I liked the look of the cover and the premise intrigued me, so I was delighted to read and review this one…
BLURB: A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America—a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Elias and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.
This was an interesting read. There was a lot about this book that was very familiar – the dystopian neo-future world, where large corporate firms, in this case, drug companies, were producing all sorts of drugs which were less about healing and more about extracting the maximum amount of efficiency from workers. Capitalism is red in tooth and claw, throwing away people when they no longer serve the bottom line, as in the profit margin. Slavery has become acceptable, both of cyborgs and by extension, humans, although they are known as indentured.
Jack, a former research scientist, who has crossed to many lines to be regarded as a legal citizen, now produces bootleg drugs for those who cannot afford the real thing. But when one of those drugs proves to be lethal, she finds that she has drawn down unwelcome attention. The team sent out to reel her in and put a stop to her activities is a partnership between experienced Elias and Paladin, a newly built military-grade cyborg which contains a human brain. However, his memory has been compromised and he is having to learn the craft of interacting with humans and putting the skills he’s learnt in a training programme to use in the field.
It took me a while to warm to this one. The characters are not innately likeable or easy to get to know. However, as we gradually learn more about Jack and her past, I became far more sympathetic to her stance. The interesting aspect of this book is the attitude to sex. It isn’t unusual for there to be a protagonist with a casual attitude towards sex, which Jack certainly demonstrates in her relationship with Threezed. However, it isn’t an equal relationship and although it is the young runaway who instigates sex, Newitz makes it clear that because the power relationship between the two characters is so unequal, the sexual relationship is almost inevitably abusive – something Jack would not perceive to be the case. The relationship between the experienced, not-quite-burnt-out human field agent and the raw, newbie cyborg is also an uncomfortable one. Paladin picks up the fact that Elias finds him physically attractive, despite struggling with the fact that he is defined as male. So Paladin decides to reinvent herself as female, in order to please him. It’s taken me a while to work out my thoughts on this interesting book.
Overall, it is an examination of power relationships. Not just those that go to make a dystopian society where selling children for sex and working people to death is the ultimate consequence of using profit margins and market forces to run society – but how such inequalities play out on a personal level. I enjoyed the world building and tech in this near-future world which I thought worked well. However, the pacing was a bit lumpy in places, particularly at the beginning. Overall, though, I enjoyed this one and recommend it to fans of dystopian near-future adventures.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring ROBOTS. I’ve selected Robots and Empire – Book 4 of the Robot series by Isaac Asimov. I’m also linking this post to @SciFiMonth2019.
This edition was produced by Voyager in 1996 and you can clearly see the influence of the Terminator films in this iteration of the robot. I really like this offering. The artwork is uncluttered by a lot of chatter and there is something innately disturbing in watching him attach that arm. The author font – the main selling point – is also looking awesome, for a pleasant change.
Published in November 1986, this is one for those who like their covers old-school sci-fi. The detailed artwork, the figures in the middle of a dramatic moment and the lumpy font, complete with a flashy textbox adding some sales patter gives this cover a 50s/60s feel. I think it really works.
This hardcover edition, published by Doubleday & Co Inc in August 1985, features the font in a metallic, futuristic style that I love. This cover makes such a statement! I love the extra details of the robot and human protagonists depicted in those boxes, which are highlighted by the patterning. I love the clean, no chatter approach which means we get to enjoy the design without any needless distractions. I’d like to think this is a highly embossed cover. It is my favourite.
This Spanish edition, produced by Plaza & Janes Editories Sa in January 1991, instead, zooms in on the robotic face. It grabs our attention with that oh-so-human gaze. I also really like this one. But while I like the bright yellow colouring on the fonts and the quirky slant – I’m not sure exactly what that blue textbox is supposed to represent. It distracts my attention from that amazing face and yet doesn’t seem to be part of the overall design, which is a real shame. This one would have been contender, otherwise.
This hardcover edition, published in September 1985 by Grafton, is another gem. I love this classic old-school cover with those lovely Metal-Mickey type robots toiling away – the blue-grey is beautifully highlighted against that gorgeous orange/red backdrop. And that punchy font works fabulously well – yes again, no clutter, no chatter, no textbox *swoon*. I’m in heaven. If it wasn’t for that fabulous Doubleday offering, this would be my choice of the week. What about you – which one do you prefer?
I liked the look of the cover and the sound of this one, so was delighted when I was received the arc as I hadn’t read anything from this author before.
It’s a tough job being a gumshoe in an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things. Good thing I’m a stringwalker, able to jump between realities. It started when I was hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. A simple heist, I thought, but it turned into a race to stop the apocalypse. So I rolled the dice, and now I’m up against the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and a mysterious creature known as the Fool. I’m going to need more than just luck to solve this one.
I’ll be honest – it took me a while to warm to this one. Initially I wasn’t sure if the Raymond Chandleresque writing worked with all those descriptions of quantum physics, jostling up against the likes of titans, wind gods and robots. In addition, I wasn’t sure if I liked the main character much as he also took some getting used to. I wanted to kick him hard in the shins when he kept calling Zephyr ‘hon’ – even when she asked him not to. However, as we got to know him better, I decided that he was one of the good guys, after all.
While there is an overarching case that our nameless gumshoe is trying to unravel (literally, given the parlous state of the interdimensional strings that hold the city together) the book is made up of a series of mysteries he tries to crack. His assistants vary – sometimes he is alone, sometimes the robot is a sidekick and other times it’s the girl. This variation is a smart move as it stops the various adventures from feeling too similar.
However I can’t discuss this book without referring to the extraordinary worldbuilding – this is Edwards’ writing strength as he weaves a savage world where aspects of quantum physics prevail alongside the Einsteinian type we’re more used to. His flights of imagination are literally mind-boggling and while I initially felt uncomfortable at being tipped into such an odd place, Edwards’ confident depictions persuaded me to suspend my disbelief and relax into the weirdness.
It was very much worth the effort – I thoroughly enjoyed this oddball adventure and recommend it to anyone with a taste for adventure with an unusual twist. While I obtained an arc of String City from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
All subgenres of Science Fiction are included: Space Opera, Humor, TechnoThrillers, Military, Hard Science, Time Travel, Fantasy, Adventure and YA.
It’s a big universe out there…so Buckle-Up Buttercup–you’re in for a wild ride! Find your New Favorite Author and leave a Great Review.
Once again, I am part of a wonderful Instafreebie giveaway where all 54 novels on offer provide offworld adventures. I shall be featuring a selection of the free books so if you see something that takes your fancy, you can click on the link above and claim it…
“He wasn’t human. You’ve discovered the existence of a new enemy combatant, Captain. Since you saw him – he saw you.”
150 years after the last war, humanity has united in exploring space with colonies on its moon and Mars. But the Europa Mission has just failed and 152 people died in space. No one knows why. When military bioscientist Capt. Warren’s hidden research installation gets attacked, he joins forces with armored assault Sgt. Von Radach. They become entangled in a deadly fight to stop the theft of classified military secrets by a lethal female villain. Her devious plans to use enemy cyborgs posing as humans and altering military personnel’s neural implants to accept her commands have every chance of succeeding. Unless…Capt. Warren and Sgt. Von Radach can end her first.
A lethal orbital defense platform.
A squad of green Marines.
A silent alien killer.
WHO DIES NEXT?
2441AD. A quarantine platform in the Rakasa system goes quiet and a squad of freshly minted Marines are sent to investigate. The blood soon flows, but there is one Marine who has the bravery and cunning to take on even the most lethal hidden foe. Set 125 years before the events on Tranquility that sparked the creation of the Human Legion, ‘The Demons of Kor-Lir’ is a standalone novella that is also an introduction to the Sleeping Legion novels.
Isaac and Aaron are nothing if not survivors. Their homeworld lost and their people scattered, all they have left is each other. Then, in the Far Outworlds, they find a dead colony with a beautiful young woman frozen in cryostasis. She is also a survivor—and she needs their help.
Arek Lancer, independent freight hauler, just wants to pick up a cargo from the port of Buhin. But when an old “friend” from his military days forces Lancer to take on a cargo to deliver to a criminal organization, he must figure a way out of the mess before either side kills him.
Clunk’s grateful when his boss sends him off for a refit, because old robots are usually junke
d. So what’s the catch?
Well, before the refit he must help a freelancer pick up some cargo. Landing in a deserted field under cover of darkness, avoiding customs ships, orbital lasers and trigger-happy warships along the way, is not a problem for Clunk. The freelance pilot is a much bigger challenge, because Hal Spacejock is obstinate, over-confident, and woefully under-skilled, and yet he refuses to cede control of his ship to a mere robot.
Can the two of them sort out their differences and deliver the cargo, or will they still be wrestling over the controls when the deadline expires?
I enjoy Scalzi’s books, but the one that blew me away was Lock In – see my review here – his futuristic murder mystery featuring Haden-sufferer, Chris Shane, as his investigative protagonist. It has stayed with me where so many other books have faded into the furniture. Would I enjoy Head On as much?
Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.
Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth—and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.
So there you have the blurb. This book is designed to be read as a standalone and as it is a fairly complicated setup, where the role of Haden’s Syndrome and how it has impacted on the sufferers and US society in general has to be explained, it takes a while for the story to really get going.
The game of Hilketa initially had me cringing, but I’m not used to watching massively armoured American football players charging at each other with the force of a small truck. Once I factored in the US national sport, this next step of ripping apart the robot avatars didn’t seem so extreme.
As with Lock In, for me, the joy of this book is the worldbuilding. Scalzi’s take on how this terrible syndrome has impacted on society, as well as the individuals who have contracted the illness, is beautifully nuanced. Throughout the book, there is the on-going discussion about the initial, very generous financial support package for Haden’s sufferers – and the effects now that has been drastically scaled back. I love the unforeseen consequences of both the government handouts and what happens to a number of the characters once those payments are suddenly withdrawn.
Chris Shane is an engaging, sympathetic protagonist, with an extra edge. His famous, wealthy father was in vanguard of finding new therapies and road-testing the threeps – the robot bodies that Haden’s patients use in daily life while their biological bodies remain bedbound and apparently unresponsive. So Chris became a posterchild in the political fight for recognition of the Haden’s Syndrome – and even now, he is moderately famous. I’m aware that I’ve been discussing the world rather than commenting on the murder mystery. I enjoyed that every bit as much as the futuristic setting and I particularly appreciated reading about a crime that wouldn’t be able to take place now, because we simply don’t have the technology or those circumstances.
Scalzi’s plotting and pacing is skilful, the mystery is suitably twisty with a satisfying number of suspects and I also liked the denouement and the reasons for the crime. Once again, they are all too plausible. There is plenty of drama with several memorable action scenes featuring these tough robots – I could see this world making a wonderful TV series. Once again, Scalzi has nailed this one and it is highly recommended for fans of futuristic murder mystery adventures.
When I read what fellow book blogger, Ana, from Ana’s Lair had to say about this offering, I immediately hightailed it over to NetGalley to request it. I was delighted when I was approved and bumped it up to the top of my pile because I was so keen to read it.
Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist. Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.
This is ambitious book is not only a gripping story about what happens to an old lady in a care home, but it is also a discussion about what it means to be human. Kitcatt isn’t afraid to hold up the pace of his unsettling story to provide detailed conversations between Margaret and Winifred, which have stayed with me since I finished reading the book. I’m not sure if I agree with the conclusions he comes to, but they are certainly food for thought and I do thoroughly agree with the prevalent view throughout the book that the life experience gained by the elderly is essentially thrown away in our modern society. This is in sharp contrast to almost every other culture throughout history, where the wisdom of the aged is valued and held in high regard. Although the conclusions that Winifred come to are somewhat worrying…
Any niggles? Well, I do have one. I’m still scratching my head as to why Kitcatt has set the book in 2022, given the sophistication and real-life appearance of the robot. That is only four years away and I simply don’t believe we are anywhere near producing an artificial being with that sophistication and complexity to be rolled out and fully interact with a very fragile human being in the manner described in the book. To be honest, when I saw the date I nearly didn’t continue, being rather nerdy about this sort of thing. While I’m aware, great strides have been made in the field of AI and robotics. I simply don’t believe we are within touching distance of the likes of Winifred and her hub.
However, the writing is sufficiently good and the book has been produced to a high standard with solid formatting, so I decided to proceed and give the author a pass on the unrealistic timeline. Other than that, this is an engrossing read with some important things to say about what we value as a society and a species, and though I thought I knew exactly what the ending would be, that final twist did leave me with a shiver up my spine. All in all, this is a memorable and unsettling read, recommended for anyone who enjoys near future science fiction relating to our current society.
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 – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson
When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.
But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.
Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…
This sounds like a mash-up where Terminator meets Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness. To be honest, it was the sheer weirdness of the blurb that had me requesting the arc of this offering – that and the fabulous cover. As well as the fact that the authors clearly know their history – Ada Lovelace, notable mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron and Luring, which sounds very similar to Alan Turing, genius and credited with breaking the crucial code that helped to bring WWII to an end. I like those kinds of word associations and appreciate it when authors play those types of games. I’m looking forward to tucking into this offering in due course…
A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour
I’d heard a lot about this series and so was delighted when I spotted this one on Netgalley.
As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force. Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.
I make a regular habit of crashing series midway through and most of the time it is absolutely fine. However, I have a real sense that I would have enjoyed this book a whole lot more if I had read Sleeping Giants first as there didn’t seem to be a particular moment for the reader to bond with the main protagonists before the action all kicked off again. There was certainly plenty going on – those huge robots were suitably mysterious and chilling.
As I hadn’t read the first book, it took me a while to work out what exactly what happening with Themis and why only a very select number of people could control it. I was certainly startled when one of the main characters died – but there was a fair amount of mayhem and destruction, which was well depicted. It’s a tricky proposition to portray widespread annihilation and get the readers to really care for the thousands who have died, but this was one of most successful parts of this book. I was genuinely shocked at the sudden outbreak of violence and the extent of it. The deaths were also very well handled.
However, I didn’t really care as much for the main characters and their fates as I felt that I should and the narrative told in the form of recorded files meant that it read in places far more like a play. I suspect that this book is brilliant in audio form – but I missed the layers and nuances you get with characters’ gestures, given they were little more than talking heads throughout. That said, there was never any risk of my not completing it – the action was far too engrossing. While I obtained the arc of Waking Gods from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
My debut novel Running Out of Space is featured today by those nice folks at the Daily Waffle, complete with an excerpt from the book.
I read the premise, saw the awesome cover and immediately requested it from Netgalley – and my hunch paid off.
BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.
This book drew me in from the very first page and did not let go until the end. I think the secret to this book is the very strong first-person narrative. We see the world through Brittle’s eyes as robots now rule the world, and she struggles to survive as a freebot. Constantly on the run with other surviving stragglers, Brittle also has to ensure she has sufficient spare parts to keep going. Given that during this savage civil war she has no access to any manufacturing plant, she is reduced to preying on other desperate robots scavenging in the sea of Rust – a desert graveyard where robots end up dying while trying to find the parts they need to keep going.
The world building is chillingly plausible as in between the ongoing action Brittle recalls how the world got in this mess in the first place. The overall tone is gritty and the action full on but this post-apocalyptic dystopian landscape is prevented from being unbearably bleak by the spiky point of view. I love Brittle! It also doesn’t hurt that the storyline is gripping and the writing exceptionally good.
While the book is packed with foot-to-the-floor action that had me zipping through the pages, holding my breath, there are also lyrically beautiful passages where Brittle is recalling the past. I thoroughly enjoyed the various plot twists, which I mostly didn’t see coming – I certainly didn’t predict the end. In fact, I thought we had already reached the end and was slightly startled when I turned the page to realise the story was continuing. I have to say that I am slightly ambivalent as I thought that first conclusion worked very well. However, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of cracking read and I think this is one I shall be remembering a long time to come. Recommended for fans of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories as well as folks who enjoy reading well-written science fiction.
While I obtained the arc of Sea of Rust from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
The strapline on the cover of this intriguing book is A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots. And that is exactly what it is about.
Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion… and more. But when the government grants right to the ever-increasing robot population, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and her heart.
If you’re looking for a slam-dunk, action fuelled adventure full of clear-cut baddies and heavy-tech weaponry, then don’t pick up The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Because this offering is on the literary end of the genre, with nuanced, three-dimensional characterisation and coolly sophisticated prose that places this book in a heavily contemporary setting, due to the recent crash in civilisation – and also accounts for the sudden, huge reliance on robots, as their tireless assistance is needed to provide vital labour in rebuilding society. Not that this is the focus of the book.
This story concentrates on Cat and her relationship with the world, after having been tutored by a robot for all her formative years. And, by default, Finn’s relationship with Cat also is under close examination. Because the bond between them is heart and engine of the book, it has to be pitch-perfect. And it is. Don’t expect any black and white answers – this book is beautifully complex and Cat’s life unfolds in unexpected and sometimes disturbing directions.
Cat is a challenging protagonist. At times, I really disliked her selfishness and assumption that her needs are paramount – but then, she was brought up by an endlessly patient mechanoid, whose main task was to entertain, teach and befriend the little girl. Why wouldn’t she believe her wishes were of supreme importance? However, this book cleverly displays her patent shortcomings – and then has her face a series of life events that challenge her assumptions. And as she gradually learns that much of the blithe assurances she and her father mouthed back in those early days were far too cosy and simplistic, we get a ringside seat to her suffering and gradual maturity. By the end of the book, I was thoroughly rooting for her – and for Finn, whose initial purpose is far from clear cut.
Clarke’s clever examination of this complicated and often emotional subject assumes her readers are equally intelligent and willing to allow her to gradually unfold some of the major problems surrounding close relationships between humans and robots in a thoroughly grown-up manner. I loved it and will be recalling this classic book for a long time to come.