book review: ocean

Ocean is a great little scifi story about a UN weapons inspector who heads out to Jupiter’s moon Europa because a scientific team there found a shitload of billion-year-old alien coffins. There’s another corporation out in orbit of Europa too and they’re interested in the weapon potential of these alien devices.

The book is full of good Warren Ellis dialogue between bitter cranky people trying to save the world. The evil corporation guys have all had personality replacements for the length of their contracts so they’re full on corporate drones, while the heroic real people make terrible food and talk about sex a lot. There are some cool ideas about weapons in space, a great fight sequence using manipulation of the space station’s gravity, and Ellis’ old-school rocket fixation (transferred to the main character) helps to save the day.

I really enjoyed the book and it’d make a great movie.

book review: fuzzy nation

Fuzzy Nation is John Scalzi’s reboot of H. Beam Piper’s classic science fiction book Little Fuzzy. I haven’t read the original, but Scalzi’s version is a lot of fun.

Jack Holloway is an ex-lawyer current-prospector on a remote planet who finds a huge mineral claim. He also finds a bunch of fuzzy creatures that take up residence in his home out in the (dangerous) jungle. The story follows the wrangling over people getting what they want, which isn’t always completely obvious. There’s intrigue and CSI-type stuff, courtroom drama, and debates over sentience. All classic SF stuff.

There are a few points where I think I can guess how the original differed from Scalzi’s story, just in the way some things are set up that feel specifically modern, but there are only enough of them to make you feel like you’re clever. They don’t dominate the proceedings.

Like most of Scalzi’s work, it’s a quick read, but worth the time if you like witty scifi.

book review: overqualified

Overqualified is a novel told in job application cover letters. It’s by Joey Comeau, who does the comic A Softer World and wrote the zombie novel One Bloody Thing After Another. (I haven’t read his latest, Bible Camp Bloodbath yet, but I will.)

When I told my girlfriend about the concept of this book she thought it sounded neat. Then I read her one of the letters and she said “Oh. It’s not very realistic. It’s just a gimmick. No one would actually write that.” And I was a little thrown off. I must have read it wrong, or prefaced it wrong. I mean, of course no one actually would write about their dead brother and throwing lightbulbs off an apartment building in a job application to GE, but it’s beautiful and sad. Or beautiful and angry like his letter to Gillette about razor-blades and sex. Or beautiful and cynical like his Hallmark greeting card ideas:

Front cover is a picture of a puppy dog with big, sad eyes. A Golden Retriever, maybe. Some breed that everyone loves, something vulnerable. The text on the front reads: “You think love has to last forever for it to be real. You think it isn’t true love unless it lasts until one of us is dead.” Inside text: “That isn’t love. That’s dog fighting.”

In every case there’s this desperation and weirdness that was weird and painful and amazing.

It’s not a clever story, which you might think it would be, with the tagline I gave it above. It’s just a weirdly emotional one about a man who’se trying to hold on to some sort of memory or reality by writing to corporations to the nonhuman beings that have all the power in our world. Reality shifts about him as he talks about all his many qualifications, but his pain remains constant.

So I should revise my original words. Overqualified is a dark, funny story about pain. Told in cover letters.