2017 - #41, "Halting State", Charles Stross

2017-Apr-21, Friday 07:32 pm
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

I haven't read this one as many times as maybe I should. There's some stylistic weirdness (it's written in second-person, which is to some extent, "gaming", although perhaps more the text adventures of days gone by than modern 1st/3rd megapolygon wossnames), which lingers in my memory as an initial hurdle. It's quite OK once you're reading, though. At least I find it so.

First in a series of two (so far) Scottish near-future police procedurals.

All in all, not a bad read. I should see if I have the second one in electronic or paper form.
altamira16: Tall ship at dusk (Default)
[personal profile] altamira16
This was a book recommended by someone on Twitter. It is the 2014 Winner of the Philip K Dick Award for distinguished science fiction. I really enjoyed it because I like science fiction dystopia and empowered female protagonists.

In this book, there is a nurse in the hospital maternity ward in San Francisco taking care of women and babies when some unknown disease hits. Women in late pregnancy catch a fever, their babies die, and then they die. Other people in the household become infected and also die, but no one dies like the women. Eventually, the nurse catches the disease too. She wakes up in her house to a man trying to rape her. Once she escapes from the man who has broken into her house, she runs into a gay man who introduces her to the post-apocalyptic world where most people have died, and the survivors are mostly men. He does not want to stick with her because women are dangerous. They lead to fighting among men who try to take them as slaves. The unnamed midwife scavenges for the biggest pile of birth control she can find and a chest binder and disguises herself as a man as she wanders the US to see if there are any people left.

There were only two little parts that bothered me. I think someone called a motorcycle that was not a Harley a rice-rocket, and I think this is what Californians call Asian motorcycles. I wish they wouldn't. Then at the end, one character talks about someone being lynched. After reading about the violence involved in real lynchings, it was surprising to see someone discuss lynching in such a superficial way. When that character turned out to be black, it seemed like "here is the token black character discussing lynching."

2017 - #40, "Saturn's Children", Charles Stross

2017-Apr-19, Wednesday 08:18 pm
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Don't know if I've reread this before, so this may genuinely be the second read.

It's, let's say, a "late-Heinlein pastiche", including, but not limited to, oversexed fembots with nipples that go spung (for plot-relevant reasons, no less).

We're in a post-humanity solar system, filled with a variety of robots, who are now all that's left of the heritage of Earth (having a completely crashed biosystem on the main planet, no human seen for at least one, maybe multiple, centuries, that sort of "left of").

When the novel start, we find our main viewpoint character Freya on one of the balconies of an upper-Venus-atmosphere flyer thing, contemplating the wisdom of letting gravity take over, since after all what meaning is there for a sexbot when she was manufactured after the last human was already gone?

Turns out, yes, there's a good many reasons to not let gravity take over.

Is it readable? Yes, on the balance. But probably not without knowing some of the specifics on which it riffs, which may or may not be what you want to internalise, but if you already had, there's worse.

It does set the scene for Neptune's Brood though, so might be worth reading just for taht (not sure it's 100% necessary, though).
altamira16: Tall ship at dusk (Default)
[personal profile] altamira16
This book is a study of North Korean propaganda done mostly from information found in South Korea because westerners can't just walk into the Pyongyang and ask to see all the propaganda. Myers said that no one really took the study of the propaganda seriously because it is too political for the cultural journals and too cultural for the political journals.

Myers's thesis is that there is really nothing there when it comes to Juche Thought. It just does not make any sense. Kim Il-Sung was not that educated. Juche Thought was an erudite philosophy created by some people who were not really interested in creating a coherent philosophy. They needed some educated sounding nonsense to serve as philosophy. Myers proposed that the North Korean government operates under Confucian paternalism.

In early propaganda, Korea was visualized as a younger sibling to Japan. That vision of Koreans as children has made them view themselves as innocents who are under attack from outsiders. As history moved on, any assistance from outsiders was erased from North Korea's official history, and the Kims were treated as parental figures (the state is both a mother and a father but mostly a mother) that North Koreans needed. Spontaneity is seen as a positive quality in children. I found that odd in a land where people don't really have the freedom to move about.

The roundness of the Kims is seen as the childlike quality of all Koreans. But at the same time, the leaders are seen as parents giving hugs to children and protecting their people in a lot of the propaganda. Here is Kim Il-Sung hugging a little girl.

As the hardships of the 1980s and 1990s approached, there was a lot of imagery involving involving storms and waves. The storms and waves represented the outside world, and the leaders had to stand up to defend North Korea against them. Here is a picture of former President Clinton and Kim Jong-Il sitting in front of a picture of waves. Attacks from the outside world seem to strangely make the leader of the country more powerful because it gives the parent-leader purpose and support.

The penultimate sentence of this book summarizes it nicely.

"In any case, the prevalence of motherly authority figures, the glorification of 'pure' racial instincts, the denigration of reason and restraint-- all these things encourage rashness among the DPRK's decision makers just as they encourage spontaneous violence among average North Koreans."

In a lot of the propaganda, Americans look a little bit like Ebeneezer Scrooge or offensive caricatures that you might see of Jewish people. They are men with hollow eyes and large hooked noses. In the linked example, there are some hollow-eyed American soldiers torturing a Korean woman by pulling out her teeth with pliers. The woman is a wearing white which is symbolic of purity and innocence.

I found it odd that Americans looked like Jewish caricatures because North Koreans are not necessarily as critical of Jewish people as they are of American and Japanese people.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine

Been a while since I read this. It's rather godo reading, but one thing leaves me puzzled, what do tibias have to do with arms? Anyway, Irene is a Librarian (yep, taht capital letter is definitely required), working for The Library (again, required), a library existing between the worlds, where time does not really pass, in some sense.

She has been given what sounds like a simple mission, go to a specified alternate and recover a book. No more, no less. Shouldn't be a problem, no?

All in all, excellent reading.
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