Every so often I get in the mood for an old-school sci-fi book. I usually come away disappointed, as for all my librarian skills, I often have trouble coming up with one. I’ll find a good nugget here or there – Robert J. Sawyer’s Mindscan, for example, or Dan Simmons’ Illium – but for the most part, I have to let the mood pass and go on to other things. This time around, I stumbled across Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, which is set in a Blade Runner-type dystopian future. A nice mixture of sci-fi, cyberpunk, and hardboiled noir; one of the features of the future is that people have chips on their brain stem that records all brain activity, and functions as a storage unit for the soul; souls can be transferred into other people’s bodies, called “sleeves”. The rich can clone their bodies and transfer their soul into the new one once they die, which makes the rich effectively immortal and hopelessly corrupt. Excellent book.
Also in the reading list: a friend tipped me to “Mainspring” by Jay Lake. The elevator pitch goes something like this: the universe is actually a giant brass clockwork machine, and one day the archangel Gabriel appears to a clockmaker’s apprentice and tells him that world is winding down – dying – and he needs to find the key to restart it, which is just about the coolest description for a book I’ve ever come across. I’ll let you all know how it goes.
The wife and I saw Stardust last weekend, which is loads of fun and is well worth your time. However it is lighter that I expected – I enjoyed the flick but couldn’t remember much about it ten minutes after I walked out of the theater. This might be because I’ve already read the book, but your mileage may vary. I will also say that at some point we need to have a national conversation on Claire Danes, who keeps getting these romantic ingenue roles but always manages to underwhelm me. Again, YMMV.