the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Cory Doctorow’ Category

Robot-UprisingRobot Uprisings edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

published April 2014

Where I got it: purchased new

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Robots are supposed to help us, right? they’re supposed to do the jobs that humans don’t want to or can’t do, right? and thanks to Asimov’s three (four!) laws, there’s nothing to worry about.

 

right?

 

wrong.  Leave it to folks like Alan Dean Foster, Seanan McGuire, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, Ernest Cline, Nnedi Oforakor and others to remind me that robots do exactly what we program them to do, and in many cases this is fucking terrifying.

 

I just about every story in this anthology, we played God. We created something, typically in our own image, that would be able to do things we couldn’t.  Our creations raise and teach our children, solve our computer programming issues, clean up radiation, do jobs that are too dangerous for humans to do, protect company assets, keep us healthy, etc. When we’re so sure our inventions will help us towards a better world, what could possibly go wrong?

 

But lets say we succeed. the computer programming issue has been solved, the kids are grown up, the asset has been protected, diseases have been cured, the radiation has been cleaned up. What do we do when our problem is fixed and our shiny tools are no longer needed?  Robots are designs to work. they are not designed to stop.

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scifi month header

Thanks to the amazing organization skills of Rinn over at Rinn Reads, we’re right in the heart of  Science Fiction Month. And I’ve noticed something. Something wonderful: lots of folks who are participating in SciFi Month are completely new to science fiction.

This is fantastic!  That so many people who have never picked up a science  fiction book are interested in giving some weird stuff a try, it warms my heart.  Getting into science fiction isn’t always easy.   Strange names, alien planets, technobabble, far future technologies. . .  it can be a bit much.  Luckily, there are plenty (countless, actually) of “gate way” books, books that take place right now, or maybe a few years in the future, or even a few years in past. Books that don’t leave the solar system, maybe don’t even leave the Earth. You don’t need to be fluent in technobabble or have a degree in astronomy to enjoy these. You just need to turn the first page. . .

to help you on your journey into scifi, I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  If you have any suggestions for other gateway books, let everyone know in the comments!

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett – After her parent’s death, Mona inherits her Mom’s old house in a sleepy town in the southwest. It’s one of those old fashioned towns, where everyone knows everyone else, and the oldsters remember all the family secrets. there are family secrets, and then there are Family Secrets. How will Mona react when she learns her own?

In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. I love Kage Baker, it’s as simple as that. This novel is the first of her Company Series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you won’t feel sucked into reading another long series. Mendoza is an operative with a company that collects historical artifacts, and they’ve turned her into an immortal cyborg, of sorts. She spies on people, but can’t tell anyone who or what she is. Really sucks, when she falls in love with someone on her first mission. This book is as heartbreaking as it is funny. By the way, I’ve got a review of some Kage Baker Company short stories that’ll be posting in a few days.

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Makers, by Cory Doctorow

published in 2009

where I got it: purchased Print new, and downloaded the e-book

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I got this from the library in 2009 when it first came out, and I’ve been itching to reread it ever since, and finally, finally I found a paperback copy.  Makers is also the first book that I’ve read half through paper, and half on my Kindle. I’d read the print book at home, and read on my Kindle at work. Through a creative commons license, Makers (and all of Doctorow’s works) is available for free download through his website.  You might be thinking to yourself “why would he give his stuff away for free?”, and the answer, or at least part of it, is covered in Makers.

A few years from now in Florida,  two best friends found themselves in a garage, tinkering with an entire dump full of consumer goods, most still in the packaging.  Lester and Perry build silly robots and oversized calculators, they wire up a bunch of dancing Elmo dolls, they make ten new things every day.  They make just enough money from selling their unique inventions to keep the lights on and the 3-D printer filled with goop. Maker culture? these guys are living the dream.

Enter Suzanne Church, journalist. She’s been hired to be an “embedded” journalist with these guys, to help the rest of the country understand this amazing lifestyle business, of stripping the electronics from one thing to make another thing, of creating something because it’s fun, of not needing a factory or a board of directors or middle management to make a business work.  Thanks to Perry and Lester’s creativity, and Suzanne’s passionate blogging, “New Work” becomes the new trend, the new way to make a living. Entire swaths of the country leap on board, to grab hold of something that is constantly changing.

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Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow

published October, 2012

where I got it: borrowed ARC from a friend

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Cory Doctorow is mean. he likes to hit his readers where it hurts, to show us where our world is going if we’re not careful. If China Mieville’s Railsea is a YA retelling of Moby Dick (complete with similar literary mannerisms), then Pirate Cinema is a YA introduction to political manifestos such as Atlas Shrugged (complete with speeches at the end).  This isn’t the first time I’ve compared Doctorow’s fiction to that of Ayn Rand, and if you know my history with Rand’s fiction, you know I mean that comparison as the highest compliment.

The story follows Trent McCauley, a British teen who does all the normal teen things, like hating school, being awkward around girls, and downloading tons and tons of video clips of his favorite actor, and mashing them up into new and funny videos, a la Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, and then uploading his vids for his fans and friends to watch.

Thanks to a new draconian law regarding copyright infringement, Trent’s family loses their internet access for one year due to his constant downloading of films and clips. His little sister can’t do her homework at home anymore and her grades plummet. His mother can’t get her prescriptions refilled online. His father loses his phone-bank job.  Trent’s family is ostracized by their being kicked off internet access. Full of shame, Trent runs away to London.

This may sound like it’s a story for an about people who remix videos and remix music, and if you’re not one of those folks it’s easy to think this politically charged story doesn’t apply to you. Ever recaptioned a photo or submitted something to Lolcats? Ever shared a deviantart image on Facebook simply because you liked it?  ever taken a photo you found online and photoshopped it into something you liked better, if only to show off your photoshop skills? If you’ve ever done any of those things, you’re in the same boat as Trent – you’ve shared someone else’s intellectual property,  changed it, made it into something new, and claimed that new thing as your own unique creation. And you’ve broken the law.  We’re all just as guilty as Trent, we just haven’t been caught yet.

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So last night, the husband says “you know what? we haven’t got enough books”.

I look around our small apartment. The bookshelves are bulging, the coffee table is covered in books, the floor under the coffee table has stacks of book, my bedside table is covered in books, husband’s desk is covered in books,  our apartment looks like a library threw up. It’s a miracle the kitchen table and chairs aren’t covered in books.

“you’re right sweetheart”, I responded, quite seriously. “I’ll have to fix that”

While I’m working on a review, here’s a few items that recently snuck into the apartment, while I wasn’t looking, of course. Most of this batch falls under the category of borrowed.

Have you read any of these? which do you recommend? which look interesting? what should I dive into first? what should I skip?

A Guile of Dragons – this is the new from from James Enge, creator of Morlock Ambrose. This appears to be first in a new series, although  connected to his previous Morlock books. I read The Wolf Age and Blood of Ambrose, and while I remember them being entertaining, I also remember Enge having some major pacing issues. Let’s hope he’s worked those out.

Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan – high priority to read, as it’s my local scifi bookclub’s choice for Sept. This seems to be a relativistic story of beating time by changing how fast it moves (in relation to you, of course). I have high hopes. Egan has about a dozen books out so far, anyone read any of them? This will be my first by him.

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this is about two weeks worth of book hauling. and goodies in the mail from publishers who I want to give a giant hug to:

Let’s see what we got.  in an attempt to actually read the stuff I acquire, I’ve prioritized these. We’ll see how well I stick to my “rules” after a few months and another book haul. Don’t expect to see reviews instantly, I just this morning got back into town and haven’t started on any of these (just finished Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War and then picked up Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies for our read along). I’ve also got few library books not mentioned here that I need to eventually get to as well.  Le sigh, the life of a book lover!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (May 2012) I’ve been a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson since Red Mars. His science fiction is deep, detailed (really, really detailed. Like Neal Stephenson detailed) and realistic feeling. Ok, sure, Antartica was kinda boring, but I appreciated the concept. I am really looking forward to diving into 2312. Priority – high.

The Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett – SF Noir? Perhaps some kind of mix of Dark City and Sam Spade? looks good to me! I loved Bennett’s The Troupe, so am excited to read more of his works. By the way, have you seen his recent book trailer? priority – medium

The Mongoliad book one (April 2012) by a multitude of cool people – I’m really not sure what this is. rumors were swirling around the interwebs a few years ago about some kind of subscription where beta-readers could interact with the authors about the story while they were writing it. Woah, totally meta! And Neal Stephenson’s name is on it. I therefore want to read it. Also stars this decade’s favorite historical character, Richard Francis Burton.    priority – high

vN – by Madeline Ashby (July 2012) Looks sort of like the author took Asimov’s three laws of robotics and removed them from our main character android. Also, she’s part human? and the environs are kinda Bladerunner-ish? Sign me up for some of that!!    priority – high

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Mondays suck, don’t they?  Let’s have some fun stuff instead!

If you’ve been following Angry Robot on twitter, or the feeds of plenty of folks in the blogosphere, you know Angry Robot Books has recently made two huge, massive, wonderful announcements: First, they’re starting a YA imprint called  Strange Chemistry. Great news for all you YA fans looking for what Angry Robot tends to specialize in: SF, F, and WTF.  And the second announcement? Even better than the first!  Guess whose heading up the new YA imprint? Again, if you’re active in the SF twittersphere or on heavily trafficked SF blogs, I’ll be you already know her. In fact, you may have already congratulated her. If you haven’t, get your butt over to Floor to Ceiling Books and congratulate the blogosphere’s own Amanda Rutter. She’s shutting her blog down, but you can still catch her on twitter.

Huh, maybe I should have left that for last, since the rest of this post is just random inconsequential fun stuff? ehh, whatevs.

Teh random fun stuff:

I recently picked up Cory Doctorow’s Context from the library. This is a collection of essays he’ written over the last few years on everything from kids and the internet to copyfighting to politics and parenting. Some have appeared on BoingBoing, others in Locus, others in The Guardian, and yet others were articles published on Publishers Weekly while he was self publishing With a Little Help.  There’s a lot of good stuff in this little volume, I’ve been flipping through the pages and reading essays here and there, and all have been informative, well written, and entertaining. If you’re a fan of Doctorow, this is definitely a little book that’s well worth seeking out.

Random item number two, is what should you do if you’re the first human to have contact with aliens?  Appropriate to think about, since I’m slogging through the Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle epic space opera first contact story The Mote in God’s Eye (ok, I should say slogging, but it’s not a fast read. Imagine if 2 seasons of Battlestar Galactica were mashed up with 3 seasons of Deep Space Nine, take out all the romance, and then cram everything that’s left into 500 pages. It’s a lot!).  I think I’ll take this guy’s hilarious and helpful advice.

wanna see some fun artwork?

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Eastern Standard Tribe, by Cory Doctorow

Published in 2004

where I got it: library

why I read it: I like all things Doctorow

 

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Meet Art.  he’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s naive, and he’s sitting on the roof of a mental institution thinking really hard about suicide.

Let’s back up a bit, and find out how he got there, shall we?  In this near future, the time zone in which you live defines your friends and your employers. Business never stops, and who wants to be doing conference calls at 5am because that’s when your employer is up? it’s so much easier to just work with the hundreds of millions of people who already populate your time zone and whose circadians already match yours.

An Industrial saboteur of sorts, Art spends his days offering bad advice to Western Europe, while at night developing software to be used for the benefit of his home tribe, the Eastern Standard Tribe.  To Art, his Tribe is more than just employer. To him, they are motherland and family. If only everyone was so loyal.
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With a Little Help, by Cory Doctorow

published in 2011

where I got it: received review copy from the author

why I read it: I is a Doctorow Fangirl.

Cory Doctorow is my favorite kind of futurenaut, one who is only a few years ahead of his time. His ideas are easily possible with existing technology, or nearly so.  And that is equally wonderful and terrifying.

If you’ve been following Doctorow on Boingboing, twitter, or his posts on Publishers Weekly, you know he’s been experimenting with Self Publishing.  Selfpub/epub/newpub is looking more and more to be the way of the future, and what better way to figure out how it all works than to dive in, head first? Alright, maybe not head first, as Doctorow has been publishing his writings under creative commons with everything downloadable on his website for years now.

What better way to experiment with self publishing, twitter marketing, print on demand, skipping the bookstore all together than by doing a short story volume with stories that involve the future of bookstores and publishing, arguements over systems transparencies, spam, 3D printing, gold farming, rogue AIs, and how google really works and then self publish it?   I told you my word for 2011 was going to be meta. Reading With a Little Help was a blast, as was reading about the situations the stories had originally been written for and how this lovely little volume came to exist in the first place.

at first blush, this looks like a book for nerds. It is, and it isn’t.  There’s plenty of old school tech jokes and plenty of new abbreviations that I couldn’t figure out.  Instead of cyberpunk-esque technobabble or Neal Stephenson infodumps, Doctorow keeps everything easy to understand, inviting even. I think if my Mom read this she’d feel confident enough to hop on Twitter or Facebook tomorrow. I should never let my Mom read this.

Some of these stories made me chuckle. Many of them caused my jaw to drop and my eyes to get all big and a thin whisper of “Holy Fuck” to escape my mouth. All of them made me think. And that, I believe, is the point. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Are you a YA fan who is looking for something a little grittier, a little meatier, a little SF-ier?

Are you an adult SF/F fan looking for something a little lighter, but still with the grit and humor you’ve come to enjoy from your favorite writers?

If you answered “why yes! Yes I am!” to either of those questions, allow me to introduce you to some great SF/F YA reads by authors who are known for writing for adults.  

For the Win, by Cory Doctorow – American kids enjoy online games for fun. Asian and Indian kids play online games for money, more than just what gold farming can give them. When the undertrod, underpaid, undervalued child workers are taught the word union, only good can come of it. right?

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow – big brother might be watching, but what happens when little brother watches back? Of every book on this list, this was the hardest book for me to read, and I don’t mean hard intellectually. I believe  Little Brother should be required reading in every high school government class, but I’m sure once it got some attention it would be banned.

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – Part Wizard of Oz, part Alice in Wonderland, and very punny.  You just can’t not like this book!

The WWW series by Robert Sawyer – the first book in the series didn’t do much for me, but as far as YA reads go, this is a contemporary SF winner.  Blind teenager Caitlin can “see” the world wide web, and there is something there that can see her.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman – what can I say about this that hasn’t been said before? if you haven’t read it, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this book!

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game as YA? really? hey, it’s what all the cool kids were reading when I was a teenager. It’s a SF classic.

Which of these have you read? Which of these look most promising?


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.