I don't know if I've ever actually mentioned this before, since I'm usually just whining about how life sucks in here, but I love fantasty/sci-fi, and read a ton of it. Lately I've been on a real sci-fi kick, so I decided I'd read through the Hugo nominees for best novel of 2009, just to see how my tastes compares to Joe Q. Public's.
I had already read Anatham
and Zoe's Tale
, so I read Saturn's Children
, am reading The Graveyard Book
now and that just leaves Little Brother
. I'm sort of not sure what I think, actually, so here's a quickie run-down.Anathem
This is an odd one. I've read most of Neal Stephenson's work and enjoyed it, but this is, well, meh. The concept is interesting, I suppose, and it was certainly unusual -- a secular convent for mathematicians -- but it was also about 3,000 pages long, most of which was filled with mind-numbingly boring discussion of speculative math for alternate worlds. And I say that as someone who generally quite easily follows the science and even some of the math of hard sci-fi. I mean, I found the discussion of crytography in Cryptonomicon
fascinating. I guess the bottom line is, I won't be reading it again any time soon, so not a winner for me. Also, the XKCD on novels that make up too many words and fingered Anathem
? is right on.Zoe's Tale:
With this book, I've read all of Scalzi's sci-fi works. (He has some non-sci-fi stuff I will pick up shortly.) I enjoyed all his books very much, and I read his blog, so I suppose he's probably my favorite author on this year's list. That said, I think Zoe's Tale
is my least favorite of his works. It isn't an insult or a diss -- it's not bad
, per se -- it just wasn't really my favorite. It was interesting to fill in all the gaps from The Last Colony
, and it was, I suppose, a pretty credible attempt at Grown Man Writing From the Perspective of Teenage Girl, but again, I've read and reread the rest of his books several times, and I don't think this is going to be in that category.Saturn's Children
I read a lot of dystopian futuristic sci-fi, so this book falls into a niche that's right up my alley. In short, it's a future where humanity is dead, but the world and expansion into space continues via the androids humanity created to be their servants. There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of sex in this book, but it's about the least sexy sex you've ever read and it makes its point very well. This novel's protagonist is a female sexbot, a human replica created solely to serve man, programmed to be aroused at the site of old, white males, and submissive to the nth degree to the afore-mentioned old, white males.
The crux of the plot revolves around the idea that in the absence of humans (and human directives), the social order of the world is more or less hellish. Haves (the aristo class -- robots who model themselves to be anime in appearance), and have-notes (basically, everyone else, most of which have been either kept in their original slavery, or enslaved via slave AI chips that override the bot's original personality -- it's a nice touch that the bots built solely to be slave workers are called arbeiters [as in, arbeit mach frei
] and one of the indignities thrust upon said slaves is that they are not given the capacity for sexual contact).
It's an interesting story, but also, all told, a rather disturbing one. As the layers of the conditioning used to create the submissive, sexual obedience in the humanoid sexbot heroine are revealed, it's a little sickening -- mostly because it's not real hard to imagine it actually happening, whether to robot or actual human. I wouldn't call this a specifically feminist work; I don't think that's how it is intended. It is, however, a very blunt, very bleak, very accurate
description of what a male-dominated society would produce if it were possible.
So far, this has been the best of the lot. I'm trying to figure out precisely what I think of the book as a whole. I enjoyed it, and kind of wish there would be a sequel so that we could find out what happens to our heroine. However, I also think the ending smacks, a great deal, of the infamous deus ex machina
. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but basically, there's a huge build-up to the climax, and then it sort of fizzles out with a whimper. How ironic, all things considered, ha. Still, it's an interesting read (though probably not for the overly politically correct or easily offended).
So that just leaves The Graveyard Book and Little Brother. I'll get back to y'all on those as soon as I've finished those.