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Posts Tagged ‘novel’

_Feed_, by Mira Grant

Feed is a 2010 science fiction/horror novel by Mira Grant, a pen name of Seanan McGuire.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novel of 2011.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Feed is the first book of the Newsflesh trilogy, the story of a group of bloggers who are the first citizen journalists to accompany a major party presidential candidate on his campaign travels.  So it’s a political story.  But the main campaign issues are all effects of the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which has caused a condition of post-death animation.  Zombies.  So it’s a horror story.  And someone’s trying to interfere with the political campaign.  So it’s a thriller.  And it succeeds brilliantly at all of these.

Why should you read it?

Zombies aren’t what this book is about.  It’s about people.  Real people.  Georgia Mason and her brother Shaun are the leaders of the first news blog that is invited to accompany a senator on his presidential campaign.  The zombies are there to put pressure on people.  To cast America and the world in a new light.  And to allow Grant/McGuire to talk about fear and what it does to people.

This book is brilliant.  The author is merciless with her characters, like you must if you’re writing about a world with such danger in it.  There is risk and it is real and people suffer.  I just finished rereading Feed for the fourth time, and it made me cry in public again.  Three times.

Georgia and Shaun love each other very much, and have a trust that is palpable.  These characters are more vivid as a team than they are individually, which is saying a lot considering that I feel like I could have a conversation with either one of them.  The rest of their team of bloggers are also drawn beautifully; several of the characters have such distinctive voices that it’s easy to tell who’s speaking just from the dialog.  The culture of bloggers is also fascinating; they’ve subdivided the news into factual, action, and creative, and call themselves Newsies, Irwins, or Fictionals.

The book is horror, but it’s not the zombies that will scare you.  It’s the deformation of our culture that they have caused, and we have allowed.  Privacy is gone, just gone.  Fear is endemic, and people don’t fight it.  They’ve just given up.  Entire states have been yielded to the dead, and this is a divisive issue between the parties.

It’s appalling.  And understandable.  How would you feel if your elderly father with the weak heart was going to get up after he died and try to eat you?  Someone else’s elderly father?  Strangers on the street?  Every living person is a time bomb, and sometimes they don’t even have to die first for the virus to take over.

Fear.  Horror at ourselves for feeling the fear, and for living with it, and changing to accomodate.  And terror about what it means for humanity.

Feed is not an easy book, and it is not for children, in any way.  When asked recently, I hesitated before recommending it for a fifteen-year-old I didn’t know.  It is, however, a book I have never forgotten from the moment I started it.

Although I recommend the entire trilogy whole-heartedly, I am  not going to review books 2 and 3, Deadline and Blackout, because there is absolutely no way to do so without spoiling Feed.  Just trust me when I say that the series only gets better from this book, which I’m already recommending very highly.

Where to find Feed

Feed is available in print or in all major digital forms.  It is not freely available. 

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_Shadrach in the Furnace_, by Robert Silverberg

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Shadrach In The Furnace is a 1976 science-fiction novel by Robert Silverberg.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novel of 1977 and the 1976 Nebula Award.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Robert Silverberg was one of my favorite authors, at the time that I read this–about 1983.  He had an immense body of work that I was tearing through, much of which I still value.  Among those, Shadrach is one of the few I’ve been back to in the past twenty-five years.  The obvious question of whether the work holds up is nullified by the fact that I seem to have been too young to grasp what the book was about, the first time through, and may as well have been reading it for the first time now.

Oddly enough, this reread suffered from what Jina Chan brilliantly called Skynet Syndrome: I was reading the book during its supposed “far future” timeframe.  In other words, during November 2012 when I was reading it, I was reading words written sometime in 1975 about November of 2012.

Shadrach Mordecai is the personal physician to Genghis II Mao IV Khan, the ruler of the world.  He is implanted with subdermal activators that allow him to perceive Genghis Mao’s health at any time and from a distance.  And he is the overall head of the three projects that are in place to make sure that Genghis Mao, already old, lives long enough to complete the work of his Permanent Revolution.  That is to say, these projects are intended to assure that Genghis Mao lives forever.

Why should you read it?

As a child, I thought this book was about the relationship of a man and his physician, when that physician is a very tight part of the health care feedback cycle.  I completely missed the story of Genghis Mao’s loss of his own humanity, of the horror of his acceptance–championship!–of the three immortality projects, and of Shadrach’s walk about the world while he contemplates his place in Genghis Mao’s plans.

Virtually nothing happens in this book–Genghis Mao has a kidney transplant, the immortality projects are introduced, Shadrach goes walkabout, and then returns home to resume his duties as physician.  But the story isn’t about what happens.  Several times, Shadrach and various friends or lovers go to several different styles of temple, to meditate, work, or have drug experiences.  The book is actually _about_ Shadrach’s states during these meditations, as much as it is about his peregrinations.

Overall, I would call the book dated, but far from obsolete–it still addresses ideas in ways that have either never been done better or have never been done before or since at all.

Where to find Shadrach in The Furnace

Unfortunately, the book is not available freely.  It is trivially but not inexpensively available for the Kindle, and well-stocked libraries still have it.  I have not seen a copy available in used book stores in several years.

_Ender’s Game_, by Orson Scott Card

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I feel like I’m cheating by recommending Ender’s Game.  It’s not free, it’s not short, it won the Hugo and the Nebula, and you’ve all already heard about it.  I’d be very surprised if less than 75% of you have read it already.  So this week, I’m speaking to the very few people who’ve missed it somehow.

What are you waiting for?  There’s a reason it won the Hugo and the Nebula!  It’s very very good, and it’s important to the history of science fiction, and it’s even considered an important novel outside the genre.  And it’s very very good.  Did I mention that?

Ender’s Game is the story of Andrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender.  As the novel begins, he’s at the tail end of a period of consideration for military service.  He’s been watched by a “monitor” in the back of his neck, and he has it removed  pretty much as the novel starts.  Shortly after that, they decide that he’s a fit candidate to go to Battle School and learn to fight, to lead men, to be the next Genghis Khan.

Did I mention that he’s five?

Humanity is facing an opponent that they can’t defeat, and so they need a new kind of general, and they need him fast.  They’re starting with children, and exposing them to carefully constructed games that teach them, shape them, and allow their talents to be seen.

Ender is very good at these games.  Very very good.

The book is the story of his training and what he goes through during the effort to make him the general they need.  If you think you can subject a child, eventually a pre-teen, to the stresses of military school without effect, well, you’re wrong.

Ender’s Game spawned off three direct sequels, a parallel series focussing on one of the other characters, and several other works featuring Ender.  You don’t have to read any of them.  To some extent, I’d suggest you don’t.  This book stands best on its own.  Most all of the other works in the world are fine reads, but none of them is as important, or as good, as the original.

Copies of Ender’s Game are trivially easy to find new, only slightly less easy to find used, and available in every library in the known universe.

The Hugos!

September 12, 2010 Leave a comment

In case this blog is your only source of news about the world of science fiction–and that’s all kinds of sad–the Hugo awards were given out a week ago.  The winners  were very satisfying to me, because I thought they were mostly great stories, and also because I got most of them right. 

You can find all the information on the official Hugo page, but here’s the highlights:

  • Best Novel: TIE: The City & The City, China Miéville; The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (my first two picks, in the order I picked them.)
  • Best Novella: “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (This one I got completely wrong–this was my last choice. Not a bad story in any way, but a tough field.)
  • Best Novelette: “The Island”, Peter Watts  (My second choice, and I understand why it won.)
  • Best Short Story: “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (My first choice, absolutely.)
  • I really enjoyed reading the nominees to vote, and will do so again next year.  Heck, maybe I’ll nominate this year, too.

    Replay, by Ken Grimwood

    NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.  Includes explicit sex and great personal loss.

    Replay begins with one of the lines that I remember mostly clearly of all
    lines in fiction: “Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died.”
    And that’s the end for him; he’s quite dead.

    Except he doesn’t stay dead.  The next thing he remembers, he wakes up in his
    college dorm room, twenty-five years in the past, twenty-five years younger, and
    remembering absolutely everything of consequence that’s going to happen in the
    next twenty-five years.

    Needless to say, he lives a very different life.  Wouldn’t you, if you knew the future? If you could make long odds bets. . . and win?

    He lives a whole life. And then he dies again.  And wakes up.  Again. And again. And again.

    Replay is about what Jeff learns to value, what he gets out of another
    viewpoint on his life, and how he learns to love.  It’s not an easy book in
    places–there’s a couple of scenes that always make my skin crawl.  It’s
    joyously upbeat overall, however.  A book that I’ve reread any number of times
    since I discovered it when it won the World Fantasy Award in 1988. It always makes me want to tell the folks that I love how much they mean to me.

    Unfortunately, Grimwood never wrote anything else nearly this good.  The three
    novels he wrote before Replay (Breakthrough, Elise, and The Voice Outside)
    have not lasted the years since their original publication, all being out of
    print for at least a decade.  His follow-up novel, Into The Deep, was vastly
    better than than the first three books, but it was still only good, compared to
    Replay’s greatness.

    Grimwood passed away in 2003, and at the time of his death, was writing a sequel
    to Replay, which it seems will not be published.  This I consider a tragedy. If it was half as good as the original, it would be well worth reading.

    Buy Replay at Amazon
    Buy audiobook of Replay at Amazon

    Winner, World Fantasy Award for Novel, 1988