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We finally have a trailer for Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, and it looks incredible!

After I read Borne: A Novel I was informed that Jeff Vandermeer would be doing a reading and book signing close by. Admittedly it was my girlfriend who even suggested I read Borne and try a different author since I had been only reading Orson Scott Card novels. I couldn’t have been happier that I made the decision to branch out. If you want to know more about Borne, I wrote a review a while back. Click here to read it.

At Mr. Vandermeer’s signing I was able to pick up a beautiful hardcover copy of the Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance. I had heard from some of the other guests that he had a book being turned into a film which happened to be the first book of the trilogy. It’s been about seven months since I purchased the trilogy and, full disclosure, I haven’t gotten to it yet. (I’m building a highly diverse antilibrary.) My leisure reading has lessened with the busyness of the holidays, and I’ve made some promises to read a few other books before I get into this trio. Nevertheless, I can always count on my wonderful girlfriend to point me in the direction of some great Sci-Fi (it’s like she knows me or something). I watched the trailer and immediately had to pick my jaw off the floor. For those who haven’t seen it, here it is in all its glory:

Now I’ll be the first to admit, since I haven’t read the book yet I’m not too familiar with the universe Jeff Vandermeer has created in this trilogy. Anytime a sci-fi book gets turned into a film I watch it. I’m not one of those people that always says, “The book was better.” I always try to give a film the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I enjoy them whether or not I have read the book. After I watch the film then I’m able to dive into the book with a concept of the premise but will get a much deeper understanding of the universe, characters, and overarching tone. After watching this trailer, I am pumped and ready to watch the film and read the book!

For those of you who’ve read my post on Ender’s Game you know that the movie is what got me interested in the series. I want to know what you guys think: will you be watching Annihilation? Have you read the book yet?

Featured image from: https://fsgworkinprogress.com/2014/05/annihilation-annotated/

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Top 10 SciFi short stories for people in a hurry!

I didn’t choose the highway life, the highway life chose me. Since I spent an enormous amount of time on the road driving to and from work, being able to listen to short stories makes it simple to stay on top of my reading. Most of these SciFi shorts have an audio version from the always excellent Clarkesworld Magazine. That being said, this month’s list features stories from the good old hard copy anthology, The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer. Definitely worth picking up if you love Science fiction but want it in easily digestible, expertly curated chunks. Anyway, enjoy this month’s top 10 SciFi shorts and let me know which is your favorite below.

Short Stories You Should Read This December

  1. The Significance of Significance by Robert Reed

In this short, scientists have discovered and proven something we’ve all be speculating—that we are living inside a simulated realty. This short tackles a lot of the moral conundrums facing humanity if they knew this to be true. The protagonist, Sarah, makes some interesting decisions based on this knowledge that lead her to follow a morally questionable life, but given the information humankind knows, are her actions truly despicable?

Text version here

Audio Version here

  1. Last Chance by Nicole Kornher-Stace

In this post-apocalyptic tale, much of human technology is gone and the rest is now scavenged for because of its value. Our protagonists, a young girl and her mother, get separated by raiders who enslave children and force them to scavenge small and dangerous areas. The children sometimes compete among themselves to find the best stuff so they will get preferential treatment and bigger portions of food. What happens when the child stumbles across something extremely valuable but inexplicable? Could this be her key to freedom?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman

Sometime in the near future, a war breaks out. The US inevitably reinstates the draft and even graduate students aren’t safe from military service. The protagonist is forced into a special infantry unit operating mechanized fighting machines called “Soldier Boys” (no, not the rapper). All operators have to learn how to be “jacked” (plugging into other team members’ and the machine’s own consciousness). The intrusive process connects you intimately with your entire team exposing all your deepest secrets, thoughts, and wishes. To complicate matters, Halderman’s protagonist falls in love with one of his fellow team members. Halderman’s story explores the dangers of overuse of technology on a deep level. Can technology actually deepen our connection to other individuals, leading to an unhealthy attachment to one person?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Travelers by Rich Larson

Think the movie Passengers if Chris Pratt was a demented cannibal and you have the short story “Travelers.” When the protagonist is awakened from “torpor,” she quickly realizes something is off about the only other awakened crew member. What is he planning and why? This is a short and suspenseful read that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. The Ways Out by Sam J. Miller

In a mutant-filled world reminiscent of the X-men universe, the government has taken some very serious precautions to keep “mutants” in check. Utilizing state-of-the-art surveillance algorithms, they can predict where you’ll be and extrapolate whether you’ll be a future threat based on an individual’s special abilities. The meeting of two specific mutants with very unique abilities and a dash of cunning however, might just be enough to trick the system and allow them to wrench themselves free of their shackles.

Text version: here

Audio version: here  

  1. A Modest Genius by Vadim Shefner

Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell

Our main character, Sergei Kladesev, is a natural born genius. More often than not, he can solve his own issues and humanity’s using his own inventions. Despite his miraculous inventions he still struggles to find fulfillment in life chasing love in all the wrong places, or rather wrong people. When he finally finds someone whom he has a romantic interest in, his inventions end up ruining the opportunity. Will our uncharismatic but well intentioned genius get a second chance?

You can find this short in “The Big Book of Science Fiction” edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

  1. Retrieval by Suzanne Walker

Retriever refers to a job class that finds tormented souls and returns them to where they belong so they can be at peace. In this short our main character works as one of these retrievers helping souls  find their way back to the afterlife. This is more easily done when a soul dies on a planet, but when a soul perishes in the void of space it undergoes the worst kind of torment. The protagonist learns that her father was executed by a tyrannical governing body called the Protectorate in this void of space. How will she find her father’s soul and more importantly will it come willingly back to planetside?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Swarm by Bruce Sterling

Sometime in the future when humanity has begun to explore space, humans encounter alien races waiting for human technology to develop sufficiently before making contact. During that time humankind has divided into different factions. The Mechanists have given up their humanity to integrate themselves more and more with machines and the Reshaped which are genetically altered to be highly intelligent and efficient. Sterling’s protagonist, Captain-Doctor Afriel, has been tasked with studying a newly discovered species called the Swarm which seem to be the first “unintelligent” life to travel space. With the ultimate goal of learning something from the swarm that could give the Reshapers an edge against the Mechanist, Afriel gets to work trying to understand these creatures but quickly finds out that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.

You can find this short in “Big book of science fiction” edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

  1. Prasetyo Plastics by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

In the not-so-distant future a genius named Ali begins his career in the 3D printer world as a plastics engineer. Although there are many competing materials, plastics are clearly overtaking the industry because even hobbyists can purchase basic equipment to get started 3D printing at home. Imagine humanity debating over the use of plastic as it pollutes the environment while Ali is further innovating and creating plastics that can be used for space travel and protect against solar radiation. Sound familiar? What would happen when your invention starts to form a sentience of its own? A thought provoking short with clear parallels to today’s environmental struggles, “Prasetyo” is a fantastic story for anyone looking to read the latest in environmentally conscious sci-fi.

Text version: here

Audio version: here

  1. Martian Blood by Allen M. Steele

Humans have finally done it, they colonized Mars. After discovering there were already indigenous people living on the red planet, humanity builds casinos and luxury hotels, of course. Steele’s story is told from the point of view of a local guide named Jim. For the right price, Jim can take eager tourists through the deserts of Mars with the hopes of meeting its native inhabitants. Jim’s upcoming client is a professor and researcher in astrobiology who wants to collect blood samples from the natives in order to prove or disprove the panspermia theory. What conflicts might arise if the theory is proven to be true (if the inhabitants of Mars are shown to be descendants of Earthlings)?

Text version: here

Audio version: here

If you love SciFi shorts definitely pick up this little gem below.

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, a SciFi review

If I could type out the noise of a standing ovation I would but since I can’t, I’ll settle for writing this review. Jeff VanderMeer has you wrapped up in the story almost instantly! I should probably preface that by saying this was my first read by him but it sure as hell won’t be the last!

Borne initiates in a post-apocalyptic Earth where the whole world has gone to shit basically humans just kept following their own self-destructive path. In this world there’s a company (ingeniously referred to as “the company”) that’s somewhat like Umbrella corporation in resident evil…or Monsanto in real life (JK Monsanto, don’t sue me). “The company” experimented with all the taboo areas of genetics and biotech eventually creating at least one major thing the town near it would learn to fear. I’m referring to a flying (levitating?) sky-scraper sized bear that can make smaller versions of him (about grizzly bear size) with just as much bloodlust of course! Now this isn’t your average yogi the bear environmentally friendly type, in fact he probably starts more fires than he puts out. You can imagine that most people in this world either spend their time hiding from this bear called Mord (he’s quite Mordifying … to be fair my editor said to leave that joke out) or they spend their time dying.

Fear not however because Mord isn’t the only thing causing havoc in the city. Rachel, our main character, has cojones the size of coconuts (she’s a scavenger) and decides one day to jump and climb on Mord’s fur to see what she could find (scavenging is actually pretty common although many people have died doing it). One day, she finds something that almost looked like a blob plant thing glowing on Mord and takes it back with her like an good scavenger would. What Rachel doesn’t know is that what she found wasn’t your everyday household plant. This “plant” ends up being a sentient life form that learns to speak and shapeshift, you could say it was Borne to be wild…ehem.

Rachel is torn juggling raising her new “child” Borne, and calming her lover, Wick’s justifiable caution of the creature, after all most things in this world you either eat or get eaten by. In fact Wick at one point worked for the evil company in question and it’s thanks to his biotech-savviness that Rachel has lived this long. Wick also has reason to suspect Rachel’s newly adopted alien-child may be a weapon of some sort from his old employer (Maybe part of his severance package?). Vandermeer makes us question what it means to be human and even what it means to love. You can’t help falling in love with the characters and find yourself rooting for them when they get into trouble. Some of the greatest moments are the dialog between Rachel and Borne while she is trying to raise him.

‘“I’m going outside. I’m going on a scavenging run. I’ll be back before dark.”

“What’s a ‘scavenging run’?”

“Doing Dew,” I said, “Doing Dew for you.”

“I want to go,” Borne said, as if the city were just another tunnel. “I should go. It’s settled. I’ll go.” He liked to settle things before I could decide.

“You can’t go, Borne,” I said.

But Borne was undaunted by my resistance.

“I have an idea,” he said. “Don’t say no yet.” Another favorite gambit. Don’t say no yet. When had I ever really said no to him? The number of discarded lizard heads gathered in a wastebasket in a far corner of the Balcony Cliffs was testament to that.

“No.”

“But I said you can’t say no!” In a flurry and fury, he expanded in all directions and covered walls like a rough, green-tinged surreal sea with what now became two huge glowing red eyes, staring down at me from the ceiling. I smelled something burning. He knew I didn’t like that smell. (Unfortunately, he didn’t mind the smell of me farting in retaliation.)’

The language feels so real and that’s what makes the characters so believable, it has you anxious when they’re in danger, laughing when they are joking, and in tears when they feel pain. Not enough for you you might say? Well don’t worry, Wick has an ex-colleague, going by “The Magician” making things more difficult for everyone in their ruined city by trying to take on our lovely mascot, can’t have Mord getting ALL the attention now can we? Listen, all in all this is a great SciFi read and you should definitely give it a gander. If you have read it, leave a comment below and let me know what you thought about it!

Get your own copy of Borne here and let me know what you thought about it.

Featured Image from: https://arstechnica.com/the-multiverse/2017/06/in-borne-theres-a-biotech-apocalypse-so-weird-its-almost-plausible/