I found out Neil Gaiman when I read American Gods, which I enjoyed much more than the TV series based on it. Also a book about a parallel magical world that most people are not aware of, it was still something I felt was very American, very Western, even if it was telling the stories of a multitude of gods from all over.

  Neverwhere feels more like Spirited Away than a Western story, though. And it is funny, because the mythology used as its base is British and everything happens in a parallel underground London. The lead character is an anonymous successful dolt working in the financial system who is suddenly thrust into this magical world by a simple act of kindness.

  The book is rather short and the story, while extremely enjoyable and very well written, is not that important. I mean, it's a classic hero journey (I am a sucker for those) but the beauty is in the characters and the details. I still would have wanted the main character to do something about Anastaesia and the reasons why Door was alive, then people trying to kill her, then back again are quite dodgy when you think about it. Also, the Warrior? Seriously?

  Bottom line: if you feel like immersing yourself into a magical world that feels close and real, but also incredible and impossible, then that's the book for you.

  Finna is a novella of only 144 pages, of course the beginning of a series, one that I have absolutely no intention to read. To be blunt, the only reason why I didn't rate this booklet the lowest is that Nino Cipri is actually queer/trans/nonbinary and so I can't complain about the characters being that way with absolutely no relevance to the story. I probably fell (again) for one of those agenda driven fake reviews that recommended it.

  Speaking of the story, it's a rather refreshing concept but that can be explored in a single page. It's a variation on the "doors to other universes" trope. However, most of the short span of the book doesn't focus on the idea or on what happens or even on character development. Instead, it goes on and on about how offensive it is for people to not use the correct pronouns, how tough it is to be queer or mentally afflicted, which is the all the depth the two main characters ever reach. The writing style is telegraphic, almost report like, lacking anything to make me feel anything (good).

  It is a really annoying book because the leads are totally unlikeable. They work at an Ikea clone for minimum wage, they complain all the time, they couldn't care less about people around them except for the awkward romantic relationship they have and even then not much, they go through parallel universes without paying attention, they act and emote without considering the consequences of their actions then blame it on how their brain is wired and so on. It's a story seen through the eyes of teens who would rather spend time with their phone than wonder about the world. I wouldn't be surprised to hear this was one of those books written in tweets or whatever. Still better than 50 Shades of Grey, but that's not saying much.

  And yes, I sound like a grumpy old man because this is what this book makes me feel like: totally disconnected from the entire generation of the characters in the story. They don't even sound like real people to me. It's a story about exploring strange new worlds which pauses every time something could be interesting to focus on how the characters felt in the world they left behind and how their relationship should have, could have, will have...

  Bottom line: Minimum effort and maximum annoyance.

  I have heard about Kurt Vonnegut a few times, like someone I just had to read. So I started with Slaughterhouse Five, first published in 1969 and widely acclaimed as his best work. I guess for 1969 it was great. It is subtle, it is poignant, it is ingenious, it is satirical, it is anti-war. It is not entertaining, though. It's just really sad and bleak.

  Imagine if Forrest Gump would not have been a kind country boy with a slightly slow mind, but a guy heavily affected by PTSD after witnessing the horrific firebombing of Dresden, with illusions of alien abduction. Dresden was bombed in WWII into oblivion by British forces, some say as retaliation for the German rocket bombings of London, even if it was mostly a civilian city filled with refugees.

  But that part of the book, which is drawn from Vonnegut's own experience, even if it is the event that caused everything, is placed at the end of it. The rest of it is the story of the fictional main character who becomes (or believes he does) unstuck in time, which allows him to randomly travel back and forth into his life. He is also abducted by aliens who live in four dimensions, time being the fourth one, and to which time, cause, effect, action and consequences are nonsense. Every moment is unchangeable and set and they can just visit any of them. It is worth mentioning that one of the symptoms of PTSD is this very realistic recollection of past events. It also makes sense for a person afflicted by this to build a narrative in which everything that happens, no matter how atrocious, is not preventable. Anyway, this way of telling events adds an interesting way of understanding them, allows for comedy and satire, makes it all very personal, which is good, but that's about the only thing I liked about the book.

  Now, being studied in school, there are way too many commentaries and reviews trying to explain what the book was about and how brilliant it was. I can only say if I liked it or not. And the answer is that I understand why it is a highly regarded piece of literature, but I did not enjoy reading it. And not because it is terribly depressing, which it is, but because the main character is only interesting because he went through some horrific events, otherwise he is boring and worthless. This makes things even sadder, because this means a big part of the author felt that way about himself.

  Bottom line: It may be poignant, as the cover says, but it is not hilarious. Instead it is depressing and gets so more as one understands more of it. It is a personal expression of deep trauma, so if you enjoy that kind of thing, this is the book for you.

  Rarely have I read such a frustrating book. Civilized to Death is trying to show that our modern life and societal order is not the only solution, that progress doesn't mean what we think it means and that a lot of the things we take for granted about our (pre)history and path as a species is just propaganda. So on one side, I was fascinated by the concepts shown in the books. However the tone of the text is so shrill, inconsistent and self contradicting that I found it infuriating.

  Christopher Ryan is obsessed with hunter gatherer societies. He rose to fame with a book that covered the sexual behavior of our closest relatives: chimps and bonobos, as well as the information he had collected on our ancestors in prehistory about the subject. Again, he was trying to show that most of what we know or take for granted about human sexuality is self interested bullshit, beginning with the arrival of agriculture. In Civilized to Death he just moves even further to blame all the ailments of humanity on that same event and the hierarchical paternalistic profit obsessed society that arose since then. Progress, he argues, can only be measured in human happiness and well being and modern society sucks at that.

  You can skip reading the book and just read the cheat-sheet that the author published on his web site for it. The basic gist is that we were better off hunting and gathering and that modern society is just a self-sustaining meme that leads to our domestication for its own survival, not something that increases our happiness. It's a zoo for ourselves and we should take control over what that zoo looks like and how it treats us.

  I agree with that last statement, but I call bullshit on Ryan's arguments. He vilifies Malthus, but then he claims if we limited our population to 100 million, we would all have enough resources to live without effort. He attacks statistics and experiments as being biased or even intentionally skewed, then he uses statistics and experiments of his own that he likes better. He attacks globalization and how it forced the same narrative on everyone, but then he makes his research and his money with the help of the global communication network that technology provided.

  His worst sin, though, is how we so liberally uses the terms "we" or "humanity" to define the specific group of people that he likes. For example, people are slaves to the drive to work. If they try not to work, the entire society brings hell down on them, so they are forced into this horrific labor camp that the Earth has become. He completely ignores the people that absolutely love to work! Ryan mentions people who could very easily stop working and live a comfortable life, but they don't, only he puts this all on some perceived addiction to work, not that it gives people meaning and fulfilment if doing the thing they love. He talks about how egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies are, but he completely ignores what happens to the members of those groups who do not want to be egalitarian. And so on. He is furious against what he calls the Narrative of Perpetual Progress, which he then dismissively calls NPP in the rest of the book, but he doesn't really come with an alternative.

  And that makes the book very frustrating, because you want to believe what he says, you want to look further into the sources he mentions, but the way he puts everything together feels like very artificial cherry picking. And the ending is always something like "OK, I may have gone too far, but what I really mean is...". No! Just don't go too far. Make me trust what you are saying, not feel I am being swindled by a TED talking Marx!

  Bottom line: a very interesting premise, but poor argumentation. Still worth a read.

  Last Call is about the occult and symbolism, threaded through history, actual famous people, the Vegas culture, the world of gambling and card games, Tarot cards and so on, filled with action and fringy characters. Tim Powers has put a lot of effort in the research and the details and that, ironically, may be the problem of this book. There are too many characters, too deeply rooted into the mythology of chaotic gods and the significance of cards, doing things that you need to reread a few times in order to understand. It gives the book a hallucinatory feeling, like you are there and not there at the same time. This might help people get into the atmosphere or push them away.

  The book is also quite long and just the first of a trilogy. While I've enjoyed living in the world described by the book, and while it is well written, I also found it a chore to read. That doesn't mean it's not a very good book, it's just that I don't think I was its intended audience or maybe reading a few pages before going to sleep or listening to it while walking the dog were not the best situations for getting into the story.

  Bottom line: very interesting concepts and well written, but requires effort from the reader to fully enjoy. I found it a bit too long for comfort and the pacing was a bit unreliable, too. If you're into symbolism and Tarot mythology, this might be the book for you.

  Gina Kolata's Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 starts with a question that, I believe, is more important than the cause of the epidemic or even its terrible effects: Why don't we know about what happened in 1918? Why isn't it taught at school, why isn't there more information about what happened, why aren't there more books, songs, reports, movies and memoirs about what can be safely called the biggest killer event in human history in terms of numbers? Not only regular people, but also medical professionals find themselves surprised to know so little about it. In fact, if we weren't living during pandemic times right now and the parallel hadn't been drawn, we would still be in a general state of ignorance about the very existence of the event.

  And it's not only the military censorship during World War I, which surely had a lot to do with it, but a more insidious and yet generalized reason: people want to forget about it. The story is not one of heroism, it doesn't follow the hero's journey, it doesn't end with humanity defeating its foe, with suffering teaching an important lesson or with a patriarchal being or group coming to the rescue. Instead, it is one of utter defeat, of something unknown devastating tens of millions of lives, while they are incapable to do anything and no one comes to their aid or even acknowledges their suffering. Just senseless death, then it's over. Just like surviving a bear attack after the bear got bored of clawing and biting bits of your crying, self pissing helpless body.

  Yet the rest of the book is about the unsung heroes of the story, scientists that attempt to learn from the experience and guard against it happening again. It follows people trying to find the infectious agent that caused the 1918 pandemic, identify it and pry its secrets. These are people that focus on a task and obsess about finding ways to complete it. They work tirelessly in labs, dig up century old frozen bodies to find what killed them, overcome obstacles (mostly put there by other people) and are the only ones who actually know anything about something and can guide action against future disease.

  Gina Kolata's book is a great read in these times, because it not only shows people are actually doing something about epidemics, even if no one is excitedly talking about it in the media, but also shows how every pandemic follows a predictable path. It's not just our politicians that seem to be completely baffled on what to do. It's not just our scientists who get blocked in their work by malicious rumor and public opinion about things they understand nothing about. It's not just our industry that for financial reasons thwarts efforts to do something and not just us that think random chemicals can safeguard us from the new threat. Epidemics are the great stories that no one learns from and therefore we are all doomed to repeat living through them.

  Flu is also a great companion to Barry's The Great Influenza book. While that one was more historical in nature and focused more on the path the virus took and how people reacted to it, Kolata is almost taking the reverse path, starting with current efforts to understand what happened in 1918 and thus slowly creating a picture of the events then, through the work of dedicated scientists and the biological information discovered about the virus.

  Bottom line: this is a book well worth reading, particularly in these troubled times. Hell, it's not like you have a lot of other things to do anyway!

  Submission is the most French book I've ever read. It's an intellectual examination of political France (and by extension the whole Europe) from the viewpoint of a womanising, wine drinking, misanthropic, misogynistic university professor as it is suddenly, but without resistance, turning Muslim. Bound to generate reactions, the book is tongue-in-cheek offending everything and everybody: political systems and pundits, religions and zealots, apathetic atheists, women, muslims. But it is also examining human failings and demanding a solution that doesn't completely suck. This is the first Michel Houellebecq book I've read. It intrigued me and I may read another soon.

  Just a few quotes to wet your appetite:

  • the mediocrity of the ‘political offerings’ was almost surprising. A centre-left candidate would be elected, serve either one or two terms, depending how charismatic he was, then for obscure reasons he would fail to complete a third. When people got tired of that candidate, and the centre-left in general, we’d witness the phenomenon of democratic change , and the voters would install a candidate of the centre-right, also for one or two terms, depending on his personal appeal. Western nations took a strange pride in this system, though it amounted to little more than a power-sharing deal between two rival gangs, and they would even go to war to impose it on nations that failed to share their enthusiasm.
  • As I got older, I also found myself agreeing more with Nietzsche, as is no doubt inevitable once your plumbing starts to fail. And I found myself more interested in Elohim, the sublime organiser of the constellations, than in his insipid offspring. Jesus had loved men too much, that was the problem; to let himself be crucified for their sake showed, at the very least, a lack of taste , as the old faggot would have put it.
  • For men, love is nothing more than gratitude for the gift of pleasure, and no one had ever given me more pleasure than Myriam. She could contract her pussy at will (sometimes softly, with a slow, irresistible pressure; sometimes in sharp, rebellious little tugs); when she gave me her little arse, she swivelled it around with infinite grace. As for her blow jobs, I’d never encountered anything like them. She approached each one as if it were her first, and would be her last. Any single one of them would have been enough to justify a man’s existence.

The protagonist is a professor whose only love appears to be Joris-Karl Huysmans, of who he thinks constantly and of who he wrote the dissertation that allowed him his position teaching in the Sorbonne university. As the system in France is turned upside down by a combination of voter apathy and political mathematics, a Muslim party gains majority and, under the skillful leadership of its charismatic leader, it begins to turn France and then the whole Europe into a moderate Muslim empire fueled by petro-dollars.

Of course the premise is ridiculous, after all the book was written before Trump came to power, which seemed equally ridiculous right before it happened. The book compares the submission of women to their men, the only true way of achieving happiness, to submission to a religion, or a political system, or a literary philosophy. It is masturbatory in nature and speaks to one's weakness and decay. It is not an islamophobic book, it's a trollish, nihilistic book, meant to show how reasonable a change like that might seem when supported by politics and media and allowed by lassitude and apathy. Usually books like these end up describing the advent of some Nazi government ruling with violence, fear and ruthlessness. Houellebecq says no: let it be a moderate Muslim party that each divided part of society accepts for different reasons, but accept, submit, they do. The main character ends up considering converting to Islam and living his life married to three wives and teaching in the private Muslim university of Sorbonne.

  Octavia E. Butler blew my mind with her Xenogenesis trilogy, where she explored the needs and choices of human beings when their control is taken away from them not by aggressive beings, but by god like aliens who can control and change the very nature of one's body and mind and kindly, like parents who know best, rape Earth and all the humanity for three long books. It was daring, it was thought provoking, it was sickening.

  I can see similar motifs in Fledgling, where the point of view is that of an amnesiac vampire who needs to understand who and what she is and find the people who killed her entire family and almost killed her as well. Vampires are not evil in this book, instead just having the ability to completely redirect the feelings of people they feed from towards adulation and love, a bit like the aliens in Xenogenesis. And consider the fact that the protagonist looks like a ten year old black girl and in just a few chapters she has consensual sex with a large man. I wonder what the hell happened to Butler when she was young!

  Unfortunately, the story starts with this very intriguing reimagining of vampire lore, with a feel reminding me a bit of Let the Right One In, only to become mired in a sort of legal proceeding and then abruptly end. It's a fine exploration of this new idea of the vampire, but not much more. I liked the book, it was interesting from beginning to end, but it felt mostly like an intellectual exercise that could have become something so much better with just a little refinement and further exploration.

  Bottom line: I recommend it, as it again fiddles with our notions of propriety, sexuality and race, but Xenogenesis was much better.

  A Very Punchable Face is an attempt to answer the question "Who is Colin Jost?" by small sketch like chapters that have very little to do with each other and also seem to have not very much to say about Colin himself. Some of the more interesting or personal issues are just ignored or assumed known by the reader. If you don't already know who he is and what he did in life, some of the passages in the book won't make any sense to you. Also, isn't it obnoxious to write a "memoir" when you're 38?

  So who is Colin Jost? He is a guy whose greatest fear is to be mediocre. Understandable since he went to Harvard, married Scarlett Johansson and wrote and hosted for Saturday Night Live. Who in his shoes wouldn't, right?

  I usually enjoy self biographical works because they are deeply personal, and while I enjoyed reading this book, it didn't feel that personal. It was filled with jokes, but they didn't do anything for the story. They were there just because Jost is used to think of jokes all the time. It held some personal anecdotes, but mostly event descriptions, with little interior revelation of personal thoughts and feelings and intentions. Of all of the chapters I loved the one about his mother most, even if it had nothing to say about Colin himself. And I swear he speaks more about the times he shat himself than, let's say, Scarlett!

  Bottom line: The book doesn't say anything you probably thought you were going to read it for. The rest is amusing, but felt like a series of sketches and not something to convey how a person feels inside and experiences life. Also the writing was rather... well... mediocre.

  Daniel Suarez is a trailblazer: he takes technology in its infancy and creates stories about how it could be used today, given a little bit of determination and perhaps insanity. He is a competent writer, paying more attention to events and dialogue than to character development. This makes the books packed with ideas and information, but less lyrical, let's say. They also start brilliantly, with a new angle on a situation that could be happening today without big leaps in technology or stretches of imagination, yet kind of go over the edge towards the ending, become less plausible. Suarez's view of the state of the world and human nature in general is both optimistic and terribly dark.

  Delta-V follows the same pattern, this time focusing on space mining, a subject that I am personally really interested in. What would happen if someone would ignore the bureaucracy and the ethical bog in which Earth is mired in and instead just push the boundaries, dare to do where others barely dare to dream? What if we would use the money we throw every day on wars and maintaining an artificial system of wealth and politics on something that lifts us all?

  I liked the technical aspects of the book, but less the interactions between people and the way events unfolded. The story raises many interesting points, but fails to raise something more important: hope. The plot is akin to those high stakes James Bond chases, thrilling, but implausible, letting me feel like it would be crazy to even try. Delta-V leaves a bitter sweet taste after reading: to know what is possible with just a little commitment and to know that the world is poised to stop you at every point for the simple reason that it must justify its existence and protect its pecking order.

  I liked Daemon more, but this one has a subject that is closer to my heart.

  The Abyss Beyond Dreams ended with Bienvenido being thrown out of the Void and outside the very galaxy. A different set of heroes now need to battle Fallers, idiotic government people and spacetime to save the world!

   A Night Without Stars is almost as good as the first one. It brings new challenges, a slightly different setup, other characters. In a way, it's pretty much a separate book. And while it follows the plethora of different people, each doing their own thing, it keeps the entire narrative together and consistent. Still had parts and leaps of logic that felt a bit lazy, but the main flow of the story was captivating and the characters sympathetic.

   But, being the actual end of a story and being a Peter F. Hamilton book, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but as abruptly as falling off the cliff. To give you a taste: the fate of the Void is resolved in less than a paragraph. The end of the book introduces no less than three different alien races, each with their own few paragraphs. It was like Hamilton was saying "Hey, glad you enjoyed the book. I also had this list of ideas while writing it. I'll list them at the end and let you think about the possibilities as homework".

  Bottom line: if you are a Hamilton fan (or you like good hard science fantasy) there is no force that will stop you reading these two books. I even felt like they were slightly better written than the ones before, even if a bit less carefully. However, the cold turkey endings of these stories stop me from feeling like I want more. It's like enjoying a high speed car ride and hitting a tree. It was fun while it lasted, but you don't feel like driving now.

  The Void trilogy brought us the captivating idea of an area of the galaxy that has different properties than the rest, a place where electricity and electronics don't work well, but people have psychic abilities. Also steampunk heroes that fight the system and have superpowers. 

  Well, The Abyss Beyond Dreams is also set in the Void, but on another planet. It starts with Nigel and Paula discovering the cache of telepathic recording of "Edeard's dreams" and Peter F. Hamilton makes fun of his own work by having Nigel tear up at the end of consuming them because it was such an exact hero's journey. I understand Hamilton's embarrassment as I remember reading the books and waiting impatiently for the hard sciency part of the book to finish so I can see what Edeard was up to, which is the opposite of what I normally do.

  Anyway, Nigel goes into the Void to mess it up, as it engulfs more and more of the galaxy to fuel its function, and he arrives on a planet in an early industrial stage of development and that is ruled by a bureaucratic government. So he encourages a Trotsky-like movement in order to reach his goals.

  To me the book was very entertaining, I've read it in a few days, and I also think is one of the good Hamilton books. It's not hard to spot the logical errors in it. I saw clearly how he wanted to create a new story, this time examining other aspects of human psychology and sociology by dissecting a socialist revolution, and so he paid less attention to other sides of it. But it's a book, a hard science fantasy story! It is not perfect and still pretty cool.

  I also liked that the two parts of this story, one being this book, the other A Night Without Stars, were almost standalone, with different characters doing things in different ages. The ending of the book is abrupt as it usually is with PFH, but not as jarring as other of his books, nor ending in a terrible cliffhanger, nor like the end of the second book... :) And this time it's not a trilogy, but a duology. Hurrah for self contained stories!

  Bottom line: good read, I didn't realize how much I was missing reading some of Peter F's stories until I started reading this.

  Plain Bad Heroines is a lesbian gothic book, as it features unexplainable horror and almost everyone in it is gay and female. Should I call it sapphic gothic? It has the benefit of scaring you twice as much if you're homophobic, I guess. The first thing you notice is how well the book is written. Emily M. Danforth is clearly a talented author and she must be praised for it. I continued to read the book until I finished it mostly because of how well it was written. However, while I am a fan of intermingling stories and self referential prose, most of these stories bored me to tears.

  It is possible, though, that I was not connected to the subtleties of the book, as I was frequently falling asleep while reading it and starting to read it again from a random point that seemed vaguely familiar. I mean, it is a book about the making of a movie that is based on a book, itself inspired by Capote's unfinished work, that researched the spooky happenings at an isolate manor which was being used as a girls only school in the 1900's and where said happenings were being associated with a book written by an outspoken bixsexual feminist who wrote a confessional memoir. And that's just the synopsis. It talks about life in the glamourous Los Angeles movie scene, about societal gossip and the history of Truman Capote, the more or less overt lesbianism accepted at the beginning of the 20th century in high class educational institutions, book writing, sexting and flirtation, life under the spotlight with crazed fans following your every move, witchcraft, even a nod to Lovecraft.

  The thing that bothered me about the storytelling was that most of these subjects were not interesting to me. They felt neither very personal nor technical. As a book inspired by two others, one a shockingly honest autobiography and the other a shockingly honest autopsy of high social circles, Plain Bad Heroines felt really subdued. The scenes that most elicited emotion out of me were neither the lesbian romance, nor the behind the movie scenes machinations, nor the old timey 1900 era rich manor life. It was the witchy curse scenes, which in the end had a very underwhelming explanation. It felt like a book about nothing, going in circles around the point that it was trying to reach, but never getting there. It was a rim job!

  Bottom line: probably more subtle that I understood it to be, it might be just the thing to read if you're gay or into the socialite L.A. life. To me it was difficult to finish and find an interest in.

  I have been working on this adventure computer game that is a tribute to the history of adventure stories. One important part of that history is what we call a gamebook, a printed work that allows the reader to choose one of several paths to complete the story. Because of very aggressive marketing and copyright tactics, this is now almost absorbed by the Choose Your Own Adventure brand and for sure Bantam Books (now Random House) would like us to think that they invented the concept. In fact, the man who sold the idea to them, Edward Packard, was not even born when two American women collaborated on what is now credited as the first book in the genre: Consider the Consequences! from 1930.

  Now, imagine that you would know what is the first book in a literary genre, like the first horror book, or the first romance. You would expect to find pages and pages written about it, you would think others have mentioned it in their works in the field and you would certainly trust to be able to find it somewhere to read. Well, Consider the Consequences! has almost disappeared. A book that probably has a dozen copies left in the world and is carefully (yet greedily) hoarded by a few libraries and collectors.

  Go on, search for it on the web, the place where everybody talks about everything. You will probably find it on Amazon, where it is unavailable, and on Goodreads, where you have one rating and one review. Perhaps you would find mentions of it on a site called Gamebooks, which only seems fair, on a blog called Renga in Blue and a long tweet from a James Ryan. Then there are some context mentions and that is it! The first ever instance of a book in an entire genre is about to go extinct!

  Now, I don't know if it was any good or not. That's kind of the point, I can't judge this work because I can't find it anywhere. If I had lived in the US or the UK maybe I could have read it in the library of some university, although that is just a possibility and not something that I would expect to be able to do. I don't even know if it is in the public domain or not. The U.S. legislation says conflicting things and something written in 1930 may perhaps become free of copyright in 2026.

  And the authors were the real deal: activists, suffragettes and all that. Perhaps I should complain that the patriarchy is trying to stifle the roots of feminine literature and then something would happen. It's astounding, really.

  The Mother Code is not a terrible book, but it is certainly not a good one. It has problems of structure, story and characters. But worst of all, it is really not about motherhood.

  Imagine a world where Uncle Sam "tests" a biological weapon somewhere in Afghanistan, only later realising that they have doomed the whole of humanity. Their solution is not to create self sustained habitats that eschew the issue, going to another planet, moving to Antarctica. Instead they focus on two avenues: finding a cure and creating a fleet of robots that can incubate, raise and protect children that have been genetically manipulated to resist the disease. Yes, because that is doable if you put (just) a team of people to work. It gets worse. The only mention of other countries is in about three or four paragraphs. They don't exist in the American mind, other than an afterthought, and indeed that's the political response of the government in the book, working in secret even knowing they are the cause and that other countries might help. And of course, all the children are American, as are the personalities of the "mothers".

  And really, you might accuse me for nitpicking here, I mean, I've read a lot of bad or naive stories over the years, why be so upset with this? But Carole Stivers decided to also show what happens in the future in parallel to the epidemic story, thus eliminating any thrill of what might happen. The core of any sci-fi story, the what-if, was halved in the moment she presented the end at the same time with the beginning. And later on, when there was another serious question about the future of humanity, the author again chooses to show her cards early and resolve the tension before it even started building.

  So what's left? A deep and interesting analysis of what it means to be a mother, explored through the eyes of the children raised by machines? No. That's just an afterthought, instead the focus being on a group of people that just... exist, with no real consequences to the story until the very end. I understand the dilemma of the editor: should they remove the superfluous writing, thus ending up with a short story, or should they leave it in in hope people would buy "a book" and thus pay for their salary.

  And the whole "mother code" thing is barely touched upon, which is so very sad, because the concept of a software developer trying to understand and code a nurturing mother is amazing! Yet that part takes just a few chapters and it doesn't really feel like what would happen to a software person.

  Bottom line: a really good idea, wasted on a subpar book that buries it under a lot of unnecessary story and forgettable characters.