Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The exigencies of an inter-stellar war against cancroid aliens led to the fabrication of a flawed AI that piloted a space destroyer. This AI named Penny Royal (as an allusion to the attempt of the AI to abort its gremlin-laced glitched software) eventually went rogue and launched on a career of inexplicable, whimsical and psychopathic exploits. It is aptly described by a fellow AI as ‘A potential gigadeath weapon and paradigm-changing intelligence.’
The book is ‘people’ by aliens and artificial constructs viz., centipede-like hooders, pyramidal gabbleducks, the antimalarial-sounding Artether, haiman, prador, the denticulate siluroyne, airborne heroyne, Jain spatterjoy virus and assassin snake-drones!
The fauna is equally weird – “They built sugars via induction shifts in the planet’s magnetic field. They also occasionally pulled up their roots and perambulated on a slug-like foot to a better position, after having drained the soil below of minerals. The offler weed was a particularly aggressive slime mould.”
There are Carrollenian ‘runcible’ teleport gate-ways, flippant AI entities that remind the SF fan of Iain Banks. The jaunty and jocular writing style echoes Banks and Douglas Adams. “the turd trajectory would be fanwards.” “‘When superior minds start stating the obvious,’ said Amistad, ‘I tend to start questioning the appellation “superior”.’ “I was seeing a gabbleduck thumbing a lift.”
All in all, a classic SF space opera! Immensely readable.
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Smile awhile and while you smile – another smiles
And soon there are miles and miles of smiles
And life’s worth while
Because you Smile.”
― Kathleen J. Edgar
Unidentified Funny Objects by Alex Shvartsman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When there is talk of humour in Science Fiction, the first name that springs to mind is Slartibartfast. The second name is Douglas Adams. Hitchhiker’s Guide had other memorable characters like Zaphod Beeblebrox, Eccentrica Gallumbits – the triple-breasted whore from Eroticon VI and Marvin the Paranoid Android. No one in recorded history has ever recovered from a hangover brought on after indulging in a couple of Pan-galactic gargle blasters.
On a less flippant note, Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony (Up Schist Creek, Mini’s Crew with hilarious scatological and erotic content) are other SF writers with funny bone(r)s.
This collection of stories doesn’t achieve the risible levels of the above-mentioned exponents of SF humour but is still worth reading. The novella that turns Einstein and Himmler into magicians in a whimsical alternate universe is the only sour note – it is puerile, to say the least.
Snigger-inducing are the cartoons and the retelling of fairy tales – Sleeping Beauty, for example, is more concerned with her morning breath than Prince Charming’s kiss that will purportedly break her narcotic spell. Santa Claus prefers to give practical instead of childish toys to children ‘who have been good’.
OK for an otiose afternoon.
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