Thursday, August 06, 2009

Yesterday I finished All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear.

All the Windwracked Stars is set at the end of the world, in a fantasy world derived from Norse myth. The beginning is set at the end of the world in it's equivalent of Valhalla, the rest of the book is set much later in Midgard, when that world is ending as well.

The main character is an ex-Valkyrie who ran away when her comrades were slain and has lived alone ever since. She gets drawn back into things when an old enemy pops up, and she tries to save the world one last time. In addition to these struggles, the novel also features some intense and somewhat violent sexual scenes, somethat that seems de rigueur in many modern fantasy novels written by women.

An interesting, and very dense novel. The use of a mythology that hews closer, in some ways, to it's origins is well done.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Yesterday, I finished WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer.

Wake is the first of a planned trilogy, obviously dealing with the rise of an emergent AI on the world wide web. The book follows four separate plots. The first is of an awakening AI. The second is of a blind girl who gets an experimental implant to try and give her sight. The third is of the Chinese government trying to contain an outbreak of virulent flu, and repressing internet connections to contain publicity. The fourth is of a hybrid chimp/bonobo that not only can talk using sign language but starts to show actual artistic ability.

By the end of the book, the first and second plots have intertwined, as the nascent WWW AI starts to communicate with the blind girl through her implant. The third plot does not cross with the others, except for the isolating of China's web causing the AI to bifurcate and then re-unite early on in the book, possibly spurring it's development. The fourth plot does not cross with the others in this novel, presumably it will in the rest of the series.

Overall, it's not one of my favourites of Sawyer's works so far. There is a lot of obvious exposition in this novel, with characters delivering huge speeches on neuropsychology, Zipf plots, etc. Sawyer does a good job of making the exposition compelling and timely, in terms of the plot, but it eventually drags everything down. I didn't like his last book, Rollback, very much either but I'm still interested enough to continue reading his books in general.