Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

Pump Six and Other StoriesPaolo Bacigalupi; Night Shade Books 2008WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Pump Six and Other Stories is a short story collection. The stories have collectively won about a billion awards. Most of the stories take the crap parts of today, and magnify and extrapolate them. I thought every story in the collection was well done, but more than one of them bummed me out.

“Yellow Card Man” is a story from the “Windup Girl” universe.

The story from the title, “Pump Six” is in a similar vein to “The Locusts” by Niven and Barnes, which was previously the most haunting short piece I had ever read.

4/5

Toast by Charles Stross

Toast Toast: And Other Rusted FuturesCharles Stross; Cosmos Books (NJ) 2002WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Toast is a collection of older short stories by Charles Stross. When it got really hard to find, he released Toast for free as a Creative Commons thing.

I was pointed to Toast by Ron Hale-Evans, who mentioned that he preferred older Stross to his newer stuff. I see where he’s coming from, but I’m not necessarily sure if the axis is older/newer or shorter/longer. The older and shorter works are definitely harder to digest. When they unwrap in your brain few days after you’ve finished, it’s quite a delight. On the other hand, I think his newer work sells better. I was going to try to pick a favorite story, but that’s pretty hard. Big Brother Iron is set in the 1984 universe, and the main character is a sysadmins.

4/5.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

The gone-away world The gone-away worldNick Harkaway; Alfred A. Knopf 2008WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway starts in the middle of the action–you’ve got a world that isn’t like ours, but it isn’t entirely clear on how it isn’t, and there’s a Very Important Pipeline that’s on fire. The narrator is part of an independent disaster recovery team, and they’re going to go put it out with huge bombs. End of chapter one.

The next 50% of the book are a linear retelling of the narrator’s life, until we catch back up with the first chapter. Heavy on the description, meandering diversions, and humor, it made me actually laugh out loud.

The bulk of the work is a coming-of-age story wrapped up in an action story, with major speculative fiction elements. I absolutely loved it. Without spoiling anything, there’s a few interesting insights on megacorporations and the people inside of them.

6/5 stars.

Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe Across the UniverseBeth Revis; Razorbill 2011WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Across the Universe is an excellent young adult science fiction novel.

Across the Universe takes place on the first generation ship launched from Earth in our relatively near future. It’s told from two different points of view, alternating by chapter.

While not as action-packed as The Hunger Games, which I see Across the Universe being compared to in other reviews, it deals with the same themes of authority, rebellion, and relationships. Similarly, it doesn’t presume knowledge of science fiction tropes and culture.

While I haven’t confirmed it by asking someone younger than myself, I believe the beginning five pages are a good hook–in fact, I believe they grab you better than a lot of the recent YA sf does.

In summary:
Is engaging within 5 pages: check!
Doesn’t require the reader to be an experienced SF reader: check!
Deals with authority, rebellion, relationships: check!

Across the Universe will be released January 11th, 2011.

Update:

Across the Universe is the first time I’ve even glimpsed inside the machinations of a modern teen book launch.

There’s a short launch day author video:

which is is different than the book trailer:

and of course, there’s an Across the Universe Facebook fan page.

The book website has interactive diagrams of the ship, done up pretty nicely. Normally I hate flashy interfaces, but it was kinda cute how you could zoom up and get cutaways of the different sections of the ship.

One of the things I do when I read a book I enjoy is look for the author on Twitter. Sometimes they’re fun to follow. Beth Revis, the author of Across the Universe, has a static website, a blog, and a Twitter page, @bethrevis.

Something that’s kinda awesome is that io9 will be posting a 111 pg excerpt from 11:11 AM Eastern to 11:11 PM Eastern on 01.11.11. That’s a substantial portion of the book! The first chapter seems to be on Beth’s site in a more permanent capacity.

All of this is put on by Penguin Teen, which has its own Twitter and Facebook pages.

Anyway, now that it’s released, Across the Universe is available at Amazon, your local indie bookstore, and hopefully your local library!

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians The Magicians: A NovelLev Grossman; Plume 2010WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

What a spectacular book! It’s not a children’s book, by any means, but it plays off both Harry Potter and Narnia. It feels quite a bit more literary than most books I read, and multiple times while reading I stopped to think, “That feels really True.” Grossman did a really good job with his characters. He really captures the teenage experience.

There’s a sequel coming out in 2011.