ashby is clearly a brilliant writer. The novel is also a perfect example of how science fiction can be real literature, and isn’t simple escapism.
Despite the fact that iD is the second entry in its series, it stands on its own and is easy to get into. Ashby introduces and takes away character quickly, but even those who are only with us for a few chapters are well-developed. It really is a modern I, Robot, but with a lot more grit, moral depth, and more interesting prose. Madeline Ashby ought to be seen as one of the big new names in science fiction.
Cyberpunk as a genre isn’t something we see much anymore. Whether this is because writers think it has run its course, or perhaps people are correctly...moreCyberpunk as a genre isn’t something we see much anymore. Whether this is because writers think it has run its course, or perhaps people are correctly seeing that there’s really no topping William Gibson’s original Sprawl trilogy, the fact is that series like Gary A. Ballard‘s The Bridge Chronicles are extraordinarily rare. When everyone else and their dog is writing about a fictional era of steam, Ballard clearly is more comfortable in the world of dystopian technology, a world that is way closer to our own than William Gibson could have ever realized.
if [tribe] = is the godawful title of the third entry in a cyberpunk series about a character named Bridge, who gradually becomes less likable as the books go on. He’s essentially an information broker in a corrupt world and is constantly trying to avoid getting killed by people who want him dead because of the kind of work he gets into. He occasionally does noble acts, and is a well-developed character in the sense that he genuinely does contain multitudes. Characterization really is Gary A. Ballard’s strength, as even the supporting cast in his series are generally unique figures that grow pretty well over the course of the series, and in a realistic way.
Headhunters may be the best 25 cents I've ever spent on a book. It isn't deep, life-changing literature by any stretch of the imagination, but you'd b...moreHeadhunters may be the best 25 cents I've ever spent on a book. It isn't deep, life-changing literature by any stretch of the imagination, but you'd be a fool to expect that out of a Shadowrun novel. That being said, I was really surprised at how actually how good it is. The plot is full of action and moves at a breakneck pace as would be expected, but is also very intriguing and kept me wondering about it the whole time I read.
To make things better, the cast of characters are fantastic. There isn't a lot of chance for character development in a book like this, but Odom manages to find time and make the entire group of shadowrunners interesting on different levels. Most tie-ins like this treat characters as meat that is only present to get the plot moving, but these characters seem like real people with real depth. Jack Skater, Quint Duran, Archangel, Elvis, and Cullen Trey are all characters I would love to see again.
All in all, I can't recommend this enough to someone who likes pulpy cyberpunk. It has everything you could ever want out of a Shadowrun novel, and actually does a great job of going above and beyond. Loved it.(less)
There was a time when Islands in the Net was considered one of the must read classics of cyberpunk, but I don't really think it has aged well. As big...moreThere was a time when Islands in the Net was considered one of the must read classics of cyberpunk, but I don't really think it has aged well. As big a fan as I am of the genre, Islands in the Net ends up being pretty bland. Cyberpunk is all about high-octane craziness, and this novel reads more like a political romp than a science fiction novel. Sterling writes well, and he has some really good ideas, but pretty much gets through those ideas in the most boring way possible. I wouldn't re-read this and wouldn't really recommend it either. I've read Dostoevsky, but his is too dry for me.(less)
The Know Circuit, the follow-up to Gary A. Ballard's first novel of The Bridge Chronicles, Under the...more(Cross-posted to my sci-fi blog, Android Dreamer.)
The Know Circuit, the follow-up to Gary A. Ballard's first novel of The Bridge Chronicles, Under the Amoral Bridge, is pretty much everything that it's predecessor was. It has a breakneck pace, with consistent action and interest; it isn't one of those novels that takes 500 pages to amble along where it's going, with tons of tangents and tidbits apropos of nothing. It has a familiar noir-ish twinge that is present in quite a lot of cyberpunk, but steps outside of the box a little more.
I thought Under the Amoral Bridge was essentially a straight thriller with a cyberpunk aesthetic; it was a welcome addition, but the story probably could have existed at it's core without the tech. In The Know Circuit, the story is really firmly entrenched in that cyberpunk feel, and the technology is important in making the story move. It is far from generic in that sense, however, as it isn't the standard paint by numbers gritty detective story that fills the genre.
Under the Amoral Bridge took a while to get rolling, but The Know Circuit is immediately interesting. While Bridge, the protagonist of the series, is at a club shortly after meeting with a prospective client, everyone in the building who has a cyber implant (for jacking into cyberspace) is suddenly indisposed by something unknown assaulting their minds through the implant. Shortly thereafter, Bridge and his bodyguard, Aristotle, learn of a giant dome suddenly appearing over Denver, and some kind of explosion wreaking havoc on the area. Aristotle has concern for his grandmother who lives in the area, and Bridge, owing Aristotle a favor, agrees to help him in his journey to figure out what exactly is going on in Colorado.
The Know Circuit is written better than Under the Amoral Bridge. Whereas in Under I felt the prose getting stronger as it went on, The Know Circuit is most consistent. Ballard's prose has gone from decent to actually very good; while in Under I really enjoyed it on the basis of plot alone, The Know Circuit is more well-rounded. Ballard has a stronger grasp of his characters, his writing is better, and his plot is just as good, if not better, than the first. The dialogue, with its sort of leet-speak and tech-talk, occasionally gets grating, but has improved to. Everything about The Know Circuit is better than the last, which was already good to begin with, and this makes me even more excited about the next entry in the series.(less)
Having minimal knowledge of cyberpunk, but an inkling to read some, I bought the eBook of G...more(Cross-posted to Android Dreamer, my science fiction blog.)
Having minimal knowledge of cyberpunk, but an inkling to read some, I bought the eBook of Gary A. Ballard's Under the Amoral Bridge. I like the idea of supporting small-publisher and self-published authors, for whom getting another reader and some feedback means a lot. There is a reason why some books don't get picked up by publishers, but there are other times in which something genuinely good seems to have slipped by.
Make no mistake, this is not a world-changing novel. It is a pulpy sci-fi thriller with a cyberpunk aesthetic. That said, isn't lacking in depth. Ballard's world is interesting. The influence of William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy is evident, but there is certainly enough there to separate it from books like Neuromancer. The novel is political charged, and framed with a backdrop of an almost-dystopian Los Angeles, complete with an upcoming crooked mayoral race, a culture of drugs and general addiction. It really didn't even have to be a sci-fi novel; take away the cyberspace elements and it's just a straight thriller, but I like the cyberpunk feel.
I have to admit that early on, I wasn't thrilled with the prose. It took a while to get going, and there were times the way it was written felt a bit clunky. Ballard had the tendency to use big ol' five dollar words randomly in places where simpler, more direct language would have made it flow better had have great readability. Thankfully, it seems like he actually becomes a better writer as it goes on. By about the fifty page mark, the language smooths out, the plot picks up, and from there on it is really quite remarkable.
The plot really is the strong point of the book. It is a bit slow early on, but once it finds its feet it becomes a really fun, pulpy, action-packed romp. There's a political angle to it, a nihilist bent, and a little bit of a moral to the story, though I think it is left to the reader to take from it what they will. I think that is a mark of strong writing.
If I had to cite one weakness of the book, it's the main character. He isn't necessarily a bad character, but I think he could be better. In many ways, he reminds me of the street rats Philip Marlowe of Raymond Chandler's novels would pay off for information. There is a catch-phrase throughout the book of "I know a guy" and frankly, it gets pretty corny. Bridge isn't really that likable, but he does serve the purpose of carrying the narrative, which I think is the most important part of the novel. On the other hand, I think the supporting characters were strong. I especially liked Aristotle, Bridge's philosopher/bodyguard, kind of a Michael Clarke Duncan meets Henry David Thoreau.
Overall, I would recommend this book. If you enjoy cyberpunk, or sci-fi thrillers in general, this will probably be up your alley. It isn't without its weaker points, but its strengths certainly outweigh them at least two to one. I definitely enjoyed it enough to read the next book in the series, and wish Mr. Ballard well in his future writings. Self-published writers don't have the benefit of editors and literary agents to help out, and I think he has done remarkably well.(less)
"Mona Lisa Overdrive," the third novel in William Gibson's critically acclaimed Sprawl trilogy, is a compelling and thought-provoking read full of gre...more"Mona Lisa Overdrive," the third novel in William Gibson's critically acclaimed Sprawl trilogy, is a compelling and thought-provoking read full of great action and the typical trippy cyberspace romps that readers became accustomed to in Gibson's first two novels.
Set seven years after "Count Zero," the second book in the trilogy, "Mona Lisa Overdrive" follows four different story lines that, much like is the case in "Count Zero" interlock towards the end. A handful of characters from the first two books re-appear, including the street mercenary Molly Millions, who had previously been featured in the Gibson short story "Johnny Mneumonic" as well as the Hugo and Nebula award winning first novel in the trilogy, "Neuromancer."
Following the stories of a Yakuza daughter hiding away in London while her father's gang is at war, a prostitute forced into a kidnapping scheme, a celebrity actress Angie Mitchell (previously featured in "Count Zero") who has the ability to jack into cyberspace without any equipment, and a sculptor forced to pay back a huge favor to someone who previously saved his life.
Although it lacks a bit of the scope of the previous entries in the series, I still feel like "Mona Lisa Overdrive" does a good job of wrapping up the series. With no characters (aside from one minor appearance) carrying over from the first to the second books in the series, I was surprised to see characters from both books reappearing in "Mona Lisa Overdrive." It was interesting to see where their lives had gone in the years passed since their previous appearances, and it was the biggest appeal of the novel for me.
The plot didn't feel as epic as the previous two books, but it was action packed and managed to hold my interest. It tied up some loose ends from the previous books and gave really good closer to the series; it manages to accomplish everything that it had to while maintaining interest and being a fun read. The mercenary known by several names (including Molly, and Sally) is easily my favorite sci-fi heroine, total bad-assery personified.(less)
Generally in reading the short story collection, I felt like Gibson was leaving out important points of back story that would have made many of the st...moreGenerally in reading the short story collection, I felt like Gibson was leaving out important points of back story that would have made many of the stories easier to follow, and just make more sense. Luckily, Gibson's prose is always great and fun to read even when I have no idea what is going on. Gibson's collection does manage to churn out three outstanding stories, though, those being "Johnny Mnemonic," "The Winter Market," and the titular "Burning Chrome." Each of those shows Gibson at his best, with frantic pace, brilliant prose, and adrenaline-filled fun. I would recommend this to anyone who liked "Neuromancer," but with the warning that it is at times even harder to follow.(less)
William Gibson's "Neuromancer," the first book in The Sprawl Trilogy, was loved by all for its original voice, and it really managed to reinvigorate s...moreWilliam Gibson's "Neuromancer," the first book in The Sprawl Trilogy, was loved by all for its original voice, and it really managed to reinvigorate science fiction in the era. The first novel to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards, the second book had a lot to live up to, and in my humble opinion, it surpasses it.
Between the first two books of the trilogy, Gibson has managed to create not only an interesting future world, but an entire culture. Everything including language, religion, technology, economy, demographics and more are brought to life through the novels. The greatest strength of Gibson's storytelling is he never TELLS you, he SHOWS you. His prose is outstanding, without a misplaced word. Its astounding from the beginning, and when you get to the end and realize that everything has been foreshadowed from the first few chapters, it becomes all the more impressive.
"Count Zero" tells three story lines at once, alternating between chapters. The first and primary story is that of Turner, an unaffiliated mercenary-for-hire who has recently gone through a really bad job that ended up with having to have his face reconstructed following an explosion in New Delhi. Despite the previous disaster, Turner is given the job of extracting a wealthy and influential scientist who means to defect from one mega-corporation to another, but things get rocky when Turner begins to suspect that someone on his team is a double agent.
Bobby Newmark, alias Count Zero, is a computer hacker who knows he is being chased. His deck, which is the equipment used to jack into cyberspace, is stolen, and in the process of trying to track it down and the people who took it for him, he gets thrust into what seems like a war in cyberspace, between his associate's and a computer virus that appears to have taken a life of its own.
Marly Krushkova is a small-time art dealer whose reputation has been ruined by accidentally trying to sell a hoax painting. She is recruited by brilliant, but reclusive, industrialist Josef Virek, who gives her the task of tracking down the creator of mysterious boxes that may hold the key to Virek's future.
I cannot stress enough how awesome this book was. It was a lot smoother of a read than "Neuromancer," but in my mind no less outstanding, and I think possibly better. The characters are great and interesting, especially the mercenary Turner, who turns out to be easily among my favorite characters in sci-fi. Highly recommended to anyone who loves science fiction, but you should probably read "Neuromancer" first.(less)
Not since reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" for the first time have I been so struck by a novel. Combining the powerful political narrative of Geor...moreNot since reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" for the first time have I been so struck by a novel. Combining the powerful political narrative of George Orwell works, with the often absurdist black comedy of Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is extraordinarily powerful and interesting for such a short and quick read.
The story is set in a dystopian future, where much of the world has been destroyed during World War Terminus. Androids mix themselves in with the population, and a man named Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter being paid to get rid of them.
The primary theme of the novel deals with defining something as human. When does an android get too intelligent to be dealt with as a piece of machinery? This is the question the novel poses, and even in the end it is left up to you to decide for yourself.
There are points where things in the text are hard to follow, but it is well worth the read. It seems like the kind of book that will lend itself to further readings, so I plan to re-read it again quite soon. (less)
A science-fiction novel that wins the Nebula, Philip K. Dick, and Hugo Awards and ends up on Time Magazine's Top 100 Novels list ought to be pretty go...moreA science-fiction novel that wins the Nebula, Philip K. Dick, and Hugo Awards and ends up on Time Magazine's Top 100 Novels list ought to be pretty good. "Neuromancer" is, to say the least, pretty good. Set primarily in a futuristic dystopian Chiba City, Japan, "Neuromancer" tells the story of a washed-up computer hacker named Henry Dorsett Case as he is dragged into a grand evil scheme, along with a talented mercenary called Molly Millions, that his life literally depends on. "Neuromancer" is seen by most as the seminal work in the cyberpunk genre, and it sets all the major precedents of the genre to follow. Its dark and dreary in the vein of Chandler noir, but written frantically in a way that recalls a sort of dystopian Jack Kerouac. Gibson creates some very memoral characters in the aforementioned Case and Molly, along with a Rastafarian shotgun-wielding pilot named Maelcum, a sinister boss in Armitage, and one of the most memorable villains in science fiction, Wintermute. The most interesting part about "Neuromancer" for me is that even in spots where the pace is so quick and drug-addled that you can't know for sure what is going on, its still interesting, and really engaging. As far as science fiction goes, despite its rough going at parts, "Neuromancer" is the cream of the crop, from its pure imagination alone.(less)