”Necropolis” by Michael Dempsey (Night Shade Books, 2011)

Necropolis
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Michael Dempsey’s debut novel, Necropolis, is a great genre-crossing example of both fantasy and science fiction that will find an interested reader just about anywhere, whether it’s the urban fantasy setting of a former cop looking to solve the ultimate crime; a play on the concept of the hugely popular subject of the “undead”; or the interesting future of 2054 which seems a place no one would want to live.

Necropolis opens with an enchanting scene between Paul Donner and his beautiful wife that is ripped asunder and savagely ended by their untimely deaths.  And then Paul is brought back to life fifty years later and becomes known as a “reborn”; the strange thing is from now on he will start to grow younger and younger.  This is due to a strange retroviral attack on New York; beneath the blister the dead don’t always stay dead, though this isn’t true for everyone, only some come back to life.  Elvis Presley is back, performing away, as well as all of the Beatles except John Lennon.  And Paul Donner comes back with white hair and the horrible knowledge that he is a reborn, hated and ridiculed by society; he’s not even allowed to be a cop anymore.  But Paul only cares about one thing: even though it’s fifty years later, he is planning to find out who killed him and his wife and get his revenge.

Necropolis seems a little frivolous with the use of tropes from this type of science fiction, with the down and out cop in a world he doesn’t understand, while the women the reader meets at first are all prostitutes or worse.  The story of Paul’s death of course has links and ties to the origin of this strange retroviral attack that changed the world for the people of New York.  The uniqueness of the story is with these reborns and their strange origin keeps the reader hooked as the plot grows and thickens until the unpredictable end.

Originally written on October 17, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100” by Michio Kaku (Doubleday, 2011)

Phyiscs of the Future
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Michio Kaku, a professor of physics at the CUNY Graduate Center, sure knows how to make science both gripping and interesting.  After the great bestseller, Physics of the Impossible, which tackled all those great science fiction inventions we’ve heard so much about in books, going in detail about when these said inventions would plausibly be invented; he brings things closer to home in Physics of the Future, focusing on inventions developments over the next century.

In his new book, Kaku goes into detail where the next hundred years will take us on a number of different subjects, and what possible great things humanity will come up with next.  The chapters run the gamut from the future of the computer, AI, nanotechnology and medicine, to where the future of wealthy, energy, and humanity will take us.  Each chapter is divided into three parts: the near future, covering the present until 2030; midcentury from 2030-2070; and the far future from 2070-2100.  In each of these parts, Kaku covers important discoveries and inventions that will be developed, working off of the technology and knowledge of the current period.

Kaku fans and science readers will love Physics of the Future because, while Physics of the Impossible was pretty disheartening to learn that a lot of the cool inventions like transporters and time travel would not be invented until many thousands of years in the future, Physics of the Future covers a lot of fascinating technology that will be developed in many of our lifetimes.

Originally written on September 21, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Saturn’s Children” by Charles Stross (Ace, 2008)

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Charles Stross, author of a number of books including Halting State and Glasshouse, boldly goes where no author has really gone before with an entire book about robots and no humans.  He presents a universe in the distant future where humanity has over-industrialized and commercialized themselves to oblivion, becoming extinct.  All that remains is the considerable population of robots who performed and continue to perform a variety of services.  This is a universe where there are those that do jobs without question, whether it be transportation, manufacturing, or some other day-to-day job that is required to continue the functioning of this civilization.  Then there are those robots whose jobs have become obsolete.

Freya Nakamichi-47 is a femmebot, which is exactly what you think it is.  She is the last of her kind still functioning, able to perform duties for an extinct species, unsure what to do with herself in the twenty-third century.  Meanwhile the civilization of robots continue the hopes and dreams of humanity in exploring space, mining asteroids, and building extravagant cities on distant planets.  Having learned from Homo sapiens’ mistakes, the robot civilization exists in a hierarchical society with humanoid aristo rulers at the top, governing and controlling, while slave-chipped workers perform the menial tasks at the very bottom.  Freya doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere in this robotic society, but when she accidentally angers the wrong robots who want what she has, Freya is now on the run for her survival.

Saturn’s Children is a different world which presents a fascinating look into a possible future outlook.  The narrative pace, while engaging, gives little to be desired with these robots who continue performing the tasks of an extinct humanity with no drive or goal for continued existence.  It leaves the reader questioning at times why they should keep reading.  And yet, there is a compelling chase at the heart of the story that keeps one interested enough.

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Originally written on October 9th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.