I’ve been on a science fiction jag recently. Most of my teens were spent buried in science fiction. Nostalgia was getting the best of me and with all of the possible changes in the near future, something comforting from the past seemed in order.
- The Windup Girl. Paolo Bacigalupi. The idea was to read Hugo and Nebula winners. It won both. This damned thing gave me fits. There were some cool ideas. The world was larger again, as global travel nearly dies after the oil runs out. Genetic engineering has wrecked the ecosystem and nearly destroyed the world’s food resources, partly by accident and partly through ruthless releases of diseases, intending to make populations dependent on patent controlled crops. Global warming has also played havoc with the environment and many cities are drowned, as most are at sea level. There exists a class of humans considered subhuman machines, as they were designed for specific tasks, called windups. The book is set in Thailand… ooo… exotic! Unfortunately, the book doesn’t ring true. Despite the many ideas, they’re repeatedly incessantly, as if they are forgotten only sentences later. The characters come across like partial amnesiacs, having to recite the same plot points and descriptions. Much of the text winds up being redundant. This reviewer on Amazon explains the problem well, guessing it’s lack of quality editing. And that rape scene? Completely and utterly unnecessary. I wasn’t offended so much as confused as to why it was so graphic, when there was a gruesome murder of a viewpoint character that was relatively glossed over.
- Leviathan Wakes. James S.A. Corey. It was funny to see sci-fi fanboys losing their shit over this one as it was labeled a “space opera” but doesn’t even cross the galaxy. The audacity! Anyway, it was very much like the old stuff I once read so it’s easy to wave off its faults. The setting is familiar to anyone to read late Golden Age material, when enough was known about the solar system that all of the futurists had divied up the planets and moons for whatever resources needs humankind would need. Minerals and metals in asteroid belt. Water and gases from the giant planets. Farms on certain moons of Jupiter and on Mars. Very Heinlein in that sense. (I saw mention of Niven in a review, but oddly, not sure if I ever read Niven back in the day.) Very old-fashioned science fiction. Derivative. Meat & potatoes. It grabs from the crime noir and horror genres. I liked it. The damned thing was solid entertainment, instead of a short story masquerading as a true novel.
- Redshirts. John Scalzi. Cute. Metafiction for the masses. That’s not necessarily all that innovative either, as i have dim memories of that syndicated tv series Hercules pulling the same thing. (Yeah, it pains me to admit i’ve seen and remember that.) It’s not as the nerdy community isn’t familiar with this style of fiction. For that matter, the book felt like a television show. The two codas worked better for me than actual novel, with the second one being schmaltzy but poignant for this kind of book.
Blaise Cendrars’ The Astonished Man and Roberto Bolaño’s The Return have been added to the ever-growing stack of books underway, but it’s likely the fun pulp that I’ll be sticking with for awhile.