PLOT: Nyx a disgraced government assassin, reduced to a bounty hunter andGENRE: Science Fiction with a dash of Low Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books
PLOT: Nyx a disgraced government assassin, reduced to a bounty hunter and occasional gene pirate, lives from one deal to another. When the queen requests her to track down and bring back a foreign diplomat—preferably alive—Nyx stars questioning why her and not the official assassins. After all, the queen claims that the diplomat is the one person able to end the war. But Nyx isn’t the only one hunting down this quarry and the others are much less fussy about killing, maiming, and torturing.
COMMENTS: This is one of the darkest heroine of the recent SF literature. There is nothing apologetic about Nyx, not about her killings, sex life, drinking, or the methods to reach her goals. She is brutal in everything she does, including the way she loves—she is almost socially crippled. Yet, she doesn’t appear savage in the context of her world, because her world is one of extreme violence, a world ravaged by war for so long, that no one still remembers how it started. Placed in this Muslim-inspired reality, she announces herself as a survivor, ready to sell her body parts if that means to complete her mission. Despite her rough methods, she comes through as highly patriotic, much more than the official assassins, from whose ranks she had been demoted.
There is a manifest switch in the gender roles of this novel: the women are the strong ones, the leaders and officers of the male soldiers, their protectors. This novel doesn’t aim to find a solution to gender inequality, but to point out the irrationality of our real world, by reversing the roles.
The world and its politics, centered around genetic research, reminded me of DUNE. People are regarded as nothing more than genetic material and human rights are discounted with impunity. However the similarities end there, which is great: this quite original world its mix of low fantasy and plausible science. In fact, if not for the shape-shifting aspect of the mutations, I would say all the speculative aspect of this novel is scientifically possible.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative with two points-of-view: Nyx‘s and her love interest who is her exact opposite—educated, fragile, following the rules.
PLOT: This is a contemporary novel that imagines the life of NASA astronauts, oncGENRE: Hard Science Fiction, Science
PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing Group
PLOT: This is a contemporary novel that imagines the life of NASA astronauts, once they reach Mars. Astronaut, botanist, and mechanical engineer Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, after a violent storm during which his colleagues believe him dead. Left with enough food for only a year, he has to find a way to survive four years, until the next Mars mission arrives here. All he has are scraps of machinery that were left behind by his colleagues, as they fled: not enough food, not enough water, not enough chemical components, not enough space to grow food, no way to communicate with Earth or his colleagues that he is still alive. It seems a hopeless situation, but not for this protagonist. As soon as he regains consciousness, Mark starts an amazing survival campaign, that ranges from making food for a year out of ten potatoes, to making water out of rocket fuel.
COMMENTS: This is a classical survival story, that works so well because of the attitude of the main character. Mark is never down, and when he is, the reader doesn’t see his torment. Because (most of) the book is written in the form of a trip log, his down moments are always only skimmed over. Creating a believable ongoing positive attitude seems impossible under these circumstances, but Andy Weir finds the perfect excuse for it: Mark has been selected for this mission because of his positive outlook, which helped balanced his colleagues personalities. In other words, he was meant to be the funny guy (with technical expertise) who “relaxes” the other astronauts.
Andy Weir does shy away from throwing to Mark every imaginable disaster: from human error, to natural adversities, to freak accidents, the main character has to overcome everything. And his resourcefulness has no limits. Which brings be to my next point. THE MARTIAN is extra heavy on actual scientific information. You could probably teach parts of it in the botany, physics, or chemistry class. It seems another black mark against is, but using humor and attitude Andy Weir manages to transform those dry scientific details into a shockingly easy and page-turning read. I think I read the first 150 pages in 4 hours. If someone had explained to me the content of this book before I read it, I’d have said, “It can’t be done.” And yet this is one of the most accessible science-fiction books I read in long time. Plus because the setting is familiar to most people, I think this novel can be enjoyed even by the non-SF fans.
I believe what makes readers identify with this story is its deep human nature. Towards the end, the story veers towards a humanity-on-a-mission-to-save-one-person tale. It becomes heartwarming.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multi-narrative with a lot of of points of views. There are 1500-word chapters written from the POV of one character who never appears afterwards. There are also some chapters written using an omniscient narrator, although the rest of the book uses a close narrator. It seems a bit weird, but in the end the story is so gripping that it doesn’t matter.
PLOT: The story follows the pre- and post-apocalyptic lives of a group of people, loosely relatedGENRE: SF Post Apocalyptic, Literary
PLOT: The story follows the pre- and post-apocalyptic lives of a group of people, loosely related to famous actor Arthur Leander. As
Georgia flu kills 99.6% of the world population, the few left have not only to deal with a life without the comforts they took for granted, but also to preserve their humanity. There are so many story lines, that it's hard to present all of them. Most of the characters undergo a positive transformation, even if they die during the outbreak. The vane actor understands that not fame but family is what matters. His former wife goes from being only an object hanging by his arm to becoming a respected business woman and fulfilling her writing dream. The paparazzi regrets wrecking the lives of his “stories,” becomes a paramedic, and, after the pandemic, a “medic.” The layer disappointed with simply reacting to life organizes
a “museum of civilization” that preserves the memory of the lost culture (this is probably my favorite arc). And on and on.
COMMENTS: This story will most likely win the Hugo Award this year and for a good reason. But let's start from the beginning.
In her interviews, Emily St. John Mandel insisted that STATION ELEVEN isn’t a science fiction book. That may be either a reaction to the fact that so many readers are prejudiced against science fiction, or the product of identifying science fiction with “aliens.” Either way, while this book has no aliens, it is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels out there.
“Survival is insufficient.” —Star Trek: Voyager. This seems to be the motto of STATION ELEVEN. The reader is urged to understand that no matter of the context, we have to preserve our humanity. The characters of this story accomplish this mostly through art. I believe this is what sets this book apart from its competitors—its focus on the goodness and beauty of the human nature, rather than on the lost of civilization. The most gruesome years, right after the outbreak, are only skimmed over, so we are introduced to the “success” of human kind, not to its failures, albeit a rather bittersweet success. While the
Traveling Symphony of Shakespearean actors had its share of killings and survival stories, the reader witnesses only their attempt to bring a sense of beauty and civilization to the scattered post-apocalyptic villages.
The fact that half of the book happens before the outbreak only underlines that human failure has nothing to do with the lack of technology. It is up to each individual to fight to become a better person, no matter the circumstances.
uses a multi-narrative with a lot of points of view. There are no main characters in this story, or everyone is a main character. The story jumps back and forth in time, and occasionally jumps inside the fictitious world of Station Eleven, a comics about a stranded civilization.
I found particularly interesting that the pre-pandemic scenes are written in the present tense, while the post-pandemic in the past tense. I have several explanations for this, one stranger than others. Maybe it suggests that the post-apochalyptic will come to pass and the humanity will find a way to rebuild the old civilization. I don’t really know. I wish I heard Emily St. John Mandel explanation for this most unusual choice.
PLOT: Eric has managed to clean up his life and cut off his ties with the local Mob. UntGENRE: Literary, crime, psychological
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
Eric has managed to clean up his life and cut off his ties with the local Mob. Until the official head of the criminal returns to his life with a confession: he believes that the mythical List of those rumored to be eliminated exists and his name is on it. If Eric wants his wife to live, he has to track down the list and remove the kingpin’s name from it. So Eric must coerce his old associates and try this seemingly impossible task. As the story advances, the reader discovers that nothing is what it seems and that the line between good and evil is most often blurred.
COMMENTS:I bought this book accidentally, but I don’t regret it. Despite being advertized as a thriller, AMBERVILLE is an allegory about the essence of evil. It delves into the intricacies of the social organization, in which the unscrupulous politicians and clerics rule the world as near gods.
This is slow(ish) moving and reflective novel, that spends a good part of the story analyzing the philosophical aspects of good and evil in general and corruption in particular. It isn’t an easy read, but I enjoyed its ideas quite a bit.
I believe where the story really shines is at fleshing out realistic characters. The gangs, the Mob, the wife, the brother, everyone is extremely distinct and realistic.
TECHNIQUES: Maybe I should have opened with this: all characters are stuffed animals. By doing so the author eliminates any racial bias and stereotypes: evil is evil, regardless of the skin color.
This is another one of those stories with ten or more points-of-view. I think in this case it worked well because the characters are so different. Presenting the same event from several POV’s becomes a fascinating discovery process. The reader keep wondering who is right, who is crazy, and what is real.