Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book: The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan

Morgan is best known for his Takeshi Kovacs series of far-future sci-fi stuff.

I was surprised to realize that this is a fantasy. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it carries over the grit and cartoony chaos of the Kovacs stuff. It's not often that your (male) main character is not only gay, but actually gets to have sex.

The plot is occasionally confusing, but pretty much comes back together at the end. There's no indication of it on the book itself, but according to Wikipedia, it's the first of a trilogy.

Nomadic horse clans are the new elves.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Movie: Zombieland

Enjoyable. No attempt to answer any of the questions of why or how, but an entertaining action-comedy anyway.

These guys are pretty good shots.

Book: First Contact by Evan Mandery


Occasionally amusing. Fundamentally pretty disposable. Chock full of Simpsons references.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie: Encounters at the End of the World

Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary. He spends way more time interviewing the strange characters he meets than I expected. Still, he manages to draw out some interesting stories. He does spend a little too much effort trying to raise the emotional significance of the events his interviewees are describing. Still, there is some incredible footage in the film, and he makes liberal but apposite use of the footage from the Shackleton expedition.

The penguin scene is amazing. And the seal calls are mind-boggling.

Overall, more restrained than I expected, but not devoid of Herzogian craziness.

Book: Feed by Mira Grant

We all know what happens when the zombies attack. But what happens later, after they're beaten back (but not eliminated)?

This book examines that question. Set 20 years after the zombies come, it's the story of George and Shaun Mason, intrepid bloggers and pokers of dead things with sticks. They get selected to be embedded in the presidential campaign of a Wisconsin senator, and find much travails in the process.

The plot is uneven, and the villain (as well as some of the other characters) is not hugely believable, but the world's pretty compelling, and the main characters are great.

There's an interesting parallel in how they learn to live with the zombie infestation (caused by a virus), and how we've learned to live with AIDS. Not the same thing, obviously, but at least one story of a kid born infected rang true.


Book: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Napoleonic wars, with dragons.

Pretty much exactly as one would expect.

Nebula winners

As I think is correct, the Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi won Best Novel.

I haven't mentioned reading it, but “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster won best Novelette. I actually heard this story on Escape Pod, and it definitely rose above the standard fare.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book: WWW: Wake by Robert Sawyer

The last (I think) in my reading of the Hugo Best Novel nominees. I had mixed feelings about this one. The main character (a teenage girl whose sight is restored by technological intervention) is well-drawn and pretty compelling. The awakening of the web (or whatever's going on here) is less convincing.

It's the first in a trilogy. I'm reserving judgment, but I don't think it rises to the level of Windup Girl or The City & The City.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book: Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

Since I made it a point to read all the Nebula Award nominees, I might as well read all the Hugo nominees as well. This is one that was nominated for the latter, not the former.

The setting is the late 22nd century, after the collapse of the hydrocarbon economy (caled here "the Age of Efflorescence") has devastated the world. North America is united as a United States where the power rests on a triumverate of the Dominion (a sort of State Christianity) the Army, and a Caesarian presidency. Technology seems to be around the level of the mid 19th century.

The narrator, Adam Hazzard, is explicitly naive, and his naivete colors the tone of the book, making it read almost like a Young Adult novel. Hazzard grown up friends with the title character, who's the son of the president's murdered brother. The two (along with Comstock's faithful retainer Sam) are forced to run from their village, and end up having adventures, up to and including Comstock assuming his uncle's position.

The portrayal of a post-industrial society is somewhat interesting, but I felt it was let down by the cheeseballness of the narration, as well as the clumsy foreshadowing.

Book: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

A pretty respectable near-future dystopia.

A superflu causes the US to create a buffer zone on the border with Mexico. A town (Santa Olivia) that's left in the zone (as recreation for a military base close by) is the setting for the story of a girl's coming of age.

The girl's the daughter of an escaped military experiment, and therefore pretty tough.

The ending's a touch ex machina, but the story's still an interesting take. Plus, since it's Carey, there's the requisite perviness.