13 July 2013

Hey Punk: A Review of Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

Although I am a space opera junky to the core, there is a part of me that is rather punk, cyberpunk, that is.   Let's take a quick look to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia to discover what cyberpunk is:  it involves high tech, surrounded and used by a low life.   Not a drinker of the wiki-cool-aid, I find myself agreeing in general with the glib definition but would add one thing, characterization.  If you have not read this genre before you may be under the impression that with tech comes intense hard SF to plod through.  Admittedly, you will find some techy mumbo-jumbo that will fly right over your head into Neverland but they are few and far between.  

The two books recommended are intensely alive on account of the authors' abilities in creating  depth and gregariousness to their leads.   In a weird (and I mean, I have had one beer weird way), cyberpunk is fantasy.  Oh beer, you taste so good.   But seriously,  fantasy is well,  fantastical, as is cyberpunk.  Take away the midges, elves and warlocks adorned in deep lush purple vests, put a cell phone implant into their thumbs,  and give them the extremely handy while creepy ability to live in digital space and voila, you have the same books, man.    Okay, I don't think I need to go Lebowski on you there, but I reckon that I am on to something, something that I have no notion of expanding on any time soon.  Shall we move on?

Accerlerando - Charles Stross
To be completely honest, I am half-way through this book and have NO idea what the crap is going on.  (like none)  That being said, I am so overly entertained by my bewilderment that I can't help but put a recommendation through.  I am lost in a future that is so over-whelmed with digital information that the main character has downloaded his memory (BRAIN) into his digitized glasses.  

I find myself still in part one of three novellas found in the book, maniacally following the life of Manfred Macx as he loses in his mind (literally) in Europe while trying to properly represent the entire lobster population of Earth.  The crustaceans are the first digitally uploaded sentient to the solar system and need some much needed representation.  Okay, you know what, it would be best for you not to take anything I say here as a serious synopsis because, as mentioned, I have no idea what is going on.

Snow Crash - Neil Stephenson
Dear fabulous, amazing Snow Crash, how I wish I had yet to read and experience your ramped-up, intense world.  I had so much fun reading you the first go around.  Snow Crash rocks, and so happens to be one of my top 20 books that everyone on the planet should read.  It is THAT good. 

What we have is cyberpunk at it's best:  Hiro Protagonist, a pizza delivery boy by day, warrior by virtual night is on the hunt for who is  killing all the hackers.  Rather short definition,  but trust me, it is better for you to just walk right into this novel, not knowing what is going on.   Plus, my intellectual capacity does not allow me to properly summarize a book that is so solidly in the future but so tightly wrapped up in Sumerian mythology.    

2 July 2013

HSB: A Review of Abaddon`s Gate, James S. A. Corey

The day has arrived that I am able to discuss Abaddon's Gate, the final book (but guess what it's not the final book!) ending (nope, not ending) the Expanse Series that I so absolutely, holy shit balls (HSB) level, love.

Where does one start to being objective when truly all I want to be is a giddy psycho, yelling gibberish on a soap box about reading this series?  I guess at the beginning:  space opera.  As you are well aware, the operatic nuances of space is a sub-genre I cannot get enough of.  Keep it relatively light, keep it moving and keep it within the vacuum of SPACE and I am all yours.  Even though I have a low tolerance for violence, I still can look beyond gore as long as it is reflective to the plot.  Or do I? as I seem to be the only geek on the planet not singing the tune to fire and ice..  For the sweet crap guys, is there enough blood...you sick bastards....where was I?

Let me not mislead you, The Expanse is not void of violence.  In Caliban`s War, book two, Venus becomes sentient making it`s life mission to turn the human race into vomit zombies.  Abaddon`s Gate's tendency to violence is more intimate as the authors remove the presences of the alien-esque quality to the horrors, bringing them into the arena of humanity pitted against itself.  There is something quite frightening to admit that the true horror in the universe is our inaccurate perception of reality and the resultant violence we inflict on ourselves.    Not diminishing the fact that what was so friggin scary in one and two ends up being even more ridiculously scary.
What the crap is going on?

Abaddon`s Gate moves in a direction that at the half way point felt removed from the series.  The first two books effectively portray a solar system stretched to its limits.  Humanity has been broken down into three groups:  Belters, Martians and Earthers.  The gravity you grew up in, defines you, profiling you.  We (humanity) continue in this future of the Expanse to create hate based on nuances of differences.   A bleak perspective but in my estimation, a pretty accurate one.  It is nice to hope that the Start Trek universe of equality (accept for those no good Romulans and Q, what the hell is up with Q) is the direction we are moving towards.  There tends to be this Disney Land perspective of the future that a lot of main stream SF speaks to.  While nice, and by nice I do not mean nice, this is not the SF that holds my interest and keeps me so loyal to the genre.   I want grit, I want emotions, I want a reality that sings to the complexity of putting people into the reaches of space, expecting them to live in environmentally-controlled ships and hulled out satellites, where one small mistake results in annihilation .  I want a future that holds to the essence of who we are while moving us further from our home, Earth.  

This is why I HSB love The Expanse. The characters start out archetypal, then move beyond those confines into real people who want to be loved, to be surrounded by friends and not be turned into vomit zombies.  Hey, don`t we all want to avoid the vomit zombie thing when it comes down to it? Can`t we love one another based on avoiding that fate? Abaddon`s Gate reveals that no we actually can`t, and as a result, royally screwing our chances of survival to one out three vomit zombies. 

But how does Abaddon`s Gate fair in comparison to the other two in the series:  Leviathan Wakes, Caliban`s War? As I alluded to, and then effectively went rogue from, it at first does not fit and then as you reach the conclusion, realizing that there is no conclusion, just more choices to make, Abaddon`s Gate is the perfect ending to a sweet ass space opera.   Similar to the final book in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, the series ends with the personal long lasting damage of war and the effects misguided hate mixed with misunderstanding can do.  Abaddon`s Gate does not fly like Leviathan Wakes, nor captures the political drama of the solar system of Calaban`s War, instead it brings the stories home to our doorsteps.  It makes the alien quality of the protomolecule a stage to humanities inability to work as one, focusing it all through the eyes of the four crew members, a dead detective, a security chief and a preacher, named Ann.  It is the most violent of the three, holding the least amount of hope while continuing to glory in the goodness of humanity.

  It is straight up HSB good.