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John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
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Tears in Rain
Tears in Rain
by Rosa Montero
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.82
22 used & new from CDN$ 11.13

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Post-Cyberpunk Novel from Spanish Author Rosa Montero, Nov. 30 2012
This review is from: Tears in Rain (Paperback)
"Tears in Rain" is a superb addition to contemporary science fiction literature from Spanish author Rosa Montero. It is a fast-paced blend of post-cyberpunk fiction and psychological thriller, drawing upon Ridley Scott's film "Blade Runner", which, in turn, was inspired by Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". However, to Montero's credit, hers is not a mere fictional derivate of either Scott's great film or Dick's acclaimed science fiction novel. Instead, she offers readers a credible, realistic, vision of a unified Earth in the aftermath of adverse global warming that will remind many of Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Wind-Up Girl" in its gritty realism and substantial attention to detail that is far better than almost anything I have read from contemporary American mainstream writers who have opted to delve into dystopian speculative fiction recently. (Notable exceptions to this trend include such great works as Rick Moody's "The Four Fingers of Death" and Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story".) Montero's protagonist Bruna Husky should remind those familiar with cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk science fiction of William Gibson's Molly in his "Sprawl" series of short stories and novels, culminating with his "Cyberspace" trilogy ("Neuromancer", "Count Zero", "Mona Lisa Overdrive"). While this is a great post-cyberpunk thriller in its own right, "Tears in Rain" also works as an elegant condemnation of ethnic and religious discrimination by a majority against minorities within its population, in her sympathetic portrayal of Husky and her fellow replicants - frequently referred to as technohumans and as androids in Montero's novel - and of alien outcasts like the Omaa flutist Maio. Montero's novel can be seen as a subtle indictment of ongoing European mistreatment of its minorities like Basques in Spain and recent emigrant Muslim populations in France and Germany that should resonate with American readers familiar with our own sordid history of mistreatment towards Afro-Americans, Asian-Americans and others. Montero's novel is replete with compelling, if flawed, characters like private detective Bruna Husky, police detective Paul Lizard and archivist Yiannis Liberopoulos. This is an important work of contemporary speculative fiction deserving of its excellent English translation by its Australian translator Lilit Zekulin Thwaites and its publication by Amazon.

Crawlers
Crawlers
by John Shirley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.95
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.08

5.0 out of 5 stars A Creepy, Compelling Blend of Horror and Science Fiction Courtesy of John Shirley, Nov. 22 2012
This review is from: Crawlers (Paperback)
Compared favorably with the nightmarish visions of Hieronymus Bosch by none other than fellow cyberpunk William Gibson, John Shirley's "Crawlers" is a creepy, compelling blend of horror and science fiction; a literary nightmare that readers will find impossible to put down, replete in its spine-tingling terror. Shirley weaves an intoxicating blend of conspiracy theory, secret Federal Government bioweapons research and the specter of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, setting them in the rather ordinary Northern Californian town of Quiebra whose residents receive an unexpected jolt to their mundane, and tranquil, existence when a satellite crash-lands nearby into water, unleashing a malevolent plague robbing many of their personalities and individual sense of purpose, and guided by a demonic intelligence seeking control of the town, and then, eventually, the outside world itself, assuming dominion over much of the town's human and animal residents. Shirley has wrought an almost hallucinatory horror and post-cyberpunk science fiction tale which demonstrates his ample gifts as a storyteller and prose literary stylist; a novel worthy of distinction and favorable comparison with any of the recently published near future dystopian tales crafted by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Colson Whitehead, rendering in memorably terse prose, nightmarish visions comparable not only with Bosch but also with Barker and Lovecraft as well. Indeed, he is far more successful than either Atwood or Whitehead in his depiction of a horrific dystopian near future that potentially remains all too plausible. Without question, Shirley has demonstrated once more with "Crawlers" why he is still among the most important writers of Anglo-American science fiction and one of the most notable literary talents emerging out of the cyberpunk literary movement of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Night Sessions
The Night Sessions
by Ken MacLeod
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.00
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Compelling Fictional Condemnation of Fundamentalist Religion, Nov. 19 2012
This review is from: The Night Sessions (Paperback)
What if robots found GOD? This very question lies at the heart of Ken MacLeod's near future science fiction novel, "The Night Sessions", one of the most compelling fictional condemnations of fundamentalist religion I have read, which is, not surprisingly, one of MacLeod's best novels and one that should have been published by an American publisher four years ago, when the original British edition debuted. "The Night Sessions" illustrates the importance of science fiction as a literary genre rooted in ideas, as a fictional condemnation of the worst aspects of religious fundamentalism, and one quite critical too of anti-religious fundamentalism expressed by some atheists. In a near future slowly recovering from the worst aspects of man-made global warming, religion has been rendered almost invisible, barely tolerated by government as a result of the "Second Enlightenment" separating faith from politics, in the aftermath of so-called "Faith Wars" which have rendered part of the Middle East radioactively uninhabitable. Only a relative few, mainly religious fundamentalists, dare practice openly their faith, even as they are greatly distrusted and despised by most of the public. A young New Zealand robotics engineer - and skeptical creationist - finds himself the object of religious devotion during a brief visit to a Scottish Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Church, stunned to hear that his lay preaching has attracted not only the attention of, but also, ample devotion from robots who view him as a latter day prophet. One year later, Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson investigates an Edinburgh church bombing and the murders of two priests, finding evidence which points initially to zealous anti-religious atheists as the likely culprits. As he delves further into his investigation, Ferguson encounters references to an obscure 18th Century radical Scottish Protestant Christian sect and the potential ties between it and a plot to destroy the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean space elevators. Replete with the realism seen in Lynda La Plante's "Prime Suspect" television series and the best of Elmore Leonard's crime fiction, MacLeod offers readers a most tantalizing glimpse into a technologically advanced near future that so eerily resonates with today's all too prevalent religious strife, especially its religiously-inspired terrorism; that he does this in a surprisingly terse mix of crime fiction, thriller and science fiction, is ample testimony to his excellent storytelling and prose, demonstrating why he remains one of today's most compelling and insightful writers of literary science fiction.

The Night Sessions
The Night Sessions
by Ken MacLeod
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Compelling Fictional Condemnation of Fundamentalist Religion, Nov. 19 2012
This review is from: The Night Sessions (Paperback)
What if robots found GOD? This very question lies at the heart of Ken MacLeod's near future science fiction novel, "The Night Sessions", one of the most compelling fictional condemnations of fundamentalist religion I have read, which is, not surprisingly, one of MacLeod's best novels. "The Night Sessions" illustrates the importance of science fiction as a literary genre rooted in ideas, as a fictional condemnation of the worst aspects of religious fundamentalism, and one quite critical too of anti-religious fundamentalism expressed by some atheists. In a near future slowly recovering from the worst aspects of man-made global warming, religion has been rendered almost invisible, barely tolerated by government as a result of the "Second Enlightenment" separating faith from politics, in the aftermath of so-called "Faith Wars" which have rendered part of the Middle East radioactively uninhabitable. Only a relative few, mainly religious fundamentalists, dare practice openly their faith, even as they are greatly distrusted and despised by most of the public. A young New Zealand robotics engineer - and skeptical creationist - finds himself the object of religious devotion during a brief visit to a Scottish Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Church, stunned to hear that his lay preaching has attracted not only the attention of, but also, ample devotion from robots who view him as a latter day prophet. One year later, Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson investigates an Edinburgh church bombing and the murders of two priests, finding evidence which points initially to zealous anti-religious atheists as the likely culprits. As he delves further into his investigation, Ferguson encounters references to an obscure 18th Century radical Scottish Protestant Christian sect and the potential ties between it and a plot to destroy the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean space elevators. Replete with the realism seen in Lynda La Plante's "Prime Suspect" television series and the best of Elmore Leonard's crime fiction, MacLeod offers readers a most tantalizing glimpse into a technologically advanced near future that so eerily resonates with today's all too prevalent religious strife, especially its religiously-inspired terrorism; that he does this in a surprisingly terse mix of crime fiction, thriller and science fiction, is ample testimony to his excellent storytelling and prose, demonstrating why he remains one of today's most compelling and insightful writers of literary science fiction.

The Drought
The Drought
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Dystopian Novels On Running Out of Water, Nov. 19 2012
This review is from: The Drought (Paperback)
One of the greatest prose stylists in British fiction during the latter half of the 20th Century, James Ballard may be remembered best for such innovative, visionary science fiction like "The Atrocity Exhibiton", and "Crash", as well as his semi-autobiographical novel "Empire of the Sun". Among the foremost writers emerging from the British "New Wave" science fiction literary movement of the 1960s, Ballard was among its most realistic, especially in his preoccupation with the adverse impact of modern technology on both nature and human society, writing compelling novels and short stories renowned for their surrealism and atmospheric descriptive prose. His recently republished "The Drought" should rank as among the most notable examples of dystopian science fiction ever written, an ecological thriller chronicling the collapse of modern human civilization and its inexorable descent into physical decadence and psychological terror. His is a compellingly stark near future vision of a world in which most of humanity has succumbed to a drought caused accidentally by human technological error; the few survivors chronicled in "The Drought" wage an endless physical and psychological struggle for their own survival, readily transgressing time-honored moral codes in exchange for a most savage struggle for existence, becoming psychological victims of their own obsessive need for drinkable water. This is a bleak, unrelenting vision of the near future that readers may find far more compelling, brutal, realistic and poetic than anything written by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or any recently-published young writer who has ventured into the genre of dystopian science fiction. A vision that is far more remarkable given its brevity, in which Ballard has welded successfully, his own knowledge and understanding of the relevant science with his vividly descriptive prose. For those unacquainted with Ballard's prodigious gifts as both a storyteller and writer, "The Drought" represents him at his best, at the height of his powers, fully capable of producing high literary art.

The Drought
The Drought
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.60
23 used & new from CDN$ 12.57

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Dystopian Novels On Running Out of Water, Nov. 19 2012
This review is from: The Drought (Paperback)
One of the greatest prose stylists in British fiction during the latter half of the 20th Century, James Ballard may be remembered best for such innovative, visionary science fiction like "The Atrocity Exhibiton", and "Crash", as well as his semi-autobiographical novel "Empire of the Sun". Among the foremost writers emerging from the British "New Wave" science fiction literary movement of the 1960s, Ballard was among its most realistic, especially in his preoccupation with the adverse impact of modern technology on both nature and human society, writing compelling novels and short stories renowned for their surrealism and atmospheric descriptive prose. His recently republished "The Drought" should rank as among the most notable examples of dystopian science fiction ever written, an ecological thriller chronicling the collapse of modern human civilization and its inexorable descent into physical decadence and psychological terror. His is a compellingly stark near future vision of a world in which most of humanity has succumbed to a drought caused accidentally by human technological error; the few survivors chronicled in "The Drought" wage an endless physical and psychological struggle for their own survival, readily transgressing time-honored moral codes in exchange for a most savage struggle for existence, becoming psychological victims of their own obsessive need for drinkable water. This is a bleak, unrelenting vision of the near future that readers may find far more compelling, brutal, realistic and poetic than anything written by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or any recently-published young writer who has ventured into the genre of dystopian science fiction. A vision that is far more remarkable given its brevity, in which Ballard has welded successfully, his own knowledge and understanding of the relevant science with his vividly descriptive prose. For those unacquainted with Ballard's prodigious gifts as both a storyteller and writer, "The Drought" represents him at his best, at the height of his powers, fully capable of producing high literary art.

The Company of the Dead
The Company of the Dead
by David Kowalski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.95
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Astonishingly Original Alternate History Science Fiction Novel About the Titanic, Nov. 16 2012
One of the most original examples of military science fiction melded with alternate history I've encountered, "The Company of the Dead", David J. Kowalski's debut novel, is the most imaginative fictional recounting of the RMS Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage I have ever encountered. It is also an exceptional time-travel science fiction novel, memorable for Kowlaski's masterful plotting and fine, descriptive prose that deserves recognition as among the very best ever written. Kowalski's fertile imagination has no bounds, mixing conspiracy theory, RMS Titanic, New York City, Roswell, New Mexico, gigantic military airships armed with planes and nuclear bombs, heroic 21st Century American Indian warriors manning tanks and artillery guns, and more than a hint of romance, within a realistic, alternate 20th Century and 21st Century historical science fiction novel. This is a latter day Jules Verne science fiction novel, mixed with ample detours through familiar speculative fiction literary terrain inhabited by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and Harry Turtledove. Kowalski is so effective in his storytelling that readers will almost believe that they are with his protagonists, walking the decks of the Titanic or coming under intense enemy fire in the Nevada desert by an invading army; he excels in taking us on a grand adventure that spans not only an entire continent but also decades of time. I have stumbled upon very few alternate history science fiction novels of recent vintage which approach the ample realism and considerable attention to detail which Kowalski demonstrates in "The Company of the Dead"; without a doubt, his literary debut deserves to be remembered as among the finest in contemporary Anglo-American speculative fiction literature.

Cosmonaut Keep
Cosmonaut Keep
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Enchanting Start to The Engines of Light Space Opera, Nov. 16 2012
"Cosmonaut Keep" is a page-turning, memorable and enchanting start to Ken MacLeod's "The Engines of Light" space opera science fiction series of novels, successfully recycling such time-worn tropes of science fiction like first contact and the role of computerized technology in a near future human civilization. MacLeod courageously takes us on a centuries-spanning journey through time and space as seen through the eyes of 21st Century outlaw freelance computer programmer Matt Cairns and his direct descendant, Gregor Cairns, an exobiology student and citizen of the remote human colony world of Terra Nova. Cairns is assigned the task of breaking into the computer network of the secret European Space Agency space station Marshall Titov, soon after a mutiny occurs, with the station's scientists seizing control of it from the station's military crew, shortly after making First Contact with an alien race possessing the secret to interstellar travel. Cairns finds himself confronted unexpectedly with his family's historical legacy, even as he tries to woe the daughter of a young trader, not realizing that his research partner Elizabeth has fallen in love with him. Together, with the assistance of their alien Saurian friend Salasso, they seek discovering again, the secret to interstellar travel. This is a novel rich in fantastical imagery, from the arrival of a gigantic starship to stumbling upon the surprisingly rich, almost human, family life of Salasso and his Saurian family and friends. Though MacLeod is a gifted storyteller and a fine prose stylist in his own right, readers should prepare themselves for the frequent, quite substantial, jumps in space and time as he shifts his focus from Matt Cairns to Gregor Cairns; that, however, is merely a minor criticism for what I regard is among the most intelligent, well-conceived, and well-written space opera science fiction in contemporary Anglo-American science fiction literature.

No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bond Is Back, Better Than Ever, Nov. 15 2012
"Skyfall", the twenty-third James Bond film, in the cinematic franchise which started fifty years ago with "Doctor No", demonstrates that it shows no sign of aging, let alone, dying, any time soon. Instead, "Skyfall" marks a long overdue return to such classic early James Bond films as "Doctor No" and "From Russia With Love", matching both in its action-oriented and psychological thrills as it updates them to conform with today's post-cyberpunk "Blade Runner" and The Matrix" film audiences, while also demonstrating why Daniel Craig may be the best actor ever to portray Ian Fleming's iconic fictional spy, portraying Bond as a duty-bound patriotic lone wolf with a license to kill, haunted still by a childhood psychological trauma, in an emotionally gripping, often intense, origin story that also seeks to propel the Bond cinematic franchise in a new direction. Working from a script courtesy of the literary talents of John Logan, among others, and aided by the exceptional cinematography of Roger Deakins, director Sam Mendes demonstrates that he is a most capable action adventure thriller director, giving audiences a fast-paced James Bond film nearly as relentless in its pacing as the rebooted adaptation of "Casino Royale" from eight years ago, which introduced audiences to Daniel Craig's James Bond and remains one of the best in the long-lasting series.

"Skyfall" should be viewed as yet another classic James Bond film, pitting Bond against a psychologically traumatized former MI6 agent, Silva (Javier Bardem), who has gone rogue, blaming both MI6, and especially, M (Judi Dench), for an espionage disaster in Hong Kong while he was the MI6 station head, shortly after Hong Kong's peaceful takeover by the People's Republic of China. Without question, Bardem's Silva ranks as one of the Bond franchise's finest villains, being a most worthy physical and psychological foil to Craig's Bond. The script for "Skyfall" allows Judi Dench finally, a chance to give a most psychologically intense and emotionally riveting portrayal of "M" that may be her best in the "Bond" series, while also introducing us to a cynical bureaucrat portrayed brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes, who warns M at one point that espionage is a game that no longer can be played in the shadows, a new MI6 field agent (Naomie Harris) and a young computer geek (Ben Whishaw); the novice, hipster, Q. Paying homage to classic James Bond films like "Doctor No" and "Goldfinger", "Skyfall" treats viewers to a fast-paced plot inspired by - if not lifted from - today's terrorism headlines in online and print media, replete in action and memorable dialogue from one end of Asia to another, culminating in mayhem in both London and the lonely, desolate Scottish highlands from which Bond escaped to become MI6 agent 007. A veritable cinematic feast for the eyes and ears, with an especially memorable theme song co-written and sung by Adele in the opening credits, "Skyfall" is definitely among this year's best films; potential viewers should rush to see it.

Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
by The Paris Review
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.50
25 used & new from CDN$ 11.35

5.0 out of 5 stars An Anthology On How To Write A Short Story Courtesy of The Paris Review, Nov. 15 2012
Choose twenty-one of today's most regarded masters of the short story genre in the realm of American literary fiction. Ask them to select one story published in the pages of The Paris Review and the result is a most beguiling anthology of short story fiction which works as a primer on how to write short stories. These are twenty-one tales told in first person or in third, recounting despair, love, joy and the emotional minefields which surround relations between the sexes, between members of one's family, and indeed, all of humanity. Tales introduced by the likes of Ann Beattie, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Mary Gaitskill, Amy Hempel, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus and Mona Simpson. Tales published in The Paris Review years ago, written by the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver, and Steven Millhauser. For example, Dave Eggers's introduction to James Salter's "Bangkok" reads like a terse lesson on the art and craft of writing concise, meaningful, dialogue, since Salter's tale is devoted almost exclusively to it. Ben Marcus's introduction to Donald Barthelme's "Several Garlic Tales" stresses the idiosyncratic, often novel, aspects of Barthelme's prose, acknowledging him as a "magician of language". "Object Lessons: the Paris Review presents The Art of the Short Story" is one of the most noteworthy short story collections I have stumbled on and a collection that belongs on the bookshelves of any aspiring writer of fiction as well as any discerning reader.

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