Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Well, the last thing I expected to be reading was a zombie novel....
First, it gets nominated for a Hugo, and then someone in our book club recommends it, so I took a chance on the Kindle version.
We get somewhat traditional zombies (very slow moving, mindless creatures trying to eat you) with a scientific origin (a virus, originating with a vaccine). We also get bloggers, in this case twins Georgia and Shaun Mason, along with their colleague Buffy (yes, a reference to that Buffy). The trio is picked to be the official bloggers covering the presidential candidate of Senator Peter Ryman.
Grant has built a world where humans are dealing with a deadly virus, with all the checks and controls that would be necessary, including a very powerful CDC. Partly because of this, social media rules in 2039.
Bloggers are even slotted in categories ("Irwins" are ones that like to poke things with sticks). The book is first person, from Georgia's viewpoint, with blog posts heading each chapter.
Our heroes deal with politics (infighting for the Republican nomination) and find that what appears to be accidentical infestations might be murder instead. The tension is ratcheted up through the book, and ends with a fairly explosive climax.
There's two more books coming, and I was impressed enough that I have already grabbed the Deadline in a Kindle edition.
I've been waiting for this book every since I've heard rumors of it, and the author (I first heard of him in a blog comment from Charlie Stross). I even bought it in hardcover instead of Kindle, since I wanted a permanent copy. I enjoyed it a lot...
...but I wanted to love it.
In a way, the book's plot is a caper novel (interesting, since I read Richard Stark's "Comeback" immediately before it) with the protagonist an amnesiac thief, so it's not that it's a difficult read from that standpoint. From a world building standpoint, it's very confusing for an initial read.
The book opens with Jean le Flambeur being confined in a Dilemma Prison, where he is playing the Prisoner's Game daily, and has been shot numerous times. He is broken out of prison by Mieli, an Oort solider, and taken to the Oubliette, a city on Mars that is moving across the surface (and home to the only baseline human population left in the solar system). He is given the chance to win his freedom if he steals something for Mieli's boss (one of the Sobornost, part of the posthuman upload collective)which he failed to do before.
On Mars, time is a currency, and memories are held tight, and gogol piracy (cloning minds and enslaving them for specific tasks) is a problem. In the Oubliette, we have Isidore Beautrelet, a young (ten Martian years) architecture student and amateur detective, who must try and figure out who Jean le Flambeur is, and what he is doing on Mars. Isidore is also dating a zocu, who are posthuman warriors (descended from members of MMORPG guilds).
This all can be very confusing, and it's the last book someone should give to a new SF reader. Rajaniemi throws the reader into the story, and expects him/her to pick up the background from spare clues (most of which are just naming of items). This book is sort of the anit-infodump example. There is a handy glossary on Wikipedia, though I think it would have been nice to have included it in the book.
There will be two more books to come, and I'll certainly read them (though depending on the time between releases, I may have to do a re-read of this one), and I look forward to seeing how Rajaniemi develops. This is a good book, I just don't think it's a great one.
After 1974's Butcher's Moon (reviewed here), Westlake didn't return to his Parker character for nearly twenty-five years. He apparently started Parker stories several times, but always hit a wall. He finally started one, and apparently the story flowed easily, and we got this book, followed by several others.
Here, Parker teams with two other criminals to rob a "Christan Crusade" of cash collected at the door. His team is helped by an insider, who feels that he will take his share of the money and do good, since he has lost faith in the Crusade leader, who appears to be a typically sleazy televangelist.
As with much of Westlake writing, the heist goes wrong. Here, it's one of the partners trying to kill Parker and escape with the entire take. Parker is forced to run, and try and find both the money and the traitor. We get the Crusade's security chief and the city's police dedective on the hunt also. Thrown in the mix is also a trio who knows about the heist, and is intent on stealing the money themselves.
Parker is Parker, and despite the gap between books he still feels pretty much the same. The world has changed somewhat (it's going to be harder to find large amount of cash money to steal) and I'm interested in seeing how Westlake handled the rest of the series.