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on July 6, 2011
7th Sigma is the full novel in the same world as the short excerpt "Bugs in the Arroyo" from 2009 which is still available from the publisher TOR's website as of this time.

Gould has created a story of people who survive and sometimes thrive in a localized apocalypse in the US South West. With a nod toward Clarke's third law, the apparently hyper advanced technology is not center stage. While teams of scientists almost certainly are working tirelessly to find an answer, this is not yet their story.

Kimble/Kim, the young, resourceful male protagonist who is also an aikidoka has some clearly audible echoes of Gould's prior book Helm. The actual technical aspects of Aikido are more in the background here than in Helm and the world receives more of the author's attention.

Technically, the story is broken into several slices of Kimble's life which may be months or only days in duration. The feel is almost episodic: the problem of the day front and center while the ongoing disaster the Bugs represent are the moving backdrop for everything in his world.

I will admit to being an unreasoning fan of the book Helm who owns 2 harcover copies and the kindle version. I was happily surprised by the similarities in this story. I do wish that Kimble was a bit less of a cipher in the later story slices. As the slices jump forward in time, I felt a bit left behind when the young man struggling to learn and expand the edge of his capabilities suddenly becomes the experienced campaigner.

All in all, I enjoyed the quick, entertaining story. For me, the surprising similarities previous work were less important than the large unanswered question of what the Bugs actually are. That question is only more loudly asked at the end of the story and I'm sure another installment from Kimble will be on the way to us.
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on July 9, 2011
This is the first Gould book I've read; I typically read the classics, but having a real love for tv scifi (and sorely missing BSG) I decided to pick up a scifi book.

The world Gould creates is convincing and the story is an entertaining one. That's more than enough for me to feel like I got what I asked for. The language and imagery moves you along briskly in the text and there are very few continuity issues and almost no puzzling contradictions arising from the "bug" premise. (Quite a feat.)

I did find that the asian-martial-arts angle made the characters a little less accessible to me--their teachings and practices seemed so important and ingrained to them that I wish I'd understood them more fully, or, frankly, cared a bit more. I often found myself stopping to ponder the technology challenges imposed by the bugs, but I rarely stopped to wonder how any character was really feeling... and I think that's telling.

The writing is crisp and accessible, though the dialog seems often out of sync with the characters. Children especially seem to be granted the dialog (and occasionally, the wit) of forty somethings.

It is clear that the book is written with sequel(s) in mind, and frankly I thought the "not-_____" plot seemed plugged in as an afterthought. Unfortunately, I think the book needed a stronger plot overall, and the "ending" feels very unfinished. The whole book appears to be background and character development for future works.

All that said, I enjoyed it and will likely take a gander at some similar books by Gould and others.
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on February 26, 2013
A part of the US now where no metals can exist and how life has changed from the accident that created bugs that eat metal! Did seem like left a chapter out to shorten book on incident mentioned (capture and whipping) in book not that it detracted but maybe author thought it would drag storyline down or change direction did strike me as strange when I was reading.
Only other complaint is ended too quickly hopefully another book is forth coming with same characters or setting!
Another well written Steven Gould book similar in some ways to Helm (Aikido)!
If you enjoy any other Steven Gould book you will like this one as well. If this is your first Steven Gould and you enjoy the reading definitely recommend his other books!
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on July 6, 2011
I loved all of Steven Gould's earlier books (Jumper, Wildside, Helm, Greenwar, Blind Waves, Reflex, ...), so I was predisposed to like this one.

It certainly didn't disappoint!

The setting is the american southwest in the near future, where some very strange "Von Neumann" self-replicating insects have invaded a chunk of territory. The "bugs" eat refined metals, LOVE electromagnetic fields, and attack anything that hurts one of them. This means that humans living in this "zone" have to accept some pretty strict technological workarounds and limitations, and literally tread carefully since crushing a bug brings a potentially lethal swarm.

The main character, Kimble, is a very capable young man who winds up having adventures all over the area, dealing with the bugs and with the mix of people populating the area.

It was a fun summer read, and I'm looking forward to the next book from SG!
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VINE VOICEon July 11, 2013
Take the American Southwest back to the Stone Age courtesy of the bugs - solar-powered, self-replicating robots whose metal-chomping ways not only endanger humans too close but also eliminate all electronic technology and all metal in the area. Add a land settled by hardy pioneers or those too stubborn too leave. Throw in a Captain of the local constabulary who is interested in bringing in the scum bothering those pioneers - the highwaymen, the meth dealers, the murders and religious cults and secessionists. Then take a runaway thirteen year old boy found and trained by a homesteading akaido master, and lay it all out along the lines of another young boy employed as a spy in a dicey frontier zone, Rudyard Kipling's Kim, and you have Gould's quite satisfying novel.

There's the martial arts story, there's the very Kiplingesque young-man-learning-lessons plot, there's a post-apocalypse feel as we see the ruins of old towns and cities, and there's the fascination of surviving in this frontier through a combination of imported technology like ceramic arrowheads and old ways like building adobes and weaving baskets. Of course, in a story where people move by animal power or their own legs, there's also a very definite western feel to it. But Gould doesn't scrimp on the science fiction weirdness either as our young spy Kimble (not the only name here that is playfully allusive) meets new forms of "bugs", and Gould gives us a sort of answer to their mystery.

He also gives us some expected plot developments in the lives of the Captain, the sensei, and Kimble, but that part of the story is told unsentimentally, obliquely, and with wit. Gould is also quite effective at pacing a story covering five years in Kimble's life.

The bugs may be rather novel, but Gould has given us some nice presents from the past in the elements of this story, one told in a concise manner too seldom seen these days.
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on March 17, 2012
I bought this based on the description and oddly inaccurate good reviews. I want my money back on this one.

The metal bugs: They're mentioned A FEW TIMES throughout the book but are only a backdrop to a story line which involves a young boy growing up without parents. The real story of the book is about Kimble who learns that hes a good detective and good at being a secret agent working for the law in a land similar to the old west. 90% of the book is about Kimbles investigations. The last few paragraphs of the book bring back the bugs and explains where they came from. Its my opinion that many reviews are based on the last few pages of the book alone which make it seem like a scifi story.

As a scifi fan I would put this at the bottom of any reading list

The book cover is totally misleading. The metal bugs, as I said before, are mentioned a few times here and there as Kimble goes about his day. The story is a 10 year old boy as he grows older, learns to fight, learns to be an undercover investigator, and thwarts a few criminals in an area that has no electronics or metal.....because of bugs that eat metal.

At the time of my review there were no additional books mentioned. This book could be part 1 of a series and the overall series might be good. If this is the only book Id say that any scifi fan should avoid it like a plague of metal bugs. Do not even borrow this book from a friend, you will regret it. Even if I got this from the library, for free, Id regret that decision as well.
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on November 18, 2012
I really wanted to like this book. I've liked most of Gould's previous books, and was really looking forward to this one.

However- Kim- our protagonist- was pretty much a cipher throughout, and more so toward the end than the beginning. He was engaging in the beginning.

This is very much a Young Adult novel, which will appeal to some. I don't dis YA novels! however, they are generally more eventful and less thoughtful than the best sf aimed at adults. The world here, I thought, deserved more thought... or at least a flawed narrator that let us see more of it than he was necessarily aware of. Kim, however, is damn near perfect- and that's the worst flaw here, especially when combined with his laconic replies to damn near all questions from anyone.

I have NO idea what "7th Sigma" means in relationship to this novel; as far as i can see, it has no relevance in the text; it certainly has no referrals.

I was disappointed. I've liked several of Gould's earlier novels very much indeed... and both this and "Greenwar" disappointed me.
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on September 27, 2015
Gould's specialty is exploring interesting ideas and then making a fun adventure story out of them, much in the vein of Heinlein's mid-career work. He's both intriguing and entertaining, and always good for stimulating one's personal imagination. 7th Sigma is a perfect example of this.
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on January 18, 2014
Don't let the obscure title and ugly cover illustration fool you, this is martial arts influenced coming of age story in a sci-fi setting. Although Gould is better known for his "Jumper" series, two of his stand alone sci-fi novels, this one and "Helm" are heavily influenced by his interest in Akido. All his novels are very good, especially the original "Jumper" and usually feature young adults, but both of of these are stand-outs in a pretty sparsely populated sub-genre.
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on June 5, 2014
I haven't read a bad Stephen Gould story yet. It's a <<little>> towards young adult (not PG) but a good story will always carry the day by me. I'm 68.

Mr. Gould, this is a ripping yarn. When will you produce the rest of it?

PS: If you're ever tempted to mess with an Akido dude (Especially if he has a stick) Horseman, pass by!
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