Tag Archives: cyberpunk

Review of LIBRARY book The Switch by Justina Robson #Brainfluffbookreview #TheSwitchbookreview #SciFiMonth2019

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I thoroughly enjoy Robson’s intelligent, layered fantasy – see my review of Salvation’s Fire: After the War – so I was delighted to find this offering on the shelves of my local library. I am also linking this review to the @SciFiMonth Challenge.

BLURB: In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome. A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short. But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it. Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders. Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

In many ways, this book follows a tried and tested trope guaranteed to pull readers in and make them care – two orphaned children in a horrible institution make a break to try their luck on the streets. And, yes, you’ve guessed it – the streets aren’t exactly brimming with nurturing kindness, either. They need to live on their wits and toughness, or die. Twostar is prodigiously clever with any tech that comes her way – so it’s Nico’s job to bring down any drones coming their way, enabling her to break them up for parts. Until they come to the attention of one of the local cartels…

The story is told in Nico’s first person viewpoint throughout, which is always my favourite pov when it’s done well. And because this is Robson, it’s fabulous. I love the depth and complexity she manages to bring to this complicated, tough, angry man without compromising the pace or tension. In fact, because I can connect so deeply with him and his innermost thoughts and fears, when he finds those thoughts no longer belong solely to him – I found I identified with the violation he felt. Again, it’s not an original theme within sci fi, but this time around I found I really, really minded alongside Nico when those upgrades he thought would provide him with abilities to pilot his way off the planet have added extras he wasn’t told about…

The other aspect of this book that isn’t immediately apparent, is that one of the reasons why both Twostar and Nico find themselves in the orphanage, is that they are faulty. Both of them are attracted to their own sex – an aberration that is regarded as unacceptable on Harmony. Unsurprisingly, Nico regards this aspect of his personality with some ambivalence, which Robson writes with compassion, insight and great tenderness. While the romance in this book isn’t a major component of story, especially in the beginning, I was extremely impressed at the intensity and beauty of the relationship that is featured. Though not surprised – this is, after all, Justina Robson…

This book is a standalone, apparently. And I am torn – I put it down with an unhappy sigh when I got to the end because I wanted to go on seeing the world through Nico’s eyes. But I’d hate to read a sequel that wasn’t as awesomely wonderful as this offering.
9/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – November Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. During November, I read two Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to thirty four books I’ve completed written by women authors I haven’t previously encountered.

Synners by Pat Cadigan

In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and thesynners external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920 s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford s bidding and uncover a real killer? When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder.

While I was aware that I’d once more crashed midway into a series, this isn’t a major deal as Miley is far too adept for keep her readers floundering. Instead I quickly bonded with Jessie, a sparky character with plenty of spirit who is embracing the opportunities Hollywood has presented for her. It is also the perfect setting for all sorts of mayhem and murder.

As with all the best historical whodunits, Miley uses the adventure to present us with a slice of Jessie’s life. While I cared about seeing the mystery solved, I was every bit as involved with Jessie’s ongoing concerns, such as her wardrobe choices, her problematic romance and interest in the Hollywood gossip. Miley vividly recreates the 1920s world for us, from the clothes and the Hollywood glamour and the thrill of drinking forbidden alcoholic drinks.

 

Tackling my TBR
In a bid to try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Last month, I’m pleased to say, I managed to read four books languishing on my To Be Read pile:

Penric’s Mission – a Penric and Desdemona novella by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on penricsmissionhis first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…
Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers.

Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet. I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met.

 

Synners by Pat Cadigan
See above – this offering also had languished on my TBR pile FAR too long…

 

The Banished Craft – Book 1 of The Shkode trilogy by E.D.E. Bell
Struggling to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder, Cor comes across a mystery much deeper—a thebanishedcraftsecret society who predicted that someday their world would be devastated. That time is now. In a world where women are not allowed to read, live alone, or pursue knowledge Cor presses forward, discovering a new magic and the power to wield it. A world away, Atesh works in the Imperial Labs, devoting his study to the turmoil destroying his home and endangering dragonkind. Instead he discovers a long-hidden truth. Humans are real.

One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this world is its richness and sheer quirky difference. I’m used to worlds being endangered by maniacal gods/powerful mages/artefacts – I can’t recall another world risking extinction because the child of a powerful being accidentally touched it… However, any impulse to burst out laughing is steadily eroded as we become engrossed in the lives of our protagonists on the sundered worlds. Bell handles the epic nature of her narrative really effectively, as both societies – stressed by the environmental upheaval – start to fall apart.

So that’s where I am so far on Tackling my TBR challenge. Once again, November was a far better reading month than I’d expected and my Discovery Challenge target, which was twelve books now looks stupidly unambitious, but then I’d expected to be doing a great deal more writing this year. How are you getting on with your reading challenges now the year is rapidly drawing to a close?

Review of Synners by Pat Cadigan

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I’ve been reading a number of novellas and some children’s books, so suddenly felt like getting my teeth into something a bit more meaty and this alluring, dark cover beckoned to me from my teetering To Be Read pile. So I scooped it up and dived in…

synnersIn Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

When there is a number of main characters, there are always the one or two who particularly chime – for me, these were Gina, who hooked up with the video star Visual Mark twenty-something years ago and is still drifting in his wake as he becomes increasingly lost to his videos and drug-taking. Though she is still a name to contend with, as her daredevil stunts in Mark’s videos have earned her respect throughout the industry. She sings off the page with her cynical, acidic asides and her gritted passion for what she believes in. The other character I really loved is poor old Gabe, the typical artist-turned-corporate-wage-slave, who makes advertisements, while wishing he did almost anything else. To allay his boredom and sense of futility, he regularly escapes into a classic game using a hotsuit to enable him to virtually interact with the two main characters in the game.

This is one of the main attributes of cyberpunk – not only to pull the reader into a high-tech, near-future world, but also into cyberspace where reality exists in the interface between humanity and machines. And the best of this genre takes you there, immersing you into an altered landscape, where memes and symbols take on different meanings that the reader completely accepts.

Therefore when it all starts kicking off, two-thirds of the way through this one, Cadigan’s virtual world sings off the page in a blend of poetry and prose as she depicts her characters’ rich inscapes with complete conviction. This is why I am prepared to slow down my normal reading rate for this particular genre and pay attention – because the rewards are so very satisfying when it is done well. Needless to say, the climax is beautifully handled, and the final third of the book was difficult to put down as the plot continues gathering momentum during the ongoing crisis and humanity attempts to fight back. And in this genre, there is no guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’ ending.

I finally put the book down, aware of coming back to the present from a long way away – always the mark of a master worldbuilder. So while Synners takes time to get going, my advice with this one is to persevere – it’s worth it.
9/10

Sunday Post – 20th November 2016

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Sunday Post

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This week has been a lot calmer, thank goodness. I cannot believe that there is only three more weeks to go before we break up for Christmas – where has this term gone? I received the news on Friday that both next term’s Creative Writing courses have now sufficient students to run, which is a lovely position to be at this stage in the term.

This week I resumed my Fitstep and Pilates classes after a two week break – and realised just how fast I’d lost ground in my efforts to keep fit… it was a struggle! On Thursday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we both got plenty of writing done, as well as putting the universe right. And on Friday morning, to celebrate Himself overcoming a miserable spell at work, we treated ourselves to an outing – we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at Chichester, then had lunch out together. I’ll be reviewing the film this coming week.

I’ve only read two books this week and one of those is a children’s book, but I’ve been working hard on my rewrite for Miranda’s Tempest and after having made a really strong start, I’ve hit the boggy mid-book bit. As I’m also making a major viewpoint change, it is slow going for the time being, until I hit the final few chapters, which I’m confident will be mostly as is.

This week I have read:
Synners by Pat Cadigan
In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the synnersexternal landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This award-winning cyberpunk adventure from 1992 is eerily prescient and well worth the effort of slowing my normal reading rate right down so I could fully appreciate the technical world-building. It took a while to get going, but is a satisfying, thought-provoking read and an apt reminder of why science fiction is my favourite genre.

 

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson
clovermoonClover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

I love Wilson’s gritty, tender writing and this Victorian adventure about a child born into a London slum was impossible to put down once I opened it up. And for those who enjoyed Wilson’s awesome Hetty Feather series, there is a wonderful scene where Clover meets up with the indomitable Hetty. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 13th November 2016

Review of Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Synners by Pat Cadigan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of An Empire Asunder – Book 2 of The Scourwind Legacy by Evan Currie

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Friday Faceoff – The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play… featuring Storm Front – Book 1 of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Review of The Silver Tide – Book 3 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

All the Gear and No Idea Guide to Maintaining Fitness in Wellington http://memoirsonthemove.com/maintaining-fitness-wellington/ In this enjoyable article, Jess charts her efforts to find a suitable pilates class after recently settling in New Zealand from the UK. But you don’t have to go around halfway around to world to pick up some sound practical tips if seeking a suitable exercise class.

These Words are Knives and Bridges https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/11/17/these-words-are-knives-bridges/ There are times when people who have undergone terrible experiences take the brave, generous decision to share them in all their raw messiness with rest of us. Jean is one such courageous person and I honour her for it. It doesn’t hurt that she also happens to write like an angel…

Five Fascinating Facts about John Skelton https://interestingliterature.com/2016/11/18/five-fascinating-facts-about-john-skelton/ This site is one of my favourites – and this particular article snagged my attention as John Skelton is an ancestor of mine.

That moment just before… https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/that-moment-just-before/ Another favourite site – and this beautiful pic says it all.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Teaser Tuesday – 15th November, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Synners by Pat Cadigan
p. 147. ‘Oh, I already know how I’m going to vote.’ The senator glanced into the bowl of the pipe and took synnersanother puff. ‘You people don’t have to worry about that, I’ll vote for legalization, though it could be a rough ride. It’s the nastiest thing I’ve ever heard of. Possibly diabolical. If I thought I could stop it, I would.’

Insane people everywhere, Manny thought. What the hell was he smoking anyway?

BLURB: In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This one has been lurking on my TBR pile for far too long and as it’s Sci Fi month and I haven’t read anything like sufficient science fiction this year – I bumped it to the top. It’s taking me a while to get into it – cyberpunk is never a swift read as I find I have to keep paying attention. But now the world is becoming clearer, I’m thoroughly enjoying it, while remembering all over again why sci fi is my favourite genre of all…