Review: The Sunless Countries – Book Four of Virga

I had William Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” in my hand in the Canadian Sci-Fi section of the library when I realized there was a fourth book in the Virga series by Karl Schroeder.

The Sunless Countries

“The Sunless Countries” continues inside the synthetic planet of Virga in the Vega star system.  Each book explains the origins and threats to this tiny balloon planet, 5 thousand kilometres in diameter, in more detail.

I do think this is as close to “Steam Punk” as a futuristic novel can be.  The mechanical, nuclear sun in the center of the balloon actually keeps out all forms of technology, including AI, computers, radio and even radar.

Above all, I love the huge political myopic movement that has the society of “Eternalists” that does not believe there is life outside the bubble of the planet, and that all live has existed there indefinitely.  Government referendums and wave of book burning is disturbingly real.

One thing that really resounds in the current Canadian context is the idea of the ruling government ensuring they remove any authority, such as scientists, that would not just argue, but prove the government’s ideology wrong. (See Canada’s firing of scientists who would inconveniently  show global warming figures).  Also in the book, the governments vilifying of anyone with an alternative view (see recent comments about how environmentalists such as David Suzuki or any concerned First Nations should be seen as eco-terrorists).


Review: Spin

Sometimes Science Fiction is very global and epic, such as Frank Herbert’s “Dune”.  Other times it is very personal like Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  Robert Charles Wilson’s “Spin” is both personal and epic.


The premise of this book was that the earth was wrapped in a sphere where time slowed and the stars vanished.  Each day the Earth spun, 100 Million years would go by outside the sphere.

Both the political (how the USA saw the security issue of the “spin”) and personal (3 friends coping with the insanity of the time-warp) was intensely explored in this book, and after some dreadful moments in this book, I was really left with a sense of optimism.

Review: Pirate Sun – Book Three of Virga

So I ran out and got Karl Schroeder’s third book in the Virga series, “Pirate Sun” and I am totally hooked.

Book Three of Virga; Pirate Sun

This book really harkens back to the first book in terms of adventure.  The second book was very political, but this one was very action-packed and a fun 3-d road trip.

The main character is Admiral Fanning, who was captured and tortured by the enemy, is the center of this story.  Initially I find this character quite wooden, especially in the first book, but I’ve grown to really like this character in “Pirate Sun”.

All I really hope is that Karl Schroeder continues this series because I have become a huge fan!

Review: Queen of Candesce – Book Two of Virga

Karl Schroeder’s Queen of Candesce is the second in the Virga series and I am very glad of it!

Book Two: Queen Of Candesce

Queen of Candesce

The story continues in the balloon of a planet called Virga.  When we left the last book, “Sun of Suns” we had the 3 main characters shooting off in 3 directions, and the one we thought was in the worst physical condition, Venera Fanning, ends up being the main character of this book.  In fact, the book barely touches on the other two characters.

Venera, a daughter of a King and wife of an Admiral, is by-far the toughest character in the series.  She has constant migraines from a bullet that had lodged in her jaw as a teenager.  These headaches make her strong, fearless, selfish and a lot angry.  She was dreadfully unlikable in the first book, but one really tends to love her by the end of the second book.

I did find the first 100 pages a little dry and not as swash-buckling as I hoped, but the book completely redeemed itself after that part was over, and it did not disappoint in terms of action.

I just discovered that there is a 3rd book in the series, and I am excited about reading it right away!

Review: Sun of Suns – Book One of Virga

Karl Schroeder’s “Sun of Suns: Book One of Virga” was the most fun I have had reading Canadian science fiction!

This book is a combination of Kenneth Oppel’s Airborne! and Frank Herbert’s Dune, with the swashbuckling of the Three musketeers.

I love the premise: A world that is a synthetic balloon filled with breathable air, with tiny synthetic suns (nuclear). Most of the towns are less than a mile-wide and spin to provide the only “gravity”, centripetal force.  There is nothing massive enough to provide gravity.

There are a bunch of fiefdoms battling with zeppelin-like crude wooden ships that battle for tiny floating turf islands to live on.

I really love the swash-buckling and the constant discovery of what is happening on this weird world throughout the book.  I am eager to read the next one to see if there is an  origin story  of how this strange planet came to be.

Review: Starfish

“Starfish” by Peter Watts illustrated a dystopian future and placed it in an underwater setting.


Imagine humans that have been surgically augmented to breathe water, and sustain the pressures deep under the ocean.  Now throw in dysfunctional “damaged” people who do well in isolation and give them jobs to maintain huge geothermal generators to keep the world’s power supply going.

There were a lot of themes in this book and the first half really delved into the life under the ocean and awkward relationships between the people as they lived and worked in the abyss.

The second half was extremely geo-political and was as much a schism in the style and plot of the book as the chasm found at the bottom of the book.  It felt like I was reading two loosely connected short stories.

I liked the writing and the themes.  The story was a little disjointed, but a good read overall.

Review: Wonder, Book Three of WWW Trilogy

Robert J. Sawyer’s third book in the WWW Trilogy, WONDER, was a great finale to this series.


I did finally read this, but I forgot to post how exited I was about it.

The one thing that really stuck with me was the concept that an artificial intelligence can be immortal.  Unlike human beings, who can have a web presence long after they die, Artificial Intelligence not only has a presence but would have an actual consciousness as long as the power was on!

Review: WATCH, Book Two of WWW Trilogy

After reading Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer, I ran out and got WATCH from the Library.  It didn’t disappoint.

With the emerging Webmind, an living entity that resides on the internet helping people an communicating with various social media.  It even eliminated worldwide SPAM!  I love this continuing story with the 16-year-old Caitlan and her genius parents and awesome Waterloo tech savvy neighbourhood.

I just picked up book 3 today.  Too bad I couldn’t get it finished for 2011.  Webmind, if you are out there, help me to speed-read!

Review: Wake, Book One of WWW Trilogy

I recieved “Wake” from Robert J. Sawyer in paperback for Christmas and it was finished by boxing day.

Great compelling reading.  I loved that it was unapologetically Canadian, referencing Blackberry, RIM, University of Waterloo and the Perimeter Institute.

The story takes place in the near feature in Waterloo, Ontario and the lead character is a 16-year-old blind girl.  She travels to Japan for an implant for her optic nerve to help her see and simultaneously she begins a connection with an entity that is “born” on the web.

The girl, Caitlin, has moved with her father, an Asbergers who works at PI as a theoretical physicist and her mother, an under-employed PhD in Game Theory.  They land in Canada from Texas, so Sawyer has a great platform to explain Canadianisms and it’s a lot of fun.  Yay Tim Hortons!!

Loved this book, and immediately took out the next book in the Trilogy when the Guelph Public Library opened on the 27th.

Review: Callahan’s Con

“Callahan’s Con” by Spider Robinson, published in 2003, is absolutely fun.

This is the first book I have ever read of Spider Robinson’s and I am saddened that I have not read anything by him before.  This book is like a Sci-Fi version of a Terry Pratchett fantasy novel.  Fun with lots of clever puns, double-entendres and cool science fiction.

The book takes place in a little bar in Key West called “The Place”.  It is run in a co-op fashion where the patrons are assumed to put the correct amount of money in the till for what they are drinking.  I guess you can say this is a utopian novel.  🙂

The main character, the bar owner, and his wife have a daughter, who, at age 7 can teleport and has the cumulative knowledge and brain power of the entire internet.  The main storyline is that a huge “hulk-like” gangster is shaking down the bar and the hijinks in trying to stop him.

Loved the book, I think I will have to read a few more of his to keep my spirits up and a smile on my face.

Spider Robinson - 2003