Book Review : The Amoeba-Ox Continuum

The Amoeba-Ox Continuum  by Trent Portigal

Why I read:  Science fiction and detective novel combined

Book blurb: ” Natalie Chaulieu has a new assignment. A series of deaths in an old workers’ utopia has caught the attention of the central government and she has been chosen as the liaison between the government and the investigation team. On arriving, she is struck by a world more brilliant and poetic than she has ever known, but as the case progresses it becomes clear that the deaths are intimately connected to the utopia, which is itself suffering a slow decline. As the investigation continues Natalie is forced to question whether the brilliance and poetry are worth saving, and, if so, at what cost…

 

 

My review

An intriguing sci-fi  which centres around Natalie Chaulieu as she  investigates a series of deaths in a workers utopia.   The story is told through Natalie’s eyes as she poetically describes and reflects upon what she finds within this strange world and what caused the deaths.     Her reflections and contemplation are often interestingly bizarre, for instance Natalie categorises the people she meets as insipid amoebas with the occasional ox thrown in.   There’s plenty within to apply to current society as well as: Puppeteers who depict mindless violence,  officials who avoid charges through their status, traditions around Death, poverty, workers conditions etc.  and plenty of witty commentary on them.   Although I loved the weirdness of the book I occasionally got a bit lost and had to re-read sections of Natalie’s thoughts on what was happening.   Overall its a strange and unique story with plenty to keep you entertained.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 184 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Roundfire Books
ISBN 1785356917
Advertisements

Book Review : The Windup Girl – bleak dystopia sci-fi

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

3 1/2 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction dystopia that I kept on hearing about – just had to read it.

Book blurb: “Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko…

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.”

 

 

My review

A vast bio-punk dystopia set in a future Thailand.  The calorie companies whose mistakes brought new diseases including Blister rust and Cibiscosis are the ones who dole out calories and so control lives. Emiko is the windup girl, one of the New People, genetically engineered to serve.   She survives in a world brought to the edge of extinction by genetic manipulation.

“We are nature. Our every tinkering is nature, our every biological striving. We are what we are, and the world is ours. We are its gods. Your only difficulty is your unwillingness to unleash your potential fully upon it.” 
― Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

The world building is brilliantly descriptive, you are drawn into this brutal, dark, bleak future.  Set in a future Thailand within a world whose natural resources are dwindling, food is scarce, disease and disasters are everywhere.  Seed banks are owned by Calorie companies, limits on calories put a premium on muscle power.   Political manoeuvrings create twists and turns along the plot. There’s an abundance of new words which leave you searching for a meaning within the surrounding text.  Its a scary, distorted and exaggerated reflection of life with bio-technology, a disturbing vision of what our future could hold.

There are several interlocking character stories that run throughout the book.  I found I was more interested in some characters than others and ended up skimming some parts.  My emotional investments in most characters was low as viewpoints kept switching between the wide range of characters.   The title of the book,  Emiko, the Windup Girl, is a genetically engineered, Japanese-designed “New Person”, built to serve “real” humans.  Created with many modifications such as small pores to make her more sexually desirable, a “sex bot”yet she feels human emotions and pain.  Abandoned by her former owner she is now a slave in a sex club.  Through her character we explore the origin and meaning of the soul and survival in a hostile changing environment.  But there were numerous points I had to stop reading as you graphically witness the sexual degradation of Emiko, created to obey, to respond willingly to any  advances, seen by those who use her as an object created for pleasure, little more than a toy.   The numerous descriptions of her sexual objectification and abuse were sickening and often felt over described.  But still they drew out a critique and exploration of the issues.   It was deeply unsettling as the book questions does she have a soul does it matter?

“And we all know windups have no souls.” Gibbons grins. “No rebirth for them. They will have to find their own gods to protect them. Their own gods to pray for their dead.” Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

There are many references to “gene ripping” and DNA experimentation with examples of how this can go so terribly wrong.   Many of the usual sci-fi questions are presented in the book.  How far should we  play god? When is scientific/technological advancement good for humanity and when should we stop?  Should engineered humans be given the full rights and status of naturally biological humans?  This abundance of ideas was fascinating and impressive,  but at times the story itself is tedious and drags along.

A Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award winner its an epic book packed full of ideas.   But it took me a long time to finish, needing to escape from the terrible depressive bleakness Bacigalupi presents.        Its a nightmare vision of the future which kept drawing me back to read a bit more.  Nothing is black and white, characters are flawed, make mistakes, and the world is hollow and harrowing.  Very few happy moments are scattered within the pages, instead we see a future filled with despair and paranoia.  Overall a dark and brutal book, filled with questions and ethics,  but not an easy or particularly enjoyable read.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: science fiction, dystopia, science ethics.

“Even the richest and the most powerful are only meat for cheshires in the end. We are all nothing but walking corpses and to forget it is folly. Meditate on the nature of corpses and you will see this. ” 
― Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl

***

Hardcover, 359 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Night Shade Books (first published 2009)
ISBN 1597801577

Book Review : Broadcast – unsettling sci-fi social-media thriller

Broadcast by Liam Brown

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction, dystopia, big brother, blogger.  A book relevant to our future with social media.

Book blurb: “The idea behind MindCast is simple. We insert a small chip into your skull and then every thought, every feeling, every memory is streamed live, twenty-four hours a day. Trust me – within a few months you’ll be the most talked about person on the planet.

When David Callow is offered the lead role in a revolutionary new online show, he snatches at the opportunity.

Rapidly becoming a viral sensation, David is propelled to stratospheric levels of celebrity. However, he soon realises the downside of sharing every secret with the world.

A prisoner to both his fame and his own thoughts, David seeks to have the chip removed, only to discover the chilling secret lurking at the heart of MindCast, and the terrifying ambition the show’s creator has for him.”

My review

A fast paced and thought provoking book, Broadcast explores what would happen if our every thought was transmitted to millions of viewers.   David  Callow is an egotistical vlogger who takes the chance to expand his fame by appearing in a new online show MindCast. We follow as he has a microchip inserted into his brain which transmits his thoughts, feelings and memories online 24/7 to MindCast’s viewers in a big brother style documentary.  As the show goes on David’s wishes to become a major celebrity are fulfilled but he also discovers the dangers and darkside of Mindcast and the shows producers terrifying vision.

Broadcast delves into what it means to be a celebrity. The instant fame of our generation.  It holds a mirror to lives in the public eye through facebook, twitter and online media where what we see is an edited online persona of an ideal life not a true reflection of reality.  It conveys a “Black Mirror” style social satire on the potential for abuse and evil within social medias future.  Freedom of speech, subliminal advertising, online privacy, social responsibility  and other moral dilemmas are thrown into the mix, as the plot speeds along adding interesting narration on today’s society.  At under 300 pages its a relatively short book which delivers a dark, unsettling vision of the future.   Despite having a base in technology there is very little tech talk which adds to the easy read though it might disappoint people who prefer more hard sci-fi.  The ending leaves many loose ends hanging which fit well with the style of the novel, echoing real life. Paranoia seeps out of the pages as you realise how plausible the story is with our increasingly digitalised world.  Although I did not completely agree with all the commentary the author paints a horrifying vision of an online future.

I found the main character David to be an air-headed celebrity obsessed with getting more followers.  It was hard to like him at all with his self-involved and obnoxious character that only seemed to care about fame.  However this didn’t distract from the book.  It was interesting to see how he reacted to each situation he got into and he does get less selfish towards the end.    Even though I did not sympathise with him, the fast pace of the book kept me hooked.  There are many plot twists as the book hurtles along through this near future setting.   I wanted to see what would happen next as the author explored the pros and cons of Mindcast and fame through David’s eyes.

Overall a thrilling, fast paced, sinister sci-fi  which was an quick enjoyable read.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Science fiction, fast paced reads, blogging, big-brother dystopia, near-future society.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 2017 by Legends Press
ISBN 1787199932 (ISBN13: 9781787199934)
Edition Language English

Book Review : The Unremembered Girl – Prime October Pick

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for October

Book blurb: “In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

“The stray thought occurred to him that if it weren’t for women, in all their cloaks of unfathomed mysteries, men would lead very boring lives.” ― Eliza MaxwellThe Unremembered Girl

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Unremembered Girl  is a tale about a dysfunctional family living in the backwaters of Texas and what happens to them when they encounter a feral girl Eve.  The story mostly focuses on Henry, his views and the decisions he makes and his relationship with Eve.   We are fed bits and pieces of information as the family discover more about  Eve.  There were many twists and turns and just as you think things can’t get any worse something else is thrown into the mix.

There’s a lot of dark and unsettling themes running throughout the book including human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and murder.  Most are just there as an under layer never fully explored.  The book is filled with sadness and tragedy with a few hopefully moments thrown in. The plot jumped around a bit but  the language and writing style was easy to understand and skim through so it was a quick read.   The setting for the book was really well written and you got a real feel for small town politics and values and got drawn into the swampy Texas scenery.  I’m normally a fan of doom and gloom but the book lacked the full emotional dimensions to pull me totally  in.

Eve was extremely damaged, and I felt the family did not do much to understand her.  It seemed more they wanted to shelter and protect her. Eve does not say much and throughout seems to just be a pretty one dimensional “damaged girl”.    Henry was a much better written character and you see many layers to his thoughts as he battles with decisions of what is best for himself, his family and for Eve.  Henry’s mother Caroline was a likeable character, a women holding a family together.

There was some unrealistic romance  which to me seemed more of Henry having an obsession with Eve.  With a seemingly instantaneous “love connection” sprouting from out of no-where. The author seems to be trying to tell this as a love story, but it just  felt like Eve was a prop for Henry to try and save.

Overall I found the book a fast read but the sheer amount of tragedy just made me feel sad.   Its not a book for the faint-hearted  but there are few dull moments as the plot keeps hurtling along.  I  settled between 2 and 3 star rating.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads, dark tragedy themes.

**1/2

 

Kindle Edition, 334 pages

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

WWW Wednesday! 18 October 2017

I’m participating today in WWW Wednesday! 

“This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived at Taking on a World of Words.”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

Currently reading:

Cthulhu and other Monsters by Sam Stone

I adore Cthulhu  and monster stories so its a perfect pick for me.  I plan to try and read one story every night in bed.  But I’ll probably get so engrossed that I binge read them all.

“Sixteen tales of terror from the blood-soaked pen of Sam Stone. Enter if you dare and discover nine stories inspired by the nightmare visions of H P Lovecraft: Elder Gods returning to the Earth to wreak havoc, tales of death and destruction and betrayal and the last flickering embers of humanity … 

Alongside these are seven further stories featuring the monstrous creations of Stone’s own imagination: a hungry and jealous sea; wolf-creatures prowling the fashion industry; a terrifying creature held captive in a cellar … 

Open the cover and let Sam Stone’s nightmares guide your way into horror.” 

Recently Finished: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield

“A Hu-Li is beautiful, slender and curiously foxlike. She lives in Moscow and works as a classy prostitute in the city’s premier hotels. But when a client goes inexplicably and fatally berserk at the sight of her in his luxury suite, A Hu-Li has to leave in a hurry. She decides to explore new avenues and place an ad on the internet – and that’s when the trouble really starts.”

This is a weird book:  Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute  uses her tail to induce sexual visions in her clients.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.  This was recommended to me by a friend. I’m enjoy reading although its a little different to my usual taste for books it certainly is weird enough to keep me entertained.

 

My full review is here:  Sacred Book of the Werewolf

 

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

 

This is my kindle first book pick for October.   It was a fast read. with lots of twists and turns.  Full Review I hope to write shortly….

Reading Next:

White is for Whitching by Helen Oyeyemi

I’ve still not started this one !  I will be reading this one as part of The Galactic Girlfiends Book Club.  Its the October pick for us all to read.  It looks suitably spooky and supernatural for Halloween month.

 

 

What Makes you Happy Tag

Today I’m taking part in a book tag! This is the 5 things that make you happy tag. Thanks Helen, from Helen’s Bookshelf  for tagging me in it.

I’ve illustrated this with pictures from my life of all these things so you get an extra peak.   It was hard to just pick 5!

5 Things that Make Me Happy  (excluding reading)

1)  Gaming

I’ve always loved computer games.  Being able to switch off for a while and just game.  Then I got into MMOs and loved the social side of playing with friends.  I usually play  MMOs, role-play, city-builders and adventure games but I dabble with all kinds.

 

2) Individualism – Crafting and art

I have a real passion for arty things that express my individualism.  I do a range of fibre art crafts including knitting, crochet, spinning and weaving.   I love to cook and bake.  I  dabble with drawing, writing and creative colouring.  This also extends onto my own body as I love doing weird colour mixes on my hair and adding more body art/tattoos.

3) My Dog

Cuddles, playtime and adventurous walks.  Plus shes an adorable little terror.

4) Live music gigs

Music is food for the soul.   It clears my head and lifts my spirits. I tend more towards the alternative music scene.  Metal, goth, industrial, punk and rock bands.  I love going to gigs,  having a dance/jump around and enjoying some live music.

5) Geocaching

I tried out geocaching with a friend a few months ago and was immediately hooked.  I love random adventures, challenging myself and exploring new areas and there’s plenty of that when out hunting for treasure.

My instagram features many of my geocaching adventures.  Official website.

Book Review : The Sacred Book of the Werewolf – supernatural weirdness

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor PelevinAndrew Bromfield (Translator)

4 star read

Why I read:  Recommended to me by a friend as something weird I might enjoy.

Book blurb: “Paranormal meets transcendental in this provocative and hilarious novel.

Victor Pelevin has established a reputation as one of the most brilliant writers at work today; his comic inventiveness has won him comparisons to Kafka, Calvino, and Gogol, and Time has described him as a “psychedelic Nabokov for the cyberage.” Pelevin’s new novel, his first in six years, is both a supernatural love story and a satirical portrait of modern Russia. It concerns the adventures of a hardworking fifteen-year-old Moscow prostitute named A. Huli, who in reality is a two thousand-year-old were-fox who seduces men in order to absorb their life force; she does this by means of her tail, a hypnotic organ that puts men into a trance in which they dream they are having sex with her. A. Huli eventually comes to the attention of and falls in love with a high-ranking Russian intelligence officer named Alexander, who is also a werewolf (unbeknownst to our heroine). And that is only the beginning of the fun. A huge success in Russia, this is a stunning and ingenious work of the imagination, arguably Pelevin’s sharpest and most engrossing novel to date.”

 My review

Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute,  A Hu-Li, uses her tail to induce illusion.  Sexual visions in her clients allow her to assimilate human sexual energy released during the act of love.  Maintaining her enchantment and youthful appearance of a tall, slender young woman.  A Hu-Li meets a were-wolf and falls in love.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.

The book is told from A Hu-Li’s perspective.  Her pursuit of the mysteries of life were entertaining and sometimes inspiring as she dabbles with Buddhist theories towards the end of the novel.  Throughout she comments on the state of Russia and the world offering her insights.    Conveniently werefoxes mostly forget what they know so her comments were not clouded with a millennia of knowledge.   Hu-Li also seemed to me to be a mans idea of what a woman is and thinks… again this is kind of explained by the fact that werefoxes are really gender neutral but just look like sexy young girls.

This is a weird book that was recommended to me by a friend. It certainly was strange enough to keep me entertained.  There’s a real mix of blatantly stupid and  intelligent thoughts throughout the book.  Sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes enlightened but always I wanted to know what would happen next.  Though I had to put the book down a few times and return to it later when my brain felt it had had enough.   Its has elements of dark fairy-tales and a kind of magical mysticism but set in a realistically abrasive reality.  There are many wordplays and puns which appear to have translated well from the original Russian.   Original and complex ideas are littered through the pages but the novel just felt a bit pretentious and tedious.   Overall it didn’t quite gel for me.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: weird tales, foxes, werewolves, magical animals, dark gritty commentary and religious undertones.

***

 Paperback, 333 pages

Published June 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber (first published 2004)

Original Title Священная книга оборотня
ISBN 0571227988

Edition Language: English