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Worlds Without End Blog

SF Manga 101: Mobile Suit Gundam Posted at 12:34 PM by Glenn Hough

gallyangel

Glenn Hough (gallyangel) is a nonpracticing futurist, an anime and manga otaku, and is almost obsessive about finishing several of the lists tracked on WWEnd. In this series on SF Manga Glenn will provide an overview of the medium and the place of science fiction within it.


mobile-suit-gundam-the-origin-01Do you know anyone who couldn’t give you a basic outline of either Star Trek or Star Wars? And I mean just a basic sentence. Star Trek: The crew of a starship out having adventures as they explore space. Star Wars: Good and Evil in a galaxy spanning milieu. Who, I wonder, can not do that in the U.S., if not most of the world where U.S. culture has touched?

Let’s take it a step further and ask if there are any Brits who can’t do the same thing for Doctor Who? The tagline: An immortal time traveler out having adventures as he explores the universe. There’s the high probability that something resembling a 60ies era British phone booth is involved.

What I’m getting at here are franchise works, cross media, which have embedded themselves into the bedrock strata of a national culture. Just like a particular food or cooking methodology is embedded in a country and culture, these SF franchises are just part of what that country is all about. When one talks about SF manga or anime, Mobile Suit Gundam, or just Gundam, is that type of work. It’s part of the bedrock cultural attributes of Japan.

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Embedded – Dan Abnett Posted at 11:55 PM by Emil Jung

emil

Embedded

I am a Dan Abnett novice. I’ve never read anything out of the Warhammer 40K universe. This is probably a blessing in disguise. Reading Embedded, I was not polluted by inevitable comparisons to his syndicated work; I could read it wholly in the context of a setting entirely Abnett’s own. As a result, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Embedded is a tough, near-future, military-sf novel of the highest quality. With a serious story about people caught up in a warzone, Abnett has skillfully created the ultimate eyewitness account of a military struggle that features persuasive allusions to the current situation in Afghanistan and past conflicts in Iraq. In the process he succeeded in creating a very authentic universe with his own blend of unique but not unbelievable military technology, corporate sponsorships and analogous architecture, synthesized food items that taste like the original and even filtered language that is the cause of much amusement throughout the storytelling. It is solid world building with wonderful attention to detail.

Having a journalist’s consciousness embedded into the synapses of a soldier’s brain is an unprecedented innovation and sets up a rite of passage truly comparable to Starship Troopers and The Forever War. Pitch in Abnett’s gripping, engaging and fluent writing style and an uncanny ability for seamlessly connecting the various pieces together with near-perfect timing and pace, it was easy to imagine watching the same grainy, documentary footage shot by embedded reporters so often seen on television. This is a book with movie written all over it!

Embedded starts off slowly, almost a trudge, as if Abnett purposefully wanted to relay just how exceedingly dull and dreary planet Eighty Six seems on its surface. Initially there is very little to engage with. Falk, the main character is, at the outset, a dislikeable, clichéd reporter with boorish and egotistical manners. After about 90 pages though it becomes evident that all is not what it seems to be. Despite the military’s spin on events there is a very ruthless war going on here, but it is not immediately clear why. Abnett sets up various red herrings as possible answers to this enthralling question that demands you stick around ‘till the end.  Audaciously, he only reveals the true answers right at the very end after putting the reader through many remarkably anxious combat scenes and the ensuing emotional turmoil of the characters. The relationships between the soldiers and Falk’s own rite of passage after his “host” is shot are written with believable clarity. These character developments are especially satisfying and the particular journey that Falk undergoes totally redefines his character to the extent that he becomes worth following. Ultimately very little remained of the cantankerous and obnoxious Falk I met in those first few pages.

Nothing in the novel felt contrived. Yes, there are some uncomfortable questions raised about the way Abnett presents the “remote controlling” of a corpse but these are soon forgotten once the many action scenes present themselves. With these, Abnett’s adroitness is beyond contention. He has a pronounced skill and flair in creating anticipation, tension and release balanced with immaculate timing, pace and the unexpected. The battle scenes are terrifyingly realistic and intentionally chaotic. War is not a pub brawl and Abnett unquestionably does not treat it lightly.

The novels denouement is arguably its only weak point. Despite everything tying together rather well, lifting the veil on the overarching vagueness, I find the final revelation a bit convenient and a typical science fiction “exit.” But it does not detract from what Abnett ultimately wants to say: that every war, fought for whatever reason, reduces the stock of human good, and diminishes civilization. The last, short chapter brought this home for me.

Embedded is pulsating military-sf, cynical but not jaded, ruthlessly brutal yet intelligent. An impressive and very satisfying read.

Lock ‘n Load! – Military SF at Worlds Without End Posted at 11:38 AM by Dave Post

Dave Post

Starship TroopersOne of the most frequent requests we get here at Worlds Without End is for more Military SF. You military fans have been after us from the get go. “Why no Mil-SF?” “Where are the Davids?” (Weber, Drake and Feintuch) “You guys must hate Military SF, America and kittens too…”

No, it’s nothing like that I promise. While I freely admit we’ve been under-budget on our “Davids” we did have a decent selection of Mil-SF in the bag: The Forever WarEnder’s Game, Starship Troopers, Downbelow Station, Old Man’s War and Dorsai! to name a few. Some of those books got added to our DB as a result of the awards we cover. Others got added when we started paying attention to the Book Lists as well.

Those books weren’t enough to stop the emails though, so I went looking for a Military Science Fiction award to bolster our military cred. I wanted to add the best Mil-SF available instead of just dumping in a bunch of books from a sub-genre that I don’t know much about. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find a single award dedicated to Mil-SF. That just blew me away. It’s a huge sub-genre with a massive following, surely there was an award…. No? Well, OK, how about a “best of” list from some fan organization or genre luminary then? Nope. Nada. What’s a guy to do?

Luckily, I came across an article by SF author Mike Resnick called Military Science Fiction: A Brief History (posted here with the author’s permission) that gave me some direction. It’s an overview of Military SF from E.E. “Doc” Smith to Mr. Resnick’s own Starship Series and I determined that I’d add all the books he mentions in his article to the WWEnd DB. So far I’ve added over 40 new books across 10 Military SF series. Not a bad start methinks.

 
With the LightningsRCN Series
David Drake
With the Lightnings (1998)
Off Armageddon ReefSafehold Series
David Weber
Off Armageddon Reef (2007)
Midshipman’s HopeSeafort Saga
David Feintuch
Midshipman’s Hope (1994)
Starship: MutinyStarship Series
Mike Resnick
Starship: Mutiny (2005)
Trading in DangerVatta’s War
Elizabeth Moon
Trading in Danger (2003)

 

The Depths of Time Chronicles of Solace Trilogy
Roger MacBride Allen
The Depths of Time (2000)
March Upcountry Empire of Man Series
David Weber and John Ringo
March Upcountry (2001)
The Tank LordsHammer’s Slammers
David Drake
The Tank Lords (1997)
On Basilisk StationHonor Harrington Series
David Weber
On Basilisk Station (1992)
A Hymn Before BattlePosleen War Series
John Ringo
A Hymn Before Battle (2000)
 

So, what do you think? Are you a fan of Mil-SF? What books or authors am I missing? If you know of any awards or authoritative lists let me know.