Archives for category: Sci-Fi
ImageGenre: Future Dystopia (Is that all you read, Patsy? PRETTY MUCH)
Notes: Book 2/50
Review: This shit is crazy, yo. It is like the Handmaid’s Tale meets the 22nd century. This novel follows a Red. What is a Red, you ask? Let me explain. Future America has decided that prisons and housing inmates costs too much for their ballooning budget. (True. I think we spend more on prisons than schools). In an innovative and novel stroke of genius they decided to chrome (aka dye the skin of) criminals based on their class of crime and release them back into the general population to be basically shunned and harassed and beat up until their sentence has been served. Hannah is a Red. And Red is for murder.
The really freaky/futuristic part of the book isn’t really about the chroming (but chroming is definitely the most interesting) is the fact that Hannah is convicted of murder for having an abortion. Some of the more fundamental Christian state (like most of the South, Texas, and the Midwest/West) has enacted a series of Sanctity of Life laws, much like quite a few of the laws that have been kicked around in Mississippi and even Virginia. These laws decree that abortions are not only illegal, but they are murder. A fetus is a person and has all the rights and liberties of a person.
Hannah comes from a very religious, very Christian, very conservative background. Her parents have taught her that a woman is only meant to be a helpmeet to a man. Men are the unequivocal heads of households and women basically tend to the home and raise babies. So when Hannah starts and affair with her pastor, Aidan Dale, she really has no where to turn when the affair leads to her pregnancy. She would completely destroy Aidan Dale’s life if she told it was he who fathered her child and she would be held in contempt of the court until she revealed the father’s name. She elects to have an abortion and is subsequently caught and sentenced for murder.
While I enjoy the general premise of this book, it really isn’t that original. Other than the chroming, this story has been told before. Definitely taking one star off for lack of originality. However, the chroming is intensely original. Geneticists inject a virus into a criminals body thay dyes their skin a color. The color cannot wash off or be cut off or whatever else you would think to do to it. The only downside is that the virus doesn’t last forever. It only lasts a few months and requires regular injections throughout a person’s sentence. To ensure that chromes come back for their injections, they also implant a different virus that has a delayed release. When a person is overdue for a new injection, the virus causes hallucinations, a whole host of other things, and eventually death. No one can outlast the virus. People have tried. Everyone has failed.
I am also tired of reading books completely slamming religion. I feel that it is too easy. Yes, of course religion can cause a lot of problems and contradictions and oppress people. But I’m tired of reading about religion being like this evil force and only when people get out and experience the world can they truly see that their religious lives were lacking. Hannah struggles with her faith after being ostracized by her family and sees the double standards she was subjected to in her family. (i.e. it was a woman’s responsibility to remain modest and not inflame the passions of men) There are a few brief glimpses of tolerant religion, but the author didn’t explore that deeply enough. Religion and faith are complex and vary from person to person and I wish she had explored Hannah’s feelings further.
Bottom Line: This story has been told before, but it’s really interesting if you like these kind of books. The transformation of Hannah from a shy, sheltered church girl to a ragingly confident woman is particularly intriguing. It’s worth the read!
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Genre: Sci-Fi.  Out the assssssss

Notes: 8/50 books for the year. Slightly ashamed I read fan fiction, but it wasn’t bad.  And makes for a good blog topic.

Review: Fan fiction.  Let’s talk about it.  On the whole, Karpyshyn’s book wasn’t bad.  I’m not about to go and get more Star Wars books, but he penned an interesting story of the Old Republic and the battle between the Sith and Jedi.  If my research is correct, Karpyshyn is the creator of the Star Wars Old Republic video game.  His strength lies in the visual realm and not particularly the written realm.  He has the amazing ability to create a solid story, but doesn’t have the writer tools to take it to that next level.

For example, one of my biggest pet peeves is when authors repeat themselves.  Not in literary tools like alliteration or metaphors, but in like literally repeating a rarely used word within the same page or two.  In this book, Bane “sauntered” back to his house from the mines.  And then, in the next paragraph, “sauntered” to the bar.  Really?  I rarely saunter, and when I do, I only do it once. 

Reading this book brings up an interesting discussion about fan fiction.  Legit?  or not?  I have absolutely no facts to back this up, but I feel like the Star Wars franchise has spawned the most fan fiction.  I mean, from one trilogy to three more prequels to side stories about the sith.  How do these authors get published?  Are they self-published (like a lot of authors are doing nowadays) or is there one publishing house that runs all of these Star Wars spinoffs?  I mean, can I just slap some Star Wars shit together and sell it under that brand?

Confession: when I was like 11 or 12, I literally could not wait for the next Harry Potter to come out.  I had read the first three and couldn’t contain my excitement for the fourth. So I started writing it.  I don’t remember what I wrote (and I don’t think I kept it) but I wrote like a solid 30-40 pages before I lost interest in the project and became content to wait.  I’m sure it was awful.  Even to my nerdy 12-year-old self, something about using J.K Rowling’s characters as my own felt wrong.  I was, like..stealing.

Aren’t characters created by the author intellectual property?  I mean, if I went through all of the trouble to create this alternate universe and come up with all of the laws of the land, you better not profit off of my creative genius.  I’m flattered you chose to imitate me, but a significant chunk of those earnings better end up in my pocket.

According to wikipedia (Legit source, I know.  Shut up.  The page is surprisingly well researched):

Fanfiction is not infringing if it constitutes fair use of the underlying copyrighted work. In determining whether a particular use constitutes fair use, courts consider the following four factors:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

However,

Fan writers who argue that their work is legal through the fair use doctrine use specific fair use arguments in the context of fan works, such as:

  1. Fan works do not deprive the owner of the source material of income
  2. Fan works may work as free advertisement and promotion of the original source material
  3. Fan works are usually non-profit.
  4. Fan works do not copy, or attempt to substitute for, the original work

To which I say, fuck you, sir.  Your book would not exist without my idea.  Therefore, any profits you make off of my idea are mine.  I may be coming down too harshly against fan fiction, but I firmly believe an author’s creation (especially something like Star Wars) represents a life’s work.  It is not easy to create something out of nothing.  The fan fic author is not creating, he is piggy backing on the shoulders of a giant.  What do you think?

Bottom Line: I felt my nerd-ometer go up exponentially reading this book.  And even more when I talk about it.  However, Darth Bane’s story is almost as interesting as the history of Darth Vader – the anti-hero rises again!

Genre: Science Fiction

Notes: Scary realistic.  Plus it makes cracks about the metro escalators never working, PG county, and Potomac.  I think it’s infinitely more enjoyable if you’re from the DC area and know about the general suckage of traffic, metro, and people.

Review: This book is AWESOME.

While the Fountain of Youth is an old concept and it’s probably been written about a bajillion times, Magary take a new twist.  It’s like Tuck Everlasting  without the good feelings.  And nice people.  And, well, I guess it’s not that much like Tuck Everlasting, but the general message is the same.

In this novel, scientists accidentally find a cure for aging (not everything else, just aging.  You can still die from cancer, disease, or murder or anything else.   Just not aging related complications) while messing around with genes for hair color.  Everyone rushes to get “the cure” because, really, who hasn’t fantasized about never getting old?  I can stay in my 23-year-old body forever?  With all of the people I love?  JACKPOT.

But, as usual in science fiction books, everything goes to shit.

The world population (obviously) booms.  No one is dying.  People are still reproducing.  Families have one set of children, watch them grow up, and then have another set of children.  Cycle marriages abound.  (I will only stay married to you for 40 years, then all bets are off) Scary “Peter Pan” cases rip across the headlines.  (I want my baby to stay a baby forever!)

Meanwhile, crazy “green” people (environmental terrorists who literally color themselves green) wage war against the uncontrollable population to preserve the earth’s natural resources and balance.  The US government targets populations for extinction, some countries bomb themselves to eliminate entire cities, and doctors brand babies at birth with their real birth dates.

Through all this chaos, we follow John Farrell (cure age 29) as he navigates this new postmortal world.  John’s not exactly the hero character, but he’s relate-able.  He does some pretty shitty things to people around him, but he still possesses a good heart.  He tries.

Bottom Line: I cannot stop thinking about this book.  I can’t recommend it enough.  I’m kind of a science fiction nerd, but this is less nerdy and more dystopic near future-type literature.

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Notes: I’ve never read Stardust, but this is the author who wrote it.  I saw the movie, and I found it super unique and super interesting. So when I found out Gaiman wrote Stardust, I had high hopes for American Gods.

Review:  So, it’s been a hot second since I posted a review.  I actually finished this book like a week ago, but my parents came to visit and we were busy gallivanting around Charleston.  But about the book:

The only way to describe this book is epic.  Epic has good and bad connotations and this book encompasses them both.  Parts of the book take a minute to get through and some pieces don’t seem to make a lot of sense, but it has the feel and the weight of an epic novel.  Where Gaiman comes up with this shit, I have no idea.  But it is incredible.

American Gods follows the main character, Shadow, as he gets out of prison to find his wife dead in a car accident in apparently adulterous circumstances with his best friend.  While figuring out what to do with his life, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and begins an incredibly weird, indescribable journey.

Gaiman creates a world where god roam the earth freely – slowly dying out because people have stopped believing in the old ways.  And new gods are vying to take their places at the top of the food chain.  God fat on power and greed, with people worshiping at their altars.  Gods like media, technology, and TV are displacing the pagan gods.

This book has nuances and twists that are hard to articulate in a review without giving everything away.  Like I said, some parts drag, but I thought the book and the world made those parts worth it.  Honestly, it comes down to if you like the main character.  If you don’t, you’ll probably hate the book because it focuses almost exclusively on him.

Bottom Line: Read if it you have the time to push through an epic.  It’s long, but I liked it!

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird

Notes: Seriously one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read

Review: Ok, when I say this is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, I mean this book is WEIRD.  The story centers on a Marine Biologist (Nate Quinn) who studies humpback whales to discover why they sing.  While out on his boat taking measurements and pictures of whales fluking, he sees distinctive markings on a humpback’s fins.  They, unmistakeably, say “Bite Me.”  When he gets close to figuring out why they sing (by assigning binary code to the song?  Really?), he gets swallowed by a whale and learns some interesting stuff.

I couldn’t tell if Moore was serious when he wrote this book or not.  I mean, it jumps from marine biologists in Hawaii, to getting swallowed by a whale, to meeting weird whale-human hybrids called whaley-boys.  This books is one giant WTF moment.

Whales as bio-engineered ships and an entire city at the bottom of the ocean called Gooville only scratch the surface of the WTF-ness of this novel.  It varied between being technical about Biology and whale conservation, which was interesting, to just insane.  One of the highlights of the book, however, was Kona.  Kona (aka Preston Applebaum from NJ) believes he is a native Hawaiian and Rastafarian.  His ganja smoking ways and ridiculous toughts made me laugh when this book got too weird.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it involves Amelia Earhart, a scientist who Nate thought was dead, and an organic “goo” with sentient thought that may or may not want to destroy humans.  Yup.  Oh, and possibly inter-species sex.

I’ve heard Christopher Moore is a great author and pens some hilarious, wacky stories.  But this probably wasn’t the best book to introduce myself to Moore.

Bottom Line: I like quirky books, but this one was a little too out there for me.

Genre: Fantasy

Notes: Epic.

Review: I like fantasy.  I like magic.  It was/is my life’s ambition to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and when my owl didn’t arrive at 11, I was slightly disappointed Dumbledore didn’t see it fit to let me on the Hogwarts Express.  But that’s beside the point.  Hogwarts has nothing to do with the setting of “A Game of Thrones.”  (But Dumbledore better be glad Snape took care of him first…I’ve been practicing my Unforgivable Curses.  And they will work because I will mean them!)

In all seriousness though, I got into this series because my roommate at the time finagled a free 3 month trial of HBO just so she could start watching the show.  The show is amazing.  Given it’s HBO, there is a lot of sex, nudity, blood, and swearing, but really, isn’t that what we want in a tv show?  Plus Sean Bean was born to play a medieval lord.  When I moved to South Carolina and set up my Comcast account, lo and behold, I had a free 6 month trial of HBO!  “A Game of Thrones” helped me get through those first lonely weekends with no friends.  Don’t worry though, I think I made one friend in Charleston.

I’m not one to say the TV or movie adaptation is better than the book, but I wish I had skipped this book and gone straight to number 2.  If i had read the book before I watched the show, I might have felt differently, but HBO did such a good job that reading the book didn’t give me any further insight into the characters or illuminate any events the show may have left out.  They got it all in there, except for minor details that really don’t add anything critical to the story.

The saga starts in a mythical land where summers can last years and winter can last a lifetime.  There isn’t really much said about how people survive in the winter, except for the oft-repeated phrase “Winter is coming,” which are the words of the house Stark – the northernmost House.

The Houses constantly shuffle and posture for power.  Lords wed their daughters to the sons of Houses they hate for alliances.  Men lusting after power double cross other men they’ve pledged their allegiances to, women (cough Cersei cough) use their husbands as puppets, and a sense of honor doesn’t lead you anywhere except to a public beheading.  In the game of thrones you either win or you die.

Martin does an excellent job with his characters, for the most part.  Some of the characters are flat and two-dimensional (Jon, Catelyn, and Sansa), but the majority have motives, personalities, and live in the gray area between good and bad.  Even characters you think are wholly bad do something to redeem themselves for a time.  And characters you think are wholly good reveal a troubling amount of bloodthirsty behavior.  Lord Baelish and Tyrion Lannister never fail to keep you guessing and you can’t help but love Arya Stark.

Bottom Line: If you haven’t seen the series on HBO, read the book.  If you have, skip ahead to the second.  Take this as fair warning though – there are a lot of characters to keep straight.

 

Genre:  Sci-Fi

Notes: Better than the movie.  And from me, that’s saying A LOT because I love the movie. 

Review: Oh. My. God.  5 stars!  5 stars!  I loved this book and literally could not put it down.  (It’s amazing how much you read when you move into a new city and have no friends)  I started it at the beach yesterday and finished it this morning.  One of the best books I’ve ever read.

Jurassic Park is literally one of my favorite movies of all time.  I still remember the first time I saw it.  I had nightmares for like a week.  I think I had a Jurassic Park nightmare before I went to college.  But I could never turn away or stop watching the movie.  Even today, if Jurassic Park is on TV, I stop whatever I’m doing and sit down and watch it.  In college, I had a science professor explain to my class why Jurassic Park genetics could never happen.  But when I read the book, I forgot about the fact you can’t just splice DNA from different animals willy nilly just because and totally believed everything Crichton wrote.

I don’t know what took me so long to finally read this book, but it’s incredible.  The plot line is ridiculously original, even for a sci-fi book.  It break all boundaries and seems totally and completely possible.  Getting DNA from the fossilized remains of mosquitoes in amber?  GENIUS!  Why hasn’t anyone cloned a dinosaur yet?  The book gets into a little more detail about the genetics and the fail-safes of Jurassic Park, which make it that much more believable.  Having some basic science knowledge make the book a little easier to read because they talk about restriction enzyme and DNA extraction.  But even if you don’t, the action and pure adrenaline is enough to keep you going.

And speaking of action, I didn’t think the book would compare to the movie.  How can words on paper show a T-rex biting someone in half or a velociraptor slowly and calculatingly stalking its prey? But, I was wrong.  This book delivers on the action front.  And to be honest, the book is even scarier than the movie.  Reading some of the scenes gave me the shivers.

Crichton writes this book superbly.  The characters are more fleshed out than in the movie.  They have motives and drive and imperfections, like real people.  John Hammond is much more maniacal and egotistical to a degree that he’s almost psychotic.  His relentless drive to get the park open at any expense and his refusal to see the problems facing Jurassic Park make him a foreboding character.  Definitely not the genial old man of the movie.

Bottom Line: Read it.  This book makes me wish I had stuck with science in college.  Crichton does an incredible job of bringing this world to life.  I’ve read one of his other books before, Andromeda Strain, but this is a million times better.  I might just read “The Lost World” next!