28 March 2017

So, It's Weird: A Review of The Destructives, Matthew De Abaitua

With the child suddenly invited to evening events, we, his parents, have discovered the 5:30 dinner date. Maybe this is how the early bird special spun out of control - tired parents, wanting to drink they buns off but unwilling to sacrifice sleep. At our most recent pre-sunset hot date, I attempted to describe The Destructives. Even with the table sprinkled with half empty cocktails, my husband's vacant stare had less to do with the upended bevies and everything to do with my weirdness. I am weirdo. I enjoy 9:00 p.m bedtimes, hours of bench sitting, an aversion to movie-watching, a lust for Survivor and an overarching desire to read really weird shit.

My shadowing of the shadow jury for the Arthur C. Clarke award has created a conundrum. Thank the Maker at its design heart is to persuade my small tribe of friends to read science fiction. I read, it's my lot in life and yet 99% of those I call dear dislike SF. As I cloak myself in the shadows of the Clarke award, the intentions of my posts move further from being actualized. No one, beyond a handful of right-minded nutters who I have managed to befriend are going to read any of these shadow books. How does one argue to the non-geeks that the hive-minded, city-wide jellyfish, living in the underground oceans of Europa that so happens to be humanity's key to survival is something they need to read on about? 

I have had my moments with magic, dragons, lyrical, historical alternative, dystopian futures but what sings true for this girl are the novels that go beyond my expectations - dangling science all the while blatantly ignoring known universal truths. Discovering an author willing to explore the boundaries of science fiction is the pulse that keeps the genre alive. Only science fiction can expand perceptions of humanity by alienating ourselves, deconstructing that what we hold dear, all in the hopes of coming closer to the meaning of life. 

Plus, space ships are cool. You know it.

The question begs to be asked, is Matthew De Abaitua's novel, The Destructives worth reading? The third installment of a lose, stand-alone type of trilogy, The Destructives finds humankind blunted, falling slowly into extinction as AI evolves as the dominant species. The world economy has been disrupted by a single loop (gif) of a mother hugging her teenage daughter. The Seizure is decades in the past, AI has decamped to the Sun, and our protagonist, Theodore Drown is working as professor at the University of the Moon. An anthropological expert on Pre-Seizure culture, Theodore is asked to investigate an archive of data. What follows is an epic tale of weirdness that frankly has left me incapable of properly expressing without dropping down some serious spoilers. 

Highly engaging novel, definitely perplexing, The Destructives is inescapably sci-fi. If you don't like weird shit, this weirdness is not for you. 

13 March 2017

Perspective: A Review of Central Station, Lavie Tidhar

My grade 11 Social Studies teacher once assigned a behavioural anthropologic essay from the viewpoint of an alien visiting Earth for only one day. What would resonate? Would alien observations of our daily interactions at high school devise an elaborate synopsis that we, as a race were uniquely programmed to respond to the sound of a bell? The furious scurryings, combined with anxiety to be late, surely humans must be bell responsive. I marvel upon the exercise's unique ability to showcase perspective, observations and facts.

Although, memory fails me regarding my original hypotheses, I currently would assert weather as the mundane provocateur. Find me a Canadian that has not been educated on the fine art of weather chatting. A recent visit to a small town in the Okanogan found me chatting with a a complete stranger about the heat. The act of him stopping in the middle of street to lean out of his window to jaw on about the humidity might seem alarming, for us Canucks it is simply the sweet charm of living up here. Don't want to come across as rude, go on about the rain.

Snowflakes swirl beyond my living room window. And while this scene would bring endless joy to my winter heart, I cringe as the snow begins to mound. Like Lavie Tidhar's novel, Central Station, perspective is the name of this game. My annual pilgrimage to the Sonoran desert looms, yet the current snow event parked over the north-east threatens my near future visit with cacti, the sun and my Mom. 

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar is the space story I had yet to read. Humanity has taken to the skies, terraforming the Moon, living subterraneanly on Mars, expanding beyond our current global vantage point. The Conversation, a vast, complex virtual force that can be traced back to the internet is as necessary as air to survive. History is dense, wars long forgotten continue to haunt the darkened alleyways in the form of abandoned cyborg soldiers - once humankind's heroes now their collective embarrassment. Babies are designed. Earth's horizon is marred by gigantic space stations - each a towering city, affecting localized weather patterns, breeding new religions, all the while offering the stars. 

" A worldwide diaspora has left a quarter of a million people at the foot of a space station. Cultures collide in real life  and virtual reality. The city is a weed, its growth left unchecked. Life is cheap and data is cheaper." - Central Station, Lavie Tidhar

Lavie Tidhar has created a far-reaching fantastical future that feels concurrently alarmingly exotic yet satisfyingly familiar. Within a short timespan we peak into the lives of an interwoven group of people, all, searching. The story of life, the need for acceptance, the desires and sorrows of the heart remain true, whatever the century. This is the story of the every man, woman, robot, sentient creature, data-vampire, that falls in love, finds religion, eventually losing both all the while managing to survive. It is the story of family - the need to remember and the cost of holding too dear to that very past. 

Central Station breathes new life into the genre - more so thanks to it's non-American slant, bringing this SF story to Tel Aviv, highlighting Judaic culture, mingling the elements of the migrant. Central Station is not an everyday space story, just as this does not appear to be your average snow storm.