An interesting themed anthology that never really rises above average. Editor Strahan has collected several stories that revolve around the idea of "t...moreAn interesting themed anthology that never really rises above average. Editor Strahan has collected several stories that revolve around the idea of "the edge of infinity", pushing the peak of human experience and achievement, and while there are some very good works here, none of them really push the boundaries of future fiction except the Sterling. While Sterling's "The Peak of Eternal Light" certainly met the criteria, it (unusually) wasn't to my taste. Like Strahan's other anthologies, there is a good balance between "hard" and "soft" science fiction. There is nothing really bad here, but I was left with the feeling I wanted something more. Definitely missing the sensawunder that such an anthology should have.
Standouts: "The Deeps of the Sky" by Elizabeth Bear; "Bricks, Sticks, Straw" by Gwyneth Jones; "Obelisk" by Stephen Baxter; "Vainglory" by Alastair Reynolds(less)
In this, the last of his Juno Mozambe trilogy, Hammond has firmly grasped what makes a science fiction novel science fiction. The plot is firmly neste...moreIn this, the last of his Juno Mozambe trilogy, Hammond has firmly grasped what makes a science fiction novel science fiction. The plot is firmly nested in a SFnal device and the resolution of not just the main action, but the trilogy itself revolves around science fiction.
The novel is not without its flaws, however. One of the more compelling parts of the trilogy is the anti-hero character of Mozambe himself. Here, however, he spends a great deal of time wallowing in self-pity and self-loathing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, considering his character arc and his actions, however, Hammond overplays it and at times with tedious prose. There were several times where I was rolling my eyes and muttering "Get on with the story".
Still, not a bad set of books. The colony world of Lagarto is well conceived and just alien enough to remind the reader that they aren't on Earth. If you are looking for an undemanding, science fiction noir detective story, KOP, Ex-KOP and KOP Killer suits the bill. It is not necessary to have read either of the previous books, it is recommended and the reader will be much better off having done so.(less)
Hammond has found his feet with this sequel to KOP. This science fiction detective procedural has at last become more than a cop story with SF trappin...moreHammond has found his feet with this sequel to KOP. This science fiction detective procedural has at last become more than a cop story with SF trappings. The science fiction elements of the story have finally come to the fore, and the jungle world of Lagarto is better fleshed out.
If you liked KOP, you will definitely enjoy Ex-KOP. My only real complaint was the lack of actual science fictional elements beyond set dressing. Hammond has addressed this, giving us a very good SF cop mystery.(less)
A hard-boiled, corrupt cop noir story infused with some science fiction. As a noir mystery/thriller, KOP is pretty good. As science fiction, it's not...moreA hard-boiled, corrupt cop noir story infused with some science fiction. As a noir mystery/thriller, KOP is pretty good. As science fiction, it's not so good. While the author manages to create a believable and consistent colony world, the science fiction extends no further than that. Neither the plot, nor the ultimate resolution, rely on science or any of the common science fiction tropes or themes. Simply setting your story on an alien world and giving the characters laser pistols does not make your book science fiction.
Still, I really dug the narrator's voice, and the protagonist was a true anti-hero; refreshing in this current trend of being grim and angry supposedly makes a character an "anti-hero".
The mystery at the heart is nothing special, but the author's talent (Hammond is a crime writer) manages to keep the twists believable and he keeps the reader from figuring it all out in the first 100 pages. All in all I was disappointed in the lack of any real science fiction, but I enjoyed the story and the character enough that I bought the two sequels.
If you are looking for a solid read and like noir detective stories, you might want to give KOP a try. The setting is well conceived if not particularly science fictiony, and the Hammond manages to add in enough detail to keep the verisimilitude going. (less)
An award winning book which has taken the nerd-verse by storm. A hilarious send up the of Star Trek trope that the characters wearing red shirts are t...moreAn award winning book which has taken the nerd-verse by storm. A hilarious send up the of Star Trek trope that the characters wearing red shirts are the ones who die, but the bridge crew is always unscathed. This was my first Scalzi book, and while it was funny, clever and somewhat thought-provoking, I was left disappointed by the end of it. The codas felt completely tacked on, as if Scalzi's editor told him that he needed another couple of thousand words because the book was too short. It would have been better to integrate the material in the codas into the novel itself.
But I was greatly disappointed by the direction the novel took once the characters figure out what exactly is happening to them. It would have been a much better story if they had exploited "The Narrative" to survive rather than travelling back into the past to solve their problem. The novel as written felt like Scalzi was taking the "hilarious send-up of the original Star Trek" a bit too far, relying on a solution that the actual Star Trek used twice. Once the crew journeys to 2010 Hollywood the novel begins to flag and the humour wears thin.
Scalzi is an accomplished and talented writer, to be certain, and parts of Redshirts are laugh out loud funny, but for the life of me I cannot understand why the internet makes this out to be the best novel of the year. It certainly isn't the best novel nominated for the Hugo this year.
If you like lighthearted, comedic, but not particularly challenging or deep, Science Fiction, give Redshirts a read. You need not be a Star Trek fan to get the jokes, but it certainly does help.(less)
Gonzo post-singularity speculative fiction by the, I am sure to be re-united again, duo of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross. Both of these writers are...moreGonzo post-singularity speculative fiction by the, I am sure to be re-united again, duo of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross. Both of these writers are known for their computer-geek, wildly futuristic, bizarre technology flavoured science fiction so their combination should mesh well, and it does. If I had to choose who wrote which parts, I would refuse to try since the prose, style and diction are almost indistinguishable.
This is a thrill ride, despite the average rating I have assigned it, filled with wild tech and even wilder ideas about tech. The characters are interesting, if formulaic; the plots (there are two) non-obvious; and the pacing quick and edge of the seat. I really liked this book.
So why the three stars? Because it's too much itself. I've read Doctorow's fiction (but more of his non-fiction), and this is no different than anything else he has written. The diction is the same, the gonzo tech is the same, the disaffected loner protagonist is the same as every other Doctorow story I have read. I've read a lot of Stross's fiction as well, and quite frankly Rapture… is too Strossian as well as being to Doctorowish. I expected something more, something different, from the combination of these two, but what I got was a novel that could have been written by either. The whole thing reads like a beer session where Doctorow and Stross brainstormed ten short stories and then made them into one novel. I can imagine them passing emails back and forth as they finish their respective parts.
I wanted more.
It's a good novel, but not a brilliant one. It will certainly appeal to either writer's fans, particularly those who liked the short stories contained in Stross's Accelerando.(less)
An excellent first novel from Adam Christopher. The characters are compelling, the plot fast paced and the imagery well described. Christopher unravel...moreAn excellent first novel from Adam Christopher. The characters are compelling, the plot fast paced and the imagery well described. Christopher unravels the plot in a strict noir fashion keeping the reader on the hook wondering just what is going on. Each piece of information revealed, however, only deepens the mystery of The Empire State, it's mysterious ongoing war with an undescribed enemy, and the tenuous connection to New York. All things are revealed by the end in a satisfying and unexpected ending filled with twists. Very notable for the author's decision to open the world of Empire State to the public to play in and create.
A nice multi-faceted, part superhero story, part noir mystery, part alternate history, The Empire State is a strong first showing from a talented new author.(less)
I am not sure how I managed to miss this gem. Hardwired is hard-core, old school cyberpunk which means lots of action, some introspection and all kind...moreI am not sure how I managed to miss this gem. Hardwired is hard-core, old school cyberpunk which means lots of action, some introspection and all kinds of inventive technologies. While parts of the novel feel dated (and they are) the Williams manages to get the reader to invest in both of his protagonists; the wily and lethal Sarah and the just as wily and lethal Cowboy. Full of victories and setbacks, the action never flags and the heroes suffer betrayals and duplicities from all sides, including each other. Particularly intriguing is that the novel is set in the aftermath of a devastating war where orbital habitats have bombed the Earth with meteors. The world is starkly drawn and intricate at the same time, believable and unique.
A blast from the past, literally. The Weapon Shops of Isher is classic golden age adventure science fiction the likes of which is no longer seen today...moreA blast from the past, literally. The Weapon Shops of Isher is classic golden age adventure science fiction the likes of which is no longer seen today. Van Vogt fills the work with catchy prose, sly humour and understated profundity. Reduced to its most basic essence, The Weapon Shops… is a somewhat tongue in cheek libertarian critique masquerading as serious libertarian literature. While the philosophies on display are commonly read as totalitarianism versus personal freedom, the more complex subtext is often overlooked completely. But there is more going on than socio-political discussion; there is adventure, reversals of fortune, surprising turns of plot and good old fashioned fun.
The text stands up fairly well, considering its age, but the reader must always keep in mind the book's context. The only bit that stands out as really dated is the role of women. Like all golden age science fiction, they are limited to being wives, harpies or damsels in distress. Hard core feminists will declare misogyny, but that is not actually the case; Van Vogt was writing in a time when the role of women was never seen as something that would change, or if it did, change only in ways that complemented the wife/housemaker/mother paradigm.
If one can overlook the flaws The Weapon Shops of Isher provides a fairly pleasant and strangely exciting distraction and puts on display Van Vogt's considerable talent at prose. This is a book that should be added to Literature of Science Fiction courses. It outshines even Asimov's work from this particular period.(less)
The original anthology that started "the movement". Every science fiction fan and modern literature student should be required to read this anthology....moreThe original anthology that started "the movement". Every science fiction fan and modern literature student should be required to read this anthology. It is difficult to overstate its impact in the genre and in the culture at large. Mirrorshades marks the beginning of truly modern science fiction. Some the stories will be dated, of that have no doubt, however, this single anthology provides the context for one of the most important changes in the literature of science fiction. A must read.(less)
Ah, nostalgia. I remember these books from when I was a kid, spending my time in grade school library. I ran across the set at a flea market and added...moreAh, nostalgia. I remember these books from when I was a kid, spending my time in grade school library. I ran across the set at a flea market and added them to the collection. They aren't quite as amazing as I remember, but they get full marks for the cool concept and the remembered joy of my younger self.(less)
**spoiler alert** Reamde is a fine return to form for Neal Stephenson after the intellectual discursiveness of Anathem and The Baroque Cycle. He tells...more**spoiler alert** Reamde is a fine return to form for Neal Stephenson after the intellectual discursiveness of Anathem and The Baroque Cycle. He tells a fast paced, smart and fun techno-thriller that harkens back to his brilliant Cryptonomicon and incomparable Snow Crash. Yet, at the same time, Reamde is very much not either of those two books. I am of two minds with it, as I have been with most of the recent novels from my favourite authors. Stephenson has disappointed me in a vague way these past few years with his novels despite their brilliance. Anathem is a staggering work of genius, yes, but I also found it to be dull to the point of tears. I was thrilled to pick up Reamde because it was promised as a thriller and thus not dull. Like Anathem it has digressions aplenty, and so in the spirit of Stephenson's discursiveness, I will offer up some digressions of my own.
I grew up all over the northern part of Alberta, and this childhood allowed certain kinds of experiences that most kids never get to have. One of these kinds of experiences is the clambering around on mountains very similar to those where the main action of Reamde takes place. Part of the clambering around on mountain experience involves glissading down slopes of scree.
For those of you who have never done this, basically, you start on the side of a mountain and proceed to slide down a slope of mountainy debris (or, in the more classical sense, snow) while keeping yourself upright. Sometimes you will be hopping or bounding from one spot to another while you are sliding. Each hop, bound or slide sets off mini-avalanches of scree wherever you touch down. By the end, you are hurtling along at a scarily rapid pace, barely in control and headed right at the spot where the mountain meets the (more level) ground.
What does this have to do with Reamde? Well, reading Reamde is just like glissading; it starts off at a precipitous height, begins slow, spawns other slides of rock, picks up speed, heads straight at the bottom of the mountain faster than you really want to and then ends abruptly.
Reamde is thick. The hard cover first edition weights in at a little over 1000 pages. With its large spine, pitch black cover, sparse typography and inscrutable title, it's intimidating, daunting even. It begins with a quiet pace, filled with Stephenson's trademarked info-dumps. Dozens of pages are devoted solely to character introduction and history, and dozens more on various topics such as MMORPGs, computer hacking, drug smuggling, light arms, family angst, the vagaries of fantasy writers and geology. In the hands of a lesser writer, these interminable reams of prose would pretty much kill any momentum the plot has managed to gather, but this is a Neal Stephenson book and Neal Stephenson is the master of the info-dump. He pulls off this massive feat of creating non-boredom where boredom should be mostly because of the way he writes (and the balance is made up by the fact that his info-dumps generally contain info that appeals to geeks of all sorts). His ability to string together words in an entertaining way remains undiminished… yet here is where the first boulder appears on my talus slope of the mind.
I don't know if it is because he is writing for a more general audience or if his style has matured in a more literary direction, but the sheer joy in the novel use of English that marks Snow Crash, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon as such stand out books is almost completely missing. The style Stephenson exhibited in those three novels is one of the reasons I love Neal Stephenson novels. If you don't know what I am grousing about, read the first 20 pages of Snow Crash and you will know exactly what I mean. His digressions and info-dumps are made all the more entertaining because of the way he writes and while there are hints of that sheer exhilaration in language enough to keep you reading, it is less than jocund. His style is still entertaining, but The Baroque Cycle and Anathem have done visible damage to one of the parts I find most satisfying about Stephenson's writing.
But no matter, since I can bound over that ankle wrecking chunk of sundered mountain as gravity propels me towards the bottom of the rubble. My sturdy boots soak up the punishment and set off a mini-avalanche with the impact. Each of these mini-avalanches introduces new characters and consequences as the glissade begins to pick up speed. First bound produces credit card fraudsters, the second Russian gangsters, the third Chinese computer-game hackers, the fourth Islamic terrorists. Each bound produces rock-slides of action that continue until they reach the angle of repose and the main plot continues. But Lo! there is another bone busting chunk of mountain directly in my path.
Each of the new sub-plots of Reamde is produced by an unlikely, nay, improbable co-incidence impinging upon improbable co-incidence. Example: One protagonist's boyfriend just happens to be selling stolen credit card information to a mysterious guy, who as it turns out works for a Russian mob, and this guy's computer just happens to be infected with a virus that scrambles the mob's sensitive and lucrative data because this guy happens to play the MMORPG that the protagonist's uncle created. And that is just the first improbable co-incidence. The plot is contingent on these co-incidences, which it occurs, could be the point of the novel; all these tiny little scraps of stone laying together until some dufus comes along glissading and scrambles the whole pile up. In any case, Stephenson manages to sell the whole works like a slick used-car salesman with a deal just too good to turn down. You buy it because he's just so good at selling it, but you can't help but feel you've been suckered somehow. It all hangs together, though and as improbability piles on improbability you keep shelling out because you're hooked on the adrenaline rush the glissade is producing as you rush ever faster to the bottom of the mountain. The characters are so interesting, you are genuinely attached and you really, really want to find out what happens to them next.
About halfway down the mountain I'm at terminal velocity, bounding, hopping, leaping, sliding while all around me the scree avalanches and I realize I am having a great time. Despite the damage I'm doing to my good boots and the speed I've accumulated. Despite the fact that the ground is hurtling towards me way faster than is safe. Stephenson manages to keep all of the rocks sliding along and everyone manages to end up in the same place at the same time and the results are explosive. Crazy Russian jet pilots, hackers sailing stolen Chinese fishing smacks, psychopathic terrorist masterminds, beautiful spies, capable captives, uber-powerful computer-game characters and heavily armed rugged individualists all end up in a foot chase through the Rocky Mountain wilderness that ends in a complex, tense and exciting shoot out. But, Holy Shit! there's the ground!
Stephenson manages to not face plant me into the rocks, but only just barely. He's never been good at ending his novels. Both Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon end like a motorcyclist running out of road. The Baroque Cycle sort of meanders off and lies down to die and to be truthful, I never managed to finish Anathem. I just couldn't take the dullness of it. Reamde comes to an abrupt end as well, but Stephenson tacks on an epilogue so that I'm not left tumbling out of control through the pines, broken and bloody. He gives enough denouement that you find out how everyone ends up, and it is satisfying in its way; it's just not satisfying enough. You want there to be some lung busting whoop or ear splitting war-cry after such a fantastically exciting slide down a mountain side. There isn't one. You're just left panting, wanting to be back up on the scree hurtling down the mountain again.
Still, it's the most enjoyable read I've had from Stephenson in a long while. The ride is wild enough that you don't care about the damage you've done to your knees, and you can always buy a new pair of boots. If you liked Cryptonomicon you'll like Reamde. If you've never read a Neal Stephenson book before, this is a good place to start. It's the most accessible of his novels to date and it should appeal to a much broader audience than anything previous. A solid read more than worth the time it takes to turn the thousand pages. Just watch out for the ankle-wreckers on the way down.
This is a strange moment for me. I want to assign a high rating for this book, I want to love it and I want to tell everyone to rush out and buy a cop...moreThis is a strange moment for me. I want to assign a high rating for this book, I want to love it and I want to tell everyone to rush out and buy a copy. But I can't do any of those things and this leaves me feeling conflicted and confused. I love Ken MacLeod books, and I do not love this one. This leads to a cognitive dissonance I seldom experience.
There is nothing egregiously wrong with Intrusion, but there is nothing wonderfully great about it either. The characters are well rounded, the plot is twisty and turny, the social and political questions raised are timely and important, the prose is up to Mr. MacLeod's usually standards. This should be an interesting book, an important book. But, instead, it is unrelentingly average.
The wonder one feels when reading The Stone Canal or the breathless excitement of Newton's Wake or the philosophical enlightenment of Learning the World are completely missing. There are no mind-bending gulfs, no shocking surprises, no society changing dilemmas. It's bland.
This should not be. The plot is deep, the questions it poses are profound, the twist is unforeseen. And yet, somehow, the whole novel is nothing much more than a tepid warning of state intrusion into personal privacy and self-determination. MacLeod is a better writer than this.
I want to love this book, I really do. It explores themes I am interested in, raises questions I think society needs to examine, I like the characters. I just can't love it and I don't really know why. At least he doesn't give away the big mystery in the prologue like he did with The Restoration Game.
Is it worth reading even if you aren't a Ken MacLeod fan? Sure. It's well written and others might find it more engaging than I have. It does present important themes that should be thought about and discussed. The premise is actually very interesting. Is it MacLeod's best novel, or even one of his better ones? No. If you are looking for a The Night Sessions or a Cassini Division you will be disappointed.(less)