Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Prey of Gods

Nicky Drayden

In many ways, this is the South African version of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Only better... for me, at least. In addition to magical realism, with gods and demigods breaking into modern society, Drayden adds a cyberpunk flavor and puts it all together in a way that makes me look closely at South African culture. Loved this. The story follows a series of characters that, obviously, will all connect in the end. We have a couple of teens, a politician, a young township girl, a pop-diva, a nail-salon worker. But these characters are also drag queens, drug users, hackers, demigods and demons and afflicted with MS. Add in the AI helper bots ("Alphies"), who have their own perspective/observations on the story and this really gets fun. We get to think about purpose, friendship, the difference between fear, anger, love, praise and belief, the afterlife and integrity. Drayden's writing is easy and light, resulting in an almost trivial feel to the book. Is this really making me think about all these things? Definitely should be on your read list.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

Adulthood Rights

Octavia E. Butler
Book 2 of the Xenogenesis Trilogy

Many years after the close of Dawn, Lilith has joined humans back on Earth and are well into resettlement. There are scores of settlements in the area, although all are remote. The Oankali situation is one where genetic engineering proceeds with the goal of producing both human born and Oankali born offspring (instead of genetically manufactured). This is an important step toward self sufficiency. The human situation is one where humans have been rendered sterile, unless they are willing to participate in the hybrid offspring program. So for humanity as a sustainable species, the outlook is grim. Our protagonist in this volume is Akin, a human looking hybrid child, who is kidnapped by human resisters and left to live with the humans as a way to learn about them and their values.

I continue to enjoy the exploration of human uniqueness, the exploration of human exceptionalism and the way Butler puts traditional colonialist values into the Oankali culture in such a matter-of-fact illumination of human contradictions.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Last Season

Eric Blehm

This is the true story of the disappearance of Randy Morgenson. Morgenson was a super experienced, seasonal employee of the National Park Service who worked every summer as a back country ranger in the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Forest. These national forests contain the most rugged terrain of any land in the country, with only 1% of the area actually accessible to the public by trail. As a back country ranger, Morgenson was responsible to patrol, both the 1% and the 99%. But in the summer of 1996, he disappeared leaving only a "Ranger on patrol for 3-4 days" note. This book tells the story of Morgenson, before and after the disappearance, giving the reader a pretty good understanding of the person, and of the type of person who is a back country ranger. It also tells the story of Kings Canyon and Sequoia, fully characters in their own right, which would have been exactly what Morgenson would have insisted on. A fascinating read, made more so if you have been to any part of the national forest in California and have an image of the landscape to follow you around the telling.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Night School

A Jack Reacher Novel
Lee Child

Set back in time when Reacher is still an MP, he is reassigned to attend a night school class, along with an FBI agent and CIA analyst. Which means a highly sensitive, highly secretive, joint agency operation. This time the task is to track down a terrorist cell that is buying something for $100 million. To much for regular munitions, too little for WMD's. No worries, Reacher is on the case. He works with his assigned partners... sort of. Mostly he goes off on his own and solves the thing on his own, taking out some alt-right Euro's along the way. Classic Reacher.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Generation One

Pittacus Lore

Starting a new series in the Lorien Legacies world. We are post war with the Mogadorians and the Garde have won, with the help of the new human garde of course. With Loric energy infusing a new generation, we of course need to start a Professor Xavier like school in order to train the newly powerful humans how to be safe... and to control and use these powers. So we go to school, meet a few of the new human garde, not all of whom are excited to be chosen. They get restless, get into trouble, uncover a vast conspiracy, and learn a lot about themselves in the process of fighting crime and corruption. This is as entertaining as the X-files, and about as deep. In fact, I am increasingly aware of the fact that this could easily have been written by an AI trained in formulaic YA sci-fi.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Dawn

Octavia E. Butler
Book 1 of the Xenogenesis Trilogy

I found this at the library and thought that I have discovered a new Octavia Butler series. And then I remembered that she had passed more than a decade ago. And then a perusal of the publication date places this trilogy in the late 80's. How did I miss it? Another reminder of how vast the literary library is, and how little I have actually read.

This book opens with Lilith coming awake and finding herself in an alien ship. Humanity is post global destruction war and was "rescued" by an alien race from a now toxic earth. Lilith is woken to begin the process of reintroducing humans to earth... and participating in "trade" with this alien species. The Oankali see themselves as a benevolent species, saving humans from extinction at the cost of genetic mixing to create a new species that will better populate a revived earth. Lilith (like all humans in this story) finds this forced genetic mixing repulsive. Fascinatingly analogous to a captive breeding program for nearly extinct species, coupled with genetic engineering of the species to promote sustainability. But we never ask the condor, or the white rhino, etc. whether it is willing to undergo genetic modification to "save itself". Now humans are the rhinos...

Lilith is conflicted, the Oankali are oblivious to their genetic colonialism, and the reader is 50-50 on whether they recognize the irony of thinking of certain colonialism as OK and other as repulsive. Fabulous.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three

Stephen King

Book 2 of The Dark Tower Series

First of all, I find it interesting that only a month after finishing the first in the series, I open the second and barely remember anything described in the "review" prologue. This is one of two things: the reason I found the first insubstantial is that I was paying attention to the wrong things, or upon writing the second King finally realizes the direction he wants to go and highlights (in hindsight) the pieces that take there. I have not had such a strong "literary amnesia" in such a short time before. That said, this second volume does set the hook for the story, bringing in additional "modern time" characters that have developed character as well as spending enough time with the gunslinger making decisions to start to understand his character. So I have now been pulled in to this long saga, albeit not deep enough to rush out and buy every volume. I will wait until my library is willing to share each in turn...

Upgraded to Read (perhaps prematurely?)