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Posts Tagged ‘heroine’

Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

March 28, 2011 5 comments

Blue book coverSummary:
Billy Case used to be the best cowboy in the matrix–the digital world you plug yourself into.  But then he pissed off the wrong boss who had his neurons fried so he can’t jack in anymore.  Case has been biding his time waiting to die in Japan, until a mysterious woman named Molly shows up.  She’s tricked out with blades that emerge from under her fingernails and sunglasses built into her skull.  She says her boss has a job for Case and will fix his neurons, beginning the adventure of Case’s life.

Review:
This is a good example of how to effectively drop a reader into a completely unfamiliar world and explain nothing and yet have enough make sense for the reader to be invested in the outcome for the characters.  Gibson doesn’t explain much to the reader, and yet what doesn’t make sense eventually clicks into place if the reader is persistent enough in the reading.

The settings vary from a creatively imagined future Japan to a Rastafarian space station to what is essentially Miami in outer space.  They are all immediately engrossing and intriguing.  What led the world to develop this way in Gibson’s imagination?  That is never entirely clear, but that’s part of the fun.  After all, when is it ever entirely clear why the world works out the way it does?

By far the most interesting character is Molly.  Like a Whedon heroine, she kicks ass and takes no names.  She is not just brains or brawn; she is both.  Case pales abundantly in comparison to her, and he knows it.  Although they do hook up, he states that Molly could never really be anyone’s woman.  She is her own.  Molly’s life is incredibly more interesting than Case’s, and perhaps one of the more frustrating parts of the book is that we only get to see of her what Case gets to see.  The book is not about her; it is about Case’s experiences with her.  Yet that is also what makes the book intriguing.  She flits into and out of Case’s life and yet will linger forever in his memory as someone significant.

Of course, I would be remiss to review this classic piece of scifi without mentioning the impact its imaginings of the internet would have.  Obviously there is the matrix and plugging in concepts.  The idea of the internet as something that you participate in in a 3D manner.  The concept of AI as a computer rather than as a robot.  The list goes on and on.  If you’re a scifi fan and have not read this book, you really need to.  It is clear from page one what an impact Gibson has had on the genre.

The plot itself is convoluted and confusing.  I’m still not entirely sure I understand exactly what happened.  Yet I’m also not sure Case understands exactly what happened either.  This is one of the few times I’ve finished a book and instantly wanted to re-read it, hoping to understand it a bit better the second time around.  Yet such a convoluted plot is a bit distracting when there is so much else wonderful going on.  It holds the book back from being superb.

Overall, this piece of classic scifi is an interesting character study and immersion in a different world.  It would be interesting to anyone who enjoys that type of experience in their reading, but is also a must-read for anyone who considers themselves a scifi fanatic.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: SwapTree

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Book Review: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

March 15, 2011 1 comment

African woman with sloth on her neck.Summary:
In the near future those who’ve committed a serious wrong for which most would feel guilty are given an animal by the spiritual world.  They are known as Zoos, and the animals attempt to guide them back to the straight and narrow as well as keeping the Undertow at bay.  Separation is painful and almost impossible.  If the animal dies, the Zoo dies.  Zinzi December of Johannesburg is one of these Zoos. Her animal is a sloth, and  her magical power is finding lost things.  Normally she sticks to everyday objects such as keys in the sewer, but when a music producer approaches her via his assistants for help in finding a missing teen Afropop star, she bends the rules.  She just may come to regret that decision.

Review:
Beukes excels at world-building, setting a vivid example of how to use showing not telling to its best, fullest extent.  I was instantly swept into this fantastical version of a nation I’ve never been to, yet somehow was able to quickly decipher which elements were pure fantasy and which based on the realities of modern South Africa.  The reader comes to understand how Zoos first showed up and why they exist without even really realizing she is acquiring this information.

Similarly, the character of Zinzi was a refreshing change from the typical urban fantasy female lead.  While she is clever and fairly fit, she is neither abnormally strong not incapable of making bad decisions.  She is a three-dimensional character with both positive and negative qualities.  She is not simply the put-upon dark heroine.  Her struggles are real and current, not simply in the past.  At first it appears that Beukes is going to fall into the completely redeemed heroine trope, but instead Zinzi still has demons to face.  She must repeatedly fall and get back up, something that rings as far more real than one epic fall followed by heroine perfection.

The one draw-back is that the plot is a bit confusing.  I had to re-read the climax to fully understand exactly what had been revealed as the big secret Zinzi was discovering.  Part of that was due to a couple of elements of the plot that seemed not to mesh well with the rest of it.  Some of the important fantasy parts of the plot should have, perhaps, had a bit more explanation.  There is a lot going on in this novel and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming for the reader who is new not only to the fantastical elements of the tale, but to the South African cultural elements as well.  Although the plot is ultimately decipherable, it is not immediately easy to follow.

Overall this is a creative, unique piece of urban fantasy that simultaneously presents a truly flawed heroine and takes the genre into a city many modern readers are not familiar with.  I recommend it to fans of urban fantasy as well as fans of African literature.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Book Review: Alien Tango by Gini Koch (Series, #2)

December 27, 2010 7 comments

Man carrying a woman holding a gun over alligators.Summary:
Kitty Katt only learned about the existence of aliens on Earth five short months ago.  Incredibly hot aliens who wear Armani as a uniform and can run at hyperspeed.  Now she’s the head of a special American government division working with the A-Cs to keep Earth safe from the extra-terrestrial threat of superbugs.  Plus she has a hot A-C boyfriend, Jeff, who gives her the best sex of her life.  Their new routine gets interrupted though when the team gets sent to Florida on a routine mission that quickly turns abnormal.  Can the team figure out the threat at Kennedy Space Center?  Just as important, will Jeff’s family accept that he’s dating a human?

Review:
I actually received a Kindle copy of this book for free as part of its promotion, so I was unaware that it’s the second book in a series until I was a couple of chapters in.  Thankfully, the paranormal romance genre tends to take a few moments to remind the reader of what’s going on in the plot, so I wasn’t lost for too long.

Kitty Katt is the ideal paranormal romance heroine.  She’s simultaneously strong and girly.  She can kick major ass but also just wants to be held when the action is all over.  Best of all, her wit and snark line up exactly with mine.  I found her hilarious and would love to be her best friend.  Or be her.  In any case, she is 100% not annoying, which is not easy to pull off in the paranormal romance world.  I want to visit Kitty again and again, which is kind of the point of paranormal romance series, yes?  I kind of think of them as modern day serial stories.

I also really enjoy the alien angle.  I fully admit I rolled my eyes at the fact that the aliens only wear Armani, but in that “this world is ridiculous but I love it” way, not in the annoyed way.  The aliens tend to either be imageers or empaths.  I’m a bit unclear as to what the imageers can do.  I think that’s because I missed the first book.  Kitty’s boyfriend, however, is an empath, which means he almost always knows what emotion she’s feeling.  Talk about your dream guy.  It’s a fun new angle as opposed to the over-done vampires and shapeshifters.

The plot is full of action and sex.  It’s fast-paced with always one or the other going on.  The sex scenes are believable, in spite of the alien factor, and very modern.  Kitty is a gal who understands how things work in the bedroom but is also able to shoot a gun and outwit terrorists.  The combination of well-written modern day sex scenes and exciting action sequences make for an intensely enjoyable read.

Overall, Alien Tango is the ideal paranormal romance.  It puts something new into the mix–aliens–and features a heroine who is strong, modern, yet still retains some of her femininity.  I highly recommend this series to all who enjoy a good paranormal romance and also to lovers of scifi who won’t mind some hot sex scenes tossed in.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Previous Books in Series:
Touched by an Alien