17 January 2017

So Many Things: A Review of The Thing Itself, Adam Roberts

It's gross outside - grey, rainy, cold, the perfect day for writing. Yet here I sit, barely able to cohesively construct a single sentence delaying this post with tedious chores. Once in awhile a book comes my way that seems impossible to review. With bashful chagrin, I simply might not be wily enough to express what the hell is going on in The Thing Itself.

Megan from Couch to Moon  insisted that Adam Roberts novel is the book I needed to read. Not one to ever ignore that lady's perception of a good read, I put it on my reading gift list this past holiday season. With a no-book buying policy, Christmas has become that day in December when books seem to fall from reading heaven. It is a glorious day made complete because of my husband's willingness to buy his geeky wife all her nerdy SF books. It's nice having a husband support your geeky ways, even knowing his life is in jeopardy if he were to crack a book spine or leave a copy splayed open. Our happy marriage hinges upon good book care and a willingness to hear each other's relationship with UFOs. He, being the intense believer, scanning the internet for new sightings and me, the woman who has agreed to move to Newfoundland the moment the invasion begins. 

But what about Kant....

Much to my puzzlement The Thing Itself's cover and synopsis desperately attempt to align to the cinematic horror, The Thing. Not surprisingly, The Thing so happens to be my husband's worst nightmare having imprinted a deep hatred for snow and psychotic aliens on him as a wee lad. Let me be clear, the novel is not an ode to the movie - for that read Peter Watts short story, The Things. Then once you have read that nightmare, drink some herbal tea while watching The Wizard of Oz. You will need a yellow-brick road to pull you from out of your catatonic state of terror. 

The Thing Itself familiarly opens to a research station in Antartica with two astrophysicists on a long-term contract to monitor SETI. This has got to be about The Thing, how can it not! But here is the thing, Adam Roberts may happen to be one of the best writers I have read in years. By relying upon the reader's attachment to the film, he masterfully displays Kant's theory of reality. It's brilliant but only conceivable once you have read the book. 

But really, what about Kant...

Immaniel Kant, an 18th century philosopher argued that humanities perception of reality is constructed by the mind. Space and time is not an objective universal constant but a reflection of our sensibilities. The world as itself is independent of these concepts and nearly impossible for humanity to even properly discern. It is heady stuff, not one for this girl to in any way proclaim proper understanding. Thankfully, Kant's  The Critique of Pure Reason  entwined with the Fermi Paradox is entertainingly confined within a possible first contact/suspense story. The very thing itself becomes slightly less murky because Adam Roberts is a writing genius.

I like this book quite a bit, so much that I believe that it is the book you need in your life. Have you ever wondered why SF readers enjoy SF so much? The Thing Itself quantifies all that is exciting in current science fiction. While I most definitely am getting beyond myself, The Thing Itself is this girl's read of 2017.

3 January 2017

Exploration: A Review of 2016

A walk through the neighbourhood, combined with an excursion to the local outdoor rink for family night skating, 2017 has been all of the things. As I climbed into bed on New Year's Eve, satisfyingly ignoring the festivities beyond my window, I woke to sun. 2016 was anything but kind to my family, the passing of my father left me emotionally stranded on a frozen, cracked lake. Incapable of expressing the abyss, I found solace in my family, gathering joy as I witnessed my son bounce through his weeks to Christmas. Although this new year will be my first without Dad, I see limitless avenues of happiness to explore. 

Finding purchase when your world tips askew can lend itself to new beginnings. My 2016 was a mismatch of personal goals wanting to get fit all the while reading and writing. My 50 novel reading channel was smashed by October with a final tally of 68. Site visits to Thank the Maker soared even with a lacklustre showing of only 21 reviews.

I became an Honor Harrington fan, obsessed over the generational ship in Aurora by Kim Stanly Robinson and swam in the poetry that is Station 11.  I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon with  The Fifth Season, and Aftermath. But with all my dalliances with the popular novel, I sank deeply into the odd, extravagantly rich world found in Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente.

I finally read Ursula's K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, and continue to chastise myself for all the years wasted by not opening this book. We all have moments where we could relive a reading moment:  Dune, War and Peace and now, The Left Hand of Darkness are mine. 2016 began with the YA apocalyptic novel, Archivist Wasp, and closed with The GraceKeepers; two novels dancing within a dystopian future, seeking salvation.

Sitting with my copy of Women of Futures Past I begin my 2017 reading year with the women of science fiction. Kristine Kathryn Rusch's introductory essay, Invisible Women was an awakening experience. Having never attended a 'con' nor dipped my toes into recent Hugo controversies, I was unaware of the struggles women writers have in being recognized. My space operatic tendencies entwined for a love of time travel books, results in me reading primarily female writers. I obviously live in a sheltered, reading world, one at which Bujold, Baker, Willis, Lord, Atwood, Lee, Walton, McCaffrey reign.

With the slow unfolding of all that 2017 will be, here is to the women of science fiction:  we are the readers, the writers, the buyers, the bloggers, the editors, the publishers. We are science fiction. Find the time this year to rejoice in all our womanly yet geeky tendencies. Start your journey with the reading of the short story Angel by Pat Cadigan. It's compact, engaging creepiness will leave you wondering who else you haven't explored.