Talked about on today’s show:
a terrible funny book, contemporary American politics, Jim Briskin, a bunch of stoners going out to dinner, political sophisticates, the ending, PKD is sick of his own story, precedents, Cantata 140, Johann Sebastian Bach’s When Sleepers Awake, H.G. Wells, seeing it from the wrong end, time travel, putting people into suspended animation, poor political intrigue, House Of Cards, what America is really about, racism and class, the cols and the jerries and the bib, why are they called bibs?, most bibs are cols, cols = coloureds (non-whites), jerries = geriatrics, Robert A. Heinlein, other themes, Dr. Futurity, two books smooshed together, that was a funny two books, other books on this theme, Living Space by Isaac Asimov, you can own an entire empty Earth, aliens come to visit, the sleepers, Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, a sense of deep time, the beginning of this book, so racist, not as racist as it sounds, Herb Lackmore, get an abortion, a “wheel” is a car, more of a U.S. thing, the United States stands in for the entire Earth, an economics issue, other countries have had this problem in the past, England (the enclosures), they sent them to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, we don’t have that frontier, Dick nailed the economic problems of the early 21st century, a clunky 1960s novel, fun-house mirror prescience, seeing through a Scanner Darkly, white vs. black election, Trump supporters, C.L.E.A.N., the Tea Party, the KKK, super racist organization, interesting payoffs, the pekes (Peking man), sloping foreheads, racism vs. speciesism, and the moral of this story is…, Bill Smith walks into the room, even more hilarious, this whole incident will fade out of reality, whatever political scandal is happening this week…, nothing comes of it, how you gonna terraform Uranus?, a gigantic problem, what happens?, frustrating, but we love it, that mutant peke, even the space brothel comes back online, everybody hit the reset button, like a Star Trek episode, the Prominent Author by Philip K. Dick is entirely explained within The Crack In Space, a jiffy scuttler, Terran Development, Mary (again), “I’m thinking of writing a sequel”, a very funny joke, God is the most prominent author, an almost Jim Briskin, he was a “newsclown”, Stand-by, What Will We Do With Ragland Park?, interesting SFF audios, precognitive songs, weird, The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, a flaming red wig, the Philip K. Dick fan page notes, Ace Books changed the title, the title is a double-entrendre, “The Golden Door”, very American, they hate sex and they love it, where’s our flying taxi to take us to our brothel in space, a giant boob in space, bootleg organs, nothing came of that, Doctor Who, Revelation of the Daleks, consumer resistance, are you sure want to do this?, Vanilla Sky, Abres Los Ojos, the two political parties, the Liberal Republicans and the Conservative Socialists, possibly the worst book by Dick, not the book to start with, full of lots of ideas and humour, George Walt (the wind god), he’s a libertarian, see what you get, one long rambling set-up, you can’t live in this novel, Dr. Futurity, a valuable and valueless skill, bonkers, more repairmen, fewer presidents, The Simulacra, they’re all blending together, The Man Who Japed, Vulcan’s Hammer, The Cosmic Puppets, Solar Lottery, Eye In The Sky, these are the golden books, somehow they all got published, Now Wait For Last Year, a floppy fruit salad, he was attempting a trick, it didn’t work, wub fur pajamas, advertising on the doors, like Minority Report‘s ads (the movie), Mr American Buisness, my “golden door”, the Statue of Liberty’s poem:
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
that’s why, the abortion therapist wife, we’re supposed to empathize with the cols, if he had had another pass at this…, flying to the coast of the new world, a new Normandy invasion, how many D-Days, Neanderthal strivings are modest, The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett (a sequel of sorts), Stephen Baxter doesn’t write comedy, if this is his worst it does not turn us off at all, clunky and malformed like the brow ridges on a peking man, a slight vacation from our own broken crazy world, the audiobook, the narrator made one character sound like Ronald Regan, Eric Dawe, a few jiggling boobs, almost no women, this novel doesn’t pass any tests.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
On the merits of “The Scouring of the Shire”; final volume as catharsis; on Bilbo opening up the Shire, paving the way for the scouring; the transformation of Pippin and Merry; Hobbit lust for Bilbo’s gold; rejection of wealth compared to The Hobbit; on The Hobbit as a children’s story; “Hobbits are a thing!”; humility as seeing the truth; Hobbits just need a flame to fire them up and save the Shire; Sam’s ring-bestowed vision of a giant World-Garden; core of Hobbit goodness; of the many meanings of the word “scour”–cleansing, ruining, scowling, hurrying; chronology, and just how long Saruman had to ruin the Shire; Saruman on the road, “the beggar and his dog”; debating the value of mercy; Galadriel’s gift to Sam; on the validity of visions in the mirror of Galadriel; Théoden as precedent for mercy; unexpected changes of heart; Frodo’s not a fighter, stops killings; Hobbits don’t kill one another; have Hobbits changed?; World War I monument for Hobbits, mass grave for ruffians; are there sharks in Middle Earth?; Saruman’s voice on Freeboard; even after the last battle, life goes on; Aragorn’s mercy towards the vanquished; determinism not incompatible with free will; on this concluding volume’s themes; George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien diametrically opposed in their treatment of mercy and duty; can absolute mercy work in the modern political climate?; it’s not a Catholic book; evangelizing Lord of the Rings, promoting mercy, one family at a time; Éowyn and Faramir’s romance; Tolkien is not the best battle-writer; a “book without girls” (almost); the golden moment of the world’s salvation; Éowyn’s not initially a Faramir fan; the tricky gender implications, and many happy pairings; Tolkien’s retcon of names like Eleanor; the circularity of tales and the importance of birthdays; Saruman as Dorian Gray; Jesse wants Hobbit University fanfic; the subtle frame narrative of Lord of the Rings; the thirst of the characters made Julie thirsty; is Lord of the Rings the greatest novel ever?
posted by Seth Wilson
Talked about on today’s show:
a recent novel, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, a long novel, a genderless society, an absence of vocabulary, a politics-biology-language fusion, a light space opera, a murder mystery, a multi-body perspective, foreshadowing a sequel, confusing historical allusions, empire, imagination, personal story, dialogic, magnetic fiction in space, a puppet-like main character, mysterious actions, an unsatisfactory explanation, slave women, a fight for emancipation, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, auxiliaries, the story of Spartacus, Roman family bonding, Jane Austen, dystopia, slaves into servants, expected violence, Roman colonization, a distinct approach to human ethics, the Old Testament, old-fashioned faith, short stories, key words, views of reality, spiritual progress, omnipotent deities, reconstructed ancient religions, J.R.R Tolkien, Lieutenant Ahn, Hindu deities, tea, Jo Walton, coffee, Japanese morality, Shintoism, Horrible Histories, Scholastic books, Frank Herbert, religious engineering, Hellstrom’s Hive by Frank Herbert, government religion, Dune by Frank Herbert.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Pump Six and Other Stories
By Paolo Bacigalupi; Read by Jonathan Davis, James Chen, and Eileen Stevens
11 CDs – Approx. 13 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: December 1, 2010
Themes: / Science Fiction / Dystopia / Biopunk / Politics / Society/ Environmentalism / Technology / Food / Death / Thailand / Asia /
The eleven* stories in Pump Six chart the evolution of Paolo Bacigalupi’s work, including the Hugo nominated “Yellow Card Man,” and the Sturgeon Award-winning story “The Calorie Man,” both set in the world of his novel The Windup Girl. This collection also demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Bacigalupi’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
Let me get the praise out of the way first: Paolo Bacigalupi is an imaginative genius with a message. At times the writing is brilliant. “The Fluted Girl” is excellent, well-written, surely a classic. Every idea in every story is worthy of exploration and consideration and the three narrators are just fine, thanks. His views of dystopia are clever warnings; his ideas endlessly fresh and characters sympathetic. Slow pace is forgivable in his stories, like home-cooked food, worth the wait. James Chen’s reading of the Chinese accents is a great addition to the appropriate stories.
But there are problems. I don’t like having a book of short stories that doesn’t list the names – I shouldn’t have to look on-line for names of the stories and the order in which they appear. I also feel strongly that there is a missing editor. Some of the stories feel as though they are not in final draft version. If I had the print version, my teacher’s red pen would have been in hand marking suggestions for edits. Some information seemed more than unnecessary to the stories (these are short stories after all). It is disappointing that such genius is allowed “out” without polish. Is it possible that the world he created in Pump Six, where literacy has all but disappeared, is actually at its beginning, or did Paolo do it on purpose to see if we are paying attention?
Should you listen to this audiobook? Yes. Brilliant, not perfect, but should definitely not be missed.
*Only ten stories included in the audiobook:
Pocketful Of Dharma • (1999) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Fluted Girl • (2003) • novelette • read by Eileen Stevens
The People Of Sand and Slag • (2004) • novelette • read by James Chen
The Pasho • (2004) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Calorie Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2005) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
The Tamarisk Hunter • (2006) • short story • read by Jonathan Davis
Pop Squad • (2006) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
Yellow Card Man • [The Windup Universe] • (2006) • novelette • read by James Chen
Softer • (2007) • short story • read by James Chen
Pump Six • (2008) • novelette • read by Jonathan Davis
Posted by Elaine Willis
Themes: / destruction / apocalypse / survival / engineering / politics /
Wool introduced the silo and its inhabitants. Shift told the story of their making. Dust will chronicle their undoing. Welcome to the underground.
Final books in a series are always tough. Endings are difficult. Not everyone may be happy.
The ending to this series was good, but not great. I think it really comes down to what you’re expecting. Wool really sets the stage of a mystery series with a post-apocalyptic setting. By the end of it I had a ton of questions. Some of those questions were answered or at least explored by Shift, but a few more were posed as well. For me more than anything I wanted my questions answered to my satisfaction in this final book.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for me. I still have questions. A few of the things that were explained, weren’t done to my satisfaction. The clarification I was hoping might be in this book never really came. We do get some answers. Just not enough. When discussing it with others I found that some of my lingering questions hadn’t occurred to them at all. Your mileage may vary.
That said, it’s still an enjoyable book with a good, but not great ending. Mr. Howey does a good job in tying the two halves of the story set out in Wool and Shift together.
I found Juliette not as enjoyable in this book as in the first, but I still probably enjoyed it the most. Solo was probably a close second. After Shift I found myself mostly getting tired of Donald however. He’s not exactly the most likable of people. I found myself not really caring what he did except how it affected the others.
Tim Gerard Reynolds is once again a great reader. When deciding between reading or listening to a book, who the reader is often makes a big difference, and Mr. Reynolds makes this a must listen. He does voices and accents that add a little extra something to the story. If you’re deciding between listening and reading the book, I’d recommend listening.
Review by Rob Zak.
Themes: / slavery / space / bureaucracy / mega-corporations / politics /
A New Beginning is the story of a young woman who is ordered by the courts of Earth to serve as an indentured slave to the corporation that held her college debt. Life as a slave brings her to the brink of suicide and an attempt to kill her tormentor. She is sold to Spacers, who are themselves rebelling against the corrupt control of Earth’s mega-corporations. In space she finds a chance at a new life, a chance to maybe help her sister avoid the same fate, but only if Spacers succeed in gaining their freedom. The course of her life will be determined by the outcome of politics far outside of her control… but she has a chance, however slim, to save her sister and start a new life herself.
In some way, this was a really odd book for me to read. The main character is named Kristin. She works on a space ship as a systems engineer. I work on satellites as a systems engineer. And, honestly, her description is really similar to mine when I was in my early 20’s. So it was seriously trippy to read this at times.
A New Beginning is set in the near future, a future where space travel is common place, as is living in space aboard ships or other space stations. On Earth, it’s a rather bleaker picture of the world today. Corporations have taken over the world, bought out most of the politicians. It’s a society, world-wide, where the class gap is as wide is it can be and only those born into or who marry into privilege have assurance of a “normal” life. The rest are sold into indentured service to pay of their debts, whatever they are; for main character Kristin, this is the price of her college education. It’s also a future where faster-than-light travel has been made possible, but communication–visual and audio (in the form of communiques between spacecraft)–is limited to light speed. I’m not quite sure how that is possible, to be honest, but it sets up some interesting potential so I decided not to worry about it.
As the story starts, a newly formed “Federation,” comprised of those living and working on the ships and stations, those without ties to Earth, decide to break ties with Earth and form their own…well, federation. Think of it like Star Trek. Where once they were tied to Earth, they now consider themselves independent entities, willing and happy to trade with Earth, but not bound by any of their laws–or taxes. This has important ramifications for Kristin Hayes, whose indentured service was just sold from an Earth corporation to a ship in the Federation. She left behind a life of debt and slavery (including sexual slavery) on Earth and, upon joining the ship, was freed. The Federation, her ship The Valiant Lad, bought her indenture contract (along with that of others) and gave her the option to return to Earth as a free woman or to join the Federation, join the ship’s crew. Kristin decided to join the ship’s crew and for the first time in her life, have a real job, earn real wages, and be allowed to be a “normal” person.
Kristin’s story comprises most of the book. There are two story lines (that are sort of broken into 3 in places), one of the Federation officers who are actually coordinating the secession from Earth, and Kristin’s story line, telling of her life, both on and off the ship. Kristin’s story is about 2/3 of this book, though I suspect that this is the first in a series and provides decent setup for the rest of the series. Kristin acclimates to life on the ship slowly, but without much adversity. If anything, it seems that everything is just too easy. She finds friends, support, a job she can do…which is interesting, given the description of how the space-ers grow up and are educated compared with how Earth-ers are raised. Growing up in space seems a lot more intense, it seems that anybody from Earth would be at a significant disadvantage. When the Federation makes new laws, allowing families to be on ships and for crew to “fraternize,” she enters into a relationship with a crew mate fairly easily, despite her emotional scars. Kristin decides that she should use this opportunity to earn money (and save it) so that she can get her sister and her father off Earth, to help them avoid the troubles she had. One way she earns money is by selling her journal as a book; the journal she wrote of what her life was like on Earth as a child and then as an indentured servant for one of the corporations. It became an overnight success (almost literally) and made her into a celebrity. As I said, the only “trouble” I really had with this part of the book is how easy everything was. Kristin had a few small stumbling blocks to overcome, but the narrative made it sound like they were easily triumphed over, so overall she didn’t face much adversity.
Similarly, the second story line–comprising a third or less of the book–seemed….easy. The main thrust is told from two viewpoints, one of the ship captain (Marshall?) who announced the secession, and one of another ship captain (Matthews? A woman, in either event, which was nice) who oversaw some of the battles between the Earth ships and the Federation ships. This is where I think the book truly had a miss. It was odd enough that it was all too easy–the battles were short, sweet, and rarely with any Federation losses–but there was an opportunity for Brummer to capitalize on some interesting tactics, an opportunity lost in this book. As I mentioned earlier in the review, technology has evolved to a point where faster-than-light travel is possible (and used) but faster-than-light communication is not. This means that when battling on a large scale, your information is only as good as your distance (in light years/hours) from the source. This was touched on briefly in Kristin’s narrative. One of her co-workers mentioned that for spare money, he makes games to teach kids about battle tactics and the math used in FTL travel and war. He mentioned that all kids who grow up in space have to learn this, and have to use it…but then, nobody did. In all of the battles, it seemed like the information at hand was “good enough” and that the Federation mostly won without issue. While the battle scenes were mercifully short (nothing drives me up a wall than too much detail on weaponry or super-detailed tactics), they were almost too dry. It seemed, once again, too easy.
Some of the issues with the battle scenes might have been owed to the narration. The narration, while mostly fine, was just that, fine. Nolan didn’t add much excitement or change in tone for any of the scenes. He didn’t use different voices for the characters (except maybe some of the characters on the primary Federation ship–the Freedom?–they sounded like they were lifted from the scenes in Star Trek). The recording itself occasionally echoed or sounded like it was recorded with an unfiltered microphone. It often sounded like there was a low-level hiss in the background, or air flowing. This was noticeable when I used earphones and in my car audio and was occasionally distracting.
All in all, the book wasn’t a bad entry novel for a first-time author, though the science fiction elements were more window dressing than actual story components. I suspect some of the audio issues were due to it not being one of the larger publication houses, and that’s okay. I would recommend this book to someone looking for some light science fiction that frankly isn’t much of a downer (because let’s be honest, a lot of it can be extremely depressing). It will be interesting to see where Brummer goes with this universe. If all the novels end up having this same tone/lack of adversity, it could get boring, but for a first-in-a-series by a new author, it was pretty alright.
Posted by terpkristin.