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Archive for September, 2015

A Review of Perihelion

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 29, 2015

Perihelion (Isaac Asimov's Robot City, #6)Perihelion by William F. Wu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the conclusion to the six book Robot City series and I, for one, found it fairly satisfying. Robot City hasn’t been the best written series I’ve ever read. Perhaps part of the reason is that most of the books were written by different authors, which is an unusual way to go about writing a series. It’s lacked in some ways. The last two books, in particular, I thought were quite bad. But the idea behind the series was original and I appreciated that, and so I continued reading. And I’m glad I did.

In this book, Derec, Ariel, Mandelbrot, and Wolruf find themselves back in Robot City after their horrible time on Earth and they’re searching for the insane Dr. Avery, who has infected Derec with a disease in which “chemfets” have infected his system and, as a result, a miniature Robot City is literally growing inside him and it is killing him. He is weak and needs to sleep all the time and he is in a lot of pain. Meanwhile, Ariel has been cured of the Amnemonic plague and is slowing regaining her memory. That’s good, because she really carries Derec in this book.

When they descend the pyramid they landed on with the Key of Perihelion, Derec and Ariel are immediately accosted by a Hunter robot who attempts to take them captive. In fact, they don’t see too many robots at all. Robot City has changed since they were last there and they come to realize Dr. Avery has reprogrammed the robots somehow for some unknown reason. He’s taken their personalities and creativity away from them and has installed a new “migration” program for all humanoid robots to follow, leaving just a few robots to keep the city running.

The four of them escape the Hunter robot, but more Hunters appear, so they flee. They eventually escape to a warehouse where they hide out. Meanwhile, their old former cyborg friend, Jeff, from a previous book, returns to the planet with a big spaceship, since he owes them a favor, presumably to get them off planet and help save their lives. He knows they’ll be glad to see him. He lands in the middle of the city and is immediately accosted by Hunter robots. He’s stunned. He, too, can see Robot City has changed. Mandelbrot had been able to determine a ship was landing with a human in it, so he takes a truck to the ship in an effort to save him. He does and brings him back to the warehouse. They all swap information and it turns out Jeff had met Dr. Avery through his professor father a few years back. Also, Ariel’s mother had been a big contributor to Dr. Avery’s funds when it came to building Robot City. Derec is too weak to really join in. They decide they have to find Dr. Avery quickly to get him to save Derec’s life, but where to look? They do a scan and find crop fields in the hills outside the city. They decide that must be where Avery is hiding out, so they decide to head there. They decide Mandelbrot and Wolruf should take off separately to act as decoys so the humans can take off in the spaceship and somehow get to the crops to look for Avery.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending, but there’s a lot of action and a lot of tension and they do eventually find Avery and all of the mysteries are finally explained. And there are some real shocking surprises at the end of the book. Frankly, I enjoyed the hell out of the final few pages. This isn’t a five star book, but I think it’s a fairly four star effort. I’m glad I ended up giving this series a chance. For some quick, lightweight sci fi — recommended.

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A Review of The Eternity Brigade

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 28, 2015

The Eternity BrigadeThe Eternity Brigade by Stephen Goldin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Eternity Brigade is innovative, thought provoking, action packed, and horribly disturbing. Written in 1980, it follows the military career of an army man named Hawkeye and his friends, Green and Symington. After Vietnam, America gets involved in a big war in Africa that is apparently pretty brutal. The military, and I assume politicians, come up with a plan to cut costs while maintaining military preparedness: cryogenics. Roughly 100 “volunteers” are given a bonus and three weeks leave if they agree to be frozen cryogenically only to be unthawed at some point in the future to fight a future war when the time comes. Hawk and the other two decide to do it, with some reservations, and are frozen. Moments later, they’re awoken and get out of their “coffins.” They’re shocked to discover it’s been nearly 12 years! They’ve been unfrozen to help lead a new, untrained army against Chinese rebels and the Russians, while aiding the Chinese government, which they think is pretty odd. They win, go back to their base and are discharged and sent home. Before they were frozen, they had come up with the idea that if they pooled their money they’d be collecting while paid while frozen, they’d have enough to be rich and go into business together. To their surprise, money has been devalued and they’re only worth about 40% of what they thought they’d be worth. They go to New York City and try to find work, but there’s none to be had. People have changed, food has changed, they can’t go to college on the GI bill because most colleges have shut down and the few remaining have incredibly high standards. They become disenchanted and decided to reenlist. More soldiers are doing it now, many more. This time they’re frozen for 14 years. They don’t age however. They fight another war. They leave the army again, only to find that the politicians have seized all of their assets while they were frozen and have taken their pay away from them. They’re dead broke. So they reenlist. When they get back to base, they’re given a new briefing about a new technology. It involves something other than cryogenics. Now, pictures can be taken of them, instantly putting their atoms into computers, storing them for as long as necessary, easier to transport, and able to put them back together again when it’s time to fight again. They see taped demonstrations of this and even though they have misgivings, they decide to do it. After all, they have nothing to go home to in the real world. Instantly they’re awakened, ready to fight another war. This one is with Russia. On the moon. And Hawk sees Green die. He’s devastated. Until he finds out the next time around that Green and Symington, who also died, are both there, ready to fight. Now that they’re computerized, they can always be brought back to life. They can never truly die. They’re immortal, always ready to fight wars for whoever commands it. Countries change, alliances change, aliens appear, more worlds are discovered, wars are fought everywhere for hundreds of years and they all live and die a million times over. They’re trapped, slaves of the system. They can never get away, never get their freedom. Until they land on one planet that’s special. And something “wrong” happens to Green. Something that’s never happened before. And all of a sudden, Hawk realizes there actually is a way out, a way to freedom, a way to end this nightmare existence of hell he’s been living. And so he takes it. And it’s pretty freaking awesome. But in the process of what transpires in this book, as Green brings up, what has happened to their souls? They no longer exist as humans. They’re only a microchip. Do they even have souls anymore, if they ever did? Does God exist and if so, does he even care? This book takes a hard look at a number of things and the answer(s) it provides isn’t always pretty and it portends some awful possibilities for our future. But there are ways out. There always are. This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s quite good and it stretches one’s mind. There’s gratuitous sex, but that’s probably more the result of the ’70s sexual revolution during which it was written than anything. The violence isn’t overly extreme. It’s a short book, so it’s a quick read. But it’s a sobering book, so be prepared. Nonetheless, recommended.

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A Review of Once A Hero

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 27, 2015

Once a Hero (The Serrano Legacy, #4)Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Call me completely dumb, but I read a full 300 pages of this novel before giving up because it had gotten so progressively STUPID. God, it was a stupid and boring novel. This was my first Elizabeth Moon novel and I had always heard pretty good things about her, but this was not a good introduction to her work for me. When I bought this, I didn’t know that this was the fourth book in a large series. It would have helped to read the preceding book and from what I could tell, the preceding book would have been a lot better.

In the preceding book, protagonist Lieutenant Esmay Suiza had survived a mutiny on a warship where her captain had turned traitor along with several other ship captains and there was a battle on the ship leaving her senior officer. She took the ship back to the ongoing warship battle and won, beating all odds. In this book, she’s court marshaled for mutiny and is exonerated. She goes to her home planet on leave, has a horrible time, can’t wait to get back to Fleet, and upon arriving, instead of being assigned to another warship, she discovers she’s assigned to a monstrously huge repair spaceship. It has 18 levels and is the size of an orbital space station. It has 25,000 personnel, a captain who hates her, and multiple admirals. She’s assigned to Hull and Architecture, a department she has no experience in, and yes, that’s about the most exciting department on this ship. And so begins an entire book of descriptions of inventory racks, getting lost on various levels, eating in mess halls, taking tubes to various levels, other departments, such as Scan, Tactical, blah, blah, blah. Oh my God, is it boring. She has to go get inventory number GS5077658SL or crap like that and find plan FR564972, etc. How many pages of that shit can you read? Fortunately some action finally occurs. Except that it’s beyond stupid. They find out about a damaged warship in another sector that they want to repair, so they “jump” without escort to get it, find dead and wounded people on it, transfer all of the bloody but strangely unwounded (after all) people to the sick bay, and start working on the ship, which will apparently take months to repair. Two warships that were with the damaged one leave them to go back to their previous destination, leaving the repair ship alone. Understand that their enemies lack good technology and would like nothing more than to capture this type of ship so they could use it for themselves. And so the 25 wounded crew members of the ship they just got are an enemy commando team. And a couple of hours after they’ve been in sick bay, the authorities on the repair ship, get them up, give them clothes and IDs and assign them to various departments to work because they desperately need their help. They desperately need the help of 25 people who don’t know anything about their ship when they already have 25,000 people? Yeah, that’s logical. How freaking stupid is that? When Esmay’s assigned person comes, she gets a bad feeling about him, shares it with her boss, and immediately concludes that it’s an enemy commando team that attacked the ship they took in, killed its personnel, put on their uniforms, are acting as Fleet personnel, and are now spread all over the repair ship ready to take it over. She just knew it. She knew the plan. Somehow. It’s amazing. It’s beyond comprehension that she would be able to come to that conclusion just by interacting with one person from that ship. It literally makes no sense whatsoever. It’s stupid as hell. Of course, it turns out that she’s right, but it’s virtually impossible for anyone to come to that conclusion based on just her instinct. And then the enemy commando team of 25 people steal a few dull dinner knives from the mess hall while eating, get together, and laughingly plan to take over the ship, killing as many people as possible with these “weapons” even though they face 25,000 people. Meanwhile, the captain and admirals have been alerted to everything by Esmay and are planning on taking over the oncoming enemy warships when they arrive, even though they have no weapons. Then they’re going to blow up their own ship and people to keep it out of the hands of the enemy. I read a little bit further. The bad guys take a hostage, Esmay’s love interest. They kill a few people. But I just stopped because the book had gotten so fucking stupid, I just couldn’t continue. I can’t believe how boring and how dumb this book and this premise is. I’ve just finished reading the first 10 Honor Harrington books, which I’ve compared this book to because of the theoretically strong female protagonists, but David Weber can write a believable, compelling story and Honor rocks. Moon is a weak writer who chooses boring things to write about and writes unrealistic scenes and scenarios and makes her books unbelievable as a result. If she had just made some adjustments, changed some things, it could have been better, maybe much better, I’m not sure. But she didn’t and as a result, the book sucks. I’m not going to give any more books in this series a chance. There may be some good ones, but I’m not risking it. Not recommended.

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A Review of Like A Mighty Army

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 25, 2015

Like a Mighty ArmyLike a Mighty Army by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boy, I really don’t know how I feel about this book or about this series anymore. On one hand, I love the series. It’s an awesome, epic story told by a fantastic writer. On the other, like so many other people, I’m getting so damn bitter about the author and his stupid manipulations of us, the readers he obviously holds in disdain, so he can sell a zillion more books. His books move at glacial paces, almost nothing of note ever happens, no progress ever gets made, we’re never much more further along in the story line than in the previous book(s). My God, at this rate, I’m easily going to die before the series ends!!! How in the world Weber expects to move from steam engines and breech loading rifles to plasma weapons and space ships to fight aliens in outer space in a few more books is beyond comprehension. It’s literally impossible at his pace. His books go at about one year per book. This was his seventh book. We’ve come seven years. We’ve gone from cannon balls to artillery shells. Wow. Impressive. Not. At the same time, the story is so amazing and so compelling, that you just want to know how everything is going to work out, what’s going to happen to Charis, to the Church, to Merlin, to the main characters. What’s going to happen??? I want to know, dammit!

This book is no different from the last book. We’re still fighting land battles in Siddarmark. However, at least, tides have turned from the last book and in this book Charisian forces are kicking the hell out of Church forces and their allies all over the Republic and it’s sweet justice to see. Additionally, there are two or three big plot twists, which should and probably will prove interesting in future books — all 45 of them, I’m sure — and the very end of the book is pretty cool and makes me want to read the next book immediately. And it isn’t due to be published until next month. Oh well.

The same problems exist in this book, only more so. The naming conventions are still a nightmare. Changing all the vowels to consonants is insane, but Weber does it, so you have names like Wyllyys and crap like that. And that’s an easy one. He likes to throw as many “y,” “z” and “r” letters into names as possible as replacements for “i” and “e,” etc., and it is enough to make you want to kill the man. Then again, if you’ve made it this far in the series, I guess you’re used to it. I’m still irritated at all of the titles though. Everyone is a baron, earl, prince, upper priest, vicar, bishop, duke, princess, etc, and adding that to the names is enough to drive anyone nuts. Then there are Weber’s pet phrases that he uses repeatedly. Everyone “snorts.” I’ve never seen so many people snort in my entire life. It’s fucking insane. Everyone, including the women and girls, “bare their teeth.” Um, excuse me? This is my pet peeve, I admit, cause I’ve mentioned this in reviews of previous books in this series, but WEBER, no one bares their fucking TEETH!!! Dogs bare their teeth. Wolves bare their teeth. HUMANS DO NOT BARE THEIR DAMN TEETH!!! And he has to have every character in the book do it at least three times on probably every other page through all 900+ pages throughout the book. I want to kill Weber for this alone. It’s brutal. To make matters worse, everyone — all of the bad guys and all of the good guys — do the following: when they are talking with people and, no matter how serious the topic, like they’re about to die in battle, they are for some reason possibly amused, their lips possibly “twitch.” Twitching lips. Oh my God! I must have read about twitching lips some 150 times in this book. Seriously, sometimes I wish Weber would have a fatal heart attack so I wouldn’t have to read this shit anymore cause as long as he writes these Safehold books, I’m going to read them, cursing his name the entire time. But as much as I resent him, I love these books so much. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Go through the online reviews. Most reviewers feel like me. Most hate Weber for his naming conventions, for his plodding pace, for his making this into a 40 book series, for his overused phrases, but everyone says they have to keep reading because it’s such an amazing story and they have to find out what happens and it’s true. It is. And I do. I just wish I could sometime this century. I’m hoping the war in Siddarmark will end sometime in the next two or three books. That will mean it will only have taken five books to get through this damn war. Then we can move on to the Temple Lands and attack Zion and the Group of Four and unseat the Church. Sweet justice, then. Because of how this book ended, I’m anxious to begin the next one, as I said.

This book was good. There was plenty of action. A lot of battle action. A lot of tactics. Far too much about supply lines though. Far too much about gunpowder and the speed of bullets. Skip that crap, Weber, and cut down on the book’s size for our sake, please. Just get to the action. Weber can do a battle like no other. He’s a master. He just gets bogged down in the tactical details from all sides and it’s agonizing at times. Also, one of the faults of this book is that there are so many minor characters and so many chapters and sections opening with minor characters that you have no idea who they are or what army they’re with or who they fight for or anything until you’ve read a little while and it’s annoying. Speaking of characters, again, there are far too many. At the back of the book, there are at least 80 pages of characters listed in an index, which is insane. I have no idea how Weber keeps track of them. I certainly can’t. I’ve said this before, and so have many other people, but he seriously needs several editors, because he obviously has none. This is a five star book with three star problems, thus earning it four stars. Similar to several other Safehold books. I wish Weber would learn from his mistakes and/or listen to his readers. I guess he’s too arrogant for that since he’s obviously making tens of millions of dollars from us. If you’re reading the series, the book is obviously recommended. If you’re not, don’t read it; begin with the first book. You won’t understand it if you don’t.

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New Ray’s Road Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 23, 2015

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the Fall 2015 issue of Ray’s Road Review. It has plenty of new fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photography. Feel free to check it out at http://raysroadreview.com.

Since I’m the poetry editor, I may as well plug the poets. They are Ruth Z. Deming, Ernest Williamson, R.T. Castleberry, Ross Knapp, Michael H. Brownstein, and Lowell Jaeger. There’s also a book review. It’s a pretty good group of poets representing wide styles of poetry with a variety of subjects. If you enjoy contemporary poetry, check it out.

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A Review of Robot City: Refuge

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 23, 2015

Refuge (Isaac Asimov's Robot City, #5)Refuge by Rob Chilson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t understand this book, or rather the importance of this book to the series. I don’t think it adds very much to the series and instead think it detracts and distracts. I think it’s poorly written (did you know you can collect water in space for fuel for your space ship?) and the science is spurious and the concept is bad and I have no idea what the series editors were thinking when they thought about this fifth book in the six book series.

So far, Derec and Ariel have been trapped on and in Robot City for the first four books and have been desperate to escape, especially since Ariel’s mysterious fatal illness finally seems to be getting worse and also because Derec wants to find the source of his amnesia. At the end of the last book, they’ve escaped the evil Dr. Avery with Wolruf and Mandelbrot in Dr. Avery’s space ship and are heading out. In this book, they use a Key to Perihelion to transport them to somewhere, anywhere, and to their horror, they wind up on earth. Earth is a spacer’s nightmare. It’s beyond overcrowded. It’s so overpopulated that its entire population is larger than all 50 colonized planets combined! And this is one of the stupid things about the book. When I read that, I thought, holy cow — there must be like 100 billion people on the planet to beat out 50 other planets in some distant future. Everyone lives underground and travels underground and the cities are all underground. How many people are there? Bear in mind that this book was written in 1988. There were probably about five billion people on the planet at the time of publication. So, to my shock, Derec and Ariel were horrified to learn that earth had EIGHT BILLION people living on it!!! Oh my God! Eight billion! More than 50 planets! Um, really? How freaking stupid is that? We already nearly have that many now, just a few decades after publication of this book. Are you telling me this sci fi writer couldn’t look into the future and see serious over population? What a massive moron!

Anyway, Derec and Ariel are on earth and they’re overwhelmed at all the people. I mean, they are surrounded by thousands of people. Thousands. Oh my God. The horror. I can’t imagine. Poor spacers. Apartments are tiny and don’t include bathrooms or kitchens, so they have to share communal bathrooms and go to giant cafeterias. Additionally, earthmen hate robots, so even though Dr. Avery has one in his apartment who helps them, they can’t take it out with them or it would be torn apart.

They find they’re in St. Louis. They travel around, feeling claustrophobic. They get identified as spacers and some people try to attack them. They want to get out to the surface and driving trucks is one of the only ways to do so, so they take a course, but have to withdraw after their fake IDs are identified. Meanwhile Ariel’s getting much worse. The only real redeeming aspect of the book is that she is hospitalized and the medical staff is able to diagnose and cure her of her plague she had gotten on Aurora. Her memories are erased, but they are able to slowly replace many of them, with Derec’s help, but it takes time. Meanwhile, he’s doing very poorly himself and seems to be getting sick. He keeps dreaming of Robot City. He dreams it’s inside him. And then he realizes, somehow, that it is. That it’s growing inside of him and that Dr. Avery did something to him that needs to be fixed only by returning to Robot City in an effort to save his life. Finally, he and Ariel are able to fly to New York City, underground (I want to know how they got the Arch of St. Louis magically underground???), and take a space ship off planet. Soon they are attacked by the same alien from the first book who had captured them, but Wolruf and Mandelbrot show up and the four of them fight him off and destroy his ship. The last paragraph of the book has Mandelbrot using the Key to take all four back to Robot City.

All that said, there’s virtually nothing about Robot City in this book at all. We never see it. It’s not often mentioned. We rarely see robots. We spend virtually all of our time on earth with Derec and Ariel and while it’s minimally interesting, I actually got pretty bored quite soon. I thought it was filler. I thought, aside from finding Ariel’s cure, which could have taken place anywhere, including Robot City, this book really had little to nothing to offer and I don’t even know why it was written. I thought, as in previous books, the dialogue was stilted, the plot line was shaky, the logic was faulty, the science was pretty sad, and the entire representation of earth was beyond unrealistic. Just a poor, poor book. Since I have the last book, I’m going to read it. I think this is a somewhat poor series, not well written, but on the whole, I’ve enjoyed it to a certain degree, in part because it’s fairly original and I appreciate that. It’s also got a lot of mystery about it and I’m hoping all becomes clear in this next book. I can’t recommend this book at all and even if you’re reading this series, I would just skip it, because other than Ariel’s cure, there’s not much else here to make it worthwhile. Looking forward to the final book though….

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A Review of Ashes of Victory

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 22, 2015

Ashes of Victory (Honor Harrington, #9)Ashes of Victory by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ashes of Victory is an excellent follow up to Echoes of Honor. I loved it. So much happens in this book that your head just swims. There are some real shockers too. This book is probably a turning point in the series. At least that’s what I’m guessing.

So, Honor is back on Grayson from her stay on the Haven prison planet of Hades and she’s a massive hero there and on Manticore as well. Hell, all over the entire Alliance. Everyone’s spirits are lifted. And Haven recognizes they have a PR disaster on their hands after they had announced — and shown — her execution. Manticore’s Queen Elizabeth calls Honor to Manticore to meet with her and, since Honor’s title had shifted to her cousin since she had been assumed dead, to give her the title of Duchess and a new and huge estate. Additionally, the Navy asks her to teach tactics at the Academy and finally does the right thing by jumping her three slots from Commodore to full Admiral. She’s stunned and honored. She also has the nerve damage in her face repaired, her lost eye replaced, and her lost arm replaced by a prosthetic arm she clumsily has to learn to use from scratch. But she’s well on her way to being back to full health. Nimitz, too, has surgery and is physically repaired, although they’re still trying to figure out a way for him to regain his empath abilities. And Honor has a specialist teach the tree cats, and the humans, sign language so they can all talk, and boy do they talk.

Meanwhile, Haven’s Admiral McQueen remains on the offensive, if somewhat cautiously. However, Saint-Just decides to move on his perception of McQueen’s ambition and many Navy personnel wind up dead as a result. This, after Haven top man Pierre is assassinated. Saint-Just is the only Committee member left and takes over as dictator. At the same time, Manticore finally decides to go back on the offensive with its new and mighty secret weapons they’ve been developing for the past few years and their offensive is completely destructive. Haven has no chance. However, as I said, there are some shockers in the book and both systems experience massive system changes that will change everything in the military and political dynamics for both. It’s somewhat mind blowing and totally unexpected. The ending of the book, like virtually all Honor Harrington books, is tension filled, fast paced, and action packed. It’s very exciting to read and experience. Now I’m looking forward to the next book. Again. I seem to say that with every Honor book I review. From what I understand, however, things change in the series from battles and naval engagements to politics and I’m not entirely thrilled with that, but I’m still going to read. I’m really into the series. I think it’s quite good and I think the Honor character is a very good character. If reading the series in order like one must, this book is highly recommended.

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My Birthday

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 21, 2015

This past Saturday was my birthday. I turned 49. One more year til the big 5-0. I better enjoy it.

I had a pretty good day. I wanted a laid back day and that’s what I got. No parties, no friends, no family, other than my wife. Just my wife and my cats. It was sweet.

Gretchen started the day by making me some delicious low carb pancakes. Very nice. I read for a little bit and finished a really good book that I had tried to finish the night before. I’ll review it soon. It was excellent. Then we went to McKay Used Books, which is a huge used bookstore that also sells music, movies and games. I got seven new sci fi books for not very much at all, and Gretchen got a couple of books herself, so it was a successful outing. We also stopped at Walgreens to pick up four of my prescriptions. Fortunately, they didn’t cost too much, so that was a good thing.

We went home and hung out. I made myself my usual low carb lunch. I like to read during lunch, so I did. Lunch lasts a long time for me. Gretchen thinks it’s funny. Henry usually comes to visit me during lunch. Ace used to, but he doesn’t anymore. I’m not sure why.

Of course, Saturdays are now college football days and I’m elated. There were some good games that day, but most didn’t start til mid-afternoon, so I talked with Gretchen and read til then. I also talked with Mom on the phone, who sang Happy Birthday to me. Gretchen went to the gym, so I went down to the den to turn on some football. I watched a little of the LSU and Auburn game and also the Notre Dame and Georgia Tech game.

After awhile it was time to feed the cats and they were very happy about it. Then it was time for our dinner. Gretchen, at my request, made me a low carb pizza which is actually quite good. She had something else because it’s not her favorite. Later we had some allegedly low carb cake with some icing she had made. It was great! Gretchen also gave me a lovely card and a couple of cool presents. They were a Pittsburgh Pirates coffee mug, a great looking one, and a Pirates t-shirt, which fits great. Just what I wanted. She took a picture of me holding them. I think I’ll post it here.

After dinner, it was pretty much time for the Tennessee/Western Carolina game, so we turned that on. If you’re a Vols fan, like we are, it was an awesome game. We completely dominated and won 55-10. The whole team played well. Which was good because next week we play Florida and we have to be prepared for that. We haven’t beaten Florida in forever, but this year I think they’re going down and it’ll be pretty sweet if that happens.

We went to bed fairly early, in part because I had been up since 12:30 AM and was tired. I have severe insomnia and am often up between midnight and 1:30 for the rest of the day. It’s tiring. As for the diet, since mid-February I’ve been on an extremely low carb diet with Gretchen (I average 6 carbs per meal.) and I’ve lost about 56 pounds. I look and feel better, but I still have to lose a whole lot more. I have a long way to go, but I think I’ll be able to keep losing for awhile before I level off. At least I hope so. Anyway, all in all, it was a pretty good birthday. Thanks for letting me tell you about it.

Me with my birthday presents

Me with my birthday presents












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A Review of Echoes of Honor

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 18, 2015

Echoes of Honor (Honor Harrington, #8)Echoes of Honor by David Weber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought this eighth book in the Honor Harrington series was completely spectacular! I was beyond impressed.

The book started off right where the previous book left off — with Honor and her crew marooned on the Haven prison island of Hades, trying to figure out an exit strategy after they had escaped the SS star ship taking them there by blowing it up and taking two of its small ships to the surface. However, Haven is devious if nothing else and produces a doctored video shown around the universe of Honor being executed by hanging and Manticore and Grayson’s citizens are stunned and devastated. They both hold gigantic funerals in her honor. Then there’s the matter of her titles and inheritance. She left no heir, so her cousin is given the Manticorian title of earl, in her stead, while the leaders of Grayson try to figure out what to do with her Key and her steading. The good thing is her physician parents are there, working in the geneticist clinic she set up, and they are talked into giving birth to another child to become her heir and to inherit her steadholder title.

Meanwhile, Haven’s wildly successful Admiral Esther McQueen is pretty much sticking it to Manticore while simultaneously juggling her new role as an official member of The Committee of Public Safety. She plans a four pronged attack against Manticore and Haven’s navy carries it out, but Manticore has some new secret weapons at its disposal and at two of these worlds that are attacked, they are deployed with heavy Peep losses. That said, Haven’s attacks are successful and Manticore is shaken to the bone. All of a sudden, its people realize they’re on the defensive for the first time in the war and it’s extremely demoralizing.

So Honor and her small crew are on Hades, also known as Hell. They’ve been spying on a small group of troublemaking prisoners, with the goal of making contact to see if they could ally themselves with them to attack the Havenite SS guards on the headquarters island of Styx. They make contact and befriend these prisoners, some of whom have been on this prison world for as long as 70 years. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of prisoners there. Honor has weapons and body armor for hundreds of them and begins to train them for an assault on Styx. They just wait for the right time. It eventually comes along and they take off. One of their ships takes off for an outlying courier ship that could alert other Havenites to what they’re up to and it blasts it out of the sky. Honor’s ship blows up Styx’s defenses, hell, half the island, lands and disperses its troops, and they quickly take over the island. They hold court martials for the Peep guards who were barbarians and execute many of them. The big problem now is how to get a half million prisoners off the world and back to Manticore. Honor has plans, however. And I’ll be damned if she doesn’t succeed. How she does it, I’ll leave for you readers to find out, but the pages are tense and action packed, particularly the final 150 pages. When she finally arrives in Manticorian space in the last couple of pages, it’s simply amazing that she was able to pull this off and survive. It’s stunning. It’s her best feat yet. And it’s the best Honor book I’ve read to date. Indeed, I know the next one starts off immediately where this one leaves off and I’ve already picked it up and begun reading it and I’m not disappointed. It’s a really exciting book with a lot of suspense and a lot of action and if you’re reading the Honor Harrington series, it’s strongly recommended.

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A Review of Cauldron

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 16, 2015

Cauldron (The Academy, #6)Cauldron by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cauldron was a pretty good book and a fairly satisfying ending to the Academy and Hutch six book series McDevitt created and wrote. A lot of the former characters make appearances again and that’s nice to see. A giant mystery is partially solved, so that’s good. But still, it’s not the best book I’ve read and thus, four stars and not five.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve read the entire series and know what to expect, but I felt as though a lot in this book was fairly predictable. New worlds are discovered. The crew goes down to a planet to explore ruins. A main character dies, which always happens in these books. They investigate a black hole. They spend a lot of time in space, bored and getting on each other’s nerves.

However, there are some differences as well. First, the Academy is no more. It’s been about, maybe, twenty years since the events in the last novel occurred and the government and the people are sick of space exploration and don’t want to fund it anymore. After all, nothing is ever found, for the most part. Why pour billions and billions of dollars into a losing effort? But there’s still a foundation in existence for space exploration. And a young scientist who was the protege of a deceased researcher who discovers a new space drive that provides for transportation at incredible speed. As in earth to Pluto in six seconds. Meanwhile, Hutch is retired, missing her dead husband and her kids who are off at college.

Rudy, the man in charge of this foundation, and Jon, the scientist, want to take this new space drive, after testing it, out into deep space where no one’s gone before. They have a pilot, Matt, a former Academy pilot who has been selling real estate for several years. But they want to take two ships and they need another pilot, so they talk Hutch into it. Sweet. Also, they take a journalist, Antonio, with them. And they decide to go to the galactic core, the Cauldron, in search of the origin of the Omega clouds seen in so many of these Academy books, which have been so very destructive. They want to find what’s behind the clouds, what the secret is. It’s a zillion light years from earth and they’re going to have to make several stops along the way and the travel will take a number of months.

As I wrote, things are fairly predictable. In fact, I got bored and thought I’d be giving this book three stars. Until I reached the last four or five chapters. The last section of the book, when they reached the Cauldron. And things changed. The ending was pretty cool. It was unexpected. It wasn’t totally satisfying, to be honest, but it was original and McDevitt tried to wrap things up while still leaving a bit of a mystery to the story, if that makes any sense. After the final scenes, there’s an epilogue telling what happened to the survivors, which is a strategy I don’t always like, but in this case, it seemed appropriate. All in all, it was a pretty good series, especially the first three books with Hutch as pilot. It went downhill when she went into administration. This book was an improvement over the previous two though. I’m sad it’s over. I’ve also been reading McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series. I have one remaining in that series too and when I’m done with that, I guess I’ll be done with McDevitt, which is sad, because I’ve really enjoyed reading his books. This book can probably be read as a stand alone novel, but I recommend reading the series in order, as you’ll have a better understanding of the overall plot. Recommended.

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