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)
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
Louis E. Dargin II
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.
Audiobook Junkie... Love all types of Science Fiction
M. J. Locke is a bit of a mystery to me. The personal website seems to have a lot of extraneous information, and it took a little digging to find out that this is the pen name of the author, Laura J. Mixon, if my information is correct. I am hopeful for a sequel because, although this book can end as a stand alone, it certainly has potential for continuation.
Up Against it introduces us to a future where man has conquered the stars and colonized various planets in the solar system. In this timeline planets run their own governments and face a list of issues such as corruption, resources, and greed. The main focus of this book is on an asteroid colony called Phocaea. Life here is a struggle for a people who live day by day just scraping by, and in order to survive the inhabitants must harvest ice to power their systems. M. J. Locke seems to dabble in many different topics in this book. The main theme examines how humans have become reliant on technology. The author shows a planet Earth that has been overcome with greed and has contracted with fellow colonies to spy upon them at certain times of the day. Locke introduces us a very technological society with different devices used for recording every day life and controlling systems responsible for survival in space. There is a considerable amount of focus on the political system of Phocaea and different facets of its culture. We get a look at gender topics in a part of society where citizens have infused technology and genetics to create a new sort of human being. Locke even explores the creation of an artificial intelligence and proceeds to give us the perspective of a machine for a few chapters. Locke switches perspectives between several different main characters that include a resource official responsible for obtaining the needed ice for the colony's survival and a boy named Geoff. With the colony in an ice crisis there are multiple plots that arise, mysteries to be solved, subterfuge to be detected, and new dangers to be faced by our protagonists. Even though there are many different topics, the author attempts to explore there was sufficient meat to the story to drive the listener through the telling. Inspired by clever writing, events converge by the end to wrap things up with satisfying conclusions.
Cassandra Campbell did a fine job with the narration. I thought she even did a decent job with the masculine voices. There was enough expression in the right places to make the characters engaging. And although I had to pause and rewind a few times to catch some details, it was more due to the style of the writing (such as the computer lingo) and not the execution.
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