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review 2017-03-01 13:01
Cyber World: Tales of Humanity's Tomorrow
Cyber World: Tales of Humanity's Tomorrow - Paolo Bacigalupi,Stephen Graham Jones,Alyssa Wong,Saladin Ahmed,Cat Rambo,Nisi Shawl,E. Lily Yu,Madeline Ashby,Joshua Viola,Jason Heller

[I received an e-copy of this book through NetGalley.]

A collection of short stories with virtual reality, AI and technology themes in general. Despite the 'cyberpunk' flair, I agree with the curators: it's not so much cyberpunk in its original meaning, as dealing with various ideas that fit our current societies more than the 'old cyberpunk' feeling.

* "Serenade:" 3/5

A hacker decrypting data on an old USB sticks realises that said data is not about future useful information, but memories.

* "The Mighty Phin:" 3/5

In a prison ship controlled by an AI, not everything is as it looks, and truth may be more difficult to stomach than the characters think at first. Bit of an abrupt ending, though, when I think about how it could've been more developed.

* "Reactions:" 3/5

What a drone pilot pumped up on battle drugs goes through when the operation he's on is suddenly cancelled... but not what's still lingering in his organism. I found it interesting, although, like the story before it, I'd have liked some more development (especially regarding the soldier's decision to break his family).

* "The Bees of Kiribati:" 5/5

Chilling because even though this doesn't exist (yet), the principles behind the murders in this story could very well be applied in other ways. It also raises the old but still accurate ethical question: would you kill a few people, even babies, if it meant being able to save many more?

* "The Rest Between Two Notes:" 2/3

Promising theme (a teenager killing her mother repeatedly in virtual reality), but I found the plot too muddled in places. The resolution brought at the end wasn't too clear--I wouldn't mind in a novel, but in short stories it's another matter.

* "The Singularity is In Your Hair:" 5/5

Touching and horrible. A girl suffering from a degenerative disease, who can only experience living through virtual reality, performs jobs and meets people thanks to an AI who may or may not be so benevolent. The promise of one day being fully uploaded to virtual space, and leaving the meat behind instead of facing the prospect of her impending death, keep her going. And she desperately hopes this will come true sooner than later.

* "Panic City:" 5/5

In an underground city that is both a refuge and a prison, people have been living for generations following models and using technology that are gradually failing. When something threatens to break an opening into this 'homeostatic' environment, the AI controlling the city has to make a decision: is their original programming really ideal in this case?

* "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted:" 4/5

A veteran from corporate wars receives prompts on his augmented reality system, even though the war is over. While such defective prompts are known to be useless, and should be discarded, these seem different... and so he follows them, desperate in his hopes that the rewards will save the woman he loves. I liked the writing here--even the prompts sounded poetic.

* "Your Bones Will Not Be Unknown:" 4/5

An assassin is sent to kill a rival boss, knowing full well there are little chances of success here. But what the boss has in mind for them is not necessarily death, and could even actually be a gift.

* "Staunch:" 2/5

A group of kids-hackers-rebels, led by a doctor who used to be part of a legendary team, travel through what's left of the UK to save the life of one of their own. Though the plot itself was a bit weak, I liked the technological problems used in it (replacement organs shutting down if the firmware's outdated or the copyright has changed hands, etc.)—definitely freaky.

* "Other People's Thoughts:" 2/5

About empathy, telepathic powers and gender fluidity. Good themes, and I would've loved actually liking the story, but it was more descriptive than actual plot, and I found it too weak to hold my interest.

* "WISYOMG:" 1/5

Almost skipped that one. The style and character weren't appealing, and I'm still not sure what was the idea. Warning people against body mods and fads? It was hard to follow, so I'm really not sure.

* "We Will Take Care of Our Own:" 2/5

Of corrupt politicians and corporations trying to make money by officially solving problems, and officiously sweeping them under the carpet. Again, good theme, especially since the politician has a skeleton of her own in the closet, but in terms of plot and development, it wasn't strong nor long enough.

* "A Song Transmuted:" 3/5

A young musician comes up with a new concept to be music, rather than simply playing it—spurred by her relationship with her grandfather, his way of encouraging her to meet other people and play music with her, and this in spite of a dishonest colleague stealing her idea. Good, though not groundbreaking.

* "It's Only Words:" 2/5

A sort of neo-Luddite theme, of a boy writing his school project on paper when everybody else is constantly connected to the web and not doing anything in an "analogue" way anymore. I'm not sure where this story was going, though: I felt that something was missing, that the point wasn't strongly made enough at the end, because nothing really changes, and the people targetted may not even have understood what was happening?

* "Small Offerings:" 5/5

Horrific but fascinating. A story about the means that may be necessary, in a future and over-polluted world, for people to carry healthy children to term, by sacrificing others.

* "Darkout:" 2/5

Good build-up to something bigger, in a society where everybody's living under the camera's eye... but the end just fell flat, and nothing really happened.

* "Visible Damage:" 3/5

A hacker goes on the trail of a nascent AI, in the hopes of finding it before everyone else obliterates it. Interesting, but a bit confusing.

* "The Ibex on the Day of Extinction:" 4/5

A man far from his family comes home to find everybody and everything gone—no GPS, no radio, no internet, and only empty clothes left behind.
I kind of suspected what had happened early on. Still, I liked this story. Sometimes all I need is for the conclusion to vindicate what I'm already thinking.

* "How Nothing Happens:" 1/5

Kind of what it says on the tin? I get the basic idea, but the way it was developed didn't grab my attention.

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review 2017-02-12 20:42
Gridlinked (Polity: Agent Cormac #1)
Gridlinked (Agent Cormac) - Neal Asher

https://bookstooge.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/gridlinked-polity-agent-cormac-1/

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review 2016-11-15 14:54
Bah…Humbug by Tony Bertauski @tonybertauski
Humbug (The Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge): A Science Fiction Adventure - Tony Bertauski

I have been reading Tony Bertauski’s Christmas stories since the very beginning and have loved each and every one, so I was eager to get my hands on Humbug.

 

 

Humbug: The Unwinding of Ebenezer Scrooge (Claus, #4)

 

Amazon  /  Goodreads

 

MY REVIEW

 

Fantastic twist on a familiar tale.

 

Tony Bertauski has come away with another winner in Humbug. This is one of those books that is hard to review without giving away all the goodies inside.

 

You may think you know the story, but when Tony Bertauski spins a tale, he creates a world of his own, original, unique and highly creative.

 

I immediately thought steampunk because of all the technology involved, but cyberpunk will do just fine.

 

Ebenezer is constantly riding around his castle on a Segway. He is overweight and a bit lazy. He wants what he wants when he wants it and expects his androids to deliver. He doesn’t leave his castle and doesn’t want any human contact. No one knows what he looks like because he projects a created image when he talks ‘face to face’.

 

At times I felt like Ebenezer got what he deserved and other times I felt sorry for him. After all, we don’t always know what happens to shape a person into who they have become.

 

We do travel to the future, visit the present and go back to the past to find out his story.

The twists and turns kept me entertained and I surely never saw the end coming. I loved it.

 

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Humbug by Tony Bertauski.

 

4 Stars

 

Read more HERE.

 

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Source: www.fundinmental.com/bah-humbug-by-tony-bertauski-tonybertauski
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review 2016-11-04 19:55
After Atlas is Painfully Good Science Fiction
After Atlas (Planetfall Novel, A) - Emma Newman

I completely adored the book previous to this one, Planetfall, and it's so wonderful to see the second meet the same impossible standards. After Atlas is not a sequel so much as a companion novel, and I suspect it could be read as a standalone.

 

My latest on B&N SciFi 

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review 2016-10-08 21:28
"Everybody is on a leash. Some are more obvious than others."
After Atlas (Planetfall Novel, A) - Emma Newman

After Atlas

by Emma Newman

 

After Atlas proves that, yes indeed, Emma Newman can do cyberpunk. Good news: although it takes place in the same world as Newman's earlier novel, After Atlas can be read without Planetfall, and if the idea of a discussion of agency wrapped around a police procedural taking place in a world remade by gov-corps sounds appealing while an exploration of OCD on an alien planet does not, then I'd definitely recommend jumping straight ahead to After Atlas. You'll miss a certain amount of dramatic irony, but the worldbuilding and plot points should be entirely intelligible. The narrator of After Atlas is Carlos, a police inspector for the Noropean Ministry of Justice. Carlos is also an indentured slave with few rights and little hope of freedom. After "the transition from pseudo-democracy into neoliberty," the new gov-corps tried their hands at solving the issues of poverty and homelessness in the most economical way they could think of: "nonpersons" are scooped off the streets and locked into "hot-houses," where their brains are crammed with skills so they can be sold to the highest bidder.

 

Carlos is luckier than most, for the MoJ is a comparatively kindly master. He may not have the right to own property or be in a relationship or "cohabitate" or even take his own life, but he has one of the most advanced artificial personal assistants on the market and he truly loves solving problems. His newest case, however, takes him to a place he has no desire to explore: his own past, including the technology-shunning cult he grew up in and fled from. I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid, gritty cyberpunk world that Newman created. People wander the streets of London gesticulating to thin air as they engage in virtual conversations with friends hundreds of miles away; others use their APAs to play augmented reality games or watch an endless stream of advertisements. Except for the very wealthy, almost all food is made-to-order from food printers. Resources are scarce, attention even scarcer. In such a world, Carlos's questions about agency are all too apt. As he puts it,

"Everybody is on a leash. Some are more obvious than others."

Like its predecessor, After Atlas is a compelling story. Approached as a mystery, it is perhaps rather lacking, both in terms of twists and in an ultimately satisfactory explanation.

As a reader, I thought it looked like suicide plus postmortem damage, but it was such an obvious solution that I assumed something far more intricate. Even the final reasons felt rather lacking. I never really felt I understood Alejandro, and many of the apparent clues remained odd and unresolved. Why did Alejandro embrace an extravagant lifestyle? Why did a man so vehemently against suicide end up killing himself? Why did he so badly want to be chipped, particularly since he planned to commit suicide? I know the mission of the cult changed, but even so, that seems like too radical and unexplained a shift in perspective. Where did Klein get the bruises?

(spoiler show)

The story shines most in its examination of agency and choice, particularly coming from the perspective of a character who has so little of either. As an elite inspector, Carlos is fully of the disparity between the privileged world he appears to be a part of and his actual state of disempowerment:

"It was the constant cognitive dissonance of being so desperate to get out yet too scared to leave. Of being so afraid to fail yet wishing I did so it would all stop. Of being told I was lucky when I was being abused. Of hearing I was a valuable asset when I was being treated like a fucking object."

I don't know what exactly Emma Newman does to make her books so addictive, but I do know that I'm thoroughly hooked. It's not just that I love the worldbuilding; there's something about her stories and her style that I find utterly beguiling. Whether the next book takes place on Earth or on the world of Planetfall, count me in.

 

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final version, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~

 

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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