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.

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