“I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”
I hadn’t heard anything about this one until I noticed that it had beate...more“I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”
I hadn’t heard anything about this one until I noticed that it had beaten both China Miéville and George R.R. Martin in the Best Novel category at this year’s Hugo awards. Curious, I had it downloaded to my Kindle in just a few seconds, and it didn’t take long to completely charm me.
It’s set in 1979 in Wales and England, and is told from the point of view of fifteen year-old Morwenna Phelps, who is ferociously precocious and a voracious reader (of science fiction and fantasy especially.) I was twelve in 1979, somewhat of an age with the character, and had also read and loved a lot of the titles she mentions, which was great fun. The story begins as Morwenna is leaving Wales for England, to live with a father she barely knows following a car accident that killed her twin sister and left her with chronic injuries. Or was that what really happened? There are witches and fairies, a posh boarding school and a really monstrous mother, ghosts and household objects that contain a magic of their own:
“At home I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar’s chair resented anyone else sitting on it as much as he did himself. Gramma’s shirts and jumpers adjusted themselves to hide her missing breast. My mother’s shoes positively vibrated with consciousness. Our toys looked out for us. There was a potato knife in the kitchen that Gramma couldn’t use. It was an ordinary enough brown-handled thing, but she’d cut herself with it once and ever after it wanted more of her blood. If I rummaged through the kitchen drawer, I could feel it brooding. After she died, that faded.”
And everywhere, dozens of literary references, from Douglas Adams to Kurt Vonnegut, and a deep and abiding love of the transformative power of books, something I bet a lot of readers will identify with. I certainly did. Because that’s what this really is in the end—a big valentine to those of us who would rather read than do almost anything else.
Another thing I really enjoyed was that the author has managed to create a character who is believably fifteen; she’s as annoying as any precocious teen I’ve ever known, and can be a horrible literary snob with everything figured out, but you never get the sense that she’s got thirty-five years of life experience behind her, which was the trouble I had with something else I read recently.
I can’t believe I’m the only one of my acquaintance who has read this—fans of Charles de Lint and Peter S. Beagle should really enjoy this, but it would work for anyone who considers books to be a member of their family. (less)
Every time I take my car to be washed at the ‘touch-free’ car wash, I realize how completely I’m at the mercy of that giant robotic arm, and I indulge...moreEvery time I take my car to be washed at the ‘touch-free’ car wash, I realize how completely I’m at the mercy of that giant robotic arm, and I indulge in a little shiver of terror: what if it went crazy? And my coffee maker, too--I’m pretty sure that sucker would kill me if it could just figure out how to do it. (Or maybe it already has, and is just biding its time.) Daniel Wilson obviously thinks things like this too, and having a doctorate in robotics, he knows exactly how it all might go down. And here it is.
I picked this up at the library for some Hurricane Irene reading, and decided that since it had been panned, spanked and spat upon by several of GR's snootiest reviewers, I'd probably enjoy it, or at least find it entertaining. I was right.
Told almost exclusively in flashbacks, it’s an account of what might happen if the machines decided to think for themselves and wipe us out. The story is told via a tricky device that appears to be ‘first-person omniscient’ point of view, which, while it kind of works here, makes me glad I don’t see it more often. And yes, it’s true, the prose has a certain dick-swinging swagger, which fans of the delicate and nuanced might find off-putting. But it serves the character, and I have a fondness for techno-thrillers, so I liked it just fine. But then, I’m a visual and technical freak with a seriously overheated imagination—I can’t speak for anyone else. It is what it is: a fun, sometimes gory sci-fi thriller about robots who take over the world and the little band of people who fight to survive, some of whom are better-developed on the page than others.
It’s an extraordinarily visual novel--something I of course really like—and some of the images Wilson invokes will be burned onto my brain for a long time (like the hands pushing at the car window as it goes under the water, the biological research station, and the robot feeling around for the lock on the yogurt shop door, just to name three). The strong visual sense turns out to be very a good thing, as the book has been picked up by Steven Spielberg as his next directorial effort; something that makes me feel completely the opposite of what I might be feeling if I heard that say, Michael Bay had optioned it. So the summer of 2013 already looks promising, and so does Mr. Wilson’s career.
One note: the author’s photo on the dust jacket is scarier than anything contained in the pages. It’s downright creepy; the industrial background, the perfectly composed, expressionless face, the inhumanly blank stare. It’s robotic, which is probably why he chose it. Unfortunately it’s also the face you would see if you came to in a surgical suite, strapped to a chair, and this guy is there holding a power drill and looking at you as though you were a microbe under a microscope. That kind of thing never ends happily. I Googled the author and found lots of photos of him that show him to be a good-looking and quite probably nice guy…but that particular photo…nightmare fodder. (less)
Probably the hardest of the series to understand, this one deals with the Incarnation of Time, and ends up trying to explain quantum physics. Norton,...moreProbably the hardest of the series to understand, this one deals with the Incarnation of Time, and ends up trying to explain quantum physics. Norton, a wandering hiker, takes on the office of Time after the woman he loved dies, and is almost tricked by Satan into reversing what happened in the first book. The Incarnation of Time lives life backward, which has to be lonely and confusing at the very least. (less)