miércoles, 14 de abril de 2021

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts.

I love how Mr. Watts writes. I like his pessimism and his vital cynicism, and above all, I adore his perspective of life and intelligence. In this novel the author maintains the level of controlled madness that has us accustomed but unfortunately I have not understood the end. For me this is a nonsense and apparently I am not the only one.

You can see the plot on the cover of the book, a really interesting approach, as well as its development throughout the novel, but as I have already mentioned the problem of the novel is the last part. Perhaps it has different meanings, or simply the last chapter was not necessary, I do not know.

For what it is worth, Peter Watts' The Freeze-Frame Revolution (2018) evokes me these two novels, by some aspects of the argument that I will not explain (because spoilers): on the one hand Dark Star by Alan Dean Foster and on the other Marrow by Robert Reed.

I must indicate that this novel is complemented by other stories that the author has published and that I have not read (except "The Island", great story). I think some of these stories can be found for free on the Internet.

In my opinion this is not his best work, but a less accomplished novel by Peter Watts is preferable to a good novel by many other authors.

jueves, 8 de abril de 2021

Frontera oscura de Sabino Cabeza.

Me he pasado media lectura pensando que este libro no merecía un Minotauro. El premio Minotauro, ufff, el mejor galardón del fantástico español, superando en prestigio incluso al UPC, bla, bla… Pero qué tontería, si mal no recuerdo esta es mi primera lectura de una obra ganadora, por lo que igual resulta que mi expectativa era desmesurada y mi presunción… pues eso, un poco presuntuosa.

El caso es que en algún momento, a partir de la segunda mitad de la novela, la trama gana en interés y la lectura me resulta más cautivadora. ¿Qué ha pasado? Yo creo que el estilo del autor no ha variado, ni tampoco el ritmo ni nada de eso. Simplemente en algún punto indeterminado se ha establecido una conexión entre la obra y el buen aficionado a la ciencia ficción que me considero (aficionado pero con unas cuantas lagunas, todo sea dicho).

Total, que para mi propia sorpresa, he terminado el libro pensando justo lo contrario, que es para novelas como esta que deben existir premios como el Minotauro, para proporcionar una oportunidad a carreras prometedoras como la de Sabino Cabeza, a quien deseo lo mejor y me quedo con ganas de leer más cosas suyas.

Sobre la historia en sí, muy brevemente: un buen relato de aventuras espaciales de corte clásico es siempre celebrado. Como sabéis, El espacio, la última frontera…

jueves, 28 de enero de 2021

The Future of Fusion Energy, by Jason Parisi and Justin Ball

Since I am interested in a book that acquaints a layman like me on nuclear fusion, this is an excellent choice.

The book starts with an exposition of the present and future energy needs of humanity, contemplating the possible options: fossil fuels, renewables, and nuclear fission and fusion. 

Then it exposes the physical principles and each of the technologies -both of which are many- involved in obtaining fusion energy. It is certainly a very, very complex (and expensive) issue. It should be noted that nuclear fusion -the energy from the sun - has been achieved artificially for more than half a century, with the fusion bombs. "Simply" it is a question of being able to lock up this force and use it for peaceful purposes.

So I realize that it is a very difficult subject to explain for a curious reader without specialized knowledge like me, but I think the book more than succeeds in doing so, with very didactic and understandable explanations -considering the complexity of the matter- and with the help of ingenious metaphors and also also some really funny comments.

Finally, the book also deals with the issue of fusion reactors as the energy that in the future can greatly facilitate space travel throughout the solar system.

Without a doubt the fusion energy itself is an achievable goal, it is only a matter of investment in research, time and also of political will, for example if the great international project ITER can be achieved (planned for 2025). We will have to be patient then, because without a doubt this must be the energy that meets the needs of humanity in the future, if there is a future...

domingo, 3 de enero de 2021

The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard.

I assume that I have not understood all that this book offers, maybe a 50% or less, so a rereading will be necessary. For this reason this review is merely a poor impression of the read.

On the other hand, I can say that even in the most nonsensical chapters, the prose of J.G. Ballard manages to captivate you, and that the author's comments at the end of each chapter in this edition are a little help to grasp more about the content -and the intent- of this... novel?

In the last part of the book, the reading becomes a bit -only a bit- diaphanous as we glimpse more clearly a criticism of the hypocrisy of the treatment of violence in the mass media -violence mediated by technology as in the Vietnam War or in the car accidents- and the deceitful seduction of the celebrities praised by these same media.

Despite all the above, for me it is an excellent reading that, as I have indicated, I should reread this book in the future.

sábado, 1 de agosto de 2020

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

For a while I will not be able to review or comment on my readings as I would like, so I can only say that A Darkling Sea is a good science fiction novel, a space (or aquatic) opera very entertaining, well developed and with good sciencefictional ideas.

jueves, 16 de julio de 2020

Hella by David Gerrold

(I am aware that there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)

As I said in a previous review I love monster movies. So when I knew that Hella was a planet with giant dinosaurs in it, I bought it the same day it was published. The fact is that I had a wrong (or rather uninformed) expectation of the novel. Hella is clearly a young adult book and this not the style of novel that I was expected. About this I must clarify that there are the good YA and the bad or poorly written ones, and fortunately Hella belongs to the former.

Great cover art by Leo Nickolls
As a first issue to consider, in a science fiction the worldbuilding is an important part of the fun, and more in this book in which the author delights the readers with detailed info-dumps about the planet and about how the colonist must have to adapt to it. For example, the day in Hella has 36 hours and the author manages an ingenious way to adapt to this cycle. They are a lot of details like this one and for me this is very good, Hella has a lot of things to offer and it is the main theme on which the first half of the novel is based. Thus, the reader can enjoy the awe of discovery, or in other words, the sense of wonder by the most straightforward route.

Hella and the colony’s community are introduced and explained in first person by Kyle, the main character who has an Asperger-like syndrome. You know it is a resource frequently used in science fiction -for example Mr. Spock or the android Data in the Star Trek series-: “I don't understand humans (or adults) so I must learn how they works and explain it to the readers/audience”. By the way, to Kyle and his handicap this means a sort of coming of age, first knowing the planet’s ecology and then about the colony troubles.

Unfortunately when we reach the middle of the read the things are turning ugly, both for Kyle & friends but also for the reader, because the main plot becomes something else entirely different. It starts with the arrival of a new Earth’s starship, which brings an artificial intelligence along with a new group of settlers. From then on the argument evolves towards the internal problems of the colony and how Kyle and his friends deal with them, so bye bye to the fascinating ecology.

In summary, mostly the great things of Hella are the planet itself and the colony-building, the new society that is being born according to Hella's ecology. About the main story, I can not consider it flawed but it is disappointing because as I said the book becomes quite a different thing. Also there is the young adult issue: with the good and bad people clearly defined, the exaltation of friendship and some typical teen plot twists. About the conflict that arises, I must say that the political positions that both sides represent are interesting, in a way Earth's problems are spreading to the new society they are trying to build.

As you can see in this case my review is more subjective than usual so it is possible that it do not serve as a reference, so you must read more reviews. For example this one by Paul Di Filippo in Locus Magazine reviews it rather more favorably:

miércoles, 8 de julio de 2020

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

(I know there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)

A land devastated by nuclear winter, or some kind of mass extinction? That is one of the keys to The Road (2006), the reader does not know what has happened. Apparently no one knows. Actually it does not matter, the case is a continent -or the whole planet? - absolutely ruined, without sun, without animals or plants, without food and cold, very cold... So nowadays this novel, with the knowledge we have and what we know we are not avoiding, gives us plenty to think about, both of what can happen and what we can lose.

The novel focuses on a father - a man, no matter what his name is - who tries to save his son. So the novel deals about paternity (or maternity of course) and what parents do/would do in a situation like this one (you also can imagine a war, in which you are forced to flee and seek refuge in another country, walking a great distance through a desert landscape or crossing a sea in a precarious boat). All of us who know what parenthood means are aware of that we would do anything to save our children and that we would face the most adverse circumstances, even - which is worse - if we have lost all hope. It is in our genes and it is in what makes us human.

During the journey, often the best answer the man can give at his son is "I don't know". The only certainties he has is that humanity has returned to a kind of hobbesian state of nature (or maybe worse) in which everyone seeks food and shelter, and they struggle to take it away from others because there is not enough for all; and that he tries to save him moving southward in a belief that the weather can be somewhat better.

Years ago on my blog I asked the readers to make a list of the best science fiction novels and to my surprise this one was the most valued. Of course I added it to my extensive list of pending to read books; although similar to another very crude novel such as Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, I waited years to have a suitable frame of mind to read it. Over time I discovered that this suitable state of mind does not exist, but in any case I recommend you to read this masterpiece if you have not yet.

If you have curiosity, this is the list (the post is from 2014 and it is in Spanish) of the best novels so far in the 21st century.