Sunday, November 19, 2017

Good Stuff

All sci-fi, all the time.

1st up, "Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi", 2016, 104 pages. 18 very short stories, mostly funny, given that you are not offended by alien poo-poo jokes. A very quick and relaxing read.

2nd up, "The Dispatcher", by John Scalzi, 2017, 128 pages (a novella). An interesting concept - anyone murdered 99.9% of the time comes back to life naked in their bed in their state of 2 hours prior - is explored and turned into a cheap detective story. Accept the premise, and it is another quick and enjoyable read.

3rd up, "Tool of War", by Paolo Bacigalupi, 2017, 385 pages. 3rd in the series that went from "Shipbreaker" (blogged here) to "The Drowned Cities" (blogged here). Tool, an "augment" - humans genetically engineered with various predator DNA to make them unstoppable, yet obedient, warriors - who breaks his obedience conditioning, is back. It's a fast moving, action-packed story, featuring the characters of the other 2 novels. Another very good read.

4th up, "Void Star", by Zachary Mason, 2017, 401 pages. I greatly enjoyed Mason's 1st book "The Lost Books of the Oddessey" (blogged here) - I still don't get how it is referred to as a novel, it sure seemed like 44 short stories to me.

"Void Star" is a straight-up sci-fi novel which strongly reminded me of "Neuromancer", but more like Neuromancer v4.0. Set 20-50 years in the future, the main protagonist is an AI-whisperer. As one would expect, AIs are completely foreign & ineffable and interact with the human world in many odd ways. So we have 4 protagonists, 3 with memory-recording implants, a 150 YO gazillionaire with immortality in his sights, and lots of action leading to an exciting conclusion. The last several (of 77) chapters have various of the characters getting their consciousness rebooted and repeating events and words eerily.

This is the best thing I've read in several months, I strongly recommend it. Here's some random excerpts with language that I liked.

She often saw people getting dressed, men bucking in the confined space to get their legs into pants, women putting on makeup or stockings, anonymity substituting for privacy. [People getting dressed in self-driving cars.]


in the technical world’s uppermost reaches, autistic symptoms have a certain cachet, ambitious young men affecting the inability to look one in the eye and a total innocence of the world


Her hand finds a stone on the asphalt, grips it—she grinds her fingers into its surface, savoring its texture, reminding herself that she is here, in this morning, in the world, not lost in the pages of some vast and secret book.


"Proust’s madeleines have got nothing on me. It’s madeleines all the way down."


The barista is friendly but his hair is sculpted into planes and spines that suggest nothing so much as a lionfish, and she feels old because instead of implying some extraordinarily specific cultural fealty his hair just reads as an elaborate waste of time.


A detached, musical female voice recites an endless list of airport codes, gate numbers, times, but it’s strange, because she knows all the codes, these are codes for airports that don’t exist.

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