Monday, January 21, 2019

Thin Air

Title: Thin Air
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Publisher: Del Rey

This is kind of Morgan returning to his roots, as Thin Air is more like Altered Carbon than anything he's published in the intervening years. 

There's a cynical, hard-bitten, quasi-military protagonist who now works independently, dragged into a missing person investigation that turns out to be part of a bigger conspiracy ... which is pretty close to the setup of Altered Carbon. The action takes place on a barely- slash badly-terraformed Mars rather than Earth and the gee-whiz technology is cybernetic implants rather than digitally backed-up consciousness, but the tone, setting and story beats are all pretty familiar.

I suspect whether you like this or not will depend on how you felt about Altered Carbon, and whether you wanted more of the same. Personally, I enjoyed the overall style and tone, but the hero is a little too super-powered for my taste, and like a lot of whodunits a lot rides on suspects or baddies revealing their entire plans in lengthy monologues in unlikely situations, and plus I think the conspiracy is a little too convoluted for its own good.

Maybe the biggest change, other than the surface details of the setting, is there's a kind of acceptance in the writing that wasn't there 16 years ago--the world is shit, but it's the world we gotta live in, so we might as well make the best of it. Despite the noir style there is an almost, if not quite hopeful, then almost zen feel to the ending.

So, if you liked A.C. this will definitely scratch almost exactly the same itch. If not, probably not your thing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Winter Holiday Reading List!

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle: A classic far beyond any words of mine to either help or harm. Got a Vonnegut collection from my brother for Xmas, so working my way through that.

David Drake, Hammer's Slammers Vol. 1: Interesting to see it obviously gestated in the same juices as BattleTech, with its intergalactic mercenaries and monocultural colony worlds lifted straight from 20th century stereotypes. 

Started off promising with some good rip-snorting scifi action (reminded me more of Renegade Legion than BT, but anyway), but I find the constant slaughter of civilians faintly nauseating (let's massacre these surrendering guerillas, let's drop a nuke on this village, let's not bother distinguishing between combatants and non-) so I've given up halfway through.

Joe Abercrombie, Heroes: Set over the course of a sort of medieval Gettysburg, a three-day battle between the barbarian Northerners and the civilized Union. Anachronisms abound, including late medieval armies organized into divisions and regiments, but a lot of the hack and slash is entertaining. 

Started reading Abercrombie years ago, when I quite enjoyed his destruction of fantasy genre conventions (the kindly wizard is a manipulative schemer, the dashing hero is brain-dead, the torturer is the nicest character, the mute gets the best jokes, etc. etc.) but over the years his grimdark anti-trope style has itself become a trope, so I found a lot of this predictable: the worst people will come out on top, the nicest people in the latrine, and so on. 

Still, Abercrombie's a vivid and entertaining writer, so it's a fun read.

Martha Wells, All Systems Red: Novella about a self-aware security cyborg tasked with defending a survey team when everything starts to go wrong. Won both the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novella, and though I'm still only halfway through, I haven't been too impressed. Too much seems to ride on the cyborg's indestructible nature and ability to hack any system, while the baddies are boilerplate corporate bad-guys we've been seeing in scifi since, like, Alien.