Book Review: Edges by Linda Nagata (five stars)

Edges // Linda Nagata

Book Review: Edges (Inverted Frontier #1) by Linda Nagata

(five stars)

“You still don’t trust me, do you?” “In the madness of these hours I don’t trust myself.”

Written proof that hard science fiction can be engaging. While Nagata posits many advances in bio-electronics and -mechanics, she sticks to physics as we know it: no faster-than-light travel, artificial gravity by centrifugal force (with the concomitant side effects), and no replicators or transporters. IGWS, no light sabers. The only planets fit for colonization are sterile. (Think about it.)

“She arose, staggering a little against the unaccustomed angular force of the rotating deck. A poor simulation of gravity.”

Nagata draws the reader into a story which started elsewhere (in the Nanotech Succession series) but Continue reading

Book Review: Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers (Four Stars)

Book Review: Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

Four Stars

“Living in space was anything but quiet. Silence belonged to the vacuum outside. Silence was death.”

Enjoyable hard science fiction. As a change of pace from space operas, humans are (mostly) pacifists. Explores personhood and relationships. Some plot points are a little obvious, but don’t crush the fun quotient.

“Humans … have something dangerous in us. We almost destroyed ourselves because of it.”

Good ensemble cast–each flawed, each (eventually) contributing to the mix–good conclusion, tried very hard to be PC. Revealed the greater galaxy as necessary for the plot. Data dumps well disguised.

“Stop trying not to be scared. Scared means we want to live.”

A little weak on the physics–“on the edge of gravity’s embrace” is poetic, but a poor description of the vicinity of the event horizon of a black hole. Close enough for verisimilitude.

“…very stupid, well-intended people who thought it would be a great idea to redefine Humanity.”

May have borrowed a plot point or two from Robert Heinlein. Hey, if you’re going to steal, steal good stuff.

“None of us may ever have the intellectual capacity to understand how life truly works.”

Book Review: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (Five Stars)

Book Review: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Five Stars out of Five

“Every era puts invisible shackles on those who lived in it, and I can but dance in my chains.”

Outstanding. The best hard science fiction I’ve read this year. Liu wrote it eight years ago in China, but the story translates—literally and figuratively—very well. Great world building and historical/cultural tie-ins to this world. Plenty of math and science to geek out on, yet many historical and value hooks as well. “By the time you’re my age, you’ll realize that everything you once thought mattered so much turns out to matter very little.”

Spoiler: a very different kind of first contact story. I love it. “Anything sufficiently weird must be fishy.”

Quibbles: The translation was transparent except for a few word choices. First, I believe what was translated as “evolutionary” problem solving was more correctly called Heuristic problem solving. “Entropy” is used referring to information density; it really relates to disorder or, if anything, information loss. Finally, Liu sets the clock ticking early in the story, but—even though the time ran out—gave no indication what it signified. (Other than the Trisolarans were messing with our minds.)

Not that beauty contests like the Hugo awards mean anything (especially this year), but glad to see it won one.

“But for the universe outside the solar system, we should be ever vigilant, and ready to attribute the worst of intentions to any Other that might exist in space.”