May 192014

Elise Dembowski is not cool. She likes odd music, she’s clever and precocious, and therefore reviled, hated, and alone. The book starts with a suicide attempt.

So far so prototypical.

Elise realises she doesn’t want to die as she literally phones for help. Is it a Crappy Book About Important Things?

What saves it – just – is its split from convention. Elise starts living a double life, as a DJ hanging out with an Inappropriate Older Boy, but he’s actually OK. She also doesn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. It’s a book that plays at getting dangerous, but is ultimately safe.

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May 162014

Ramirez’ debut novel demonstrates a formidable talent. It starts off with a murder that shouldn’t be possible, goes on to subvert common genre tropes, and it’s all written in spare, simple, self-reflective prose that would do any MFA course master proud. The Noah is a generation ship escaping the mysterious destruction of Earth, a society lives for its future generations. There’s a significant dystopian element, including a strict Ministry of Information as dark as the one who put rats over Winston Smiths’ face. It’s not perfect – I found rather unnecessary the repulsive rape scene early on but it’s very good.

Get it here (UK) or here (US)

May 152014

Kim Curran’s fourth book is anchored firmly in time: a year or two from now, 2014. Facebook has died a death in the face of the ultimate social network, Glaze. Curran investigates and questions several fundamental assumptions about our interconnectedness in social networking. She’s got a clear sense of character and creates a living, breathing collection of young people – adults in fact, but not in name, who are something of a stock in trade for her – that go on and save the world. Fast-paced, thoughtful, and loads of fun – and examines how we build the infrastructure of our own future.

Details on ebook and limited edition orders here.

May 122014

Aliens came to earth millions of years ago and ride around in our bodies shaping human evolution. Mediocre everyday bloke gets one, gets his life turned around.

I liked this book. I wanted to love it, but a few things that got in the way.

First, the “let’s make a wager on this girl” trope. I would like, just once, the geeky/loser to just refuse to participate. Enough. Really.

Second, as much fun as it is, much of it doesn’t make sense. The economics. The all-seeing alien with a mind meld that needs things explained.

But it’s loads of fun.

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May 082014

Malorie Blackman is so good it’s sickening. She handles information dumping without any sort of dump, and gives the reader a touchstone for societal racial tension, uncovering racism in lots of ways so that those in positions of privilege can discover and see sides to the issue they may have never thought of before. She doesn’t shy away from making characters make mistakes and even grapple with – and lose to – their dark sides, even doing terrible, horrible things. This is a really worthy sequel to Noughts and Crosses that everyone should read – even if they aren’t so young any longer.

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May 062014

Jemisin shows astounding worldbuilding at creating a society kind-of but not really based on ancient Egypt. This is a fantasy of political machinations and a magic that is woven in with religion, spirituality, and day-to-day life. Jemisin’s warrior-capable priests are charged with ending the lives of the ill or corrupt by weaving them an everlasting pleasant dream, then draining their ‘dreamblood’ for use in healing. The reader is plunged deep into the world at the start, and it takes a few chapters to work out what’s going on, but it’s a lovely, interesting journey – despite for occasional pages of italics.

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May 022014

This short novella sprung forth fully formee in 1889 – and I discovered it eavesdropping on a twitter conversation by @pornokitsch and @markcn. This future history finds a series of future-Persian explorers with ridiculous but clever names discovering New York in a thousand years. Mitchell comments, via his Persian explorers on Americans’ love affair with money, passion for (foreign) royalty, and general character. The people wander through New York and Washington DC, leaving the reader to laugh at a range of ridiculous, funny passages and general silliness. It’s an almost lost classic that deserves to be read much, much more often.

Get it here (Gutenberg)

May 012014

The sequel to Nexus. Which I didn’t like very much. It does some things well: the ideas, the Fear of an Autocratic America, etc. Some things go less well: the story is playful and fun and there are some really weird things going on with the female characters. I also keep having this niggling suspicion that its sibling is much less the good bad film Enemy Mine but the atrocious Atlas Shrugged. It’s just the barest bones of a story strung together with the intention to advocate one sociopolitical goal. Rather disturbing, even if you agree with its transhumanist goals.

Get it here (UK) or here (US)

 Posted by at 01:14
Apr 242014

Ramez Naam is a very intelligent man, and he gets and portrays geek culture well, particularly around the utopian free-as-in-speech hacker ethos of the San Francisco Bay Area. In Nexus, he posits a future where the computer isn’t wearable, but posthuman and in your brain; he’s done a bang-up job of dealing with some of the social and political fallout of these events in the world he’s built and shows us through the lens of a well-built thriller. It’s a strong debut, although some of the world and its characters fall flat where he’s less interested in those particluar details.

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Apr 222014

I am a sucker for these books: well-researched historical mysteries set not just in particular historical eras but within specific times and events. This one: the great Progress of Henry VIII. Sansom takes some liberties with characters but – as a professor of Tudor history – usually can find an setting in which to place his hunchback barrister. The writing is solid, if occasionally florid, drenching the reader with the history and the time, sometimes diverting off for paragraphs to explain historical elements. It’s no An Instance of the Fingerpost, but it’s definitely worth a read, especially engaging for a long flight.


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