Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sure, I shelve this as satire, but really, it's just a manual of humanity.

We won't learn. We never have learned. We will never learn again.

I heard that the most eminent pig just got bailed out from his bankruptcy and is thinking about running for president. Hurray!

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Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2)Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit that I was afraid that this might not have turned out as good ... as brilliant ... as the Children of Time, but now that I've read it, I'm happy to say that I'm very happy indeed.

We left our spider/human crew off to explore new worlds and peoples and guess what they found?

A new world and multiple alien species. :) We have all the goodness of Dr. Kern, her ants, the Portias, and the human crew stumbling face first into a free-for-all (or close enough), reacting very badly to the news that HUMANS had come.

*facepalm* Of course. Fortunately, it only gets better from here. We have two timelines and several generations to catch up with, beginning with human terraformers making mistakes, playing with making new life, AGAIN, or I should say, AS USUAL, and never quite making the required leap between keeping control on their projects and throwing caution to the wind. This sequence was fascinating as hell to me. If you love squiddies, you're going to love this novel. I did. :)

When we get to the linguistics and math and just trying to salvage a real clusterpluck of several first-contact scenarios with what SHOULD have been a great starting point with what we already accomplished with intelligent spiders and humans, I really got the feeling like this was shaping up to be a full-on horror novel. I kept thinking about Greg Bear's Blood Music. With all the cool bits intact. And my goodness, I fell head-over-heels. The squiddies are like what a civilization would be like if all you had was the squabbling vibrancy of the best and worst features of our internet turned into a full-on species. Crank it up, make them intelligent but too passionate and flighty for their own good, and you might get a pretty neat idea about what we're dealing with. :)

I love it. :)

This is one of the more original SF novels to come out in a long time along with the Children of Time. In a long line of novels that all seem to be riffing on mostly the self-same themes, these two books break so many molds and fly so very high above the rest. :)

Tchaikovsky put heart and soul into these and for that, I salute him. :) FANTASTIC IDEAS RUN RAMPANT! :) :) :)

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4)Atlas Alone by Emma Newman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over and over, I'm confronted with the fact that I'm in love with Emma Newman's writing. She keeps changing tracks with every novel, giving us completely different KINDS of novels while still intersecting them all in not very strange but emotionally impactful ways.

I mean, JEEZE. I could just mention what big thing happens in the other books and let all my gushy bits come out, but that's spoiler territory. What I will mention is my total respect for the way she treats trauma, surreal virtual-reality/dreamlike states, and the descent into Borderline territory.

And here's the kicker... I loved every single minute of it. Did I start rocking hard to the excuses, the feel of JUSTICE pouring through my veins, the visceral satisfaction of it?

Yes. Hell, maybe I'm a bit sick in the head. But I can do nothing but praise the author. She writes excellent science-fiction. Period. From science to the imaginative bits to the implications in the SFnal tropes. And all of it is handled beautifully -- even sticking to the current philosophical zeal to AI questions! :) I particularly loved the mirroring between the modern slavery questions and the overall fears we have about Artifical Intelligence.

And then there was the story taking place. :) Muahahahahaha what a kicker. No spoilers, but damn, what a great twist. :)

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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved:

The nerd culture. Of course. All the LotR references pulling right back into the Dominican Republic horrorshow. The space opera, the Role-Playing fun, the excellent Homage to Akira. With one exception: DUDE, DON'T DISS DUNE.

I loved just how amazing the characters are. Not just Oscar, but all the PoVs, the clever national history lesson, the epic family history, and not just New Jersey, but DR with Trujillo as Sauron. :) Totally brilliant.

I didn't love the tragedy.

Come on. I knew it was a tragedy before I started this. It's in the title. But like all tragedies, we have to hold onto just ONE THING. One thing to keep us going.

In this case, it's fat and obsessive Oscar finally living up the Dominican Republican tradition of: "Dude must get laid." You know, one time before he dies.

Just... damn.

Still, the rest of the novel is pretty awesome from start to finish as long as I'm just there to enjoy the hell out of the nerdy ride. And I did. :)

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Space CadetSpace Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is '48 Heinlein at his most usual for the time-period. I can't say I love it, but I can appreciate what it IS.

It's YA, folks. Moral, ethical, scientifically accurate adventure for BOYS. First, into what seems to be the military for space, our intrepid idiots, (I mean, promising young men,) get in over their heads after a prolonged training period and head to Venus. Where they get inveigled in cultural misunderstandings and get out by the skin of their teeth.

This is 40's youth claptrap, folks. It has a sell-by-date on the cover. It's not even courageous enough to let loose with Heinlein's real opinions, complex reductions, or moral ambiguities. Let's face it. He wrote this for a very particular kind of paycheck. One with real money, playing off all his connections with the Boy's Life serials.

I can, however, still praise the biggest contribution he made to SF at the time.

Science. Real science, even ACCURATE science. And very decent writing.

I can't really blame him for being dull in this particular novel. It was written to spec. lol

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The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit I was charmed by this children's classic. It started out promising as the beginning of a great tragedy with a monstrous girl-child but thanks to a garden, an evil-looking gardener, and a magical robin, we learn that children OUGHT to run about unsupervised outside and get fattened up for the slaughter.


The two kids, now happy and well-adjusted and delightful instead of being wailing banshees now have ruddy cheeks and (as we have been told by the author MANY TIMES) they're fattened-up.

In comes Hitchcockian Robins to feast on whatever has been left in the Secret Garden. No one will ever find their remains. :)

Ahh, alas, modern sensibilities. :) But no, nothing like that happens. It's actually rather delightful and maybe in a year or two I'll be reading this wonderful book to my girl.

I may or may not embellish a bit, tho. :)

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

The OverstoryThe Overstory by Richard Powers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let's ignore the fact that this won the Pulitzer for '19 for a moment and focus on what's really important:

THIS BOOK IS FREAKING FANTASTIC. We need to push this book on friends, family, and perfect strangers. Everyone should read it. It tells a narrative we need to REMEMBER.

What we need, more than statistics, scientific studies, or someone to strongarm us into doing the right thing, is a story. The only thing that will penetrate our short-sighted skulls is a story. One that takes all of these scientific studies, from naturalism to biology to systems theory to psychology and even to computer science, and gives us a roaringly good narrative that makes it all VITAL.

It's something that kicks us in the gut even while it repeats, with brilliant characters, what most of us have already heard but most of us have been forced to put aside.

We've all heard that there are colonies and colonies of life living in trees. Not just the live ones but the dead ones. They are as abundant and interconnected in a healthy forest as a coral reef. But like coral reefs, we've logged most of the healthy forests out of existence. Cornrows of trees are NOT healthy forests. In a few years, we'll have lost huge percentages of ALL species. In a few more years, we'll be down to half what we had 50 years ago. In a few more years, the entire ecosystem will collapse.

And why?

Because we do not have a narrative of ourselves inside the life of the world. We shrug and say we're just trying to survive and continue doing the same thing we've always done. Half measures and less than half measures. And meanwhile, the economies that say we must consume EVERYTHING just to maintain an already slipping lifestyle just a few seconds longer is consuming, wastefully, every other living lifeform on the planet.

*slow clap*

We've forgotten that we are a lifeform of and with this planet, it seems. But this book does WONDERS with all the real science couched within a brilliantly entertaining novel to remind us.

Sometimes all it takes is letting your lawn overgrow. Maybe a blight-resistant tree will sprout up and invite all the wildlife back in. :)

Oh, and by the way... WE CAN ALWAYS SURVIVE IN THE FORESTS. Food IS abundant. So what am I saying?

Is this just a novel that makes me proud that I love trees? That it is the only truly rational thing to be?

Because, otherwise, we are collectively committing suicide? You've heard of extinction-level events, right? lol

No. I think it's a great Over-Story. A great narrative that brings a great story back to real science. I laughed at the Stanford Prison Experiment, the real studies on intelligent root systems and fungal networks. How trees really do communicate over vast distances. They have memory. The even call in insects through pheromones to SAVE THEM from predators! The whole ecosystems COMMUNICATE in vast, sometimes very slow ways, and every species responds. Haven't we be doing the same? Do you like your apples and pears? Do you really think that we're that smart to cultivate fruit-bearing trees from out of nowhere? Or are we just taking advantage of trees who are TAKING ADVANTAGE of us? They give us the sweet things, the medicines, the high-value foodstuffs... and tempt us. We spread their genes because we're in a PARTNERSHIP.

We really shouldn't forget that. We should be buying this book for all our friends and families and pushing it on strangers. :) Truly. It's just one of those books that SHOULD be read far and wide.

Enough raving! Go read it!

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