C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: science fiction

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

I’ve read a lot of great books lately and have done little to tell you about them. I’m going to start with the last book I finished and work my way backwards. By the time I get to Neil Gaiman’s, The Graveyard Book, I’ll probably sum it up with one line, two words: It’s good.

Empire of Silence might as well take place in the Warhammer 40K universe, if 40K had a sex drive, and passion beyond the whole ‘grim darkness of war’ bullshit.


Empire of Silence has a libido. It’s grown a pair, yet remains grim and dark and veering on the brink of war. There’s depth to the characters, a heretic-seeking clergy, noble houses of every shape and color, palace intrigue, gladiatorial events, xenocide.

It’s science fiction that often feels like high fantasy.

Marlowe is an arrogant sheltered protagonist that ultimately finds humility from his experiences outside of palace life. Don’t get me wrong, he still maintains his prickish mannerisms, but he’s seen some shit—he becomes: dynamic.

It’s the first book in the series. The next book, according to the all-knowing Amazon isn’t due out until July, so you have some time. It’s a long read, but Samuel Roukin’s performance in the audio version is amazing, bitter, and yet—soothing, like a dry bottle of wine, or a kick in the teeth.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders is the story of a Greek-Irish family. The only difference between my own family and the one in the story is that my family does no possess any sort of telekinetic or psychic powers.

...that I know of.

The eldest daughter knows if a person is lying or telling the truth.

The eldest son can move objects with him mind.

The baby of the family is the worlds greatest psychic.

The grandson can astral project.

And the grandfather is a master of cards, slight of hand, and all things Penn and Teller.

Those were probably spoilers. It probably doesn't matter though. Where the story goes from there is quite unique. This is one of those, it could happen in real life but there are sci-fi elements at play sort of stories. It's sorta what Stephen Kings does with horror, only the stakes are much lower.

It takes place in 1995.

It was a good book to get into after a break from reading, and The Library at Mount Char

I'm re-reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch for the book club I'm hosting. It's a long book but there's still time to read it and join in the discussion. This Thursday. At 7PM. Southborough Library.

Then I'll be starting The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. That should keep me busy for a while. 45 Hours and 32 Minutes in fact. 

Sea of Rust by Robert Cargill

The premise for Sea of Rust is the backstory/explanation that Morpheus gives Neo when he first asks about the Matrix. The long and short being: We went to war with AI of our own creation, they were faster, better, smarter than us, and royally kicks our sorry fleshy asses into near-extinction. Where Sea of Rust differs from The Matrix is that Sea of Rust goes all the way--the machines not only win the war, but they literally kill every single man, woman and child on the earth, leaving robot-kind in charge of the planet.

Let that sink in for a minute. Only we arrogant humans would assume that we'd be needed to power the machines--living a simulated life in a virtual world, hooked up as a giant battery. 

Sea of Rust is probably a great deal closer to a real life AI vs Humans scenario then anything currently out there in both books and movies.

And there are no punches being pulled here. There are moments in this book that were very hard to take. Movies will show scenes of able-bodied men being killed by antagonist or protagonist, and the audience will watch and accept this without disgust or resentment. We've grown so used to the James Bond henchman, that these faceless masses might as well be machines.

But have a robot kill a child, or a baby?

Sea of Rust pulls no punches.

In the midst of these rather squeamish scenes--necessary scenes in order to tell an effective story--I greatly enjoyed this book. The main character was truly a product created by man. Her calculating and cold outlook on life was the soul of a machine, and yet she experienced something of a moral conflict within herself as humans often do.

This is a story about AI where the robots do not feel boxy and soulless. This is AI with heart.



Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In by John Scalzi is a story of a large segment of the world's population succumbing to a paralysis invoking flu, leaving their minds completely intact. Technology moves in and gives these people robotic bodies in order for them to continue contributing to society. In the midst of all this a great detective story unfolds involving two FBI agents, one of them, a flu suffer--equipped in their robot body--the other, flesh and blood. The story is told in the first-person from the POV of the robotic-human FBI agent.

Lock In blurs the lines of gender. I would normally roll my eyes at this as a form of pandering to what it currently a hot-button issue in society. But the subtly in which Scalzi does this is very good. The reader is never given any hints if the protagonist is male or female. The plot doesn't hinge on their sexuality and it's never brought up. The fact that this character is piloting what I imagine to be a very androgynous--albeit humanoid vehicle--sets the stage for a neutral being for both male and female characters to interact with. Does it border on the fringes of a Progressive Utopian fantasy? Maybe. But it isn't preachy or heavy-handed. 

The audio book was recorded by both a male and female readers, adding an interactive element to your reading experience. In my opinion, it's a no-brainer as to which version is the superior read. Amber Bensen is the female reader and she does a sensational job.

I did not, nor will I ever, read the male version of Lock In, as Wil Wheaton is the reader, and he has lost all credibility as a reader of so much as the Dictionary after what he did to Masters of Doom. Unforgivable, bordering on shameful.

Lock In reminded me of the novels by J.D. Robb...just without the sex. One might argue that this would be a setback. I guess it all depends on what your cup o' tea happens to be. The world of Lock In is much more believable then Robb's fantastical sci-fi universe. Scalzi's human piloted androids are not super-human, and there is no robot/human uprising. The story stays within the boundaries of a detective-style who-done-it, in the not so distant sci-fi future. 


The Passage Trilogy

If you're looking for a different kind of horror story, then I recommend, The Passage, by Justin Cronin. It's a novel about vampires, but it's unlike anything pertaining to vampires that you've ever read before. This isn't Bram Stoker and this certainly isn't Ann Rice. And though there is a supernatural element to the story, it surprisingly doesn't have anything to do with the traditional vampire mythos.

The Passage uses science fiction as a sub-genre quite well One example was how the vampires, or 'virals' are brought into this world--through a secret military project conducted on American soil. It's very much like the start of a good Resident Evil game, complete with things going horribly, horribly wrong.

But there's more to The Passage than vampires. Cronin is at his best with the development of both his characters and the world he's created for them. This is a world that pokes at the edges of our own--albeit, a world that has seen better days. Hurricane Katrina has happened in Cronin's world, and it was quickly followed-up by a second hurricane that left the Louisiana coast all but uninhabitable. The children of our current politicians are now running the show, and doing just about as well as their predecessors. These details give the reader a sense of inclusion, which make the unfolding events much more horrifying.

Characters are expendable, but not in the way George RR Martin would carelessly kill-off someone. There's an actual sense of life to Cronin's characters. It's almost as if the story were a simulation of life happening during this horrible event, yet there is still room for heroes to emerge.

The Passage by itself is an epic book. There's a lot in here and it's well worth reading. It's also the first in a trilogy. The Twelve and The City of Mirrors continue the journey where The Passage left us. I really enjoyed getting lost in this world--though at times it proved to be quite sad, and often frustrating. By the end I was left with a peaceful sense of closure.

I added The Passage to the Reading List section of this website, though I could very easily put the entire trilogy in there. I'm just too lazy to spend that much time web designing.

Speaking of the Reading List, go check it out. It's like a blog post, only much much shorter. These are all books I've read and have covered in the blog. But unlike the blog, these are books that stand out as true favorites of mine. I've included the synopsis from Amazon and my own thoughts on the book. If you're interested in buying the book, simply click on the book cover and you'll be magically whisked away to Amazon--or the amazon...I can't remember which. Doing so will also help support this very website.