Genre: Science-Fiction/Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Angry Robot
REVIEW Sometimes it is difficult to classify a work of fiction. One my enter into it with a genre in mind, but once the reading begins it becomes confusing because it does not follow the rules. Through the years there have always been those who claim that breaking the norms of classification is bad and that has always been the battle between the old guard and the young lions when it comes to culture. Brett Savory’s new book is a perfect example of how one might break the norm.
A Perfect Machine opens up in an unknown city in an unknown era, in an unknown universe. To be perfectly honest there are quite a few details in this tale that are unknown and that is one of the strengths. Henry Kyllo is a runner, part of a ritual that has been played for a long time in the city. A sort of hunt that usually leaves him laid out riddled with bullets, but that doesn’t really matter since he always bounces back. That is just one of the strange abilities afforded runners, that and the fact that they cloak the entire affair to those who happen to experience it, very much like a memory that fades away. The healing comes with a price and every time new bullets penetrate him Kyllo’s body is altered. One night Kyllo goes overboard and gets his final dose of lead, while his best friend Milo is decapitated, the only way to kill runners apparently.
Kyllo, thought to be dead by his nurse girlfriend Faye, begins to change instead and turn into a monstrous machine and Milo turns into a ghost, following his pal around.
At the same time the head of the runners, a man by the name of Palermo, has his own issues. A young man named Krebosche is looking to expose the gang and traditions of the run and exact revenge on those involved in the death of his sister and girlfriend. A girlfriend who happened to be Palermo’s daughter. The stories cross as everyone ends up at Faye’s apartment where Kyllo is turning into something completely new.
There is a lot going on in Savory’s tale and yet the reader is often times left feeling that they do not know what is happening. The plot is easy enough to follow, as are the various characters that come in and out, but it is all those things that surround the story, the setting and background that may leave you wanting more. A Perfect Machine is billed as a science-fiction, but lacks several of the qualities that belong to the genre, or at least it would appear so. We are never, initially at least, informed of what the runners and their counter parts the hunters are; the next step in human evolution, robots or aliens, there is no mention of year or parallel universe and the setting seems to be quite similar to our own. Question is if this is necessary or if it would remove focus from what is important or if it is a conscious measure to make the book lighter on technical jargon and speculative motifs that might alienate most readers.
There is something slightly absurd about A Perfect Machine, despite the language being strong in its simplicity, and the suspension of disbelief is difficult to set aside. There are so many things that happen; men turning into machine, ghosts in the vein Patrick Swayze, vengeance as found in the works of Mickey Spillane and humans hunting each other like Surviving the Game, at times it feels like you’re reading a Golden Age comic with better writing. Savory does make it work on some level, but one might ask if sticking to just a couple of speculative aspects wouldn’t have been better.
Finally, here is the third chapter in the science-fiction serial All the Children Shall Lead. It’s titled Strange Dimensions and furthers the plot for one of the characters. Enjoy!
In the year 2054 the E-sport or gaming insdustry is very different. First and foremost it is unbelievably popular and secondly it is no longer played by pimply faced nerds holed up in their parents’ basements to only appear a few times a year to face each other in mock battle. Instead the gamers of the future are highly trained, professional athletes who climb into pods in order to enter the virtual world and compete in different games and everything experience in it feels real. Among these games the Rage tournament is the most popular, and the gamers who fight one another in it are heald in the highest of regard. One of the most popular teams is Defience comprised of two men and three women where one of them is Kali Ling.
An avid gamer from childhood Kali follows the instructions from the owner of the team, that consist of playing hard and partying harder; every night. Kali’s life comes crashing down around her when Defience loses their first game and is forced into the losers bracket in the tournament and when her lover and team member Nathan dies of an overdose. She is named the captain of her team and tries to keep the team from being eliminated while juggling personal demons, insomnia, drug addiction and a strange relationship with the man replacing Nathan. The preassure from the game, her boss and society as it is presented is about to break her before she realizes that she has to break with conventions and demands.
Arena, at first gives the illusion of quite the interesting future. Where technology has caught up with every gamer’s dream of being able to immerse themselves in a world they have only glanced at, longingly, through a screen. This is but the surface; What Jennings does is take the reader to the flipside of gaming on this kind of level. She intelligently adds the human factor to it, most likely taking a hint from what popular sports are like today and professional wrestling in particular. The roar of the crowds, the demand to always be in the media, the clubbing and rampant drug abuse. There is quite the interesting discussion as it pertains to being able to separate oneself from the virtual world; what happens when it bleeds into our reality? Very much like the movie Running Man there is an important topic here that needs to be broached; entertainment at what cost, and to what end?
Even if Jennings’ has written a very interesting book in Arena with a female protagonist she does not take it far enough. There are too many questions left unanswered when it comes to the future in which the book is set and how come it has all the settings of a totalitarian state. More could be said about the present reflected in 2054. The book also suffers from not really knowing what it wants to be. At first glance it would appear to be a Young Adult book, but there are some subjects that might be a bit too stretched for a young reader to grasp, old gaming consoles or games for one, and the romantic aspect.
If there is to be a follow up to this tale, and there should be, it needs to dig deeper and be brave enough to challenge the reader, as well as society.
Publisher: Del Rey
When Dr. Rose Franklin was a child she fell into a hole and found a large metal hand. This would influence the rest of her life and lead her into a career in the scientific field. This also lead her back to the giant hand she found as a child. Heading a secret government team she is tasked to find the other parts of what might just be a gigantic robot, apparently buried all around the world. Her movement and progress is tracked by a nameless figure who is constantly recording everything said in the matter. The gathering of body parts ends up being more difficult to perform and harder to keep secret than they first imagined and the method they choose devastates several inhabited areas, causing other nations to take notice.
At the same time the team is trying to figure out how to control the giant machine, that appears to be some form of weapon, and also deciphering the language associated with it. As outer forces try to control the project, among others the American government, the team is also plagued by inner turmoil, jealousy as well as betrayal and as the nameless leader tries to keep control of the situation it seems as if it is all heading towards certain doom.
There are many interesting aspects to Sleeping Giants, both in the way the story is told, but also the content. As mentioned the story moves forward through a series of interviews held by a nameless person. It is through this person’s questions as well as the odd military report and diary entry that the reader is let into the minds of the characters. Just like earlier authors like Samuel Richardson (Pamela) and Bram Stoker (Dracula) Neuvel adds a fair amount of credibility to the tale, as well as quick pace to the events as it excludes pondering as well as unnecessary background stories.
Neuvel’s characters are all at first glance sympathetic with a common goal to delve into the mystery of the robotic pieces, but as it all develops it becomes clearer that they are all conniving, egotistical, underhanded, in short; human. As they strive understand what they are dealing with and are being pushed or pulled from various angles they risk losing sight of the true goal.
Sleeping Giants manages to be an original Science-Fiction story and that is quite unusual today. It is both philosophical, historical and political in the same vein as Kornbluth and Pohl’s Space Merchants, exciting and at the same time with a subtle warning about the here and now.
The novel is classified as the first installment of a series called the Themis Files and if this is what the reader will be treated to in the premier book, then we are all in for a treat.
Here is the nest installment in the ongoing Science-Fiction story All the Children Shall Lead. In it we are introduced to some new characters and partial understanding of what this world looks like.
Enjoy it, and feel free to post comments about it.