Friday, May 31, 2013
There are so many thing to like about this novel.
It has a good plot-well thought out action- well paced- suspenseful and just the right amount of twist and turns to get the reader to the very end wanting to read more. The characters are done well. I love Charlie -she caught me up from the start and kept me hanging in there. There is so much to like about this independent strong young woman to suggest that the gift of these powers that she has seem as though they've been placed in the right hands.
Charlotte 'Charlie' Gordon at the age of eleven suffers an accident that should have been fatal. Out to sea she falls overboard during a strange storm that overtakes the ship she is on with her father and brother. Charlie also, at the same time, appears to have had some sort of dream which was like a vision of what was going to happen. We later find out that she is located- washed ashore where she is resuscitated.
Since then things have never been the same for Charlie. Charlie suffers episodes that wreak havoc on those around her. In an effort to control this she's been given some drugs that will inhibit this. What they really do is suppress her entire body and possibly make her lethargic. While it seems extremely bizarre that she somehow is kept off the radar, so to speak, and only her family and one personal friend, Jake, know what is happening to her; once the drugs were started they appear to be masking the real problem well enough.
We start out with her in college, having fallen asleep in class and managing to destroy a lot of personal computer equipment when her gift-curse kicks in. Thankfully no one has connected this incident and one previous incident to Charlie and she has Jake around to help her. She's low on her suppressor drugs and has had to use the drug more often, so it's time to see the doctor again.
The somewhat routine trip to the doctor begins the terror.
Charlie is attacked - the doctor is acting strangely- and Charlie ends up killing at least two of the people trying to kidnap her. She somehow incinerates them.(shades of Firestarter by Stephen King.) Since the university is close to home Charlie manages to run through the backwoods to get home. When she gets there, she finds that there's news of some strange activity around her doctor's office but no reports of anyone hurt.
At home with family she is again attacked and this time the attackers take the whole family hostage as they explain that they are there to take Charlie because of her abilities. Charlie and family also discover that Charlie's sister Valerie's husband, Ryan, is a mole placed there by the people who are now kidnapping Charlie. Ryan is portrayed poorly enough to have most readers happy that he's a villain.
Mr. Collins, the lead kidnaper, and company are subdued when Jake shows up to save the day. The family decide to go on the run. Charlie decides to split from them and Jake goes with Charlie. Eventually after several more attempts on Charlie, she decides she needs to go alone so as not to endanger everyone.
There are several groups working against each other in regards to Charlie and people like her. It will take Charlie a long time to figure out who she can trust. When the kidnappers start getting serious it might prove to be too late to turn to anyone for help.
This book has the reader guessing- not only who Charlie can trust- also what it is that Charlie might be. Slowly C.L. Causer builds the world that Charlie lives in and the readers start to see the shape of the rules that seem to exist for the people like Charlie. It doesn't take much to realize that Charlie might be something a bit above average in her community.
That makes her more powerful but also more dangerous to those around her. Not only is she a prime target for the bad people, she's also a danger to those around her until she can control her powers.
The suspense winds the story around several times until the end where the real shocker kicks in and because this is the first book of the series the reader is left hanging.
I would be doing an injustice to not give fair warning to the reader:
What damages this novel is the grammar. The upside to that is it makes this a poster child for all to look at to help understand the need for editing by several eyes. The version I have is fraught with so many were sat(9) was sat(21) was stood(9)were stood(4). They are just plain annoying. There are words that are inexplicably separated by spaces. When it comes to the grammar in this novel- well, it's not for the faint of heart.
Sliding tenses back and forth didn't seem to bother me that much- I could mostly figure things out.
This is still a good strong story. It could be better, but all that aside I'd love to see the next book in this story. I definitely want to know what happens next in Charlie's life.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
This is one of those stories that has to grow on you slowly.
It might often be abandoned before it ripens enough for the impatient. I know I almost let this one go. It took me a while to get into it. There was a lot of extra building going on in the first several chapters that was rather drawn out. I'm glad I persevered because this was a very good story- in the long run.
There were several elements that were annoying to frustrating about some of the names of things and acronyms and such.
At the beginning of the story there are some oddities mentioned that have me baffled. Probably because I've not been keeping up with modern terminologies.
One of these is the Septaphonic ear-mask::(sounds cool but what is it?)
Now I know that pink floyd had contemplated something they started calling hyperbole coordinator and they wanted to use eight speakers but finally decided on seven. They would put two in front of the audience two behind one above and one below- they never did come up with a place for the seventh. Anyhow this was the ideal for the Septaphonic sound system and if this is what is being nodded to in this story then the ear mask would have to be something that would shroud the head and ears like a sort of helmet enclosing the head in the experience. In the story its tossed around like we toss the word headphones around these days. I suppose that it may just be quadraphonic speakers but then why not say quadraphonic speakers. Sometimes I wonder about putting words together just because they sound cool.
Last I knew Septaphonics fell flat on its ear-face so I'm not sure what this is and it's not really explained- once again I might have missed something in the etymology of this word and some few other seeming inventions of language in this book.
After all of this and much further into the book the story starts to take off and all that hand-waving goes away for a while.
This is largely the story of Alex Manez- with a supporting cast of thousands- well not that many but a few extra hands.
Alex is a ten year old who is in space with his prospecting parent who are about to make the big score for the company they work for. What really happens is his parents die and he's left an orphan. He also goes on a trip that rivals what happens in Carl Sagan's Contact.
While this is going on a mission to Pluto uncovers an artifact that is reminiscent of Arthur Clark's 2001 Space Odyssey. Captain Justine Turner, a woman pilot and commander of the Pluto flight is in charge of the mission that makes this great discovery.
Michael Sanderson is on earth doing the political and fundraising thing for the company that is funding Alex's parents.
All these elements are going to come together to begin to unravel the great mystery of anchient Mayan history slash myth.
Alex is propelled from the asteroid belt to the location of the artifact on Pluto in a matter of hours. Going close to the speed of light and riding in a habitat on a meteor he survives but he's been greatly affected.
The independent (secret) lunar government finds out about this and kidnaps Alex in order to gain control of space travel which they control minimally already by controlling the moon base. Near Speed of Light travel could ruin them if they don't control it themselves.
What no one has figured in this is what has happened to Alex and what he might want to do about all of this.
This story has a lot of Science like stuff that sometimes sounds like hand-waving and it contains enough fantasy elements to qualify as SFF or Sci-Fi Fantasy.
Anyone who like Science Fiction and who enjoys a lot of technical jargon will enjoy this one once they hack through the first bit of world building.
Those Septaphonic ear-mask seem very important because they sure are mentioned a lot. Maybe the next book has an in-depth explanation of how they work and whether they are four seven or more speakers.
I really did enjoy this novel despite my confusion and look forward to checking the rest of the story in Music of the Spheres.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Book one of this set has the most infuriating beginning and ending. The beginning is like a preface or such called Before and the last chapter 54 could as well be called after. Those two are tidbits of tantalizing information that really don't play much part in the rest of book one. They don't really seem to figure into book two either. Since there will likely be a book three it seems that those two will be the most infuriating part of book 2 also. Perhaps we'll see some closure in book 3.
The only thing I'm willing to bet at this point is that at least two players in this story-probably 3 play somewhere in those parts and play parts within the whole. To figure this out you'll have to read these.
Presently this set of books is going to standout next to To say nothing of the dog by Connie Willis as my favorite of time travel novels.
Jack Riggs is somewhat a ladies man or maybe Lothario, a playboy. In a seeming fluke of fate, while arguing with his latest soon to be ex-girlfriend, Jack is sent back in time. There is a tremendous storm that causes a horrible vehicle crash. Jack wakes up somewhere beyond a hundred and fifty years in the past- well before the civil war takes place.
After some few misadventure Jack comes to the conclusion that he was sent back to stop the civil war. To do so he begins to re-design history by trying to bring technology closer to all of the technology that he now misses so greatly. Using the resources in his telephone-before it dies- he begins that task. In book one we saw a lot of history as it was and met a few of the more influential people of the time.
In book two we will see the permutation of the past that will create a new future. So far that future hasn't solved the civil war problem. In some ways it almost seems there are other forces out there that may also be taking advantage not just of him but of time travel- though this is mostly my guess at this point. As it goes- Jack is fighting mostly an organization which is dedicated to arming the south with some much advanced war technologies.
Frances Sanger-the love of Jacks new life- Samuel Clemens and their friend Kazmar Sevenski have been kidnapped and it will take all of Jack's knowledge and connections and a bit of bravery to save the day.
When Kady Barnett,the daughter of one of Jacks rivals, Ken Barnett, gets into the picture; will Jack fall into his old habits despite his avowed love for Frances? Is Frances truly being held by her evil ex-husband,Abner Adkins, or has she gone back to him?
This has all the earmarks of a romance except that there is way more strife than happily ever after. The good news is there will be a book three some time. Maybe there is hope for the romance.
Jack, in book one, tried to save the life of one well known person and found it difficult to achieve since the man died of other causes in about the same time. This time we see some die before their time. The changes he makes are affecting the future, but will they be enough to stop the war?
This novel quickly has us wondering; is this a story about changing the past and future or about changing Jack.
If you like Time Travel stories with a bit of tampering in the past to create a better future and a wide mystery that has yet to be solved you will love this book.
Recommended to Sci-Fi Fantasy Steam-Punk Alternate future-past-histories.
We're probably going to have to keep a watch out so that some of this altered history doesn't leak accidentally into the Wiki-sphere.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
This book is fast paced and exciting and of the three books it is the most frustrating at times. Mira Chambers seems to live in a land of grey where there is a thin line between the good guys and the bad guys and they may even be trying to obtain similar goals. The bad guys don't seem to care much about who gets hurt in the process. The good guys are not much better. This is typical of the genre of suspense thriller and spy novels. What's usually most frustrating about these types of novels is that the hero ends up coming off as a somewhat amoral type of person.
I'm definitely never sure about Lockman.
Lockman seems like such a nice person when dealing with Mira and then he goes into his protective mode and all bets are off. He does seem to display some restraint, but I wonder if that's just mostly because of Mira. This Mira influence on him could get them both killed.
Mira and Lockman are pointed at the scene of a crime. Mira is not sure what she needs to know here, only that someone was murdered and she knows who the murderer is. As things unfold it would seem that this is all part of a plot that Kitching has going. Mira has virtually wiped out his money laundering operation so he needs a new one and the killer is connected to the banking industry. It appears he wants to use Mira's talent to look in the past and get enough clues to blackmail this person.
Kitching is holding Madonna Sanchez and Freddie Leopard; Mira is tempted to make a deal with him. The problem is that Kitching has already proven several times over that he can't be trusted- no matter what he promises. This time there is much more revelation about Kitching, Freddie, and Mira-things that will send their pasts all rushing together.
Mira is fast falling for Lockman and wondering how to handle her feelings and her past with Ben Chiron. Despite her misgivings about Lockman's past and who he truly is, she's come to rely on him. It going to take a lot to get them through things this time and Lockman may be the only person she can rely on.
General Garland is supposed to be the good guys, but everything she does is motivated by her agenda even when it seems like a kindness. Mira finds herself refusing the gifts and help Garland gives because she doesn't want the type of involvement that she's working towards.
Kitching has Freddie who can hear the future and so Mira has to rely on sign language and other obfuscations to communicate with those helping her. Ultimately Mira is left to her own resources and any attempts she can make to connect with people without giving away everything that she's planning. She has to play Kitching's game and hope she will survive.
In the end the stakes are much higher than expected and Mira is going to be expected to pay a much higher price than she ever planned.
You will have to read this to find out how it all works out.
This is a great Thriller Suspense novel and is perfect for those who like a good Spy novel. The good news is that this wraps up the trilogy.
Thanks, A.A. Bell for a intense but fun read.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Molly Fyde and the Fight for Peace (The Bern Saga Book 4) by Hugh Howey
I've said it before and I'll say it again I love the Molly Fyde series. The books just keep getting better. They also keep demanding more attention to the details. We've been watching Molly Fyde grow throughout the series. We're learning more about her family-some we seem to be left to guess at, If I have one complaint about this the fourth book, it would be that there were a lot of things I'd have liked to know that there just wasn't time for
This time the format is done somewhat differently- we have the story developing with interspersed back-story. I think that some people found this to be a difficult book because of that. There have been some suggestions that they were unnecessary. I didn't feel that way and I'll tell you why.
The first three novels contain a lot of very good world building. Up to this point the worlds have been used as the means to establish part of each character's motivations. This time we dig deeper into the lives of some of these characters so that we can better decide if we should empathize with them or be happy to leave them to their fate. This results in making this a long novel and where some might suggest it should be shorter with less back-story I beg to differ because I can think of at least one more back-story I'd love to have heard and I can't think of any that I'd give up to hear it.
I have to say that I was disappointed that there was no back-story for Cat. Cat is such a complex multifaceted character that I would have loved to see deeper into her inner motivation to understand what makes her work and made her decide the path she took. As I've mentioned I wouldn't give up any of the space used for the other characters so I'll have to be happy with what we have.
When we left the characters in book three Cole was trying to save Molly's father, Molly was planning a multilayer invasion plan to steal ships for her small mixed force. Anlyn and Edison have inadvertently joined the Hyperspace team that are overtaking the Bern ships one by one. Walter is making secret deals for untold fortune not realizing that he's jeopardizing everyone and the entire combat plan.
Anlyn is going to have to spearhead the space conflict. Walter is going to have to make several critical decisions that are going to be fatal for someone. Cat is going to come through in heroic fashion despite herself.
Nothing goes quite as planned. Dr Ryke and Molly's mother-the ship- must attempt to return to the rift inside of Hyperspace and try to undo what was done so long ago. The Wadi once again plays a major part. Most importantly there's a lot of previously unknown threads and revelations that come out of the back-story that explain much of what has happened that its vitally important to read it all carefully, No scanning allowed.
We even get to find out who the Bern Seer is but you are going to have to read this to find this all out.
Once again I recommend this to all those people who love Military SF Tense Thrillers Sci-Fi Fantasy Speculative Science notions.
Thank Hugh Howey for a world full of entertainment and a job well done.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
When I choose a book I don't choose by cover- although the covers sometimes are pretty to the eye. I rarely choose by the blurb or any small amount torn out for advertisement purposes. I chose often by reading whatever samples I can get. Usually while in a book store I can get as many pages in as I have time to loiter. On line I can get what they offer. I detest when they drop pages from that sample-I've no idea what that accomplishes. That's equivalent to scanning the book, so whatever first pages they give me are all I take and I stop at the first break. Thankfully this book offered a fair amount of contiguous storyline.
I've lately gotten into reading the reviews first- particularly the low star ones. Those are generally short and never sweet and sometimes I get a good laugh. On occasion they do make me pause and with this book there were two items that stood out. One was that there was a lot of gratuitous violence. The other is that it seemed like a different writer wrote this book.
If the first two books had not been so flaming good I might have paused before spending more hard earned money for the last two. But, through reading the sample I was at least assured that it had to have been the same author.(Not that I had that much doubt.) That's all the assurance I needed. The problem with a majority of the objections to there being too much gratuitous violence was that it was preceded by or followed by the line 'I scanned through those sections'.
When an author puts overt violence into the story it takes most people from their comfort zone and I can understand that much. The biggest difficulty in edging comfort zones is that this practice lends itself to scanning. Scanning ruins a book. Whether you are bored or upset or maybe even lost, scanning opens the door for the next comment: The flow of the book was all over the place and hard to follow. Well, yeah, you've been scanning again. If you scan and don't correct the problem you will likely have trouble following the plot. I'll touch on the gratuitous violence later.
This book is by far the hardest to read of the three. There are those scenes which might jar some or even all. And there is a lot of Speculative Science in here pertaining to the beginning and the end of the universe, not to mention the shape and other characteristics. There are a huge number of stumbling blocks for any and all readers. One of my meters as to rough content is, if it gets bad enough that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth I won't finish it.
And if it gets on a bit much expository with the geeky science stuff I'll know when I reach the end of the page and look at the last sentence with no recall of what is on the rest of the page. (Then I have to go back and actually read it.)
With The Blood of Billions I'm happy to say that neither of those happened. There were moments when I began to wonder while in hyperspace, if this might be gratuitous violence. Gore for the sake of shock value. After having read the first two novels I was willing to forge ahead and give Hugh reasonable doubt. I was not disappointed.
Molly Fyde is, in my opinion, a familiar yet unique character. She's familiar in that she is strong willed and independent and sometimes focused while living a world that has suppressed her to perhaps a 70's or 80's woman. A woman who wants her independence but wants that man to lean on. That man is Cole but in this story Cole is way off the map clear into hyperspace, in fact, and basically lost. The good news is he's in the same place that Molly's father is and so there's a chance for him to meet her dad.
Edison and Anlyn are on a mission for the Drenard that takes them to the rift where they defend against the Bern incursion. Things are not going well and soon they will find themselves on the other side of the rift trying to act as ambassadors while the rest of the Drenards have begun an invasion of human space. It may prove that the Bern are a bit absent also.
Molly has returned to her home world, the world of her birth and like many of the backwater planets in these stories this is out the back and yonder somewhere. Molly is Molly and we've already established that she's her own worst enemy. (Sometimes Molly's actions are just downright frustrating.)Thankfully she has her mother the ship and Walter to look after her. But, this is voting time Lok and the pollsters are about to bleed Molly dry. Walter seems to be less help to her than the Wadi that she's befriended. And she's naively walking into danger once again. Although she knows this she doesn't seem to be able to control herself.
Also it may be that Walter is the reason that Cole is way off into Hyperspace.
Molly's only regret, sometimes, seems to be that she doesn't have Cole to lean on while she endangers herself and everyone around her.
She is getting better though. And as usual she seems to always come up with a plan that in the end saves more lives than not.
There are some rough spots and so there should be caution about reading this novel. The first is in Hyperspace with Cole and his friend Riggs. There are some bad graphic scenes, but I think these were meant to affect Coles character in a specific way and it also leads to some awesome upgrades for Cole. These upgrades remind me of the last few steam-punk novels I've read. Unfortunately dismemberment is involved in qualifying for these upgrades. Cole also gets to be elevated to a high position of importance as a character in this novel. Whether that will hold true we shall see, but it seems more likely as certain sights of the seer prove out.
Every time I think I know where this story is headed I get derailed.
There are some grisly things ahead for Molly-perhaps its to cure her of her Molly-anna attitude. Mild optimism peppered in moments of uncertainty punctuated by careless moments of walking into trouble.
And there is the crash of many star-ships onto a planet and the description of the rescue mission. All of which entail most of the violence and gore in the story. I think that they are all well intended have a purpose and are also well paced so they are not stacked one on the other. Unless one starts skimming and then the lines start to blur and it could seem like there's a book full of gore.
Not for the faint of heart this SF Military Speculative Universe is great for those who like the SF-Military Political novels. Scan this novel at your own risk.
Speed reading is fine though. I don't do speed read that well so it takes me a bit longer to read this type of novel. All told it is well worth reading.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I can't say enough about how good this book is. Each world is richly drawn out it such a fashion that it helps explain the motivations of many of the important characters- from within the context of their cultures. The cultures are often derived around the worlds themselves and sometimes out of misconceptions or at least faulty conclusions as regards how the races perceive their world and their place in the universe.
Molly Fyde comes from a universe that has taken several steps back for some unexplained reason as regards the attitude towards women. Many of her action seem to be driven by this and it become easy to see how she finds herself so enamored to Cole who so desperately wants to protect her from everything. He first has to figure out a way to protect her from herself and with Molly that's just not going to happen. It's enough to process that she still trusts him after he killed her uncle, but then her uncle was trying to kill her.
Walter also would like to protect Molly and that makes him dangerous.
In these books I notice a lot of similarities in the worlds and characters and themes to what I've seen in recent years among the popular Science Fiction and Sci-fi. For instance, there are ceremonies in here that kept bringing to mind the Mimbari of Babylon 5. There are features of the visit to Dakura that reminded me of Vanilla Sky. These are not bad things- they are handled well and move the story. This story has a lot to tell and it can almost become confusingly overwhelming.
As usual there are few if any places our heroes might go where they will be safe from the fate that is creeping up on them. It is threatening to suck them in like the black-holes around them.
Molly's goal is to find her father, but the path is never quite clear. Her mother, who seems now to reside in the ships computer is cryptic at best with her help. Molly is not even sure how much she can trust this person inside her ship. They have had to detour first and take Anlyn to Drenard. Getting out of there alive will be murder. Even then they will leave some of the crew behind.
The next stop is Dakura where Molly finds that she is expected to destroy her mother's body so that someone named Byrne can't access her memories. There are so many things about Molly that seem to piece together like a fractured jigsaw puzzle that make the reader wonder what she is. Byrne thinks that she is important enough to try to snatch her. If I piece together her ability to do very fast calculations that most people rely on ship computers to do, and that she seems to always do the right thing even when she's not putting a lot of thought behind what she's doing, it makes me wonder.
When she discovers that a race know as Bern are trying to open a gateway to our space in order to lay waste to humanity will she be able to stop them with her innate skill and luck? The stakes are getting higher and the threat is getting real.
This is a great read for anyone who likes Sci-Fi or Science Fiction and fantasy and adventure and all the military political stuff of SF Military novels.
Monday, May 20, 2013
I loved this story much more than the two previous. I felt the two previous were doing quite well at paying homage to Robert Heinlein. There is nothing wrong with that but for some reason I felt I was seeing more of the true Dana Stabenow throughout this book. I can't really say that with utmost authority since I've not read any of her other books than this series.
The story picks up where we left Star in the previous. She is on the verge of finishing the grand project of creating the first of her small world. Helen, the devil in the details in this story, thinks its time for Star to move on. She wants Star to help map out Mars and find more possible evidence of the Prometheans whose relics have been found in the asteroid belt.
With Helen one never know how much of the information she gives out is true.
Star resists but then seems to have a change of heart while deciding that she needs a change of scenery for her children, who seem to be getting out of hand. Brother Moses is at it again and he's bringing a mob against Star; and her children have found a way to change him and his followers skin color to green. They don't have a sense of humor about this.
This story often seems to plod along but I attribute that mostly to the need to explain much of the science and politics of the time. It's also important to take note that we now should consider these stories to be alternate universe stories because they were designed to take place within decades of the year they were written that they have become somewhat outdated. Unless we landed on Mars already and I've just been out of touch.
With that in mind though, the arrival on Mars and their adventures in a balloon almost smack of steam-punk which adds to the now alternate history. Either way it doesn't really take away from the story.
In this story Star is still being dogged by her past. William Kwan, ex space patrol now killer, and friend of her ex friend/arch enemy Greys has been striking out against the asteroid miners. Star has a close call with the man. When Helen suggests that there might be evidence of an alien weapon pointing at where the planet now asteroid belt Prometheus and Star decides she and her children need a change, Star thinks she's gotten rid of her troubles with Kwan.
Unfortunately trouble follows Star.
It is good to see that in the adventures on Mars in the balloon Star is forced, by her children, to become more humanized in regards to their fathers death. They rightfully feel she doesn't talk about their father at all. They also seem to want to try to give her religion but that doesn't quite work out so well. The storyknife ceremonies were a nice touch and fit in quite well with that brief moment of grief and acceptance of hope for what may come. I was not convinced that Star was convinced yet of an afterlife- she's a hard sell.
Even though these are now a bit dated and as I mentioned an alternate history I'd love to see more. Though Star has some problems with her own self induced dehumanized condition she's a strong and independent character whose life indicates that there might be some sacrifices to maintaining her sense of self as it is while showing us that it's all worth it in the long run.
And though there is a moment when we might have seen some foreshadow that Elizabeth might have tried to communicate with them. There really is not enough to whet the appetite for some of us who want to know more about what happened to her.
We could use some more Star Svendotter books.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Entering the world of Star Svendotter is like entering the Worlds of Heinlein. There are so many elements of Dana Stabenow's world building that remind me of what I've seen in Heinlein's worlds. There is definitely an emphasis on Scientific Detail.
I love both elements here and then the fact that the gutsy hero is a woman who would do Hazel Stone proud. Hazel stone of The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein is also known as Hazel Meade and later as Gwen Novak (in Multiverse novels). Both are cantankerous and have a fierce passion for protecting their family. In Star's case her family seem to include everyone who works around her in her various habitats.
Star seems to have a slight detachment along with this that serves to help her dispense justice-most of the time. I'm not so sure how I felt about that after she had children, but there is at least one time where we get to see her pushed to the point that she truly loses it and for good reasons. I like that she stays consistent but felt she lacked some normal emotions sometimes.
There are a couple of issues that come up that are interesting that would have been nice things to address further in this novel. We can hope there might be more about them in the next. The first is that at the moment she goes into labor she is confronted with the realization that she has a child she didn't know about. What? You heard it. This is a favorite joke around here- about how a woman can't have a child she's unaware of. In this context there are reasonable explanations. Star seems to have a reaction about this that we see her teetering on the edge of the thought that there might be some prejudice in her towards test tube babies. This is later brought to the fore again when they discover a ship full of fools who have apparently been cloning themselves into a thin and weak genetic community. She and her new son Leif keep skirting this issue and never have a really good discussion. I understand that in a way it is part of Star's nature to avoid this particular conflict. The bottom line was that we have the impression Star has some prejudice but no actual admission of such from her.
All of this happens as Star and her husband Caleb O'Hara arrive at the asteroid belt. Their mission to mine the belt, set forth in Second Star, has come to fruition and Star immediately is forced to take the bull by the horns when she discovers there is a crisis and a plague in the mining community that she's expected to solve.
The next event of note is major and yet somehow after Star's main blowup- just seems to sort of slide behind her mask judicial fortitude. She really doesn't get a chance to deal with it and it didn't seem fair for her to me. Somehow I'm not sure why she wouldn't and didn't seem to complain that much.
Science wise Star embarks on world creating of her own when they decide they can hollow out asteroids and create livable space. This leads to a discovery that could change the whole landscape of things and then leads to the tragedy. From there things almost become mundane until the climatic end.
The universe that Dana builds here is quite believable and almost sometimes painfully so. It would have been nice to hear something from and of her niece who ran off with the Galactic Librarians, but perhaps that's slated for some future story.
At this point I'd be hard pressed to say if this is shaping up to be a long series of books or a trilogy. I only know that as long as the pace keeps up I'll be interested in following Star , Leif, Paddy and Sean wherever they go.
If you are a fan of Heinlein and love Science Fiction and other such science these stories should be just what the doctor ordered.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I'm beginning to thoroughly enjoy the spin that Cixin Liu puts in his stories.
Of Ants and Dinosaurs is a sort of blend of analog and fable and cautionary tale. Maybe we could call it Fable -istic Fiction.
The story begins a bit like a fable in itself as the T-Rex grabs himself a meal and settles for a nice nap only to find that he's gotten some food stuck in his teeth. The ants who seem more mercenary than helpful are suffering earth quakes from the thrashing dinosaur. The ants are also hungry and thirsty. They decide the only reasonable way to stop the quakes is to help the T-Rex with his 'flossing'. This ends up serving two purposes. In dislodging the food they allow the T-Rex to settle down to a nap and they also get the benefit of a nice meal-leftovers so to speak.
This is all the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Fast forward 50,000 years and we find the evolved dinosaurs in a productive symbiotic relationship with the ants. The dinosaurs are the great minds and statesmen who have the working class ants creating their micro technologies.
Of course along with progress comes strife between dinosaur factions and war. This troubles the working class ants and they are becoming restless thinking that the dinosaurs are taking advantage of them. Eventually this leads to a strike, which is swiftly stopped because- well the dinosaurs are huge and they unify this once for action against the ants.
This creates tension between ants and the dinosaurs that leads to sabotage of the micro computing industry and attempts to assassinate key dinosaurs through some rather creative use of explosive devices and the ants knowledge of dinosaur physiology since the ants can preform micro surgeries on the dinosaurs.
Professor Joyah of the ants tries to caution her fellow ants that there are levels of the dangerous weapons of the dinosaurs that they know nothing about and that this could lead to catastrophe.
I may not be clear on what the dinosaurs and the ants represent in this analogy but I would guess that its the national political structure for the dinosaurs and the worker economic structure for the ants. The rebellion as with any rebellion might be justified but often leads to chaos before it evolves into any useful form of restructuring.
In this instance it might prove fatal.
This was a fun story to read-being a novella it seems to nicely fit into the space provided. The final outcome is predictable so the real meat of the story is how they get there. There are some amusing though thought provoking notions that build to the climax and interesting philosophical notions about what is come.
I enjoyed this as much as I might enjoy any fable finding it interesting to use the ants and dinosaurs in identifiable human situations as a means of trying to stretch the readers ability to accept the credibility of the story.
Humorous thought provoking analogs for any lover of science fiction fantasy or even fables. Not to mention the eco- political inclined.
Monday, May 6, 2013
This book scared the daylights out of me.
There are so many parts of the breakdown here that read like regular parts of life.
I quickly come to a realization that this is the reason to surround ourselves with friends who know us(well). People who can constantly act as that check in life that asks "Are you okay?"
Sure we can ask ourselves that question as much as we want but it really helps to have someone around who can tell us that we are alright. Even so, it takes a true friend to not try to sugar coat things thinking that we might be having a bad day or over dramatic meltdown as opposed to an entire breakdown.
How and when do we define the line that has to be crossed before we realize that something proactive has to be done to get to the bottom of the overwhelming feeling of hopeless helplessness that's gripped us from out of nowhere?
In reading this I suddenly wondered how anyone can abuse drugs to an extent that they might experience something similar to what happened here. Yet it's so obvious that some people actually do just that, when one of the doctors makes that assumption right from the start.
This book has altered the way I look at some things. I've never really had much recollection of my life before the age of five. The few memories I have had, which or only two that I recall, are now very suspect when coming to a more full understanding of how the memory works. Not to mention the rest of the parts that I do remember and that my siblings like to suggest I've remembered incorrectly.
I look at how fragile the mind is in respect to Susannah's experience and it makes me want to wear a crash helmet everywhere I go. That won't help much though when dealing with what happened here.
Reading this has been a true eye opener.
And just for the record Susannah:
You may have changed from this experience, but what you wrote here and how it touched me says that when you wrote this you were operating at 100 percent.
Mind boggling scary with some light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone needs to read this.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Let me say that I loved-hated this book at the very beginning. As I got past that I could hardly put it down.
For some reason the whole beginning sort of read like a paranormal Dragnet episode. Dialogue mostly devoid of emotions. It went on for about the first 15% of the book. It was at about chapter seven that things finally took off. ( I was either growing used to the character- some explanations were now forthcoming that explained her- or it was just time to take that left turn into the supper highway of who Gabriella Noelle Moretti really is.
Gabriella of course is adopted which puts her into a common situation these days in fiction. She's also lost memory of her early years in life. At least the first five- which didn't seem too remarkable to me since I don't remember much of my first five years. But Gabriella is a rather gifted young lady who started college classes at age 12. Needless-to say-this is a fair explanation for why she might be just a bit different from many other people. Her intellect capacity is high but she's rather immature and has always been misplaced from her age group so that she's always the fish out of water wherever she's been. So, though she copes well enough to do well in her studies and that has lead to being the authority in Supernatural Specialist, she would agree that it hasn't helped her to develop much of an endearing personality.
The story opens with Gabriella being rather snarky to her equally snarky assistant, Sally. Apparently Gabriella's immature character has not learned the value of having an assistant to the point that she mostly takes advantage of Sally while giving her annoying things to do. Although the sense is that she does this to Sally a lot-as if Sally deserves it-at the moment it is in part that Gabriella has too much on her mind and has not had enough sleep. At age 19 Gabriella had fallen into this job with the paranormal as supernatural specialist for the Zelco Corp. She now is 25 but with perhaps the social skills of a 15 year old. And the reason she took this job seems to be somewhat suspect.
Her adoptive sister,Jenna, sums it up. Gabriella is hoping this job will help her find her parents.And, solve the mystery of why they left her when she was so young. Of course Jenna thinks Gabriella is nuts and that her job was not going to help her do any of the things she hopes.
Up until this day its been a pretty mundane job, with occasional moments of excitement when the FBI shows up and drags away what little they do find that is inexplicable. This time she's received three corpses from a dig in Italy, which don't seem to match what she should have been sent. The corpses were supposed to be hundreds of years old or more; where they looked to be newly dead within days and they don't match the photo of what she was sent.
This has spooked her and one would start to get the feeling she wasn't cut out for this job. She next receives a package with a box that contains two items that look like relics but turn out to be keys. When she starts to open the box she's attacked by a dark entity with fiery eyes, who warns her not to awaken the angels.
The FBI show up to take this away and they make an unusual offer- they want Gabriella to go with them. One agent, Jeff, acts a bit strange about Gabriella touching the evidence, while a second agent, Karen, comes to Gabriella's defense. Eventually Karen reveals to Gabriella that these three corpses are the bodies of angels. Karen is also an angel-Gabriella's Guardian.
On the trip to Washington DC with the corps and Sally and the FBI; the pilots inexplicably take the plane into a storm where there's a lightning strike upon the craft and it crashes. This should have killed everyone but the Angels have wakened-We later discover it is because Gabriella was in danger that they awakened.
The angels in this story are not your typical christian angels. They are not particularly even remotely related to the fallen angels. They are more like the Hollywood-ized angels made from humans who were once mortal and now can bleed golden blood and cry golden tears. They do fight beings of darkness who seem to be of the shadow of the sun.
In a nutshell it turns out that Gabriella is the Darkness Illuminator- the fulfillment of a prophesy; and that these angels are here to guard her.
This sounds like more than enough to drive the plot of this story but there is much more which is both exciting and a bit daunting. Yes there are spelling errors and some grammar points, though mostly points of rule and not of law so, those are minor. I think that it's this extra more stuff that causes many people to become confused and it took me a while to sort out a few problems.
One entire plot point is about the prophesy and how it has been altered by someone to hide the truth.
Another plot point is that these angels-who are somewhat magical- have the capability of having their memories tampered with through magic and that has happened to a large degree.
So, whenever a character spouts on about the prophesy it is unreliable information. The problem with this is that as this unfolds it often seems like we are getting redundant information and that the consistency of the story is all messed up. In fact, the consistency is okay and the reason for the redundancy is to highlight the discrepancies in various character's understanding of past events and the prophesy. This shifting plot line is a difficult and dangerous task to put to some reader's minds.
There are elements of massive confusion when Gabriella starts having dreams created by someone else memories and those memories include the death of angels who are walking around.
It might even become annoying to some people that certain characters can be killed and come back.
There is more to the story though and some of these speed bumps are smoothed out while some go unexplained. Thankfully there are more books and hopefully that means those things will be explained later.
Not so thankfully this appears to be one of those series that goes on for quite a while and it takes a great amount of talent to extend a readers interest beyond a trilogy. So, we'll have to read some more to find out how well Laura does with that.
Carefully peeking ahead I've been unable to ascertain that there will be resolution of all major plot points in the next two books.
I'm a fan of series, but I can see that Laura had a lot to say in this book and that there may be a lot more coming, which may indicate that it may take all of those volumes of books to get all plot points resolved.
This is a great story for lovers of Paranormal Romance and Apocryphal Angels (not to be confused with a pocketful of angels).
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Mountain is an interesting novella. I'm not all that fond of novella's, partially because it's difficult to know what to expect. Short stories have to move quickly to fill the reader in or not depending on the way the plot wants to go. Novella's have some time to build things but not really enough for the author to dawdle with.
I think that Liu shows quite a balance in this story. Mountain seems to be a story of a mans ambitions, exemplified by an analogue about a strange species of creature that was born of metal and electronics while housed in a vacuum space in a hollow world.
The story starts out aboard a ship, Bluewater, with the captain talking to Feng Fan. The captain is trying to find out what his geological engineer is all about. The man never takes shore leave.
We find out that Feng Fan was once an ambitious man who, along with a group of other young men had tried to conquer mount Everest. It turns out his real name is Feng Huabei and he was the sole survivor of that failed attempt. It also turns out that he was forced to cut his fellow climbers lines free in order to save his own life. As penance he has exiled himself from what he truly loves which is mountain climbing.
While conversing, a strange light in the sky comes ever closer until they realize that it must be as large as the moon and when it takes up an orbit with the Earth it is so close and so influential that it draws the water upward as if it's a huge watery mountain.
Suffice it to say while the Captain and crew try to escape the impending disaster that will come with an ensuing storm from this; Feng Fan takes a small boat to set out to climb( swim up) this mountain of water.
Finding the task easier than expected its not long before Feng Fan confronts the aliens who are threatening to suck up the Earth's atmosphere.
The rest of the novella is the story of this alien machine intelligence and it's struggle to explore and escape the confines of their small bubble world. Where they change from believing their universe is all solid to discovering a whole world of gases and water and the existential struggle as a species to constantly change their way of viewing their universe.
There are more than a few problems with some elements of their story, but it serves as an interesting different view of life. Though its mostly an allegory, of a sort, for life development of any race of beings.
It seemed to me there's a message and it's that the journey and the exploration are worth anything that you have to give up for it. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but apparently Feng Fan did.
It's interesting fiction and I can see myself reading more of Liu Cixin's work just because it's a fresh look at things seen differently.
Friday, May 3, 2013
When I saw the covers on these I almost passed them up. Between the title and the cover for some reason I had the impression this was another christian remake of the bible. Not that I don't appreciate those- they just are not tops on my list.
When I realized it was the beginning of a new Mage/Science-Fiction series I picked it up. I'm mostly acquainted with Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald in the realm of MageWorld. I enjoyed those though they often seemed more into romance so maybe Mage-Romance.
I don't mind the blend of science and magic. I really enjoyed this fantastic universe of Magic and technology.
This series seems to want to throw in some sort of myth that blends into a god created universe, which of course can never be told without the great dark evil. This dark evil seems to be more like a wild voracious energy being that feeds upon the living energy of other creatures. It also seems to be able to feed on most everything else, but apparently feeding on souls seems to be it's highest sustenance.
So we never really get to know why god created the great dark evil in the beginning but he did and there are four of them that seem to roam the universe.
There are legends, which are prophecy in this universe, that there are three chosen who can defeat this evil.
In this universe through some -perhaps other creation of god- there are black holes (I may have this confused) that have been tweaked to make nexus points which give access to the leylines that connect the universe.
Our hero, Quade, is about to discover that there have been strange things happening near the nexus points.
Ships are mysteriously abandoned and whole nexus have been destroyed. Quade experiences a first hand encounter with this dark cloud-like entity; the experience seems similar to someone having a really bad migraine. He can see the creature because he's the chosen seer and he's the only one who can see this. Though his purpose is to report the finding of new leylines and nexus points, which are discovered by the Venrey, he is reluctant to report all of what he's heard and seen; to the Keystone of Bethel. Although the Keystone is like a father to him and is his employer, Quade has a problem with two imaginary voices in his head (which have now manifest as two fairy like beings, Mimic and Echo, calling themselves emissaries of god) that have tried to caution him about revealing too much of this to anyone. The dark entity can enter into anyone and remove all of their knowledge and telling other people will put them all in danger. Only the chosen are immune to this invasion, although the chosen can be easily killed by the creature anyway.
As it turns out everyone is in danger anyway. The Keystone will soon be compromised and our reluctant hero will have to find the three chosen to save the Keystone's soul. These chosen may be people close to him. Quade has several friends in Bethel. Unfortunately he can't discuss things with them unless he's sure they are the chosen or he will put them in grave danger.
Clea is another pilot and makes smuggler runs in her ship Duplicity.
Trina is the daughter of the Keystone and is Quade's lover.
Aazrio is like security and bodyguard around the Keystone's household.
Clea has a mysterious friend named Avalon, she's the only one who ever sees him. He's some sort of Muse who can be seen by others but is easily forgotten. Avalon has taught Clea to be a compendium of knowledge of true history as opposed to the misinformation in most legend.
When things go badly for the Keystone the only hope is the legend, which is prophesy. Quade must be made to understand it all and he must find P'cadia and the Ave' in order to save the day.
There are a lot of players in the story and you almost need note cards to keep track. But the authors do a fair job of keeping things straight. The largest part of the story is the riddles and puzzles that have to be unfolded to get to the meat of the story.
For Quade it becomes a quest to save the Keystone and in so doing save his love Trina. In the end he must accept that he has to save the universe. Nothing is written in stone; as Quade discovers that there have been several groups of chosen that have come before him and failed.
This first book is the story of Quade's quest and struggle and it's the introduction of this Mage Universe and all of the intricacies that drive the magic and politics. It's accomplished quite well within a short number of pages, although it can become a daunting task to keep up with it all. It is sometimes frustrating that gods emissaries are either too cryptic or have not been told everything that Quade needs to know.
Anyone who has read other Techno-Mage type of fantasy fiction should love this one. It has Romance and intrigue and mystery and the big bad all well paced and has just the right ending to take you into the next book.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Perhaps the title of this comes from everyone's favorite quote from Peter Pan by James M. Barrie.
"Second to the right," said Peter, "and then straight on till morning."
And then; perhaps making use of the often added Star. "Second Star to the right, and straight on till morning."
Stronger evidence; is that this quote shows up in the book.
I've always loved Robert A. Heinlein all the way from his juvenile series of space novels to his controversial Stranger in a Strange Land. And his somewhat more speculative later years of connecting his alternate universe into a whole.
In her introduction Dana mentions his juvenile books as being an inspiration- and I've no doubt that they are. But this story really reads more closely to his Man Who Sold the Moon.
One thing that this story has over the old Heinlein stories is that the Female protagonist is very strong and independent. Esther Natasha Svensdotter or Star as she likes to be called- takes no crap from anyone.(Although it is interesting that in Heinlein's Glory Road there's a Star who turns out to be Empress of many worlds. She is a strong willed woman but we see her mostly through Oscar Gordon's viewpoint.) Part of reason for Star to be the way she is may have to do with the environment of the space station and her own insistence on having no weapons on board. She's appointed herself the judge, jury and in some instances the executioner. Swift punishment, which we are graphically shown at the beginning, to those who endanger the rest of the residents.
This type of character is very typical of many of those aboard ships, stations and colonies in Heinlein's work. This type of discipline shows up in many science fiction novels and seems to carry over from the romantic notions of how early sea faring shipboard discipline was handled.Though it seems efficient and swift and can be justified it still can have it's tole on the conscience and it is handled well in Star's own reactions after the fact.
This story begins with Star returning from a visit to Earth. She definitely hates getting her land legs and is happy to be returning to her domain. This trip back to the Lagrange Point Five or Ellfive is a neat way of introduction to the level of technology involved in this universe. There's a lot of information here for someone who claims to not be all that scientifically inclined and this is all coming from first person report from Star who has to be knowledgeable to all of this jargon. This seems sometimes to be a bit much but really it's just the world building to bring us up to speed to Star's universe and the various players in the universe.
What I enjoyed is the between the lines build up of Star's character. She's all woman, but she's not your woman of the bygone ages and maybe even a few clicks above the women of the time that this story was written. She's earned her place and for that she has a loyal team on Ellfive who would march through hell for her.
It's the whys- for why Ellfive is up there that reminds me of The Man Who Sold the Moon. Even down to the why Star is there on Ellfive. Star is almost like Harriman of TMWSTM. He wanted to own the moon and would do anything to get there. He's ruthless and devious and almost a bit dishonest. Star thankfully diverges from this in that her motivations always seem genuine and honest. Although, how she got up there seems to have shades of the same type of deception involved in TMWSTM only in this case the more egregious parts of Harriman's character have been portioned out to secondary characters associated with Star.
Another divergent element would be that Harriman- despite his successes- was never able to -hands on- do what he wanted to do, which is go to the moon himself.(His board of directors thought he was too valuable by that time.) Star is out there living the dream. Of course her dream is not all glamor, which is well displayed in the description of the mundane everyday workings of things aboard Ellfive. This might be a problem for some readers who don't recognize that when dealing with stories that are attempting to portray real Science in the fiction there are often a lot of mundane things that are done to help keep everyone alive. It also helps portray the fragility of the relationship of man to the environment of space.
This novel has a very good balance of those elements to help drive the story. This apparent lengthy narrative path also helps introduce all the characters and their dependent relationship to each other. And, it ultimately helps introduce the conflicts that exist, which will eventually be the threat that drives the plot.
Star has several contentious groups she has to deal with - one is the Space Patrol who seem to be acquiring bases and equipment floating in space in the name of national security. Star has some past with Gray, the head of the patrol. It seems that part of that has to do with is his trying to acquire Ellfive as one of his bases. Then there's a strong element of politics on earth, the Alliance Congress, which are often a driving force that might be influence by the Patrols past successes in obtaining strategic targets in space. And, there's the fringe element of the Luddites who hate technology.
As we come into the story Star has recently lost her head of security- a man who was causing more trouble than good and seems to have vanished mysteriously. A replacement,Caleb O'hara, has been sent to her but not soon enough to assist in an initial crisis from a Luddite who intended to blow something up. Star is forced to take care of that situation and a portion of the rest of the next few chapters is getting the new man up to speed.
Along with some few problems being caused by the space patrol causing station docking schedules to bottleneck she has to deal with issues the patrol are causing with the local merchants and longshoremen. And her station's master computer Archy -created and maintained by Stars brother-inlaw Simon- is showing signs of possibly getting out of hand. (Reminiscent of some of the AI's in Heinlein's work) Archy may be exhibiting signs that he's going a step above the simple AI he is supposed to be.
Added to this mix now will be some supply problems that are occurring between the Lunar facility and Ellfive. Someone may have their hand in that and it might turn out that there are things afoot that Star is unaware of.(All part of a big plot.)
As if that might not be enough there's another thread in the story that again parallels The Man Who Sold the Moon. Just as Harriman sent diamonds aboard the ship to the moon-as an experiment(while hoping to have people mistakenly believe he found them on the moon and is trying to hide the fact.) It would seem that the reason that Ellfive was created was in response to a signal that came from Betelgeuse intimating that there are aliens out there. Everyone had gotten into the mad rush to get out in space to meet the aliens. But the question is what really was that message and why haven't they heard any more. Might the message be a red herring.
And then just as in TMWSTM when the ship came back it had more diamonds than Harriman sent. While everything is creating a turmoil on Ellfive what's to be made of the newest message from Betelgeuse?
To go any further would really be giving spoilers. But, for me it's never so much the science or the plot as it is the characters.
I always loved Heinlein's characters- in spite of some of their outdated 50's mentality. And that's where this story grabbed me. Star is a standout protagonist with her flawed group of Ellfivers behind her all the way. They really drove this story for me much more than the various elements of the plot.
If you love Science Fiction or you're just looking for strong characters to relate to; this is a good novel for that. It delivers a good plot with some interesting themes; though because it was published back in 1991 and in the story the message from Betelgeuse arrives in 1992 it's a bit dated and now seems to fall into the category of alternate universe.
It's a good beginning to Star's story and I'm glad there is more story to tell.
Dana Stabenow is not Robert Heinlein (I say that meaning it to be a plus)- don't expect her to be (no one is) and you will be happy with this book.