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REALITY TESTING

A bracing blast of neo-cyberpunk with some smart tweaks to the operating system.

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In a future Germany of wet-wired hackers and tech-enhanced para-humans, a woman awakens from an induced sleep to find her personality transplanted into another body—and, worse, that she’s accused of murder.

Dubbed “ecopunk” by Price, this SF thriller takes place in a blighted future Germany following mass extinctions and water shortages. While healing the planet’s shattered climate is supposedly an overwhelming priority, to desperate, ordinary Berliners, such as Mara Kinzig, the carbon obsession has become weaponry by which the Big Five corporate entities and their minions dominate and oppress. For women, things have grown worse after medical mad-science made a breakthrough with the “Seahorse programme,” enabling men to conceive and deliver genetically flawless offspring in well under nine months—meaning less fuss and less wasted carbon. Unemployed and derided as an “obsol,” Mara submits to an exploitive “dreamtech” process meant to mine and sell brain waves while she sleeps. But she wakes beside the incriminating corpse of a man from the powerful executive business caste. Worse, the body in which Mara awakens is not her own—courtesy of a full neural-personality transplant technique available only to the most elite. An instant fugitive from deadly law enforcement automatons who want her for murder, Mara (or whoever she is now) seeks sanctuary and hunts for answers among the rebels and underground-resistance misfits who trust neither her story nor her scrambled identity. Readers will find an instant echo of the invigorating cyberpunk territory famously birthed by visionary SF author William Gibson—and, not long after, written off by the novelist himself as a genre past its expiration date. But Price reboots the familiar noir scenarios of greedy multinationals, hero hackers, and freakishly augmented adventurers, upgrading the software with piquant bytes of green politics run amok and the unholy intersections of capitalism, recession, and transhumanism. The prose is bullet-point sharp and rich in future-speak street argot (“Lightwalls are feeding them all kinds of ads for biomed and dreamtech schemes. Carbon out your eyes if you survive the biomed ones”). If the author does not reach Margaret Atwood’s high level in envisioning a nightmare technocracy seemingly eradicating the female gender on a claim that it’s good for the environment, that stinger in the cyber-scorpion’s tail still makes for just one more piece of fitting bad news in Price’s well-conceived dystopia.

A bracing blast of neo-cyberpunk with some smart tweaks to the operating system.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 289

Publisher: Black Rose

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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PROJECT HAIL MARY

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

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Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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