Lian Hern writes a good tale here, but not a great one. She sets it in a fictional medieval Japan, sort of. We’ll come back to that. In spite of the long names, and similarities among the names, the characters are distinct and sometimes compelling. But everything I’m saying has qualifiers on it, because something was just not … right, and I’m not sure what. READ MORE
Science Fiction set in non-Western cultures can be very interesting, and lately I’ve been lucky to find two that are very immersive, The Wind-Up Girl and Three Body problem. This review will focus on the former.
The Wind-Up Girl (by Paolo Bacigalupi) take place in post-apocalyptic Bangkok. The story is about cultural and character clashes, even among those work towards the same goals. Ths story has been called eco-punk, as it looks at (among other things) the effects of genetically hacked plants, animals and people.
The story involves a power struggle between the Thai government and foreign interests as well as within the government as two ministries vie for power and influence. However, none of the point of view characters are powerful figures in the Thai government, giving that internal struggle less prominence until much later in the story. READ MORE
Station 11 is a book with a bit of a buzz around it: written by a Canadian expat living in New York, it won the British-based Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel of 2014, but has been slow to find an audience in the US. I’ve just finally gotten to read it, and have some thoughts.
First and foremost, as others have said, don’t mistake this for a science fiction story. If you expect science fiction with all the tropes that implies, you’ll be disappointed. If you're avoiding it because you're worried it might be too science fiction-y, take a chance on this book. It does take place before and after a plague wipes out 99% of the world population, but it’s not a book about science fiction ideals, utopian or dystopian society. If anything it’s about malaise and learning to forget the good old days.
Is it a good story? Yes. Is it without its problems? No.