SORCERY AND THE ART OF GIANT ROBOT MAINTENANCE by Andrew Merrigan

Plot:  “A science-fiction/comedy novel, ‘Sorcery and the Art of Giant Robot Maintenance’ is both hilarious and irreverent. Science Fiction Comedy chaos set in a world were giant robots, like Voltron and Tranformers, are painted as Weapons of Mass Destruction, while wizards are hunted and despised by a madcap planet of aliens. A robotics genius (who is also an outlawed archeologist) and a wizard (who only knows one spell that could kill everyone) team up to save the world from… themselves?”

A fun, goofy read, light and airy.  That’s all.

SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America.

This book has the pervasive air of nerdy geekiness (or, perhaps, geeky nerdiness), an unexpected take on linguistics, a kick-ass female character, a parallel (virtual) reality, a hefty helping of (admittedly, overexaggerated) satire, and just enough wacky improbable worldbuilding to make this complicated book a page turner, even when you don’t understand the pages you are turning.

Stephenson introduces a world where governments have collapsed and societies are held loosely together by anarcho-capitalism.  It is an intelligent, modern adventure that expertly weaves in elements of pre-history and archeological thrill seeking,  spiced up with a cacophony of sci-fi, techno-socio-economic observations, and a kaleidoscope of theological and philosophical concepts all thrown together.

 

WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS SANG by Kate Wilhelm

This is a story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experiment in cloning.  Written in 1977, this is a definitely 70s dystopian/apocalypic genre, well put together but from the vantage point of almost 2020, it has a quaint feel to it, kinda like listening to old grandpa tell about when he was a kid and had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways.

David Sumner has a problem: the world as he knows it is about to end. what’s a brilliant young man and his equally brilliant family to do? why, bring back members of that extended family, store supplies, circle the wagons, and build a lab which will eventually help the Sumner family to repopulate the earth.  The lab is creating clones, and eventually the clones take over, and kick out the original human elders.  Eventually as generations of clone interations progresses, it turns out that each interation has less and less initiative and creativity and imagination.  You know how when you make a photocopy of a picture, then make another photocopy of that photocopy, and then a photocopy of that second photocopy, etc, etc., until finally the copy you make is starting to get blurry and out of true with the original?  Yeah, like that.

Our protagonist of the second half of the book is a rebel type boy who sees how things are going and is determined to disrupt the process and bring full humans back into the picture, believing that only humanity, not clones or what today we might call similacrums, can save the species, and eventually secretly establishes a small settlement where a handful of humans are the start of a new generation.  This part I found suspect, because I think there has been established by researchers a minimum number of people necessary to repopulate the world, but since I am too lazy to look it up, I will leave that to you.

 

STARFISH by Peter Watts

Boy, I love Peter Watts.  A foremost sci fi British writer, he gives us a story line that is a page turner, great style writing, and some pretty nifty science stuff.

Starfish is the first of a trilogy, and I accidentally read the second book  in the series already, Maelstrom,  which I talk about here.

Here is the basics of Starfish.

A huge international corporation has developed a facility along the Juan de Fuca Ridge at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to exploit geothermal power. They send a bio-engineered crew–people who have been altered to withstand the pressure and breathe the seawater–down to live and work in this weird, fertile undersea darkness.

Unfortunately the only people suitable for long-term employment in these experimental power stations are crazy, some of them in unpleasant ways. How many of them can survive, or will be allowed to survive, while worldwide disaster approaches from below?

Really fine, really really fine.

 

DEFINITELY MAYBE by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

The Strugatsky brothers were Soviet-Russian science fiction authors who collaborated through most of their careers.   They were arguably  the greatest science fiction writers of the Soviet era: their books were intellectually provocative and riotously funny, full of boldly imagined scenarios and veiled—but clear—social criticism.

Definitely Maybe tells the story of astrophysicist Dmitri Malianov, who has sent his wife and son off to her mother’s house in Odessa so that he can work, free from distractions, on the project he’s sure will win him the Nobel Prize.

But he’d have an easier time making progress if he wasn’t being interrupted all the time: First, it’s the unexpected delivery of a crate of vodka and caviar. Then a beautiful young woman in an unnervingly short skirt shows up at his door. Then several of his friends—also scientists—drop by, saying they all felt they were on the verge of a major discovery when they got . . . distracted . . .
Is there an ominous force that doesn’t want knowledge to progress? Or could it be something more . . . natural?

Told in the form of diary excerpts, it is fragments of the attempts of various scientists to achieve their breakthrough ideas, but just who or what is preventing them is unclear to all.  Could it be ……. aliens?  hahaha

Not quite as funny as Roadside Picnic, which posits the debris and trash left behind by alien sightseers, but Definitely Maybe is still pretty clever, nonetheless.  The Strugatsky books give the reader a lot of questions, and dang little in the way of answers, suggesting that we are simply a clueless species who don’t know what questions to ask, let alone any of the answers.  I talked about Roadside Picnic here.

 

JUDAS UNCHAINED by Peter Hamilton

This is the follow up to Pandora’s Star, which I babbled on about here.  And yeah, I know, I said in that review that I would not be reading the followup novel(s).  However, it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, so I did.

Another HUGE ginormous book, at 847 pages, give or take a flyleaf or two. Probably wouldn’t be damaged all that badly by the elimination of a detailed description or four of battles, landscapes, and trivial acts, but it is his style of writing, so we just go with it.

Again, (and I urge you to read my review of Pandora’s Star in order to get a grasp on the general theme), we have the several infinitely long plot lines which intertwine and finally merge at the end.  Here is the general gist:

Robust, peaceful, and confident, the Commonwealth dispatched a ship to investigate the mystery of a disappearing star, only to inadvertently unleash a predatory alien species that turned on its liberators, striking hard, fast, and utterly without mercy.

The Prime are the Commonwealth’s worst nightmare. Coexistence is impossible with the technologically advanced aliens, who are genetically hardwired to exterminate all other forms of life. Twenty-three planets have already fallen to the invaders, with casualties in the hundreds of millions. And no one knows when or where the genocidal Prime will strike next.

Nor are the Prime the only threat. For more than a hundred years, a shadowy cult, the Guardians of Selfhood, has warned that an alien with mind-control abilities impossible to detect or resist — the Starflyer — has secretly infiltrated the Commonwealth. Branded as terrorists, the Guardians and their leader, Bradley Johansson, have been hunted by relentless investigator Paula Myo. But now evidence suggests that the Guardians were right all along, and that the Starflyer has placed agents in vital posts throughout the Commonwealth — agents who are now sabotaging the war effort.

Is the Starflyer an ally of the Prime, or has it orchestrated a fight to the death between the two species for its own advantage? Caught between two deadly enemies, one a brutal invader striking from without, the other a remorseless cancer killing from within, the fractious Commonwealth must unite as never before.

The nifty thing about this universe is that the folks have the ability to re-life people who have died.  The common activity is to periodically backup your memories and leave them in a secure location so if you get killed or die by disease, etc., you can get re-lifed with your memories reintroduced.   ALSO, and this I totally love, they have a rejuvenation process which takes about a year or so, and from which you emerge all young again.  So you look young and bouncy, but you have the wisdom and skepticism and jadedness of your former lives.  hahaha.  So you can have marriages between two people, one of whom is a first time around-er, and the other maybe 300 years old, working on their third or fourth life.  Talk about a cougar!

I enjoyed this book more than the first, but I think it has more to do about where my mind is as opposed to where it was when I read the first book, than having to do with the books themselves.

 

EXIT STRATEGY by Martha Wells

This is the fourth and final installment of the Murderbot Diaries series.  Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care. So, its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murderbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah—its former owner (protector? friend?)—submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?

Our A.I., complete with sarcasm and social anxiety, is back. We already know that Murderbot is not really a bot (robot) or technically a murderer.It is a highly augmented human who is gainfully employed as a security unit. It guards the lives of those who hire him.

Not only is it highly intelligent, it is also personal and is burdened with empathy, loyalty and a love for escapism into video dramas. It had been searching on Milu for additional evidence against the evil-ridden corporation GrayCris. Because of key evidence found on the Milu trip, Murderbot decides it needs to meet face-to-face with Dr. Mensah, who is technically Murderbot’s owner and possibly also its friend … though Murderbot would say it doesn’t “do” friendship.

Murderbot’s return to HaveRatton Station isn’t as straightforward or successful as it had hoped it would be. Station authorities have been alerted that there’s a rogue SecUnit on the loose, and security personnel are pulling out all the stops to capture or kill Murderbot. Worse, Mensah may be in serious trouble. News sources on HaveRatton state that she’s traveled to TranRollinHyfa, a major space station where GrayCris has its corporate headquarters, to answer GrayCris’s legal claim of corporate espionage against her. Now Mensah has disappeared and is presumably in the hands of GrayCris. Murderbot gets another chance to hone its talents at armed conflict and human rescue missions and, perhaps, at friendship as well.

So sorry this is the last in the series. However, we are advised that there is a full length Murderbot novel planned for release in 2020, so we will keep our fingers crossed.