the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘John Barnes’ Category

Orbital Resonance, by John Barnes

published in 1991

where I got it: the library

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Melpomene Murray sees herself as a completely normal twelve year old. She looks up to her older brother, argues with her Mom, has plenty of friends at school, has just discovered boys, and enjoys math and low-g sports. And like all the kids in her class on the asteroid-turned-space colony known as The Flying Dutchman, Melpomene is fluent in five languages, and studies physics, cybernetics, and calculus during her ten hour schoolday. Yup, she’s a completely normal kid, right?

One of the brighter students in her class, Mel has been asked to write a book about life on The Flying Dutchman, something to help the people on Earth realize that the spacers are regular people, just like them.  Orbital Resonance is in effect, her first draft. Mel might be forced to watch news from Earth with her classmates, but it’s the sanitized version. She has no idea of the disasters of post-collapse Earth, of the horror of life outside the domed cities, of the different pressures that children raised on Earth face. And she has no idea that she’s been conditioned to specifically play well with others.  She has no idea of anything, until a boy from Earth transfers into her class and opens everyone eyes.

You see, the scientists of the The Flying Dutchman had a plan. They needed a fully operational and successful colony in the Earth / Mars orbit in the shortest possible time. The social plan for the colony was to raise the children in such a manner that they would be conditioned to love the colony, to want to work for the colony, and to be educated at a young age in fields that the colony needed.  Most citizens take their “full adult” exam at fourteen or fifteen, and are expected to work full time and begin a family shortly after that. There’s a creepy dissonance happening here – Melpomene is a supremely likeable kid, but how much of that likeability is brainwashing?

Read the rest of this entry »

Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Published: Jan 2011 from Solaris books

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: it’s this months’ SF book for my local SF reading club

Space ships, alien invasions, alien diplomacy, galactic empires, time travel, artificial intelligence, genetic manipulations, world changing ideas with life changing ramifications.  This is what Hard Scifi is all about!  

In the past, I haven’t been much for short stories, and I’m actively trying to change that.  Anthologies especially are tough for me, as they always seem a mixed bag. You get some great stories that blow your mind, and some mediocre stuff. Reminds me a little of the old days of buying an album just for the one track that was in heavy rotation on MTV. Wow, I just dated myself.

Engineering Infinity is a new Hard SF collection, showcasing some of SF’s biggest names, such as Charlies Stross, Peter Watts, Karl Schroeder, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, and Gwyneth Jones, just to name a few.   Was the anthology a mixed bag for me? Yes. Did I discover some new-to-me  authors that I plan to actively seek out? Yes, and more than I expected.  Was there some stuff that just didn’t do it for me? Yes. Such is the challenge of the anthology – it simply isn’t going to be everything to everyone.

If you enjoy short stories and Hard SF, you will probably have a blast with Engineering Infinity. And if, like me, you’re trying to get more short stories into your life, this is a good place to start. Read the rest of this entry »


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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.