Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
"7th Sigma" by Steven Gould
At the start of this book, I was pleased to see a quote from Kim by Rudyard Kipling, since that's one of my all-time favorite novels. But I was really surprised to turn the page and find that 7th Sigma starts exactly the same way, with a boy named Kim ("Kimball" in the earlier book, "Kimble" here) playing King of the Hill with other boys.
The similarities don't stop there. Steven Gould has crafted a story that's strongly reminiscent of Kipling's tale. And obviously, that's no accident. (Maybe Gould loves Kim as much as I do.)
Of course, the setting of 7th Sigma is completely different. Set in a near-future American Southwest, it actually feels more like the past. That's the result of a plague of self-replicating mechanical insects which have eliminated the use of metal - and electronics of any kind - throughout the region.
No one knows where the robotic "bugs" came from. But they eat all kinds of metal, and use it to create still more bugs. They're powered by sunlight (photovoltaic wings). And although they avoid water, they'll go through anything else to get to metal, so you don't want to be wearing metal filings in your teeth, an artificial hip, or a pacemaker. In fact, you don't want to be anywhere near metal.
Electromagnetic radiation will attract them even faster than metal will. But nothing causes them to swarm as abundantly as destroying one of them. Even accidentally crushing one is usually a death sentence, with bugs drilling through anything and everything in the area.
At first, the American military tried to fight back, but their high-tech weapons just fed the bugs. So now, the American Southwest is a territory with its own special lifestyle. People still live there, but without metal, without computers, without even radio. In many ways, they've returned to an earlier time.
Like his namesake in Kipling's novel, Kimble offers to guide a stranger and finds a friend and mentor. But rather than an innocent Tibetan monk, she's a martial arts instructor. Young Kimble isn't an orphan, but he might as well be, so she takes him under her wing.
Later, though he's still a child, Kimble starts working undercover for the Territorial Rangers. That, too, is strongly reminiscent of Kipling's tale. But Kimble's adventures are his own. And throughout the book, there's a deeper puzzle, the question of where the bugs came from. And perhaps,... where they're going.
7th Sigma caught my attention immediately, and kept it. I really couldn't put it down. I started it early last night and didn't stop reading until after midnight, when I finally read the last page. It's a quick, easy, entertaining adventure with a very sympathetic hero. But as I say, there's a deeper puzzle here.
The bugs aren't just an excuse for a unique setting. There's clearly something else going on. There's some reason why they appeared, though we don't know what that might be. And it's obvious that we haven't seen the end result.
So I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Kimble, either. No doubt this is just the introduction. Yes, it's a complete book in itself, but I do expect to see Kimble again.
PS. This is the first book I've read by Steven Gould since I started this blog, so it's the first one I've reviewed here. But I've read almost everything he's written, and I haven't been disappointed even once. Admittedly, he's not very prolific. I really wish he'd write faster. But I certainly can't complain about how well he writes.
I would especially recommend Jumper (forget about the movie - seriously, just forget it) and Wildside. But all of his books are great fun, and that definitely includes 7th Sigma.
And, er, if you haven't read Rudyard Kipling's Kim, do yourself a favor and give that a try, too. True, it's not science fiction. But the cultures it depicts are so exotic and so alien to my own experience that it might as well be.
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It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong - Richard Feynman
The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other. - Sir Francis Bacon
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Speculation is perfectly all right, but if you stay there you've only founded a superstition. If you test it, you've started a science. - Hal Clement
No matter how many times a theory meets its tests successfully, there can be no certainty that it will not be overthrown by the next observation. This, then, is a cornerstone of modern natural philosophy. It makes no claim of attaining ultimate truth. In fact, the phrase "ultimate truth" becomes meaningless, because there is no way in which enough observations can be made to make truth certain and, therefore, "ultimate". - Isaac Asimov
The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion. - Treaty of Tripoli, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams (1797)
I don't doubt the sincerity of dowsers, but even after we've demonstrated that they can't produce results that are any better than chance they'll still go away believing in their abilities... It is like the mother whose son is caught shoplifting on tape. She wonders why someone would want to frame her child by producing a fake video. - James Randi
During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church ... imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. - Mark Twain
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. - Bertrand Russell
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. - Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. - Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.
This is not about proof. Science does not use proof. We favor evidence, and the work consists largely of the slow accumulation of evidence in support of ideas, not magically potent proofs that establish an idea as unassailable. - PZ Myers
No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. - President Barack Obama
The formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat. - Shekhar Gupta
We are prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs. - Carl Sagan
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins
120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. - Sam Harris
To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man. - Michael Servetus, burned at the stake in 1553
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We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason. - Thomas Macauley, 1830
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men. - Edward R. Murrow
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. - Thomas Huxley
There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. - Arthur Schopenhauer
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To be elected in America, no matter from what party, the candidates have no choice but to year after year pledge to lower taxes further and further. We have become the nation of Ken and Barbie, looking good but very poor at the math. - Rack Jite
Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them. - Steve Eley
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