Category Archives: SciFi

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

0316216852.01._SX140_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Mulholland Books, New York 2013

Borrowed from my library.

First I read Zoo City.  Then I read Moxyland.  I have been waiting for this one to come out since I first heard Lauren Beukes had another novel being published in the US.  Boy, was it ever worth the wait.  This is a thriller, a murder mystery.  Very enthralling and very creepy.

A killer find a key.  The key opens the door to a house.  The house opens the door to time.  The girls shine.

A young girl meets a stranger.  Years later, she is attacked and almost killed.  When she recovers she is obsessed with finding her attacker.

The Shining Girls grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  It’s a time travel story unlike any I have read, with a structure like a house of mirrors, dark, frightening and constantly driving towards a resolution.  I loved it.  I think it could be this year’s Gone Girl.

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Filed under Books, Mystery, SciFi, Thoughts, Thriller

Synners by Pat Cadigan

synnersSynners by Pat Cadigan

Bantam Specta, New York, 1991

A book read for the Science Fiction Experience and the Women of Genre Fiction Challenge.  Also for the TBR Double Dog Dare.

Pure cyberpunk.  I discovered William Gibson and Bruce Sterling in the 1980s , not sure how I missed Cadigan.

This is a big book crammed with many characters and many ideas that, except for the lack of  wireless and smart phones, does not feel dated.  The story takes place in LA, the cast of characters includes virtual reality programmers, corporate flunkies, rogue video makers, hackers and a mysterious internet personality named Dr. Fish.  A company called EyeTraxx, known for making popular music videos, has developed a new technology that enables a direct connection between the human brain and the internet, opening up all kinds of commercial possibilities.  But then things start to go horribly wrong.

Synners moves from one character to another but they are all connected through work or music of life.   Most of the changes are easy to follow, but I found myself skimming through some of the chapters, just because I found them distracting from the main story.  It was the relationships between characters that really caught me and carried me through ’til the end.

I am now curious about Cadigan’s other work, particularly something called Tea From an Empty Cup.  Anybody read it?

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Filed under 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, 2013 Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, Books, SciFi, Thoughts

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress

Fountain of Age by Nancy Kresskress,jpg

Small Beer Press, Easthampton, MA, 2012

From my TBR pile.

This is a collection of stories previously published in magazines like Asimov’s and Fantasy.  The opening story,” The Erdmann Nexus,” won the Hugo Award and the title story,  “Fountain of Age”, won the Nebula.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything by Nancy Kress before and I am now jumping at the chance to read her novels.  This collection runs the gamut from illegal genetic modification to alien intervention brilliantly.  It is worth the price of admission for “Laws of Survival” alone.  Read it.

I just found out one of my all time favorite magical realism tinged  novels, Winter’s Tale by Mark Halprin, is being made into a movie starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (for all you Downton Abbey fans).  More here.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, 2013 Women of Genre Fiction Challenge, Books, SciFi, StoryCollection

Playing Catch-Up, Again

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I spent most of January reading lots of Science Fiction for the SciFi Experience, but have been loath to write review posts.  Instead of forcing myself I thoughts I’d give brief descriptions of some of my favorites.

willisTo Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.  A wonderful time-travel romp jumping between the mid-Twenty-First century, the 1940’s and 1888 or so.   It is sweet and funny and a deeply intelligent book, the questions of time-travel’s possible impact on history had me reeling.  I’ve been meaning to read Connie Willis for a while and, having finally done so, am on a mad search for used copies of Blackout and All-Clear.

clarkeChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.  A Classic.  Aliens mysteriously appear, connect with representatives of the United Nations and help bring humans beyond war and into a Golden Age.  I read this one many years ago and it stands up pretty well.  I had forgotten the ending, found it surprisingly moving.

Still Forms on Foxfield by Joan Slonczewski.  I have a dear friend who has been part of Clarion West and Wiscon for a number of years.  When I though to ask him what science fistion book I should read he suggested this one.  I had never heard of Slonczewski before, and was thrilled to find a new-to-me women author of science fiction.

A colony of Friends, after escaping from warring earth, has landed on a planet they call Foxfield.  Already inhabited by a life-form the humans call Commensals, there is a period of adjustment as the two species learn to live together.  Their hard but peaceful co-existence is threatened by the arrival of a ship from earth piloted by representatives of UNI, the world government.  Should the colonists rejoin their earthly cousins?  Will their faith and way of life be threatened?

I enjoyed this book and found the author using her story to explore society and culture much the way Ursula LeGuin does in her science fiction novels.sloncz  Slonczewski wrote several other novels including The Children Star and Daughter of Elysium.  They are on my used book search list.

All of these books came from my TBR pile so I have managed to stick to the TBR Double Dog Dare as well as join in the 2013 Science Fiction Experience.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, Books, SciFi, Thoughts

Pure by Julianna Baggott

purebaggettPure by Julianna Baggott

Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2012

From my library hold list.  This is the first book in a trilogy.

I read about this one early last year and, being a fan of apocalyptic fiction, was intrigued by the setting and the unusual features of the main characters.  As a young adult novel Pure has some of the draws of The Hunger Games, struggle for survival, adventure, evil adults and budding romance.  What helps it rise above other modern, young adult, post-apocalyptic novels is the strength of Baggott’s world building and her writing.

Pressia lives in a land destroyed by the Detonations.  Like those around her, these deadly explosions have fused her body with other material, in her case, a doll.  Something has allowed these fusions to live and, in many ways, thrive.  There are areas where people, melded with glass, engine parts and animals, struggle to survive.  There are areas where only Beasts survive, beings more animal than human, and places where Dust threatens everything, soil and bits of matter that have taken on a violent life of their own.  And there is the Dome, where the Pure live, and wait to reunited with their brethren.

We know you are there, our brothers and sisters,
We will, one day, emerge from the Dome
to join you in peace.
For now, we watch from afar, benevolently.

But are the Pure truly benevolent?  A young man, Partridge, the son of one of the original designers of the Dome, escapes to the outside.  When he meets  Pressia the two of them find a vital connection and, along with others,  determine to discover the truth buried in their shared past.

Baggott has created a frightening, nightmarish world containing some of the most bizarre beings in fiction,  at least for me.  Living Dust, humans fused with engines, animals, each other..

Our Good Mother speaks only to Pressia now.  “The Detonations hit and many of us were here, alone, in our houses or trapped in our cars. Some were drawn to our yards to see the sky or, like me, to the windows.  We grabbed our children to our chests.  The children we could gather.  And there were those of us who were imprisoned, dying.  We were all left to die.  We were the ones who tended the dying.  We wrapped the dead…”  She sits again in her chair.  “They left us to die and we are forced to carry our children, our children who will never outgrow us, and we will do this forever.  Our burden is our love.”  From pages 286/287.

In her afterword the author states that research for this novel lead her to accounts on the  aftereffects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Having read many of those accounts I can see their influence.  I look forward to the next book in this series, Fuse.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, Books, Dystopian, SciFi, Thoughts, Young Adult

Ivyland by Miles Klee

ivyIvyland by Miles Klee

OR Books, New York, 2012

From my TBR pile, given to me by a friend.  I think this one fits into the 2013 Sci-Fi experience, but it leans towards the Speculative Fiction end of things.  I also just discovered it is in The 2013 Tournament of Books, along with several books I have read and several on my TBR list!

Holy crap..what a strange ride this is.

Based in Ivyland, New Jersey, a town taken over by Endless, a Big-Bio-Pharma company and dotted with MexiLickin’SurfHog fastest food joints, this reads like a nightmare shared by Philip K Dick and Thomas Pynchon with some Kurt Vonnegut thrown in for good measure.  Ads run 24/7 on any surface available and through any sound system..The Van Vetchen procedure, a minimally invasive surgery that has saved untold millions of American lives, is now available through mobile immunization centers crisscrossing the country…  Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

Traffic that doesn’t move, pharmaceutically- enhanced beverages, cops hired by corporations, a possible American near-future or maybe it is the present?

The chapters jump between characters and time periods so you never quite know where you are,  an addictive adrenaline rush that made it hard to put down even though I wondered exactly what was I getting from this book.  Klee’s writing was the reward.

He broods on this alternative, steepling his index fingers as glittering eyes sink into the grass.  Anastasio shuffles his feet.  The narcotic drone of cicadas strings the night like a handful of beads….Henry and Grady have moved on.  They walk, weaving back and forth in the road to avoid roadkill and potholes, through another four intersections.  I watch.  Until they fade from sight, I let the flawed film unreel…Moonlight follows the same path, still touching them when I wipe my eyes and squint, wrapping their bodies like another skin when they finally meet the ink-blotted distance, Henri turning around, one arm still across Grady’s back, and examining the horizon to see if I’m there…

In the end this weird, unsettling novel is about friendship and about love.  A strange mix, parts totally out of hand and parts wonderfully lyrical.  I don’t know anything about Miles Klee, but think he is an author I need to watch.

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Filed under 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, Books, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction, Thoughts

Osiris by E.J. Swift

osirisOsiris: Book One of the Osiris Project

by E. J. Swift

Night Shade Books, San Fransisco, 2012

Borrowed from my library.  This is the first book I finished for the TBR Double Dog Dare and the 2013 Sci-Fi Experience. The cover is stunning.

I wanted to love this one.  The premise of a great city built in the ocean being the last refuge of the human race after some world-wide ecological catastrophe, is a great one.   Osiris itself, giant towers and pyramids rising from the sea on the one side and the ruins that shelter the poor on the other, is a marvel of world building.  The basic theme of inequality that runs through Osiris and the idea of the rebellion of the poor and oppressed,  is something taken directly from recent news, from the Arab spring to the massive protests in Spain.  Moving this into some apocalyptic future is an intriguing idea.  This is what speculative fiction is made of.

The main characters, a wild girl rebelling from a wealthy ruling family on the one hand and an ex-convict turned political activist on the other, find themselves in a you help me – I’ll help you situation that could have developed into something engaging, but for me the relationship fell into a sadly typical scenario.  They end up in bed together and end up hurting each other, something I found distracting and disappointing. I’m sure Swift means this to be the beginning of so much more, but it just didn’t work for me. Osiris also felt like it could have used some graceful editing, I found myself skimming quite a bit.

Night Shade has been publishing some wonderfully wild and exciting books over the past few years, including collections edited by Ellen Datlow and John Joseph Adams and a couple by favorite authors Kameron Hurley,  Iain M Banks, and Paolo Bacigalupi.  Osiris just didn’t click for me.  Sad, but it happens.

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Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, Books, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction, Thoughts