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review 2017-10-17 17:39
Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Finally picked up my first Marissa Meyer book after rave reviews from friends and fellow #bookstagrammers and it did not disappoint! Seriously impressive world-building, with deep commitment to the dystopian future China cyberpunk setting. Novel, easily recognizable, and thoroughly interwoven.

 

Loved the disaffected teen characterization of Cinder too; her determination and frustration felt authentic and appealingly off-kilter. Her punk/grunge aesthetic was both sympathetic and, at times, hilarious. Love the silk-and-grease-stained awkwardness. Sort of pitied and rooted for her at the same time.

 

Strong emotional beats; stakes were clear, and loss was handled with sensitivity. The world and abuses felt traumatic, but not traumatizing. Gritty, but not unrelentingly dark. The light romance was well played. Overall one of the best fairytale adaptations I've read; fresh, and with clear but not slavish awareness of the plot and tropes of the original. I picked up the sequel immediately on reaching the last page.

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review 2017-07-23 16:17
A Country Without (SF) Readers: “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência
Proxy - Divergência

Published 2016.

 

“O Neuromante foi publicado por mim em Portugal apenas dois anos depois da primeira edição em língua inglesa. Talvez tenha sido a primeira tradução para uma língua estrangeira. Estremeci de alegria quando o livro veio à estampa. Pensei: agora sim, agora os detractores da FC vão engolir mil sapos.

Infelizmente esqueci-me de que vivemos em Portugal. Num país sem grande futuro, nem mesmo o do Gernsback. Um país sem leitores. Trataram-no como se nem sequer existisse. Ou como se se tratasse de mais umas tantas páginas de lixo escapista. Nas livrarias, foi parar às secções de literatura infantil ou às prateleiras de estudos informáticos. Enfim, não vendeu. Nas Feiras do Livro que se lhe seguiram, foi vendido a retalho por tuta e meia, como se o quisessem oferecer a um pobre. [….] E por não ter vendido, nada de nada, foi razão mais do que suficiente para o Editor me olhar, imbuído de um triste desprezo, me dizer que eu só escolhia coisas muito más, e que por isso teria de pôr fim à colecção de FC. Meu dito meu feito.”

 

("Neuromancer was published by me in Portugal only two years after the first edition in English. Maybe it was the first translation into a foreign language. I jumped with joy when the translation first came out. I thought: 'Yes, now the detractors of SF must bite the bullet.' Unfortunately, I forgot that we live in Portugal. In a country with no great future, not even Gernsback's. A country without readers. They treated the translation as if it did not even exist. Or as if it were some more pages of escapist junk. In the bookstores, it went to the sections of children's literature or to the shelves of computer studies. Anyway, it did not sell. At the Book Fairs that followed, it was sold to retail stores for nothing, as if they wanted to offer it to the poor. [....] And for not having sold anything at all, it was more than enough reason for the Editor to look at me, imbued with a sad contempt, to tell me that I only chose very bad things, and thus end the SF collection. No sooner said than done.")

 

In the foreword by João Barreiros in “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência.

 

 

I've been reading some old best-of-the-year SF anthologies lately, bought on eBay, as well as this one by Editoral Divergência, a Portuguese book publishing house; it was the last one of the bunch, and in there the cyberpunk trope seems to be swimming in foreign waters, literal and figuratively speaking. While the cyberpunk stories in these anthologies are generally good, there's a distinct sense of hardening sub-genre assumptions about them -- the shared idea that computer criminals would largely be members of street gangs seems particularly far off. By the 1989 anthology, most of the authors who'd been doing cyberpunk had gone on to other things. What about 2016 when this Portuguese cyberpunk anthology came out?

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

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review 2017-07-08 18:03
Void Star
Void Star - Zachary Mason

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This story takes us on the paths followed by three characters very different from each other: Irina, carrying a brain implant that gives her perfect memory and access to AIs; Kern, a young refugee from the San Francisco favelas, who taught himself through books and martial arts thanks to a laptop found in a dump; and Thales, son of a murdered Brazilian politician, whose life hangs by a thread only because his body may reject the implant that saved his life at any moment.

The world depicted in the novel is not exactly cyberpunk, not exactly transhumanistic, not exactly dystopian, but a blend of all three? Life-prolonging and youth treatments exist... only for those who can afford them. The implant in both Irina and Thales’s brains is exceptional... but. Large corporations dominate everyday life, but the protagonists are different from their more usual cyberpunk counterparts. Earth is going through climate changes and places like Singapore are gradually going underwater, and many people don’t have access to basic necessities... but at the same time, a sense of wonder still permeates the story, if only because of the way the characters are confronted to various threats and obstacles, yet also to hopes and openings towards new paths. Kern’s laptop, for instance, because of what it represents, or could represent, for a young boy living in the streets. Or the inhuman and fascinating beauty of the AIs introduced here, the destructive Cloudbreaker and the elusive Mathematician.

This is both close to us, making it possible to grasp it, with its technologies that we can understand (tablets and phones, albeit somewhat obsolete for the wealthier characters), and at the same time deeply alien and full of mysteries (what would it be like to live with a perfect, artificial memory you can access just whenever, yet that may send you into seizure and kill you?).

‘Void Star’ reads well, although for some reason I felt like taking my sweet time with it, perhaps because unconsciously I didn’t want to finish it too fast? It may sometimes be a wee difficult to follow, since it doesn’t rely on detailed explanations, instead taking its readers through its characters’ travels; I quite liked that, though—I like that in general in SF/F, even though I know I can’t read such stories when I’m too tired, for fear of losing my pace and missing important hints. While some events appeared, as a result, a little confusing, in the end I could still piece everything together. The three main narratives are well interwoven—chapter Y actually holds the missing answers to what happened in chapter X, and so on—and even when I didn’t have all the information to understand their world in the beginning, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Conclusion: Not the easiest read around, due to its (beautiful but sometimes complex) descriptive language and concepts; however, if one is ready to tackle that, this book can be positively fascinating.

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review 2017-04-05 21:07
Review: Cyberpunk Tales, Book One: Looking Death in the Eye by A.L. Hunt
Cyberpunk Tales: Looking Death in the Eye: SciFi Adventure Romance Trilogy - Jordanna R. Forrest,Ashley L. Hunt

A short 30 page freebie from the NOOK store.

 

A fun romp through future Columbia, SC  and the hellscape the USA has become in the future. Vivan (Red Viper to her business associates) was fun to read about and get to know while also fighting bad guys and dealing with her telepathic ability. The Cleaner (aka Yakov to his friends) is pretty great too.

 

I had never read anything in the cyberpunk subgenre and planned to read this just to fill in a Pop Sugar Challenge prompt. After reading it, I want to read the other two books in the series. I need more Viv!

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review 2017-04-01 05:11
Waking Hell
Waking Hell - Al Robertson

[I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.]

Sequel to 'Crashing Heaven', a novel I read a couple of years ago, and quite liked. The world is roughly the same—Station, floating in space—but the protagonists are different, and the situation has changed: one of the gods was forcibly removed, and the fetches (dead people reconstructed from their memories) now have existences of their own, even though their community went through a plague that almost destroyed them along the way.

The characters: as mentioned above, no Hugo Fist or Jack Forster here, although they're briefly mentioned. This time, the story mainly follows Leila, a fetch who's trying to save her genius brother Dieter, and Cassiel, a Totality mind who's investigating said brother's death. It starts with Dieter falling prey to an old tech artifact, and dying from it; however, contrary to what Leila thinks at first, he cannot be brought back as a fetch, due to a fishy contract he signed at the last moment with a couple of shady characters called 'pressure men'. Finding herself the unwilling beneficiary of this contract that left her a rich heiress, Leila uses her newly acquired money—and the door it opens—to try and find out what really happened to Dieter, and bring him back at all costs, the way himself helped her build herself back up after the fetch plague almost deconstructed her for good.

Even though I admit I didn't like Leila much at first (too whiny and self-centered), and would have hoped to see Jack and Hugo again, soon enough the new characters grew up on me. On the one hand, Leila tends to keep focused on Dieter and not on the bigger picture, but this bit on the selfish side makes her, in a way, very human. On the other hand, she puts herself on the front line as well: you definitely can't call her a coward, all the more as the enemy could very well wipe her out of existence. As for Cassiel, she brings a lot of information about the AIs, the way they live, and how close they are to humans even if the latter don't always notice it.

(Interestingly, as a fetch, Leila is just as much dependent on hardware and on the local equivalent of the online world to exist and manifest herself. The world of Station definitely keeps blurring the lines and questioning what makes us human, especially once you throw the gods into the mix: the Rose who isn't so infallible, East who's obsessed with the media and her reality shows...)

There are a lot of epic virtual reality/online world/hidden servers moments. Because both Leila and Cassiel are reconstructed or artificial AIs, they're both powerful and frail. Without a physical body, and armed with a weapon Dieter had once designed for her only, Leila has means of her own to fight and resist; and Cassiel was designed as a weapon herself, with a nanogel body making her suited for both physical and digital combat; and yet, because they're software-based, they're vulnerable to viruses and similar attacks... which makes the pressure men and their ability to edit data (including memories) all the more dangerous to them. Memory is clearly one of the stakes in the novel, because there comes a point when neither characters nor readers can really tell whether their memories are true or were manipulated.

A few discrepancies in terms of style (I had noticed that in the first book already: sometimes the prose switches to short sentences that jar a little with the rest), but not enough to really be a problem. All instances of 'brought' were also printed as 'bought', but since I got a preprint copy, this was hopefully corrected in the final version.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. I found the ending a little rushed, with some loose ends not so properly tied, and there were a couple of moments when I had to push through for a few pages (for some reason I can't exactly pinpoint). Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed diving into Station and its particular blend of bleak cyberpunk and transhumanism. Should there be a third book, I wouldn't mind reading it either.

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