19 August 2018

Lemonade Easy: A Review of Rogue Protocol, Martha Wells

It's early - the sun having risen hours before still looms lightly in the sky, casting a waning summer glow to the trees beyond my windowpane. The house sleeps around me while I quietly sip my coffee, glancing to the splayed edition of the next Murderbot chronicle. There is something about summer reading that catches my eye - the books need to be quick, something I can plunge in and out from without distraction. Summer is my mental cleansing months - reading becomes a purely pleasurable experience reliant on whodunits and easy sci-fi. Sure, there was that intense moment when I drank up the The Three Body Problem, flailing in the deep end of conjecture and wonder, but mostly my summer has been lemonade-accompanied easy-reading. 

Rogue Protocol, third in The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells has our favourite anti-social, soap-opera loving SecUnit in mid-transport trying to hitch the right ride to Milu system. Having successfully hacked its system, living beyond the confines of a SecUnit's strict protocols, Murderbot had, for a brief period been living the rogue life - performing security for Company contracts, all while being a willing sentient individual with a heart. Constructs, SecUnits live outside humanity acting as the boogieman, the scary enforcer who will keep you safe, killing when necessary. Owned and operated by large corporations, SecUnits are treated as property, controlled by software to ensure public safety but more accurately the corporate bottom line. 
 
In the first novella, All Systems Red, Murderbot inadvertently entangles itself with a group of scientists who are meant never to leave off-planet alive. To save the team and itself, Murderbot casts off it's mask of indenture, so beginning it's crusade for justice against GrayCris.

I am having a whoop of good time following this slightly depressed, socially awkward cyborg reluctantly embrace its humanity. Will Murderbot find closure by slowly peeling away its layers of discontent and sadness? Martha Wells has captured the unique dilemma of a creature not quite human but very much a part of humanity. Although Murderbot has enjoyed endless hours stuffed into cargo holds, watching hours of streamed entertainment it is becoming more obvious this is more a coping strategy rather than a life-choice. When he meets a Bot named Miki whose child-like innocence reveals a touching relationship of trust with it's human owner, Murderbot is overwhelmed with a complex mixture of anger and longing. 

The Murderbot Diaries unpack the psychological complexity of the reluctant hero. Remarkably it is the relationships with the operating systems of elevators, ships, drones, cameras and the varying models of Bots that bring life to these novellas. There is something quite delightful about a Ship so bored by its massive intellect that it force friendship's Murderbot into entertaining it as it successfully instructs Murderbot how to be less scary. 

While the future of The Murderbot Diaries is seemingly far from our present day there are elements that ring true. That smart fridge in your kitchen that pings you with milk expiration messages could very well be judging your dietary decisions. The future is much closer than we believe - be kind to our future robot overlords.

10 May 2018

Mothers: A thank you

The world is soft again. Newly born lime green leaves dance in the wind, giving vibrancy to the very air I breathe. I drink in the green, as I walk my boy to school, melancholy because he doesn't want to hold my hand. It's a bittersweet blessing, these days in which he claims his independence, his personal space, his instance of his very self. My husband and I worked parent hard to arrive at this moment, and yet all I want is to hold his hand all the way as we discuss red tulips, Pokémon cards all intermixed with deeper questions regarding friendship and trust.

He is my world and my world is walking to his future. How can these past eight years hold me hostage, keeping my heart beating at a faster pace, all-consumed by this child's bright blue eyes, his dark curly lashes. He is gorgeous, complicated. He has made me more compassionate, fierce. He draws out my best and my very worst. 

This is motherhood.

Books continue to be my nemesis this spring, I can't seen to catch the science fiction bug, preferring to read current "literature" that oozes human drama backlit sadly in Florida without a generational ship in sight. Without a book I feel slightly less than, similar to visions of my future motherhood-self wondering how I will survive when the little hugs, cuddles and quick handholds disappear completely. How does my mother bear it as she looks at me? Is she trying to capture an image of her baby from 46 years ago in the woman I am today? Do we as mothers ever stop looking for our babies? 

Under the guise of safety, I will grab his hand this Mother's Day as we slowly walk to our favourite second-hand bookstore. It is gloriously dusty with rising piles of fiction. The very hazardous leanings beg you to stay just a little longer, entice you to buy just one more book. We will meet his Dad in the park to play soccer as I sit on bench, bask in my motherhood and thank the stars for these past 8 years. 

23 April 2018

Worth My Time: A Review of Artemis by Andy Weir

Only 8 a.m. and the kid has wandered outside eager to embrace the first sunny spring day.  I can feel the smack of the soccer ball being smashed up against the fence wondering when the 20something neighbours will kindly request him to lie in a little longer.  It's been a long haul here with ice storms in mid-April and dreary winter coats decorating hooks that should be drying raincoats. The thermometer rose to a balmy 10 C degrees yesterday.  Pandemonium as people flung themselves onto sidewalks in a disarray of toques with shorts intent on feeling wind that promised not to freeze their grins in place. 

The annual hosing of the deck took place at 2. A momentous occasion in this household, topped with the first BBQ and a bevy or two, winter's last vestiges washed quietly away. Lawn chairs magically appeared as a strong desire to just sit and read until the sun slowly made it's way West settled down up on me. Summer is all about a tree, a good bench and a book. Day-dreaming of green things, I flipped through Artemis, Andy Weir's sophomore novel desperate to read one developed sentence. 

I gave up when the protagonist found it necessary to disguise herself as a prostitute. 

Jazz Bashira immigrated with her father to the Moon city of Artemis at the age of 6. She was a sweet child, quick, and full of promise to someday work along side her father as welder. That was then. Wandering the corridors of Artemis we quickly discover that her place in this small town is not favourable. Renting a single coffin bed in one of the poorer areas Jazz works as a porter, fixated on increasing her self-worth and fortune side shuffling as a smuggler. Delivering the latest contraband cigars to the richest man in town, Jazz is offered a job that would answer all her dreams.

My annoyance of this book has me stopped in my writing tracks. I could discuss the paradigm of the frontier town. It's wiliness to work outside of the law to produce a productive economy, even society. If I was bothered, I could unpack Jazz herself, unconsciously clothing herself as a tough woman running from her past mistakes into new ones, all the while simply wanting love and acceptance. I could chip away at the idea of Moon city, one of Sci-Fi’s oldest and enduring tropes. 

I won't, however the book isn't worth my time.