Kill the Farm Boy is a delight. It’s funny, unexpected, clever. It’s a quick read without sacrificing any substance. The characters are wonderful—interesting, infuriating, and sympathetic by turns—the world is well-rendered and the plot well-paced.
Did I mention it’s funny? Like, really funny. I have high hopes for the series this book sets up.
Fair warning: you better love puns.
I read an advance reader copy of the novel and it came with a summary of the planned marketing and promotional strategy. The marketing for this book emphasizes a comparison with the work of Terry Pratchett. This offers a good way to explore what Kill the Farm Boy is really about.
The Academy has been shuttered and Priscilla Hutchins (Hutch) is adjusting to life on Earth. Humanity has become fearful of continued space exploration—there’s a growing paranoia that someday such expeditions will bring back something too dangerous. The President herself is campaigning for reelection on a platform of ending the space program.
When an astronomer discovers a signal from deep space which clearly indicates the presence of an intelligent, technologically sophisticated alien civilization, he recruits a team to seek out these aliens and Hutch is put in command. But people don’t want them to go and the team must race to take off before the government can shut them down.
On November 28, 2017, the author Seanan McGuire posted an excellent tweet thread about classic SF and entry points for readers new to the genre. She addresses crucial issues of diversity and inclusion. This perspective is important. Please take the time to click through and read it.
As a community, SF fandom seems to be terrified that if we don't sit every spaceship or dragon-enthralled child dow… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…
Conclusion: classic SF will always be important but it’s not a good way to bring in new readers.
Introducing new readers to science fiction can be tricky. It’s a challenging genre to learn and get used to. I decided years ago (long before I became a librarian or knew anything about readers advisory) that it doesn’t work to get people started in the genre with classic Asimov, Clarke, et al.
I’m ashamed to admit my reasoning at the time had nothing to do with the narrow Western cultural male whiteness of the work. It was because of the writing and the science.
In the future, mankind has avoided self-destruction by a hair’s breadth. Organized religions have been outlawed. Ultrafast transportation has rendered geographical nations irrelevant. Society has been rebuilt according to the ideals of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy. The world’s most notorious criminal—serving a sentence in service to any who command—and a sensayer (a spiritual therapist and guide) discover a child who can perform miracles, with the power to irrevocably change the nature of reality itself. And a brazen theft threatens to expose secrets that could topple the world’s greatest powers.
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is a near perfect blend of science fiction and philosophy.
I admit, I do find this idea fascinating: using storytelling techniques to envision new products and services, craft new vision and mission statements, new marketing campaigns, new strategic initiatives. I’d be interested to see what, if anything, comes of it.
I had a roommate once who had never read any SF before we moved in together. She saw my collection of science fiction and decided to give it a try.
She grabbed a book off my shelf at random—a far future, hard scifi title. Pretty advanced for her first exposure to the genre. She found it very frustrating.
She had no problem getting into the characters or the plot. She understood the science well enough and enjoyed how the author extrapolated it. She didn’t get too tripped up over the genre-specific vocabulary, either, although she did have to ask me what some of the acronyms stood for.
The problem was the setting. She couldn’t make sense of the world of the story, the environment. She didn’t know what things were and couldn’t picture them. Presented with an imagined far-future, alien setting, she felt lost and disoriented.
She was frustrated because she thought she was supposed to understand it. She felt like she was missing something, some key that would bring the world of the story into focus. Something to make it all make sense.
Artemis is the only city on the Moon. Established by the Kenya Space Corporation, it’s a series of habitable domes, filled with a mix of rich tourists and working class residents from myriad ethnic groups. It’s like the Wild West with few established laws, dominated by trade guilds.
A small bubble of life in the middle of a deadly and dangerous environment.
Jazz Bashara grew up in Artemis, the daughter of a Saudi Arabian welder with whom she’s had a falling out. An underachieving genius with a string of broken romantic relationships, she works as a low wage porter and she earns extra money on the side as a smuggler. She’s egotistical and bitter, smart and funny, strong and broken in equal measure.
One day, Jazz gets a job offer that may be too illegal even for her but which promises to pay enough to be worth it. Despite her reservations, she accepts. Next thing she knows, she’s wrapped up in a couple of murders and a Brazilian mafia family has sent an assassin to the Moon to hunt her down. To save her own life, she could end up risking the lives of everyone in Artemis.
And then there’s a new technology that holds untold riches for whoever controls it…