Recent Reading - 2014
Recently married, Lucy and her Jewish husband, David, go to Lucy's parents' country house for a weekend party. A houseguest is murdered, and David is under suspicion because a Jewish star is pinned to the dead politician's chest with a dagger. Scotland Yard sends Inspector Carmichael to investigate, but the crime isn't as simple as it might seem. The fact that the dead man is the architect of "Peace with Honor" with Adolph Hitler implicates not only Jewish but also Bolshevik terrorists when Lucy and her father are shot by a card-carrying Red.
Alternate history is an interesting backdrop to a story which is told with simplicity, and it lulled me into a false sense of hope before the book's climax caught me off guard. I'm very glad there are more books in this series.
Among Others Jo Walton
Soundly grounded in the reality of teen years, this novel gradually reveals the fantasy which permeates the Welsh main character's life as she suffers through a year at an English boarding school after her twin sister is killed and Morweena runs away from her crazy mother. This book won the Hugo this year and the Nebula award last year. Tough to do. I loved it.
Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
Many threads weave through time and several different story lines blend surprisingly well in this book, running from the times of sailing ships to the far future of Earth after some worldwide holocaust. The segments about Sonmi 451 seemed very much like it was influenced by ideas from Aldous Huxley and Brave New World with a concentration on the bottom of the genetic ladder instead of the top. I liked Cloud Atlas much better than Brave New World, and the story threads' loose connections work very effectively to tie the story together.
Winter winds howl, snow piles up everywhere and a thumb in a cooler at the junk yard (Municipal Waste Facility, please) occupy Walt Longmire and his deputies. Some people in the county are not who they seem to be.
Language is at the center of this novel. Long after first encounter with an intelligent species, humans still must deal with the alien nature of their planetary hosts. Ambassadors, in this case, are a special breed of two people whose augmentations allow them to communicate with the hosts. Ordinary humans cannot actually produce Language, just make noise.
When a new ambassador arrives from the regional capital, all sorts of mayhem begins. It certainly looks like the human colony will not survive.
First encounter, but not exactly between humans and aliens. Siri Keeton is one of the "people" who serve as crew on Theseus as it races for the Oort cloud searching for the aliens who seeded Earth with the Fireflies and took a snapshot of the whole planet. Siri isn't quite human. He is enhanced with electronics. So is the rest of the crew, including a vampire. This dark science fiction novel is not an easy read with all its challenging ideas.
Special thanks to Peter Watt for publishing this novel and several others, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. It doesn't change his copyright and ownership of Blindsight, but in the long run, it will make the process of this work entering the public domain much easier, I hope.
Gradgrind, M'Choakumchild and Bounderby are three of the aptly named characters in this social commentary about the class differences between the haves and the have-nots. Emotion is squeezed to the margins by the "Facts Man" Thomas Gradgrind. Family and kindness are second to toeing the line. Good eventually rears its head and Dickens finishes by asking us to participate in making our world a better place.