Gollancz has published its first anthology of South Asian Science Fiction

South Asia is a hotbed of brilliant science fiction writing, as well as writings in all the related genres capture by the Bengali word "kalpabigyan (encompassing literature that is "science-dependent," "science-based," "science mystery" and "science"), and there have been many brilliant anthologies of science fiction from the region; the latest entry to the field is Gollancz's new Book of South Asian Science Fiction, edited by Tarun K. Saint, the subject of a fascinating review by Gautham Shenoy in Factor Daily. Read the rest

The People's Republic of Walmart: how late-stage capitalism gives way to early-stage fully automated luxury communism

Science writer Leigh Phillips's 2016 book Austerity Ecology and the Collapse-Porn Addicts was one of the most important, angry and inspiring books I read that year, a passionate argument for a high-tech just and sustainable world that celebrated materialism and comfort, rather than calling for a return to a world of three billion people scratching potatoes in the dirt; so when Phillips sent me a manuscript for his new book, The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism last year, I dropped everything and read it, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Read the rest

Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail: a debut sf novel about counterculture, resistance, and the post-internet apocalypse

Tim Maughan has long been one of the most promising up-and-coming, avante garde UK science fiction writers, whose post-cyberpunk short fiction mixed radical politics with a love of graffiti and a postmodern filmmaker's eye: now, with his debut novel Infinite Detail, Maughan shows that he has what it takes to work at longer lengths, and can sustain a first-rate adventure story that grabs and never lets go, without sacrificing the political and technological insights that give his work depth that will stay with you long after the book is done. Read the rest

Man-Eaters: Handmaid's Tale meets Cat People in a comic where girls turn into man-eating were-panthers when they get their periods

Man-Eaters Volume 1 collects the first four issues of the Image comic by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk (and friends) and it's insanely great: the premise is that America's patriarchy has been given a huge boost by a mutant strait of toxoplasmosis that is benign for most carriers, but turns adolescent girls into unstoppable were-panthers that crave human flesh when they get their first periods. Read the rest

What do reverse cyborgs want? A review of David Marusek's Glassing the Orgachine

In First Contact, Book 1 of David Marusek’s (previously) science fiction series Upon This Rock, an alien being crash lands in a remote corner of Alaska, not far from a family-cult of preppers for the end times, and the alien exploits the beliefs of the family patriarch by posing as an angel sent to earth to initiate the final conflict. Rooted deeply in contemporary Alaskan landscape and culture, the novel is funny and painful, part satire and part serious exploration of a particularly unfortunate instance of first contact. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, leaving many questions unanswered. Read the rest

Jeff "Sweet Tooth" Lemire's new horror comic Gideon Falls is spooky af

Jeff Lemire can do weird-spooky (see, e.g., his Twilight Zonish graphic novel Underwater Welder) and he can do gripping (see his amazing, post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth), but in his newest graphic novel from Image Comics, Gideon Falls, he shows that he can do spooky-verging-on-terrifying, with a tale of supernatural mystery that combines avant-garde graphic treatments with outstanding writing to create a genuine tale of terror. Read the rest

Review: What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch is free this month from the Epic store. I downloaded it last night and couldn't stop playing until I was done. It's a detailed, polished walking simulator that clocks in at 3 hours, so tightly orchestrated it feels like a genuinely interactive movie.

It centers on Edith, a high schooler and the last surviving child of a family "cursed" by generations of tragedy. After her mother's death, she inherits the cosy yet unsettling manse she grew up in and sets out to uncover the family's secrets. She wants to know why so many Finches died young and why her mother didn't want the stories told.

It's obvious from the outset that something is deeply wrong with the family even as it is clearly a family full of love. The wrongness hovers at the margins of reason. It's reflected in the house, normal at the ground level but an alarming mass of ramshackle additions up top. Surely that would be dangerous, you ask yourself.

Some of the family death vignettes really got under my skin. They're all elaborated in the telling to the point of magic realism and beyond, but when you sit and think about what happened they unravel to mundane parenting failures, one after another after another. The elaborations thereby become part of the problem. But now I'm in danger of spoiling the game's secrets.

Edith Finch maintains a tension between modern gothic mystery and the suggestion of a damaged family that mythologizes its subtly self-destructive currents. Read the rest

Hannu Rajaniemi's Summerland: a midcentury spy thriller, with the afterlife

Hannu Rajaniemi is the Finnish-Scottish mathematician and science fiction writer whose debut, 2012's Quantum Thief was widely celebrated; now, in Summerland, Rajaniemi delivers new kind of supernatural historical spy procedural, set in a 1938 where the afterlife has been discovered, colonized and militarized. Read the rest

Why Do Birds: Damon Knight's amazing, underappreciated science fiction novel about putting all of humanity in a box

In 2002, a mysterious man is arrested for illegally occupying a hotel room: he says his name is Ed Stone, and that he was kidnapped by aliens from the same hotel room in 1931 and has just been returned to Earth, not having aged a day; the aliens have told him that Earth will be destroyed in 12 years and that before then, the entire human race has to put itself in a giant box (presumably for transport to somewhere else, though Ed is a little shaky on the details), and to help Ed with this task, the aliens have given him a ring that makes anyone who touches it fill with overwhelming good feelings for him and a desire to help him. Read the rest

These boots from GORUCK are crazy comfortable

I wish I could wear running shoes, but I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, I tore all of the ligaments in my right ankle. Six weeks of physiotherapy and now, close to 20 years later, I'm still walking around on wobbly scar tissue. My ankle loves to roll out from under me, for any excuse at all. So, for extra support while I'm out strutting around, I wear combat boots. They tend to last longer than comparably priced hiking books and, depending on the boot, can be gussied up for special occasions. The downside to wearing combat boots is that even the lightest among them can still be pretty heavy.

Enter GORUCK's MACV-1. They call it a "Jungle Rucking Boot," but it's not at all dissimilar to the lightweight duty boots from companies like Magnum or 511 Tactical that I used to wear to work. Available in black or coyote brown, they ride just above the ankle and, at 14 ounces each, are one of the lightest pairs of boots I've ever lashed to my footies. Despite their light weight, they seem, so far, to be well made. The majority of the boot is made using full grain leather, which comes out of the box already holding a shine. It didn't take me long to wear the shine down to nothing, but it's the thought that counts.

The rest of the MACV-1 is comprised of 1000D Cordura and, for extra ankle support, a strip of 2" nylon webbing that runs down the back and side of each boot. Read the rest

Calexit: a fractured California, where militias and the DHS battle the resistance in Trump's future America

The first time I encountered Matteo Pizzolo, Amancay Nahuelpan and Tyler Boss's comic Calexit, I was skeptical: California separating from the USA is an incredibly stupid idea, predicated on innumerable misconceptions (including the idea that the state that gave us Nixon, Reagan, and Schwarzenegger is uniformly progressive, and also the idea that "the world's sixth largest economy" wouldn't radically contract the instant it lost access to the rest of the country, including the Atlantic Ocean). But when I found the first Calexit collection on the recommended table at the 100% reliable LA comic shop Secret Headquarters, I decided to give it a chance. Read the rest

Paper Girls 5: fate and free will (and dinosaurs and monsters)

For two years now, Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang have been knocking my socks off with their Paper Girls graphic novel, a mysterious, all-girl, Stranger-Things-esque romp through 1980s pop culture, time travel, conspiracies, clones, paradoxes, and you know, all that amazing coming-of-age/friendship-is-magic jazz. Now, the pair have released the fifth collection, and it's a doozy. Read the rest

One More For the Road: The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats are back!

Back in 2007, Adam "Apelad" Koford created a marvellous, funny, weird alternate history for the then-viral phenomenon of LOLcats, running-gag memes of cats whose superimposed dialog had many odd grammatical quirks: the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats," a pair of comic-strip hobo cats straight out of the 1930s, who found obscure and clever ways to riff on our contemporary LOLcats. Read the rest

The Fifth Risk: Michael Lewis explains how the "deep state" is just nerds versus grifters

Michael Lewis is a national treasure, whose gift for explaining how finance grifters think and operate has spawned a whole genre, which he dominates with books like Liar's Poker (an insider view of the S&L crisis); The Big Short (a character-driven, crystal-clear explainer on the financial engineering that led to the 2008 crisis), and Flash Boys (the shitty math and bafflegab behind high-speed trading); and now, The Fifth Risk: an astounding and terrifying book about the experts who fill the ranks in the US government and the Trump-administration grifters who are destroying the work they do to keep us from dying of tornadoes, nuclear accident, food poisoning and a million other dangers, large and small. Read the rest

The winners in a massive roundup of the 100 Best Pens are surprisingly affordable

The writers of New York Magazine's Strategist tested "dozens upon dozens of gels, rollerballs, felt-tips, ballpoints, and fountain pens" and published a ranked list of the top 100 pens in existence. Read the rest

"Privacy Not Included": Mozilla's guide to insecure, surveillant gadgets to avoid

"Privacy Not Included" is Mozilla's Christmas shopping (anti)-guide to toys and gadgets that spy on you and/or make stupid security blunders, rated by relative "creepiness," from the Nintendo Switch (a little creepy) to the Fredi Baby monitor (very creepy!). Read the rest

Winners Take All: Modern philanthropy means that giving some away is more important than how you got it

Anand Giridharadas was a former McKinsey consultant turned "thought leader," invited to the stages of the best "ideas festivals" and to TED (twice), the author of some very good and successful books, and as a kind of capstone to this career, he was named a fellow to the Aspen Institute, an elite corps of entrepreneurs who are given institutional support and advice as they formulate "win-win" solutions to the world's greatest problems, harnessing the power of markets to lift people out of poverty and oppression. Read the rest

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