Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ultra Hip Book Reviews: January

Writing should be enjoyed first and foremost by the author if they want to say anything worth value. There are moments, conversely, when a writer has to take a deep look inside himself and pull from his past moments in which most of us would want to forget straight out. He has to take those disturbing recollections and craft something you, the reader, would want to experience and come back to time and time again. This requires great bravery. It's not easy, it's not always fun and yet it has too look easy and fun or why the hell would anyone want to devote their time to it. This month I have three books that should let you have fun at an author's expense. It's time for: 

Three Books I Recently Finished That Will Pleasure Your Eyeballs. 

One: Neuromancer by William Gibson. 

You know this Gibson guy, he has talent. Someday, he might even make a name for himself. 

All snickering aside, the backstory of Henry Dorsett Case, the main character of Neuromancer, is a near future tragedy in the full, digital age. He is burnt out, on drugs, was once a great hacker but was left behind by his former employer who punished him for stealing; they gave him mycotoxin so he can never use “the Matrix” again. 

Two people enter Case's life that may hold the key to what he is looking for: a cure. One is a Street Samurai named Molly Millions and the other is her mercenary boss Armitage. They agree to help him get back his old life, cure him but first missions, secret missions must be done. Like all good, surreptitious tasks, it wouldn't be exciting without a little trouble. 

The language of Neuromancer is exciting, hyper and incredibly hip. A lot has to be explained about this world and Gibson finds away to keep things moving along at a fast pace while still being fresh and entertaining. When you read it though it might help, just to set the mood, to listen to some techno music, just to push the story deeper into your mind; there that maybe the first and last time I say you should use a soundtrack to amplify a book. 

Now for its faults: 

The novel was a game changer, let there be no doubt about it. Yet, that is precisely what makes Neuromancer a good novel rather then a great one. When you change the game, you don't know how the new game is supposed to be played, at least not yet which is why later books in this, what was a new subgenre, at least for me, were better then Gibson's novel. It's not clichéd writing but at times I thought, even though he did it with a great amount of confidence, I felt Gibson didn't know what direction he was suppose to go. It's only a hundred words at worst on and off but those hundred words rank up to a few thousand when you get extra lost. 

Be that as it may, Neuromancer has to be read by anyone interested in good Science Fiction, period. Cyberpunk was done a lot better as it got older but it's still nice to know where a lot of those ideas came from. Nothing is ever great its first time out but Neuromancer was still pretty damn close. 

Two: Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener. 

Now, look at that title, don't you want to read that? I did too.  

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener is by no means a great comic but it does have sections where greatness crept in. Basically what we have here is an Alternate Future, or Past or Present, in which Nikola Tesla made a robot before he dies named Atomic and the steel man has to fight Nazis, monsters and Mad Scientist. For a good couple pages it reminded me of the superb League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - minus a few gentlemen - and where the Alan Moore comic was heavy in language this was light. The art is first rate, the writing, again, not so much but I was pulled into the story despite being a little turned off by the ending. 

If you want a laugh, read Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne. If you want something with more depth, read something else. However, and I'm only saying this because I think I got my money's worth with this comic, you could by much, much worse work by a writer named Matt Fraction and then, you're really in trouble. 

God, how I hate what Fraction did with Thor.  

Three: Gateway by Fredrick Pohl. 

After reading the disappointing Man Plus - I wasn't that dispirited by it I just thought it could have been a lot better - I was finicky about reading Gateway despite the fact every person who read the book said it was the best Pohl novel. So, I bought it, took it home and read it because my friends know my likes and dislikes and they know how much I love Space dramas. 

Guess what, Guess what, Guess what…they were right!

Gateway is a mixture of the present and the past set in the backdrop of the future. A vanished alien race called the Heechee built the Gateway, a hollowed out asteroid which inside holds many advanced ships. 

The main character is Robinette Stetley Broadhead who wins the lotto and is given a first class trip to the Gateway. These events are set in the past. 

In the present, Broadhead is losing a battle against madness and guilt over a misfortunate loss of a love one; someone he met on Gateway, this information is relayed to the reader by his conversations with a therapist and computer program Sigfrid von Shrink. 

I won't tell you who died, what happened at the end of the story and what became of Broadhead. But I will tell you: this book not only surprised me in how detailed the Gateway world is but also how moved I was when all the information is revealed. 

Gateway is a sad story, one that is easy to read and one whose clarity of emotion comes out quite clearly.  And yes, it is Pohl's best work.