Posts Tagged ‘Gollancz’

Roboteer by Alex Lamb

October 14, 2017 - 7:09 am No Comments

ROBOTEER by Alex Lamb. Gollancz, London. £8.99 paperback. 426 pages. ISBN: 978-1-473-20609-0
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

There is a sub-set of science fiction which is Military SF and written by such exponents as David Weber and David Drake. I was once told that SF was Mills & Boon for boys (I converted that person by giving her Marge Piercy to read) and to a certain extent, that is what this kind of SF is. It is for readers who have a fascination for hardware and like to read about blowing things up.
Alex Lamb’s debut novel, Roboteer, is a well thought out, military space opera. In this very far future, Earth has succumbed to pollution and the mass of humanity lives mostly on the product of prote farms. The planet is united under the auspices of the Prophet of the Truist religion. Other faiths are tolerated but can never rise to ultimate status. As far as enlightenment is concerned, the clock has been turned back millennia. Girls are not educated and the mass humanity, the Followers are illiterate. Yet they are scooped up and sent to fight for their planet. The enemy are the Galateans. Initially human colonists, they have embraced genetic modification to compensate for lack of personnel and help terraform the colony worlds. By the decree of Earth’s spiritual leader this modification is an abomination in God’s eyes. Also there are no aliens. The reason for the war between the two factions is to wipe out the abominations and to acquire what is believed to be fertile worlds to feed Earth’s population. His Honesty the Prophet is mistaken on several counts.
The story is told from three points of view enabling the situation to be seen from both sides. Will is the Roboteer of the title. He is modified to be able to remotely control various aspects of the war ship including torpedoes and drones. He has a bit more initiative than the average roboteer but when he disobeys an order and saves his ship from destruction he is transferred to the Ariel. This has a six man crew and they are given a spy mission to try and find out where the new technology the Earthers have suddenly acquired comes from. Ira is the captain of the Ariel. The third view point character is the Earther scientist Gustav. The new suntap device is his project. He didn’t invent it. He acquired it from an alien artefact known as the Relic.
Ira is able to follow Gustav’s ship to the Relic but when they are discovered, the aliens hack Will’s mods and download information into him. Aliens do indeed exist and they are giving humanity a choice. It is up to Will to prove that humanity is not a disease that has to be wiped out.
The pace of this novel is relentless and the characters have to endure betrayal, despair and torture before a resolution is reached. For most readers, it will not matter that they are dumped into the middle of the action without any explanation as to how the situation has arisen. For Will and Ira, politics are for others, while Gustav finds politics thwarting him as he tries to do the best for his planet. These three are perhaps nobler examples of humanity and not enough space is given to the mistaken, politically ambitious or nasty characters that always exist in any society. These readers will not mind that the space ships can move between star systems at a tremendous rate or be able to visualise the technology. If they are fans of military SF, they will enjoy this.

 

Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill

October 12, 2017 - 4:23 pm No Comments

Sea of Rust

Author: C. Robert Cargill

Publisher: Gollancz

Page count: 384pp

Release date: 7th Sept 2017

Reviewer: Nat Robinson (bio below)

It is thirty years since the humans lost their war with the artificial intelligences that were once their slaves. Not one human remains. But as the dust settled from our extinction there was no easy peace between the robots that survived. Instead, the two massively powerful artificially intelligent supercomputers that lead them to victory now vie for control of the bots that remain, assimilating them into enormous networks called One World Intelligences (OWIs), absorbing their memories and turning them into mere extensions of the whole. Now the remaining freebots wander wastelands that were once warzones, picking the carcasses of the lost for the precious dwindling supply of parts they need to survive.

 

Imagine if the Terminators had won. Imagine if every human had been wiped out in a catastrophic war between man and machine. We’re dead. We’re extinct. We’re history.

So, all that remains are the robots. The sexbots, the caregivers, the service droids, the hulking beasts of labour, given free will and their own sentience as they rattle around the post-apocalyptic ruin of earth.

But peace on robot earth is short lived, as the politics of how life should be soon rears its ugly head. Should robot kind be individual as one another, or should they be one hive mind? Further wars decimate the divide the robopop. Even without the sticky fingers of humanity interfering, there can be no peace on earth. Or can they.

Through the wreckage of our civilisation and that of the robopocalypse, a lone wanderer scours the wastes of middle America; The Sea of Rust. A place where the crazy and burnt out beings of this lost future go to die and power down in peace away from the rough fortunes of war.

Brittle is a cannibal. Identifying as a she, she tracks down and hunts the lonely beings that have ventured into the elephant graveyard that is the Sea of Rust, taking what parts she can recycle for herself and sell on to benefit others. She gives the dying hope, before scavenging to protect her future in this world of rare spares.

But after an encounter with a fellow scavenger, Brittle finds herself on the run, system failing and time quickly running out. She needs to find spares, or die trying.

Cargill has created an exceptional novel here, creating a powerful empathy for vicious, blood-thirsty machine. Brittle is no saint. She broke her programming and harmed her masters. But she’s moved on and concentrates on survival as any sentient being would. This is after man. Servitude is a memory. Robots have to make their own lives and live with their mistakes choices. Cargill carries off this pathos brilliantly. Brittle is flawed. She struggles to fit in. She has survivors guilt, but wants to help others whilst helping herself. She suffers from an inner conflict which plagues her memory drives no matter how hard she tries to wipe it clean. But we can never truly forget our memories. Even robots are haunted by past errors.

The actions scenes are pure Hollywood; a blistering assault of pulse rifles blowing sizzling holes through metal and plastic, giant, rolling war machines gunning down dropships in black clouds of burning octane. If this were a film, action fans wouldn’t be disappointed.

But the flip side to this is the touching philosophy of the story. The only human characters are memories of the bloody past, so it’s only the musings of the droids we find ourselves relating to. Cargill carries across their humanness with great aplomb, nailing the adage that life isn’t just intelligence, but intelligence is life.

Ray Bradbury could’ve have written this, but just as easily it could’ve come from Stephen King with its twisted morality and flawed characters you can root for.

Quite easily and very possibly my novel of the year. Part action, part robo-philosophy which will probably make you look at your toaster a little bit funny next time as you consider Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. Sea of Rust goes to show that the Tinman had a heart all along.

5/5

Meet Nat Robinson:

Nathan Robinson lives in Scunthorpe with his wife and twin boys and is the author of Starers, Ketchup With Everything, Devil Let Me Go, Midway, Caldera and many short stories. He also reviews independent horror for Snakebite Horror and Splatterpunk Zine.

Find him at https://www.facebook.com/NathanRobinsonWrites

The Last Namsara Kristen Ciccarelli

October 9, 2017 - 12:03 pm No Comments

The Last Namsara (Iskari Book One)

Author: Kristen Ciccarelli

Publisher: Gollancz

Page Count: 432pp

Release Date: 5th Oct 2017
Review by Michael R. Brush

This is a young adult fantasy book, probably more ‘female friendly’ than normal. So what do I, as a long in the tooth bloke with a penchant for Tolkien, Goerge R. R. Martin (nevermind my love of Tolstoy and Dostoyevski) have to say about this first time outing of Kristen Ciccarelli? On the whole, I loved it. It deserves to go in the main section of fantasy and to slug it out with the best of them.
The first line gets you straight in and tells you that this voice is fresh and bold. It’s what we need from up and coming authors. It starts off following a youngster in a way that reminded me of Raymond E. Feist’s Magician, and if it had continued that well I would have given this book 5 out of 5. If you want to think about how hard it is to be that good – Raymond E. Feist can’t always stay at that level of the game. While the first line is a corker and so is the first encounter, we soon find Asha having feelings for a young slave. It seemed a bit obvious to me and a bit strained to start with, but with time and space, Ciccarelli dusts herself down and lets the characters develop.
The result is a grand endeavour where prejudice and abuse are faced with passion and loyalty creating a tale where you care about the characters and the world they live in. And fear for them – and that’s not easy. I admit I’m a harsh critic, and I’m giving this 4 out of five because sometimes it felt a bit shaky and (being somewhat long in the tooth) not everything was new to me as it might be to a younger audience – but to get 4 stars is still an achievement. If I was marking out of ten, maybe I would have given a nine…
Maybe…
4 out of 5

 

 

Electric Dreams Philip K Dick

September 24, 2017 - 6:57 am No Comments

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Published by Gollancz on 14th September 2017

213 pages

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philip-K-Dicks-Electric-Dreams-ebook/dp/B071X4RMZ4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1506236010&sr=1-1&keywords=electric+dreams

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

35 years since the death of Philip K. Dick his work seems as relevant as ever. The sequel to Blade Runner is being released next month and Electric Dreams, a ten-part anthology-series based on his short stories, has just started on Channel 4. To coincide with the latter, Gollancz has released this book containing the stories on which the episodes are based, each with an introduction written by the writer or director of the corresponding episode.

In Exhibit Piece, a historian living in a future totalitarian society enters a 20th Century exhibit that he has helped create – and finds himself living in the 1950s with a job, family and memories to match. Which world, if either, is real?

The Commuter deals with similar themes. A harassed commuter tries to buy a season ticket to Macon Heights – only there is no such station. However, when a curious train employee investigates, he finds that Macon Heights is gradually becoming real – and in turn affecting his world.

Impossible Planet concerns a 350-year-old woman who wants to visit Earth before she dies – but Earth is just a myth. However, a pair of dodgy spacers agree to take her there. Obviously, their destination is not Earth – or is it?

The Hanging Stranger and The Father Thing both combine 1950s paranoia with alien invasion. In the former, a man is horrified to find a dead stranger hanging from a lamp-post in the small town in which he lives – yet no one else seems to notice. Is he going mad – or he is the only one not under alien control? In the latter, a young boy discovers that his father has been killed and replaced by a cold, emotionless doppelganger. But who will believe him – and who is next to be replaced?

The Hood Maker is set in a future world where some humans, known as teeps, have become telepathic and where being unwilling to be scanned by them is considered suspicious. So, when devices that block telepathic scans are secretly distributed, the teeps are determined to find those responsible and stop them.

In Autofac, the remnants of humanity in a post-nuclear world are provided for by vast automated factories programmed to manufacture and distribute anything that mankind needs. But then a group of survivors, wanting to start fending for themselves, ask their local Autofac to stop supplying them…

Sales Pitch and Foster You’re Dead are both consumer satires; one darkly comic, the other more chilling. In the former, in a far-future world where advertising is ubiquitous and inescapable, a couple’s home is invaded by a robot, programmed to demonstrate its abilities and sell itself – and which won’t take no for an answer. In the latter, consumers are encouraged – indeed expected – to buy their own bomb-shelters. But with each shelter quickly becoming obsolete as new weapons are developed, who can afford to keep up? Or rather can one afford not to?

In Human Is, a woman’s spouse changes from a cold, work-driven man to a kind, loving and attentive husband after a trip to an alien planet. He’s been replaced by a shapeshifting alien. But has he become more or less human as a result?

These stories were all originally published in SF magazines in the 1950s and concern themselves with the same themes as most other works of the period; cold-war paranoia, post-apocalyptic scenarios, aliens etc. But they also share the same concerns that Philip K. Dick addressed in his later stories and novels. What is the nature of reality? What makes us human? How can one distinguish the real from the counterfeit?

If you are already a fan, then you don’t need me to recommend this book to you. However, if you haven’t yet discovered the weird and disturbing world of Philip K. Dick, then my advice to you is: read this book, watch the TV series and let them blow your mind. Or as Timothy Leary might have put it: read on, tune in and freak out!

The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts

September 6, 2017 - 6:26 pm No Comments

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Published by Gollancz on 24th August 2017

230 pages

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, where most people spend all their time in a fully immersive successor to the internet, known as Shine. However, Alma’s partner has been infected with a genetically-engineered lipid phage, which renders her bed-bound. Alma must treat her within a five-minute window every four hours or she will die. Consequently, Alma is one of the few people still living wholly in the real world.

Alma is assigned to a murder investigation at an automated car factory. A body has been found in the boot of a newly assembled car – though the CCTV footage shows there was no body present at any point in the assembly process.

She is then warned off the case by a government agent, who is subsequently killed. Now a suspect, Alma must go on the run, evade arrest, avoid the machinations of political conspirators and solve the impossible-seeming murder – as well as return home every four hours to treat her partner! This latter requirement adds an extra layer of dramatic tension to what might otherwise have turned into an extended series of chase sequences.

The near-future setting is convincing. The streets are almost deserted, as most people live in the Shine. Most pedestrians are somnambulant figures dressed in Mesh suits that take their bodies for walks to avoid muscular atrophy, whilst their minds are in the Shine – a high-tech version of The Wrong Trousers! AIs and nanotechnology are used to keep the country ticking over, but the overall impression is of decay. Indeed, the underlying political conspiracy involves different government factions who either want everyone to live permanently in the Shine or to tempt Shine users back to the real world.

This is an exciting, fast-paced and often darkly comic thriller, with all the twists and turns of an Alfred Hitchcock film, albeit in a futuristic setting. Indeed, there are deliberate nods to Hitchcock throughout. Some chapter titles allude to Hitchcock films – “Dial ‘C’ for Caring”, “Strangers on the Terrain”, for example. There are also more overt references. One passage features an attack by a swarm of small drones that could have come straight out of The Birds. Another is a tense chase scene set amongst the nanobot-sculpted faces of famous Britons (William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill etc.) that now adorn the White Cliffs of Dover – an allusion to the Mount Rushmore scene in North by North-West. The great director himself even makes a small cameo – as is only right and proper!

There are also numerous references to other works. Alma at one point gets into an amusing argument with the low-grade AI running her front door about whether it should admit her or not. This reminded me of a very similar scene from the Philip K. Dick novel, Ubik. I also spotted passing references to Catch 22, The Princess Bride and The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy amongst others – and I’m sure I missed many more.

In summary, I really enjoyed Adam Robert’s latest novel and can thoroughly recommend it. It is an intriguing thriller as well as referencing enough Hitchcock films and SF classics to satisfy the discerning fan of both genres.