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SevenEves (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 04 September 2016 00:00

ur world ends, not with our planet, but with our moon.

Something never specified rifles through the moon one night, splitting it into seven massive fragments (and countless smaller ones). And there hangs that object we've taken for granted, the friendly orb which has shown down on our parents and grandparents, all the way through the ages, not longer a sphere but a cloud of debris. Sad, yes. Sadder still when scientists realize that these fragments are grinding, smashing, and pulping ever smaller. In two years time the gravel field will encompass the Earth. Then will come the White Sky. And then the Hard Rain. With the fall of so much matter into the Earth's atmosphere, it will set the very air afire. Life, as we know it, will end. Our homeworld will become a scorched ball of rock.

And this started the drive to live on. Our focus is primarily on the people of the ark swarm. Centered on the ISS (now capped with an iron asteroid) new tiny ships are launched, as many as can be safely (or otherwise) inserted into orbit. As time grows shorter, as more and more rocks fall from space, human desperation and drive are magnified. Nukes are used to protect launch sites. The swarm grows to 1500 people. And other plans take shape, deep digs and sub-ocean settlements. But soon the rains come and the planet burns.

So this is how it goes in Neal Stephenson's latest work, SevenEves (originally I assumed this was in reference to the seven major chunks of moon released, but no, there is a deeper meaning as well). The story is primarily focused on the survivors in space, following them through desperate attempts to capture ice asteroids, to survive mutinies and defections, to deal with each crisis as they attempt to turn around their fortunes and get beyond basic survival. The interesting part comes just after half-way, when you think they can survive, going forward in a strange and unthinkable way. And as you blink that down, suddenly a page-flip reveals the words "5000 years later".

Yes, now you get to see what comes of it all as the planet is resettled and the good (and bad) of the past is projected forward.

This is a good one - solid science fiction (and I do mean "solid" - 867 pages). I rather enjoyed the story - it scooted right along without getting bogged down in events or character conflicts. However, one thing that was missing (and the person who loaned me this book agreed) - we don't really get to see our world destroyed. Sure, there is a poignant symphony broadcast from Notre Dame as the rain begins but never do the characters really look down and reflect on the death throes of their world. we get indications, yes, quick glimpses of life as it ends in blistering agony but for the most part a planet as wired as ours didn't seem to send much of its final moments into space. Nobody on the ISS seems willing to even glance out a porthole at what lies below. In this, we are left with a dark spot in our couscousness - we keep wondering what's just under the ISS's nose - what does the planet look like now? What happened in the hard rain. It is a disaster novel sans disaster.

But that's really my only complaint, the antiseptic end of our planet. Otherwise, simply, Stephenson delivers. I ranted about how good this was that it actually got my wife to pick up my old favorite Snow Crash (from the same author). But for you folks willing to invest the time on this monster, pick it up. It's a great read with a pretty good pay off five millennium into the future.

>>>OR GO BACK 2400 YEARS INTO THE PAST WITH COMPUTER PROGRAMMER MASON TRELLIS, BACK TO THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENTS, AND SEE WHAT A MODERN HOMETOWN BOY NEEDS TO DO TO SURVIVE IN THE TRADING EMPIRE OF THE PHOENICIANS. EARLY RETYREMENT - FOR SALE HERE!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 September 2016 14:43
 
The Cartels Jungle (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 28 August 2016 00:00

eh.

Nothing much here. Spaceman comes home from years at being at perpetual war on the frontier (two conglomerates are fighting it out), only to discover that the evil workers and their unions have become the third stool leg of  tyranny. Fine. But he doesn't care since he's going to marry his girl who happens to be the psychiatrist who just invented a mind-control device that can be used (in good hands) to cure insanity (which seems to run rampant on the hopeless homeworld). Of course, there is no way, with evil and power and mercenary corporate cops all over the place, that this would be misused. But yes, she doesn't meet him at the field, he gets framed for murder and now he's on the run.

But of course, he isn't the type to run. No. He's going to find out who grabbed his girl. Nothing else for it.

Right.

Well, he's helped in that he's allowed to keep his service blaster, a sidearm so powerful it can blow up a power generating station. You'd think a triple tyranny might gun-control hand-cannons like this - maybe the NRA exists in this future as well? Anyway, I get that the author had a bone to pick with the ideal of utopia and unions. Somehow it's expected that the ruler of a corporate cartel would live in a massive opulent fortress, but sneaky that the union president lives in a modest cottage atop his own massive opulent fortress.

Outside of an interesting plot twist at the end, this one wasn't much of a yarn. Written in 1955, it runs pretty much down the usual scifi rails. This one's on Gutenberg - I don't have the link handy but with a cool reception like this, I doubt its an issue. Read it for free if you like. Like I said, meh.

>>>I GOTTA FIGURE THIS AUTHOR IS DEAD. I'D HATE TO GET "MEH"ED, BUT I THINK MY NOVELS ARE A LITTLE MORE TWISTING AND INTERESTING. BUT HEY, YOU BE THE JUDGE. PICK ONE UP FOR CHEAP AT THE END OF THIS LINK!<<<

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 28 August 2016 09:09
 
Guns, Germs, and Steel (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 21 August 2016 09:03

aught out this week - still slugging through Seven Eves, and didn't get a short story done that I was also attempting a stopgap with. So, to fulfill my effort to review every week (something I've managed for years) I'm hauling something off the shelf and doing it out of memory.

So, Guns, Germs, and Steel looks at the broad idea of racial technological acceleration. Why do some races have everything (and are rich, floating in iPads and Burger Kings and nuclear bombers) and others are nothing more than muddy townships of rusting castoff technology? Is it the people of the race that determine their outcome or more external reasons? Specifically, if the human race evolved out of Africa and spread from there, following animals and moving out to find open lands, why, when the two waves of settlement crash together, why was one side so further advanced? Specifically, when the Spanish landed in the new world, why did they have the guns, the germs, and the steel?

The answers author Diamond proposes are controversial (and, yes, this book has seen a lot of criticism). A lot of it comes from the layout of fertile areas which allow for the spread of agriculture. Grains that work in one area might work fine 1000 miles east or west, but fail miserably 100 miles north. And with agriculture, races and their civilizations enjoyed more stability. Rather than packing everything up and moving after a herd of bison every week, agriculture requires granaries and other elements of a township, which result in government, organized religion, experimenting with metals, all leading to advantages that large, unified collectives share over smaller disjointed ones.

The second stage booster is the development of animal husbandry. If agriculture is a good thing, harnessing animals to do the heavy work (plowing and such) is an even greater boost. But it isn't simply a matter of deciding, "Hey, today, let's round up some animals". They have to be located around you, and they have to be domesticatable (sure, a zebra looks like a horse but no mater how much you try to train them, they will still bite and kick given the chance). With animals, your society improves even quicker, and yet your cities become dirtier. All that manure that lies about, steaming. All those diseases and plagues that weed out the weaker gene lines. And so, yes, when you meet a nation that has not enjoyed a thousand years of cow shit in their streets, those less-resilient humans drop like flies. One only has to look at the massive dieback of native Americans after the arrival of the Spanish to see this in action.

So, sure, the book as plenty of detractors and controversies. But regardless of your resistance, or your thoughts that Diamond might overstress one point or belabor another, it does succeed in that it makes you see the world differently. The technical/societal/cultural evolution of the various peoples of Earth becomes less of an even start of a Sid Meier's Civilization game and more of a game of cards, where the advantages lay in fated order inside the deck, and the racial players do the best they can with the hands they have been dealt. In my mind, the book is worth the Pulitzer it received. Yes, its big and long and often belaboring, but it's also eye-opening and informational. You won't be the same person coming out of this work than you were going in. And I don't say that about many books.

For you intellectuals out there, a must-read.

>>>THE POOR PHOENICIANS OF MY TWO NOVELS, SLOWLY RUNNING OUT OF THEIR OWN RESOURCES (TIMBER) AND THEN RUNNING UP AGAINST A NUMBER OF OTHER RACES WHO PUT MORE EFFORT INTO THEIR EMPIRES AND ARMIES THAN THAN THESE TRADER FOLKS DID. BUT THESE HISTORICAL FICTIONS ARE HERE - HAVE A LOOK DOWN THIS LINK!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 August 2016 09:47
 
The Blockade Runners (review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 14 August 2016 00:00

eeded something to tide this column over while I chew through the massive Seven Eves. Of course, I turned to my old friend, Project Gutenberg, for assistance.

Was looking, actually, for Journey to the Center of the Earth (which I'd just seen (the old one, not the crappy, stupid new one. Please!). Anyway, it wasn't up except in audio format. But I did find this book, The Blockade Runners, which you gotta admit looks like a promising short story. So without further ado, let's start the review.

And my opening hook to this review, late yet relevant?

So, you think the Millennium Falcon is a cool ship? It has nothing on The Dolphin.

This ship, which in this Verne tale is constructed and trialed in 1862 in the Clyde below Glasgow, is a damn hot ship. You see, James Playfair, an up and comer in the business house of Vincent Playfair & Co, has a damn sharp idea. The war in the States rages on, and the Glasgow mills groan for the cotton they can no longer get. His idea - build a ship fast enough to have a chance of breaking the Yankee blockade. James can make astronomical profits each way - ammo and uniforms in, and cotton, cotton, and more cotton (all the fiber he can stuff under his hatches) on the way out. What could be easier?

But, against better judgment, he takes a new hand on at the last second, a brute of a fellow with questionable skills and a wormy tag-along nephew. And I'll say this - I thought I knew where this story was going but Verne hit me was a left hook, one so clever that I don't even want to hint at it (you'll get your chance to read it yourself; I'll include the link). So anyway, soon The Dolphin is running through Yankee fire to get into Charleston Bay (for both the Rebs and the Northerners can range the mouth). But in the end, circumstances will force him into a mission against the interests of the South, and his running of the guns (from both sides) in the fog and gloom is something to be enjoyed. It harks back to the spirit of Hornblower, complete on-your-seat-edge reading that puts more contemporary books of the same ilk (such as Phantom) to shame. I remember exclaiming to my wife over a book meal at a local diner how exciting it was. I completely enjoyed it.

So, if you want a short story that will literally blow you away, read this classic from a master. And the punchline to the entire tale, the final line? Priceless!

You can get it for eReaders right HERE, for free!

>>>BOTH OF MY HISTORIC NOVELS HAVE EXCITING TRIREME SEA-BATTLES SO YOU'D BETTER BUY THEM BOTH. FOR SALE HERE, ABOUT AS CLOSE TO FREE AS IT GETS!<<<

Last Updated on Sunday, 14 August 2016 09:43
 
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