RSS

Category Archives: Science Fiction

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre AffairUnknown.jpeg

by: Jasper Fforde

Penguin Books, New York, NY 2001

ISBN: 0-670-03064-3

Jasper Fforde has a delightful literary world populated by Thursday Next who words for the Special Operations Network.  That’s a government organization that deals with the repercussions of the literary world leaking over into what is essentially modern England.

Of course things are a little different too,  like Wales as an independent state and the mega-corporation (the Goliath corporation) that controls most of the world.  Thursday’s father was a SpecOps agent too.  He worked in the ChronoGuard.  When the literary world leaks, time travel and all of it’s potential and flaws leak as well.  Someone needs to keep an eye on the historical time line.  That would be ChronoGuard.  They may, or may not always be successful.  It certainly gives Fforde plenty of leeway for a world that isn’t “quite” the one we live in.

The world Fforde has evolved is a readers delight.  People CARE about literature.  Fforde writes with wit and literary allusions on every page.  People change their names to match their favorite characters.  Shakespeare machines recite scenes for a quarter on the street corners.  I’ve read several of his novels from this series.  I’ve probably even read this one before.   That’s the problem.

These books are too clever by far.  They engage, they entertain, but (at least for me) they don’t stick.  I never find myself totally immersed in the story (although occasionally Fforde’s characters do).   I’m too busy catching the references, laughing at the puns embedded in the character names, and even joining the debate about who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

When I read one of these novels I know I’m in for a quick romp with lots of nods to the reader on the side.  They are great books for waiting rooms and long rides.  I may pick one up from time to time just because I’m intrigued with the title.   I’m never going to be a real fan.

 

Tags: , , ,

Remnant Population

Remnant PopulationUnknown

by: Elizabeth Moon

Del Rey – Random House Publishing Group NY, NY 1996

ISBN: 978-0-345-46219-0

Every once in a while my local library will order a new copy of an old book.  In this case it’s the Ballantine Books paperback edition.  I’m a fan of Elizabeth Moon as an author, but I’ve not gone out of my way to read everything she’s ever written.  I do have her tagged though, so when the library DOES order a book, I get it.

Elizabeth Moon is notorious for writing from what I would call “uncommon” points of view.  Her protagonists tend to be disabled in some way that would make society dismiss their worth.  It is Ms. Moon’s gift to be able to recognize that worth and put her protagonists in circumstances that allow those inherent qualities to flourish.

The uncommon heroine of this story, (and heroine already makes her uncommon) is an elderly, uneducated woman.  It is clear from the beginning that Ofelia has spent the majority of her life in a colony with very strict rules of propriety and gender roles.  She has learned to play her part, placating the dominator, and avoiding them,  so that she is only mildly abused.

When the colony is forced to relocate it is made explicitly clear that Ofelia is excess baggage.  No one expects her to survive the trip to the new planet.  Even though it is not “allowed” she chooses to stay behind.  She hides from the authorities knowing that she’s not worth the trouble for them to find her.

The freedom of no one telling her what to do allows that small inner voice to come forward.  We discover she is knowledgeable, capable, artistic and so does she.  The memories of that wonderful point in girlhood where we trust ourselves to be able to do anything come forward and guide Ofelia’s choices.  The “should” voice fades into the distance.

Then the authorities return and a new colony tries to establish itself on “Ofelia’s” planet.  The challenges this brings are surprising, especially when the new immigrants discover that there is indigenous life.  It is worth noting that Elizabeth Moon is ex-military.  Many of her books depend on the hierarchy of authority.  This one shifts that point of view considerably as those in authority simply function by rote rather than taking responsibility for their actions.

The contrast and interplay of cultural viewpoints is an easy theme when two cultures collide.  Here we have even more points of view.  The indigenous culture, the “company” that set up the colonization, the “military” that supports and protects interplanetary colonization, the culture of the colony where Ofelia spent her life, and her own personal instincts all vie for their interpretation of events.

At its heart this is a woman’s story, a grandmother’s story.  It is a reminder that even in age there is value.  Again, Elizabeth Moon does not disappoint.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2014 in Science Fiction

 

Tags: , , ,

The Daylight War

The Daylight WarUnknown

by: Peter V. Brett

Del Ray Books New York, NY  2013

ISBN:978-0-345-50382-4

I reviewed the first book of the Demon Series  The Warded Man.  The second I found typical of a mid-trilogy novel.  It was important, kept the story moving, gave deeper insight into the characters but didn’t provide me with a new theme.  There was, however a dramatic ending continuing the sense that these novels would stand alone.

My biggest disappointment with this third book is that it’s not the end.   Not only is this not the trilogy I’d signed up for, the ending of this book is a cliff hanger.  Literally, there’s a cliff and the reader is left hanging at the edge of it, with night coming on and the Demons rising.

Having said that I understand the need for this expansion.  This third book is largely set in the desert culture.  This is not something most Americans have a lot of experience with.  To appreciate these people and understand their motivations, rather than assuming them the villains of the tale takes a certain amount of time and patience.  This is not the culture I know, but it is a full and rich one.  Successful in its own right, even though I may object to many of its practices.

This is also the book where the two cultures come into conflict.  The desert people are on the move, expanding against the demon invasions.  The farm people, where our main characters originate, can’t hold off against the armies.  The ruling class, which we visited in the second book, doesn’t really get involved until they feel directly threatened.  It’s interesting to note that the threat they feel most strongly is from the warded man not from the leader of the desert tribes.

Only one man can unite the people against the demons, the Deliverer.  Thus is the prophecy interpreted, in both cultures.  Arlen, the warded man, fights against this notion.  He advocates for the people rising to deliver themselves.  Ahmann, Lord of the Desert tribes, may question his worthiness but recognizes the omens pointing to him.

Arlen and Ahmann are zahven.  They are brothers, counterparts, rivals, nemeses.  They are certainly reflections of each other and it seems that either has the potential to become the Deliverer.  As we learn in the story both have their strengths and their character faults.  They have approached the problem of the demons from different vantage points and found differing tactics.

Now I have to wait for an indeterminate amount of time before I can read the end of the story.  How do the people defeat the demons and who will become the Deliverer?

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Fantasy, Science Fiction

 

Tags: , , , ,

White Horse

I posted this review accidentally on my other blog. I reposted here because I want it to count towards that 50 review total!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Science Fiction

 

Redshirts

RedshirtsUnknown

by John Scalzi

Tor Books New York, NY 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-1699-8

John Scalzi is a noted science fiction writer.  I have read and enjoyed many of his books and that’s why I picked up this one.  Redshirts is pure fan-fiction at it’s finest.  Unlike most fan fiction this does not take existing characters and expand on their histories.  Nor does it take an existing story and turn it on its head.  This is  fan fiction about the phenomenon that the guys in the red shirts are the one’s fated to die.

The story is set on a spaceship, the the crown jewel of the star fleet.  A ship designed for exploration.  A group of new transfers meet waiting for the shuttle to take them to their posts.  Ensign Andrew Dahl has our viewpoint into the story.  As he is escorted to his posting he’s pointedly asked about his willingness to participate in away missions.  He also observes some odd behaviors and weird science going on in the xenobiology lab.

There is a mysterious character, Jenkins whose name is whispered among the crew.  He’s “on an independent assignment”.  Apparently that means that he’s warning the rest of the xeno team when any of the bridge crew come looking for volunteers for an away mission.  A bell rings on one of the crew’s computer screens and they all “disappear” .

Dahl is a curious sort.  He actually runs into Jenkins on his way to deliver a message to the bridge.  He’s warned “not to let the narrative take hold of him.”  Eventually Dahl tracks Jenkins down to confront him about what on earth appears to be going on.  He’s told there is a higher death toll on the Flagship Intrepid than on any other ship – including the battle cruisers – in the system.  In fact, the only ship with a similar fatality pattern is a ship Dahl doesn’t recognize.  The starship Enterprise.

The story was a romp.  Although certainly not great literature, it did explore the fourth wall phenomenon.  I found it a refreshing summer read.  It’s certainly some of the best fan fiction I’ve ever read.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Science Fiction

 

Tags: , , , ,

The Long War

The Long WarUnknown

by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Harper/Collins New York, NY  2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-206777-7

I Have been a fan of Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld novels for a long time.  That’s how I happened upon this one, looking for a “new release”.  When I got it I realized that there was a previous novel, The Long Earth.  I hoped that, like the Discworld novels, this book wasn’t dependent on the earlier one and dug in.

It wasn’t what I expected.  This is clearly meant to be a series, and the timeline between books is sequential and the characters repeat.  But, I was entirely engaged in the world as it was presented in this novel alone.  There is a lot going on, and I’m sure it would be easier with the first book under my belt.  However, I must admit that this book stands on its own. (But darn it now I’m going to have to go back and read the first one anyway.)

The Discworld is written as a fanciful tongue in cheek commentary.  The books comment on our dearly held institutions like the Post Office (Going Postal), religions (Small Gods), and hot button issues (Equal Rites).  Discworld doesn’t even take itself seriously (The Wee Free Men).  The Long War is more classically science fiction.  It still has social commentary themes (environmentalism and racism) as is common in the genre.  It isn’t lacking internal humor, but it is not the comedy many Pratchett fans expect.

Apparently (and I’m sure this is the context of the first novel) an event occurred that allowed a significant portion of the planet’s population access to alternative Earths.  Natural “steppers” could simply walk across that invisible boundary into the next Earth over, and then the next and so on.  Additionally technology was developed to allow people who were not natural steppers access to these worlds as well.  Even with the tech, there are some people who simply can not make the step.

At the start of this book, the “wild west” of the multiple Earths is being settled.  There is enough time and distance from Datum Earth that those communities are no longer feeling “represented” by the Datum Earth government.  Additionally, the party in power has no tolerance for the other hominoid species found in the Long Earth.  It has a strong sense of colonialism, but a great fear of what those colonists represent.  Datum America has confiscated all assets the colonists left behind and instituted a taxation program that is burdensome to the frontier lifestyle.

The racism (yes, those other hominoid species are really different races) is not limited to Datum Earth.  A gross injustice, spread virally across the Long Earth equivalent of the internet, brings things to a head.  The race involved, the Trolls, is invaluable to the settlers – at least those willing to work with them.  The Trolls seem fascinated by human culture.  They are better suited physically for heavy labor and have inherent knowledge of how to survive in the Long Earth.  The incident is severe enough that the Trolls begin to disappear en masse from the Long Earth.

The war is the war of independence that pits the colonies and their interests against the interests of the central controlling government.   The story is specifically about the United States, but references are made to other nations and their experiences with the Long Earth.  The implication is that eventually there will be some sort of shifting on a global scale.

That shifting may come on the heels of an environmental disaster.  There are signs on Datum Earth and the “low Earths” within a few steps that the Yellowstone caldera has become unstable.  The suspicion is that global climate change may be responsible for this shift.  No one is entirely sure what it means, or what to do about it but eventually the government recommends an evacuation.  In this world evacuation can mean to another Earth as well as to other areas of Datum.  An interesting dilemma for those who can not, or will not step across.

I really enjoyed the multi-verse premise.  I was familiar with the potential for a Yellowstone “super volcano” going in, so the environmental sidebar was easy to follow.  I do think that with this kind of expanded universe it’s not long before a series becomes dependent on the reader having familiarity with previous books.  Pratchett and Baxter haven’t hit that point yet, and maybe they won’t.  Still, since I’ll probably continue to follow this world, I have every intention of going back and getting “caught up.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Science Fiction

 

Tags: , , ,

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke LamoraUnknown

by: Scott Lynch

ISBN:978-0-553-58894-1

This is an incredibly finely crafted first novel.  It is a rambling tale of the layers of power and authority in a fantasy city-state.  It is a tale of a brotherhood of thieves and con-artists.  It is a morality piece, if morality is akin to honor among thieves.  It is a smart romp through the city and sub-cultures of Camorr.

How do I explain this complicated convoluted story?  The characters would welcome Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser into their fold.  The interweaving plot makes Leverage look simple.  The banter between characters and the general camaraderie is vaguely reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven (either version).  That’s a literary, television and movie reference and still doesn’t begin to comprise the flavor of the work.

It is a compelling story.  The intrigue between factions and around the con games is finely tuned.  The narrative shifts back and forth in time.  This can seem a bit confusing, but it always serves the story.  The dramatic tension is maintained by giving us just enough background to follow the line of the con.  Alternatively we see the con played out and then are given the backstory so we can understand what just happened is not as it appeared.

The story kept me guessing all the way through, and mostly I guessed wrong.  The level of plotting, distraction and illusion is delightful.  The “magical” elements are well integrated.  The language whispers familiarly, but I can’t be placed as being derived consistently from Spanish or Italian or something else all together.

This promises to be a series, but not necessarily a sequential one.  Certainly this book stands alone.  Perhaps it is only the desire to go on another romp with these characters that has the series notion running through my brain.  There is surely more trouble to be had, more scraps to be gotten into and out of, and at least one character who is a member of the gang, but who we have yet to meet.  I am genuinely looking forward to more.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Fantasy, Science Fiction

 

Tags: , , , ,