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review 2017-04-23 23:03
Proof of Concept
Proof of Concept - Gwyneth Jones

For such a short novella, Proof of Concept is packed to bursting with plot threads, thematic questions, and worldbuilding elements. The story takes place in a fascinating dystopian world where pollution and global warming have pushed the world's population into giant "hives" separated by toxic "Dead Zones" where impoverished non-citizens try to eke out their short existences. MegaCorps have a chokehold on culture and politic, and even scientific endeavor must be turned into pop-culture and seek the approval of the GAM (Global Audience Mediation AI). The issue of extreme population control is hotly contested, as is the future of the human race. The quest for hyperspatial travel is seen as humanity's last hope. To get funding, the serious scientists have partnered with the popular reality-show stars to live underground in isolation to create a proof of concept for hyperspatial travel.

The story is as packed with genre elements as it is with worldbuilding concepts: a Vernesque journey to the center of the earth, a coming-of-age story, a romance, and even a strong tang of mystery. There are so many ideas packed into this little novella; I just wish there had been a little more room for character development. The timespan of the story is so wide, the cast so large, and the worldbuilding is so broad that I think in some ways, the characterization and driving urgency of the plot got a little lost. I never got a real sense of the different characters, and while I think this contributed to the shock factor of the ending, I found it also rather unsatisfying. In particular, and quite at odds with the rest of the story, I felt that the end expected me to unquestioningly accept the author's definition of "good guys" and "bad guys" and accept that the "good guys" can do absolutely terrible things and yet remain the "good guys" by definition alone… more time spent on characterization of both the faceless antagonists and the tarnished protagonists would have helped greatly, I think.

One of the most interesting themes in the story involves Kir, a child "saved" from the Dead Zones to act as the "wetware" for an artificial superintelligence quantum computer. Is she a captive or a willing participant? Is she deluding herself when she believes the woman who cut her head open and installed an ASI inside sees her as a person rather than a tool? Is the thing who shares her head a being with its own identity or merely a sophisticated calculator, and despite the supposed firewalls, what influence does it have on her behaviour?

"You're going to put a supercomputer in my head. It's going to share my brain. Okay, I can't stop you. But what if he goes wrong and starts eating me?"


Overall, Proof of Concept is itself an interesting proof of concept for a world and idea that I think fully deserves a longer novel. If you're looking for a fascinating little novella, Proof of Concept is worth a look.


~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Tor.com, in exchange for my honest review.~~

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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review 2017-04-21 17:21
Alien Alpha: Qetesh Warrior (Qetesh #1) by Juniper Leigh Review
Alien Alpha: (Qetesh Warrior) An Alien SciFi Romance - Juniper Leigh

Novalyn Bryce is a student, tending bar at night to put herself through school in New York City. She has no family, few friends, and no romantic prospects.


Odrik Nuh’ar of Qetesh is seven feet tall, with skin the color of honey. He is a warrior hunter, with rippling muscles and ink black hair, and horns that wrapped around his head like a crown.

The Qet are a proud, tribal people, who were settled on the planet Qetesh two hundred or so years ago. Over those 200 years, most of their females have died off, leaving them on the brink of extinction.

The government, in conjunction with an intergalactic agency known only as The Echelon -- a group that serves to keep the balance of the universe in check -- has been plucking human women up out of their lives to bring them to Qetesh as potential mates to keep the proud people from dying out entirely.

Novalyn Bryce is one such woman.

Review

I loved the hero and the world was interesting if trite in some of its depictions. The heroine made me nuts. She was Too Stupid To Live.

The behavior of the suppliers of the women was immoral and that didn't match with their mission and I had trouble moving past that.

The heroine waffles until the last moment. I wished for better for the hero.

 

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review 2017-04-12 18:23
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi  
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Interesting and so much fun. I'm going to love this series. This is a different universe for Scalzi: the planets are mostly not habitable on their surfaces, The universe isn't full of fascinating intelligent species, although there are a fair number of humans scattered about. Two of the main protagonists are women, both of them clever as hell, one also profane as hell. Her language, her incredible, individual, hand-crafted bespoke foul language is one othe the lightest and best ongoing jokes.

The story is concerned with a colonized universe, a new emperox of same, a clever mathematician, a clever foe, political machinations, and much of it slower than slugs because of the time constraints on communication.But even though the timeline is lengthy, the books never flags. It zips on, only filling in small amounts of the gaps.Oh, the depths of those plots!

It reminds me a bit of some of the Foundation books, except with a lot more humor. It more closely resembles Scott Westerfeld's novels of his Succession empire.

Scalzi does a great job of keeping the story grounded, while also maintaining his sense of humor.

Supremely enjoyable.
Library copy

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review 2017-04-12 14:28
Review: The Edge of Everything
The Edge of Everything - Jeff Giles

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I think this was something I requested on a whim. It was quite some time ago, I remember only glancing at the synopsis on Netgalley. Admittedly I went into this one remembering nothing on what it was about. I had it in my mind for some reason it was a dystopian.

 

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Starts off with teen Zoe at home at the start of a snow storm looking for her younger brother who’s gone out to play with their two dogs. But he doesn’t appear to be answering her calls to come inside before the storm really gets going. The storm is getting worse by the minute so Zoe goes out looking for him. During her search Zoe stumbles into the path of nasty piece of work Stan who is robbing their neighbour’s house. The neighbours having died recently. The confrontation is bad. Warning – Stan really hurts the two dogs. It’s brutal and unpleasant.

 

Zoe and her brother are rescued by a mysterious figure who arrives and kicks the crap out of Stan. The mysterious benefactor is hell bent on destroying Stan for his evil deeds and seems to have some sort of superpowers. But of course nothing goes quite so smoothly. Not once he starts actually interacting with Zoe.

 

The figure, who later becomes known as X has come from a sort of hell dimension known as The Lowlands and is a bounty hunter sent to reap souls of evil doers. Stan is his target. Though Zoe’s interaction with him is brief, he learns something of mercy. Which sets in motion a big ass chain of events.

 

X has very little concept of how to interact with Zoe. Not completing his mission has left him in dire-straights and great pain until the job is done. He collapses in a nearby house –which just happens to be Zoe’s. With the help of Zoe, her mom and her younger brother they help X pull himself together.

X’s dialogue is quite stilted and almost boarding on cheesy, but there’s something quite fascinating about how he copes with Zoe. He’s grown up in this hell dimension with only other damaged souls to guide him, so has very little sense of morality or anything.

 

While Zoe is your average teenager – she lives with her mom and younger brother and is struggling to cope with the recent death of her father. Zoe’s mom is one of the more likeable, believable adults of YA fiction. She’s involved without being over the top involved, and seems to know when to back off. The mom has some secrets which come out later on in the novel, while it’s not of the pleasant nature, it’s doesn’t actually make her any less likeable as a character, I thought the twists added dimension and believability to the mom character.

 

Zoe herself is an immensely likeable character, there was something delightful about the way she was written that made me as a reader connect with her immediately. I liked her tone of voice and her dialogue.

 

She handled the increasingly weird situation very well. Her relationship with X grows, and as they became equality fascinated and enamoured with each other can be described as instalovey, although the novel is so well written and both characters are so interesting – it’s instalove but instalove that actually works.

 

And they’re both smart enough to know there will be consequences for their actions. X has to deal with the Lowlands and the consequences of revealing his secrets and not completing his mission. There appears to be a hierarchy of demons or “Lords” who are the rulers and X has royally pissed off one of the worst who is determined to make an example of him. This particular Lord is a real asshole and his actions and dialogue is so over the top in the vain of I’m so evil and you’re so crap and you must suffer because I say so. It’s almost like a cartoon villain and kind of ridiculous but at the same time kind of amusing in a weird way.

 

Zoe learns some uncomfortable truths about her father’s past and certain things she was never meant to know. It’s quite emotional. Her dad was a caver and taught her how, and there’s an incredibly moving scene where she goes caving with a friend as a result of some of the secrets she learns. Exceptinonally moving and very tense in parts.

 

A wonderful mix of action and romance, a very unique plot and not at all what I was expecting. I really loved this one.  I loved this one so much I bought a finished hardback.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ).

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review 2017-04-11 18:29
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi 
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Interesting and so much fun. I'm going to love this series. This is a different universe for Scalzi: the planets are mostly not habitable on their surfaces, The universe isn't full of fascinating intelligent species, although there are a fair number of humans scattered about. Two of the main protagonists are women, both of them clever as hell, one also profane as hell. Her language, her incredible, individual, hand-crafted bespoke foul language is one othe the lightest and best ongoing jokes.

 

The story is concerned with a colonized universe, a new emperox of same, a clever mathematician, a clever foe, political machinations, and much of it slower than slugs because of the time constraints on communication.But even though the timeline is lengthy, the books never flags. It zips on, only filling in small amounts of the gaps.Oh, the depths of those plots!

 

It reminds me a bit of some of the Foundation books, except with a lot more humor. It more closely resembles Scott Westerfeld's novels of his Succession empire.

 

Scalzi does a great job of keeping the story grounded, while also maintaining his sense of humor.

 

Supremely enjoyable.

Library copy

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