Friday, July 3, 2015

Thinking About Reading...

Forget everything you've ever heard about Robin Hood.

Robin Loxley is seven years old when his parents disappear without a trace. Years later the great love of his life, Marian, is also taken from him. Driven by these mysteries, and this anguish, Robin follows a darkening path into the ancient heart of Sherwood Forest. What he encounters there will leave him transformed . . .

The story of two lost souls in a rather eccentric fish bowl. Humans are gone and bloody good riddance to the lot of them. The planet, left barren and lifeless by the long extinct species, has since been inherited by their own creations. Now all that roams the hollow cities and landscapes of man are the various machinations left bestowed with intelligent (or in some cases barely functional) programming, including the likes of janitorial robots, violently affectionate androids, and one very unfortunate stuffed rabbit. Separated by distance and time, two unlikely soul mates, Usu and Rain have been rekindled by fate only to struggle once again to hold onto their fragile union. To save a friendship that has stretched across lifetimes they must trek across a land as exotic as it is unforgiving, joined in their adventure by cleaning droids, cannibal robots, and holograms from an era long past. Fighting against time, forgotten memories, and their own design at the hands of their former creators, they will find a way to be together forever, at any cost.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 30, 2015

"Twenty years have elapsed since the events of The Just City. The City, founded by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, organized on the principles espoused in Plato's Republic and populated by people from all eras of human history, has now split into five cities, and low-level armed conflict between them is not unheard-of.
The god Apollo, living (by his own choice) a human life as "Pythias" in the City, his true identity known only to a few, is now married and the father of several children. But a tragic loss causes him to become consumed with the desire for revenge. Being Apollo, he goes handling it in a seemingly rational and systematic way, but it's evident, particularly to his precocious daughter Arete, that he is unhinged with grief.

Along with Arete and several of his sons, plus a boatload of other volunteers--including the now fantastically aged Marsilio Ficino, the great humanist of Renaissance Florence--Pythias/Apollo goes sailing into the mysterious Eastern Mediterranean of pre-antiquity to see what they can find--possibly the man who may have caused his great grief, possibly communities of the earliest people to call themselves "Greek." What Apollo, his daughter, and the rest of the expedition will discover…will change everything."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Water Knife

The Water Knife
by Paolo Bacigalupi

Format: Hardcover, 375pages
Publisher: Knopf
Cover Art: Oliver Mundy
Release Date: May 26, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0385352871

Paolo Bacigalupi burst on the scene in 2009 with his debut novel, The Windup Girl.  He had already put out a collection of short fiction, but it was this story of a setting in a world run rampant with genetic engineering of crops, animals, and people, where the dependence on a dwindling supply of oil had led to the collapse of economies and governments that garnered awards and much critical acclaim.  He followed that up with two Young Adult books set in the same world, but different locations; a zombie book for middle schoolers; and Young Adult thriller called The Doubt Factory so The Water Knife is his first adult book in several years.

Compared to The Windup Girl, the world of The Water Knife is set in a future much closer to the present where drought has devastated the Western United States and partially fractured the country.  Lucy is a hard-bitten journalist who fights tooth and nail for her adopted city of Phoenix, Maria is a refugee from the failed state of Texas, and Angel is the titular water knife from Las Vegas, a detective, assassin, and spy for the powerful Southern Nevada Water Authority.  They all come to together in the failing city of Phoenix as a various individuals and interests clash over rumored, near-mythical water rights that could have the power to reshape the entire region.

The book starts off a little preachy at first as it settles into the world-building of the setting, but it becomes less so as the thriller plot gets going.  The political background of water politics is still of vital concern and an important one I think, especially considering how little people in other regions of the world understand the importance of water.  Several times throughout the novel, the book Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner is mentioned almost in terms of idol worship.  However, having read much of the book myself I can say the book is quite an eye-opener detailing keen insight into the history and mindset of water politics in the West.  Given current events like Governor Brown's new regulations in the face of California's exceptional drought, The Water Knife feels even more timely.

The Water Knife is a engrossing and compelling near-future thriller.  It also feels more pessimistic than Bacigalupi's earlier works, perhaps because being set a closer future with known politics, it feels like a possible future that could happen very easily.  And perhaps for that reason it's all the more reason to read it.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: mini-reviews for The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet, Wild Cards 11, Nemesis Games, and The Goblin Emperor

 Vandana Singh first came to my attention with her short story, Infinities, in Tor's anthology, Twenty-first Century Science Fiction.  It's quite a good story with a bit about math set in India, which then led me to this collection by a feminist India publishing house.  While a few stories in this collection have a more fantastical and realism bent, the rest are more grounded in science fiction and often have a strong Indian and Asian feel.  I'm glad to have found a new author that does something outside the norm for speculative fiction. 

Rating: 8/10.
Wild Cards 10 did not work for me at all, despite being written by Melinda Snodgrass who can usually be counted on to give a good story.  So after #10, 11 was a bit of a relief.  This one is back on Earth finishing off the plots featuring the jumpers, Bloat, and the Rox as they face off against aces and the US military.  While it's a straightforward and entertaining story, it does suffer from a lack of plot and has a fair bit of padding.  Nevertheless, it's good to finish off the stories and I'll soon be ready to move on to the next in the series.

Rating: 7/10.

 I have a few conflicting feelings about the fifth book in the Expanse series.  It starts off very slowly with the ship in repairs and the crew splitting off getting their own POV chapters.  This part felt very contrived to me.  However, once it gets going, it goes and gives the readers some major sucker punches worthy of George R.R. Martin to the mind and soul.  Then it slows down again at the end and finishes almost with a whimper.  So a wham-bam middle bookended by slow starts and finishes, Nemesis Games is still another compelling entry in the series and I'm looking forward to the next.

Rating: 8/10.
I wasn't planning to read this one.  But I got the whole book in the Hugo reading packet and I was planning to try all the Hugo nominees this year so I gave it a try.  It's fairly average feel-good political story about a nobody and nice guy who becomes emperor and does a good job at it.  However, despite the rave reviews about it, I didn't find anything particularly good about it, nor anything particularly new about the story.  It's been billed quite often as the antithesis to recent surge in "grimdark" and my feeling is why is such a thing needed?  There is enough stuff being published in speculative fiction these days that a reader shouldn't feel overwhelmed by "grimdark".  And it's hardly the first feel-good story about a nice guy so I'm a little baffled by this one.

Rating: 7/10.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 9, 2015

"A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be. 
On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 2, 2015

"A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left."

(B&N, Amazon)

"At the darkest hour, when all hope is lost, a hero is born.  When Brann is wrenched from his family home after witnessing its destruction and the death of those he holds dear, he is thrust into a life of slavery.  Miles away, a deposed and forgotten Emperor seeks an instrument to use in his bid to rise once again to power. Ruthless and determined, nothing and no one will stand in his way.
Brann might be the Emperor’s tool, but heroes can be forged in the most unlikely of ways…"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 26, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)

"The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and its boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There, Angel encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist, who knows far more about Phoenix’s water secrets than she admits, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky.

As bodies begin to pile up and bullets start flying, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt, and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. With Phoenix teetering on the verge of collapse and time running out for Angel, Lucy, and Maria, their only hope for survival rests in one another’s hands.  But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink."

"One hundred years ago, Sand’s ancestors made the long, one-way trip to the Fifth World, ready to work ceaselessly to terraform the planet. Descendants of native peoples like the Hopi and Zuni, they wanted to return to the way of life of their forebears, who honored the Kachina spirits.

Now, though, many of the planet’s inhabitants have begun to resent their grandparents’ decision to strand them in this harsh and forbidding place, and some have turned away from the customs of the Well-Behaved People. Sand has her doubts, but she longs to believe that the Kachina live on beyond the stars and have been readying a new domain for her people.

She may be right. Humans have discovered nine habitable worlds, all with life that shares a genetic code entirely alien to any on Earth. Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them. But no other sign of the ancient farmers has ever been discovered—until one day they return to the Fifth World. They do not like what they find."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 19, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)
"Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose."

 (B&N, Amazon)
"A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remains . . .  Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 12, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)

"Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden.

Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them.

Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all.
When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling that she will become a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s fabled ring on her own finger—or that in this role, powerful and powerless all at once, she will try to change the course of Eden’s history."

 (B&N, Amazon)

"Aristophanes is inconsolable—his rival playwrights are hogging all the local attention, a pesky young wannabe poet won’t leave him alone, his actors can’t remember their lines, and his own festival sponsor seems to be conspiring against him, withholding direly needed funds for set design and, most importantly, giant phallus props. O woe, how can his latest comedy convince Athenian citizens to vote down another ten years of war against Sparta if they’re too busy scoffing at the diminutive phalluses? And why does everyone in the city-state seem to be losing their minds?

Wallowing in one inconvenience after another, Aristophanes is unaware that the Spartan and Athenian generals have unleashed Laet, the spirit of foolishness and bad decisions, to inspire chaos and war-mongering in Athens. To counteract Laet’s influence, Athena sends Bremusa, an Amazon warrior, and Metris, an endearingly airheaded nymph (their first choice was her mother Metricia, but she grew tired of all the fighting and changed back into a river)."

(B&N, Amazon)

"Inside the firewall the city is alive. Buildings breathe, cars attack, angels patrol, and hyperintelligent pets run wild in the streets. 

With unbridled invention and breakneck adventure, Hannu Rajaniemi is on the cutting-edge of science fiction. His postapocalyptic, postcyberpunk, and posthuman tales are full of exhilarating energy and unpredictable optimism.

How will human nature react when the only limit to desire is creativity? When the distinction between humans and gods is as small as nanomachines—or as large as the universe? Whether the next big step in technology is 3D printing, genetic alteration, or unlimited space travel, Rajaniemi writes about what happens after."