Tag Archives: book

Book review: Abraham Silberschlag – Armada of Zion

The Adam Roberts Project

Abraham Silberschlag, Armada of Zion (Velcro Books 2008)

[pp.477. $19.99. ISBN: 4321949312]

Armada of Zion is a book calculated to divide opinion sharply amongst its readership.  However well written, however compelling a storyline, however vivid the characters, this is a novel leaves an uncomfortable aftertaste for many readers.  But perhaps that’s all to the good.  Better a book to hate passionately or a book to love passionately than a book that is bland. Continue reading Book review: Abraham Silberschlag – Armada of Zion

ESSAY: JAMES MORROW on why he wrote Shambling Towards Hiroshima

James Morrow - Shambling Toward HiroshimaJames Morrow is a novelist with a reputation for satirising organised religion, but his new book Shambling Towards Hiroshima mashes up the original Godzilla movies with the nuclear attacks on Japan which ended the Second World War.

Given the opportunity to ask the man some questions, the first thing that leapt to my mind was to enquire as to why Morrow had decided to write about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and why he’d choose to mix in monster movies as a subtheme – despite the potential risk of being accused of irreverence or outright frivolity, or of resurrecting dead issues. It is Futurismic‘s very great privilege to play post to his response.

How I Shambled Towards Hiroshima

by James Morrow

Saint Thomas Aquinas famously remarked, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” The same principle applies to classic American and Japanese monster movies. To one who loves this sort of cinema, no explanation is necessary. To one who does not, no explanation is possible.

As a school-age kid living in a sterile Philadelphia suburb in the late fifties, the culture of old horror films spoke to me in much the same way that God speaks to the theistically inclined. Thanks to my parents’ crummy little black-and-white television, plus my subscription to Forrest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, I routinely enjoyed revelations from that wondrous and exotic celluloid realm. To see a chopped-up, truncated print of King Kong revived on late-afternoon TV was an authentically religious experience for me, and any broadcast of the 1956 Godzilla wasn’t far behind. Continue reading ESSAY: JAMES MORROW on why he wrote Shambling Towards Hiroshima

BOOK REVIEW: Fast Forward 2, edited by Lou Anders

Fast Forward 2 by Lou Anders, ed.

Pyr Books, October 2008; 360pp; $15 RRP – ISBN13: 9781591026921

The first thing I’m going to mention about Lou Anders‘ second Fast Forward anthology is the John Picacio cover artwork, which is a real Zeitgeist catch. Below is strife, carnage, religious angst; thrusting upwards is bionic monkey-man, his chains broken asunder, transcending mundane squabbles for the promise of space and rationalism (bubble chamber tracks?). The religious discord is heightened by the DNA motif, explicitly repeated in the exhaust blast of robomonkey… if you wanted to encapsulate the hope for a triumph (or at least secession) of a rational worldview, I think you’d struggle to make a more arresting and vivid image in the process.

So, how does Fast Forward 2 match up to this thrusting visual metaphor? Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Fast Forward 2, edited by Lou Anders

Harvard drops out of Google Booksearch… because it’s not going to be free.

blue booksThe fat lady hasn’t yet sung for Google Booksearch. Just a few days after the announcement that the Big G had settled with the author and publisher associations to pay them a fair price for online access to digitised books, Harvard University is dropping out of the program:

“As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Harvard’s university-library director, Robert C. Darnton, wrote in a letter to the library staff.

He noted that “the settlement provides no assurance that the prices charged for access will be reasonable, especially since the subscription services will have no real competitors [and] the scope of access to the digitized books is in various ways both limited and uncertain.”

As TechDirt points out, the settlement looks good at a first glance, and has probably mollified a lot of writers and publishers, but it actually gives Google a tighter hold on the content:

Rather than making the world’s information accessible and findable, this move is an attempt to lock up the world’s information in Google’s proprietary format, so that Google can charge people for it. It sets in place a forced business model that actually diminishes the potential usefulness and value of books, and sets a bad precedent for just about everyone else.

So it would seem that by clamouring for short-term advantage, the publishers and libraries may actually have lost the long game. We’ve not heard the last of this, I’ll wager. [image by Dawn Endico]

BOOK REVIEW: MultiReal by David Louis Edelman

MultiReal - David Louis EdelmanMultireal by David Louis Edelman (Part 2 of the Jump 225 trilogy)

Pyr Books 2008, 522pp – ISBN 1591026474


Imagine a future in which your body is infested by nanomachines who march to programs downloaded from a ubiquitous information transport system not unlike the Internet. Playing poker? Download a poker face. Nervous? Grab RelaxMeNow(TM) and feel the chill. An emergency coagulation script might even save you from a knife wound.

It’s not all positive, of course. Do you really want computer programmers to tinker with the firing of neurons in your brain stem? Do you want to run the equivalent of Microsoft Windows inside your, with all that implies? Nobody needs a Blue Screen of Death while operating heavy machinery.

The implications of this technology are not just medical and psychological, of course, and from here the author of these conceits, David Louis Edelman, has gone on to create a dystopian future in which this body-enhancing technology has transformed life for billions. The people behind these technological advances have been elevated to status of Gods – in the sense that God Himself, as a creator and sustainer, has been displaced. Socio-psychological thought systems, rational in the general use of the term, have become rather more common than irrational religious groups.

MultiReal is the second volume of the Jump 225 trilogy, set one millennium hence. The first volume, Infoquake, introduced an entrepreneur called Natch, who is a psychologically wounded, driven man who puts success above everything. He comes to own a so-called Fiefcorp and, ultimately, a technology called MultiReal, the technology around which the story revolves.

What is MultiReal? This is never satisfactorily explained, but perhaps that is a deliberate choice from Edelman. We know that the technology allows an originating user to initiate a computational session with a target user. The originator can then trap the target in a loop of possible scenarios for the immediate future. When the originator has chosen the behaviour that he or she wishes the target to exhibit, the MultiReal software compels the target to act – in precisely the manner requested and anticipated by the originator. Thus the originator can influence the choice of the target; can influence muscle movements; and so on.

This is not a wholly original idea, but Edelman’s approach, as ever, is one of implication. What would happen if the target activated a second instance of MultiReal to defend himself? Who would win, and why? It comes down to choice cycles; the user with the greatest number wins. What would happen if the MultiReal technology was released, unadulterated, to the public? The simultaneous use of such a technology might exceed the limit of all available computational capacity. This would lead to the mother of all Infoquakes – nanomachine crashes. And yet what consequences would the differential uptake of MultiReal have for society? What if the ‘haves’ could use it to exploit the ‘have nots’? What bullet-dodging MultiReal army could ever be defeated? These questions are explored, to greater and lesser extents, in the book.

It’s a story of ideas. So many, in fact, that Edelman has provided several appendices and his website includes more than 30,000 words of supplemental material. As a work of fiction, MultiReal improves as it goes on. The protagonist, Natch, is a somewhat reprehensible character, and yet he enjoys moments of high ethical behaviour. The members of his fiefcorp are engaging, if underwritten. The Villains are rather too capital-V for my liking, but Edelman does present some of them with more shades of grey, particularly the cryptic Magan Kai Lee.

Overall, the book is an entertaining read that explores some startling implications of biological programming, and sets the scene nicely for volume three.