Sunday, November 29, 2015

Biotech apocalypse in "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood

I had a hard time digesting this sci-fi, dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. This novel "The Year of the Flood" is a second novel in the MaddAddam series.   

It is set in near future where there is a new world order "controlled" by private mega corporations with its own army and police forces and research institutions. It is very ugly future. Now it is not clear why and how civilization, especially in the USA, descended into this wild-west type police state. Readers are told that there was some kind of natural or man-made environmental degradation in the south and basically USA is split into several corporate-run states.

The novel has multiple narrators who are recounting for readers events they have witnessed. Each narrator's story completes gaps in other narrator's story, so reader has whole view of what happened or is going on.  

Novel is centered on pacifist group led by person named Adam one. Members of this group practiced vegetarianism and believed that every species has the same rights as humans to exist and flourish on this earth. 

They also believed that world is near to "waterless flood" when Nature would turn against humanity for their callous and inhuman relationship with other earthly species. In the end, "waterless flood" indeed comes as a kind of biotech-engineered pandemic.

This is a very complex novel. Atwood "forces" readers to accept a human civilization where evil prevails and dominates, at least temporarily. It is hard pill to swallow.

posted by David Usharauli 

Friday, November 20, 2015

First 50 pages of "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" by Robert A. Heinlein

Few days ago I went to local library to select books to read. I had no particular idea which book to choose so I was browsing through shelves and after 15 minutes walking through book aisles I came to this book "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" by Robert A. Heinlein (1985 ed).

I only read one other novel by Robert A. Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land, 1961 ed.) before and I liked it, so I thought this book will be interesting too.

I was mistaken. I only read first 50 pages of this novel and it was enough for me to give it up. First, its writing style is complex. It requires "too much attention" when reading. For sci-fi novel this type of writing is big no no, if you ask me.

Second, this is a sci-fi novel set in far future and still in one of the episodes about photo taking, the author could only imagine Polaroid/Kodak-type photography [when it takes few seconds/minutes for image to appear after camera shot]. Basically, Robert A. Heinlein's writing about photography in 1985 fails to anticipate that in very near future there will be a digital, truly instantaneous imaging capabilities available for usage.

These two factors were sufficient for me to say thanks and stop reading this novel. I am reading sci-fi novels for their simplicity in writing, for their fun [nice to have it] and for their breadth of imaginations, so when sci-fi novel lacks these components there is only one thing left to do.

David Usharauli

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review of sci-fi novel "Corsair" by James Cambias

I found this book in the local library and decided to read it. Both title image and its summary were interesting.

The novel is set around year 2030. There is a base on a moon used to harvest helium-3. Helium-3 is used as a fuel in nuclear fusion reactions, and it is very expensive and necessary item.

The novel's focus is a commercial space piracy. The novel's protagonist is a computer hacker for hire named David. He is very successful in hijacking commercial helium-3 payloads during orbital re-entering.

However, David's tendency for trying of outsmart everyone around him will put him and people who cares about him in danger.

But as in Hollywood movies we have more or less happy ending. Basically, this novel is great for quick fun read and it could be even great as a script for B grade sci-fi movies that directly go to DVD.

posted by David Usharauli

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More real than fantasy. Review of "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison

Just finished reading "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison. This fantasy novel was actually nominated for Hugo award this year.    

I was very surprised that the author wrote this novel as a fantasy. I found nothing in this novel that did not actually happen in annals of real World history [except, of course, calling novel's characters goblins or elves].

The novel itself is very good and easy to read with lots of court intrigues. It describes first 6 months since Maia's character, King's youngest half-goblin prince, ascends the elvish throne [by chance]. Changes in Maia's life during this time period is well developed.

It is very strange that even though Maia had experienced very difficult, abusive childhood, the author decided to portray him as well behaved, well balanced young man [with no tendency to cruelty, abuse or superficiality]. Moreover, without formal education in statesmanship, somehow Maia is able to intuitively navigate a complex web of intrigues he encounters in Elvish court. Readers are only told that Maia is well versed in history of his kingdom.

In the end this novel is for kids, not for adults. It is very simple and everything is explained.

posted by David Usharauli

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review of "Dark Orbit" by Carolyn Ives Gilman

The story starts really great. It is set in distant galaxy where humans are living in a planetary federation made of 20 planets, called Capellan 2.  

It appears that society is quite advanced technologically but politically it is developing into authoritative regime due to do strong anti-governmental movements. 

Here is one funny thing. They have beam teleportation technology but they still are using pagers for notifications. This seems out of character.

Basically, team of scientists are beamed to old space station located 58 light years away. There they discovered a planet with strange unknown biosphere that hides indigenous blind people. 

It appears that planet has a wormhole-type port through which local people can travel across time and space instantaneously. However, planet is undergo strong electromagnetic filed that threatens to destroy both spaceship and planets.

In the end, somehow, they managed to escape through wormhole. Great. There is a parallel story told in first person by one of the protagonists, Thora Lassiter. She becomes involved in movement to liberate women from male domination on planet Orem. Sounds like a good old Earth.   

In summary, novel's ending is pretty much mambo jambo. 

David Usharauli