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Posts Tagged ‘dystopian’

A Review of Califia’s Daughters

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 18, 2016

Califia's DaughtersCalifia’s Daughters by Leigh Richards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Califia’s Daughters is one of the most unique, inventive, thought provoking, dark, disturbing, pseudo-violent, feminist-based, post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels I have read in a long time, if ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came away impressed with the book and author. What a work of art!

The book takes place in the not too distant future after some type of apocalyptic nightmare has taken place, presumably throughout North America, probably the world, and most certainly California. Most people have forgotten how to use things such as automobiles and planes, or that there even were such things years ago, and for most, life consists of an agrarian society. At some point, someone – we’re not told who – released biological/chemical/ radioactive agents/toxins that have caused various plagues around much of the world, resulting in a monster virus affecting the world’s men, so that nine of every ten male babies and men in general who are born or live die shortly after birth or contracting this virus. Thus, two things. One, it’s a matriarchal society, with women having to assume ALL roles in society – hunter/gatherer, homemaker, warrior, scientist, farmer, etc., and two, all surviving males are treated like precious gemstones, to be protected at all costs, given regular security, aren’t allowed to do anything dangerous, must hide if anyone new comes to their villages, must be protected from infections, etc. And every village has Amazonian-like warrior women. In this novel, in the Valley in which we read about, the chief protector is Dian and her guard dogs, who she has trained to be perfect guards and killing machines. Additionally, she has additional warriors she has trained to protect the Valley.

So it passes that one day, a group approaches, something to fear, and they are met by Dian and her dogs. It is a group from another town up in northern California and they come bearing a gift and a proposition. It’s quite odd. They would like to bring and leave a male as their gift, quite a valuable gift, if Dian’s town will allow them to relocate to the Valley and join forces for protection from the evil armies forming up north and moving southward. The town council contemplates it and tentatively decides to accept their offer, but Dian’s sister, the leader, and Dian agree that she will secretly go up to their town on a reconnaissance mission to see if everything is as they say it is, if they’re on the up and up, before ultimately allowing them to move south to join them. It will be a long, arduous trip, but a necessary one.

And so, after wading through all of that preliminary stuff, the real part of the book that contains the action, character development, strong plotting, strong dialogue, extreme tension and intrigue, seemingly impossible scenarios, and horrible sacrifices takes place. And it’s all worth it. Dian travels north with a couple of her dogs, first through the major city of Meijing (the major West Coast city/power), then on up through the wastelands. What she experiences is nothing short of horrifying. What she encounters is humanity like little she’s encountered before, loyalty unlike what she was expecting, sacrifice more than any person should ever have to make, ungodly pain, Ashtown, the Angels, Breaker, an insane Captain who’s a psychotic bitch if there ever was one, serious violence, depression, an unexpected pregnancy, relationships that matter, betrayals, an uprising, escape attempts, the hopes and dreams of one day making it back to the Valley alive, etc.

It’s a tense, fascinating journey and I found myself on edge half the time, hoping like hell she could get out of the mess she was in. I was emotionally invested in this book. I also found it interesting, to be honest, to see how in a matriarchal society, so many stereotypical traits, often associated with men in a less than stellar way, shine through even though men not only aren’t the prevalent gender, but aren’t even exposed to society and culture. It’s as though there’s little to no difference between the two genders when the two are in power at separate times in history. To the best of my knowledge, the author is somewhat of a feminist, and many of her fans are definitely feminists, so I found this intriguing.

Whatever the case, I thought the ending was pretty good, but a little too abrupt. A whole lot was left out. A lot. We got to see the very final ending, but not how we got to transition from point A to point Z. I would have liked to see the points in between. Also, the epilogue seems to disappoint a number of people and I, too, wish it hadn’t been included. Nonetheless, this was such a unique, unusual, intriguing, well written, well thought out, well plotted book, that even with was minor flaws, I’m not going to quibble. This is definitely worth five stars. And definitely recommended!

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A Review of Burn Down The Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 23, 2016

Burn Down the SkyBurn Down the Sky by James Jaros
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Okay, at first I thought this book had potential. Emmy-winning author. Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian. I dig it. My kind of thing. Promising beginning. Lots of violence. I can deal with that. But then some creepy things start, well, creeping into the book. First, it’s the Wicca virus (nice title, eh?), where it’s spread by sexual transmission, but then eventually pretty much everyone is infected or a carrier – except young girls who have not yet menstruated, and they are not infected for one year, 365 days, after they first begin to do so, at which point they become infected and for all intents and purposes, become disposable. Which means, they’re the only females on earth that horny men can safely have sex with – 11 and 12 year old girls. Think about that for a minute. Then start thinking about the premise of this book. Yeah.

So, marauders go out to attack different camps, violently, and steal their young girls, and in this southern region based in old Knoxville, take them back to a freakish religious cult called the Army of God, which is armed, powerful, and made up of pedophiliac killers. This happens to a woman named Jessie, whose young daughter is stolen in a raid that kills over 100 of her colleagues. She and her daughter, Bliss, start out tracking this group, just the two of them, against well armed marauders, but they end up joining forces with some other people in their situation and start looking for this fortress.

The things that started disturbing me about this book, though, were the descriptions of the young girls and their bodies and what the dirty old men did to them. Vivid descriptions. Jessie’s daughter, Ananda, lived in fear of getting her first period because then she would be married off to a dirty old man, get impregnated immediately, hopefully give birth to a female child, that they could bring up for more sexual slavery – a boy child would be sold off – and after 365 days, she would disappear, permanently. It happens to all of the girls. There is torture. If you talk back, they wash you eyes out with lye to blind you to teach you a lesson. If you are too resistant, they say you’re in league with the devil, maybe even a witch, and burn you alive at the stake and make all of the girls watch.

Meanwhile, all of the girls have to strip, be washed, especially between their legs and buttocks, cleaned, changed. Ananda is forced to live with the fortress leader and his Nazi-like female companion, sleeping on the floor outside their door. He makes her take her top off and get a doll and practice nursing with it, so he can see her “light colored” nipples, multiple times. We’re given multiple descriptions of her pubic hair, size, shape, thickness. We see other naked young girls through her eyes. What this book eventually, sneakily becomes is not a dystopian sci fi novel, but child porn mixed in with some child torture – kiddie porn. It’s fucking disgusting. I have no idea if this is even legal. I guess if you can sell de Sade, you can sell this, but it’s beyond me why you would market child porn as sci fi and expect people to be okay with this. I found it disturbing, disgusting, repulsive, and appalling, and while part of me admired his writing skills, cause Jaros is a good writer, I was far more put off with the subject material and felt dirty after reading passages of this book. I’ve actually read worse, like when I read The Turner Diaries, but this isn’t a controversial underground white supremacist novel that inspired the greatest act of domestic terrorism in American history. This atrocity is on any sci fi bookshelf in America and that’s disturbing to me. Any 12-year-old kid could pick this up – and be scarred by it. As a writer myself, I’ve never advocated censorship and I’m still not sure I do, but this book belongs on the top shelf, or on its own shelf, or in a glass case – I’m not sure what the answer is, but it’s R to X rated and I don’t think 10 and 12 year old kids should be reading it unsupervised.

This book had a lot of potential and part of me is sorry I’m not going to find out what happens to the family, but I’m not going to subject myself to more and more child torture and child porn to find out. I’m not willing to sell my soul for so little in return. Even though the subject matter merits one star, the writing and originality of the book merits more, so I’m giving it two stars, reluctantly, with the provision that caution should be exercised by any and all who read it, knowing its subject matter is controversial. Therefore, two stars and not recommended.

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A Review of Edge

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 22, 2016

Edge (Josh Cumberland, #1)Edge by Thomas Blackthorne
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In a word: stupid. The book. And myself. Let me tell you how insipid I am. I got sucked in by the cool book cover. As did a ton of other people, apparently. As Eh?Eh! said in their Goodreads review of 2/14/11, “knives!, duel!, blood!, hell!, legalised (because we’re in Britain) knife fights!, blood!, black!, endless winter!, two people!, save!, this is their story!” Yep, that’s pretty good. Someone named “Megan” wrote in her Goodreads review of 10/16/11, “I’m not going to lie, I bought this book for the cover. I didn’t read the blurb, I didn’t read the first page, all of the little steps that bridge the gap between a book and my bookshelves flew out the window in the face of that cover. Knife fights! Blood! Duels! Sounds most excellent to me. When the book arrived I dared to think I had been rewarded for my rash purchase. The back blurb promised a dystopic future Britain where knife fighting had been legalised and where a giant wall had been erected around the city. Sounds very awesome, yes? At the very least it sounds finishable, and yet I barely made it half way through.”

And yet, to continue quoting Megan, “Let’s start with the book’s main conceit: Knife fighting: it’s legal! Why? Pfft, we don’t need to know a silly little thing like that, do we? And honestly, I would have been happy with minimal explanation of why knife fighting (to the death, mind you) was legal, if we actually got to see some, you know, knife fighting. As I said, I made it to the midway point, and not once had anyone actually had a fight involving knives. There was a lot of posturing and ‘why sir, you have offended me! I demand satisfaction!’ going on, but actual knife fighting? Not so much. I’m not saying that nothing happened, but it did feel like Blackthorne (I vaguely recall that this is a well known author’s alias, but can’t for the life of me remember who…) completely wasted the potential of his world. Here’s this big brotherish dystopic future London, but not one of the events of the first half of the book couldn’t have taken place in a book set in current day London. What’s the point of cool futuristic setting if you don’t make the most of it? Or at least something of it?”

So, this book is supposed to be a sci fi book, I guess of a dystopian near-future Britain where knife fighting/dueling to the death has been legalized, although I have no idea why. Apparently, there is a giant wall surrounding either the entire island of Britain or London, it’s hard to tell. There’s really no mention of it in the book either than on the back cover. And one of the key characters is some type of therapist we meet early on, Suzanne, I believe. She has a unique ability to hypnotize anyone within seconds and cure them of practically anything and even improve them through this process. The author does this thing where she talks to her patients and somehow her words simply fix whatever is wrong with them, or make them think in a whole new way, seemingly like magic. She’ll say something like “you are no longer shy, etc.” and suddenly, no more shyness for that character. It’s completely unbelievable. Since Blackthorne has taken great pains to set this book in the “real” world, given the dystopian unreality of things, this strikes me as odd and hard to believe. Superhuman traits. Doesn’t make sense.

But then there’s the superhuman ex-soldier, Josh Cumberland, who is hired by a rich dolt to track down his missing son, Richard. Richard is “hoplophobic,” meaning he’s afraid of knives, which isn’t very helpful if you’re living in a society where people can challenge you to a knife duel at any moment. He goes missing after his first therapy session with Suzanne, who was hired by Richard’s father to rid him of his phobia. Suzanne and Josh team up to find Richard and things progress from there just like any romance/action movie.

A lot of people complain that Josh is simply a Jason Bourne clone. I don’t know. I don’t know because I gave up before I got far enough in the book to find out. I just thought the book was too stupid to continue. There weren’t any knife fights. Suzanne’s powers were too Justice League. Josh was an action figure. Britain was 1984. What was the point? I didn’t derive any satisfaction out of reading any of this. I thought the author was somewhat clumsy at writing this, as though his scenes were written hastily, going for shock value in lieu of something more solid. It’s hard to describe, but it felt a little amateurish to me. The cover looked so cool and the blurbs on the front and back made it sound so cool and I got sucked in by them and I feel like an idiot, because that’s not usually what happens to me. Oh well. Live and learn. I won’t be buying anything by this author again. Stupid premise, stupid book. Not recommended.

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A Review of The Final Evolution

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 19, 2015

The Final EvolutionThe Final Evolution by Jeff Somers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Avery Cates is a bad ass. A major bad ass. And he knows it. And so does half the world. What’s left of it, anyway. It’s a futuristic dystopia Jeff Somers gives us in this five book series and it’s incredibly depressing, with death and destruction waiting just around the corner for practically everyone. Some go sooner than others though.

Cates is a Gunner. He’s a hired gun, a mercenary. He sells his services to the highest bidder and he’s one of the very best in the world. He has survived so much in this series and is still alive. It’s truly amazing. In this book, we see Cates and his apprentice and friend, Remy, in a South American country, ready to take out a small time dictator. They take care of his guards and kill him ruthlessly. When they go to collect their pay, the idiot who hired them claims to be broke and offers them jobs with him. Cates pulls his gun and is about to blow him away when an Angel appears. Angels are psionics with tremendous powers who go around passing judgment on people and killing them. One has come for him. And so it begins.

The book follows the two, with a beautiful female companion, up to Mexico City, where they encounter an old enemy of Avery’s. He’s been waiting to kill him for years. When he meets him, the man is in a hospital and shows him the stumps of where his hands have been cut off. Then he tells him that he’s bait for Cates. Avery starts to understand. Avery’s biggest nemesis and the greatest Gunner of them all, Canny Orel, is stalking Cates all the while while Cates has been after him. He has a score to settle. But Cates sort of blanks out and wakes up to find the guy in the hospital bed shot dead and Remy having done it. What the hell? He wanted to do it. Before this happened, Cates heard that Canny might be in Croatia, so that’s where he heads next, with Remy in tow. Remy acts strangely the whole trip and when they are on board a boat, where the three of them are stowaways, the crew finds them and sells them to some unknown party. Cates is ticked. Turns out it’s a group of Techies, people who are trying to preserve technology in a world where technological advances no longer exist, where manufacturing no longer exists.

First things first. Cates is knocked out. When he regains consciousness, his female friend has beaten it out of there and Remy is in a cage. Grisha, the leader of the Techies, explains that Remy is dead, Cates had killed him in the hospital, and this Remy is a powerful psionic who has been controlling Cates ever since. The psionic is killed and Cates can’t believe that Remy is gone.

Grisha tells him that the system cops left over from when there was a system are now avatars, dead people who have been uploaded into metal chassis’ and who are heavily armed. But while they have the capacity to keep order, they are about to run out of time in three weeks unless he can get the override codes. And he needs Avery to do it. See, Canny has the codes. And needs to be captured alive. But he’s the most powerful psionic avatar on earth and is holed up in a castle in Croatia, where he will be able to defend himself against nearly any attack. Cates agrees to do it, provided he gets Canny back when Grisha’s done with him. So he can kill him.

They take a Techie team and head to Germany, where they pick up some avatar system cops who will help out on the raid. Cates will lead a small team through a drainage pipe tunnel while the cops storm the castle. Well, shit happens. A lot of shit. People die. They come across zombies Canny is controlling, who are attempting to shoot them. Canny’s being is injected, partially, into a doll-like girl in the tunnel, whom Cates and the others capture. But they’re ultimately driven away.

They head to Spain. Cates is convinced Canny will come for them. He wants the head of the girl Cates took with them. It contains too much of his information and personality for him to be comfortable letting them have it. There are about twenty armed Techies and Avery. Then about ten psionics join them for the purpose of helping to defeat Canny. They set up trip wires, security, alarms, everything, and prepare.

Canny comes at night. They can tell by gunfire and the sound of someone yelling as they die. More people die. Canny’s getting closer. The thing about psionics is they have to see you to throw you up in the air or “push” you inside your head or anything like that. So Avery’s told Grisha and some others to always be on the move and don’t let yourselves be seen. One of their psionics spots Canny and throws him up into the air and a good ten Techies rush together to go shoot at him while he is aloft. But they don’t. He’s stopping them. Avery grabs one of the rifles and starts shooting, but Canny causes a buried hovercraft to come up out of the ground and land on the group, minus Avery, killing them all. Avery takes off down into the cellars. It’s an old prison that he had actually been in, with Canny, some years ago. And Canny appears before him. And they get it on. Canny tosses him around like a rag doll. Cates gets a few shots off. They do nothing. Canny pushes Avery’s mind and it’s horrible, but he’s able to withstand it ultimately because his brain was screwed up by the system several years before and is impenetrable. Canny flies through the air. Canny lands on Cates. He’s hurting everywhere. Avery gets him to go down an elevator shaft, where he drops some grenades and it does some good. Canny returns on fire and everything on top of his chassis is burned off. But then he bull rushes Cates and knocks into him hard. Cates knows he’s going to die. Somehow though, he’s able to get on top and pull his gun. He sticks it in an eye socket and pulls the trigger repeatedly. Tough luck Grisha. Not getting him alive. Cates wins in the end. Final scene: Cates walking a deserted street in Toledo, going into a deserted bar and getting some alcohol. Great ending to a great book and a great series. However, there is an appendix, which is really an epilogue, and it’s completely perplexing. It’s purportedly a diary of someone, a woman, somewhere in Croatia, probably back at the beginning of the troubles. People around her are disappearing. People around her are turning into zombies. And that’s it. What does it have to do with the book or the series? Perhaps I’m just stupid, but I didn’t get it and don’t know why it was included. Nonetheless, if you like uber violent dystopian cyberpunk, this is definitely the series for you. Strongly recommended.

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A Review of Degrees of Freedom

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 13, 2015

Degrees of Freedom (Samuil Petrovitch, #3)Degrees of Freedom by Simon Morden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Degrees of Freedom is the winner of the 2012 Philip K. Dick award and it’s very well deserved, I think. It’s the third and final book in the Samuil Petrovitch trilogy. I loved it and I hated to see it end.

Samuil Petrovitch is a nerd/mathematician/physicist living in London’s Metrozone, now called the Freezone. He has twice saved the city from disaster (in the previous books). (This is a future dystopia where Japan has sunk into the sea and America is full of “Reconstructionists,” crazed religious nuts out to destroy the world, not unlike today’s America.) He has handed control of the Freezone over to Sonja Oshicara, but he still plays a significant role in its running. The people there are busy trying to rebuild their city.

[SPOILER]

Sam and his oft-separated wife, Maddie, a former nun who is Amazonian in size and carries a big gun, hear there is an Armageddonist with a nuke in a park and they rush to the park. They find the large container housing the bomb and Petrovitch gets in to discover a mummified corpse holding what appears to be a nuke. He inspects it and thinks he can disengage it, but needs some tools, so he sends Maddie to get them. Next thing you know, some thugs show up, break his arm badly while beating him up, and take off with the bomb. He’s pissed. And he wakes up in a hospital with his arm in metal rings. Valentina, Tabletop, and Lucy are there, his crew, and they help him “escape” from the hospital, even though he’s doing horribly, because he wants to find the bomb before it’s used and he wants to stop these men.

He sees a video meant, apparently, just for him of masked men claiming they want the New Machine Jihad back, or they’ll blow the bomb. The New Machine Jihad was an AI-based monster that destroyed half the city in an earlier book that Sam thought he had killed. He knows of a group of NMJ worshipers, so he and the gang head off there, hoping to find the bomb. Problem. Sonja has declared him a criminal and claims he has run off with the bomb. So her troops are looking for him.

They get to the place where the worshipers are, and there’s no sign of a bomb. However, things seem off, and before they know it, men appear and start shooting! It’s the CIA, who have been trying to kill Petrovitch and Michael, the super quantum computer that’s possibly alive and that only Sam knows where it is. They want Michael destroyed. Petrovitch and the ladies get in a shoot out and escape, only to see a suspicious van leaving, possibly the people with the bomb, so they follow it. They overtake the van just as Sonja’s troops arrive. It’s a standoff. They let Sam and Valentina tear apart the bomb, carefully, though and it’s a fake — it’s not a nuke. Someone set them up.

They then decide to rescue Michael, which they do with a lot of effort. However, they need to get him to safety, so they use Al Jazeera’s satellite to upload him to other computers. He’s now active and helping Sam run things.

More stuff happens. Lots of action. Petrovitch and the girls are trying their best to both save the day and escape from harm. Finally, Sam announces that Sonja has screwed up things too badly and he’s firing her — she’s no longer in charge. I thought this was pretty naive on his part and it turned out I was right, because shortly after this announcement, some workers in the same park encountered some of Sonja’s troops and were fired on and killed. Sam and the women rushed to the park and killed the bad guys. Meanwhile, he’s trying to figure out a way to talk to Sonja and get her to stop. He finally decides to just go up to her office at the top of a high rise and talk to her, which seems unbelievably stupid. Until you realize his logic. He tells Maddie, who is pleading with him not to do this, that Sonja has never harmed him, except for the broken arm, and he thinks that was just a mistake. She’s had plenty of chances and each time, his life has been spared. He thinks if he just walks through her lines of troops guarding her building and goes up to her office, he’ll be safe. Because she’s in love with him. Has been for a long time. So he does it. He calls her and tells her he’s coming.

He goes to Sonja’s office. They talk. She tells him everything she’s done, she’s done for him. He says horseshit. She claims that the CIA came to her months ago, demanding his head, and this was the only way she could think of to keep him “occupied” and out of their clutches. And now he’s ruined everything. He tells her she was wrong. He tells her he’s going to go out there and correct everything she’s ruined. As he leaves, she pulls a gun out, puts it in her mouth and pulls the trigger.

He’s heard the CIA have a nuke with them. They’re going to blow up the Freezone and kill Samuil Petrovitch and Michael and everyone else. He’s got to stop them. He and Madddie go down into the underground tunnel leading to where Michael had been stored and catch up to the CIA operatives. Maddie kills one. They had already captured one previously. There were five to start with. Petrovitch releases an odd type of bomb he and Lucy have cooked up which doesn’t explode — it turns into a mini-black hole and sucks everything around it into it. They roll it down the tunnel and it gets the third agent. The final two are in Michael’s vault. Maddie climbs down and shuts the vault door, locking them in, but they know time is critical, because that bomb is going to go off and they have to warn everybody to get the hell away from there.

As Sam and Maddie are dragged out of a manhole, they tell everyone about the bomb and tell everyone to take off. Sam can barely move, he’s so badly injured. Maddie drags him. Fortunately, Sam had thrown his last little black hole bomb into the shaft above the vault, destroying the tower above it and collapsing it. Minutes later, the bomb explodes, knocking everyone to the ground and blowing houses, bridges, and other buildings to smithereens. However, the collapsed tower seems to have helped, because there’s no mushroom cloud. There is radiation, however and everyone heads for a radiation Red Cross site, where they are cleaned up. Sam loses an eye. He is probably going to lose his arm too. And he’s pissed. At America. As is everyone else. And he knows how to get back at them.

A phone in the White House rings. Someone picks up. Someone claiming to be Samuil Petrovitch speaks and says he wants to speak to the president. He gets an admiral. The admiral says they don’t talk to terrorists and is about to hang up when Petrovitch tells him he’s about to witness the destruction of his country. The admiral pauses, then hangs up. Sam rings the Situation Room and gets someone there. He demands to talk to the president. He won’t talk to Sam. Sam tells them Michael has inserted an indestructible virus in every American networked computer so that when they are powered down, they’ll be wiped permanently and the American economy will collapse. The Americans then notice that missiles have been launched from Russia, China, the European Union and elsewhere, hundreds of nukes, all aimed at America. They begin to panic. Petrovitch tells them they’re getting what they deserve. The president calls for his own nuke codes, while cities on the coasts start to disappear from the screen. Sam then asks what if this is not real? What if? Should you launch? The president starts reading the code. Someone stops him with two code words left and Petrovitch says to utter the last two, he has almost captured the whole string. The president fires two of his cabinet members, more cities disappear, but interestingly, no missiles are aimed at Washington. He reads the last two code words. Sam and Michael get them. One of the president’s men calls his brother in Colorado, which has just been hit. His brother answers and he’s asked if there have been any nukes exploding in his state. He laughs and says no. It was all a scam. Sam has scammed them and now has their nuke codes. He says he is going to post them to electronic bulletin board walls. He tells them he’s captured the entire conversation electronically and once the American people hear and see it, the president will be toast. He hangs up smiling.

There are a few wrap up things that happen, but that’s the gist of it. Sorry for the spoilers. If you like action packed, very violent sci fi that’s borderline cyberpunk, then this is definitely the book and series for you. I’m really going to miss Samuil Petrovitch. He was far from perfect. He was even deeply flawed. But he felt real, somehow. You lived his experiences and grew with him as he grew. It was a great ride. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Theories of Flight

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 25, 2015

Theories of Flight (Samuil Petrovitch, #2)Theories of Flight by Simon Morden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book in a three book series and I loved the first book so much, I had to get the next two. However, this one wasn’t quite as good as the first one, in my opinion. Still, it was pretty good and I enjoyed it.

Dr Samuil Petrovich is a scientist who has just discovered how to make anti-gravity. He works and lives in the Metrozone, which used to be London before Armageddon changed the world some 20 odd years ago. Before that, he lived in Russia. We’re never told just how he came to the Metrozone from Russia, nor how he survived Armgeddon.

In the first book, he meets a great woman named Maddie who’s an Amazonian nun with a huge gun who helps him defeat the New Machine Jihad. This book picks up four months later. And they’re married. The romantic in me had hoped to see the two of them together and I’m thrilled that they’re married. Unfortunately, the book starts out with his discovery of anti-gravity, only to have him receive a call that Maddy’s been shot — she’s in the army now. His face is all over TV, but he can’t stop to enjoy the fame — he’s got to get to the hospital. He does and she’s generally OK and actually goes back to the front lines quite soon after. Meanwhile, Sonja contacts him, as does Chaim, the old cop he barely got along with from the first book. He tells Sam that the CIA is after the technology behind the New Machine Jihad and has sent agents to the Metrozone. Unfortunately, he’s killed shortly thereafter. Then, the gist of the story starts. The Outties, the people who were barred from entering London during Armageddon and have lived in the outskirts in radiation ever since, are attacking with a force of some 200,000 people and the Metrozone army has to fight them off, and they don’t have enough forces. Sam takes his rat, his tablet I guess, and takes off across town in search of Maddie, but finds he’s on the wrong side of town and is surrounded by Outties and all of the bridges are wired to explode. Not good. He has a VR companion named Michael who he has running data crunches for him and he takes over command of the army with his help, using the US government’s own computers for computing power, as well as Wall Street’s. And then the book gets repetitive. See Sam run. Run Sam run. Watch Sam run. Sam runs. A lot. He’s shot at too, and does his share of killing people, but mostly he runs. Along the way, he gathers up a 14 year old wonder girl named Lucy as a companion, Sonja’s ninja bodyguard is killed, Valentina, a Russian mobster’s hit woman who’s helping him out, is along for the ride, and they all search for Maddie. Fruitlessly. By the end of the book, you’re banging your head against the wall, wishing the two would just get reunited to stop the damn running. However, along the way, Sam is able to keep up with his VR, command the military, stop the attack, attack the CIA agents, rescue Maddie and Lucy, who had been captured, and the end is grand. Except you don’t get to see Sam and Maddy together. She rides up on a motorcycle after he’s had a meeting with some city leaders and talks to him for a minute and then rides off. And that’s it! Very unsatisfying. I hope the third book will have more of her because she was such a great presence in the first book and I really missed her in this one. Still, it was a fun read, even with all of my complaints, and certainly recommended for any cyberpunk/sci fi fan.

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A Review of Ambient

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 7, 2015

AmbientAmbient by Jack Womack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant! Ambient is a 1987 (publication date) update of A Clockwork Orange with some additional ultraviolence and a new language thrown in. The author even pays tribute to A Clockwork Orange early in the book.

In this book, we follow O’Malley, a bodyguard for a dysfunctional CEO of a major company in a 21st century dystopian New York City. Avalon is Mister Dryden, his boss’s, mistress/concubine. She’s very young and very hot and has a thing for wigs. And O’Malley is in love with her.

O’Malley has another side to him. His sister is an “ambient,” or a genetically modified mutant living amongst each other who have their own language-within-a-language and who tend to be pretty violent. But hey, everyone in this book is violent. Rapes, muggings, murders, etc., are commonly seen and passed on by. O’Malley lives with Enid, his sister, in a run down nightmare of a place where no sane non-ambient would go. He’s accepted there because of her. Oh, and in addition to naturally occurring mutants, there are those who wish to join them and become ambients. Enid is one of these. She’s 6’3″ tall and has spikes sticking out of her head, pointed sides out. She’s also had her breasts cut off. She has a girlfriend who’s a psychopathic midget. Normal, right?

The army is fighting another army on Long Island and boys are being chewed up left and right. It’s your duty to serve, unless you can get a sweet gig like O’Malley has. The army boys are always shooting at people, into crowds, on buses and trains, raping girls in the streets — they’re insane.

Meanwhile, Mister Dryden’s father, who worships Elvis, owns the corporation and seems to be wanting to re-take control of what he’s given his son. He views his son as unstable. His son views him as unstable. Something’s got to give, right? Well, Mister Dryden convinces O’Malley to put a bomb under his father’s desk next time they’re visiting his estate, so he does. And he and Avalon finally hook up. Mister Dryden tells O’Malley he’ll have to get out of the country for awhile until the coast is clear, so he makes plans to do so. He and Avalon decide to go together, so after the bomb is set, they take off. And encounter some problems. People are out to get them. But why? Turns out Avalon knew about the plan, knew where the bomb was and went into the office and changed the time for it to go off when both Mister Dryden AND his father would be in there. However, they don’t know if it went off, or if it did, if the men were in there. So, they don’t know if there’s a manhunt on for them or not. And apparently there is.

O’Malley takes Avalon to his place in the Ambient part of town to hide out. The next morning, there’s a car outside, waiting. So they take off. And a chase ensues. They wind up down in the subway tunnels and come across a religious service the ambients are having, who do not like being interrupted. Just as they’re about to be killed, Enid intervenes and saves their hides. She and her girlfriend then take them through the sewers to a safe house. Tired, they fall asleep. When O’Malley wakes, he finds Avalon gone with a left for him note saying, “You’re next.” He’s both frightened and livid. He figures Mister Dryden has done it, so he goes after him. Then he goes after his father. He’s introduced to Alice, a monster computer that knows just about everything and is reunited with Avalon, who appears to have betrayed him to Mister Dryden’s father. He can’t believe it. And then … what? Do you actually think I’m going to tell you the ending? No way! It’s a great book and you’ll have to get it and read it and find out for yourself what happens. Apparently, this book is part of a series, perhaps the first one. If so, I want the others. It’s kind of cyberpunk, but not really. It’s kind of sci fi, but more just dystopian, so if you want to classify that as sci fi, have at it. It was a hard book to read because of all of the violence, and I’ve seen and read more than my fair share. At some times, it felt like a nightmare. I was honestly glad when it was over and I had finished. But I loved it. It was really original and really awesome. The characters were great, the plot was great, the dialogue was insane. Good stuff. Five stars. Strongly recommended, if you can stomach it.

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A Review of Equations of Life

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 4, 2015

Equations of Life (Samuil Petrovitch, #1)Equations of Life by Simon Morden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! Great dystopian novel. Samuil Petrovitch is a Russian ex-pat living in the London Metrozone after an apocalypse, that we’re told little about, has occurred some years in the past. He’s a grad student in physics and about to solve the problem of time travel with a colleague. Then something happens. He gets involved. He notices a beautiful young lady about to be kidnapped and possibly assassinated and grabs her. A chase ensues and they escape. The police get involved, of course. Turns out she’s the daughter of the biggest Japanese mobster there is and the Russian mob was out to get her. Now there’s a price on his head.

The book is one major chase scene after another through a rapidly deteriorating London. In the midst of this, he meets Maddy, a young Amazonian nun with the biggest gun he’s ever seen. They become partners. See, the girl he saved does end up getting kidnapped after all and he vows to save her. In the meantime, something called the New Machine Jihad starts tearing the city apart, with all of the electronics going crazy. He comes close to dying I don’t know how many times and many people do die in this book, but it’s not overly gross. I was reading Jack Womack’s Ambient at the same time, another dystopian novel that I really enjoyed, but I was seriously glad to be done with it because its violence was so insane. Not so with this book. My only real complaint with this book was the ages of the primary characters. Petrovich and Maddy are both about 20 and the girl he saved, Sonja, was about 17. Yet all have the emotional and mental abilities of people much older, in their mid-30s perhaps, as well as academic and work qualifications. Not totally believable there.

I don’t want to give away the plot ending and apparently there are two sequels, so I put them on my Amazon Wish List, as I really enjoyed this book and want to read more. I can see why this won the Philip K. Dick award. It’s not really cyberpunk, although it’s got some elements of it. It was published in 1987, so technology was more limited then. Still, the author did foresee some things, which was pretty cool. If you like this type of novel, try it out — you won’t be disappointed. Recommended.

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