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: starfish

I didn’t like Peter Watts’ Starfish as much as Blindsight, but it was still a good book.

It’s a nearish future where the Net’s been riddled with viruses (this is not the focus of the story, just one of the excellent bits about how the future doesn’t have to rest on some ever progressing curve) geothermal power in the rifts at the bottom of the Pacific are preventing brownouts all through N’AmPac. The problem is that working at the bottom of the ocean so isolated from human society requires people that aren’t “well-adjusted” or “happy with normal life.” So the station the book is about is filled with people addicted to trauma, mostly of abusive relationships (giving and receiving the beatings), but there’s an almost MPD pedophile involved as well. These psychologically broken people were selected as pre-adapted for life on the bottom of the sea.

Oh and they also have organs that collapse to press all the gas bubbles out of themselves so they can withstand the hundreds of atmospheres of pressure in diving skins. They’ve each had a lung removed and replaced with machinery that lets them process the oxygen out of water so they don’t breathe. They are rifters instead of humans (one psychologist in the book refers to them as vampires, but I don’t see that as being very accurate). It’s all very cool.

One of the techniques I loved (and was made more sensitive to because of reading About Writing) is how Watts switches up the tenses in narration. On the surface everything is in the past tense, but in the depths it’s in the present, which is more artificial and distant, and very nicely keeping us distant from these characters who don’t want to be touched.

So yes, it was very good, but didn’t end up resolved as well as I’d like since it leads into its sequel.

book review: the forest of hands and teeth

Isn’t The Forest of Hands and Teeth an awesome title? Carrie Ryan deserves any praise this book’s received for the title alone. I love it. The book’s pretty good too.

The story is about a young woman, Mary, in a tiny village that is beset by zombies (they aren’t called zombies, but they’re zombies), and has been for generations. They’re in the middle of the eponymous zombie-filled forest and have fences and a Sisterhood and Guardians to protect them and keep the people in line. Mary dreams of the stories her mother told her of freedom and a life outside the village. At one point she finds a bit of proof, in the form of New York Times headlines, firmly planting this in the post-apocalyptic subgenre instead of fantasy.

Needless to say everything goes badly when Mary’s mother causes a tiny breach and gets infected and must be killed in the first couple of chapters. Her brother turns on her, Mary gets sent to the nunnery because no boy wants to marry her, and then one does and It’s Complicated. The story moves along, building speed as it goes.

That building pace kind of gets in the way a bit. There are a few convenient big action sequences that push the characters along their paths, making some of their choices feel kind of pointless, since they were about to get forced into action without thinking anyway. But that’s only a minor annoyance. The urgency is always there with these moaning unconsecrated infection vectors surrounding them as they try to escape. The action sequences are really good and tense too, with almost every important character ending up dead (mostly in heroic fashion).

All in all, a good exciting read. Not as bleak as The Road but in kind of the same vein. It’s a YA novel and I’m bringing it to my next Teen Book Club as a (non-vampire!) recommendation.