Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin

            In my last entry, I discussed a problem I had a big with Counter-Clock World, that being how stupid the actions of the characters were as a whole. I bring this up again because I once again would like to talk about a story which relies on an idiot plot, a story which has to purposefully be set up in such a dumb way in order for the story to run and reach its point. That alone should describe this short story, though I will continue in a bit of detail.
            I have not read this story in quite a while, but I remember the basic premise is about an emergency supply ship granted enough reserve to make its designated trip and if its objective fails several people will die. From what I remember, reserves are limited to just ensure arrival because of budgetary reasons.
            And from that we already have problems: why limit the budget to that extent? How can one gauge the reserve limit when anything can happen in space? For being a hard science fiction story, it doesn't seem to realize a variety of factors in space can cause an array of problems, and so that makes having a base limit of resources pointless; considering that, it's frankly best just to give a vessel everything it needs and stop being so cheap.
            But even if we're going to neglect that point, I would also like to mention it's quite strange that a pilot wouldn't do a good survey of his vessel before taking off. Or have effective security at this emergency space port. Or even have a lock on the door. Or even a detection system, or scale system, installed in an on-board computer. It's as if the company and pilots purposefully ignored a general rule in engineering called the "margin of error", created for this very reason.
            It would normally seem to me the story was purposefully built in such an obtuse manner in order to reach its goal, but the fact is Tom Godwin originally sent in three other copies saving the girl in the end to editor of Astounding Magazine John W. Campbell. So it's actually sort of Campbell's fault the story turned out so idiotic. I understand Campbell's idea was to generate something captivating and unique so the story wouldn't be lost in a sea of redundancy (even though Al Feldstein of EC Comics and E. C. Tubb beat him to the punch), and I ultimately understand the point of the story (it's quite obvious, yet people are still keen to say, "You don't get it."), but I don't see why one has to be manipulative in order to make a point. That ought to come naturally. Be real, not "real".
            As the story stands, I thought it would've been more interesting to focus on the company holding and utilizing these ships for their seedy tactics. That would've sold me on the story is if we were truly to keep all of these details in despite what I've said, is then turn our focus on what's truly the most important factor in it all, and that's unfortunately not what the story does whatsoever. It's just a stupid story with stupid people in a stupid set up with a stupid outcome caused only by all of this stupidity.
            So I find it strange that this is Tom Godwin's major claim to fame, considering this story has been considered a classic in the science fiction genre and was selected as one of the best science fiction short stories written before the founding of the Nebula Awards in 1965 (and was thus featured in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One). I've not read any other works by Tom Godwin, as they seem to be more obscure (some are available on Project Gutenberg), so I certainly can't say anything about his skill otherwise. In fact, despite the ridiculous set up for this story, I can actually see some potential in Godwin, so I may attempt to dig into another story of his. I cannot, however, recommend this story. I know some will call me cynical at this point for trashing another "classic" or critically acclaimed work, so just keep in mind I liked Foundation and also trashed my favorite author, so I just like to be fair. My next entry will likely be more positive again anyway.
            As a final note, I would like to say I am also aware of the implications of the pilot's view of the young female stowaway, but I feel as if I've said enough about this story and why it isn't good and don't need to dig its own hole any deeper than it already is. And this story was written in 1954, so enough said.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Counter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick



            I've read several novels by Philip K. Dick, as he is one of my favorite authors. I've thought about reviewing one of his best, but I have already reviewed two works of his which are among my favorites (shorter works, but excellent reads nonetheless). Therefore, I decided to do the opposite, and review a work of his which wasn't that great. I thought it would be hard to find something, and for a while it was, but then I read Counter-Clock World.
            I will start off by saying I still haven't read anything by Philip K. Dick I would consider flat out bad, including this novel, but it's certainly not on the top of my recommendations list. What a shame, considering the novel's premise had massive potential, that being a story about a society which lives backward due to a temporal reversal called the Hobart Phase (which is limited to Earth in the novel; Mars colonies are free from this paradox). This means people say "Goodbye" as a greeting, blow smoke into cigarettes, pump "sogum" into their anus and spit out food later, and revert into babies and therefore, of course, resurrect from the dead.
            Phil was smart enough to take the opportunity to reference religion with this idea, and the story definitely starts off intelligently enough. Everything moves swimmingly for a while, with Phil's signature analytical, paranoid style. That is, until approximately halfway through the novel, in which every single dumb thing that could possibly take place does. Perhaps this was Phil's intention, but the events which take place can be mind-blowingly stupid. Most perplexing, perhaps, is Phil's decision to kill off a central character over halfway through, which was when my opinion really started turning against this book. It wasn't because I liked the character, rather because the logic of someone dying when they hadn't died in the past, considering time is moving backward, makes absolutely zero logical sense to me and this is usually Phil's forte is relying on logical outcomes.
            I don't know if Phil was just being lazy, or got writer's block, or what, but he could typically think of something much better than that. In fact, I will do just that right now. The central point of the story involves a man who resurrects in the story named Anarch Peak, who is seen as an extremely important religious figure, and everyone wants to acquire him (through actual purchase, another strange idea by Phil) for a variety of reasons, some even want him dead. In the novel, Anarch Peak dies, and that's pretty much it. What I would have proposed to Phil, in keeping with his religious theme, is suggest Anarch Peak die in the end (like he did in the novel anyway, he got that part down), but have him not only be the only character that dies, but have his death cause some kind of paradox, whether it be the end of the Hobart Phase, or the start of an alternate reality, or even the end of all existence.
            But that's just wishful thinking. As it stands, the novel was just fun enough to plug forth through the whole debacle, but nothing makes any real sense even if you think of the events as a forward-moving spectacle, and every bad thing that happened could've been avoided easily enough (though I understand bad things happening, the novel wouldn't be as entertaining otherwise). But I see the novel as ultimately pointless, as there is simply a constant struggle and absolutely nothing is gained and everything is lost. All of this with a plot which had, as mentioned before, incredible possibilities.
            Oh, and there's a bunch of silly relationship drama, probably related to Phil's own turbulent love life. Get it together, Phil, you horny dog.
            So, while I wouldn't stop someone from reading this novel, I would warn them that this is one of Philip K. Dick's rare missteps. It makes for an interesting footprint in his bibliography. Thus far, from what I can gather, his most famous novels are generally the best, but some of his more obscure work can still be good and worthwhile. This, not so much. And I also hope this shows anyone reading that not everyone is perfect and, also, that I've no biases and will critique anyone no matter how much I like them.
            Seriously, Phil, what were you thinking? Or was it just drugs? It was probably drugs. Damn it, Phil.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"The Variable Man" by Philip K. Dick



            Most people who are aware of Philip K. Dick often note his deeply thought-provoking philosophical themes. Phil's philosophical themes seem to be the reason he is so well known (he is now, at least, he wasn't too well-known when he was alive). However, these themes didn't always permeate through his stories, and this was one of those stories. Some of Philip K. Dick's readers might think that a break from these themes familiar to them concerning Phil would make his other works boring (and it's not like Phil hasn't written anything that wasn't good), but this novella, "The Variable Man", is proof of quite the contrary. In fact, this is one of my favorite stories of all time.
            It's quite strange how inspiration can come out of nowhere, because I didn't expect "The Variable Man" to be as good as it is. I was simply strumming through public domain science fiction, but I would've gladly paid money to read this story. It's such a perfect whirlwind of satire and serious flair. It's written in a serious tone, but everything that happens is just so obviously ridiculous you can't help but laugh; things like the titular Variable Man being able to not only fix, but improve, literally anything he touches with the most unreal explanation as to why, or bombing a whole mountain range just to kill this one person, with rationalization for why, and he still escapes!
            That is the key, however, is each and every silly thing is rationalized to make it seem more plausible and to give characters reason for every single solitary thing, no matter how ridiculous (and I won't spoil the rationalizations, because that's all part of the brilliance and surprise). Philip K. Dick obviously had fun writing this story, as I'm sure he did writing many of his others. This isn't the only story by Philip K. Dick that's anything like this because Phil's work, even his most serious, seeps with satire underneath a thoughtful veil, but this is perhaps his greatest example of both blending in tune together. It's a genius work I can't help but recommend regardless of whether you like Phil's work (or certain portions of his work) or not, and it's absolutely, totally, legally free to read right now as we speak. Here is a link providing various formats for eBooks (there seems to be no PDF file in particular), or you can simply read it online:

 http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32154

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Johnny Mnemonic" by William Gibson


          I want to like William Gibson. I really do.
          William Gibson creates unique imagery, settings, and ideas. This is why he has gained a following; because of things like the Navy using cyborg dolphins addicted to heroin. The problem is, evidenced from everything of his I've read (and I've read more than I've talked about on the blog), he just generally sucks at storytelling, and his editors don't seem to care.
          This story has the exact same problems as Neuromancer, so I won't bother with much more detail on that. I will at least say the "lack of important detail" problem works better for a short story than a whole novel (and Neuromancer is still far worse with that problem), but I was still irritated because this story, despite being so short, still could've been clear. He only needed to add just a few little sentences or so.
          I think I understand why William Gibson is this way. Maybe, I could be wrong. He apparently found a line in the film Escape From New York very influential (despite the film being released shortly after the publication of "Johnny Mnemonic"). Gibson said, "I was intrigued by the exchange in one of the opening scenes where the Warden says to Snake 'You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad, didn't you?' It turns out to be just a throwaway line, but for a moment it worked like the best SF where a casual reference can imply a lot." It seems to me this line of thinking is what created this idea that references like that make for better stories, because that's what he does so often in his work. And it doesn't really work that way, particularly if that reference itself makes no sense. Even if it does make sense, that can't be your sole point in characterization, world building, and especially plot building. He is certainly right about that line in its context, and you can do things like that, but you should be selective in order for that to really be effective.
          In any case, here's the ultimate point of advice I'd like to make about this, particularly for writers like him or aspire to be like him. I don't care how interesting your ideas are. You need to have a basic ability to relate to your reader, and that's a basic principle of writing much of anything, even if your story is difficult to read otherwise. If you fail that, you could have the greatest story in the world and it wouldn't matter because your writing is so bad it distracts from the amazing things you hope to show us. This isn't hard at all. It's actually one of the easiest things you can possibly do, so to fail this one basic principle, at least time and time again, is mind-boggling. In particular, how an otherwise obviously competent writer in William Gibson can still do this and can prove he can do better as "Burning Chrome" has shown, and still have a large following and apparently write a novel that's considered an all-time classic is beyond me.
          Regardless, the story itself wasn't any good even if it was clear, so the only thing going for it is the unique descriptions held within. It's just a ridiculous, crass, formulaic little romp in rundown downtown Cyberville. There's really not much more to say than that, it's just bad. I recommend avoiding this, and at this point suggest avoiding William Gibson's early work in general. Don't feel bad about doing so, there's plenty of other great stuff out there, and I'll even make it a point to discuss something good in my next post, whatever that may be. Rest assured, I'm at least done torturing poor Mr. Gibson.

          Additional super fun fact: This short story is wildly different from the film adaptation. I haven't seen the film, so I'll reserve judgment on that. I'm sure I can say, though, that if you didn't like the film, then I doubt you'll like this story at all. You'll gain very little out of it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Earth Station Charlie" by Billy Crystal

            Yes, you are reading the author's name correctly. That is the very same man who has starred in the film When Harry Met Sally, voiced Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc., and hosted the Oscars umpteen times. That very same man has published science fiction, and to my knowledge, it is his only science fiction piece ever published (for reference, it was published in a 1986 issue of Playboy). After seeing his name next to the title, my curiosity led me to reading the story right away.
            I was truly shocked by the quality of the story. I was honestly expecting it to be mediocre or maybe decent at best, but it's truly quite a little gem. I won't say the story is perfect, but it attained the goal it seemed to be reaching for with flying colors, and with that I must say it's a shame Billy Crystal has not jumped back into the foray of science fiction (as an author anyway).
            But when I do say it's not perfect, it's mainly for something I won't spoil, which is the ending; despite still being a great symbolic fit, it probably still could've been changed for the better. The other complaint I would usually have is that there sure are quite a few cultural references slewed throughout the story, but frankly, considering it's a story about a man who does nothing other than watch television (and there's more to the story than that, which would otherwise make it just a realistic fiction story), it makes perfect sense. I generally suggest to people to abstain from cultural references, but here, that tactic works out fine.
            With this review, I mainly intended to bring to light this story. I did not intend to write any sort of lengthy review, but more to suggest something that seems to have slipped under the radar that doesn't deserve to. If you want to find it, the best place to do so is in The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, which holds at least a couple of other gems as well (and some flops to be sure), but I wanted to highlight this one because it's kind of the odd man out and should be looked into.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"The Marching Morons" by C.M. Kornbluth


            C.M. Kornbluth was a strange man. He taught himself by reading through a whole encyclopedia and based ideas in his stories on entries in the encyclopedia, forced a habit of drinking black coffee on himself because he believed professional authors were supposed to do so, and, what may have possibly led to his young-age death (by heart attack), never brushed his teeth (his teeth were reportedly green, and he talked with his hand over his mouth because of this). He has more eccentricities, but considering he has strange habits, it serves that his stories can be strange as well, sometimes written with fellow Futurian Frederik Pohl. They are often effective pieces nonetheless.
            "The Marching Morons", which takes its name from the "Marching Chinamen" paradox (which the story even describes) is indeed an effective piece, but certainly not his best. It's one of his most popular, along with "The Little Black Bag" (which takes place in the same universe as "The Marching Morons"), and is now often compared to the Mike Judge film Idiocracy. The plot of "The Marching Morons" and Idiocracy is essentially the same, that of a man from the past put into a state of suspended animation and woken up in a future full of imbeciles, but the overall story is dealt with differently in both.
            In Kornbluth's story, the man who wakes up in the future is taken by a small group of surviving intellectuals, who are working together to keep society held together, to plot a desperately needed change in the world. Why they need the man from the past, John Barlow, to do that, I don't know (or remember, if the story mentioned why), but hey, let's go with it because we need that for symbolic reasons, right? He does, after all, represent Nazi ideology. Should be obvious why Kornbluth decided to utilize Nazi references, but it's still a bit strange that Barlow would go that route. It's just plain odd for a protagonist to become a dirty rotten bastard pretty much right after being resurrected, and this is even after being afraid of totalitarian society himself. Maybe that's the point, that Barlow is truly a moron as well.
            Regardless, that's the problem with the story is that nobody, whether it be Barlow or the intellectuals, decided to do what essentially happened in Idiocracy: educate. I know that would've been difficult for the small amount of intellectuals compared to the large amount of idiots, but the more idiots you educate, the less idiots there will probably be. I understand why Kornbluth wrote what he wrote, but he exchanges believability for symbolism (including criticism of the welfare system) and trying to prove some kind of point. That idea works for stories like "How Beautiful With Banners" by James Blish, because that's just a short character portrait and not intended to be a full story; it's like observing a painting in print form. With "The Marching Morons" it's just beyond ridiculous.
            This is not to say Idiocracy wasn't ridiculous, either, but that was a straight-up comedy and even took a proper route with the idea. "The Marching Morons" is just frightening, and not really in a good way. I still recommend reading it, because it is quite unique and presents an interesting perspective, but this is another rare time in which I'll say, if you must pick between one or the other, stick to the film.
            But hey, unlike some of the other stories I've reviewed negatively (and this isn't that bad, really), I will actually recommend reading more of C.M. Kormbluth's work.
            For instance, I will recommend the aforementioned "The Little Black Bag", because it's an interesting psychological story involving  a doctor down on his luck who finds new life after discovering a black bag from the same future in which "The Marching Morons" takes place and starts using it to heal people again. The story does take a strange turn again, but that one at least makes sense and is still believable at the same time. And there is an interesting little factoid about the two stories besides the fact that they share the same universal storyline. "The Marching Morons" is a story about something arriving to the future from the past, and "The Little Black Bag" is about something arriving to the past from the future, like some kind of trade. Just a nice little connection there.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Burning Chrome" by William Gibson



            In what I'm sure will become an infamous review of mine, my review of Neuromancer was scathing of not only the novel, but of William Gibson as well. I figured his style was great, but I couldn't understand what was going on, as if the narrator he utilized in his story was a drunk telling some randomly garbled story. I figured, after seeing I had a couple of short stories of his, “You know what, his style might better suit him for the short form.”
            Boy was I dead on with that prediction.
            As much as I trashed Gibson before, I must admit, the short story seems to truly be his forte. It is in this form that he can sometimes confuse readers and introduce odd concepts and not be entirely straightforward and still manage to be coherent and perfectly enthralling. I will admit one flaw that Neuromancer had as well, which was sheer predictability, but I'd otherwise recommend “Burning Chrome”, set in the same universe, far more. Every single problem I had with Neuromancer was not a problem at all here.
            For starters, similar terms are used here within this story, and one, ice, is even described to some degree, enough for most to understand, and much like Neuromancer, it's creative in its descriptions of surroundings (this case being better, obviously). Beyond that, there is no real break up in the scenes that would entail missing anything important. That was the biggest problem Neuromancer had, and it seems to be thanks in part to a greater-utilized narrator, one who seems sobered, intelligent, and ultimately human. In fact, all of the characters were people I could care about, even the people who are kind of jerks. The narrator actually cares about and describes in great fashion the other characters and how he feels about them. That is exactly the kind of person I want to read about, and I didn't get that in Neuromancer.
            Which brings me to my most pressing question: What happened to you, Gibson? What changed in you from the time you wrote this excellent short story to writing Neuromancer? It was, after all, a short couple of years. Were you stressed by time constraints? Was the novel truly unfinished? Seems like it was, despite the excellent writing otherwise. Or did you really think the story was great as it was? If not, did the editor think otherwise? Somehow, that seems to be the case with the general audience, who seem to be overlooking this wonderful gem for that. That, to me, is a shame.
            For everyone else who dislikes Neuromancer like I do (as if I haven't said it enough), I still strongly recommend “Burning Chrome” to you. I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed with this one.

            Additional Super Fun Fact: Chromium is a chemical element which has a high rate of corrosion resistance and is quite hard. Keep this in mind while reading the story.

"How Beautiful With Banners" by James Blish


            When it comes to James Blish, he seems to be an excellent writer, if sometimes difficult to understand at times. I had only read “Surface Tension” before reading this story, and I loved it, and saw why it was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the greatest short stories written before the founding of the Nebula awards. Because I, too, loved “Surface Tension”, I wanted to read more of his stories, and managed to find this little short piece.
            I honestly wasn't enthralled with this story as much as “Surface Tension”, which was disappointing. This story makes the same mistake that Neuromancer makes: style over substance. Makes me wonder if “Surface Tension” was just a fluke.
            However, I will not completely deride this story. Frankly, it's quite short. Had it been novel-length, and been like it was the whole way through, I wouldn't have finished it. Being less than twenty pages makes the story more bearable. Because of this, it can be considered a practice piece. Seems to me, because of the concentration on style, James Blish was showing off his skills, and I will admit, despite the story not really existing much here, his skill in creative writing and symbolism is truly admirable, if at times ridiculous as well.
            It is an interesting little puzzle to configure to be sure, but Blish I guess couldn't help but put in a bit of strangeness, particularly involving the cloak described within. Hello surrealism, thy name is science fiction. If, however, all of the strangeness is pieced together, you essentially get a moving characterization in the form of an emotionally torn woman trapped in her own personal bubble.
            If I said much more, I would be revealing too much for those who want to dig their grubby little fingers into the confection and seek to unravel the mystery (likely with their own interpretation) for themselves. For this story, I cannot do that. You will simply have to read it, and for a good example of purely symbolic literature, I recommend you do, especially if you'd like to practice your analytical skills. If you expect anything other than that, you will likely hate this story, so if you want to read something purely for entertainment value, stay away from this one. If you want to seek out what is pretty much mindless science fiction, look to some of the pulps or A. E. van Vogt or something like that.

"Piecework" by David Brin



            I have, unfortunately, not read much of David Brin's work. I have, however, read the first chapter of The Postman, and I was absolutely enthralled by the story. I would love to purchase the book and read it further, and maybe more of Brin's work, because, though I haven't read much yet, I can already tell he's a writer well worth delving into. After reading the first chapter of The Postman, though, I wanted to see if I happened to have any sort of short fiction of his (I knew I didn't have any novels). I happened to find one story, “Piecework”.
            I will admit, I have only finished it once, and it wasn't terribly long ago. I still don't understand certain intricacies, like why exactly the profession the title refers to, that of using women as surrogates for various products, is called piecework in the first place. I don't know if it's a simple usage, such as simply implying women are producing pieces of various technology and such, or a symbolic usage, such as the double entendre potentially implied with the title (piecework/peacework), but something like this doesn't seem to be entirely necessary for understanding the whole story and its implications.
            The implications, on the other hand, I do understand. For the most part, anyway. The society featured within the story seems to be reliant on pure emotional and pleasurable instinct, taking the philosophy of hedonism to its peak, even to the point where some will attempt to stop those who seek to break the mold. Because of this, society is saturated by basic primal instincts, such as sex and hunger, and various pleasurable influences, including drugs and television. In fact, the television shows described in particular are soap operas, which are shows which tend to represent what society in general goes through, and they usually rely on the primal urges of humankind to increase the drama represented. This further shows how addicted to constant pleasure the people are, so much so that they seem to need it on a persistent basis, always seeming to need some kind of fix lest they break down.
            It's even how they live, hence is how the profession the title represents grants people the ability to continue to survive. At least, that's the case most of the time. Products seem to be transferred through impregnation, but another option that is available is through simple implantation of eggs without intercourse (at least, that's how I'm understanding it, I could be wrong; if so, I'll take another look at a later time). The main character, Ia, goes the latter route within the story, which helps characterize her. She is the intellectual type on the path to success, not reliant on her emotions to get by in life, and therefore seems to be an overall more mature character than her counterparts. This is further confirmed by the quite positive ending of the story, which is perfectly fitting for this story, and I don't think could've ended any other way, because the ending shows exactly why the society featured in the story shuns climbing the ladder.
            Brilliantly done, Mr. Brin. If I could stand up and applaud in front of you, I would. Interesting and exquisitely written, the story itself was a pleasure to read. I eagerly look forward to reading more works of yours.

            Additional super fun fact: This story totally has no religious symbolism in it. There is no way Ia has anything to do with the Virgin Mary and the whole criticism of hedonism has no ties to any religious ideology whatsoever, particularly Christianity.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi



            In my search for science fiction, I have mainly looked toward the past, and I think the most recently published novel I read (in full, at least) was Snow Crash, and much of anything else I've bought released afterward hasn't been too recent, either. I figured, after realizing that, I should brush up a bit on some of the most recent books and authors, and have discovered, among others, Cory Doctorow (who is my favorite of the recent authors I've discovered), Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Robert J. Sawyer, and Paolo Bacigalupi. The reason I discovered the latter man is because of this novel, The Windup Girl, which seems to be the new sensation within science fiction circles. It has even won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, which actually doesn't happen often. That's not always a good sign, however, especially considering Neuromancer won both awards (and then some) and wasn't good. Speaking of which, Lev Grossman compared this novel's impact to the kind Neuromancer had, which is quite a bold claim. Regardless, I figured, out of all of the recent science fiction releases I discovered, I'd check this one out first.
            And I once again realized why I shouldn't care much about popular opinion. Argumentum ad populum, after all.
            I'm not surprised this novel wasn't good, but I didn't think it would be mind-numbingly bad, either. Lev Grossman was right about this novel having the same impact as Neuromancer, but to me, it's for the exact opposite reasons he's thinking, because The Windup Girl is the worst novel I have bothered to finish since Neuromancer. That is, however, for different reasons, but the reasons lead up to the same ultimatum.
            The biggest mistake Bacigalupi makes in this novel is the sheer repetition. I don't mind a bit of repetition in a story, since sometimes a reminder can help in case I've forgotten something, but I absolutely do not like to be treated like an imbecile. This isn't the same problem I discussed about Snow Crash. At least in Snow Crash, when you are given more detail than you care for, you're still learning something. Bacigalupi will often paint what are essentially the same simple phrases or questions in different coating several times in a row, which just needlessly pads out the story and acts as if he's taunting you by saying beneath the context, “If you didn't get it the first time, here I go hammering it in again.”
            At the same time, sometimes he can confuse the reader. The problem doesn't lie in leaving out details, of course, but rather lies in his style. Often, throughout the novel, Bacigalupi inserts Thai and Chinese lingo. This makes sense at first, because it helps establish the atmosphere, but as the book drags on, I noticed he just did it at random times, and plenty of sentences just seemed awkward with the Thai or Chinese words inserted. This isn't like A Canticle for Leibowitz, which featured whole phrases written in Latin throughout, because that actually made sense in context. In this instance, it's incredibly annoying, and I've even read reviews of people who can speak and read both languages who find this annoying as well. It wasn't necessary after a short while because it no longer added anything to the story.
            So, after realizing these big problems, I came to the conclusion that indeed Paolo Bacigalupi commits essentially the same problem as William Gibson despite the differences in their respective problems. The problem? Pretentiousness. In fact, I'd be willing to argue that The Windup Girl is even more pretentious.
            But wait, there's more! I even have a complaint about the ideas represented. Not all of them are bad, but it’s mostly speculation on ideas much of the public already talks about, or ideas that’ve already been beaten to death throughout science fiction (female sexbots being the bad one here). Either way, Bacigalupi still made mistakes, and I don’t just mean in the science. It seems to me he’s incorporating, despite our current rate of technological advancement, old, sometimes even ancient, methods of building technology. It’s reminiscent of steampunk, an offshoot of cyberpunk, which isn’t a bad genre in itself. However, in attempting to create a believable futuristic society, that’s a subgenre you should be avoiding.
            And here's a particularly stupid idea he featured in the novel: using Labrador DNA on women to make them more subservient. Talk about the least subtle symbolism ever. How does that even work? Frankly, I'm sure it doesn't. Considering people tend to have variability in their personalities, especially when different situations arise, I doubt that kind of thing, whether it's this particular instance or not, would make much of a difference other than basic biological and maybe physiological changes. Dictating overall behavior and personality without possibility for deviation? Please, that's just silly, and unnecessary.
            So even the ideas aren't great. That's actually one leg Neuromancer has up on this novel. Yes, I am saying I recommend Neuromancer over The Windup Girl, and I even recommended staying away from Neuromancer. Granted, I would still recommend The Windup Girl over Ender's Game, but that's like saying I'd recommend eating spam, or grilled chicken, or some other disgusting food, over soylent green; either way you're getting screwed over. And considering Bacigalupi has won several awards for this novel, I don't expect him to change his style, but if he does, he's smarter than I thought, and maybe worth another chance, which is more than I can say for Orson Scott Card.