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review 2017-10-16 17:27
Use of Weapons / Iain M. Banks
Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks

Cheradenine is an ex-special circumstance agent who had been raised to eminence by a woman named Diziet. Skaffen-Amtiskaw, the drone, had saved her life and it believes Cheradenine to be a burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence can see the horrors in his past.

 

Somehow, I had come to think of Iain M. Banks’ Culture as a pretty ideal society. This book shattered that somewhat for me, as it contains a lot of war & violence, plus a really cruel twist as the end of the novel. What can you do if you live in the Culture, but you’re not an easily entertained, peace-loving guy? Well, you can sign up for Special Circumstances and become a sort of super-soldier, getting horrifically injured, revived, regenerated, and going off to fight another battle. Even some of the Machine Minds in this one seem to be destructive and cruel.

But Banks accomplished what I think he wanted to—making his readers rethink what the Culture is all about (and maybe rethinking some the assumptions about their own culture). I look forward to tackling State of the Art next.

Book 265 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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text 2017-10-13 22:07
It's here already!
The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong,Alice Arisugawa

I was not expecting this to get here so quickly, but I'm glad it did. It's due just before I go on vacation early in November, so I get a few weeks to read and review it. Here's hoping it's good!

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review 2017-09-29 19:58
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity / edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity - Jim C. Hines,April Steenburgh,Susan Jett,Kari Sperring,Barbara Ashford,Avery Shade,Shannon Page,Seanan McGuire,Jean Marie Ward,Anton Strout,Kristine Smith,S.C. Butler,Joshua Palmatier,Juliet E. McKenna,Patricia Bray,Jay Lake,Elizabeth Bear

What if the fae were still here, living among us? Perhaps living in secret, doing their best to pass for human? Or perhaps their existence is acknowledged, but they're still struggling to fit in. How have they survived? Are they outcasts clinging to the edges of society, or do their powers ensure success in the mortal realm? Here are fourteen fabulous tales-ranging from humor to dark fantasy-that explore how the creatures of fae are fitting into the modern world.

 

A collection of short stories, mostly to my taste. To my complete surprise, the first story by Seanan McGuire did not come anywhere close to being my favourite of the batch!

Remarkably few of these authors have books listed in my public library catalogue, so I may not run into some of them again, unfortunately. A couple of them seem to have only contributed to anthologies thus far in their careers, some have only a book or two to their credit, and some must just not be on the radar of the acquisitions dept. of our library. I realize that they can’t afford to order everything!

I guess the point is that some of these authors are just starting their writing careers and that we have good things to look forward to, if this collection is any indication.

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text 2017-08-16 22:01
Status: Currently drowning in ILL books
Parasite Eve - Hideaki Sena

I got another one in today. On the plus side, this one will probably work for Halloween Bingo. On the minus side, I seem to be in some kind of combination reading and reviewing slump at the moment.

 

ETA: But if I wait to start this until September, I'll have less than two weeks to finish it before it's due. Argh. If only this ILL deluge had waited another week or two.

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review 2017-08-15 19:46
Imago / Octavia Butler
Imago - Octavia E. Butler

In the third book of her Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler gives us the alien’s perspective.  It makes the Oankali marginally less creepy, but only a tiny bit.  Butler excels at creating truly alien life forms, with wildly different forms of reproduction.

 

The Oankali having stinging cells and tentacles, giving them some resemblance to jellyfish (Cniderians) in our world, but they are upright walking, hand-and-arm-possessing, intelligent life forms.  And, it turns out, they have a three stage metamorphosis like Earth’s insects do.  This installment follows that mysterious third sex, the Ooloi, as one of Lilith’s children matures sexually into the adult form (hence the title, Imago).

 

In the first book, the Oankali have rescued the small remainder of humanity from a disaster of their own creation and have begun combining the two species.  That’s what the Ooankali do and they consider it their payment for their rescue services, but that’s not what it looks like or feels like to humans.  Lilith gradually becomes convinced that she won’t be allowed to live as human and reluctantly gets involved with the aliens, although it is against her true wishes.

 

In the second book, we follow Lilith’s construct child, Akin, who actually has five parents and who understands the relationship between the two species better than either the humans or the Oankali.  He sees the basic incompatibility between the two species but also how they can also become compatible.  Seemingly a paradox, which Akin reveals as a prejudice of the Oankali against humanity—we’ve always known that humans are prejudiced against the aliens.

 

This third installment reveals just how much the Oankali need and long for relationships with humans.  To this point, they have seemed very unemotional, almost clinical, in their desire to revitalize their own DNA through incorporation of the human genome.  Jodahs, who is metamorphosing into one of the mysterious Ooloi, shows us the depth of feeling, the intense sexual need, and indeed the pain of separation that we have been missing so far in the story.

 

Despite gaining understanding, the whole sexual system of the Oankali feels deeply creepy.  The human male and female in the sexual constellation experience repulsion when they touch one another directly, but when joined by an Ooloi, experience intense sexual pleasure.  Pheromones by the Ooloi make the situation addictive—being apart from one’s group becomes torment.

 

Butler is skillful in her refusal to “pick a side.”  She provides logical reasons for the aliens’ behaviour and points out both the logical and totally illogical responses of humanity.  She explores co-operation, coercion, limited choice, and unequal power without making it obvious which species she favours.

 

In some ways, this series makes me think of Arthur Clarke’s Childhood’s End, in that humanity is being absorbed into a genetic continuum, but likely won’t survive on its own ever again.  Do we mourn the loss or celebrate what survives?

 

Book 260 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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