book review: the clockwork rocket

What I love about reading Greg Egan books is reading about creatures that are psychologically very recognizable but physically alien. In other books this comes through reading about robots and software, but The Clockwork Rocket is about a species of blobby aliens living in a universe where different colours of light have different speeds.

On their world there are male and female aliens that I picture as macroscopic amoeba type things. Reproduction means the female splits into four children (two males and two females who are brought up as “co”s brother-sisters but also as future mates), whom the father then raises. Yalda is a female who doesn’t have a co. She grows up on a farm and moves to a city and becomes a scientist and eventually leads an expedition away from their world to try and save it from an impending disaster (by using the weird properties of the speed of light in their universe).

There are digressions exploring the nature of light and toroidal universes in this book. Some people might not like them. I did. I also loved the political explorations of birth-control in a species where having children necessarily means the death of the mother. It’s very much an ideas book, and there are sequels, which I’ll definitely read eventually.

book review: the pirates! in an adventure with whaling

My friend Jamie had recently told me about the Pirates! In An Adventure With… series. While I couldn’t find An Adventure With Scientists at the library when I remembered it the other day, I did find The Pirates! in an Adventure with Whaling (aka in an Adventure with Ahab), and I do love me some Moby Dick, so off I went.

The basic plot of the story is there are a bunch of pirates (known as The Pirate in Red, or The Pirate Captain or The Pirate With a Hook for a Hand) and they need a new ship. They go to Nantucket and buy a huge fancy one on credit (in order not to look silly in front of the Pirate Captain’s archnemesis) but then they need to raise the money to make the payments. So they sail to Las Vegas and try to do a variety show, and then they try a few other things (including actual piracy) before they turn their hands to whaling so they can get the reward Ahab has posted.

That summary only glances on the funniness of the book. It’s very Terry Pratchett-esque and doesn’t really have too much respect for reality in any form. It’s a light funny story (and in a small package, too – the hardcover book fits in a not-unreasonable-sized pocket) and I’ll gladly read more in the series.