Hugo Awards
2017
The Obelisk Gate
Book Jacket   N. K. Jemisin
2016
The Fifth Season
Book Jacket   N. K. Jemisin
 
2015
Three-body problem.
 by Cixin Liu and Ken Liu
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn, the first of a trilogy from China's most celebrated science-fiction author.In 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, young physicist Ye Wenjie helplessly watches as fanatical Red Guards beat her father to death. She ends up in a remote re-education (i.e. forced labor) camp not far from an imposing, top secret military installation called Red Coast Base. Eventually, Ye comes to work at Red Coast as a lowly technician, but what really goes on there? Weapons research, certainly, but is it also listening for signals from spacemaybe even signaling in return? Another thread picks up the story 40 years later, when nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao and thuggish but perceptive policeman Shi Qiang, summoned by a top-secret international (!) military commission, learn of a war so secret and mysterious that the military officers will give no details. Of more immediate concern is a series of inexplicable deaths, all prominent scientists, including the suicide of Yang Dong, the physicist daughter of Ye Wenjie; the scientists were involved with the shadowy group Frontiers of Science. Wang agrees to join the group and investigate and soon must confront events that seem to defy the laws of physics. He also logs on to a highly sophisticated virtual reality game called "Three Body," set on a planet whose unpredictable and often deadly environment alternates between Stable times and Chaotic times. And he meets Ye Wenjie, rehabilitated and now a retired professor. Ye begins to tell Wang what happened more than 40 years ago. Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspectiveplots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and allembedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu. Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2014
Ancillary Justice
 Ann Leckie
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. In which a zombie imperialist space cop gets caught up in a complex plot to--well, this enjoyable sci-fi outing gets even more complicated than all that. Those who have seen the film Event Horizon will remember that a starship that got caught up in a time-space-continuum eddy got all, well, weird--or, as its creator puts it, "[w]hen she crossed over, she was just a ship. But when she came back--she was alive!" Debut novelist Leckie's premise dips into the same well, only her spaceship has become, over thousands of years, a sort-of human that is also a sort-of borg made up of interchangeable-parts-bearing dead people. Breq, aka One Esk, aka Justice of Toren, has his/her/its work cut out for him/her/it: There's a strange plot afoot in the far-flung Radch, and it's about to make Breq violate the prime directive, or whatever the Radchaai call the rule that says that multisegmented, ancillary humanoids are not supposed to shoot their masters, no matter how bad their masters might be. Leckie does a very good job of setting this complex equation up in not many pages, letting detail build on detail, as when Breq finds--well, let's say "herself" for the moment--in an increasingly tangled conspiracy that involves the baddest guy of all, the even more multifaceted head honcho of the Radch. As the action picks up, one just knows there's going to be some battering and bruising out on the shoulder of Orion. Leckie's novel cast of characters serves her well-plotted story nicely. This is an altogether promising debut.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2013
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
Book Jacket   John Scalzi
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation, 2011, etc.) takes a stab at metafiction--and misses. In 2456, when Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the xenobiology laboratory of the Universal Union starship Intrepid, he looks forward to participating in Away Missions. Peculiarly, however, experienced crew members invariably vanish just before the officers arrive with the mission assignments. Capt. Abernathy, science officer Q'eeng and astrogator Kerensky always go along, whether their skills are required or not, along with a handful of anonymous juniors. Worse, each mission always entails a usually unnecessary confrontation with improbable and hostile entities (ice sharks, killer robots with harpoons, Borgovian land worms) during which one or more of the hapless juniors get killed in dramatically horrible fashion. Abernathy and Q'eeng always emerge unperturbed and unscathed, while Kerensky consistently gets mangled but miraculously survives. If all this sounds like they're trapped in a bad episode of Star Trek, you're not wrong: They are. Somehow, and Scalzi declines to discuss the details, the actions taking place are being dictated by the half-baked scripts of a Star Trek clone series back in 2012. This, and its entirely predictable resolution, occupies 200 pages or so. The remainder comprises three codas set in 2012 that attempt to ground the aftermath in some sort of reality. Fittingly, the starship characters, those who aren't ciphers, sound and behave like teenagers. The plot you know about. Intriguing developments, fresh ideas, dashes of originality? Forget it. It's all vaguely amusing in a sophomoric sort of way, which is fine if you're an easily diverted sophomore with a couple of hours to kill. Check the date. If it isn't April 1st, you've been had.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2012
Among Others
Book Jacket   Jo Walton
 
2011
Blackout/All Clear
 Connie Willis
  Book Jacket
2010
The City and The City
 China Mieville
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Fantasy veteran Miville (Iron Council, 2004, etc.) adds a murder mystery to the mix in his tale of two fiercely independent East European cities coexisting in the same physical location, the denizens of one willfully imperceptible to the other. The idea's not newJack Vance sketched something similar 60 years agobut Miville stretches it until it twangs. Citizens of Beszel are trained from birth to ignore, or "unsee," the city and inhabitants of Ul Qoma (and vice versa), even when trains from both cities run along the same set of tracks, and houses of different cities stand alongside one another. To step from one city to the other, or even to attempt to perceive the counterpart city, is a criminal act that immediately invokes Breach, the terrifying, implacable, ever-watching forces that patrol the shadowy borders. Summoned to a patch of waste ground where a murdered female has been dumped from a van, Beszel's Detective Inspector Tyador Borl learns the victim was a resident of Ul Qoma. Clearly, the Oversight Committee must invoke Breach, thus relieving Borl of all further responsibility. Except that a videotape shows the van arriving legally in Beszel from Ul Qoma via the official border crossing point. Therefore, no breach, so Borl must venture personally into Ul Qoma to pursue an investigation that grows steadily more difficult and alarming. Grimy, gritty reality occasionally spills over into unintelligible hypercomplexity, but this spectacularly, intricately paranoid yarn is worth the effort. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2010
The Windup Girl
Book Jacket   Paolo Bacigalupi
2009
The Graveyard Book
Book Jacket   Neil Gaiman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Wistful, witty, wise—and creepy. Gaiman's riff on Kipling's Mowgli stories never falters, from the truly spine-tingling opening, in which a toddler accidentally escapes his family's murderer, to the melancholy, life-affirming ending. Bod (short for Nobody) finds solace and safety with the inhabitants of the local graveyard, who grant him some of the privileges and powers of the dead—he can Fade and Dreamwalk, for instance, but still needs to eat and breathe. Episodic chapters tell miniature gems of stories (one has been nominated for a Locus Award) tracing Bod's growth from a spoiled boy who runs away with the ghouls to a young man for whom the metaphor of setting out into the world becomes achingly real. Childhood fears take solid shape in the nursery-rhyme–inspired villains, while heroism is its own, often bitter, reward. Closer in tone to American Gods than to Coraline, but permeated with Bod's innocence, this needs to be read by anyone who is or has ever been a child. (Illustrations not seen.) (Fantasy. 10 & up) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2008
The Yiddish Policemens Union
 Michael Chabon
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Imagine a mutant strain of Dashiell Hammett crossed with Isaac Bashevis Singer, as one of the most imaginative contemporary novelists extends his fascination with classic pulp. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, 2000, etc.) returns with an alternate-history novel that succeeds as both a hardboiled detective story and a softhearted romance. In the aftermath of World War II, a Jewish homeland has been established in Alaska rather than Israel. Amid the mean streets of Sitka, the major city, Detective Meyer Landsman lives in a seedy flophouse, where alcohol has dulled his investigative instincts. His marriage to his beloved Bina couldn't survive an aborted pregnancy, after tests showed the possibility of birth defects. He also hasn't gotten over the death of his younger sister, a pilot whose plane crashed. He finds his sense of mission renewed when there's a murder in the hotel where he lives. The deceased was a heroin-addicted chess player, his slaying seemingly without motive. There's an urgency to Landsman's investigation, because the Promised Land established by the Alaskan Settlement Act is only a 50-year rental, with Jews expected to go elsewhere when the "Reversion" takes place two months hence. Thus, Landsman must solve the case before he loses his job and his home, a challenge complicated by the reappearance of his ex-wife, appointed chief of police during this transition before the Reversion. In her attempts to leave a clean slate, will she help her former husband or thwart him? Adding to the intrigue are a cult of extremists led by a gangster rabbi, a possibility that the death of Landsman's sister wasn't an accident and a conspiracy led by the U.S. government. "These are strange times to be a Jew," say various characters, like a Greek chorus, though the novel suggests that all times are strange times to be a Jew. A page-turning noir, with a twist of Yiddish, that satisfies on many levels. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2007
Rainbows End
 Vernor Vinge
  Book Jacket
 
2006
Spin
Book Jacket   Robert Charles Wilson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Another character-oriented, surpassingly strange SF yarn from the ever-reliable author of , most recently, Blind Lake (2003). As ten-year-old Tyler Dupree sits with his friends Jason and Diane Lawton in the back yard of their Big House near Washington, DC, the stars go out. The "sun" that rises the next day is but an image: a barrier now encloses the Earth, generated by huge artifacts hovering over the poles. Weirder yet, time passes one hundred million times more swiftly outside the barrier, so that the sun itself may last only another 40 subjective years. Tyler becomes a doctor; Diane, with whom Tyler is never quite able to develop a satisfactory relationship, marries apocalyptic cultist Simon Townsend; Jason, a brilliant scientist, founds the Perihelion Center in Florida to research the effects of the Spin, as it becomes known. Later, Jason develops an incurable form of multiple sclerosis and asks Tyler, now his personal physician, to conceal the illness from the public and his staff. The staggering time differential turns out to have certain advantages: the terraforming of Mars, for instance, takes only a subjective year or two, and a handful of intrepid colonists rapidly develop an advanced civilization—before another barrier appears around Mars. A visitor from Mars, Wun Ngo Wen, brings advanced knowledge and medical techniques—they may save Jason's life—together with a plan to seed the distant, iceball-filled Kuiper Belt with slow-growing, living machines capable of investigating the activities of the so-called Hypotheticals. Others, however, suspect Wun has a hidden agenda. A far-fetched yet fascinating time-odyssey that pushes the envelope in every direction. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2005
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
Book Jacket   Susanna Clarke
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Rival magicians square off to display and match their powers in an extravagant historical fantasy being published simultaneously in several countries, to be marketed as Harry Potter for adults. But English author Clarke's spectacular debut is something far richer than Potter: an absorbing tale of vaulting ambition and mortal conflict steeped in folklore and legend, enlivened by subtle characterizations and a wittily congenial omniscient authorial presence. The agreeably convoluted plot takes off with a meeting in of "gentleman-magicians" in Yorkshire in 1806, the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The participants' scholarly interests are encouraged by a prophecy "that one day magic would be restored to England by two magicians" and would subsequently be stimulated by the coming to national prominence of Gilbert Norrell, a fussy pedant inclined to burrow among his countless books of quaint and curious lore, and by dashing, moody Jonathan Strange, successfully employed by Lord Wellington to defeat French forces by magical means. Much happens. A nobleman's dead wife is revived but languishes in a half-unreal realm called "Lost-hope"—as does Stephen Black, the same nobleman's black butler, enigmatically assured by a nameless "gentleman with thistle-down hair" that he (Stephen) is a monarch in exile. Clarke sprinkles her radiantly readable text with faux-scholarly (and often hilarious) footnotes while building an elaborate plot that takes Strange through military glory, unsuccessful attempts to cure England's mad king, travel to Venice and a meeting with Lord Byron, and on a perilous pursuit of the fabled Raven King, former ruler of England, into the world of Faerie, and Hell ("The only magician to defeat Death !"). There's nothing in Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, or any of their peers that surpasses the power with which Clarke evokes this fabulous figure's tangled "history." The climax, in which Strange and Norrell conspire to summon the King, arrives—for all the book's enormous length—all too soon. An instant classic, one of the finest fantasies ever written. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2004
Paladin of Souls
 Lois McMaster Bujold
  Book Jacket
2003
American Gods
 Neil Gaiman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780694525492 An ex-convict is the wandering knight-errant who traverses the wasteland of Middle America, in this ambitious, gloriously funny, and oddly heartwarming latest from the popular fantasist (Stardust, 1999, etc.). Released from prison after serving a three-year term, Shadow is immediately rocked by the news that his beloved wife Laura has been killed in an automobile accident. While en route to Indiana for her funeral, Shadow meets an eccentric businessman who calls himself Wednesday (a dead giveaway if you're up to speed on your Norse mythology), and passively accepts the latter's offer of an imprecisely defined job. The story skillfully glides onto and off the plane of reality, as a series of mysterious encounters suggest to Shadow that he may not be in Indiana anymore-or indeed anywhere on Earth he recognizes. In dreams, he's visited by a grotesque figure with the head of a buffalo and the voice of a prophet-as well as by Laura's rather alarmingly corporeal ghost. Gaiman layers in a horde of other stories whose relationships to Shadow's adventures are only gradually made clear, while putting his sturdy protagonist through a succession of tests that echo those of Arthurian hero Sir Gawain bound by honor to surrender his life to the malevolent Green Knight, Orpheus braving the terrors of Hades to find and rescue the woman he loves, and numerous other archetypal figures out of folklore and legend. Only an ogre would reveal much more about this big novel's agreeably intricate plot. Suffice it to say that this is the book that answers the question: When people emigrate to America, what happens to the gods they leave behind? A magical mystery tour through the mythologies of all cultures, a unique and moving love story-and another winner for the phenomenally gifted, consummately reader-friendly Gaiman. Author tour
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2002
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book Jacket   J.K. Rowling
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780439139595 As the bells and whistles of the greatest prepublication hoopla in children?s book history fade, what?s left in the clearing smoke is unsurprisingly, considering Rowling?s track record another grand tale of magic and mystery, of wheels within wheels oiled in equal measure by terror and comedy, featuring an engaging young hero-in-training who?s not above the occasional snit, and clicking along so smoothly that it seems shorter than it is. Good thing, too, with this page count. That?s not to say that the pace doesn?t lag occasionally particularly near the end when not one but two bad guys halt the action for extended accounts of their misdeeds and motives or that the story lacks troubling aspects. As Harry wends his way through a fourth year of pranks, schemes, intrigue, danger and triumph at Hogwarts, the racial and class prejudice of many wizards moves to the forefront, with hooded wizards gathering to terrorize an isolated Muggle family in one scene while authorities do little more than wring their hands. There?s also the later introduction of Hogwarts? house elves as a clan of happy slaves speaking nonstandard English. These issues may be resolved in sequels, but in the meantime, they are likely to leave many readers, particularly American ones, uncomfortable. Still, opening with a thrilling quidditch match, and closing with another wizardly competition that is also exciting, for very different reasons, this sits at the center of Rowling?s projected seven volume saga and makes a sturdy, heartstopping (doorstopping) fulcrum for it. (Fiction. All ages)
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780439139595 Year Four at Hogwarts finds Harry enjoined as the surprising fourth contestant in the Triwizard Tournament during which he finds his way through a maze that leads to the dark wizard Voldemort and to the death of one of the other contestants. The emotional impact is disappointingly slight, and the characterization seems to be getting thinner. As a transitional book, however, Goblet of Fire does its job--thoroughly if facilely--and raises some tantalizing questions. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
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2001
A Deepness in the Sky
Book Jacket   Vernor Vinge
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780312856830 A distant prequel to Vinge's 1992 masterpiece, A Fire Upon the Deep, with a single character in common. Some 8,000 years hence, the Qeng Ho interstellar trading fleet investigates the enigmatic OnOff'a star that shines for 35 years, then extinguishes for 250; once understood, its weird physics may yield an improved star drive. Meantime, its single planet harbors intelligent aliens, the Spiders, divided into warring factions, but thought to be descendants of an advanced starfaring civilization. During the Dark, they survive frozen solid in pools of ice. Also arriving at OnOff are the acquisitive, ambitious Emergents. Cooperating at first, the Emergents later mount a treacherous sneak attack, defeating the traders and enslaving the survivors. The Emergents' overwhelming advantage is Focus, the result of a brain-infecting virus that can be induced to secrete mind-controlling chemicals. Those Focused are instilled with unswerving loyalty. The Emergents are led by a smiling deceiver, Tomas Nau, his sadistic assistant, Ritser Brughel, and personnel genius Anne Reynolt, once Nau's greatest adversary, now enslaved and Focused. The Qeng Ho resistance is thin, consisting of legendary genius and onetime leader Pham Nuwen, whose failed dream of a Qeng Ho galactic empire forced him into exile; young trader Ezh Vinh; and, secretly, Ezh's love, linguist Trixia Bonsol, now Focused and translating the Spiders' language. Both the Emergent and Qeng Ho fleets lost interstellar capability during the battle, so the humans must wait until the Spiders develop technology advanced enough to help them. As the OnOff star reignites, the Spiders emerge from their ``deepnesses'' and, galvanized by genius Sherkaner Underhill, burst into a frenzy of technological development. Nau plans to trick the Spiders into destroying themselves in a nuclear war. Pham, meanwhile, schemes to defeat Nau but sees in Focus the key to realizing his old dreams of empire. Huge, intricate, and ingenious, with superbly realized aliens: a chilling, spellbinding dramatization of the horrors of slavery and mind control.
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2000
To Say Nothing of the Dog
 Connie Willis
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780553099959 Comic yarn set in the same time-traveling universe as the splendid Doomsday Book (1992), with some of the minor characters in common. In 2057, the fearsome, slave-driving Lady Schrapnell has lent her authority and her money to developing time travel so that she can rebuild Old Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by Nazi bombs in 1940. After too many recent missions, operative Ned Henry is timelagged and in need of a complete rest. But Lady Schrapnell has another vital task for poor Ned: to locate a grotesque Victorian artifact known as the bishop's bird stump. A chronological complication that Ned is only dimly aware of, though, has arisen and must be fixed before history is changed. So a bewildered Ned finds himself in Oxford in 1889, wearing boating clothes, accompanied by a mountain of luggage, a regal cat in a box, and no idea what he's supposed to do next. Finally, after drifting along the river in an unintentional parody of Three Men in a Boat, he locates his contact, Verity Kindle (she caused the problem in the first place). There's a downside to all this slapstick, of course: Unless Ned and Verity resolve the problem, the Nazis will win WW II. Gleeful fun with a serious edge, set forth in an almost impeccable English accent.
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1999
Forever Peace
 Joe Haldeman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780441004065 Not a sequel to Haldeman's 1974 masterpiece, The Forever War, though the concepts and issues inevitably are similar. In 2043, the US-led Alliance is fighting a prolonged and dirty war against the third-world force of Ngumi, or ``rebels.'' ``Mechanic'' sergeant Julian Class, a black soldier fighting for a predominantly white establishment, cyberlinks via a jack implanted in his skull to a robot ``soldierboy'' body--and to the other members of his platoon. The result is full, instant telepathy, in which secrets are impossible. Meanwhile, Julian's white lover, professor Amelia Harding, discovers that a particle accelerator experiment being assembled near Jupiter could destroy the entire universe. Then a colleague of Julian's, the military researcher Marty Larrin, reveals that prolonged cyberlinking ``humanizes'' people, that is, renders them incapable of killing. Julian, a near-pacifist, agrees to help Marty humanize all the military's bigwigs while he and Amelia attempt to halt the accelerator project. Trouble is, the Alliance armies are riddled with ruthless religious-fanatic Hammer of God moles, who think that the end of the universe would be a splendid idea. Hardworking, often absorbing, and agreeably narrated, but the hard-to-fathom plot rubs uneasily against the chaotic and not altogether convincing backdrop.
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1998
Blue Mars
Book Jacket   Kim Stanley Robinson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780553101447 Third in Robinson's hitherto stunning Martian trilogy (Red Mars, 1993; Green Mars, 1994). The terraforming of Mars proceeds, though, at the insistence of angry, isolationist Reds, more slowly; oceans, plants, and animals proliferate, while modified humans are able to live unprotected on the surface. As an amazingly diverse set of social systems evolves, the Martians buckle down to inventing a new and appropriate form of government. With the available longevity treatments, the population of Earth is soaring, raising the pressure to allow greater and more rapid immigration to Mars. Meanwhile, the invention of new propulsion units has opened up the outer solar system to development and colonization; even starships are now feasible. Those of the original Martian First Hundred that survive--a score or so--are all well over two hundred years old, experiencing memory problems and facing sudden, symptomless death. Many of the characters who were once bitter enemies--Red fanatic Ann, scientist Sax with his rebuilt brain, political manipulator Jackie--eventually become reconciled to one another. And the immigration crisis is resolved, this time without bloodshed, in a spirit of peace and cooperation. Mars, and perhaps the human species, has come of age. Robinson's brilliant extrapolations and fascinating speculations are the product of hard and deep thought, in disciplines ranging from politics and economics through physics to microbiology. But with only a handful of well-realized characters, no plot, and hardly any incidents, what he's written is more textbook than novel: a disappointment for readers anticipating a more resounding conclusion. (Author tour)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780553101447 Third in Robinson's hitherto stunning Martian trilogy (Red Mars, 1993; Green Mars, 1994). The terraforming of Mars proceeds, though, at the insistence of angry, isolationist Reds, more slowly; oceans, plants, and animals proliferate, while modified humans are able to live unprotected on the surface. As an amazingly diverse set of social systems evolves, the Martians buckle down to inventing a new and appropriate form of government. With the available longevity treatments, the population of Earth is soaring, raising the pressure to allow greater and more rapid immigration to Mars. Meanwhile, the invention of new propulsion units has opened up the outer solar system to development and colonization; even starships are now feasible. Those of the original Martian First Hundred that survive--a score or so--are all well over two hundred years old, experiencing memory problems and facing sudden, symptomless death. Many of the characters who were once bitter enemies--Red fanatic Ann, scientist Sax with his rebuilt brain, political manipulator Jackie--eventually become reconciled to one another. And the immigration crisis is resolved, this time without bloodshed, in a spirit of peace and cooperation. Mars, and perhaps the human species, has come of age. Robinson's brilliant extrapolations and fascinating speculations are the product of hard and deep thought, in disciplines ranging from politics and economics through physics to microbiology. But with only a handful of well-realized characters, no plot, and hardly any incidents, what he's written is more textbook than novel: a disappointment for readers anticipating a more resounding conclusion. (Author tour)
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1997
The Diamond Age
Book Jacket   Neal Stephenson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780553096095 Stephenson (Snow Crash, 1992) imagines a 21st century in which molecular machines (nanotechnology) can create any desired object or structure. National governments have vanished, leaving society divided into enclaves along ethnic, cultural, and ideological lines, the most dynamic of which are the new-Victorian Atlanteans of coastal China. Talented nano-engineer John Hackworth designs an interactive book, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, intended to function as both parent and teacher. An illicit copy of the book falls into the hands of an abused little girl, Nell. In the book, she becomes Princess Nell, the focus of marvelous tales and experiences that, seemingly incidentally, educate and train her. Meanwhile, a mysterious Chinese techno-whiz, Dr. X, busy rescuing doomed, unwanted Chinese girl babies, duplicates the stolen copy of the Primer so as to raise and educate the infants. Hackworth is ordered to join the Dreamers, a weird collective intelligence among which, through his subconscious, he designs a nanotech control method for the Celestial Kingdom represented by Dr. X. And when Dr. X's Fanatical Fists invade the coastal enclaves of China, Nell is trapped--until her army of Chinese girls, raised by the interactive Primer and devoted to Princess Nell, pull off a dramatic rescue. All of this is staggeringly inventive and meticulously detailed, but, lacking a coherent plot and set forth in an irritatingly vainglorious style, it's ultimately soulless and uncompelling. (Author tour)
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1996
Mirror Dance
 Lois McMaster Bujold
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780671722104 The first hardcover appearance of Bujold's well-known series about the Vorkosigan clan, hereditary rulers of planet Barrayar (Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms, etc.). Dwarfish, multitalented Miles Vorkosigan has a secret identity as Admiral Naismith, leader of the fearless Dendarii mercenaries; his clone-brother Mark was grown from stolen cells and trained by a ruthless dissident to assassinate Miles and replace him, an ambition Mark no longer holds. In this adventure, Mark masquerades as Admiral Naismith in order to lead a raid on the evil cloning facilities of planet Jackson's Whole. Miles discovers the deception and comes in pursuit, just in time to get himself killed; his body, hopefully preserved in cryonic suspension, vanishes. Mark returns to Barrayar to become acquainted with his biological parents, then figures out where Miles's body has vanished to, and rushes off to recover it. By this time Miles has been revivified, though his memories remain scattered and incomplete (he doesn't know whether he's Miles or Mark). Mark arrives, only to be captured by the sadistic monster and longtime Vorkosigan foe, Baron Ryoval. A well-conceived series, solidly plotted and organized, though heavy going in places and, finally, lacking that spark of genuine originality that would blazon it as truly special.
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1995
Green Mars
 Kim Stanley Robinson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780553096408 Second part of Robinson's Martian trilogy, following the stunning Red Mars (1993). Now, at the beginning of the 22nd century, Mars is again being exploited by the metanationals (what the transnational corporations, now fewer and larger and often running entire countries on Earth, have become), acting under the guise of the United Nations Transitional Authority. Meanwhile on Earth--overpopulated, polluted, and short of resources--wars have become commonplace. Only William Fort of Praxis metanational has the foresight to want to help both planets, and so he sends negotiator Art Randolph as his ambassador to the Martian underground. The Martians, a quarrelsome complex of groups ranging from radical Reds to bewildered recent emigrants, agree on only one thing: Mars must gain its independence--but this time the revolution must avoid violence and occur, as far as possible, by consensus. Throughout the human struggle, the face of Mars continues to change as the atmosphere thickens, the temperature rises, seas form, and plants spread along the chasms and craters. Robinson introduces new characters, like Jackie and the tall, charismatic, Mars-born Nirgal, to join Red fanatic Ann, battler Maya, scientist Sax, the treacherous Phyllis, and organizer Nadia. Green doesn't quiet reach the sublime heights of Red, but the same virtues--deep thought, fascinating detail, life-sized characters, an engrossing narrative--are present. Robinson's achievement is impressive, and Blue Mars is still to come.
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1994
A Fire Upon the Deep
Book Jacket   Vernor Vinge
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780312851828 Vast, riveting far-future saga involving evil gods, interstellar war, and manipulative aliens, from the author of The Peace War and the splendid Marooned in Realtime. An unknown being or force has partitioned the universe into ``zones of thought'': at the bottom is the Slow Zone, where intelligence is modest and the speed of light a limiting factor; in the Beyond, where multi-light-speed ultradrive travel is possible, thousands of smart races flourish; and the Transcend is inhabited by godlike Powers, to which state many races of the Beyond aspire. A human colony of the High Beyond, the Straumli Realm, experiments with an ancient database, thereby unwittingly unleashing an unstoppable, enslaving predator, the Blight. The civilizations of the High Beyond realize their peril when even transcendent Powers prove no match for the Blight. One ship alone survives the Straumli disaster; fleeing into the Low Beyond, the ship crash-lands on a planet inhabited by Tines, multi-bodied, pack-minded aliens with a warlike medieval culture. Two human children, Johanna and Jefri, survive--only to become pawns in a Tine power struggle. Up in the Middle Beyond, meanwhile, the realization grows that the escaped Straumli ship may contain something that will help defeat the Blight. So a multi-species rescue mission is launched, led by human researcher Ravni and by Pham, a construct once part of a Power now eaten by the Blight; close behind the rescuers come the forces of the Blight. No summary can do justice to the depth and conviction of Vinge's ideas. The overall concept astonishes; the aliens are developed with memorable skill and insight; the plot twists and turns with unputdownable tension. A masterpiece of universe- building.
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1993
Barrayar
Book Jacket   Lois McMaster Bujold
 
1992
The Vor Game
 Lois McMaster Bujold
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1991
Hyperion
 Dan Simmons
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1990
Cyteen
Book Jacket   C. J. Cherryh
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Not a sequel to, but a story taking place in the same far-future universe as, Cherryh's well-known Downbelow Station, churning with political intrigue and heavyweight powerbroking, thick with knotty conspiracies and plots. Cherryh's backdrop is a complex and thoughtful one. In 2300 A.D., Earth's farflung colonies and space habitats have won their independence after a long struggle. Genetically-engineered humans--programmed by computer for any desired orientation, loyalty, and function--are commonplace. At the top of the human ant-heap are the Specials, supergeniuses subject only to self-imposed restraints. Hostile alien planet Cyteen is slowly being terraformed; its labs and industries are at the heart of Ariane Emory's political-military-industrial empire. Ari, a Special, appears to be at the height of her power--yet various almost-as-powerful factions oppose her plans to launch another wave of human expansion across the galaxy. Then Ari turns up murdered. Whodunit? Well, Special and psychogenesis (""mind-cloning"") expert Jordan Warrick confesses--even though he's not guilty--as part of a convoluted power-play. Meanwhile, Ari's people start to grow a clone of Ari, which, thanks to Ari's own brilliant research, will grow into an exact duplicate of the dead Ari--as a prelude to an even more ferocious struggle. There are drawbacks: not enough action, spindly characters, sheer density and length (a whopping 680 pages). Still, aficionados of futuristic imaginary power-politics, and those intrigued by the possibilities of human-biological manipulation, will find much to ponder here. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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