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Archive for April 1st, 2011

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Theories of Flight

The Metrozone Series #2

Author: Simon Morden

Format: galley

Publisher: Orbit Books

Release Date: 4/01/2011

Length: 296 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

Read an excerpt  here.

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Publisher’s summary:

THEOREM: Petrovitch has a lot of secrets.

PROOF: Secrets like how to make anti-gravity for one. For another, he’s keeping a sentient computer program on a secret server farm – the same program that nearly destroyed the Metrozone a few months back.

THEOREM: The city is broken.

PROOF: The people of the OutZone want what the citizens of the Metrozone have. And then to burn it to the ground. Now, with the heart of the city destroyed by the New Machine Jihad, the Outies finally see their chance.

THEOREM: These events are not unconnected.

PROOF: Someone is trying to kill Petrovitch and they’re willing to sink the whole city to do it.


My somewhat spoilerish thoughts:

How does one top a book like Equations of Life, which featured the near destruction of post-Armageddon London when an AI methodically killed hundreds of thousands of people while destroying pretty much… everything? Why, with a book like Theories of Flight of course, in which our good guy, Dr. Samuil Petrovitch not only makes the greatest scientific breakthrough in living memory but is betrayed, avoids assassination at least twice, narrowly escapes the revenge of a pissed-off American woman and then single-handedly takes control of the New Machine Jihad in an attempt to thwart a hostile take-over of the northern Metrozone. And that’s just in the first half of the book!

“A revolution. A whole new way of doing things. No one has to die, no one has to be overthrown. There’ll be no blood or fire–just light. It’s going to be brilliant.” Unfortunately, Sam’s vision as he told it to Sonja Oshicora four months after the events of book 1, dubbed The Long Night (the events, not the book), didn’t come to pass and there is plenty of blood and plenty of fire. Sadly, blood and fire was what was needed to save the Metrozone and Sam stepped up to care of business.

Of course, the whole thing came to pass when he set out to rescue Maddy, to whom he was wed in the four months since the end of Equations of Life. Maddy has joined the newly-formed MEA, the Metrozone Emergency Authority where her prodigious talents have been no doubt put to good use and Sam has also been busy, what with his whole discovery of artificial gravity thing.

But other events overshadow his historic scientific breakthrough: former Detective Harry Chain, who now also works for MEA asks Sam’s assistance on a case involving the CIA, assassins are out to get him, his wife is injured in the line of duty and finally, there is an incursion into the Metrozone by the Outies who, despite sounding like a bunch of people with protruding belly buttons, are actually a massive group of uneducated yet murderous outcasts. And they don’t just want to just invade and take the Metrozone as their own, they want to destroy it and everyone in it. What’s more, they’re fully capable of doing just that. It rather makes the term ‘Outies’ sound less amusing and more foreboding, yes?

Upon learning that Maddy has been called in to assist in the defense of the city, Sam sets out to rescue her from an invading force that appears to be much more formidable than was originally determined. He’s accompanied only by Miyamoto, sent by Sonja to protect him and by the artificial intelligence which is all that’s left of VirtualJapan, the AI that became the New Machine Jihad when Sonja’s father, Oshicora-san was betrayed and murdered.

At first it looks like an in and out job, grab the girl and go… only a whole bunch of other stuff comes up to distract Sam and divert his attention from his single-minded task. The odds are against him reaching Maddy, against the Metrozone surviving the invasion intact, against survival… so Sam is left with no choice but to unleash the New Machine Jihad, which is as powerful as ever but happily, less insane this time around.

Still, despite the horrors that may arise, Sam sets the AI loose to do what it can to help him save what can be saved of the Metrozone which it does. And which, unfortunately might start a war with the United States. So we have a few questions: can Sam survive and save the Metrozone? Again? Can he save the AI from those who would destroy it? And can he do all of this without bringing the wrath of the world’s sole remaining superpower down on all of their heads? As he tells Miyamoto: “What’s the point of being the smartest guy I know if I don’t use those smarts to do something?”

As with book 1, Theories is vividly orchestrated and action-packed, mildly graphic and chock full of grim humor, as evidenced by my extensive ‘fave quote’ section below. We also get a tantalizing peek into Sam’s past in St. Petersburg, Russia which of course, only left me wanting more of the back story… namely of Sam’s history and of Armageddon. I also want to know how the US became the sole super power -a ruthless and utterly amoral super power- in the world? I rather got a kick out of Sam threatening to take the whole country down, super-power or no. Bad-ass much, Dr. Petrovitch? Indeed, he is!

I also need to point out how tickled I was with Sam’s “One Ring” comments in reference to the AI and New Machine Jihad. Being a lifetime fan of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I particularly enjoyed looking at the AI/NMJ as “one ring to rule them all”. Nicely done, Mr. Morden.

I’ll definitely be checking out Thy Kingdom Come, Morden’s collection of short stories that preface the events in Equations, once I finish with book 3 of the trilogy, Degrees of Freedom. The collection is available as a free PDF download at the link I provided to the author’s site but I highly suggest reading the series before biting into the short stories. Though I know little about what they cover, there’s just something about an agonizing wait that makes the attainment of literary gratification that much more potent.

One last comment. I would love to have these books in audio format so that I could listen to Sam swear in Russian. That would be awesome. That is all.

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Fave quotes and yes, I realize that there are a lot but the awesome quotes in this book are rather like Lay’s potato chips, I think:

“Out of the way. Science coming through.” ~Sam

Yobany stos! I’m trying to conduct an epoch-making experiment which will turn this place into a shrine for future generations. So shut the huy up.” ~Sam

“Everyone’s allowed to make a stupid mistake now and then, and this is your turn.” ~Sam to Andersson

“The CIA are in town, apparently, and not in an ‘if you have a few moments, I’d like to ask you some questions’ sort of way.” ~Sam to Sonja

“We can swear loudly and point guns at each other in a vodka-fueled frenzy: just like old times.” ~Sam to Grigori re: Marchenkho

“I have to catch a plane at stupid-o’clock in the morning.” ~Pif to Sam

“You idiot. You genius-level idiot.” ~Pif to Sam

Miyamoto: “What are you doing?”  Sam: “I’m being awesome Don’t interrupt.”

“I’m reluctant to threaten the only person in a position to help me. But I have a gun in my pocket that I’m very tempted to use on you.” ~Sam to Dr. Stephanopolis

[There is no logic behind your statement. Simply wishing for something to be so does not make it so.] ~AI, Michael to Sam

‘He had not been quite this angry for a very long time… Days, at least.’

“When I first met you, you were incapable of talking to a woman without insulting her. Now you have a harem.” ~Sonja to Sam

Sam: “Are you familiar with Schrödinger’s Cat?”  CIA assassin: “No.”  Sam: “And another metaphor dies whimpering on the altar of ignorance.”

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Would you like to win the entire Metrozone series? Of course, you would! Visit Deranged Book Lovers’ blog and enter the contest!

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Savannah Grey

Author: Cliff McNish

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover or for Kindle)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Release Date: 4/1/2011

Length: 266 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley

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Publisher’s summary:

15 year old Savannah Grey has never felt she’s belonged. She keeps her distance, so she’s surprised by her attraction to the new boy Reece.

Then strange things begin to happen: nature, it seems, is exerting an overpowering force on the world. Birds behave strangely; gusts of wind blow leaves so fiercely they seem to lure people away. And Savannah learns she has supernatural powers.

Nature has a purpose for Savannah and her friends. For they are on course to meet the vile and evil Orcrassa, who wants to destroy the world by corrupting nature. And it wants Savannah Grey to help realise its savage intent.


My thoughts, which will definitely include some mild major spoilers:

While I’m not exactly within the target audience for this book, I requested the galley and did my best to find something good in it. I have read and enjoyed many YA books and then recommended them to teens and adults, alike. That won’t happen with this book. Aside from asking my 16 year old daughter to give it a try, that is. I wanted the opinion of someone actually in the target audience to see if perhaps she had a different impression of it. Upon finding out why I wanted her to read the book, however, my daughter declined. She said that if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t like it.

The book blurb, while short, sounded interesting to me, hence my request for the galley. Even now, I think that something good could have been done with this story idea but as it’s written? No. It just doesn’t work. I’ll give a quick run-down of the story and then explain why.

Savannah Grey, the main character, is a hapless orphan who moves from foster home to foster home, never truly feeling at home. She’s had the same best friend for years and Nina is the only person in Savannah’s life that she feels a real connection with. Until she meets Reece. She feels a kinship with him that she can’t explain, she feels drawn to him.

Then she discovers that they both appear to have the same affliction in their throats and realize that it’s a weapon that they’ll need to fight a monster. In order to protect this weapon until it’s ready to fight the monster, Savannah can and will attack anyone who gets near her. Rather, her body will attack them, since she can hardly maintain control of her extremities or her voice if her ‘weapon’ feels threatened in any way.

Also, interspersed with Savannah’s point of view chapters were sections from the point of view of one or another of the monsters in the story, namely the Ocrassa, an ancient entity with no earthly predators. Some reviews I read enjoyed the inclusion of the monster POVs but I found them distracting and perhaps a bit overkill because in light of the ending of the book, it seems that the Ocrassa’s power and infallibility were trumped up.

Okay… there’s really not much more run-down to cover. Unfortunately, I have more to say in picking it apart though I really feel the need to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book. Again, spoilers will abound so if you have any  desire to read this book, consider yourself warned.

First, I need to cover how awkward it was to read about the main character’s throat trying to attack people. I felt from the get-go that it was her voice that was the weapon and while there was something in her throat that was causing her voice to create monster-killing sounds, it was not her throat that was ‘attacking’ people. It was her voice and every time I read something about her ‘throat’ feeling threatened, etc., it just resonated poorly with me. Further, the idea of a sound, a ‘detonation’ according to the story, from one’s throat literally knocking them to the floor was a bit over-the-top for me.

My second biggest problem was with the inconsistency of the writing. At this point, I don’t recall precisely everything that I found so off-putting but there are a couple of instances that spring to mind. At one point, Savannah was testing her newly developed powers that she assumed would assist her in the fight against the monster and she realized that while her vision was greatly enhanced, she was unable to see in the dark. A few pages later, she mentally lists night vision as one of her powers. Later in the story, Savannah was looking through a window into a parking lot and then a couple of sentences later, she “ran to the window” to look out. Of course, this is an uncorrected galley so my hope is that the published book will have taken care of inconsistencies like this.

Savannah’s connection with Reece was understandable, especially considering the twist at the end of the book, but to chat for a few minutes and then simultaneously realize that this weird growth in their throats is a weapon that’s getting ready to fight a monster? It seemed like quite a stretch and I had to check to make sure the galley wasn’t missing a page or three of dialogue in which they’d had an involved discussion or perhaps saw or discovered something that made them realize that a horrible, nightmarish creature was after them and that it was their duty to fight it with their throats. Of course, that intuition could possibly be explained by the aforementioned big twist but it still lacks believability. One plus I saw with the twist that McNish added was that it would at least explain why Savannah’s ‘throat’ wouldn’t even allow her to kiss Reece.

The rest of it, though? Why the monster allowed her to live while researching her weaknesses? Knowing that a weapon is gaining strength to kill it, it rings hollow to me that an ancient and intelligent force would bother with research. When it kills anything that might be construed as a threat and it knows that Savannah is a threat, why would it go to great lengths to gather information about her? It wants to be sure this strip of a girl is a worthy opponent before it killed her? In a book full of hard to swallow occurrences, that one took the cake for me.

Finally, the coup de grâce on my unfortunate reading experience was the ending.

The very.

Abrupt.

Ending.

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