Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Nanoreviews: Sourdough, Extinction Horizon, Mandlebrot the Magnificent

Sloan, Robin. Sourdough [FSG, 2017]

The owners of a barely legal bakery skip town and leave their best customer, a robotics engineer, the starter for their tremendously delicious sourdough with instructions of how to care for it. The starter, and thus the sourdough, is so good that it opens the doors for Lois to consider leaving her career and embark on a new path to a wild underground farmer's market. The premise is out there, but Sloan's previous novel (Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore) was excellent and I wanted to love this one, too.  I enjoyed it, but I didn't find Sourdough nearly as engaging as I expected. The voice was there, Sloan has that in spades, but there's something missing in this recipe. It's still enjoyable, but that's the best that I can say.
Score: 6/10

Smith, Nicholas Sansbury. Extinction Horizon [Orbit 2017 / self published 2014]

Extinction Horizon is a fast paced military apocalyptic thriller with an Army special operations team investigating the reason a top secret medical facility went silent. Naturally, a scientist was working on a weaponized form of ebola that could be deployed to target an enemy without needing US troops to directly get involved. Readers, it all went wrong and a global pandemic ensued. The novel itself is nothing remarkable, but it is engaging and intriguing enough that I want to keep reading. There's plenty of action, some conspiracy, biological terror, and a solid story. I'm interested enough in this now apocalyptic storyline to read Extinction Edge.
Score: 6/10

Ziemska, Liz. Mandelbrot the Magnificent [Tor.com Publishing, 2017]

Arthur C Clarke once said that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" and while I only find that statement partially compelling, I think it applied here in how Zeimska uses mathematics. This is the all too harrowing story of Benoit Mandelbrot's early years as a Jewish refugee in soon to be Nazi occupied France. Much of the novella mirrors the real life events of Mandelbrot though I imagine the novella's resolution with mathematics as magic wasn't exactly how things went down. Then again, "sufficiently advanced technology". The parts of the story that were deeply focused on the math, using diagrams and equations, were the sections my eyes glazed over. The rest, dealing with the horrors of the Nazi occupation and the Mandelbrot family's quiet resistance and survival is moving and vital.
Score: 7/10 

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Writer / Editor of the mostly defunct Adventures in Reading since 2004. Minnesotan.