The Last Theorem – Clark & Pohl

May 18, 2009

The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clark and Frederik Pohl is a clever little story about a young Sri Lankan mathematician named Ranjit Subramanian.  Early in his life Ranjit becomes obsessed with Fermat’s Last Theorem (which I admit I don’t understand at all) – it is a mathematical proof which A 16th century mathematician named Fermat supposedly solved but never published or apparently wrote down anywhere.  Mathematicians ever since have been trying to recreate the proof.  Due to circumstances largely beyond his control, Ranjit winds up being jailed in a foreign country where he is tortured before being isolated for many months.  During this time he returns to the Last Theorem as something to occupy his mind, and actually figures it out.  He is of course eventually rescued and publishes his proof.

At the same time progressively more dangerous weapons are being tested all over the world, producing effects which are eventually noticed by aliens.  These aliens take a dim view of species developing both war like tendencies and advanced technology, so they decide to exterminate humanity while their rapidly improving weapons are still primitive enough to be no threat.  Humans, of course, have no idea the aliens even exist, much less that they have noticed Earth and decided to take such drastic (at least from the humans’ point of view) action.

All of this is set against a modern landscape of wars, political conflict, and general disregard for life.  The book is quite current, having been published in 2008, which adds realism often lacking in classic science fiction.  On the other hand, it was written by two of the biggest names in classic sci fi and has the sense of style and scope found in older sci fi literature.  It was an easy and enjoyable read that also raised questions about our continuing development as a species, should one feel inclined to contemplate such weighty matters.  (It also used lots of big words and intellectual-sounding phrases, which may have influenced the tone of my review ;).)  I wish these two had done more together.


Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi

May 9, 2009

Ghost Brigades is the follow up to Old Man’s War, which I read a while ago but apparently did not review (it’s really good).  Although both are set in the same universe, and Ghost Brigade occasionally refers to events that occurred in Old Man’s War, it is not really necessary to have read the one to enjoy the other.  Though it does add that extra something.

The Ghost Brigades are super soldiers, and not just any super soldiers.  All the human soldiers in this universe are 75 year old humans from Earth who get brand new upgraded bodies with increased speed and strength, synthetic Smartblood, and other nifty toys.  But the Ghost Brigades (aka Special Forces) get all sorts of experimental upgrades as well, and they are built from the DNA of adult volunteers who died before they were able to be taken off planet for their basic training.  While the “realborn” soldiers have their 75 year old minds transferred into new bodies, the Ghost Brigades are born into adult bodies with brand spanking new minds and no previous experience.  Fortunately they have built in computers in their heads to provide them with needed knowledge until they gain their own experiences.

The story revolves around an impending war between humans and 3 alien races who suddenly and for no apparent reason stopped fighting each other and started conspiring against humanity.  A Special Forces mission to gain intelligence about this new situation reveals that a human has turned traitor and is working with the aliens.  And of course it’s not just any human, but a brilliant scientist who was working on military technology before he turned traitor.

Since I hate giving spoilers, I’ll stop there with the plot description.  The book is well written, clever, and uses some cool tech ideas.  I especially enjoyed the stuff about consciousness transfer.  There are a few info dumps early in the book that were a little irritating since I had previously read Old Man’s War and already knew the info.  Of course I might feel differently if the info had been new to me.  Like Old Man’s War, this book takes a fairly serious tone, but glimpses of Scalzi’s wicked sense of humor peak through.

Overall I highly recommend this book, as well as Old Man’s War, and pretty much anything else written by John Scalzi.

Where are we compared to Star Trek?

May 6, 2009

I love these articles.  This one from MSN sums up where our current tech is in comparison with Star Trek tech (from the original series) – we’re still way behind on some of it, but we’re actually ahead on a couple of things!

Awesome sand sculpture pics

May 5, 2009

Thanks to Pink Tentacle for pointing out these totally awesome pics.

I’m ashamed to admit…

May 5, 2009

while on vacation recently, I read the whole Twilight series.  Several people I know had read it, and they offered me the books, and I just can’t turn down a free read…what can I say?  It is definitely NOT scifi.  It is teen romance about vampires.  Surprisingly the rest of the series is better than the first book, and I’m not sorry I read them, just kind of ashamed to let anyone know I did.  I also read some crime fiction, and a thriller or two.  (It was a reading vacation for me, so I was going through a book a day and grabbing whatever was handy.)

Anyway, to redeem myself I went to the library yesterday and got Ghost Brigade by Scalzi, and a collaboration between Arthur C. Clark and Frederick Pohl that isn’t currently sitting in front of me so I can’t remember the name.  Once I finish them I’ll post reviews.  Of course, I’m not on vacation anymore, so I”m reading at a much slower pace now :(.