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Out on Blue Six Mass Market Paperback – Apr 1 1989

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Spectra (April 1 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553277634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553277630
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,271,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Out on a limb Sept. 12 2002
By Glen Engel Cox - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After my review of McDonald's short story collection, Speaking in Tongues, several people, among them Michael Sumbera, recommended to me what they felt was McDonald's best novel, Out on Blue Six. There was also some attention focused on the novel on rec.arts.sf.written, because of its similarity to Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." The comparison is not misplaced, although McDonald has a different agenda than Gilliam. Both stories feature a huge government that relegates people's lives, in which a small mistake can wreak human lives. That is, both stories are satires on present governments and governmental ideas. But whereas Gilliam plays the satire to the hilt, and goes beyond simple governmental poking, but also poking at individuals within it, ultimately ending on an extremely cynical note, McDonald still feels there's hope to be had. Out on Blue Six is an extremely pyrotechnic novel, full of unknown words and weirdly impossible SF ideas; again, like Snow Crash, this isn't a hard SF novel, but rather a novel of adventure and philosophy. Stephenson pulls it off slightly better, mainly because he isn't concerned with wrapping things up in a denoument, which McDonald does with his story.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great addition to McDonald's works Sept. 18 2008
By Hactar - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ian McDonald, as usual, comes up with a fascinating idea for a novel and manages, with a few pitfalls, to write a wonderful book utilizing it. Featuring an ensemble cast, Out On Blue Six traces the adventures of several dispirit groups through the canopy and subterranean levels of a self-contained futuristic city.

The dis/utopian nature of the society reads somewhat like an optimistic version of Brazil, or a function version of the Paranoia games. Avoiding pain is the highest priority of the computers that run the society, so people are told what is best for them with no ability to argue. A few vignettes in the novel focus on this, but a great deal more is focused on the edges of the society.

The one downside to this book is the treatment of the ensemble. My favorite character, a Yulp comic artist, who starts the book, seems to fade into the background as characters with stronger survival skills are introduced. Other than this small issue, the book is a truly fantastic piece of work. It's a shame that it's out of print, but it still is readily available and worth a read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Really bizarre! Oct. 28 2014
By Kat Hooper - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.

Courtney Hall is a cartoonist because that’s the job she’s been assigned by the tyrannical government agencies that dictate all of the details of everyone’s life — where they live, who their friends are, who they marry, what job they do. The goal of the government, which consists of such agencies as the Ministry of Pain, the Compassionate Society, and the Love Police, is to analyze every citizen’s genes and personality so that they can be assigned to the lifestyle that will minimize their pain and maximize their happiness, thus creating a populace that is obedient and compliant. The government assures that its dictates are adhered to by monitoring all activity and censoring criticism.

Most people seem content in the Compassionate Society because they like being pain-free, doing a job that they love (even if they’re not good at it) and being married to people who they’re compatible with (even if they don’t love them). But some people, including Courtney Hall, think there must be something more to life than avoiding pain and conflict. If she voices her opinions, or opposes the government’s decisions for her, she’ll be called in for reprogramming and have her mind wiped. When Courtney creates a satirical comic and finds herself on the run, she discovers a group of dissidents living under the city and joins their fight for freedom.

So far Out on Blue Six sounds like a typical dystopian novel. You’re probably expecting something like Nineteen Eighty-Four or Fahrenheit 451 but, to stick with the number-in-the-title theme, Out on Blue Six has more in common with Slaughterhouse-Five than either of those dystopias. It’s bizarre. Really bizarre. In fact, it feels much more like something Philip K. Dick would have written, except that Ian McDonald is a far better stylist.

The story is strange all the way through, but the weirdest part is when Courtney spends time with the underground rebels. Their “expedition to the end of the world” is surreal and filled with all sorts of oddities such as a six-breasted goddess, a man with no memories, the King of Nebraska, a group of performance artists who call themselves the Raging Apostles, a race of cyborg raccoons, and a computer program that might be God. Through her travels and interactions, Courtney begins to realize what is wrong with her “compassionate” society and how the experience of pain underlies morality and creativity.

Out on Blue Six is wildly creative, beautifully written, often funny, has a clear message, and ends on a hopeful note. Yet it feels disjointed, frenetic, and over-stimulating, like an acid trip (or, at least, what I think an acid trip must feel like). Thus, while I admired the novel and found it fascinating, I didn’t always enjoy it. There were no characters that I cared about and I never felt grounded in McDonald’s world because there was something new and bizarre around every corner. I love weird, but this was weird overload. Still, I’m glad I read Out on Blue Six and some of its language and images will stick with me forever.

I listened to the audio version produced by Audible Studios and read by Jeff Harding. I suspect that narrating this book was extremely difficult. The narrative voice is intrusive, frenzied, chaotic, repetitive, and full of neologisms and sound effects. There are plays, sportscasts, committee meetings, official letters from the government, and talking raccoons. Jeff Harding managed it all brilliantly. It is an impressive performance.
Here. See. The Manswarm! Blind and crawling insects on the back of Yu! Dec 14 2014
By Samuel Sanders - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
In a teeming city of arcologies and love police, the only illegal thing you can really do is disrupt the happiness of others as mandated by The Compassionate Society, a governing body composed of seven benevolent AIs originating from ancient corporate bodies.

Welcome to Yu, where the manswarm walk rain soaked streets the neon and gray of noir Korean films. Yu is where you live in buildings, veritable cities in themselves, that thrust into the monsoon sky where wire runners slide on the cables with feet on wheels. You can see the sparks from afar.

In Yu, you are born into a slot as determined by the psychological profiling of the Compassionate Society; no man or woman is out of place for they are always perfectly placed within compatible castes. No unhappiness is tolerated in Yu, where high technology has become mundane accessories to the facts of life so you can be the best you can be, as long as you be the designated you.

An infant’s impression of the world is tabula rasa: a man wakes in a room, filled with language, but none of the associated experiences. The language pours forth as the rain fills him with ecstasy, constructing his reality with words that define alien senses and impressions. Within that dichotomy the man exists, filling that void with a self that thrashes within the amniotic fluid of identity. He wordlessly words the world with meaning.

He falls through the manswarm, a fool for all he knows of the world, until he is adopted by Kansas Byrne and Co, in the form of the anarchic performance group Raging Apostles who bear him up and up above the sprawl coming and going on their mundane day to day businesses babbling reassuring inanities whose collective whispers waft to fill his infinitesimal self with the roar that is Yu’s heart and soul. They pump that heart and soul with the adrenaline of mischief.

Courtney Hall, pencil-slinger, free-thinker,finds herself at odds with her life and plunges into the chaos to unwittingly spearhead a decision that will forever decide the course of mankind. Ian McDonald has dipped into world religions (Out on a blue six smacks of an existential species-long Rumspringa) and multiple ideologies and dream worlds to create a chaotic near-hallucination which seems as an impossible but extremely optimistic vision of the future. Here, protean McDonald sprays references and allusions and metaphors in his exuberance, and you see this ability tightened and honed in his subsequent novels, especially that of Desolation Road, the novel most similar to Out On Blue Six.

This is the ride of your life, of seizure-inducing anime injected with comical realism, of derring-do in the name of Why Not and Wake Up People, of Jesus complexes deep in artificial intelligences and ancient technologies buried under newer ancient technologies, of dreams that are electric blue and out of there.
Head-trip sci-fi Dec 9 2011
By Raisuli the Magnificent - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I too remember buying and reading this thing when it was first published, and wondered what on Earth I was reading.

We bounce from one tale to the next, following the goings ons of an introverted woman, to the escapades of an eclectic group of societal vagabonds who've thrown off the bonds of their society which provides for everything.

The world described is something a bit beyond Logan's Run territory. The city in which the tale takes place is something that's really out there, and the world in which it is placed (and I'll add protected from) is, literally, a titanic cesspool. All the while the remnants of Earth of eons ago are stashed in a colossal basement warehouse storage area.

The whole thing is one weird ride, and for a few times while riding the bus reading this thing I scratched my head as to what the heck I was really reading.

I'm a sci-fi kind of guy, and I love other world experiences, but this one, in spite of being situated here on Terra in another existence, is just a bit too existential for me. As such I had a hard time sticking with it.

But, nonetheless, it was entertaining for what it was (but only just).

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