Marco's readings

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I read of the sci-fi genre since 2001.
This page is built leveraging the goodreads.com API.

They will take you from you
by Brandon O'Brien (2017)
My review: In a near future an alien race, the Eihkaq, also known as the Benefactors, reaches Earth. They "plant" geniuses, and those seeds blossomed and gave Earth life, beauty, hope. More than he human race could stomach at once. They give it to the masses, and the masses eat their inspirations. But those seeds do not belong to Earth. The Eihkaq come back when a genius passes to collect what is theirs, the mortal spoils of the seed they planted.
A very interesting science fiction story dealing with identity, race, and art. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 28 2017 Finished: Oct 29 2017
ZeroS
by Peter Watts (2017)
My review: This is the story of the early recruits for the military zombie program. Many of them are corpses scraped off various battlefields, booted temporarily back to awareness with jumper cables to the brain, and told Hey, you’re actually dead, but we can bring you back to life so long as you’re willing to work for us for a few years. Or if you’d rather, we could just unplug these cables and leave you the way we found you. As contracts go it’s pretty take-it-or-leave-it, but given the alternative would you walk away?
It's an interesting and entertaining story, with some interesting ideas and world-building. I just wish they were developed further. (★★)
Started: Oct 27 2017 Finished: Oct 28 2017
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling
by Ted Chiang (2013)
My review: As it is always the case with Ted Chiang's stories, The Truth of Fact, the Truth of feeling is extremely interesting and fascinating. This story in particular explores the impact of memory enhancing technologies on our way of thinking and of living, and on our culture.
The story is written by a fictional journalist in the near future explores the advantages and disadvantages of living with the wetware known as Remem. Remem monitors your conversation for references to past events, and then displays video of that event in the lower left corner of your field of vision. The narrator contrast and compare the Remem revolution with the one of the introduction of the writing system, a couple of centuries before, to Tivland, by European colonists and missionaries, through the eyes of young Jijingi. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 24 2017 Finished: Oct 27 2017
Secondhand Bodies
by J.Y. Yang (2016)
My review: I recently discovered J.Y. Yang, and more I read of their fiction, more I became their ardent fan.
This story is set in a future where it is possible, for a price, to swap your body for a better one. Agatha is a privileged rich Chinese, always unsatisfied of her bodies, and eager to finally get a perfect one. While extremely readable and enjoyable, the story is also a searing critique of the Singaporean wealthy socialite class the author grow up in. I strongly recommend to read this interview with the author after reading Secondhand Bodies to learn more about how it came to be, and to appreciate it even more. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 21 2017 Finished: Oct 22 2017
The Future of Hunger in the Age of Programmable Matter
by Sam J. Miller (2017)
My review: The story is set in a future where you can control and morph an amorphous blob of nanobots in whatever shape you want or need with your cellphone. Who need this special purpose tools, chairs, brooms, hammers, when you can just reprogram your matter to take any shape?
But this is mainly the story of Otto, a former addict, grateful and indebted to his lover Trevor that helped him to overcome addiction. Otto though is faced with temptation and the threat of disaster, but he’s fighting his very nature to stand to it.
I liked this story a lot, mainly because of the interesting, complex, and nuanced characters. It also made me feel very uneasy, as it explores Otto's and Trevor's relation, with honesty and without holding back.
I am looking forward reading more by this author. Also a shout out to Goñi Montes for the beautiful cover. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2017 Finished: Oct 20 2017
It Can't Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis (2014)
My review: It Can’t Happen Here was written in a moment of big social turmoil and tensions both in the United States and abroad. The country was still dealing with the depression. Some populist politicians with platforms that had strong similarities with the one of Hitler were increasingly getting wide support across the country. Sinclair Lewis, the first American author to win the Nobel prize for literature few years before, was seriously worried. His answer was this book, a deeply disturbing piece of propaganda and an attempt to protect the American democracy.
The book is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. The book juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. Called "a message to thinking Americans" by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.
New York Times review: https://goo.gl/i4LKGY (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 23 2017 Finished: Oct 19 2017
Angel of the Blockade
by Alex Wells (2017)
My review: I am happy to see a story written by a differently abled author featuring differently abled characters that are not object of pity, but that are fully comfortable in their skin and with agency. This is the story of Nata, the best smuggler the Imperial regime has never caught, that spends her time zipping through space in her ugly yet incredibly efficient spaceship. In this story she takes on an expensive mystery cargo, that turns out to be way more risky than anything she has dealt with before. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 21 2017 Finished: Sep 22 2017
Party Discipline
by Cory Doctorow (2017)
My review: This is the first time I read a story by this author, despite having heard a lot of positive things about him. He has definitely an interesting and original voice, and I can see why he defines himself as a writer and activist: as the title suggests, this story has definitely a political bent.
The story is set in a world where most of us are just surplus population, disposable, a resource to exploit and use to get richer. It's a scary word, where a capitalist society has morphed into something monstrous where profit comes first, and a huge part of the population has no hope for a better future. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 16 2017 Finished: Sep 21 2017
Uncanny Valley
by Greg Egan (2017)
My review: This is one of the best stories I read this year, and it is definitely going to be on my Hugo Awards ballot next year. It is also a story that is very hard to review without spoiling it, hence I will say very little, and I would recommend everyone to not read the brief intro to it that comes with it, because it gives away a lot of things that would have been more fun to discover along the way.
This story is set in a near future, where some technologies provide some options to live after death... even if what we leave behind is not necessary what we were, and sometimes by choice. Sorry for being so cryptic, I probably already said to much! (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2017 Finished: Sep 08 2017
The Martian in the Wood
by Stephen Baxter
My review: This is an excellent alternative history steampunk novelette, set in England at the beginning of the XX century.
The story starts in the aftermath of the First Martian War, in the interim between it and what was to come later, when England seemed to once again become a green and peaceful place, if one haunted by the terrible events in Surrey that had happened in those early years of the century. Although people hoped and prayed peace had come, they were wrong. Across the gulf of space, plans were being drawn for a return, but before they could bear fruit a terrible discovery was made deep in Holmburgh Wood, one that would tear a family apart and shock the world.
This is the first time I read fiction written by this author, but I am looking forward reading more from him. (★★★)
Started: Sep 04 2017 Finished: Sep 04 2017
Waiting on a Bright Moon
by J.Y. Yang
My review: Xin is an ansible, a person able to use her/his song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies. The role is forced upon magically-gifted women "of a certain closeness". When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station's mysterious, high-ranking starmages.
This is one of the best short stories I have read this year, and it is going to be part of my Hugo nominee list for 2018.
It subtly deals with issues of oppression, gender, and sexual orientation in a moving and touching way. It was apparently inspired by a classic song popular in many Asian countries (you can listen to it here on youtube). (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 02 2017 Finished: Sep 03 2017
The Martian Obelisk
by Linda Nagata (2017)
My review: This is the story of an architect on Earth commissioned to create (via long distance) a masterwork with materials from the last abandoned Martian colony, a monument that will last thousands of years longer than the slowly dying human race. In the near future climate change, wars, and biological warfare has slowly chipped away the hope and will to survive from the human population. The decline is slow but steady, and the architect has dedicated all her life to leave something behind.
This is a very poetic and interesting story, and I am looking forward reading more by this author.
(★★★★)
Started: Sep 03 2017 Finished: Sep 03 2017
Bourbon, Sugar, Grace
by Jessica Reisman (2017)
My review: I really enjoyed this science fiction novelette, and I hope to read more stories set in this fictional world in the future. This is the story of Fox, a young salvager living in a mining colony on an inhospitable planet abandoned by its owners once the mines were shut. Fox is hired to find an object lost in a recent accident, she finds it more than what she asked for... a mystery, an opportunity, and trouble. (★★★)
Started: Aug 30 2017 Finished: Aug 31 2017
Hexagrammaton
by Hanuš Seiner (2017)
My review: What a clever and interesting story! I recommend it to everybody with a background in linear algebra, geometry, and cryptography. I will not say more on this to avoid spoiling it.
In the aftermath of the first alien contact, the narrator moved from the Juppiter colonies back to Earth. His new job is to guide cleared visitors into the deep buried bellies of the remaining alien ships. His newest client, a young woman named Janita, proves to be a member of the resistance carrying in her body what she describes as an alien civilization's gift to humanity. One story gives life to another,waiting all along... (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2017 Finished: Aug 30 2017
Sweetlings
by Lucy Taylor (2017)
My review: In a post-apocalyptic word, where climate change has caused the water to rise and the land to shrink, a small enclave of people barely survives along the new coast, helped by rare food drops coming from inland. Things are changing fast, including life on Earth, very quickly adjusting to the new conditions.
This is a hard to put down short story, and it works well despite the strange mixing of hard science with pseudo-scientific / fantasy elements. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 29 2017 Finished: Aug 29 2017
Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: In 1988, 46 years after writing the first Foundation story, and two years after publishing the last chapter of the story, Asimov decided to delight his fans going back to that fictional universe. Instead of moving the story forward, he decided to go back in time, and shed some light on Hari Seldon, the founder of psychohistory, the invention behind the entire series.
In all those years the author, the science fiction field, and the entire word had changed quite a lot. It is not a surprise that the book is stylistically and thematically very different from the original work. The original novels has little to do with the characters themselves, and more to do with the social evolution of the galactic empire. This prequel is mainly focused on its characters instead. This does not prevent it from touching some social themes like gender and race. While the treatment of these themes is quite unsatisfying for a modern reader, it was probably in line with the discussions of the time.
It is a very entertaining story, even if it is very episodic and at times close to fanfic. It is probably one of the worst book of the entire series, but it is nevertheless quite enjoyable to get to see some of our beloved characters again.
After this one, Asimov managed to write a single Foundation book. I am looking forward reading it. (★★★)
Started: Aug 16 2017 Finished: Aug 28 2017
Rereading The Handmaid’s Tale
by Natalie Zutter (2017)
My review: In the thirty-plus years since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopia of Margaret Atwood’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning speculative fiction novel remains as relevant as ever. This book is an in-depth reread of the novel, as well as an examination of its legacy on literature and pop culture. It contains a lot of spoilers from the very beginning, so I would avoid using it as a reading companion for your first read. The text is interesting, even if I was a little disappointed by it: I was expecting a deeper exploration of some of the themes mixed with tidbits of the author's life, but there was not much of it in this reread.
(★★)
Started: Aug 16 2017 Finished: Aug 22 2017
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood (1998)
My review: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
What I found more shocking about his book, is that it was written 35 years ago. I found it shocking, because the future it describes is as possible and as credible today, as it was when it was written. What makes this story so scary, is that while Offred's future seems improbable at first ("it could never happen here"), as you learn more about how it came to be, it looks more and more probable. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2017 Finished: Aug 15 2017
The Awakening of Insects
by Bobby Sun (2017)
My review: In the future humanity has conquered faster than light travel, and has stretched itself across multiple solar systems. Jingru is stationed in one of them, a scientist studying the local wildlife. Something really strange has started to happen all over the planet, and one day she gets to experience on of these strange events herself. She soon realize that those may not be just random events, as everybody initially though...
I loved the great world building, the very enjoyable writing, and the plot. I really hope that Bobby Sun, the author, will come back to this fascinating fictional world, because I really want to read about what happens next. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 03 2017 Finished: Aug 04 2017
When Stars Are Scattered
by Spencer Ellsworth (2017)
My review: A beautiful story, focusing on two communities all to ready to bring war to each other instead of working together to survive in an harsh new alien world. I would have given this story 5 stars if not for the ending, that was not as great at the rest of the story. Characters are very interesting, and the dynamics between the two communities are quite of interest. When Stars are Scattered is a moving story about alien contact and religious intolerance.
This is the story of Ahmed, a doctor working in a far flung outpost of humanity. His way was paid for by the leaders of his faith and his atheism is a guarded secret. His encounters with the "kite people" will cause him to doubt his whole worldview however when the aliens start dying and escalating tensions between religious extremists threatens to destroy the colony's peace. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 31 2017 Finished: Aug 01 2017
A Burden Shared
by Jo Walton
My review: In a near future there has been a medical break-through in the field of pain management. While the pain still cannot be removed, it can now been shared. This is the story of a loving mother, that decided to share an heavy burden for the love of her daughter. A very interesting analysis of the impact of such a technology on families and society. I am left with the feeling that this could have been an even stronger story, if more space was given to it to develop. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2017 Finished: Jul 19 2017
Sanctuary
by Allen Steele (2017)
My review: An enjoyable hard science fiction story, following two colonist spacecrafts on their way to Tau Ceti. As the passengers get slowly awoken from long term stasis (made necessary by the long distance between the Sun and the Star, and by the maximum limit of speed) the crew realize that the planet is already inhabited... and there is not enough fuel to go back. The story is enjoyable, even if the plot elements have been already seen before. (★★)
Started: Jul 19 2017 Finished: Jul 19 2017
Mental Diplopia
by Julianna Baggott
My review: In this apocalyptic story a strange new disease is spreading around the world, and killing people and animals. People are getting stuck in the past in mostly happy memories, they are straddling the line between now and then. Although the disease ends in death, the infected seem to go willingly. The epidemiologist seeks the answers to this viral mystery while she is falling in love and yet trying not to get infected.
While the story has some interesting elements, the mixture of philosophical reflections, apocalyptic viral disaster, and alien invasion did not really work for me. (★★)
Started: Jul 18 2017 Finished: Jul 18 2017
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)
by Becky Chambers
My review: I loved the first book of this series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and I was eager to read its sequel, i.e. this book. I was expecting more of the same: same crew, similar plot-line. I was quite pleased to see that the author decided to go in a very different direction: this book can be pretty much read as a stand-alone novel, and it focuses on side characters than briefly appear in the previous book. The tone of the book is very different as well: the tones of this book are darker, and the themes more complex and deep. The book is the story of three women: Sidra, that was once a ship's artificial intelligence, and that recently acquired (illegally) a body, Pepper, a genetically modified human that was created to work as a slave, and Owl, another ship AI that raise the young Pepper once she escaped from the labor camp. The story is told in two separate timelines. In the first we follow the young pepper, escaped from the labor camp, as she makes sense of a new world with the help of Owl. In the second we follow Sidra, as a recently born AI, trusted into an artificial body, trying to make sense of a world that is quite different from the one she was programmed to live in, with the help of Pepper. The two stories develop symmetrically in parallel, toward a rewarding conclusion. I am looking forward reading more books set in this fictional world. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 11 2017 Finished: Jul 18 2017
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)
by Becky Chambers (2014)
My review: A very enjoyable and fun-to-read book. The plot is relatively thin, but the book still manage to be thrilling and interesting. The focus is on the fascinating world building, on the characters, and on their relationships. It has the same feel of the TV show firefly and the nice world building (but not the crazy political intrigue) of the expanse.
This is the story of a spaceship crew, contractor workers that builds space highways, i.e. wormholes. The crew contains many humans, but also a fair number of other alien species, each with their customs and culture. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, that only recently joined the Galactic Commons (a inter-species federation). A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she's left behind, joins the crew as they embark in one of the most ambitious, and potentially dangerous projects. But as I said, this is all in the background, the main focus is on the characters, their stories, and their relationships.
While the book is not groundbreaking, while it does not introduce never seen before ideas, it is touching, fun to read, and it has very memorable characters.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jul 07 2017 Finished: Jul 11 2017
Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1)
by Yoon Ha Lee (2016)
My review: I read Ninefox gambit as part of the 2017 Hugo awards read-a-thon. It is an intriguing and enjoyable story, set in a cleverly build fictional universe.
The hexarcate is at risk: the Fortress of Scattered Needles has fallen in the hand of the heretics. Kel Cheris is selected to retake it, and her rank elevated to the one of general. Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the immortal disgraced tactician Shuos Jedao, the one that has never lost a battle before being imprisoned after he went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao, because she might be his next victim.
I am looking forward reading the rest of the trilogy. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 28 2017 Finished: Jul 06 2017
Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)
by Ada Palmer (2016)
My review: I read this as part of the Hugo Award finalist reading marathon, and it has been, so far, the most unusual and original entry. When I started it, I thought it was a very confusing, hand to follow, and pretentious book. As I continued reading it, my opinion drastically changed: the world building is breath taking in its complexity and scope, the complex plot is as full of intrigue as Martin's Game of Thrones, and the characters are multi faceted and definitely unusual.
Many other readers hated the old style English used by the author, but it was quite cosmetic, it does not impact the readability of the book, and it did not bother me. The part that I believe did not work out well is the attempt of the author of breaking gender stereotypes (in my opinion the stereotype end up being reinforced instead): this series story is set in a future where society and language is gender neutral, but the narrator assigns female pronouns to nurturing characters, and male pronouns to more aggressive ones.
The plot is very complex, and it is hard to say much without spoiling some of the plot twists. I will just say that the story is set in a future society where countries are no longer defined by geographical boundaries thanks to the availability of fast and affordable travel options. People can now elect which country they belong to, based on their political believes. But the intrigues between these new countries are as complex as the one in the European kingdoms few centuries ago. After long religious wars, the public practice of religion has been outlawed, its discussion kept private with sensayers, spiritual counselors.
Nested in political and family intrigues the book also offers tons of 18th century philosophy... that while it is not my favorite topic, it does add some interesting color to the story. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 07 2017 Finished: Jun 28 2017
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex
by Stix Hiscock
My review: This short story was put on the 2017 Hugo award finalist by a group of reactionary fans as a form of protest, using a form of vote slating. Given that I am one of the fan jurors, I decided to go ahead and read it before casting my vote.
I assume this is intended to be an humor piece, mixing cheap erotica elements, and sci-fi tropes (I doubt anyone could find the sexual intercourse of a T-Rex and a green alien titillating). Read as such, it did manage to make me smile here and there. I was expecting something far worse based on the cover, and on the title. I am not sure what point the protesters were trying to make, and I am sorry that worthy contenders were pushed out from the finalist list by this, but at least it is a funny story to read. (★★)
Started: May 20 2017 Finished: May 20 2017
An Unimaginable Light
by John C. Wright (2017)
My review: I usually like stories that explores complex topics like self-consciousness, and artificial intelligence. I also find stories that explore morality and faith and their relation to science fascinating. I should have liked this story, because it explores all the points I have just mentioned, and because it is a reflection on what makes humans humans. Unfortunately it is the worse of the Hugo nominees in this category, trying and failing miserably to derive theological creationist axioms through logic that is so flawed to be laughable. I also did not think that the sexual sadistic elements of the plot really worked as intended. Conclusion: more a religion-fiction story, than a sci-fi one, and quite a bad one. (★)
Started: May 20 2017 Finished: May 20 2017
This Census-Taker
by China Miéville (2016)
My review: This is a very interesting, and layered tale by China Miéville. The main character, a young boy, witness a profoundly traumatic event. After that he is left alone in a remote house on a hilltop with his increasingly deranged parent. When a stranger knocks on his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation are over... but by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? Is he the boy’s friend? His enemy? Or something altogether other?
The story is quite complex, and it requires the reader full attention to catch some just hinted details to fully appreciate it. (★★★)
Started: May 06 2017 Finished: May 14 2017
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 115 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #115)
by Neil Clarke (2016)
My review: Months after mysterious aliens scattered their spacecraft across the globe, no one has a clue what they want. Then suddenly they open up, and people kidnapped at birth come out... without revealing what is happening. Until one day Avery gets a call... it appears that one of the aliens want a tour.
This is an entertaining story, with an interesting take on what an alien encounter may look like. (★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2017 Finished: Apr 30 2017
Abaddon's Gate (The Expanse, #3)
by James S.A. Corey (2013)
My review: The pace picks up even more in this third installment of the expanse saga: I could not put the book down, and I found myself reading deep in the middle of the night. The characters and the plot are not as great as the one in the previous chapters of this epic saga: I am still unable to believe in some of the plot twists, and characters actions. Still, it is hard to be bothered by it while devouring the pages so enraptured by the story.
For generations, the solar system, Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt, was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Apr 16 2017
The Last Novelist
by Matthew Kressel (2017)
My review: This is the (short, but quite enjoyable) story of an old science fiction writer living in a future where interstellar travel is possible, and internet has evolved to the point that humans are directly connected at the brain level. It is now possible to record experiences and feeling, and this new recordings are now the common form of entertainment, replacing writing. Our old writer is likely the last one in his profession, and knowing that he has a short time to live, he decided to move to a far away star, and to wrap up his latest book. Once there, he will encounter a young native, Fish, that will have a deep impact on his remaining days. (★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2017 Finished: Mar 30 2017
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
My review: It was definitely not what I expected, and definitely not the typical post-apocalyptic novel. Instead, I discovered an audacious, dark, literary novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse. This is the only example of a book featuring a non linear timeline, a book where the narrative switch back and forth between the years before, during, and after the collapse, that actually works, and works very well. Station Eleven is the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them...
Mandel wavs a story with many threads, that adroitly cross each other when least expected, forming a breath taking tapestry. This is a really incredible book, that I strongly recommend to everybody. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 17 2017 Finished: Mar 25 2017
Red in Tooth and Cog
by Cat Rambo (2016)
My review: What a beautiful short story! It is not a surprise that it was nominated for the Nebula award (unfortunately the author decided to decline the nomination, to leave space for less established new authors in the field).
The story is set in a near future, where all appliances comes with advanced AI, and are able to recharge themselves, and self-repair. One day Renee, taking a lunch break from work, decided to talk a walk in a nearby park, and eat her food outside. She sits on a bench, and she puts down her smart phone to open her food, when something grab her phone and run. Was it one a rogue appliance, one of those appliances that were discarded, but refused to be recycled, and ran away to live in the park?
This story explores the eternal question: what is life, in an original, and moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 16 2017 Finished: Mar 17 2017
Sabbath Wine
by Barbara Krasnoff (2016)
My review: A beautiful short story, and Nebula award nominee, set in the America during prohibitionist, adroitly speaking about xenophobia, and the violence it triggers.
This is the story of Malka, the young daughter of a Jewish man, deeply involved in the labor movement, and of David, the son of a store owner, illegally selling alcohol during prohibitionist. David says he is dead, but Malka dismiss the claim as baseless: everybody knows that you cannot touch ghosts, and she has no trouble pinching David.
The encounter of the two young children, and the desire of Malka to introduce David to the customs of her ancestors, will bring the two men together.
(★★★★)
Started: Mar 12 2017 Finished: Mar 14 2017
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 117 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #117)
by Neil Clarke (2016)
My review: A very interesting piece, touching very interesting topics like race relations, queerness, and otherness in America. The writing is quite good, the plot entertaining and interesting to read. I particularly enjoy how the two types of otherness, the one created by centuries of social discrimination, and the fictional blend and reinforce each other in the story. What I found troubling was MacReady's participation to a terrorist attack, and the fact that the author does not seem to see that act in a bad light. This stained what would have been otherwise an amazing short story. (★★★)
Started: Mar 11 2017 Finished: Mar 11 2017
Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station
by Caroline M. Yoachim (2016)
My review: An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories
by Jason Sanford (2016)
My review: Our future Earth have been saved from Human greed, and ecological destruction by a miracle that may be technological, or may be magic: the grains. The grains choose few humans, the anchor, to be their vessels to protect the land. The other humans are forced to wonder, forced to spend a life without a home, where each stop cannot last more than few days.
A magical and touching short story, with a solid and original world building, and memorable full rounded characters. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 09 2017
Nevertheless She Persisted
by Kameron Hurley (2017)
My review: This book is the work of many famous sci-fi and fantasy female authors celebrating international woman day, with short work of fiction. The story are all inspired by the following 3 short phrases: She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. Three short lines, fired over social media in response to questions of why Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the United States Senate on February 7th, 2017, for daring to read aloud the words of Coretta Scott King. As this message was transmitted across the globe, it has become a galvanizing cry for people of all genders in recognition of the struggles that women have faced throughout history.
Each author offers her unique interpretation. While the results are uneven, some are noteworthy. I particularly enjoyed Seanan McGuire's Persephone (that also touches themes of the ills of high income inequalities), Alyssa Wong's God product (thematically less fitting than the others), and Maria Dahvana Headley's Astronaut (based on a real history). (★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2017 Finished: Mar 08 2017
Extracurricular Activities
by Yoon Ha Lee (2017)
My review: While this novelette is part of a longer saga (The Machineries of Empire series), it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story (as I did). I really enjoyed the world building, and I am left wanting to read more stories set in this fictional world.
If you are looking for a space opera, with entertaining character, and worlds with different cultures coming in contact, this may be a good pick for your next book. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 04 2017 Finished: Mar 07 2017
Fuzzy Nation
by John Scalzi
My review: This book is a reboot of a classic sci-fi story, Little Fuzzy. John Scalzi wrote this book as a way to honor one of his favorite books, and to tell the story in his unique way.
The protagonist of this story is Jack Holloway, an egocentric prick, living as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying with the only company of his dog, Carl. Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth. But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped, trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute, shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed... and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 14 2017 Finished: Feb 23 2017
Forest of Memory
by Mary Robinette Kowal
My review: In a near future, where an augmented humanity is always connected to the net, nobody is ever alone.
Katya deals in Authenticities and Captures, trading on nostalgia for a past long gone. Her clients are rich and they demand items and experiences with only the finest verifiable provenance. Other people's lives have value, after all. But when her A.I. suddenly stops whispering in her ear she finds herself cut off from the grid and loses communication with the rest of the world. The man who stepped out of the trees while hunting deer cut her off from the cloud, took her A.I. and made her his unwilling guest. There are no Authenticities or Captures to prove Katya’s story of what happened in the forest. You’ll just have to believe her… (★★★)
Started: Feb 12 2017 Finished: Feb 14 2017
The Old Dispensation
by Lavie Tidhar (2017)
My review: This is probably the best short fiction work I read this year, with incredible and fascinating world building. I really hope the author will write more stories set in this fictional world.
The old dispensation is a space opera adventure set in a universe controlled and run by Jewish religious authorities. An enforcer is sent to a distant planet where he discovers an android who changes his mind about what is right and wrong.
(★★★★★)
Started: Feb 10 2017 Finished: Feb 11 2017
Life in Stone, Glass, and Plastic
by José Pablo Iriarte (2016)
My review: A beautifully written, moving short story, dealing with love, memory, and Alzheimer.
An elderly man of South American descent, Sergio, is working two jobs to be able to support himself, and his dearly loved wife, that has been cognitively impaired (Alzheimer?) for years now. One day, he is asked to clean up a beautiful and very unusual graffiti on the side of the building. Sergio will try, but that graffiti will prove quite a challenge to remove... (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 04 2017 Finished: Feb 04 2017
0wnz0red
by Cory Doctorow (2002)
My review: A fantastic short sci-fi fiction centered around the concept of body hacking, written by somebody that must be a software engineer, entertaining and fascinating for everybody, but strongly recommended to all the software engineers in the Silicon Valley. This is the story of Murray Swain, one of the many computer scientist in the valley, devastated by the death of his best friend Liam. [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2017 Finished: Jan 27 2017
The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island
by Julianna Baggott (2017)
My review: In The Virtual Swallows of Hog Island, a programmer finds himself working for the self-proclaimed Bad-Boy of Virtual-Reality Therapy. While his boss is breaking new ground and breaking the rules and his coworkers are engaging in questionable uses of the latest technology, the lonely programmer is in a state of mourning over his deep personal losses and must figure out his own form of therapy.
I loved the premises of this story: a psychologist creating a virtual world to expose his clients to experiences to help them cope and conquer their problems. I was very disappointed by the story ending though (I will not say anything to avoid spoilers). (★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2017 Finished: Jan 25 2017
The Atonement Tango
by Stephen Leigh (2017)
My review: This novels is set in the Wild Cards world, a fictional universe that have been shared by many different authors for more than a quarter of a century. This and other stories can be fully appreciated as stand-alone.
In the "wild card" Earth, a virus has spread across the globe. The few survivors are often left disfigured, and with strange powers. There are called the jokers, rejected by society. Few lucky ones, the Aces, keeps the normal human appearance, but have extraordinary super powers.
This stories focuses on few Jokers, that have leveraged their unique physical traits, to create music. A single act of terrorism kills the majority of the band members, and changes the life of the surviving Michael “Drummer Boy” Vogali forever. Now without his band, Joker Plague, Michael must figure out a way to rebuild his life... and seek revenge. (★★★)
Started: Jan 23 2017 Finished: Jan 24 2017
The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
My review: A horrifying cautionary tale about the machinery of war and its human cost. The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant never ending conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries. Despite the inaccuracies of his 1996 and 2007 projections, the book does not feel dated, and it is as relevant today, as when it was written. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2017 Finished: Jan 23 2017
Microbiota and the Masses: A Love Story
by S.B. Divya (2017)
My review: I really like this story, I wish it had a more satisfying endings. Moena is a scientist, that lives in a world of her own making, sealed off from the deadly pathogens of Bangalore in her own personal biome. But when she meets Rahul, a beautiful man working to clean up his city, her need for him draws her into the danger of outside. Will she risk her life work, her health, and her life, to follow her heart? (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 17 2017
Sing
by Karin Tidbeck (2013)
My review: An interesting sci-fi short story, set in a future where space exploration has brought humans to the far reaches of our galaxy. One of the so many colonized world is the colony of Kiruna, a satellite orbiting around a big gas giant. The biologist Petr moves to this minor, half-abandoned colony, to follow his passion for lichens. While there, he meets the village outcast Aino, and he soon fall for her. But that's just the beginning, as he soon discovers, Kiruna has some very unique characteristics...
Great story, memorable characters, entertaining writing. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Listen
by Karin Tidbeck (2016)
My review: In 2013, Karin Tidbeck wrote Sing, a short story with memorable characters, and an entertaining plot. 3 years later the author bring us back to Kiruna, and tell us more of what happened after the events in Sing. While Listen is a good story, it lacks some of the magic of the first novel. This said, I would love to read more about the Kiruna colony, and Aino. (★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Infomocracy (The Centenal Cycle, #1)
by Malka Ann Older
My review: An incredible, eye opening literary achievement. In this book, Malka Ann Older, reflects on modern democracy, and the role of information, in a fictional, yet so realistic and so close to ours in too many ways fictional world. It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain? (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 08 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love
by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)
My review: An entertaining and satirical short story, illustrating some of the ills of direct democracy. Stochastic fancy: play the game and find true love is set in a dystopian future, where virtual and augmented reality are always on. The main character, a robot psychologist, is very depressed, and hide herself in KloudsKape, to try to distract herself from her loneliness. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 16 2017 Finished: Jan 16 2017
Grandchild of the Gods
by Kai Ashante Wilson (2016)
My review: A very short story, set in the world of A Taste of Honey, providing more information about the intriguing fictional world of Kai Ashante Wilson. While interesting, the short length of the story limits its appeal. (★★★)
Started: Jan 07 2017 Finished: Jan 08 2017
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2016: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue (Lightspeed Magazine, Issue #73)
by Nalo Hopkinson
My review: Lightspeed destroy is an annual initiative focusing on the writings of traditionally underrepresented minorities. The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction special issue exists to relieve a brokenness in the genre that's been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. It brings forth a very diverse set of talented authors, some very well-established, and other very newm from around the globe to present science fiction that explores the nuances of culture, race, and history. People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! is 100% written and edited by people of color. It features twenty original, never-before-published short and flash fiction stories, plus five classic reprints, by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler (believe it or not, I never had read anything from them before... I was blown away!). It also includes an array of nonfiction articles, interviews, and book reviews; and more than two dozen personal essays from people of colo(u)r discussing their experiences as readers and writers of science fiction. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2016 Finished: Jan 06 2017
Everything That Isn't Winter
by Margaret Killjoy (2016)
My review: An impossible to put down short story, set in a post-apocalyptic near future, getting ready to bloom into civilization, after many years of violence. Will this upcoming renewed world still have a place for those who only know how to destroy? While defending a tea-growing commune in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, one person seeks an answer. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
Traumphysik
by Monica Byrne (2016)
My review: A very interesting story set during world war II. It is the story of a brilliant young physicist, one of the first women in STEM, that after excelling in her study in the face of gender based discrimination by her peers, enlists to defend her country during the war. She ends up alone on a Pacific atoll, with tons of time to spare. She there decides to chronicle the laws of motion that govern her dreams.
(★★★)
Started: Dec 24 2016 Finished: Dec 24 2016
The Loud Table
by Jonathan Carroll (2016)
My review: This is the story of four elderly men who regularly hang out. One of the men is worried that he’s getting Alzheimer’s, but the truth might be even more discomforting. A nice piece of fiction, with a small touch of science fiction in it. (★★★)
Started: Dec 23 2016 Finished: Dec 23 2016
The Evaluators: To Trade With Aliens, You Must Adapt
by N.K. Jemisin (2016)
My review: In a future where space exploration has put humans in contact with alien civilizations, Aiuha is tasked to deal with one of the just encountered xenospecies, the Manka, to set up trade and commerce.
Jemisin uses a very fascinating storytelling technique, that reminds me of Afrofuturist 419 by Nnedi Okorafor: the story emerges from different snippets of recording of different conversations, each providing a different stroke to what end up being a fascinating, and creepy, short story. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 16 2016 Finished: Dec 16 2016
Till A’ the Seas
by H.P. Lovecraft (11)
My review: An interesting story describing the end of the human race in a slowly warming world. It would be even better if not for few xenophobic missteps (as often the case in Lovecraft's stories).
The book is broken in two parts. The first describes the events that took place on Earth from a few thousand years to a few million years after the present day. The climate on Earth is getting warmer and warmer, oceans are slowly disappearing. [spoilers removed] (★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
Discards
by David D. Levine (2016)
My review: WildCards is the name of a book series edited by George R.R. Martin, written over the years by many different writers. In the wildcard world a new virus appeared, leaving the majority of the survivors, disparagingly called jokers, very deformed. Few lucky ones, the aces, are left with super human powers.
While I am not fond of super hero stories, I liked this novella, that is the origin story of one of this lucky survivors, the Brazilian ace "Recycler". It is the story of a young kid, living in poverty until he is abandoned by his mother. He end up living in a shack in the middle of a favela, earning few dimes each day foraging for recyclables in a landfill. And when he starts to think he has reached the bottom, he gets sick, and he lose even the little he previously had... (★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2016 Finished: Nov 30 2016
Once More into the Abyss (Stan, #3)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Once More into the Abyss is the third and last installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings, and continued with Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main.
The entire series is made by short sci-fi novelette, where the sci-fi element seems is more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. This third book regains some of the magic of the first part, that was lost in the second, and close Stan's saga with a touching (yet a little disturbing) ending.
Stan's wife get a new job, that brings the entire extended family to the mysterious abyss where their parents either perished or went back to their alien home among the stars. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 28 2016 Finished: Nov 29 2016
Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main (Stan, #2)
by Dennis Danvers (2016)
My review: Orphan Pirates of the Spanish Main is the second installment of the "Stan" series, started with Adult Children of Alien Beings. As for the previous book, while this is a science fiction novelette, the sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. But while the first story is very original, adroitly written, and often funny, and touching, this second installment is much less so: a lot of the unique magic and incredible nuances of the characters are gone. Despite that, it is still a quite enjoyable story.
In this book Stan and his brother Ollie, the children of alien (or just crazy human) parents, receive a mysterious postcard from their father, who with their mother, disappeared decades earlier into the "Abyss" in New Mexico. Along with Stan's new wife, they decide to travel again to the abyss, looking for them. (★★★)
Started: Nov 27 2016 Finished: Nov 28 2016
Foundation and Earth (Foundation, #5)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further with a two part sequel. Foundation and Earth is the second book of this new duology, following Foundation's Edge.
After reading the entire robot-empire-foundations series, I had very high expectations about this book, that is the end of such an epic saga. I was disappointed. The series highlight has never been its characters, but the ones in this book are particularly flat and uninteresting. The plot, and the ultimate conclusion, are also not as good as some of the ones of the previous books. This said, Foundation and Earth is fun to read, and quite enjoyable.
Councilman Golan Trevize is wondering if he was right to choose a collective mind as the best possible future for humanity over the anarchy of contentious individuals, nations and planets. To test his conclusion, he decides he must know the past and goes in search of legendary Earth, all references to which have been erased from galactic libraries. The societies encountered along the way become arguing points in a book-long colloquy about man's fate, conducted by Trevize and traveling companion Bliss, who is part of the first world/mind, Gaia. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 21 2016 Finished: Nov 27 2016
There Will Always Be a Max
by Michael R. Underwood (2016)
My review: I was not aware that this short story was part of a series, set in the "Genrenauts universe". This have in all likelihood impacted my ability of fully appreciate it: there are many references to some characters and backstories I did not know.
This said, I still enjoyed this short mad-max story, where the main character makes himself a Max, a bringer of hope at a time of despair. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2016 Finished: Nov 20 2016
The Mighty Phin
by Nisi Shawl (2016)
My review: A remarkable short story, set in Nisi Shawl’s Amends universe, but enjoyable as a stand alone (I never read any of her work before, and I had no problem enjoying The Mighty Phin). The story is set in a cyber prison, where the prisoner bodies has been destroyed, and they have been upload in cyber space. Over there they are forced to attend mandatory virtual therapy sessions with the artificial intelligence Dr. Ops.
This story shares some of the themes (identity and what makes somebody human) with Ann Leckie's Ancillary Series. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 18 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
Seven Birthdays
by Ken Liu (2016)
My review: Beautiful short story, that despite being part of an hard sci-fi, it also has interesting character development, and very touching moments.
It is the story of the life of Mia, from her toddler years forward, told as 7 time snapshots taken during 7 of her birthdays. It reminded me of another short story by the same author, Memories of My Mother. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 122 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #122)
by Neil Clarke
My review: A very twisted short story, that mixes audio and text in an experimental and interesting way. It is a satirical of the famous Nigerian scam, with a science-fiction spin. What sets the story apart is the underlying satirical commentary of modern society, and its deep xenophobia. (★★★)
Started: Nov 19 2016 Finished: Nov 19 2016
The Girl with All the Gifts (The Hungry Plague, #1)
by M.R. Carey (2014)
My review: It is hard to review this book without giving away major plot points and spoil the story, hence I will not say much. This is a thrilling, extremely fast paced, impossible to put down book. While reading it may not change your life, it will surely help you spend few nights enthralled in its pages. It's a great book, with a well-crafted satisfying conclusion. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 13 2016 Finished: Nov 17 2016
A Colder War
by Charles Stross (2002)
My review: A Colder War is an alternate history novelette by Charles Stross, a modern sequel to one of the most famous Lovecraft's stories (At the Mountains of Madness): a follow-up expedition to the pole has occurred, and the Cold War is fought with monsters from the Cthulhu Mythos.
This story pre-date the atrocity archives, the first of the laundry series books, by 4 years, but it contains many of the ideas and themes that will be expanded in the series that catapulted Stross to fame.
(★★★)
Started: Nov 12 2016 Finished: Nov 13 2016
Shoggoths in Bloom
by Elizabeth Bear (2008)
My review: A beautiful modern re-interpretation of the classic Lovecraft's mythos, that ends up being far better than the original. While Lovecraft projected his horror for the immigrants into cosmic invading aliens, in Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear investigates race relations in the United States of America between the two world wars without any trace of xenophobia.
The story is set in 1938, when Professor Paul Harding has come to Passamaquoddy, Maine, to study Oracupoda horibilis, common surf shoggoths, known to locals as "jellies". He finally finds a fisherman willing to take him out on the bay, where dormant shoggoths bask atop exposed rocks, blooming, that is, exuding indigo and violet tendrils topped with "fruiting bodies" from their blobbish sea-green masses. Though shoggoths can engulf and digest grown humans, in this torpid state they're safe to approach. The trip out is uncomfortable. The fisherman doesn’t fancy conversation with a highly educated black man, first he's ever met. Ironic, Harding thinks, that they probably both served in WWI, though of course not in the same units. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 09 2016 Finished: Nov 09 2016
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang (2010)
My review: Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of the first 8 fictional publications by Ted Chiang. I would classify the book as hard sci-fi: the stories are all build around a theorem, or a scientific or philosophical theory, and the plot is then used to explore their impact and consequences. This said, the best stories in the book also focus on human relationships, and their feelings. The best example is probably "Stories of your life", the story of a linguist tasked to learn an alien language, while also raising a daughter. The science and the human elements are woven together adroitly, each thread strengthening and giving depth to the other.
Overall it is a great book, and I am looking forward reading more by this author (even if he unfortunately does not publish much). (★★★★)
Started: Nov 01 2016 Finished: Nov 06 2016
Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: Death's End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.
I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.
I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.
The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent... (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 22 2016 Finished: Oct 31 2016
The Dispatcher
by John Scalzi (2016)
My review: I never listen to an audio book before, but this was free, it was from an author I like (John Scalzi), and it is not available in print, so I decided to give it a try. I REALLY liked it. I usually hate detective stories, even in sci-fi settings. This is why I was not crazy about Scalzi's locked in or Asimov's robots series. Despite that, I really enjoyed this audio book. The first chapter is intriguing, and some moments toward the end very moving and touching.
The audiobook premise is the following: one day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone - 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don't know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 24 2016 Finished: Oct 26 2016
Through The Eyes of a Bluebird
by Laura Lam (2016)
My review: This story is set in a near feature San Francisco bay Area. Biotech has made perfection the norm, but there are exceptions. The Hearth is a little commune just outside the city, resisting the evils of modern technology, that is isolated from the rest of the world, but for one day a year, where an outsider is allowed to spy on its mists.
The writing is exquisite, and the world-building quite effective. Unfortunately Through The Eyes of a Bluebird does not really work as a stand-alone story, and I was not surprised to learn it is intended to be a tie-in for a longer story (False Hearts). (★★★)
Started: Oct 17 2016 Finished: Oct 18 2016
The Destroyer
by Tara Isabella Burton (2016)
My review: An interesting story, set into a technological ancient Roman society. It is the story of a brilliant, unstable scientist proves that she can transcend the human body's limitations. Her test subject is her own daughter. The premises of the story, and many of its element are interesting. The conclusion is disappointing, as well as the use of some old genre tropes. (★★★)
Started: Oct 16 2016 Finished: Oct 16 2016
The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor
by Delia Sherman (2011)
My review: The Ghost of Cwmlech Manoris a steam-punk tale set on the border of Wales. It is the story of Tacy Gof, a young and extremely clever woman of relatively humble origin, that always wished to be an engineer, and to see the famous ghost of Cwmlech Manor. One day a new master moves into the manor, an expert of clockwork automatons and an inventor, and Tacy gets hired to work there, giving her an opportunity to follow both her dreams at once.
Despite not being a fan of the steampunk sub-genre, I really enjoyed this story, and I loved the characters. I read already the sequel, that was as good, and I am looking forward reading more! (★★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2016 Finished: Oct 07 2016
The Three Lives of Sonata James
by Lettie Prell (2016)
My review: In a near future, human consciousness can be transferred, after the body death, into an artificial body.
Sonata is a young woman, living in Chicago, wealthy enough to afford this semi-eternal life. But Sonata wants to prove that living forever is not the same as living a beautiful life. When least expected, her life takes an unplanned sudden turn that make her reconsider her position.
An interesting story, a good mix of old sci-fi tropes and some new interesting elements. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2016 Finished: Oct 06 2016
The High Lonesome Frontier
by Rebecca Campbell (2016)
My review: This books has an interesting story concept: it is the story of the evolution and influence of a song written in 1902 over the next 150 plus years. The narrative style is interesting as well, even if directly borrowed from Mitchell's Cloud Atlas: stories are nested into each other in a mirror structure, first moving forward in time, and then backward.
Despite this interesting bits, the story is just OK, and I struggled to finish it despite its very short length. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
Sic Semper, Sic Semper, Sic Semper
by Douglas F. Warrick (2016)
My review: I was very surprised to realize I enjoyed this story, despite its extremely bizarre plot: a scientist with suicide tendencies makes a break-trough in the field of space travel, and decided to use his new discovery to travel back in time, and miniaturize himself to live inside the skull of the sixteenth President of the United States, in the dilated instant of time before his death. The story just get stranger and stranger, but it is nevertheless enjoyable. (★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was
by Paul McAuley (2016)
My review: Something Happened Here, But We’re Not Quite Sure What It Was is a sci-fi western, set in the fictional world of Paul McAuley, but it can be read as a stand-alone novellette. I did not particularly liked the story, but I am not very fond of the western genre in any form, and I suspect that this is probably what spoiled the story for me.
This is a complex story about politics, corporate greed, superstition, and luddism, set in a frontier Earth-like world, faced with the possibility of reaching out to alien cultures. (★★)
Started: Sep 10 2016 Finished: Sep 10 2016
The Art of Space Travel
by Nina Allan (2016)
My review: After a disastrous first attempt to have men on Mars in 2047, Earth is ready to try again thirty years later. A second expedition is now preparing to launch. This novelette does not focus on the crew or on the preparation, but on Emily, a hotel housekeeper at the hotel where two of the astronauts will give their final press statements, and on her life. Emily is taking care of her mother, Moolie, that worked on the crash site of the previous mission, and that shortly after developed a unusual form of Alzheimer. Moolie has an important message to give Emily, but Moolie’s memories are fading. As the astronauts' visit draws closer, the unearthing of a more personal history is about to alter Emily's world forever.
An interesting story, where the science fiction is mainly on the background, and the relationships between the various characters are on the forefront. I enjoyed despite discovering that in this fictional future, Germany still does not have full marriage equality. It is just a brief mention, but it depressed me to think of a future where we are still struggling to treat all our brother and sisters with dignity. (★★★)
Started: Sep 03 2016 Finished: Sep 04 2016
Her Scales Shine Like Music
by Rajnar Vajra
My review: A beautiful science fiction novelette about an encounter and budding relationship between two aliens, one human, who are the only living creatures occupying a planet in deep space. The human is assigned to guard a valuable find, while his colleagues leave, to file a report with the company that hired them.
I was a little disappointed by the ending, that is left quite open, and I really hope that the talented Rajnar Vajra has a sequel in the works. (★★★)
Started: Sep 02 2016 Finished: Sep 02 2016
Totem Poles
by Bruce Sterling (2016)
My review: This is a very strange satirical story, where aliens arrive on Earth and promptly clean up all of the pollution caused by humans. Despite some funny and interesting part, the story is all over the places, and I found myself at a loss to understand what the point of this story was. (★)
Started: Aug 31 2016 Finished: Sep 01 2016
Mountain
by Liu Cixin (2012)
My review: Liu Cixin excels in hard science-fiction stories, and this is a good example of this fact. In this story, a marine geologist with a troubled past is destined to have the first encounter with an alien civilization. The plot is interesting, but it is not the plot that makes Mountain remarkable: its simple, non fictional, hard science, adroitly leverages to create awe and wonders. Physics is really differently when you are no longer on your normal every day Earth surface setting.
In this respect, this story reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, where the wonders of space physics, and not the aliens, are taking your breath away. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2016 Finished: Aug 21 2016
The Weight of Memories
by Liu Cixin (2016)
My review: What if an unborn baby was given all the memories of her/his ancestors? Would those memories, and all the knowledge of centuries give her/him a kick-start, an incredible advantage?
Liu CiXin try to answer these questions in this short story.
While I am a big fan of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (most commonly known as The Three-Body Problem trilogy), I did not like this short story as much: many of the scientific concepts are too much out there to be credible. What I did like a lot was the social commentary embedded in the story, despite its grim tones. (★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2016 Finished: Aug 17 2016
Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)
by Isaac Asimov (2012)
My review: 30 years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Asimov decided to revisit one of his most famous series, and extend it further.
The plot is adroitly waved, and everything fall into place magically like a clockwork. What I did not like were the characters, that are almost stereotypical caricatures... and don't get me started with the female ones (the books miserably fails the Bechdel–Wallace test). While this was often true for the majority of the foundation stories, with Second Foundation, Asimov managed to create a great, well-rounded character in Arkady Darell, so I was quite disappointed that Asimov would regress to the previous norm.
This said, the book is fun to read thanks to his fast paced and clever plot: some politicians at the first foundation starts to suspect that the second foundation may have not been destroyed as they thought. Some mentalist of the second foundation noticed that the Seldon plan is going too well according to plan. Is somebody else playing the galactic game of thrones? (★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2016 Finished: Aug 05 2016
Gods of Risk (The Expanse, #2.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This novella takes place shortly after the events in Caliban's War, and follows Bobbie Draper, an ex-marine who has been set adrift in her own life after those events, and her nephew, David Draper, a gifted chemist with a secret life as a manufacturer for a ruthless drug dealer. When his friend Leelee goes missing, leaving signs of the dealer's involvement, David takes it upon himself to save her, while the tension between Mars and Earth mounts, and terrorism plagues the Martian city of Londres Nova.
This is, by far, the weakest Expanse story I have read so far, and it can probably be skipped without missing anything of importance (I'll confirm after I read the following books). (★★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 27 2016
Flashpoint: Titan
by Cheah Kai Wai (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards Reading Marathon.
In this story, the United States of America have control of Titan, and who controls it, controls the energy supplies for the entire human race. The People Republic of China tries to gain control of it through strategy and military action, but on its way is a Japanese star-warship, equipped with some new weapons.
I did not like the story. While fast-paced and at times entertaining, it is mainly a war story with a very thin plot, few plot holes, and some racist slurs. For example, why would the Japanese army risk all their strategic asset to protect an American possession without getting anything out of it? Is it just because of ethnic hatred?
Trigger warning: racial slurs. (★)
Started: Jul 24 2016 Finished: Jul 24 2016
Lock In (Lock In, #1)
by John Scalzi (2014)
My review: I am a big fan of John Scalzi books, and I was quite excited to read this one, but I ended up liking it less than his previous ones. Do not get me wrong, it is entertaining and fun, but I like space operas much more than detective stories. This is why I liked Asimov's Foundation series more that his Robot series, and this is why I liked his Old Man's War series much better that Lock In.
The book is a cyberpunk / detective story, set in a near future when a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent the disease causes "Lock In": victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge, and creates robotic avatars for the "Hadens" to interact in the physical world with the un-affected, and a virtual agora, a virtual world. In this world, Chris Shane an Haden FBI agent, is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann to investigate what appears to be a Haden-related murder, but would turn out to be much much more than that. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 23 2016
Slow Bullets
by Alastair Reynolds (2015)
My review: I read Slow Bullets as part of my Hugo Awards Finalist reading marathon.
This latest story by well-known author Alastair Reynolds is another fine example of a fast-paced, action oriented space-opera, the genre this author is mostly known for.
At the end of an inter galactic conflict, Scur, a conscripted soldier is captured, tortured, and left for dead by a renegade war criminal. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship. The passengers, the combatants from both sides of the war, are waking up from hibernation far too soon... or is it? 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.
A very enjoyable and entertaining book, a perfect read for the beach. (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Folding Beijing
by Hao Jingfang (2015)
My review: I read this story as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
Despite being a finalist because of its inclusion in a slate, the work is not only enjoyable, but also novel and interesting. I found quite interesting to read a book written by a Chinese author, to see the (current and future) world through the eyes of a different culture. The population and economic growth of modern China, its economic inequalities, and its technological and engineering marvels are central to Folding Beijing.
In a claustrophobic overpopulated future, Beijing is rebuild to be three cities at once, each folding into each other, so that only one at a time is up and awake on the surface, while the other two are folded and sleeping. Time is divided across each section according to the "rank" of its inhabitants, so that the best gets to enjoy 12 hours of sun, while the poorest gets just a glimps of dawn.
A dystopian vision of our future, with a very thin and feeble ray of hope mixed in.
(★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
What Price Humanity?
by David VanDyke (2015)
My review: I read this novelette as part of my 2016 Hugo awards finalists reading marathon.
The story is enjoyable to read, but it is not very original: many plot elements have been seen before, and they are not presented in a novel way. The characters are not that memorable either. I doubt the story would have make it to the finalists list if it was not part of a slate.
The story begins with a (space) soldier coming back to consciousness in a virtual reality simulation. He believes to be kept there while his body is being regrown or repair, but his contacts from outside are mysteriously not telling him anything. Soon he gets to meet, always in VR, many of his former colleagues, including a dead girlfriend. I'm not going to say more, to avoid spoiling the story (even if I can bet you can already seeing where this is going).
P.S. As other reviewer have noted, when Southpark called the only African American character "token" was a funny critic to our society. In here the joke does not work as well. (★★)
Started: Jul 08 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Obits
by Stephen King (2015)
My review: I read this as part of the 2016 Hugo awards finalist reading marathon.
I have liked many stories written by Stephen King, and while I was young, I devoured his books. Obits is not one of his best work. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but there is nothing deeply original or peculiar to set it apart from many other stories. The plot is relatively straightforward: a journalist specialized in writing funny and offensive obituaries, discovers that he can cause the death of living people writing their obits. He will have to learn on how to use his power while learning how to navigate the politics at work and to deal with women. (★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Perfect State
by Brandon Sanderson (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Award Finalist Reading Marathon.
Sanderson is a well-known writer, but I never read anything he wrote before. Maybe I had set my expectations too high, but I was not too impressed by Perfect State. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, the story while not completely original is entertaining and fun to read. Still, it does not stand apart as a Hugo finalist should.
In this cyberpunk matrix-inspired story, God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys, at least in the virtual personality tailored world every human is immersed in since birth. He has defeated all virtual foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world. Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date. Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal, a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man of one world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman of another world? (★★★)
Started: Jul 10 2016 Finished: Jul 10 2016
Memories of My Mother
by Ken Liu (2012)
My review: When faced with an incurable terminal disease, a mother decides to exploit relativity to get a chance to see her daughter grow up. Despite its short length, the story really works and it is quite moving. If you enjoy it as much as I did, you may also want to check out the short movie that is based on it: http://www.beautifuldreamerfilm.com (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2016 Finished: Jun 19 2016
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)
by N.K. Jemisin (2015)
My review: Probably the best story I have read in years. It is very rare to find a book that have it all: exquisite writing, moving, intriguing, and enticing story, memorable characters, astounding and original world building. The Fifth Season is at the same time impossible to put down, and deep. It is the kind of book it will stay with you and make you think.
The book has three subplots adroitly waved together. The first is the story of Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The second is the story of Damaya, a young girl that is discovered to be a powerful orogene, and as such kept in a barn as a beast by her parents, to soon be given away. The third is the story of Damaya, growing locked up and used as a de-humanized weapon by the fulcrum.
This is an ambitious trilogy, that while set in a world so different from ours, it succeed like no other in exploring issues like slavery, oppression, discrimination, and taboos. A strongly recommended read.
This is one of the Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Novel category. I wrote more about this and the other finalist in this blog post.
(★★★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 18 2016
Seven Kill Tiger
by Charles Shao (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This short story focuses on two main character: Zhang Zedong, a Chinese business manager responsible for the Chinese "settlements" (colonies) in Africa, and Scott Berens, a US CDC employee tracking diseases and virus outbreaks. Zhang is concerned that production in his African mining operation has fallen again this quarter, and that he is going to be held responsible for it. He blames the local population, that he describes in quite demeaning terms. Scott identifies it as an anomaly in the spread of diseases, and his superior Thompson thinks the Chinese may have weaponized a polio vaccine.
Despite the unimpressive characters, the central concept of the story is interesting and disturbing. The most disturbing part is the realization that the utterly xenophobic way of thinking of the fictional Chinese Colonist, exists in every country of today's world, always ready to flare up at time of crisis and economical recession. The author point of view is never revealed or hinted, to the point to make me believe he may actualy share at least some of the troubling ideas presented in the story.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, xenophobia. (★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Asymmetrical Warfare
by S.R. Algernon (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This extremely short story is the diary written by the commander of an alien species invading Earth. Each entry describes, day by day, the progress of the invasion. The story details the increasing confusion and puzzlement of the alien forces when faced with the biologic differences of homo sapiens.
I found particularly interesting the stellate race attempts to make sense of humans in terms of their alien stellate biology, and failing. As it is often the case, the most common obstacle to understanding, is trying to understand others in terms of our way of thinking and being.
While very interesting, this is also the weakest point of the story: do we really have to believe that a species that expended across the universe, entering in contacts with many different lifeforms, never met non regenerating life forms before? It is also made clear that the two species can communicate, and that the stellate are closely observing human behavior, making this complete lack of understanding of human biology very hard to believe. (★★★)
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of "geeky" gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory... I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It's the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species. (★★★)
Started: Jun 04 2016 Finished: Jun 04 2016
The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)
by Jim Butcher (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. As it is often the case with Jim Butcher's novel, this book is a light and enjoyable read, the characters are colorful, yet flat, and there is nothing to blow you away. It is probably telling that the most memorable characters are the talking cats. The fictional world is interesting, but a lot is left unsaid, to be covered in one of the planned 20+ books of the series.
The plot is relatively simple: since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace. Captain Grimm commands a merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion, to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory. And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. (★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: Jun 02 2016
Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100 (Clarkesworld Magazine, #100)
by Neil Clarke (2015)
My review: I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. I am very partial to this story because it main fictional character, an AI, was born in the datacenters of the company I work for. It is a fun, light read, where the artificial self-conscious being end up behaving like a corky human. (★★★★)
Started: May 18 2016 Finished: May 18 2016
Lightspeed Magazine, February 2015
by John Joseph Adams (2015)
My review: This cyberpunk action story is extremely fast paced, impossible to put down, and fun to read. The main character, Rhye, is an artificial woman, created, used, and discarded by "regular" humans. Her hard upbringing made her somebody you would not want to mess with. She is a rough, violent, foul mouthed machine, but her meeting with Rack, a hacker, is going to profoundly affect her life. (★★★★)
Started: May 16 2016 Finished: May 17 2016
Drive (The Expanse, #0.1)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: This short story was release on SyFy website for the release of The Expanse TV series. It is a prequel to the main story, set in a not too far future, when man has colonized the outer asteroid belt, but space travel was still extremely slow. Drive explores a very important historical moment in the expense universe, whose ramifications are the bases of the entire book series.
Despite its short length, the story is quite entertaining, and a must-read for the expanse fans. (★★★★)
Started: May 14 2016 Finished: May 14 2016
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson (2015)
My review: In a very near future an unknown agent hits the moon breaking it to pieces, turning Earth into 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, and the future of human race.
The book is an excellent example of hard science-fiction, where the author went the extra mile to ensure to get his fact straights (even if he admits to have taken a couple of small liberties in a couple of places where it was necessary). It is not interesting for character exploration and development, but for the breath-taking, quite scientifically accurate, and entertaining exploration of a possible future. The book is divided into three parts. The first two are very fast paced, and draw inspiration from the author work for Bezos's space mining company. The third part is very different in tones and themes, and was heavily based on the author screenplay for a video-game he is working on. It also explore some eugenic themes that are quite problematic. The abrupt change in style and themes of the last part, makes the book less cohesive. I really wish the third part was not included. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 29 2016 Finished: May 12 2016
Terminal
by Lavie Tidhar (2016)
My review: In a not too far future, Mars colonization is starting. It became possible to travel to Mars via cheap, one-person, one-way vehicles, the "jalopies". But there is no coming back. The voyage in the cramped space is hard, it has a high fatality rate, and it is one way. As a result, people signing up for it are legally dead.
The story focuses on the people taking the leap, all with different motivations, all desperately clinging on each other to maintain sanity, via asynchronous communications relayed from Earth.
This is a very poetic story, with a very original and extremely fascinating world-building, and an unsatisfying ending. I really hope that the author will develop the story further in the future. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 17 2016 Finished: Apr 18 2016
Memory
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is a surprisingly good story, despite its very short length. A reflection on the position of the man in the universe, a short limited presence on a remote speck of dust, at the edge of one of almost infinite number of galaxies. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Polaris
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: This is one of the earliest novels by the author, and it contains some of the elements and themes that will be further developed in his later work. The story begins with the narrator describing the night sky as observed over long sleepless nights from his window, in particular that of the Pole Star, Polaris, which he describes as winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey. Then he starts speaking about his dreams, and his life in the dream world. And slowly the narrator and the reader starts wondering which one of the two is reality?
Trigger warning: xenophobia (quite frequent in Lovecraft's stories). (★★★)
Started: Apr 15 2016 Finished: Apr 15 2016
Sarah's Child
by Susan Jane Bigelow (2014)
My review: Sarah tells herself she should be happy: she has a job, a loving mother, and a wonderful girlfriend. Still, something is missing in her life: a child. She does have a child in her dreams though, he is Brandon, a 6 years old, with blond hairs, that loves dinosaurs. In this dream word she did not had to transition, she was born with a female body, and her name was June. But is this parallel reality really just a dream?
This short story was a finalist for the 2015 James Tiptree Jr. Award. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 10 2016 Finished: Apr 10 2016
Oral Argument
by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015)
My review: A short sci-fi story and a political commentary, set in a not too far future. It is a fictional transcript of a supreme court case, and I will not say more to avoid spoilers. Humorous and well-written, this is probably one of the best stories I have read so far this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Mar 30 2016 Finished: Mar 31 2016
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)
by James S.A. Corey (2012)
My review: The second novel of the expanse saga picks up where Leviathan Wakes left of: James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance, and they are sent to investigate a strange situation on Ganymede, the bread basket of the outer planets. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting with the unlikely help of a Martian marine, that has just seen her entire squadron slaughtered by what it appears to be a monster.
This second installment fast surpasses the first: it is even more fast paced and impossible to put done, and it introduce some new characters that are unforgettable and incredible. It is uplifting to read a military action sci-fi story where female character are not just inserted for tokenism, but they have agency (they are the characters with more agency in the story), and their gender give them even more depth and significance. If you liked Leviathan Wakes, youa re going to love Caliban's War. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2016 Finished: Mar 29 2016
Points of Origin
by Marissa K. Lingen
My review: A moving story, dealing with family dynamics, and family separation.
Most people who have reached their eighties without raising children have every right to believe that they will go on not raising them, and Judith and I were no different until the day they turned up with the social worker, neatly scrubbed and pressed inside their vac-suits and carrying cases with all their remaining worldly possessions. There were three of them like stairsteps, their black hair cut in fringes across their foreheads and their dark eyes shining out disconcertingly familiar at me. But it wasn’t until the social worker said, “Mr. Chao and Ms. Goldstein, these are your grandchildren, Enid, Richard, and Harry,” that I remembered, sheepishly, about the genes we had given all those years ago, to that nice couple from New New Prague, before they left for the Oort Cloud. (★★★)
Started: Mar 03 2016 Finished: Mar 04 2016
Tear Tracks
by Malka Ann Older (2015)
My review: A novel and original take on a first-contact story. The encounter is cleverly used to explore human nature and psychology.
This is the main story of Flur, an astronaut that traveled across the stars to make first contact with the Cyclopes, hoping to forge a peace treaty between humanity and the first sentient aliens they have discovered. She has undergone careful training and study to prepare for this moment. But what if her approach is too human?
A remarkable short story that I strongly recommend. I am looking forward reading more from this author. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Hold-Time Violations
by John Chu (2015)
My review: Interesting world building concepts, and plot. In the book, each universe has skunkworks that generate the universe within it, making this multiverse an infinite set of matryoshka dolls. The skunkworks that generate this universe have become faulty, and the physical constants suddenly aren't. In order to fix the skunkworks, to make physics self-consistent again, and to make the world work as it’s supposed to, Ellie will have to remember everything her mother has taught her.
While I liked the ending, it is a little abrupt, and the story would have worked out more if more space was given to Ellie's mother, to better understand her values. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
In the Walls of Eryx
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The story was initially written by Kenneth J. Sterling, a Providence high school student who befriended Lovecraft in 1934. In 1935 he sent Lovecraft the draft of this story, which Lovecraft revised heavily, roughly doubling the word count. The result is a fascinating story, that is very different from any other Lovecraft's story, yet it has clearly some of his touch. The novelette, written in first-person narrative, depicts the story of a prospector on the planet Venus who works for a mining company looking for a powerful new form of fuel, against the wishes of the Venusians, or man-lizards. The treatment of the locals, is quite different from the one I would have expected from a younger Lovecraft, an interesting example of the author evolution. (★★★)
Started: Feb 15 2016 Finished: Feb 15 2016
Doppel
by Lindsay Smith (2014)
My review: Spy thriller with a supernatural twist set during world war II. The story is told through a series of espionage transmissions between British agents in occupied France, and the UK intelligence.
In his efforts of rescuing some British prisoners of war from Nazi camps, one of the agents meets a charismatic SS officer who seems to be guarding a great and powerful secret, that might be darker and more dangerous than anything the British, or the Germans, can imagine. (★★★)
Started: Feb 06 2016 Finished: Feb 06 2016
Binti (Binti, #1)
by Nnedi Okorafor (2015)
My review: A little masterpiece, with an unusual, distinctive voice, that sets it apart. I strongly recommend this blogpost by Emily Asher-Perrin (it contains spoilers, so wait until you are done reading it), that very eloquently explains why this book is so special.
This is the story of Binti, the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 18 2016
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
by Terry Brooks (2011)
My review: Terry Brooks tell the story of The phantom menace, the first installment of the Star Wars saga, providing more insights on the story.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an evil legacy long believed dead is stirring. Even the Jedi are caught by surprise, their attentions focused on the political unrest between the Trade Federation and the Republic. Now the dark side of the Force threatens to overwhelm the light, and only an ancient Jedi prophecy stands between hope and doom for the entire galaxy. On the desert world of Tatooine, far from the concerns of the Republic, a slave boy works by day and dreams by night, of being a Jedi Knight and one day traveling the stars to worlds he's only heard of in stories... of finding a way to win freedom from enslavement for himself and his beloved mother. His only hope lies in his extraordinary instincts and his strange gift for understanding the things, talents that allow him to be one of the best Podracers on the planet.
I found particularly remarkable the way Darth Sidius gathers more and more power, setting the Republic on a path that will lead to the end of Democracy, leveraging people fears to convince them that the only way to protect them is to give up some of their freedom, and giving a benevolent leader more power.
The book (and the movie as well) fails in its portrait of the chosen one: we are supposed to get goose-bumps seeing in him the future balancer of the force, but he comes across as a regular young kids. I was expecting a legend, instead I was given a cute youngling that walks to a 10 year older queen and tell her he is going to marry her. Ani cuteness and storyline does not fit well with the legendary epic surrounding him. The following episodes work much better losing young Ani, for his older self. (★★★)
Started: Jan 10 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse, #0.5)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: This novella is a prequel of Leviathan Wakes, telling the story of Colonel Fred Johnson, one of the side character of The Expanse series.
One day, Colonel Fred Johnson will be hailed as a hero to the system. One day, he will meet a desperate man in possession of a stolen spaceship and a deadly secret and extend a hand of friendship. But long before he became the leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, Fred Johnson had a very different name. The Butcher of Anderson Station. This is his story. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 17 2016 Finished: Jan 17 2016
The Fifth Dragon
by Ian McDonald (2015)
My review: This novelette is a prequel to the recently published Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald. Short prequels are often disappointing and dull, but this is not, and it succeeded in getting me to read the full length Luna book.
The Fifth Dragon is about a pair of new moon workers, Achi and Adriana, who find comfort in this alien place in one another's company, only to learn that their time together is limited... (★★★★)
Started: Dec 29 2015 Finished: Dec 29 2015
The Fermi Paradox is Our Business Model
by Charlie Jane Anders (2011)
My review: What a treat! An hilarious explanation of the Fermi's Paradox that could have been written by (Hitchhiker guide to the galaxy) Douglas Adams or (Diskworld) Terry Pratchett, featuring an alien couple that would fit perfectly in a Saturday Night Live skit. I recommend it to everyone. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
Milagroso
by Isabel Yap (2015)
My review: This short story would fit perfectly in a (Windup Girl) Paolo Bacigalupi's anthology because of its themes and its plot. It is set in a future where all the food is lab grown and lab produced. Then, one day, something unexpected starts occurring: during a religious procession, the lab grown food is turned into the real one. The "miracle" deeply shakes the faith in science of Marty, and brings up back long forgotten memories from his childhood.
An interesting read, I am looking forward reading more of this author. (★★★)
Started: Dec 28 2015 Finished: Dec 28 2015
From Beyond
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
My review: A scientist creates a device that emits a resonance wave, which allows them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality. But the effect works both ways, and allows the denizens of the alternate dimension to perceive humans. (★★)
Started: Dec 26 2015 Finished: Dec 27 2015
The Man in the High Castle
by Philip K. Dick
My review: Remarkable alternative history book set in an alternative 1962, in a world where the axis (Nazi Germany / Fascist Italy / Imperial Japan) won the second world war. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake. (★★★★★)
Started: Dec 20 2015 Finished: Dec 26 2015
Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)
by James S.A. Corey (2011)
My review: Fast paced and highly entertaining space opera. Humanity has colonized the solar system: Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond. The stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for, and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli, and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations, and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 29 2015 Finished: Dec 16 2015
Childhood's End
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: An incredibly original account of a first encounter between humans and a far more advanced alien civilization. Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. Manned by the Overlords, in fifty years, they eliminate ignorance, disease, and poverty. Then this golden age ends...
By far one of the best sci-fi novels ever written. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2015 Finished: Nov 26 2015
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: Beyond the Wall of Sleep is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in 1919 and first published in the amateur publication Pine Cones in October 1919. Lovecraft said the story was inspired by an article in the New York Tribune that cited a family named Slater as representative of the provincial Catskills population. A second inspiration was a real astronomic event, a nova near GK Persei.
While in later stories the author xenophobia is channeled and translated into the horror for alien Gods, and ancient monsters, in here the continuous attacks against what the author calls "white trash" works against him. The continuous rants are distracting (not to mention disturbing), and they de-humanize one of the main characters, making the reader care less about him. (★)
Started: Nov 19 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
Arthur Jermyn
by H.P. Lovecraft
My review: The Jermyns were a reputable and comely family until the 18th century, when Sir Wade started exploring the Congo and telling wild tales about a lost jungle city, once the seat of a prehistoric white civilization but now overrun by apes (or worse, their hybrid offspring with the last white humans.) Wade took a Portuguese wife who lived unseen in Jermyn House. She accompanied Wade on his last African expedition and never returned. Many generation later, his descendant Arthur Jermyn will discover the truth behind it. (★★)
Started: Nov 20 2015 Finished: Nov 20 2015
Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
by Ann Leckie (2015)
My review: This is the latest and final installment of one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. At the end of the previous book things seemed to be under control for Breq, formerly the AI of the battleship Justice of Torren. Then, a search of Atheok Station's slums turns up someone who shouldn't exist, someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that's been hiding beyond the empire's reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq's enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai, ruler of an empire at war with itself. Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren't good, but that's never stopped her before.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 08 2015 Finished: Nov 18 2015
The Deepest Rift
by Ruthanna Emrys (2015)
My review: An adroitly written novel, with some remarkable characters (the AI steals the show, and it is, by far, the most intriguing and interesting part of the story), great world building, an interesting plot, and a just OK ending.
In the deepest canyon in the inhabited worlds, giant mantas soar through the air and leave patterned structures behind. A team of sapiologists seek to prove that these delicate filaments are true language, not just bee's dance. But time has run out, and their reckoning is upon them. Will they prove that their research is valid, or will they be scattered to the corners of the galaxy?
(★★★★)
Started: Nov 03 2015 Finished: Nov 04 2015
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
by Rajnar Vajra (2014)
My review: This Hugo Award nominee is entertaining, but disappointing. This short military sci-fi novelette is the story of a team of three candidate space explorer: one from Earth, one from Venus, and one from Mars. They are a rowdy bunch and they got into troubles. As a result, in order to graduate, they are now required to unravel the mystery that have kept the army busy on a remote new planet for the past 3 years. An intelligent new form of life has been discovered, able to build microcircuits, but any attempt of communication have failed so far.
I enjoyed the hard science fiction elements (attempts?), but what made the story quite disappointing are the plot twists and revelations. The smart trick used by the main characters in one of the most important scenes it is never fully explained and it does not really make much sense. (★★)
Started: Oct 18 2015 Finished: Oct 19 2015
The Shape of My Name
by Nino Cipri (2015)
My review: An adroitly crafted and powerful story about family, time travel, and transitioning. The various themes are perfectly woven together and every scene fit into the story like a perfect tile of a beautiful mosaic.
It is impossible to say more without spoiling the story, I will just say that is, by far, one of the best short stories I have read this year. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 08 2015 Finished: Oct 08 2015
Sleep Walking Now and Then
by Richard Bowes
My review: Sleep Walking Now and Then, is a weird, futuristic novelette set in a New York City of huge income inequality. It is turned into a big entertainment center, full of shows and plays, to the point of being now called "the big arena". The story is centered around an interactive theater production about the mysterious history of an old posh hotel that was theater of death in "the past".
(★★★)
Started: Oct 03 2015 Finished: Oct 03 2015
The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)
by Liu Cixin (2015)
My review: I loved the first book of the trilogy (The Three Body problem), but this second book surpasses it by far. It is one of the most breathtaking sci-fi books I've read in a while. It is deep, and it is action packed. You are often left reflecting on the nature of man and of human society, or churning thrilling pages that leave you breathless. This book is surely in line for next year Hugo awards!
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion four centuries in the future. The aliens' human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.
This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead. (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 27 2015
The Tallest Doll in New York City
by Maria Dahvana Headley (2014)
My review: It's Valentine's Day, 1938, and the Chrysler Building's tired of waiting on the corner of Forty-second and Lex for a certain edifice to notice her. Here's the story of what might happen if two of New York's greatest creations met on a day built for romance. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Acrobatic Duality
by Tamara Vardomskaya (2015)
My review: At the pinnacle of this demanding sport, artistry and balance is found in two moving as one. Is this way the main character was split into two, to be the world's best pair of acrobats? They do not know how this happened, who was behind it, and they do not dare to reveal to the world that their athletic brilliance has come at the price of their very identities. (★★)
Started: Sep 13 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Hill 142
by Jason Cordova (2015)
My review: Seriously?
This is a single, small battle during a War that sees German and American facing each other (is it a World War?). But here is the twist: the Germans rides giant, venomous spiders as cavalry mounts, and the Americans rides giant lions instead. It may sound awesome, but... it is not. There is no explanation of why or how, other than a reference to a breeding program for the lions in Texas. Also, there is no explanation of what triggered the war, and why people are fighting to death. There seem to be no point whatsoever in this disappointing story. (★)
Started: Sep 14 2015 Finished: Sep 14 2015
Adult Children of Alien Beings
by Dennis Danvers
My review: Adult Children of Alien Beings by Dennis Danvers is a science fiction novelette, even if sci-fi element seems to be more a narrative expedient, or a delusion of the main character. The story is very original, adroitly written, and it is often funny, and touching.
This is the story of the emotional journey of a man seeking the truth about his parents, who were always rather odd, and his own heritage.
(★★★)
Started: Sep 10 2015 Finished: Sep 11 2015
The Human Engineer
by Jessica Brody (2015)
My review: Ever since Diotech Corporation released the first artificial womb, a safe and convenient new way to birth human babies, controversy for the cutting-edge product has risen as swiftly as the demand. For Rickar Hallix, however, the biomedical engineer who invented the womb, life has become steadily worse. When Rickar stumbles upon a possible defect in the latest batch of product, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of the endless, cut-throat battle between corporate greed and the security of human life.
I will not spoil the story, but I found the ending interesting and clever (and I seem to be the only one to think so, based on the other goodreads review). It suggests that love give us meaning and strength, even after it is lost and only pain is left behind. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2015 Finished: Sep 07 2015
Second Foundation (Foundation #3)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous books, the third (and originally the last) installment of the series is a collection multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies. In the second story, the fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret.
Asimov was well known for his lack of interesting, well rounded, female character. That was quite common (unfortunately) at the time, and the author recognized his limitation and attributed it to his lack of success with women at the time. After many quite unremarkable female side characters, Second Foundation's Arcadia is a groundbreaking and welcomed change: she is captivating, smart, and well-rounded. She is definitely in control of her life, and in the center stage. She is probably one of the most interesting of Asimov's characters. It does not come as a surprise that, of all the Foundation's stories, this is often the favorite one. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 30 2015
That Seriously Obnoxious Time I Was Stuck at Witch Rimelda's One Hundredth Birthday Party
by Tina Connolly (2015)
My review: I usually do not like to read short stories set in the universe of a longer book series without having read the book series before. This was an interesting exception. Silly, yet extremely entertaining urban fantasy novelette, set in a world with real witches. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 27 2015 Finished: Aug 27 2015
Flight of the Kikayon: A Sci-fi Novelette
by Kary English
My review: This is the story of Lydia, a woman that sacrifice her career to her marriage. Her affluent and successful husband physically abuses her, but it is very hard to escape her tragic predicament. Eventually, after accumulating five million credits in her pocket and after hiding her nanny-clone to take her place, she is ready to finally tries to run away. Unfortunately Lydia's plans did not account for the unplanned illegal sport-fishing expedition that her husband force on her.
Another interesting story by Kary English, a promising new author in the sci-fi field. While the story in entertaining, and the story telling is remarkably good, it is short in the character building. The story has so much potential and could be extremely remarkable if more attention was given to the psychological turmoils of the Lydia, that does not seem to be deeply affected by her husband abuse. Similarly the relationship with her nanny / clone / surrogate / daughter that has such a central role in the plot, does not really feel real. I am left with the bitter realization that this story could have been a little masterpiece if more attention was paid to the feelings and emotions of the main characters. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Totaled
by Kary English
My review: Totaled is a short tale about the experiences of a scientist waking up in a her lab after an horrific car accident. She is reduced to a full-brain tissue sample for use in experiments on neural maps, and find herself helping her former colleagues achieving what was her ambitious goal.
This is one of the few stories in the puppy slate that would have possibly deserved a Hugo. The plot mixes seen before tropes, in a novel and original way. The biggest limitation of the story is the lack of desperation of the main character. I cannot believe she could so calmly work without constantly worrying about her kids that she left behind, or despair about her upcoming death.
This said, Kary English is a great story teller, and I am interested in reading more of her future work. (★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
by Gray Rinehart (2014)
My review: This is the story of a human colony on a planet called Alluvium which was forced into second-class citizenship upon the arrival of another intelligent species. After a series of failed rebellions, one man, dying of cancer, attempts a kind of passive aggressive rebellion by having himself buried upon his death, a deep ritual affront to the dominant alien culture. Entertaining, but the plot is a little thin and hard to buy. (★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Departure Gate 34B
by Kary English (2015)
My review: An interesting short story dealing with love, loss, and death, and the struggle to let it go. While the plot is not completely original, the writing is quite good, and the author has great potential. I am saddened that the author end up crashed between the war between the puppies and the rest of the fandom. I really hope to see more of her. (★★★)
Finished: Aug 26 2015
Amicae Aeternum
by Ellen Klages (2015)
My review: This short novella is the story of Corry, a young girl that is soon to leave her life, her friends, and her home planet (Earth) behind as a part of a generation starship expedition to colonize new planets.
(★★★)
Started: Aug 26 2015 Finished: Aug 26 2015
Championship B'tok
by Edward M. Lerner
My review: This short story was nominated to the 2015 Hugo awards thanks to the controversial puppy slate. Because of its inclusion in the slate, that features a lot of mediocre books, I had very low expectations. I was surprisingly pleased by the book to the point that I would read the other short stories set in the same world. The only disappointing part is that it reads like a chapter of a biggest saga, and it is hard to enjoy it as a stand alone novella. This said, I am glad to see that there is not only rubbish in the puppy slate!
Silly tail comment: I know that we should not judge a book by its cover, but... this is possibly the least enticing book cover I have ever seen. (★★★)
Started: Aug 20 2015 Finished: Aug 21 2015
Agent to the Stars
by John Scalzi (2005)
My review: This is the first book ever written by one of my favorite (and my most read) author, John Scalzi. I was curious to see if it was as good as later books, and if the writing style changed. Answers: yes to both.
This is a very hilarious sci-fi book. It is quite different from the military sci-fi of Old Man War: this reads more like the script of a comedy than of a usual sci-fi novel.
This is the story of the space-faring Yherajk coming to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They are hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 02 2015 Finished: Aug 07 2015
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2015
by Seanan McGuire (2015)
My review: Lightspeed is a very well-known science fiction and fantasy magazine. Even in science fiction, supposedly the genre of limitless possibility, where everyone is invited to the adventure, minorities are often underrepresented. Last year Lightspeed started the "destroy science fiction" series, a yearly program focusing on underrepresented minorities to give them a voice, and to see what they have to offer and to contribute to the genre. In 2014 they focused on sci-fi and women. This year (2015) they focused on queer authors and themes. Next year they will focus on people of color. While sci-fi is considered by many the more open of the literary genres, heterosexual, heteroromantic, and cisgendered are considered the default, to the extent that everything else is "deviation," and must be eyed with suspicion. But all science fiction is real science fiction. Science fiction is vast, and incredible fascinating in all its facets. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people, and queer people, no matter how they identify [Gay, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, asexual, pansexual, intersex, transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer.. anyone who fits within the QUILTBAG], are a big part of that. They always have been. They are just sometimes harder to see. So, in the interests of visibility and breaking stuff, Queers Destroy Science Fiction! will show you just how wide the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity can really be. This special all-queer issue features original science fiction short stories from many award winning authors includin John Chu, Kate M. Galey, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Chaz Brenchley, Felicia Davin, Rose Lemberg, Jessica Yang, K.M. Szpara, Amal El-Mohtar, Tim Susman, and Susan Jane Bigelow. The issue also include an interesting assortment of author and artist spotlights, interviews, nonfiction features, plus more than twenty personal essays from writers about their experiences being queer reading and writing science fiction.
A very interesting read, looking forward reading the next "destroy" issue. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 23 2015 Finished: Aug 02 2015
The End of the End of Everything
by Dale Bailey (2014)
My review: An interesting apocalyptic novella, describing a humanity falling to decadence as it waits for the end to arrive. This is the story of a long-married couple invited by an old friend to an exclusive artist's colony. The inhabitants of the colony indulge in suicide parties as the world teeters on the brink of extinction, worn away by some weird entropy. (★★★)
Started: Jul 13 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
The Dark Between the Stars
by Kevin J. Anderson (2014)
My review: While the book is entertaining I was a little disappointed by it. Probably my expectations were set too high (The Dark Between the Stars is one of the finalist for the 2015 Hugo awards), but there is nothing to set this book apart from millions of other sci-fi books. This book is the sequel of the The Saga of Seven Suns. I have not read that trilogy, and I was left with the impression I would have enjoyed this book more if I had.
More reviews of more 2015 Hugo awards nominees here on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jul 13 2015
To Stand or Fall (The End of All Things, #4)
by John Scalzi
My review: In this perfectly crafted chapter, we are back on Earth, to witness the beginning and end of all things. The nations of humanity's home planet have parted ways with the starfaring Colonial Union, the human interstellar empire originally established to keep the home planet free. The Union needs to regain Earth's trust. The alien races of the Conclave have their own hard choices to face. All of these threads culminate in this fourth part of the full-length novel, The End of All Things, John Scalzi's conclusion to the latest story set in the Old Man's War universe. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2015 Finished: Jul 01 2015
Can Long Endure (The End of All Things, #3)
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the third installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The story progresses, and it is now being told from a third distinct point of view: the one of the Colonial Union soldiers: they signed up to defend humans from hostile aliens, but this group finds themselves, instead, repeatedly sent to squelch rebellious human colonies that want to leave the CU. It's not a sustainable situation. Something has to give. Things seems to be building up for a big explosive finale. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 28 2015 Finished: Jun 28 2015
This Hollow Union: The End of All Things
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: This is the second installment of the serialization of The End of all Things, the latest book set in the Old Man War universe.
The point of view now move to the Conclave and to its leadership, facing desperate times that call for desperate measures. Faced with the prospect of major planets and species leaving the alliance, the Conclave's leadership has just a few cards left to play, to unpredictable effect. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 19 2015 Finished: Jun 19 2015
The Life of the Mind: The End of All Things
by John Scalzi (2015)
My review: I was very eager to get back to the world of Old man war, and I was not disappointed. This 6th book of the saga is being serialized like the previous one, but this time each installment is more self contained and chunkier, resulting in a vastly superior reading experience.
The life of the mind is the story of a down-on-his-luck Colonial Union starship pilot that finds himself pressed into serving a harsh master-in a mission against the Colonial Union. But his kidnappers may have underestimated his knowledge of the ship that they have, quite literally, bound him to piloting. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2015 Finished: Jun 14 2015
Ambiguity Machines: An Examination
by Vandana Singh (2015)
My review: Three very strange, bizarre, yet somehow powerfully magical short stories packed together in a fictional engineering exam that explores new concepts in machine design and function. (★★★)
Started: May 17 2015 Finished: May 17 2015
Useless Wings (Tin Star, #0.5)
by Cecil Castellucci (2015)
My review: I am usually wary of prequels and short stories set in the world of a bigger book series, because they often fail to deliver. This is a surprising exception. I have not red the Tin Star series, but after reading this novelette I might.
This is the story of Heckleck, a Hort alien, raised to understand that breeding and propagating his own kind is the sole reason for living. When he is called upon to settle on a new planet, he meets the daughter of a politician, Goglu, with whom he falls helplessly in love, and is determined to win over. But nothing is easy in love and space exploration. (★★★)
Started: May 16 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)
by Liu Cixin (2014)
My review: I was quite excited to read a book of China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. I was even more excited to read it translated by a Hugo/Nebula winner author, Ken Liu.
The book starts during China's Cultural Revolution, and today's China. The sci-fi component of the plot emerges quite slowly, the first part of the book focuses on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the terrifying experience of Ye Wenjie through it. That was, to me, the most interesting and powerful part of the entire book. After reading it my expectations were so high, that the rest of the book (while still good) was a little bit disappointing.
As the book progresses, it switches to full sci-fi mode and moves away from historical towards purely fictional. It is an interesting story, that deals with the effects on human and alien societies after their first contact.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 16 2015
And the Burned Moths Remain
by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (2015)
My review: I liked the story (even if it borrows many of Lekie's Ancillary Justice themes, and explore them in a less remarkable way). I was saddened to read it was written by "require hate", famous for her highly reprehensible conduct, and extreme cyber-bullying. You can learn more about it in Laura Mixon's expose here: http://goo.gl/FtyGLx (★★★)
Started: May 15 2015 Finished: May 15 2015
Damage
by David D. Levine (2015)
My review: As in Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series, the protagonist is the artificial intelligence controlling a warspacecraft. In this case the AI finds itself struggling between its programming imperatives and its morals. The struggle is very successfully portrayed. Levine is a promising author I will keep an eye on. (★★★★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Schrödinger's Gun
by Ray Wood (2015)
My review: Of all the crime scenes in all the timelines in all the multiverse, Detective O'Harren walks into the basement on West 21st. In every possible universe, Johnny Rivers is dead. But the questions that need answering, who killed him and why, are still a matter of uncertainty. (★)
Started: May 03 2015 Finished: May 03 2015
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
As for the previous book, the second installment of the series is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries.
Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire, still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon. But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule, [spoilers removed] (★★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 23 2015
Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014
by John Joseph Adams (2014)
My review: An interesting fantastic novel set in current times. One day the world turned upside down that is to say the gravity makes people fall towards the sky. Nobody knows why it happened. Some wondered whether it was their fault. Whether they had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether they had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that, the world simply turned upside down. (★★★)
Started: Apr 18 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
Foundation (Foundation #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2004)
My review: In 1966 a one-time Hugo awards for the best all time series was given to Isaac Asimov for the Foundation saga. It is well deserved. I read this book as a kid, and I remember enjoying it, but reading it now as an adult I came to appreciate the breath of his work, how daring it is, in creating this fictional future history, modeled after historical pattern of the past.
The story starts with Hari Seldon, a scientist that spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30 thousand years before a second great empire arises. Seldon also foresees an alternative where the interregnum will last only one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome, Seldon creates a foundation of talented artisans and engineers at the extreme end of the galaxy, to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for a new galactic empire.
The book is a collection of multiple short stories, each set decades apart from each other, each connected to the previous one to tell the history of the "foundation" over the centuries. (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 13 2015 Finished: Apr 18 2015
The Martian
by Andy Weir (2014)
My review: This is the story of astronaut Mark Watney, one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars, and the first one to get stranded there. It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he is stuck millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive. And even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills, and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
One of the most entertaining, fun, impossible to put down, scientifically accurate, book I read in a long while. I strongly recommend it to everybody. (★★★★★)
Started: Feb 16 2015 Finished: Feb 19 2015
The Female Man
by Joanna Russ (1997)
My review: The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other's worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other's preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
This book is novel in both the themes that it explores, and in the writing style and structure. It is of historical significance as one of the most successful example of feminist science fiction, challenging the sexist views of the 70s. It is also a remarkable literary achievement, that not only breaks many of the preexisting notions of gender roles, but also common narrative tropes. The chronological order is broken, each chapter is set in a different time and place. The narrative switches from third to first person during the book, to even feature (quite effectively) stream-of-consciousness at some point. While this departure from the stylistic tropes makes the book harder to read at times, it also effectively and powerfully help deliver some of the messages of the book. For example the change of narrative prospective from third to first person highlights the awakening of Jannine Dadier, from the woman living in a repressive and sexist great depression world, desperate to show that her life has a meaning finding a man to marry, to the woman ready to take action to break the gender roles of her world.
I strongly encourage everybody to read this book, for its historical and literary significance, despite some transphobic themes that appear in one of the latest chapter and that really mar and stain what would have been otherwise a perfect masterpiece. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 29 2015 Finished: Feb 15 2015
She Commands Me and I Obey (Imperial Radch #0.6)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
Publisher review: A short story set in the world of Ancillary Justice, published by Strange Horizons as part of their annual funding drive.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 12 2015
Rama Revealed (Rama, #4)
by Arthur C. Clarke
My review: I'm at a loss on how to review this book. I loved the original Clark's Rama book. I was deeply disappointed (and disgusted) by the two sequels books that followed it. I strongly suspect Clarke had very little to do with the first two sequel books beside putting his name on the cover. I found those two books sexist, and I disliked the attempts to distort Science findings to give them a spiritual interpretation. I continued to read the series because I do not like to not finish something I have started.
This last book was an uttermost surprise to me. While it has all the bad elements of book 2 and 3, while its structure is a little episodic, I had a very hard time to put it down. The weird characters of the previous books have grown on me, I became quite fond of them, and emotionally attached to this crazy bizarre set of characters. I was deeply moved by their lives, their sacrifices, and (for some of them) by their death.
I do not think I ever had such an emotional response to a book ending in my entire life, so even if the book is real rubbish for so many reasons, I must give the book 5 full stars. It was worth reading through the previous horrible books and endure that sexist manure just to experience it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 04 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
As Good as New
by Charlie Jane Anders (2014)
My review: From the author of the Hugo-winning Six Months, Three Days, a new wrinkle on the old story of three wishes, set after the end of the world.
The main character struggles to think of three wishes to save the world, without accidentally causing another apocalypse by not wording everything properly: wishes are tricky things, and rarely work out the way people think. (★★)
Started: Jan 11 2015 Finished: Jan 11 2015
Hero of the Five Points
by Alan Gratz (2014)
My review:
"The Hero of the Five Points" is a short adventure set in 1853 in the world of the League of Seven fantasy series. I usually stay away from "short story set in the world of" novels, they tend to be quite bad. I am happy to have read this one though, it was entertaining and fun. It is the story of Dalton Dent as he tracks down the foul creature known as Mose. (★★★)
Started: Dec 31 2014 Finished: Jan 01 2015
Where the Trains Turn
by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (2014)
My review: “Where the Trains Turn” is the well deserving winner of the Finnish science-fiction magazine Portti’s annual short story competition and of the Atorox Award for best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story.
The main character of the story, Emma Nightingale, prefers to remain grounded in reality as much as possible. Yet she’s willing to indulge her nine year-old son Rupert’s fascination with trains, as it brings him closer to his father, Gunnar, from whom she is separated. Once a month, Gunnar and Rupert venture out to follow the rails and watch the trains pass. Their trips have been pleasant, if uneventful, until one afternoon Rupert returns in tears. "The train tried to kill us" he tells her. Rupert’s terror strikes Emma as merely the product of an overactive imagination. After all, his fears could not be based in reality, could they? (★★★★)
Started: Jan 01 2015 Finished: Jan 01 2015
The Garden of Rama (Rama, #3)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1993)
My review: I cannot say I was disappointed: I was expecting a book as bad as Rama 2, and I got it. I loved Rendezvous with Rama and I was excited to discover that there were sequels. Unfortunately the so called "sequels" were co-written by a second author, Gentry Lee, and there is nothing of the original story on those sequels.
Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this did shows in the first book of the Rama series: the focus was on the science part of science fiction, and the plot was plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. The first book read like an entertaining science article, were strange phenomena were explained using physics.
The sequels are nothing like the original Rama book. While the first book read like a explorer journal, able to fill the reader with wonder and awe, the second and third books read like the screenplay of a cheap and trashy reality TV series.
There are many aspects of the plot that make me think that Clarke had absolutely no role in the writing of this book. (★)
Started: Dec 18 2014 Finished: Dec 25 2014
I, Cthulhu, or, What’s a Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing in a Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)?
by Neil Gaiman (2009)
My review: Interesting short story, set in Lovecraft's universe, but full of humor. This is the story of Cthulhu, written from his point of view, with never heard before details regarding his birth and childhood. (★★)
Started: Dec 25 2014 Finished: Dec 25 2014
Pump Six and Other Stories
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2008)
My review: Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of his science fiction short stories: social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of his work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best Paolo's work, including the Hugo nominee Yellow Card Man, the nebula and Hugo nominated story The People of Sand and Slag, and the Sturgeon Award-winning story The Calorie Man. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 18 2014
Night's Slow Poison (Imperial Radch #0.5)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
Publisher review: “Night’s Slow Poison” is from the same setting as Ancillary Justice, and tells a rich, claustrophobic story of a galactic voyage that forces one guardsmen to confront his uneasy family history through the lens of a passenger with his lost lover’s eyes.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Nov 17 2014 Finished: Dec 14 2014
Strongest Conjuration
by Skyler White (2014)
My review: I did not realize this was intended to be a tie-in short story / sequel until I was in the middle of it. It may be a good story to read if you have read the previous books of the Incrementalists series, but it is very difficult to follow and to appreciate as a stand-alone story. (★)
Started: Dec 09 2014 Finished: Dec 13 2014
The Golden Apple of Shangri-La
by David Barnett (2014)
My review: I realized too late that this was a prequel to Gideon Smith's steampunk "Rowena Fanshawe" novels. As it is often the case, those books are hard to enjoy as stand-alone stories.
This is the story of Rowena and her attempt to save Shandri-La, the land of eternal youth, and its inhabitant. She will discover that heroes do not necessarily always behave with honor. (★★)
Started: Dec 05 2014 Finished: Dec 05 2014
Midway Relics and Dying Breeds
by Seanan McGuire (2014)
My review: This is a surprisingly entertaining short story set in a post fossil fuel future, following one of the last remaining circuses. The main character build a strong bond with a un-extinct bio-enginered mastodontic mammal, Billie. They both do not fit in easily in the world they live in. (★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 05 2014
This Chance Planet
by Elizabeth Bear (2014)
My review: This is a story of a dog and a waitress dating an handsome but selfish artist. I know, it sounds horrible and uninteresting, but it is surprisingly a remarkably good story. I do not want to spoil it, so I won't say more, but give it a try, it's good. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 03 2014 Finished: Dec 03 2014
Woman on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy
Publisher review: Connie Ramos, a woman in her mid-thirties, has been declared insane. But Connie is overwhelmingly sane, merely tuned to the future, and able to communicate with the year 2137. As her doctors persuade her to agree to an operation, Connie struggles to force herself to listen to the future and its lessons for today....
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 25 2014 Finished: Dec 03 2014
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)
by Ann Leckie (2014)
My review: The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go -- to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn's sister works in Horticulture. Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized, or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears.
The second installment of the Imperial Radch series touches and develops many of the themes of the first. Particular focus is given to the ills of imperialism and how its promise of equality is hollow because some citizens are more equals than others.
I wrote more about this and the other Hugo awards nominees for best novel on my blog here: http://goo.gl/Nz5HgV (★★★★)
Started: Nov 02 2014 Finished: Nov 19 2014
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)
by Ann Leckie (2013)
My review: On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren, a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
What I found particularly interesting in this book was its interesting treatment of gender. We are told that the Radch language (and society) does not distinguish between genders, as a result the gender of every character is undetermined. This prevent readers from applying gender biases and stereotypes to the characters, leaving them often confused, and making them realize how strongly gender influences the way we judge and perceive other people.
Learn more in my blog post. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 13 2014 Finished: Oct 27 2014
Robots and Empire (Robot #4)
by Isaac Asimov (1996)
Publisher review: Long after his humiliating defeat at the hands of Earthman Elijah Baley, Keldon Amadiro embarked on a plan to destroy planet Earth. But even after his death, Baley's vision continued to guide his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, who had the wisdom of a great man behind him and an indestructable will to win....
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Oct 05 2014 Finished: Oct 13 2014
Faster Gun
by Elizabeth Bear (2012)
My review: A sci-fi western time travel novellette, centered around a spacecraft crashed on Earth, just outside Tombstone, with something alive inside. I am not a fan of the Western genre, and probably because of it the story did not work for me. (★★)
Started: Oct 01 2014 Finished: Oct 02 2014
Midworld
by Alan Dean Foster (2012)
My review: I enjoyed the story, that is fast paced and entertaining. I enjoyed the fantasy world that the author created, the original symbiotic relationship of the various species, and the everything but subtle social commentary of the role of humans in the destruction of our planet. This is definitely not a character driven story, because its characters are as dull and flat as they can get. Despite this, it is quite an enjoyable book. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 28 2014 Finished: Oct 01 2014
Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller
by Joanne Harris (2014)
My review: What's not to like? A talented author, one of my favorite ones, writing about one of my (and her) favorite fictional character. The result is a treat: an entertaining novella with a touching plot and full of nostalgic love for the character has loved for so many years. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 27 2014 Finished: Sep 28 2014
Our Human
by Adam-Troy Castro (2012)
My review: On a savage backwater world, the last ragged survivors of an expedition to hunt down the infamous war criminal known as The Beast Magrison set off into an inhospitable wilderness in search of the alien village that may be sheltering this beast. The hunters are aliens from two different species, the village is inhabited by strange aliens of yet another species, and Magrison himself is no sterling advertisement for humanity. Who’s human in this situation? The answer may surprise and upset you. (★★)
Started: Sep 21 2014 Finished: Sep 21 2014
Son (The Giver, #4)
by Lois Lowry (2012)
Publisher review: They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Sep 14 2014 Finished: Sep 18 2014
Am I Free To Go?
by Kathryn Cramer (2012)
Publisher review: The line between utopia and dystopia ... is, often, who you are. Or who your neighbors think you are.
My rating: ★★
Started: Sep 12 2014 Finished: Sep 14 2014
About Fairies
by Pat Murphy (2012)
My review: What if one day you woke up with a new imaginary friend, following around. What if, that imaginary friends turns out to not be that imaginary after all, but a visitor from far away? (★★★)
Started: Sep 14 2014 Finished: Sep 14 2014
The Finite Canvas
by Brit Mandelo (2012)
Publisher review: We are marked by what we have been. And erasing either of those can have unpredictable consequences...
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Sep 08 2014 Finished: Sep 09 2014
The Ghosts of Christmas
by Paul Cornell (2012)
My review: A remarkable sci-fi novella, loosely inspired by Dicken's christmas carol. The title of the novel gave me pause at first, I was not in the mood for a fairy tale, but this short story turned out to be one of the best tor.com short stories I have read so far. The main character is a scientist that just discovered how to see her own future and past, but soon realize the truth of Heisenberg's principle and how her observation has already affected her past life, and how it will shape her future. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 07 2014 Finished: Sep 07 2014
A Tall Tail
by Charles Stross (2012)
My review: Charles Stross (the author) attends a conference along with many other science fiction writers and cold war engineers: the idea was to put all these minds together in the hope that some interesting conversations may lead to novel ideas. Allegedly this little tale is one of the resulting conversations. The result is an enjoyable short story of international politics and rocket science. (★★★)
Started: Aug 31 2014 Finished: Sep 01 2014
Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet, #2)
by Lois Lowry (2012)
Publisher review: Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever. As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Aug 24 2014 Finished: Aug 27 2014
The Giver (The Giver, #1)
by Lois Lowry (1993)
My review: This book is impossible to put down once you start it. It is also relatively short, so you will probably end up reading it in a single sitting. While entertaining, I do not understand why it is ailed as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. It is fun, the story is interesting, but it does not really offer anything that was not written before by other authors.
It is the story of twelve-year-old Jonas, a boy living in a seemingly ideal world. In this world everybody is given his life assignment (i.e. a job for life). He is picked to be the next Receiver, the receiver of all the memories so that he alone can carry their burden. Jonas suddenly realizes that his world is far from perfect, and he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
Dormanna (The Palencar Project, #2)
by Gene Wolfe (2012)
My review: Dormanna is the story of a little kid that woke up one night with a new "imaginary friend" that turns out to not be imaginary, but not of this world either. (★★)
Started: Aug 23 2014 Finished: Aug 23 2014
The Traitor (Divergent, #0.4)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: This book describes the events taking place shortly after the famous knife throwing scene as seen from Tobias point of view. In this short story Four uncovers the details of an Erudite plan that could threaten the faction system, while getting to know and falling in love with Tris. I would recommend this only to divergent fans that are eager to re-live moment of the story they loved, even if this book does not add much to the saga. My in depth reviews of the divergent saga books here: http://goo.gl/kaszXT . (★★★)
Started: Aug 21 2014 Finished: Aug 21 2014
Equoid (Laundry Files, #2.9)
by Charles Stross (2013)
My review: Another charming novel set in the geeky insane "laundry" world. It's the longest non-novel-length Laundry story so far. And it explains (among other things) precisely what H. P. Lovecraft saw behind the wood-shed when he was 14 that traumatized him for life, the reproductive life-cycle of unicorns, and what really happened on Cold Comfort Farm. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 20 2014
The Lady Astronaut of Mars
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2014)
My review: I read this novelette shortly after it was announced that it won the 2014 Hugo award. I had really high expectations, and, because of it, I was expecting to be disappointed. This turned out to be one of the best novelette I have ever read in my life. In just 32 pages it creates such well rounded, real characters, that you can't avoid to relate with. The main character, Elma, is a senior astronaut dreaming to fly again between the stars. One day an opportunity opens up, and she can fulfill her dream. The only problem is, she'll be gone for three years, and her husband has less than a year to live.
This is an adroitly crafted, powerfully moving short story, that manages to touch complex themes like aging, disabilities, and the difficult balance between the pursuit of our own dreams and family, with extreme honesty, respect, and sensibility.
I strongly recommend it to everybody, not only to sci-fi fans. (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 17 2014 Finished: Aug 17 2014
Beauty Belongs to the Flowers
by Matthew Sanborn Smith
My review: This short novel is set in Japan in the future, in a world where nanotechnology is extensively used for everything, from food processing, to plastic surgery. The main character, Miho, is faced with the sudden illness of her father, the prospect of poverty, and her boyfriend leaving her for robot. While the story has many interesting elements and poetic moments, the ending (do not worry, no spoilers here) really left me puzzled and a little disturbed. It is not just unexpected, but it really does not seem to have any functional value in the story. (★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Hello, Moto
by Nnedi Okorafor (2011)
My review: An interesting fictional portrait of Nigeria, where science, magic, and African history and culture are mixed together effectively. I just wish the ending was less open. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel
by Yoon Ha Lee (2011)
My review: Interesting short novel, a collection of very brief portraits of different alien civilizations. The author describes what drives them, what are their dream, in a very poetic and allegoric way. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
A Clean Sweep With All the Trimmings
by James Alan Gardner (2011)
My review: This is a Damon Runyon-esque tale of courteous guys, bulletproof dolls, and the fedora-clad spacemen that bring them together. The story was written by the author as a tribute to Damon Runyon, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of its death. It tries to use Runyon's delightful, distinctive prose style and the post-Prohibition New York atmosphere in a sci-fi setting. (★★★)
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Shtetl Days
by Harry Turtledove (2011)
My review: An intriguing "alternative history" short novel, set in a world where Hitler won the second world war. It is a moving story of survival of "Jews" in a world where every single one of them has been killed.
It is the story of two professional actors, Veit Harlan and his wife Kristi, two happy citizens of the prosperous, triumphant Reich. It's been over a century since the War of Retribution cleaned up Europe, long enough that now curious tourists flock to the painstakingly recreated "village" of Wawolnice, whee, along with dozens of colleagues, Veit and Kristi re-enact the daily life of the long-exterminated but still frightening "Jews". Veit and Kristi are true professionals, proud of their craft. They've learned all there is to know about this vanished way of life. They know the dead languages, the turns of phrase, the prayers, the manners, the food. But now they're beginning to learn what happens when you immerse yourself long enough in something real... (★★★★★)
Started: Aug 08 2014 Finished: Aug 08 2014
Six Months, Three Days
by Charlie Jane Anders (2011)
Publisher review: Doug and Judy have both had a secret power all their life. Judy can see every possible future, branching out from each moment like infinite trees. Doug can also see the future, but for him, it's a single, locked-in, inexorable sequence of foreordained events. They can't both be right, but over and over again, they are. Obviously these are the last two people in the world who should date. So, naturally, they do.
My rating: ★★
Started: Aug 06 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
The Dala Horse
by Michael Swanwick (2011)
My review: While some of the plot elements were interesting, the story was not so great. The story is set long after wars that almost destroyed the planet. The wars are over, but many things are left behind from it...things more than human. And they have scores to settle with one another. (★★)
Started: Aug 07 2014 Finished: Aug 07 2014
Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline (2011)
My review: The book is set in a future where the masses are poor, living on stacked trailers, escaping reality inside OASIS, a virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. The main character, Wade, dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world: somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune, and remarkable power, to whoever can unlock them.
The book is a perfect mix: a great plot, a compelling fast paced story-telling, a lot of (geeky) references to the 70s/80s that bring out memories from my childhood (similarly to Jo Walton's Among Others). It is impossible to put down, it never slows down, entrapping the reader in its spell. You find yourself reading late at night, missing the bus stop on your way to work, counting down the pages till the end saddened that the book is going to finish too soon. (★★★★★)
Started: Jul 27 2014 Finished: Aug 06 2014
Rama II (Rama, #2)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1996)
My review: What a disappointment! I loved Rendezvous with Rama and I was excited to discover that there was a sequel. I should have noticed that the so called "sequel" was co-written by a second author, Gentry Lee, and I should have lowered my expectations accordingly.
Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this did shows in the first book of the Rama series: the focus was on the science part of science fiction, and the plot was plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. The first book read like an entertaining science article, were strange phenomena were explained using physics.
This second book is nothing like the first one. While the first book read like a explorer journal, able to fill the reader with wonder and awe, the second book reads like the screenplay of a cheap and trashy reality TV series. The focus is not on science, but on the petty murderous schemes of some of the characters to achieve fame and to get rich.
There are many aspects of the plot that make me think that Clarke had absolutely no role in the writing of this book. The departure from scientific realism and the unsuccessful switch towards a character driven story, the presence of some mild misogynist, racist, and homophobic passages, the focus on Catholic inspired spirituality are very typical of Gentry Lee writings, but find no place in Clarke books (he was quite vocal in his distaste for organized religion, he prided himself for the focus on science in his writings, he was gay, and his "only perfect friend of a lifetime" was SriLankan). I am quite surprised that he agreed to put his name in such a distasteful, poorly written book that stains his legacy.
My recommendation: avoid this book at all costs. (★)
Started: Jul 20 2014 Finished: Jul 27 2014
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome
by John Scalzi
Publisher review: In the near future--and sooner than you think--a new virus will sweep the globe. At first it will look like the flu, but then we will discover there is something else about it...something we weren't expecting. It will change society forever. No, this isn't another zombie virus. And no, this isn't the apocalypse. It's Haden's syndrome. We'll survive it. But the world will be remade in its image. ''Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome'' is a novella that will take you through the heart of this terrifying disease, from its unusual and ironic origin to the frantic response of doctors, scientists and governments. You will see the ''moon shot'' response to free the people locked in thrall to the disease. And you experience the emerging society that those with the disease build for themselves--and for the rest of us. A companion piece to John Scalzi's novel ''Lock In,'' ''Unlocked'' is an unexpected take on a frighteningly possible future.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Jul 27 2014 Finished: Jul 27 2014
The Son (Divergent, #0.3)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: Another prequel to the divergent series, that should be read after divergent to avoid spoilers. "The son" is set shortly after the end of "the initiate" and follows Tobias as he struggles to find a place in the hierarchy of the Dauntless.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★)
Started: Jul 20 2014 Finished: Jul 20 2014
The President's Brain is Missing
by John Scalzi (2011)
My review: I am a fan of John Scalzi. His books are witty, entertaining, and fun to read. This said this is not one of his best stories. Do not get me wrong, the book is fun and it has an interesting conclusion, but it is not emotionally steering or epic as many of his other stories.
The novella is the story of a Presidential brain that vanishes on thin air, without any visible change in the commander in chief.
Despite the title seems to suggest a political commentary intent, the author is quite careful to avoid any political nuance. It's a pity, it would have frankly being interesting. (★★)
Started: Jul 19 2014 Finished: Jul 20 2014
Four: The Initiate (Divergent, #0.2)
by Veronica Roth (2014)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one is set during Four's initiation, how he managed to complete it without losing a single match.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★)
Started: Jul 19 2014 Finished: Jul 19 2014
The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
Publisher review: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko... Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Jun 28 2014 Finished: Jul 19 2014
The Weight of the Sunrise
by Vylar Kaftan (2013)
My review: This alternative history Nebula award winner novella is set in a world where Pizarro did not completely wipe out the Mayan empire and their culture to the point of obliteration. In this world the empire is still standing, under the rule of a Emperor worshiped by his subjects as a living God. The empire is fighting against Scarlet Fever, a disease originated in Europe that disproportionately affects American. It wipes out entire villages, the few survivors are believed to be blessed by the Gods. The hope of a cure comes with an envoy from 13 British colonies in North America that are trying to free themselves from the rule of the monarchy.
What makes the story remarkable is not the portrait of a long lost culture, the entertaining plot, or the quite believable reconstruction of alternative historical events. What set this novella apart is the honest portrait of our own real history. I won't say more to avoid spoilers.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 16 2014
Trial of the Century
by Lawrence M. Schoen (2013)
My review: I probably did not enjoy the short novella as much as a person that read the previous installments of it would. I liked the focus of psychology, but I really could not get into the dog sized buffalo with an internal fusion reactor pet idea.
For more information about this and other 2013 nebula finalist, please refer to my blog post here: http://books.zennaro.net/category/hug... (★★★)
Started: Jun 15 2014 Finished: Jun 15 2014
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere
by John Chu (2013)
My review: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere is a clever and touching coming out story of Matt, a talented Chinese American biotech engineer, with an interesting fantastic twist: one day, everywhere on Earth, it starts raining every time somebody lies. The intensity of the rain is correlated with the intensity of the lie. This causes some troubles to Matt. First a torrential rain reveals his love for Guss, the guy that he is dating, when he is trying to deny it. Things gets even more complicated when he decide to take Guss to his family dinner. (★★★★)
Started: Jun 14 2014 Finished: Jun 14 2014
The Last Theorem
by Arthur C. Clarke (2009)
Publisher review: When Ranjit Subramanian, a Sri Lankan with a special gift for numbers, writes a three-page proof of the coveted “Last Theorem,” which French mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed to have discovered (but never recorded) in 1637, Ranjit’s achievement is hailed as a work of genius, bringing him fame and fortune. But it also brings him to the attention of the National Security Agency and a shadowy United Nations outfit called Pax per Fidem–or Peace Through Transparency–whose secretive workings belie its name. Suddenly Ranjit–along with his family–finds himself swept up in world-shaking events, his genius for abstract mathematical thought put to uses that are both concrete and potentially deadly.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: May 24 2014 Finished: May 27 2014
After the Coup (Old Man's War, #4.5)
by John Scalzi (2008)
Publisher review:

In a universe of harsh interstellar conflict, the practice of interspecies diplomacy—when possible—is important. So being a Colonial Union officer attached to an interplanetary diplomatic mission sometimes means taking a fall. Literally.


My rating: ★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 04 2014
Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today (The Human Division, #14)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review:
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 04 2014
The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads (The Human Division, #12)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: United States Diplomat Danielle Lowen was there when one of her fellow diplomats committed an unthinkable act, which had consequences for the entire planet. Now shes trying to figure out how it happened before it can happen again. Putting the puzzle pieces together could solve the mystery or it could threaten her own life.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
A Problem of Proportion (The Human Division, #11)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: A secret backdoor meeting between Ambassador Ode Abumwe and the Conclaves Hafte Sorvalh turns out to be less than secret as both of their ships are attacked. Its a surprise to both teams but its the identity of the attacker that is the real surprise, and suggests a threat to both humanity and The Conclave.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
Earth Below, Sky Above (The Human Division, #13)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: Really? That is the conclusion to the book series?
I loved the human division series, and this last instalment is no exception: it is thrilling, fun, and impossible to put down. This said, while Earth Below, Sky Above does explain where the missing ships went and what the apparent endgame was, we still don't know who's behind the nefarious plot. We are left with a lot of open questions, that hopefully will be answered in the upcoming sequel series. (★★★★)
Started: Apr 03 2014 Finished: Apr 03 2014
This Must Be the Place (The Human Division, #10)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Colonial Union diplomat Hart Schmidt is back home for Harvest Day celebrations to a family whose members wonder whether its youngest son isn't wasting his life clinging to the lowest rung of the CUs diplomatic ladder. When his father, a legendarily powerful politician, presents him with a compelling offer, Schmidt has to take stock of his life and career.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 02 2014
The Observers (The Human Division, #9)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: In an effort to improve relations with the Earth, the Colonial Union has invited a contingent of diplomats from that planet to observe Ambassador Abumwe negotiate a trade deal with an alien species. Then something very bad happens to one of the Earthings, and with that, the relationship between humanitys two factions is on the cusp of disruption once more. Its a race to find out what really happened, and who is to blame.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Apr 01 2014
The Sound of Rebellion (The Human Division, #8)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: The Colonial Defense Forces usually protect humanity from alien attack, but now the stability of the Colonial Union has been threatened, and Lieutenant Heather Lee and her squad are called to squash a rebellion on a colony world. It seems simple enoughbut theres a second act to the rebellion that finds Lee captive, alone, and armed with only her brains to survive.
My rating: ★★★★
Finished: Mar 31 2014
The Lost World
by Michael Crichton (1995)
My review: The liked the sequel of Jurassic park more than the original book. As always, the author spend time to collect information to give some scientific credible foundation to his work, and this make the book much more enjoyable. I found the focus on social behaviour and evolution particularly interesting. What I did not like is the strong hostility of the author towards science. Scientist are described as people that gets a lot of power for free, without doing anything to earn it, inheriting it from our ancestors, and unable to not abuse it. I believe that everything, from Science to Art to Religion, can be abused and misused. I also recognize the incredible contribution of Science to humanity, how it helped feeding the masses, cure diseases, and improving life condition. Science should be encouraged and celebrated, and not disparaged because of the moral shortcomings of those that abuse its gifts. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 22 2014 Finished: Mar 30 2014
The Dog King (The Human Division, #7)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson has one simple task: Watch an ambassador’s dog while the diplomat is conducting sensitive negotiations with an alien race. But you know dogs - always getting into something. And when this dog gets into something that could launch an alien civil war, Wilson has to find a way to solve the conflict, fast, or be the one in the Colonial Union’s doghouse.
My rating: ★★★
Started: Mar 30 2014 Finished: Mar 30 2014
The Back Channel (The Human Division, #6)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: The Conclave is a confederation of four hundred alien racesmany of whom would like to see the Colonial Union, and the humans inside of it, blasted to extinction. To avoid a conflict that neither side can afford, Conclave leader General Tarsem Gau appoints Hafte Sorvalh to resolve an emerging diplomatic crisis with the humans, before the only acceptable solution is war.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 25 2014 Finished: Mar 25 2014
Tales From the Clarke (The Human Division, #5)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Captain Sophia Coloma of the Clarke has a simple task: Ferry around representatives from Earth in an aging spaceship that the Colonial Union hopes to sell to them. But nothing is as simple as it seems, and Coloma discovers the ship she's showing off holds suprises of its own...and it's not the only one with secrets.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 25 2014 Finished: Mar 25 2014
A Voice in the Wilderness (The Human Division, #4)
by John Scalzi (2013)
Publisher review: Albert Birnbaum was once one of the biggest political talk show hosts around, but these days hes watching his career enter a death spiral. A stranger offers a solution to his woes, promising to put him back on top. Its everything Birnbaum wants, but is there a catch? And does Birnbaum actually care if there is?
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 22 2014 Finished: Mar 22 2014
Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)
by Michael Crichton (2006)
My review: There is no doubt that Michael Crichton is an adroit writer, able to produce impossible to put down, thrilling and entertaining books. Jurassic Park is clearly no exception. I also like the fact that the author spend time to collect information to give some scientific credible foundation to his work. I found the anti-GMO intro quite fascinating, especially because it was written long before the general public was even aware of the existence of GMO products.
What I did not like is the strong hostility of the author towards science. Scientist are described as people that gets a lot of power for free, without doing anything to earn it, inheriting it from our ancestors, and unable to not abuse it (just one quote from the book: You know what's wrong with scientific power? It's a form of inherited wealth. And you know what assholes congenitally rich people are.). I believe that everything, from Science to Art to Religion, can be abused and misused. I also recognize the incredible contribution of Science to humanity, how it helped feeding the masses, cure diseases, and improving life condition. Science should be encouraged and celebrated, and not disparaged because of the moral shortcomings of those that abuse its gifts. (★★)
Started: Mar 13 2014 Finished: Mar 22 2014
Walk the Plank (The Human Division, #2)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: This is the second installment of the new John Scalzi's book set in the Old Man's war universe. It reads as a stand alone story, it does not share any character with the previous chapter, but it will be soon tied in with the main plot in the next installment. Walk the plank is the story of a pirate attack survivor landing on a Wildcat colony. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 10 2014 Finished: Mar 10 2014
The B-Team (The Human Division, #1)
by John Scalzi (2013)
My review: Under the pressure of readers' request, John Scalzi adds a new book set in the Old Man's War universe. The story take place after the events described in the previous two books, but it features a completely new set of characters. The format is also different: the author is serializing the story in 13 novellas. This first book is quite intriguing, and it is a very promising beginning. Let's see how the plot develops in the next installments. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 08 2014 Finished: Mar 09 2014
Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene (Divergent, #1.5)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one tell the famous knife throwing story from the point of view of Four, adding more depth to it. Reading it really made me think that the author should have alternated between Four and Tris POV from the very beginning: it would really have improved the storytelling and the quality of the book. While enjoyable, the book is extremely short. Did you really just charged me almost one dollar for a 10 pages long short story? I wish I was told that this 50 pages long eBook was 40% excerpts and only 10% unpublished work.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★)
Started: Mar 07 2014 Finished: Mar 07 2014
Zoe's Tale (Old Man's War, #4)
by John Scalzi (2010)
My review: At the end of The last colony, the author said that that book was going to be the last one of the Old Man's War series. Under the pressure of readers he changed his mind and he later added this new book to it. Zoe's Tale does not read as a sequel, but more like a tribute to the series. It feels like seeing the places of your childhood through the eyes of a grown up... or the exact opposite: the story is the one of the previous book, but it is now told by young Zoe from her point of view. At first I was afraid that writing a second book with the same plot was going to be boring, but few chapters in it became clear it was not going to be the case. The book explores many previously untold events, that adroitly fit in and give more depth to the main story. Moreover, even the already told events reads and feel so differently when lived, seen, and told by Zoe. The Old Man's War universe assume some of the emotional tones of young reader / teen novels, while retaining all its wit and its cleverness. My favorite part of the book is chapter 4, where Zoe summarize her life story in an emotional, extremely moving way. (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 07 2014
The Sagan Diary (Old Man's War, #2.5)
by John Scalzi (2011)
My review: The Old Man's War book series is one of my favorite book series. It does not come as a surprise that some of the book of the series were nominated for the prestigious Hugo Best Novel of the year award.
The Sagan Diary is a short story written for a charity fundraising event. It does not stand on its own, it does not have its plot: it narrates some events of the book series from the point of view of Jane Sagan. As such it should be read only after the first two books, and only by the most ardent fans of John Scalzi's work. (★★★)
Started: Feb 28 2014 Finished: Mar 02 2014
The Transfer (Divergent, #0.1)
by Veronica Roth (2013)
My review: Tobias / Four is by far the most interesting and faceted characters of the divergent series. Even the author realized it: in Allegiant she switched the narrative to Four POV, and she started writing short novelettes focusing on the character. This one is set to Four early years, to his life with an abusive parent, and his choice of leaving his faction behind. This turned out to be an interesting, enjoyable story, that I recommend you to read along with the main books of the series.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Mar 02 2014 Finished: Mar 02 2014
Allegiant (Divergent, #3)
by Veronica Roth (2013)
My review: While reading the book, I felt it did not belong to the same series of the previous two. While the story is the natural development of the plot of Divergent and Insurgent, the narrator suddenly changes in the third book: Allegiant is written from the perspective of both Beatrice/Tris and Tobias/Four. The change deeply modified the storytelling, the style, and the feel of the book: the whole divergent world is not quite the same when seen through a different set of eyes. The whole trilogy would have worked better if the same multi-prospective narrative style was adopted from the very beginning.
Another big change are in the themes, but in this case the change does not feel abrupt, but as a natural evolution and growth of the characters. Divergent explores the adolescent anxiety caused by the painful realization that coming into one's own sometimes means leaving family behind, both ideologically and physically. Divergent shows the pressure of having to choose between following in your parents' footsteps or doing something new. Allegiant shows that those different paths and new different ways can led to the same destination our parents were aiming to.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Feb 21 2014 Finished: Feb 28 2014
Insurgent (Divergent, #2)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Veronica Roth is clearly an adroit writer: she knows how to write addictive, impossible to put down, very enjoyable books. This said, there are a some aspects in the book that make me a little uneasy. In a world divided in "factions", the one devoted to Science and Rationality is often described as the Evil one, ready to take away people's freedom and lives in the name of comfort and wealth. Science and rationality seems to have been the cause of the end of morality and of an apocalyptic disaster. This troubles me deeply, because it reflects a growing anti-scientific attitude that I am observing in society. I hope I am mistaken and that the third book will bring some clarity on the topic.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Feb 08 2014 Finished: Feb 15 2014
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
by Veronica Roth (2012)
My review: Despite the very strange and hard to believe premises, the book is quite entertaining and very hard to put down. Dystopian novel, from Fahrenheit 451 to 1984, often make us reflect about some aspects of modern society. Divergent does not convey such a strong warning yet, but there are hints and suggestions that are probably going to be developed in the following books of this trilogy. There is only one aspect of the book I did not like: in a world divided in "factions", the one devoted to Science and Rationality is described as the Evil one. This troubles me, because it reflects a growing anti-scientific attitude that I am observing in society. I hope I am mistaken.
For my extended review and book series suggested reading order see: http://goo.gl/78SX85 (★★★★)
Started: Jan 25 2014 Finished: Jan 27 2014
1984
by George Orwell (2013)
Publisher review: Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell's nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff's attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell's prescience of modern life--the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language--and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jan 19 2014 Finished: Jan 25 2014
The Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3)
by John Scalzi (2008)
My review: In this third installment of the Old Man's War series, John Perry, his wife Jane, and their adopted daughter Zoe, are at last living quietly in one of humanity's many colonies. John and Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, and they decide to give it a try... But they soon find out that nothing is what it seems, for his new colony are merely pawns in an interstellar game of war and diplomacy between humanity's Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that is dedicated to ending all human colonization. As for the previous books of the series, the book is witty, extremely clever, enjoyable, a real pleasure to read. I strongly recommend it. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 03 2014 Finished: Jan 06 2014
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks (2006)
My review: The novel is a collection of individual accounts, where the narrator is an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission ten years after a fictional Zombie War. The accounts record a decade-long desperate war against the zombie plague, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the social, political, religious and environmental changes that resulted from the war.
The book is quite remarkable not only for the originality of the storytelling, but for the deep understanding of different cultures and human psychology. (★★★★★)
Started: Nov 30 2013 Finished: Dec 19 2013
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury (2013)
Publisher review: A beautiful clothbound edition of the internationally acclaimed Fahrenheit 451 – a masterwork of twentieth-century literature. The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future. Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books. The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity. Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock. --harpercollins.co.uk
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Nov 03 2013 Finished: Nov 15 2013
This Perfect Day
by Ira Levin (2010)
My review: Ira Levin's dystopian novels is set in a seemingly perfect global society. Uniformity is the defining feature, there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called The Family. The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp that has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as human beings, but will remain satisfied and cooperative. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce. Even the basic facts of nature are subject to the UniComp's will. Men do not grow facial hair, women do not develop breasts, and it only rains at night. But not everybody is willing to accept this. With a vision as frightening as any in the history of the science fiction genre, This Perfect Day is one of Ira Levin`s most haunting novels. (★★★★★)
Started: Oct 29 2013 Finished: Nov 03 2013
The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, #2)
by John Scalzi
Publisher review: The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF's toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms. The universe is a dangerous place for humanity—and it's about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did. Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers -- a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin's DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin's electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades. At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his "father," he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jul 09 2013 Finished: Jul 10 2013
Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)
by John Scalzi (2007)
Publisher review: John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-- and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine--and what he will become is far stranger.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Jun 23 2013 Finished: Jun 29 2013
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner #1)
by Philip K. Dick (2007)
My review: This is the story of Rick Deckard, an escaped android bounty hunter, living in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Rick is facing one of the hardest assignments in his life: tracking and terminating six nexus-6, the most advanced and sophisticated android model built so far. One of the main and more interesting themes of the book is the reflection of what means to be human: as androids become indistinguishable from us, to the point where people start to suspect they may be androids with implanted memories, what set humans apart? The book raises many of the same questions that were raised back in the 19th century by Mary Shelley, but it comes up with quite different conclusions. A strongly recommended read, even for people that are not big fan of Science Fiction. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 26 2013 Finished: Jan 29 2013
Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
by Robert Sheckley (2012)
My review: Store of the worlds is a collection of short sci-fi stories by Robert Shekley. Some of the first stories are entertaining and memorable, full of interesting plot twists. After reading a bunch, the stories starts feeling less original, and the twists a little predictable. To sum it up: I did not regret reading this book, I got enough entertainment out of it to justify the time investment, but I won't recommend it to anyone. (★★★)
Started: Nov 25 2012 Finished: Dec 09 2012
The Penultimate Truth
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
My review: I have read only few books by Philip Dick, and all of them were incredibly modern both in the themes they discuss, and in their form. The Penultimate Truth has a very classic structure, it could almost pass for an Isaac Asimov book in that respect. The themes are very modern though: the story is set in a far dystopian post world war III world, where people are fed fabricated Truth via news and television to keep the entire world in the hands of lucky few. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 20 2012 Finished: Oct 25 2012
Total Recall
by Philip K. Dick (2012)
My review: A fun short story, easy to read in a single sitting to kill the time. The story is interesting, but it is quite surprising they managed to geta full movie out of it. (★★★)
Started: Aug 05 2012 Finished: Aug 05 2012
The Night Eternal (The Strain Trilogy, #3)
by Guillermo del Toro (2011)
My review: I found the previous two volumes of the strain trilogy a little disappointing: despite being entertaining, those two books felt like a collection of almost unconnected scenes from which a relatively thin plot emerged. Things change in this third volume: many of the mysteries are revealed, the action is more and more fast paced. This volume is impossible to put down, and a continuous adrenaline rush. I would have never recommended the series based upon the first two volumes, but the third one makes up for the shortcoming of the others. (★★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2012 Finished: Jul 28 2012
A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick (2011)
My review: The book disguise itself as a science fiction story set in the near future, but in reality it is a fictionalized auto-biography of the author real-life experience in the 70s American drug subculture. The story is narrated by the main character, a cop in disguise investigating a new drug, called substance D. While investigating he became addicted and he starts suffering more and more severe brain damages. His perception of reality and his narrative became distorted, confusing. The result is extremely powerful and deeply disturbing, and, thanks to the autobiographical nature of the text, authentic. I will not lie, it is not the easiest read, but the book really succeeds in capturing the ordeal of a troubled community, its fall, its beliefs and paranoias. As such, it is a great literary achievements that all sci-fi fans should not miss. (★★★★)
Started: May 26 2012 Finished: Jun 12 2012
Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2006)
My review: Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this shows in his writing: the focus is on the science part of science fiction. This is why his plots are plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. Rama is an extra-terrestrial artificial planet, coming from the depth of space toward Earth. The world is built inside a rotating cylinder, creating artificial gravity using inertia. The book reads like a (readable and entertaining) science article, were strange phenomena are explained using physics. It is also reads like a explorer journal, filling the reader with wonder and awe. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 29 2012
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
by Suzanne Collins (2009)
My review: While still enjoyable and hard to put down, this is not as original as the first volume of the series. The plot is quite similar to the previous one and it really reads like an encore. This second installment does not focus entirelly on Katniss and Peeta survival at the games like the previous one, but more space is given to the oppression of the districts and to the growing tension and rebellion. (★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
by Suzanne Collins (2010)
My review: This is a great conclusion for one of the most enjoyable book series of the decades. This third installment does not follow the format of the previous two books (that was getting already a little repetitive), but instead focus on Katniss rescued from the Quarter Quell, her willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost. (★★★★)
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 16 2012
The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
by Suzanne Collins (2008)
My review: Suzanne Collins really knows how to write an impossible to put down book. I literally spent every free second reading the book for few days in a row, losing precious hours of sleep reading it. I was afraid I was going to get in trouble with my sweet half, but he started the book at the same time, and got even more addicted than me, so I guess things worked out at the end. This is not the type of book that shake you to the core, it has not a great message or lesson to deliver. It is just an action packed thrilling ride, where each single chapter finishes with a cliffhanger, and each page make you want to read more and more. It's not the kind of book that make you a better person or help you in the path towards understanding, but it is pure enjoyment. For the curious, the Hunger Games is set in a post apocalyptic North America, where a central government keeps 12 districts in a state of semi-slavery. As a punishment for an ancient rebellion two kids from each district are selected each year and sent into a televised death match, where the only survivor is going to be declared the winner. (★★★★★)
Started: Jan 30 2012 Finished: Feb 01 2012
The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (2009)
My review: This book was quite a disappointment. I really enjoyed the previous volume of the Empire series and I had high expectations. While very entertaining "The Star, Like Dust" has a quite uninteresting storyline. Some of the "twists" are so banal and stereotypical to make you yawn. I guess the book was less un-original in the 50s, but this book has very little to offer to a modern reader. My advice: if pick Asimov's Pebble in the Sky instead. (★★)
Started: Jan 08 2011 Finished: Jan 11 2011
Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #3)
by Isaac Asimov
My review: This book made me understand why Isaac Asimov is considered one of the fathers of science fiction. The book is impossible to put down: I found myself staying up all night to see how it ends. On top of being so entertaining, the book also explores interesting themes like xenophobia, and how Religion ("customs" and "traditions" in the book) can potentially be used to enslave people. I recently read Asimov's Robot's series (that was fun, but not that special), and this is by far superior. (★★★★★)
Started: Jun 30 2010 Finished: Jul 02 2010
The Robots of Dawn (Robot #3)
by Isaac Asimov (1994)
My review: In the third volume of Asimov's "Robot" series all the characters of the previous books (Elijah, Daneel, Gladia) are back. The book was written more than 20 years after the first two, and it shows. It is quite interesting to witness the cultural changes occurred in those 2 decades while reading the books. While I was reading the first two volumes, I was quite surprised by the prevalent gender inequality in the "future" societies described in the books. It was rather funny to see the shortcoming of the Western world of the 50s in a "future society". In the third book, things are changed quite a lot. While the previous books were almost puritan, here sexuality is a central element. But while the author describe a society in which sex is quite free, he continues to make the point that sex without love is worthless. It come out a little bit hypocritical: on one side he speaks about free sex to lure readers, on the other he judges it. Anyway, there has been huge social progress in this 20 years, and the progress is astonishing and clear when you read these books. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 06 2009 Finished: Nov 05 2009
The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)
by Isaac Asimov (1991)
My review: I read many Asimov's books (translated in Italian) when I was young, and I used to love them. I recently started to read them again, in English, and he was clearly a master of mass market (sci-fi) novels. His books are hard to put down. Many of his ideas now are clique, but they weren't at the time. The only disturbing part is to see some sexist comment in the book. Maybe Asimov was not sexist, maybe it was "normal" to treat female differently at the time, but I still find it quite disturbing. (★★★)
Started: Sep 01 2009 Finished: Sep 26 2009
The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1)
by Isaac Asimov (1991)
My review: I read many Asimov's books when I was a kid, and it has been quite interesting to read them again, in their original language. He was an adroit writer, able to capture the reader. I enjoyed this book, I was very surprised by the author continuous mentions to the bible (given his views on religion). (★★★)
Started: Jul 25 2009 Finished: Jul 31 2009
The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)
by Charles Stross (2006)
My review: The book is a collection of two related stories. The concepts behind them are quite interesting, but the execution of the first story (i.e. the atrocity archives) is not great. It is confusing and the plot flow does not work well at times. On the contrary the second story (i.e. Concrete Jungle) is great. The interesting ideas are finally used in a adroitly written geeky and fast paced story. The best way to describe this book I can think of is: Lovecraft meet Dilbert. (★★★)
Started: Feb 17 2008 Finished: Mar 03 2008
Nemesis
by Isaac Asimov (1990)
My review: I grew up reading Asimov's novels. It was strange to read one of his books after so many years, in the original language it was written. I devoured the book as I devoured his book when I was a child. Definitely a fun book. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 22 2007 Finished: Nov 27 2007
The Da Vinci Code (Robert Langdon, #2)
by Dan Brown (2006)
My review: Another fast-paced intriguing book from Dan Brown. This is by far my favorite, despite the fact that all his books are very similar to each other. I was a little disappointed by the conclusion: the Mary Magdalene "secret" is reveled too soon and after that the book is less interesting to read. (★★★★)
Started: Aug 22 2005 Finished: Aug 25 2005
Digital Fortress
by Dan Brown (2004)
My review: Another fast-paced intriguing book by Dan Brown. I find it less interesting than the previous two. I think I am getting used to his style and his books read less and less original. I liked the coded greeting at the end of the book. It toke a little bit to crack it but... it is just a cesar box code, and the numbers can be substituted with letters (hint: use chapter numbers). (★★★)
Started: Nov 11 2004 Finished: Nov 14 2004
Deception Point
by Dan Brown (2002)
My review: Quite enjoyable fast-paced sci-fi thriller full of plot twists and surprises. (★★★)
Started: Apr 09 2004 Finished: Apr 15 2004
Prey
by Michael Crichton (2003)
My review: This is a great summer reading, to relax at the beach without having to think to much.
I enjoyed it in particular because it discusses technologies similar to what I was working on in grad school (UAVs swarms). (★★★)
Started: Dec 19 2003 Finished: Dec 22 2003
Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1)
by Dan Brown (2006)
My review: I really enjoyed the book. It made me go back in time, to the time when I was working at C.E.R.N. in Geneva at the LHC project. In one of the first chapters the main character visits the building where I used to go to do my laundry, he walks in front of the building where I lived and he ends up in a lab close to LHC itself. Even if almost all the Italian quotes are wrong (bad grammar, incorrect word choices, etc), even if the scientific background is not as solid as the author would like us to believe... I liked it a lot. (★★★★)
Started: Dec 01 2003 Finished: Dec 04 2003
3001: The Final Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #4)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1999)
My review: This is the conclusion of the saga started with 2001. Despite having none of the epic grandeur of the first installment, the book is very entertaining. I found particularly intriguing the author take on religion and spirituality. (★★★★)
Started: Nov 07 2003 Finished: Nov 08 2003
2061: Odyssey Three (Space Odyssey, #3)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1997)
My review: Fifty years after the alien message forbidding humans to approach the moon Europa, an expedition to Halley's Comet is forced to violate the prohibition in the name of mercy. Though it is entertaining, it lacks the epical tones of the previous volumes. (★★★★)
Started: Sep 16 2003 Finished: Sep 19 2003
2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)
by Arthur C. Clarke (1997)
My review: Almost 20 years after the first book, Clarke wrote this sequel. I was quite surprised to realize how much the world changed in those 20 years just reading the two books one after the other. The world geopolitical balance is changed: for example China enters as a third super power in the second book, and it is not even mentioned in the first. The civil right movement worked hard for a world where every person is given a fair change whatever his or her color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or identity, etc: for example in the second book a character in the Leonov spaceship is gay, and treated with all the respect he deserve. After reading the two books I was filled with hope and faith in human progress. (★★★★)
Started: Oct 07 2002 Finished: Oct 12 2002
2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke (2000)
My review: A classic of sci-fi literature, epic in its scope, very original and enthralling. Clarke is able to keep his readers in awe, on the edge of some spiritual and cosmological revelation. The sarcastic humor of the author is the perfect icing on the cake. (★★★★)
Started: May 28 2002 Finished: Jun 02 2002
A.I. Intelligenza artificiale
by Brian W. Aldiss (2001)
My review: Ero a casa del mio ex a Milano, ove m'ero recato per un colloquio di lavoro. Terminato questo aspettavo ora di cena e cominciai a leggere, terminandolo, il libro sul comodino. Le storie del volume sono abbastanza insignificanti, la migliore e' quella che ha ispirato Spielberg... Ma anche quella non e' poi un granche'. (★★)
Started: Oct 24 2001 Finished: Oct 24 2001
The Tamarisk Hunter
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review: Originally appeared in "High Country News"
My rating: ★★★★
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)
by Douglas Adams (1995)
Publisher review: Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
My rating:
The Calorie Man
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2005)
Publisher review: Short story from the world of the Windup Girl.
My rating: ★★★★★
Dune (Dune Chronicles #1)
by Frank Herbert (2006)
Publisher review: This book was mistakenly published under ISBN13: 9780965017763. Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis. Published in 1965, it won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune is frequently cited as the world's best-selling sf novel.
My rating: ★★★★★
Yellow Card Man
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2006)
Publisher review: Paolo Bacigalupi tells us the pitiless future of the "Yellow Card Man" was "an outgrowth from an aborted novel." In his latest story, Tranh, who began existence as one of the book's supporting characters, must use any means available to survive in this ruthless and precarious future.
My rating: ★★★★
The People of Sand and Slag
by Paolo Bacigalupi (2004)
Publisher review: “The People of Sand and Slag” starts as straight military sf — and then twists. It was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 2004.
My rating: ★★★★