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Accelerando
Accelerando
by Charles Stross
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stross sets the pace, 8 Oct 2005
This review is from: Accelerando (Hardcover)
Charles Stross has sold over a dozen books to publishers, but in such a small space of time that less than half are actually in print yet. He's a hot property, and 'Accelerando' goes some way to showing why this might be.
Following the history of humanity, and the fates and fortunes of a gifted family descended from one Manfred Macx, meme-factory, Stross arcs from portable computer assistant hardware to totally uploaded posthumanity, incorporating lobsters in space, the relics of an unknowable uber-civilistation, rogue lifeforms descended from limited liability companies, and multiple incarnations of the central characters. A bold and powerful work, 'Accelerando' is, in my opinion, a good guide to where SF is going over the next five years or so.


The Algebraist
The Algebraist
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A one-shot space-opera from a master of the genre, 13 Aug 2005
This review is from: The Algebraist (Paperback)
Scotland's grand master writer, Iain Banks, returns to the field with his trusty 'M' in place to deliver another offering for the space opera genre. Long-term fans may be a trifle disappointed to see that he's left the universe of the Culture aside this time, to create a new universe in which to do terrible things to his main characters, but their disappointment should be nullified by the quality of this new epic. 'The Algebraist' has the fat, rounded feel of an idea-packed one-shot novel, and the writing is Banks at full steam all the way through, playing with big ideas and huge distances with seemingly no effort at all.
Our unfortunate protagonist, Fassin Taak, is rudely propelled into a maelstrom of galactic intrigue when he is seconded to an obscure sub-sub-ministry of the Mercatoria (the incumbent empire), and commanded to retrieve an ancient secret from the Dwellers of Nasqueron. Thus begins a thundering and bizarre hunt-for-the-prize tale, as all the major players in the galaxy converge on Nasqueron to try to force the secret from its supposed guardians. The quirky and eccentric Dwellers, who have major wars between the bands of cloud in their gas giant home for fun, and take a fairly dim or disinterested view of the events around their home, are not easily convinced to cough up the information they so obsessively store away. You can't bribe them, and no one is sure what would happen if you attacked them...the only real chance you have is simply to ask them nicely, and then wade through the red tape, bureaucracy and general bloody-mindedness with some hope of keeping your mind intact. Our hero, Taak, has been selected for the task because he has worked with the Dwellers before, and knows more of their ways than anyone.
He also knows that those who elect to try to force the Dwellers into compliance could be in for a very big shock...or possibly not. The point is that nobody is really sure, and the Dwellers aren't talking. They have a society based on the collection of honour points, which then translate to status and hierarchical rank, and a whole raft load of other bizarre notions, and hence are mercurial beyond the comprehension of (relatively) short lived humans. The Dweller characters are typical of Banks' work, complete and believable, but very 'alien', and also quite fun, with a hint of satire in their interactions with Taak and others. We find out a great deal about their fragmented race and the factions that move within it, as Taak chases grimly after the priceless data that the whole galaxy wants to get...and it appears that it may well be hidden in an old poem by a dead Dweller, from which the book takes its title.
Of course, it's not wall-to-wall aliens. Banks has more than a fair amount of schemes and machinations of a more human (or post-human) nature going on at the same time, in the system of Nasqueron and the Mercatoria at large, as all the major players try to close in on a prize that could open up the whole galaxy for them, and the locals simmer in the pressure cooker of a system under attack from all sides. Add to this with lashings of dirty deals and double crossings, keeping the plot twisting around vigorously right up to the somewhat bitter conclusion, and you have a satisfying slab of fiction that confirms Banks' place at the front of the field, and not merely in the genre. He brandishes the skills of a master with flair and panache, the broad powerful strokes creating a story on an immense scale, and tugging the reader along with page-turning force.


Virtual and Other Realities
Virtual and Other Realities
by Edwin Morgan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Morgan refreshes the readers other poets cannot reach..., 13 Aug 2005
Edwin Morgan, Scots Poet Laureate and esteemed translator, presents in this volume four sequences of poetry: the eponymous 'Virtual and Other Realities'; the commissioned work 'Beasts of Scotland'; 'The Five-Pointed Star' and the delightful piece, 'A Voyage'.
'A Voyage' charts the meeting of sperm and egg from the points of view of the two protagonists; this work was broadcast on Radio 4, and like much of Morgan's work, is even better heard aloud than read straight from the page.
'Beasts of Scotland' was commissioned by the Glasgow Int. Jazz Festival in 1996, and was set to music by a leading saxophonist. The poems explore, as the title suggests, the fauna of Morgan's native land, but not always in the way one might expect...
'The Five Pointed Star', also a commissioned work, is a five-poem sequence, connecting five seemingly unconnected figures, four from history, one from the future, and ties them together, again with Scotland the subtle theme underpinning the set. Erudite and playful, Morgan pushes the boundries with effortless ease.
'Virtual and Other Realities' does exactly what it says on the tin; fifty triplet poems, examining the impact on the 'real' world, by the countless 'virtualities' that now surround us. Evocative, intricate, and sometimes very moving, these are excellent examples of the skill of Scotland's greatest living poet.


Iron Sunrise
Iron Sunrise
by Charles Stross
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big-canvas Space Opera, with wit , depth and style, 13 Aug 2005
This review is from: Iron Sunrise (Paperback)
Charles Stross now lives in Edinburgh where, no doubt, he spends his free time with the other SF alumni of that city (Banks, McLeod et al). Indeed, fans of the 'Edinburgh set' are going to lap this novel up with great relish; 'Iron Sunrise' is a big-canvas space opera, and manages to pack a whole lot of action, intrigue and nasty plot twists into a surprisingly punchy page-count. There are echoes of the dark humour of Banks, if a little more up-front, and there is plenty of political intrigue and ideological interplay, without the socialist gong-beating of McLeod. Simultaneously serious and entertaining, this book stands alone from its predecessor, 'Singularity Sky', with no problems at all, but the post-singularity universe Stross is building here is all the more enjoyable when you immerse yourself in it as completely as possible.
To briefly synopsise; Rachel Mansour, causal WMD inspector for a far future evolution of the UN, is called to 'take out' a crazed terrorist with a nuke in the centre of Geneva. Meanwhile, the sun of the New Moscow system has been destroyed, taking the system with it, by protagonists unknown. Wednesday Shadowmist, a teenage malcontent from said system, finds herself entangled in a nasty web of people who want to kill her, because of a little mission her 'imaginary friend' Herman asked her to do before evacuating her original home. These threads and more are drawn into a complex yet rewarding tapestry spanning lightyears of space and time, all embellished with Stross's trademark wit and attention to detail. Suffice to say, if you like modern, high-octane, more-ideas-to-the-gallon space opera, then 'Iron Sunrise' is a must read.


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