Skip to main content

Grubane (SF) - Karl Drinkwater ****

Following on from Helene, this is the second novella that Karl Drinkwater has used to fill in some of the backstory of his Lost Solace novels. Here we meet the strategic genius ship captain Major William Grubane in a complex game of an engagement where the relatively dove-like Grubane has to fulfil  a mission that involves suppressing a rebellious planet while appeasing the more hawk-like side of his chain of command.

As is common to all the books in this series, an important factor is the interaction between a human and an artificial intelligence, in this case one of the many clone-like parts of the ship's AI known as Aurikaa12, which Grubane has encouraged towards a more human-like state of general intelligence than the other 'splinters'. The story is narrated from Aurikaa12's viewpoint. 

Along the way, chapters are interlaced with sections from Grubane's treatise The Philosophy and Application of Ancient Games in which he considers strategy in chess in a way that plays out in his real world interaction with the representatives of the planet and of his warlike civilisation.

As well as linking in to the main line of the Lost Solace stories, this is both another interesting venture into the mind of an AI (the central feature in Helene) and an interesting piece of brinkmanship from Grubane. Originally I was a bit doubtful about the role of individually published novellas that ebooks have made possible, but as someone who doesn't like overlong books they have increasingly become one of my favourite reading formats - and Grubane does not disappoint.

Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Artifact Space (SF) - Miles Cameron *****

This is a cracking (and, frankly, wrist-cracking at 568 pages) piece of space opera. That's a term that is sometimes used as a put-down to suggest pulp rubbish, but I use it affectionately. It's not trying to be great literature, but it's a great read, which is all I want from a book.  The author mentions Alistair Reynolds as an inspiration - and it's certainly true that there's something of Reynolds' (or Banks') sweeping imagination of a space-based civilisation. But for me, there's more here of a modern equivalent of Robert Heinlein at his best. Not the soppy stuff he produced towards the end of his career, but the period that peaked with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress . In fact, the basic storyline has a distinct resemblance to that of Heinlein's Starman Jones . In that 1950s novel, the main character is from a spacegoing family who manages to get a place on a ship despite not having the qualifications, and with his skill manages in the end to save

A Dominant Character - Samanth Subramanian ****

When a science book does well in the mainstream press, the science content is often weak. In this biography of geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, Samanth Subramanian manages to get enough science in to make it worthwhile as popular science, but also piles on the biographical details, particularly on Haldane's political side, which unusually for a scientist dominated his life. Haldane, it seems, was a classic posh boy who thinks he knows what's good for working folk - a communist who quoted the classics - and along with his irascible, blunt (well, rude really) personality, delight in shocking others and apparent enthusiasm for the dangers of warfare, comes across as a fascinating, if sometimes repulsive study (on the whole, Subramanian takes a more forgiving view, though without holding back on Haldane's faults). Apart from his decades-long enthusiasm for the Soviet Union and ruthless (and fearless) approach to military life, we see how Haldane's science brought huge strides i

Breakthrough - Marcus Chown *****

Update for new paperback title The original title of this book was 'The Magicians': this may seem an odd one for a popular science book, but it referred to what Chown describes as ‘the central magic of science: its ability to predict the existence of things previously undreamt of which, when people went out and looked for them, turned out to actually exist in the real universe’. That may be true of all branches of science, but physics – which is what the book is about – is a special case, because its theories are rooted in mathematical equations rather than words. This makes the matter completely black-and-white: if the equations predict something you had no inkling of, then either the maths is wrong, or that thing really does exist. This book describes some remarkable instances where the maths was right. Actually, I’m not sure the old title was strictly accurate. It’s true that it centres on people – both the theoreticians who came up with the predictions and the experimenta