I was well more than half way into Version Control, the second novel by Dexter Palmer, when I realized that very little had happened in the novel. But I also realized that I didn’t really mind either:
Sure, there’s something like a time machine (or rather, a causality violation device – the physicist inventor would very much prefer you not call it a time machine) and some barely near-future technology like self-driving cars. But these speculative elements take a back seat to story that is both deeply intelligent and deeply human, a vehicle that Palmer uses to voice all manner of witty observations on everything from social media, to race relations, to religious faith.
This isn’t a book that I can really do justice to in a brief review, so go check out the more competent reviews on NPR or Mashable, or better yet, just go read the novel itself. Easily one of the cleverest, most affecting books I’ve read in recent memory.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, published in 2009, won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, as well as numerous other accolades, including having been listed as the ninth best book of 2009 by TIME magazine.
The Windup Girl has been, rightfully I think, compared to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, particularly for their shared vision of a near-future of powerful multinational corporations and reckless privatization. But whereas Gibson focused largely on information technology, Bacigalupi focuses on the future role of genetic engineering and biotechnology, imagining a world in which genetic materials become commodities worth killing for. Moreover, The Windup Girl, set in Thailand, also provides an interesting example of a future in which the West’s cultural and economic hegemony has been eclipsed by the uncomfortable bedfellows of multinational corporations and emerging markets. Continue reading Reviews: Windup Girl, Habibi, Hunger Games
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Pantheon Books, 2010
“When it happens, this is what happens: I shoot myself.
Not, you know, my self self. I shoot my future self. He steps out of a time machine, introduces himself as Charles Yu. What am I supposed to do? I kill him. I kill my own future.”
Time-travel technician Charles Yu has found himself stuck in the very kind of predicament he is employed to help others extricate themselves from: Yu is trapped in a time loop, initiated by shooting his own future self. With only TAMMY, his time machine’s overly apologetic operation system, and Ed, his “nonexistent but ontologically valid dog,” for company, Yu sets out to unravel the mystery of his present difficulties, the key to which seems to be a book he received from his future self.
Continue reading Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe