science fiction

Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

Lumin is a forest world, with trees who’s roots reach all the way to the planet’s core. The lives of the people of Lumin are closely entwined with those trees. Maybe too entwined; after using the energy that flows through the forests to power every aspect of society, the Core is heating up and the trees themselves are dying. There’s only one way to reverse the damage: shut down the entire Network, cutting off all advanced technology that feeds off the trees and throwing the planet into a new dark age. The Core will stay sealed for as long as it takes the planet to heal.

More than six hundred years later, a young woman named Mia stumbles across a treasure in the Archives of the Order of Vis Firmitas. The treasure is a book, hidden away for centuries. The history of an ancient battle and the key to the lost technology of the planet may be contained inside the mysterious artifact that slowly comes to life in Mia’s hands: the Compendium.

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

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Review: Just Over The Horizon – The Complete Short Fiction of Greg Bear

I’ve been meaning to read more of Greg Bear’s short stories, especially after reading Blood Music (my review can be found here), a groundbreaking novel that was originally based on one of his earlier stories. Fortunately his short-story collection Just Over the Horizon caught my eye right when I was looking for something to read over my vacation. This collection is volume one of what I hope will be several more books, and it features some of Bear’s earlier works from the 1970’s and 80’s, when he was already showing a dazzling skill at taking a concept that’s very tricky to understand, explaining it in a way that a non-scientist can at least start to understand, and then wrapping a story around it.

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Review: High-Rise

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Review: High-Rise

Without knowing it, he had constructed a gigantic vertical zoo, its hundreds of cages stacked above each other. All the events of the past few months made sense if one realized that these brilliant and exotic creatures had learned to open the doors.

High-Rise, the latest movie by director Ben Wheatley (you remember Wheatley; he directed the Doctor Who episodes “Deep Breath” and “Into the Dalek”) is scheduled for limited release this Friday. Of course I’m going to go see it (Tom Hiddleston, natch), so I was trying to decide if I should read the book it’s based on before or after seeing the movie. I tend to prefer whichever version of a story I experience first, and I have a bad habit of pointing out all the ways the movie is different from the book. Might be better to wait.

Then I found out the book’s author, J.G. Ballard, wrote the short story Chronopolis, which remains one of the best stories I’ve ever read. SO, off to the bookstore I went.

Ballard’s 1975 novel High-Rise is both more and less grounded in reality than Chronopolis. It has a similar theme (how technology “improves” everyone’s life to the point where humanity’s only purpose is to serve the technology), but High-Rise takes things much further. The book focuses on how modern comforts separate humans from each other, stripping away our ability to see anyone else as human. And then we see what’s left when those comforts are taken away.

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Review: Dawn – Book One of Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy

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Review: Dawn – Book One of Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to read one of Octavia E. Butler’s novels, but I’m glad I finally chose this one to start with. The woman was an icon of science-fiction, winning four Nebula Awards, two Hugo awards, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame posthumously, so I knew that anything I chose would be good. I just didn’t realize I would like it as much as I did.

Lilith Iyapo only just barely survived the nuclear war. She’s saved by mysterious forces, and after what feels like an eternity of sleeping and waking in solitary confinement she finally meets her rescuers. The Oankali are horrifyingly alien, covered in tentacles and possessing technology Lilith can’t even begin to understand. They’ve kept her in suspended animation for most of the last two centuries, and now they’re planning to return her and the thousands of other human survivors to Earth. The price for this – for saving them, for curing cancer and other diseases, for fixing the planet – is that the humans will crossbreed with the Oankali. And no, they don’t have a choice about it.

In one generation, the human race as we know it will cease to exist.

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Review: Radiance

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Review: Radiance

A tale may have exactly three beginnings: one for the audience, one for the artist, and one for the poor bastard who has to live in it.

The plot of Catherynne Valente’s latest novel Radiance centers around the mysterious disappearance of a woman – Severin, who’s origin is also something of a mystery – during her investigation of yet another mystery. The book jacket describes it as “a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery,” and that doesn’t even come close to the wonderful weirdness of a book set in a 1930’s that never existed, in a version of the solar system that only appears in pulp paperbacks and black-and-white movies.

Darn it. If I’d known I was going to enjoy the book this much I would have read it in time for our “Best Books of 2015” list; it would definitely have made it into the top ten. Maybe even the top three.

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Review: The X-Files Vol. 1 – The Agents, The Bureau and The Syndicate

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Review: The X-Files Vol. 1 – The Agents, The Bureau and The Syndicate

Happy New Year, everyone! Time to start looking forward to everything coming in 2016, including the brand-new The X-Files miniseries set to start in (checks imdb) twelve days?! Good grief, I’m way behind on my fangirling here.

It’s been more than thirteen years since the last episode aired (seven since the second movie. Which I haven’t seen yet. Don’t judge.) so even the most dedicated fan might want to reacquaint themselves with the details about the adventures of Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. If you’re like me you may have a few old magazines you can flip through in order to find your favorite interviews. Or you could get a copy of The X-Files Vol. 1: The Agents, The Bureau and The Syndicate, due out in stores this week; 178 pages compiling the best features, interviews and profiles from The Official X-Files Magazine.

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Review: Star Wars – Darth Plagueis

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Review: Star Wars – Darth Plagueis

“Evil?” Plagueis repeated. “What is that? Moments ago you defined yourself as a storm. You said you were death itself. Are you evil, then, or are you simply stronger and more awake than others?”

The question that Darth Sidious’s Master asks his new apprentice is probably the simplest demonstration of the difference between the Light side of the Force and the Dark. Or at least the way that the Sith see their role in the Force. And no one typifies this outlook more than the wealthy banker and secret Sith Lord from the planet Muunilinst, Hugo Damask.

Darth Plagueis is an in-depth exploration of the Star Wars Sith Lord first mentioned in Revenge of the Sith. The novel begins and ends with the death of the title character, and covers several decades of his life as he manipulates history to bring about the eventual downfall of the Jedi while searching for the secret of immortal life. The story is filled with plots and political maneuverings which are, in a lot of cases, way over my head.

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Review: Star Wars – Aftermath

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Review: Star Wars – Aftermath

             “We have a problem…”

Remember the ending of Return of the Jedi, with the Ewok celebration (and in the re-release, the footage of liberated cities pulling down statues of Emperor Palpatine)? Star Wars: Aftermath starts just a few seconds after that, right when things start to go wrong.

Imperial troops fire indiscriminately into the celebrating crowds, dissidents are rounded up and imprisoned, and supporters of the old regime scramble for power. The Emperor is dead, but the Empire itself is far from gone.

I was a little worried about picking this one up. Everything else I’ve read has been from the Expanded Universe; this is the first novel set in a brand-new timeline: new characters, new story. How exactly will this measure up to what we’ve seen before?

The verdict? I liked it. I liked it a lot. It’s less “Journey to The Force Awakens” and more “What Happened In A Few Days Right After The Last Movie,” but Chuck Wendig obviously enjoyed playing in the Star Wars sandbox.

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