Geoff and his friends live in Phocaea, a distant asteroid colony on the Solar System's frontier. They're your basic high-spirited young adults, enjoying such pastimes as hacking matter compilers to produce dancing skeletons that prance through the low-gee communal areas, using their rocket-bikes to salvage methane ice shrapnel that flies away when the colony brings in a big (and vital) rock of the stuff, and figuring out how to avoid the ubiquitous surveillance motes that are the million eyes of 'Stroiders, a reality-TV show whose Earthside producers have paid handsomely for the privilege of spying on every detail of the Phocaeans' lives.
Life isn't as good as it seems, though. A mysterious act of sabotage kills Geoff's brother, Carl, and puts the entire colony at risk. And in short order, we discover that the whole thing may have been cooked up by the Martian mafia, as a means of executing a coup and turning Phocaea into a client-state. As if that wasn't bad enough, there's a rogue AI that was spawned during the industrial emergency and slipped through the distracted safeguards, and a giant X-factor in the form of the Viridians, a transhumanist cult that lives in Phocaea's bowels.
In addition to Geoff, our story revolves around Jane, the colony's resource manager - a bureaucrat engineer in charge of keeping the plumbing running on an artificial island of humanity poised on the knife-edge of hard vacuum and unforgiving space. She's more than a century old, and good at her job, but she is torn between the technical demands of the colony and the political realities of her situation, in which the fishbowl effect of 'Stroiders is compounded by a reputation economy that turns every person into a beauty-contest competitor. Her maneuverings to keep politics and engineering in harmony are the heart of the book.
©2011 Laura J. Mixon-Gould (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Compulsively readable and packed with challenging ideas.... Locke has created a believable ecosystem of struggling, competing, sometimes uncomfortably interacting components, where trust is betrayed painfully, but allies appear unexpectedly. Most of all, this smart, satisfying hard SF adventure celebrates human resilience." (Publishers Weekly)
"Rigorous extrapolation with an imaginative flair, characters you can care about, and clean, lean, muscular prose are some of the hallmarks of M. L. Locke, a bright light on the science fiction scene. Fans of hard SF will eat this up and shout for more." (George R. R. Martin)
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"Very old school SF, in ways good and bad"
This book was a bit of an odd pastiche of various classic science fiction elements that was never bad, but never kept me on the edge of my seat. The novel is told from two perspectives during a crisis in an asteroid colony: an administrator and a young "rocket biker." The teenager sections feel like classic YA science fiction (Heinlein, perhaps), where a kid (whose parents obviously don't understand him) and his gang of friends keep being in the right (or wrong) place, and therefore have a chance to be heroes repeatedly. The administrator is written with some interesting nuance, but never becomes emotionally engaging.
The same problems with the characters - obviousness mixed good, but not compelling, ideas - color all the other parts of the novel. There is some very detailed technical world building, but also lots of hand-wavy bits. There is some interesting future sociology, mixed in with SF cliches, like the US devolving into the "Christian States of America." There are some nice action scenes, but the pieces are put in place in ways that make the novel seem forced.
This isn't a failure of a novel, but it is less satisfying then, say, Levianthan Wakes, which has a lot of similarities (near future, near Earth space opera). If you are looking for a long classically-inspired science fiction novel, this might work for you, but I don't think it is worth the time. The reader, however, is excellent.
"Splendid Baroque Space-Opera"
This book has all the elements of a great old-school baroque space-opera (including young adults saving the universe, emergent digital intelligences, and fun with orbital mechanics), with some new twists (ubiquitous reality TV fishbowling). There are occasional very minor continuity problems, but they don't get in the way. Ms. Cambpell is versatile, and each of the many characters has a unique voice. Highly recommended!
"Brand new old school sci-fi"
This book was almost like pulling an old worn paperback off my shelf full of classic sci-fi novels. The idioms of contemporary SF are all there -- transhumanism, singularities, nanotechnology, ubiquitous computing and surveillance -- but the story is pure Golden Age sci-fi.
Phoecea is an asteroid colony on the precarious edge of survival and profitability. To increase their income, they have cut a deal with an Earth-based media corporation to broadcast everything that happens on Phoecea for a reality TV show called 'Stroiders. Although the constant live feeds from floating "motes" do play a role in the story, the effects are largely unseen, as the vast Earthling audience is so remote from Phoecea and there doesn't seem to be much interaction with the inner system worlds. Thus, the "reality TV show" angle doesn't get used much.
Phoecea also depends on water collected from asteroids, and this is how the villains of the story, a corporate front for the Martian mafia, seek to take over Phoecea. After a disaster destroys most of the colony's H20 reserves, the mobsters are the only ones who can bring enough water to save the colonists in time, unless they find another source. And to make matters worse, the disaster also unleashes an Artificial Intelligence, or "feral sapient," that escapes into the wild, taking up residence in Phoecea's computer network.
The main character is engineer Jane Navio, resource manager of Phoecea. She tries to negotiate a way to save the colony that won't hand it over to the Martian mafia, in the face of opposition from quisling bureaucrats, treacherous coworkers, and a mysterious cult of transhumanists whose allegiances are uncertain.
There is also a group of teenagers whose discovery of a "sugar rock," laden with ice, may just save the colony, if the bad guys don't get it first.
It's a complicated setting with many elements and tons of science fiction, but the story, while involving several major subplots, is pretty straightforward, and Up Against It moves along with a pleasant mix of action, suspense, mystery, and sci-fi geekery. I found the writing to be perfectly suited to the job of describing the environment and telling the story, without a lot of stylistic flourishes, and the characters were all pretty interesting, though Jane was a much more fully fleshed out protagonist than Geoff and his teen sidekicks.
If you like rockin' good SF, especially of the sort favored by us SF fans who are getting a little long in the tooth, this is a fresh arrival in the SF field we know and love. It's certainly not a groundbreaking or genre-shaking entry, but it won't disappoint anyone who knows what they expect and want when they read it.
The performance by Cassandra Campbell was good. She handled both male and female voices well, and while I blinked a little at the bad guys' Irish brogue, it did rather fit the setting.
"Very enjoyable SciFi novel"
I really enjoy this book. It full of action and sub plots which made it a great read.
"Solid pulpy fun"
Good read with good narration. Good story, my only problem is the "teens saving the day" aspect. Pretty much all of the other characters are only in situations they seeked out, the kids accidently end up at the center of a few plotlines.
Story also takes some suspension of disbelief, the major event that starts the book is pretty unbelivable from an engineering standpoint. It's like building a nuclear plant on a fault line, just asking for trouble.
"very good hard Sci-Fi book"
nice high tech stuff, great AI, great plot in general. quite entertaining.
no details on the spaceships tho.
as good as Ben Bova or K.J. Anderson
"Great world building, good story, well told"
I really enjoyed this. It's definitely more of a classic SF novel with a heavy bent toward YA, but there are some adult themes here as well. The characters are fairly complex and well described. The opening scenes are terrific, drawing you in quickly and introducing the core details of the story. The strongest aspect of this work is the world building. Locke's vision of a possible future is very well considered and reasonably consistent.
I enjoyed the writing, story, and the narration. I'll look forward to more from this author.
"Life is fragile on the frontier"
This is a wonderfully complex admixture of hard science fiction and political intrigue set in the fragile ecosystem of a community living inside an asteroid. Characters are distinctively drawn and even familiar themes (emergent AI, troubled adolescents) are handled with some interesting innovations. Best features include the attention given to getting the biological science of living inside an asteroid right, the very clever twists on the emergent AI theme (I love the idea of "feral sapients"), the quite believable extension of ancient human political and criminal habits into space, and the rich, three dimensional characterizations of even minor players. Worst features are the sloppy physics in a few critical scenes, some predictable plot turns in several places, and the uneven integration of the AI perspective into the narrative arc. All in all, it is a compelling read, and the teasers at the end of the book guarantee that you will want to read the next volume, even while leaving you satisfied at the ending of this one. I'd give it 4.5 stars for story if that were possible.
"Besides cockroaches, politics and the mob survive"
MJ Locke's Up Against It is futuristic story that takes place on an outlying asteroid. A bizarre factory accident that develops into sabotage puts the colony at risk and at the mercy of a Martian mob crime family and a feral sapient computer intelligence. Various individuals in the colony do their best to save their society from either total destruction or totalitarian takeover.
The sci-fi elements are minimal with standard space flight and engineering capabilities to force an asteroid to support life for thousands of people leading routine lives. There is intriguing nanotech as well as medical advances for longer lifespans and human genetic modifications. Artificial intelligence arises purely from complex computer systems, but with the novel twist of creating a language in song for communication as well as evolving from child to adult. Basically, the story revolves around two main characters, a teenager living in the shadow of an older and more favored brother and the commissioner of resources allocation for the asteroid who must deal with governmental politics, external forces, and advanced social media. The overlap of mob intention along with the feral sapient results in a complex detective mystery to identify everyone's true motives.
The narration is well done with a solid range of voices for both genders.
The technology of the "world" of "Up Against It" is a lot more credible than what I am used to reading. The detailing a nascent AI's thoughts seemed in the Mark. I recommend this even to see how life for "stroiders" can really be like.
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