A round-up of what I’m reading now, including the May issue of Analog, the graphic novel V for Vendetta and scifi anthology The Hard SF Renaissance.
Analog Science Fiction and Fact, May 2005
The first issue of my Analog subscription features the start of the four-part serial “A New Order of Things” by Edward M. Lerner. It’s a story of first contact, in which humanity is able to communicate via radio and other technologies with its nearest neighbors, all of whom reside several light years away. Suddenly that changes when the “Snakes” from Bernard’s Star show up in the flesh thanks to a mysterious new starship they built that’s capable of bridging interstellar distances. It’s a good hard SF read (which I would expect from Analog) and I look forward to seeing how it unfolds.
“Farmers in the Sky” by Rob Chilson’s features a woman named Shanda who’s returned to life farming crops among the asteroid belt after attending college on Earth. There she finds her life suddenly complicated by the arrival of a boyfriend from Earth, who just might want to marry her and emigrate to the Belt. It’s a fun short story in which Belters make a living growing genetically engineered space-born crops on asteroids. I’d like to have seen more of the social interplay between Shanda and her would-be fiancé; as such we only really get to meet him at the end of the story, and that lessons its overall emotional impact. But the science is cool.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
The graphic novel V for Vendetta (Amazon) has been on my reading list forever. With the movie coming out later this month I decided I needed to read Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s story in its original form before being corrupted by the cinematic version.
It’s a powerful read that’s muted only slightly by the passage of time — the book was originally published in the late 1980s, and we’ve already lived through the time that it foresaw a massive nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the book this war decimates the world, but England suffers only a glancing blow. Still, that blow plunges it into chaos, giving rise to a totalitarian, fascist government that restores order, but at the price of freedom and liberty for its people. Worse, it undergoes a series of purges that sees hundreds of thousands of undesirables — including those of non-white races and homosexuals — murdered in concentration camps. Into this horrorific world comes a hero known only as V, who declares a personal war on the government. He systematically begins destroying the symbols of its power while assassinating its leaders.
What I find most fascinating about this book — aside from its overtly anarchistic, libertarian hero — is reaction to its violence. Folks, when a fascist government ceases control of your country and starts executing hundreds of thousands of people while at the same time its secret police are raping young girls, you’ve got every right to fight back. I’ll review the book in more depth in Radio Active #27.
The Hard SF Renaissance
I’m continuing to slug my way through The Hard SF Renaissance (Amazon), a huge book of hard science fiction short stories and novellas. At this point, I’m about 360 pages in, or about 1/3 of the way through the book. The book samples hard SF from the early to late 1990s, and features authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson, Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clark, David Brin and a host of others — in other words, the usual suspects. I’ve read a few of the stories in here before, such as Bruce Sterling’s near-future, near-cyberpunk Bicycle Repairman” and Nancy Kress’ “Beggars in Spain”.
Of the stories I haven’t read before, my favorites are Stephen Baxter’s military SF short story “On the Orion Line”, about humanity’s war with a far more advanced — and lethal — alien race, Ben Bova’s low-key, but still enjoyable return to Mars with “Mount Olympus” and perhaps the best story so far, “Marrow” by Robert Reed.
“Marrow” takes place upon a huge starship carved from the core of a Jupiter-class world which is slowly circumnavigating the galaxy. A crew of immortal humans guides it, while millions of human and alien passengers ride along. Little do any of them realize, however, that “Marrow” is actually hollow, and that a whole other world lurks at its core. I loved the “Hollow Earth” setup and the evolution of the neohuman society there after the exploration crew gets cut off from the world above. The story’s conclusion was way too traditional, but it was a hell of a ride.