book review: new moon

Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon has no lovestruck vampires. Instead, it’s the story of a dynastic Brazilian helium mining company/family on the moon, three generations into the colonization. I loved this book mostly because it doesn’t just deal with family power plays (the matriarch, the scheming brother, the loose cannon brother, the brilliant lawyer sister, the outcast, the fashionable next generation) but the economics of living in a harsh harsh world.

On the moon, there is no law, only contract. You pay for every bit of carbon you consume, every drop of water, your bandwidth, every breath you take. It’s AI-mediated anarchocapitalism with lawyers (and lawyer AIs) negotiating everything. Which sounds hellish to live in if you aren’t one of the people on top of the society. McDonald does a good job of if not romanticizing the economic concept, at least leavening it with some perspective of the working-class.

I couldn’t help but liken the resource-extraction hellpit that the moon is in this book (with nice bits for the rich) to Alberta. But the moon is socially libertarian as well. All sorts of sexual diversity is normal, the powerful aren’t all white people, there are ways to help one another. So while the plot was interesting enough, it was the bouncing around between ways of organizing people differently I really liked.

All in all, it’s a very good social science fiction book, and only wish it wasn’t the first in a series (I loved the ending and wish it actually was one).

book review: ax (vol.1)

Ax is an anthology of alternative manga stories. I don’t really read enough manga, so I figure anthologies are a good way to help me find new things. There were a bunch of stories I didn’t like, because they were too crudely drawn or too much florid art/language (which might have been better in Japanese). But there were a few I did like.

Love’s Bride by Yoshihiro Tatsumi: A guy gets possessive about a girl he knows so she tells him to fuck off and he goes to the zoo and falls in love with an ape who truly understands him. I’ve read a bunch of Yoshihiro Tatsumi books before so maybe it’s just familiarity with his straightforward style, but the story was well-done.

Conch of the Sky by Imiri Sakabashira: This one was way more metaphorical and weird, with squids crawling into the sick guy’s futon and then going off on a chase through the dark. The narration and the sinuous but not overdone art really sold it for me. It felt like a fever dream. In a good way.

A Broken Soul by Nishioka Brosis: The art in this story was what I really liked. It felt kind of cubist as the main character discovered his soul was broken.

Enrique Kobayahsi’s Eldorado by Toranusuke Shimada: This is the story of an Eldorado motorcycle found in an uncle’s garage. Toranusuke Shimada draws in a style reminiscent of Joe Sacco and tells the history of these Brazilian motorcycle manufacturers who turned out to have gotten their skills from Nazis. This one probably felt the least like what I think of as manga of the book.

book review: daytripper

Jamie, one of my library school friends, recommended Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s graphic novel Daytripper as something I’d probably really like. I really did.

It’s the story of Bras, an obituary writer who’s the son of a famous writer, at a bunch of different stages in his life. They’re told out of sequence though, the first story being when he’s 32 but others in his 20s and 40s and 11, I think. The thing is that each issue (when they were single issues, but this version is a collected trade paperback) ends with him dying. Each one has a short obituary of him, written by him.

There’s friendship, father issues, stuff about being a writer and finding your own voice. It’s a beautiful book, seeing all the different ways a life could end and what happens when it doesn’t.

book review: surely you’re joking mr. feynman

Somehow I hadn’t read Richard Feynman’s book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman until now. I’m not sure exactly how, though I recognized some of the stories he told.

It’s basically a collection of anecdotes from his life about being a scientist and having a really good time solving puzzles and figuring out how the world works. He tells funny stories and writes them in such a way that it feels like he’s talking. I felt kind of feisty and indignant at the stupid ways the world works and wished I had the confidence/lack of social inhibition to behave more like he did.

book review: brasyl

Ian McDonald’s Brasyl is a sf book set in Brazil. It’s about quantum physics and reality television and admonishing fallen priests and about making the best of the universe we’ve got even if it’s not the only one. Like most of his work, I enjoyed it. Not as much as Desolation Road, but enough.

One thing I realized reading this was how much the idea of a doppelganger fucking with your life scares me. The idea that people wouldn’t know who was me and who wasn’t just set me on edge and I needed to move on to one of the other timelines. Which is convenient because the book takes place in 2006, 2032 and 1732 with different characters in each part of the story. They each came back regularly, in the same order which was a bit less interesting than how McDonald’s played his ensemble casts in other books, but whatever.

A good William Gibson-ish read, with an ending that I can’t determine if it filled me with existential dread.