…SF addict …

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bob Shaw goes vertical!

I had planned to finish this book earlier but I got the flu with a raging fever and it knocked me sideways. As a result it interfered with my reading (amongst other things like work, and the kids) so a short novel ended up taking flipping ages! (OK 12 days!)
Anyhoo its basically a story about how the invention of personal flight suits years ago has given everyone their own personal freedom of the skies (theyre called CG harnesses-Counter Gravity which sounds a little like the devices Neal Asher describes in his books!)
Due to the easy availability and cheapness of such devices airline travel has been abandoned as no longer cost effective and the sky is full of people, navigating by glowing lines called Bilasers. Some businesses use the bilaser technology to advertise their product in the form of huge glowing ethereal banners-sounds a bit Bladerunner-ish!
Amongst all this is Air Police Officer Rob Hasson (Bob Shaw?) who due to an accident years before has had to hand in his CG harness and badge and try to hide away from the public eye, changing his name slightly. He moves to Canada where he meets another Air Police Officer (Werry) who knows Hasson from years before, and who takes him under his wing. There are funny episodes where Hasson gets to meet Werry's family who are less than taken with Hasson's stiff British ways! Werry also has a blind son who loves to idea of flying and looks forward to seeing again after a 2 year long medical procedure.
It turns out some young dudes are having drug parties on the roof of one of the buildings and generally causing havoc-the locals are unhappy with the way things are being handled and blame Werry before taking things into their own hands. Things come to a head and Hasson must prepare himself to resume his former duties.....
Its a short little tale (158 pages) and if this were any other author I would say nothing much happens in the book but it seeems Shaw enjoys injecting humour into his books. So even in scenes where nothing much IS happening things are enlivened by Shaw's cheeky humour and joie de vivre. I have this image of him smiling constantly while writing this book- a happy chappy indeed! I also discovered that it has an alternative title of Terminal velocity, which does sound a better title for an SF novel!

This is only my 3rd Shaw read (previous being Palace of Eternity and Fire Pattern) but it certainly wont be the last!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Sir Arthur!

Arthur C. Clarke would be 93 today (day after my own birthday!)
Now, I had planned to start reading his novel Childhood's End today but due to getting a bout of flu I haven't finished Bob Shaw's Vertigo yet(report on that book coming soon)
So, Happy Birthday Sir Arthur, you still manage to inspire from your place amongst the stars!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

People are dying to visit Earth in this book!

Cemetery World is a short 1973 novel by Clifford D. Simak.
Simak was born in 1904 and came late to SF, working as a newspaperman for most of life. Upon retiring he turned to writing and soon amassed a wealth of stories and novels.
Simak's fiction has been described as 'pastoral', focussing on and driven by the natural world. Often it is the environment in which the conflict occurs that takes centre stage rather than the event itself, with more of a human element than a technological one, and although I've only read a few of his works this impression does come across! When you consider the area in which he lived, (Wisconsin and Minneapolis) surrounded by fantastic scenery it is no wonder really!

In Cemetery World we discover a future Earth which has become the cemetery of the title, the richest people having their remains interred there. Along comes Fletcher Carson, his giant robot companion Elmer and a huge robotic creation called Bronco with a plan to create a mulitmedia work of art based around non-Cemetery parts of Earth. Carson seeks to find out as much as he can about the forgotten aspect of the planet but is met with opposition from the corporate leaders of Cemetery, and soon finds himself pursued by strange ghost-like beings and robotic wolves, determined to discourage Carson from his pursuit.

I read this a few years ago but it didnt make much impression on me. However this second time around I found it very engaging and am glad I kept the book on my shelf!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

AIs and Runcibe spoons ahoy!

Gridlinked is my second Neal Asher read-earlier in the year I read 2006's Prador Moon, but this book, though similar, is somewhat different. While that other book deals with the nasty crab-like Prador and the military's attempts to deal with them, this book is about an agent with the Earth Central Security (ECS), name of Ian Cormac. It dates from 2001 and is the first Cormack novel. I enjoyed Prador Moon immensely-it was all fast action, kill the bugs, get home safely kind of stuff, but Gridlinked is a much slower paced read. Both books feature similar technologies, AIs, runcibles etc, but Gridlinked focusses on Cormack's mission, chasing mercenaries (and one mercenary in particular) half way around the galaxy. The book has been described as a far-future James Bond type story but the story deviates from different viewpoints-that of Cormack and that of Pelter and co., and is less focussed on the agent himself. Basically people in this time have AIs implanted in their skulls, which gives them an interactive live network allowing them to recieve information instantly and act upon it. Unfortunately Cormack is instructed to disconnect himself from the 'grid' and so although the book is called Gridlinked, Cormack spends most of the time out of it!
I didnt enjoy the book as much as Prador Moon and a lot of that is to do with size-the books is 521 pages long and my reading time is scarce, and while the beginning is promising, the middle section seems to ramble a bit-for me there wasnt enough focus on Cormack. I wanted to see him kick ass and do his stuff but it was much more subtle. The last 200 pages picked up and I'm glad I stuck with it as it got quite interesting and 'fighty'. The only thing is towards the very end I found myself scratching my head-I wasnt sure just who or what the Dragon was and the Maker wasnt described at all-was he defeated, I'm not sure! Overall though a fun romp through time and space-(I could use one of them runcibles!)-but I found it just a little too long-350 pages would have sufficed or more stuff for Cormack to do in the middle would have been nice!

The next book in the Cormack series, Line of Polity, sounds quite different-I just have to find it in my library.....