the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

species imperative big

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Thanks to Julie Czerneda’s publishers, I’ve got a copy of the Species Imperative Omnibus to give away to one lucky reader!  Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on the give away.

RegenerationRegeneration (Species Imperative #3) by Julie Czerneda

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased used

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It’s hard to get into the plot of Regeneration without spoiling things that happened in the previous books, so I’m going to try to keep  the plot-talk very light. The super quick oversimplified plot introduction is that in the not too distant future we have become part of the Interspecies Union, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thanks to no-space transit technology provided by the multi-dimensional Ro, and the Sinzi who administrate it, hundreds of galactic species can travel all over the place.    Brymn, a Dhryn researcher, seeks out the Earthbound salmon researcher Dr. Mackenzie Connor (Mac to her friends), for help with how to save his species.

 

In Regeneration, the final book of the Species Imperative trilogy, while most governments are trying to figure out a weapon of mass destruction (or extinction) that can be used against the Dhryn, Mac and her team are asking questions that are more along the lines of *why*?  Why do the Dhryn have this biological urge? What is their biology anyways? Have they always been like this? How and where did they evolve? Can we trust our sources of information? I wish all scifi books had this much science in their fiction.  Give this series to a high school kid, and watch them fall in love with biology.

 

Underneath the superb characters and the smart dialog, and the hella fun aliens (whose biology makes sense!), and the political intrigue and the race against time are some heavy questions:

 

How do we handle an invasive species, especially if that species is intelligent and space-faring?

 

How do you study a species that most people (human and alien) have been taught to shoot on sight?

 

How do you get a panicked population to calm down? How do you get someone to work against their biological urges (or what they’ve been lead to believe are their biological urges?)

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2014-11-15 09.03.57Inside Outer Space:  Science Fiction Professionals Look at Their Craft, edited by Sharon Jarvis

published in 1985

where i got it: friend gave it to me

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My friends know I’m drawn towards the obscure, and they also know I really like the “behind the scenes” of everything. A friend found the perfect gift for me: an obscure book of essays by spec fic professionals, published in 1985. What value is there in a book of essays from 30 years ago? More than you’d think.  Editor Sharon Jarvis curated a short list that included her friends and a few authors she’d been referred to.  She assigned people to write on a topic such as humor, or war, or fandom, or small presses, told them approximately how many pages she wanted, and left them to it.  The resulting essays from luminaries like C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, George Alec Effinger, Parke Godwin, Ron Goulart and others are more like having a casual conversation with someone, or listening in on an unscripted panel discussion, rather than reading a manicured essay. They are completely casual, with the authors being completely comfortable calling out people they disagree with (most notably, Harlan Ellison, who everyone wants to pick on).

 

I picked this book up completely on a lark, I needed something read while waiting for something else to happen. Something I could put down at any moment, something with short little bursts of information seemed perfect. Well, the first essay was addictive and hilarious, so I kept reading, long after the stuff that I was waiting for had happened.   So why was a book of essays from 1985 so intriguing? Because it felt like a time capsule.  And of course I was intrigued to see what had changed in 30 years, and what really hadn’t. Some conversations we are still having, and some we *should* still be having.

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Vintage SF badge

The first snowflakes have already landed, you’ve pulled out the fuzzy socks and the heavy coats, the holiday shopping ads are everywhere, Thanksgiving is almost here.  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to start thinking about Vintage Science Fiction month!  Since 2012 I’ve dedicated the month of January to reading “older than I am” science fiction, and invited the entire blogosphere to come with me on an interstellar journey across the stars and into our own minds. We’ve met trickster aliens, ridden dragons, won wars, negotiated with hive minds  and tried to understand androids. We’ve read satire, space opera, high concept metaphysics, alternate histories and impossible futures. We’ve gone to Venus, Mars, the center of the Earth, and beyond the edges of the galaxy.   Beyond books, bloggers have talked about radio programs, movies, and TV shows.

You should come with us this year!

See that Vintage SciFi Not-A-Challenge tab up at the top of the screen? Click there to see some of the history of Vintage Scifi Month.

Let’s talk a little about the what, the how (how do you find this stuff, anyways?),  the why, and the but wait, there’s more!

The What:

Anything or anyone who created science fiction, or something speculative fiction-ish that was published (or recorded, or put on TV or the silver screen) before 1979.  It can be hard scifi, or not. Have aliens, or not.  Fantasy is OK too.  Jules Verne is perfect, so is Mary Shelley. Or maybe War of the Worlds, original Star Trek, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Cordwainer Smith, Clifford Simak, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, James Tiptree Jr, A.E. van Vogt, Frank Herbert,  I can go on forever here.

The How:

How the hell do I find crusty old books!?   More of this is still in print than you’d think. Not ready to sink $17 into the newest printing of Stranger in a Strange Land? No problem, head over to your local library or any new/used independent bookstore and get ready for an adventure in browsing!  Keep an eye out for “Daw Yellow Spines”, which are exactly what they sound like. They aren’t all pre-1979, but a lot of them are, and the cover art is usually pretty nuts.

Paperbackswap is another option as well.  And if you make a good case for yourself, I could be tempted to loan out some of my vintage titles.

Only want to read on your e-reader/kindle/tablet thing? again, no problem.  Head over to Project Gutenberg for a ton of free classics (just search for science fiction). More and more publishers are releasing e-books of older titles and finding a healthy market still exists for these titles. I recently discovered Open Road Media, an all e-book publisher.  I was pretty impressed by their collection of older stuff.  Plenty of Andre Norton, and a bucket of John Norman, the Fritz Leiber Lankhmar collection, even some Robert Silverberg, James Brunner and H.G. Wells.

 

The Why:

Why? because everything came from somewhere. Your favorite spec fic author was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, who was influenced by someone, and so on.   Movements and changes in what’s popular, what we wish was popular, or what we’re sick of is a reaction to what came before.   Personally, I just really like knowing what came before, it helps me understand the foundations of something that has brought so much joy into my life.  Another way to put it is that reading older science fiction is like finding an ancient city buried underneath a modern one.  You suddenly know why your city was laid out the way it was, and why some things were done different, because now you can better see what came before.   Vintage science fiction is where we came from. Those novels and short stories are the steps we took to get to where we are now.

 

and the But Wait, There’s More:

I’m looking for guest posts,  anything from book reviews, to TV show or movie reviews and/or discussions, to a cover art gallery, to why you appreciate a particular vintage author.  If you’re interested in writing a guest post, tweet me at @redhead5318 ,  or e-mail me with that same handle, but to the gmail place.

 

Are we ready to rock ‘n roll this January or what?

 

 

interstellar movie poster

 

Last Saturday we joined another couple to see Interstellar.  I’ve made this review as non-spoilery as possible, but quick tl;dr is that I absolutely loved this movie.

 

Interstellar, Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine , Davie Gyasi, and Jessica Chastian.  Rated PG-13

 

The premise of Interstellar is that Earth is doomed. A blight is killing the crops, and no matter what you want to be when you grow up, you’re gonna be a farmer, because it is now everyone’s duty to get as much food out of the ground as possible. Cooper, an ex-test pilot, lives with his father-in-law Donald, his son Tom and his daughter Murphy. His daughter is convinced there is a ghost in her bedroom who keeps pushing books off the shelves, and he tries to explain to her that ghosts and poltergeists don’t exist, she’s got to go about understanding what’s in her room in a scientific way.

Cooper still dreams of flying, and his daughter has inherited his love of astronautics and physics.  I won’t tell you how, but Cooper and Murphy come to the attention of a government agency who has a Plan A to save humanity, and a Plan B.  Plan A involves the cinematographic beauty of the movie: flying a ship through a worm hole and into another galaxy, in the search for another planet for humanity to inhabit.  Along with an old army robot, Cooper and a small crew of scientists take a small ship up to a mothballed space station to start their journey.  Plan B is the twist, and well, that would be a spoiler. Which is too bad, because it’s the big idea of the whole thing.

 

 

Interstellar was a gorgeous movie to watch.  The rings of Saturn, black holes up close and personal, a star frozen in an eternal moment of being on the event horizon of a black hole, the vistas of the planets the expedition lands on, all of the visualizations are stunning to behold. And this might be the best visual representation of we’ve ever come up with for what a black hole might look like.

Sorta looks like a no-ship.

Black hole sorta looks like a no-ship.

 

From the drawings we’ve seen in astronomy textbooks, a black hole is a disk that sucks stuff in, looking almost like the drain in your bathtub, right? but as Romilly explains, thats a 2d representation of something that is 3d. Whats a 3d version of a circle? A sphere, of course. So the  black holes are spheres, which at first blush,  looked to me like a Herbertian no-ships. And just wait until you see the black hole that has a star dying in an endless moment on the event horizon! For more info on that, check out this spoiler free article on how they designed the black holes at Wired.

Why yes, that is a star being eaten by a Black Hole. Looks  amazing!

Why yes, that is a star being eaten by a Black Hole. Looks amazing! oh, and there is a planet orbiting it. Wanna take a look?

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I first discovered the fiction of Ken Liu in 2012 in Lightspeed Magazine, with his “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (I highly recommend the audio too!), and soon after I found myself deliberately seeking out his work.  Some of my favorites of his include “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King”, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring”, “The Plantimal” (co-written with Mike Resnick) and “Tying Knots”, and of course the multiple award winning “The Paper Menagerie” and Hugo Award winning “Mono no aware”, just to name a few. (by the way, the links in this paragraph and elsewhere in this blog post go to where you can read his fiction online)

 

Writing much faster than I can keep up with, his fiction can be found in Apex Magazine, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, and recently in the anthologies Kaleidoscope, The End is Now, Upgraded, Long Hidden, and Dead Man’s Hand, among others. He puts out more high quality fiction in one year than most authors put out in ten. Highly prolific and brilliantly talented, he’s got the awards and nominations to prove it. One of my favorite short fiction authors, Ken is also friendly and humble.

 

the three body problem

Also very active in translating Chinese science fiction, he has translated short stories and novels by the award winning Chinese authors Chen Qiufan (a.k.a Stanley Chan) and most famously,  The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin, which comes out today. [edited to add: An in depth article on The Three Body Problem was posted in the New York Times this morning. click here to read]

With all that, I’m sure you can understand how excited the science fiction world was earlier this year when Liu announced that his first novel, The Grace of Kings, would hit bookstore shelves in Spring of 2015. I do not envy the code monkeys of Netgalley the day that e-Arc goes up, that’s for sure! Even better news is that The Grace of Kings is but the first book in a trilogy.

Have I whet your appetite? Ready to learn more about Ken Liu? Read on!

 

Liu-Ken

 

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sfNovember_banner_02a

This interview is part of SciFi November, hosted by Rinn Reads and Oh The Books!

A friend of mine had been recommending Julie Czerneda’s science fiction to me for a while, and last year I finally picked up the first book in her Species Imperative series, Survival.  In a word, that novel was phenomenal.  Strong characters, fascinating and freaky aliens, politics, intrigue, and even better, it was a scifi book based on biology (instead of physics, which seems to be a standard. Nothing against physics, but biology is damn cool!). The main character of Survival, Dr. Mackenzie Connor, leaps of the page and pulls you right back in with her.  She’s a biologist, what could she possibly have to do with saving trillions of lives so far away from planet Earth?  Here’s a link to my review of Survival, and a link to my review of the second book in the series, Migration. Stay tuned for a review later this month of the third book in the series, Regeneration!

CzernedaCPC-001167cAfter discovering Julie’s older science fiction titles, you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn she has a brand new fantasy series out, called the Night’s Edge series. The first book, A Turn of Light (click here to read an excerpt), came out last year and won the Prix Aurora Award for best English novel of the year.  The second book in the series, A Play of Shadow comes out today! (Scroll to the bottom of this article to enter in the give away for a free copy!) Learn more about Julie Czerneda by checking out her website, and by following her on twitter at @julieczerneda

Enough squeeing from me, let’s get to the interview!

 

 

LRR: The same weekend you won the Prix Aurora Award, you were a special guest at Can­Con in Ottawa. Wow, what a weekend! As an author, what’s the most fun part of attending conventions? What’s been your favorite convention that you attended? Any tips for folks who are new to the convention scene?

JC: It was a busy few days, that’s for sure, and happy!

The most fun? Meeting readers. To see eyes light up, to have someone mention a story or character they loved? It’s better than chocolate for the soul, believe me. I store those moments to think of when writing.

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kassa gambitThe Kassa Gambit, by M.C. Planck

published in 2012

where I got it: borrowed

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If you enjoyed the TV show Firefly, or have been enjoying the James S.A. Corey Expanse series (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, etc), then The Kassa Gambit is for you.

 

Starting off with a bang,  the crew of the Ulysses exit node space in the Kassa system to find mines and missiles waiting for them. Luckily, Captain Prudence Falling has a smart crew, and a freighter ship that’s got some hidden additions.  They outsmart the missiles, land on Kassa to learn the entire planet has been bombarded by a mysterious enemy that showed up out of nowhere, bombed the crap out of the place, and left without a word.  When the government patrol boat Launceston enters the system, Falling helps them through the mine fields, and doesn’t want to stick around long enough for the Launceston’s League Agent Kyle Daspar to use his governmental powers to commandeer her ship too.  She’s interested in helping the people of Kassa rebuild, but under her own terms, not those of the League.

 

Daspar has secrets of his own, and one of them is that he’s intensely suspicious and paranoid.  The mission he’s really on isn’t the one he’s talking about, and for a while he’s convinced that Falling is an agent out to kill him.  What changes his mind is the way Falling treats her long term crew members. She’s tolerant of Garcia’s crassness and alcoholism, and she’s maternal and protective towards Jorgun, who is an idiot savant. Jorgun can program the nav computer faster and more accurately than an AI, but he’s got the mental development of a five year old. Falling knows Jorgun’s skills, and she also knows how others would treat him, and what the League would do with him if they got their hands on him. When not running Nav, Jorgun is happy doing jigsaw puzzles, playing games, and watching cartoons. He’s the ship’s gentle giant.

 

As the Kassa investigation continues, a crashed alien ship is found, and Prudence and Kyle follow different tracks towards the answers.  Their paths cross again, and there is some obvious chemistry growing between the two of them. They are both physically attracted to the other, but they mutually agree that the timing couldn’t be more inconvenient.  They do decide to work together to uncover the mystery of what attacked Kassa.  Prudence has an augmented ship and knows the shipping lanes and node jumps like the back of her hand, and Kyle has the government connections to get their all information they could possibly need. Now it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.

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2014 Hugo Awards

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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.