I watched Silo back when it started airing in May 2023. I had never read the book and avoided starting the book while it was airing to get the most spoiler free experience. I’m looking forward to season 2 which was announced before the show concluded airing. I suspect I will have read at least the entire first book (Wool) by that point. Like other shows that I have seen while having previously read the book it will still be enjoyable to experience the fictional world in visual format even if there is no longer a mystery. I found all of the acting to be well done and immersive, but one random thing kept poking at the back of my mind. I kept imagining the character Allison who primarily appears in episode 1 was the character Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation. It’s kind of silly considering any actor is going to play a number of roles, but in my mind this person is definitively Ann Perkins. Thankfully she is really only in the first episode so it didn’t cause a distraction the entire season.
The show reminds me of the situation from the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane. There are people trapped in a kind of bunker and the authority or authority figure is telling you that you absolutely can’t go outside because you will die. The premise of Silo is simple, but where I find it the most interesting is the world building and mysteries. Unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane the bunker in Silo is enormous enough to have an entire self sustaining city. Due to its size and number of people there are naturally a lot of places to explore and a lot of people who could be hiding things. The most obvious mysteries that are presented at the very beginning are whether the outside is actually poisonous, who built the silo, why they built the silo and when they built the silo. They mention these unknowns frequently, but they bring it up most notably in the first episode during a speech on “Freedom Day”. Which is a rather ironic name for a independence day type holiday while being trapped underground.
We do not know why we are here. We do not know who built the Silo. We do not know why everything outside the Silo is as it is. We do not know when it will be safe to go outside. We only know that day is not this day.
I believe the show does a great job at the beginning with hooking you with a compelling narrative and exciting mystery. However, after the first few episode it felt like it dragged on for quite awhile before anything of significant consequence started happening again. The slow middle had plenty of intriguing world building, but it didn’t seem to be bringing the audience any closer to solving the mysteries they so explicitly brought up at the beginning. Thankfully the ending felt satisfying and in some ways even conclusive despite there being another half of the story based on the source material.
The mix of CGI and real sets meshed well in my opinion as it was not obvious what was real and what was CGI without thinking more critically about it. It’s not something I often think about or take note of in shows. Something about the apparent impossibility of the environment on some of the scenes despite looking seamless. For example the scene of one of the larger sections of the Silo showing thousands of people despite only a small section of it being a real. Other notable locations being very bottom of the basement with the extraordinarily large chamber as well as the engine room felt impressive.
I am looking forward to season 2 of Silo despite the high likelihood of having read the first book by then. Despite being satisfied with the conclusion to season 1 I find there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I am fairly confident the story will progress in a way that will address them.
The Final Architecture (2021) – Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Final Architecture is a trilogy that consists of the books Shards of Earth (2021), Eyes of the Void (2022) and Lords of Uncreation (2023) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. These books were vastly different than the previous books I had read by the same author which was the Children of Time trilogy. I had read that the author had studied zoology which made a lot of sense in the context Children of Time trilogy. I was under the impression that all of his books would feature some kind of deep dive into the psychology, biology and culture of hypothetical forms of sentient life. The Final Architecture has plenty of this as well, but it is much closer to what I would consider a traditional space opera with political factions and space militaries at war. Some of the factions just happen to be aliens with biology not typically associated with intelligent life and with motives that are often incomprehensible.
The book starts off on a run down salvage ship called the Vulture God with a ragtag group of misfits that feels reminiscent of space westerns such as Firefly. Our main protagonist Idris is a seemingly unaging human. During the first war against the architects, which are a moon sized species that have the power to reshape entire planets, Idris underwent a procedure to allow him to become an intermediary. This is a highly experimental procedure with a very low chance of success. The goal being to reshape the persons mind to mimic that of the only human who was born naturally with the ability to perceive unspace and allow them to touch mind to mind with the architects. Merely informing the architects of their presence is often enough to convince them to turn away. Now many decades later at the start of the book Idris is working on the salvage ship in order to escape the atrocities of the past as well to prevent the current colonial human powers called the Liason Board from effectively enslaving him as an unspace pilot. The architects have not been seen in all of time and it is believed by many they are gone for good.
The plot takes off when our secondary protagonist Solace who is a part of a separate faction of all female genetically engineered humans called the Parthenon is sent to investigate one of the only known intermediaries not current under the control of the Liason Board. Solace being an old wartime friend of Idris is allowed to accompany the crew of the Vulture God on a salvage operation while she attempts to convince Idris to assist the Parthenon. During a would be routine salvage operation the crew makes a discovery that has far reaching ramifications.
What I like most about these books is surprisingly also what I dislike the most. The sense of mystery that is set up is both brilliant and debilitating. The frequency at which the main character mentions being incredibly close to figuring out the precise nature of unspace and the architects is so high that at times the book seems to break the fourth wall to poke fun at it. Which brings us to unspace which is both the most fascinating fictional science concept in the book as well as this increasingly vague undefinable concept that seems to only get more confusing as the book progresses. Other species such as the Essiel seem to have no problem understanding the very nature of unspace and the universe, but it would be far too convenient if they simply passed on this knowledge to humanity and other species. They also have a religious like belief that only they should be allowed to have this information. The variety of sentient alien life is extravagant. They don’t go into as much detail of their biology or psychology, but there is a lot about their various cultures. Including the culture of the Parthenon with it being a completely uniform biologically engineered all-female faction.
As a space opera enthusiast I highly enjoyed these books. The mysteries with their abstract nature are consistently interesting to think about. The action all the way from ship to ship battles to hand to hand combat were thrilling. However, no matter how much I enjoyed reading these books I don’t believe any more books set in this universe are necessary. It feels like a complete set where any more or any less would not be as solid of a series.
There are actually 3 main books in this series with a couple spin-offs. The first book in the series is called The Quantum Magician. I read all three of these one after another awhile ago so it would be hard to distinguish exactly how I feel about them individually. There are clear and distinct plots in each book and I do remember where the plot ends and starts again, but my thoughts and opinions are going to be influenced by one another. So instead I am going to write a single post about the series as a whole. I find that in order to fully enjoy this book I had to suspend my disbelief about a number of things. Especially in regards to one of the primary premises this book hinges on. That premise involves the ideas behind quantum wave functions and how it can effectively “collapse” when observed by consciousness. I am not an expert on the matter, but from the many hours of documentaries I have watched and articles I have read I am not convinced that quantum mechanics and conscious observers could work anything like is demonstrated in this book. I believe one of the main points of the famous Schrödinger’s cat experiment was precisely point out the absurdity of applying these quantum mechanics on a macroscopic scale. Regardless, I do not feel like this detracts from my enjoyment of the book. One of my favorite things about science fiction is when it goes off into the deep end in its fictional science. This just happens to stray close to a real scientific phenomenon and extrapolates it into something fictional.
The protagonist Belisarius is a genetically engineered human who is capable of perceiving the quantum world without collapsing its wave functions through observation. This is explained as being possible due to their engineered ability to turn off their sense of self. While in this fugue state of mind they have no understanding of who they are and can’t easily respond to stimuli. These quantum engineered humans are called the homo quantus. Belisarius has left the comfort and safety of his own people to explore what it is he is meant to be doing and partially as an act of self preservation due to the risky nature of the fugue state on the body. Due to his engineered superior intellect he has found a way to live as a con man. Soon after he catches the attention of leaders of an oppressed nation and is contracted to help them bring numerous war ships through one of the most defended wormholes in human civilization.
The universe of The Quantum Evolution series feels incredibly vivid and well imagined. All of the companions that Belisarius recruits for what is basically a heist are unique and lively. There are many other forms of engineered humans that exist for various reasons from the homo pupa who were engineered to serve their masters and the homo eridanus who were engineered merely to survive at the crushing depths of an ocean planet. One of my favorite characters is a homo eridanus that is recruited for the job. He could be described as an incredibly ugly bulbous fish monster of a human. They are under no disillusion of what they are and how they look. One of the ways they cope with this unfortunate fate is their constant expression of nihilism as well as vulgar language. Despite its excessive repetition I found it consistently amusing.
Sometimes people describe a convoluted, but masterful plan as playing a game of 4-D chess. This is usually a wild exaggeration of the complexity of whatever scheme they are trying to pull off. However, in The Quantum Magician I feel that this is the closest thing to what could be described as 4-D chess moves that aren’t deus ex machina tier nonsense that completely changes the rules of the game after the fact. I enjoyed the incredible resolution and climax of each book and really hope there is a fourth book as a sequel to The Quantum War. I get the impression that there is more to tell about The Quantum Evolution universe.
This is now the second book that I have read by Greg Egan and I believe I will at some point work my way through the entire collection of books. I don’t think I could read two of these books in sequence as they are rather heavy. I don’t believe hard sci-fi begins to describe what you can expect from this book. I find myself to be reasonably knowledgeable of what is possible in regards to physics, mathematics, biology and computer science, but this frequently goes above and beyond that. I enjoy this aspect of the book, but it does present a couple of problems. I had trouble distinguishing at what point the book transitions from science of today, to science of the future to entirely science fiction. It is easy enough to know when real science is happening and then it gets more difficult when transitioning to theoretical science that could maybe be real, but humans of today simply lack the technology to make it feasible. The line between theoretically plausible science and science fiction is a bit more muddy. Regardless I had a great time thinking about and trying to comprehend exactly what it was the book was trying to have the reader imagine. There is everything from the real world of flesher humans, completely virtual worlds, 5-dimensional universes and the tunneling of the infinite multiverse.
The beginning starts off with the birth of a virtual human in a process called orphanogensis. It feels like a deep dive into the processes behind the conception of a virtual human and the precise mechanisms by which it transforms from merely a collection of algorithms and information into a true general artificial intelligence. This is the birth of our main protagonist Yatima and thus begins our journey from the perspective of a newborn orphan inside a virtual polis. Problems start to arise when it is discovered that a relatively nearby pair of neutron stars are going to inevitably collide and release enough gamma wave radiation to destroy all flesher life on Earth. This sets Yatima and Inoshiro off on a quest to make contact with the fleshers and warn them of their impending doom by uploading their minds into gleisner robots. By this point the flesher humans have already split off into so many factions that have such diverse biology that their modes of thought varies enough to make comprehending one another difficult.
When I started reading this I didn’t realize that the books title was an actual word. Upon looking up the definition it made a lot more sense and I believe it to be a great single word summary of the story.
Diaspora (/daɪˈæspərə/ dy-ASP-ər-ə) Any dispersion of an originally homogeneous entity, such as a language or culture.
The book seems to follow the concept of trans-humanism all the way to its inevitable conclusion which has humanity in some form or another spreading itself throughout the universe and through the multiverse. The lengths at which people will go to discover truths when they can virtually live until the end of the universe is limitless. You might just lose what made you yourself along the way and never be able to return.
I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning this movie back when it released in 2018. I don’t know what it was about this movie, but it ended up being far less known than I would have expected. It is not the biggest budget movie ever so perhaps they did not do much in the way of advertising. I would never really notice as I try to limit my exposure to ads as much as possible.
The thing I like most about this movie is its beautiful retrofutrism style and its strange alien like color saturated forests. This movie felt like it was as much an art project as it was a story. The details of the spacesuits, weapons, spaceships are what I’d expect of a modern day recreation of what people would have designed as a science fiction in the past. In other words if the current level of film making technology was possible 50+ years ago this is what I’d expect a science fiction of the time to look like. I may be a little biased here, but I think the color palette of this movie is the most beautiful of any that I’ve ever seen. Perhaps Blade Runner 2047 would be greater simply due its greater diversity of environments.
The plot of this movie involves the characters Cee and her father Damon who are rare gem prospectors. While attempting to descend from the space station to their designated prospecting site they encounter a malfunction and end up stranded far away from their intended location. Without any immediate way off the planet they decide to prospect the area and quickly find a rare gem. Despite the gem being enough to make their endeavor worthwhile Damon insists continuing to the intended prospecting location. However, it seems they eventually push their luck too far when they encounter some mercenaries.
I like that this movie seems to know exactly what it is trying to be. There are no plots to nowhere, irrelevant characters, plot armor or contrived nonsense in attempts to drive the movie forward. Everything makes sense and is relatively straight forward. The science fiction themes of this movie while beautiful are technically not critical to the plot. I imagine this movies plot could be nearly identical if it were taking place in the old west during the gold rush. This kind of science fiction isn’t usually something I’d rate so highly as it is primarily about the characters and their journey, but their no nonsense approach made it far more enjoyable. Sometimes you have a science fiction where its technology or setting is absolutely critical to telling the story you are trying to tell and other times it is putting a plot that would make sense in modern day Earth and putting it in space or the future and this is definitely the latter.
I hope more movies or TV series get made in this retrofuturistic style.
After being mostly disappointed by Artemis and The Martian I was quite wary of this one. Perhaps my expectations were more reasonable this time around, but I think it was also a better book. Considering how those other books were trying their hardest to stay within a reasonable level of scientific accuracy and plausibility I was completely surprised that there turned out to be an alien in this one. An intelligent sentient species no less. He also just kind of showed up out of nowhere and I was in disbelief that that was the direction the story was going for a bit.
I often found the book to be a bit too light hearted at times. Like it was intentionally written so that it could some day be a PG movie for all ages. There is nothing wrong with this, but it felt off at times as the emotions and tone did not match the current circumstance. I also found it a bit eye rolling at times that the level of competency this supposed average teacher showed in nearly any subject that was brought up. Rocky was clearly the best character in my opinion. If he wasn’t there to offset the lone savior trope like in The Martian and Artemis I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book.
The science bits were a bit too sciencey and not enough fictiony for my tastes, but I don’t think it is Weir’s style to try and make up his own fictional science. Almost all of the science was just real science and math. I think the only thing that was pretty much entirely made up was the idea that something like Astrophage the its neutrino harvesting amoeba could exist. I did like the mostly simple mathematics and science details given for everything Ryland and Rocky were doing.
I’m on the fence about whether I’d read another one Andy Weir’s books as the writing style feels a bit bland to me, but I’m sure I’ll watch the inevitable movie adaptation. I’m really curious to see how they manage to portray Rocky and his and Ryland’s attempt at communication. Jazz Hands ♫ ♪ ♪ ♬
I mentioned this in a previous post, but I have never read the book for the Foundation trilogy or any of the books in the series. I’ve seen fans of the book be critical of this adaptation for not being faithful to Asimov’s original intent. I am unsure if I am better off having not read it yet and enjoying this TV series in ignorance or if I should have read the book first so I can properly understand the point Asimov was trying to make. None the less I cannot change the past and it is what it is. I enjoyed this show if for nothing else than the spectacular visuals for much of it. The very first episode had a beautiful depiction of an extremely large space elevator as well as its amazing destruction. A space elevator of this magnitude falling to the planet such as Trantor with its many layers of civilization and the entire planet being covered with a single city was truly incredible.
However, from then on the show has this stark contrast between all of the scenes featuring the Empire and everything else on Terminus. This is where our protagonists Gaal Dornick and Hari Seldon were sent to build the foundation that would reduce supposed dark ages following the inevitable collapse of the Empire. All of the scenes featuring the plot on Empire I found exciting and really well done while all of the scenes on Terminus and with Gaal, Hari and Salvor to be quite bland and stereotypical. Which is curious considering the Empire plot is mostly content written for the show and the plot on Terminus is vaguely resembling the plot Asimov wrote in the original trilogy.
My biggest gripe with the show might be that the plot from my understanding is often contradictory. The way Hari originally described the concept of psychohistory and its mathematics was that it takes a sufficiently large population to make any accurate predictions about future trends. No mere individual is significant enough to make any deviations in those trends. Yet rather consistently we see Gaal and even Hari himself make statements that they absolutely need to do some urgently as the fate of the galaxy depends on it. I don’t see how this can possibly be the case if the concept of psychohistory is to be taken as legitimate.
Despite some glaring inconsistencies I still enjoyed my time watching this show and look forward to the likely season 3 that is coming. In the meantime I might have to read the book to finally see the story as it was originally intended by Asimov.
This was the wrong place to start reading books by Andy Weir. I had already watched The Martian movie and decided it made sense to start somewhere else and possibly go back to read The Martian book another time. I now believe that was a mistake as I did not enjoy this book very much. It seems to be a thing this author does, but the protagonist is unrealistically intelligent and clever. I suspect it will be a trend that they also single-handedly save the day despite all odds against them. This is not even the main problem I had with this book.
The main character Jazz is really annoying due to her unwarranted teenage angst. I also found some of the things she said to be too sexual for the context of the rest of the story. It felt out of place and didn’t add to plot. Similar to what I saw in the movie of The Martian there are a lot of details about the math and science and why it might technically make sense. There is also a bit of global economics in there which was intriguing. However, the science is all too much science and not enough fiction. What keeps me going in a science fiction is the fictional science and not actual science. It’s great when things are based on real science in order for it to not turn into a fantasy, but doing actual science does not feel as creative. Similar to The Martian the story is far too grounded in reality without enough fiction.
Despite not liking the story or any of the characters I didn’t hate this book. There was enough there to help me imagine life on the moon in some hypothetically plausible scenario. One of the main things I remember at the end of reading a book is the visualization of the environment. I can walk around this environment in my head from Jazz’s tiny bunk to the slightly more open park looking up at the domes and the tram going between the domes. I do plan on reading Project Hail Mary so I am going to give Andy Weir another go in a hopefully more fictional scenario without an angsty protagonist.
This is the first book I’ve read by Isaac Asimov. I decided it was a good idea to go back to some of the classics and this seemed like a great place to start. It might have made more sense to start with The Foundation Trilogy, but I vaguely remember reading somewhere that End of Eternity was potentially a prequel of sorts to it. I’m also in the middle of the Foundation TV adaptation that is very loosely based on the book. I didn’t want to get those two stories mixed up in my head so I’ll likely wait for it to end before beginning the books.
The premise of this book is that humanity has built an organization called Eternity. There is a facility that exists outside of the regular flow of time with machines that allow them to travel as far forward in time as they like. However, they can only travel as far backwards as the establishment of the field that maintains the Eternity facility. The organization reminds me of an early 20th century university that primarily consists of wealthy privileged men. Which happens to be a rule at Eternity. There are no woman allowed at Eternity. Perhaps this premise was more readily accepted at the time this book was written, but feels a bit dated now. Especially considering the primarily conflict of this story ends up revolving around our protagonist Andrew Harlan falling in love with a woman which happens to be strictly forbidden. Despite being an incredibly talented technician of Eternity who skillfully implements reality changes in order to maintain some kind of stability he feels incredibly naive and childish. I didn’t like any of the characters in this book. Their motivations seemed a tad ridiculous most of the time and they consistently refused to consider the implications of their actions in order to drive the story further into disarray. Ultimately the science fiction part of the story was well conceived and exciting to think about. Every story that involves time travel has its own way of implementing its rules, but this one involved what I know as the Butterfly Effect. I think this book might predate the story that coined that term, but I don’t think End of Eternity defined this concept either. Effectively the plot of the story sets in motion a predetermined loop of time that can’t be undone no matter what any of the characters do. Even the characters knowing this might be the case appears to have no effect on their predetermined destiny.
I think it is important to keep in mind when a book was written to try and get in the right frame of reference that the author intended. The book might be a bit dated, but if you read it from the perspective of being in 1955 it makes a lot more sense. I look forward to reading The Foundation Trilogy so I can see if these books are at all related to one another.
This is the first book I’ve read by Greg Egan, but won’t be the last. It is probably an unpopular opinion, but I often find the characters and the story to be my least favorite part of a book. What the characters want, their backstory and motivations are typically far less interesting to me than details about the technology of the fictional universe. Which might seem like a wild thing to say about a work of fiction, but I think the main thing I am looking for is something interesting and fun to think about which varies from person to person. The last few books I read had a severe lack of fictional science in its science fiction so this was a great change of pace.
The books premise revolves around the idea that the brain can be completely scanned and then simulated on a computer. The only problem is that the current level of computing technology only allows it to be played back at a far slower rate than real time. Our protagonist Paul Durham after doing experiments on his own copies has some wild theories about the nature of reality and what it means to even be human. One of my favorite concepts from the book is that regardless of how slow the simulation is running from the perspective of the simulated it feels like normal speed. This is of course assuming the simulated individual has no frame of reference from outside the simulation. Which I think is poking at the idea that we could all be in a simulated universe and could never know it as it feels completely normal to everyone inside of it. You also don’t need a system as powerful as the higher tiered universe to run it as it can get progressively slower without issue. Greg Egan does a great job threading interesting concepts together while maintaining the story.
I look forward to reading some more of Greg Egan’s books. I hope the others are as fun of thought experiments as this one.