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: days of destruction, days of revolt

Some days, most days really, I want to be a journalist. Not the kind that writes press releases, but the kind that goes out into the world, sees something and tells everyone else what it looks like. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is exactly that kind of book, created by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. It’s about the United States and the people who are at the bottom of a destructive economic system designed to enrich only the already rich. It culminates in Zuccotti Park with a chapter on Occupy, but it gets there via coal-mining, land claims, agricultural work and for-profit urban decay.

It’s not a scholarly book, but it has data to go with its interviews. Sacco illustrates the whole thing, which contributes to the personal feeling of it all. I loved the Sacco bits where he went into the full on comics as oral history treatment, drawing the stories the person was telling them.

This was an unabashedly political and very good book about 21st-century recession-era America. Highly recommended.

book review: fullmetal alchemist (vol. 1)

Fullmetal Alchemist is example of another of my forays into the teen manga realm, and it’s pretty good. It’s about two brothers who are alchemists, who broke the rules and had their bodies transformed when they were trying to bring their mother back to life. Now they’re vagabonds, sort of under state employ. The stories in this volume included them busting up a religious charlatan, restoring justice to a mining town where the prices were exceedingly high and fighting a bunch of hostage-takers on a train. It’s all pretty fun steampunkish adventure, and I can see how the characters would be good to follow through umpteen volumes. I’m not as big a fan of it as Planetes, but I can see why people like it.

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.