the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘evolution

2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble and Other Stories, by Neal Asher (short story collection)

published 2008, Night Shade Edition published 2015

where it got it: received review copy from Night Shade Books (thanks!)

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My first Neal Asher novel was The Skinner, an edgy  space opera that I’ve lovingly described as “magnificently disgusting”.  In that novel, the name of the game is adapt or die, and the denizens of the planet Spatterjay take full advantage of evolutionary opportunities. Even visitors who stick around long enough can watch their bodies change into something not quite human.  The Skinner made me an instant fan of Asher, and I’ve been watching for his titles ever since.

Many of Asher’s novels take place in his Polity Universe, which in a similar fashion to Banks’ Culture novels,  the novels all take place in the same universe, and occasionally characters from one book show up or are mentioned in another, but you can generally jump around in the order the books were published.   Not sure Asher is for you? Not sure you want to dive into a new universe? The Gabble, a short story collection of stores from the Polity will answer both of those questions for you.  If you ask me, you can just answer those two questions with a resounding Yes and be done with it.

What I loved about how Asher does alien planets and aliens is that everything is so damn alien. Why should aliens have two arms, two legs, a head, a nose and a mouth? If that configuration is unique to Earth, it follows that every planet will have a unique configuration based on evolutionary needs, the planet’s unique environs, and any one of a million other variables in how life works. No one we run into is going to look like us, think like us, or communicate like us. There is no gentleness here, no Star Trek style diplomacy.  Some species simply do not communicate with others, and humans are quite tasty.  It might sound harsh, but this is how nature works.   When it comes down to it, we are just animals in a food chain.

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vonnegut galapagosGalapagos, by Kurt Vonnegut

Published in 1985

where I got it: purchased new

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Galapagos was the first Vonnegut title I read. I must have been around twenty or twenty one at the time. I’d never been into American literature as a student, our required reading in high school never included Vonnegut, so what possessed me to get their weird book out of the library? Timing.

It must have been right around the year 2000. I was right in the middle of my college career, and I’d realized that while I enjoyed my classes and respected my instructors, that I had zero love my for major and was at peace that I was never, ever, going to be a drafter, designer, or engineer for a living. That kind of peace brought, well, peace. In 1998, the song “Free to wear sunscreen” came out, and was on heavy rotation on the radio, and it was rumored that the speech had been written by Kurt Vonnegut. His was a name people mentioned, sometimes in awe, sometimes with disdain. My high school English teachers mentioned his name, but didn’t encourage us to read him. Were we too young? Was it something else?

So, now that I had time, and mental energy, it was a great discovery to learn that the local library owned a stack of Vonneguts. Why did I choose Galapagos? Maybe because it had a neat cover. Maybe it was the first Vonnegut on the shelf that day. Who knows.

 

What a mental mind fuck that book was! It wasn’t told chronologically, you’re told in the first chapter who is going to die later, and the narrator is a ghost who never actually explains anything. I didn’t understand a word of it. It was absurd and surreal, and I loved it. It was a new taste that I suddenly couldn’t get enough of. Over the next 4 years, I would read every Vonnegut the library owned (which turned out to be not that many), fall in love with Cat’s Cradle, and start collecting used copies of Vonnegut titles. Yes, I could have purchased them brand new and owned a collection instantly, but this kind of thing is about the journey, you know?

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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.