Author Archive

Review: The Three-Body Problem

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Review: The Three-Body Problem

Ye opened the resulting document, and, for the first time, a human read a message from another world.

The content was not what anyone had imagined. It was a warning repeated three times.

Do not answer!

Do not answer!!

Do not answer!!!

The term “Hard Science Fiction” refers to any story where the science used is more than just a futuristic setting or a MacGuffin for the characters to chase after. Larry Niven’s Ringworld and Scott Westerfeld’s The Risen Empire are two examples of this genre; the reader has to be able to grasp at least a little bit of concepts like man-made worlds or artificial intelligence in order to keep up. The way technology in these stories affects the main characters, or an entire civilization, is essential to the plot.

In Cixin Liu’s newly-translated masterpiece The Three-Body Problem, the story begins in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and ends in the present day with humanity’s realization that a war with an alien species scheduled to start in four centuries may already be lost.  It’s hard science fiction, and the science that the reader is expected to understand is theoretical physics. Brace yourselves, this one gets really deep.

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Night Vale Recap: Episode 66 “worms…”

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Night Vale Recap: Episode 66 “worms…”

This week Night Vale is dealing with another worm infestation (has it really been twelve years since the last one? How time flies…) but all the destruction and chaos and trees being dropped on cars isn’t a big deal compared to the REAL crisis: Cecil is trying to find a way into the Dog Park!

Join the twins as they recap Welcome to Night Vale episode 66 “worms…”
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Review: Spock’s World

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Review: Spock’s World

“Go maire tu’ I bhfad agus rath!”

 Old Irish wayfarer’s blessing: “Live long and prosper”

It occurred to me that I haven’t reviewed a Star Trek book in honor of Leonard Nimoy yet. No excuse for that, really, since I read a lot of Star Trek back in high school. Star Trek: TNG was my drug of choice, but I read several novels based on the original Star Trek series as well. By far my favorite of those – the one I’ve reread the most times – is Diane Duane’s epic story of Vulcan, Spock’s World. 

A Vulcan anti-human movement has been growing for decades, based on fears of the damage that illogical, emotional, and violent humanity can cause. Word comes to the Enterprise that several clandestine organizations on Spock’s homeworld have now pushed the government to hold a planet-wide vote to secede from the Federation. Faced with the threat of having to either give up all ties to the Earth, or live in exile, Spock and his father Sarek return to Vulcan with the crew of the Enterprise to argue against secession. The story alternates between the debates (and an investigation to find out who’s been working behind the scenes to push for the vote, and why) and stories of the planet Vulcan itself, with its history of a population even more illogical, emotional, and violent than the human race that the Vulcans are trying so desperately to banish.

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Review: BrainWeb

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Review: BrainWeb

The events of MindsEye left Nick Hall with brain implants that allow him to access the Internet from anywhere, and also with a little unintentional side effect of being able to read minds. Both abilities make him a prize to any number of organizations – the US government being just the most obvious – so he’s doing his best to stay under the radar now that most of the world believes he’s dead. A terrorist attack on the Academy Awards ceremony forces Nick into the open; now there are powerful figures hunting him down, and they’re willing to target those closest to him to get what they want.

Author Douglas E. Richards uses his experience as a biotech executive and his research on thought-controlled Web surfing to weave existing and theoretical technology together into a combination sci-fi action novel/military thriller. The story doesn’t quite work for me, but the concepts he uses are fascinating and thought-provoking.

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Review: Comrade Grandmother, and Other Stories

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Review: Comrade Grandmother, and Other Stories

“Caroline says that fairy godmothers don’t have wings anymore,” I said. “Because of underground nuclear testing.”

My subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction lapsed a while ago, but finding a back issue from 2014 is making me want to start it up again. I’m always looking for new authors to read, and the magazine is a great way to get exposure to a whole range of different writers and styles, all within the F&SF genre.

A good example of one of those authors is Naomi Kritzer, who’s story “Containment Zone” – part of a series of tales set in the floating island nation of Seastead – appeared in the May 2014 issue. Kritzer has created such a detailed world in Seastead, and such an appealing character in teenager Beck Garrison, that I wanted to find more of her writing, and maybe see what she can do when she’s able to create a world and then expand it into a full-length novel.

So of course the very first thing I decided to try was not a novel. Instead I picked up a copy of Comrade Grandmother, and Other Stories. What can I say, my love of short-story collections is pretty much out of control.

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Review: Lesser Creatures

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Review: Lesser Creatures

The zombie apocalypse has already taken place, and now the rest of the world is trying to deal with the fallout. Thousands of the dead have risen, and every month thousands more crawl out of their graves. Shambling, mostly mindless and completely harmless, the risen dead still need food and shelter, straining the world’s economy as countries are burdened with more and more mouths to feed. And anyone who tries to kill a Second Lifer (the PC term) is killed horribly by a force as mysterious as the one that reanimates the dead in the first place.

Sounds like a pretty fascinating idea for a book, doesn’t it? Well too bad, because all of that is just background noise to a completely different story. Lesser Creatures tells us of a doomed love drawn out by a magical power that’s annoyingly unexplained. The main character is a bored advertising executive who comes across as instantly unlikable, and yet who we’re supposed to sympathize with for most of the book. Eric Cooper jumps from a near mid-life crisis to a kind of reawakening, followed by a shock that makes him almost hit rock bottom, just before he and his mother rediscover their compassion for Eric’s deceased father in time for Eric to bond with a zombie-who’s-more-than-a-zombie for reasons that are never clarified. There’s also a two-dimensional scheming CEO and a priest who’s operating under the best intentions but who may be completely unhinged. Other than the very beginning, the very ending, and a couple of bit parts, the risen dead are no more of an element here than a bad thunderstorm taking place in another city. There were times when I wanted to shake the characters and yell, “Damn you, what did you do with my zombie story?!”

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Review: The Moon and the Sun

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Review: The Moon and the Sun

This book came up in an list of “Books To Read This Year Before The Movie Comes Out”. Vonda McIntyre already has high marks from me for her Star Wars novel “The Crystal Star” (which I really enjoyed) and her novelization of the movie “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” (which, don’t laugh, is one of the few books I’ve read that was so heartbreaking it make me cry). So to have a chance to read a fantasy novel with an upcoming movie that won’t be the start of another trilogy? I’m sold.

Father Yves de la Croix arrives at King Louis XIV Chateau in Versailles bearing gifts for his monarch: two sea creatures, and the promise of immortality. It will be Yves’s job to dissect the dead male creature he tried and failed to bring back alive. Yves’s sister, just released from a miserable five years in a convent, is assigned to care for and train the female specimen until it can be served up in a banquet once it’s been harvested of whatever it is that can give the king eternal life. It’s a hard enough for Marie-Josephe to bond with the gargoyle-like mermaid, but it becomes that much harder to do her job when she slowly realizes that the monster – which she’s teaching to leap for visitors and eat from her hand and eventually be eaten itself – is intelligent, and just wants to return to her family in the ocean.

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Review: Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor – After Life

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Review: Doctor Who, The Eleventh Doctor – After Life

We already knew that the Doctor kept himself busy in the two hundred or so years he spent wandering after he dropped off Amy and Rory from their honeymoon. Quite a lot of stories can fit inside that time. Coming out later this month, the first volume of Titan Comics’ Doctor Who, The  Eleventh Doctor collects together the first five issues of these stories, featuring the Eleventh Doctor and his newest companion, Alice.

Life has become cold and dreary for Alice Obiefune after the death of her beloved mother. The forty-something library assistant can’t seem to drag herself out of a fog of grief, and things just get worse when she loses her job to cutbacks and her comfy apartment is scheduled for demolition to make way for a block of luxury flats. Everything is quite grey…until in a burst of obviously Oz-inspired technicolor she’s confronted by huge rainbow-colored alien dog being chased by a madman with a blue box.

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