Tuesday, July 03, 2012

McCarthy & Wilson Reviewed at SFFWorld

Just because today might be like a Friday here in the US with tomorrow being Independence Day, doesn’t mean the weekly reviews from Rob and Mark are skipped.

Mark takes a look at an SF novel marketed to the mainstream to much buzz in 2011 which just received its UK release. I review the sequel to an award winning debut novel that ranked very highly for me last year. The topic of my book review is Exogene, the second novel in T.C. McCarthy’s Subterrene Ware Military SF sequence

Germline introduced readers to T.C. McCarthy’s bleak future through the first person narrator Oscar Wendel war correspondent on the frontlines of the Subterrene War. Exogene is a return to that world and first person narration, but McCarthy shows us the war from a soldier on the frontline, Catherine. As the novel begins, Catherine is beginning to spoil, though McCarthy flashes back in many scenes to her life before she goes on the battle-lines. This is an effective way to parallel where her character is going with how she came to be who she is.

McCarthy storytelling takes a leap in Exogene, on a thematic level. Here, through the characters a greater examination of what makes a soldier on the front line comes to light – the morals, the stress, the anguish all from the point of view of a soldier. Bringing religion and faith is nothing new to war, as many a historian have said more men/women/soldiers were killed in the name of god than anything else, so it would seem a logical thing for artificially created soldiers to be molded by faith in God with their ultimate purpose is to fight and die for that God.…

More excitingly, this edition includes Living Night, a two page poem, and more than a dozen other rarer story fragments, including James’s only novel, The Five Jars (1920) a tale written possibly for, but felt to be too scary for, children in 1920. Some of the other extras here – Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb, Merfield House for example - are the only remaining fragments of the writing, a tantalising glimpse of some of James’ unfinished material. To be frank, the additions are interesting but not essential and Five Jars is a slim novel, but they are worth a read and do give the reader a better idea of James’ canon.

Are Robots the new zombies? Maybe, maybe not. Last year (2011), Daniel H. Wilson made a splash with his debut Robopocalypse , when the book that was sold to Hollywood before it was published, gets a UK release and a review from Mark:


Whilst borrowing heavily from SF tropes - the near-future zeitgeist of Michael Crichton, Cameron’s The Terminator franchise, or perhaps even D.F. Jones’ Colossus - this story of how humans created robots, were deemed unworthy by robot intelligence and eventually fought against their robot creations, is a fast-paced tale of endurance and survival.

Written by a robot programmer, it is as you might expect - enthusiastic, and efficient, yet in the end surprisingly unemotional and even rather clinical. Whilst the variety of the different points of view in each chapter is potentially interesting and the ideas in the novel are often great, there’s actually not a lot of depth behind the action, and the dialogue and narrative in particular generally leaves a lot to be desired in its banality and predictability, especially in the last sections where the book concentrates around the viewpoint of Wallace. I suspect many readers will balk at this aspect of the novel.

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