Friday, September 26, 2014

Parasite, by Mira Grant

Mira Grant (pen name for Seanan McGuire when she's writing adult SF) has started a new series, Parasitology, with a Nebula-nominated novel, Parasite.  Her previous series, the Newsflesh Trilogy, was quite a fun read and I enjoyed all three tremendously.  This one...well...

Grant is trying for a different heroine here.  Sally Mitchell is feminine and caring, where the protagonists of Newsflesh are hard as rocks.  The tone is earnest, not sarcastic. 

The zombies this time are tapeworms that start out as medical implants but get out of hand.  Seriously.  They kind of stagger and do violence with a vacant stare, at least at first.  But some of them get better at it.  Not so much the point, though.

The point is that the book comes off as a somewhat lesser reflection of the last trilogy.  Georgia Mason was caring within a hard shell.  Sally is just caring.  The earnestness gets repetitive.  The characters do have more differentiation here, but the book just has fewer notes--not as much variety.  Just three stars this time. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Neptune's Brood, by Charles Stross

Continuing my exploration of the award nominees for 2013.  Neptune's Brood is a Hugo nominee--I checked it out in good old print form at the local library.  The book bills itself as a "space opera", and it definitely has that Golden Age feel, updated with today's technology.  And I'm figuring that the "today's" part is intentional as well, since most space opera was basically straight line extensions of current ideas, with starships.  So it is with Krina-Alizond 114, part of a cloned batch of metahuman daughters of an extraordinarily powerful capitalist mother.  Natural humans ("fragiles") have gone extinct several times, and are only present by reference here.  Krina holds one half of the authentication key to a financial instrument that would change the galactic economy, and is just about to locate the other half. 

What's interesting and fun here is Stross's continuing interest in how economics and capitalism would expand off-world.  His novel Accelerando speculated on how rapid change would work here on earth, but the speculation in Neptune's Brood is quite different.  He's less convinced of ever-accelerating change here. 

On the whole it is a fine read if you like space opera--it's authentically (and only mildly) blocky in prose, and liberal with background explanation.  You also have to be kind of a geeky capitalist to really get into it.  I enjoyed it for its joy of itself, as much as anything--I'm sure Stross had fun writing it.  I give it three stars, with that guarded recommendation. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni is another one of the Nebula nominated books for this year, and one I enjoyed reading tremendously.  Chava is a golem, named by the rabbi who realizes her nature when he finds her in New York City.  Ahmad is a jinni, trapped in human form by a wizard.  Neither name fits them well.  But there they are, in New York, trying to make their way in situations they didn't intend to be in. 

According to the author, this book took seven years to write.  It certainly marinated fully in that time.  The book is well written, with plenty of action and excitement.  But what's really interesting about it are the characters--the Golem and the Jinni have personalities driven by their natures--of Earth and of Fire.  These characteristics animate them throughout the book, making them feel very real and true to themselves.  They do end up in a relationship, but it's not an easy one.  And when they confront evil they do it in a way that feels authentic to them.

I would say this is an easy read, and in the very best way--the ideas go straight into your head without a fight for understanding, yet Wecker has a lot to say about human nature through these two.  Go read it and have some fun.