Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Contact by Carl Sagan


ContactContact by Carl Sagan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You need at least a minor background in science to understand the themes and terminology. But it’s worth it.

Contact – the movie – is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films. It’s a slow burner, and full of political machinations, but the payoff is quite profound. The book is very similar in tone and the story is basically the same, however some events happen to different people, the time period begins some years before the setting of the movie (but spans a greater time period in total), therefore impacting the technology involved in the narrative, some characters are involved less heavily than they were portrayed in the movie, and relationships differ greatly. In my opinion, I think the book has greater realism compared to the movie, simply because it focuses more on the science, the mathematics, and the ingenuity of the people involved in decoding the “message” and building the “machine”.

Eleanor Arroway is a brilliant scientist working on the SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Using radio telescopes, she and her team search the skies for possible transmissions from outer space, from potentially advanced civilisations in the far reaches of the universe. A signal is received containing a questionable message, huge amounts of data in a language unknown to human kind, and completely changes the entire perspective of the people of the world. All the countries of the world put aside their political differences, and for at least a few years are all completely cooperative in trying to work out the mystery of the message, and what the function of the “machine” actually is…

Probably one of the most clever narratives in science fiction that I have read or seen (to date). I don’t know much about radio telescopes and the related technologies, but with google at your side, you can definitely begin to understand more and more of how such a thing would work. I’ve learned a few things reading this book.

Thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend to anyone with even a minor interest in space.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Addictive. Loved it. For anyone, like me, who grew up in the 80s/90s and is also a gamer, this is a must read.

The human race barely goes out any more, the real world is poverty-stricken and run down. In most cases all work, school, and leisure takes place in a virtual world – The Oasis. This platform was created by two guys, one of whom – James Halliday – dies, leaving behind an “Easter-Egg Hunt” of epic proportions. The winner of the hunt will win ownership of the entire Oasis system (and billions of dollars). Cue a race to solve all the clues, fight battles, argue over 80s trivia, and the entire life and times of Halliday. Not only are the users in competition with each other, but also against the (typical) evil corporation, who want to win the hunt so that they can gain control of, and monetise, what is currently a free-to-access system.

Wade Watts AKA Parzival is a poor kid who lives with an exploitative aunt, who’s only escape is the school system within the Oasis. When the hunt goes live, he and his online friends both help (and hinder) each other to try and solve the clues. Wade stumbles across an answer to the first clue, putting him top of the “leaderboard”, and subsequently putting a target on his back.

Filled with humour, 80s nostalgia, and references to all those old movies and games that you’ve almost forgotten about, Ready Player One is one hell of a page-turner.

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Planetfall by Emma Newman


Planetfall
Planetfall by Emma Newman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3D printing is the future. Build an entire colony on another planet, plus all the gear you will ever need, all available at the touch of a button. Once you’ve acquired all of the raw materials, plus a bit extra, then all you need to do is recycle and keep recycling to achieve a sustainable community.

Which is all very well, until you find out that one of the colonists is a hoarder, and attaches emotional significance to every scrap of material or broken piece of pottery she finds. Renata is the engineer behind much of the technology the colonists are using, and is well known for having anxieties; however the extent of her conditions are not known at all, nor the reasons behind them. Which may sound far-fetched except it’s surprisingly easy to ignore symptoms of mental illness, because it’s always something that happens to “other people”, right? Everyone has their own eccentricities, so what makes you think that what you’re experiencing is greater than the norm? That’s why it’s so painful for all involved when truths are finally uncovered.

All of the colonists followed their faith in one way or another to travel to this distant part of the universe. On the word of Suh-Mi, a long-time companion of Ren, who receives the knowledge of the location of “God’s City” through interaction with an unusual substance, a group of volunteers travel to this new planet. Upon arrival Suh-Mi was taken within the city, and the colonists simply live out their lives hoping to receive news of her return.

Written with such emotion and sensitivity, you feel the heartbreak and internal struggle of Ren as the story progresses. Who can she trust within the colony? Who is this newcomer who seems to have upset the balance within the population? What is the truth of God’s City?

Do the colonists, in fact, already know the answers?

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Made to Kill by Adam Christopher


Made to Kill
Made to Kill by Adam Christopher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this book, due more to my lack of concentration than any actual commentary on the book itself; after finally having got a chance to sit down and pay attention, I got through the second half of this book in a matter of hours!

An old fashioned film-noir style story, with a slight futuristic and technological twist. Like a cold-war science fiction story from the 50s or 60s. I almost imagined this entire tale in black and white. We follow the case through the non-emotive eyes of a robot private detective, Raymond Electromatic, and his supercomputer/boss/secretary Ada. There’s a film premiere due at the end of the week, and one of the stars has gone missing. Who took him? Was he taken at all? How will Raymond get to the bottom of the case when his internal tape memory only lasts for 24 hours?

The mystery itself isn’t too taxing, but the way the facts are uncovered by Ray is novel enough to keep it interesting.

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman


The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Irene has been living and working for The Library her entire life. Her parents were librarians, and she has never thought about doing anything else. The Library is her life. The Library itself exists between worlds, multiple realities, all of which have their own books and documents which are deemed to be worthy of archiving and saving. Curiously, no one has ever left the buildings of the labyrinthine buildings which form The Library proper, the outside world can be seen, but no one has apparently ventured there. Time itself stands still within the library; therefore in order for Irene to have grown up at all, she was placed in a school within one of the multiple “alternates”.

Irene’s latest assignment involves locating a particular copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from an alternate with a high level of “chaos”. Ordinarily a world like this would have been closed off for safety reasons, as the chaos is capable of infecting other worlds, and possibly The Library. To make it even more difficult, she has to mentor a new trainee librarian, Kai. Irene’s investigation leads her to analternate London with vampires, fae, conspiratorial organisations, a certain “Great Detective” (but not quite “that” one), and a rogue librarian (or two) to contend with. Possibly, even the intervention of a dragon.

This novel has plenty to offer: action, intrigue, fantasy and a mystery to unravel. Genevieve Cogman is a very competent writer, bringing these characters to life with vivid descriptions of physical places, scenarios and thought processes. There is a very “steampunk” feel to this particular reality in whichthe characters find themselves. However with the nature of The Library and its’ access to multiple realities (hello string theory!) the number and type of future narratives could be limitless.

I did, however find myself picturing Christian Kane in the part of “Kai” – simply because of the latest series of The Librarians on the SyFy channel! That show is completely unrelated to this novel, but due to the nature of the Library itself, my brain drew its’ own parallel!

I would recommend this book highly. A great romp through a similar, and yet different, London. Watch out for the cyber-enhanced crocodiles!

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