Author Archive: Alex

Babylon’s Ashes

Unknown
In theory it took me months to read this, because I read the prologue… and then I put it down. Then I read the first two chapters… and then I put it down. And I read like 30 other books and then I finally picked it up and read it. This is no reflection on the book or the series; I’ve been waiting for this book since I finished book 5. I think partly this was a concern that the book would be too much; that after the events of book 5, how could things POSSIBLY go well for my beloved characters? And there’s an intensity to Corey’s writing, too, that I just didn’t feel ready for at the start of this year.

But I finally got over all of that and I read it and of course it’s fantastic and by golly I want book 7 yesterday. I had wondered how on earth the series could be continued… but now it’s clear. Well, as clear as the combined minds that make James Corey can ever be to someone out here.

(Spoilers for the first five books, I guess)

Things I continue to love about this series:

  • the focus on little, domestic things in the midst of solar-system wide disaster. The image of Avasarala applying a ‘homeopathic’ level of rouge is priceless. Also the details of life on the Roci and the various stations and asteroids. Plus…
  • the focus on characters and relationships. Holden’s vague concerns about having Clarissa on board: make so much sense, and he tries so hard to deal with it and it’s so sweet amidst all the political wrangling. Bobbie, and where she might ever fit in. Every single thing damned about Avasarala. Also Amos.
  • the widening perspective. There are more character perspectives in this book than previous ones, as has been the trend. So we get a much wider view of what’s going on; motivations and consequences, reactions and individual concerns. They matter, even when the solar system is threatened.
  • just… the writing. It is so very easy to read. This is the sort of thing I would like to read all the time please.

This book is, of course, not an entirely easy or pleasant book. Terrible, terrible things happen. I was constantly worried, at the back of my mind, that THIS would be the book where Corey decided to screw up the crew of the Roci. Of course that nearly happened in the last book, and I had a lot of trouble dealing with my darlings all being in different places; maybe that was a softening up to deal with one of them… leaving? Dying? And then of course there’s the worries about the solar system, and Earth as a whole being devastated, and the Belt being in huge difficulties too… so while it’s not quite apocalypse level (well, aside from Earth, but there’s not so much focus on that in this volume), this is still not a book to read if you’re feeling particularly fragile. That said, it is still a great story, and of course the point of the whole series is human endurance and dealing with enormous difficulties.

I love this series.

New York 2140

UnknownThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s out now; RRP $29.99 (480 pages).

I adored Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 and after reading this I have an overwhelming itch to go read it again. Partly because this reminded of that earlier work, and partly because it reminded me just how very good Robinson can be (as I thought of 2312).

As the name suggests, the book opens in 2140, and is set almost entirely in New York. There’s been catastrophic sea level rise, due to melting polar ice mostly, and of course this has had a huge impact on coastal towns. While Manhattan isn’t quite an exemplar for all coastal cities, it does provide an intriguing setting for such a book – and of course New York is, as the narrative acknowledges, a very particular and, perhaps, unique city in terms of how inhabitants and others around the world relate to it. Sydney probably wouldn’t get you quite such a response.

Things I loved about this book:

  1. The different narrative points of view. Each one is clearly different from the others, with a unique voice and style: told from the first or third person; mostly through dialogue or action; individuals or pairs. I love this as a method of conveying a multitude of perspectives, both moving the narrative forward and allowing the reader to meet, identify with, and consider different sorts of people.
  2. Speaking of, I adore “that citizen”. That citizen gets their own chapter in each section and is basically there to explain the history of the world up to this point, and how New York and the USA work, and comment on aspects of New York’s social and cultural history. They are deeply knowledgeable and deeply cynical and deeply aware of the narrative they are a part of. To whit:
  3. People sometimes say no one saw it coming, but no, wrong: they did. Paleoclimatologists looked at the modern situation and saw CO2 levels screaming up… and they searched the geological record for the best analogs to this unprecedented event, and they said, Whoa. They said, Holy shit. People! they said. Sea level rise! … They put it in bumper sticker terms: massive sea level rise sure to follow our unprecedented release of CO2!  They published their papers… a few canny and deeply thoughtful sci-fi writers wrote up lurid accounts of such an eventuality, and the rest of civilisation went on torching the planet like a Burning Man pyromasterpiece. (p140)

    Seriously. I alternately giggled and sighed reading a lot of that citizen‘s accounts. They also make snarky comments about surveillance states, growing throughout the 21st century, when being called “a police state… would have been aspirational” (p207) and the capabilities of industry to make drastic adjustments when it’s financially necessary. They are also deeply unimpressed by people who dismiss “info-dumps” in narratives while, of course, demonstrating exactly how to do them in splendid, self-aware, and necessary ways.

  4.  Speaking of being self-aware, and something else that made me recall 2312, is what I guess might be Tuckerisation. One of the characers is Inspector Gen Octaviasdottir. Which I thought was nice, until I got to this description: “Tall black woman, as tall as he was, rather massive, with a sharp look and a reserved manner” (p29) – and then I realised who Robinson was tipping the hat too, and … I was moved. I know some don’t love this, but when it’s done in such a way that both people who get the reference appreciate it and it doesn’t prevent those who don’t see it from appreciating the story… well. I enjoy it. Robinson also has “delanydens” – places where there was lots of “intergender” and “indeterminate gender” and where “it was best not to look too closely at what was happening in the corners” (p183) – so again, don’t know who Delany is? doesn’t really impact on your understanding of the context. And another of my favourites: “russrage” – “at the ugly cynicism of whoever or whatever it was doing” the things that made people unsafe (p273). Of course I’m lucky to get these; I haven’t read any Calvino so “calvinocity” doesn’t have that extra layer for me.
  5. While the background of the narrative is the massive changes that have happened in New York and indeed continue to happen in the novel, a lot of the story is actually pretty small scale… dare I say, domestic. It felt like there was as much attention given to the antics of two young boys and their friendship with an old man, and the beginnings and difficulties of love, as to the possible relocation of polar bears and massive system defrauding. I really, really like this. Robinson suggests that even as places change around us, humanity adapts and remains fundamentally the same.
  6. It’s remarkably optimistic: that humanity can adapt and cope with the difficulties we face – yes they’re our fault, as a species, but we can keep going and maybe, maybe, make things better. Or at least not worse. And individuals can still have worthwhile lives amidst the problems. That’s pretty important.
  7. I just love the writing. It’s smooth and elegant and… readable. I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Yes, it has gone on my “Possible Hugos 2018” list.

Galactic Suburbia 163

In which Alisa reads us all under the table (again) and the women of SFF are anything but Humble. Get us on itunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

What’s New on the Internet?

Cheesecake can be cake if it wants to be cake. Especially if you do not belong to a pie nation. Also, pies need lids or they’re not trying hard enough.

GUFF race (until 17 April)
Paul Weimer is the DUFF candidate, hooray!

Women of SFF Humble Bundle – get this amazing bunch of SFF books now, only a couple of days to go!

CULTURE CONSUMED:

Alisa: Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell; Too Sharp, Marianne Delacourt; Missing Richard Simmons

Tansy: Dreadnought, by April Daniels, Mad Money, Iron Fist

Alex: Hawk and Fisher, Simon R Green; The Delirium Brief, Charles Stross; Logan; The Abyss;

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Great Scott: an overview

We have definitely amused ourselves in doing this particular set of reviews. It was fascinating to see the Scotts’ style over a few (um, four) decades.

Final thoughts:

Ridley – Alien (1979)
J: In space nobody can hear you scream. Slow burn but magnificent film.
A: not one I’ll rewatch endlessly, but beautifully constructed. 

Ridley – Blade Runner (1982)
J: Zzzzzzzzz…. 
A: I appreciate what it’s doing, and it is beautiful, but I doubt I’ll rewatch it.

Tony – Top Gun (1986)
J: Hiiiiiiggghway tooooo the Daaangerzone. I have the need, the need for speed. #inverted.
A: I will never ever think this is as good a film as all those 80s boys think it is. 30 min of awesome flying; the rest is stupid love story.

Tony – Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
J: Axel in the key of F … Unfortunately the film is an F too.
A: such a disappointment after the first one.

Tony – Crimson Tide (1995)
J: When I think of this film, the music is the first thing which comes to mind every time… hats off to Zimmer.
A: spectacular face off between Washington and Hackman. Excellent tension. 

Tony – Enemy of the State (1998)
J: The terrifying reality of the world we’ve lived in for a long time now. Great ending.
A: another excellent one for tension, and Sinister Level Ten.

Ridley – Gladiator (2000)

J: Are you not entertained ? … not really … I was asleep again Ridley.
A: I have learnt I cannot watch epics with J. 

Tony – Spy Game (and here) (2001)
J: Intricate and emotional.  
A: for the bromance, yes; the female character is a disappointment. I admit to adoring Robert Redford. 

Ridley – Robin Hood (2010)
J: Should have been a mini series, shouldn’t have been ‘Robin Hood’
A: quite pretty and an ambitious scope… that just didn’t work.
Ridley – The Martian (2015)
J: Stunning from start to finish.

A: as above.

Alex’s order:
Ridley – The Martian (2015)
Tony – Enemy of the State (1998)
Tony – Crimson Tide (1995)
Ridley – Alien (1979)
Tony – Spy Game (2001)
Ridley – Gladiator (2000)
Ridley – Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley – Robin Hood (2010)
Tony – Top Gun (1986)
Tony – Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

 

James’ order:
Ridley – The Martian (2015)
Tony – Spy Game (2001)
Tony – Top Gun (1986)
Tony – Enemy of the State (1998)
Ridley – Alien (1979)
Tony – Crimson Tide (1995)
Ridley – Gladiator (2000)
Ridley – Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley – Robin Hood (2010)
Tony – Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

The Martian

Unknown.jpegThe final in our Great Scott! reviewing adventure.

The Martian

Ridley (2015)

A: Basically this is our reward for getting through the others. We saw it twice in the cinema…

J: Mars has never been rendered more beautifully.

A: or realistically. I love that this is not the first mission, but well into the history of Martian exploration.

I also love the banter. And that the Commander is definite in her commitment to safety because THAT’S HOW IT SHOULD BE.

J: If this was really a NASA mission that whole conversation about aborting or not would not happen.

A: I think being on a different planet is going to have an impact on attitudes to command structures.

I love the cinematography of the storm.

J: Yup, it does a really good job of intense and frenetic without being shaky cam or hard to watch.

A: There’s a touch of the ‘do we sacrifice everything for one man’ but I like the grim reality of … no, of course you don’t. Continue reading →

Delirium Brief

This book was sent to me by the publisher, Tor.com, at no cost. It’s out in July 2017.

DeliriumThe Laundry, which has several novels about it now, is a secret government agency that’s a bit like the Men in Black but more high-tech because the Scary Things in the Night are often accessed via maths and/or technology. Computers may well summon extra dimensional beasties. Bob Howard started as a tech guy who fell into the Laundry accidentally and now he’s a fairly significant player in the organisation, although still a bit hapless sometimes. In this novel, someone from Outside (of the world) is trying to take over via minions and the very 21st century method of privatising government operations.

There’s unlikely alliances, dastardly deeds, unfortunate deaths, spy craft, domestic difficulties, desperate last-minute decisions, and some rather silly jokes. There’s also exasperation at the short-sightedness of governments and some deeply unpleasant actions on the part of the villains.

I’ve read a couple of the Laundry Files books and short stories in the past. When I first read them, I didn’t realise that they’re kinda Lovecraftian… because I am no connoisseur of Lovecraft. So that’s the first thing to know: if you like Lovcraftian stuff (with humour) and you haven’t read this series, you probably want to check it out.

If you loathe Lovecraft and all his derivatives, just stop reading now; it’s fine. This isn’t for you.

Not sure? Well that’s where I fit too. I wouldn’t deliberately read a Lovecraft homage, but – obviously – I read this. In terms of horror, it’s not so horrible. I mean bad things happen but the levels of violence aren’t any different from a lot of science fiction or fantasy. And there’s no creeping horror here – that is, I didn’t ever get tense and worried about what was around the corner, which is what puts me off a lot of horror. (I don’t enjoy being scared.) And you definitely don’t have to know anything about Lovecraft to read the book, since I have a passing knowledge of some names from his books and that is it.

Prior knowledge of the Laundry Files is useful for reading this, but not completely necessary; there are a few ‘as you know, Bob’ bits that basically fill in details of how the agency works. It does flow directly on from the previous book, which I haven’t read, but I managed to be going on with it.

It definitely kept me entertained, occasionally grossed me out, and half made me wonder if I shouldn’t go back and read more of the earlier ones…

Robin Hood (2010)

MV5BMTM5NzcwMzEwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjg5MTgwMw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgGetting through Great Scott!

Robin Hood

Ridley (2010)

A: And so we come to the only film on our list that neither of us has seen. This promises to be interesting. I have an abiding fascination with Robin Hood: both visually (I will quote the animated version at you; I don’t care if you disapprove of my adolescent love of the Costner version) and academically (Stephen Knight’s history is awesome). So… I’m a bit scared.

J: In ye olde times …

A: Yikes look at that font.

So, 12th century eh. Blanchett already being forceful, with a bow? I’m pleased. A flaming arrow!

J: More ye olde times …  

A: Robin Longstride, eh? That’s different. But it’s still Richard not-so-lion-heart’s time. AND we’re actually on crusade with Rusty! (wait, not crusade – this is France, surely, with Richard more interested in running French bits than his English territory)

J: So basically it’s Gladiator … gosh I hope it’s not as slow. I wonder if they will show the archer’s paradox… slow motions arrows n all. Continue reading →

Galactic Suburbia turns seven

In which we are seven years old! Get yourself some delicious cake and settle down to our International Women’s Day episode. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

What’s New on the Internet?

Post-mortem on the first Octavia Butler book club hosted by Twelfth Planet Press! We had such a great time talking about Wild Seed.

Next up: Fledgling on April 2 2017.

Aurealis Awards shortlist is out.

Locus Recommended Reading List

CULTURE CONSUMED: REPEAT THE TITLE OF YOUR CULTURE

Alisa: Ken Liu; Women of Letters; The Arrival; Canberry; Courtney Milan – Trade Me & Hold Me.

Alex: Because You’ll Never Meet Me, and Nowhere Near You, Leah Thomas; more Bujold; Cooked (Netflix, 4 parts)

Tansy: Younger, Hidden Figures, shout out for Kickstarter campaign for new card game featuring the art of Tania Walker: The Lady & the Tiger.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAKE! IF YOU ATE CAKE WITH THIS PODCAST, WE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.

Spy Game: further thoughts

Our review of Spy Game.

My beloved says that the whole movie is about the woman. And from a plot point of view, that’s true; Pitt’s character is all about saving her, and she’s the reason for the break-up of the bromance (uh, maybe this is part of my problem with it…).

The more I thought about Elizabeth Hadley, the more I realised that she is a sexy lamp. While she has apparently done some things, they mostly happen off-screen. At best, she’s a sexy lamp with a post-it note to assist with passing on some information. She’s a MacGuffin – only there to give the (male) characters something to argue about and then go get. She has zero motivation of her own within the plot, she has zero agency, she has next to no character development.

… and this is why it will never be a favourite movie.

Spy Game

Unknown.jpegGreat Scott!

Spy Game – 2001 – Tony Scott

J: We’re entering into risky territory tonight for both of us.  Me because I’ve always rated Spy Game among my favourite films, but perhaps have never watched it critically… Alex because she ‘hates Spy Game’ and always refuses to watch is with me… until this project dictated… Someone is going to walk away with their tail between their legs.

 

Fight….

A: I haven’t seen this in… ten years? All I remember is that I loathed it. I don’t even remember why, now, but I’ve been avoiding rewatching it for all these years. And now I’m going in. The things I do. Maybe things will have changed. Maybe there will be tears. Continue reading →