You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Sci-fi’ tag.

IMG_0189What’s it all about?

I can’t do any better than the blurb on the back cover to explain what Lock In is all about:

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves ‘locked in’ – fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

Because one of the highest profile victims was the President’s wife a lot, and I mean a lot, of effort and money was put in to managing this. So those who are locked in, known as Hadens after the First Lady, have access to what are basically robot bodies to which they can connect their consciousnesses so they can move around an interact with the world and get jobs; a virtual reality space called the Agora which is dedicated to their needs; and some people who have survived the disease but have been left with the ability to allow Hadens to enter their minds and have access to their bodies for a fee (they are known as Integrators).

It’s against this background that our story plays out, a sci-fi murder mystery in which one of the FBI agents is a Haden, a very famous one too. Chris Shane became ill and locked in as a child and then a poster boy for the illness as his Dad, a famous sportsman, used him in his campaigning. His Dad’s a nice guy actually so not an exploitative thing at all, by the way.

And now he’s just joined the FBI and has a nasty Haden-adjacent murder to solve with his partner, Agent Vann.

Apologies for the info dump, but there’s a lot of backstory it’s worth getting your head around, and I’m not spoiling anything (I think).

Why did I want to read it?

John Scalzi is one of those authors whom I’ve heard a lot about (and follow on Twitter where he is very entertaining) but had never read, though I do have Redshirts downloaded and after this may add it to my Sci-Fi Experience reading list. I had picked up the companion short piece to this which gives an oral history of the disease and the technological advances made to support those who have been incapacitated by it. It’s a very good read and led directly to me picking up the novel.

What did I think of it?

This is the third of the novels that got me through my recent bout of illness and it was exactly what I needed, a really well written and interesting murder mystery set against the politics of disability. The murder itself is fascinating but what adds depth to it is the debate that goes on underneath, about whether the amount of money spent on helping survivors is justified, whether it goes beyond helping people cope and gets into the realms of giving them an advantage over those who have not been locked in. The prejudice, whether intentional or the result of ignorance, is overt and realistic.

But as I said, this is primarily an ingenious puzzle. I really liked both Shane and Vann, and there was a rich cast of supporting characters. The solution to the murder was clever and plausible and it was great fun to read.

I hope this becomes a series as I would definitely read more.

Recommended.

I really need to find a different way to say that as I seem to have been using it a lot recently 🙂 but I mean it!

13603362What’s it all about?

Shoggoths in Bloom is a collection of shorter fiction by Elizabeth Bear, must-award winning sci-fi and fantasy author. Includes a couple of tales that bagged her one or two Hugos.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read some of her work before in anthologies and her stories have always stuck out for me (she was probably my favourite from the recent Lovecraft themed collection which I read and reviewed here), particularly as she often writes tales related to the Cthulu mythos. So I wanted to get to know her work better.

Plus I loved the cover.

And the title.

What did I think of it?

A really strong collection showcasing the variety of her work. If I’m honest I was a tiny wee bit disappointed in the title story, which was good but not great IMHO. But there wasn’t a bad story in here and my particular favourites were:

  • Tideline – one of the Hugo winners, very moving. Loved Chalcedony.
  • In the House of Aryaman, A Lonely Signal Burns – a murder mystery in a futuristic India, with one of the characters being a genetically manufactured hyacinth parrot-cat
  • Cryptic Coloration – dealing with mythical beasties in the real world
  • Confessor – what’s really going on in that hidden lab up that mountain trail?

There are some themes that Bear is clearly interested in, mythical creatures and genetic modifications but two. I like the fact that she writes well across a range of genres and she is a genuine pleasure to read. I’ve already got my hands on more of her stories. Recommended.

The MartianWhat’s it all about?

The Martian is Mark Watney, biologist, engineer and astronaut who finds himself stranded on the Red Planet after a huge sandstorm jeopardises the mission and his crewmates evacuate believing that he died in a freak accident. How is he going to survive until the next planned landing in four years time, especially as no-one knows he is alive?

Why did I want to read it?

I love all kinds of sci-fi but have a particular fondness for techie stories with lots of science and explanations and problem-solving. The only thing missing from this one was a Big Dumb Object but at least there was enough Survival Against the Odds to keep me gripped. Oh and the reviews had been very favourable and when people whose opinions you trust suggest you read something then it would be rude to refuse. And I love love love books about Mars.

What did I think of it?

A couple of chapters in I really thought I was going to be so irritated by Mark that I wasn’t going to be able to continue. He was just so annoying – and it really wasn’t about the technical detail which as I’ve said above is something I enjoy, it’s that it was all first-person and he was so relentlessly cheerful and positive and upbeat and, well, blokey, it began to get on my nerves. I know the conceit is that he is leaving a record for future expeditions in case he doesn’t make it and so the tone is deliberate but ooh, I wanted to hit him.

However, fear not. It got better. Much, much better.

Things started to improve for me when they started to go wrong for Mark and the cracks in his positive attitude began to show. Then Andy Weir made a very wise tactical decision in order to deal with the inherent problem in first person narratives and had the people on Earth find out he was still alive and start to work to bring him back. Apart from adding a second layer of tension to the story it also meant we weren’t constantly in Mark’s head and I began to like him a lot more. I also liked the way the dilemma on whether to tell the rest of his crew was handled and resolved; they’re stuck on a spaceship heading home, how will they feel when they find out they’ve abandoned their friend and colleague?

It’s basically a huge boy’s own adventure, Robinson Crusoe in Space. Without Man Friday, and being American and, you know, in space (obviously).

In the end I enjoyed it; an uplifting story of human ingenuity with quite a few “isn’t science cool” moments. And it will no doubt make a good film.

So great fun, but *whispers* for my money the best man stranded in space story I read this year was The Explorer.

You could do worse than read them both.

2015sfexp275Ooh, I thought I was being SO clever, posting my reading plans for the month earlier today and totally forgetting that Carl’s Sci-fi Experience now starts in December and runs until my birthday (31st January in case you’re interested and that has got to be the earliest hint I’ve ever given!)

So hasty thinking has taken place and I’m going to (try to) read the following as a minimum for the experience that isn’t a challenge (and they also comply with the TBR DDD as they are already all on the stacks chez Bride):

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K le Guin – because she was interviewed in the first episode of the excellent BBC series Tomorrow’s Worlds and I am ashamed, ashamed I say, to admit that if I have ever read any of her work I have long, long forgotten it…..
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – because it is a classic and my great friend Silvery Dude was reduced to a blubbering wreck reading it (I may possibly be using poetic licence there)….
  • The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan – because I love short stories and I sought this out after the amazing experience of hearing Neil Gaiman read his entry in the collection Orange at an event earlier in the year which I seem not to have written about at all….
  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge – because it’s one of the Book God’s favourites and he has been trying to get me to read it since we started living together 20 years ago and I think it’s about time…

Exciting! I also have the urge to watch 2010 again (I love that movie and will punch anyone who disagrees, OK?)

IMG_0150What’s it all about?

Acceptance is the concluding volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. Where the first volume told the story of the 12th expedition into Area X and the second looked at things from the perspective of the organisation tasked with sending those expeditions in to investigate, this final volume brings both sides of the story together as surviving characters deal with the aftermath of earlier events and try once again to understand the anomaly from the inside.

Why did I want to read it?

I just love this series of books and hated having to wait quite so long to get my hands on the final volume. Even though I was in the middle of something else when this arrived on my Kindle app I just had to start reading, and I finished it in a single Saturday’s concentrated effort. Though it really wasn’t an effort at all, I was totally absorbed.

What did I think of it?

I really really liked Acceptance, I thought it was a very fitting conclusion to the series and brought together existing strands and themes very well while still managing to introduce new material, including quite a few flashbacks which explained some of the background to both what Area X is and how it came to be. I found myself really committed to the characters and the growing sense of otherness and weirdness was gripping, especially to someone like me who has a great love for all things strange. It manages to balance the creepiness of a Lovecraft tale with real human drama as characters I had come to care about dealt with their experiences.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because this is a book that only makes senses if you have read its predecessors. What I will say though is that I will definitely re-read this trilogy and I have already sought out more of VanderMeer’s work. Though I can understand why some readers have found the lack of a complete set of answers a bit frustrating I rather liked the open ending. Really really enjoyed it.

gone-away-worldWhat’s it all about?

So The Gone-Away World is set at an unidentified point in the future when there has been a catastrophic war which has left the world seriously damaged. The trigger for the story is a fire and explosion at an important facility which our protagonist (who doesn’t have a name as this is all first person) and his friends and colleagues are summoned to sort out. We then flashback to the early life of our guy and his best friend Gonzo to explain the background to how we got to this point, before the story moves forward. It’s post-apocalyptic science fiction of the very best kind.

Why did I want to read it?

I was vaguely aware of this novel when it came out in 2008 and it’s been hovering around my to-buy list since then but I only got a hold of it after reading and loving Angelmaker (you can read my review at that link) and wanting to read more of Harkaway’s work. The impetus for reading it now was a request from my lovely friend Silvery Dude who wanted to discuss it with me and asked if I would bring it to the top of the TBR pile (he also wants me to read the latest Harkaway, Tigerman, which I hope to get to soon). And you know, it’s my sort of thing.

What did I think of it?

Well, this is a bit special. I read the bulk of it in one sitting as I was ill and housebound and needed to keep my mind away from feeling sorry for myself, and when I say the bulk of it I mean something like 400 pages in a day; when I told Silvery Dude by e-mail that I had finished it his response was (and I quote) “Finished already?  Holy shit !!” which was gratifying and amusing in equal parts 🙂

The story is totally absorbing and the whole background to narrator’s current predicament, his childhood and martial arts training, his university life and his military career, the war and his true love and the rebuilding of a world that had been significantly damaged completely captured my imagination. And then you have the main event of the story, the attempt to repair the pipeline and the thing that goes wrong followed by a complete and utter and unexpected WTF moment that makes you revisit everything you’ve read. And I got very very anxious on his behalf, hoping that it was all going to work out and would he find out what had really happened to him and who was/were the bad guy(s) and who was on his side and would there be a happy ending? Or at least a satisfactory resolution?

Totally swept along by it. Thought it was fabulous. Lots to think about and discuss. Loved it.

And bees. Again.

Scan 31What’s the book about?

Beth is a teacher living on the Isle of Wight (though we’re not told that for a while) in a slightly future Britain where climate change has had a real impact socially and financially. She is on her own; her husband Vic has come back from war with significant problems and has been the victim of a treatment regime which has gone wrong, leaving him unable to communicate or look after himself. The treatment is delivered by The Machine, now out of use because of the damage done, and the story starts with her buying one of these devices on the black market because she wants to bring her husband back be reversing the treatment if she can.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve read two of Smythe’s novels this year (reviewed here and here) and found both really compelling (if bleak, though I absolutely don’t mind bleak at all if the story warrants it, which both of those did) and always intended to read more, partly because of the number of favourable mentions I’ve seen on other blogs and elsewhere.

What did I think?

I thought this was great, another book that I stayed up late to finish (there have been quite a few of those recently, which is no bad thing) and I was totally absorbed in Beth’s story; I feel it’s important to stress that this really is Beth’s story. Of course Vic is important, there would be no book without him, but this is all about Beth’s loneliness and grief and drive to achieve what she needs, which is to get her husband home despite any risks. This is all against the background of the heat and a dysfunctional community and a friend who turns out to not be what she seems.

The book has been compared to Frankenstein but for me it has more of a resonance with The Monkey’s Paw, in the sense of getting what you wish for and that not being what you thought. Of course there are other layers to this story which, once you have read the end (and I read it twice just to make sure that what had happened had happened) become clearer and explained a key event which was pivotal to the plot but took place “offstage” (I wondered why at the time and came up with an explanation which turned out to be entirely wrong). The end has been much commented on; I don’t have a problem with it as such but I would like to read The Machine again as I’m sure it has made me want to re-read the book to see if I had missed anything obvious.

How you feel about this book will depend on what you think of Beth herself. I felt hugely sorry for her and understood why she thought she had to try to reconstitute Vic but there was always a feeling this wouldn’t end well.

I’ve already got a hold of another Smythe work, saving that for later 🙂

 

 

IMG_0074What’s it all about?

Authority is the second novel in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. It picks up from the events of the first novel with the survivors of that expedition having made their way back without knowing how and remembering little if anything of what happened while they were there.

This new instalment is told through the perspective of Control, the new leader of the team of scientists who monitor the Southern Reach and who send each expedition in and try to deal with the aftermath. Control wants answers, but is himself apparently thwarted at every turn by his second in command and becomes dangerously obsessed.

Why did I want to read this?

I really loved the first volume, Annihilation, which I devoured and wrote about here. I pre-ordered this as soon as I finished the first and I’m anxious to get my hands on the final volume when it comes out later this year.

What did I think of it?

I just thought it was all wonderful stuff. The change of perspective was unexpected but just as compelling as the events in the first novel. It’s not really a fair or accurate comparison, but while I was reading it in my head I had the feeling that if Annihilation was Alien then Authority is Aliens and that has kind of stuck with me as a reference.

I loved the fact that we were seeing quite extraordinary events from the the other side of the fence (almost literally) with office politics and alliances and secrets and behind-the-scenes machinations all getting in the way of Control figuring out what’s going on.

I really liked the fact that his predecessor had actually broken protocol and led the ill-fated (as they all are) 12th expedition, which gives the events of the first book a really different slant (and guarantees a re-read). The sense of dread, the unsettling feeling, the paranoia all carried through to Authority, and once again I read this in virtually a single chunk, I was so keen to find out what revelations were in store. And we did get some revelations, though as with all of these things we may have been given some answers but there are still a lot of questions tantalisingly hanging there.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next, but I can hardly wait to find out!

IMG_0070What’s it all about?

The Echo is the sequel to The Explorer which I reviewed here not 24 hours or so ago. It is Book Two of the Anomaly Quartet (which means hurrah! two more to look forward to but rats! no idea so far of when they will be published) and picks up the story two decades after the ill-fated (I think we can safely use that phrase) Ishiguro disappeared.

We are onboard the Lara with Mira (short for Mirakel as he was an unexpected second baby) who is the mastermind behind the expedition along with his older twin Tomas. The latter is on the ground playing an active part from a distance as an international crew heads off to investigate the Anomaly and find out what went wrong with the Ishiguro and what happened to its crew.

Of course we know what happened and can anticipate that things will probably not end well. And we are quite correct in that assumption.

Why did I want to read it?

If you read my review of the first book then you will know that there was no way I wasn’t going pick this up. Will there be answers or more of the same?

What did I think of it?

In some ways this is very similar to The Explorer, in that we have first person narrative, a crew with issues, the claustrophobia of being in space and a sense of the unknown. But that is a strength rather than a weakness; the characters of Mira and Cormac are sufficiently different to keep your attention and the central mystery of what the Anomaly is and how it “works” is to me at least fascinating. Paranoia is much more evident with this bunch than the crew of the Ishiguro and there is death and destruction as you might expect but I won’t go too much into the plot except to say that it both repeats and expands on the themes raised and stuff that happened in its predecessor.

If The Explorer was 2001 then The Echo is 2010 (one of my all-time favourite films, I love it so).

Worth noting that I read this in a single sitting on the same day I finished The Echo, which should tell you something.

Can’t wait for the next in the series, I really want to see how this all plays out. Recommended BUT needs to be read in sequence to maintain its power.

IMG_0069What’s it all about?

The Explorer tells the story of  Cormac Easton, a journalist who has been selected to take part in a major piece of space exploration, the only civilian in a crew of specialists on the good ship Ishiguro, though I suppose he’s a specialist in his own way as his job is to document the journey, interview the crew, put a human face on an expedition that’s partly designed to re-start humankind’s adventures in space after an earlier disaster and partly to investigate a phenomenon known only as the Anomaly.

Of course Things Do Not Go According To Plan, and it’s clear that there are deaths among the crew from the very beginning of the trip. But what’s going on?

Why did I want to read it?

I absolutely love sci-fi so this was always going to be of interest, but I would have missed this title if Simon at Savidge Reads hadn’t written an intriguing review, and of course once I’d read that I had to get the thing, didn’t I?

What did I think about it?

I absolutely loved this! It’s relatively short novel and I read it in two sittings which included staying up until 2am on a Sunday morning so that I could finish it. I was so desperate to find out what had happened to Cormac’s crewmates and of course what was going to happen to him; would he survive and if so how?

I sometimes find first person narratives difficult but the central idea in this story, the thing that happens in the middle when you think you’ve got it figured out and then suddenly WTF? was so engrossing that I didn’t experience my usual qualms.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot; as mentioned above there is the Thing That Happens which for me turned the story around and it’s worth experiencing that for yourself. In terms of tone (first person storytelling, expedition gone wrong, something not quite right with the whole set-up) it made me think of The Annihilation which I also devoured earlier this year, and which, like The Explorer, is the first in a planned series.

I also thought afterwards about 2001; there are some similarities in that it’s an expedition going off to investigate something and it all goes wrong, but there is no HAL here, this is all (mostly) people stuff and it’s the relationships in a confined space that really push this along.

I loved it so much that apart from losing sleep to finish it I bought a copy for Silvery Dude (it’s the sort of book you want to share with people you know will appreciate it) AND discovered that the sequel had already been published so that was downloaded swiftly, but more of that anon.

If you love sic-fi I’m sure you’ll enjoy this, and even if you don’t it’s a very effective creepy thriller and well worth giving a shot.

 

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday Salon.com

Goodreads

My Tweets

Blog Stats

  • 41,992 hits
April 2021
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Categories

Archives