Science-fiction is a genre I don’t read a lot of. I did when I was younger, but I find a lot of books focus too much on the technology and not enough on the characters and plot. However I’ve recently read two science-fiction novels that are making me re-think the genre: ‘The Windup Girl’ by Paolo Bacigalupi and ‘By Light Alone’ by Adam Roberts.

Image from: What I liked most about these novels is that they explore the social ramifications of new technology. In ‘The Windup Girl’ traditional energy sources (ie, oil) are all gone, and people are depending on ‘calories’ (ie, you feed people and they work for you, or animals work for you). The world is described in great depth and detail, more so, I would say, than in ‘By Light Alone’. The characters are also well-fleshed out in ‘The Windup Girl’, and you quickly become attached to them. The plot moves along quickly, and draws you to an unexpected and thrilling conclusion. This is a great book, and I’m looking forward to reading it again.

Adam Roberts, as I said, earlier, did not describe the world in ‘By Light Alone’ in quite the depth that Bacigalupi did in ‘The Windup Girl’, but considering the different focus of the plot, that’s ok. ‘By Light Alone’ focuses mostly on one family, and what happens after their daughter is kidnapped. Image from: strangehorizons.comI found the idea behind it, that humans can photosynthesize, fascinating. It’s something that has occurred to me before, ie, wouldn’t the world be wonderful if… but the world in ‘By Light Alone’, isn’t wonderful, and Adam Roberts does a great job exploring the limitations of the new technology and the ramifications of those limitations. The characters and their reactions are described in great detail (at some points I felt he went on a little long). The plot draws to a surprising conclusion, but one that I was happy with. Near the end I was getting worried and wondering how Roberts was going to draw it all together, but my fears were unfounded. I do have some issues with this book though; I think 10-year olds have much better memories than is shown in the book, and I think the young girls would be more upset by the terrible things that happen to them. The way it’s written, the children seem to accept everything quite calmly. It’s a little weird. Overall though, it was an interesting premise, and it finished well.

I enjoyed both of these books immensely, and I think I’ll start paying more attention to science-fiction. Does anyone else have an opinion on these books?