Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Machine StopsThe Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was honestly surprised as hell to learn from my GR buddies that this old classic fantastic traditional fiction author wrote an SF novella. EM FORSTER???

Well, yeah! Contemporary of Wells, this particular novel seems to be a rather delightful stick to poke at the culture that spawned it.

Fear of the Machine, perhaps only Bureaucracy, but probably a lot more as in the kind of AI the world has become, I was more impressed with the snide comments it had about eschewing primary sources over a constant rehash of old ideas. :)

Now, of course, this came out in 1909 so I have to wonder if it inspired so many similar tales to come after. I'm reminded of Morlocks, but better than that... there's a little gem of a film that came out 20 years later called Metropolis that seems to be the best fit. :)

Never mind Tolkien and his condemnation of machinist thinking in The Ring, or even the Truman Show to break out of his virtual shell to see the world by first principles and first experience. :)

Honorable mention in the novella goes to the ideas of the videophone and the internet and AI's. :) Yes. 1909. :) And machine overlords, of course. :) Pretty awesome. But that's just for the ideas.

The writing, alas, is not quite as evocative as his traditional fiction. Oddly enough. Still, quite good. :)

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Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 9/25/18:

This second read went down SMOOTH. :) Sure, we're out of the Solar System and Holden is attempting to play peacemaker rather than the lone voice of truth, but what he's got on his shoulders is the one-eye'd king in the land of the blind syndrome... AND massive conflict. Not whole Powers breathing down his neck this time, but things get really hairy out on the frontier where law and order is played fast and loose.

Yep. It's a cowboy novel featuring slugs that blind you, a planet literally going through an upheaval, falling moons, billions-of-years-old alien genocide, and one undead cop.

Cool? Hell yeah. Still loving the crap out of this. :)


Original Review:

After the sequence of the last novel, practically anything was possible. The whole universe was up for grabs, tempered with the terror of knowing that everyone in it had died. I had tons of faith in these authors before picking up this book. I knew they could pull off anything they wanted, and not only did they succeed, they succeeded fantastically. This is some of the absolute best space opera-ish sci-fi I've ever read. Perhaps I am also very invested in the characters, and so anything I think is going to be skewed horribly. Fortunately, that's also a great sign of a great book.

Holden. What the hell. That guy...

Seriously, he's one of the most interesting guys I've ever read. He has one hell of a flaw. Without him, it would certainly make for a shorter story, but never as good.

I love it!

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Bloody Rose (The Band, #2)Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames


I finally read this and while I was fully expecting to be as blown away by this truly EPIC AWESOMENESS of a fantasy, I did NOT expect it to be this good, this deep, or this fun.

In fact, I just re-estimated Eames as one of the grandmasters of epic fantasy. By just two books. And I've read A LOT of fantasy, some great, some better than average, and some stinking like a bag of dicks.

I can rank The Band up on the fingers of one hand, and depending on what mood I'm in or what kind of rocker, or I should say, punk-rocker, I am, a lot of you might guess which finger this series lands on.

And just for good measure, I'll hold both of those fingers up on both hands and Idol it up with a Rebel Yell, Lauper it up with more than a little Fun, and rock on through the night with a Springsteen in my step.

The boys aren't back in town, but the girls are DEFINITELY in it for a hell of a lot more than Diamonds. In fact, there's one bear that becomes a Diamond Dog, a summoner whose ink turns her into the ultimate goth rocker, and there's WAY too much to say about Bloody Rose. Someone could write a book about her. :)

But what probably surprised me the most was Tam. Little Tam, "I'm just a bard," Tam. A piss-poor bard, indeed. :) I love the crap out of her.

Did Eames just mic-drop a bit of brilliance on the stage? Maybe! I know I haven't been as thrilled about a new fantasy series in a long time. :)

Bravo!

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Marked (Alex Verus, #9)Marked by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG, I couldn't be happier with that ending. :)

Jacka has been one of my favorite go-to guys for UF series ever since another fireball-flinging wizard stopped gracing the page. Ahem, D.

Fortunately, Alex Verus has all the snark and even more magical goodies and artifacts and a much nastier set of problems to deal with.

Like being a replacement for Morden on the White Mage council and living up to the issue of leadership. Yeah, leadership. WEIRD.

Anyway, a sting operation trying to bring down Richard is well underway, but it's the personal developments I like even more.

TOTAL POPCORN GOODNESS. :) I dance every time one of these books come out?


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Time and AgainTime and Again by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Simak. Whenever I'm in the mood for some old-time SF that can still be read with joy today, lacking the most pernicious queasy qualities of the time-period in which popular fiction thrived back then, I always turn to Simak. He never lets me down. It's just plain fun.

This book is no different. It's a time-travel paradox story on the fringes, but at its heart, it's all about Destiny. A guy tries to see what he can see with some strange aliens, comes back missing 20 years and a mysterious group is out to kill him. Sounds like pretty standard thriller-SF, right?

Well, in this case, it's really about leveling up, writing a book that will have a grand effect on the rest of future humanity, making a difference to all the downtrodden androids and aliens who suffer from the "largesse" of the super-dominant mankind.

A light and a once-removed tale of race issues, sure, but this book from 1950 focuses on the heart of it, doesn't stint on pushing for equality, and even pokes huge holes in "Manifest Destiny". Back then, I'm sure the term was used to the nausea of everyone, but not now. Even so, it's interesting to see such a forceful condemnation. :)

It may be old hat now, but the rest of the story is delightful and fast-paced. :) Duels, corporations with a million-year strategy, a time war, and paradox-poking. Very good classic SF. :)

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Eclipse Corona (A Song Called Youth, #3)Eclipse Corona by John Shirley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The conclusion to A Song Called Youth trilogy ends with a bang... or rather, a very gruesome whimper. That's not to say it's sad, but after so much dystopian reality so close to what we have now and a rich and nasty strain of ultimate fascism threaded through the text, I feel like we've been living it.

Okay. Maybe I'm overexaggerating a LITTLE. But still, it's chilling to see a truly pan-racist fascism crop up among the religious right, the generally hateful, the fearful, and the power-hungry.

This one ends with freedom fighters and selective germ-warfare, an antidote to the disinformation machine, and the few good men (and women) standing up against the face of evil.

All in all, it's still an epic and sprawling fight against fascism worldwide and on a colony off the planet. Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll punk against the machine, baby. :)

Oh, and there's a very nice cyberpunk Plateau going on here, man. Counterculture for the win! :)

Honestly, tho, I think the most important thing to realize here is that this trilogy is just as timely now as it was back in the mid-eighties when it was first published. In context, I'm actually pretty astonished. Even more astonished than I would be during a re-read of Neuromancer. Some things age better than others, and this one has aged fine.

A fine non-wine cocktail of cocaine and hard-liquor. ;)

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The Medusa ChroniclesThe Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two of my favorite authors collaborated to bring me a continuation of a classic Arthur C Clarke story.

I admit I was a bit hesitant. Not overly much, mind you, because these authors are all heavy-hitters, but the fact remains we're dealing with a character-driven transhuman cyborg from the science of 1971. His name is Falcon. For me, I was thinking it was going to be like one of those spin-offs of golden-age SF revamped for modern consumption and excised of nasty and/or embarrassing elements.

I was *mostly* wrong.

Instead, Falcon and the machine intelligence Adam are treated to over a half-century of future history as we deal with our natures. And as for "we", I mean ANY kind of intelligence. Machine, human, Medusa (in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter) or OTHER.

I was pretty much "okay" with the character development and the ongoing history and the treatment of old-SF ideas such as machines pushing us organics aside or interplanetary war over resources or just the focus of a single good man (or cyborg) playing fair with all sides in mind with a long-term good.

This was all very nice and a very welcome change from the darkness or utter realism of most modern SF. I steadily got more interested in the tale as time progressed, and far from the tired "humans unshackle themselves from our machine overlords" kind of tale, we get something awe-inspiring and optimistic.

I dare say we got a true by-the-heart continuation of Arthur C. Clarke. :)

Well worth the admission price. Would make a delightful Sunday afternoon cartoon marathon. :)

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