Science Fiction

The Stars Now Unclaimed (Universe After #1) by Drew Williams - Book Review

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The Stars Now Unclaimed (The Universe After #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250186119
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Published: Tor Books - August 21st, 2018

The Stars Now Unclaimed manages to combine two very common genres into something unique - post-apocalyptic space opera. The protagonist - unnamed until halfway through the book for some admittedly cheap mystery - is responsible for retrieving gifted children - telekinetic abilities and the like - made possible after a galactic calamity a hundred years ago, which has also rendered all of the planets of civilization incapable of supporting technological advancement to various degrees. (On one planet, any advancements after microcomputers would spontaneously break down due to "Pulse radiation"; on others, anything from the printing press on is unviable.) The protagonist and her latest charge end up gathering a broad smattering of misfits from across the galaxy as they get chased by the ruthless Pax - small-time militarized zealots who threaten the galaxy not because of any great skill on their part, but because they had the good fortune for their world to not get knocked back too far.

The unique combination of two often opposite settings works quite well within the book's own logic and I found it quite easy to slip in to the mindset of a colorful fantastic romp through space. The science is soft enough to cut with a butter knife, though only once to my personal detriment while reading, and always in the service of some fantastic imagery. Betrayal is a common theme, but in Unclaimed is dealt with in the past tense - this good companion, someone discovers, once did something horrendous. The characters have to work through that, to figure out if past misdeeds forever tarnish who a person can be, and of course, to try to come together and become the family that they each need. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - Book Review

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ISBN: 9781101972120
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Published: Vintage - June 14th, 2016

In my line of work I read a lot of books. And most of them are good. But I, like all of us, live for the literature that reminds me that writing can be astounding. Stories tickles the little-used ventricle in my heart that is simultaneously in love with both science and literature, using narrative and mathematics and linguistics and physics and neuroscience to achieve a perfect golden spiral. ~ Reviewed by Katelynne Shimkus

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson - Book Review

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The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553380965
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Published: Spectra - May 2nd, 2000

Stephenson literally and figuratively kills the ideas of "cyberpunk" in the first pages. There's no need for the old staples from earlier works like Snow Crash and the writing of William Gibson in this post-cyberpunk, post-scarcity world. But even when humanity wants for nothing, it still needs no excuse to keep causing trouble, as our signature Stephenson multiple protagonists have the misfortune of finding out. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis

Old Man's War by John Scalzi - Book Review

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ISBN: 9780765348272
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Published: Tor Science Fiction - January 15th, 2007

Citizens on Earth know nothing of what's out there in space, but when they turn 75 they have the opportunity to enlist in the army, unable to turn back but able to go out into the galaxy to protect humanity. This premise allows the reader to join protagonist John Perry on his journey, full of discovery, as he goes from fresh-faced wonder to a battle-hardened veteran. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis

Galactic Empires by Neil Clarke - Book Review

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By Neil Clarke (Editor)
ISBN: 9781597808842
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Published: Night Shade Books - January 17th, 2017

A superb collection of stories, each with a unique settings portraying a star-faring humanity, and how they deal with outsiders... and themselves. My favorite story included might be "Looking Through Lace" by Ruth Nestvold, a look at the assumptions of gender roles as seen through the lens of a xenolinguist studying a new alien species. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis


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