Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Books by Nancy Kress and George R.R. Martin

Writers should be readers. I'm keeping track here throughout the year as a record of such things. If you're interested in my opinions read on. Maybe you'll find something you want to read, too.

AFTER THE FALL, BEFORE THE FALL, DURING THE FALL by Nancy Kress

I don't generally read apocalypse scenarios because they tend to bore me. Even the survivors are boring. At least to me. Additionally, my only experience with Nancy Kress before this book was her very informative Dynamic Characters book on writing. When I stumbled across this in my local library I thought What the hell? I should at least read something of hers to see if she practices what she's preached.

The premise here is that there are survivors of an attack on the human race that wiped just about everything out. It's an 'ark' story because these survivors were rescued by an alien race and placed in a compound called The Shell. These survivors were plucked from certain destruction by the aliens seemingly at random. But that's not important. Well, it kind of is later but not immediately.

What's happening is that the survivors in 2035 are stealing back in time thanks to alien time travel tech and abducting children in hopes of restarting the human race. In the present a mathematician who works with government agencies is developing an algorithm that can accurately predict when the next child will be abducted. Slightly ahead of the mathematician, the virus that destroys the world spreads across the globe. Thus, the title of the novella.

The characters are fairly well-developed and interesting in ordinary ways. In truth, there's nothing extraordinary about any of them except maybe the elder lady called McAllister and that's what makes the story appealing. These are ordinary people. The author knows a great deal about them and drops little hints here and there and that's how things are. Some we know, some we don't, and lots remains a mystery no matter what.

It's an entertaining, very quick read. Recommended if you're looking for a light distraction and/or are interested in apocalypse scenarios. I'm glad it was a shorter work.

FAST-FRIEND/STAR LADY by George R.R. Martin

I've never read any GRRM, either. I know a lot of people who've read the books that HBO's Game of Thrones is based on, but they're too weighty for me. Just can't spare the time. During the same trip to the library, I found this book nestled on the shelf with his other works. It's a thin volume containing to longish short stories/not-quite novellas. Plus, it's SF so I found this in the right frame of mind at the right time. Lucky me.

Well, maybe.

See, this is a riff on the old (read: ancient) ACE double-novels. It's a flip book with two covers by the same artist. The novel concept in Martin's worlds (and I think both stories happen in different universes, but I may be wrong) is that English is bastardized into a near-unrecognizable language. It's the thing that hung me up more than anything else in the stories. But maybe I'm ahead of myself.

Fast-Friend is a kind of quest story with a Love Conquers All sort of bent to it. Star Lady is a riff on I don't know what. Both were entertaining, meaning I was lost in the world of the stories while I was reading them but have largely forgotten them since putting the book down. I meant to have them close at hand while I was writing these reviews but then I returned them to the library.

I have the sense that Martin sort of dashed these stories off as quickly as the pulp writers of the 40s and 50s did. An interesting diversion, but not a meaty read by any description.