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Posts Tagged ‘worldbuilding’

Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Time (2015)

Children-of-Time.jpg

If I understand correctly, this book has been making waves (gravitational waves?) in the sci-fi community. Regardless of whether or not that’s actually the case, Children of Time made it onto my reading list and found itself devoured pretty quickly; I was burping up papery sci-fi gas for a while after that. This book is a pretty good example of what happens when two stories collide – a grand terraforming project gone mad meets the last vestiges of the civilization that birthed it. That alone you could glean from the dust jacket, but it was more than enough to grab my attention.

I don’t know what your tolerance for spoilers are, but at the risk of revealing too much, read on beyond the line.

Read more…

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Harry Turtledove – Worldwar Series (1994-1996)

worldwar cover compilationNote: This review covers all four Worldwar books. It does not cover the Colonization series (which is essentially their sequel) because I am not done reading those books yet. In reading this, I noticed that I was kind of on a World War II binge… and yet I still can’t get into Hearts of Iron. Funny how life is.

So in comparison to Stuart Slade’s relatively grounded (if fairly brutal) The Big One, Harry Turtledove alters WW2 by adding in an alien invasion of Earth that forces the various belligerents to put aside their differences as the covers of the books indicate. The “Lizards”, as humans call them, appear to have military technology not particularly more advanced than what’s available in 2014, but it’s enough to push the nations of Earth to the brink. However, the Lizards suffer greatly from the weaknesses of their social structure, which is hierarchical and conservative to the point of absurdity; much is made of the fact they waited 800 years from their initial appraisal to launch an invasion. Footfall by Larry Niven comes to mind; while I haven’t read it, it appears to be a fairly similar story of a mildly technologically superior alien race with dramatically different psychology.

Far from having a central protagonist, Worldwar reads like a series of intertwined novellas about dozens of characters all over the world, each with their own development arcs and various plot devices (things like nuclear bombs, optical lasers, and ginger).  All of the various interactions help to make for a rich, detailed world… well, maybe not so rich after the Lizards disrupt human industry, but you get the point.  Already by the end of the first book, affairs have become more complicated than initially thought, as even the Lizards are forced to invent new methods on the fly to deal with rapidly advancing human technology. The sheer amount of plotlines sometimes means you have to read for dozens of pages to get to the next part of a particular character’s narrative, but the text is engaging enough that this isn’t really an issue. I also find that at times, everyone’s musings about the ongoing war and its devastating effects gets heavy handed at expense of narrative development, but the characters in this series face all sorts of insane stressors that would have a bad effect on yours truly.

It could be because this hits so many of my interests, but I’m finding it very difficult to find any flaws in this series beyond minor nitpicks. If you like this genre, you’ll definitely enjoy the Worldwar series.

Teaser: “Second Contact Is Worse”

“BOB HAS MOVED INTO SECOND PLACE FOR ROBOTIC AWESOMENESS. IF YOU DO NOT STEP UP YOUR GAME, YOUR REIGN SHALL BE PREEMPTED.”

Second Contact Is Worse is (rather shockingly) the sequel to First Contact Is Bad For You. It took slightly less time to draft than its predecessor, and is slightly longer. With any luck, it will take less time to revise – I finished drafting FCB in June 2010, but it came out over a year later. It helps that my work ethic has improved a little. This is one of the fringe benefits of having a blog – cranking out a few hundred words every day sharpens my writing and my time management.

So anyways, a few of the more interesting bits from the book:

  • Two major characters – Henry Weiss and Ishmael Abd-Al-Irfan, old friends of Decker who reunite with him to enact Machiavellian plans. Henry Weiss is in his 50s and has worked as a film director, a social worker, a vagrant, and other things. Ishmael is a Tuareg nomad born in Algeria who moved to the USA when he was 16 and met Ted Decker when the two were both in high school. Ishmael was designed specifically for this book, but Henry Weiss, as a character, has antecedents reaching as far back as when I was 12 years old.
  • Metema – a city on the border of Sudan and Ethiopia which grew into an ad-hoc arcology; it is notorious for its high population density, income inequality, and organized crime problems. Naturally, the protagonists traverse its dizzying heights.
  • Corot-7B – A hellish, uninhabited planet. Some of the protagonists of the last book end up on the star’s research team and uncover their own troubles with working together… followed by more alien robots, disturbing information about their apparent caste system, and the creeping insanity of Cromlech, the robot found guarding ruins on Groenheid in the first book.

When this comes out, there will probably be some (limited) opportunities for readers to get a free copy. Since this is explicitly a sequel, I’ll also be distributing copies of the original. More information on that when the time comes.

I’m also tentatively working on an unrelated novel that may see some experimentation with publishing models, since it’s in such an embryonic state., but leaking too much about that may alter its development for the worse, so I’ll talk about that another time.

Note from September 2013: If you’re visiting in the future and you feel the difference in time between this teaser and the actual release of the book is a bit much, please note that the US Copyright Office takes an incredibly long, irritating amount of time to file claims. It happened with the prequel, and it appears it’s happening with this.