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Tag Archives: Science Fiction
Science fiction titles have been popping up more and more in my reading list over this past year, perhaps as an escape from our current reality. A list of the some of the best new science fiction from the last 15 years led me to some fantastic escapes, including:
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
- Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (2014)
- The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull (2019)
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2014)
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (2014)
The last one on that list, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is the first in the Wayfarers trilogy. Described as a “light-hearted space opera”, the story follows a ragtag group of wormhole tunnelers as they cruise through space. New ship accountant Rosemary is adjusting to life off-planet and to her new crew mates. But when the team is offered the tunneling job of a lifetime, Rosemary must decide if she can trust them with a secret about her past.
I don’t often associate “cozy” with “sci-fi” but this is an apt descriptor of this novel. Quirky, likeable characters and a heartwarming tone would make this a perfect read for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Chambers, Becky. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. New York: Harper Voyager 2016. (Originally self-published, 2014).
In Crosstalk by Connie Willis, a simple surgery to promote empathy between romantic partners goes hilariously wrong. It shows how constant, complete, personal connection is anything but desirable. Briddey Flannigan should have known, since the cell phone company, (COMMSPAN) she works for in a US city, is very nearly a model of what will come, with gossip seemingly carried on the breezes! And avoiding telling her family the news that she and her perfect boyfriend, Trent Worth will be having the implantation of a devise which will result in empathy,( if they are truly in love), before she tells her friends at work is, well, a lost cause.
The entire novel moves at a breakneck pace from one situation to another. Just as soon as Bridey has settled her family, her boyfriend Trent springs a speeded up surgery schedual on her, so she’s off to the hospital. And avoiding gossip and her family, by hiding her car. After seeing that her family has no boundaries where it comes to Bridey’s privacy one begins to see why she’s so secretive. And why she settles on the up and coming executive Mr. Worth, and his push to get the EED (the empathy device) before they marry. Which her family and CB Schwarz think is a really bad idea–and they all email, call, or text her. She argues it’s been tested before, and that even celebrities have had it done, and that they are even having the Dr. who invented the device doing the surgery. The surgery goes well. The aftereffects are, well, telepathy. And of course, the first person she hears is not Trent, but CB Schwarz, who is naturally telepathic.
Ms. Willis brings the claustrophobic and confusing experience that we imagine to be telepathy to a print page well. It can be confusing for the reader as well, but having a sense of the harried life of Briddey, makes it worth a little push just to get through those passages. It also gives her new relationship with CB a understandably difficult start. And exposes the real reasons behind Trent’s wanting to get the EED before getting married, like other couples.
This is the perfect introduction to Connie Willis and her comic timing, her patter, and infectious humor and sense of irony. If you enjoy Crosstalk, you’ll enjoy, To Say Nothing About the Dog, and Bellwether.
Crosstalk, by Connie Willis, Del Rey, 978-0-34554067-6
Not your ordinary chase adventure, shoot-’em-up, Science Fiction dystopia–Sea of Rust, by C. Robert Cargill, begins after the robot revolution, when man is gone. After the assimilation started by OWIs (One World Intelligences), which once were supercomputers that now share their consciousness with millions of individual workers called “facets”. The individual, autonomous AIs (robots) either give up, are destroyed, or escape and establish their own societies in other cities. This cycle continues until all that are left are groups in the Midwest Rust Belt, dug into new fortifications or old cities. The Midwest Rust Belt has become the Sea of Rust where robots go to die. Or a place they are sent when they go mad.
Brittle goes out into the sea to scavenge for parts for other robots, and for exchange for her own. Not a safe job. Her latest is very nearly her last. She is a rare model, and another robot, which is the same model, needs parts that only she has and she needs the parts to function. And so the running (& shooting & explosions) begins.
Many of the scenes in the Sea of Rust are horrific, and the tone is often dark. The OWIs and robots deal with the HuPop (Human Population) efficiently and ruthlessly. However, the way they do it does leave unseen damage in their personalities and on their reputations. Yes, despite being machines they do have emotions, sometime in spite of their programing. They also destroy nearly all biological life on the planet in the process of eliminating man. In eliminating humanity, many of the smaller, independent AIs discovers that they’ve eliminated their reason for existing. I was intrigued by how they became more human, showing fear of incorporation into a mainframe, or even fear of another robot’s reputation from the war.
I think you’ll find this a very thought-provoking read, very well written. This is not a young adult book. I haven’t read Robopocalipse, by Daniel H. Wilson, but I believe it would be a good contrasting read. (Yes, it’s on my to-read list!)
Before anyone brings up Asimov’s “Three Rules for Robotics”, you’ll have to read the story to see how well they hold up in Cargill’s universe.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill, Harper Voyager, an Imprint of Harper Colins Publishers, hardback 9780062405838
The Hugos are awarded for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. This year’s finalists for Best Novel are:
- Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
- Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross
- Parasite, by Mira Grant
- Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Correia
- The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Finalists in other categories are available at the Hugo Awards Site. The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon“), who are fans. The Awards will be presented at Loncon 3, on August 17, 2014.
The Hugo is one of the major U.S. awards for SF&F: the other is the Nebula, voted on, and presented by active members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in May. The 2013 Nebula Nominees for Best Novel are:
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
- Fire with Fire, by Charles E. Gannon
- Hild, by Nicola Griffith
- Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
- The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata
- A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar
- The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker.