For some books I have to think real hard as to what it was about. That is not the case with Mechanical which is easily one of my all-time top-reads. “Mechanical” is an alternative history steampunk fantasy adventure with the story, effectively, exploring compulsion in a very picturesque clockwork 20th century. We follow a mechanical being—a “clakker“—named Jax who’s compulsion, or prime directive if you will, just like that of all other clakkers, is to satisfy its owner’s requests and to do so swiftly. While the book is seemingly set in an alternative past, we share the core issues with it in our future, as yesterday’s magic is tomorrow’s science.
A story like no other for so many reasons but for me, very specifically, it’s the voice of the book. Well, that and the stark world we find ourselves in, and all the encouraging people in how they are so bent on survival. Five out of five seasons!
I found this book without knowing much about Nick Harkaway, or what Guardian thinks about it, and so I feel I get to claim the discovery to myself. By diving in and out of the narrative, this book intertwines with perception to the extent that it was warping my own personal sense of reality outside of the book. To a point, GNOMON almost reads like a 22nd century Alice in Wonderland, but there is much more to it. To maximize the enjoyment, I believe this book deserves an unprepared reader, so pick it up, strap yourself in, and godspeed!
If you are not familiar with Brandon Sanderson just yet, you’re in for a treat! He is best known for his Mistborn and Oathbringer fantasy series, with all books in either series clocking at 600+ pages per book and managing to keep things exciting throughout all of it. This time, though, we turn to a fantasy-flavoured science fiction where we follow Spensa, a 17-year old with a fiery spirit and a world to save. Brandon Sanderson knows how to weave a story that will make you fall for all of its characters and this one is no exception. A lighthearted adventure to take you to the stars hidden behind the space-rubble of the old civilisation.
Reni Eddo-Lodge is a british author living in London, and throughout her book she looks at the glaring omissions of black history in Brittain, and shows how deeply ingrained the racism is in Europe, too. One of my favourite parts of the book was where she is talking about intersectionality. In this case, where racism meets sexism. An incredibly complex conundrum, I feel like i came out bit stronger. I’d still recommend starting with the last week’s recommend, or you might not be able to properly appreciate the weight behind the words of Eddo-Lodge. Her rhetoric, quite rightfully so, is also a good deal more confrontational.
DiAngelo in her book dismantles the notion that racism is simply “bad people doing bad stuff to people of color” as then nobody’s racist (except for that 3rd degree cousin, but he’s an idiot), cased closed, I don’t know what you are complaining about, things look just fine from here, can we talk about something else instead. Rather, among other things, she takes apart all the terminology one by one to show how and why racism is different from racial prejudices, and how really insidious the dynamic is, where the abused can’t speak up for it is offensive to the abusers. She also shows how sneakily invisible the matter of race is for us. So that, when we get confronted with race, we go straight into defence, and the self-defence arsenal of us, the whites, is enormous, from denial and dismissal to minimizing, self-focused guilt, our minds will do everything to shake the notion that anything we do could be racist (because that’s bad and we are, of course, very good) and return us to our equilibrium. This book has given me a framing that has allowed to think about race constructively, and a foundation I can stand on to ponder how we can do better. Needless to say, it’s a warm recommend.
Richard K. Morgan is easily one of my alltime favourites for his very dry, hard boiled, noir, far future scifi work. The best quality about his works is how he rarely if ever succumbs to exposition and trusts that the reader will be able to piece the world together from within the world itself. I’ve been a long time fan of his Altered Carbon book series (you might have seen the tv show but, trust me, the books are exciting as well, if not more), and so I couldn’t believe my eyes when right before 2018 christmas I discovered this book, as with that the end of my year was set and to be spent off-planet. “Thin Air” did not disappoint. It has the very feel of altered carbon, and maybe even ramps up a notch. While thin air is not connected to the altered carbon universe, I’d still suggest to start enjoying Richard K.Morgan’s work with “Altered Carbon” (and maybe the first sequel after that).
You might have heard about this book from one of the high-brow outlets, or you might have heard some criticism of it from your neighbourhood contrarian. For me it helped to get a better understanding of humanity’s history in brief, which is also—quite shockingly—the subtitle of the book. It’s dizzying to think that we humans have been around for almost half a million years, when a mere 30 seems like a forever, and our modern sense of rights and wrongs quite often isn’t even a decade old. And this is what, I think, the book excels at – in showing how arbitrary the cultures have been throughout the times with today being no exception. “Sapiens” is a quick and entertaining read, none of the parching dryness of your average history book, and I can warmly recommend to not shy away from it just because it’s not something you’d normally read. It was to my own surprise as well, that I found that life, even on a grand scale, at times can be wilder than fiction, indeed.
“Senlin Ascends” Is a truly magical and at times harrowing adventure that will grab you by the lapels and not let go until you get in terms with the tower that Senlin, our protagonist (also, what a fantastic name), ends up battling on every step. It’s a series, so if you like where it will be taking you, you will be able to stretch that experience out with two more books. Also, the story hasn’t ended just yet, and will come to a close next year, when the fourth book comes out. So jump with me on the bandwagon and let’s go for a ride!
Strictly speaking, time travel is fantasy, not science fiction as, using plain logic, we can easily prove that practical time traveling is impossible. This distinction here between scifi and fantasy is an important one, as then we can relax the constraints of what we will consider believable and what is, well, just pure fantasy. The question then becomes which of the time traveling flavors will the author pursue, and do we maybe get a novel twist on it. The most fascinating bit for me about time travel fiction is how will the author try to avoid bumping into the causality paradoxes face on, and i think “Recursion” does a pretty good job at it. In the recent years there have plenty excellent books and TV series (12 monkeys, for one, was holding strong all the way up to season 4 or so), two other easy recommend books in the category are Annalee Newitzes “The Future of another timeline”, and “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North.
An easy recommend for the 21st and the encroaching 22nd century, and what’s in the cards for the humanity. Specifically – the scary thing that is AI and how it will save or break it. This book is perfect for everyone from complete luddites to people immersed in tech on daily basis as, before writing this book, Tom Chivers was science writer for BuzzFeed UK for a good while. So he knows how to write in an accessible way. Anywhere between today and the next 100 years, the AI research will create code capable of general intelligence. Within the few seconds following that, the machine running the code will surpass our cognitive abilities beyond anything we can imagine. The fallout will have vast implications and the events themselves are inevitable. So, grab some popcorn, and let’s see if this thing brings us the apocalypse or not. I’m of the same mind with the author that there is hope for us yet. Either way – grab a copy – the understanding will come handy rather sooner than later. Note on getting the book – due to a publishing snafu, the book is not available in kindle format. You can get a paperback, as well as it seems to be purchasable in google (means you’ll have to read on your phone).
Linda Nagata has written a crapton of books and honed her skill to perfection. The recently published Inverted Frontier, that starts with “Edges”, revisits her Deception Well universe and is the very embodiment of that. A macro scale space faring adventure that quite believably zooms thousand or so years forward into the future, and sinks you right into what life could be beyond the mundane. The tech make sense, the story makes sense, and her explorations are a feast for the eyes of mind. Twenty out of seventeen Chenzeme ships.
A fast-paced far-future dystopian sci-fi adventure piece with enough volume to last you a while. The plot will keep you holding your breath more often than you thought a book could, the pacing is excellent, but the real beauty is in the amount of detail Dane has put into his very vibrant world. Seven out of five COVs!
Thank you for scrolling to the very bottom! This list of recommendations is, of course, not exhaustive and looks only as far back as I went and copied stuff over from facebook. If you liked these, give me a shout, and I'll give you another few hundred recommendations!