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Review

“H.I.V.E.”

Mark Walden

I started reading this series when I was the actual target age group for it, and sometime in the last few months it popped back into my head. From there, I found out that the final book in the series had been published, and I figured I’d go back through and reread the whole thing, now that it was done, see what it’s like.

Honestly, it stands up pretty well. I still feel like this could be adapted into a movie franchise pretty well—it’s got some of that Harry Potter vibe to it, but for the people who love James Bond rather than people who like general fantasy novel stuff.

What’s nice about the ‘finished series’ part of it is that I feel like most of the plot threads got pulled together very well. Everyone gets closure, everyone you like gets a happy ending. And there’s enough room in the state of things for there to be a spin-off series afterwards, if the author feels like writing more!1

As far as what the series is actually about goes, here’s the tl;dr: the Higher Institute of Villainous Education is a boarding school with a very selective, and mandatory, acceptance rate. From the villainous children of the world, the worst of the worst find themselves snatched up and brought to a sprawling facility carved out of the inside of an active volcano, and taught to be not just better villains, but villains with panache. This is where all the classic Bond villains went to school; there are class sessions on space station logistics, how to choose between sites for your underwater base, and how to effectively monologue while slowly executing the hero.

This series is just fun. It perfectly captures that stylistic aplomb, the undeniable cool of the bad guys in the classic Bond films, and mixes it with the staples of the YA genre better than the “young Bond” series ever managed to.

I wasn’t sure how this reread was going to go, but I’m delighted with the end result. I absolutely recommend these books—at very least, check out the first one and see what you think.2

  1. And, by the way, if Walden ever sees this: give me a sequel about Nigel and Franz falling in love, damn you. That little line in the epilogue, “it’s not just the ladies,” that’s the bare minimum of queer representation possible, and I want more.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“Signal Moon”

Kate Quinn

This is one of those stories that, going in, you know is going to hurt. Voice-only time travel does not a happy ending make, especially across 80 years. But it’s still worth reading—it’s quite short and to the point, and very effectively told. Spend an hour being sad.1

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
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Review

“Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses”

Diane Duane

I picked this up for a reread as a break from my “read all the ebooks I’ve got” project, and upon finishing it was surprised to find that I’d never written a review. Well, no time like the present to correct that!

In short, I adore this book. It’s a truly wonderful piece of alternate-history fiction, and the way that’s expressed is done so very perfectly. I’ve got the revised edition, which includes at the end some of the author’s notes about the differences between the worlds it takes place in and ours—and yes, worlds, plural, one of the divergences is the discovery of interdimensional travel, but it’s clearly stated that we’re due to figure that out soon. But even without that, it feels like if you were given the chance to ask Duane about anything in here, pull at any of the strings, she’d have a bunch of notes already prepared. My favorite moment of this is a couple words in passing, where the characters are finally shocked enough by something to say it full out, and suddenly their previous swear of “Suz!” makes more sense: “Suzanne H. Christ!”

Beyond that, the story is weird and fun, and the whole ‘mix of universes’ thing, with the politics that comes from having all these different timelines coming together, makes for a fascinating setting. And, of course, I absolutely love any book that showcases great friendships, and doesn’t fall over itself trying to shoehorn in a love story.1

Overall, this book is a delight, and I heartily recommend it. Pick it up directly from the author’s ebook store, and browse around while you’re there—I love everything of hers that I’ve ever read.2

  1. It was, apparently, a common complaint with the earlier edition that the cover art and title made it sound like a romance novel; I assure you, a romance novel it is not. You’re welcome to read it as if it is one, though, and I bet you’ll find your expectations subverted in a very fun way!
  2. Citation: I’ve got a quote from one of her books as a tattoo.
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Review

“Dark Matter”

Blake Crouch

A friend of mine gave me this book and told me I have to read it. Which was a good push to have, because if I hadn’t had that in the back of my head, I don’t think I would’ve stuck it through. The whole first half of the book is… not all that interesting. It’s a generic sci-fi trope (oh, what’s that, there’s infinite realities, and each choice we make splits off into two or more??? unprecedented) and a protagonist who takes way too long to figure out what’s going on. (And, frankly, he never really figures much out until the end, and even then it feels like he’s still running behind, but at least by then it was somewhat understandable.)

Really, it just felt like it spent entirely too long setting up the premise. Which is probably useful for a broader audience, but in that regard I’m the wrong person to read it—as is, really, anyone who’s watched Rick and Morty.

But if you stick with it, it actually does a good job of exploring the concept in a new way. One that even the aforementioned Rick and Morty hasn’t delved into. The narcissism of small differences, the sheer overwhelming number of uncanny valleys you can have in an infinite multiverse. And the issues that arise when those infinitely-splitting choices keep infinitely splitting.

So, overall, I found myself quite enjoying the book. It’s not at all hard sci-fi, and sitting here looking at the cover, the little “a novel” down in the corner is doing a lot of heavy lifting. It’s far more about the characters than it is about the adventure. If that sounds interesting to you, check it out.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“Moonfall”

This movie is, first and foremost, stupid. The core concept doesn’t work, and a lot of key plot elements don’t work either.1

But then, it’s a Roland Emmerich movie, and he’s got a distinct style: take a thing people are concerned about in the real world, crank it up to 11 so it’ll be visually interesting, and off we go. I certainly didn’t go in expecting a robust understanding of orbital mechanics, and you shouldn’t either.

And here’s where the tone of my review changes, because for all the bashing on the concept I just did, I actually really enjoyed the movie. It’s in that sweet spot of “bad movie” where it’s fun to watch with friends and mock. “Mystery Science Theater 3,000” bad, not “Star Wars Holiday Special” bad. Do just enough prep work to know how silly it is—in my case, I went with “having been an avid science fiction nerd my whole life,” but if you want less of a time commitment, go for this Kurzgesagt video about what would actually happen if the moon fell out of orbit—then grab some popcorn and get ready to roast the movie.2 (Bonus points: make a drinking game every time you spot a sponsor of the movie. The easy ones are Elon Musk and the Chinese government.)

  1. “The moon’s been falling out of orbit for a decade, and nobody at NASA or any other space agency noticed until just now!”
  2. And, while you’re watching Kurzgesagt videos, I also recommend this one explaining why the military’s “contribution” to the plot is stupid, and this one that explains what megastructures actually are. And, really, pretty much everything on their channel is worth a watch. Kurzgesagt is great.
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Review

“The Ministry for the Future”

Kim Stanley Robinson

I don’t know that I’ve ever read something this simultaneously terrifying and hopeful. And now, having read it, I want it to be required reading for anyone running for office, and possibly just everyone in general.

We are, without a doubt, in the midst of a global climate emergency. At this point, the amount of evidence against anthropogenic climate change is about tied with the amount of evidence for “gravity isn’t real, you just think you’re stuck to the ground.”1 Climate change is a fact, and one that nobody is scared enough about.

“The Ministry for the Future” is a retelling of the next 50 or so years. Aside from the horrific opening, a call to action for the characters more so than it is for the audience, it is immensely hopeful: it’s a timeline where the Paris Agreement came with slightly more enforcement mechanisms, which combined with that horrific opening event to give the world enough of a push to start cleaning up our collective mess.2 It’s hopeful because everything in it feels possible; there’s no deus ex machina, no “and then we invented cold fusion and everything was fine!” Every technological innovation in the book is entirely, utterly feasible, using the technologies we have access to right now.

But that’s also what makes it terrifying. It feels like reading a history book sent back from the good timeline. It feels like staring down fifty years of threading the needle, narrowly navigating between potential disasters on all sides.3 And we don’t feel like we’re particularly on the right path for that yet.

So, having read this book and loved it, my usual call to action: go read it.4 And then, having read it, go contact your representatives. And tell them, in no uncertain terms, that the world is on fire and they need to do something about it.5

  1. Anthropogenic, for those who aren’t Big Ol’ Nerds about this topic, means “caused by humans.”
  2. Proportionally, too: the US has to contribute a lot more cleanup than, say, Kenya, because the US has contributed a lot more to global carbon emissions than Kenya.
  3. To go for a pop culture reference, it feels like Doctor Strange holding up a single finger; ‘there’s one future where we win this.’
  4. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
  5. And, yes, make personal changes as well! Your individual choice to eat less meat, buy an EV (or better, bike/walk/public transit!), turn down the heat—that one change doesn’t make much of a difference, really. But if we all do, that’s a huge change; and for every person that starts that trend, that’s one more little bit of social pressure to everyone else to do it too.
Categories
Review

“Free Guy”

I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting from this movie. Something akin to Ready Player One, I suppose, if a bit less hitting-you-over-the-head with the pop culture references. And, sure, in places it has some of that—the big fight towards the end definitely does that, but it also leans in with the reactions. (An excellent use of Chris Evans!)

In general, while watching the movie, I enjoyed it. There’s some fun playing with tropes, and I really do like the concept—Mogworld gone mainstream!1 And I can set aside the bits of “that’s not actually how technology works” as being something of a Plumber Problem.2 Really? This Silicon Valley tech company has all their servers in a ground-floor room of their main office? Yes, definitely, for sure, that’s an efficient way to use horrifyingly-expensive San Francisco real estate. And all the players in Europe definitely love the super-laggy gameplay experience that creates.

But, again, that’s stuff that I, as a big ol’ tech nerd, notice, and the average viewer probably doesn’t know about. It moved the plot forward, and it wasn’t egregious, so why not; I’ve already suspended my disbelief about the core plot elements, so why not this too?

Where it fell down for me, though, was the end. Spoilers ahead!

Because, all told, the end seems to wrap up very nicely. The twist on the whole “the guy gets the girl” trope was nice, and answered a question I’d had floating around for a while, which I enjoyed. But if you think about it at all, there’s just… no exploration of the consequences of anything. Somebody invented general AI and… nobody cares? We’re just leaving them in a video game, and the positive change in their lives is that instead of a torture chamber it’s a People Zoo?

Oh, and let’s look at ‘torture chamber,’ too—because that’s what the video game they were living in was. A nightmare world where everyone is constantly in danger, generally dying every day and being reset the next morning, and for who knows how long, they were all being gaslit into thinking that was Fine and Normal. It may have been an accident, but the creators of this game up and created a slave race for their entertainment. That’s the kind of thing that the UN generally likes to do a bit of investigation of.

And, speaking of investigations, there’s no investigation of Antwan? The world seems to have, at least somewhat, accepted the concept that Guy, if none of the other NPCs, is a fully-sentient AI. Antwan just… gets away with trying to kill him? Sure, his stock price tanks, and he looks like an idiot on the news, but generally attempting murder in front of dozens of witnesses has slightly more of an impact on your lifestyle. Never mind the fact that he didn’t just attempt murder, he followed it up by attempting genocide against the aforementioned slave race.

Beyond all that, there’s the fact that this entire new population of artificial intelligences were born in that kind of a crucible. Trying to create an AI that doesn’t accidentally wipe us out is difficult enough; in this world, we created an army of them and they spent their childhoods as our torture-slaves. Given the rate at which they’re learning… well, Guy’s little “leveling up faster than anyone thought possible” montage sure looks more terrifying when you remember that they have no reason to like us and they know we’re a threat to their survival. If they make a sequel to this movie, it’s going to be about getting Guy a virtual girlfriend, because Hollywood is predictable like that. Joke’s on them, though, because we already have the sequel: Terminator.

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
  2. A phrase coined, I believe, by John Siracusa. A plumber watching a movie will notice “that’s now how plumbing works!” a lot more readily than anyone else.
Categories
Review

“Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Work for a Supervillain”

Richard Roberts

I consistently forget how much I like Richard Roberts’ books. They’re a really excellent take on the superhero genre, embracing the ridiculousness of the whole thing while at the same time doing an excellent job of exploring some of the implications of living in a world that regularly has said ridiculous things happening. And, even better, doing things that would only work in the written form—there’s a truly delightful bit with a character named Retcon that I can’t imagine working in any format except first-person-written. A bit of their introduction, roughly paraphrased:

“You’re wasting your time, Retcon never comes to Chinatown.”

“Normally I don’t, but once I’d read that letter, I’d been here all day.”

And, beyond that little bit of messing with tenses to establish their power, you get the only-in-writing aspect: every time they speak, we get the “this is the first time I’ve seen this person, let me describe” them happening over again, and they’re described completely differently each time. (You may not the ‘they/them’ pronouns—the book doesn’t use those, but does switch between ‘he/him’ and ‘she/her’ a couple times.)

And that? That’s delightful. A character whose power is that they’re constantly being retconned? Just, chef’s kiss, beautiful, I love it.

As I said, I really like Roberts’ writing. It’s fun, and light, without being vapid. This book is nominally eighth in the series, but it’s eighth in the same way that, say, a new Marvel movie is the hundredth Marvel movie: sure, if you’ve seen the others, you get a bit more background on people, but it’s not required to understand what’s going on. So, if you haven’t read any of the others, this is a pretty solid jumping-in point. Give it a go.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“On Basilisk Station”

David Weber

I really, really enjoyed this one. One of the things I tend to struggle with, or at least gloss over, in military fiction is that I truly have no idea how the ranks work. I know a general is above a private, an admiral outranks an ensign, but any of the finer details, and I’m totally lost. This book did a fairly good job of addressing that—while there was certainly some of the usual “meh, I figure I’ve got this close enough” going on in my head, there were a few distinct moments where the narrative paused to explain the context.

That sort of pause occurred a few other times, notable examples being a several-page explainer of the structure of the government of one of the major powers in the book, and another several-page history lesson on the various faster-than-light drive technologies in use. And in both cases I found myself thinking that, while it’s a violation of the show-don’t-tell principle, it was also a much clearer way to explain than any “show” could’ve been. Plus, the addition of the actual history of when they were invented and what the interim periods were like added a nice bit of color to everything.

This was quite a good read, and I finished it much more quickly than I was expecting to; at some point, I may have to come back and read more of this series. And, of course, if you like military science fiction at all, I think you’ll enjoy this. Give it a read.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“Meet Me in the Future”

Kameron Hurley

What’s with me and depressing short story collections lately? This is not my vibe.

There’s some interesting things in here, and occasionally a bit of “there’s hope if we work together,” but the general feeling of all the stories is “the world is terrible and any good things that happen only happen because we fight to our last breath for them.” Which, I must reiterate, is not my vibe! The real world has enough bad stuff going on that I don’t want my fiction reading to reiterate that. I’m here for escapism, thank you.

And, to double down on that for the current age, a word cloud of this book would prominently feature the word “plague.” Sure, biotech can build some cool things, but wow can it ever build some horrifying weapons!

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Review

“Iron Truth”

S.A. Tholin

Ebooks are fun, because unlike a paper book, you don’t have that physical sense of how far through the book you are. With a paperback, the first page feels very different from the second-to-last—the weight is distributed differently, it’s thicker or thinner in the hand. Not so for an ebook. I tend to leave the “percent complete” display on to try to get that back, but it fades into the background pretty quickly.

I became very aware of that… less than halfway through the book. Because, by the way the story was going, I thought I was nearly at the end. But no, that wasn’t the peak, just a local maximum, and then it was off again, with more to uncover.

Pretty early on, I was having a bit of a struggle, trying to decide if I was going to keep reading. (I did, and I’m glad of it!) As part of that, I skimmed a few reviews, and from that I remember a mention that “the book has a lot of sci-fi tropes.” That stuck in my mind a bit, because after all, nothing is original, it’s all just remixes. If you’re wondering, this book is a touch of Passengers, a great deal more Pandorum, a little bit of Halo, a splash of Doom, and a surprising little bit of Killjoys. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s fun to pick apart the pieces that made something, and try to figure out which piece you’re going to find next.

That’s what made this book so interesting, and why, despite the fact that it’s not at all a short book, I powered through it in just a couple days. I didn’t want to put it down—I had theory after theory of what was going on, why the planet it’s taking place on is like that, and wanted to know which was correct. Is this going the way of The Satan Pit, or is it a political intrigue whose cover-up is falling apart? Are the high-tech, vaguely church-y guys the good guys, or are the eco-terrorist-inspired people actually in the right? Or is it the—well, okay, no, it’s pretty easy to discount the cannibals as “the good guys,” but then, maybe nobody is the good guy. (That aspect of the story really shines as the book switches between two narrators—one, a true believer in one of those causes, the other, an outsider to everything, just as confused as the reader.)

For as creepy as the book was, I didn’t wind up jumping at shadows nearly as much as I was expecting. Because, sure, it’s a science-fiction horror thing, but it’s also a military piece and, more than all of that, a big ol’ mystery. And if I’m trying to solve a mystery, well, no time to be scared of the monsters in the dark—in mystery solving mode, I default to being Velma, and a jump scare just gets a “you stop that!”

All in all, this was a great read, and I highly recommend it if you love a good mystery, and a cool setting, like I do. Check it out.1

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
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Review

“Nucleation”

Kimberly Unger

For the most part, I like the tech that provides the setting for this book, but it’s got a couple things that are very clearly “it needs to work this way for the story to have the right amount of tension” and instead broke the illusion. “There isn’t enough bandwidth for us to talk to you while you’re remote controlling the robot”? You’re in the same room; bandwidth constraints don’t apply, because why would you be round-tripping that data through the remote thing?

That aside, though, this was quite a fun read. And hey, most of the tech makes a lot of sense—if you can make a little wormhole, you send through some little tech, and use that to build bigger stuff. The insistence on calling nanobots “eenies” instead of, y’know, nanobots, felt a bit odd, but kinda worked as a way to displace it from ‘near future’ to… ‘slightly more distant future.’ It is an inhabited colony that this is happening on, and not Earth, so some amount of linguistic drift makes sense.

And while I griped a bit about the tension overtaking the illusion, the book did a great job of maintaining that narrative tension throughout. There were a couple times in there where I really couldn’t put it down, because I had to know what was going to happen next. Or, one notable time, where I already knew what was going to happen next, and was desperately hoping I was wrong.

In short, this is a good read, not too long, and while there’s room for a sequel, it feels like it was written to be a stand-alone story.1 Give it a go.2

  1. The ending feels less “alright, see you next book!” and more “a movie ending a note that would let them create a spin-off show if they wanted.”
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“The Outside”

Ada Hoffmann

Two books in a row that get a lot of use out of the word ‘heresy,’ that’s a bit of an odd coincidence.

I also quite enjoyed this. Midway through I texted a friend of mine that I could very clearly see one of the influences of this book—Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence. I stand by that. It took a bit of hand-waving about the way AI works, but Hoffmann found a reasonable explanation for why AI would bother keeping humanity around. Frankly, it’s one of the good outcomes; sure, we’re basically cattle, but hey, at least we’re wagyu.

And that, right there, was what made the setting so fascinating. Humanity as the tame feedstock for the AIs, which went ahead and declared themselves Gods. (And, yes, they are referred to with the capital ‘G’ throughout.) They are the Gods, and they grant us useful technology like interstellar travel and clean energy, but we’re also kicked back to 1950s computer technology, because anything more modern gets too close to their turf. And that’s where the use of ‘heresy’ comes back into play.

It gets more interesting than that, but that’s also getting into spoiler territory, so I’ll stop there.

One other thing to note that I quite liked about the book was how well it fit in a diverse cast. The protagonist is neuroatypical, and her love interest is a woman—a fact which is, in fact, never remarked upon by anyone. To borrow a meme, this is the future liberals want.1

All in all, I found this to be quite a good read, and do recommend it. Check it out.2

  1. Another thing I’ll stand by. Seriously, go read Superintelligence – being feedstock, after our death, for the AIs is pretty close to the best-case scenario for humanity.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
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Review

“Ninefox Gambit”

Yoon Ha Lee

I post many book reviews here, but one thing that I tend not to mention, is that I don’t actually review every book I read. If I give up on the book—in disgust, in boredom, for whatever reason—I won’t review it. If I make it through the whole book, sit down to write my thoughts, and can’t come up with a single positive note, I won’t review it. (There’s already enough negativity in the world, I’m not going to add to it.)

As a natural result of that, there’s a solid amount of very generic science fiction that I don’t post reviews of. Stuff that’s… fine. Uninspiring, cliche, trite, but not offensively bad.

“Ninefox Gambit” stands out because it is none of those things. It is unabashedly strange, gloriously new. Disconcerting and disquieting. It actually took me quite a while to be certain that all the characters are human—and, later, to determine that they’re not just pan-human, but human human, and the different classifications are a matter of culture.

In short, I absolutely loved this book. For all that I want to rave about the fascinating setting, the technological backdrop underpinning everything, I won’t, because a good part of the fun was in figuring out what, exactly, all of that was. Please, get a copy of the book, set aside some time to read, and lose yourself in this masterpiece.1

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
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Review

“Beyond the Rift”

Peter Watts

I had this book down as science fiction, and while that’s true, I don’t think that’s really the primary genre. It’s an anthology of horror sub-genres — there’s some body horror, a bit of existential dread, some psychological horror. Really runs the whole gamut! Frankly, if I’d realized it was going to be this creepy/bleak/depressing, I don’t know that I would’ve picked it up, but I’m glad I did. For all the gloom, it’s also captivating, and very well-written.

“The Island” was my favorite of the stories. Given the setting, it seems like something I’d love — more of that gigantic infrastructure, a road crew building a highway but for a civilization a couple of notches up the Kardashev scale from us. But for all that mind-boggling technology, I pictured it all as very dark; the aesthetic I imagined for the ship would fit just as well in a Diablo game as it does in this story. And the scary part of it is the sheer scale of time that passes, has passed, and will continue to pass.

“A Word for Heathens” was the most interesting concept, I think, although “The Things” is also a strong contender. I was a bit biased against the latter, as I haven’t seen the film it’s based on; if you have, you’ll probably like it more.

“Home” definitely wins the award for Most Horror; something about the body horror/creeping change over time really gets to me. Vaguely similar vibes to The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Or possibly that’s just my go-to for body horror? Cronenberg, you have been unseated.

“A Niche” hits on some of the same imagery, and thinking back, I believe they’re actually a shared universe. Which works… pretty well, overall. As does putting “Home” before “A Niche” — it predisposes you to think about that aspect of what’s creepy about it, and that’s really not where “A Niche” is going.

All in all, I absolutely loved this. My only regret is reading it at night because I suspect I’m going to have a rough time trying to get to sleep after this. Whoops.

So, if you want some gloomy (but surprisingly not doom-y) science fiction, give it a go.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.