A Dark Picture of a World Overrun by Technology: Green Valley, by Louis Greenberg

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Posted by Caitlin McAllister

Green Valley Louis Greenberg-smallGreen Valley
By Louis Greenberg
Titan Books (336 pages, $14.95 trade paperback/$7.99 digital, June 11, 2019)

Green Valley follows Lucie Sterling, a detective in a near-future world where the use of technology has been banned by the governing body, Omega. After the “Turn,” those that wished to continue to live within a world manifested through virtual reality were confined to a concrete bunker spanning miles — a place called Green Valley.

Those on the outside, including Lucie, have no contact with those behind the concrete curtain until a series of murdered children with bio and nano tech coursing through their small bodies show up in Stanton. Lucie’s assigned the case but in a completely analog world, how is she supposed to crack it with no evidence other than the bodies left behind?

The case is further muddied by the fact that Lucie’s niece, Kira, is a resident of Green Valley. Worried for her safety, with nothing to go on, Lucie makes the unusual journey into Green Valley to uncover the truth.

Greenberg does a lot of world-building early on that draws the reader in and paints a dark, yet eerily familiar picture of a world overrun by technology. The tension created between the new world order and those that chose a life managed by virtual reality makes the book hard to put down.

For all the detail spent on the story and the characters early on, there’s a lack of balance to it at the end. I wish each character (human or virtual) had the same amount of care spent on wrapping up their own stories, rather than just the multi-faceted Lucie.

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Sunday, July 14th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Case

This Is How You Lose the Time War-smallWhen I was younger I remember reading a short description of Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time when it was reissued for the Science Fiction Book Club and being fascinated by the idea of a time war. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Leiber’s exploration of that idea, so I can’t say for certain how closely Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone were informed by it in their new co-authored novel, This is How You Lose the Time War.

The general idea of a time war though is fairly straightforward and has been a recurring science fiction trope since Leiber’s work. However, the execution of one (and writing a narrative that follows the agents waging one) is anything but. The theme works like this: assuming two sides have different desired and opposing outcomes for the future and that any future is the outcome of a millions accumulated events, waging a time war means sending agents or soldiers into the past to change the outcome of these events so history flows one way or another. This could be changing the outcome of a historic battle, causing the assassination of a specific individual, or even things more subtle like influencing a particular political leader as she develops her ideas.

Now overlay all this with a love story. That is what El-Mohtar and Gladstone are about in this very gorgeous book. The two sides in their eponymous time war are diametrically opposed: one pushing history toward a technological utopia with forces overseen by the cool, calculating Commandant and the other toward a future in which everything — even the stars themselves — has become part of a vast organic hive-mind called Garden. The Commandant’s best agent is Red, and her opposite for Garden is known as Blue. It’s difficult to classify either agent, who are the dual protagonists of the story, as human. Both have been synthetically created by their respective side with immense power, in addition to time travel (the mechanics of which are kept vague throughout). Both identify as female, and both fall very much in love.

The structure of the book is crafted around a series of letters between Red and Blue as they strike up a dangerous, flirtatious rivalry that quickly grows into much more. Each short chapter (which read almost like vignettes or carefully crafted prose poems) follows either Blue or Red in a different period from Earth’s past to the far future as the one’s missions are foiled or obstructed by the other. Each chapter ends with one finding a letter left by the other. The imagery throughout, especially in the letters, is striking, bringing each new landscape to life, and consistent enough it’s hard to tell where one author’s writing ends and the other’s begins.

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Goth Chick News Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Thursday, July 11th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child-small

It will come as a shock to absolute no one that I am a Harry Potter nerd of biblical proportion. I cop to it, I embrace it, and I proudly got out in public displaying it via my various “Hogwarts Alumni” gear, my custom HP Vans and my Gryffindor quidditch team pajamas. I make an annual pilgrimage to Universal Studios in Florida where I repeatedly get in line for the “Escape from Hogwarts” roller coaster, ride the Hogwarts Express until even the employees roll their eyes, and drink butterbeers to the point of terminal brain freeze. I’ve been to the Warner Brothers Studios in London where the movies were filmed and where security had to turn the lights off to get me to leave, and proudly taken selfies in Kings Cross Station where platform 9 ¾ can be plainly seen, unless of course, you’re a muggle.

And though I was in London on June 7, 2019 the opening night of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, actually getting into the Palace Theater to see it had become my own personal holy grail. Shows were sold out months in advance, plus it was a two-night commitment; the play unfolds in two parts performed on consecutive evenings. Following its record-breaking nine Laurence Olivier Awards in 2017, it was inevitable that Cursed Child would eventually arrive on Broadway in New York, which is precisely what it did in April 2018 where it opened at the Lyric Theater. And one day a week, on Wednesdays, both Part I and Part II are performed on the same, long, magically wonderful day.

The stars were aligned, the time was right, the boss was out of town, and on June 26th I crossed a sweltering Times Square, Cursed Child tickets in hand and feeling like a tween en route to a Justin Bieber concert, when he did concerts and had better hair.

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Smashing the Status Quo to Pieces: The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Ford

The Brothers Jetstream Leviathan-small The Brothers Jetstream Leviathan-back-small

When I was in Baltimore for World Fantasy last year, I attended a reading by Zig Zag Claybourne (aka Clarence Young). He read from a novel, The Brother’s Jet Stream: Leviathan. When he was done I shook my head and thought, “What the f— was that?”

So I got the novel on my kindle a few weeks later, started at the beginning and went through it. I’m not about to try to summarize the plot to this book because I could only do it an injustice. You basically have the brothers Jetstream, Milo and Ramses, a pair of trench coat wearing, space traveling adventurers out to thwart the self cloning, evil Buford, but don’t forget the leviathan, a whale created at the dawn of the universe, women with super powers, Atlantis, a good measure of biblical reference and interwoven themes, checkers, the multiverse, vampires, etc.

What I encountered was a true to life contemporary Science Fiction epic that conquers and appropriates the tired world of Space Opera and reconstitutes it as a psychedelic (and I’m not referencing drugs here, but freewheeling visionary power) product of Afro-futurism. The language, the story-line, the characters, the entire sensibility of the book is full of a different kind of energy than pretty much any other SF I’ve seen. It’s akin in its narrative flow and hilarious humor to something like Robert Coover’s Ghost Town, but I sense a cultural identity in this that is different, more along the lines of Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo –not so much like Reed’s in that it’s about the history of humanity or lack thereof but it might be about the history of the whiteness of SF space adventure and what lies beyond that.

The Brothers Jetstream smashes the status quo to pieces.

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Who’s Afraid of The Fearsome Fang?

Friday, July 5th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Dr._Fang_Web_Cover_540x753356._SX360_QL80_TTD_The Fearsome Doctor Fang was published by TKO Studios in December 2018. The title only recently came to my attention on the recommendation of a fellow member of The Sax Rohmer Society. As soon as I saw the hero was named Nayland Kelly, I was sold.

Writing new Yellow Peril titles in the 21st Century is understandably a tricky business. James Bond is a rare pulp-influenced franchise to have escaped unscathed despite Dr. No becoming the first of the series to reach the silver screen. The relatively understated yellow-face performance from Joseph Wiseman in the 1962 Sean Connery film never offends audiences the same way Mickey Rooney’s broad Japanese caricature does in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Political correctness damns Rooney’s over-the-top and insensitive Mr. Yunioshi while ignoring Jerry Lewis or Vito Scotti doing virtually the same offensive vaudeville routines elsewhere in film and television in the same era. What triggers viewers or readers is often the perception of just how offensive a portrayal is; though some of course would prefer to banish all trace of Yellow Peril and yellowface as a matter of principle.

So I was immediately curious how TKO Studios approached The Fearsome Doctor Fang. I was surprised to see a white hero and heroine on the cover as mixing it up a bit racially seemed the easiest path to navigating through rocky waters. While waiting for the book to arrive, I read up on the publisher. TKO Studios is a relatively new comics publisher on the scene whose approach to distribution is akin to  television binge-watching. Multi-part titles are published digitally and in print in their entirety at once. Trade paperback and deluxe collected editions are also immediately available.

The co-creator of The Fearsome Doctor Fang is TKO Studios co-founder Tze Chun. A professional television writer/producer for series such as Gotham and Once Upon a Time and an award-winning independent filmmaker in his own right; it is likely that TKO Studios have an eye on developing their properties for other media.

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A Mashup of Firefly, The Rowan, and Star Wars: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Aurora Rising-smallThe spaceship disintegrates around Tyler, sagging and rupturing, giving way to the void. He’s going to die out here in hyperspace, taken out by one of its freak Foldstorms.

He isn’t supposed to be here. It’s the night before the Draft, and he should be sleeping, preparing to tap the team he wants. As the top-ranked Alpha in the League, he’s got the strongest draft picks of anyone.

But he couldn’t sleep. And then the distress call came in.

Everyone knows that the Hadfield colony ship was lost more than two hundred years ago. But somehow, impossibly, it shows up on radar. And according to the initial scan, it contains tens of thousands of corpses, but also a single heat signature…

Somewhere deep in the hold of the Hadfield, someone’s alive.

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In 500 Words or Less: The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda

Friday, June 14th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

The Gossamer Mage-smallThe Gossamer Mage
By Julie E. Czerneda
DAW Books (416 pages, $27.00 hardcover/$12.99 eBook, August 6, 2019)

In the words of the great Mr. Spock, Julie Czerneda’s forthcoming novel The Gossamer Mage is fascinating.

To be fair, everything I’ve ever read from Julie is fascinating in some way. But Gossamer is a different brand of cool than either The Clan Chronicles or Web Shifters. Not only is it a jump from science fiction to fantasy, but it brings along the intricate detail and clever wordplay that you can find in any of Julie’s other works.

What mainly fascinated me here was the magic. I’m not the sort of reader or writer who needs a magic system to have strictly defined rules that can’t be broken and need to see explained in detail (although I enjoy that when it’s done well, like in The Dresden Files). What I definitely need, though, is magic that has consequences, so you don’t need to come up with complicated reasons to prevent mages from laying waste to every opponent. Julie’s presented a really cool brand of consequence: magic that siphons years off a mage’s life, aging them as they perform their works, in this case through ink and parchment.

She goes one better to make that aging somewhat up to the whim of the Deathless Goddess, to which (almost) every scribemaster gives their allegiance. And then on top of that, she’s layered a complex world built around the idea of mages who literally spend their life to achieve success. Scribemaster Saeleonarial, for example, worries that every new magical script will make him a decrepit old man, and looks down on young people who burn through that youth too quickly going after glory. There’s a vested interest in producing new mages through promoting powerful bloodlines, but the power to control that rests with the hold daughters, who represent the Deathless Goddess who allows magic to exist. And so on.

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Galaxy Science Fiction, August 1954: A Retro-Review

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy August 1954-small Galaxy August 1954-back-small

Cover by René Vidmer

The cover of the August, 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is “Hunting on Aldebaran IV” by René Vidmer. This was Vidmer’s only cover art for Galaxy. Although Vidmer had cover art on a few other magazines, the majority of his contributions were interior artwork. His art was published between 1953 and 1957 — a very brief career, which remains a mystery to me. I couldn’t find any personal information on him, unfortunately.

“Party of the Two Parts” by William Tenn — An intelligent villain from a distant planet steals a spaceship to evade capture. He lands on Earth, knowing he can’t be extradited by the Galactic Patrol unless he commits a crime against Earth. And when he does attempt a crime, it’s uncertain if it’s only a crime to his species or to humanity, leaving the Galactic Patrol in a conundrum.

Most of the characters within the story aren’t human, but they’re easy to relate to. I liked that Tenn provided part of the ending up front to set the story in place without giving away the entire plot.

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Cyborgs in Space: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Thursday, June 6th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Hullmetal-Girls-smallerOnly the most desperate try to become Scela warriors. That’s because few humans survive being fused with the robotic exoskeletons. Yet Aisha sits with thirty others, waiting for her turn, while the body of her mentor, ripped in half, is carried past on its way to the incinerator.

She knows she’s probably going to die. But this is her last chance to save her siblings. Her younger brother is dying of a wasting disease, and treatment is expensive. She’ll also do anything to keep her younger sister from working in the dyeing plant that killed their mother. So that’s why Aisha has signed on for the chance to become a Scela. She has never wanted to be a soldier for the State. But if she can survive the process of becoming a cyborg, her salary will be enough to support her family.

The surgery is even worse than she’d imagined. But when she wakes, the full truth hits her – she hasn’t just signed away her human body. She’s also surrendered her mind. The exo seems to have a will of its own. And since the Scela fighters are literally the hands the State, the authorities can override her will at any time. She’s nothing but a tool, a drone. She can no longer control what her body does.

Of the thirty people in that waiting room, only Aisha and three others survive. It’s hard enough for each of them to control their own bodies individually. When the trainer flips a switch, yoking their minds together, all four are suddenly four places at once.

Aisha’s new teammate Key’s mind has been destroyed so badly, she can’t even remember why she signed up to become a Scela in the first place. Since she’s from the upper class, it makes no sense that she would risk her life to do so.

The only boy in the squad, Wooj, was caught in a felony and forced to become a Scela. While he managed to survive the procedure, there’s something wrong with his exo. Sometimes, it’s too loose. Others, the robot eclipses his humanity completely.

Praava’s life doesn’t matter. Only her older sister’s does. Praava knows her sister will solve the puzzle of the wasting disease and save humanity, but only if she has enough money for her research. That’s why she went under the blade.

With their vastly different backgrounds and agendas, these four will never be able to work together. Except they must, if humanity is going to survive.

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Enhancement, Singularity, and the Power of Myth: James Herrick’s Visions of Technological Transcendence

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019 | Posted by Josh Panos

Visions of Technological Transcendence Human Enhancement and the Rhetoric of the Future-small Visions of Technological Transcendence Human Enhancement and the Rhetoric of the Future-back-small

Today, in most communities of science and technology, there is a shared understanding that progress and evolution could bring about a series of transcendent technological advancements for mankind. Human consciousness could be transplanted into a high-tech apparatus. Human brains could become interconnected. Human life could be extended for centuries or longer. Death could be defeated once and for all. This new, highly technological mankind could even become one with the cosmos. These ideal visions are the product of the transhumanist movement — a movement that seeks to reach unprecedented levels of human enhancement through technological progress. But this movement is still in its early stages.

Today, these visions are still — mostly — only visions. James Herrick, professor of Rhetoric at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, has written a helpful book on this subject, entitled Visions of Technological Transcendence: Human Enhancement & the rhetoric of the Future. The following is a basic summary of his thesis and general content, followed by my own critique.

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