BooksOfTheMoon

Adam Robots

By Adam Roberts

Rating: 3 stars

Adam Roberts is good at short stories. In the introduction, he says that this collection contains his attempts to write a story in each of the myriad genres within SF, and although I haven’t counted, it certainly feels like he’s succeeded. Each story has a new idea, from the Biblical Adam of robots to time travel, space opera, dystopia and more. The only problem, for me, at least, is that eventually it becomes wearing. I found myself longing for a run of a few good, simple, adventure stories. However, I readily accept that this is my failing, not the book’s (nor the author’s). There were a few stories towards the end that I really didn’t like, Wonder: A Story in Two is probably the one that made me want to throw the book across the room the most. This felt very experimental and “New Wave-y”, but since I’ve never really been a fan of the New Wave, it totally left me cold.

There is, however, an awful lot to like. From the very meta Review: Thomas Hodgkin, ‘Denis Bayle: a Life’ (a review of a biography of a fictional SF author) to And Tomorrow And, a very funny retelling of Macbeth. So as I say, there’s an awful lot to enjoy, but it’s probably worth taking your time over.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575130357
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2013

Yellow Blue Tibia

By Adam Roberts

Rating: 3 stars

Just after the Second World War, Konstantin Skvorecky was a science fiction author who was gathered by Stalin along with several of his fellow writers to concoct an invasion story that would unite the whole world against an (imaginary) alien threat after the inevitable fall of capitalism. Soon afterwards, the operation is abandoned and the writers all told to forget what they were doing, on pain of death. Many years later, in the Perestroika era, Skvorecky meets one of his fellow writers from that time who tells him that what they were working on at that time is starting to come true.

This was an odd book. Skvorecky has a great narrator’s voice. Ironic, deadpan and authentically Russian. Not many other characters get as much detail but that’s okay because Skvorecky is the one at the heart of it all. He’s a comedic, tragic figure straight who could have been written by one of the greats of Russian literature.

The plot is confusing, to say the least. I still don’t necessarily understand a lot of it, but there’s the involvement of an American Scientologist who gets killed, dragging Skvorecky into the Soviet Kafka-esque legal system. There’s the prediction that Chernobyl will be blown up, as will Challenger; there’s the other American Scientologist; there’s the constant attempts to kill our protagonist; and that’s just scratching the surface.

There’s some plot thrown in towards the end, mostly relating to Quantum, but if it’s plot you’re looking for, this book probably isn’t for you. It’s Skvorecky and the situations that he finds himself in that drive the book and everything in it. Amusing, probably quite deep, but somewhat bewildering as well.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575083585
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2009

Jack Glass

By Adam Roberts

Rating: 5 stars

This very clever, twisty, turny book tells the story, or rather, three, related, stories of the notorious murderer Jack Glass. We know that Jack is the murderer, we’re told right at the start, but the important questions are how and why. And where do the three little letters FTL fit in, and why are they so dangerous?

Other than his Doctor Who parody, Doctor Whom (which I didn’t like), I’ve not read anything by Adam Roberts, but I’d heard good things about this book and had heard that he was good at things that weren’t parody. I’m very glad I gave it a chance as I very much enjoyed this book. The language is gorgeous, going for the lyrical, poetical prose that I’m so fond of. The mystery is intriguing and I was true to form in failing to spot the root cause of the mystery (and went one better in the final story, by not remembering the Jack was the murderer and failing to figure out who it was (although can regain some credibility by figuring what what the murder weapon was).

The characters are interesting, especially the relationship between Diana (the young heiress and amateur detective in the second and third segments) and Iago, her tutor. The worldbuilding is also excellent. The idea of a solar system in turmoil is brought across very well, with the minimum of exposition and there are shades of Orwell in the idea of the trillions of ‘Sumpolloi’ barely surviving in the shanty bubbles of the solar system and trying to ferment revolution in the proletariat to overthrow the mysterious Ulanov clan, who rule the system with an iron fist.

I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Roberts’ work.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575127647
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2012

Doctor Whom: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Parodication

By Adam Roberts

Rating: 1 star

Subtitled E. T. Shoots and Leaves, can you guess what this is cashing in on? I’m not a huge fan of parody and this combined DW/Lynn Truss parody didn’t do much for me. At least it was short.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575079687
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2006

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