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[personal profile] chris_gerrib
It speaks ill of my current schedule that I look forward to long airline flights in order to read a book. Having said that, herewith are my thoughts on two short books (novellas) that I read flying back from Puerto Rico.

Breathe

The first book, Breathe by Douglas Van Belle, was pressed in my hands by a rather urgent fellow at last year's Worldcon in Kansas City. I now know that the fellow was the author, and the book was self-published. It languished in my to-be-read pile for some time, finally surfacing. I found the book merely okay.

The plot is this - a dozen or so construction types are building a habitat on Ganymede to support a larger follow-on group. Karl, the group's mechanic, highly socially inept, attempts to engineer a small disaster so he can get some alone time with Zoey, a woman he's smitten with. Karl's disaster gets way out of hand, two people die immediately and the rest are trapped in shelters running out of oxygen. Karl then tries to engineer their way out. His efforts lead to the humans being hunted by a swarm of killer robots.

The science in this book is hard, and the characters are more-or-less believable. (Some of the men are a bit wonky.) The real problem is that the last two-thirds of the book is a bloodbath, and nothing in the marketing or first third gives any warning of this.

All Systems Red The Murderbot Diaries

Martha Well's novella All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries has, like Breathe, murderous AI robots. Ironically, despite the title, All Systems Red is a much less blood-thirsty book. In this novella, the narrator, the titular Murderbot, is a security robot that has hacked its own governor and is self-aware. He also just wants to watch TV.

Unfortunately, he's been assigned a security gig with a survey team on a planet, and when the planet and other teams start trying to kill his charges, he has to actually do his job. Which he does in an entertaining manner. I was also taken with the ending, that's a bit of a twist.

Much has been said about the death of conventional publishing. These two novellas are the clearest case I've seen in a while for the need for conventional publishing.
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