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Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy in all shapes and sizes; paper, e-books and audiobooks.

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William Gibson: Spook Country (2007) 3 stars

Spook Country is a 2007 novel by speculative fiction author William Gibson. A political thriller …


3 stars

It was a bit weird for me to read Gibson outside of Sci-Fi genre. For example, while his brand heavy descriptions give credence & lived-in texture to a more fantastical cyberpunk setting, here they can be a bit cumbersome. Even in Pattern Recognition they were thematically appropriate, but here they felt kinda out of place.

In light of recent 2020s tech trends It was also funny to see a purportedly "non-fictional" 2000s world in which high fidelity AR goggles are commonplace, but everyone looses their minds about GPS.

Otherwise, the novel is perfectly serviceable. Pace is good, character motivations mostly check out. There's some "eccentric billionaire with goldfish-like attention span" reasoning, but that too seems plausible. In the end mystery is revealed, plot points solved, good guys win & bad guys lose.

In the end it left me craving for a more traditional Sci-Fi read.

reviewed The Outside by Ada Hoffmann (The Outside)

Ada Hoffmann: The Outside (2019, Angry Robot) 4 stars

Autistic scientist Yasira Shien has developed a radical new energy drive that could change the …

Not bad, short of good

3 stars

Content warning Discussing some plot and world building details

Kate Mascarenhas: The Psychology of Time Travel (2019, Crooked Lane Books) 4 stars

In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But …

Master class on time travel

5 stars

I really appreciate how time travel is envisioned and portrayed in this book. It has no logic holes and it avoids paradoxes, e.g. the future is predetermined here. It doesn't make up too much technical details to explain how it works, because techno babble is not what this story is about.

It is, as the name suggest, about impact of time travel on human psychology, but also sociology. It envisions a culture emerging inside the organization of time travelers. It explores what taboos it develops, what language, how it operates considering the foresight available to it, etc.

On a backdrop of this thoughtful world building Mascarenhas explores inter-personal relationships of her characters. There's a revenge subplot, a romance subplot, a power struggle subplot. They all intertwine wonderfully between time periods and characters; often the same character coming from different time periods. It does take a little bit of concentration to …

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Telling (2003, Ace) 4 stars

A beautiful masterpiece

5 stars

It is fitting that a story about storytelling is so beautifully told.

Out of several Hainish Cycle books that I've read this one is the most exquisitely written. Others might be more immediately thought provoking, or include more elaborate sci-fi elements. The Telling, on the other hand, is laser focused on its theme of suppression of a culture. Everything supports and complements this.

The main protagonist, Sutty, is the only character that we really get to know deeply. And her backstory and entire personality molds here into a perfect vessel for exploring the world of the book. The story focuses on her reflections and the atmosphere of the place and the people she interacts with, instead of plot points. Even the rarest instances of paranormal occurrences are not mysteries to be unraveled, but simply add to the mystique of the world.

I fullheartedly recommend reading this wonderful book.

H. P. Lovecraft: At the mountains of madness 3 stars

At the Mountains of Madness is a science fiction-horror novella by American author H. P. …

It left me disappointed

2 stars

Perhaps I had too high expectations. But then again, it's H. P. Lovecraft. I'd say his work is generally hyped a lot. This was my first encounter with his opus and it was decidedly meh.

I guess my main issue is that simply restating that a thing is terrible and scary over and over again does not make it scary. Majority of descriptions are second hand in so far as they describe the impact of events, setting, etc. on the main protagonist (i.e. he perceived them as scary), and not the inherent quality of themselves. Even the description of this second hand impact is somehow sterile.

The novella is written as a quasiscientific report from an old school research expedition. Perhaps that is what influenced the sterile delivery. Then again, I contrast this with Eversion by Alastair Reynolds which came out recently, adopts a similar style (and to a point …

Neal Stephenson: Termination Shock (Hardcover, 2021, William Morrow) 4 stars

Termination Shock takes readers on a thrilling, chilling visit to our not-too-distant future – a …

Classic Stephenson

4 stars

Content warning Mild spoilers about some topics covered by the book