the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘scifi’ Category

Faith, by John Love

published in January 2012

where I got it: purchased New

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Remember Peter Watts’ Blindsight?  Blend it with Moby Dick, and then imagine it was written by Gene Wolfe. Now ramp up the tension and suspense to eleven.  It’s hard to believe Faith is a debut novel. It reads so smooth and subtle that as the pages fly by under your fingers, all you feel is the copper tang of a nameless fear.

Faith has a slow start, and this is exactly as it should be.  Otherwise, we would never know the subtle ironies of the Sakhran race, how they live together, but live apart, their sense of honor even as they were conquered by the Commonweath. Without the slower, gentler, understated start, we would never understand the pure and total demise of the proud Sakhran race, and how they didn’t even attempt to resist it.

Three hundred years ago and unidentified ship came to the Sakhran homeworld. Only one person among them understood what she was. He wrote a book, and when the book was read, the Sakhran race began to decline. Out of vicious irony, the Sakhrans named the ship Faith.  Like her namesake, she visits on a whim, and can destroy with a whisper, not knowing and not caring what she’s turned you into.  But this Faith offers only questions, never any answers.

Faith has returned, and the expanded Commonwealth of Planets believe they have the only weapon that can stop her.  The Commonwealth built nine Outsider ships.  Built in secret, and then pushed away as lepers, the ships are named after psychopaths and mass murderers. There is never any shore leave, and crew know to never return to their home planets. Aaron Foord, commander of the Charles Manson knows he is the Commonwealth’s only chance against Faith.  His crew are the dregs of humanity, the mistakes, the undesirables, the hidden criminals, perhaps, the anti-Faith. And those of his crew who aren’t human? some of them claim to have eaten their own children.

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Lots of things have been jumbling around in my mind this week. Such as:

I caught a rerun of a 2008 Mythbusters episode where they debunked the myth that the 1969 Moon landing was faked. I loved the scene where Adam was hopping around in his space suit.

Reading Scott Lynch’s Queen of the Iron Sands that features an earthling being thrilled how far she can jump on Mars, because the gravity is lower.

Reminiscing about my love for  physics and rollercoaster mechanics with a retired physics professor, while discussing many other wonderful things (if he’s reading this, he knows who he is).

Tor’s Exoplanet article.

What do all of those things have in common?  they all have to do with gravity and planets and physics and everything that’s fun in the universe!  So much science (fictional) fun to be had here!  and a little bit of silliness, of course. I suddenly feel like an 8 year old who just discovered an astrophysics encyclopedia!

What would roller coasters and bungee jumping be like on the Moon? Maybe we’d need magnets to get the thrill of falling.

Speaking of falling, if you were born and raised on a planet with lower gravity, might you never develop a fear of falling?

If your planet had two (or more) suns, would you need extra sunblock?

Would people grow taller on planets with lower gravity?  How many generations would it take for the mutation to “take” in humans? Would plants grow taller? would their roots not go as deep into the ground?

How would changes in gravity affect waterfalls and water erosion?

How would multiple moons affect ocean tides?

How would different gravities affect fashion? Something I read recently (I think it was Anderson’s Bitter Angels), talked about how on a lower gravity planet people used weights in their clothes as fashion accessories, and the poor tied or sewed rocks into the hems of their clothing.  What about shoes? What about hair styles? And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be wearing a Star Trek Unitard.

Sometimes the most important thing is coming up with the questions.

Three weeks in a sultry August, anything could happen.

And it does, over and over and over again.

Starring Okarin, a college student who styles (and LARPs) himself a mad scientist, his hacker buddy Daru,  his childhood friend Mayushi, and the rest of their growing circle of friends, Steins;Gate was the sleeper hit of the summer. Bursting at the seams with Otaku jokes and on-purpose cliches, this is a show that took apart all the expected and overdone anime tropes and rewove them into something ground breaking.

This is my third post on Steins;Gate, so feel free to get yourself caught up by reading my first reactions to the show, and my mid season post.  Really, go read them, as this post may not make much sense otherwise.

but now, after 24 episodes, Steins;Gate is over.  Over three sultry weeks one August, a time machine was created, used, abused, and a choice regarding it’s uncreation had to be made.  Okarin and his friends used the time machine to create the lives they wanted.  Feyris used it to spend more time with her father, Ruka uses it to be born a little different. Suzuha tries to use it to find her father.  Everyone takes a turn to change something from their past.

But everytime the time machine is used, the world line, our dimension, shifts a little.  The city and the people who live in it change a little. Not as much as you’d notice, but an avalanche starts with one snowflake.  Everyone gets what they wanted, but no one wins. And only Okarin can stop what’s happening.

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The Restoration Game, by Ken MacLeod

Published Sept 2011

Where I got it:  rec’d review copy from the friendly folks at PYR

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This is one of those books that spoils the ending right away.  But as new blogger friend Alison said,when you know the ending, the author has to work that much harder to surprise you along the way.  And there were some great surprises here.

Gamer geek girl Lucy was born in Krassnia, raised in America, and now resides in the UK. The homeland of her mother and grandmother, a disputed area of southern Russia, is Krassnia part of Russia? part of Georgia?  Doesn’t really matter, since Krassnia and it’s sacred mountain aren’t on any map, and the Krassnians would prefer to keep it that way.  But gamer geek Lucy is too busy worrying about her company’s newest MMORPG release, Dark Brittania, to care about Georgian / Russian border towns.

That is, until she gets a call from her mother, who practically begs her to make a video game about Krassnia, based on The Krassniad, a collection of Krassnian folklore.  A few tweaks to Dark Brittania, some changes to the script, a new voice-over, and poof, the Krassnian version is complete and ready to go. Doesn’t matter that it’s a complete rip-off of Dark Brittania, as only a few hundred people in Krassnia are going to have access to it.

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I heard something wonderfully (or frightfully) science fictional on NPR the other day.  They were talking with a security firm who figured out how to unlock car doors via text message.

The firm sounds all Sneakers-esque, and breaking into a car through a text message sounds like something Cory Doctorow or William Gibson would write into a SF book, doesn’t it? And if it wasn’t in the most recent James Bond movie, I’m sure it’ll be in the next one, although sadly not provided by Q.

read or listen to the full story here it’s quick and truly fascinating.

The most fun (or most scary, depending on how you look at it) part of this is thinking about the next step, from both sides of it. Up here in the north, we love our remote car starters. Text message car starting means you can do it from far away. from your bedroom, or your basement, or penthouse apartment, or the luggage pickup at the airport. Claudia (who I adore!!) hacked into someone’s GPS on Warehouse 13 last night . . . .

you see? fun and scary! aannnnddd . . . . .  I think I’ll be walking or biking to work for a little while!

sorry for the crappy photo. . .

Nightflyers (short story collection) by George R R Martin

published in 1985 (stories written from 1973-1980)

why I read it: cuz I lurves me some Martin

where I got it: have no idea, it’s been on the bookshelf for a while.

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Thanks to HBO and a rather infamous 5th book,  just about everyone knows who George R R Martin is.   I’m not ashamed to admit it, Game of Thrones was my first Martin, and before I read it (this was maybe 5 years ago?), I’d never heard of him.  Many people know him as “that epic fantasy guy”.

what if I told you he wrote tons and tons of stuff before Game of Thrones was ever a twinkle in his eye? That he’d been writing short stories since the early 70’s?  Dreamsongs volumes one and two were released a few years back, and are known as the Martin short story collections. Containing everything from essays to short stories and novellas, to tv scripts to his thoughts on different parts of his life,  when it comes to page count they are just as epic as his fantasies.  However, if you’re looking for a smaller dose of early Martin, allow me to recommend a skinny little short story collection called Nightflyers. It’s unfortunate this little gem is out of print, it’s well worth the search on Amazon or ABE or e-bay, or you favorite local used bookstore.   Along with the novella Nightflyers, written in 1980, it includes 5 more short stories written during the 70s.   no dice? no worries, all the stories in Nightflyers are also in the Dreamsongs collection.

Another thing I’m not ashamed to admit is that I don’t read a lot of short story collections or anthologies. Just personal preference, I typically want something novella length or longer. Well, Martin and his Dreamsongs turned me into a short story fan, or at least a fan of his short stories.  And you know what?  I like his earlier science fiction based short works better than A Song of Ice and Fire, and Nightflyers is part of the reason why.

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Sideshow, by Sheri S Tepper

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

why I read it: This is my favorite Tepper, and one of my all time favorite SF novels.

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Sheri Tepper’s Sideshow is one of my all time favorite science fiction novels. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this book.  Technically, it is the third book in her loosely related trilogy that starts with Grass and Raising the Stones.  I’ve read all three, and I believe they can easily be read as stand alones, or even better, in backwards order for a different, yet very satisfying experience.

Taking place many many generations after Raising the Stones (reviewed here), the remnants of humanity have fled to the hidden planet of Elsewhere, the only planet in the galaxy that is free of the Hobbs Land Gods.  On Elsewhere, diversity is prized above everything else, all cultures are respected and allowed to live their lives as they wish, and the two Arbai doors are guarded day and night. The citizens of Elsewhere may all belong to different cultures and tribes, but everyone celebrates on Great Question Day, when they celebrate the founding of Elsewhere and jokingly attempt to answer the great question of the age old galactic university: what is the ultimate destiny of man?

Meanwhile, back on Earth, in our time, a very important set of siamese twins are born. Nela and Bertan are as loved by their doting parents as any children could hope to be. And then, well, things go very badly with their parents and the twins quite literally end up joining the circus. Actually, it couldn’t have worked out better. If they’d never joined the circus, they would have never met the alien, and our story would never have happened.

If I got much more into the plot you’d be reading for ages, and even worse I know I’d inadvertently give away some great spoilers. The plot is subtle, engrossing, at times hilarious and at times truly tragic. Strong characters abound, along side aliens, orphans, ghosts, and  names you might recognize from other Tepper novels.

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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.