Book review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J Sawyer

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’ve read the latest novel by Robert J. Sawyer. Since Sawyer’s novel Hominids was the One Book, One Community reading selection in Waterloo Region several years ago, I’ve read all his books. Sawyer’s most recent novel, Red Planet Blues
, is the first of his books that I won’t be getting signed. Since I’ve started reading extensively on my eReader (a Kobo Glo), I’ve rarely felt the desire to read one of my paper books.

The book cover for Red Planet Blues

What can I say about Red Planet Blues? If you’ve read any of Sawyer’s work in the past, you know what you’re getting: a science fiction story with strong philosophical content. Moral questions are raised on the essence of consciousness and identity. What you don’t get in this book are dinosaurs, although fossils of another sort play an important role in the story.

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Book Review: Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers

I was recently browsing the shelves at my local library branch, when I noticed that the only book by Tim Powers on the shelf was On Stranger Tides. This was likely on the shelf due to one of my earlier recommendations: I had told the staff that the Pirates of the Caribbean film was loosely based on Powers’ novel. As I was checking out, I saw his most recent novel, Hide Me Among The Graves. This novel is a sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, although it doesn’t need any previous knowledge of the earlier book.

Hide Me Among the Graves book cover

This latest novel takes place a generation after the events in The Stress of Her Regard: the poets Shelley, Byron and Keats are long dead, and the Nephilim, the pre-Adamite stone creatures with vampiric tendencies have been banished, along with their poetic gifts, when a new wave of poets unknowingly invite them back.

I’m not as familiar with the works of the Rossettis as I am with those of Byron, but once again, Powers works his magic, weaving a fictional secret tale with historical records, which in some ways seems to make more sense than the original records.


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Book review: Triggers by Robert J Sawyer

I recently finished reading Triggers, the latest novel by Canadian science fiction writer Robert J Sawyer. After the television adaptation of his novel Flashforward, there was an obvious desire to tap into a larger market of potential fans. Many of Sawyer’s earlier novels had elements of suspense, but none could ever truly be called a thriller. They have all been heavy on the philosophical issues, exploring ideas and thoughts on the meaning of humanity.

Book cover for Triggers

Triggers is the combination of this philosophy on the human condition, mixed with high stakes action. Sawyer manages this quite well. While Sawyer’s message is as positive as always, the comparison to Michael Crichton’s techno-thrillers is more relevant than ever.

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Gaslight Dogs

A short review of Gaslight Dogs, by Karin Lowachee.

Gaslight Dogs is a new novel by Canadian author Karin Lowachee. I picked up a copy of this paperback release while at Ad Astra this past year, but have only recently had a chance to read it.

I had originally heard the book described to me as being part of the steampunk genre. However, I’m not sure that this novel fits my criteria for the genre. Very little focus is placed on the role of technology, steam powered or otherwise, in this novel. While one of the nations is more technologically advanced, the focus is more on the animist powers of a nation of the far north, and how this could be used for further colonial expansion.

Karin Lowachee has written a story which explores not just the concept of the other, but in how one can be an outsider in one’s own homeland. The sense of self is explored by two of the main characters, and how they interact with each other. It really engages with the sense of self-identification. How does one identify oneself as a part of a group, or a particular heritage?

Being ripped away from her home and family, Sjennonirk is transported by a colonizing force to a distant city, echoing some of the feelings of loss experienced by the natives of North America. Gaslight Dogs is a story which echoes some of the unrest felt in native communities today, with a sense of endangered heritage.

The conclusion to the story is unsettling. At first, I didn’t quite see how this ending made sense, as it wasn’t anything near what I was expecting. Rather than detracting from the story, this ending instead reinforces the themes of otherness and resistance to colonialism woven throughout the text. It contains messages important to us today.