Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category


One of the things I get to do on a monthly basis is to sit down with a big list of upcoming books both fiction and nonfiction and decide which ones will make it into my library branch. It is a tedious, but it lets me know what’s out there and though not everything I desire do make it, at least I know that other branches have it and I can stalk their stacks. A few months ago, I came across Vigilance in one of those lists and as I read the synopsis, at first gave me a chuckle and I knew it was only a matter of time before someone wrote about this. And then I decided … why not. But enough with the bollocks of librarian life and let’s get on with the blooming review. Yeah?

John McDean is on top of his game (literally) and the name of the game is Vigilance. Apparently, mass shootings have become as common as having cereal for breakfast in the morning, which someone decided to not only monetize this “phenomenon” but turn it into a game show. This John McDean’s Noble Prize moment. And yes, welcome to 2030 America, where your murder will be televised on ONT (Our Nation’s Truth) tv network. Yes, I kid you not, that’s name of the network … sound’s almost like OAN (but we’re not going to touch that mess … for now). To get on the show, anyone can register online and then they have to go through a “screening” process. Apparently, not just any backwater psychopath can muster the cut (to paraphrase Debra Foreman from Real Genius): folks have to have standards. Bloody hell, an actual Debra Foreman reference (Google her, folks). For those that make the cut, the rules are “simple”: if the active shooter dies, all of his contacts get one million dollars; the surviving shooter (yes, there are more than one) providing there are no civilians, other shooters or law enforcement official left alive in the “arena”, gets 20 million dollars; if a civilian or law enforcement official kills the shooter they get 5 million dollars. Now here’s the kicker, the “arena” could be anywhere at anytime on a given day. In other words people know the day, they just don’t know the when or where. Who knows, it could be the very bar that you are sitting in watching the next Vigilance broadcast (order something more than the hot wings for it might be your last meal). Or the mall. Or a metro station. Hence, this is why people are encouraged to be armed where ever they go, just in case. Hence, the name Vigilance.

Believe it or not, Vigilance is a bit of sci-fi dystopia as we deal with exquisitely vicious uses of big data, AI that produce computer-generated, ex-military, tactical commentators (yes, there are commentators during the bloody show) or can real-time CGI an armed Vietnamese girl into an apple pie Nordic American female spouting all kind of propaganda bollocks as she squeezes off rounds. Then there is virtual and holographic sex involved. Just going to leave it at that. The book is mostly centered around to perspectives: John McDean and Delyna, a waitress at the South Tavern Bar. A new game of Vigilance is about to begin and McDean is about to cream his pants as he and his staff analyzes possible game arena prospects. On the other side of town, Delyna is serving up hot wings and drinks to bunch of mostly armed patrons all gathered there to watch the next exciting game of Vigilance. Yes, hot wings, alcohol … and armed patrons … what can possibly go wrong? I’m afraid that you’ll have to read that for yourself. Trust me, it’s good.
Slightly under 200 pages, Bennett packs a ton of suspense, gore, dark humour and surprising twists (with a smattering of racism and misogyny) … all done at a decent pace. Vigilance doesn’t come across as preachy (as some might logically assume) but it entertains while subtly screaming a wake up call of sorts. It is simply a story projected into a stark future using a social plague as an exaggerated background. It is the Purge meets the Running Man meets Battle Royale. And whether you are pro-gun, no-gun or in-between you’ll start reading Vigilance with one reaction and end with another. And for the most … one can only hope that Vigilance remains condemned to the white pages of fiction (in light of all the bollocks we are enduring) and is not a harbinger of things to come. And for some, might actually give us something to think about. Bloody hell.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Bone Music is centered around Charlotte Rowe. What can we say about Ms. Rowe? She’s had a strange life and it only gets stranger as the book goes on (p.s. the “stranger” thing might be the biggest understatement … ever). Born Trinia Pierce, stuck on the road during a rainy night, her mother had the misfortune of crossing paths with a husband and wife serial killing team (Abigail and Daniel Bannings). No surprise, the mother was murdered … but Trinia was spared. Now before you start getting all weepy and calling the Bannings “serial killers with a heart of gold” … let’s not. Turns out that they were at odds with killing an infant, though they had no problem with raping and killing women. So in some sick way they had adopted her and decided to raise her in their “ways”. Daniel raped the victims, Abigail cut their throats, and an unwitting Trinia operated a home-built incinerator that burned away their existence. Fate intervened eventually and Trinia was freed from their clutches as the FBI had closed in on them. With the Bannings in prison and Trinia back with her father (her surviving parent), one would think that all’s well. Not quite. Trinia’s dad decides to make some money off of his daughter’s trauma by selling her story to movie studios which in turn makes some slasher sequels. Along with that, they travel around the country on speaking engagements and … encountering a stalker fan named Jason Briffel. On top of it all, she’s being bullied at school by a tosser named Luke Prescott who gives her the nickname “the burning girl”. Rosy adolescence it is not. She eventually moves on, after school, separated from her father, and changes her name to Charlotte Rowe. Eventually she finds a therapist named Dylan … and the healing begins. Um … not quite. Somewhere along the way, Dylan “prescribes” some pills to Charlotte to help her “stabilize”. On the very day she starts taking the pills she returns home only to find Jason (stalker) waiting for her, with some possible dark deeds in mind (let’s just say he’s not planning on having tea and crumpets as they discuss current events). Unfortunately for him, the strange pill that was prescribed by her therapist (Dylan) did more than stabilize her … it bloody unearthed her inner She-Hulk. Needless to say, it did not go well for Mr. Briffel. On her way out of town, she’s run off the road by a local (the fictional town of Altamira, California) meth dealing outlaw biker crew, who, marinating in alpha-male bollocks, decides to exert themselves on this “lonely” girl. Alas, they learn the hard way, and in the most vicious fashion. Confused by the turn of events Charlotte turns to the only person she can trust … Dylan … only to find that Dylan may be more than he appears to be. Apparently a former Navy SEAL with degrees in biochemistry and neuroscience … that worked for a giant pharmaceutical and tech company (Graydon Pharmaceuticals)… that may have engaged in some dodgy research. And just when Charlotte’s feeling betrayed and torn … a new sheriff comes to town. Luke Prescott … the wanker that bullied her in high school. To make things worse, Graydon found out about Charlotte’ s abilities … and they have a very, vested interest in her. Oh yes, there is a new serial killer in town known as the Mask Maker and he’s gotten Charlotte’s interest. Along with a motley crew consisting of a wise-cracking but tactically sharp uncle Marty, Luke Prescott and his brother Bailey (hacker extraordinaire), Charlotte finds her life hurtling down a turbulent, vicious wormhole as she navigates the shenanigans of Dylan and Graydon, zeroing in on the Mask Maker like the avenging angel she’s become.
Mr. Rice has written many books, but this the first one I’ve ever read (aside from his collaboration with his mum on Ramses). For some reason this book resurrects Stephen King’s Firestarter in my mind. Company experiments, female girl endowed with abilities, shadowy folks, and even more interesting … they are both referred to as Charley. Yes, I know King’s version involves Drew Barrymore burning stuff with her mind along with a great Tangerine Dream soundtrack (yes, nerd cred and … possible loss of marriage prospects … what’s new). Grips you from the beginning and keeps you riveted in what seems to be literary version of Fast and Furious chase scene … throughout the bloody book. And you never want it to end … which, unfortunately, it does. Though I must note the book is noted as “A Burning Girl Thriller” … which could possibly signify that Mr. Rice is not completely (and thankfully) done with Charlotte Rowe. To quote Martha Stewart: this is a good thing. Good show, Mr. Rice. Good show. Just don’t keep us waiting (like a certain author of certain popular show on HBO … yeah, I’m calling you out, Mr. Martin).

Read Full Post »


It has been a while since we visited our favourite futuristic, dysfunctional tropical planet, Lagartha. Mostly because I was being a cheap bastard and waiting for Hammond’s third KOP book in this delightful futuristic noir trilogy to show up on my library shelves. Alas, it didn’t and so I had to do the unthinkable: yes, I went out and bought it (gasp). But fear not, it was worth the 4 quid from Amazon. And so with all the niceties out of the way, let’s get on with it. Shall we?

Killer finds our favourite corrupt cop, Juno Mozambe, on the other side of the law as an average citizen, in the wake of his murdered partner, Paul, the former corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police (KOP). To make things worse, the murder was engineered by the new corrupt chief, Emil Mota, that now resides over KOP and uses the institution for his own personal gain. Sounds like a certain real-life administration. At this point Juno decides to get back into the protection racket whilst teaming up with a rag-tag team of loyal officers and his former partner Maggie Orzo (possibly the only clean-cut police officer in the entire planet … yes, it is that corrupt) in plan to get revenge on Mota. But this time it isn’t business as usual, for Juno’s ulterior motive is to get Mota out of the way in order to put Maggie in the position, for he feels that Maggie is the only one that can turn the system around for the … better. Yes, our favourite, corrupt, meat-eating, alpha-male, protagonist actually wants to do something that is actually virtuous and decent. But this is Lagartha (sort of rhymes with Sparta) and the only that that gets kicked down that bottomless dark hole as it gets showered by Gerard Butler’s spittle is decency and civility. So when Juno decides to call Mota out and challenge his rule, what happens is the unexpected as Juno realizes that his mouth may have written a check that his body (literally) might not be able to cash. And it doesn’t take much long in the book for the vicious, gory violence that is characteristic of Lagartha to rear its head. And it is quick and vicious. And pretty boy Mota turns out to be anything but. In 2798 (yes, it is way into the future) and Lagartha is about to heat up and we’re not talking about the planet’s vicious humidity. Life is cheaper than Lagarthan sewage and the depravity keeps setting the bar at newer heights. And as his rag-tag crew starts perishing, in the most vicious ways, Juno is caught in a cat-and-mouse that is breathless and terrifying. There are of course all the usual seedy delicacies: kinky, rich offworlder wanks, twisted warlords, and yes, even more corrupt, psychotic police officers. And what would a futuristic detective noir be without strange 28th century tech: cybernetic-enhanced vaginas (yes, you read right and this is not a spelling error), tattoos that can be turned on and off and even be animated, and anthromorphic enhancements that can turn people into things like werewolves. Yes, Lagartha is strange, vicious, tropical planet where if the humidity doesn’t kill you there is a good chance that inhabitants will … possibly just because they can and for some other silly reason.
Hammond’s third KOP book, in what feels like a trilogy, keeps up the tempo from the other two and then some. It grabs you by the throat, viciously taunts and teases you as peer anxiously around each page as you would around the corners of a large mansion that has a rampaging maniac, and hurtles you in break-neck speed (busted brakes and all) towards a blood stained conclusion. Sorry, but this … is … Lagartha.

Read Full Post »

11.22.63_cvr

One would think that a self-professed Stephen King fan, such as yours truly, would have devoured this book ages ago. Sadly, it took me a while to come to my bloody senses and (finally!!!) read this book. Well, in actuality, it was the prodding of several patrons (who are also King fans … and apparently better at it) and the fact that Hulu decided to make it into a mini-series. And since I don’t have a Hulu subscription … well, you know.

The best part was the moment I picked it up, I realized that it was going to be very hard to put down.

Jake Epping is an English teacher that lives in Maine. During the day he teaches regular school and on some evenings teaches GED classes. One of Jake’s little pleasure is stopping by Al’s Diner for a burger and shakes that are sold at ridiculously low prices and the meat is rumoured to be derived from stray cats. Hold your horses, even King would not be that sick (um … I think). Then one day, out of the blue, Jake Epping is approached by Al Templeton and is told the most bizarre tale: there is a portal that leads into 1960s and it is located in the diner’s pantry. I know. Considering the tales and rumours surrounding Al’s “cheap” burgers, it would be enough to start a red flag parade in one’s mind. Except for one thing: Al had aged, progressively, within a very short period of time and was dying from cancer. Giving into curiosity, Jake takes the plunge (literally) down the rabbit hole and finds the portal that leads back into the 1960s … where burger meat was less than a quid per pound. But as intriguing as it is to go back in time, the portal comes with its own set of rules. For one, you can spend many years in the 60s which may only turn out to be a few hours in the present. Secondly, any alterations you make in history can be reset if you re-enter the portal (e.g. let’s say you go into the past to and shoot Jim Jones, you’ll emerge to find that Jonestown never happened and my birthplace doesn’t have a historic black eye that is related to Kool Aid – but then you forgot to buy those Apple penny stocks by the truckloads and so you go back in – and voila, my country of birth gets to contribute to the saying “drinking the Kool Aid” … sure, you’re filthy rich while the only way I can stop people from confusing my birthplace with an African country is to mention “Jonestown” … I have seriously detoured … parenthetically speaking). Well you get the point. So as Al faces his last days on earth, he wonders what life would have been like, in America, if JFK wasn’t assassinated. Jake, at the same time, is haunted by a GED essay that was written by Harry Dunning (a janitor) that spoke of the time his father murdered his family with a sledgehammer and almost killed him (Harry). So Al convinces Jake to go back in to the portal to try and twart the death of JFK. It is apparent that Al has spent a lot of years in the portal as he gives Jake “notes on Oswald and sporting events and their outcomes (that he can bet on to make some serious money). Soon Jake is on a strange odyssey that takes him from Maine to Florida and eventually to Texas, as he encounters murderous bookies, vicious rednecks, doctor-endorsed Lucky Strikes cigarette commercials, artery clogging diner food, a wife-beating loser named Oswald, and a gorgeous Sadie Dunhill who becomes his love interest and indulges in copious amounts of the good old in-out in-out.
Over 1,000 plus pages, King spins a really intriguing yarn that sinks it claws into you and reels you in and it is time travel like you’ve never read it before. No fancy gizmos, or some old dude chomping on cigars screaming at some computer named Izzy (yeah, I just threw in a Quantum Leap reference), or girls in latex outfits speaking in British accents. Just a strange portal lurking in some bloke’s diner pantry. There is intrigue and suspense as Jake starts getting to close to Oswald and into other situations that should have really stayed clear off. And then there is Sadie, with her own secrets, sort of like Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy, except this husband isn’t beguiling (or possibly handsome) as Patrick Bergin and he’s got some serious issues (something about sleeping in bed with a broom … yeahhh). Now you’re probably wondering if he succeeded in saving JFK’s life and what was the world like. Yeah. I try not to be a bloody tosser and ruin stuff for folks, so I’m afraid that much you’ll have to read that much on your own … but, oh the trip you WILL have on the way there. Once again, premium King that doesn’t disappoint and being the sicko that he is, he has actually enclosed a ton of 1960s-type diner recipes at the end of the book in all of their artery-clogging glory. Demon. I will try a few. Maybe a couple times.

Read Full Post »

earthafire_cvr

Co-author: Aaron Johnston

Several months ago, Ender’s Game premiered on the big screen and it was quite the blockbuster. Written more than a decade ago, Ender’s Game was about a juvenile military officer (Ender Wiggin) and his strategic battle against the invading aliens known as the Formics. Of course, we all know how that ended (please tell me that you saw the movie, mates).
Earth Afire is the prequel to Ender’s Game and it introduces us to the Earth prior to and during its invasion by the Formics. The books opens with a precocious (and apparently wise beyond his years) teenager named Bingwen sharing a video downloaded on the nets (yes, I know they call it the nets, and not the internet). It is video of an actual attack by the Formics that was transmitted from a terraformed planet by a miner named Victor Delgado. Did I mention that he did this at great risk to his life? The problem is that many folks in the Lunar moon colonies (yes, we’re living on the moon and all that other bollocks) and Earth spent most of their time debunking the video calling it hoax leaving poor Victor aghast and losing his marbles. Either that or they were too busy catching up on the latest craziness of the Real Housewives Of the Orion Belt On Saturn and they couldn’t be bothered with some alien that is bent on ANNIHILATING the world. And the sad truth is that this is a workable possibility … alas , a slight detour, won’t you say.
In time the Formics make it to Earth and starts their attack on … China. Yes, I hate to break it to those of us that watched Independence Day or War of The Worlds, but this time the aliens decided to go east on us. And the fate of the world rests in the arms of an interplanetary, motley crew of characters: Mazer Rackham ( a rogue New Zealand SAS officer), Lem Ukko (the machiavellian son of a space mining mogul), Bingwen (an extremely brave and wise teen beyond his years), a defiant astrophysicist and a rogue government worker (and no she is not a postal worker). Interestingly enough, throughout the book as the Formics ravage the terraformed planets and Earth itself, one can only read on in complete and utter dismay as human beings still bicker over trivial and absolute bollocks. Sorry there was no Bill Pullman giving inspirational speeches about Independence Day that would whip the human race into some awesome unifying fighting force. Sorry mates, different sci-fi. And the sad truth is, it is not far from the truth. And we only need to take a nice glance at the wanks in Washington to confirm this harsh reality that is bound to keep most of us up at nights, huddled next to a bedside lamp as we clutch our beloved AR-15 rifle. A bit too dark on that one, wasn’t I?
Card’s Earth Afire is delightfully thought provoking, filled with intrigue around the bends of each page and with such intense action to set your imagination on fire. Sir Ben Kingsley plays the role of Mazer Rackham in Ender’s Game, but after reading Earth Afire most would find a fondness for the character. I promise you this. And yes, you’re gonna love Bingwen.

Read Full Post »

cellcookcover

George Wilson, MD, is a senior radiology resident in a major L.A. hospital. A promising future and a loving fiancée, George’s future is so bright that he’s got to wear shades (oh Timbuk 3, we need you chaps back on the radio). And then one morning, George awakens with a dead fiancée in his bed … seemingly due to Type 1 diabetic complications. Several months later whilst going through the grieving process, George attends a seminar hosted by Amalgamated Healthcare, where he runs into an old flame (Paula Stonebrenner) and the revelation of a new medical breakthrough in the form of a smartphone app called iDoc. A convergence of informational technology, nanotechnology and genomics, the iDoc is poised to be quite the thing to supplement the Affordable Care Act where virtual digitized doctors monitor and offer medical advice without the inconvenience of waiting in line at the local hospital or clinic. Now I know what you’re thinking: a health insurance company coming up with a solution to “help” the healthcare system. Seriously, that alone is some really good medical fiction right there. But alas, here it is. Soon George discovers that there are many people using iDoc as beta testers. Among them was his late fiancée (hmmm, you say). And just when the uneasiness of being replaced with Siri, MD, was beginning to arise in George, many of the beta testers started dying on him which ranges from a friendly neighbour to several patients he’s actually worked with. Still not impressed or intrigued? Oh yes, did I forget to mention that most of these victims were either terminal or potential terminal cases. Bloody hell, you’re saying about now … and you’re in good company. As George decides to investigate iDoc (the accidental death panel known as Siri) and Amalgamated Health, he finds himself entrenched in a sinister game of cat and mouse where his sleuthing threatens Amalgamated’s bottom line (aye, that is always a good thing) and George stands to lose more than just his residency or sanity.
Cook’s Cell is a neck-breaking thrill ride down a dark, twisting mountainside on a very thin road … with the lights off. It grips you by the throat all the way to the mind-blowing end … and yes, it will blow your mind. And if anything, it’ll make you appreciate those long waits at your local clinic as you thumb through old People magazines or endure Judge Judy or the Price is Right on a crappy telly … over some PHd enhanced Siri that simply wants to kill you. Just saying mates.

P.S. Siri is not the actual virtual avatar that is used in the book. I just used her because … well … she makes such a great target. Tee hee.

Read Full Post »

rcooknano

I am fascinated with the world of nanotechnology. The concept of making robots so small on a molecular level that could (one day) swim around your blood stream eating cancers and tumors or even used to generate organs from a vat of organic chemicals … fascinates me immensely. So when I saw the Nano by Robin Cook, it was literary Christmas times two (yes, I need to get out more).

Interestingly enough, Pia Grazdani returns. You, know the chick from Death Benefits (just a few posts down, mates) with the scary baggage. After surviving some “stuff” (sorry but I don’t intend to ruin it for those that haven’t read Benefits as yet) in NYC, she takes some time away from her studies and finds herself in the employ of Nano; a company that is doing pioneering research in the field of nanotechnology and headed by the charismatic, driven Zachary Berman. Nestled at the foothills of the Rockies (in Colorado), with a magnificent campus, Nano is a seemingly Pia’s ideal workplace. Did I that, somehow, Mr. Berman has somewhat tapped into unknown source of “unlimited funding”? Well, I guess I just did. During a jog through the sprawling campus, Pia encounters a fallen “employee” that has seemingly succumbed to a severe seizure. When the man suddenly recovers from (let’s just say … um … ) death and then whisked away from hospital by special Nano staff to a highly restricted area of the Nano campus, a sea of red flags are raised in Pia’s mind about the situation. As Pia struggles to unearth the secrets of Nano, she discovery reveals a Pandora’s box of vileness that shatters the scientific utopia of Nano: human experiments. And yes, there is no such thing as “unlimited funding” and if there is … be careful of the hosts for they want something even more. To make things worse, Mr. Berman has plans for Ms. Grazdani that have more to do with silk and satin sheets and other bits of naughtiness rather than late night discussions of the latest techniques of molecular production.
As Pia is drawn to the terrifying truth, we find more twists than a DNA helix where everyone aren’t what they seem and the limits that some are willing to go for the sake of profitable medical technologies … even if it involves murder.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »