An easy short read which had me exclaiming in fright several times. Had a good emotional payoff too, but the mystery of Area X is frustratingly unsolvAn easy short read which had me exclaiming in fright several times. Had a good emotional payoff too, but the mystery of Area X is frustratingly unsolved so I look forward to the sequels. ...more
I enjoyed this quite disturbing book about first contact between a unique alien race and humanities last survivors. Issues of race, woman's rights, anI enjoyed this quite disturbing book about first contact between a unique alien race and humanities last survivors. Issues of race, woman's rights, and what it means to be human are explored....more
John Redlantern is a teenager living on a different planet called Eden. He belongs to a small community of humans called Family. They’ve lived the sam John Redlantern is a teenager living on a different planet called Eden. He belongs to a small community of humans called Family. They’ve lived the same way for 160 years, hunting and gathering in circle valley, near where their ancestors’ ship crash landed. They are trapped within circle valley by tall snowy mountains known as “hilly dark”. Eden has no sun, so where life has developed it’s been due to geothermal activity and the only sources of light are bioluminescent animals and plants.
John wants to live differently than the rest of Family have lived for the last 160 years. He sees that their food will run out in circle valley and realises they must move if they are to survive. He takes the incredibly bold step of heading off into cold and darkness and trying to find a new place to live.
Humans have a history of exploring the unknown, and this story made me think about how terrifying that must have been. John’s journey over snowy dark reminded me of polynesian explorers, heading off in small boats with no knowledge of what they would find but hoping that there’d be land for them to live on once they’d crossed the pacific.
I liked Family’s matriarchal structure, each sub-tribe within Family having a woman leader.
Each chapter is told in the first person, from many characters perspectives’ this isn’t ideal storytelling but we did get to know a few different characters and what was going through their heads.
There were aspects that may stretch plausibility, would culture and language evolve in Beckett’s imagined direction, and to such a degree in such a small time. But I liked how much thought he’s put into world building, and it got me thinking about our own culture and language and how much we have changed in just a few centuries.
This is an original and beautifully told story which I really enjoyed. ...more
For anyone who loves the idea of humans being born with special powers this book, despite it's stupid points, is worth a quick read. In Brilliance, arFor anyone who loves the idea of humans being born with special powers this book, despite it's stupid points, is worth a quick read. In Brilliance, around the year 1980 children started being born with special gifts. These children get called many things, twists, abnorms, but also the titular brilliants. No one knows why or how some children are born with these abilities, which is frustrating to me, but at least all the powers seem explainable by science. None seem to break the laws of physics. Rather than x-men level powers (no laser eyes for example) people are born with aptitudes for music, data, or extreme pattern recognition. Nick Cooper, the protagonist, is one of these people and his ability to read patterns and body language means he's very good in a fight. This comes in handy in his role as an agent of DAR, Department of Analysis and Response, a special agency created to manage the brilliants. Cooper's in a division of the DAR that doesn't officially exist. Equitable services has the power to track, detain, and even execute brilliants who are using their powers for evil. Or at least that's how Cooper justifies his work, he believes he's making the world a better place.
Cooper, and seemingly the DAR's main target is a terrorist named John Smith, a brilliant raised in a government run "academy" from the age 8 and brain-washed to hate other brilliants and trust the government and regular humans. His real name, like his humanity, was taken from him when he entered the academy. The more we find out about the academy the more understandable John Smith is, he's probably mentally damaged, but the terrorist shootings he commits never fully make sense to me until the end, when Cooper finally is given enough information to put it all together. I saw the pattern from the beginning of the book and Nick Cooper, the seemingly brilliant who has special ability, didn't, which was the main bit that annoyed me about this book.
The other annoying aspect was the homophobia of the agents, except when it came to lesbianism which only exists in this book for male pleasure. There's even a love interest who had several lesbian relationships, great fodder for Nick Cooper's fantasy's, and even gets into a relationship with Cooper cause she wasn't actually a lesbian! Perfect for any red-blooded het male reader to get off to. The agents (even the fake lesbian) bully each other by saying their male friends are their boyfriends. The fake lesbian is even revealed to have been engaged to a woman, the reason she didn't get married is cause she wasn't a lesbian. What?! What a living male fantasy this woman's sexuality is. Imagine if this was reversed, Nick Cooper was Nicola Cooper, she meets a man who had fooled around with other guys, got engaged to different dude, but didn't marry him cause he wasn't gay. It sounds bizarre cause it is, but I guess I'm not the reader Marcus Sakey was going for.
I'm giving this a 3 star rating cause it kept me entertained to the end....more
Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress A decent, if short, story, Yesterday's kin begins when Marianne, an evolutionary geneticist, is taken by the FBI to theYesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress A decent, if short, story, Yesterday's kin begins when Marianne, an evolutionary geneticist, is taken by the FBI to the UN. She doesn't understand why. Even though she's just made a discovery about human evolution - she helped identify a new sub-group of humans who share a common ancestor who lived 150,000 years ago - she knows she's nothing special. She's just a work a day scientist who made a discovery rather than proving an brilliant theory or inventing an elegant equation. She's more worried about her children, who constantly fight with each other when they happen to see each other, or with her when she gets a chance to see them when she's not working. She's most concerned about Noah, her youngest who doesn't fit in anywhere, and is addicted to a new drug that permits you to feel like someone else for a short time. It turns out the Aliens that arrived several months ago want to see Marianne, they are very interested in her genetics research and want her to continue it inside their alien Embassy floating in New York harbour. The aliens are friendly, or so they claim, but no-one has seen them. They eventually do show themselves, and they look a lot like us. They come baring bad news, the earth will soon be moving through a gigantic spore cloud that will kill all humans, they know as some of their colonies have been wiped out from the same cloud. They request humanities best scientists to help them find a cure that can help both the aliens and humanity, but they've only got 10 months to do it. Can the world's top scientists achieve that? Why are the aliens so secretive, why don't they share their own research with the humans? With riots, shootings and terrorists, will humanity even survive long enough to be destroyed by the spore cloud? Kress explores genetics, family politics, and human psychology all in an easy 200 pages....more
Snow crash Neal Stephenson review A classic of science fiction and cyber punk, this is the first Neal Stepenson I've read. It had some impressively prSnow crash Neal Stephenson review A classic of science fiction and cyber punk, this is the first Neal Stepenson I've read. It had some impressively prescient ideas for when it was published in the early 90s, but I'm not sure when this book was mean to be set. Someone reading this in 1995 would have found this even more fantastical than I did. The most interesting ideas were about virtual reality, the shrinking of the microchip and it's computing power exponentially increasing. I also liked dangerous concept of Library of Congress merging with intelligence arm of the government and turning into a warehouse of digital information. In New Zealand, our national library recently became a subsidiary of the Internal Affairs department, so this could happen to us eventually! The huge social and societal changes were less understandable, but maybe because I'm not an American this was harder to undersand. I didn't really understand any of the characters, and this seemed more like a bunch of cool ideas than one coherent novel. One of the least palatable aspects is the 15 year old character's explicit and detailed sex scene. I may eventually read some other Stephenson but if this was a good place to start I have my doubts...more
Nancy Kress sets up a fascinating premise in this novel. Aliens, who refer to themselves as Atoners, set up a website and email address for humans toNancy Kress sets up a fascinating premise in this novel. Aliens, who refer to themselves as Atoners, set up a website and email address for humans to apply to become "Witnesses" to a mysterious crime the Aliens committed against humanity 10,000 years ago. Millions apply, but only 21 are selected, 15 coming from the United States. This seems to be a theme in Nancy Kress's books, briefly mentioning other areas of the world (a greater acknowledgement than some other US writers) but ultimately focusing on the importance of the United States influence on events, sometimes even on an interstellar scale.
It transpires that the Atoners kidnapped our ancestors and took them to various star systems. Each system has one A planet and one B planet, the earth serving as the control in an epic experiment. The witnesses find primitive cultures on each of the planets and it takes the first half of the novel to discover what it is the Atoners did in their experiments and what they are trying to fix.
The second half of the novel is the fall out of the revelation on Earth and how we cope, or fail to cope, with it.
Throughout the story we switch between key witnesses’ perspectives. After their initial thrill about being chosen as witnesses, most have to contend with their frustration over not knowing what they are meant to be witnessing, then eventually once they discover what the Atoners have done, what the Atoners want the witnesses to do or say about it. The Atoners never set foot on earth or any of the other experimental planets, and remain largely mysterious throughout. I did have some sympathy for Soledad, a witness who has to deal with a lot of crap, but I didn’t feel much for the other characters.
While I did enjoy the book, and Kress is a solid writer, this story could have been much shorter and had the same level of impact.
I listened the audiobook and Kate reading did a good job distinguishing between male and female voices, and overall it was professional if not standout, performance. ...more
I loved this story, and was sad to find it was a standalone as upon finishing I immediately looked for the sequel. However, it is a complete story inI loved this story, and was sad to find it was a standalone as upon finishing I immediately looked for the sequel. However, it is a complete story in itself. The book starts off as sci-fi thriller set 200 years in the future, where an Apocalypse has rendered earth a lifeless husk, and we are following the story of an archaeologist studying the wastelands of Paris. The story then switches to Paris of the 1950s, but not a 1950s we recognize, some things that should have happened by 1959, haven't.
The stories intertwine, and we are treated to a thriller where the main protagonist, aforementioned archaeologist, Verity Auger, has to complete a mission on this 1950s world as she has the knowledge of Paris at this time. She is a kick-ass character and Reynolds treats her to several near death experiences which left me on a rollercoaster ride of emotion, wondering if she, and the other characters I had come to care about with little, but careful, character development, were going to make it. Recommended.
Audio-book version: I listened to the audio-book narrated by the British John Lee. He did an excellent job with the many female voices, and his narration was very even and I now associate Alastair Reynolds with John Lee's narration. ...more
I feel a bit used. I've listened to the audiobook performed by Katherine Kellgren and apart from her over enunciating "pAAAsengers" she did several diI feel a bit used. I've listened to the audiobook performed by Katherine Kellgren and apart from her over enunciating "pAAAsengers" she did several different types of British accents extremely well. Well enough that the boring characters in this book came to life. The banal things they overcome when things are going right for them, such as a character desperately seeking a black skirt or she'll get fired from her department store job. In an ideal world, these time travelling historians never go anywhere too dangerous. They only want to observe everyday life. This doesn't make an interesting story. So when things take a turn for the worse and the characters do end up in more dangerous places it does get a little more interesting. I'm left wanting to know what happens to these shallow, stupid characters who have no imagination or problem solving skills, damn you Katherine....more