Tag Archives: near-future dystopian science fiction

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 25th October, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

#science fiction #military

Rex is a Good Dog. He loves humans. He hates enemies. He’s utterly obedient to Master.

He’s also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. With Dragon, Honey and Bees, he’s part of a Multi-form Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, Southeastern Mexico.

Rex is a genetically engineered bioform, a deadly weapon in a dirty war. He has the intelligence to carry out his orders and feedback implants to reward him when he does. All he wants to be is a Good Dog. And to do that he must do exactly what Master says and Master says he’s got to kill a lot of enemies. But who, exactly, are the enemies?

I’m a fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing as he writes cracking adventures that also has you thinking about the issues he raises long after you’ve closed the book and walked away. I’m guessing this one will be no different and that poor Rex will be caught in a very difficult situation. Fortunately, I shan’t have to wait too long as this one is being published on 2nd November.

 

ANNDDD…

 

Laura at Fuonlyknew reviews Running Out of Space…

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Autonomy by Jude Houghton

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I was offered the opportunity to read this Autonomy by Grimbold Books, in return for an honest review should I enjoy it. I’m so grateful they did…

autonomyBalmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They never should have met, and now they will rip the world apart.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite? What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world? What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making? What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed? Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

And yes, folks, this really could be your future… In Houghton’s dystopian vision, our civilisation implodes in 2020 during a welter of environmental and political upheavals that sweeps away the old order. Autonomy emerges from the ruins after the death of millions, while the rest of the population are battling lawlessness and famine. And Autonomy’s solution is runaway capitalism to provide the bare necessities for the bulk of humanity and a far better standard of living for the chosen few. So, in essence, nothing really changes – I just love the ironic title…

I’m not sure if Houghton has ever studied the Industrial Revolution, or read The condition of the working class in England in 1844 by Friedrich Engels, but some of the details he produces about the wretched lives of Balmoral’s family were scarily reminiscent. However, this isn’t some polemic rant about how awful it’s going to be if we don’t get our act in gear and I wouldn’t have bothered reading it if it was. It’s a strong story crackling with narrative tension, vivid characters and a snaking plot that drew me in.

Structured as an epic, with a variety of third person viewpoints, Houghton isn’t afraid to kill off a number of his characters along the way – with some of them I saw their imminent demise coming, but there are several that pulled me up short. The plot spans the two worlds represented by Balmoral and Pasco. Initially, my sympathy was all with Balmoral and I rather despised Pasco – but as the book wore on, I found myself warming to Pasco despite the fact that he isn’t our classic lantern-jawed, action hero, which is a slot taken by his twin brother.

In amongst all the mayhem, Houghton raises some interesting questions – if you are enmeshed in a truly undemocratic, brutal regime, are you justified in inflicting violence on passing innocent bystanders in the struggle to overthrow said brutal regime? If by inflicting a brutal undemocratic regime you can keep millions alive on subsistence level, is it justified, given that without that skimped, grudging infra-structure they’ll all die anyhow?

However, in the end, it was all about the story. The climactic finale had to have plenty of action and drama, given the heightened tone throughout – I was wondering whether Houghton would be able to ramp this up another notch, and I pleased that he managed to pull it off, tying up and bringing together all the elements in the narrative in a satisfying ending. All in all, this is an entertaining near-future thriller with a thought-provoking message embedded amongst all the action. It’s what science fiction does best.
9/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 27th March 2016

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Given I am now reading and reviewing more frequently, I thought I’d follow Hayley’s suggestion over at RatherTooFondofBooks – check it out, it’s a really good book blog – and write a short summary of my week to share with other bloggers, inspired by the Sunday Post meme from the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week I completed and wrote reviews for three books:-

Luna: New Moon – Book 1 of the Luna series by Ian McDonaldluna
This was a vivid, entertaining read about runaway development in a viciously capitalist structure that has the Five Dragon ruling family battling for ascendancy. I’ve already posted the review here.

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
manyselvesofkatherineThis Netgalley arc is a remarkable read about a young girl who jumps into premade animal bodies – Ressies – in order to better understand the habits and lives of the wildlife around us against a backdrop of climactic change. As a YA dystopian science fiction adventure, this book has far more science content than the average YA read, and the character is complex and nuanced. I featured this book in this week’s Teaser Tuesday. My review will not be appearing until June, however, when the book is due to be released.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
This is another storming read – I LOVED this fantasy offering. The magic system is great, the uprootedprotagonist punchy and spirited, but what for me sets this book apart is the nature of the Wood, whose implacable opposition to humanity blights the lives of all who have to live near it. I shall be posting the review in due course.

I posted a blog every day, with one reblog from the marvellous Lizzie Baldwin’s entertaining book blog. My most popular post was this week’s Teaser Tuesday, as Emma Geen’s book attracted a lot of attention, with the next most visited post this week being my article Favourite Space Operas – Part 1.

I’m grateful to everyone who popped in and an especial thanks goes to those of you who took the trouble to comment – I still get a thrill at being able to share my reading passion with like-minded souls. Happy Easter to you all!

Teaser Tuesday – 22nd March 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:

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

45%: Readjusting to a human colour palette after a week of being a snake means that I’m finding instances of the forgotten colours everywhere. Rubbing my eyes doesn’t help, though alternating the manyselvesofkatherineshower between cold and hot at least makes me feel a little more real.

BLURB: Kit has been projecting into other species for seven years. Longer than anyone else at ShenCorp. Longer than any of the scientists thought possible. But lately she has the feeling that when she jumps she isn’t alone… Since she was twelve, Kit has been a phenomenaut, her consciousness projected into the bodies of lab-grown animals for the purpose of research. Kit experiences a multitude of other lives – fighting and fleeing, predator and prey – always hoping, but never quite believing, that her work will help humans better understand the other species living alongside them. But after a jump as an urban fox ends in disaster, Kit begins to suspect that those she has trusted for her entire working life may be out to cause her harm. And, as she delves deeper into the events of that night, her world begins to shift in ways she had never thought possible.

This YA sci fi Netgalley offering is a blast – the writing is a real exploration of how to write about senses we don’t have and Geen’s depiction is extraordinary. I’ll be reviewing it in due course…

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Rook Song – Book 2 of The Gaia Chronicles by Naomi Foyle

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I loved Astra, the first book in this series – see my review here – so was delighted when I had the opportunity to acquire the sequel.

rook songAstra has found work in an ancient fortress in Non-Land: headquarters of the Council of New Continents, the global body charged with providing humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of this toxic refugee camp. Recovering from a disorienting course of Memory Pacification Treatment, Astra struggles to focus on her overriding goals – to find her Code father. But can the CONC compound director, the ambiguous Major Thames, protect her from the hawk-eyed attentions of her old enemies? And who in this world of competing agendas can she trust? The deeper Astra ventures into this new world, the more she realises her true quest may be to find herself.

The first book left Astra in a hard place – I was shocked at the speed at which events overtook her, so was eager to dive back into this detailed, complicated world. But initially I struggled and needed to really focus on what was going on with whom as this story is told in multiple viewpoint, with Astra being one of a group of protagonists. But I’m so glad I persevered – it is worth it.

Once I worked out the cast of characters, the tension steadily builds up, as the bubbling dissatisfaction amongst the landless refugees finds a new focus. Foyle is certainly a gutsy writer, who is unafraid of dealing with subjects not often discussed in science fiction. A number of her characters are born with deformities due to the environmental pollution and she describes how they cope in the camp where they live with inadequate medical assistance. Given the issue of the Syrian refugees, a lot of events and settings in Rook Song are scaldingly topical. Foyle’s sure-footed, vivid writing takes this story into another, slightly mystical level and I enjoy the fact that some of the people and happenings are left ambiguous – I still cannot make up my mind which side Lil is on… But, then Astra hasn’t a clue, either, as various political groups decide to make her a pawn for their own ends.

Astra lingered with me, despite the fact that I read it several months ago and since have been engrossed in a number of other great books – so far 2016 has been a golden year for the sheer quality of my reading choices. Although I only recently completed Rook Song, I’m guessing this one will have scored similar inroads upon my inscape and I recommend this challenging, well written series for anyone interested in complex and immersive stories.

All the views I have expressed are my honest opinion, in exchange for an ARC copy of the book via Netgalley
10/10

Review of Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

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Imagine a near-future London where advances in medical science have led to the development of a single-dose pill which, taken when pregnant, eradicates many common genetic defects from an unborn baby. Hope Morrison, mother of a hyperactive four-year-old, is expecting her second child. She refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known. Her refusal divides her family and friends and puts her and her husband in danger of imprisonment or worse. Is Hope’s decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to wilful neglect of her unborn child?

This is a chillingly plausible take on our near future and MacLeod has beautifully depicted a very recognisable world with all sorts of intrusionenjoyable touches. I love the climate change – while the rest of the world is growing warmer, the British Isles will be significantly colder and wetter without the warming ocean currents. I also like the genetically enhanced trees and the fact that wind farms are now obsolete. The fact that they are installed in the Highlands, away from the sensibilities of irate nimbys residing in populous England was also a fine irony.

Pregnant women forced to wear monitor rings and effectively barred from working in the public sphere for fear of pollutants causing any problems for their unborn babies was also a scenario I could see as all too realistic, in a society increasingly risk averse. But having a strong, believable backdrop isn’t going to rescue a book if I don’t care about the characters. Hope and her husband, Hugh were both well drawn, with their everyday domestic routines nicely juxtaposed against all those jarring details. I liked their edges and although initially I was concerned about Hugh’s ‘issues’ I decided to just go with the flow, so long as I enjoyed reading about the world. I’m so glad I did.  His backstory proved to be engrossing and the resulting consequences an intriguing scientific explanation for second sight

The story is a real gem. I found Hope’s gut feeling that she didn’t want The Fix all too believable – and the fact because she cannot exactly put her finger on why she doesn’t want to the treatment for her unborn child causes a lot of trouble. Once she refuses to use religion as protective camouflage, she is attacked on all sides. Even other women who decide not to take The Fix are critical of her, on the grounds that her stand is pure selfishness. Without lurching into spoiler territory, I cannot discuss too much more about the storyline – except to say that the pressure doesn’t ease up on this family anytime, soon. Even more worrying is the treatment handed out to British subjects of a different ethnic origin under the guise of trying to control the potential terrorist threat. Continual surveillance, constant stop and search sessions in the back of police vans are the least of their worries – all in the name of keeping Britain safe from a nihilistic terrorist threat.

The story reaches a shocking climax – with the ending packing a memorable punch that raised the hair on the nape of my neck. I haven’t always found MacLeod a totally satisfying read – but this is right up there with the best he’s ever written.
10/10

Review of Sound Mind by Tricia Sullivan

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I came across a copy of Sound Mind at the local library, did a happy jig and snagged it off the shelves on the grounds that Tricia Sullivan’s shopping lists probably make an interesting read…

When Cassidy Walker stumbles into the middle of the highway, bloodied and bruised, Bard College in flames behind her, and manages to flag down a ride, she thinks the worst is over. Arriving in the nearby town of Red Hook, Cassidy tries to call her parents but the phone lines are down. Later she will discover that no radio or television signals are being received. The town, it seems, is cut off from the rest of the world – no one can get in and no one can get out. But that’s not the strangest thing by a long shot…  There is more – but it ventures into Spoiler Country and I’ve views on ruining the reader’s experience by giving too much away in blurting blurbs.

This story starts with a bang as Sullivan’s books generally do. And Cassidy is a wholly convincing, entertaining protagonist whose terrifying experiences are vividly portrayed. Although it gradually becomes clear that she isn’t exactly what she initially seems. Sullivan is a highly intelligent writer who isn’t afraid to push the envelope. As with all such artists, this means that the results can be variable.

soundmindThe overall story is full of tension and adventure and – mostly – moves along at a good clip. It was only about halfway through that I realised that Sound Mind is a sequel to Double Vision, which I’d read before I was organised enough to make a note of every book I read, on account of my chronically awful memory. Despite the fact that I couldn’t recall much about Double Vision, I didn’t have too much difficulty grasping what was going on in Sound Mind, so it certainly ticks the box of not relying on the first book in the duology to make it a viable read.

One of Sullivan’s trademarks is to start with a credible problem set in a recognisable primary world setting, always portrayed with pin-sharp clarity. And as the story advances, she steadily pushes the borders of normality until we are confronted with something that is right on the edge of the fantastical – while still within the science fiction genre. Unlike a number of science fiction writers, Sullivan has no problem keeping her protagonists vulnerable and sympathetic as they are subjected to a series of increasingly bizarre ordeals. I really enjoyed the ending, which after the fantastic, multi-layered plot, could so easily have sold the reader short. It doesn’t.

The role of music is thoroughly explored within this novel. Cassidy is a music student and comes to believe that it is one of her taped compositions that has brought into being the destruction that has sealed off Red Hook. She explains to the reader exactly what she was trying to achieve and why – and goes into a lot of fairly academic detail about her feelings about music as a personal anchor for her. As ever, Sullivan’s work is layered and clever, with constant touches of humour to help leaven the chaos and violence – and her discussions about music throughout the book are often enlightening and entertaining. However, there are also a few places where I think some judicious editing would have improved the pace of what is – essentially – an adventure story. I love the fact that science fiction is a genre where the story is often not only an entertaining escapist read, but a vehicle to explore ideas and themes, although this is something of a balancing act. At times, the discussions/explanations about the role of music silt up the pace and I found myself skimming across these sections, particularly in the second half of the book.

But this is a minor quibble about a book that once more establishes Sullivan as a major voice in the genre, who deserves a great deal more exposure than she gets. And if you also are fortunate enough to find a copy of the book in your local library or secondhand bookshop – scoop it up. You’ll thank me if you do…
8/10

Review of Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan

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Tricia Sullivan is a wonderful talent – I was absolutely blown away by Dreaming of Smoke and Maul, but am disappointed – and shocked – to learn that only her latest book, Lightborn, is still in print. Hopefully, some farsighted epublishing company will be importuning her about releasing her back catalogue very soon.

Lightborn is a revolutionary new technology that has transformed the modern world. Better known as ‘shine’, it is the ultimate in education, self-improvement and entertainment – beamed directly into the mind of anyone who can meet the asking price. But what do you do if the shine in question has a mind of its own…?

lightbornYipee! At last – a blurb that actually does what it should – give the reader a brief insight into the book’s theme and subject matter WITHOUT blurting out a whole tranche of spoilers along the way. Gold star for Orbit.

We follow the fortunes of two youngsters, Roksana and Xavia as they struggle to cope when life in the Arizona town of Los Sombres falls apart as the adults all go mad. This being Sullivan, don’t expect classic dystopian, ‘Oh my God, the world is falling apart, isn’t this awful?’ What marks her out as such a joy to read, is that she is an author who assumes her readers are intelligent enough to keep up without having everything spelt out. So as we watch both Roksana and Xavia’s characters mature throughout the catastrophe and follow their personal griefs and coping strategies, their personal stories steadily unfold. They are both complex and interestingly three-dimensional – and Sullivan isn’t afraid to show their less likeable traits.

The role of parenthood and caring is examined as the children are forced to become responsible for their mentally damaged parents – and this being a Sullivan novel, there are no slick, tailor-made answers served up. Roksana’s father, a shine guru, is an inadequate parent who refuses to engage with her on an emotional level, despite his ability to provide protection against the lightborn. As people battle to rebuild their lives after the initial catastrophe, Sullivan also looks at what constitutes a functioning community by providing two quite distinct models – those survivors in Los Sombres scraping together a functioning existence from the wreckage, while also dodging the Government forces; and the community that the local Indian tribe have fostered on a ranch in the wilderness, as far away from the influence of the shine that they can get.

I am conscious that in teasing out these strands, I may have given the impression that the actual storyline is a worthy attempt to dissect these issues – and Lightborn is nothing of the sort. The books starts with a bang, whisking the reader immediately into the narrative and as there is no limited omniscient info-dump silting up the action, you need to pay attention, because this is a fast-paced book. The worldbuilding is absolutely fit for purpose – and if we would like more insights to the overarching political role of the near-future America in which this all plays out, then we fill in the blanks ourselves. As Xavier and Roksana aren’t concerned with how American interests mesh with the rest of the world, this isn’t an aspect that figures in the novel – and that’s fine with me.

Her writing, as ever, is wonderful. Dialogue is pitch perfect and the passages describing the sentient lightborn as it interacts with the human brain is brutal and beautiful. As you may have gathered, I highly rate this book. Any niggles? Nope. Not a single one. But don’t take my word for it – go find a copy and read it yourself. You won’t be sorry you did…
10/10