Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Generation A

by Douglas Coupland

Quickie Recap: In the not too distant future, the world will have no more bees, and with the bees go lots of our favourite crops. Five years after the extinction, 5 seemingly unconnected individuals are stung all over the world, and in rush the scientists to study them while they blow up all over social media.

Quickie Review: Told from a shifting-frame perspective, each of the group of 5 gets their chance to narrate and bring their own views and unique voice to the novel. This style is supposed to mimic Coupland's most famous novel, Generation X. I liked this book, although I read it warily. As usual, Coupland explores the meet and greet between culture and media\technology. His protagonists are all slackers, all disaffected youth, and all seem to be up for this non-voluntary adventure their bee stings have obligated. They're also living in a time when heroin addiction is null because of course, poppies require bees. A new drug, called Solon, has stepped in to replace it and everyone's attracted to it - except for these five. Released from their experimentation cells, they have a new prison: celebrity. To escape, they are herded by a charismatic scientist named Serge onto a remote Canadian island where they are encouraged to tell stories. These stories end up revealing things about their raconteurs of course, but also about who they are becoming, isolated together on the island. The stories, unfortunately, take the place of plot, and the book kind of falls apart in the second half, and Douglas struggles to regain control so that he may grant us the ending we deserve.
Quickie Recommendation: I wish we had learned more about this world without bees. The stories did very little for me. I missed action, I missed movement in the story. I'd still say check it out, but it doesn't stand up to his previous great works.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Martian

by Andy Weir

Quickie Recap: Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on a Mars mission and now faces the physical and psychological challenge of bleek, lonely, long-term survival until the next mission, 4 impossible years away, may return to save him.

Quickie Review: This book heavy on technical detail. Watney writes mission logs highlighting the challenges that each day presents, his problem-solving, and the outcome. Although the technology is light-years over my head, I still enjoyed reading these parts, and though I can't verify the sciences, it certainly sounds plausible, like Weir must have spent an exhaustive amount of time on research. His imagination doesn't fail us either, and I particularly enjoyed Watney's brand of wit. Weir does a great job of balancing the desolation with humour.

Quickie Recommendation: One of the more enjoyable reads I've had all year. Although I can see that the science-heavy jargon may not be for everyone, I still find it accessible to a general audience and I'm eagerly awaiting something else from this promising new author.

The Tiger

A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

by John Vaillant

Quickie Recap: A literal man-eating tiger is stalking a village and they've called in the big guns to get rid of it before it can make another meal of human meat. This tiger is not just any man-eating tiger - it has a beef with these people, and it seems pretty intent on making good on its grudge.

Quickie Review: Interesting fact about tigers? Once they eat human flesh, they can't get enough of it. Oh yeah, you'll learn stuff while reading this book. Actual stuff. This book conveys a real sense of hunting and being hunted; the hair on the back of your neck will not get a rest for days.

Quickie Recommendation: Depends on what your gore factor is. If you have the stomach for it, go for it.