Tag Archives: robots

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc #Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by #John Scalzi #bookreview #bookblogger #Brainfluffbookreview

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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.
10/10

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Review of NETGALLEY arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

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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.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th December, 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 – WaR: Wizards and Robots by Will.i.am and Brian David Johnson

#young adult/children’s #science fiction #fantasy #adventure

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…

 

ANNDDD…

 

A Bohemian Mind at Work is featuring Dying for Space as part of the blog tour

Review of NETGALLEY book Waking Gods – Book 2 of the Themis Files by Sylvain Neuval

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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.
7/10

ANDDD…

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.

 

 

 

 

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

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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.
9/10

Review of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

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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.

madscientistsdaughterIf 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.
10/10

Review of Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne

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This is a story all about robots, living in a robot world. But before you embark on this novel– know that the grim cover is far closer to the tone and style of this book than any cosy childhood memories you might harbour of Metal Mickey…

twistedmetalPenrose: A world of intelligent robots who have forgotten their own distant past. A world where all metal, even that of their own wire-based minds, is fought over – a valuable resource to be reused and recycled.  Now full-scale war looms, as the soldiers of Artemis sweep across the continent of Shull, killing or converting every robot to their stark philosophy. Only the robots of Turing City stand in their way. Robots who believe that they are something more than metal. Karel is one such robot. Or is he?

Ballantyne has pulled off a nifty trick, here. He has produced a credible world of metal beings who are gendered – the male robots provide the wire that the females can twist and weave into a mind that powers the average robot for somewhere between thirty to forty years. However, females in Artemis no longer take time to think and decide exactly what traits they are going to include into their children’s minds – they are indoctrinated into the ethos of Nyros, that all minds are only metal, so each robot’s needs and wishes is subordinate to the State. I’m sure this is starting to ring bells amongst the non-robots amongst you… While the action scenes and carnage surround the war are depicted with clarity and power, this book is so much more than a military shoot ‘em up romp.

As we are pulled into the action through the varying viewpoints of Ballantyne’s cast of metal characters, we are confronted with some familiar themes and ideas set in a novel background. It works extremely well in giving a fresh spin on the themes of the rights of the individual, opposed to that of the State… the rise of myths in the need to create stories that make sense of our beginnings and our role within our landscape… the sheer brutality of war… And if you don’t believe that metal creatures who can replace severed limbs with a couple of clicks are able to be tortured, Ballantyne gives a disturbingly visceral plausibility to their ability to inflict all sorts of suffering on each other…

This is an engrossing, well-told story about an intriguing world and I’m currently halfway through the sequel, Blood and Iron, in which humankind puts in an appearance and it is every bit as good as the first book. I highly recommend this thought-provoking read that will be lingering in my mind long after I’ve finished with the series…

10/10