Apr 17, 2012

John Brunner - The Shockwave Rider (1975)

This story is set in 2010. The inhabitants of the world described by Brunner are living on the edge of an existential abyss.

The protagonist of the novel is Nickie Haflinger, orphaned at an early age, bounced from foster family to foster family and, finally, recruited at 10 years by a government agency whose purpose is to cultivate a generation of gifted children to use as a resource in a race with other nations.

Sickened by the moral deficiencies he has discovered in the project (including bioengineering the artificial production of genius ... no matter the price they, or worse, past failures, have to pay), Nickie escapes Tarnover (the laboratory name) at twenty seizing a computer code that allows him to erase his past and build a new identity whenever he needs on, and during the following six years he lives as a fugitive with no clear objective except to remain free.

Endowed with a complex internal structure, fragments of the past ar interspersed with other fragments in the present, chronicling the Nick's adventures (or Sandy's, or the name he will currently be using)
In essence, what this book is telling is the evolution of Nickie, a human being so deeply traumatized and lacking in affection that until he begins to heal (thanks to a chance meeting with Kate, a girl curious and clever in a world that penalizes both features) he's not aware of his crippleness. So, after finding something to fight for,he stops running and strikes back, putting to use the tools that have been supplied by his opponents and his natural talent for programming.

John Kilian Houston Brunner (24 September 1934 – 26 August 1995) was a prolific British author of science fiction novels and stories. His 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar, about an overpopulated world, won the 1968 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel. It also won the BSFA award the same year. The Jagged Orbit won the BSFA award in 1970.

Apr 15, 2012

Cory Doctorow - Little Brother (Download for free)

This is a great book for many reasons. I'll give you mine but you can find yours downloading it for free here:


No DRM, Creative Commons and in every format: plain text, pdf, html, ePub, mobi, azw for Kindle, prc, ... every one.

"Little Brother is a scarily realistic adventure about how homeland security technology could be abused to wrongfully imprison innocent Americans. A teenage hacker-turned-hero pits himself against the government to fight for his basic freedoms. This book is action-packed with tales of courage, technology, and demonstrations of digital disobedience as the technophile’s civil protest"

Andrew "bunnie" Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox

Seventeen-year-old San Francisco native Marcus Yallow and his friends Darryl Glover, Vanessa "Van" Pak and Jose Luis "Jolu" Torrez are truant from school and playing an alternate reality game, when a terrorist attack destroys San Francisco Bay Bridge. Air raid sirens sound, and everyone in the area begins swarming toward a fallout shelter. Darryl is stabbed by someone in the crowd and the others try to find help for him, but since they didn't go into the shelter as expected, the foursome are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and held as enemy combatants.

My favourite Amazon review, by R'lyeh says this: "Cory Doctorow has managed to create a wonderful fusion of science fiction, action novel, political thriller, and whimsical romp. It's very hard to bring those elements together, but he has succeeded admirably. I haven't seen anyone pull this off since "The Long Run" by Daniel Keys Moran"

From my point of view, the most interesting thing about this book is that it shows the struggle that we all maintain between our desire to feel safe and our need to be free and how all states seek to exploit the fear and helplessness that we feel sometimes in order to convince us to give up basic rights such as privacy and freedom of speech.

Cory Doctorow's is an incredible author and also a strong critic of copyright laws and that is why all his works can be downloaded from his website, http://craphound.com/

For instance:

Download With a Little Help
Download For The Win.
Download Makers
Download Someone comes to town, someone leaves town.

Download Eastern Standard Tribe.

Download Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

Apr 10, 2012

Ray Bradbury - Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

From Wikipedia:

It is about two 13-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The carnival's leader is the mysterious "Mr. Dark" who bears a tattoo for each person who, lured by the offer to live out his secret fantasies, has become bound in service to the carnival. Mr. Dark's malevolent presence is countered by that of Will's father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret desire to regain his youth because he feels like he is too old for Will.

From Raybradbury.com

For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark.s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare. 

High quality prose in a horror story is something not so common, but here you'll find plenty and this gothic novel has stood up surprisingly well over time.

Apr 3, 2012

Aliette de Bodard - The Jaguar House, in Shadow

Why would you want to read about what others think about this short story when you can read it here:


This is what Short Story Club has to say about this work:

"This is a sort of caper story, set in a high-tech Mexica empire, where the elite order of Jaguar Knights are the only survivors of a bloody purge instigated by the new emperor, which has wiped out all the other orders. Xochitl, a young-ish female knight started a dissident movement within the order, which has been suppressed brutally by the head of the order, Tecipiani, as a show of loyalty to the new regime. Onalli, an elite operative of the order and friend of both Xochitl and Tecipiani decides to break into the Jaguar House to free Xochitl from imprisonment and torture."

Well, personally, I don't like too much the kind of books based on alternate histories, but this hyper-technological Mexico that nevertheless keeps its bloody ancestral religion strikes me as original and intriguing.

Mar 27, 2012

Poul Anderson - Brain Wave (1954)

At dawn, the rabbit pulled his nose to the bars of the trap, pushed them up... and was released. From now on, humanity's dominion over the animal world has ended.

Before breakfast, a ten years old boy tinkered with some mathematical signs on his own... and re-discovered calculus.

The national education system has become obsolete overnight. By midafternoon, Peter Corinth's office at the Institute for Advanced Studies was buzzing with excitement. The first reports arrived raging and Corinth was thinking of the consequences. It was too early for the world to understand what was happening.

Prepared or not, humanity was heading for a great exaltation of mind. A new era was beginning, more exciting and more intense and nothing would be again as it was.

Plot Summary (Wikipedia)

At the end of the Cretaceous period the Earth moved into an energy dampening field in space. As long as Earth was in this field all conductors became more insulating. As a result almost all of the life on Earth with neurons died off, causing the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. The ones that survived passed on their genes for sufficiently capable neurons to deal with the new circumstance. Now in modern times the Earth suddenly moves out of the field. Within weeks all animal life on earth becomes about 5 times as intelligent. The novel goes through the triumphs and tribulations of various people and non-human animals and groups on earth after this event.

Poul and Karen Anderson by Greg Bear, their son-in-law

The premise is fascinating in this thought-provoking novel. Worth reading although a little sad. 

Mar 20, 2012

Paolo Bacigalui - The Windup Girl

Can you understand spanish? Take a look at this video, then:

If not, stay with me a little while.

Welcome to the twenty-second century. Anderson Lake is the right-hand man of AgriGen in Thailand, a kingdom closed to foreigners in order to protect their precious ecologic reserves.

But Anderson's job as a factory manager is actually a cover. Anderson combes the street stalls of Bangkok in search of the most precious booty for his masters: the food that mankind believed extinct. His mission is to discover the seed stock of unmodified plants disappeared many years ago in the rest of the planet, who mysteriously has been preserved in the isolated Asian kingdom, and deliver them to the multinational of biotechnology for which he really works.
And then he finds Emiko...

Emiko is a «windup girl», the last link of genetic engineering designed to serve. Accused by some of lacking a soul, accused by other of being devils incarnate, they actually are slaves, soldiers o sexual toys to satisfy the rich in a future disturbingly close.

Mar 13, 2012

John Steakley - Armor

Admiring bow cause, here, we're talking about the best military science-fiction.

Steakley wrote this cult classic war novel as a tribute to Heinlein, who didn't write fight scenes specially well despite his, on the other hand, undeniable mastery in all othe aspects of novel writting.

I really like how R., from Line of Eld, describes this book and its hero: "A seemingly unkillable protagonist develops a split-personality disorder in order to survive being thrown repeatedly back into combat."

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the plot:

Armor is the story of humanity's war against an alien race whose foot soldiers are three-meter-tall insects ('ants') and it is also the story of a research colony on the fringes of human territory which is threatened by pirates. The two sub-plots intersect at the end.

The Plot on Banshee

The protagonist is Felix, an anonymous enlistee who's been given "scout" duty on an alien planet in the seemingly endless "Antwar." Little is known of him initially but that he suffers from burnout and refuses to die, even when it seems inevitable. He is part of the armored infantry arm of the Fleet, deployed to fight a war of extermination on an alien planet.

The Plot on Sanction

Most of the action of the final 2/3 of the book takes place on Sanction, a planet far removed from the fighting, at a Fleet research facility.
The deuteragonist is Jack Crow, a notorious celebrity and one-time pirate. A morally questionable character and a tough man who does not hesitate to kill.
We meet Jack in prison on an alien world just prior to his breaking out. He will infiltrate and sabotage the Fleet research project on Sanction.
On Sanction, Jack takes an old suit of battle armor to project Director Hollis "Holly" Ware, to ingratiate himself and get the necessary access to fulfill his bargain with Borglyn. But Jack is then asked by Holly to participate in an experiment to retrieve the data from the suit's battle recorder, which is the "memory" of the wearer while the suit was active.

This Amazon's customer review by OK "oneofme" is in my opinion very inspired:
"Armor is a subtly compassionate novel that explores human suffering like no other piece of fiction i know. it's english is not perfect. but the style is perfect for the story. the battle scence are graphic. the characters are rough. but once again they are true to the story. "

20th century american prose at its best, Armor is really a great book. Five stars, if you ask me.

As far as John Steakley is concerned, unfortunately he was not a prolific writer. He published two major novels, Armor (1984)[3] and Vampire$ (1990) and four short science fiction and fantasy stories. He was born in July 26, 1951, in Cleburne, Texas and died November 27, 2010, in McKinney, Texas

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