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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story Enclosed in an Amazing World
I'm not often one for hard science fiction because ...well partially because my science isn't that strong... but also because so much hard science-fiction focuses on the detail with the result that the scientific explanations and world-building overshadow the story. Too often, a brilliantly imagined world is inhabited by lacklustre protagonists who have low-level...
Published on March 31, 2011 by Sylvia Wrigley

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice first try
I just finished reading "Up Against It" on my Kindle, and didn't know exactly how I'd rate it until the last page. Before going any further, let me say, it's worth the read. The characters are for the most part engaging, and the hard SF setting does the author credit. That being said there are some major drawbacks to this work.

Most glaring amongst these is the...
Published on April 5, 2011 by Michael A. Corey


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story Enclosed in an Amazing World, March 31, 2011
By 
Sylvia Wrigley (Costa del Sol, Spain) - See all my reviews
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I'm not often one for hard science fiction because ...well partially because my science isn't that strong... but also because so much hard science-fiction focuses on the detail with the result that the scientific explanations and world-building overshadow the story. Too often, a brilliantly imagined world is inhabited by lacklustre protagonists who have low-level conflicts against one-dimensional enemies.

Up Against It is a brilliant counter-example: characterisation and plot shine against a futuristic backdrop beyond my wildest imaginations. It is set in an Phocaea, a low-gee asteroid outpost filled with awesome special effects and deep world-building - all the hallmarks of a real future. The inhabitants are used to this, even if I as a reader wasn't, and tumble through the buildings, grabbing handholds and using their weight in ways that downsiders like us can barely envisage.

I fell in love with Geoff the moment we met him and his friends: a teenager overshadowed by his brother, trying desperately to prove himself to his father and the world. A boy both vulnerable and incorrigible who gets thrown into events and doesn't falter.

Jane is a sympathetic bureaucrat trying to do the best that she can for the asteroid which she calls home, taking tough decisions on a personal and professional level. She has a short temper when it comes to politics and a healthy dislike for the constant broadcast of their colony as Earthside entertainment.

On top of this, the adventure packed plot involving the Martian mafia and you've got a rip-roaring story that had me turning pages deep into the night.

I highly recommend this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Promising Hard SF debut, April 4, 2011
This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
Up Against It is my most anticipated debut this year. M. J. Locke paints a picture of space colonization in a not to far future in this thrilling story of a criminal takeover attempt of Phocaea, a strategic and independent asteroid colony.

There are two main characters Geoff and Jane. Geoff is coming of age as he and his young rocketbike-riding friends become central to the events. He witnesses how his beloved brother Carl is killed in the mysterious accident that destroys the colony's supply of methane and water. Jane is the city administrator in charge of supplies and she soon discovers that there is more to the accident and starts to suspect the Martian Mafia is behind it all, since they conveniently have the only load in range to save the colony. She also has been through it all before on Vesta when the Mafia took over there. Jane has to struggle both with the Mafia and her fellow administrators.

The tale follows the two main characters as they in their own ways try to save the colony. There is some teen love, a mysterious trans-human cult, lots of action on the asteroid and in space, kidnappings, and a fleet of thugs on their way. The accident also spawns a feral AI that complicates things.

The world building is good and quite interesting. We get glimpses here and there that hints at the greater universe. Earth is a refugee camp after an ecological breakdown and people in space have a better life but life outside the atmosphere is dangerous as the events here show. Life in the colonies are televised to earth by small mobile cameras that are everywhere, the colony managements have an allotment of privacy minutes every week.

I really like the characters and the world building and I hope M. J. Locke is going to write more in this world. It is a straightforward hard sf read where the mysteries and characters keep you interested. It reads a bit like classic science fiction but with modern ideas and people. It is a standalone novel but it has many interesting people and events that leave the range open for sequels I really want to read.

I give Up Against it a strong recommendation.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice first try, April 5, 2011
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This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
I just finished reading "Up Against It" on my Kindle, and didn't know exactly how I'd rate it until the last page. Before going any further, let me say, it's worth the read. The characters are for the most part engaging, and the hard SF setting does the author credit. That being said there are some major drawbacks to this work.

Most glaring amongst these is the use of language. Parts of the book were hard to read because of a mix of Japanese slang, and terms that were never defined. I realize that SF is always going to have some terminology, some slang, and a few made up items, but they need to be explained. I studied Japanese and know what "chinpo" means, but I doubt the average reader will.

The plot is also rather shallow. Yes, there is adventure and a who-done-it, but the story is not well thought out or particularly well written. Think the first two books of the "Sword of Truth" series. I believe this is the first book from this author, and I look forward to leaps and bounds in writing style in the future.

Lastly, I can't stand Jane, one of the two main protagonists. Personal preference, I realize, but she annoyed me throughout.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nebulous future for Colonists, April 5, 2013
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This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
The book deserves 4 stars for renovating old tropes:
>Hollowed asteroids for human habitation. The shell of this asteroid doesn't spin, but an inner spindle of cities creates centripetal force.
Prospectors bringing in metals, water, and fuel frozen in the asteroids. Once on Phoecea, they are reduced to atoms for re-assembly.
Modifications to the human body. Improved eyes. Neon tattoos as women's makeup. Beings who artistically modify their own DNA.
>Extending networking technology to incorporate virtual reality, conferencing (or conversely, privacy bubbles), AIs as personal assistants all via neural implants. If that can be done, then hackers will also tap into your head.
I gave 5 stars for:
>Characterization. Jane is an older bureaucrat, accustomed to walking a tightrope. Her department disassembles waste and scrap to make new assemblies. It handles shipping, provides hydroponic food and power. Her home is in the asteroid belt where solar radiation is almost nil. The asteroid must buy ice/methane shipments to offset heat and oxygen losses. The balancing act requires her constant attention.
Geoff is a talented guy who fails to measure up to his older brother. When not in school, he chills with three other friends, trying to delay that time when they must become contributing members of the colony. Like others, he thinks nothing of riding out to his own asteroid.
Viridians, modified humans, dealing with rejection and discrimination but still available when the colony needs them.
>Imagery of asteroids- the dust and irregular surfaces, their veins of silica and metals, and measuring their gravity to calculate density. All from up close and personal, not from the safety of a ship.
>The thought of a colony signing a contract to allow tiny broadcast cameras to follow anyone for broadcast back to earth as entertainment. This is a major issue throughout the story.
>Dialog- a necessary part of storytelling and Locke does it well.
Now, for the second book of a trilogy?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Richly detailed but flawed physics, January 31, 2012
By 
Harvey A. Lewis (Greenwood, AR United States) - See all my reviews
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The strength of this book lies in the complex details and sociology of the civilization. There are mainstream people and there are subcultures much as exist in the real world. We have Goths, bikers and headbangers. They have Chromes and Mutes - designations related to the number of genetic modifications they have used. This setting was very well done but I had trouble understanding the physical layout of the city. It spun, so there were varying levels of pseudo-gravity due to centripetal acceleration, but just what it looked like or where it was were not clear to me. Then there were the "treeways" I think they were cables that connected various asteroids together - I don't think that is practical unless all are in exactly the some orbit. Another complaint is that during action on a smaller asteroid, which has negligible gravity one of the protagonists is hurt when things fall on him after and explosion. The escape velocity would be a few feet per second. You would have hours to get out from under falling things. Another unnecessary error was the girl shooting the bad guy with a potato gun - it knocks him down, but she seems to feel no recoil. I know, picky, picky, picky. I can't help it - I am a hard science fiction guy.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first novel, April 25, 2011
This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
Those of us who grew up at the feet of such golden-age luminaries as Asimov, Bester, and Clarke remember the thrills of the race to the moon, and the dread of possible global thermonuclear war. We are always alert for worthy heirs of this style of applying realistic science in new contexts, reminders of our younger days when amazing possibilities were unfolding.

Then, Nixon pulled the plug on Apollo, and infantile fairy-tales for grownups, "Sword and Sorcery" stuff, took over all too much of the market.

But, hopeful signs continue to emerge. Elon Musk is stepping up to the plate with his private-enterprise space program, and M. J. Locke makes people and machines dance together in credible patterns.

I eagerly await her next novel!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Title, great read!, July 31, 2011
This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
Just so you know where I'm coming from, I grew up reading Larry Niven, and haven't been real impressed with SF except for Mike Brotherton. I get real depressed when I browse my local library and see SF books that say on the cover, 'book 5 of the so-and-so series', or 'another what's-his-name adventure'. I picked up "Up Against It' because it seemed to be a stand-alone hard SF story. The author's name threw me off a bit, especially since there is no info on her on the cover. The story starts off with teens pulling a prank, but the prank was creative and the descriptions satisfying. The characters are introduced next, and there are just enough to make a good ensemble cast; like a good TV drama. The plot is not outlandish, although it does involve some big concepts, and they seem well-thought-out. My favorite aspect of the storyline is that the characters did NOT do what I expected. We have all seen and read stories wherein the characters act dumb because it is necessary to continue the storyline; they don't notice obvious things that we think we would notice. I have always felt that a realistic character in the future would be saavy, anticipating people to do things and preparing reactions and pre-emptions. These characters do just that, and sometimes the action is fast and furious, and the reader has to think fast just to keep up. I liked the small concept of 'foothands' that some people have because they spend a lot of time in low gravity. I also liked the larger concept of "chromes' and 'mutes'; 'chromes' being humans that basically stayed un-mutated, and 'mutes' being humans that have hacked their own DNA and altered it. The author says she borrowed that concept from another writer, and gives him credit. I also liked the underlying political goings-on, with politicians lying and making deals and blaming a scapegoat; very 2012. I did not mind many of the made-up terms, although I found it doubtful that the computer term 'preferences' would still be used in 200 years. I liked the idea of 'wave-space' replacing internet; since the characters are not on Earth. There are a couple of terms in the book that I did not like, and they spoil the story a bit for me: 'bad-sammies' is a term I never understood. It meant some kind of bad points or negative feedback. And I hated the idea that teen jet-jockies would get off on shooting spud-launchers on an asteroid. I love the main character of Jane and her relationship with her husband and the way that her career fluctuates. I was sucked in all the way. Great read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Baddies one step away from a mustache twirl, but a great read nonetheless., December 29, 2013
By 
William Annis (Madison, WI United States) - See all my reviews
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This was a very enjoyable read, managing a good mix of futuristic elements, character exploration and gumshoe detective story. "Mobsters in Spaaaace" is a fairly common trope, and these guys were a little one-dimensional, but fortunately the book deals with them mostly indirectly, so it doesn't mar the reading experience too much. I found Geoff's parents a little too flat and obvious, too.

Without ever crossing the line into full-on transhumanist explorations of the sort Stross, Banks, Vinge, et al, go in for, it nonetheless brings up issues of self-directed genetic modifications and strong AI in interesting and plausible ways, again without derailing the main storyline.

I read this on a lazy Saturday, winding down from the Holiday craziness, and while I didn't quite read it in one sitting, I did manage it in a day. It definitely sucks you into the story quickly.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immersive and exciting!, August 13, 2012
I really liked this book! I found myself easily immersed in the characters' world. At certain points during reading, I stopped and said, "noooo, don't do that!" and realized I had definitely taken a liking to the characters, to the point of expressing concern over their well-being aloud. I read this book in one day, as I needed to know what would happen!

There are only a few critiques I have. The first is that, though there is plenty of description, I was unable to understand/visualize some of the settings- particularly those of the layout of the main city. The arboretum was lush and easy to imagine as being real, and I wish I could fully appreciate what the author had in mind for the city. Looking at page 85 (of the hardcover) there are descriptions of Zekeston, the Hub, and the Hollow... and I honestly can say I do not understand exactly how they are related to one another. In a response to another review here on Amazon, the author says she has sketches of the layout. I'd love to see those available in the book!

There were also some editorial issues- misspelled words, missing punctuation, and the repetition of a (nearly) identical sentence within three paragraphs. [I offer this not to nitpick horribly, but so that it can be fixed for the next edition!] Hardcover, pg 370, "It took him a moment to figure out how to move his hand so as to make the bucket tip over before it released" in the last paragraph, and pg 371, "It took him a moment or so to figure out how to move his hand so as to make the bucket tip over before it released." The character should only have to figure this out once, but I know it is very easy to miss errors when one has looked at the same document countless times. Most readers are probably much more forgiving of these types of errors - and they did not ruin the book for me by any means - but they did make me pause in my reading.

Again, I did quite enjoy the book. The protagonist Jane I found to be resourceful, smart, quick-thinking, and, though she displays a cool and composed face to the world, warm-hearted. I also liked that her relationship with her husband was healthy and loving. Xuan is a source of strength for her, and thus when his life was in danger, I found myself fretting right along with Jane.

The Viridian were extremely interesting. I would love to see more about them and their culture!

The feral sapient chapters were my favorite. I absolutely loved the evolution of the sapient's understand of its world and how it communicated.

Also, I was happy to see references to the neuter pronouns "ze" and "hir," as well as nods to LGBT, multiple-person marriages (legal, no less!) and pregnancy in a loving, male couple. (These make me wonder if the author has written fanfiction, or otherwise been exposed to these ideas in a positive light in online communities!) I do think the human race is headed toward an era where these types of relationships will be, if not embraced, legally recognized and tolerated. While the technology of the book may be rendered 'quaint' someday when viewed in retrospect from a more advanced civilization, these social ideas will stand out as timeless.

But, given our current level of tech, I was delighted to find the author on twitter! The very same day that I finished the book I was able to contact her and tell her that I enjoyed it... and she responded! How cool is that? +good-sammy :)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific hard SF debut novel, February 25, 2012
This review is from: Up Against It (Hardcover)
Morgan J. Locke, writing here as M. J. Locke, may not be a familiar name to SF readers, but with her debut novel, she shows herself as an author to be watched. A hard SF novel that is confident, assured, and tightly plotted, Up Against It is a book that I couldn't put down. The author draws a sharply realized world of an asteroid colony facing a life-threatening resource calamity and under attack by organized crime, an accidentally created artificial intelligence (a "feral sapient" that could be a great danger or a wondrous gift), and a cast of characters that spring to life and all but jump off the page. I loved her world building, and the novel builds to a satisfying conclusion (while leaving a bit of wiggle room for more books in the same universe). The richness of the setting and characters could lend itself to many more stories, and I'd be happy for more. I'll be looking forward to her next books.
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Up Against It
Up Against It by M. J. Locke (Hardcover - March 15, 2011)
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