I'm so not a fan of short stories, that I have to have somebody shove them down my throat.
In this case it was Michele, who grabbed me by the (figurative) lapel and shouted "YOU HAVE TO READ THIS! NOW!!"
OK, Michele. I've read it! It was pretty darn good too.
All of the stories are thought-provoking, from the opening Tower of Babylon which is a simple, fun, fantasy, or Exhalation in which a race of undying pneumatic-powered robots are faced with entropy; to the title story, in which a linguist finds her world-view forever changed by learning the language of an alien race, and the heart-rending final story The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Particularly that one. I know a lot about the lifecycle of software objects, but none of the software objects I've ever worked with have been quite as endearing as Chiang's digients. I'm actually quite pleased that there's no resolution, and Ana simply continues “...as best she can, the business of living.”
I found Chiang's stories a little reminiscent of Greg Egan, though the science is not quite as likely to induce brain pain. Still, Divide by Zero is the purest of science. The story could only work with a pure mathematician at its centre. When the mathematician finds a proof that Arithmetic is not consistent (ie, that 1=2 or any other number you choose), she believes that it's the end of the world. Her husband says "How can you say that? Math still works. The scientific and economic worlds are't suddenly going to collapse from this realization." And he's absolutely right. As it is, physicists are used to working with systems they know are wrong (say, Newtonian mechanics), because it's "good enough" for their purposes. And absolutely nothing's hard and fast in biology. But pure math, even though Gödel long ago proved that some of math is unprovable, is supposed to be the one thing everybody can rely on.
On the other hand, I think there's a little sleight of hand going on in Story of your Life, because Fermat's Principle of Least Time absolutely doesn't imply anything about the future being already cast in stone. It doesn't stop the story from being an absolute gem.
So, read this. Now. If you don't, I'll set Michele on you.
There's been a lot of hype about this book, and I'd have to agree it's all deserved.
From Leckie's handling of gender (about which more than enough has been said — I'll only say it's brilliant), to her "ancillaries" — biological (once-human) appendages of ship-sized artificial intelligences, to technology which is at once both advanced and recognizable, she's created a masterpiece. And it's her debut novel.
I love the characters. The protagonist, Breq (not her real name), is exactly what you'd expect of someone who was once an enormous AI, and is now restricted to a single person's perspective. Seivardin is an aristocratic jerk, forced to learn to fit into a universe that is probably stranger to her than it is to Breq, and even Anaander, ruler of the whole known human universe, has depths one wouldn't expect.
Yes, Jennifer, I enjoyed this book. Is Graham Joyce the best thing since sliced bread? I'm not so sure.
This is a fascinating story about three boys, a slightly older girl, and a tooth fairy. But nothing really happens. We see the boys grow up and do all the things completely ordinary boys do. Sure Sam has sex with a tooth fairy, and Terry loses his toes to a pike, and there's a murder (well, one that they're directly involved in, plus the murder/suicide of the rest of Terry's family), but what little action there is seems so merely incidental. And then the boys grow up. The end.
And yet, it's still hauntingly beautiful. My wife was much less conflicted about it, and read it in an evening.
I'm stunned. Somewhere in the middle of this story (OK, perhaps more than half-way), Leon just suddenly abandoned it.
Not only did she not make any attempt to solve the original art-theft crime (which I can understand – that's not the sort of case that Commisario Guido Brunetti usually has to solve), but she wrapped up the murder case that developed from it by finding a possible murder weapon. Period. No motive, not even a confirmation that it really was the weapon.
I reserve one-star ratings for books I couldn't finish. In this case, I feel that the author denied me the right to finish it.
I can't believe I wasted so much time on this. I'm not even sure how I got it: I think I must have accidentally dropped a comment in a "free for review" thread. Well, he's getting his review, for what it's worth.
This book can't make up its mind where it wants to go. The cover blurb would suggest it's supposed to be satire, but it fails by not being remotely funny. The opening chapter has three kids get into a serious accident in a hands-free car, but half-way through the book (as far as I can manage) that's failed to show any relevance. So, our hero, Manny feels responsible for the creation of a Facebook-like social network, that ends up being used by a despotic government for the monitoring and control of the populace. But when he finds people who oppose the government, they're so ludicrously incompetent that we can't imagine how they haven't been caught and imprisoned.
The editing is weak (cache is not the same as cachet! Please don't use words you don't know.) My best laugh actually came when one of the Lefteas complained that Manny's software had incorrectly transcribed a voicemail: "...it's time to return to caring agrarian structures which redistribute...." He's incensed that the software used "which" when it should have used "that" — but the author doesn't himself have the slightest clue when to use either, and so invariably uses "that"!
But to my mind, the greatest flaw is one that is fairly common in bad science fiction. Instead of doing research, and basing his technology on advances beyond today's tech, Witherspoon makes up words and, with a bit of handwaving, tries to convince us that it's probable. The same goes for his world-knowledge. When Manny is forced out of his company, he leaves the US and goes to live in remote Western Bhutan, working in an orphanage (Gag me! What a trite trope.) where he learns the language of Tchanchzka. Why make up a language? There are any number of real languages known only to a "small, insulated group of academics" (though, naturally, Manny will encounter one of this small group completely by chance, for no better reason than to further whatever plot there may be).
Let's start with its most egregious fault. We're told that the four, unnamed, characters who make up the expedition into Area X are women. It's a good thing we were told, because you'd certainly never know from the way they're written. I'm seriously considering nominating VanderMeer for the Tiptree award for a work that "expands or explores our understanding of gender. " On the grounds that VanderMeer appears to be exploring the idea that there is no difference at all between genders.
The story's told in the first person, from the point of view of the expedition's biologist. Many things are said that make no sense at all in a modern context, but don't seem to make a lot of sense even within the fairly limited context of this novel. For instance, it's said of Area X: "In few other places could you still find habitat where, within the space of walking only six or seven miles, you went from forest to swamp to salt marsh to beach." I can do most of that on my ½ acre property, and the beach is clearly visible from here. So, sure we can assume it's a future where much of that has disappeared, but yet the biologist describes her own field projects which make it clear that the natural environment hasn't been completely destroyed. Is VanderMeer being sloppy, or mysterious?
In another case, the biologist tells us: "I assumed that neither … was intelligent, in the sense of possessing free will." I've seen some odd definitions of intelligence before, but what does free will have to do with it? I'm pretty sure my dog has free will, and she's the smartest dog I've ever had, but intelligent?? Not hardly. Conversely, I know people who don't believe that we have free will. Ah, well, maybe they aren't intelligent.
Sometimes, these lapses may be on the part of the obviously unreliable narrator, rather than on the part of the author. When the biologist investigates the lighthouse that has been a focus of many expeditions she writes "I continued to encounter additional signs of violence, the higher I went, but no more bodies." Which is strange, as I went back and reread the previous pages (twice), and she hadn't encountered any bodies in the first place! She finds a photo of the (presumably) last light-keeper, and says "I'd had experience enough with lighthouse keepers to know one when I saw one." That's one of the most inane things I've ever read. Even assuming that keepers really do have "a look", there's no chance she'd have encountered many. I live on a shore littered with lighthouses, and any that are still operating are automated. There are no more keepers!
The biologist was clearly not the most stable person before she entered Area X, and as her expedition leader — who we always knew was using hypnotism on the rest of the team --- says "How many of your memories of the world beyond the border [of Area X] are verifiable?", and so I'm not prepared to say these are errors by the author, but they nagged at me throughout the book, and just generally detracted from my enjoyment.
And yet, for all the frustration, it was a fascinating read, and even though we're nowhere close to understanding what's going on in Area X (this is book one of a trilogy), there was still a sense of closure at the end of the book. But now I'm going to have to read book two, in the hope of finding out what's really going on in Area X.
I picked up this book because I loved the blurb, and it delivered 100% on the story I expected.
It's a great story about "what makes a human, human?" If your body is 50% artificial (or 75% or 25%) are you still you? More importantly, if you aren't still "you" (and I think you probably aren't), are you somebody else who's still a person?
But I was appalled by the lack of editing and basic e-book formatting. I gave up counting the number of places "that" was used when it should have been "which" or "who", and that was just one of many repeated grammatical errors; and the book had NO table of contents, and no page breaks between chapters — this is stuff that the most basic of ePub software would have created automatically.
4 stars for the story, -1 for almost total lack of editing and -1 for not even making the effort to produce a proper ePub.
A science-fiction retelling of parts of the Norse Eddas (primarily the Elder Edda), in some ways this reads like Jack Chalker without the twisted sex....moreA science-fiction retelling of parts of the Norse Eddas (primarily the Elder Edda), in some ways this reads like Jack Chalker without the twisted sex. Not that there isn't sex, and some of it is as distasteful as you might expect from a Viking Edda.
Ultimately, though, the characters are not well developed and the plot is mostly a lot of rather bloodthirsty fighting. Much as I expect of the Elder Edda, though I haven't read it.
There's also a whole subplot where one of the gods causes the destruction of one of the 'planes' (as in Norse mythology, there is the plane where the gods live, the plane where ordinary humans live, and then separate planes for giants and other monsters). This plot must have been snatched straight out of the Edda, because in his afterword, Drake talks about how the Elder Edda is an assemblage of fragments rather than a coherent story, and this is definitely a disjoint fragment. There's no explanation for the god wanting to destroy the plane, or why it even matters.(less)
I'm really quite amazed that, after 29 novels, Alex Delaware can still grip me and pull me into his cases.
I'm no fan of psychology and psychiatry: it seems so often to be stumbling in the dark and mumbling incantations, with no more hope of success than witchcraft. And yet, when Kellerman probes into the psyches of Delaware's patients and the criminals that he and Detective Lieutenant Milo Sturgis hunt, it gives me hope that there really are psychologists out there who have a clue.
If there's a problem with Killer, it's that there are rather too many psychopaths involved. I know that these books deal with the worst of the worst, but really — by my count we're talking about at least six of the major characters are psychopaths. And that's if Alex isn't one himself.
Moon beautifully and, sometimes, heartbreakingly describes what it's like to be autistic (insofar as someone who isn't autistic, can). But we're told all along that while Lou is sometimes baffled by the social interactions of "normal" people, he functions well. When he's offered a chance to "cure" his autism, he initially doesn't want to take it because a "cured" Lou won't be Lou.
So when the procedure works, and the resulting person is decidedly not Lou, he achieves one of his dreams at the cost of another – and I felt we were being told that this was a Good Thing.
I'm firmly on the autism spectrum (well, I imagine we're all somewhere on the spectrum), so I read with special interest Moon's comments about recognizing (or not) people from their faces. I turned my wife onto Orphan Black last year. I knew the plot summary before watching an episode. She didn't, but as soon as she saw the first two clones, she said "it's the same person". I was astonished, because even knowing that, I couldn't see it (and the first two are the most similar...)
But the insights into autism aren't worth the price of admission, and it took me 2½ months to actually read the book.
Technically, it's poor at best: poor or no editing, very weak formatting (gobs of whitespace, and an inexplicable section that's right-justified). And...moreTechnically, it's poor at best: poor or no editing, very weak formatting (gobs of whitespace, and an inexplicable section that's right-justified). And I detest those "license agreements" that say "This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people." I know US law gives the rights-holder permission to do that, but doing so doesn't make it right. And in this case, it doesn't even make any sense! Surely Columbus wants the promo distributed as widely as possible.
The situations aren't believable, and far too much is left unanswered for this to be called a stand-alone novelette. (view spoiler)[ They're in the Badlands (bad enough to be capitalized) and we know that there are no laws and extremely dangerous Raiders (also bad enough to be capitalized), and Alwan leaves his son as bait (why else would you leave him sitting beside a nice fire when you go hunting?).
And that wasn't the first time. When they're stopped at the roadblock, Alwan tells Moses to "hide" in the back of the van, and stay low. Why should he stay low? Oh, because he's bait, and they plan to be shooting in his direction.
At least seven Special Forces ops are sent to bring Moses back (for no reason we can imagine, except that he has an awesome baseball swing), and when they run into Alwan and Moses, they all concentrate on Alwan, letting a young boy run away from them.
And finally the Rebel general stabs a prisoner to death. Why? In fact, why would they ever need to even formally execute anybody from the other side? They "loyalists" have all been told that removing their chips will kill them. So, pull their chips! A few die-hards would insist it was trickery, but the vast majority of prisoners would defect almost immediately. (hide spoiler)] Just not at all believable.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This showed up on sale one day and, while I have been promising myself I won't buy more books until I get through all the unread ones, the blurb sounded pretty interesting and it did win a Locus award. So, I bought it, and I'm guardedly thankful that I did. I mean, it was a pretty good book, but now I probably have to put a whole lot more Linda Nagata on my to-read list…
Nagata presents us with a dystopian society in which nano-technology allows humanity to redesign itself—naturally within parameters set by the current ruling class. Anything that doesn't tamper with your basic humanity is permitted—so you can change your skin color, make yourself immune to disease, probably give yourself amazing strength or speed. But you can't have four legs or—as our protagonist Nikko (rhymes with ‘psycho’) does—have a ceramic carapace and be capable of living in a vacuum. The "Commonwealth" has no problem with "humans" with essentially unlimited lifespans, but permits Nikko's existence only as an experiment with a 30 year expiry date. And the thirty years are up.
When Nikko steals the Bohr Maker—a piece of nanotechnology that can solve the immediate problem of his impending death—and the Commonwealth police begin hunting him, his brother Sandro, and Phousita (the woman currently hosting the Bohr Maker) we're confronted with a slew of moral problems. Is it wrong to modify the human form? If so, how much modification does it take to become wrong? Is it morally acceptable to give some people immortality (or something close—I think the evil chief of the Commonwealth Police is the oldest person we meet and she's only 134, iirc), while allowing others to live in slums, starve to death, and be subject to any number of plagues? Does the end justify the means (to Kirsten, the police chief: yes, always!)?
The "science" in this story is just hand-waving, there's no attempt to rationalize it, but that's okay. The real story is about the moral issues, and whether you can ever put the genie back in the bottle.
It's a joy to encounter an indie author who can write. Well.
This story started out by digging itself a deep hole. The opening scene has a "hunter" (and I use the term very loosely) trying to bag a white tiger — in a "canned hunt". The tiger is in an enclosed pen, and the "hunter" is in a completely secure, concrete & iron, bunker. I realize Phoenix Sullivan has no intention of being sympathetic to that hunter, or the very idea of equating that behaviour to hunting, but it immediately turned me off, and she had to write very well to keep me reading. Well done!
There were a couple of bits that didn't ring true: when the Evil CEO (my emphasis—in fact, Sullivan treats him much more ambiguously) says of possible lawsuits "if their relatives were to try, well, our indemnity clauses got special attention from our lawyers when they were drawn up in the client waivers. And …. in our employee contracts.” OK, so maybe he really is trying to hoodwink his fellow members of the board, but it would be an odd board of directors that didn't have anybody who knew a little about law: and when you have people sign contracts without being given any idea of the risks involved, any lawyer could tell you it'll never hold up in a court.
But Sullivan easily made up for that in other ways. When the aforementioned white tiger escapes and starts killing livestock (and the ranchers think it's a cougar), it turns out that in North Dakota they're in one of the few states that actually permits hunting of cougars. There I was thinking: "c'mon, where can you go out and shoot cougars?" Apparently, North Dakota…
Perhaps it's just me and the author, but I love her sense of humour: "Silvia loved meetings… especially the little finger sandwiches" (though I have to pedantify and point out that "finger sandwiches" aren't triangular).
Sullivan sounds like she was drawing from experience when she describes the way ranchers, rather than trying to evade public health edicts, slaughter their herds at the possible risk of starving their own families rather than risking the health of other people's families.
Having kept me reading through that first chapter, Sector C presented an entirely believable plot, both as SF and Thriller, from start to finish. It's not all easy to read, especially for an animal lover, but I can imagine something very close to this happening in the very near future.
ETA: Less than a month after reading the book, this headline crossed my desktop: <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/gia... have discovered a new type of virus in 30,000-year-old permafrost and managed to revive it, producing an infection.</a> Yikes! If Sullivan's premise hadn't seemed possible before, I'd be reevaluating it now! Sure, she used prions rather than viruses, but …
I loved this 450 page book. Unfortunately, it was almost 700…
Up until the point where our central characters actually started to develop "The Plan"—a hoax connecting every occult legend they can find—I was enjoying it, but then Eco got bogged down in the intricate details of The Plan, and I drifted.
I loved Belbo's use of his computer—Abulafia, an early PC (repeatedly called a "Word Processor", but I never saw a word processor that was anything more than a paperless typewriter)—to not only store documents, but to randomly connect axioms to produce The Plan. It reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke'sNine Billion Names of God. Of course, anything mystical that involves computers reminds me of Nine Billion Names of God!
Ultimately, the whole story is subverted by the mental condition of the narrator (Casaubon). It's impossible to tell how much, if any, of the events that occur are true. Was he insane to begin with, or is he driven crazy by events? He certainly doesn't seem sane at the end, but if he really did experience everything he recounts, who could blame him?