I’ll be taking a break for a few months to restock on reviews. I hope to be back in the new year with more, especially in the classics category. Until then, happy reading!
New York 2140
By Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson has a fascination for stories about humanity’s attempts to craft a sustainable environment through technology. In New York 2140 he’s back on this familiar ground, even if the ground is now under water.
In the future, global warming has, as predicted, caused ocean levels to rise. This has led to the catastrophic flooding of much of the world’s coastal areas, including the Big Apple.
The surprising thing is that NYC hasn’t been abandoned. Instead it has refashioned itself as a “SuperVenice,” its streets replaced by waterways. In this new urban milieu Robinson tells a complicated story involving sunken treasure and high-finance chicanery, played out by a host of characters drawn from all walks of life and social classes. The result is an epic “city novel” of the next century.
Chasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World
Ed. by David Brin and Stephen W. Potts
Surveillance has been an important theme in science fiction at least since the middle of the twentieth century, when Big Brother started watching us through our telescreens. Today, of course, the telescreen is a part of everyday life and privacy is coming to seem like a quaint historical notion.
Chasing Shadows collects a variety of responses by SF writers to living in the digital panopticon, most of them less pessimistic than Orwell but still expressing some misgivings. No matter their particular angle though, all are entertaining and provocative, and piercingly relevant for our own time.
While not trying to predict what’s to come, the general impression given is that we should expect technology to become even more pervasive and intrusive, in part because that’s what we want it to be: valuing convenience and connection over intimacy and the individual.
We should be careful what we wish for.
By Peter Cawdron
In science fiction, space has usually been imagined as a cooperative effort, sort of like Antarctica. We might go to war with other species (especially the scaly green ones), but when the chips are down you can usually count on humanity banding together in a multi-ethnic, colour-blind, post-national community.
That’s an ideal that’s put to the test in Retrograde when news of global nuclear war on Earth reaches an international research station on Mars. The installation is divided into four geographic modules that are soon divided against one other, at least until the discovery of a common enemy requires them to join forces.
What follows is an SF adventure in the grand John W. Campbell tradition as Team Mars tries to find a way to defeat a ruthless new life form that is always one step ahead of them in the struggle to survive.
By Matthew Costello and Rick Hautala
While science fiction often involves advanced speculations into future technologies and scientific breakthroughs, or takes the form of complex social and political allegory, sometimes it’s only meant as pure entertainment. This is definitely the case with Star Road, which sends a spaceship/RV full of odd and mysterious characters on a cross-universe journey via an ancient, intergalactic superhighway.
Imagine an entire season of Star Trek episodes collapsed into a single novel and you’ll have some idea of how much fun you can expect. In the best pulp fashion Star Road takes the reader on a fantastic voyage complete with blasting pulse cannons, ion storms, psychedelic passages through star gates, killer robots, giant sea monsters, and imperial troopers locked in battle with rebel forces. Once you enter into the spirit of the thing you’ll probably start to wonder when the space zombies are going to show up. Just be patient. There are space zombies too.
Yes, it’s all a big, noisy videogame with wall-to-wall CGI special effects. But this is one road you won’t want to end.
By Ben Peek
The strange stories of Australian author Ben Peek resist categorization, freely sampling from elements of horror, postmodern metafiction, SF, alternative history, surrealism and fantasy. But then hybridization is one of his main themes, with different selves often occupying the same body, or, confusing matters even more, the same self in different bodies. Making things all the more difficult, and interesting, is the fact that in Peek’s world none of these mixed parts get along.
The Time Traveler’s Almanac
Ed. by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Fresh off their impressive monster-anthology of fantastic fiction, The Weird, editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer turn their attention to time travel in this collection dedicated to that most philosophical, paradoxical, and poetic of SF themes.
As with The Weird, the selection is more than generous, clocking in at well over 900 pages. This is a book you’re going to want to spend a lot of time with. Providing a well-curated time capsule of the genre, the VanderMeers take us on a magical tour of time travel’s greatest hits, from the golden age to contemporary bestsellers. Included are stories by names like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, H. G. Wells, Connie Willis, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock.