Archive for the ‘Speculative (Beyond Reality)’ Category
THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, THE UNKNOWN by Paul Malmont is a celebration of science fictionâ€™s golden years via the pulp magazine ethos. Taking place in 1943, it recounts a story partially based in fact about how the guiding lights of science fictionâ€™s heyday were brought together by the military and tasked with making science fiction real in order to defeat the Nazis. Virtually all the authors who were the mainstays of science fiction and fantasy from 1930â€™s through the 1960â€™s are there.
THE QUANTUM THIEF by Hannu Rajaniemi is a tremendous first novel, first published in Great Britain last year and now in the US. It is a wild adventure story taking place centuries from now on Mars. The solar system has been colonized by our descendents, not all of whom get along. Technologies based on quantum weirdness are everywhere. Robotics has progressed well beyond true artificial intelligence. Jean le Flambeur, master thief, is broken free from prison to steal some time. This is what might be called hard science fiction in that the science is an intelligent and informed extrapolation of what we now know or speculate.
Itâ€™s often said that a critic has no place christening contemporary works as literature; itâ€™s for future generations to decide which books will live on and which will fall the way of obscurity. According to this line of thinking, 19th- century Russians were just as incapable of heralding their literary giants as the ancient Greeks were of immortalizing Homer or the Elizabethans, Shakespeare. But thereâ€™s something in this argument Iâ€™ve always found hard to believe: great literature lives on not because itâ€™s incidentally suited to future tastes or historically informative; it lives on because it captures some of that elusive essence of what it is to be human, and while that universal quality all literature possesses is hard to pin down, to paraphrase Supreme Court justice, Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it. Tolstoyâ€™s contemporaries knew what they held in their hands with WAR AND PEACE just as I knew what I held in mine the first time I picked up a book by Jose Saramago. So let me be clear: Michel Houellebecq is such a writer and THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND is a book that will be read for generations to come.
ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson tells the apocalyptic story of a near future when one machine gains true intelligence and determines to honor life by wiping out human civilization. The machine intelligence takes over the robots that are central to civilization; the automatic cars, the robo-nannies and cleaning bots; all of them become the enemies of humanity. Most of the few people who survive are herded into concentration camps where some are surgically altered to become part machine. Needless to say the machine parts are all under control of the original rebellious machine. Robots start evolving, building new robots in response to human resistance.
My review is of a paperback reprint of a Tim Powers novel, ON STRANGER TIDES, first published to a good deal of critical acclaim in 1987. No doubt the success of the new movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” inspired the reprint.
Iain Banksâ€™ novel, SURFACE DETAIL, is his latest in the continuing series about the super civilization of the future, the Culture. It is about the lives of a number of distinct individuals whose stories come together to enrich the basic concepts. This is a story centered on a virtual battle between those who want to stop the construction of Hells because of their belief that it is uncivilized to engender perpetual torment and those who want to continue the practice based on the idea that Hell is required to keep people from doing bad things. The Hells are virtual worlds and the war is required to be virtual. The side favoring Hell is winning. The group on the losing side is now taking the battle outside of the virtual into the real, breaking the Cultureâ€™s eons-old premise that war must be fought in the virtual world.