Why I love Science Fiction

It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog, something which makes me ashamed. I have been going through a myriad of issues and have been thinking of trying different venues such as youtube, podcast or even streaming through twitch. However I now realize that my true passion and my forte lies in the written word. When I write I feel like I am able to express myself better than in any other form. As such to celebrate my return to blogging, I am writing a special entry on why I love reading science fiction so much.

Over the past few months I have been constantly reading science fiction and whilst I still prefer fantasy (fantasy will always be my favourite genre), science fiction is a genre that I love. From reading Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, to the wonderful Ursula K. Le Guin to the more modern authors N.K. Jemisin or Cixin Liu, I have always loved reading the stories these authors’ craft. Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations and this is perhaps the aspect that I have always been attracted to the most.

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Science fiction allows us to explore universal issues, themes through a futuristic setting and allows us to question everything. Through science fiction we question what defines humanity, what are the consequences of technology and give an insight into what could be the future of humanity. All of this issues are presented through a futuristic lens, a world or universe that in many ways is very different to ours but at the same time remains fundamentally identical at its core.

Science fiction also fulfils another role in my life, and that is to approach me to the scientific world. The best kind of science fiction uses real life science at its core, with some liberties. As someone who has always been fascinated by astrophysics, by physics in general, but has no capacity whatsoever for Math, reading science fiction serves as an outlet for this desire, as a way to vicariously through the story and characters be a part of that scientific world.

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Perhaps most importantly science fiction allows me to disappear from this world for a couple of hours and go into a place where spaceships are a reality, where humanity is able to visit different planets and where my issues fade away as I ponder other questions that whilst at the surface might not seem relevant to everyday life actually allow you to reflect on deep issues that are a basis for what makes one human and his ideals.

Science Fiction is a loyal, close friend with whom I will continue to have amazing adventures in the future and one that always rewards my love for reading. If you have not been reading science fiction books, I urge to go to your local bookstore and pick one, you will not regret it.

I hope you have enjoyed this and keep checking the website because pretty soon I will upload a review of the hilarious book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

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Book Review – The Three-Body Problem

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Recently I have been reading more science fiction than any other genre. I have always enjoyed sci-fi but I had been for the past couple years more involved in reading fantasy with the odd science fiction story being read between fantasy sagas. However this has changed and now I am really enjoying reading science fiction. After finishing The Broken Earth series by N.K Jemisin, a beautiful saga, I was a bit lost on what to read but my good friend Carol Mateu (follow her twitter @carolmola for awesome nerdy fun and lots of laughter) recommended The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and all I can say is that I have fallen in love with this book.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The novel follows Wang Miao as he struggles to make sense of everything that is happening and how the world is changing.

Reading this book has been an eye opening experience. This was my first contact with a novel written by a Chinese author and I have to say that it was an amazing experience. It was refreshing to read a novel with a different style and it was quite interesting to see how the author presents its characters and the stories in what for me was an unfamiliar method. I found myself enthralled by the storytelling and fascinated by the science presented in the book. This is perhaps the aspect I enjoyed the most, as I was reading this great story, I found myself learning about new theories and new aspects of science that until now had been unknown to me. The author is able to masterfully explain the science being developed the book but does this not at the expense of the story. If anything this makes the story feel more stimulating and entertaining.

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Despite the difference in style, Cixin Liu is still able to create a recognizable science fiction story that contains many of the classic tropes we have come to expect in science fiction, with a new spin to them that keeps the story entertaining. After reading this novel, I can understand quite well why it has had the impact it’s had and why the author has won so many awards. It is a fantastic novel and in my opinion a novel that brings new forms of storytelling to science fiction. It has been a fascinating read and has allowed to me to experience science fiction in a way that I am not used to.  Furthermore it has allowed me an insight into some aspects of Chinese culture and history that were completely unknown to me, especially the several philosophers it mentions and the POV of China in regards to the Cultural Revolution.

Finally I would like to dedicate a paragraph to the wonderful ending of the book. The ending is beautifully written, including many references to a defining moment of the book that happened earlier and sets up the next book in a great manner. The ending of this book has instantly become one of my favourite endings as it is capable to leave you with questions, be astounded (at least in my case) by the wonders of the science explained in it, and full of wonder towards this world created.

I have really enjoyed this book and plan on continuing to read more from Cixin Liu (in fact I have already bought the second book on the series) and more eastern science fiction. I encourage you 100% to pick up The Three Body Problem, you will NOT regret it.

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Review – Saga

It has been sometime on this blog since I have talked about anything relating to comics, that is probably due to the fact that I have been lately binge reading fantasy and science fiction. Yet whilst I have not been reading as many comics as I tend to do, I have been reading some of them, kept myself updated with Marvel and DC and have been enjoying a comic that over the past few years has become one of my favourites of all time, Saga. Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. It depicts a husband and wife, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extra-terrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult.

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Ever since I first picked up the first Saga issue, almost by accident, I have been enthralled by it. The art, because make no mistake the work done by Fiona Staples is art, is sublime. It is able to reflect the world the story is set in perfectly and able to portray the emotions of the characters perfectly. Some of the art seen in the numerous issues of Saga counts amongst my favourite seen in the media and every time a new issue comes out I like to take a moment to just take in the amazing art drawn.

The characters of Saga are complex and draw you in every issue. Despite their alien nature you are able to relate to them and whilst they are in some ways they are similar to other characters seen in both comics and science fiction they are also able to remain in many ways distinctive and unique which I believe is one of the reasons this works so well. They are relatable because in many ways they are familiar but they are also different enough to be intriguing and to grab your attention. All of the characters involved from Prince Robot, to Alana and Hazel, to the multitude of side characters that enrichen the story and make it incredibly fun to read are memorable and important.

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The greatest thing about Saga is without a doubt its storytelling. If I had to describe it, and I must say it is difficult to fully do so, I would say it is a mixture of Star Wars mixed with fantasy epics such as Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Throughout the 42 issues we have experienced great emotional moments, fun moments, heart breaking issues and all in all an incredible comprehensive story. It is a story that touches on many issues that are relevant today in our culture such as gender, sexuality or ethnicity and it does so in an incredibly beautiful and respectful manner. It is also a great war comic book, showing us the dark side of wars, all of this based in a science fiction setting. The story has evolved and matured as the comic goes along yet it has not lost that essential aspect of fun and adventure that is so important in a space opera. Brian K. Vaughan has done a wonderful job in combining all of those aspects into a riveting story which is accentuated by the subtle yet delightful dialogue with which he gifts his characters.

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All said if you are not reading Saga you are definitely missing out on a great comic, a comic that I believe is redefining the comic book landscape especially in that genre. It is a smart, funny comic that captures with great characters and a comic with an amazing art that will stun you. Reading Saga is always a thrill and I am always excited when a new issue comes out. I 100% recommend this comic, even if you are not a fan of comics in general, you will probably enjoy Saga.

Whilst I eagerly wait for new issues I will be right here falling more and more in love every day with this comic.

 

Reseña – 36 de Nieves Delgado

El otro día cuando me preparaba para irme de viaje a Mallorca un fin de semana decidí leer un relato corto de ciencia ficción y entre los muchos que he comprado últimamente tome la decisión de leerme 36, escrito por Nieves Delgado. Tal fue la impresión que me causó este relato que me llevó a tomar la decisión de por primera vez escribir en español en mi blog. La ciencia ficción es uno de mis géneros preferidos junto a la fantasía y disfruto mucho leyéndola. Seguramente no hay forma más pura y más entretenida en la ciencia ficción que un buen relato corto. Leer 36 ha sido todo un placer y un viaje a la ciencia ficción clásica.

Este relato nos lleva adentra en la vida de una Inteligencia Artificial, una IA inusual y que ira creciendo y madurando a lo largo del relato. La historia nos enseñara las dificultades a las que se enfrentara la IA para integrarse en una sociedad no acostumbrada. Durante el transcurso del relato la autora trata temas diversos y tradicionales del género como la definición de lo humano, reflexiones sobre la naturaleza humana, reflexiones sobre la mortalidad y la diferencia entre un humano electrónico y un humano orgánico pero desde una perspectiva brillante y diferente.

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36 es un gran relato que te hace pensar, que te hace cuestionar muchas de las ideas ya concebidas y verlas desde un nuevo prisma. El final es sorprendente a la par que emotivo y cuando acabe el relato (que se puede leer en una hora fácilmente) como un buen libro de ciencia ficción debe hacer, te deja reflexivo y soñando con un mundo futuro diferente. Una de las cuestiones que me plantea que me gustaría compartir con vosotros es: ¿Si creamos inteligencia artificial, capaz de sentir y experimentar las mismas cosas que nosotros, debemos darle reconocimiento humano a pesar de no haber sido creada de forma similar?

Este relato ha sido mi primer contacto con Nieves Delgado y me ha dejado una gran impresión que sin duda voy a querer repetir. Si os gusta la Ciencia Ficción clásica 36 es sin duda alguna una historia para vosotros y que encarecidamente recomiendo. ¡No os defraudara!

Book Review – Leviathan Wakes

Another book gone and time for another review. Recently I have been reading more science fiction than fantasy and as such when the time came to choose a new book and after asking over social media, I decided to read Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey. This book series has gained a tremendous popularity in no small part due to the TV show based on this books, The Expanse. Coming into the book I had great expectations, I had been given great feedback on it, I enjoyed immensely the first season of the TV show and I enjoyed previous works by one of the authors. I was shocked to discover that James S.A Corey is a pen name used by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck yet also elated since I have enjoyed immensely other works from Daniel Abraham, especially The Dagger and the Coin fantasy series. As such, I prepared myself for a great, entertaining book.

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I was not disappointed. The book is a great read that creates a magnificent world full of intrigue, mystery and conflict. Reading the world the authors created, the conflict between Mars, Earth and the Belters creates a great backdrop for the story, full of racist overtones. It is quite interesting to see a world in where racism is due to where you come from, what planet you live in. The organization of this world is fascinating something that is very common of all novels by Daniel Abraham. His series are full of complex political relationships, political struggles, which the characters have to face and navigate through. As a political scientist, I have a soft spot for political intrigue in my fantasy/sci-fi books and this book has plenty of them.

The mystery of the threat that the protagonists are facing really pulls the book forward and in my opinion it was a great choice to not explain the nature of the antagonist until almost the end of the book. It helped create intrigue and the mystique of a powerful rival that was always a step ahead of the heroes. The story is also an mystery novel, a detective story, as we follow characters who are determined to discover the truth and throughout much of the novel are investigating and trying to find out the truth.

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The best aspect of the novel is without a doubt the characters. The characters are well fleshed out, with flaws and are very relatable. All their decisions are logical and make sense. In many books, decisions taken by the characters make no sense and take away from the internal logic of the story but in this novel we do not see this. The contrast between the two main characters, James Holden and Detective Miller is fascinating and especially the latter is a great character who is able to captivate you as a reader and in my humble opinion steals the show.

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Lastly, I can’t end this review without mentioning the pace of the book. The book has generally a fast pace that is very entertaining but the authors are also very able to slow it down when needed to give the reader time to really understand what is happening in the book. This technique is very much appreciate it as it allows you as a reader to take time and breath, to have time to comprehend the implications of what is happening in the novel.

Leviathan Wakes is a great start to this series and a fantastic science fiction novel. If you enjoy science fiction it is a must read book (and a must see TV show) and I strongly urge you to pick it up and read it. I have been so enthralled by this book that I immediately have started reading the second book, which so far keeps the excellent level.

Book Review – United States of Japan

Lately I have been reading a lot and finishing many books and thus find myself having to write several reviews for them. This is a wonderful although stressful “problem” because honestly I am enjoying the books so much that it is hard to take some time off from reading. That said, I recently finished reading United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas, and I loved the book so much that I feel like I needed to write about it. In USJ we have an alternate history science fiction where Japan and Germany won World War II and the West Coast of the USA is now controlled by the Japanese Empire.

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This story has a very interesting concept and right from the get go you are invested in the book as you try to understand how different the world has become to ours. I quickly found myself become fascinated by the world the author has created, a world where honour seems to be the most important aspect of society alongside devotion to the Emperor, yet we slowly discover that not everything is what it seems and the Japanese society is more corrupt than first presented.

The book explores concepts of honour, duty, sacrifice, religion and morality in such a way that despite this concepts being complex we are able to dive into them and question many things. Despite the setting of the story being very different to the one we live in right now, at least in the surface, the issues are similar to those we face today in many ways and this made it very easy for the reader to become fascinated by this world.

The characters in this book, especially the two main characters Benjamin Ishimura and Akiko, are fascinating and every chapter of the book is masterfully written so that the first impressions you had of the characters fade away and you are able to see beneath the façade that they put on towards society. As you read the book you feel like you are peeling an onion as you discover more and more layers to this characters and by the time you have finished the book, there is a great sense of empathy that has developed towards this characters, even to Akiko who at the beginning of the book seems like a stone cold government official. This is without a doubt praise worthy as the author manages to create a compelling world with complex but relatable characters.

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Another aspect that I enjoyed of the book was the rhythm. The book is very easy to read as it has a great pace that never drags and allows you to quickly devour this great book. The pace slowly builds up to an incredible, action packed finale with many surprising twists that will leave you breathless, shocked and with a deep appreciation to the book.

Lastly I have to mention the science fiction aspects of this book. I am a huge science fiction nerd and constantly read books in this genre. In USJ we are given a world with many classical science fiction tropes yet they are not fully developed despite some mentions towards the amazing technology (portical and mechas to name a few). It does follow many of the themes that are classical in science fiction and that makes for a great read. However, despite the fact that it does not delve too deep into sci-fi terrain this does not really hurt the book, if anything the hints the author gives at a larger world makes you want to know more. Another thing I would like to point out is that as someone who really enjoys Japanese culture and someone who has lately been reading a very famous manga, Vagabond, and I loved the nods to Musashi Miyamoto.

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In conclusion United States of Japan is a great fun book. The ending was great, shocking the reader to the core and changing your perspective towards many colours. I finished the book wanting to know more about this world, wanting to learn how Europe is (there are some small hints but nothing definitive) and most importantly, really wanting to see those awesome mechas have more action. I 100% recommend this book and can’t wait for the second one to come out.

Review Armada – A Nerd Dream

Over the past week I have spent around 14 hours riding on a train. As I prepared for my last train ride I was facing 7 hours on my way home and so I decided to read a book I have been meaning to read for a long time, “Armada” by Ernest Cline. Two years ago I read his first novel “Ready Player One” and I absolutely loved it. It was book for nerds like me, full of amazing references and a very fun concept. In “Armada”, I had heard before reading the book that it was not as good as the previous one, t going into this book I was just expecting to have a good read, have some fun and enjoy all the nerdy references.

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“Armada” did not disappoint. I loved the concept as it was basically the dream of all nerds, a world facing an alien threat that can only be saved by gamers who have unknowingly been training for this event through videogames. This of course is not an original concept, it can be seeing in a similar fashion in “Ender’s Game”, but the way it is told was beautiful. I loved the fun the author has throughout the book, the exciting dialogues full of references to Star Wars, Star Trek and other movies and comics, and most of all I loved the characters.

The main character in this book is a kid about to finish high school who loves pop-culture, videogames and a character that I could relate to very much. There is a quote at the beginning of the film that I wish to share with all of you since I felt that it described my school years perfectly: “I had been hoping and waiting for some mind-blowingly fantastic, world-altering event to finally shatter the endless monotony of my public education.” This thought by the main character made me relate to him throughout the whole story and feel identified in his reactions to the challenges he faced. His characters, those of his friends, and other around him gave this whole story a fun vibe that I fell in love with.

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This book is by no means a great book, but if you go to read it with an open mind, expecting to be entertained, to laugh and to be invested in the story you will enjoy it immensely. After all as part of this nerd world, it is incredibly easy to relate to the characters, and their fun vibrant dialogues. The story also has moments full of heart that are great to read and that give an important depth to the story.

Overall, in “Armada”, Ernest Cline delivers a fun, epic, nerdy story that is an easy read and by no means boring. Reading this book on the train ride was great and it helped make the long trip easier. “Armada” gave thought to many of my nerdy dreams and is a book that has somehow encouraged me to continue dreaming of a world where my nerd skills are actually useful. I for one, can’t wait to see the film that is being prepared for this book.

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