George Mann : The Osiris Ritual

The second of Mann’s “Newbury and Hobbes” steampunk/mystery/adventures (following The Affinity Bridge) struck me as stronger overall than its predecessor, with a bit more depth of character. I found the tone a little inconsistent — there are a few moments that veer into excessively broad parody of pulp/adventure conventions and require a greater level ofContinue reading “George Mann : The Osiris Ritual”

Philip Reeve : Predator’s Gold

Mortal Engines left me so eager for more that I scoured all three bookshops in the town we were staying in for a copy of the sequel, Predator’s Gold, even though I suspected I was setting myself up for disappointment. Sequels aren’t usually as good, perhaps particularly in genre fiction, in part because the criticalContinue reading “Philip Reeve : Predator’s Gold”

Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines

Reeve’s young adult steampunk novel is set in a dystopian future where steam-powered cities literally roam the blasted earth on enormous tractor treads, devouring each other in the practice of “municipal Darwinism.” After you get past the willing suspension of disbelief required by the premise, Reeve’s world-building has a lot of lovely little details. There’sContinue reading “Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines”

Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime

It seems a little odd that I never read anything of Vinge’s before; several of his books have won or been shortlisted for major SF words, and the second half of this volume — written way back in ’86! — is apparently the first explicit reference to “technological singularity” in the modern sense — aContinue reading “Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime”

Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity

Beyond Infinity is a curious mix of old and new. In several specific chapters it struck me as not only reminiscent of several Arthur C. Clarke works, but also evocative of older and less cerebral earthlings-struggling-to-comprehend-and-survive-a-strange-environment tales (Farmer’s “World of Tiers” Burroughs homages, in particular). But it’s also firmly in the post-Singularity sub-genre of scienceContinue reading “Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity”

Michael Reaves and Steve Perry : Death Star

The first part of Reaves and Perry’s novel is set immediately before the original 1977 Star Wars movie; the second section is set during the time frame of the film, and interleaves most of the scenes set on the Death Star into the new story. (It’s a bit structurally similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern AreContinue reading “Michael Reaves and Steve Perry : Death Star”

Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)

In the first novel of Smith’s “Escape from Furnace” series, young Alex Sawyer finds himself incarcerated in a future super-prison with imagery and events reminiscent of Nazi medical experimentation and death camps. Lucky for Alex, the future super-prison’s security policies would embarrass any present-day medium-security penitentiary; I had major suspension of disbelief issues throughout. ForContinue reading “Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)”

M. J. Locke : Up Against It

In Up Against It a 25th-century asteroid-based community is beset by a confluence of disasters: a critical resource hemorrhaging accident, a takeover threat by the Martian mob, a rogue artificial intelligence in the asteroid’s systems — the list goes on. It explores both the fragility of human life in a hostile environment, and life’s pluckContinue reading “M. J. Locke : Up Against It”

Stephen Gallagher: Plots and Misadventures

The twelve stories comprising Plots and Misadventures span nearly twenty years of Gallagher’s career and encompass horror, dark fantasy, noirish suspense, and dark science fiction. The newer material generally stuck me as among the strongest, a circumstance I’m always happy to report. The collection opens audaciously: the story “Little Dead Girl Singing,” which certainly soundsContinue reading “Stephen Gallagher: Plots and Misadventures”

Nancy Farmer : The House of the Scorpion

Nancy Farmer crafts an uncomfortably credible dystopian environment in The House of the Scorpion, mostly with just two speculative elements: viable human cloning (with clones treated as chattel) and an uneasy détente between the U.S. and major drug cartels, with the cartels offered non-interference in exchange for border control assistance. I wanted to not believeContinue reading “Nancy Farmer : The House of the Scorpion”