5.22.2018

Review of Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi


So, there’s sci-fi (science fiction), and cli-fi (climate science fiction), and now there’s bio-fi (biological science fiction). This last sub-genre is what Paolo Bacigalupi focuses on. He writes novels, young adult fiction and stories. And he’s my favorite fantasy/sci-fi writer. I’ve taught his stories in my classes now for years, and my students also love his writing. As twenty-somethings they feel the winds of change on their necks, and he’s describing it so articulately. His breakout novel was The Windup Girl, set in a future alt-southeast Asia. But if you want to start with something quick and easily digestible try his story collection Pump Six.


Two standout stories are Pocketful of Dharma and The Fluted Girl. These are lyrical yet sharp as tacks, wondrous yet horrifying, pure fantasy yet containing believable scenarios. In the first, we meet Wang Jun, a poverty-stricken beggar wandering the streets of old Chengdu. All he wants is to get to the top of a gigantic biomorphic city, It’s a living architectural structure, like a blob with a beating heart and arteries that a person can run inside of. It grows, it breathes, it oozes and it stinks. A strange foreigner gives Wang Jun a data cube and asks him to take it to a certain bridge and give it to a person wearing white gloves. I won’t get into a blow by blow synopsis partly because it gives away too much. Suffice it to say, the characters Jun meets and the origin of this strange cube will blow your mind.

The Fluted Girl combines the torturous art of foot binding, with genetic enhancements designed to lure, kill, seduce and prolong life. It combines classic fairytale in that it’s set in a castle in the snow, yet it’s also sci-fi at its most savage. The girls—two sisters, Lidia and Nia—have been painstakingly crafted to stop growing at puberty, and have holes in their bodies at strategic points so that they can literally play each other like flutes. They perform at parties and produce beautiful music with an almost sexual crescendo. Their directress doles out drugs, which renders the audience lustful. Add in a mix of very nasty villains with quirky flaws, and it’s a recipe for a gripping thriller.

With geneticists able to grow body parts, celebs like Bette Midler cloning their dogs, and geneticists on the cusp of being able to literally go into one’s DNA code and reprogram the diseased parts, these Bacigalupi stories satisfy like little else. We just feel it. It's a déjà vu that exists in the future, an itch you can't quite scratch, but it’s oh, so close.

5.08.2018

Movie and TV Tie-ins #specfic #books

Some movies and TV shows are created from books, but others inspire books all their own, especially as a series gains popularity.

As a big fan of several—um, okay, it's really many—TV shows, I love following the characters I love from the small screen to the page. I've read TV tie-in novels from series such as The X-Files, Grimm, Star Trek, Stargate SG-1, and many more! This year I've read a book each from Star Trek: Discovery and Stargate SG-1, and I'm currently reading a book from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda.

I find the books to be more in-depth. I'm a visual person, so it's nice to see the actual names of people, places, etc. spelled out too. Plus, it's relaxing to read in a world you're already familiar with.

I admire writers who write movie and TV tie-in novels. It's not easy writing in another person's world as well as keeping the characters realistic to the series. Fans are quick to spot inconsistencies and can judge the books more harshly for it.

We writers of Untethered Realms are finding it to be a difficult task to write in a world not singularly our own as we're jointly creating our own world to write in, but I'm sure it'll be rewarding too. If all works out, we'll have our world revealed in Fall 2019.

Have you read any movie and/or TV tie-in books? If so, what's your favorite series to read in?