Books and things

I thought I’d take a look at what I’ve been reading lately: warning, the below are SF/Adventure in nature and as such, may bore some but then you never know – you might find one that catches your eye, esp. if it’s by Sheri Tepper, who’s more about people and morality than true SF.The first book is The Margarets by Sheri Tepper. I’m only a small way through so can’t comment too much. Without giving anything away, since this is in the blurb, the book is about a young girl living in the somewhat distant future on Phobos. Earth has used up it’s resources, and is forced to send people out to colonies or for trade. Young Margaret is bored, and so she develops some imaginary playmates.

Soon after the book starts, the Phobos station is closed and Margaret is forced to return to Earth, where strict population laws leave her subject to being shipped out as an indentured servant. It is at this point that most of her “imaginary” friends sort of “peel” off her and enter different lives on different planets, among different races.

At some point the Margarets are supposed to come together and save Earth, but right now I’m only beginning to learn about the lives of each Margaret. Each one is given a new name when coming to a new place, and all have varied lives. There are some possibly benevolent people who seeem to be able to pass between worlds, sort of like between manifolds (see Lady of Mazes below) who are watching over them.

The chapters are well-headed with the name of each Margaret and where she is so you don’t have to keep reading into the chapter to figure out which one it is.

My only beef so far, and this goes for some Matt Reilly books as well as other’s of Tepper’s, is that it has a nice list of cast of characters at the beginning of the book, and a list of races, organizations, planets and who lives there. Nice to refer too, but you have to kep flipping back and forth. Since this is a library book, my suggestion wouldn’t work for this one, but I would like a pull-out section of these Casts of Characters, or in Matt Reilly books, the infernal diagrams, which by the time they reach PB size, are in tiny print and hard to read – a nice tear out guide printed on shiny card stock would be nice to refer to without leaving your place and trying to find the map you want.

Before The Margarets, I read the “latest” in the Scarecrow series by Matt Reilly, Scarecrow. It was one of his typical adventure rides, this time about a bounty hunt for 12 men around the world who were the only ones tested with fast enough reflexes to disarm a super weapon. So it was all over Europe, non-stop action, and impossible feats – sort of Indiana Jones, Laura Croft meets James Bond and a dash of Superman. Fun. Not big on charcterization, but his charcters do have some life, esp. as they grow over the series, and you get more and more glimpes of them. He fleshes them out enough so that you care about what happens to them, but not so much it gets in the way of action.

Before that it was an ealier Shane Schofield “Scarecrow” book, Area 7 about a plot to assinate the President and take over the world by making the President look foolish and weak before the nation – again, non-stop action, lots of competing factions, but this time confined to two smaller areas, which allows for the maps of the places, and some new sides to the main characters, and high body count.

Before that Ice Station, the first “Scarecrow” book, set in a remote station in Antarctica, where a major discovery has been found, that some nations want, and others want kept quiet. This one has a child in it, as does Area 7, and that adds to the genuineness of the character’s motivations. The entire book pretty much takes place on/in the station (maps included!), and on the ice shelf around them. There is a hovercraft chase that could be straight out of MI, or the Fast and the Furious. Fun, Fun, plus sharks, blood, brains splattered, and his handy dandy Maghook, indispensible in a Shane Schofiled life!

Before that we go back to SF, and Karl Schroeder’s Ventus a strange story about a planet that is alive, and how it came to reconnect it’s “parts”. Can’t give away more, but a very long set-up and then an interesting and compelling denouement.

Prior to that was Scardown by Elizabeth Bear. The first of her Jenny Casey trilogy, set in the near future, although with technology, where Canada and China are the world’s superpowers. The books that follow are Hammered and Worldwired, about AIs and complete interface with their version of the WWW. Jenny Casey is a pilot of an alien spacecraft that was found on Mars as I recall, and where the human pilots are adapted with cypernetic properties that allow them to directly interface with the ship and it’s AI and become one. Great premise, interesting plot about superpowers, and their idiocy, and some great “hard” SF. Highly recommended.

Kay Kenyon’s The Seeds of Time is about another pilot, this one in a ship in the somewhat near future, which can “dive”, or move through time and a small amount of localized space, to find planets that hvae been sometime in the past in near-earth vicinity that might have plant-life that could put life on the now barren and ozone depleted Earth. Their mission is to bring back viable specimens and seeds to re-green the Earth, although there is a subplot, cross-plots, and the find of the century that may turn out to be either the best thing for Earth or the worst. Good book, but a trifle slow.

Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder was a fascinating glimpse of other worlds and our own galaxy in the far future, where some humans have broken off and formed their own “manifolds” in which they live and can travel between, and to them the unknown outside world controlled by a government that is hedonistic, and full of rules and regulations and government bueurocracy. (can’t spell that word for the life of me – never can). The book really got to me and it was a “hugger” – one of those books that, I at least, hug to myself when it’s done, as if “that’s all?” sort of thing. It leaves you wanting more – to go back to those worlds and explore them further. Rcommended reading for hard SF lovers, and anyone who likes to be challenged and open-boxed.

The last in the bunch not yet boxed up was Decipher by Stel Pavlou. Sort of a DaVinci Code meeets Indiana Jones (hmmm…sensing a pattern?). It’s about a bunch of crystals buried in various far-flung locations 12,000 years ago that need to be collected and placed on the Great Pyramid every 12,000 years to “save” the earth from the sun, but it also can bring unlimited power, so naturally, everyone is trying to get ahold of the crystals. Very Matt Reilly, but with some breathing room. One quote from the beginning of the book’s chapters caught my eye –

“[Out} of 6 million years, only 10,000 [fossilzed species] may be represented by surviving strata. In the unrecorded 5.9 million years there is time for even an advanced civilization to have come and gone, leaving hardly a trace…Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson, Forbidden Archaeology, `1996. Good read, but his first. Waiting for more!

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