Books read in August:
Peter Watts’ The Freeze-Frame Revolution: I haven’t read the related short stories yet, but the standalone novel(la) is really solid. It’s hard-hard sci-fi, but also poetic. The end is so tight, it’s almost more of a very expensive Twilight Zone episode, but if hard-hard sci-fi about the deep future and space travel is your thing, then this is your thing. It was my thing. In essence, a ship travels to the furthest reaches of the universe, planting wormhole gates as it goes, and it is filled with people who wake up only every few thousand years when the AI that runs the ship needs help or feels lonely. And a small number of that massive crew decide to mutiny against the AI (not a spoiler — this is literally on the back cover). Needless to say, an already complicated situation gets way more complicated.
Malka Older’s Null States: The first book I dug, and yet it in no way prepared me for this major step up, between the myriad charterizations, and the complexity of the politics within the organization that, in the first book, was presented more as naively monolithic. It’s the second book in a series about a whole other form of global political organization, in which the world is broken into these distributed nations that are like franchises. It’s a bit like Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash in that regard, but more with the resulting practicalities thought through — way through in this book. The third book in the trilogy comes out this month.
William Gibson’s The Peripheral: This was a re-read. The first time, when it came out, I didn’t like it much. Second time through, reading in advance of his next one, I focused on how he handled the time travel aspect, really made it his own, made it something unique to the book rather than a hand-me-down sci-fi setting he took for granted. I also appreciated how the chapters — and there are lots and lots of chapters — ended less with cliffhangers than with these casual observations about the characters. There’s a murder witnessed by someone — the murder’s in the future, the witness in the past. The witness thinks the future is just a video game, and the past turns out to be something that super-powerful people in the future treat as their own plaything.
John le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor: The first third is where it’s at. You could just read the first third and get most of what it has to offer, but he is so elegant and fierce, and the way he jumps between characters? — he’s just a master. A literature instructor and his lawyer girlfriend end up helping a Russian mobster communicate with British Secret Service. They don’t even know why they choose to do such a thing. No one trusts anyone, and even less so as the thing progresses.
Somehow I didn’t finish reading a single graphic novel in August. It was a busy month