Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Redshirts (Science Fiction Novel)

The red shirt,” Abnett said, “You know, in the original Star Trek, they always had Kirk and Bones and Spock and then some poor dude in a red shirt who got vaporized before the first commercial. The moral of the story was not to wear a red shirt. Or go on any away missions when you’re the only one whose name isn’t in the opening credits.” 

If the Thursday Next Series  and the Star Trek Series has a baby, it would be Redshirts by John Scalzi. In many ways, it is as much of a novel about science fiction as it is a science fiction novel. For the most part, it is a fun romp, although it does have some touching and thoughtful moments. The novel was nominated for both a 2013 Hugo and a 2013 Locus Science Fiction award.

Very briefly, Andrew Dahl is newly assigned to the ship Intrepid, along with a few other people. They soon realize that something is very odd about the ship. People die in totally bizarre ways on away missions. Some of the long-term crew members sustain massive injuries and yet always survive, healing within a week. The other crew members try to keep a low-profile. There are dramatic moments that don’t seem to make sense. Jenkins, who is in hiding on the ship, has an outrageous theory. But, when Dahl and his friends test the theory, Jenkins’ theory looks more plausible. Together they attempt to stop the mysterious deaths.

When I first started reading Redshirts, I was confused because it seemed so poorly written. How could this novel possibly be nominated for two awards? As I read further, I found it enjoyable in a sort of Alice through the rabbit hole sort of way. I like the fresh perspective. 2312 is still my pick for the 2013 Hugo award, but Redshirts has a strong appeal for those of us who have watched science fiction series week after week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2312 (Science Fiction Novel)

Now I remember why I hate Kim Stanley Robinson’s novels; I have major problems putting them down. Sleep, food, work, whatever, I just want to read the book. 2312 was another one of those books. As of this posting, the novel won the 2012 Nebula award and was nominated for the 2012 BSFA, 2013 Campbell, 2013 Clark, 2013 Hugo, and 2013 Locus Science Fiction awards. So, I am not alone with enjoying this novel.

Briefly, 2313 is set in the same world or a very similar world to the Mars Trilogy. In the opening of the novel we learn that Alex, a very influential woman in the solar system, has just passed away. Alex left some unfinished business, but she had worked in secrecy, keeping the information from her beloved granddaughter Swan. Despite being over 100 years old, Swan is something of a wild child. She soon meets close associates of Alex, including Wahram, a froggy looking man who is a lover of routines. While Swan and Wahram are coming back from attending a concert away from the Mercury city of Terminator, the city is attacked and destroyed. The two go into an underground tunnel and spend days hiking through it to a place where they can be rescued, thus creating a bond between them. How and why was the well-protected city destroyed? What were Alex’s important projects? Why are strange people showing up and are they a type of quantum computer? If people can terraform planets, can they also revive Earth? 2313 turns out to be a pivotal year for the solar system.

Be aware that 2313 is definitely not appropriate for young adults. If I had a preteen, I don’t think I would want them to read about how bi-gendered individuals have sex.

At times my brain wandered to Asimov’s Foundation Series. I found myself wondering “Did this happen in the Mars Trilogy or the Foundation Series?” Maybe, it is just me.

There are so many things that I liked about 2313. I liked the world building, and there are a lot of worlds. Asteroids are being hollowed out to create terrarium worlds. I liked that hard science, sociology, politics, and philosophy are presented in the descriptions of the solar system. I enjoyed the characters. Wahram is the perfect foil to Swan. I enjoyed the fast moving plot, including the mystery aspect of the story. I enjoyed the structure of the book. Robinson sets long descriptions –such as how to create a terrarium-- in small chapters apart from the main storyline. This novel is definitely worthy of its numerous award nominations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pseudoiteratives (Quotes from 2313)

In 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson describes “pseudoiteratives.” The last couple of days I have been thinking about all the pseudoiteratives that I have had over my lifetime and the one or two that I currently have. I know that pondering this idea will ever so subtly permanently change the way that I look at my world.
He needed order, and a project; he needed habits….Of course there was no such thing as a true repetition of anything; ever since the pre-Socratics that had been clear, Heraclitus and his un-twice-steppable river and so on. So habits were not truly iterative, but pseudoiterative. The pattern of the day might be the same, in other words, but the individual events fulfilling the pattern were always a little bit different. Thus there was both pattern and surprise, and this was Wahram’s desired state: to live in a pseudoiterative. But then also to live in a good pseudoiterative, an interesting one, the pattern constructed as a little work of art.
Oh yes, I have been where Wahram is. I think of the times that I have moved to a new city, suffered the loss of a major person in my life, left or taken a new job or project.
Life is at most a pseudoiterative. Each day has its particulars. Performing the same actions day after day, in a ritual to ward off time, to hold the moment, does not remove these particulars, but rather burnishes them. The animals, our horizontal brothers and sisters, remind us; each day lived is a kind of adventure, a success. Nothing ever repeats. Each breath is a new suck of the atmosphere, a gasp for life. A hope for experience. Feel that and go on.
Oh, these two quotes are so beautiful. This is why I read, to have someone describes ideas like this that change my perspective on life. Thank you, Kim Stanley Robinson.