fighting the lack of good ideas

germline by t c mcarthy

As promised when I finished Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, I did read Germline by T C McCarthy.

I wasn’t able to get into the second book of the trilogy (Exogene), and haven’t attempted the last (Chimera) – but Germline was amazing.

A quick disclaimer first – this book is most certainly NOT for the faint of stomach, or those who cannot ignore vulgarity.

Taking place in a not-too-distant future, T C McCarthy takes us into the on-again-off-again underground hot war being fought somewhere in Kazakhstan. We find our main character, Oscar, a journalist for Stars and Stripes, spinning out of control in a drug-induced stupor but getting that “one last chance” to earn his place as a journalist. Oscar hasn’t paid his dues, but has managed to make friends among the “important” players on the US side of the war.

This book reminded me of a novel I read years ago that took place in the Vietnam War, written by a vet of that arena – it’s visceral, gritty, and the words seem to fly off the page into your eyes, converting your mind into the exact place and time Oscar is in when he’s in it. You are there with Oscar as he suits up, plugs-in, shoots-up, crawls through the subterrene with the Marines unit he’s assigned to.

This is perhaps the single best future scifi I’ve ever read that doesn’t require an entirely alternate universe to exist.

blackout by mira grant

I finished the Newsflesh trilogy this week, which culminated in Mira Grant’s book Blackout.

The basic storyline and character development continued apace, and the story does end admirably.

If you’ve read the first two, you should finish the trilogy. This one adds human cloning as a core plot point, and does it well.

However, I have a couple things to complain about:

  • Grant upped the vulgarity in the last book over the second which was more than the first; most of the vulgarity seems like it was put in just because she could
  • The relationship between the two primary characters gets, well, uncomfortable; debatable as to the morality of it, but suffice to say it could have been done without

People you want offed don’t get it, people you want saved aren’t, and overall the character list changes in ways that would allow further writing in the Newsfleshiverse, but I doubt Grant will do any more therein. She didn’t approach the stories the way Tom Clancy did with his Ryanverse. It’s nice that you won’t feel compelled to read more of her writing if you really enjoyed these characters, but it’s sad, too, that she chose to only do a trilogy (though there is an eBook-only prequel previewed at the end of Blackout).

Trilogies seem the be de rigueur in writing these days (The Hunger Games, Newsflesh, and many more come to mind). Personally, I’d prefer that an author write as much as they have to write that is a good story – if it’s one book, awesome (authors like Alistair MacLean and Michael Crichton come to mind); but if it’s multiple, then keep going as long as you have good stories to tell.

Now that this series is over, looks like I need a new one.

Next on my reading list is Germline.

what if human cloning …

… instead of making a unique individual spawned from a synapse record instead created the reverse of a horcrux? For those who haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies or read J K Rowling’s books, a horcrux is an object (potentially “alive”) into which a wizard can split his/her soul to make themselves harder to kill. They also provide an intermittent link (apparently in an on-demand, individual basis) between themselves and the horcruxer.

In The 6th Day, syncords are used to transfer a person’s identity, memories, etc into a human blank.

In the Newsflesh trilogy, we’re not told how cloning is done, but just that there is a way of recording the state of someone’s brain and implanting it into a new body.

In Jet Li’s The One, we are presented with a multiverse in which everyone exists in alternate versions of themselves – but when one of the multiverses loses an instance of a person, their physical energy/strength/etc is transferred to their remaining “selves” until eventually all instances die, at which point there is no place for the energy to transfer, and it is eliminated (I think – it wasn’t really explained in the film).

Discounting the possibility of a multiverse, what if every time a clone was created, while the current state of mind was implanted to give a common history, going forward all simultaneously-extant instances of the individual would not branch their histories, but instead would create a hive mind, each gaining the experience of the others via “inverse horcruxification”? Ie, instead of splitting the soul, it would diversify the mind, and create extra ‘containers’ in which the person can experience the world.

Multiplicity kinda went down the line of thought, but while all the clones worked together, they weren’t creating a shared memory/history of their “lives”.

I think it could be pretty cool to explore this concept in a good book/movie (or even series).

deadline by mira grant

I read Feed (review) a few weeks ago, and just finished the 2d installment in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Deadline. The frenetic pace of book 1 was upped a level in book 2 (along with some more language).

Mira is a fantastic author, and I cannot wait to read Blackout (it’s on my library queue).

“You know why corporate espionage keeps happening, no matter how bad they make the penalties for getting caught? … People stop caring. Once you reach the point where you’re working with more people than can comfortably go for drinks together, folks stop giving as much of a shit.”

“There’s always been something nasty waiting around the corner to kill us, but … [t]his constant ‘stay inside and let yourself be protected’ mentality has gotten more people killed than all the accidental exposures in the world. It’s like we’re addicted to being afraid.”

“It never pays to insult computers that are smart enough to form sentences. Not when they’re in control of the locks, and especially not when they have the capacity to boil you in bleach”

feed by mira grant

After some time of not reading fiction, I saw Mira Grant’s Feed recently in a store, checked my local library, and reserved a copy.

Now I need to read Deadline and Blackout. Grant’s writing, while typically female in style (first person dialog – both inner and outer, and the main character is a girl), does not confine its audience to needing to be female to fully enjoy it. I’ve read (or tried to read) many female-authored stories that are intensely difficult for me to really get into because it’s largely internal dialog in the female protagonist’s mind. I’m not a girl, and what ramblings are conveyed don’t jive with my brain 🙂

Exceptions to the rule have only come from Stephanie Meyer (The Host), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games trilogy), and one other that I purchased in Britain several years ago but whose name escapes me.

Back to Feed. Our heroes are an adopted brother and sister, Georgia and Shaun, and their tech friend Buffy. They’re all bloggers with licenses to travel into contaminated areas (ie, where zombies are freely roaming), but all blog differently – Georgia is a Newsie, Shaun is an Irwin, and Buffy a Fictional – so they report the news in an objective fashion as possible; educate by “poking things with a stick”; and write poems, stories, etc based on their type of blogging.

After a short introduction to our main crew, the backdrop of being selected to blog Senator Ryman’s presidential campaign in the substantially-post-zombified world of 2040 (the Rising happened in 2014) is the main setting.

Interestingly, Grant uses references to other pop culture zombie portrayals (including ample nods to George A Romero who more-or-less created the ‘ideal’ zombie world we all love today with his groundbreaking work in Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, and Diary of the Dead, and which is also typified in AMC’s TV production of The Walking Dead (also a graphic novel series)). This is unlike perhaps any other horror/scifi writer I have ever seen before: she uses those stories to exemplify both “what we got right”, and “what we got wrong” in her universe.

If you’re queasy at the thought of flesh-eating zombies roaming the world, don’t read Feed. (Also don’t read World War Z – another of my favorites). If, however, you love a good whodunit, and are intrigued by the backdrop of a man-made-but-survivable apocalypse, go read Feed.

I’ll tell you how the rest of the trilogy is after I’ve finished them.