the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

As usual, I have attempted to not bring more books into the house and failed miserably. It might sound counter intuitive, but the more books that are piled up on the coffee table (and under the coffee table, and on the corner of the kitchen table, and on the table next to the bed), the less inclined I am to want to purchase more.

But, sometimes I can’t help myself. And then beautiful books show up in the mail, and before I know it I am surrounded by the happiness that is new books that have come to live in my house and be loved by me.

Here are my newest babies:

 

Galaxy Game

From Del Rey/Randomhouse comes  a gorgeous edition of The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord.  this is her follow up to The Best Of All Possible Worlds, but they can both be read as stand alones.  Stay tuned for January, when I’ll have not one, but two articles about her new novel. I’m more than a little excited!

The MechanicalFrom Orbit (you know, the folks who spoil me rotten?) comes The Mechanical from Ian Tregillis. I had no idea he had a new novel coming out! But I sure was excited to pull this ARC out of it’s envelope. The Mechanical comes out in March, and so far the only thing I know about it is that since it has Tregillis’s name on it, I want to read it.

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Book-Review-The-MartianThe Martian by Andy Wier

published in February 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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I don’t know why I skipped this book back when it came out.  I remember it got a lot of hype, and that I’d recently been burning on some other titles being overhyped. Anyways, the book recently came out in paperback, and was chosen for the December book for my book club. The hype had long since died down, and I’d be discussing the book among friends, so the time was ripe for me to dive in.

 

Let’s get this out of way first – I absolutely, freakin’ LOVED Andy Weir’s The Martian. I’d sit down, planning to read a chapter or two, or maybe 20 pages, and before I knew it an hour had gone by and I’d devoured a chunk of the book and bitten of half my fingernails in the process. This is one helluva page turner, and Weir pulls the best kind of trick possible: You really don’t know what’s going to happen until the very last few pages.

 

The blurb on the back of the book sums up the basics nicely:

 

“Six days ago astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Changes are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death.”

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Heretics_of_Dune_Cover_ArtHeretics of Dune (Dune #5) by Frank Herbert

published in 1984

where I got it: have owned forever

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It’s been hundreds of years since the demise of the God Emperor, and his Golden Path saved humanity by forcing us out and beyond his enforced stagnation. Humanity survived the famine years, and the scattering to the winds of the galaxy, many of us went our separate ways with no knowledge that we stood on the abyss of our own extinction. Generations upon generations have passed, the Bene Gesserit are still angry, the Ixians are still manufacturing forbidden machines  and the Bene Tleilaxu are still creating Duncan Idaho gholas in their axlotl tanks. The old powers of a dying empire are not ready to let go of their traditions and beliefs. A Golden Path of survival was given to them on a platter, and yet they hesitate to take the first step.

 

On the dark, dank planet of Gammu, a new Duncan Idaho is being raised and trained by military genius Miles Teg, who is a tool of Bene Gesserit Sisterhood.  Teg’s mother was a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, so without even realizing it he allows Duncan to gain dangerous knowledge. Teg doesn’t know the extent of Reverend Mother Superior Taraza’s plan for this newest ghola, but his mission is to train and protect the boy, so that is what he will do. It is known that the Tleilaxu who created the ghola intend to assassinate him, as they have the eleven Duncan Idahos before him.

 

And on Rakis, a girl named Sheeana can control the great sandworms. The local priests take Sheeana in, but other than nearly deifying her, no one quite knows what to do with her.  The worms are not sentient, but each one carries a pearl of the God Emperor’s awareness, and they still seem to remember signs that humans can read. Upon Reverend Mother Odrade’s arrival, Sheeana comes to understand there is a force on this planet that even she can not control.

 

To complicate matters, descendants of those who left the empire during the famine times and the scattering have been returning. Honored Matres who control through sexual manipulation, members of old religions who have new beliefs and strange customs. Those of the scattering see the Old Empire as an easy conquest.

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chris bucholzIf you’re a regular reader at Cracked.com, you’re sure to recognize the name Chris Bucholz. Over the last seven years he’s written over 300 humor columns at Cracked, touching on everything from Halloween costumes to confusing toys, customer feedback at McDonald’s, zombie movie mash-ups, and the history behind some really weird rock band names.   Chris’s debut science fiction novel is Severance (published by Apex Books) and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.  Let’s get to the interview!

 

LRR: Congratulations on the publication of your new novel, Severance! What’s the quick pitch for the novel?

CB: Severance is a comedic science fiction adventure set on a generation ship populated with stupid, stupid people. Severance is a warm fire on a cold day, and a cold drink on a hot day. It’s the son you never had, and now there he is, standing in front of you, arms wide, waiting to hug you. It is a masterpiece.

That may be overselling it a bit. It’s my first novel, ok? I tried really hard and I think it’s pretty great.

Severance_final_cover_large

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then againDivision by Zero #3: Then Again, an anthology of the MiFiWriters group

published Nov 6 2014

Where I got it: borrowed

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I knew there were a bunch of speculative fiction writers groups here in Michigan, but I didn’t know one of them published annual anthologies! How cool is that?  MiFiWriters is based in Michigan, and exists to promote the writing of science fiction by Michiganders.  They recently published Then Again, the third anthology in their annual Division by Zero series.  They choose a different theme each year, and the theme of Then Again was time travel. Imagine all the things you could do if you could travel through time: save lives, stop horrible things from happening, solve crimes before they happened. But what about the dangers of time travel? What if you only made the situation worse? What it time travel tore holes in spacetime? Ah, the beauty of what if!

 

Here are a few of my thoughts on some of my favorite stories from Then Again.

 

Time Enough, by Matthew Rohr  –  This was my favorite story in the collection. When Wilson Andrews successfully crosses a Campbell Bridge to go back in time, he doesn’t exactly come out when he expected.  He knows his mission to kill a certain person, but first he’s got to find her.  The scientists knew the journey through time would scramble his brain a little, so they’ve imprinted him with briefings and recordings to help him along the way.  The story involves a lot of flashbacks and partial memories, so it feels like it is not told chronologically, giving it a feeling of wonderfully off kilter weirdness. Remember the movie Memento? This story feels like that a little, with Wilson coming across faces and voices that jog his memory. As his memory slowly returns, Wilson is able to put the puzzle pieces together. Once he realizes what is going on, will he be able to carry out the murder?  Even though there is closure at the end, I liked that this story feels like a prologue or middle chapter of a longer book.

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Bicentennial_man_film_poster

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Bicentennial Man is a 1999 film directed by Chris Columbus, and stars Robin Williams, Embeth Davitz, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt and Hallie Kate Eisenberg. It’s based on the 1993 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, which was an extension of Asimov’s 1976 Hugo and Nebula award winning novelette The Bicentennial Man.  I’ve read a lot of Asimov (and a middling amount of Silverberg), but I haven’t read either the award winning novelette or the later written novel. So this review will be just of the movie, I can’t even speculate what scenes from the books the screenwriters skipped or expanded upon.

 

200px-The_bicentennial_manThe story opens with an android being delivered to the Martin residence. Through the young daughter’s mispronunciation of the word android, the robot gains the name Andrew.  Only Mr. Martin is excited by their new “gizmo”, and after the daughters both try to damage Andrew, the new family rule is that Andrew must be treated with the same respect due any member of the family. Soon the girls start treating him like a visiting cousin: someone who can help them with their homework, but someone they shouldn’t bother unnecessarily. After all, he is a “household robot”, he was purchased to help with housework, clean, garden, and fix things around the house. as the years pass, the youngest daughter, whom Andrew refers to as Little Miss, forms a special bond with him. (And yes, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are very quickly presented, but never dwelled on).

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Asimov’s guesses about the future were entertaining and fascinating for me. The opening scenes take place in 2014, and commercial androids are commonplace and becoming popular for wealthy families to have at home.  But there are no cell phones, no digital cameras, no facebook, no big screen tv’s, no home computers, very little digital technology. Even later in the movie, as the decades pass, flying cars and holograms make an appearance, but no mention of suborbital anything, or smart phones, or genetic modifications, or social media. And as the decades go by, even robots go out of fashion.

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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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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.