Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review of Peace on Earth by Stanislaw Lem

Ahh, Ijon Tichy, Stanislaw Lem’s intrepid researcher, adventurer, interplanetary traveler, scientist, explorer, diplomat, and all-round science fiction jack-of-all-trades. In Peace on Earth (1986), one of Lem’s last novels, he returns for his last escapade.

The brave Tichy has been callosotomised (left brain hemisphere severed from the right) at the beginning of Peace on Earth. His right hand doing very different things than his left, and mouth occasionally spouting words a moment later he wished it hadn’t, he consults with the world’s experts, trying to bring some sanity back into his life. Mental certainty not the only thing lacking, there’s a certain portion of his memory that’s likewise missing—and it appears the intentional result of the surgery after a visit to the moon.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review of The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon

Robert Silverberg calls the 1950s the real Golden Age of science fiction, not the decade prior. With the bloom of Algis Budrys, Arthur C. Clarke, C.M. Kornbluth, Walter M. Miller, James Blish, Clifford Simak, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, Wilson Tucker, Robert Sheckley, and others, it's tough to argue. Producing books and stories that went beyond the confection of ray guns and drooling aliens, human concerns were brought front and center, even as the backdrops utilized the now-standard tropes of science fiction. One of the greatest if not the most unique writer to appear in the decade was Theodore Sturgeon, and his debut novel, 1950's The Dreaming Jewels, is the flag waving, marking the changing of the guard - or in this case, precious metals.

As fresh at the beginning of the 21st century as when it was first published in the mid-20th, The Dreaming Jewels is a singular story of self-discovery, alien jewels, and the value of quality relationships to personal stability and well-being. The life portrayed in traveling carnivals in (then) contemporary America is just the icing. Abused at the hands of a nasty step-father, young Horty escapes and is picked up by a passing show at the tender age of eight. Raised amongst a variety of freaks and carnies, he never loses sight of a mysterious jack-in-the-box he's had since birth—a jack-in-the-box which causes extreme anxiety near to the point of death when he’s separated from it. Their traveling show managed by the cadaverous Pierre Monetreto, Horty, and a kind woman named Zena, are eventually pushed to the brink of sanity by the man's inexplicable actions. A scientist by training, the point of Monetreto’s research is slowly revealed, and darker the portents become...

Review of Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos

Marko Kloos' Terms of Enlistment (2013) is a precise result of the formula described in How to Write Military Science Fiction—emphasis on precise. It will be liked or disliked accordingly.

(Apologies for the short review, but sometimes a simple statement is enough.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review of Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville

China Mieville’s first collection Looking for Jake: Stories is an uneven selection of shorts. For as much quality writing is present, there is also mediocre, overwrought material. “Reports of Certain Events in London,” “The Tain,” and the title story remain some of Mieville’s best published short work. But the likes of “The Ball Room,” “Details,” “Go Between”, “An End to Hunger,” and “Tis the Season” are conventional at best, and as such, forgettable. (And dare I mention the “drunken dictionary” of “Familiar”??) Fast forward a decade to Mieville’s second collection, Three Moments of an Explosion (2015). A whole new facet of Mieville in short form is revealed.

Two pages long (and available here), the title story “Three Moments of an Explosion” sets the tone for the collection. Perspectives to a building demolition, they include the blackly sarcastic corporate view, the “urban melancholics” view who hide in its dingy shadows using ecstasy, and the view of the ghost who lives inside. Mieville seeming to indicate ‘hang on for the ride,” the twenty-seven stories which follow cover a wide, wide gamut of scenes and times, moods and modes, lengths and depths. From icebergs floating over London (and the exploration thereof) to the New Dead (corpses oriented like in video games), paranormal decks of playing cards (a great love story) to crystallized aliens in lava (a more mature rendering of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, in fact), zombie movie trailers to mysterious sunken fleets, decrepit space elevators to monologues with stolen idols, a classic (albeit slightly grotesque) ghost story to a bizarre yet weirdly interesting take on animal butchery, animate oil rigs to cross sections of art, china horses to scrimshawed bones in cadavers—no story seems to cover the same ground twice, a fact underlined by the careful, precise flow of language.

Review of A Life for the Stars by James Blish

An outward explosion of ideas (figuratively and literally), James Blish’s Cities in Flight sequence describes mankind’s transition from little Earth into the wide-wide galaxy via spindizzies—cities capable of interstellar flight. A Life for the Stars the last book of the four books published yet falling second chronologically, it tells of the young Chris deFord and the life aboard a spindizzy that befalls him.

Though published a few years after Heinlein had stopped writing juveniles, A Life for the Stars has a strong juvi feel to it. The teenage Chris press-ganged onto a spindizzy moments before it blasts off Earth into space, he soon finds himself receiving an education in astronomy, and on a path to becoming a leader and scientist in the interstellar community. Chris has several adventures on the way to discovering the worlds and cities mankind has settled in the universe, confirming, if not beating to death, the coming of age/young man in the wonders of space story. At times, the the story even feels like filler—an obligatory step in the development of the larger Cities in Flight sequence rather than an essential vision within that context. Which brings me to:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Review of Polystom by Adam Roberts

In perhaps the least likely of combinations, author Adam Roberts has a PhD and teaches in the area of English classics, yet finds novels published yearly (even occasionally awarded) in the field of science fiction. Victoriana and space ships unlikely bedfellows, Roberts keeps the two separate, rarely giving hints to his science fiction readers of his Dr. Jekyll existence (it has to be Jekyll). Roberts’ debut novel Salt is a fresh take on a classic science fiction conceit: contentious political ideals warring on a new planetary colony. His second novel On, while not overtly science fictional, is nevertheless a work certainly more in line with Christopher Priest’s Inverted World than Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. And his third novel Stone, despite its anti-hero, reverts back to more traditional sf tropes—a lot more than one finds in the poetry of Robert Browning, the subject of Roberts’ PhD thesis. With Roberts’ fourth novel Polystom (2002), however, something of his Jekyll appears in his Hyde.

Ostensibly three novellas rolling along, one building upon the previous, Polystom (despite that the title sounds like a setting) tells of the trials and tribulations of the eponymous man. Something of a dandy-dilettante, ‘Stom, as he is often called, lives on a massive estate. Waited upon hand and foot, he indulges daily in poetry, gourmet food, and long walks in the forest. His recent past colored by the deaths of both his fathers, as well as his newlywed wife, he consoles himself with airplane flights across the ether to visit his uncle on the moon. It’s upon reconciling his losses, however, that things get tough, and real decisions are required.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tunnel Vision: Exclusivity in Science Fiction in Robert J. Sawyer’s Review of Oryx and Crake

I recently read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, a post-apocalyptic novel that toys with the subjectivity of utopian/dystopian ideals in a viscerally human world.  As is usual upon finishing an engaging novel, I went to the net, curious about others’ opinions and views.  It was there I encountered Robert J. Sawyer’s review of the novel—coming to a state of silent shock, or at least quiet awe, quickly therein.  As blinkered as a horse, Sawyer’s view is so hermetic, so self-assuming as to cause wonder.  Is science fiction really so limited in scope?  Is science fiction disconnected from other forms of fiction—an insular realm unto itself?  I was even left wondering, does Sawyer have an individual problem with Atwood—personal issues that overshadow his views…  But to the facts:

1. Sawyer opens his review of Oryx and Crake with comparison to another Atwood dystopia: “Yes, one might have been able to argue that her earlier, and quite terrific, futuristic foray, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale, wasn't really science fiction — it had no basis in science…”

The last time I checked, there was a broad field of social sciences—behaviorism, politics, sociology, human anthropology—informing the speculation of The Handmaid’s Tale.  Without the hard sciences, however, it appears The Handmaid’s Tale is not science-based, and therefore not worthy of the “science fiction” moniker.   Is hard science indeed a determining factor of what is and isn’t science fiction?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review of The Golden by Lucius Shepard

Vampire fiction. There are a lot of ideas and opinions tucked into those two words. From perhaps the most ruminative look at the concept in Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the cheese and pomp of Twilight and innumerable other similar consumables, a wide swathe of views and representations of the blood-sucking legend have appeared in fiction. As that thimbleful of regular readers will know, this blog is no friend to most vampire stories, precisely because so much material tends to be so far skewed to the sensational/operatic side. But there is a middle ground—a fuzzy place where mediocrity does not set this reviewer raving. Books like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream will not set the literary world on fire, but they remain reasonably digestible samples of the medium. While on vacation, I decided to take along another sample: Lucius Shepard’s 1994 The Golden.

After generations of gene purification, the Golden has been created. A woman with blood of the finest essence, the vampire families have set aside their feuds to gather at the castle of the Patriarch to feast. Trouble is, the day before festivities the Golden is murdered in most brutal form. Protégé to the powerful noble Agenor, the volatile Beheim, has been assigned the disreputable task of finding the murderer. Needing to be solved in the coming two days before all the guests leave, Beheim’s questions and answers take him to the darkest corners of the castle. Talking with the likely murderers, friend and foe become ever harder to discern, and ultimately Beheim’s own life is put into jeopardy as the vampire social fabric comes unraveling around him.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review of The Deep by John Crowley

There is much of epic fantasy that, regardless of its primary intents, glorifies war in some fashion.  Honor, courage, nobility, heroism, etc. the most common of themes, war and conflict most often prove the best backdrops to realize them.  But epic fantasy that uses war and conflict to comment on concepts available at the next plane of thought?  John Crowley’s spartan debut The Deep (1975) is such an exotic object.

The Reds in perpetual conflict with the Blacks, The Deep opens at the end of another battle.  Their traditional battleground, called the Drumskin, covered in dead bodies from both sides, the Enwives are left to clean up the mess as the generals and leaders head back to their cities to lick their wounds.  Among the bodies, the Endwives find a Visitor.  Neither male nor female, the Visitor tells a strange tale, of coming from the stars, and wanting to return.  Captured by a captain in the Red army, he is taken back to the capital and installed as a secretary.  And the war continues.  An assassin taking out a key leader in the Red army, the war goes on, and the Visitor is left to fend for himself, finding a way back to his home. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review of Mort by Terry Pratchett

Roll back to 1987, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is but a blip on the reading world’s radar. With only a duology (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic) and a stand-alone novel (EqualRites) published, Pratchett was just beginning to feel out the breadth of ideas at his fingertips, the vast numbers of Discworld readers not yet onboard, let alone cognizant of the behemoth moving on the horizon. Electing to take the series in yet another new direction for its fourth novel, Mort, Pratchett reverted to a side character from the previous novels and set him center stage. And full of ennui.

DEATH is feeling anxiety. After thousands and thousands of years of collecting the dead for the afterlife, a certain languor for existence has settled in. He’s grown weary of his trade and wishes to have an apprentice so he may explore other aspects of… existence. Descending upon a trader’s market late one evening, he happens upon the unwitting Mortimer. Mort a phlegmatic young man, he soon enough finds drama enough working alongside DEATH, attending the final moments of the Disc’s inhabitants’ lives. While unable to stop himself from preventing a regicide one evening, Mort soon after learns the meaning of fate, and is eventually allowed to go out on his own to usher mortals into the great beyond. It’s when the hourglass of the daughter of the assassinated king is running low, however, that Mort’s true beliefs are tested.

Casting the fated farmboy in a new light (er, shadow?), Mort’s adventures in the employ of DEATH are regal, but only by association. Like Eskarina in Equal Rites, Mort, after being separated from his youth and the familiarity of home and family, has a lot of figuring out to do with this thing called life. Mistakes are made, decisions necessary, and personal problems—problems perhaps with no clear answer—need to be sorted out.

Review of The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

It’s rare that emotions pass when hearing of an author’s death. Most produce works that exist at a distance from the reader, rendering the news only briefly noticeable. With Terry Pratchett, however, his personal interests, philosophies, ethics, and some might say his soul exist in every book he writes. And there have been a lot of opportunities to get to know this soul—fifty-nine novels if isfdb is to be trusted. Four of these novels concern the coming of age of one Tiffany Aching, a young witch growing up in the Chalk. An area seemingly modeled on Pratchett’s very own Broad Chalke in England, that The Shepherd’s Crown (2015), the fifth Tiffany Aching novel, is Pratchett’s final novel is a fitting if not bittersweet conclusion to his publishing career and life.

Pratchett sensing his own approaching end, there is (finally) a note of finality to Tiffany Aching’s story. The Shepherd’s Crown opens with the death of Granny Weatherwax (a classic and classy scene reminiscent of Granny Hamstring from Mort). Naming Tiffany as her heir, the once girl now young woman soon finds herself dividing her time between two homesteads: her family’s and Granny Weatherwax’s. Her availability halved in each case, Tiffany is stretched and pulled between the area’s farmers and witches, about-to-give-birth mothers and sick sheep, all looking for help. Making matters worse, the Queen of Fairyland has returned to the Chalk looking for revenge for Tiffany’s frying pan beaning in The Wee Free Men. Something has to give. Tiffany thankfully has her wits—her first, second, and third thoughts—and a certain collection of little blue men to aid her in finding a workable solution.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review of Empty Space by M. John Harrison

William Gibson’s three trilogies to date are relatively unique in the sense they do not follow a linear path of story. More like histograms whose significance is best understood by drawing lines that best fit the scatter of points, the books make for engaging reading experiences, not only at the surface level, but likewise in terms of rooting out the common themes and ideas—drawing the lines, as it were. With the publishing of M. John Harrison’s Empty Space: A Haunting (2012), third in his Kefahuchi Tract series, it’s apparent Harrison appreciated Gibson’s MO. Simultaneously a confluence and expansion of the two prior novels Light and Nova Swing, the points come more densely packed—the lines more obvious—as Harrison concludes the 21st century’s finest science fiction series in subtly stunning fashion.

Something of a possible paradox, Empty Space confirms the Kefahuchi series as a concurrent construction and deconstruction of science fiction. Like his earlier Viriconium novels and stories, Harrison revels in the idea of genre while proving art and humanity can coexist with space ships and aliens in fiction, the whole not mutually exclusive. Empty Space, like the previous novels, is a mix of things recognizably “science fiction” and elements true to reality, artistically and existentially. The fact the ending is more open-ended plot-wise yet is conclusive thematically, confirms this. But I get ahead of myself. 

In Empty Space, Anna, Michael Kearney’s wife/victim from Light, returns. Though now older and more domestic, the demons still haunt. A touch psychotic in old age, her life in London as she visits the psychologist, meets a younger man, tussles with her bathroom’s interior design, and spends time with her daughter Marnie, walks the tightrope of sanity. Returning to the Saudade of Nova Swing, a portion of the novel concerns mysterious pieces of Kefahuchi tech found floating in the shipyards, and the bizarre deaths that follow in their wake. Liz Hula, now captain of the k-ship Nova Swing, finds herself with one of the objects in her hold; further bizarreness follows as additional characters from Light work their way in to the storyline. The third main thread (roughly) follows Achemann’s unnamed assistant from Nova Swing, and the challenges she faces trying to “be normal” in a scene made anything but by the fallout of the Kefahuchi Zone.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review of The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

Most everyone is familiar with Schrodinger’s cat: nobody knows whether it’s alive or dead inside the box until you open it. Taking Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and running with it—straight to Stephen King thriller land, Ted Kosmatka’s The Flicker Men (2015) is an old school thriller built on multiple layers of physics theory—and makes ‘Schroedinger’s frog’ perhaps the better metaphor.

Eric Argus is a talented physicist in the aftermath of a mental breakdown. His prior research collapsing under him, he hits the bottle harder than the textbook these days. In a gesture of kindness from a childhood friend, Argus is given probational employment at a prestigious Boston lab. The chalkboard cleared, he tinkers with a few ideas before, at random, he discovers the lab has an old double-slit machine kicking around, and decides to appropriate it to see Young’s experiment for himself. The machine operates as predicted, that is, until more than just a human is brought in to observe. A dark science underworld emerging in the aftermath, Argus has his perspective of the universe(s) upended. Who are the flicker men?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review of The Moment of Eclipse by Brian Aldiss

Brian Aldiss has a long, successful career, with many of his novels lauded by both mainstream and more sophisticated genre readers. Non-Stop and Hothouse perhaps his most popular works, novels like Report on Probability A, Frankenstein Unbound, The Malacia Tapestry, Super-State, and others represent Aldiss’ deeper understanding of art, existence, and all subject matter between. What Aldiss is perhaps least known for is his short fiction. And yet, his short work is often equal to the best of his novels and series. Publishing several collections in his career, 1970’s The Moment of the Eclipse, while not the best of them, contains enough examples how Aldiss could make a smaller frame as powerful as a larger one.

The title story tells of a licentious Danish filmmaker, fresh off his second divorce, who finds his next target in a Danish poetess. Billowing confidence, he heads to Africa to make his next film, and coincidentaly where the poetess will be with her husband. Rooted in a Thomas Hardy poem on the moon, things do not turn out as planned for the filmmaker. A short piece, “That Uncomfortable Pause Between Life and Art...” tells of a writer’s encounter with an elderly lady at an art exhibit. Clever, Aldiss delicately treads the line between pretension and portention. A hilarious bit of satire, “Working in the Spaceship Yards” tells of a man’s life as a manual laborer building space ships, and the androids he works with. An exercise in decadence, “The Day We Embarked for Cythera...” tells of a bohemiam intellectual and his friends as they enjoy a day in the fields philosophizing, while about them satyrs and gnomes play—a surreal, wonderfully written piece that doesn’t give a damn how you taxonomize it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quote! - Quote!! - Quote!!!

Nina Allan, in her musing on the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee list, notes the following ('notes' may be too light a word):

"Truly great science fiction – that is, science fiction that pays attention to itself in terms of literary values – needs no special pleading. Indeed I would go a lot further than this. I would suggest that if a work of science fiction cannot stand next to works drawn from the mainstream and hold its own in terms of literary values, we need to be asking ourselves if it is truly great."

Highlighting the gap,  Allan sets M. John Harrison's Kefahuchi Tract novels alongside Ann Leckie's Radch trilogy as an example... 

Bravo to Allan for attempting not only to keep the bar high, but also for applying an un-blindered view to genre, as indeed, the biggest reason most sf is not taken seriously by the literati is due to the simple fact its literary values are generally so poor by contrast.  Style, precision, sub-text, voice, perspective, structure, ambition...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review of Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

It’s always disheartening in doing post-reading for a novel to encounter reviews that cannot be surpassed.  Therefore, knowing any effort I throw at M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing (2006) cannot compare to John Clute’s superb review on The Guardian, I will instead offer complementary impressions.  It goes without saying, if you are interested in Nova Swing, read Clute’s review first, and if you don’t immediately go out and buy the novel and are still interested in additional opinion, come back.

Undoubtedly, many readers who loved Harrison’s The Pastel City were thrown off by the sudden left turn the follow up novel, A Storm of Wings, took.  Harrison not a writer to be slotted into any particular niche, readers looking for more from Light in the follow up Nova Swing should accordingly open their minds to the idea Nova Swing is an entirely different experience.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review of The Bible Repairman and Other Stories by Tim Powers

Tim Powers is certainly best known for his novel-length work—The Anubis Gates, Last Call, The Stress of Her Regard, Declare, and the like.  What fewer people are aware of are his talents as a short story writer.  Admittedly not prolific, he nevertheless puts the same attention to detail into his shorter works.  Not forcing epic storylines into twenty or so pages, everything is appropriately scaled to suit his writing style.  The Bible Repairman and Other Stories (2011) is a good example. 

Opening with the strongest two entries in the collection, the title story “The Bible Repairman” is about a haunted man involved in spiritual work.  Now a simple eradicator of troublesome bits of the Bible for customers needing absolution, he once was, however, a kidnapping negotiator for ghosts.  His soul sapped to its dregs as a result, the weight of his own daughter’s death, and subsequent kidnapping of her ghost, hangs heavy, resulting in a dark, personal story with more than a few hints of run-down suburban magic to broaden the scene.  “A Soul in a Bottle” is about a rare book dealer who has a remarkable encounter on Hollywood Boulevard putting three pennies in Jean Harlow’s hand prints.  With a touch of voodoo and poetry, Powers tells a semi-familiar tale in rich style.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Review of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Yoon Ha Lee’s contribution to the 2015 science fiction anthology Meeting Infinity was the story “The Cold Inequalities.”  A take on the classic 1954 Tom Godwin story “The Cold Equations,” Lee re-visioned its human dynamics in prosaic and intelligent fashion.  Apparently only a precursor to deeper genre incursions, Lee emerges in 2016 with a novel-length work that looks into a larger concept within science fiction, particularly space opera.  First in a planned trilogy, that work is Ninefox Gambit (Solaris).

Kel Cheris is leader of a squad of soldiers involved in a brutal, punishing war.  A totalitarianist structure above and below her, she obeys orders from the hexarchate to the letter, just as her soldiers obey her.  But this is not enough to save her job.  In one particularly violent firefight, Cheris makes a hard decision that changes the course of her career.  Moved into an unthought of position, it comes with one footnote: she must accept the consciousness of Shuos Jedao, a former general as renowned for defeating the enemy as he is of destroying his own army to achieve the victory.  War with a heretical faction looming on the horizon at the Fortress of Needles, Cheris does her duty and steps into the shoes of duty, and with Jedao in her head, the decisions only get harder.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 10 ed. by Jonathan Strahan

It’s time once again to take a look back at the previous year in short science fiction and fantasy.  Offering his take (among an ever increasing number of takes) is Jonathan Strahan with The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 10 (Solaris).  Sticking with the formula that has brought the series to a decade in age, Strahan once presents his perspective of quality yet commercial short fiction from 2015.

Volume 10 opens on a conventional note.  Paolo Bacigalupi has become quite predictable in his writing: take a bleak setting, inject a pitiful character, then cut them off at the knees.  “City of Ash,” while of interest to people who enjoyed The Water Knife as the settings are the same, does not deviate.  How Elizabeth Bear’s “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” ended up in the Best of I’m uncertain.  (Perhaps it checked a retro-pulp box?) A standard quest story with little to set it apart, it’s as generic as the anthology in which it first appeared.  Unlike Bear’s, the story worth noting from Martin aand Dozois’ Old Venus is Ian McDonald’s “Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan.”  The delightfully edited tale of a woman searching for a past on the green planet, McDonald delivers a rich tale in atypical style that maximizes the potential of retro-pulp.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review of Light by M. John Harrison

Like chocolate ice cream, space opera is a flavor of science fiction that seems will always be.  Churned out in endlessly formulaic fashion, there is no end to the “new” titles appearing.  Barry Malzberg deconstructed space opera in 1974with his superb Galaxies.  But more a work of meta-fiction, one might say he cheated by depending heavily on means beyond pure fiction.  With M. John Harrison’s Light (2002), however, no such complaint is available.  Creator of The Centauri Device and the Viriconium sequence, what better a writer to use the tools of the sub-genre to expose underlying realities in superb story?

Split into three strands (united in strange fashion at the denouement), Light is told across light years (literally and figuratively) of time and the universe.  The opening story is present day London and tells of Micheal Kearney, a brilliant scientist in public and psychotic in private.  Caught in a troubled relationship and burdened with visions of a demonic thing he calls the Shrander, murder and his bone dice seem his only comforts.  Seria Mau is a K-boat captain.  Giving up her humanity to be able to pilot the esoteric piece of Kefahuchi alien tech, her physical form resides in a tank connected virtually to the real world via wires and cables.  Almost a perfect place to hide, she is on the run from several Galactic entities, but perhaps mostly herself.  And lastly is Ed Chianese.  Once a daredevil space pilot, he now lives his days in virtual reality tanks—and over his ears in debt because of it.  When people come knocking to collect, something’s gotta give.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Review of Super-State by Brian Aldiss

The European Union is perhaps the grandest political experiment ever attempted in the history of mankind.  Attempting to unite a continent of people with millennia of wars, languages, and cultures under them, the EU has remained intact for two decades but recently shown signs of falling apart as economic issues and international strife apply pressure.  Sitting in his modernist gallery and slinging peanuts at the proceedings, science fiction great Brian Aldiss penned his response to the EU in 2002 with Super-State.

Super-State opens on a grand wedding.  Like passengers of the Titanic having their ball unbeknownst to the lurking iceberg, a stampede of horses eventually disrupts proceedings.  The narrative fanning out from there, a variety of characters and interests are introduced.  From a simple-minded writer of British romance to a German professor, a highly ideological artist to a struggling middle eastern immigrant, a warmongering general to astronauts on a mission to Europa, the list goes on, global warming and Islamic aggression taking their own toll on the continent.  Not intended as a representative spectrum of European society, Aldiss picks his battles as they accord with the cutting point/counter point of his commentary.