January 2013 Archives

January 13, 2013

Jack Glass - Adam Roberts

I once described Ian McDonald's three books River Of Gods, Brasyl and The Dervish House as someone tapping directly into my head and writing exactly the sort of Science Fiction I wanted to read. Well Adam Roberts' last three books New Model Army, By Light Alone and Jack Glass feel like someone has tapped directly into my head and written exactly the sort of Science Fiction that I need. Sometimes challenging, sometimes uncomfortable but always great Science Fiction.

If you're just looking for a quick recommendation, go and read Jack Glass, don't bother finding out any more or reading the blurb, just go and read it.

Jack Glass is set up as three whodunnits, but of course it's much more than that. It's a story that gets bigger as it progresses, transitioning from a study of imprisonment, to the future and destiny of mankind and then reminding us that at the core of everything are human beings who live and love.

In common with By Light Alone the story takes a technological solution that should free mankind and then looks at the reasons it could all go wrong. I find this fascinating, it has always been my opinion that the human race is capable of a radical mindset shift, I do not believe in human nature, and it is my opinion that technological revolution of a drastic kind could very well be the catalyst for this mindset change. Adam Roberts however posits that the technological change will reinforce the old ways and that revolution will be needed afterwards to force the evolution or mindset shift. In By Light Alone it is being able to subsist on sunlight alone. In Jack Glass it is the ability to create endless living space using spheres in space, along with food that can grow simply using water. Now you can solve two of the major problems facing Earth, where are people going to live and what are they going to eat. Now humanity can spread throughout the solar system. But will everything change? Will anything change?

Jack Glass is a multi-dimensional novel. It contains mystery, it contains lots of ideas about the future of the human race, it contains politics and action and a coming of age story. I constantly found myself thinking,"wow I need to think about that for a bit", not because it was hard to follow, or technically or intellectually difficult, but because it sparked me thinking about stuff

Satisfyingly it is also wrapped up with a lovely, real, resolution that adds a further thread to think about, that in fact sheds new light on the entire story gone before.

Great stuff. Loved it.

January 2, 2013

Arc 1.4

In four issues Arc Magazine has established an ethic of not only providing great, thought provoking fiction but also interesting, forward looking non-fiction. Usually the non-fiction in magazine of fiction consists of reviews, of commentary on media and random columns, Arc instead retains a focus and provides non-fiction that stimulates the mind, not just fills out the issue. In issue 1.4 the non-fiction (or Fact as it's labelled in the contents) comes from Frank Swain, Madeline Ashby, Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Kim Stanley Robinson, Simon Ings and Smári McCarthy and covers topics such as the ultralite back-packing movement and what it means for other aspects of our life, the future of drones, border security in the modern world and the plans for Iceland to become a free data state.

The fiction comes from Robert Reed, Liz Jensen, Nancy Kress, Romie Stott, Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack. It's difficult to type that list without adding an exclamation mark to the end of it. They're good stories too: visions of a future post-oil city where the citizens are part of the city, an alternate future (with snatches of the history) in a post nuclear networked world, a story dealing with altering the last thoughts before death, a story about cheating death and dealing with the consequences in the future, a story about falling in love with a robot and a story about hoarding 20th Century junk. All of them are good, but of course it's a particular delight to read anything new by Bruce Sterling, pushing the boundaries as usual.

There's plenty to read at 185 pages, which includes some nice artwork, it definitely feels like a substantial magazine. My only moan is that I'd love it in print, but the print edition is a bit pricey at $30. Instead you can buy a selection of digital editions (Kindle, Zinio, Google Play, Nook) for £4.31 (last time I checked) which feels like pretty good value.

Recommended if you like intelligent Science Fiction and Science Fact.

January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy arbitrary date at which we celebrate getting round the sun again.

(We didn't get hit by an asteroid! The sun didn't explode! Gravity didn't fail and fling us out into the solar system!)

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