hankrules2011

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Archive for June, 2016

A Review of Washington’s Dirigible

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 29, 2016

Washington's Dirigible (Timeline Wars #2)Washington’s Dirigible by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Odd book. Sequel to Patton’s Spaceship, which I just recently reviewed and gave four stars to. I thought it was a pretty solid book and looked forward to this one. This one wasn’t bad, necessarily, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, not nearly as much. I’ve given it some thought and I haven’t been able to quite pin it down. Is it me? Is it the book, the author? What? Well, I don’t think it’s me, so I’m blaming the book. I feel like it simply wasn’t as good as the first. The first was original, innovative, fresh. With this one, we know what to expect, but there weren’t too many new innovations. Only one real significant change, and it is significant, but at the same time, fairly predictable given the circumstances. And this issue makes up the crux of the book, more so than anything else.

In this book, Mark Strang is now a fully trained ATN agent who is battling the Closers, trying to prevent critical points in historical timelines from being changed. Here, he finds himself in colonial America, but things are different. Britain and America have remained friendly. George Washington is the Duke of Kentucky. The king is on friendly terms with the colonies, or was at least.

But Mark finds that what the ATN was worried about is true. Their local agent is dead and the Closers have been making headway. In fact, the Closer agent in this timeline is named … Mark Strang, and yes, it is he, himself! He first discovers this soon upon arrival as he is walking around and people are greeting him by name as though they know him. He finds this odd. Soon he sees … himself. It gets weirder from there on out.

Mark gets in some legal trouble in Boston but then heads to England. He has to find out how this world’s timeline has changed in order to correct it so history can be returned to normalcy for this world. A lot happens in England. There’s a lot of action and he can’t escape the Closer Strang. Ultimately, they meet upon a dirigible, not unlike what occurs in the first book, to a certain degree. This time, though, there’s a vicious battle and it’s to the death.

This book is fairly good. It’s good enough to keep your attention and it has just enough action to keep you interested. I continue to think it’s not as action packed or as interesting as the first book. And there’s virtually no mention of Porter, the daughter Mark adopts at the end of the first book whom the ATN predicts is going to play such a critical role in the future of several worlds. Why isn’t she here? Nonetheless, and possibly because of things like that, this book doesn’t necessarily need to be read after the first one. It would help, but it could also be read as a stand-alone book. This book is a decent example of steampunk, back when that was still a fairly new genre, so nice touch, John Barnes. Ultimately, though, this book wasn’t nearly as satisfying for me as its predecessor, the four star Patton’s Spaceship. Thus, even though it’s possible to argue this book also deserves four stars, I’m not sure I should give it four stars. 3.5 is more accurate. I’m not sure if I should round down to three or up to four. I’ll tell you what. If it were an author I didn’t know or respect, I would round down, but since I’ve read a number of John Barnes books, nearly all of which I really liked and thought were well done, I’m going to round up to four stars. So, grudgingly, four stars. Cautiously recommended.

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World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 29, 2016

Across sports and across generations, luminaries including Martina Navratilova, Mia Hamm and Robin Roberts took to social media to pay tribute to Pat Summitt.

Source: World takes to social media to mourn Pat Summitt’s death, celebrate her legacy

 

Yesterday was a very sad day, not only in the sports world, but in the state of Tennessee, in women’s athletics, and for me personally. I believe Pat was one of the most prominent Tennesseans to have ever lived and her death at such a young age is a devastating loss, but it’s wonderful to see how loved and respected she is/was too. These tributes by people from all walks, including Billie Jean King, Dick Vitale, Russell Wilson, and more, are both moving and telling of her impact on people. I hope you read this article and get a good idea of how much she was appreciated for being the most winning basketball coach of any gender in history, the winner of eight national championships, a coach for whom every woman who played for her graduated with a degree (which is an amazing statistic) and additionally every one who played for her played in a Final Four (equally amazing over 38 years). RIP Pat.

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My Fifth WordPress Anniversary

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

WordPress was kind enough to notify me a few days ago, on the 20th, that it was my my fifth anniversary with them, blogging away the whole time. It’s hard to believe. I had come over from Xanga, a blogging site I had been on since 2004 and one I loved desperately. It’s just that friends were leaving that site in droves — I didn’t know why, no one told me — and I felt like the site was going to hell, so while I didn’t delete my Xanga account, I started searching for a new blogging home. I had friends on this place, Blogger, and TypePad, but it was WordPress that really stood out for me, and besides, this online literary journal I had recently become poetry editor for had an account here, so I decided to open my new site here. I did and never looked back. My first posts were unusual and designed to introduce myself to new people, let people get to know me. I didn’t start writing book reviews until about three years ago or so. I wrote about writing, creative writing, sports, health, politics, publishing, published some memes, some lists of favorite books, songs, bands, etc., had quite a few posts which weren’t easy to categorize, etc. But then I started to find my niche with my book reviews, which, much to my surprise, became my blog posts with the most hits by far, as well as the most likes, and even the most comments, when I got any, which is rare. Since then, most of my posts have been book reviews — I published hundreds — interspersed with some sports posts, the occasional political or spiritual/religious post, an occasional creative writing post, some health posts, and a few others that are hard to categorize. But it’s the book reviews that people read. I’ve tried to figure that out but I guess it’s as simple as that’s what people want to read. That simple, right?

Well, anyway, in honor of my fifth anniversary on WordPress, I’m going to provide a link to my blog post from five years ago today: 20 Questions. I hope some of you find it interesting and enlightening. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m just going to post the whole blog post here. It’s short and probably easier than having to click on the link and go to another page. Remember, this is from June 26, 2011. Here it is:

 

20 Questions

Delete my answers and substitute your own. Enjoy!

I’ve come to realize that… I have taken far too many things for granted in my life, even when I thought I was not doing that. It’s a tragedy & I’m trying to remedy that.
Reconciliation is… ideal, but not always realistic. This is exactly the opposite of how I have felt my entire life, but I have wasted way too much time over the years trying to reconcile (or even simply remain on the same friendly terms…) with various people for various reasons and I can count on one hand quite easily the number of times it was worth the effort. Move on.
I talk… more than ever, if you can believe that. I have a lot to say. I spent the last 7+ years living with someone who really didn’t like to hear me talk much, but who preferred watching TV. Like 24/7. For years. Yeah, good times. I’ve got a lot to say and a lot stored up, so sorry….
I love… one special individual more than anyone I ever have at any time in my life, to a shockingly higher degree than I ever knew was even possible. Yeah, I admit it. I also dearly love my parents, my kitties, and several of my good friends who have stood by me over the years. My list of friends I “love” has diminished greatly over the past two years. Pity.
My best friend/s… are fewer than I thought in number, but are critically important to me and people I feel confident I’ll remain loyal to forever and who will be there for me forever. I’m blessed in this regard.
Love… is a newly important word to me, as most of my life it was largely an abstract concept, outside of my loving family. In my middle years, I have been blessed to discover what I now believe “love” is and is meant to be, and I had no freakin’ idea this was a possibility.
Marriage is… hit and miss. Usually a mistake. Usually entered into too soon and without sufficient forethought. A business partnership. Yeah, I’m jaded.
Somewhere, someone is thinking… “I wonder what that whining, bitchy drama queen Scott is going on about now.” Seriously. You think I’m joking….
I’ll always… remember times, places and the special people who have gone out of their way to save my ass in the biggest and worst of situations. Foremost among these are my parents and my best friend, Marcy. Emily, Jim & Eunice, Arnold & Sarah, and Ami have been there for me too. Many thanks.
I truly relax… nowhere. I stopped being able to relax years ago and now I no longer know how to, which is pathetic, and I even feel tremendous guilt if I even make an attempt to relax! Therapy is clearly in order.
My cell phone… is my life. I store everything in my iPhone. I’m not kidding. If that ever disappears, I’m more screwed than if my wallet disappears.
When I wake up in the morning… I now thank God for allowing me to see the sun rise once more, to be able to draw a breath, to have friends and family (and kitties) who love me. I no longer take these things for granted.
Before I go to bed… I talk to my special loved one for as long as possible in order to end each day on a positive, loving and blessed note.
Right now I am thinking… that I have a lot more to be grateful for than I – or most other people – would typically realize, looking at circumstances.
Babies… make me break out in hives. I’m horribly allergic to them. Always have been, always will be. I find them quite distressing.
I am committed to… doing everything possible to survive. And to love and live more strongly and sincerely than I ever have in my life before now.
I miss… my cat Rocky, who died in August 2007. I also miss seeing and hanging with my best friends back out west, including Marcy, Celeste, Marc, Emily and Rachel.
Tomorrow… is a hope and a goal, but not a guarantee.
I really want to be… healthy enough to live long enough to have a quasi-“normal” life and a happy one, to whatever degree that is possible.
I hate… people who don’t understand and who don’t even try to make a serious damn effort to understand.

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A Review of For Those Who Fell

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 26, 2016

For Those Who Fell (Legion, #6)For Those Who Fell by William C. Dietz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I actually read 300 pages of this book, quite an investment in time, before giving up in disgust. The story itself wasn’t that bad. Humanity in a war against evil bugs, losing even, trying to get allies, both of them, playing political games, trying to gain technological edges. Human Confederacy troops are sent to an occupied planet where the Ramanthians are rumored to have some advanced technology the humans covets. The mission is to destroy the enemy and grab the technology. Murphy hits from the very beginning. Everything goes wrong.

But that’s not my complaint. Back on the base, there was a gunnery sergeant named Kuga-Ka who’s been a bully and a bastard who has everyone scared of him and who actually tortures his men. And he has his captain addicted to life threatening drugs, so he has him in his pocket. Meanwhile, the good guy of the novel, First Lieutenant Santana is brought in to lead his platoon in their company and let’s just say, the two don’t get along. Santana sees early what’s going on and confronts the man and threatens him with severe disciplinary action if things don’t change. To make matters worse, though, the Confederacy fights with warbots, cyborgs that are huge, seven foot fighting machines made from dead warriors and recorded personalities/souls/digitized recordings/etc with individualized “brain boxes” containing that “former” person’s personality in it, to be linked only and solely with its individualized cyborg body. And for reasons I either don’t recall or never really made totally clear to me, Kuga-Ka HATES one of these cyborgs with a passion, a female, and determines to steal her brain box. Why? What exactly does he plan on doing with it? Throwing it away? That might make some sense. But, no, he hangs on to it while traveling to other worlds through jungles and deserts, for months. He carries this brain box while wounded, hacking his way through jungles with a machete for what? Why does he hate this cyborg this much? For another thing, why does he hate ANYONE so much? Because he goes on a murdering spree, with some cronies of his. They’re captured, or at least he is, but upon getting to the next planet, he’s helped to escape and they’re off. A tracking team is sent after them, but they’re ambushed, tortured, and slaughtered, so that everyone can see them hanging there dead with their entrails hanging out of them. Nice. This asshole, while just a gunny, seems to know a little bit about everything. It’s amazing how much he knows. He knows about airships, about all sorts of weaponry, about close quarters combat, about sniping, about cybernetics, although he admits he’s no cybernetics tech, about negotiating with aliens, about tactics and strategy. My God, he’s the smartest man the military has ever produced! Too bad he’s the biggest psycho too, because for the life of me – and this is why I gave up – he has utterly NO motive whatsoever for being a hate filled nutjob on a murdering spree who hates Santana, who he’s known a couple of days, so much he wants to butcher him, and who hates this one cyborg, out of dozens – why her? Why any? –so much, that he turns traitor and gives himself in to the bugs and offers to help them track down his human ex-colleagues for the purpose of slaughtering them. And he wants to be paid and paid well for this. Nice.

OK, is this remotely believable? Isn’t this carrying things a bit too far, Dietz? I can understand resentments. I can understand people having issues. I can understand being pissed off. I can’t understand people being so psychotic that they go on two world killing sprees, torture, main, ambush, slaughter, turn themselves into the enemy and offer to help them kill your former colleagues, ALL FOR NO MOTIVE WHATSOEVER!!! Usually when people act this way, there’s some type of motive. A spouse or lover has been unfairly killed, or child or parent. Someone has lost their career. They’ve lost their life’s savings. Something HUGE has happened to someone to turn them into a killing monster and traitor. I don’t recall that happening to Kuga-Ka in this novel at all. He’s just a generic bastard to begin with. Someone who needs the shit beaten out of him from day one to begin with, but not someone who you would expect would go insane or who you would even think is intelligent enough to pull all of this stuff off. It just doesn’t make sense. Dietz takes a mediocre character from a minor situation and turns him into a super villain with super powers and it’s irritating and not believable. It’s just damned annoying after awhile. In fact, Kuga-Ka is so relentless in his hatred and murderous desires that it becomes almost comical and nearly ruins the dramatic elements of an otherwise decent military sci fi novel. If Dietz had dialed down this character A LOT, this book might have been fairly enjoyable. As it was, I got too pissed off after 300 pages to finish it and, as I said, I gave up. I don’t care enough to find out what happens. I just want the gunny to die a horrible death and I don’t care enough about the other characters to read on and see what happens to everyone in the meantime.

I’ve read other books by this writer and in fact, have two more waiting in my stacks to be read. They tend to be hit or miss. This was somewhat of a miss with hit potential. I would give this three stars, but I’m downgrading it to two stars because of the Kuga-Ka character and the overkill associated with him. It really brought down my enjoyment of the novel. Nonetheless, cautiously, cautiously recommended for military sci fi fans.

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A Review of Patton’s Spaceship

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 24, 2016

Patton's Spaceship (Timeline Wars #1)Patton’s Spaceship by John Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like most John Barnes novels. Patton’s Spaceship is no exception. It’s got an interesting premise that has endless possibilities and I can definitely see the potential for sequels, of which there is at least one that I know of. I know because I have it and have read it.

In this book, Pittsburgh art historian Mark Strang’s mainly happy life ends on a holiday weekend when a terrorist group called Blade of the Most Merciful attacks his family. His father is an academic expert on terrorism. They kill his pregnant wife, his brother, and permanently maim his sister. He and his father escape with minor injuries. Strang’s life is changed forever.

Strange discovers a new passion: a combination of revenge and protection of innocents. He founds a bodyguard company, hires some good muscle, apparently is well trained for an art historian, and carries a big 1911 .45.

One of the first times we run into him in this book is when he and his crew are trying to protect a young girl (maybe 10, 12) named Porter, and her mother, from her psycho father. Why her father is so psycho is not totally clear to me. But it gets pretty hairy there for a bit. He helps her escape though. Porter, we are told, is to play a major role in the future. At times, I felt like I was reading/watching The Terminator. But I never quite discovered what was so important about her. Odd.

After some time, he meets another professor in his office named Harry Skena. Skena is a front man for a group representing the ATN, a group fighting to keep “The Closers,” “aliens” from controlling different universe timelines. The Blade terrorist group was a front for the Closers, who want to conquer our timeline. Eager to strike back at those responsible for the Blade’s terrorism, Mark agrees to help the ATN after thinking through how surreal everything seems, yet how it’s all making sense after thinking it through.

Before he knows it, he and Skena are in another timeline, or rather he is, because Skena’s dead, and he’s trapped there with no way back! In this timeline, he quickly learned that it’s the 1960s and that Hitler and the Axis won World War II and dominate the globe, and he better learn how to act in a world gone mad quickly or he’ll wind up dead.

There is a free zone though, in southeast Asia, of all places. Barnes does a good job of describing a conquered America and the last defenders of the Allies when Strang arrives in the US. In the free zone, he later enjoys having Strange meet his heroes such as General Patton and help them make an effort to fight the Axis. And what Strang brings to his new colleagues is knowledge. Future knowledge of future technology. Like flight. Rockets. Perhaps bombs? Many things. He doesn’t view himself as overly technical or knowledgeable, but just getting ideas across to the Allied scientists does a world of good, so he’s a huge help.

Some of the chapters have quite a bit of action and there’s plenty of excitement to be had. Of course, there’s a big, climactic ending. I won’t go into what or how things happen or end, but you can use your imagination. It’s fairly satisfying. I’d say, very satisfying, actually. After reading this book, I looked forward to the sequel. While I don’t view this as a five star book, I view this as a solid four-star book, certainly worth reading by anyone who enjoys alternative histories and time travel. Recommended.

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A Review of Wasteland of Flint

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 23, 2016

Wasteland of FlintWasteland of Flint by Thomas Harlan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I thought it was excellent, especially for the first book in a trilogy. It is unique, has a nice historical fiction element to it, has elements to it that border on military sci fi, hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the surreal. I thought Harlan tied it together pretty well.

In this book, the Aztecs won North American dominance, if not over most of the world many years ago. Now, however, most of the world is ruled by Méxica from the capital of Tenochtitlan, aided by the Japanese, who supply their military. Their only real economic and military human competion is from the Swede-Russian alliance.

Millions of years ago, the First Sun People dominated the galaxy with their technology, living and moving from planet to planet. Some of their leftover technology is rarely but occasionally found on various planets and it’s worth a fortune.

In the book, xenoarcheologist Dr. Gretchen Anderssen has been employed by an unnamed company to go to Ephesus III to find a previous expedition and to obtain as many valuable archeological items that she can, to make the trip (s) worthwhile. At the same time, Imperial cruiser, the Henry R. Cornuelle, is sent to the same location captained by Captain Hadeishi Mitsuharu of the Imperial Méxica Navy. He is carrying a secretive Imperial “judge” with unlimited powers, whose name is Huitzilozoctic, or Green Hummingbird. The name not only means “judge,” but it also means “sorcerer.” It sometimes seems like his power cannot be matched.

Anderssen and her team go to down to the planet’s surface to find important relics they believe to be First Sun relics. These could be dangerous and certainly are powerful. Green Hummingbird views these as hugely dangerous and declares the planet and the space around it off limits to any and every one. Mitsuharu is sent after a gigantic freighter that is now is a huge asteroid field to fire upon it, if necessary, board it, and issue Hummingbird’s commands. Meanwhile, Hummingbird makes his way to the planet. Anderssen is obsessed with finding these objects, to the point of ignoring her crew and going all over the planet tracing the final steps of a scientist who had been impacted by these artifacts and gone insane and disappeared. Hummingbird watches, but follows from a distance. Eventually, he intrudes upon her and they end up traveling together in increasingly dangerous places and situations. Hummingbird believes it’s necessary to bring balance to the planet and the things on the planet to ward off First Sun evil. Gretchen doesn’t understand him, but he tries to teach her. As they go into caves and are attacked by spirits and are followed by relentless shadows, and possible aliens, she starts to wonder and he then tells her she can’t see the real world, she doesn’t know. Her science is no good, which ticks her off. A battle between mysticism and rationalism results. While judges aren’t psychics, they exist to protect the species at ANY cost, including the extermination of entire worlds, and they have reached the absolute best of human perceptual training, among other things. They can’t always necessarily foretell the future, but it seems they see strains of future possibilities. They can bring balance to dark forces, right evil things, manipulate people and things to do their bidding, as long as it meets their final goals.

Hummingbird, at some point, asks Anderssen if she would like to see, actually SEE, to learn, to be exposed to things she’s never dreamt of, and in a moment of either weakness, bravery, or power seeking, she agrees, and as time is of the essence and he can’t take the time to properly train her, he gives her an intense drug that virtually destroys her existence. She lies in a coma-like trance for hours, going through dreams, fantasies, pain, experiences, etc., and wakes many hours later, and she SEES. It’s like living in another dimension. She can see every fiber on every blade of grass in 3D, color illuminated. She can see Hummingbird as he really is, birds, trees, ants, like she’s never seen them before, and she understands things like she’s never been able to understand them before. She understands the universe as inherently hostile and now knows the judges’ need to protect humanity. She’s cautiously excited and repelled at the same time. However, the evil aliens are after them and they must continue to their flight to the planet’s base camp to await extraction.

While waiting, she is given another drug, which goes even further. There, however, for the third, I believe, time, she sees a First Sun alien who appears before her in her own image, talking to her while she tries to escape. Hummingbird has never been with her when she has encountered this alien.

I won’t say what happens at the end, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected and I’ve read that some people are a little disappointed by it. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. It was just unexpected. It’s an exciting, action packed, intense, horror-tinged, mind fuck with more to come in future books. If Book Two is as good as this first one is, I’ll be very happy. Five stars. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Nemesis

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2016

NemesisNemesis by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of Asimov’s later works, perhaps his last work, I can’t recall. Much of it is pretty interesting, but it has its weaknesses as well. To me, that sentence sums up Asimov as a writer and his career as well. At times brilliant, at times a total dud. You never know what you’re getting with him until you start reading.

Nemesis is the story of an Earth colony called Rotor that seeks to escape from the solar system, wanting to create its own upstart civilization free of Earth’s constraints, and even the other settlements’, and it somehow amazingly with Asimov’s amazingly spurious scientific mumbo jumbo moves the colony to a new area of a neighboring star system that is concealed from Earth by huge clouds (no, Hubble couldn’t see through that, thank you), and the star is called Nemesis by the woman who discovers it. The moon that orbits it (there’s an insignificant planet too) is called Erythro and Rotor comes to orbit all of it. And everyone in the solar system is amazed at Rotor’s disappearance and wonders how they did it and where they went. Earth finds the best scientists and puts them on it.

The main protagonist in this book is a fifteen-year-old girl named Marlene. At first, you kind of like her because she’s smart, individualistic, and has big dreams. You also feel sorry for her because she’s basically described by everyone as being ugly but smart. Then you start to realize she’s crazy and she started to get on my nerves in a big damn way. She pretty much ruined the book for me. She turned into a spoiled, dictatorial, tyrannical brat who literally physically made others do her bidding by her mind control, because yes, she has this bizarre ability to “read” other people’s body language, their movements and actions and reactions and facial expressions and other bullshit like that and be able to tell people to their face every thing that person has ever done, thought, is thinking, ever will think or do in their lifetime, etc. I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get the picture. It’s unnerving to everyone around her and doesn’t make her very popular. Indeed, the more she uses her power, which she does, the more eerie and creepy she becomes and the more power hungry she becomes.

And here’s the really weird thing about Marlene. She’s obsessed with Erythro. She wants to go visit it, so she engineers a way to get it done. When she’s there, she makes sure she gets out on the planet’s surface, which is very dangerous, since there are minute alien life forms and a plague. And you need a space suit, since the air is unbreathable. She then keeps finding ways to keep upping the ante. Her super scientist mother is with her on the planet and her only purpose is to wring her hands, act like the poor, helpless female she is, and seek the companionship of the big, strong male character from her past who of course is in love with her and has been his whole life. Eventually, Marlene is so obsessed with the place, she wants to become one with it and insists in going out alone and takes her space suit off, but survives somehow, and then encounters the planet’s major alien life form, who communicates with her. It frightens her at first, but she goes back for more and they establish a relationship. It’s freaking bizarre.

Meanwhile … that’s a lot … the person in charge of Rotor is a scheming man who thinks he’s the only person who can save the colony from disaster. Marlene’s father, her mother’s ex-husband who deserted them before Marlene turned two because Rotor was going to migrate out into space and he was an Earthman and didn’t want to go (also because he was a spy and wasn’t going anywhere with them), is on a secret trip out to where Earth’s government thinks Rotor is, with some government scientists and a super fast new ship. When they find Rotor, he is hoping to reunite with his daughter, even though it’s been nearly 15 years.

Asimov has never been strong at character development in many of his books, as I’ve noted in many previous reviews. I guess this book is as good as any in most of his books, which is to say barely passable for most authors, but not too bad for him. The dialogue, though, is fairly bad. God, her father, Crile, repeated the same crap over and over so many times, I kept hoping he would get blown out an airlock. Marlene kept repeating herself so many times, I kept hoping the alien(s) would melt her with acid or something cool like that. I hated her that much halfway through the book. And it’s not only the repetitions. It’s Asimov’s typical formal language, even for a fifteen-year-old girl. Not remotely believable. Did he ever talk to a teenager that age? I just have a hard time believing that in the late 1980s, when this book was published, girls in their mid-teens sounded that formal. Not remotely realistic. Hell, the rest of the gang sounded incredibly formal too. They all sounded like they came from, ta dah, the same author!

Another complaint along these lines is that a lot of text got bogged down in infodumps, showing off Asimov’s alleged scientific knowledge about how a colony like Rotor got into orbit around Nemesis to the point where no one cares anymore, and who discovered the star and why it was named that, etc, etc. It’s just too much.

Also, the ending was unbelievably anti-climactic and simply unbelievable. Not remotely believable at all. I couldn’t believe that Asimov would have his readers buy that as a legitimate ending. I was stunned. Seriously?

This is a book that had a good premise. Seriously. I was excited to begin reading it. And then I started hating the characters. A lot. The schemers, the weak female scientists who need a strong man in their lives, the father figure who’s been holding out for the (weak) female love of his life, the Earth spies and scientists, the obsessed former father, the increasingly powerful and nearly evil teenager and her alien love-fest, which seems incredibly unhealthy. Etc. Just too much. The scheming, the manipulating, the using, the alien(s), everything just started annoying me a lot. I thought about not finishing it, but by that time I was halfway through, so I kept reading. I partially enjoyed the book, although as I said, I thought the ending was seriously weak. I’m not sure whether to give this two or three stars. I think there are too many issues to give it three, so I’m giving it two stars. Not recommended. Sadly.

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A Review of Califia’s Daughters

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 18, 2016

Califia's DaughtersCalifia’s Daughters by Leigh Richards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Califia’s Daughters is one of the most unique, inventive, thought provoking, dark, disturbing, pseudo-violent, feminist-based, post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels I have read in a long time, if ever. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came away impressed with the book and author. What a work of art!

The book takes place in the not too distant future after some type of apocalyptic nightmare has taken place, presumably throughout North America, probably the world, and most certainly California. Most people have forgotten how to use things such as automobiles and planes, or that there even were such things years ago, and for most, life consists of an agrarian society. At some point, someone – we’re not told who – released biological/chemical/ radioactive agents/toxins that have caused various plagues around much of the world, resulting in a monster virus affecting the world’s men, so that nine of every ten male babies and men in general who are born or live die shortly after birth or contracting this virus. Thus, two things. One, it’s a matriarchal society, with women having to assume ALL roles in society – hunter/gatherer, homemaker, warrior, scientist, farmer, etc., and two, all surviving males are treated like precious gemstones, to be protected at all costs, given regular security, aren’t allowed to do anything dangerous, must hide if anyone new comes to their villages, must be protected from infections, etc. And every village has Amazonian-like warrior women. In this novel, in the Valley in which we read about, the chief protector is Dian and her guard dogs, who she has trained to be perfect guards and killing machines. Additionally, she has additional warriors she has trained to protect the Valley.

So it passes that one day, a group approaches, something to fear, and they are met by Dian and her dogs. It is a group from another town up in northern California and they come bearing a gift and a proposition. It’s quite odd. They would like to bring and leave a male as their gift, quite a valuable gift, if Dian’s town will allow them to relocate to the Valley and join forces for protection from the evil armies forming up north and moving southward. The town council contemplates it and tentatively decides to accept their offer, but Dian’s sister, the leader, and Dian agree that she will secretly go up to their town on a reconnaissance mission to see if everything is as they say it is, if they’re on the up and up, before ultimately allowing them to move south to join them. It will be a long, arduous trip, but a necessary one.

And so, after wading through all of that preliminary stuff, the real part of the book that contains the action, character development, strong plotting, strong dialogue, extreme tension and intrigue, seemingly impossible scenarios, and horrible sacrifices takes place. And it’s all worth it. Dian travels north with a couple of her dogs, first through the major city of Meijing (the major West Coast city/power), then on up through the wastelands. What she experiences is nothing short of horrifying. What she encounters is humanity like little she’s encountered before, loyalty unlike what she was expecting, sacrifice more than any person should ever have to make, ungodly pain, Ashtown, the Angels, Breaker, an insane Captain who’s a psychotic bitch if there ever was one, serious violence, depression, an unexpected pregnancy, relationships that matter, betrayals, an uprising, escape attempts, the hopes and dreams of one day making it back to the Valley alive, etc.

It’s a tense, fascinating journey and I found myself on edge half the time, hoping like hell she could get out of the mess she was in. I was emotionally invested in this book. I also found it interesting, to be honest, to see how in a matriarchal society, so many stereotypical traits, often associated with men in a less than stellar way, shine through even though men not only aren’t the prevalent gender, but aren’t even exposed to society and culture. It’s as though there’s little to no difference between the two genders when the two are in power at separate times in history. To the best of my knowledge, the author is somewhat of a feminist, and many of her fans are definitely feminists, so I found this intriguing.

Whatever the case, I thought the ending was pretty good, but a little too abrupt. A whole lot was left out. A lot. We got to see the very final ending, but not how we got to transition from point A to point Z. I would have liked to see the points in between. Also, the epilogue seems to disappoint a number of people and I, too, wish it hadn’t been included. Nonetheless, this was such a unique, unusual, intriguing, well written, well thought out, well plotted book, that even with was minor flaws, I’m not going to quibble. This is definitely worth five stars. And definitely recommended!

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A Review of Battle Cruiser

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 17, 2016

Battle CruiserBattle Cruiser by B.V. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must confess that I read Battle Cruiser some time ago and it’s been sitting here waiting to be reviewed for weeks, over a month, to my embarrassment, so that I’ve pretty much forgotten everything I intended to say about it. However, I can write some impressions I still remember.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t the best book or the best sci fi or even the best military sci fi I’ve read. There were holes and gaps. The writing was uneven and average at best. Aside from two or three main characters, you don’t really get to know most of the characters at all. The technology isn’t fully explained or detailed.

Nonetheless, it’s a fun, well told, action packed, intriguing, tension filled, action/adventure military sci fi story that is good enough to get your attention and hold it the whole way through and that’s good enough for me to enjoy it. In fact, it’s the first book in a three book series and now I want to read the next two books!

It’s about one Lieutenant Commander William Sparhawk and his Star Guard pinnace, Cutlass, of Earth’s fleet, which has been cut back by politicians like his father. Something happens or is seen out near Jupiter and Sparhawk is sent out to investigate and he finds what appears, at first, to be an asteroid, but upon further investigation, is actually a large alien ship. He reports to his superior, is told to stay right there, starts unloading his crew onto the alien ship in the hope of getting in, in part because he has a bad feeling about some things, and next thing you know, his superior appears, firing on his ship. He and his crew disappear into the alien ship, where they attempt to escape and are chased by the other Earthmen, but they repel their pursuers, and discover several interesting things. For one thing, there are thousands of tubes in the ship, all containing … embryos. So this was a ship carrying freight of some sort at some point, somewhere. They also discover a prison ward with a live prisoner, a giant humanoid named Zye who talks them into letting her out. She’s been in prison because she was individualistic and not to be trusted. She’s from one of Earth’s old colony planets, established hundreds of years ago, but cut off long since. Since then, Earth has lost the ability to continue developing its space technology, while these colonists have become technical geniuses, building super ships and traveling through the stars, encountering other former colonists and aliens. Zye turns out to be a pivotal figure in this book and possibly my favorite character. She also turns out to be Sparhawk’s most loyal crew member, for that is what she becomes. She becomes that, in part, because she is the only one who can figure out how to drive and operate this giant ship and how to arm and fire the weapons. Sparhawk takes the ship home to Earth, thinking what a fantastic prize it will make to their puny fleet now that they know they’re not alone and they’ll need to build up their fleet, only to be greeted with threats and ship and missile attacks! He also is attacked by asteroid miners.

The plot continues to get convoluted, but not so much that you can’t follow it. Earth’s government is a little too stupid and paranoid and hateful of someone who is seemingly a war hero to appear entirely believable, and I think that’s a weakness of the book. It’s almost a caricature. Ultimately, though, the newly named Defiant is accepted by the Earth government and sent back out with Sparhawk as captain and Zye as critical crew member, along with other former crew members, to face an unlikely huge asteroid miner fleet who are actually aliens in disguise. It’s a monstrous battle and almost too much to believe.

To me, this is a three star book that is so entertaining and so much fun and so reasonably original, that I’m upgrading the rating by one star (which I never do) to give it four stars. Normally, I downgrade by a star. Four stars and recommended if you want to enjoy a fun military sci fi novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Sidney Crosby’s legacy firmly established among the greats with second Stanley Cup win

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 13, 2016

Sure, Sidney Crosby has Olympic golds, numerous trophies and accolades. But his second Stanley Cup — and the way he won it — is what puts him firmly among the game’s elite.

Source: NHL – 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs – Sidney Crosby’s legacy firmly established among the greats with second Stanley Cup win

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