Lock In by John Scalzi

I was pretty excited to see that John Scalzi would be visiting Joseph Beth in Lexington to promote his new science fiction novel Lock In. Scalzi had acted as the guest emcee and introduced Neil Gaiman at a local signing for The Ocean at the End of the Lane and I was intrigued enough to follow Scalzi on Twitter. As I became more familiar with this author’s social media presence, I decided to pick up Old Man’s War as my first foray into straight up science fiction in a long time. I loved the realistic dialogue, the trademarked technology, and the mysterious Colonial Defense Forces. For one reason or another I had not had the chance to read any more books in the series but I thought it would be cool to go get my worn, second-hand copy of Old Man’s War signed by this neat author who seemed like a real human being on social media. And since he was there to promote a new book, I’d probably pick that up as well to support a great local bookstore.

It turned out to be a really great move on my part to attend this signing. I knew Scalzi was relatively local to this part of the country, as it was mentioned at the Gaiman signing, but the booksellers were on good enough terms to bring him an unsolicited ukelele to tune, which I thought spoke very well of all parties involved. Scalzi then proceeded to open his talk with his ukelele cover of “I melt with you.” I was pretty much charmed from that point on. After some great Q&A and authorly advice, I left with my shiny new copy of Lock In and a Modern English song on loop in my head.

Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane is one of the most famous locked in survivors of Hayden’s Syndrome, a three stage infectious disease that emerged when Shane was a child that left behind not only personal physical complications for victims of the disease but also initiated broad social, political, and technological movements in response to the ubiquity of the disease. The first stage of illness is characterized by serious flu-like symptoms with a high risk of mortality. A percentage of first-stage survivors progressed to a second stage of disease with symptoms similar to viral meningitis. A portion of second stage patients develop lock-in, a permanent loss of physical mobility in spite completely normal brain function. A much smaller number of second stage patients, known as Integrators, recovered from Hayden’s but with significant alterations in brain structures allowing them, with the aid of technological augmentation, to carry another person’s conscience within their own body. Shane, and other Hayden’s operate day to day operations via robot-style personal transports or Integrators.

Shane’s first case is a murder in which the main suspect arrested at the scene is an integrator. This sort of setup would usually suggest a pretty typical police procedural or buddy cop story. However, Scalzi frames the crime in the context of a complex political and social setting in which Hayden’s and non-Hayden’s alike are responding to recent legislation ending government subsidies for Hayden related projects. While need is only growing, resources are drastically reduced by this law, resulting in protests, hate crimes, and market recoil. While the unique and original technology is often stereotyped to be the most impressive part of science fiction, I was most intrigued with the Hayden related legislation, culture, and political movements ranging from one extreme to the other. Scalzi has fully developed this world and I found myself entirely immersed in it.

I loved the interactions between Shane and his senior partner Vann. She seemed like an intense coworker to have and they shared some incredibly entertaining dialogue. Her backstory was pretty interesting too. I’d like to know more about her previous partner and why she has such an antagonistic relationship with the local Metro police detective Trinh.

I highly recommend checking out this book. If you would like to know more about the context of the world, you should check out the novella available online at Tor’s website. It’s like reading a well-directed documentary on the subject. I am hoping there will be additional books in this world but even if there are not, I will be reading more Scalzi in the future.

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Only Curtsies & Conspiracies Could Exceed Etiquette & Espionage

Only Curtsies and Conspiracies Could Exceed Etiquette and Espionage

I was thrilled to be one of the lucky reviewers to win a (signed) advance reader copy of Gail Carriger’s Curtsies & Conspiracies from Carriger’s blog contest. I received my copy late in the week but quickly found myself engrossed to the degree of happily finishing it by the same week’s end.

When we rejoin Sophronia at Madmoiselle Geraldine’s (floating) Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, she is sitting her 6 month examination, an affair that leads her to serve cold tea (gasp!), to lament the implications of almond aroma, and to covertly liberate an oddgob of it’s mini-prototype valve of unknown purpose. Everyday activities for a young intelligencer in training. As the lessons advance, so does the intrigue, including, but not limited to kidnapping plots (of which the Plumleigh-Teignmott siblings are reluctantly the subject), love triangles (of which Sophronia is reluctantly a vertex), and the political entanglement of Picklemen, Flywaymen, Vampires, Werewolves, intelligencers, and evil geniuses in training (they all seemed rather enthusiastic to me!). My favorite scene described the fortune telling of each of the main players and its clever use to Sophronia’s own end.

I worry that I will spoil something if I continue to skirt about the plot but one thing I can clearly express is that Curtsies & Conspiracies exceeds the expectations set by Etiquette & Espionage. In C&C, Carriger really hit her stride in this setting and as a result the plot is executed greater efficiency while exuding light-hearted style, the dialogue delivered with greater wit, and the characters filled out as much as their voluminous skirts. The plots in this book are much more extensive than hinted in its predecessor but the clues and plot developments are revealed expertly throughout the narrative. As much as I loved Book the First, I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy Book the Second.

Curtsies & Conspiracies will be published in hardcover November 5, 2013. I highly recommend pre-ordering this book and clearing out the late Autumn weekend to float above the moors with the ladies of Madmoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

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Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage is Technically Perfect– at least for me!

Despite it’s early calendar debut, Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Book the First was hands down my most anticipated book to be released in 2013. I was not the least disappointed. The heroine of Carriger’s first young adult novel, Sophronia Temminnick, is a strong, capable, curious fourteen year-old adventuress who appreciates the practical value of information in a world that would rather keep her in properly lady-like ignorance and indifference. This appreciation is recognized and Sophronia is covertly recruited to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Quality. Her harried Mother is only partially right when assuming Sophronia will learn the finer arts of curtsy, tea service, and household management. She did not anticipate her daughter’s introduction to deception, poison, assignation, or in an appropriate word, finishing!

I found the setting to exist in complete harmony with her adult series, The Parasol Protectorate, of which I have been a long time fan. I loved the crossover between some characters and am dying to discuss the end of E&E with someone who has read The Parasol Protectorate (Staci? D3Z? Who’s next?!). The classes are mostly described in short exchanges to further the storyline and while this does leave me wanting more, it fits perfectly with Carriger’s characteristic neat and tidy handling of plots which she executes like a perfectly practiced curtsy. This is one of the reasons why I label this book technically perfect. Other reasons include perfect attention to its target audience and genre fans.

What else can I say to sell this book? The adjoining boys school is a school for evil geniuses. There are flyway men, dirigibles, rove vampires and loner werewolves, inventors, intelligencers, and head mistresses who are entirely out of the know. There is mystery, adventure, very light romance, Steampunk, manners, and frivolity. Class barriers, conventions, rules, and promises are all broken. But luckily for hearts that break with the ends of enjoyable novels, we will only have to wait until November to receive the second installment and further details of the training of Sophronia. Check it out and let me know what you think!!!

I’ve been trying to write for two weeks now…

and I have nothing but “fail” to put here.  Not that I feel personal failure, not really…I just have been jumping from one subject to another and can’t seem to focus on one theme.  Finally, I’ve decided that I’m not going to focus on a single theme.  We are going to do some free-form writing baby – watch out!

Let me share how excited I am to have finished Pete Townshend’s autobiography, Who I Am.  Pete Townshend, and the Who, have long been a part of my musical holy trinity (the Beatles and the Kinks round out my analogy).  This book provided an insight into the life of one of rocks most private individuals.  Reading about the man’s thoughts on how he created some of the most amazing music EVER and how he dealt with issues that haunted him throughout his life was inspiring.  A side note, it proved my paper I wrote as a freshman at UK that dealt with how Tommy was about Pete Townshend’s spiritual journey – bonus!!
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