the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for May 2015

superpositionSuperposition, by David Walton

published April 2015

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Pyr!)

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Imagine a fast paced thriller mashed up with a quantum physics book for a layperson. Now throw in family dynamics, a suspensful murder mystery/police procedural, and an unexplainable monster.  That’s Superposition. Ignore the terrible cover art, this is a pretty good book.

 

For such a short and ultra fast book, I liked how Walton developed the characters, especially Jacob and his family. Through conversations with Jacob’s wife Elena, and their kids, we immediately know a lot about the particulars of their family situation (one of these details becomes incredibly important later). As he spends more time with his daughter Alessandra, it was fascinating to watch him realize he might not be the amazingly perfect father he always thought he was. I won’t go as far to call the book heavy on “feels”, but Walton crams a ton character development into very little space. Other characters too, are quickly given depth – his friend Jean’s marital issues, his brother in-law Marek’s deep seated morals and loyalty. This is a science driven thriller, yet it read like a character driven novel. that’s a good thing.

 

To get the story off and running, Jacob’s old co-worker Brian randomly shows up at his house one night, terrified. Trying to prove a point, Brian shoots Elena, who suffers no ill effects.  The next thing Jacob knows, he’s on trial for Brian’s murder. Brian had been alive the evening he shot Elena, found dead the next morning in his lab, was seen alive that afternoon, and then was never seen again.  Jacob’s family has also disappeared, will he soon find himself on trial for their murders too?

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three bodyThe Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

published in November 2014

Where I got it: purchased new

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This review contains minor spoilers.

 

I had a very tough time getting into The Three Body Problem.  In the first half of the novel, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, who or what is important to pay attention to. There are certainly interesting and important things that happen (and which are explained at the end), but I couldn’t understand how any of the dots were connected.

 

The story starts during China’s Cultural Revolution.  Professors, scientists, academics, anyone who is seen to be under the influence of western thoughts are persecuted and often psychologically tortured to the point of suicide. Ye Wenjie watches as her physicist father is murdered by teenaged Red Guards. Guilty by association, Wenjie is sent to the frontier to be politically rehabilitated through manual labor. A talented scientist herself, she is recruited to be part of the secretive Red Coast Base.  It will be years before anyone is allowed to talk about what happened at Red Coast.

 

The narrative jumps between Ye Wenjie’s life at Red Coast and modern day China, where nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao is pulled into a military investigation where he could be the key to stopping a dangerous enemy. Except no one will tell him who the enemy is, or where they are. He’s shown a list of scientists who recently committed suicide, and is exposed to a terrifying countdown that is counting down to, what exactly? Reluctantly, Wang becomes friends with Shi Qiang, the gruff police officer who had originally pulled him into the military meeting. A name on the list of dead scientists catches Wang’s attention, Yang Dong. He’s encouraged to visit Yang’s elderly mother, who turns out to be Ye Wenjie.

 

The connection between Wang and Ye Wenjie is a point of no return. For Ye, everything she’s worked towards is coming full circle. For Wang, he learns of a video game called Three Body, in which the goal of the game (or at least the first level of it) is to predict how long the next stable and chaotic eras will be in an environment in which the laws of orbital mechanics don’t seem to make any sense.  Players who understand what the game truly represents are invited to learn who made the game and why.

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ea_SoftApocalypseSoft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

published 2011

where I got it: purchased used

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I’m not sure if this is the most recent book I finished,  but this is the book that got me out of the funk I’ve been in lately. I’ve barely been able to concentrate on a book for more than 15 minutes for the last few months, and Soft Apocalypse gently took me by the hand, and led me to a quiet room where there was no e-mail or texts pinging, no phone ringing, and no deadlines I’d missed. As the story was giving me the escape I so desperately needed, it coyly whispered in my ear “I’m going to give you something to care about. And then I’m going to make you watch it die”.

Soft Apocalypse was an experience in enforced escapism. And it was devastating.

And I did so desperately need this experience of escape. This is the book that forced me to put my perspectives back where they belong. Well done Will McIntosh – with your story of a society in denial, you talked me off my own ledge. Well done indeed.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching Robin Hobb deconstruct a character beyond the point of  no return (Forest Mage, I’m looking at you), Soft Apocalypse feels a bit like that at times, with McIntosh putting his characters through increasingly harrowing and disturbing events. And since everyone in the book assumes things can’t get any worse, they keep living their lives as if next year, or maybe the year after, everything will start to turn around.  But it doesn’t.  Things just keep getting worse, but so slowly that from day to day people barely notice. Resources slowly become scarcer, people become more afraid of strangers, and the police threaten people more than they help them.

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A few weeks ago I went to my first PenguiCon! it’s a tech/geek/DIY/Scifi convention in Detroit every spring. More techy stuff than i’m usually into, there was a soldering lab, a bunch of RFID stuff, 3-D printed hands, a guy talking about radiation safety, a solar telescope, and some fantastic astronomy panels. I was mostly interested in the Lit track – went to a panels on editing, genre mash-ups, and got to hang out with Ferrett Steinmetz and Matt Betts, and go to both of their readings.  There was of course the requisite dealer room, a ton of artists, a costume contest, and parties that made me feel like I’d fallen into a time warp.

and the best part? I got to spend the weekend with Lesley Conner! She also got to learn that I compulsively write things down. like, all the things, and all the time.

Lesley's the tall one.

Lesley’s the tall one.

here’s some more pictures!

robots who were programmed to dance

robots who were programmed to dance

The solar telescope. I saw sun spots!!

The solar telescope. I saw sun spots!!

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photo gallery of books, a.k.a. double stacking for the win.

except i don’t like books. or reading. #LOL

we had delusions of organizing our books as we unpacked and shelved them. We also had delusions that we had enough bookcases. I think a roadtrip to Ikea is in our future. Because the only thing better than more books is mismatched bookcases.

see how much i don’t like books? or reading?

this bookshelf has so many pretties!

this bookshelf has so many pretties!

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My goodness it’s been a long time since I did a post!  and today isn’t a real post, it’s just me, stopping by, saying “Hi! I’m still alive!”.  It’s been a stressful couple of weeks, but I am hopeful that things are on the upswing. and then, maybe i’ll have bloggy stuff for you (and photos for Richard).

erm, i got some silly owl pictures off the interwebs for you? Cuz I like silly owl pictures.

This owl looks like a muppet.

This owl looks like a muppet.

this owl looks like a muppet too.

this owl looks like a muppet too.

this owl looks like a fluffy muppet with a mustache.

this owl looks like a fluffy muppet with a mustache.

 

Um, a muppet-y owls, like, a thing?


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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.