Monday, 13 April 2015

The Unit–Ninni Holmqvist

It’s possibly the future or more likely near future Sweden and population expansion and capitalism is the name of the game. Artists, writers, the childless and partnerless are consigned to special units to be experimented on and have their organs harvested once they reach an age deemed no longer useful to society. Dorrit an unsuccessful writer is sent to The Unit and despite being experimented upon and slated for an early death at the hands of organ harvesters finds friends, falls in love and is given a new reason to live.

There are many interesting points in this book but they are tempered by endless lists of food and decoration and what feels like a general lack of interest in science from the author. The inhabitants of the unit are experimented on but the experiments rarely feel like they’re anything other than “what can I think of that seems a bit sciency” and there are quite a few flaws in the internal consistency.

Despite being written in 2005 it feels very dated (almost as if it might have been written in the 90s) and references to eBooks and DVDs as modern seem quite out of place.

It’s an interesting book and one which when I’ve described to people has created far more interest in it than I saw in people who had read the book (it was a book club book).


Friday, 10 April 2015

Behemoth–Peter Watts

This is a long long book and one which I didn’t finish as my will to read it just ran out about 2/3 of the way through.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Maelstrom–Peter Watts

I ended up reading Maelstrom because I was mainly curious to see how Watts would describe now a country fares as an invasive biological agent takes over the ecosystem and what needs to be done. There’s not really a huge amount to write about it as it’s just a continuation from Starfish.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Starfish–Peter Watts

Starfish is the first novel in the Rifters trilogy set in 2050 focussing on a group of mentally unstable divers being manipulated by corporate interests in a midst of an environmental meltdown. Sounds like a pretty formulaic story, right? Well Peter Watts takes it further by heaping more science that feels necessary at times to create a story where you may not always understand what’s going on but you’re pretty sure it all makes sense.


I’m still not convinced I enjoyed this as a story as I had little interest in any of the characters but the science and meltdown was good enough to get me onto the next book




Thursday, 2 April 2015

Forever Magazine (Issue 3 / 1APRIL15)

I think I’m going to have to write an email to Neal Clarke to find out exactly how much of the content will have been previously published as I was disappointed to find of the three issues published I have read two of the novellas and three of the six short stories.

Issue three has the following

  • The Wedding Album by David Marusek (Novella)
  • The Surface of Last Scattering by Ken MacLeod (Short Story)
  • Slipping by Lauren Beukes (Short Story)

I’m not going to include material I’ve previously read as this blog is more for my benefit in remembering what I have read and thought at the time and any use it may have to a wider audience is coincidental.

Surface of the Last Scattering

I find Ken MacLeod to be a difficult author in the sense that I either love his work or just don’t care. It’s not a matter of disliking something he has written, it just sometimes fails to engage so completely it might be the written equivalent of porridge. Thankfully I was gratified to find that this is one of his works where the concept is so simple; well thought out; interesting and perfectly realised that there is nothing to complain about. It covers so many topics with so few words it’s really quite amazing to see it done.

In about 3,000 words Ken MacLeod covers religion; the compassion of strangers; the essence of history; childhood idealisation of parents; realistic advances in technology and creates something simple yet breath-taking.



Many times in the pub people have commented on what an Olympics with no restrictions on drugs would be like and Lauren Beukes has taken this and made it work but thinking through how the commercial aspects would work in reality. By focussing on the human elements of competitors whose humanity is in doubt (to some) Beukes manages to explore disability; what it means to compete; the nature of fame and how athletes are effectively commodities to be packaged, managed and sold.


Pelquin's Comet (The Dark Angels Book 1)–Ian Whates

There is more than one way to skin a cat and there is certainly more than one way to start a new scifi universe. In Pelquin's Comet (The Dark Angels Book 1)Ian Whates has taken the approach where many elements are introduced in the first novel and are given a surface treatment while the key story unfolds. This sets the series up nicely for future books but unfortunately means the novel often reads like a pilot episode of a TV show. It is likely my dislike of this is personal as it seems to be a common trope, whereby the ensemble are introduced; key organisations named (and clearly marked as good vs. evil) and then finally ending in a cliff hanger hoping for the network executives (or readers in this case) to commission (or read) further instalments.

It would be unfair to say that I did not like this book, but I’m not sure that I found the universe, characters or general premise interesting enough to make it likely that I would read further books set in the Dark Angels universe.

Things I liked

  • The potential for a transhuman vs. baseline-human conflict
  • An interesting terrorist(?) organisation

Things I didn’t like

  • Mysterious Elder alien civilisations
  • Yet another insectoid alien race
  • Evil corporations

Essentially what got me was that this was not an engaging enough story to overcome the rather stock base it was made from.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What it Means to Survive–Lucas Bale

What It Means To Survive is a short story from Lucas Bale author of The Heretic (Beyond the Wall Book 1) and Defiance (Beyond the Wall Book 2). I think it may be set in the same universe but it is a standalone story focussing on what it means to be a good person even when the situation you’re placed in would make it very easy to take the easy route.

While reading this story I became convinced that Bale lives somewhere with significant amounts of weather as in the two novels I recently read the environment whether interior or exterior; hot or cold is always an important part of the story. So I checked his website and was amazed to find out he lives in Surrey which is about as temperate in weather as it is possible to be. I can only think that he dreams of weather which is more interesting than a little bit cool, a bit warm and slightly rainy.