Tuesday, May 31, 2005

17. Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan

Market Forces book pictureThis was the perfect book to help keep the pace going. I read Morgan's first book, called Altered Carbon, that was basically a detective noir set in a pretty far cyberpunk future. It was well done science fiction. Market Forces is much more compelling and thematically rich, though still a classic male sci-fi book on the surface. It takes place near the end of this century. Globalization has continued to thrive and the world is controlled by powerful corporations. Division between the rich and the poor has become so extreme that London is separated into two distinct zones, divided by checkpoint barriers. The protagonist is a hot-shot financier working in Conflict Investment, the hottest growth area in the market. Basically, large corporations finance and manage small wars all over the world and reap huge profits off the weapons sales and subsequent cheap labour markets.

It's such a cut-throat world that to actually get ahead, you have a road duel with whoever's position or accounts you want to take. All the top execs drive around in armored, souped-up luxury vehicles and the best are like sports celebrities. I know it sounds kind of too over-the-top, but in the context of the book, it really works. How this state of affairs came to pass is slowly revealed and it fits in very well in what is ultimately a damning condemnation of global capitalism. The protagonist does some brutal things, but he's always wrestling with his conscience and begins to side with the revolutionary underdogs that he's financing.

It's macho writing and fun for people like me to read. The boardroom politics are well-constructed and gripping and there's tons of action: gunfights, street brawls and road battles. But the whole thing is very political. This is narrative entertainment with a political purpose balanced so well that neither side of the deal suffers. Good stuff. Strongly recommended.

Friday, May 27, 2005

16. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Forever War book pictureHoly Karst! This is the first book I've read in way too long. I blame the internet. Over a month. I've lost my pace now and am going to have to really pound them out to get 50 this year.

I picked up The Forever War at a thrift store for a quarter. It had a nice '70s sci-fi pocket book cover and lots of accolades. It definitely comes out of the tradition of the '60s and the Vietnam war. The story concerns the life of a soldier recruited as a young man into a war against some unseen aliens and follows his career throughout the war as it progresses. What makes it interesting is that the engagements continue to be farther and farther away. The soldiers are put into stasis when they travel to the outer reaches. Most are killed, but those few who do survive come back to a future earth that is hundreds of years ahead of them. The protagonist's life spans 1800 earth years and by the time it's over things have changed radically. He goes through an entire period where heterosexuality is considered taboo and he's the only straight soldier in his platoon.

It's an interesting concept and ultimately is set up to show the ridiculousness of war. The story is fairly linear, though and lacks much actual conflict. It's more like an exploration of the theme rather than a real story, though the main character is sympathetic and well-written. It's okay.