the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

joanna russWe Who Are About To . . .  by Joanna Russ

published 1975

where I got it: purchased used

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You read the book, or saw the movie of Andy Weir’s The Martian, right?  It’s a story about hope, about survival, about sciencing the shit out of every resource at your disposal. Because when it comes down to it, Mark Watney really doesn’t want to die.

 

And a lot of “stranded on a deserted island” (ok, deserted planet) stories are like that.  Our instinct is to survive.  To make shelter, to find water, to figure out what to eat, to try to get rescued.

 

But what if you were stranded somewhere, and you were pretty sure you weren’t going to get rescued? What if you had no resources? What if there weren’t any experts among the survivors? What if surviving was a pipe dream?

 

In Joanna Russ’s We Who Are About To,  an escape pod full of  survivors lands on an uncolonized planet. Off the beaten path, nowhere near a beacon, and with little to no resources, can they survive? None amongst them is a scientist, biologist, doctor, or specialist in anything, really. They’ve got  a few weeks of food and a water recycler. They don’t even know where they are.

 

Some of the more ambitious in the group decide their small group  might as well start colonizing the planet. After all, this place is going to be mapped anyways, eventually, right? And to start a colony, they need more people. Which means they need to start having babies, and all the adult women in the group should be willing to be impregnated by the men. This particular scene was so blunt that I laughed out loud.  Most of the novel is this blunt.

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We’re all always talking about the first science fiction book we read,  or scifi movies we liked as a kid.  For me,  my love of science fiction was born directly from a childhood fascination with all things science.

 

For me, science and science fiction have always gone hand in hand. If you’re going to go explore the stars, it helps to have an understanding or at least an appreciation of astronomy and physics, right?  Science Fiction is the stories of everything that science makes possible. And with science, everything is possible. My love of science fiction was born through my fascination with Science.  Science made everything possible, science fiction stories are where all those cool things happened.

 

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit.  My mom would take me to the Cranbrook Science Museum. It was perfect for elementary and middle school aged me – youth friendly exhibits on geology, holograms, physics, astronomy, optical illusions, and more. I’m sure there was grown-up stuff too, but I was a kid, so I went to the kid stuff.I have a vivid memory of being 11 or 12 years old, and getting to go to one of their astronomy events where you could look through the telescope and see the rings of saturn. And I saw the rings, and I felt like I could touch them.  The science of refraction and lenses showed me the rings of Saturn, and in the science fiction stories I was reading, people went to the rings of Saturn.  I was looking at something right out of a science fiction story!  And if the rings of Saturn were attainable through a chunk of glass, couldn’t anything in a science fiction story be attainable, eventually?

Cranbrook Institute of Science. where it all began.

Cranbrook Institute of Science. where it all began.

Around this same time in my life, I was a huge Star Trek the Next Generation viewer.  Dad and I had a standing date to watch the new episodes.  We didn’t have cable TV, so anything new on TV was cool, and getting to hang out with my Dad was extra cool. On that TV show,  science (or at least TV science and technobabble) was applied.  They were doing the things that I only saw through a telescope.  They were doing science (and plenty of other stuff), and science was something that could take you to new amazing worlds.

 

Come on. I was eleven years old.  Any planet they visited on ST:TNG was amazing to me. I didn’t care that it was all tv technobabble and none of the science actually added up. They were taking all the cool science stuff from the museum I went to, and applying it to do really cool things.
Science Fiction is full of hope that one day we will be able to attain what is unattainable today. And  applied science  is what will one day make science fiction a reality.

time-salvager-book-coverTime Salvager, by Wesley Chu

published 2015

where I got it: purchased new

 

 

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I do like me some time travel books. And a time travel story where objects and people are brought into other times, and you have to go. . . . back to the future?  Great Scott, sign me up! Seriously though,  I’m a sucker for a good time travel.  That movie Looper? It made no sense and all, and I loved it.   So, it makes sense that Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager would be right up my alley.  The gist of the plot is in a few hundred years, Earth is in shambles. Chronmen go into the past to get resources, batteries, energy sources, valuable minerals, just about anything that’s worth anything.  ChronoCom uses the time travel technology to give Earth a few more years of existence. Anyone who can afford to left Earth long ago to live on a colony elsewhere.

 

Chronman James Griffin-Mars self medicates his way through too many dangerous missions. He’s left too many ghosts behind, too many people he couldn’t save, too many people he had to let die, because the history books said they died. You can’t rewrite history, you can’t change the future, everyone knows that.  When James brings a woman back into the future, he breaks every law of time travel, and he seals his own fate as a traitor to everything he thought he believed in.

 

Cinematic action sequences and high octane pacing,  this sounds pretty intense, right?

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darwins radio bearDarwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear

published 1999

where I got it: purchased used

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I talked about this book a little while ago, about how it worked so damn well. I finished the novel shortly after posting that blog post, it just took me forever to write the actual review!

 

Pregnant women are losing their babies.  All across the globe, women are miscarrying at staggering rates, some so early in their pregnancies they didn’t even know they were expecting.  When I first read the back cover of Darwin’s Radio, my first thought was “terrible pregnancies? Is this a book about something like Zika?”  Of course it isn’t. Darwin’s Radio was written in 1999, and it won the 2000 Nebula and Endeavor awards.

 

At first, it’s assumed it’s a virus of some sort that is causing the miscarriages.  CDC Investigator Christopher Dicken is used to travelling the globe, seeing the worst viruses in action.  But this doesn’t act like any virus he’s ever seen.   Meanwhile, molecular biologist Kaye Lang has published a handful of papers on ancient retroviruses found in the human genome, papers that push her to the fringe of academia. Not exactly viruses, these are genetic markers that go into action when triggered. But triggered to do what? And triggered by what?   At the same time, discredited archaeologist Mitch Rafelson has been doing his own secret research, except he doesn’t yet understand what he sees in the mummies in an ice cave.

 

When Lang is brought in to consult on a mass grave, the wheels start turning in her head, because what she’s seeing doesn’t make sense. Why would a village murder the pregnant wives? And why did the same thing happen 40 years ago? And why are there current reports of mass violence against pregnant women and women who recently miscarriage? This is not how civilized modern civilization acts!

 

This isn’t a super fast paced book, or an action thriller,  but the speed and intensity comes into play with how fast their ideas and theories take shape, and how fast that information can be shared with others who can put it to good use. Bear fully fleshes out the three main characters Kaye, Christopher, and Mitch, introducing other supportive characters as needed, and educates the reader about genetics and biology through conversation between characters instead of through infodumping.  Bear writes in a way that makes complicated science and biology accessible to any reader. You can go into this book with zero knowledge of genetics, biology, and how diseases work, and come out of it with just enough knowledge to be a bit dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a science heavy, hard science fiction thriller. But Bear also subtly deals with grief, scientific academia, mob mentalities, and what we talk about when we talk about evolution.

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The next book in Julie Czerneda’s Reunification trilogy, The Gate to Future’s Past, is coming out in September, and I’m super excited to reveal the cover art and talk more about the series all day today.  What’s the gist of the Clan Chronicles, and the newest trilogy in this career spanning series?  I’m glad you asked!

 

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #WhoAreTheClan.

And what will be the fate of all.

 

With stunning cover art by Matt Stawicki, the artwork brings together an epic story told over the course of nearly twenty years.

Julie chatted with Matt Stawicki about incorporating earlier artwork, capturing Sira’s emotions, and more.    Let’s see what they said!

scroll artwork

Ta da! Here it is. The wonderful work of Matthew Stawicki, revealed at last. I’ve been waiting to share this cover with you for the better part of a year, for it was complete well before the book.

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Pardon? you say. How can that be?

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Remember the bricks? This image was one of them, firmly in my mind since I started writing This Gulf of Time and Stars.

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Book #2, Sira, meeting her destiny. Triumphant!
Or is she?

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That’s the magic of an image like this. Knowledge morphs impact, grants new meaning and alters perspective. What you think you see now, before reading The Gate to Futures Past, will change once you have.

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Alex KourvoA few years ago at ConFusion, I met author Alex Kourvo.  We were on a Book Reviewing panel together, and while the other panelists were fiction reviewers, Alex runs a book review site called Writing Slices, where she reviews “the books that teach you to write”.   She’s reviewed books that focus on writing dialog, books that focus on writing exercises, books for young writers, books that focus on characterization, you name it. If you’re a new writer, a writer who wants to up their game, or just someone interested in craft of writing, Writing Slices can point you in helpful directions.

 

An author and editor, her short fiction has appeared in Fantastical Visions IV and Reflection’s Edge.  Along with her writing partner Harry R. Campion, she is the co-writer of the Detroit Next series of novels and novellas.  The newest book in the Detroit Next series is Living All Day, and if “series” make you nervous, the novels and novellas in this series can be read in any order.   I recent read the first book in the Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy, and it was fantastic. Fast paced, great characters, and a thrilling story that pulled me right in.  Review coming soon!

 

Alex was kind enough to let me pick her brain about just about everything – writing with a partner, the Detroit Next series, the Writing Slices blog, teaching writing workshops, and a lot more.

living all day

LRR: I recently finished the first book in your Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy (it was awesome by the way!), a near future thriller. You co-write this series with author Harry R. Campion. How is writing novels with a partner different than writing on your own? What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing as a team?

AK: Harry and I write short stories separately and I’m working on a solo novel, but our favorite thing is writing together. I couldn’t do this with everyone, but Harry and I share a brain. Often, after the book is published, we can’t remember who wrote which part! When you’re writing with a partner, the first draft goes more quickly, but the editing takes longer. You have to edit for consistency of voice as well as consistency of story. I think we do a good job of blending our voices. That’s why we chose to share the single pen name, “M.H. Mead.”

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armada clineArmada, by Ernest Cline

published 2015

where I got it: purchased new

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I liked Ernest Cline’s debut novel, Ready Player One. I don’t remember if I really *really* liked it, but I recall enjoying it. I was excited to hear he had a new book coming out, and even more excited when Armada showed up in paperback. Armada was going to be just as good as Ready Player One, right? It was going to be better, right?

 

Well, it was certainly an Ernest Cline book, that’s for sure. And Ernie Cline fan or not, you’re either going to really love this book, or really hate it.

 

In his free time, high school senior Zach Lightman plays his favorite MMO, Armada, with his buddies. Even at his part time job at the local gaming and comics shop, Zach gets to play Armada with his boss when the shop is slow, which is usually is. And because this is an Ernest Cline book, not a paragraph goes by without a reference to the video games, music, and scifi movies and tv shows from the past 30 years. Zach even digs through his late father’s VHS tapes and cassette tapes, in an effort to know the father he barely met.

 

(Ok, something neat was happening here: Zach and his generation are the children of today’s gaming teenagers. Zach grew up playing video games with his Mom, and most of his friends grew up playing video games with their parents. That’s actually pretty cool.)

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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.