Sunday, May 27, 2018

Red Sister: First Book of The Ancestor by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister: First Book of The Ancestor by Mark Lawrence. Book: Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright April 2017. $16.99;  pb. 480 pp.; ISBN: 978110988879.

Nona Grey is about to be hung!  She has attempted to murder an upper-class lord who deserves the slit throat he gets but will never forgive his attempted assassin. Rescued by a nun, Nona is taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, a misnomer if there were ever one.  The convent includes a variety of young girls and women who are being trained in multiple facets of war.  Nona will spend three years preparing to graduate as a warrior.  For most of the novel, the reader is never quite sure who a precise enemy is.  We know that the Convent is located in a very cold, hard area where stone, cliffs and frozen rivers are the norm. 

So Nona begins to trust her classmates – somewhat as one is never sure who is friend or foe here as the competition is fierce for victory.  She is taught the crafts of sword fighting, poisoning, wrestling, physical battle, reading and writing, and the path to serenity or “The Path,” as it is known.  It sounds like a martial arts academy based on spiritual principles but with no room for weakness or giving in.  The goal is success, no matter how violent, cruel or deadly.

It initially is debatable whether Nona is “The Chosen One” foreseen in a prophecy believed by the Sisters at the Convent.  There are various categories of humans who hold a secret skill in one form of battle.  Nona must learn to conquer the weaknesses she carries that prevent her from doing better, most of all her temper.  Yet that same temper will enable her to win her first competition against a relative of an upper class enemy.  How to control that gift and use it to its maximum effect is the challenge!
The last few chapters of this superb story will leave you breathless as Nona confronts evil incarnate.

I don’t normally go for novels that are very violent but this one had a “ninja-like” quality that hooked me completely!  Looking forward to the next novel in the series!  Think most readers will as well!

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past #1) by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1) by Cixin Liu. Translated by Ken Liu. Tor Book: Tom Doherty Associates Book.  Copyright 2018. $16.99. pb. 416 pp. ISBN: 9780765382030. 

Cixin Liu is a multi-award winning science fiction whose works are now available in English translation.  This is the first in a planned trilogy.  The novel begins during the time of China’s Cultural Revolution.  Academics are being purged and forced to undergo Communist indoctrination.  One area remains untouched, that of science as China is planning a project to contact aliens from outer space.  Ye Wenjie had watched her scientist father being beaten to death; yet by a strange series of circumstances, she is chosen to be part of this new team to reach outer space.  This is truly hard science fiction.  Even though the science of astrophysics is hard to follow, one can skip some of the scientific descriptions and still get the gist of the plots herein.  At first the problems with the project are that Wenjie and her colleagues are studying scientific theory, they discover that eventually all past theories become negated by the new ones.  Physics, Biology and Computer Science are omitted after their use has become negated by technology leaps. 

The Red Coast Project is highly secure with a classified rating.  Wang Miao has been invited to be part of the project even though his field of nanotechnology is totally unrelated to this problem.  Wang has a problem getting others to answer his questions.  What he learns is mostly from what originally was a virtual reality game called Three Body which involves discovering and eventually the renunciation of these same theories by Newton, Von Neumann, the First Zhou Emperor, Syzygy, etc.

Suddenly, the Three Body game is no longer a game but a connection with Extraterrestrial beings, the Trisolaran Fleet.  Instead of being excited, the scientists become divided in factions.  The proverbial problem is after the discovery, what are these beings like and can Chinese plans fuse with the Trisolaran beings?  Will the latter reform human civilization, the goal being the elimination of all human madness and evil?  Will the Earth be destroyed?  Yours to be discovered!

The author includes a postscript in which he describes how his interest in science and scientific theory developed which is clear and interesting to follow.

All in all, this is a difficult text to read but contains ideas about science and scientists and humanity that is sure to intrigue fans of hard core science fiction.  It certainly will provoke much dialogue about its theories, plots and plans for future novels in the series!