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Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

In this excellent debut young adult novel Paolo Bacigalupi creates a futuristic world, inhabited by vivid characters. In the beginning, the protagonist, Nailer, breaks ships for scrap and oil. Nailer lives in a hut on the beach with his abusive father and dreams of sailing on the wide ocean in the sleek clippers he watches zip by.

After a hurricane, Nailer finds a broken clipper marooned on the wreckage of a flooded city. The crew is all dead, except an unconscious girl, who is adorned with far more wealth, in the form of jewelry, than Nailer has ever seen…

The plot revolves around trying to get the girl to safety. Themes of loyalty, family, climate change, disparity between income groups, genetic engineering and the environment are explored. What makes this YA novel remarkable is that it explores many themes and so fully realizes a world, yet it doesn’t ever get bogged down in description. Indeed, I found this difficult to put down.

For more reviews of Paolo Bacigalupi’s books please click on the Science Fiction category to the right.

This review is cross posted on Amazon.

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The best of these ten short stories by Paolo Bagigalupi are as good as any science fiction I’ve ever read. In all but one of the stories, Bagigalupi drops the reader into an unfamiliar, future earth but provides plenty of clues for figuring out how the world works.

The Calorie Man and Yellow Card Man both take place in the same world as Bagigalupi’s novel The Windup Girl (reviewed elsewhere in this blog).  They describe a hot world that has mostly burned through its fossil fuel, uses springs to store energy and has major cities under water.  A few calorie companies, giant Monsanto-esque seed companies, control almost all of the world’s food production.  Plagues have devastated almost all other crops.  If you plan to read The Windup Girl, these stories are a good place to start.

In The Pop Squad, people have been given immortality but cannot legally have babies.  Evolution has stopped.  The story explores the implications of this.

In many of the stories, Bagigalupi, describes a dark future but that dark future is very much based on our current trajectory.  These stories are worth reading as a warning and because they are hard to put down.

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Note: This list is cross-posted here.  I originally posted it on Amazon.

I did my Master’s paper on William Gibson’s cyberpunk work and it is still one of my favorite genres.  These are books I love.  My top five from this list are Neuromancer, Hardwired, Snow Crash, Thirteen and Altered Carbon.  As I’ve read more about innocent people being killed by drone strikes, I’ve begun to increasingly appreciate the movie, The Sleep Dealer.

1)  Neuromancer, by William Gibson.  This is one of the seminal works of the genre.

2)  Count Zero, by William Gibson.  The sequel to Neuromancer.

3)  Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson.  The final book in the Neuromancer trilogy.

4)  Burning Chrome, by William Gibson.  An uneven collection of short stories.  The best of the collection: Burning Chrome, Johnny Mnemonic, New Rose Hotel and Dogfight, are as good as Neuromancer.  Johnny Mnemonic and New Rose Hotel have both been made into films.  I have not included these in this list because they are not among my favorites.

5) Hardwired, by Walter Von Williams.  This is excellent cyberpunk.  The descriptions of the world are rich enough to step into but the story doesn’t get bogged down in descriptions.

6)  Voice of the Whirlwind, by Walter Von Williams.  Set about 100 years in the future of the same world as Hardwired but not as good as Hardwired.

7)  Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.  Snow Crash is full of bright ideas, biting satire and has a fascinating story.  If it had been pared down by a good editor, it would have been even better.

8)  Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan.  Excellent, thought provoking cyberpunk in a world where organic death has little meaning.

9)  Broken Angels, by Richard K. Morgan.  Sequel to Altered Carbon.  The problem with Broken Angels, in my opinion, is that it’s just too violent.  It just seems like it’s one fight after another…

10)  Woken Furies: A Takeshi Kovacs Novel, by Richard K. Morgan.  The last book in the Altered Carbon trilogy.  Interesting but again too violent.  Sometimes it seems like everything besides the violence is just being used as filler to get to the next fight.  The title is apt.

11)  Thirteen, by Richard K. Morgan.  Months ago I read this book and keep thinking about it.  The main character is a genetically/mechanically altered person.  He’s potentially very aggressive but is also one of the novel’s most human/empathetic characters.  The book deals with what it means to be human and explores death.  For me, in terms of favorites by Morgan, this is a close second to Altered Carbon.

12)  The Sleep Dealer, a movie by Luis Fernando Pena.  This thought provoking film imagines a near future when workers can operate robots remotely.  Much of the work done in the U.S. is done by machines operated by low paid workers in other countries…  It’s fascinating.

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The Windup Girl is set in a future Thailand, when fossil fuels are precious and a few giant agricultural companies have a monopoly on almost all of the world’s food supply.  The characters are all flawed and complexly rendered.  The central struggle of the book involves the struggle between the Thais to live withoutdependence on the monopolies and the monopolies attempt to extend their reach into Thailand.

The novel is masterfully written and is the best science fiction I have read in several years.  If you decide to read it, I highly recommend reading the short stories, “The Calorie Man” and “The Yellow Card Man.”  Both of these shorts, by Paolo Bacigalupi, take place in the same world and both can be found in Pump Six and Other Stories.

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Cory Doctorow’s cover-smalldystopian, YA novel is set in the Bay Area, in the near future.  America has become more of a police state.  The protagonist, Marcus, and his friends see evading security systems as a fun game.  Losing the game involves few serious consequences.  When an unspecified terrorist group blows up the Bay Bridge, Marcus and his friends are picked up as suspects and interrogated.

Upon release, Marcus uses his technical prowess to first create an encrypted communication network and then to organize a movement against the Department of Homeland Security.  As more rights are stripped from citizens and more surveillance equipment is set-up, we see people beginning to live in fear of any debate or even questioning authority.

Hanging over this story is the fact that one of Marcus’ friends was not released from prison.  We do not know his fate.  His friends assume he is dead…  This adds gravity to the entire story.

Overall, this story shows what could have happened if America had remained on the same trajectory it was on for a while after 9/11.  Alternatively, it shows what could happen if there is another big terrorist attack.  This is an excellent book for teens and teen book groups.

This book is available for a free (legal) download here:

http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/

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