Release Announcement: Cards

Cards

An Eternities Novella

Released February 13, 2015

A boy with strange luck, a man with rare knowledge …

The card-dens of the Redzone are desperate places. Men with no money to spare gamble their money in endless games, in squalid rooms thick with smoke and alcohol and lawless recklessness. Cards tempt and betray their players, leaving them with nothing.

Except for Tav. Only Tav never loses, because the cards obey him. But the secret of his strange luck cannot be hidden forever. He plays for diamonds. What will he draw when the truth is revealed?



An Excerpt of
Cards

From the moment Tav walked in, the cards were his. They answered to him, answered the reach of his mind. He sat at the battered little table, not looking at the men hunched over their cards and winnings around him, and he stretched his thoughts toward the deck and willed.

And they came to him. The dealer scattered the cards with precise rapidity, and when he picked his own up from the table, they presented themselves to him: a flush, a straight, four of a kind, king’s draw, pirate’s hand …

Some he threw back, some he folded at first bet, the rest he played to win. And surely, but by no means abruptly, he tripled the money in front of him.

The smoke grew thick in the air, the table splotched and sticky with spilled alcohol, the other players restless—only he ever had a good game, with all the cards struggling toward him. The man to his right shifted most, and began to mutter. When Tav took the pot with a straight flush, the man slapped his cards down so violently the table quivered.

Tav took warning. He always took warning from the bad temper of his fellow players, ever since he’d had to crawl away from a brawl that erupted from too much alcohol and too many losing hands. As the dealer shuffled the deck, Tav aimed a look at the dinged metal door. It invited him, but he would lose this last hand before he left. Losers were rarely followed out into the street.

The dealer flicked the cards to each player. Tav waited until all were dealt, and then scooped up his cards. Two aces and three tens marshaled themselves in his hand, neatly divided into their own kinds.

With a sweep of mutters, the first round of betting emptily passed. Tav, in his turn, flashed the dealer one of his aces, and tossed down the other four cards. The dealer tucked the rejects under the deck, slid four new cards off its top, and moved on.

Tav drew the cards up: an eight, the deck’s last two aces, and a wild jack, joining his held-over ace to create a beautiful four of a kind.

He blinked. The cards often tried to repair the hands he deliberately ruined—somehow he could not withdraw the command as easily as he gave it—but this time they had outdone themselves.

“Five hundred.”

Tav looked up, almost startled, at the slump-shouldered man opposite him. All game he had played with the nervous caginess of a beginner, and this strong bet was unlike him. But for Tav, at least, it worked. Under cover of that bet, he folded.

The man on his left did the same, and the man two down on the right matched the bet. The last player, the man whose darkening mood had inspired Tav’s decision to depart, stared at his cards, rubbing at them with his thumb and forefinger. Then he threw in his creds, and they clattered on the table with a warning ring.

The slump-shouldered man laid down his hand, three kings. The player down the table cursed, but he was dwarfed into tameness when the man right by Tav hurled his cards across the table and surged to his feet. “Skifters!”

The dealer—his eyes, as always, expressionless to the point of bleakness—began to pick up the strewn cards without looking at the angry man looming over him. “I run a fair game, Fallon,” he said.

Fallon narrowed his eyes. “I never lose like this.”

That Tav believed to be true. He slid his chair back a foot or two, and it scraped the scarred floor loudly. But no one looked at him, because the others were also preparing to spring up from the table. The cagey beginner hastily shoveled up his winnings, as if afraid someone was going to take them away.

The dealer glanced at them, and then up at Fallon. “Every player has his unlucky nights. This is one of yours. So go home.”

As if the directive had been aimed at him, Tav began to quietly stuff his money into his pockets.

A hand closed over his wrist like a pincer, and then he was being dragged up from his chair.

To finish this story, buy Cards on Amazon – 99 cents through Valentine’s Day.

To shelve Cards on Goodreads, visit its page.

To request a review copy, e-mail me at info[at]shannonmcdermott.com.

Review: Jupiter Winds

Grey Alexander has precisely two worries: providing for herself and her sister, and not getting caught. They live in lawless independence in the North American Wildlife Preserve, and there’s no telling where or when Mazdaar may catch up with them.

Jupiter Winds is written by C.J. Darlington and published by Mountainview Books. The novel is sci-fi, with a dystopian tinge, taking place in a future of amazing technology and totalitarian government. As is made plain by the title, the story goes beyond Earth to include Jupiter.

The novel’s descriptions of Jupiter have a suitably foreign feel, and the author is effective in creating impressions of places and people. The prose is quick and focused, moving the story along at a good pace.

There are a lot of ideas here, all weaving together: space travel, different planets, human manipulation of various environments, androids, Big Brother. Androids – here called drones – are effectively creepy, and become more so as the book goes on and new revelations are made.

Interestingly, there is no democratic force opposing the totalitarian Mazdaar. Heroes there are, and even some organized opposition, but no one shows any notions of democracy. The only power that counters Mazdaar is an Asian empire called by the name of its rulers, the Yien Dynasty. It is to the author’s credit that she gives a noble cast to the Yien Dynasty, acknowledging the good possible even in such governments.

There was some inconsistency in this book. One character kept oscillating; she took radically different actions at different points in the book, and I didn’t really understand why. As a character, she was hard to get a grip on.

Jupiter Winds is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure, a quick but broad-ranging read. Recommended for those who like adventure and sci-fi.


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Weird R Us

“I’ve been coming to Montserrat for a few years now. On one early visit I actually arrived and realized I had returned before the last time I was here! From Brother Lazarus’ point of view, we had not yet had the previous visit.” She gave a little laugh. “That was a real mind bender. In the end, I had to go away again because it was all just too weird.” – The Spirit Well, pg. 322

Last week I posted that I was thinking about why Christian speculative fiction is called weird. I also wrote that the question could be somewhat answered by The Spirit Well, and then I said I would hold that thought for the blog tour.

So here goes.

The “weird” label is not wholly imposed on Christian speculative fiction. Some in our crowd would dispute it, but some embrace it. If they embrace it as the American colonists embraced the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, that’s more than I can say.

If you were to browse through a Christian fiction section, the scattered sci-fi / fantasy novels might seem strange amidst all the historical fiction, prairie romance, and mystery novels. If you were a Christian SF fan, you might feel a little strange.

But I think there are reasons that go beyond the Christian market and Christian fiction. The “weird” label is broadly given to speculative fiction; the secular version receives it, too. I grant you, popular acclaim was awarded to fantasy such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and to sci-fi such as Star Wars and Star Trek. Yet …

How often, in popular culture, does the loner or the weirdo have an interest in speculative works? It’s standard for the geek to be a sci-fi fan – even of a mainstream success like Star Wars. If someone says that you’re at the Star Trek convention of life, it’s no compliment.

To give a full explanation of this is beyond my intent. The endless conspiracy theories surrounding Roswell, Area 51, and the Bermuda Triangle probably have something to do with it.

And that leads us to another reason. These strange ideas are the sort of thing you would find in speculative fiction. They’re the sort of thing you do find in speculative fiction. To this day sci-fi writers enthusiastically take up all of those conspiracy theories. When the beliefs of the tinfoil-hat crowd are fodder for your genre, maybe it is a little weird.

The Twilight Zone was weird. The premise of Metamorphosis – a guy gets transmuted into a giant cockroach – is definitely weird. Selling away your shadow or tears or laugh or voice is also on the odd side of things.

Even The Spirit Well – which isn’t weird as the genre goes – is chock-full of experiences any human would consider bizarre. If you or I ever clomped through the Stone Ages, or walked into a canyon in Arizona and found ourselves in Damascus seventy years ago, we would write home about it – unless we were worried about being brought in for examination.

What I’m getting at is this: One of the reasons speculative fiction – Christian and otherwise – is called weird is that it is weird. Not in a pejorative sense, but simply in the sense of being out of the ordinary. Whether we dream of enchanted woods or strange planets, whether it’s Elves or time-travelers or talking animals that we meet in our stories – it’s all different, all outside the bounds of the world we know. And that’s the point, isn’t it?


Review: Truckers

It’s hard to live in somebody else’s world. Just ask Masklin. Forced to fend for a tattered remnant of nomes, nothing came easy. The whole world was too big, and the nomes were prey for everything – including rats. Sometimes Masklin got the better of a rat, and then they had meat for dinner. Other times he scavenged for nuts, or berries, or gray strips of chicken in the diner’s trash. But there was never enough.

So Masklin led the band onto a truck, and it brought them to the Store. There they met other nomes, and saw, for a time, that it can be very nice to live in somebody else’s world.

Then it all went back to form.

In Truckers, Terry Pratchett shows a unique style. It reminds me of Dr. Seuss in that it has at times a childlike simplicity, yet it is clever and appealing. Here is a bit from the first chapter: “The sky rained dismal. It rained humdrum. It rained the kind of rain that is so much wetter than normal rain, the kind of rain that comes down in big drops and splats, the kind of rain that fills the air from side to side, the kind of rain that is merely an upright sea with slots in it.”

There is a lot of humor in the book, often of the type that the characters are unconscious of. The characters themselves sometimes have a comic bent, and one of the nomes’ most striking features, as a race, is their ability to misunderstand almost anything.

Yet for that, the characters are whole people, believable and sympathetic. The finest one is Masklin; he’s a hero, but in such a quiet, humdrum way no one ever notices. Certainly he doesn’t.

The concept of nomes is fantasy, but Pratchett blended it with sci-fi – a union that, when done well, is always interesting, and Pratchett did it well. His nomes are skillfully created, in all their mixed glory, and Pratchett succeeds excellently in engaging his readers in their world.

Truckers never stopped interesting me. The action was light, but the pace didn’t feel slow. The one problem I had with the novel was the anti-religion skew in one of its elements. In this part of the story, certain nomes have a false religion, centering around Arnold Bros. (est. 1905). The idea was clever, and the execution sometimes funny. Nor can I object to the portrayal of a false religion; there have certainly been many. Yet I felt at times that Terry Pratchett was jabbing at all religion.

But it did not ultimately deter me from the book. Truckers is a wonderful novel – written with style, filled with humor, mixing fantasy and sci-fi in a bright adventure.

Mankind a Bridge

Writing broadens your horizons. Recently it broadened mine to nanotechnology.

I already had a vague idea of what nanos are – gleaned mostly, I admit, from science fiction. Those sci-fi writers have crazy ideas, some of which are borrowed from scientists.

A good number of scientists are hoping to create artificial photosynthesis. “Yes,” you may say, “but what for, artificial plants?” The idea is to build artificial life forms, much like simple bacteria, that will use artificial photosynthesis to produce fuel for human use. Yes, there are people being paid to try and do that.

By far the strangest aspiration for nanotech is to enhance humanity out of existence. If some people can dream of nano-medicine that will restore the whole body, other people can dream of nantechnology that will enhance it. And when nanotechnology meets cyber technology – when science manages to integrate machines with the human body – the limits of biology are broken.

Some might worry that too much nano-altering and cyber-enhancing may eventually destroy humanity. For others – transhumanists, they call themselves – that is their plan. “Humanity,” Max More wrote, “is a temporary stage along the evolutionary pathway.” And the Transhumanist FAQ explains: ” ‘Posthuman’ is a term used by transhumanists to refer to what humans could become if we succeed in using technology to remove the limitations of the human condition.”

“Transhuman” is a new term, but something in the idea sounds very old. I think it once went under the name “Superman”.

Before he was a movie, before he was a TV show, even before he was a comic book, Superman was a nihilistic dream. The dreamer was Nietzsche, and this is how he told it:

I teach you the Superman. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?

What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

Lo, I teach you the Superman!

The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall he the meaning of the earth!

I conjure you, my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.

Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth! …

What is the greatest thing ye can experience? It is the hour of great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becometh loathsome unto you, and so also your reason and virtue.

The hour when ye say: “What good is my happiness! It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence itself!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my reason! Doth it long for knowledge as the lion for his food? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my virtue! As yet it hath not made me passionate. How weary I am of my good and my bad! It is all poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my justice! I do not see that I am fervour and fuel. The just, however, are fervour and fuel!”

The hour when we say: “What good is my pity! Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loveth man? But my pity is not a crucifixion.”

Have ye ever spoken thus? Have ye ever cried thus? Ah! would that I had heard you crying thus!

It is not your sin- it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven! …

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman- a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.

What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.

A transhuman might be kinder than Nietzsche’s “Overman”, part of whose strength was that he did not pity the weak. George Bernard Shaw’s Superman was. But whether kind or cruel, whether created by nanotechnology or the Life Force or evolutionary progress, they all dream of the Superman. They all dream of going beyond humanity.

And it’s a dark dream, where God is dead and mankind is only a bridge, and the earth is weary of superearthly hopes.

Strictly Speaking

[Mild spoilers]

“The room we’re interested in is somewhere back there. At least, it was the last time I was here.”

“Correct me if I am wrong,” suggested Thomas, his steel-rimmed glasses glinting in the faint light as he turned to address Kit directly, “but strictly speaking, you have never been in this tomb.” – The Bone House, pg. 210

As theories of the multiverse gain traction with scientists, the inevitable inquiry begins: Is Christianity compatible with the multiverse? It reminds me of the old question of whether Christianity could handle the existence of aliens. In either case, the answer is the same: There is nothing in Christianity that particularly supports the idea, and nothing that particularly opposes it, and at any rate it’s only an idea.

Still, the fun of speculative fiction is speculating. For Christians, there’s the added fascination of fitting new, strange realities with ancient, eternal truths. The question, properly phrased, is not, How does Christianity work with the multiverse? It is, How does the multiverse work with Christianity? In answering you can find an interesting angle on both.

In The Bone House, Stephen Lawhead revelaed Arthur Flinders-Petrie’s quest to find Christ in the multiverse. Lawhead imagines countless versions of our world and our history. By a necessity people are duplicated along with it. That much orthodox Christianity allows. What it does not allow is the duplication of the Man who split history in two, or of the death and resurrection of God.

For a Christian writer like Stephen Lawhead, and for Christian readers like us, it’s an interesting tension. An interesting resolution is possible. We could, for example, imagine that the Incarnation is the focal point of the multiverse, at which all worlds converge and are one.

This is, I think, the only really urgent question when Christianity meets the multiverse. But I think another, lesser question is raised by the notion of duplicate selves. This is a well-established reality of the Bright Empires Series. When I read The Bone House I kept thinking that Kit could very well run into another Cosimo. After all, who knows how many Cosimos there are, and how many of them ended up wandering the universe? Heck with it – there could be multiple Kits exploring the ley-lines. Kit could run into himself.

You know who really ought to run into himself? Arthur Flinders-Petrie. There has to be more than one of him; there’s more than one of everybody else. It’s wholly possible that there is another Arthur Flinders-Petrie exploring the multiverse. If so, there’s another Skin Map out there, which is good news for our heroes.

What’s bad news for our heroes is that there may also be multiple Lord Burleighs prowling the multiverse. Of course, that would probably be bad news for the Lord Burleighs themselves. They might get in each other’s way. Can you imagine Lord Burleigh giving himself his “We can be friends or we can be enemies” speech? But I suppose Burleigh could have ended up good in some realities. There are more possibilities here than we could ever contemplate without ibuprofen.

Though this is fun – I’m trying to recover from my tangent here – it does have philosphical implications. You have people with the same genetic make-up often leading very much the same lives. But are they really the same people?

The essential dilemma is the one created by clones. Recall C. S. Lewis’ words: “You don’t have a soul; you are a soul. You have a body.” Human beings – or nature – could duplicate DNA and, with it, the bodies. But God would have to duplicate the souls. Do you suppose – or would you, for the sake of a story – that He ever does?

CSFF Blog Tour: The Bone House

The universe is big. What’s more, it’s awfully crowded.

It may be hard to tell, but they’re there, just a ley-leap away – countless worlds, people beyond number. Very few people know this; very few have traveled the ley lines to other dimensions. And those few people are constantly running into each other, often in extremely unfortunate ways.

In The Bone House, second book of the Bright Empires Series, Stephen Lawhead continues his grand exploration of the mutliverse. Most prominent of the explorers, but by no means the most adept, is Kit Livingstone. He is driven and pulled into adventure by forces greater than himself – the mysterious workings of ley lines, Lord Burleigh, Wilhelmina Klug.

I read the first book, The Skin Map, and thought it was science fiction, even if unconventional science fiction. It’s strange, then, that The Bone House struck me much more as fantasy. I think it was partially the turn toward Mediavel times, with a priest who talked about the tongues of angels; I think it was mainly that the story, for the first time, fully left our world. Earlier it took us to a different London, a different Prague, a different Egypt – but still London and Prague and Egypt, so that this science-fantasy series has a distinct flavor of historical fiction. But The Bone House goes beyond history.

In one area, however, it is thoroughly, classically sci-fi: going crazy with time. Hence we can simultaneously follow the Man Who is the Map and everyone searching for the Map That was the Man, back when he was alive. Lawhead, dealing with multiple dimensions, plays rather loosely with time. Even some of the characters’ storylines are out of order.

The chaotic mixing of dimensions, chronologies, and characters may bother some readers. I enjoyed it. It was intriguing, it kept me on my toes, and it conveyed the bewildering profusion of the multiverse.

But in the jumble of stories and realities, Lawhead asserts purpose and order. Everything, we are told, happens for a reason; all is as it should be – even for those who travel the multiverse. The Bone House was unexpectedly religious, a quiet but steady stream flowing through the book. Yet there was one incident I must raise that, though religious, was not at all Christian. At one point a hero of the book goes to a pagan temple; its priest perform divination for him  – and it is absolutely accurate. I leave this for your consideration.

The Bone House is not a story with much speed, but it has a lot of depth. It lingers in distant times and strange places, portraying each one vividly and sometimes beautifully. The characters are also diverse, also well-rendered. They are complete and convincing, even when, like Dorian Wimpole’s scorpion, they are not wholly lovable.

Then there is the series’ great adventure – the exploration of the universe. Walking the ley-lines begins to feel, in this second novel, to be only part of it. The philosophical discursions, the breathtaking climax, the talk of lives bound together and threads woven by a master of the loom – all seem to be driving to what is both at the heart of the universe and beyond it. The Bone House is a work of spreading imagination, of breadth and intrigue – a masterpiece of speculative fiction.


Now for the links:

the author’s website, and

The Bone House on Amazon;

best of all, the links for the blog tour:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell

Thomas Clayton Booher

Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse

CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton

D. G. D. Davidson

Theresa Dunlap

April Erwin
Victor Gentile

Tori Greene
Ryan Heart

Bruce Hennigan

Timothy Hicks

Christopher Hopper

Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner

Julie

Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder

Kathleen Smith

Rachel Star Thomson

Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard

Steve Trower
Fred Warren

Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

Rachel Wyant

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Emancipating Minors, YA Style

During the recent blog tour of Monster in the Hollows, Becky Miller explored what she believed to be the book’s primary weakness: the fact that Janner, the main character, was “passive or reactive” throughout most of the story. “I believe,” she wrote, “in this climate of literature the young adult in the young adult novel needs to be the agent making things happen.”

As a rule, the hero should always be proactive. Naturally, then, many writers separate their young protagonists from their parents’ care and authority. It’s harder to make things happen when your mother is still making your bedtime happen. Remove functioning parents, and children and teenagers can act entirely on their own. Below is a list of how different writers have accomplished this; orphaning characters is only the most obvious way.

(1) Grady in The Charlatan’s Boy, by Jonathan Rogers. He has no last name, no mother or father, and he can trace his life no further back than his oldest memory: riding in the back of the charlatan’s wagon, looking at himself in a mirror.

(2) Jack in the Dragonback Series, by Timothy Zahn. After his parents died long ago, his crooked uncle took him in. Now his uncle is dead, too, and Jack is trying to make it on his own – and, ideally, go straight.

(3) Tipper in The Vanishing Sculptor, by Donita Paul. Her father is the vanishing sculptor and her mother is, well, the scatter-minded noblewoman. That makes her the responsible one.

(4) The Pevensie children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis. Their parents sent them away during the bombing of London, so when Lucy began finding countries in cupboards, it could not be appealed to a higher court. The children made the best they could of it.

Later on, of course, they – as well as other English children – were simply pulled into a whole other world from their parents.

(5) Shasta and Aravis in The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis. Shasta ran away when he learned that his adoptive father was planning to sell him into slavery. Aravis was also a runaway, escaping an arranged marriage. They fled to Narnia and the north for freedom.

(6) Sara Cobbler in The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson. Stolen from her parents and put to work with other kidnapped children, she became leader of an armed revolution and the heroine of the Fork Factory.

These are all sci-fi and fantasy books, mainly because the only YA novels I read are in that genre. But I wonder if speculative fiction, drawing as it does from folk stories and fairy tales, is even more likely to separate the young from their parents. We all remember the old stories, with their evil stepmothers, absent fathers, orphaned heroes …

Review: Ice

Suppose you went to the moon, and suppose you found somebody already there. Frozen, so no matter how many questions you ask, he’s never going to answer.

But the answers have to come from somewhere, and they do. C. S. Lewis once said that it is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. It is also shocking to find something where we are sure there had never been anything.

NASA planned twenty lunar flights, but after Apollo 17 it canceled the remaining missions. Now, in Ice, Shane Johnson writes an alternate history of the space program, telling the story of Apollo 19. In February 1975 two astronauts, Gary Lucas and Charlie Shepherd, land near the lunar south pole. Forced to venture deep inside one of its canyons, they find, well, ice. It’s quite a surprise to men who hoped, at the most, to find some rocks worth analyzing. But it’s just a small jolt to get their heart rate up in preparation for the real shocks.

Ice reminds me greatly of Oxygen and The Fifth Man. Like that duology, it starts with real technology and what America could have chosen to do with it. Although the story is fiction, it reproduces NASA technology, procedures and jargon – I assume faithfully, but how would I know? I only know that, at some point, my eyes start to glaze over.

Not that the deficiency is in the book. In a novel about Apollo 20, you need realism about NASA and its space flights – even if Apollo 20 never took off. The author did not, in my judgment, go overboard with it. It’s just that, when a part becomes heavy in unrecognizable acronyms and science-textbook words, you tend to speed-read a bit. At least I do.

The style of Ice tended toward the omniscient, and there were moments that came off somewhat stiffly. But even with those, I found the book well-written to the point of achieving real beauty. Johnson shows his skill in story-telling in many ways. He manages to create passages with a sense of heartbreak and even of horror without being unduly explicit.

The story itself was unique. It had more science than most sci-fi – and also, in the end, more fantasy, too. Ice is freshly imagined and vividly portrayed; I‘ve never read another sci-fi novel quite like it. It may not be one of the most exciting novels I’ve ever read, but it is one of the most satisfying. I give it a wholehearted recommendation.

CSFF Blog Tour: The Warring Nations …

I liked The God-Hater. I thought I’d say that before I devoted a post to how it tripped over a peeve of mine.

The book has an important subplot revolving around corporate warfare – and that’s not a figure of speech. Myers called corporations the “warring nations of today”. I’ve seen this in science fiction before: the mega-corporation with military capabilities, imposing blockades, sending armies, taking upon itself matters of crime and punishment. It’s an old tradition of the genre.

And I never had much sympathy for it. Violence and justice as the prerogatives of anyone besides the government is a departure from thousands of years of western civilization. But in sci-fi it tends to be taken entirely for granted – as if it just follows, like the colonization of Mars.

I don’t believe the mega-corporation just follows, and I certainly don’t believe it’s already here. When, in The God-Hater, corporations conducted helicopter raids and got into machine-gun shoot-outs, it struck me as … silly. Corporations just don’t do that. It’s not in their make-up. They’re not the Mafia.

Try to picture the competition between Microsoft and Apple coming to gunfights between their employees. Can you imagine the headlines, the public reaction, the congressional hearings? Can you imagine how fast – how hard – the government would come down on them? The government hates it when people get violent, if for no other reason than that’s their job.

Granted, Travis Mackenzie’s computer program is far more valuable than Windows or the i-Phone. (But don’t be overly impressed by the idea that it could be worth more money than several nations. Wal-Mart’s annual revenues exceed the GDP of almost every nation.) Still, CEOs do not generally metamorphosize into Al Capone when facing lucrative projects. And if they did, the government would ruin them.

Myers severely stereotypes both capitalists and capitalism. It’s slander to say that all they care about is money. But even if that were so, the corporate warfare Myers paints is jarringly out of touch with reality. The “warring nations of today” are pretty much the same as the warring nations of yesterday. Just look at the Middle East.