Sunday, February 25, 2007

New Tor site

I've always found it a bit disappointing, and rather ironic, that science fiction publishers have generally not taken much advantage of the possibilities of the internet, the big exception being Baen. The most egregious example was Tor, which despite being SF's preeminent publisher had a pretty poor website. Well, they've completely revamped, and their new site is one of the better science fiction publisher sites on the internet, with extensive author sections and listings for all their books. Have a look.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton

Mindstar Rising, published in 1993, is the debut novel of Peter F. Hamilton, and the first book in the Greg Mandel trilogy.

The book is set in a high-tech
Britain in what appears to be the mid-21st century, although a firm date is never given. Britain has been ravaged by global warming and is struggling to recover from the social and economic devastation left by a decade of socialist dictatorship that has only recently come to an end.

The hero of the story is Greg Mandel: detective, former resistance fighter, British Army veteran, and telepath. He’s a product of the Mindstar Battalion, an abandoned attempt by the British government to tap and augment the powers of the human mind for military purposes. He can read the feelings and moods of those around him thanks to special implants, which comes in handy in his work.

After a short prologue, the story begins when Mandel is hired by wealthy industrialist Philip Evans, owner of technology firm Event Horizon, to root out sabotage in the company’s zero-g orbital factories. As the story progresses, Mandel find himself up against assassins, saboteurs, hackers, corporate mercenaries and more as he tries to unravel the mystery and protect his employer.

I thought Mindstar Rising was an excellent book and a great combination of mostly-realistic science fiction (psionics aside) and action/espionage. It’s got an interesting setting, some neat technology, and lots of action. It’s got memorable characters too; once you meet Mandel’s friend Royan, you won’t forget him for quite a while.

Hamilton does a nice job of portraying a ravaged nation just pulling itself out of ruin- slums, crumbling highways, former coastal towns half-submerged by the rising oceans. He does a nice job of creating a feeling of both bleakness and a bit of hope. It’s a type of setting you don’t seem to see that much- a recovering former dystopia.

The existence of psionic powers, something not seen much in print science fiction anymore, is handled well- it’s important to the story but doesn’t utterly dominate it. I especially like the way prescience was handled. Interestingly, whereas many works that deal with psionics imagine the discovery of such powers being a radical social change, perhaps even the next step in human evolution or some such, in this book it is described as being far less spectacular- Mindstar Battalion was an expensive failure, not useful enough to the Army to justify its cost. I found the idea of the telepathic supersoldier as costly boondoggle sort of amusing.

I highly recommend Mindstar Rising to anyone who likes a lot of action in their science fiction, people who like near-future speculation, and fans of Hamilton’s later works. Check this one out.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

John C. Wright interview

One of my favorite authors, John C. Wright, has a great interview up at SciFi Weekly. The descriptions of some of his upcoming projects sound especially promising.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Jabootu is back!

I'm hitting this a little late, but better than never: Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension, the funniest movie site on the internet, is back in action with a new site. If you get a kick out of cheesy movies, or just like to laugh, be sure to check it out.

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Science fiction and fantasy in bookstores

Robert Sawyer has a provocative suggestion at his blog: shelve science fiction and fantasy separately in stores. The idea has a certain appeal- I like precision of categorization, and it would make finding certain things quicker- but I think it would be a bad idea. Two reasons:

1. I don't buy Sawyer's claim that the long-standing association between the genres of fantasy and science fiction is a mere historical accident. There are simply too many major authors who have written in both genres- Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, Greg Bear, David Drake, Gordon R. Dickson- for me to believe they are "diametrically opposed," as Sawyer suggests. The commonalities between the two are something for another post, though.

2. On a more practical level, because many people (for whatever reason) write in both fields, it would mean that many authors would have to have their fiction split into two different sections, which would be a pain. Or, alternately, the store would have to pick one section to put all of an author's work in, which would also be a pain.

All in all, I prefer the status quo. I enjoy the narrower categories at online booksellers like Amazon (which does let you search separate fantasy and science fiction sections) but in a physical bookstore I'd rather things stay as they are.

Hat tip: SF Signal.

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