Category Archives: head

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter — The Long Earth Series

I just finished reading the fifth and last of Pratchett’s and Baxter’s science fiction series collaborationThe Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, The Long Utopia, and The Long Cosmos. Sadly, Terry Pratchett died before the last book was published.

“Long Earth” is the name given to an infinite series of parallel worlds, which can be reached by a “stepper.” Each Earth is slightly different, and if you step far enough down the line, the differences become extreme—different flora and fauna, different atmosphere, gravity, even a gap where the earth no longer exists. But homo sapiens only exist (before stepping) on Datum Earth, the name given to our original earth.

This is a saga with a varied cast of characters. Joshua Valienté is a natural stepper who doesn’t need a device to step between worlds. Lobsang is an artificial intelligence who travels the Long Earth with Joshua. Sally Linsay is a natural stepper and the daughter of the man who invented the “stepper” box. Sister Agnes is a nun who was Joshua’s caregiver at the orphanage. Then there are the trolls, a hominid species with natural stepping abilities who left Datum Earth long ago. The “Beagles” are a canine intelligent species inhabiting Long Earth. There are more characters and groups of characters, but I won’t try to list them all.

Each book has more than one story line and plenty of imagination. You can read any of the series as a stand-alone, but if you want the whole picture, you will want to read them in order.

Robert Crais — Suspect

I! Love! This! Book!

I don’t usually read two books in a row by the same author, but after reading The Promise, I went looking for Suspect. I wanted to read more about LAPD K-9 cop, Scott James, and his German shepard partner, Maggie.

Scott and Maggie are both suffering from PTSD. Five hooded men shot Scott and killed his partner and two civilians almost ten months earlier. He refused to take medical leave and opted to join the canine corp. He finds Maggie cowering in a crate. Scott’s sergeant, Dominic Leland, has scheduled her to be sent home due to problems adjusting to training. Scott and Maggie connect. The sergeant reluctantly lets him take the dog home, giving them (man and dog) two weeks before another evaluation. Leland doesn’t believe either will make the grade.

New detectives assigned to the case where Scott was injured invite him to help. Frustration and anger keep leading him into trouble.

The best part of this book is the growing relationship between Scott and Maggie—how they help each other recover. Excellent writing. Possibly Crais’ best novel.

Irene “Susie” Smith — Angel of Tears

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This story of a young girl, Summer, growing up in Detroit is a rewrite of an earlier novel. There are some added details and an epilogue. I enjoyed every minute of it, especially Summer’s connection with her neighbor, an old albino woman.

Irene’s characters are believable and likeable (except those who are not so nice). Her story flows and keeps you reading to the end. Her descriptions of Detroit in the fifties takes you back to another time.

The author writes from the heart. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry.

Alexander McCall Smith — The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

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The author has a unique voice and style of writing. The pace is pleasant and meandering through the heat of Botswana in southern Africa. This is the latest in the series about The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

His main character, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the detective agency, wanders through the story with her mind drifting to related and totally unrelated subjects from whatever problem she is trying to solve. She is a big, warm-hearted woman who is always concerned with doing the right thing for her clients, her friends, her employees, her husband, and most anyone she meets.

In this novel, Mma Ramotswe has been persuaded to take her first vacation since she started her business. She is leaving the agency in the hands of her partner, Mma Makutsi. She is concerned about how the office will be run while she is away and not enjoying her vacation. She encounters a young boy on the streets of Gaborone and feels obliged to help him. Then Mr. Polopetsi, a school teacher who works part-time for her agency, asks her for help with a new client. She doesn’t want to interfere with her partner and how she is running the business, but ends up helping. She may not be going into the office, but she is not on vacation.

The setting is wonderful. I can feel the dry heat of the land, can almost smell the cattle when Precious goes into the country. The author captures the culture of Botswana. I can visualize the people in the streets of Gaborone.

The point-of-view is different. It is mostly third-person subjective from Precious’ viewpoint. But when she is in conversation with other characters we are sometimes privy to their thoughts as well.

Alexander McCall Smith’s writing is slow-paced, scattered, and delightful at the same time. I normally read books that are fast-paced thrillers. His writing is a pleasing change of pace.

Cory Doctorow and Charles Stress — The Rapture of the Nerds

Full Title:  The Rapture of the Nerds 
A tale of singularity, posthumanity, and awkward social situations.

I read somewhere that speculative fiction that predicts the future is truly about the era in which it is written. I believe this was in reference to one of the classic dystopian novels, Brave New World or 1984. The Rapture of the Nerds is written in our far-flung future but definitely reflects our current world.

The novel is set in a future Earth where most of the population has chosen to leave and become part of “the cloud,” which occupies the inner solar system. The protagonist, Huw, is quite happy in his simple home and garden in Wales where he spends his time throwing pottery. His parents gave up their earthly bodies and left for the posthuman cloud fifty years ago.

Huw volunteers for jury duty to judge whether or not to accept the latest technology tossed back to Earth from the cloud. This leads him to being chosen as witness for those still living on our planet when a decision is eminent as to whether to preserve Earth or use its resources and move everyone into the cloud.

The book is ridiculously funny, full of pokes and prods at today’s world. If I read it ten times I would probably catch something new each time.

I have read other novels by Doctorow but none by Stress. Together they wrote a rollicking good story.

Antonia Hayes — Relativity

Ethan is a gifted 12-year-old in Sydney, Australia, who thinks in physics and sees it in the world around him. He sees waves in sound and light. Naturally he is abused and bullied in school for being different. But when the boys insult his mother, he fights back and injures the boy who was his best friend until recently.

After the fight, Ethan runs from a meeting with the principal and parents, where the injured boy’s mother is insulting Ethan’s mom. He is so upset he has a seizure and ends up in the hospital. Here he learns that he had a brain injury as a four-month-old baby. The doctor thinks that to compensate for the damage, Ethan’s brain has rewired in some unique way.

Claire is Ethan’s overprotective mother. She has never told her son about the injury, not wanting to hurt him. She is a former ballet dancer and everything in her life is very precise and controlled.

Mark, Ethan’s father, was accused of “shaken baby syndrome” and sentenced to jail after Ethan’s brain injury. He is a physicist who never finished his doctorate—interrupted when imprisoned. He now lives on the other side of Australia working at a mundane job in the labs of a mining company. He claims he did not injure his son. He returns to Sydney to visit his dying father. He hasn’t seen his father, ex-wife, or son for 12 years.

The story is told from three points of view—Ethan, Claire, and Mark. We see the interaction between Mark and Claire, who still care for each other but blame each other (and themselves) for the disruption in their lives when baby Ethan was injured.

Ethan is now learning about his father, his brain injury, his life, the realization that his mother has been lying to him or at least hiding things from him. He connects with Mark (without Claire’s knowledge) who understands the way he thinks.

Hayes first novel is unique and completely captured my attention.

 

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Walter Mosley — Inside a Silver Box

I’ve read Walter Mosley novels before, usually mysteries. Knowing he writes science fiction too, I thought Inside a Silver Box was one of his SF works. But it is much, much more. I’ve posted about mixed genres; this is the ultimate mix. It probably can’t be classified. Try fantasy, SF, mystery, thriller, quest, literary, psychological, philosophical…. It also fits all of my three H’s—Head, Heart, and Humor.

Two people, black thug and rich white girl, are perpetrator and victim brought together when he saves her life. They become friends and together they set out to save the world from the Silver Box and its evil alter ego. If it sounds like a wild tale, it is. But Mosley is an excellent writer who makes you think.

The book is unique, strange, and for me captivating.

Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett — The Silent History

I stayed up ‘til 4AM a couple of nights ago reading a SF book – The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett. This is soft or social SF. I found the book fascinating for several reasons. One is the fact that it is a collaboration between three authors. Something that caught my attention was that the story was originally written as an iPhone app. Another reason is that they wrote in first person, but each chapter is from a different character’s point of view. You don’t see many books written multiple first person.

An interesting point is that these characters may show up in only one or two chapters or they may continue to appear throughout the book. This made the story a bit difficult to follow when I started reading. I kept thinking, “Did I see this person before?” But that didn’t last when I got into the story.

The plot: Children are born without language capability. It turns out to be a virus and more and more children are born with this condition.

I could get into the story and the characters’ reactions. I could tell you how it relates to the way people today respond to anyone who is “different.” I could tell you how the story progresses. Instead, I’ll let you read this very absorbing story.