Reviews: Troika, Elmer, God’s War

I’ve got a small heap of books I keep meaning to review, but the stack (and soon, the overdue fines) seems to be growing faster than my motivation to write about them in depth. So here are three quick reviews of what I’ve read recently:Troika

Troika by Alastair Reynolds is a quick but satisfying hard-sf novella, weighing in at well under 200 pages. It’s a typical Big Dumb Object story, but with several clever twists that still make it compelling. The narrative alternates between the story of three Russian cosmonauts exploring the Matryoshka , a massive, alien object that mysteriously appeared in our own solar system; and the later story of one of those cosmonauts, driven half insane by his experience aboard the Matryoshka, trying desperately to reveal what he found there. Clever, cinematic storytelling rendered in smart prose. Good stuff.

ElmerElmer, a graphic novel by Philippines artist Gerry Alanguilan, began, according to the author’s epilogue, as a sort of thought experiment about what would happen if chickens were to suddenly achieve human-like sentience. The result can be read as allegory for all manner of modern equality movements, but is also a fairly engrossing story in its own right. The art work itself isn’t exactly my taste, and somewhat uneven in quality, but still a thought-provoking and novel piece of work.

God's WarAnd finally, God’s War by Kameron Hurley. I fully admit that I was suckered in by the cover blurb by Jeff VanderMeer, one of my favorites, and another fantastic illustration from indie publisher Night Shade Books. Imagine a sort of Tarantino-esque caper thriller set amid a Dune-style religious war, with lots of bugs and bug-based technology for flavor. Yeah, something you have to experience really. But Hurley is a fairly great world builder, and even though the book could have benefited from further development of the secondary characters (if only to help readers keep them straight through the various betrayals and double-crosses), the action and setting were engaging enough to have me looking forward to reading the next volume in the trilogy.

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