hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Still Alive

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 11, 2017

Hi! I’m truly sorry I haven’t updated since 12/16. The past year and a half, actually the past three years, have been horrible for me, and 2016 was the worst year of my life and 2017 has been challenging as well. I just haven’t had the time, energy, stamina, strength, or even interest in book reviewing or blogging like I did for so many years. In fact, this is just a short post to let you know I haven’t died yet, although there have been some scares, and I’ll write a more comprehensive post hopefully sometime in the near future. Speaking of book reviews, Goodreads thinks I’m in the middle of 177 books right now, which is funny, because I don’t think I’ve written any reviews since 11/16. I haven’t had the energy or even interest, which is a first. I’ve been too concerned with staying alive. So, I’m only in the middle of about 20 books or so. And yes, my health has been that bad. So, I have four+ stacks of finished books sitting here in my office, some finished 10 months ago, and I’ve forgotten their plots even, waiting for me to write reviews I probably never will. Moreover, I buy Kindle books — a lot — and I’ve finished quite a few of those and many of them are awaiting reviews too, because I don’t close a book out and “finish” it until I’ve rated it and written some type of review, no matter how small. Thus, the backlog. So I’m sorry because I know from previous follower polls the vast majority of you have followed me for my book reviews, so I’m sure I’ve lost a ton of followers this year and I know I’ve let you down, but I’ve had to concentrate on me. You’ll understand more when I write a more detailed post sometime, assuming I get the time, energy, and strength. I may have to split it up. So, thanks to those of you who have stuck around. I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging or to any blog sites in months. It’s nothing personal. Just life. I hope everyone has been doing well. More later. Cheers!

 

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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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A Review of The Demu Trilogy

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 1, 2016

Demu TrilogyDemu Trilogy by F.M. Busby
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Typical of so many 1970s pulp sci fi writers and books. F.M. Busby’s The Demu Trilogy may actually be good, although with a 3.59 rating on Goodreads, I doubt it, but I’m not going to give it a shot by finishing it and you know why? Gratuitous sex. I’m not a prude. I have nothing against sex, lots of sex. I’ve read, and own, de Sade. I’ve read more sex in one book than most people have read in a lifetime. But within context. Within this context, and most sci fi’ context, gratuitous sex is just pathetic adolescent masturbatory fantasy written by some no talent (usually, except for Heinlein) hack writer who can’t get any.

This book begins with a fellow named Barton who wakes up on a dull spaceship, nude, with about 50 other nude people, not all of whom are fully human, although he strangely realizes this because they all look mostly human. And naked. And while most don’t speak English, he finds an English speaking man who speaks almost any language out there, including alien, and a hottie alien woman and they all get along famously, so much so that he finds himself boning the alien babe before long. And she does the same with his new friend. It was the decade of the Sexual Revolution, after all. I guess in space too.

Well, the aliens didn’t like this, so he woke up in a private room, but he was soon joined by another alien woman who was uber-aggressive and who attacked him relentlessly. She was taken away and then reappeared and to Barton’s horror, it’s implied that she was given a lobotomy and now also appears toothless, drooling, and quite empty eyed and happy. But also horny as shit and apparently quite strong, because he can’t fight her off, so he naturally gives in and lets her have her way and they do it relentlessly and he doesn’t feel too bad about it because she’s quite obviously enjoying herself. Yeah, nice. But soon, she appears to be getting fat. And he realizes, oh shit. Yep, preggers. He tries to communicate to the aliens that he’s not a damn doctor, he can’t deliver a half human, half alien baby, but nope, when it’s time, she’s screaming like crazy and it’s bloody and the fetus/baby is freaking him out, so he does the natural thing and slaughters both of them to shut them the fuck up. Nice, huh? So, they’re removed from his room. And he’s reduced to masturbating frequently. Which he does every page. And then all of a sudden, there’s a window in his room and he sees several lobster-like aliens watching him and then they’re making some jerk-off motions because they CLEARLY want him to masturbate for them because I guess they’re horny lobster aliens (?), but he has his murder/sex principles, so he won’t masturbate for them, so even though they try to persuade him for days, he suffers by denying himself his much needed relief and then they finally give in and he resumes masturbating, thank God, until one day, another alien female appears in his room, this one looking like the previous one, but docile. Because she, too, has been lobotomized. And he’s so appalled, he is determined not to take advantage of this poor thing, and that lasts about 10 minutes before her fervor takes him out and she’s on him, sliding up and down. But this time, he takes precautions. I don’t know what they are. They aren’t spelled out. I guess he either pulls out or has anal sex with her, but he’s determined not to get her pregnant. But one morning he wakes to find that she’s astride him, riding him, vaginally, and before he knows it and can help himself, he ejaculates inside of her and guess what? Yep, she gets pregnant. Knowing he can’t take it again, he does what, I forget, it all runs together. I think this time he merely breaks her neck.

By this time, I’m so disgusted that there’s virtually no real sci fi, other than spurious aliens who do nothing other than think of human sex, and nothing in this book other than sex on every page and the occasional murder, that I’m done, I give up in disgust. It might turn out that this trilogy could turn out to be decent, but I’m not going to be around to find out. It’s not worth the effort to me. I don’t want to be this disgusted long enough to try. Busby is a disgusting pervert. A no talent hack who can’t write worth shit, who should have been writing for Hustler, if he was even that good, which I doubt. Maybe when I sell it to the used bookstore, I’ll get a quarter for it. Needless to say, this is at best a one star book and most certainly not recommended.

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A Review of Out of the Silent Planet

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 14, 2016

Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve liked and disliked several of C.S. Lewis’s works over the years and if I remember correctly, I read his space trilogy as a young boy, but remember nothing of it. So my wife picked up Out of the Silent Planet at a used bookstore for me just for the heck of it and it was an interesting read. Talk about old school sci fi, this was OLD school! Published in 1938, I believe, I had a hard time reminding myself that there was no realistic way Lewis could have known anything about spaceflight or Mars, the main locations in the novel, so it’s unbelievably dated, but it’s not really his fault.

In this book, Dr. Elwin Ransom, a Cambridge philology professor, is kidnapped by two greedy snobs who have a spaceship and have traveled to outer space before. Ransom is taken to a planet called Malacandra by the alien species that live there, though we later learn it is actually Mars. As Mars, it is not red and deserted and dusty. It is bright and sunny, with oceans and streams, plenty of vegetation, jungles, mountains that get increasingly colder the higher you climb, dangerous animals, and several sentient alien species. He is completely enchanted by the beautiful scenery, escapes his captors, meets these aliens who are nothing like humans in appearance or action (for the most part), learns about the origin of these species on Malacandra and Earth (the silent planet) and, ultimately, reflects on the broken nature of humanity. The climactic scene leads him to the final show down which proves to be a meeting with the angelic “god” of the planet where Ransom’s linguistic abilities allow him to act as translator for the two other humans who see Malacandra as simply a stepping stone in humanity’s ongoing greatness and evolution into the stars. We see Ransom struggling with the challenge of expressing some of the more bizarre elements of his kidnappers’ philosophies in a way that will make sense to the Malacandrians. It never really does and ultimately, it doesn’t to Ransom either.

The book is short and, generally, entertaining, if a bit lightweight. It drags at times, quite a bit actually, but the dialogue can be quite good at times and the philosophies discussed are intriguing. I was worried that Lewis, a devout Christian, would go all “religious” on me, but he didn’t proselytize, for which I was grateful. I suppose, however, if one wanted religious symbolism, one could find it. Lewis was himself an academic and not a scientist at that. The thought that he could write “serious” science fiction in the 1930s is rather humorous. Nonetheless, this is a valiant effort and worth a read, especially as it’s so short. Three stars.

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A Review of The Reality Dysfunction 1

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 13, 2016

The Reality Dysfunction 1: Emergence (Night's Dawn 1)The Reality Dysfunction 1: Emergence by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’ve read, or attempted to, my share of stupid books over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book this damn stupid in my entire life! I’m astounded, because The Reality Dysfunction has a great 4.24 rating on Goodreads, one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen. Yet, it’s unbelievably stupid. I don’t see how anyone could possibly read past the first three chapters and not laugh their asses off at the sheer idiocy of the author. Cause that’s how far I got before giving up. And I’m not going to read the sequel, which has a higher rating than this! Unreal.

The first chapter isn’t that bad with a chase and destroy scene between three presumably white “good” starships and five black “bad” starships. Nothing to write home about, in fact a little boring, but an okay start. Actually, too much sci fi jingo, like the author’s trying to impress his audience with his sci fi tech knowledge. It’s weak.

The second chapter is about a planet. An alien planet somewhere … out there. It formed out of a nova or dwarf or something and then with the right light and elements, became life bearing and after billions of years, algae evolved. And then you get a whole damn chapter on evolution on this planet, which frankly mirrors Earth’s pretty closely. Why the hell is this there? Why couldn’t this have been a two paragraph aside somewhere? Why does this boring shit merit its own chapter? Who cares about how this evolution occurs? Allegedly, according to reviewers, for this author, it occurs pretty much the same way on every planet, so what’s the big deal?

The third chapter is the bozo chapter. A ship is bringing its 108-year-old female captain and her husband back to Saturn to die. Apparently, she’s outlived it and he, cause I guess it’s a HE, tells her It’s Time. Cause they talk telepathically. Cause they have some sort of emotional love link. Cause she tells him that of her three husbands and two lovers, she loves her ship more than anyone ever. She tries to talk it out of dying, but he insists he must. They talk about her 10 children/zygotes she has finally produced after 108 years, one of them with her current husband’s sperm. As she goes by each zygote, the ship names each one. It’s agonizing to read each paragraph as it oh so romantically goes on and on about how great each one will be. Then the moment comes when they must separate. It’s horrible. She can’t take it. Her husband, who apparently can also talk to her telepathically, leads her away from the ship to a terminal, since it has magically docked without our being told, and this is a terminal for captains to mourn and see their ships die and console each other and basically hold funeral services. I’m not fucking kidding.

It gets worse. Free of the humans, the ship goes off and calls to his fellows and similar ships answer his call in droves and come to it while he goes flying off. One links to him, I guess physically, even though they’re going at about nine gees and they don’t collide and blow each other up, which is a miracle, and through their link, they have a ship orgasm. Yep. Not kidding. Then it’s time to birth the babies. I didn’t see this coming. One by one, ten ships come up to this flying ship and take a baby … ship and look after it, telling it where it is and herding it into the safety of Saturn’s rings, where they’ll be growing for the next 18 years when they’ll finally be adult ships and will have captains of their own. So this female human captain who had 10 babies, one of whom was from her husband’s own sperm, gave birth to 10 spaceships. Excuse me, but what the motherfuck is that??? And then, to top it off, a “bad” black ship invades and connects with the soon-to-die ship and they produce a baby ship which the original ship predicts will be the greatest of them all. Then this dying ship goes flying every which way and pretty much blows itself up, oh so romantically while everyone sheds a tear, yet is happy for it. To end the chapter, the black clad stranger/pilot walks into the mourning terminal and no one wants anything to do with him, so the captain goes to him and starts talking to him and starts joking about how she’s got some granddaughters she needs to marry off. To him. Oh.My.God. The most stupid chapter ever written in the history of the universe. Reading it was both priceless and sheer torture. I’ve never read anything like it and hope to never do so again.

Apparently, other characters appear and other worlds come into play and apparently there are a ton of Satanists, although why, possibly billions of years in the future, there would be Satanists, is beyond me. This author has written quite a few sci fi novels, but what I don’t know what his personal background is. Most of the sci fi writers I read are actual scientists or come from a military background, or both. I get the idea this guy is neither. He probably owns a comic book store. Maybe he’s a middle school dropout. Whatever the case, this book is rubbish, the author is a ninny, and I’m glad I bought this used cause I could never forgive myself if I had paid full price for this piece of shit. Grudgingly one star, because I can’t give zero stars. Most definitely not recommended at all.

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A Review of Speaker for the Dead

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 9, 2016

Speaker for the Dead (The Ender Quintet, #3)Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Speaker for the Dead, the sequel to Ender’s Game, both of which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best Science Fiction novel in back to back years for Orson Scott Card, the first time that achievement has ever happened, is a masterpiece of literature. Notice I said literature, not science fiction. That’s because I believe this to be a serious work of literature and not just science fiction. It crosses standard sci fi boundaries early and often and keeps the reader engaged in numerous areas they may or may not be comfortable with. This book explores not only standard hard sci fi fare, but religion, mysticism, politics, biodiversity, ecology, genetics, space travel, anthropology, xenophobia, technology, what makes a species sentient, can an advanced AI be sentient, cultural elitism, our reasons and means of studying other species, the ideals of upholding or abandoning our ethical principles, political rebellion, the knowledge we have of those around us, what we believe about them, the truth behind those beliefs, and much, much more. It’s a heavily philosophical novel, as well as at times, a psychological novel, and it is so much more than just a standard science fiction novel. For those of you who read and enjoyed Ender’s Game and expected more of the same, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed. I read several reviews by people expressing this viewpoint. But as this has a 4.0+ rating on Goodreads, most people appreciate its broad scope, what it attempts to do and what it succeeds at doing, and I think this book stretches the mind and soul in ways not normally stretched by most any book you’ll ever encounter.

It’s been 3,000 years since Ender Wiggin was tricked into committing xenocide by destroying the “buggers” as commander of Earth’s fleet. Unknown to the world, he became Speaker for the Dead, which is a sort of humanist priest who learns about those who have died and speaks the truth of their lives, good and bad, their hopes, fears, intentions, virtues, and vices, and he traveled the known worlds with his sister, Valentine, writing several key works in which he brought the beauty of the buggers to life as well as his brother Peter, the Hegemon, to the forefront of civilization. Sprint forward 3,000 years and “Andrew” Wiggin is a Speaker for the Dead living on a Scandinavian planet with his sister Valentine. They have survived all of these years through the miracle of space travel and how it slows the system and aging down markedly, so that while he destroyed the buggers at age 12, he is now the equivalent of age 36. However, now all this time later, Ender’s name means the Xenocide and he is reviled throughout the universe.

We’re introduced to a planet called Lusitania some 40 years away, but two weeks by space travel, where he has been called to speak the death of a beloved xenologer. In this, he gets excited because he has been carrying the bugger Hive Queen with him this whole time, looking for a suitable place to allow her to create a new world for herself and her race. They think this may be the place. He’s also excited because this world is a world where humans have encountered their second alien race, the stupidly named “piggies.” Unfortunately, it’s the piggies who have killed this xenologer. The woman who called him to speak the man’s death is like his daughter and Ender is taken with her.

When he gets to Lusitania 40 years later their time, he discovers the Catholic-dominated culture they’re led by their Bishop has been instructed to avoid talking to him because he is Satanic. The young woman who called for him no longer wants him. She was married to a man who beat her, has six children and the family is excessively dysfunctional, and the original xenologer’s son and the woman’s friend and colleague was also killed in a similar manner by the piggies. Two of her children have also called for a speaker and a power struggle ensues. Wiggin stays to do his speaking, against all odds. He also meets the piggies and many mysteries are answered while more are brought up.

There’s a lot that goes on in this book. Two of the young scientists disobey the law to teach the piggies some things to make them more self sufficient. They know that if they get caught, if could mean the end of the colony. And they are caught and Starways Congress sentences them to transport to the nearest planet decades away for trial and a probable prison sentence. Even if they get off, they’ll likely never see their families again, as they’ll probably be dead by the time they return home. Meanwhile, Andrew proves to be a healing presence in Novinha’s family and life (the woman who originally called him and no longer wants him there), even against her will. She’s now a bitter, unhappy woman. She’s frankly an unpleasant character. But Ender sees something in her. Progress is made.

Another character who is really cool is Jane, some form of advanced AI, which is really an understatement, with near-godlike powers. She lives in the wires of the universal networks and has been there for thousands of years. She knows all, or nearly all, and is Ender’s best friend. Something major happens, though, and another character is introduced to Jane and things change. Jane goes on to play an increasingly significant role in the rest of the Ender books in the series, so if you’re reading the whole series, pay attention.

The overall premise of the book, then, is excellent – mankind’s dark history with the buggers, their potential for redemption with the piggies, the mysterious evil Descolada virus, the precautions taken to protect xenobiology, etc. But it’s the characters who are the stars. They make the book what it is, truly excellent. Ender, who is the epitome of humanity in his genius, wisdom, tenacity, and ruthlessness, is the killer seeking redemption, and the last Hive Queen, of course Jane, the insecure sentient AI, Ender’s brilliant sister, Valentine, bitter Novinho, the brilliant but angry xenobiologist who Ender is determined to make accept his love, and her dysfunctional family, and then there are the piggies themselves, an alien race who rank up there with some of the better alien species we’ve seen in science fiction. And don’t forget the buggers, who make their fearsome appearance at the very end of the novel. The characters carry this novel.

Perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the novel is Ender’s speaking the death of Marcão, Novinha’s late husband. It’s a brilliant scene and a bit of a show stopper. You know some of the things that are coming, but even then, you’re still surprised by some of it. And the reactions of the crowd are priceless. It’s truly an emotional scene and epitomizes Wiggin’s role in the world as he lives it these days.

Speaker for the Dead isn’t a perfect book. But it’s damn close. I was so impressed with it that I immediately moved it into my list of top five books of all time. Not sci fi books. All works of literature. I think it’s that good. It covers just about anything you want it to cover. It’s all encompassing. It’s heavy on the philosophy and I like that. It makes you think. It’s so much more than the average sci fi book where you see a space/warship or alien, shoot, and go bang. This is a thinking man’s sci fi, and again, I’d argue it’s literature or literary fiction, not merely sci fi. It’s the second book in a four book series. I’ve already finished the series, so I know what I think of the next two books. I think this is the best of the bunch. It’s most definitely possible to read this as a standalone book, if you want to do that. A strong five stars. Most strongly recommended book possible!

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A Review of Valiant

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 6, 2016

Valiant (The Lost Fleet, #4)Valiant by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Valiant, Jack Campbell’s fourth book in his The Lost Fleet series, Captain “Black Jack” Geary is back, leading the remaining Alliance fleet through Syndic territory in an effort to get home to Alliance territory. They’re worried about their fuel cells, food stores, and the materials they need to create weapons. They’re obviously also worried about the Syndic fleet(s) following them, trying to trap them and eliminate them wherever they go. So far, they’ve beaten the odds and whipped the Syndics and they’ve discovered that the Syndics are afraid of Geary. The Syndic CEOs and crews are inexperienced and this weakness allows Geary to exploit this weakness in battle and concentrate on, yes, more pressing needs. In this book, they’ll also witness a Syndic hypernet gate collapse, see the horrifying damage it can do, and try to get the truth out to the Syndic worlds, letting everyone know the Alliance is not responsible for this atrocity. Finally, they’re getting closer to finding out the truth behind their suspicions that some form of aliens on the other side of Syndicate space might be influencing the war and trying to exterminate humanity.

One of the previously mentioned more pressing needs is fleet treasonous behavior on the part of fleet captains. Geary’s always had adversaries and has actually had to arrest a few, but things are getting nasty. Worms are found in several ship’s operating systems that would have resulted in Geary’s ship and a couple of others jumping into jump space and never emerging again, lost forever, while the rest of the fleet remains helpless. Who are these evil rivals who are willing to kill him and their colleagues in the fleet? Why are they willing to go to such traitorous lengths? Geary needs to find out and find out fast!

Another pressing need, although less so, is the two women in his life, Co-President Victoria Rione and Captain Tanya Desjani, his fleet commander. Rione has been his on again, off again lover, now permanently off. I’ve never liked her. She’s a politician who does nothing but play mind fuck games. She’s a total bitch and treats him like crap. I hate her guts and so does everyone in the fleet. And she hates and treats Desjani, Geary’s biggest supporter, like crap and with great disdain. Desjani used to follow Geary around like a devoted puppy dog, willing to do anything he commanded. She still follows his orders, but in this book, Campbell finally develops her character to a much larger degree and we get to know a lot more about her and find out there’s a lot more to her than just blind devotion to the Alliance and to Geary. It’s refreshing. Tanya Desjani is given more development in this book. We’re finally shown some other, nicer components of her personality. When we first met her, her two main personality traits seemed to be utter blind devotion to Geary and an unusual battle lust. Now she is actually a potential love interest for Geary and no one could be better for him. It’s also refreshing to see a “nice” woman who cares for and respects Geary treat him with dignity and respect and honor, as well as offering an objective opinion on tactics and other things, unlike Rione and it’s just sad that the two women simply end up getting catty with each other. It gets damned annoying. I just want Desjani to punch her out! It creates a real headache for Geary.

My series complaints about the fleet weaponry remains and stands. They have virtually no missiles, so they rely on “grapeshot” and “hell lances,” both of which are for close quarters combat, which of course is not remotely possible at the speeds Campbell (or anyone) writes about taking place in space. There would simply be collisions and warships would blow up. It’s that simple. Besides, it’s simply stupid to think that 17th century Earth-based pirate’s grapeshot using actual ball bearings would be used thousands of years in the future in outer space. It’s truly the most ridiculous space “weapon” I’ve ever heard of in my life. Grapeshot tears ships apart. Sure it does. Since you’re 100 yards away from each other traveling at the speed of light and not colliding, I guess that can happen, right? Shit. Hell lances are little better. Close quarters combat. There’s another close quarters weapon, but I forget the name now, but essentially it’s 17th century naval battles in space, when ships got alongside each other and fired at point blank range and men boarded each other’s ships. It’s utterly the most stupid thing I could possibly imagine. Most sci fi writers use weapons such as, yes, missiles, but also lasers, grazers, plasma weapons, anti-missile defenses, and much more. Not here. Oh, and when 120 warships attack 120 other warships and fire at each other, maybe, maybe five get hit. Two get destroyed and three get seriously damaged. And that’s considered successful. Compare that to the greatest military sci fi writer of our time, David Weber. He has hundreds, at times, thousands of ships, each with impeller wedges powering the ships which are hundreds of kilometers wide, so that the battle lines are thousands, maybe millions of kilometers wide and millions of kilometers apart and the two fleets fire at each other at maybe 1.5 million kilometers apart. For close quarters laser action, perhaps they close to some 700,000 or 500,000 kilometers. I could be off, but you get the picture. And hundreds of ships blow up at one time, not five. It’s ridiculous to think that 120 ships firing at one time can only blow up a couple of ships. That’s the definition of ineptitude. Is it any wonder why this war has been going on for over 100 years? Their weapons are hideously bad. Can’t R&D do something decent? So, that’s my major complaint with this book and this series. And it’s a major complaint and it always knocks at least one star off the overall rating because I think it’s such a serious drawback.

All that said, I think this is a pretty good book in a decent series. This isn’t the best military sci fi series I’ve ever read, not by a long shot. But it’s holding my interest. I want to know what happens to Geary when he gets the fleet home to the Alliance. Will the politicians welcome him or view him as a threat? What will be done about the aliens? Can the war be stopped? Will he and Desjani finally end up together? I want to know, shortcomings be damned! So, four stars and if you’re reading the series, recommended.

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