sábado, 10 de diciembre de 2022

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Cover of the first edition, 1949

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

I have read a few novels about the end of the world. This is one of the most valued and now I understand why. Although it may not be its most important quality, this book remains relevant today -with the Covid-19 pandemic still active throughout the planet-, which in itself gives a lot to think about. Earth Abides was published in 1949, when the West was recovering from the wounds of World War II (although the US did not experience it first hand) but it does not seem clear to me that this is related to the subject. On the contrary, the book describes a society prosperous and opulent and it does not imagine a state of violence when the catastrophe occurs. In any case, this book maintains all its verisimilitude today.

So regarding the reading, the first aspect that surprised me is that it describes a quiet end of the world. That is, a pandemic has wiped out almost all of humanity,; without violence, without the homo lupus homini which is the first thing that one would think of in this situation: that is a state of barbarism (although the author leaves open the possibility that the tribe of Ish -the protagonist of our story- was an exception). In any case, the most important subject is raised: how to change a civilized way of life for a tribal state totally dependent on nature. This is a question that the author does not take for granted; on the contrary, he asks himself and also asks the reader: What would we do if…? This is the essence of this book and also the essence of science fiction.

Today it could happen that a great catastrophe: a meteorite, a pandemic like the one the book deals with, the Third World War or a climatic collapse... It seems that all these dangers loom over our heads; but it could also happen that civilization continues as we know it, with more or less traumatic changes but not catastrophic or terminal enough to end our way of life. It doesn't really matter, because this book is basically about life itself, about life as we human beings understand it, and within the apocalyptic context imagined by the author, the questions remain the same: What do we live for? What do we die for?

In a very patient way, like the protagonist of the story, George R. Steward describes very plausibly an end of the world but... Earth Abides.

domingo, 13 de noviembre de 2022

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.


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

I assume there is little I can say about this book that has not already been told. My fault for not reading it earlier.

Anyway, a short comment. For me, the achievement of this book is to very cleverly mix a wonderful sense of humor with some tropes of science fiction (such as galactic empires from space opera stories or also artificial intelligence), in a way that may seem like a light reading but that actually contains some bold insights. For example, a resource that the author uses is to show our tiny human problems on a galactic scale, which helps to put everything (philosophically) in perspective. So, in this book, we, the humans, in our unconcerned planetary isolation, understand little of what goes on at the galactic level, including things that can affect us, let's say -ahem!- directly.

So Douglas Adams invites to ask ourselves: What if our beloved and also mistreated planet, often treated as the center of Creation, was just a minuscule curiosity in the galactic order?

I've been told not to bother reading the sequels so I'm keeping the good memories of this one.

lunes, 7 de noviembre de 2022

The This by Adam Roberts.

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

I think I can contribute little to this review. The book begins as one thing and ends as quite another... or not. This "becoming" of the plot is well thought out and if there is something that cannot be discussed about the author, it is his talent.

Along the way I suppose I have missed details, especially in the last part of the novel. A few perhaps? Not too many I hope. In one of these last chapters there is a rather daring twist that leaves me perplexed. A foreign object that apparently clashes with the rest of the novel and that I understand as a tribute to a great classic which fortunately I read very recently (a clue: it starts with 19 and ends with 84). I should also clarify that at the end of the novel everything makes (more) sense.

So what I can say about the book is that the most "tangible" aspect in itself is worth reading: a very incisive critique of how the social networks and their intrinsic perverse side affects us. This is not a book against social networks, far from it: the author enjoys a privileged perspective in terms of diagnosis of our age and at the same time provides us with a fascinating proposal for a possible future of our society: great the concept of Toycene. And of course there is more, but here we enter the realms of... Hegel.

I'm sorry if I've been unclear with this review. Do I recommend it? Yes, but bear in mind that it is an Adam Roberts book.

jueves, 27 de octubre de 2022

Historia cultural de los ovnis en España 1950-1990 de Ignacio Cabria

Excelente trabajo sobre el fenómeno OVNI, analizado desde un enfoque socio/antropológico. Tirando a momentos de ironía, y de escepticismo durante todo el libro, el autor consigue una magnífica crónica sobre la evolución de este mito moderno en nuestro país. 

Por estas páginas vemos pasar los primeros sucesos de platillos volantes (via importación cultural de los EEUU, tanto de sus propios “casos reales” como de las películas de ciencia ficción) hacia una posterior evolución del objeto de estudio: de los ovnis de Marte a los astronautas antiguos y después a las abducciones. De ahí a la aparición de las sectas milenaristas que reciben mensajes celestiales (mezclando visitantes y religión, incluyendo sectas) y finalmente a una ufología más crítica o escéptica que es la que acaba suscribiendo el autor, en una evolución personal coincidente con la de muchos otros investigadores. En el caso de la ufología española a destacar el escándalo que supuso el caso "Ummo". 

El libro es también un homenaje a todas las personas que dedicaron talento, tiempo y esfuerzos en un campo de estudio en el que creían firmemente. Como suele suceder, unas pocas lograron dedicarse profesionalmente a este tema, como escritores o periodistas divulgadores la mayoría.

Hoy en día oímos hablar mucho menos de ovnis, parece cosa del siglo pasado, pero la ufología sigue activa, diluida entre las otras denominadas paraciencias. De hecho, en mi opinión ni de lejos es la más descabellada de las actuales creencias metafísicas (por no mencionar el terraplanismo).

Un libro muy recomendable para entender como una sociedad moderna en la que vivimos, la cual se presupone ilustrada, continúa necesitando de estos mitos; y a su vez de cómo los mass media -actualmente deberíamos añadir Internet y las redes sociales- actúan como agentes de propagación de estas creencias.

martes, 18 de octubre de 2022

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton

Even though the main plot looks like a clone sitcom (here you can see the synopsis of the book, but it is a bit spoileous), I almost found more interesting the worldbuilding. That is, for example, when the story explains how the various beachheads -the other colonizing starships- have been able to establish themselves, or have failed to colonize other potentially worlds. The implications that cloning technology has for humanity in general and particularly for the main character in relation to the contract as an expendable person have also seemed well thought out to me. And the planet ecology is well thought out.

That said, it does not mean that the main plot is not entertaining enough to make it worth reading, but at least for me this tone of tragicomedy suits it only partially; specifically in the comedy part, providing some hilarious situations but about the tragic I don't empathize enough with the Mickeys.

So the reading was good enough. With more free time I would read the sequel, but unfortunately this is not the case. 

miércoles, 5 de octubre de 2022

Our Lady of Artilects by Andrew Gillsmith

Very good! Our Lady of Artilects is one of the most enjoyable reads so far this year, which for me it is more than enough.

Since it gives the impression that it is a first work of an amateur writer and also an edition of few means, automatically I started looking for flaws (it is like one of these fascinating conditioning via neural implants of the book). And flaws it has: the future that is described has some inconsistencies and is outlined in a somewhat simplistic way, and I am not referring to the political situation (captivating but of which it only shows an outline, if you read it you will already understand). Regarding this shocking political situation of the future, at some point the novel evokes the fascinating Too Like the Lightning.

Since I have mentioned Ada Palmer’s novel, I must clarify that Our Lady of Artilects is situated at the antipodes of that one and while the former gets lost in thoughtful disquisitions, this one only tries to tell a story that captivates you and in this undoubtedly it succeeds. I would describe Our Lady of Artilects as a thriller from a more or less distant future (100 years from now approximately), with an original and well-thought-out worldbuilding, but its best quality is that it is highly entertaining. So, I think that the reading should be approached as an action movie of those in which you have a great time, with the logical limitations of a script for this type of cinema.

If you are curious to see how the author manages to combine religion in a more or less distant future and at the same time robots and exorcism, you should read this novel.

Mr. Gillsmith, write more stories please!

jueves, 29 de septiembre de 2022

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

It is a shame but it was my first Christopher Priest reading. Well, I'm impressed.

First of all I must say that it has been a delight to listen to this audiobook, congratulations to the narrator, Mr. Simon Vance (and of course the author, but I will say this later). I had heard a lot about this novel but really I knew little about the plot apart from the rivalry between the two magicians. Also, I have not seen the movie either, which I am told is quite different from the novel. Better this way, I can read it without preconceived ideas, something difficult in a book as well known as this one.

Cover from the Audible edition

About my reading, sorry, about my listening I can say that it has managed to captivate me from the first moment. It is not the typical novel with an intrigue that catches you but the events and how the author narrates them, with so many exquisite details about the time and particularly about the world of illusionism, immediately leave their m
ark on you. So I have been fascinated by the study of illusionism in itself, with a whole subculture based on perception deception; but more than that, in which the spectators collaborate without realizing it. Really impressive.

One aspect to highlight is the development of the plot. Until almost the end the author does not put his cards on the table -if I may use this prestidigitator expression-, but I must clarify that it is not a question of playing misdirection like a… illusionist; or yes, perhaps it is: so you simply must participate -as a reader- in this (literary) magic show and wait to see what the magician/author pulls out of his hat. Also there is an astonishing ending, which I have been anticipating throughout the novel (you just must read the index) but you can not imagine how it will impact you.

Needless to say, this will not be my last reading of the author.

viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2022

Spaceling by Doris Piserchia

A curious novel, totally New Wave (first published in 1978).

Synopsis: Adventures and intrigues in which a 15-year-old girl finds herself involved, in a future where some humans can travel interdimensionally. In other dimensions the human body transforms into a totally different being, adapted to the new environment. For example, in a volcanic world uninhabitable for humans, the character becomes a sort of giant otter (see the hardcover edition art below).

It gets a little confusing with all the interdimensional back and forth and also for all the characters and how they come in and out of the story. At some point the story evokes or suggests to me what I assume would be an astral travel or a drug-type experience.

An interesting author, until now I had not read any of her works, but I plan to read more of hers.

viernes, 9 de septiembre de 2022

Inversions (the Culture series #6) by Iain M. Banks

Inversions meets the expectations of the previous novels set in the Culture, although it presents a different situation than the one the author had accustomed us to in this series. Far from the space orbitals and the magnificent ships -and their insurmountable names-, in this case the author immerses us in a medieval world, a world closer to fantasy -although it falls within the science fiction genre as well-, a world that I would say it evokes the novels of Jack Vance.

In this imagined world, the author concocts a well-developed history of medieval intrigues and only with a few brief notes on the galactic context of Culture, to which he does not allude directly at any time. To highlight the role of women in this story and the criticism of the patriarchal environment, which makes it a very current novel.

The author passed away in 2013, leaving us with no more stories of Culture that he surely had left to tell us. We miss you very much Mr. Banks.

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2022

R.U.R. by Karel Čapek


On summer holidays I take the opportunity to dedicate myself to some science fiction classics that I have pending to read. I had heard so much about this theatrical play written in 1920 but this has not prevented me from being surprised in some aspects.

The first part of the book is fascinating, I think it is the most worthwhile for today's reader, the creation of robots and their function to serve humanity. This part shows a clear influence of the current of economic thought of Taylorism and in turn it can be glimpsed a criticism of the unbridled production of consumer goods that ultimately, although it would not lead to a robots revolt, would be one of the triggering factors of the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Also noteworthy, following the aforementioned industrialist ideas of the time -for example, Taylorism had great influence on the development of the Soviet State-, the dehumanized thoughts by the managers of Rossum Universal Robots and, in contrast, the most humanitarian and secondary role, absolutely sentimental, by the only woman in the cast; although in the end these feelings become more important as a path to a future redemption... I think this female role would clearly influence the woman/robot in the novel and film Metropolis (Thea Von Harbow, Fritz Lang, 1925/1927).

About the second and third parts of the book one must accept them as they are: some dialogues seem absurd to me, or at least incomprehensible in today stardards; it looks like an acid sitcom in which humanity ends up extinguished by its own creations.

In short, a worthwhile reading, a work of great influence on science fiction, inaugurating the subgenre of robots. For example, to take into account -with the permission of Mr. Isaac Asimov and his Laws of Robotics- the magnificent development of some of the issues dealt in this book in The Humanoids (1948) by Jack Williamson.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2022

The Universe Between by Alan E. Nourse

I love retrofuturism, so I love classic science fiction that is based on ideas that today may be considered outdated, partially or totally, or in concepts that have evolved to a different vision. A typical example is telepathy, with masterpieces like Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg or The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. 

In the case that concerns us, the novel deals with… the fourth dimension! Well, as far as I know -I'm not a scientist- today the concept has evolved into a slightly (?) different thing, what we would call alternate realities due to quantum physics, and today -again as far as I know- the fourth dimension it is considered to be time itself. On the other hand, the idea of ​​a multiverse is still very much in vogue today, for example in superhero comics and movies/series.

About the novel itself, it is very entertaining and even with some moments of sense of wonder, and I must warn the reader about certain apparent anachronisms that are not such. So for me, this is one of the "good" classics, that is, worth reading even after seventy years (it was first published in 1951!). It should be noted that the great novel The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, also about alternative universes and the possibility of exploiting their resources, was written twenty years later than this one.

sábado, 6 de agosto de 2022

Crash by J.G. Ballard

"I wanted to write a book in which there was nowhere to hide",’he told David Pringle in 1975. ‘I wanted the reader, once I’d got him inside the book, never to lose sight of the subject matter. As long as he continued reading he was face to face with the subject matter. It would have been easy to write a conventional book about car crashes in which it was quite clear that the author was on the side of sanity, justice and against injuring small children, deaths on the road, bad driving, etc. What could be easier? I chose to completely accept the demands of the subject matter, which was to provoke the reader by saying that car crashes are good for you, you thoroughly enjoy them, they make your sex life richer, they represent part of the marriage between sex, the human organism, and technology’." (from "Crash (English Edition)" by J. G. Ballard, Zadie Smith)

I agree with this and Crash is a great novel. The problem is that now I have changed my driving style.

sábado, 30 de julio de 2022

The Flight of the Aphrodite by S.J. Morden

I had a great time with this novel, it is good to read hard science fiction from time to time.

The Flight of the Aphrodite is a more than correct novel about discovery, although the author focuses as much or more on the characters and especially on the problems of a prolonged space travel. I have a question about the plausibility of the argument but I don't know whether to discuss it with an author who is both a rocket scientist and a planetary geologist.

Please, more novels like this one!

jueves, 21 de julio de 2022

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi


Fairly good! It is almost impossible for me not to like a novel like this one, about giant monsters, better known as kaiju. In this case John Scalzi concocts a good story, very well thought out, and blends masterfully the pop culture imaginary of giant monsters (wich basically comes from movies, wich I love absolutely all of them, especially the classics from the fifties and sixties) with a plausible science fiction novel.

The novel offers an humorous side to most situations - even tragic ones- and many references to monster movies and science fiction in general (for example the long reference in the first chapter to Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash).

I had a great time. Please, Mr. Scalzi, I need a sequel to this novel.

From the movie "Gorgo" (1961).

sábado, 16 de julio de 2022

Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes


Entertaining but not more. The first half of the plot is very similar to the movie "Event Horizon" seasoned with the vicissitudes of the character Ripley from the first two "Alien" movies. The second half of the book improves and the story develops in a more original way. In favor I can say that the story is competently told. This and the characters help to maintain the attention of the novel until the end.