Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Pros and Cons of the Publishing Industry

a fork in the roadI stumbled across this over at the Independent Publishing Magazine. Guest blogger Andrew Deen outlined the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing. Thorough yet succinct, it's a must read for every writer about to embark on the road to publishing their work. But if you're not a writer and you've wondered what's involved in publishing, then it's worth checking out.


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Book Review: Medusa Uploaded

bbok cover for Medusa UploadedThe Executives control Oichi's senses, her voice, her life. Until the day they kill her.

An executive clan gives the order to shoot Oichi out of an airlock on suspicion of being an insurgent. A sentient AI, a Medusa unit, rescues Oichi and begins to teach her the truth—the Executives are not who they think they are. Oichi, officially dead and now bonded to the Medusa unit, sees a chance to make a better life for everyone on board.

As she sets things right one assassination at a time, Oichi becomes the very insurgent the Executives feared, and in the process uncovers the shocking truth behind the generation starship that is their home.

The Giger-esque cover and the book blurb did their job: I got hooked. But upon reading the story, it struck me as far less dark than it was made out to be. Oh sure, we had the nefarious dystopian aristocracy which gets to control servants through their cybernetic implants, overwrite security protocols seemingly at will, spy on everyone, and flush people out the airlock with impunity, but I found them to be caricatures ripped from some 18th century aristocratic drama like Dangerous Liasions.

Still, I wanted to find out how this civilization came to be on a kilometers-long generation ship. But as information is tightly controlled by the Executive class and Oichi was a worm—the derogatory term for the lowest class of workers who maintain life aboard the ship—it was a mystery for her to solve. We learn right away that this civilization has incredible cybernetic technology. Everyone seems to have a chip in their heads that they use to access communications and limited data. Some others have artificial eyes, voice boxes, and hearing (hence the Executives' ability to control their servants so that they don't disrupt their dinner parties). And Oichi has a chip in her skull that enables her to 'bond' with Medusa, the sentient AI.

But for all of their amazing tech, they abuse the hell out their airlocks. The Executives use them to murder and assassinate people all the time. They override the safety protocols (so what good are they) and flush out the bodies, sacrificing breathable air and biomass to the void. This is so stupid. I don't care how big the ship is. If you're going to flush out 800 cubic feet of air (sometimes more), the atmosphere on board your ship is getting that much thinner. And the 100 to 200 lbs of biomass is also wasted. Everything on a generation ship gets recycled. Everything. It's one less mouth to feed now, but all that calcium, water, and organic matter? You're not getting that back. Why not suffocate the victims in the airlock (since no one literally wants blood on their hands) and take the body to the waste reclamation unit where it can be ground up and anaerobically digested? Not as dramatic, perhaps, but after the airlock scene plays out several times, it loses its ability to shock the reader.

Another problem was with the voice of the narrator, Oichi. She flitted from "adolescent waitress" to "big sister" to "impressionable debutante" to "happy-go-lucky sociopath." She interrupted her own narrative constantly by name dropping classical music pieces whenever she had a moment of reflection or introspection or just for the hell of it. At times, the interactions between Oishi and some bots created by kids—and her interaction with one kid in particular—popped images of cutesy anime into my mind. It undercut the seriousness of the plot.

One last complaint: I couldn't get a sense of how much time passed. There were flashbacks and flash-forwards dictated to us by Oichi, but the way they were presented I wasn't always certain when "now" was. Late in the novel, she matter of factly states that several years had passed, but it seemed like only a few months.

To summarize, I loved the tech, the concept, the plot, and the mysteries, but the narrator's constantly shifting tone, 18th century aristocrats, anime cuteness, and wanton airlock abuse irritated me.

2.5 stars