Tag Archives: ScienceFiction

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

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

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

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Translated from the Russian by Olena Bormashenko

Chicago Review Press, Chicago, 2012

Written in 1971, finally published in 1980.

I’ve been drawn to reading mysteries,fantasy and science fiction of late.  Not sure where I first heard of this one, but a foreword by Ursula K. LeGuin and a film by Andrei Tarkovsky based on this novel written in 1971 convinced me I had somehow missed a science fiction classic.

Alien visitors have come and gone, without so much as a “hello”.   They left stuff behind, just like a family who stops by the roadside for a picnic lunch and fails to pick up their trash.  The Zones where they landed are filled with strange artifacts coveted by the authorities.  They are also the stuff of a thriving black market.  We’ve figured out how to put some of these things to good use.  Others, as well as certain areas in the Zones, have proven to be deadly.  That doesn’t stop the stalkers.

Redrick Schuhart is a stalker, driven to enter the Zone and collect the mysterious objects left scattered between the bug traps and the slime.  Written like a noir thriller, Roadside Picnic is a portrait of humans in thrall to possibility of unending power and wealth.  Greed, loyalty and despair are presented without a political agenda, this from authors writing in Russia in the years before perestroika and glasnost.  Ursula LeGuin puts it best in her Foreword.

     Science fiction lends itself readily to imaginative subversion of any status quo.   Bureaucrats and politicians, who can’t afford to cultivate their imaginations, tend to assume it’s all ray guns and nonsense, good for children.  A writer may have to be as blatantly critical of utopia as Zamyatin in WE to bring the censor down on him.  The Strugatsky brothers were not blatant, and never (to my limited knowledge) directly critical of their government’s policies.  What they did, which I found most admirable then and still do now, was to write as if they were indifferent to ideology–something many of us writers in the Western democracies had a hard time doing.  They wrote as free men write.  From the Foreword to the new edition, page vi.

Boris Strugatsky’s Afterword is a fine description of the struggle he and Arkady went through to get Roadside Picnic published.

I really enjoyed this novel.  It is powerful, controlled and parts of it are truly creepy.  My only quibble is the presentation of women as cooks, maids and sex toys, typical for the time period.  I had hoped that kind of gender imaging was changing, but with the retro-fifties Mad Men backlash and the 50 Shades fiasco maybe I’m wrong.  The Tarkovsky film can be seen here.  There is also a series of video games inspired by the novel.

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Filed under InTranslation, Russia, SciFi, Thoughts

Spice It Up – A Dune Read-Along

Sometimes there seems to be all sorts of strange psychic things happening through the internetz.  After reading Among Others I made a list of science fiction books I wished to reread, Frank Herbert’s Dune being at the top of the list.  I had misplaced or given away my old copy so I went out and found a used copy, planning to read it over the summer. Then I hear about this.

Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings, the wonderful blogger who organizes the Once Upon A Time and R.I.P. challenges, Kailana from The Written Word and the Little Red Reviewer are organizing a Dune Read-Along for July.  I will be joining in.  How about you?  Care for some Spice?

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Filed under Events, Read-Along, SciFi

Kraken by China Mievelle

Kraken by China Mieville

Del Rey, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

I have admired and been astonished by China Mieville’s writing ever since reading Perdido Street Station.  I find his work intense, multi-layered and somewhat twisted.  Oh, hell.  Sometimes very twisted.

Kraken is dark comedy, an urban fantasy with the city of London as one of the main characters, and there are many characters.  It starts in the research wing of London’s Natural History Museum, where Billy Harrow, a curator and laboratory technician, is giving a tour.  He leads group down a long hall and into a huge space where the main specimen has disappeared.  A Giant Squid, the Kraken, preserved in a large metal and glass box, gone.  It turns out that Billy had actually preserved this monster, and there lies the strange connection between the two.

All I could think of while reading this passage was a trip I took to a university fish collection.  We entered a room by stepping down, the lip a protection against spilled preservative, and walking between shelves of jars and bottles of specimens, millions of them.  The weirdest thing I saw there was an angler fish, denizen of the aphotic zone, squishy and gelatinous at sea level, with its little dangly bio-light hanging to one side.   Billy, naive geek that he is, has no idea what he has just walked into, for the Kraken is considered a god by some and its disappearance has signaled the end of the world, all of it, every bit going up in flames.

London was full of dissident gods.
Why?  Well, they have to live somewhere.  A city living in its own afterlife. Why not?
Of course, they’re all over, gods are.  Theurgic vermin, those once worshipped or still worshipped in secret, those half worshipped, those  feared and resented, petty divinities;  they infect everybloodywhere.  The ecosystems of godhead are fecund, because there’s nothing and nowhere that can’t generate the awe on which they gaze…
The streets of London are stone synapses hardwired for worship.  Walk the right or the wrong way down Tooting Bec you’re invoking something or other.  You may not be interested in the gods of London, but they’re interested in you.  From page 103.

Billy meets up with Dane Parnell, a Krakenist, a psychic special operative named Collingswood and a group of Londonmancers. And then there are the Angels of Memory. Even though the plot line reads like a romping police procedural, the novel is so dense that at times I had to put it down and take a breather.  It is filled with bent cops, multiple magics, odd religions, cults and horrible villains.  I will not forget my first meeting with Tattoo, a nasty crime boss, dragged from some evil, dark place or the funny and horrific pair, Subby and Goss.

Billy made a scratchy sound in his throat.  The man put his finger to his lips , glancing expectantly at the boy, who slowly did as he did, and gestured shhhh at Billy, too.
“Goss and Subby do it again,” the man said.  He unrolled his tongue and tasted the air.  He clamped his hand over Billy’s mouth and Billy sputtered into the cool palm.  The man went room to room, tugging Billy, licking floor, walls, light switches.  He drew his tongue across the face of the television, leaving a spit-trail in the dust.  From page 65.

Finally, within all of this,  Kraken is a  tale of the battle between knowledge and superstition.  I didn’t see this coming, caught up in the characters and the magics and brilliant inventions of language and culture that is Mieville’s world building.  I found it difficult in spots, as if over-stuffed, but that’s what made it all work.  To tell the truth I cried at the end.

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Filed under 42SciFiChallenge, China Mieville, DarkFantasy, Review, SciFi