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Posts tagged 'Science Fiction'

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

 

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. KleinScience fiction is often hailed (and sometimes derided) for the miraculous-seeming technologies that drive stories. Characters can communicate at the speed of thought and traverse great distances with minimal inconvenience, and readers for the most part accept this as a narrative device. The Punch Escrow, Klein’s debut novel, is a thriller that challenges this trope by telling a gripping story about the pitfalls of taking such technologies for granted.

It is 2147, and 50 years after the end of “The Last War,” humanity finds itself in a relatively good state thanks to technological advances. Necessary items can be assembled from stray matter. Mosquitos have been genetically modified to drink pollution instead of blood. And teleportation (think Star Trek’s transporters) has become a reality. Overseen by the monolithic International Transport (IT) Corporation and utilizing their patented “Punch Escrow” technology, getting from one part of the world to another is as easy as riding the subway.

Joel Byram, a freelance computer programmer and a bit of a smart aleck, lives with his physicist wife Sylvia in New York. In an attempt to rekindle romance in their strained marriage, they plan a tenth anniversary vacation in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, just as Joel is about to teleport from the Greenwich station to meet Sylvia, a bomb is detonated, damaging the facility. Joel leaves the station seemingly unharmed, but learns that technical meddling has resulted in a perfect duplicate of him arriving to meet his wife. Furthermore, Joel’s full legal rights have been given to the duplicate, whom Joel designates as “Joel2.” The result is that the original Joel (Joel1 ) now is considered old data that needs to be “cleared.” But Joel1 isn’t ready to be cleared. He wants to live, and he wants to see his wife again.

Thriller  Science Fiction  Justin Picks  Fiction

 

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

PalmerThe author earned his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis on the works of James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis. The complexity and depth of those writers is mirrored in Palmer’s 500-page novel, Version Control.

On the surface, Version Control is a time travel saga built around the lives of its two principal characters, physicist Philip Steiner and his wife, Rebecca Wright. Rebecca works for Lovability, a computer dating service. Much of the book’s social commentary and humor come from passages that deal with computer dating. By contrast, Richard is a physicist who heads a team of scientists tasked with building a time machine. No one on this team seriously believes the goal will be achieved but hopes their research will lead to developments in the future. All are single minded in their dedication to the project. Unlike her genius husband and his brilliant associates, Rebecca is a somewhat average young woman who meets Philip through Lovability. He falls in love with her, and finding his emotions a distraction to his work, proposes marriage. This does not bode well for Rebecca.

In the December 8, 2015 issue of Kirkus, the reviewer notes the book “offers some of the same pleasures as one of those state-of-the-union (domestic and national) epics by Jonathan Franzen, yet its speculative nature becomes increasingly apparent as the novel progresses (while its characters apparently don’t).” The concept of time appears to be circular with different realities existing simultaneously. In different versions Palmer offers of a fatal car crash, Rebecca dies; in another, Richard does; in yet a third, their son, Sean, is killed. The plot weaves different possibilities with different outcomes.

Only at the end does the reader fully understand Palmer’s main themes. When Philip muses, “Ulysses is not a story, as much as a system of the world” (cited in Kirkus, December 8, 2015) he is speaking for the author. Palmer’s journey motif is brought to a new dimension and the depersonalization of society by social media, online dating, and the pursuit of pure science come to a spectacular end.

Time Travel  SciFy  Science Fiction  Sara's Picks  Fantasy

05/04/16
 

Speak by Louisa Hall

HallI had a hard time trying to classify Speak. Is it a thoughtful mediation of the human condition through a lens of historical fiction? Is it science fiction? Or is it closer to science fact? No matter what one chooses to call it, I found it to be a compelling and timely story.

In Speak, six tenuously connected stories recount pivotal inspirations in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), through journal entries, letters, chat logs, and more. Like Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, these stories span centuries and continents to nest upon each other. These narratives include the journal entries of a teenage Puritan bride crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the 17th century, correspondence from pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing to his deceased friend’s mother, and the final fading thoughts of an illegal robot sentenced to rot in an airplane hangar sometime in the not-too-distant future. Each narrator uses the works of the previous one to help develop or implement AI, a technology that is bound to play a huge role in our lives (and probably sooner than we think). The sci-fi side of this book contains some interesting (and often frightening) ideas about what the future may hold for us as society becomes more and more dependent on technology and machines start to meet our social needs. Each story also explores what means to be a human, as our narrators fulfill the need to communicate—even if nobody is listening.

Speak is a fast read that is sure to appeal to fans of science fiction and literary fiction. Anyone interested in a vision of the future or a philosophical look at the psychological needs of humankind would probably enjoy this book.

book

Speculative Fiction  Science Fiction  Jake's Picks  Historical Fiction  Dystopia  Contemporary

03/04/16
 

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

ScorpRulesFour hundred years ago the world developed an Artificial Intelligence called Talis and charged it with saving humanity, which Talis did… by taking control. After annihilating a few cities as a statement, Talis takes all the rulers’ children until they reach the age of 18 - if they live that long. Should the leaders and governing dignitaries go to war, the children’s lives are forfeit.

 

Bow’s Sci-Fi novel is labeled for “Young Adults” but it’s also enjoyable for those of us who have exceeded the boundaries of YA. The main character of the book, named Greta Gustafsen Stuart, and the other Children of Peace in her school live in fear of the dust plumes that indicate a Swan Rider is coming. Swan Riders, tasked with taking the Children into the Gray Room, only come when war is declared; on the morning The Scorpion Rules begins, a dust trail is spotted.

 

Young Adult  YA  Teen  Science Fiction  Sci-Fi  Sarah Marie's Picks  Fantasy

01/25/16
 

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