jueves, 26 de marzo de 2020

The Fog/The Rats by James Herbert

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

The Fog (1975)

I wanted to read an horror novel and I found this one. Although the writer is well known -and also the book is considered a classic-, I did not know James Herbert’s works before.

The fog is not an horror novel like the ones I used to know (Ahem! basically Stephen King’s books and some H.P. Lovecraft’s tales). I consider this book is also a disaster novel, like these seventies movies; and also a zombie war avant la lettre, and the main issue -the fog that transforms people- can be considered science fiction; in other words, it has a scientific justification.

In short, the book has a best seller-esque style and sometimes it captivates me absolutely... and I confess that sometimes not. To be highlighted, a lot of brutally and violent action scenes, some of those I consider very well written. However, it is possible that the novel suffers for being a classic written in the seveties: some developments of the plot, and some scenes too, nowadays we have seen them in a lot of horror movies.

So, reading the book, have I been scared, as expected in an horror novel? I think not, but it was a very entertaining reading. 

The Rats (1974)

After reading The Fog I was curious about The Rats, Mr. Herbert first novel and a success that made him instantly known; and when I saw it in the Kindle Flash discounts, I could not resist.

Despite its fame, as Neil Gaiman comments in the prologue, it is still a first work and and you can see it in some aspects, but the pace is good and the reading is very entertaining too.

I must note that the characters are well described. Somehow their behavior seems more like in a movie than in a novel, I think because the best-seller style of Mr. Herbert. It is interesting how the author describes (very well) de daily life of some London citizens as a resource to give realism to the novel, of course before becoming victims of the rats; although this can sometimes divert attention a bit from the main plot.

To highlight, the notably well constructed scenes of violence and gore when the rodents attack beggars, housewives, old people and even children, so nothing escapes from their voracity. As I commented about the previous James Herbert reading, I was not really scared from this horror/science fiction reading (as in Stephen King's stories, for example). However, the rats looks really ugly and repulsive creatures.

martes, 17 de marzo de 2020

Sky Coyote, The Company series #2, by Kage Baker

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

I did not know that time travel was so funny. This novel is the second in the time Company series and it has a less tragic tone than the previous one.

In this case, Joseph, accompanied by his unofficially adopted Mendoza, has the mission to save a tribe located in what will later become California from the white men invaders. For this, he must impersonate the native god Coyote Sky. The Chumash were an advanced tribe in their time, especially compared to other neighboring communities. They have -at least in this novel- an advanced social and mercantile structure, so at the first contact they doubt if Coyote Sky really exists. 

I must say that the description of the Chumash seems to me a bit inaccurate -they are a very, very “Californian” tribe- but in return they are so amusing: it helps the ingenious manners and dialogues of both the natives and the inmortal employees of the Company. About the latter, they deal with myths and religions with some irony, with the attitude of someone who has experienced similar situations on many previous occasions; and they have adapted very well to their job, knowing how to appreciate the luxuries of each century in which they work. 

This novel, in addition to the Chumash, opens up new intrigues about the Company and about those who rule its destiny in the future, and it delves into some characters; apart from Joseph and the embittered Mendoza, also with some interesting people from the Chumash. For me, the characters are the best part.

As a result of when the novel was written (published in 1999), it also offers a criticism comparing the Company's future personnel, all them political correctness and light/insipid food lovers, with the blatant appreciation for the pleasures of life of the immortal field agents, leading to comical situations.

I get the impression that the Time Company series, or at least this has been my impression of the first two novels, offers a science fiction intended to entertain but without forgetting a certain level of quality in the approaches and with a previous historical study of the places where the action takes place, so “in a future” I intend to read the next novel of the series, titled Mendoza in Hollywood.

viernes, 6 de marzo de 2020

Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, by Jonathan Straham (editor).

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

I received this book from Negalley in exchange for an honest review, so here we go:

Robots. A fascinating issue, but I must note in advance that half the stories - more or less- are about IA or artificial persons (by biologic, industrial and unknown procedures); that is, not as we understand the term, as a machine that operates with humanlike skills.

Briefly I review each of the stories:

A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The author repeats the style shown in the great Fandom for Robots, that is, a robot cyber-conversation. A curious mix with cybernetic IA logic and human imitation. For me it was difficult to understand all the argot. 

Test 4 Echo, by Peter Watts. In this tale he deals with a robot IA in the search for subaquatic life in Enceladus and about moral dilemmas. Typical of Mr. Watts, a story of disappointments that does not disappoint.

The Endless, by Saad Z. Hossain. An AI vengeance. The development is a bit tricky but it was a funny read:
Mi name is Suva. Like the airport, Suvarnabhumi. An odd name, you say? Because I am the airport, motherfucker.

Brother Rifle, by Daryl Gregory. A story about how an AI can help a marine do his work and then how the doctors with the aid of another one tries to redeem him. 

The Hurt Pattern, by Tony Onyebuchi. A police robot shot a thirteen year old black boy. Why? It is more complicated that it could seem. 

Idols, by Ken Liu. Idols wonders about the possibility that someone can construct a simulation of a persona based on all the feeds shared in the cloud (that is, social networks, media, works, etc.). This can be useful, for example, to interact with the deceased loved ones. A good story. Note: I read before about this captivating idea in a catalan written novel, El somriure d’un Eco by Jordi Gimeno.

Bigger Fish by Sarah Pinsker. The author of the excellent And Then There Were (N-One), shows here an asimovian crime story. Very good, one of the best in the book.

Sonnie's Union, by Peter F. Hamilton. A kind of chimera organic beings created for clandestine fighting.

Dancing with Death by John Chu. Planned obsolescence, but robots want to work, love… and ice-skating. Good. 

An Elephant Never Forgets, by Rich Larson. Bioengineered humans, Nexus 5 style. A person who does not remember anything wakes up in a kind of asylum...

The Translator, by Annalee Newitz. A future job: to translate IA messages to an understandable human language. By the author of Autonomous.

Sin Eater, by Ian McLeod. One of the best stories in the book. The last Pope and a robot. Amazing.

Fairy Tales for Robots, by Sofia Samatar. If you wanted to give humanity to a robot that is about to be born, how would you do it? Reading they fairy tales. A very well thought out story. 

Chiaroscuro in Red, by Suzanne Palmer. Very good! In a future, the rich do not own workers or slaves, they own robots. More robots, more wealth. Stewart is a short on money student who receives a second-hand robot as a birthday gift from his parents. What can the robot do for Stewart?. What can he do for the robot?

A glossary of Radicalization by Brooke Bolander. Artificial persons, cyberpunk & radical thinking. 

Overall it is a good anthology, although half of the stories are not strictly about robots, and neither strictly about revolution as indicated on the cover. However, in one way or another, the two issues are sufficiently addressed. For me, it was a good way to read about this fascinating topics and discover unknown authors (at least for me), and also to meet some of those I already know.

Thanks to Solaris and Netgalley for this book. It will be published on March 17.