Upcoming SF Book Releases – Spring 2013

There are a handful of science fiction novels coming out in the next few months that have caught our eye, including the final entry of a trilogy that really ought to go down as one of the most entertaining and well-written science fiction series ever, the fifth book in a great military sci-fi series, and a detective story set on Mars. Here’s a quick look at the three books Android Dreamer is most excited about:

Robert J. Sawyer Red Planet BluesRed Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer – Robert J. Sawyer is one of those writers that you either love or hate, and we love everything we’ve read of his so far. Red Planet Blues is apparently a noir-ish detective story set on a future dystopian Mars extrapolated from his Hugo & Nebula Award-nominated novella “Identity Theft”, which sounds too good to pass up. To be released on March 26th.

Ian Tregillis Necessary EvilNecessary Evil by Ian Tregillis – Although he may not be a household name yet, the Milkweed Tryptych (as the trilogy is called) is one of the most exciting and completely original works to come out of science fiction in years. The first chapter, Bitter Seeds, was among the best books of the year when it was released way back in 2010, and the middle novel, The Coldest War, definitely lived up to the thrill of the first. Raybould Marsh is one of the most memorable sci-fi heroes ever, and the series is a must read on the strength of his character alone. Necessary Evil is set to be released on April 30th.
John Scalzi The Human DivisionThe Human Division by John Scalzi – The fifth novel in Scalzi’s Hugo Award nominated Old Man’s War series, The Human Division is already available in individual story-length ebooks. Scalzi is a huge presence on the internet, and is also juggling being the president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and being a very prolific novelist. The Human Division will see release as a complete novel on May 14th.

What big science fiction & fantasy release are you looking forward to over the next few months? Which big ones did we miss?

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Review: WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (2009)

WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
Viking, 2009

Rating: B

Caitlin Decter is a pretty, young, highly inteligent high schooler who recently moved with her family from Austin, Texas to Toronto. It is the first time she has been at a regular public high school, as up until this point, she had been attending a school for the blind in Austin. Her father, a theoretical physicist, was offered a lucrative job in Canada, and Caitlin wanted so badly to go to a regular high school with regular kids, so the family went. Everything changes when a scientist named Dr. Kuroda from Tokyo contacts Caitlin via email about an experimental procedure that would use computer technology to give her sight. After the experiment, Caitlin begins to realize that she is starting to see is not actually the real world, but the World Wide Web, all around her in colors and light.

The thing about Robert J. Sawyer that perhaps makes him most endearing and yet probably will damn him to a lack of longevity of influence¬†is that all of his novels feel definitively “of their era.” When cracking open a novel by Sawyer, who has won so many major science fiction awards that it is useless to try to list them all, it is always clear that what you are reading was written in the late 20th or early 21st century. WWW: Wake features heavy reference to¬†current day artists, and more importantly to technology that even now in 2012 seems a bit outdated. Caitlin, the wonderfully spunky (though perhaps exaggeratedly teenage) protagonist writes a blog on LiveJournal, a website that wasn’t even hip anymore at the time the novel is set but now even moreso seems to be a fossil of a bygone era of the internet. Because of these aspects, it is hard to foresee novels like this aging well. Sawyer is a capable but not amazing writer, whose strength lies in his ideas and the quality and depth of his characters. Caitlin Decter is an immediately likable and memorable main character, and as in all of Sawyer’s work, his characters feel like real people.

WWW: Wake is sort of a modernist cyberpunk. There are definitely liberties taken, but it reads like the natural manifestation of what happens when you take the slightly optimistic technological prophecy of William Gibson’s classic Neuromancer, but set it in the now current era with technology that is closer to what actually exists in present day. The aesethetic isn’t the pure noir feel of the 1980s and early 90s cyberpunk; it feels more like young adult fiction by the basis of the fact that the primary character is a teenager and it sort of borrows what would be her natural narrative voice despite being third-person omniscient in terms of perspective.

Being that the novel is the first book in a trilogy, it has a lot of setup to do for what will come in the other two books in the series. Taken on its own merits, it is still a deeply enjoyable read, despite borrowing so heavily from its inspirations. WWW: Wake is basically a love letter to cyberpunk of old that reinvigorates the genre and makes it a bit more accessible for today’s science fiction reader. Although it is not indispensible reading, it is certainly an enjoyable look at the nature of the World Wide Web and today’s technology as a whole. It bodes well for the rest of the series.