A new novel from Andy Weir, author of The Martian, Artemis tells a fun story of industrial sabotage set in the eponymous frontier colony on the Moon. It's an enjoyable book and while maybe not quite as intense as The Martian, the plot is solid and compelling. I'm not really qualified to judge whether Weir was able to write an authentic female perspective, but I appreciate that the main character is a strong, smart, independent woman. She's the kind of character we could use many more of.

Artemis benefits from Weir's extensive technical research and the world of Artemis feels entirely believable. The only detail that I got hung up on is the population of Artemis. 2000 people feels like an order of magnitude too small for the bustling economy described in the book. It seems like there's far too many specialized professions and locations for a city of that size.

Otherwise, good book. Recommend.


The Player of Games

This is the second book from Iain M. Banks that I've read. I found The Player of Games to be much more enjoyable than Consider Phlebas. The character development is noticeably stronger. The plot is more compelling and, ultimately, the story arc is much more satisfying. Where Consider Phlebas seemed to end rather abruptly, this book wound down to a more satisfying ending.

Overall, I'm not sure I'm completely hooked on Banks' work, but the universe in which these two stories take place is interesting. In contrast to other recent science fiction I've read, I didn't find either of these novels to be particularly thought-provoking. The civilization at the center of The Player of Games built entirely around a game, while intriguing, didn't illuminate challenges we face in the real world (though I suppose it could be taken as a kind of allegory for modern life). I'll probably read more of his work, but I'm in no particular hurry.

Recommend? It's not bad.


Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas is the first of two books from Iain M. Banks that I picked up after learning that the SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships are named after spaceships in his Culture series. I should have written this little mini review (is that what these are?) months ago, but I'm just now getting back to it in an effort to rekindle a little more consistency with my reading (and writing) in 2018.

Overall, it's a solid book and the Culture universe contains everything you could imagine or want in a science fiction novel. Space travel, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, space pirates, high stakes games and more all make appearances in the book. I enjoyed the world-building, but the plot actually felt thin and the end was ultimately unsatisfying.

Recommend? Eh.



As occasionally happens with novels, I found my eyes glued to the pages of Aurora and finished the 450 page book in less than 3 days. Couldn’t have been better timing: Aurora ties in well to my other recent read, Accelerando. Both cover the challenges of developing an interstellar civilization and though they take dramatically different perspectives, the conclusions are surprisingly similar.

The grand scale of the book allows time to explore difficult topics in the human petri dish that is the generational starship bound for the eponymous planet Aurora. Governance and self-determination are hot topics in a tin can traveling at one tenth the speed of light with a population of a few thousand people. The ship’s AI,  the semi-omniscient narrator, offers a thought-provoking discussion of consciousness and purpose. And at every turn, there is death. But Robinson manages to normalize death in a way that comforts: a recognition that death is an inevitable part of exploration and of life itself.

Indeed, it’s a book that left me wondering: what is the purpose of life? Would we willingly doom our descendants to imprisonment in the name of exploration? Why have descendants at all?

The ending left me wanting, but the more I think about it, the more I think I understand what Robinson was trying to convey. Humans will likely always have a primal longing for Earth. Whether you were born on another planet or a generational starship, you will feel inexplicably drawn to the ecosystem that you evolved from. It seems only natural.

Highly recommend.



Right from the get-go, Accelerando assaults the imagination with a barrage of near-future possibility. The cadence of Stross’ writing along with a high density of techno-jargon that mixes reality and fiction stimulates in a way that other prose does not. This a favorite feature of many of Charles Stross’ novels and Accelerando does not disappoint. 

The story arc spans the tumultuous period of accelerating intelligence brought on by the release of the first truly sentient AI and achieving the Singularity. The plot could be a bit richer, but the book works well as a vehicle for asking intriguing questions about a future where AI is omnipresent, consciousness can be augmented by computing, and we can slip seamlessly between biological and computational existence. 

Accelerando also presents an interesting quandary surrounding the nature of space exploration. The novel makes it clear that our present understanding of the vastness of space is shockingly naive. Even when we achieve a level of immortality by transferring consciousnesses into a space-faring computer, the distances between interesting places in the universe prove to be an impossible barrier.



Rule 34

Yes, that rule 34. I thoroughly enjoy Charles Stross’ ability (and confidence) to extrapolate the near future consequences of today’s technology trends. This ability makes for a wonderfully fast-paced novel that, while light on plot, is filled with delicious and delightful references to geek culture. From 3D printers to AI run amuck, Rule 34 offers an intense glimpse at a future ruled by technology without the typical boring and tedious exposition: if you’re not up to date on modern geek culture, fully 75% of the references will be lost on you. And while the plot, overall, feels like a watered-down version of a classic Tom Clancy international crime syndicate / espionage thriller, on the whole Rule 34 is quite a good read.