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Natural History

av Justina Robson

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
4631941,493 (3.49)38
A daring and original new novel from one of sci fi’s most provocative voices, Natural History is a stunning work of bold ideas, unforgettable characters, and epic adventure as one woman seeks to explore what may be the greatest mystery of all.... IMAGINE A WORLD... Half-human, half-machine, Voyager Isol was as beautiful as a coiled scorpion–and just as dangerous. Her claim that she’d found a distant but habitable earthlike planet was welcome news to the rest of the Forged. But it could mean the end of what was left of the humanity who’d created and once enslaved them. IMAGINE A FATE... It was on behalf of the “unevolved” humans that Professor Zephyr Duquesne, cultural archaeologist and historian of Earth’s lost worlds, was chosen by the Gaiasol military authority to uncover the truth about this second “earth.” And her voyage, traveling inside the body of Isol, will take her to the center of a storm exploding across a spectrum of space and time, dimension and consciousness. IMAGINE THE IMPOSSIBLE... On an abandoned planet, in a wrinkle of time, Isol and Zephyr will find a gift and a curse: a power so vast that once unlocked, it will change the universe forever. With civil war looming, Zephyr’s perilous journey will lead her to a past where one civilization mysteriously vanished...and another may soon follow.… (mer)
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» Se även 38 omnämnanden

Visa 1-5 av 19 (nästa | visa alla)
A cranky cyborg, engineered for interstellar travel, comes across a new technology and a new planet - finally - a chance to get away from the monkeys! The politics of the "unevolved" and the "forged" play out across the solar system while an historian is shipped out to determine if the planet has ever been occupied - in the belly of the cyborg ship. I sometimes had trouble keeping track of the characters - they could have been better defined - but was thrilled by a new and interesting story. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
I would love to read a lot more things in this world ( )
  ansate | Nov 24, 2014 |
Natural History by Justina Robson was the May 2010 reading selection on the Calico Reaction blog. While I didn't get a chance to participate, I was intrigued by the description of the book.

Voyager Isol, a Forged ship / human discovers a piece of alien technology that allows for near instantaneous space travel. Her discovery opens up a can of worms as the Forged see this technology as a chance to finally have their own home-world away from the humans who created them.

Robson's book reexamines what it means to be human and humanity's history of slavery. The social commentary aspects of Natural History were fascinating. But the story's construction — writing from numerous points of views with little explanation or context — got in the way of the overarching plot. ( )
  pussreboots | Feb 27, 2014 |
Justina Robson writes a blend of Space opera, hard sci-fi of the quantum physics variety, New Weird I suppose, with a pinch of moral philosophy thrown in. This was a fairly complicated read for me, constantly interesting but somewhat slowgoing. I guess I hit it at a bad time too – this is not the kind of book to try to attempt a few pages at the time before falling asleep in the evening.

In a far future, mankind is divided into the Unevolved and the fabricated Forged. The Forged are human minds inplanted into bio-constructed bodies, born as adults but with speeded up virtual childhoods. Many of the Forged have no physical resemblance of humans at all, created to operate in deep space. And even their minds are tuned to accentuate certain traits. The exploring Voyagers for instance, resemble a kind of mix between Bumblebee and Scorpio, with personalities bordering on the autistic to allow them to be alone for years at the time. The basic human need for company and social interaction is in them instead tweeked to be stimulated by discovering certain radiation patterns. The Forged are considered human, and have equal rights in theory. But with no means of reproduction of their own, and with a programming designing them for specific jobs, many Forged feel like second rate citizens. In fact, there is a rather large Independent movement brewing.

When the Voyager Isol returns to earth, fitted with a strange new technology, and reports stumbling onto a strange new world, fit for human existence but apparently totally deserted, it’s seen as a possiblity to break free, creating a homeworld for the Forged. The governments of Earth demand an investigation to see if the planet is really void. The archeologist Zephyr is chosen to be the first Unevolved to visit an alien planet. She and Isol don’t exactly hit it off, and she soon realises she’s mainly a delaying tactic to buy Earth some time. And on the strange new world with no means of getting home on her own, it quickly becomes apparent Isol hasn’t been telling the whole truth. There is something alive on this planet after all.

One of the most fascinating things about this dense book is Robson’s ability to create characters that are both very human and incredibly strange. Among the main players here are (besides the rude, solipsistic space travelling scorpio) a senile Terraformer, a worker in a collective Hive mind, an Eagle creature that didn’t turn out quite right and a one hundred meter long oval blimp that vainly prefers to manifest as a slender blue humanoid is his capacity as union leader.

Unfortunately, Robson doesn’t quite bring the plot home. The last forty of fifty pages seem too neatly settled in some cases, and too randomly rambling in others. I end up feeling a little unconvinced, but the ability to create relateable post-human strangeness and the boldness of ideas are enough to make me want to give this writer another chance. ( )
1 rösta GingerbreadMan | Jun 25, 2013 |
One thing about Robson's book: she's certainly given herself a lot of scope for interesting characters. It's the 25th century and, in addition to artificial intelligences, space colonies and virtual realities, humans have created the Forged. These are individuals whose existence started somewhere with H. sapiens DNA but—through admixtures of genetic material from other species, straight out invention of new DNA sequences, massive amounts of cyborg technology, extensive behavioral programming, implanting of symbionts, and just about every other technology you can imagine being applied—have become entirely new life forms. There is everything from small avian-derived messengers, to insectoid space explorers, to kilometer-long creatures who can terraform hostile worlds.

Against this backdrop, one of the Forged has discovered some alien technology that allows faster than light travel and has traced that technology to a habitable, but uninhabited, planet far from Earth. Everybody from Government to Organized Crime to Forged Radicals wants the alien technology. Separatist movements in the Forged community don't see eye to eye with regular humans (the Unevolved, as they call us) about the new world. Struggles ensue.

But wait! Use of the technology may have unrealized consequences. Perhaps that planet isn't completely abandoned after all…

…Never mind. It's all a MacGuffin. This isn't what the story is about. More on this in a moment.

Robson often gets billed as one of the "new hard sf writers out of Britain". Don't let the "hard sf" label dissuade you. This book is hard science fiction in the sense that it gives center stage to technology...in fact, the story revolves around it. However, you won't get lost if science isn't your cup of tea. To a large extent, Robson just slings around some terms to let you know, "Science is going on here." The Forged have nanocytes and neuronics and Ti-bone skeletons. Humans and Forged have MekTek implants. AIs are on the Grid. That's it. That's the depth of the science. Don't expect (or dread) explanations that go any deeper.

What this story really is about is what it means to be human. There are subplots on privilege and choice in life, on social classes and resentment, on individuality versus community. There's a bit on what evolution means. In that sense, this is very much soft science fiction.

It's a good start in that direction. The play between the motivations and mindsets of the Forged and the Unevolved, between one type of Forged and another, are interesting and produce some great characters.

I wish she had taken it further. In particular, there were two juxtapositions she set up and then did nothing with. The first was the relationship between, Zephyr, a plain old human, and Anthony, a human so heavily modified with cyborg technology that he had powers far beyond the human scale. The second was between Zephyr and her Artificial Intelligence. This last was particularly disappointing since the AI had a personality as developed as any character in the book and, yet, it remarks that it isn't truly a real person. Exploration of the whys of that would have been interesting. In fact, interactions between the categories of characters are relatively rare…unfortunately so, since they were the most interesting aspect.

In the end, it's a book with flaws. It feels like Robson tried to do too much and simply ran out of room: the ending feels rushed and weak; the explorations of humanity beyond the Unevolved/Forged dichotomy are left hanging. She needed to sharpen her focus and let the technology and world-building simply be a backdrop instead of hogging center stage.

Nonetheless, it's a fascinating world with plenty of potential for future stories. The main plot line of this one is fairly interesting. There are some great characters and Robson has a very enjoyable writing style the makes up for some of the problems. ( )
5 rösta TadAD | Jun 24, 2011 |
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A daring and original new novel from one of sci fi’s most provocative voices, Natural History is a stunning work of bold ideas, unforgettable characters, and epic adventure as one woman seeks to explore what may be the greatest mystery of all.... IMAGINE A WORLD... Half-human, half-machine, Voyager Isol was as beautiful as a coiled scorpion–and just as dangerous. Her claim that she’d found a distant but habitable earthlike planet was welcome news to the rest of the Forged. But it could mean the end of what was left of the humanity who’d created and once enslaved them. IMAGINE A FATE... It was on behalf of the “unevolved” humans that Professor Zephyr Duquesne, cultural archaeologist and historian of Earth’s lost worlds, was chosen by the Gaiasol military authority to uncover the truth about this second “earth.” And her voyage, traveling inside the body of Isol, will take her to the center of a storm exploding across a spectrum of space and time, dimension and consciousness. IMAGINE THE IMPOSSIBLE... On an abandoned planet, in a wrinkle of time, Isol and Zephyr will find a gift and a curse: a power so vast that once unlocked, it will change the universe forever. With civil war looming, Zephyr’s perilous journey will lead her to a past where one civilization mysteriously vanished...and another may soon follow.

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