For a long time now, I’ve been a library snob. I always had excuses like “I don’t have time to go find books on the stacks” and “I’d much rather own my books.” Recently, though, I’ve fallen back in love with my library. I discovered the reservation system, so I just find the book I want online, then tell the library to drop it off at the branch near my office – easy-peasy. And the “owning books” thing? More than half the time, I just end up selling them back for a loss through Amazon (and I just don’t have the room, honestly), so unless I’m on vacation somewhere and need a book RIGHT NOW, it’s not worth it to buy.
That said, I’ve found some great sci-fi new releases in the stacks and wanted to pass ’em on to y’all.
First up is Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) by Mira Grant. MG is a pseudonym for…some indie author that I’ve never heard of, writes about modern urban “faeries” or some crap. But Feed is as far from “modern urban faeries” as you can get and is all the better for it. It details the travails of twin bloggers who get a lucky break and are chosen to shadow a top running-political candidate on the road to the GOP convention as he tries to become the next presidential candidate. Oh, and there’s zombies everywhere. Yeah, seems that, in the future, we don’t have to worry about cancer or the common cold (because they’ve been cured – yay!) but when you die, you come back as the shambling undead (because the cures combine and mutate into a super virus – boo!). I’m sure the science is paper-thin, but MG does a solid job of keeping our attention away from the nittiest grittiest parts of it while her narrator, Georgia, gives us a fascinating treatise on the breakdown of modern media and the rise of the blogger. No, I’m not being facetious. The zombies are window dressing – they’re a fact of life and they permeate everything that Georgia and Shaun (the blogger twins) do, but they’re not the story (until they are). It does bog down in exposition from time-to-time (Georgia is a “Newsie” and likes to provide every possible fact); but her voice builds an absolutely fascinating social future, one that I look forward to revisiting in Book 2 (which doesn’t come out till next MAY?! Frak.). Plus, there’s a main character who named herself after the titular character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer out of sheer situational irony…how can you not love that?
Next up is Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi. Usually, I don’t go for short story collections – I often end up getting just invested enough in the characters to care before things wrap up and I’m left wanting more than the quick glance I got. Bacigalupi sidesteps this by making the characters almost secondary. The stars of these stories are the insane post-apocalyptic (with one grim exception) deconstruction scenarios. The collection is a game of “What if?” on crack: What if procreating and children were outlawed? What if we became nano-based lifeforms? What if we became so stupid as a society that we couldn’t maintain the previous generation’s works? What if food companies’ genetically modified products destroyed the entire food chain and left them holding all the marbles? (That last, incidentally, is the impetus for his first long work The Windup Girl; another great work that I’ll cover in a future post.) The characters in each case are generally less memorable than the bleak future they inhabit. But it’s worth it to see Bacigalupi going through the motions of making things work in what should be completely untenable situations. And because he takes the time to make these vignettes believable, they’ve stayed with me longer than a lot of recent full-length works have. If you’re a fan of speculative sci-fi, it’s well-worth the weekend read.