Mar 27, 2012

Poul Anderson - Brain Wave (1954)

At dawn, the rabbit pulled his nose to the bars of the trap, pushed them up... and was released. From now on, humanity's dominion over the animal world has ended.

Before breakfast, a ten years old boy tinkered with some mathematical signs on his own... and re-discovered calculus.

The national education system has become obsolete overnight. By midafternoon, Peter Corinth's office at the Institute for Advanced Studies was buzzing with excitement. The first reports arrived raging and Corinth was thinking of the consequences. It was too early for the world to understand what was happening.

Prepared or not, humanity was heading for a great exaltation of mind. A new era was beginning, more exciting and more intense and nothing would be again as it was.

Plot Summary (Wikipedia)

At the end of the Cretaceous period the Earth moved into an energy dampening field in space. As long as Earth was in this field all conductors became more insulating. As a result almost all of the life on Earth with neurons died off, causing the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. The ones that survived passed on their genes for sufficiently capable neurons to deal with the new circumstance. Now in modern times the Earth suddenly moves out of the field. Within weeks all animal life on earth becomes about 5 times as intelligent. The novel goes through the triumphs and tribulations of various people and non-human animals and groups on earth after this event.

Poul and Karen Anderson by Greg Bear, their son-in-law

The premise is fascinating in this thought-provoking novel. Worth reading although a little sad. 

Mar 20, 2012

Paolo Bacigalui - The Windup Girl

Can you understand spanish? Take a look at this video, then:

If not, stay with me a little while.

Welcome to the twenty-second century. Anderson Lake is the right-hand man of AgriGen in Thailand, a kingdom closed to foreigners in order to protect their precious ecologic reserves.

But Anderson's job as a factory manager is actually a cover. Anderson combes the street stalls of Bangkok in search of the most precious booty for his masters: the food that mankind believed extinct. His mission is to discover the seed stock of unmodified plants disappeared many years ago in the rest of the planet, who mysteriously has been preserved in the isolated Asian kingdom, and deliver them to the multinational of biotechnology for which he really works.
And then he finds Emiko...

Emiko is a «windup girl», the last link of genetic engineering designed to serve. Accused by some of lacking a soul, accused by other of being devils incarnate, they actually are slaves, soldiers o sexual toys to satisfy the rich in a future disturbingly close.

Mar 13, 2012

John Steakley - Armor

Admiring bow cause, here, we're talking about the best military science-fiction.

Steakley wrote this cult classic war novel as a tribute to Heinlein, who didn't write fight scenes specially well despite his, on the other hand, undeniable mastery in all othe aspects of novel writting.

I really like how R., from Line of Eld, describes this book and its hero: "A seemingly unkillable protagonist develops a split-personality disorder in order to survive being thrown repeatedly back into combat."

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the plot:

Armor is the story of humanity's war against an alien race whose foot soldiers are three-meter-tall insects ('ants') and it is also the story of a research colony on the fringes of human territory which is threatened by pirates. The two sub-plots intersect at the end.

The Plot on Banshee

The protagonist is Felix, an anonymous enlistee who's been given "scout" duty on an alien planet in the seemingly endless "Antwar." Little is known of him initially but that he suffers from burnout and refuses to die, even when it seems inevitable. He is part of the armored infantry arm of the Fleet, deployed to fight a war of extermination on an alien planet.

The Plot on Sanction

Most of the action of the final 2/3 of the book takes place on Sanction, a planet far removed from the fighting, at a Fleet research facility.
The deuteragonist is Jack Crow, a notorious celebrity and one-time pirate. A morally questionable character and a tough man who does not hesitate to kill.
We meet Jack in prison on an alien world just prior to his breaking out. He will infiltrate and sabotage the Fleet research project on Sanction.
On Sanction, Jack takes an old suit of battle armor to project Director Hollis "Holly" Ware, to ingratiate himself and get the necessary access to fulfill his bargain with Borglyn. But Jack is then asked by Holly to participate in an experiment to retrieve the data from the suit's battle recorder, which is the "memory" of the wearer while the suit was active.

This Amazon's customer review by OK "oneofme" is in my opinion very inspired:
"Armor is a subtly compassionate novel that explores human suffering like no other piece of fiction i know. it's english is not perfect. but the style is perfect for the story. the battle scence are graphic. the characters are rough. but once again they are true to the story. "

20th century american prose at its best, Armor is really a great book. Five stars, if you ask me.

As far as John Steakley is concerned, unfortunately he was not a prolific writer. He published two major novels, Armor (1984)[3] and Vampire$ (1990) and four short science fiction and fantasy stories. He was born in July 26, 1951, in Cleburne, Texas and died November 27, 2010, in McKinney, Texas

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