Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thriller. Show all posts

F.E.A.R. on PC Giveaway!

Time for another giveaway! A couple of weeks ago I did a necro-review of F.E.A.R. for the PC. Now I am giving away a copy of the game for any interested readers out there.

The rules for this giveaway are as follows:

1)      Join our Steam group, if you are not already a member, you can join HERE.
2)      Go to THIS discussion thread in the Steam group.
3)      Post a reply in the thread containing both of the following:

a.       A quote from the F.E.A.R. review that makes you interested in playing the game (the quote must not be the same quote used by the response posted directly above yours in the thread, which does not apply to the first poster).
b.    In my review I stated that the music of the game sounded like it was inspired by the music from a movie. State the name of that movie.

Disclaimer: You cannot win if you are one of our recent winners. (specifically: “Cali Yo”, sorry, but you will have more opportunities in the future.)

You have until Friday January 9th at 8 pm EST to enter. At that time, I will make a list of the eligible entries and I will use to pick a winner.

Good Luck!
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Book Review: A Vision of Fire

It seems that video games aren’t the only form of media that follows a drought/deluge release cycle. Suddenly we’re awash in new books as well as novel gaming experiences. There’s a remark in there about a day containing only so many hours, but, really, is there a better ‘problem’ to have than, “Too Many Fun Things to Read/Play?” Rank that up there near the top of #nerdworldproblems.

So now we can follow the example of the recent entry to the Kitchen Codex and give some of the less frequently featured sections of the site some overdue attention. We get to return to books with A Vision of Fire: A Novel by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin. Yes, it’s that Gillian Anderson, she of the X-Files fame, making her authorial debut with this title.

I don’t know. Gillian’s a good actress, but how is she as a writer?

We’ll get to that, no worries. First, a synopsis!

A Vision of Fire will feel very familiar to fans of the X-Files, as it's set up like an extended monster-of-the-week style episode. We're presented with several seemingly disconnected but instantly engaging vignettes: a girl and her father are attacked by mysterious gunmen during an early morning walk to the girl's school, meanwhile, off the coast of Antarctica, a highly skilled thief loots a strange artifact that had only just been uncovered by a research vessel. In the aftermath of the attempted assassination, the girl begins exhibiting disturbing symptoms and behaviors that seem more akin to demonic possession than to any known illness. Her parents are beside themselves with worry, but are loathe to seek medical treatment. The father is India's ambassador to the UN and cannot brook distractions as he's buried in the midst of intense negotiations with Pakistan concerning the fate of Kashmir.

Enter Dr. Caitlin O'Hara, a tough but highly distinguished psychiatrist who specializes in adolescent trauma. She's brought onto the case by a former undergraduate classmate, and source of romantic tension, who is now acting as a translator for the Indian diplomatic delegation. While Caitlin expresses deep compassion and concern for her young patient, she finds herself increasingly frustrated as the cause of the girl's malady continues to defy definition. As the symptoms worsen, Caitlin discovers that her charge is not alone in her preternatural suffering, with two similar cases popping up in disparate corners of the globe and only one common occurrence linking them together: a family member's recent encounter with death.

As new information continues to stream in the situation grows murkier and more dire. The diplomatic negotiations sour and suddenly nuclear war becomes a very real possibility while Caitlin's patient teeters on the brink of total madness. Visions of a potentially ancient civilization color the experiences of the afflicted in disturbing and seemingly impossible ways. All the while a shadowy, long-established elite club of world travelers engage in potentially nefarious and bizarre activities. Are these all linked somehow? Can catastrophe be averted?

Of course, the answers to those are spoilers so large that they'd undermine the whole review. Suffice to say, you'll have to read A Vision of Fire to find out. And if you do decide to read it, you're in for a fun ride. A Vision of Fire is a fine bit of brain candy that makes use of tropes usually reserved for big budget action films. It's not supposed to be the most plausible or sophisticated collection of prose, so your best bet is not to go into it with lofty expectations. That's not to say that the writing is dreadful, but the quality is certainly uneven and several scenes feel a bit forced. It's not entirely clear if that disparity is the result of two authors collaborating on the book (it's never clear how much of the project was written by Gillian herself). If you can get through the first two or three chapters, then it's mostly smooth sailing from there on out.

That being said, the ending may prove a bit bumpy for some readers. The narrative builds to a frenetic crescendo, then abruptly changes tone but leaves much unresolved. The majority of this can be attributed to the fact that A Vision of Fire is supposed to be the first book in a series, so keeping that in mind may help prevent frustrations towards the end of the text.

The characterization is arguably the strongest part of the book, despite the fact that I couldn't stop picturing Dr. O'Hara as Dana Scully. Most of the individuals, even the non-human ones, we're introduced to remains believable and engaging despite the absurdities of the situations that are driving them. There are only a couple of one-dimensional exceptions to this, though that may also be tied back to the first-book-in-a-series phenomenon and we may see more from these people in the next installments.

Final Grade: B/B+

Bottom Line: If you come at A Vision of Fire prepared for a thrilling, psuedo-metaphysical ride, then you'll likely have an enjoyable reading experience; just don't take it too seriously. Even if it doesn't prompt fond memories of paranormal investigation, at 300 pages it'll be over in only a handful of sittings. It's a fast, fun read that will likely be a welcome distraction during the upcoming holiday travel season.  
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Gias Giveaway: Five Nights at Freddy's

The Steam Halloween Sale is here as well as numerous horror theme game bundles on IndieGala and HumbleBundle. There are horror games galore itching for you to buy them on the cheap, but here is a chance to snag one for free.

I have an extra copy of Five Nights at Freddy's to giveaway in the Halloween spirit.  It is easy to enter: just join the Care and Feeding of Nerds Steam group and post a comment stating what about Five Nights at Freddy's appeals to you.  
I will roll randomly among the eligible comments posted before 2 November at 8pm EST and email the key to the winner.

Get ready for fear.
Image credit

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Upcoming Awesomeness in 2014!

A very happy 2014 to everyone! Here's hoping that your holidays were awesome and that the year has gotten off to a great start. 2013 was chock-full of nerdy goodness and 2014 looks as though it's set to deliver more of the same. Love it.  In the spirit of good-things-to-come, we're going to kick off the new year on the Care and Feeding of Nerds in the same way we ushered in last year: with a rundown of all the geeky brilliance that's scheduled to come our way in the next 12 months.

Original image by Silver Gryphon Games
 This year's offerings are categorized below by media type and have only been listed if they have a definitive release date during 2014. Those titles with potential debuts or vague "sometime in the second half of the year" timetables (like the 5th and final season of Warehouse 13) can be featured later on when they have at least a specific month for release. 


Helix (Syfy) - A team of infectious disease specialists travel to the Arctic to investigate a potential outbreak of a novel virus but their inquiry may have consequences for the entire human species. The show is guaranteed to run at least 13 episodes and will premiere on January 10th.

Archer (FX) - Season 5 of the misadventures of Sterling Archer and the rest of the ISIS crew will hit the airwaves on January 13th.

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Part 2 (AMC) - The mid-season finale saw once tight-knit group of survivors cast to the winds and left to very uncertain fates. The zombies will shamble again beginning February 9th.

The Venture Brothers - We waited 2 years for Season 5, but thankfully only have to wait a fraction of that to be able to watch the episodes at our leisure. The season will be available on both DVD and Blu-Ray on March 4th. 


Despite the fact that the lion's share of cinematic chatter flitting about at present pertains to films that we won't see until 2015 at the very earliest, the movie lineup of 2014 is nothing to sniff at. In keeping with the trend of the past several years, sequels and reboots (and even sequel-reboots) make up the majority of 2014's movie fodder, but there are a handful of novel titles in the mix. The year in geeky films is as follows:

I, Frankenstein - Dr. Frankenstein's infamous creation has likely never seen this much action as he finds himself caught in the midst of a centuries old war.
The LEGO Movie - Will Farrell, Channing Tatum, and Elizabeth Banks lend their voices to this animated tribute to the greatest of all building blocks.
Robocop - The first of 2014's reboots; Detroit's newest enforcer of justice.
Vampire Academy - The world is riddled with various vampire species, some friendly to humans and others less so. A specialized school trains dhampir to maintain the blood-sucking, immortal balance.
Winter's Tale - A burglar falls in love with an heiress just as she dies in his arms. When he later learns the secrets of reincarnation, he sets off to alter the past and save her.
The Wind Rises - The newest offering from Hayao Miyazaki tells the tale of a man who designed fighter planes during World War Two. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt voice the English-language version of the film.
Welcome to Yesterday - A group of teens stumble across plans to build a time machine. Teenaged hijinks ensue.
300: Rise of an Empire - The death of Leonidas' soldiers at the hands of Xerxes' horde rallies all of Greece to the defensive.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman - The adventures of world's smartest dog and his loyal boy.
Muppets Most Wanted - Tom Hiddleston and Salma Hayek comprise part of the ensemble cast of this latest installation in the Muppets menagerie.  
Divergent - Beatrice Prior has a very unique mind; that makes her dangerous and a viable threat in the futuristic dystopia she inhabits.
Captain America: Winter Soldier - Everyone's favorite shield-wielder returns to grapple with his place in modern society and in S.H.I.E.L.D.s self-styled mandate to protect humanity.
Transcendence - Johnny Depp plays a terminally ill scientist who doffs his mortal coil and uploads his consciousness into a computer.
The Amazing Spider Man 2 - Peter Parker faces all new threats, not least of which is his discomfort with being a superhero.
Godzilla - The Kaiju response to last year's Pacific Rim? Perhaps.
X-Men: Days of Futures Past - Wolverine is sent through the past in a desperate attempt to prevent calamity for both mutants and humans.
Maleficent - Angelina Jolie stars in this film about the greatest of all Disney villains
Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt repeatedly relive the last day of an epic battle to save humanity from invading aliens.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Five years have passed in the dragon-addled land of Berk and two dear friends find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict that threatens the nascent interspecies peace.
Transformers: Age of Extinction - Michael Bay loves him some giant form-changing robots in this fourth installment (yes, fourth) of the franchise.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Watch the trailer. Enough said.
Jupiter Ascending - Mila Kunis plays Jupiter, a remarkable human in a universe where humans are the lowest of the sentient species.
Guardians of the Galaxy - A jet pilot is stranded in space and must bring together a diverse team of highly specialized aliens to combat new cosmic threats. Also, Rocket Raccoon!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Michael Bay continues to manhandle our childhoods. Ugh.
The Giver - Long considered 'unfilmbable', this classic young adult book about adolescence in an ostensibly perfect community is slated to get the Hollywood treatment.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Six years after our first visit, we return to the eponymous urban den of ill repute.
The Maze Runner - In a post-apocalyptic world, a boy has his memories erased and must try to piece together his past in order to bolster his chances to escape a colossal maze.
Dracula Untold - A merging of vampire mythos and historical account of Vlad Dracul.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 - The 75th Hunger Games ended in chaos and Panem is plunged into bedlam. Katniss struggles with the role she is given in the new Rebellion.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again - Dragon, Orcs, Laketown, attempted Dwarven reclamation of sacred homelands and Sauron's shadow continues to darken Middle Earth.

Board Games/RPGs

Most board game publications gain formal traction during the second and third quarters of a given year, but there's still much to look forward to! Every single one of the independently designed games featured in last year's SPIEL post successfully funded their respective Kickstarters and are set to become physical, playable games as soon as March!

Asmadi - 2014 is slated to be a very busy year for the publisher. Consequential, Innovation: No Place Like Home, Equinox, and Impulse should all be hitting store shelves in the very near future. You can still order the "final draft" version of Impulse here.

PC/Video Games

Transistor - The star of last year's PAX East is presently in a fully playable alpha and is on track to make its exclusive PS4 release date in March (it will release to PC later in 2014).

Dark Souls 2 - The sequel to the original ARPG will be available on PC, XBox 360, and PS3 in mid-March.

Titanfall - The creators of Call of Duty attempt to bolster their signature format by adding giant robots to the mix (because giant robots make everything better). This title is an Xbox 360 exclusive.

Infamous: Second Son - Set seven years after the events of Infamous 2, this open world ARPG is coming exclusively to the PS4 on March 21.

And this is just the beginning! On to an excellent year ahead!
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Book Review: The Twelve

Hey there readers. With the approach of the holiday season (though some retailers would have us believe it actually arrived months ago), we may find ourselves starting to gear up for long hours spent either waiting for or being in transit. This, coupled with the modicum of newfound freedom I have whilst waiting for my advisor to complete another round of thesis edits, was the fodder for this week's post. Oh reading for pleasure, how I've missed you. 

This limited window in which non-assigned reading can be consumed was almost immediately filled with a book that I'd been eagerly anticipating for more than 2 years (which, of course, is a drop in the bucket of waiting for the next book in the a Song of Ice and Fire series). I say 'almost' because the very first thing to grace my free hours was The Hobbit, which was due for a re-read before its upcoming cinematic debut. It just so happens that said text is also a great post-apocalyptic tale for those of you out there like Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, "anticipating" that whole doom of humanity thing that's supposed to go down in about a week.

The focal book is The Twelve by Justin Cronin, the second volume in his epic trilogy, The Passage.

Wait, the middle book of a trilogy? Can I feasibly tackle The Twelve without reading its predecessor first?

Could you? Yes, definitely. Do I recommend it? Eh, not so much. With a gulf of years between installments, Cronin takes pains to recap the events that took place in the first book (which shares a title with the trilogy itself) in order to get both previous readers and newcomers to the series up to speed. While you can mentally back your way into the various characters and occurrences that took place in The Passage, doing so will involve some careful reading that may detract from your overall experience with The Twelve. Also, partaking in the first book will prepare you for the unorthodox devices that Cronin continues to use in the second (more on this in a minute though).

**The following review assumes that you have read The Passage. While there are no explicit spoilers, some tidbits may give away certain things if you have not read the first installment of the trilogy.**

The vamps look kinda like these guys (note the lack of sparkles)
Akin to The Passage, a very large portion of The Twelve is spent building background knowledge, the narrative of which is then punctuated by massive, non-sequential leaps in time. Despite this flux, readers will be instantly reminded of the periods which are critical to the story itself. A sizable percentage of the first half is spent in and around year zero (2014), the year in which a secret US military agency accidentally unleashed their manufactured, bat-derived virus onto an unwitting populace. Meant to create a race of super-soldiers, the virus instead creates vampires (not sparkly BS vampires, but creatures that would be more at home in 28 Days Later) and these critters then lay waste to nearly all civilization in North America. This time, we get to see year zero at ground zero, literally the fates of those unfortunate enough to be denizens of the metro-Denver area and, later on, all those who lived west of the Mississippi River.

This, plus some interludes about eighty years AV (After Virus) and a couple snippets of text from an academic conference a millennia later, is all essentially a lengthy introduction for the second half of the book. We get several pieces of the puzzle we were abruptly left with at the end of The Passage, though some are markedly more useful than others. Despite Cronin's attempts to leave a trail of proverbial bread crumbs for readers who may not remember each individual from the preceding volume, it's often difficult to recall just why a particular exchange or series of events is important without first conducting a series of Google searches. A brief, annotated list of pertinent characters would have done wonders to facilitate the transition from book one to book two. Additionally, though the annihilation of a continent is, in itself, exciting, Cronin deliberately tamps down any tension around the initial outbreak and resulting events so he can instead pen a character-centric crescendo. The result is extremely uneven pacing, even when the narrative is not skipping centuries, with an enormous amount of ink being spilt on relatively trivial matters while legitimately important occurrences merit nary a sentence.

It's something of a grind getting through that first half, not going to lie to you guys. Is it worthwhile? Potentially, but if, and only if, you keep in mind that this is the second novel in a trilogy. Intrigue abounds and there's action aplenty, but, as mentioned, few satisfying answers or conclusions. This is to be expected of the bridge volume in a series of three, but something that definitely needs to be taken into account if you decide to tackle The Twelve.

Once we get past the lengthy world building, we're incrementally reunited with the protagonists of The Passage. Five years have passed since the rather sudden ending of the first book and the former Colony members are nigh-unrecognizable. Mashed under the weight their precarious, fragile existence in a world where humans no longer occupy the top tier of the food chain, the intrepid band of ex-Californians has been rent asunder and scattered to the winds. We encounter each character in turn as we learn more about the nature of the vampires (called "virals" and a host of other names in the text) and just how close humanity lies to the edge of oblivion.

The force shunting the human race towards said fate are the vampires that owe their altered physicality directly to the Twelve, the eleven test subjects originally dosed with the manufactured virus and Zero, the sole survivor of the event that allowed the virus to cross over from bats to humans. These 'familiars' tend to lack the mindless rage and hunger that characterize the majority of their hemophilic brethren and, in at least one case, can attract a following of their own. These second-generation vampires fancy themselves the next step in evolution and the book's second act is a thorough layout of the designs they, and their creators, have in mind regarding the domestication of what few humans remain alive.

The book suffers from many of the same shortcomings as its predecessor: the uneven pacing, the frequent overwriting, the deep-seating sense of self-importance, and the use of tired tropes long since rendered inherent to the genre. At times Cronin's use of that last entry border on unintentional comedy, Oh an ideal summer's day spent picnicking with innocent children just outside the walls that guarantee our safety from bloodsucking rage monsters. What could possibly go wrong?   
Cronin makes a clear effort to tighten up his writing in The Twelve. Gone are the pages-long meanderings of internal monologues and, once the action gets going, there is a genuine build to the drama and excitement. All this, unfortunately, tends to be overshadowed by everything in the above paragraph. The characters ring hollow and approach caricature in some instances. Still, the questions that naturally come to mind as one attempts to imagine Cronin's painstakingly crafted universe are strikingly interesting, even when the story itself is not.

Overall Grade: C-

Bottom Line: If you liked the The Passage and could put aside Cronin's authorial flaws then you may enjoy The Twelve. If you're a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, then you may also enjoy this book. If you're neither of those two things then this probably isn't the book for you. Hell, even if you are both those things the book may still come as a disappointment. Ultimately, it's a question of your willingness to go along with Cronin's style or, if you are willing, if actually tackling the nearly 600 pages is at all a worthwhile venture.
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Book Review: 2312

Wow. Just wow. The past week has been chock-full of excitement in almost as wide a variety of disciplines as one could imagine. Of course, we have the Thirtieth Olympiad providing an almost overwhelming, if certainly heart-stopping, display of athletic mastery. The Games in themselves have been such a pleasure to behold, but we were treated to an additional stirring development as the folks over at NASA successfully guided their Curiosity lander to the surface of Mars. If you haven't seen the replay of the landing, it's definitely worthwhile to go check it out. Watching that cadre of scientists explode into what must have been unparalleled joy elicited serious goosebumps. Once again, I'm in awe that the breakthroughs we've borne witness to in 2012 are occurring during the course of our lifetime, nonetheless in the past eight months.

As these advancements unfold around us, and the boundaries of what is possible are contorted and drawn taut, it's almost tantalizing to try and imagine what might come next.  What are we, as a species, truly capable of?

Though we'll have to wait and watch as the answers to that question become apparent in real time, we can indulge our imaginations with 2312, the latest title from Mars Trilogy author Kim Stanley Robinson. Not only will this book present a plethora of responses to the above question, but it will sate your scholastic curiosity in a way that's unfortunately uncommon in the realm of modern fiction.

Beginning around the incept of the titular year, the story opens on the planet Mercury and we're immediately thrust into a universe that we, in this era, can recognize but simultaneously struggle to envision. Technological progress is such that almost the entirety of the solar system has been colonized and those celestial bodies not actively being used for human habitation are treated as conglomerates of valuable resources. Interplanetary travel is commonplace and terraforming is a critically important amalgam of science and art practiced by an elite few.

The would-be protagonist, Swan Er Hong, is one of said illustrious planet-crafters. (I say 'would-be' because though there is a discernable plot, the actual story being presented by Robinson is that of the human species and our latent potentiality. More on that in a minute.) The tempestuous, volatile Swan is a literal embodiment of all that it means to be mercurial, including being a native citizen of Mercury. A famed virtuoso amongst both ecological and artistic circles, Swan finds herself torn abruptly from the comforts of her privileged existence after the death of her mentor and grandmother, the Lion of Mercury and de facto ruler of the planet. When signs point to the death stemming from less-than-natural causes, Swan embarks on what begins as the execution of her grandmother's will but what quickly morphs into an adventure that is a smattering of murder mystery, a pinch of love story, a heap of interplanetary diplomatic jockeying, an AI conspiracy that echoes of Asimov, and a race against time to save humanity from itself.

That alone would be sufficient fodder for just about any thriller or work of science fiction, but the plot we're presented with is only the lead line that allows us to be dawn though breathtakingly expansive universe that the author has crafted. Though 2312 is not a prequel or sequel to the Mars Trilogy, fans of the latter will take comfort in knowing that Robinson brings his same unique scope to world building, simultaneously unfathomably large and microscopically minute, to his latest effort. That being said, 2312 was designed to be a stand-alone book and no prior experiences with Robinson's works are needed to enjoy  it.

So what are we talking about that makes this literary universe so gobsmacking that I'd go on about it for paragraphs at a time? Asteroids can not only be succesfully terraformed, but transformed into biomes that either went extinct eons ago or never previously existed. Cities skate along, monorail-like, on titanic tracks. We know that humans have figured out how to traverse the solar system, but they've also unscrambled most of the human genome. A person's DNA can be reconfigured at will to undo the harmful effects of radiation or prompt the body to grow or shrink to better withstand non-Terran gravity. Perhaps more tellingly, a denizen of this far-flung century can have their vocal chords altered in order to purr like a cat or grow an additional set of genitalia in order to experience what an orgasm is like for someone of the opposite gender.

Due to this facility with our own bodies, humanity has transitioned to a post-gender society. This, in conjunction with our successful slowing of the aging process (the average non-Earthbound person lives to be more than 200 years old), allows for a degree of unprecedented experientialism. With a lifespan more than double that of their predecessors, humans living in Robinson's universe can spend years honing arcane skills or experimenting with various hobbies. However, while the individual thrives, the species teeters on the brink of self-destruction. Earth is a desolate quagmire of political bickering and environmental disaster, seemingly at odds not only with what its inhabitants believe are profligate "spacers" (off-planet natives) but with itself. Those selfsame "spacers" quibble as to whether or not Earth is even worth saving. Where does humanity's fate lie?

 The science is deeply, truly satisfying. There are several points during the course of the book where you may wonder Why aren't we doing this right now?  Robinson's dedication to presenting an accurate, if not entirely cost-effective, explanation for the phenomenon and technology in his universe is painstakingly clear and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the text. Furthermore, the author's facility with prose is exquisite. Meiville fans may rejoice and the rest of us can enjoy a good workout for the old neurons.

Overall Grade: A-

Bottom line:  Have you gone out for a meal with friends and still have fond memories of the evening, but can't recall for the life of you how the food was? That's pretty much this book. It's a read for those who A) love a challenge B) adore science C) both A and B. The plot itself is trite, drags on occasion, and the ending is more than a bit "convenient" on a number of levels, but the overall experience is such that these don't really matter. You read this one to go along for the ride and you won't be sorry you did.
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Book Review: Arctic Rising

Like many, arguably most, nerds, I'm a voracious reader. Serendipitously, my present daily commute allows for at least 40-60 uninterrupted minutes of potential reading time five days a week. The reason why being packed into the subway sardine-style doesn't faze me? My imagination is usually running on all cylinders before the automatic doors ease shut (when I'm not buried under assignments for school that is). As such, my hope is that this will be the first of many book reviews, since most of us are continually on the lookout for a solid read.

This year boasts a particularly dense and diverse roster of new titles that would appeal to those of the geeky persuasion. My most recent encounter with one of these came in the form of Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell. Released back in February, this tight-knit thriller has been making waves amongst fans of several genres and the title appeared has on several 'must read' lists. The book claimed to combine my love of spy-action, political intrigue, near-future hypothesizing, and science. A quick perusal of the plot synopsis was enough to convince me to give it a go.

Set approximately 60-75 years beyond present day, Arctic Rising presents a rendition of planet Earth that scientists have been warning us about for over 30 years now. The atmosphere, rife with anthropomorphic carbon, has retained more than enough heat in the biosphere to eliminate the Arctic icecaps and open the entirety of the Northwest Passage (somewhere in Samsara, the spirit of Sir John Franklin faints). The climatic shifts associated with global warming have resulted in corresponding shifts in sovereign wealth and, concordantly, in geopolitical power.  State, corporate, and supranational actors alike are jostling for control in this still-changing environment while simultaneously dealing with an volatile post-Peak Oil economy.

Amidst this stifled furor, we meet our protagonist: Nigerian airship pilot Anika Duncan. Having forsworn her days as a mercenary, Anika enjoys the comparative quiet and routine of flying reconnaissance missions for the United Nations Polar Guard (the UN having climbed to increased prominence as many territories exposed by the receding Arctic ice are either hotly contested or stated to be autonomous and separate from any given country). After her airship is shot down by what appeared to be the RPG of a smuggler trafficking in nuclear arms, Anika finds herself to be the unanticipated wrinkle amidst reams of seamless political scheming.  The book focuses primarily on Anika's attempts to discern the identity and motive of the parties who blew her out of the sky and, as the facets and scope of what turns out to be a conspiracy of a titanic scale, her efforts to simply keep breathing.

It's a taut, quick read set at a pace that you'd expect of a thriller. The quality of the writing starts out somewhat weak, and there are points where you question the judgment of certain characters, but it strengthens markedly by the time you're about a third of the way into the story. Buckell earns points for creating a strong, intelligent heroine, but the majority of the cast of secondary characters fall into the realm of one dimensional. The author takes care to create an extremely realistic setting for his tale, but the twists and turns he subjects his readers to are well-worn and the climax of the action feels so cliché that you may wonder if he'd originally envisioned the text as a comic book.

Mercifully, the science was clearly a priority to Buckell and his presentation of the environmental factors at work and the consequences they wreak is arguably the strongest facet of the narrative. As someone who studies sustainability and environmental management, I was especially discriminating of Buckell's depiction and was pleasantly surprised by the end product. His characterization of the 'Arctic Tiger' nations (the countries that would experience a substantial inflow of wealth as climate patterns shift and fossil fuels are displaced out of necessity) is highly feasible and the conflicts that arise amongst claimants of newly freed Arctic territories seems probable. You find yourself agreeing with Buckell's description of human reactions to the altered Earth simply because they feel legitimate. This stuff seems like it could happen tomorrow. Furthermore, the author doesn't shy away from thorny social, political, and scientific issues during the course of the novel. He makes a point to touch on race, gender roles, sexuality (Anika's lesbianism factors heavily into the tale), and the quest for personal happiness as well as macro quandaries like how denizens of low-lying island nations must be properly compensated after their homes are swallowed up by the melted remnants of the Arctic icecaps (something that Grenedan-born Buckell plays close to the chest). There are several occasions where Buckell takes his eco-enthusiasm to a near-bombastic level of sermonizing which do actively detract from the rest of his narrative, but this is typical of the vast majority of literature concerning global warming (this will be the subject of a future post). Additionally, there are a handful of scenes that ostensibly seek to dissect a larger social matter, but end up contributing to the issue on the very side that Buckell sets out to turn on its proverbial head (oh yeah, we get 'empowered' hookers with hearts of gold).

Overall Grade: B-

Bottom line: it's a fun read so long as you don't try to take it too seriously. If anything, you can easily atone for the book's weaknesses with your own conversational deconstruction. It's brain candy, particularly if you're a fan of the genre or ecological sciences. A good nerdy beach read best enjoyed with a margarita and a pinch of salt.

Totally unrelated interjection: Be sure to check out our new pages on G+ and Facebook, as well as our new accounts on Twitter and Pinterest! (see preceding post for details!)

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