lunes, 2 de marzo de 2015

Flex, de Ferrett Steinmetz

Banda sonora de la reseña: Sugiero leer esta reseña escuchando Burning Down The House, de Talking Heads (Spotify, YouTube).

Hay libros que te atrapan desde la primera frase. Y hay libros en los que no consigues entrar por mucho que lo intentes. Por desgracia, Flex, la novela de debut de Ferrett Steinmetz es un ejemplo de este último caso, a pesar de su interesante premisa.

En el mundo de Flex, la magia puede ser destilada en forma de cristal. El "flex" del título es una droga que permite a los que la usan modificar la realidad y crear a voluntad sucesos sumamente improbables. De hecho, la magia surge de las obsesiones de sujetos extremadamente dedicados, los 'mantes, y puede adoptar las formas más extrañas: burocraciomancia, videojuegomancia, paleomancia... El problema es que la práctica de la magia tiene un precio: el "flux", mala suerte concentrada, el modo que tiene el universo de hacer cuadrar las cuentas.

Me gusta bastante la idea de la magia como descenso localizado de la entropía que de algún modo afecta a la realidad y debe ser compensando pagando un peaje. Además, los diferentes tipos de magia, que surgen de individuos obsesivos que intentan imponer un orden exagerado con sus actividades cotidianas, son muy interesantes aunque no sean especialmente originales (estoy pensando, por ejemplo, en la serie de Marla Mason de Tim Pratt y sus pornomantes, tecnomantes y biomantes).

Mi problema con la novela es que ninguna de estas prometedoras ideas es explotada en su totalidad. De hecho, me atrevo a decir que apenas son exploradas y, lo que es aún peor, las posibilidades de la magia nunca quedan claras para el lector. Así, entra en acción la Primera Ley la Magia de Sanderson: "La capacidad de un escritor para resolver un conflicto mediante la magia es directamente proporcional a cómo de bien el lector comprende dicha magia". En Flex, nunca llegamos a saber cuáles son las verdaderas habilidades de los 'mantes ni cuáles son sus limitaciones. En consecuencia, todo lo que tiene que ver con la magia parece... aleatorio. Funciona de cierta manera, pero perfectamente podría funcionar de un modo completamente distinto.

Las motivaciones y acciones de los personajes también me han parecido bastante arbitrarias. Por ejemplo, Paul Tasbo, el protagonista principal, descubre, para su sorpresa, que es un 'mante, pero posteriormente se comporta como si hubiera practicado la magia durante toda su vida. Anathema, su antagonista, no es mucho mejor: actúa de forma errática y cuando, al final del libro, se revelan sus verdaderos objetivos no pude evitar un sentimiento de profunda decepción por sus tremenda falta de coherencia.

La prosa tampoco me ha convencido. El estilo es directo, con frases directas y muy pocas descripciones. Usada correctamente, esta forma de escribir puede ser muy efectiva, pero en este caso creo que no consigue comunicar al lector la verdadera esencia del mundo de Flex. Todo en la novela es vago, borroso y falto de definición. No soy una persona que suela disfrutar con largas descripciones, pero en este libro eché en falta explicaciones más detalladas de los personajes, los escenarios, el ambiente en general. En cuanto a los diálogos, supongo que intentan ser ingeniosos y ocurrentes, pero en mi opinión son simplemente superficiales y hasta algo cargantes. Además, la repetición continua de ciertos términos (como 'mancia) puede resultar realmente cansina después de unas pocas páginas.

En resumen, me he sentido bastante decepcionado con lo que he encontrado en Flex, una novela en la que tenía depositadas bastantes esperanzas. Vuestra experiencia puede ser diferente, por supuesto, pero en conciencia no puedo recomendarla. Para mí, ha sido mucho más flux que flex.  

Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Burning Down The House, by Talking Heads (Spotify, YouTube).

There are books that grab you from the very first sentence. And there are books that you can't get into, not matter how hard you try like them. Unfortunately, Flex, Ferrett Steinmetz's debut novel, is an example of the latter, despite its interesting premise.

In the world of Flex, magic can be distilled into crystal form. The "flex" of the title is a drug that allows its users to modify reality and create unlikely events at their will. In fact, magic comes from the obsessions of extremely dedicated 'mancers, and can take the most strange forms: bureaucromancy, videogamemancy, paleomancy... The problem is that the practice of magic comes with a price: the "flux", concentrated bad luck, the way the universe has of balancing the odds.

I quite like this idea of magic as a localized decrease of entropy that somehow affects reality and has to be compensated by paying a toll. Also, the different types of magic, that come from obsessed individuals trying to impose extreme order with mundane activities, are very interesting even if they are not exactly original (I am thinking, for instance, of the Marla Mason series by Tim Pratt, with its pornomancers, technomancers and biomancers). 

My problem with the novel is that all these promising ideas are not fully exploited. In fact, I'd dare to say that they are barely explored and, what is worse, the possibilities of magic are never clear to the reader. Thus, we have Sanderson's First Law of magic in action here: "An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic". In Flex, we never know what is within the true capabilities of the 'mancers and what are their limitations. As a consequence, everything magical related seems... random. It works one way, but it could perfectly well work in a completely different fashion. 

The actions and motivations of the characters also seemed arbitrary to me. For instance, Paul Tsabo, the main protagonist, discovers to his surprise that he is a 'mancer, but he later behaves as he has been practicing magic for all his life. Anathema, his antagonist, is not better: she acts erratically and when, by the end of the book, her real goals are revealed, I could not help feeling very underwhelmed by their sheer ludicrousness.

The prose didn't work for me either. The style is direct, with short sentences and very few descriptions. When correctly used, this kind of writing can be very effective, but in this case I think it failed to convey the true essence of the world to the reader. All in the novel seems vague, blurred and lacks definition. I am not the kind of person that usually enjoys long descriptions, but in Flex I missed more in-depth depictions of the characters, the settings, the world as a whole. Regarding the dialog, I guess it is supposed to be witty and humorous, but in my opinion it was just superficial and slightly annoying. Also, the continuous repetition of certain terms (such a 'mancy) can be really tiresome after a few pages. 

All in all, I was quite disappointed by what I found in Flex, a novel that I was really looking forward to read. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I can't really recommend this one. For me, it was ultimately more flux than flex.

domingo, 1 de marzo de 2015

My recommendations for the 2015 Hugo Awards

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

The Hugo Awards nomination period closes in just 10 days and, as per usual, I am still trying to catch up with my reading to complete some of the categories of my ballot. However, since some persons have expressed a difficult to understand interest in my recommendations, I want to share at least those works that almost surely I will be nominating (should I decide to add others, I might be editing this post to reflect them).

At the moment, my nominations for the main literary categories are the following:

Novel

  • The Three-Body ProblemLiu Cixin (my review)
  • Dark EdenChris Beckett (this is a 2012 book, but was published in the USA for the first time in 2014, so it is eligible and it is an awesome awesome novel) (my review in Spanish)
  • The Abyss Beyond DreamsPeter F. Hamilton (my review)
  • The Rhesus ChartCharles Stross (my review)

Novella



Novelette




Short Story



Recomendaciones para los Premios Hugo 2015

Quedan apenas diez días para que se cierre el plazo de las nominaciones de los Premios Hugo y, como es habitual en mí, todavía me encuentro apurando lecturas para completar algunas de las categorías. Aún así, y ya que algunas personas han mostrado un incomprensible interés en mis recomendaciones para estos premios, quiero compartir al menos aquellas obras que casi con total seguridad incluiré en mi papeleta (si decido añadir otras es posible que modifique esta entrada para reflejarlas). 

Por el momento, mis nominaciones en las principales categorías literarias son las siguientes:

Novel

  • The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin (mi reseña)
  • Dark Eden, Chris Beckett (es un libro de 2012, pero fue publicado en USA por primera vez en 2014, así que es nominable y es una novela estupenda estupenda) (mi reseña)
  • The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Peter F. Hamilton (mi reseña)
  • The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross (mi reseña)

Novella



Novelette




Short Story



sábado, 28 de febrero de 2015

Ebook en oferta: Lord of All Things, de Andreas Eschbach

Ha estado en oferta en otras ocasiones, pero si se os pasó, tenéis de nuevo la oportunidad de adquirir el ebook Lord of All Things, de Andreas Eschbach, por 0,99€ en Amazon España.

Ésta es su sinopsis:
Winner of the 2012 Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis for best German science fiction novel, Lord of All Things is also a story about love against all odds. 
They are just children when they meet for the first time: Charlotte, daughter of the French ambassador, and Hiroshi, a laundress’s son. One day, Hiroshi declares that he has an idea that will change the world. An unprecedented idea of how to sweep away all differences between rich and poor. 
When Hiroshi runs into Charlotte several years later, he is trying to build a brighter future through robotics. Determined to win Charlotte’s love, he resurrects his childhood dream, convinced that he can eradicate world poverty by pushing the limits of technology beyond imagination. But as Hiroshi circles ever closer to realizing his vision, he discovers that his utopian dream may contain the seeds of a nightmare—one that could obliterate life as we know it. 
Crisscrossing the globe from Tokyo to the hallowed halls of MIT to desolate Arctic islands and Buenos Aires and beyond—far beyond—Lord of All Things explores not only the dizzying potential of technology but also its formidable dangers.

viernes, 27 de febrero de 2015

Dos nuevas antologías de John Joseph Adams

Este mes se han puesto a la venta dos nuevas antología editadas por John Joseph Adams: Operation Arcana y Wastelands 2. Éstas son sus sinopsis y portadas:

Operation Arcana
In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear. Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination. Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan. You’ll never look at war the same way again. 
CONTRIBUTORS: 

  • Elizabeth Moon
  • Tobias Buckell & David Klecha
  • Myke Cole
  • Jonathan Maberry
  • Genevieve Valentine
  • Django Wexler
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Weston Ochse
  • Myke Cole
  • Ari Marmell
  • Tanya Huff
  • Carrie Vaughn
  • TC McCarthy
  • Glen Cook
  • Simon R. Green
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Linda Nagata
Wastelands 2
For decades, the apocalypse and its aftermath have yielded some of the most exciting short stories of all time. From David Brin’s seminal “The Postman” to Hugh Howey’s “Deep Blood Kettle” and Tananarive Due’s prescient “Patient Zero,” the end of the world continues to thrill. This companion volume to the critically-acclaimedWastelands offers thirty of the finest examples of post-apocalyptic short fiction, including works by George R.R. Martin, Junot Díaz, Seanan McGuire, Paolo Bacigalupi, and more. Award-winning editor John Joseph Adams has once again assembled a who’s who of short fiction, and the result is nothing short of mind-blowing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS: 
  • Introduction—John Joseph Adams
  • The Tamarisk Hunter—Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Deep Blood Kettle—Hugh Howey
  • “. . . for a single yesterday”—George R. R. Martin
  • Animal Husbandry—Seanan McGuire
  • Chiswick Messiah—Lauren Beukes
  • Colliding Branes—Rudy Rucker & Bruce Sterling
  • Ellie—Jack McDevitt
  • Foundation—Ann Aguirre
  • Beat Me Daddy—Cory Doctorow
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Survival Before, During, and After the Apocalypse—Christopher Barzak
  • Wondrous Days—Genevieve Valentine
  • Dreams in Dust—D. Thomas Minton
  • By Fools Like Me—Nancy Kress
  • Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe—Ramsey Shehadeh
  • The Elephants of Poznan—Orson Scott Card
  • The Postman—David Brin
  • When We Went To See the End of the World—Robert Silverberg
  • The Revelation of Morgan Stern—Christie Yant
  • Final Exam—Megan Arkenberg
  • A Flock of Birds—James Van Pelt
  • Patient Zero—Tananarive Due
  • Soulless in His Sight—Milo James Fowler
  • Outer Rims—Toiya Kristen Finley
  • Advertising at the End of the World—Keffy R. M. Kehrli
  • How the World Became Quiet: A Post-Human Creation Myth—Rachel Swirsky
  • Tight Little Stiches in a Dead Man’s Back—Joe R. Lansdale
  • After the Apocalypse—Maureen F. McHugh
  • The Traditional—Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Monstro—Junot Diaz
  • Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince—Jake Kerr

jueves, 26 de febrero de 2015

Ebook gratis: Bernardo's House, de James Patrick Kelly

En estos momentos se puede descargar gratuitamente en Amazon España el ebook Bernardo's House, de James Patrick Kelly.

Ésta es su sinopsis:
A domotic story, a conscious living house who speaks and shows, through the objects that fill her, the need to be inhabited, to be eternally possessed by a tenant.

Get ready for an unusual visit to "Bernardo's House", where the topic of home automation is inseparably interwoven with Artificial Intelligence: what would happen if such a House would lose her "beloved tenant", and if in his place - with a totally unexpected visit - came a strange figure? Unknown to the House, which will question each and every certainty of her life.

James Patrick Kelly has had an eclectic writing career. He has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. His fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. In 2007 he won the Nebula Award, given by the Science Fiction Writers of America, for his novella "Burn" and the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award twice: in 1996, for his novelette “Think Like A Dinosaur” and in 2000, for his novelette, “Ten to the Sixteenth to One.” He writes a column on the internet for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and has two podcasts: Free Reads and James Patrick Kelly's StoryPod.

He is a member of the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. He is the Vice Chair of the Clarion Foundation, which oversees the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop at the The University of California at San Diego. He served two terms as a councillor on the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and was Chair of the Council from 2003-2006. He has also served on the New England Foundation for the Arts.