Thursday, July 21, 2011

BOOK Review: The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

I enjoyed this book. It provides an excellent view into the future, or at least one possible future. It is the best look on the potential ramifications of nanotech that I’ve read since Diamond Age. I admit I was far more interested in the implications of the ubiquity of drone technology than the nanotechnology, because I think robotics are finally starting to come of age, and this book reflects a potential path well on that vein. It also explores a lot of social questions in interesting ways.

The other thing I liked about this book was that it was set in Turkey in the 2020’s. I learned a lot about Turkey and it is quite clear McDonald did his homework. In fact I’d be rather shocked if he didn’t spend a good deal of time in Turkey conducting research.

The immerse quality certainly makes it feel like you’re there.
I do think that the book is definitely hard science fiction to me. The characters are interesting and engaging but the novel might be a bit too in depth for the casual reader to truly enjoy. Having said that it does provide a payoff for those who stick past the first 25 pages.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review of Feed - by Mira Grant

Book Review – Feed by Mira Grant
This novel is awesome. First of all, let me say that I’m not really a fan of Zombies. I mean, they’re fun. But I don’t go out of my way to see them or read about them like I do, say…Alternate Timelines (which is odd because I find that I actually LIKE a lot of zombies stories but rarely enjoy Alternate World fiction…sometimes the fill is not the same as the genre. Just like my taste towards Steampunk. Love the genre….less than impressed with almost anything this side of the original material.) Which is doubly particularly odd since my third book is “Grenademan vs the Zombies” (though admittedly that was written on a dare).
Now that we’ve gotten my tastes out of the way, let me say that one of the things I like about this book is the title. That’s because zombies are largely peripheral to the plot, even though they are not. See, this book is about a group of young bloggers that follow the presidential campaign in a post zombie world. Getting one scene element brilliantly right is an accomplishment, getting two is a work of genius, but Grant manages to do it quite well. She shows us a viable world after a zombie apocalypse that incorporates changes in as many areas as there actually would be, while still maintaining the level of normality that actually happens despite titanic changes in our own (such as 9/11). She also does an excellent job of showing one possible thread in the future of journalism.

In the world of Feed, Bloggers gain respect and prominence because the traditional media are lying to them about the Zombies. People, especially the younger generations simply do not trust the traditional media after their betrayal. (And who could blame them?) Such a trend is already kind of happening in the real world, though it is more of a jaded apathy rather than a religious following of stalwart independent journalists. Still, if we had a transformative event of a magnitude of what is happening Egypt or Syria in the United States, I could easily see this happening. Even if it does not, it is still a remarkably realistic future.

The characters are excellent as is the plot. Some elements are fairly predictable, but others are not. And even the ‘predictable’ elements leave just enough of an X factor that you’re never entirely sure, just mostly sure. And all of the characters are also interesting. I also really like her mirror image of the United States post apocalypse, since it is clever and I think realistic in the way people are reacting. She is quite clever in addressing elements that most people might not think of, such as Animal Rights when some of them might be zombies, the desire for some people to hunt said animals in massive numbers, and the fact that there is actually a slightly positive element that resulted from the zombie apocalypse in that people no longer get common colds or cancer.

I highly recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BOOK Review of Cyroburn - By Lois Bjold Mcaster

This story is about an Imperial Auditor coming from a neofuedal planet that suspects someone is attempting to mess something up in Imperial space. His cover is to attend a corporate sales camp, but when the local ‘freedom fighters’ attack things go horribly wrong. He is given the wrong drug and ends up meeting the son of the one hope this world might have. It turns out that the entire planet is filled with Hibernation Coffins filled with people waiting to be reborn. These people have given their votes to the corporations that care for them until the sleeping dead and their proxy’s rule the planet.
This book is an excellent mix of old school Asimovian science fiction with modern expectations of plot and character. The auditor is very likable but also has flaws, as is the young child that he accidentally runs into. The story is very engaging and makes you want to read more. I would definitely recommend reading this book.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Blackout

Blackout is a book by Connie Wills who has won a large number of hugo and nebula awards for her fiction. Blackout is basically about three time travelers who get stuck in WWII whilst documenting various elements of the bombing of London. The reader is left wondering if they have broken the timeline or not, thus leaving the suspense open and real for the planned second half of the book “All Clear” (which came out in the latter half of last year.)

Willis’s work with the historical accuracy of the book is uncanny, and it is clear that she has done an extensive amount of research. In fact, the characters who are not time travelers often show more depth and humanity than those that are. I am rather curious to know how much they were based on real people or not. Still while the book starts out somewhat slow, over time it draws you in more and more as the stakes are raised for each of the three, and their revelations that they are dealing with real people with real problems who face real consequences, even if it was (for them) more than a hundred years ago.

Blackout is an excellent lesson on the fact that the Past Is not Frontierland or a Pirates of the Caribean ride. Our ancestors had real hopes, dreams and fears and seeing them as people rather than as icons can help us understand ourselves a bit better. I greatly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the second half of the story.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

This book is a brilliant fantasy. It explores themes in the real world but does so with sufficient subtlety that they are not easily noticed until long after you have read the book. It starts off incredibly strong with the rejected heir to an all powerful empire that controls the world, thrown into the proverbial lion's den where she must sink or swim. The world has been shattered between a war of the gods where the victor shackled the losers and turned them into weapons for the governing regime.

The thing that I love about this book is that the author takes the story to its natural conclusions. All of the characters behave for logical reasons and are dynamic. There is no attempt to create a formulaic status quo. Actions have consequences and in the case of this book, titanic consequences. The protagonist is also very very likable and yet not a caricature at the same time.

N.K. Jemisin is writing a sequel in a world where the ending would make (to me) a sequel somewhat more difficult for a less daring author. But in her case I'm confident she can handle it. And I look forward to reading it as I recommend reading this book.