Roadside Picnic is short, bleak, and fantastic. It has a typical Russian life-is-a-meaningless-struggle-against-absurdity vibe, but there’s enough going on to make it an interesting read.
If you’re a child of the 80s, reading Ready Player One is like mainlining heroin-strength nostalgia. It’s so ridiculously fun that I frequently imagined author Ernest Cline giggling and saying to himself, “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!”
Nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 1975, The Mote in God’s Eye has not aged particularly well. There are some clever twists and exciting sequences in this far-future first-contact tale, and the alien Motes are, in some ways, truly alien.
A ship, powered by a tame black hole, is on a multi-million year mission to place wormholes throughout the galaxy, allowing humans to travel interstellar distances. The people on this ship are awoken by an AI for a couple days every ten thousand years or so to create these wormholes.
The people on board the ship discover something’s not right. But how do you solve anything when you’re in cryosleep for thousands of years at a stretch?
Tom Barren in All Our Wrong Todays is from an ideal version of our present time. No war, no poverty, jet packs for all, and pretty much every starry-eyed prediction made in the 1950’s has come true. It’s awesome. But then Tom loses the love of his life and in his iffy mental state, does something stupid with a time machine. He screws everything up so badly that his amazing 2016 turns into a crap 2016: that is, our 2016. Now he’s got to fix it. Except that the love of his life is alive in our 2016…
I think author David Wong has invented “trailerpunk”—intelligent, funny, but low-income and low-achieving people save the world in all his books. In his latest, the near-future Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a young woman with a horrible cat is forced to fend off a deeply psychotic and wildly enhanced billionaire cyborg.
The Girl With All the Gifts is a wonderful book, which is odd praise for a story about zombies. But it’s surprisingly thoughtful, and at times, even tender, all while managing to be a fast-paced thriller. Every day I looked forward to reading it.
In a post-apocalyptic England, Melanie, along with other children, is imprisoned in a windowless bunker. They are all strapped down and muzzled whenever they leave their cells. No adult is allowed to touch them under any circumstances. Given who these children are, these are reasonable precautions. Then the installation is attacked, and Melanie is freed along with several adults, some who want her alive, some who want her dead, and others who want her dissected.
Recommendation: Buy it. This is fun, original writing with solid characters and an intense, powerful ride.
In Pushing Ice, one of Saturn’s moons suddenly departs from its orbit and shoots off into deep space. The only nearby ship chases the errant moon and watches as huge chunks of ice fall off its surface to reveal a gigantic machine underneath.
Not everyone on the ship wants to keep chasing this object. The object seems to have some ideas about that, too.
Pushing Ice is a great book, and I lost some sleep because I couldn’t put it down. Even though we follow the same characters throughout the book, so much happens that it has the feel of a big, sprawling, multi-generational epic.
The science is hard, the humans flawed, and the surprises keep coming.
Recommendation: Get it at the library unless you’re building a shelf of all of Alastair Reynolds’ books. Which may be a pretty good idea, actually. Hmm.