The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

“It starts with an itch you just can’t shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you’ll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you’re dead.

When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. Then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Cut off from the world, the remaining islanders must fend for themselves. Supplies are dwindling, fatalities rising, and panic is turning into violence. With no cure in sight, Kaelyn knows their only hope of survival is to band together. Desperate to save her home, she joins forces with a former rival and opens her heart to a boy she once feared.

But as the virus robs her of friends and family, Kaelyn realizes her efforts may be in vain. How can she fight an enemy that’s too small to see?”

Placing this story in a very small community had the interesting effect of intensifying the action.  It turns it into a true microcosm of what the entire world might be like under these conditions, but it doesn’t have the backdrop of huge sweeping disaster to contrast it with.  Instead, the isolation keeps the reader’s attention focused in a different way than most other novels, and it also makes what happens all the more chilling.  The author also touches on many of the elements that you’d expect in a disaster story—hoarding food stores, lack of medicine, houses with bodies inside—so that you don’t need the epic proportions of a typical book to get the feel for how horrible things are.

Even in the midst of all of this death, the author shows you some glimmers of hope.  While there are certainly a few troublemakers in the novel, most of the island’s inhabitants band together to take care of each other.  The best part is that it’s not in the fatalistic way that you see in many apocalyptic stories, where there’s safety in numbers and cooperation is a matter of necessity; rather, these characters help each other out of kindness and out of a real sense of community.  This may be a novel with disease and death, but there is much that is uplifting as well.

I found that I really liked Kaelyn.  She has a strong narrative voice, and although she’s young and often scared, her resilience shows a quiet strength of character.  The author makes a wise choice in having the tale told as a series of journal entries to an absent friend.  It not only allows her to believably set up her own backstory and give us information on herself, but it also lets readers into her thoughts in a raw and immediate fashion.

Of course, there is also the almost obligatory love story that nearly all teen novels have these days, but I think it makes sense in terms of the context.  Kaelyn is in a situation where friends and family are falling ill around her, and it’s natural to want human contact in the face of these events.  It’s occasionally just a bit clunky, but like I said, I can forgive it in light of how it fits into the story.

The novel is very effective in charting the progress of a rampaging disease.  And I’ll admit that after finishing it, I felt a little paranoid about people around me who might be sneezing and coughing a lot.  This is not a useful emotion to feel in the midst of allergy season, but it does illustrate the power of this comparatively lesser-known teen novel.  The Way We Fall doesn’t have the non-stop action of some of its contemporaries, but instead it quietly and insidiously walks you through a disaster that claims people one by one without mercy.  I’ll definitely be watching for the next in this series.

This review was originally posted on March 27, 2012.

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

“You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten…

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.”

The mixing of Regency and Victorian literature with fantasy has become more popular in recent years.  Some authors choose to emulate the “voice” of those periods, while others simply use them as inspiration.  Brennan goes the former route by writing her novel as a memoir, which I personally haven’t seen before.  I enjoyed seeing a Victorian-style alternate world through the eyes of one of its residents.

I think I know too much about that time in British history, though, because I’m not sure that I found Isabella believable as a character from that time.  I can certainly see how she got to the point that she’s supposedly at while writing the memoir, but she also seems to have not been as invested in the cultural strictures that were so prevalent.  I would have believed it more if she had taken more part in the society that she was brought up in.  I did admire her spirit—women in that culture didn’t have a lot of freedom, and Isabella took what was the likeliest path to being a scientist.

I also thought that the novel moved a tad too slowly.  The story hints at all of these exciting adventures and discoveries, but the book only covers Isabella’s childhood and her first outing after getting married.  This outing doesn’t bring her into a huge amount of contact with dragons, which are (of course) what we’re waiting to see Isabella deal with.

On the plus side, Brennan’s worldbuilding is top-notch.  She obviously has a grasp of not only what life would be like her alternate England, but also how things would be in the world at large.  Dragons aren’t merely fantastic creatures dropped into the scene for the sake of effect; there’s a real sense that they play a larger role in the narrative, and thus Isabella’s role in the overall story will be large as well.

While I do think this novel’s pace could have been a bit more brisk, A Natural History of Dragons is a complex and cultured tale of a young woman defying social norms to pursue her passion.  The fact that her passion is the study of dragons adds the happy twist to this tale of Victorian science and exploration.

This review was originally posted on April 9, 2013.

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

Retellings That Work, and Ones That Don’t: Pride and Prejudice Edition

As you likely know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, and my particular love is for Pride and Prejudice.  Consequently, I’ve read a LOT of retellings that run the gamut from books reframing the story within the novel’s time period to ones set in modern times.  And, of course, there are the ones that transport the characters and plot into a fantasy setting.  Probably the most well-known of these is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I’ll be honest, though–there are much better books out there that use fantasy elements.  One of my current favorites is Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon.

What makes dragons work and zombies flop?  Over time, I’ve realized that one of the things that determines whether or not a retelling works is whether or not it can adhere to the original story and yet still bring something to it that is fresh and different.  Authors need to make sure that they don’t deviate too far from the tale’s events.  Once you do that, your claim to be retelling the original falls apart, and in my opinion, that’s the fatal flaw in P&P&Z.   I remember reading an article about the book when it first came out.  In it, author Seth Grahame-Smith said that the idea behind the book came when he noticed how often characters in the original novel would be “off-stage” for long periods without a good explanation.  (They were traveling by carriage over rough roads, which took time, but okay…)  He started imagining explanations, and one of the things he dreamed up was that travel was often interrupted by zombies.  And thus was born his book.

Now, I’m not saying that idea can’t work.  I’m sure that it can.  However, as far as I’m concerned, Grahame-Smith completely botched the execution.  In the original, fancy dress balls were not interrupted for any reason, much less for zombie attacks, just to pick an example.  In the end, the book was little more than large chunks of Austen’s original text lifted wholesale and interspersed with random zombie elements.  It means that the book lacks coherence, and it also lacks the delicate touch that would be required to weave a zombie narrative into the existing plot.

A far better book is Pemberley, which I recently found after a recommendation in a Jane Austen Facebook group.  Author Maria Grace takes pains to make sure that the original story is not changed, but she is also able to use dragons as motivation for many of the novel’s events.  For example, the reason Darcy is with Bingley at Netherfield is because he’s using Bingley’s renting of a house in Hertfordshire as a cover to allow him to search for a stolen dragon’s egg.  The parts of this new story that wouldn’t easily fit with the original, such as searching for that egg, take place at times when the characters in Austen’s story are “off-screen” (what Grahame-Smith was trying to do) and therefore don’t disrupt anything.  The story progresses as expected, characters are in the places that they should be in, and the author is free to play in the spaces in between.

So, in conclusion, I don’t think that you can’t be wildly creative with a classic retelling, but you need to honor the original work instead of just using it for your own ends.

Literary Lines–May 14

“True love isn’t all chocolate-dipped strawberries and perfect harmony.  It’s work, work you enjoy doing, but work all the same.  As long as love can drive you crazy and bring you back for more at the same time, it’s a good thing.”

–from The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

A Higher Education by Rosalie Stanton

It is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions are a bitch.

In a sea of college freshmen, Elizabeth Bennet feels more like a den mother than a returning student. She’d rather be playing Exploding Kittens than dodge-the-gropers at a frat party, but no way was she letting her innocent, doe-eyed roommate go alone.

Everything about Meryton College screams old money—something she and Jane definitely are not—but Elizabeth resolves to enjoy herself. That resolve is tested—and so is her temper—when she meets Will Darcy, a pompous blowhole with no sense of fun, and his relentlessly charming wingman, Charlie.

Back at school after prolonged break, Will Darcy is far too old and weary for coeds. Yet even he can see why Charlie spontaneously decides the captivating Jane is “the one.” What throws Will is his own reaction to Jane’s roommate.

Elizabeth’s moonlight skin and shining laugh hit him like a sucker punch. And he doesn’t like it. Elizabeth Bennet is dangerous, not only because she has a gift for making him make an ass of himself, but because she and her razor-sharp wit could too easily throw his life off course, and he can’t afford for that to happen again.

Yet he also can’t seem to stay away.”

Okay, I feel like I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did, but damn, it was a fun read.  I’ve been a little hard on people who try to re-write P&P, especially when they change the characters beyond all recognition (I’m looking at you, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  Because of that, I was a bit hesitant going into this book.  But I can happily say that my fears were unfounded.  This is a deliciously naughty, incredibly snarky, skillfully modernized retelling that had me laughing out loud.

What really impressed me was how the conflicts in the original novel were translated for the here-and-now.  For example, instead of Jane being scorned by the Bingley sisters for her bad connections, in this story the problem lies in the fact that Jane is Black.  It’s a bold choice, but one that resonates strongly, especially in the racially charged climate of today.  In another example, Wickham tells everyone that Darcy framed him for possession of cocaine and got him thrown out of school, instead of denying him a lucrative position in the church.

The one thing that wasn’t in this novel that I really missed was the inclusion of the smarmy Mr. Collins.  I can see that it would have been difficult to put him in this version of the story, though, and shoehorning him in just for the sake of having him present would have been worse.  His wife Charlotte makes a brief “on-screen” appearance, but Collins himself is never seen.  He’s one of my favorite comedic character portrayals and in some ways, the story of Darcy and Lizzy isn’t the same without him.  The tension that he provides the tale is expressed in different ways, and it works pretty well, but I do miss him.

One warning: there are some pretty explicit sex scenes in the book.  They’re well done, and don’t come across as unnecessary to the narrative, but I know that such things aren’t for everyone.  If the thought of reading about Darcy and Lizzy getting it on in a janitor’s closet freaks you out, you should probably skip this one.  Otherwise, read on and have fun!

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams

“Bobby Dollar is an angel—a real one. He knows a lot about sin, and not just in his professional capacity as an advocate for souls caught between Heaven and Hell. Bobby’s wrestling with a few deadly sins of his own—pride, anger, even lust.

But his problems aren’t all his fault. Bobby can’t entirely trust his heavenly superiors, and he’s not too sure about any of his fellow earthbound angels either, especially the new kid that Heaven has dropped into their midst, a trainee angel who asks too many questions. And he sure as hell doesn’t trust the achingly gorgeous Countess of Cold Hands, a mysterious she-demon who seems to be the only one willing to tell him the truth.

When the souls of the recently departed start disappearing, catching both Heaven and Hell by surprise, things get bad very quickly for Bobby D. End-of-the-world bad. Beast of Revelations bad. Caught between the angry forces of Hell, the dangerous strategies of his own side, and a monstrous undead avenger that wants to rip his head off and suck out his soul, Bobby’s going to need all the friends he can get—in Heaven, on Earth, or anywhere else he can find them.”

After reading this book, I’m reminded of how good urban fantasy can be in the hands of someone who excels at worldbuilding.  Epic fantasy is all well and good, and it can really transport you to another place and time; however, urban fantasy grounds that sense of wonder in a world that we can all relate to.  It makes it easy to let ourselves believe that a shapeshifter might lurk in the shadows of an alley… or in this case, that an angel might be walking past us as we go down the street.

Of course, this book is set in Northern California, which makes me all kinds of happy.  In my opinion, this part of the state is blessed with such a diversity of cities, natural areas, activities and people, it can’t help but provide an excellent setting for the weird and wild stories that urban fantasy is best known for.  And while Bobby lives in a fictional city—San Judas—Williams describes it in such a way that anybody who has been in the Bay Area will feel right at home.  (I also have to laugh at the fact that the author named the city after the patron saint of lost causes, but that’s beside the point.)

One of the other things that I liked about the worldbuilding extends to the characters as well—neither they nor the setting are perfect.  You would think that a story about angels and demons would feature the epitome of good and evil, but that’s mostly not the case.  Many of the angels drink.  Many have personal issues.  Some of the demons have a surprisingly strong moral compass.  As for the city, it has its nice parts and its run down parts, just like any other one, but rarely does it stray to the extremes of ritz or squalor.  In fact, now that I think about it, locations that are either really nice or really run down are reserved for the most earth-shattering of plot events, which ties in nicely with the good vs. evil theme.

But even though these characters have some rough edges, they’re still the sort of people that I’d love to have a conversation with—probably over some kind of alcoholic beverage.  Surprisingly, I found one of the most interesting characters to be the Countess of Cold Hands.  She may be on the wrong side of the Light, but Williams takes his time developing both her demonic side and the side that will leave you feeling very sorry for her.  Unlike angels, demons remember their life on earth, and it lends the Countess a tragic sense that none of the angels can really match.

I get the feeling that this is a novel that I will not only recommend to others, but that I will re-read a few times myself.  The more I thought about what I’d read, the more I got out of it.  Williams has created a world that I can truly see as being just a step or two removed from ours.  And if I could be sure that there really is a man like Bobby waiting to defend me after death, I’d definitely be grateful.  The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a novel that will entertain you while making you think about what might come after our lives are over.

This review was originally posted on September 5, 2012.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

The Power of Books: A Killer Has Been Caught!

Michelle McNamara, late wife of actor Patton Oswalt, passed away from cancer before finishing this book, but her hard work has paid off.  Today, more than forty years after the suspect began his spree of killing and raping, DNA has confirmed the identity of the man responsible and he is now in custody in Sacramento, CA.  McNamara, along with others, pursued evidence that had baffled police and the FBI for decades, showcasing the power of determination.  Did McNamara’s book make the difference and lead to the arrest?  We may never know.  But isn’t it a coincidence that the book came out February 27 and the killer is now in custody?  I’d like to think that this book helped to give the victims and their families some peace.

Description of the book nicked from Goodreads.com.

“A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.”

Lock In by John Scalzi

“Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator” – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected.”

My goodness, does this novel have some beefy, chewy issues for readers to ponder. It’s taken me a while to sort through everything in my head to write this review, so let’s see where it goes. This is one of those novels that is going to make you think, and think hard, about a lot of different issues. Many of them may not be ones that you yourself face on a daily basis, if at all, which makes this book doubly valuable.

One on level, you have the explorations of the virtual world where many Hadens spend much of their time. There are some obvious parallels to people today, especially younger ones: there’s a growing concern about how much time we spend “plugged in” and not interacting with real people. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that Hadens can’t actually interact in their real bodies, so they need some form of mechanical intervention, but the basic premise remains. You have to wonder what the effects of a purely virtual existence would be.

On another level, you have the very salient question of disability rights. This aspect is a little more overt in the prequel novella Unlocked (which you really should read, preferably before you read the novel, although it’s not necessary), but it definitely carries over to the novel. For example, is it a crime to beat a Haden’s personal transport (a humanoid “robot” controlled by the Haden’s neural network), since the transport feels no pain and therefore neither does the person driving it? What about a personal transport—which can’t eat—taking up a chair in a restaurant?

And this all feeds into the deeper issue of what it means to be human. You can probably anticipate that Hadens come to be treated as less than human, since all the non-locked-in people interact with is the mechanical aid. How tolerant would we be of the stranger, the “other”, when confronted with them and their basic needs? It is this, even more than the technology, which makes this novel science fiction.

Delivering all of this thought-provoking stuff is a smoothly told murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Everything comes together in a satisfying manner with lots of suspense and plenty of suspects and motives. Chris is a likeable protagonist, and I was especially intrigued by his partner, who has her own demons to conquer.

I can only hope that Scalzi wants to continue to tell stories about Chris and the world he lives in. I want to see him dig deeper into what makes these characters tick, and I definitely want to see how the clash between Haden culture and “mainstream” culture plays out. Locked In is a novel jam-packed with goodness, and I’m going to have to read it again to appreciate all the nuances and deep thoughts that run through the narrative. Make sure to grab this one—you’ll rarely find a science fiction writer as skilled and entertaining as Scalzi.

This review was originally posted on August 28, 2014.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

My Favorite Things: Pride and Prejudice (the novel)

Confession time: I am an unapologetic Austenite, and yet I can’t remember precisely when I first encountered this eminently readable author.  I know that the first book of hers that I read was Pride and Prejudice, but for the life of me, I have no idea when that was.  I think it may have been in junior college, but I’m really just guessing.  Regardless, read her I did, and I fell in love with not only the story, but the characters and the setting and the writing and… well, you get the idea.

Given that my love of this novel is best described by a Kermitflail gif, it might be a little difficult to pin down all the cool things about the book that inspire my devotion.  Not only that, but the novel has become pretty much inextricable from the movie/TV versions, so separating them is challenging.  But, here we go.

This has become one of my “comfort books”—you know, the ones that you turn to when you’re stressed or upset, and when you read them they just make you feel good.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read P&P, because I often jump in and out of it at random points.  It’s a book that I keep on tap for when I’m having trouble sleeping—not because it’s boring, but because it’s so familiar that it’s soothing to my often overactive brain.  Lizzy and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, and all the rest of the characters have turned into old friends over the course of many, many years.

Speaking of the characters, this book contains some of the best ones in literature.  I’m mostly drawn to the witty ones, like Lizzy.  I think most female Austenites want to be like Lizzy at one point or another.  She’s energetic, quick to defend herself or her loved ones, intelligent, and self-assured.  I also like that she gains a better degree of self-awareness over the course of the story, as she turns that intelligence to analyzing her own actions.  Another one in the “witty” category is Mr. Bennet—I absolutely adore his wry humor, and Austen’s descriptions of him feed that profile (such as him being “fatigued with the raptures of his wife”).

In a slightly more complicated way, I love Mr. Collins.  It’s not so much him that I love him as the fact that I love watching the other characters interact with him.  Mr. Collins is smarmy in the highest degree, often to the point of being ridiculous, which gives Mr. Bennet ample fodder for poking at him during several scenes.  His high self-opinion and lack of true social graces is a great foil for Lizzy, especially during the Netherfield ball.

Much of what attracts me to this book, and to Austen’s writing in general, is the writing style.  She sets her scenes in such a way that Austenites would be willing to live in the Regency world despite the terrible lack of things like women’s rights and indoor plumbing.  Austen’s books paint a softened picture of the Regency period, one that is romantic and genteel, and it’s hard not to feel an attraction to a portrayal of such a time.  We imagine ourselves in lovely gowns, dancing in an elegant country dance (which I’ve done, and they’re great fun), and being introduced to polite gentlemen who bow and compliment us.  I’m not one for dresses and fripperies, and even I sometimes wish for a world like this.

I guess what it boils down to is that, for me, this book has it all: romance, humor, drama, great characters, beautiful writing, and above all else, the familiarity of an old friend.  It will always be one of my all-time favorite novels.

Rule 34 by Charles Stross

“Meet Edinburgh Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, head of the Innovative Crime Investigation Unit, otherwise known as the Rule 34 Squad.  It’s responsible for monitoring the Internet, following trends to determine whether people are engaging in harmless fantasies—or illegal activities.  Usually their job uncovers those operating on the extreme fringes of the run-of-the-mill porn that still, in 2023, abounds in cyberspace.  But occasionally, more disturbing patterns arise…

Three ex-cons have been murdered, in Germany, Italy and Scotland.  The only things they had in common were arrests for spamming—and a taste for unorthodox erotica.  As the first officer on the scene of the most recent death, Liz finds herself rapidly sucked into an international investigation that isn’t asking so much who the killer is as what it is—and if she can’t figure that out, a lot more people are going to die as the homicides go viral…”

I find this book, and its predecessor Halting State, to be among the more unusually compelling books on the shelves.  One reason for this is their use of second person as a narrative voice.  It’s reminiscent of the old text-based computer games—“You go into the house and see a dark hallway”.  Although some people may have trouble adjusting to it, as it’s not often used in novels, those who can adapt to the style will find themselves immersed in the story.  It’s as though once your brain “clicks” over and accepts the narrative “you”, it’s difficult not to project your feelings into the on-page characters.

This is a help, because there is a lot going on in this book.  There are three regular point of view characters, as well as a smattering of others, so readers will get the chance to see the situation from several different angles.  Pay close attention, because Stross scatters hints throughout the story that lead to the payoff at the end!

It’s hard to talk about this novel’s plot without giving away key elements.  Suffice to say, Stross has crafted a story around a scenario that could conceivably happen in our technology-heavy society, and the issues that he raises are ones that we would do well to consider.  There are also issues of privacy that come into play—Liz and the Rule 34 Squad are combing the internet looking for clues that people might be engaged in crimes… or might even be just considering them.  The saying goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but at what point does that segue into “Big Brother”?  There are many such issues wrapped up in this novel.

Ultimately, this is a novel that is not only entertaining, but one that makes you think about tough issues in a way that could challenge your comfort zones.  And that’s a good thing.  Stross doesn’t shy away from the horrors of our plugged-in society, but instead pulls them into the light for a good once-over.  Rule 34 combines hard science fiction with Brave New World and comes up with a solid winner.

This review was originally posted on July 28, 2011.

This review was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from the front flap of the book.)

1 2 3 4 26