Aug 11, 2011

Jack Vance - Demon Princes

This is a five-book series which cumulatively relate the story of one Kirth Gersen as he exacts his revenge on five notorious criminals, collectively known as the Demon Princes, who carried his village off into slavery during his childhood. Each novel deals with his pursuit of one of the five Princes.

The books are, in order of publication:

  • Star King (1964). The antagonist is Attel Malagate, a renegade from a species called the Star Kings, who are driven to imitate and surpass the most successful species they encounter; with their contact with humanity in antiquity, they began consciously evolving into imitations of human beings. The bait Gersen uses to trap him is an undeveloped and fantastically beautiful planet whose location is known only to Gersen, which Malagate covets to become the father of a new race that can outdo both humans and his own species.
  •  The Killing Machine (1964). Kokor Hekkus, a 'hormagaunt', has prolonged his life by the vivisection of human beings to obtain hormones and other substances from their living bodies. But eternal life can be boring, and so he has converted the lost planet Thamber into a stage wherein he acts out his fantasies.
  •  The Palace of Love (1967). Viole Falushe, an impotent megalomaniac ironically fixated on sex. He was so obsessed with a girl in his youth, he created a number of clones of her in a vain attempt to get one of them to love him back. This novel contains some of Vance's most compelling and unforgettable characters, such as the mad poet, Navarth, who has a central role.
  •  The Face (1979). Lens Larque, a sadist and monumental trickster. In the course of the novel, the protagonist experiences some of the same outrages that motivated the villain to concoct his most grandiose jest, leading to one of the most humorous endings in all Vance's work.
  • The Book of Dreams (1981). Howard Alan Treesong, a 'chaoticist', who embodies elements of all the foregoing, and has the most imaginatively ambitious plans of all.

Great book but you know I really love Vance's writting so perhaps I'm not impartial.

Jack and Norma Vance

Aug 8, 2011

Alastair Reynolds - Century Rain

We are in Paris and it is the 50s. Wendell Floyd is an American who came to Paris to become a jazz musician. He still plays, with his partner André Custin but the mostly work as private detectives nowadays. They are hired to investigate the apparent suicide of a young american woman called Susan White. Although Susan is found dead outside her aparment, her landlord does not believe that she jumped.

The next chapter seems to belong to a completely different novel as we find ourselves in a very dissimilar Paris. The whole Earth is abandoned due to a nanotechnological holocaust.

In the mid-2070s, weather control nanomachines were released into Earth's atmosphere and oceans in an attempt to reverse global warming. In late 2076, some of these machines became sentient and stopped obeying orders. In response, more intelligent machines were released in an attempt to control them. By July 2077, a total of eight layers of machines had been released, but the weather continued to get worse. At this point the nanomachines started eating everything in the sea to fuel themselves. They then moved to land, and on 27 July, digested humanity. The only people to survive were those in space habitats. To add insult to injury, fifty years after the Nanocaust all linked digital archives were corrupted, although it is not known whether this was sabotage or an accident.

As a result of the Nanocaust and the Forgetting, humans split into two groups, the Threshers and the Slashers. Threshers believe that it should never be able to happen again, and reject the nanotechnology that led to the Nanocaust, preferring to stay on the threshold of dangerous technology, hence their name (a diminution of Thresholders). The Slashers do not believe they should be limited by what happened in the past and embrace new technology. Their official name is the Federation of the Polities, but they trace their existence back to "an alliance of progressive thinkers linked together by one of the first computer networks", whose symbol was a slash and a dot.

The Threshers control access to Earth (or what remains of it), the orbiting structure around it known as Tanglewood, and Mars, after a hard-fought war against the Slashers. The Slashers control the rest of the known universe, including access to an ancient portal network that spans the galaxy.

Verity Auger is in this Paris because she's an archaelogist but the dig goes wrong and one of her assistants is killed. She's accused of negligence and must stand trial but is finally manouvered into accepting a high risk assignment, without knowing what it entails. She is taken to a secret underground base on the Martian moon Phobos containing an ancient alien relic that opens a portal to a distant part of the galaxy. At the other end of the portal is an alternate-history version of Earth in the year 1959 - almost 300 years behind the present time - and that she is to retrieve a tin of documents that was left behind by Susan White, an earlier agent sent to "Earth Two", who died under mysterious circumstances.

Via Wikipedia and The SF Site

Via Locus Online:

Alastair Reynolds spent his childhood in Cornwall, England and Wales, before earning degrees in astronomy from England's University of Newcastle (1988), and a PhD from the University of St. Andrew's in Scotland (1991). He sold his first story to Interzone, "Nunivak Snowflakes", in 1989. His notable short fiction includes "A Spy in Europa" (1997), "Galactic North" (1999), and "Great Wall of Mars" (2000) -- which prefigure the future-world space opera of his "Revelation Space" universe, the setting of novels and novellas Revelation Space (2000), British SF Association Award-winner Chasm City (2001), Diamond Dogs (2001), Redemption Ark (2002), Turquoise Days (2002), and Absolution Gap (due October 2003 in the UK and 2004 in the US), which concludes the Inhibitors' story arc of Revelation Space and Redemption Ark. He lives in The Netherlands, where he works for the European Space Agency, and lives with longtime partner Josette Sanchez.Photo by Beth Gwinn

Alastair Reynolds Homepage and his new blog Aproaching Pavonis

Aug 7, 2011

Catherine Asaro - Sunrise Alley

From School Library Journal vía 

vía Dreaming About Other Worlds Blog
Samantha Bryton, a brilliant young biotech engineer working on machine intelligence, has retired because of unresolved ethical issues concerning how the industry uses her work. On the beach near her secluded cabin, she finds a shipwrecked man, and it quickly becomes apparent that there is something unusual about him. It turns out that the original Turner Pascal is legally dead, but he has been brought back to life in a technologically enhanced but human-appearing body by the shadowy scientist Charon, who uses illegal and amazingly advanced technology. Self-aware, independent AIs (called EIs if they evolve to that state) are extremely rare and prone to psychological instability, and Sam is one of the few people in the world who understands and can work with them. It is no coincidence that Turner has ended up on her beach in his attempt to escape from Charon. As they flee villains who want to acquire Turner's technology, the two try to unravel the mystery of the identity of Charon and the true nature of "Sunrise Alley," a secret society of escaped EIs who may pose a threat to humans. Through many trials and adventures, friendship and sexual attraction gradually develop between Sam and Turner (though she worries about his nonhuman characteristics and dubious legal status). The plot is an epic chase across a near-future landscape, enlivened by twists, complicated puzzles to solve, plenty of intriguing technology, and a strong element of romance. - Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

And here are my favourite reviews of the book:

Arthur W. Jordin (Smyrna, GA USA)This novel explores the legal implications of self-aware emergent intelligences who can pass the most stringent Turing tests (...) In many respects, this novel is similar in concept to the story "Jerry Was a Man" by Heinlein and other SF tales regarding civil liberties for non-humans. Asimov also addressed this subject in The Caves of Steel with R. Daneel Olivaw, the humanoid robot who acts as the partner of Elijah Baley. Unlike this story, R. Daneel displays all the aspects a sentient creature, yet is never invested with the status of citizen.

Cyber Malt
The story is about slicing a brain into a cybernetic conciousness.

Mrs. Baumann
This is a sci-fi romantic thriller all rolled up into one neat package.

But if you'd rather read the review of someone who didn't love the book that much, this one by Jesse Willis is both interesting and fun.

And if you want a somewhat more impartial review, you can find it here and this is an excerpt of the end of the article:

Sunrise Alley is an interesting look at the nature of what makes someone human. Exactly how much of a person can be replaced and have the result still be regarded as that person? With the exception of the somewhat weak nature of the romantic storyline and a wholly unconvincing and mostly extraneous memory-loss subplot that crops up late in the book, the book is well-executed, with a strong story full of intrigue, dramatic tension, and a fascinating exploration of what counts as human, or more broadly, what counts as a person.


Catherine Asaro is a Nebula Award winner for her novel The Quantum Rose (I didn't like this one), part of her popular Skolian Empire series. Her novels have three times been named the best science fiction novel of the year by Romantic Times Book Club. She has also won numerous other awards, including the Analog Readers Poll award, the Homer, and the Sapphire. She has an M.A. in physics, and a Ph.D. in chemical physics, both from Harvard, and has done research at the University of Toronto, The Max Planck Institute, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. A former ballet and jazz dancer, she founded the Mainly Jazz Dance program at Harvard and danced on both the west and east coasts. She has written eleven novels in the popular Skolian Saga, the latest being Schism: Triad, Book I (Tor, 2004), several fantasies, including The Charmed Sphere, as well as two near-future technothrillers, The Veiled Web and The Phoenix Code. She currently runs Molecudyne Research and lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. 

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