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review 2017-03-19 01:10
Awesome horror graphic novel!
Zombies Vs Robots: Undercity - Chris Ryall

This is the story about when zombies take over, and the president and his handpicked 100 guests go to the undercity: a city underground, built to withstand zombies.   Except his priest refuses to go ,and his backup priest ministers to the zombies themselves, believing that he has a calming effect on them.  

 

Perhaps he does.   They don't attack him until right before he's taken to the city.    Which, of course, means that the rest of the people are trapped in a unbreakable vault of a city - with a zombie in their midst.  

 

It becomes a scramble for survival while they're locked in, and their choices are stay with the zombies below ground, or try to escape to the world up above that's been decimated by zombies already. 

 

But of course this is Zombies VS Robots so it couldn't stay that mundane.   It's full of surprises that I didn't see coming, and for all the horror, it remains as cheeky as possible.   This graphic novel never took itself too seriously, and that only made it all that more enjoyable.   The art is also spectacular, painterly, emotive, and just absolutely perfect for this series. 

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video 2017-03-13 17:26

Okay, so they have lots of good ideas for how these robots could be used, and yet my first thought was "how creepy-cute, I want one as a pet!" But, oh, the little things die.

 

They remind me of insects, a little.

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review 2017-03-12 21:25
The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
The Caves of Steel - Isaac Asimov

A while back, Audible did this thing that I think they called “blind date with an audiobook” or something like that. I got matched up with Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. I opted not to buy the audiobook, but the idea of a sci-fi mystery starring a human cop and a robot partner intrigued me, so I requested it via ILL.

The Caves of Steel is set in a future where the Earth’s population has reached the point where people must either live efficiently or die. Everyone lives in great steel-enclosed Cities, eats together in communal kitchens, and uses communal bathrooms, and only robots go out into the open air. Elijah “Lije” Baley, a New York City police detective, is well aware of the kind of life he could have had if his father hadn’t been declassified. He’s also well aware that his job will continue to exist only for as long as he is able to prove that robots can’t do it better, so it’s with significant wariness and distaste that he agrees to work with a Spacer robot on a murder case.

The victim is a Spacer named Roj Nemennuh Sarton. Tensions between Earth humans and Spacers, humans who long since left Earth for other planets but still maintain a small Earth presence, are already high, and this murder threatens to push things to a breaking point. The Spacers believe that one of the City humans killed Dr. Sarton. Although they could insist on their own investigation, they agree to let the New York City police handle it, on the condition that the robot Daneel Olivaw, Dr. Sarton’s creation, be included.

The edition I read included an introduction by Isaac Asimov, in which he mentioned that a past editor of his had said that “a science-fiction mystery was a contradiction in terms; that advances in technology could be used to get detectives out of their difficulties unfairly, and that the readers would therefore be cheated” (xiii). As someone who enjoys SFF mysteries, I’d argue that this is only true if the author doesn’t sufficiently define the limitations of their story’s setting.

Asimov certainly took great care with his world-building. Although there was a constant threat of robots taking jobs formerly assigned to humans, robots weren’t all-powerful. Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics were firmly in effect, and robots’ physical components certainly weren’t indestructible. Daneel had amazing brain scanning abilities, but even those abilities had limitations.

The mystery setup was interesting. Dr. Sarton was killed in Spacetown, an area not easily entered by non-Spacers. However, all the Spacers in Spacetown were scanned shortly after the murder and deemed innocent, and none of the blasters in Spacetown were used in the murder. Commissioner Enderby, the only Earth human in Spacetown at the time of the murder, was scanned and deemed incapable of murder. It was possible that an Earth human could have left the City, traveled briefly outside, and entered Spacetown that way, except that most Earth humans lived in horror of being outside in the open air. A robot could have made the trip, but the First Law of Robotics would have prevented it from killing Dr. Sarton or allowing him to come to harm.

The sci-fi aspects of this book were fascinating, if dated. The Asimov of 1954 would probably have been horrified that it only took 63 years for the world’s total human population to jump from 2.7 billion to 7.5 billion. In the book’s present, the Earth’s population was about 8 billion, with the huge and densely populated Cities having become a necessity hundreds of years earlier.

I enjoyed the descriptions of daily life in Baley’s City, although some aspects, like the strips (a horrifically dangerous-sounding cross between highways, subways, and moving walkways), were hard for me to envision. The communal kitchens and bathrooms made sense, although I was sad that, in Asimov’s vision of the future, men’s emotional lives seemed to be even more restricted than they are now. Although women and girls happily chatted with each other in their communal bathrooms, men and boys could not even acknowledge each other’s existences.

While the world-building was wonderfully detailed, the mystery aspects were disappointing. You’d think looking at the crime scene would be one of the first things Baley would want to do, but you’d be wrong. It took so long for Baley to finally check out the crime scene, or even just a recording of the crime scene, that for a while there I thought it would never happen.

Instead of investigating the murder in anything approaching a normal fashion, Baley spent most of his time trying to figure out how to pin the murder on Spacers. It really bugged me that he clearly didn’t trust Daneel and the Spacers, and yet he never once questioned that their analysis of the crime scene was anything other than correct and complete and that the crime scene contained no useful evidence.

The first time Baley accused Daneel of the murder, I was annoyed. It was the most easily disproven accusation ever, and it put Baley’s biases on full display. I already disliked both him and his wife, Jessie, and the accusation scene really didn’t help. Baley and Daneel’s partnership improved after that, and I really enjoyed the slight shifts in Baley’s thinking. He even complimented Daneel at one point! Which was why I basically blew up when Baley accused Daneel of the murder a second time. The accusation was prompted by unconscious desperation, but at the time it looked like more anti-robot backsliding on Baley’s part.

The true explanation for the murder was pretty good and fit the rules of the world, but it also made me shake my head because Baley could have figured everything out so much faster if he hadn’t been such a biased butthead. I mean, I’d managed to correctly guess several pieces of the final explanation only a third of the way through the book, and I’m terrible at figuring out mysteries.

Despite my problems with The Caves of Steel, I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, The Naked Sun. It’s a sci-fi mystery in which Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw are once again partnered up. Here’s hoping Baley is less annoying in that one.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-03-09 00:21
Yay! Lady-on-lady marriage!
Transformers Annual 2017 (Transformers: Robots In Disguise (2011-)) - Priscilla Tramontano,John Barber

I think the bots have yet to have a heterosexual marriage, but they have both gay and lesbian marriages.   Yay IDW!

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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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