A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for May, 2016

NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Pittsburgh Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup finals after years of failure to meet expectations

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 27, 2016

After years of falling short of expectations, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are finally returning to the Stanley Cup finals.

Source: NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Pittsburgh Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup finals after years of failure to meet expectations

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A Review of Burn Down The Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 23, 2016

Burn Down the SkyBurn Down the Sky by James Jaros
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Okay, at first I thought this book had potential. Emmy-winning author. Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian. I dig it. My kind of thing. Promising beginning. Lots of violence. I can deal with that. But then some creepy things start, well, creeping into the book. First, it’s the Wicca virus (nice title, eh?), where it’s spread by sexual transmission, but then eventually pretty much everyone is infected or a carrier – except young girls who have not yet menstruated, and they are not infected for one year, 365 days, after they first begin to do so, at which point they become infected and for all intents and purposes, become disposable. Which means, they’re the only females on earth that horny men can safely have sex with – 11 and 12 year old girls. Think about that for a minute. Then start thinking about the premise of this book. Yeah.

So, marauders go out to attack different camps, violently, and steal their young girls, and in this southern region based in old Knoxville, take them back to a freakish religious cult called the Army of God, which is armed, powerful, and made up of pedophiliac killers. This happens to a woman named Jessie, whose young daughter is stolen in a raid that kills over 100 of her colleagues. She and her daughter, Bliss, start out tracking this group, just the two of them, against well armed marauders, but they end up joining forces with some other people in their situation and start looking for this fortress.

The things that started disturbing me about this book, though, were the descriptions of the young girls and their bodies and what the dirty old men did to them. Vivid descriptions. Jessie’s daughter, Ananda, lived in fear of getting her first period because then she would be married off to a dirty old man, get impregnated immediately, hopefully give birth to a female child, that they could bring up for more sexual slavery – a boy child would be sold off – and after 365 days, she would disappear, permanently. It happens to all of the girls. There is torture. If you talk back, they wash you eyes out with lye to blind you to teach you a lesson. If you are too resistant, they say you’re in league with the devil, maybe even a witch, and burn you alive at the stake and make all of the girls watch.

Meanwhile, all of the girls have to strip, be washed, especially between their legs and buttocks, cleaned, changed. Ananda is forced to live with the fortress leader and his Nazi-like female companion, sleeping on the floor outside their door. He makes her take her top off and get a doll and practice nursing with it, so he can see her “light colored” nipples, multiple times. We’re given multiple descriptions of her pubic hair, size, shape, thickness. We see other naked young girls through her eyes. What this book eventually, sneakily becomes is not a dystopian sci fi novel, but child porn mixed in with some child torture – kiddie porn. It’s fucking disgusting. I have no idea if this is even legal. I guess if you can sell de Sade, you can sell this, but it’s beyond me why you would market child porn as sci fi and expect people to be okay with this. I found it disturbing, disgusting, repulsive, and appalling, and while part of me admired his writing skills, cause Jaros is a good writer, I was far more put off with the subject material and felt dirty after reading passages of this book. I’ve actually read worse, like when I read The Turner Diaries, but this isn’t a controversial underground white supremacist novel that inspired the greatest act of domestic terrorism in American history. This atrocity is on any sci fi bookshelf in America and that’s disturbing to me. Any 12-year-old kid could pick this up – and be scarred by it. As a writer myself, I’ve never advocated censorship and I’m still not sure I do, but this book belongs on the top shelf, or on its own shelf, or in a glass case – I’m not sure what the answer is, but it’s R to X rated and I don’t think 10 and 12 year old kids should be reading it unsupervised.

This book had a lot of potential and part of me is sorry I’m not going to find out what happens to the family, but I’m not going to subject myself to more and more child torture and child porn to find out. I’m not willing to sell my soul for so little in return. Even though the subject matter merits one star, the writing and originality of the book merits more, so I’m giving it two stars, reluctantly, with the provision that caution should be exercised by any and all who read it, knowing its subject matter is controversial. Therefore, two stars and not recommended.

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Pet Shop Boys Tickets!

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 13, 2016

Wednesday, my favorite DJ, Richard Blade, on my favorite radio station, SeriusXM’s First Wave, announced one of my very favorite groups would be going on a world tour and it had just been announced the day before. He read off some of the cities for where the Pet Shop Boys will be playing: four cities in the UK, followed by 11 cities in America, a few in Canada, a few in Europe, and Moscow. And he mentioned Nashville! God, my ears perked up when I heard that. The Pet Shop Boys just released a new album on April 1st and it went to the #1 album on Billboard’s Dance Charts, where it stayed for at least a month, and it was their 11th #1 album. I know it’s hard for a lot of people to believe, because many people think of them as an ’80s band, but seriously, they’re a hard working, successful band with a lot of hits to their credit.

I went to my computer and went to the band’s website. I found the tour page. There was Nashville. Friday, November 4th. I decided I had to go. Had to. Must. Once in a lifetime opportunity. They’re only going to four southern cities — two in Florida, Atlanta, and Nashville. It’s a must see show. Could I get tickets? That’s the question.

As I said, the Pet Shop Boys announced their new world tour, which went on sale Wednesday with VIP tickets, yesterday with pre-sale tickets, and today with tickets to the general public. With their new #1 album, the 11th of their career, they’re big time and I have virtually all of their albums and am excited as hell to see them. And even though they’re only coming to 11 American cities, Nashville is one of them, in November, as I said. So, yesterday, I camped out at my computer, determined to get pre-sale tickets. I wanted VIP tickets, but found out too late. Now ticket prices have really gone up over the years. Duran Duran, who I’m seeing by myself in July (because Gretchen hates them — LOL!) had their top tickets priced for resale on sites like StubHub at $900. That’s a lot. So, since Pet Shop Boys are technically more successful, I expected tickets to possibly be even more expensive than that, and was willing to pay a small fortune for good seats. For the record, Gretchen’s not a big fan of this band either, but since I went to see Barry Manilow with her, I guess she’d be returning the favor with this concert with me, or perhaps that’s how she sees it. So, I logged on yesterday morning and found my section, Orchestra Front, and looked at the prices and I was stunned! They were shockingly low. Like 20 years too low. No one sells concert tickets for that low anymore and certainly not big time artists with #1 albums. Stunned, I ordered two tickets and walked away with two good tickets in the fourth row, center, for under $200!!! OK, I literally thought I’d be asked to pay about $2600 for those kinds of tickets. Not that I would necessarily pay that, mind you. Just, that’s what I expected to see. So, now we’re going to see a great band with dozens of fantastic dance hits from tons of great albums for next to nothing and I’m so excited, I can barely stand it! I just want to go dancing in the streets, or at least jumping around. Gretchen will probably sulk, and I can’t blame her cause God knows I make her listen to a lot of that band, but she’s a gamer and I appreciate the sacrifice she’ll be making. I really do. True love.

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A Review of The Amazon Legion

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 10, 2016

The Amazon LegionThe Amazon Legion by Tom Kratman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wow. This is truly pathetic “military sci fi.” Remind me to never read Kratman again. This book centers around a division of female warriors defending their country against a bigger, tougher, stronger, richer invader, and presumably how they overcome their weaknesses in kicking ass. I guess. All I got out of the first few pages was, “Oh, look at the baby. How cute. Who’s going to take care of the baby. Oh, it’s good that she was hired to take care of children and babies. She may be a grandmother, but she’s damn good for the military. And my baby does so well with her.” And on and on. Jesus.

Needless to say, I didn’t get far. There was another reason too, and this is a pet peeve of mine. It’s the 24th century, I believe. Colonies have been established by Earth, spaceships/warships abound, technology has come far, right? So, why the HELL are we still fighting with 20th century weapons??? Most sci fi writers invent new types of weapons as technology in the future advances, certainly, lasers being the easiest and most popular. Plasma weapons are also quite popular. Asimov had his neuronic whips, and he wrote these in the 1950s. So, why the HELL do some authors, including this so called one, persist in using antiquated weaponry like M-16s and AK-47s, 1911s and RPGs? Is it not possible that the defense industry, the most heavily financed industry in America, could advance its technology just a L I T T L E bit in the next 300+ years? Is that too much to ask for? To me, authors like Tom Kratman, desperately trying to prove their military sci fi legitimacy, do just the opposite in writing their military units using antiquated weaponry like that. Every now and then, I’ll read an author that includes some “slug throwers” with lasers and the like and to me, that’s acceptable because at least they’re mixing it up, but when everything is exactly as it was in the Vietnam War, screw that bullshit!

Furthermore, this information comes from reviews I read online, but it appears that about 70% of this book is taken up with basic training and with the “Amazonian” warriors trying to have all sorts of lesbian encounters as often as possible. I have nothing against lesbians. I have several who are good friends. It’s just when you use that to get your rocks off without advancing the plot that it makes me suspect that you’re a shitty writer with no talent whatsoever.

Finally, the only thing actually “sci fi” about this novel is it happens upon another planet. Otherwise, it might as well happen upon Earth. There’s no sci fi in this book. This book is an imposter to sci fi. The author is a fake, a fraud, and should be called on it. I’m doing that right now, as a matter of fact. It’s just a shame he’s written other similar books because I’m certain that if they’re like this, they’re equally as bad and shamelessly fraudulent. Most military sci fi writers have a bio on the backs of the books, usually inside the back cover. He does not. Perhaps it’s because he was never in the military and therefore knows nothing about which he speaks. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to write a military sci fi book. I’d criticize one though, because I know good ones and bad ones when I see them. David Weber is the standard by which all great military sci fi writers are measured. Kratman is the antithesis of Weber. Avoid this book. It’s truly horrible and at times, simply laughable. One star. Definitely not recommended.

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A Review of Thousandstar

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 4, 2016

Thousandstar (Cluster, #4)Thousandstar by Piers Anthony
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. Not too impressed. I must admit, I approached this book with a little excitement because this was my first Piers Anthony novel and his reputation precedes him. I’ve read collaborations of his and some of his short stories, I believe, but never one of his solo novels, so I felt like it was time. While this wasn’t my typical sci fi fare, it seemed intriguing enough to merit buying and reading, so I did. And I simply got bored. Rather quickly. Actually, I made it nearly 40% of the way through, past page 112, until I gave up in frustration.

The story revolves around two alien beings, Heem of Highfalls and Jessica of Capella. Heem is a water-based blob who travels by rolling and communicates by taste and needling water. When we meet him, he is one of four HydrOs left in his valley and is eager to climb his mountain to see what is on the other side. When he does, the other three dying in the process, he is horrified to discover a snake-like meat eater, which he had never encountered or thought of before and is repulsed by.

Jessica is a blue, royal clone of a brother on Capella who are rapidly going bankrupt. Her brother devises a scheme to get them solvent quickly and it involves a quick, but possibly dangerous 10-day mission for him off planet. The two are so alike, they share virtually identical “auras,” and others don’t realize there are two of them. Shortly before he is to leave on his mission, he has an accident with a saw, begs Jessica to kill him and go on his mission for him, which horrifies her, but to do it to keep the family solvent and to keep it going into the future, so she does kill him and does exactly that – enter the contest, which is the mission.

Meanwhile, we find Heem is part of this contest. How he enters, we have no idea. Somehow along the way, we don’t know how much time has passed, but during this time, he has developed a reputation for being the best spaceship pilot and combat HydrO on his planet. How he went from inexperienced, but adventurous to Indiana Jones in blob form is beyond me and never explained, but there you have it. And this contest is made all the more difficult because there are three species piloting spaceships and all three are going to have other aliens in their minds “helping” them. How this happens is never explained to us. And guess what? Guess who winds up in Heem’s mind? Of course! Jessica. Big shock, right? And because Heem has no eyes, no head even, is a water-based blob, she can’t see, has no idea what is going on, except he realizes she is a female meat eater and is horrified that she is in his head and they can read each other’s minds, nothing is hidden from the other, so it’s interesting. For awhile. Then it gets old.

There are some 200 pilots and ships vying for 50 slots to make it to a certain planet to achieve a certain goal that only a few can come close to achieving and that only one will win, and it’s a life or death contest. Who is putting on the contest and why? No clue. Who has been invited and why? No clue. How have certain aliens been invited to ride in the pilots’ minds and why and how does it work? No clue. It’s never explained. For instance, when Heem gets into his spaceship, he’s shocked to hear a voice in his mind, a female alien voice that he can magically detect comes from a meat eater and is disgusted by. How can he tell this? Where does she come from? Where is her body? How can her mind be separated from her body and how is it placed in his mind? How can they read each other’s minds? Never explained. I can understand sci fi telepathy. But it’s not even mentioned here. Is it assumed? I guess so? But where is Jessica’s body? And how did her mind get into Heem’s mind? I want to fucking know!!!

Then the “action” starts! Heem’s is the 200th ship in line. He has to maneuver to get into the top 50, so he starts racing while having to conserve his fuel. The race goes on and on. There’s strategy and part of it is clever and occasionally exciting, but honestly, you can skim page after page and even skip five or eight pages at a time and not miss anything. It becomes boring as anything. And with Jessica interrupting Heem at virtually every thought he has, asking for explanations at everything he is thinking and doing, it turns into a second grade lesson for young, adolescent sci fi fans on basic strategy which is unbelievably annoying for those of us who have been reading the genre for awhile and can figure most of this out on our own. She’s obviously a total dumbass, but that doesn’t mean all of the readers are, Anthony!

This race goes on and on, page after page. It became apparent to me that this was going to take up the majority of the book and even though I’ve read other things happen – not much – towards the end of the book, I wasn’t willing to finish reading a book with such little action, suspense, lack of interesting dialogue, and lack of interesting plotlines. Basically, after the “cute” little hook of the two characters reading each other’s minds and dialoguing together, the book has nothing to offer, so there’s no point in continuing. Thus, my first Piers Anthony, while it had some promise, was largely a disappointment. Nonetheless, the book had enough in it and his reputation is big enough so that I’m willing to read more of his work. I just don’t know what book of his I should try next. I’m open to suggestions. Two stars for originality. However, not recommended.

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A Review of A Soldier’s Duty

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 2, 2016

A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why, #1)A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A Soldier’s Duty is horseshit military science fiction. It’s not realistically military and the science fiction is insufficient, as I will explain.

I started experiencing pangs of nervousness almost immediately as I began reading this book. Something didn’t feel “right” about it. Something felt off. The protagonist, Ia, a precog, is just a little too powerful, a little too smug about it, a little too full of herself, especially at such a young age. And then after joining the military and seeing the first few hours, literally, after signing up, of I guess, boot camp, of getting her supplies, of her new drill sergeant, of the same, old tired stereotypes burned into everyone’s brains who’ve ever read anything about military anything boot camps, the dialogue, it’s juvenile. You almost wonder if a professional editor even looked it over. Nothing remotely original about it. Can nothing have changed in all of the centuries or millennium that have taken place between World War Two and then, between basic training back in the 1940s and thousands of years in the future? I know the military has its traditions, but when you break with traditions by putting women in combat roles in the future, by putting precogs in the military, probably as every military sci fi writer seems to love to do, by having both genders bunk together and shit, shave, and shower together, than military tradition is out the door in my book, so basic training can evolve too, so authors, please evolve with it when writing dialogue for your drill sergeants!

The thing that made this not very believable sci fi for me was the protagonist was essentially omnipotent, virtually omniscient, had practically godlike powers, had plans dating hundreds of years into the future, so what tensions or drama could possibly exist that would merit building a book around her, what could an author do to or with her that would make her audience fear for her life when they know she can do anything and she’ll triumph in the end? It defeats the purpose of even writing the book!

All of this made me wonder about the qualifications of the author. I thought maybe it was a first time author. Not so. Worse. Romance writer! A fucking romance writer attempting to write military sci fi! It’s unthinkable. It’s an insult to the genre. Imagine David Weber or David Drake trying to write a romance. It’s laughable. This woman’s bio has a picture of an obese woman who appears to have never been near a military base, in terms of fitness, and who offers no credentials at all. Most sci fi writers are scientists or military vets, most. She simply wants to entertain and inspire. Those are her “credentials” in her bio! It’s obscene. How does she expect to be taken seriously? It’s an affront to serious sci fi, especially military sci fi, writers. And, I should have read these, the plugs/blurbs from publications for the book on the inside cover come from publications such as Errant Dreams, Romance Junkies, Romance Reviews Today, and The Romance Reader. No Publishers Weekly and nothing by any sci fi reviewer or publication. I’m not surprised.

The shocker is, this book nearly has a 4 rating on Goodreads! But I’m about to discover and display an ugly misogynistic side to myself I didn’t know I had before now. In going over the ratings, I discovered that all but one of the five star ratings were by women. They raved. And all of the one and two star reviews were by men, who thought the book sucked. So, I would venture that many women fans of her work, I assume a number of whom are romance readers, read this and found it appealing and gave it five stars. Meanwhile, many stereotypical male military sci fi readers, such as myself, read this in the hopes of reading some good stuff, as the premise does sound interesting, found it to be simplistic horseshit, and gave it one and two star reviews and wrote it off as crap. Thus a battle between the sexes. Sad, but true. I’ve not really seen this before in similar books. Most female military sci fi readers are as well versed and accomplished in the genre as any man. So, I’m convinced the people giving this book such good reviews are the author’s romance fans. Otherwise, I think the book would have a much closer to 3.25 rating overall.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t get very far in this book, gave up, am going to be selling it to my used bookstore and am giving it one star. It is the work of an amateur out of her league and it shows. Definitely not recommended.

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