Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Sunwalkers by Kelli Fitzpatrick

The Enterprise is dispatched to a world to lend assistance in a medical emergency.

The story centres on Beverly Crusher, her struggle to come to terms with having to say goodby to Wesley and how that separation speaks to her abilities as a mother.

The story felt like a found script for an episode that was never shot. But, I guess, all these stories will feel that way, considering the length of them. 

As in all good Star Trek this story works on more than one level. Sure there is the adventure of the mission, but from it there is character growth.  This made the story satisfying. 

Kelli Fitzpatrick's website:  https://kellifitzpatrick.com/

Kelli Fitzpatrick

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet by Ariel Hochstadt


I was delighted to receive an email from EB. 

She had read my review of Black Code by Ronald J. Deibert  and noticed that I had posted a link to Stay Safe Online and their initiative National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

EB encouraged me to read The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the vpnMentor website.

Don't let the title stop you from reading the post.  You don't have to have kids to benefit from it.  My kids are in their 20's but have suffered from some of the threats listed and I discovered that I was also quite vulnerable.

The blog post covered eight broad subjects:

1.  Mobile phones and apps
2.  Streaming content and smart TVs
3.  Gaming consoles and online games
4.  Social media
5.  Cyberbullying
6.  Privacy and information security
7.  Viewing inappropriate content online
8.  Online predators

It is surprising how much data leaks from our devices and how the default settings protect us very little.  It is important to take the time to tighten things up a bit.

I was captivated by topic 6 and followed many of the links in that section.  I spent at least 30 minutes exploring my iPhone's settings, turning off location services, creating a longer lock-screen password and beginning to set up the built-in VPN settings.

I would say, after reading how vulnerable we are on public WiFi hotspots, we are much better off paying extra for a bigger data plan from our carriers than the convenience of using such free services.

Remember, if a service is free - YOU are the product.  Gmail, Facebook, Twitter all the things we download, use, but do not pay for are mining our data for their own purposes.  It is a sobering thought.  We are living through the Wild West phase of the internet and it is a pretty lawless environment so far.

I highly recommend reading the article, but try not to lose faith.  You may read it and think that things are hopeless.  But with organizations like vpnMentor and Stay Safe Online there is a wealth of information that you can use to minimize your exposure.

Some of the advice given is as simple as tweaking a setting and forgetting about it.  Other protections take a bit of work on your part but it really is worth it.

I want to thank EB for the email and for reinvigorating my desire to make things a bit more difficult for the hackers.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Christmas Qarol by Gary Piserchio & Frank Tagader

This was a fun riff on Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol.

In it, Q decies to throw Picard into a simulation of the classic tale.  But something goes wrong - when he snaps his fingers it's not Jean-Luc who is forced to play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge but Q himself!

Honestly, this was an absolutely charming story. Not only did it capture the spirit of Christmas it also was a story of hope for the Star Trek universe.

Hard to believe these writers are amatures. 

Very well done indeed.

Gary Piserchino's website:  http://garypiserchio.com/wp/

Frank Tagader has no dedicated website but his Goodreads link is:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13994748.Frank_Tagader


Monday, June 4, 2018

Star Trek: Enterprise The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre - Book Report #232

I won’t lie: I found this book tedious. Mostly because I was uninterested in the guests aboard the Enterprise. 

It made perfect sense; a new captain should be assigned an easy, shake-down cruise. Time to get to know the ship and its crew without putting much stress on them. 

So, brand new Captain Kirk takes on a traveling Vaudville show and is instructed to visit all the distant star bases to lift morale by taking the act “on the road.”

The idea of the book was a good one but I did not enjoy the circus performers and the fact that Kirk was instantly attracted to one of them.

There are some added characters; a Vulcan juggler who is emotional, a new alien race is discovered drifting through Federation space and Klingons come to mix it all together. 

Sounds like it should work, right?  Except it doesn’t.  It was exceedingly slow, far too introspective and just boring to read.  I’m not the kind of reader that needs a fistfight in every chapter but this book takes its time to get going. 

Having been published in 1986 it’s conceivable the author was under strict control not to do anything alarming to the franchise. So maybe I’m not being fair. 

But it all comes down to whether I enjoyed the story or not. 

I didn’t. 

To bad too. I was really hoping for something a bit more fun. 

Okay, that was quite a bit of bashing the book. It wasn’t all bad: there were some parts of the book that I did like. 

Since this is an origins story it was a lot of fun to read how Sulu came aboard, the bad feelings the senior crew held comparing Kirk to the departed Captain Pike, how Scotty treated the new captain and how Chekov was always on board the ship. 

That last point filled in the gaping plot hole from The Wrath of Kahn.  How Kahn recognizes Chekov even though he wasn’t on the TV show until the season after his appearance. 

So it did work on some levels.  It just didn’t capture my imagination. 

Vonda N. McIntyre's website - http://www.vondanmcintyre.com/

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stars, Won’t You Hide Me? by Ben Bova

For a last installment in a very good collection this one was mind-blowing in its scale.

Holman wakes with the ship's computer AI asking for instructions.  Where should we go?  The ship has been damaged in an attack but it is repairing itself.

Humanity has been at war with The Others and they have come back to exterminate every last person left alive.

Not only did the include faster-than-light travel but  it is an intergalactic chace story.  Humanity has been judged as unworthy to continue existing.

This was a terrific epic that could easily have been made into a complete series of novels.  Bova did a great job of succinctly telling a giant story by showing us what happened to one single man.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The 50-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, Book Two by Mark A. Altman & Edward Gross - Book Review #231

This was a giant addition to the previous book.

Once again it is just packed with insights some readily known others scathing.  But it still manages to make me wonder how the shows ever made it to the screen.  There was so much interference by the creators, studios, networks that all managed to dumb down the product.

What rally made me unhappy was how the powers that be consistently underestimated the audience.

As I've mentioned before, I love the DVD extras that are part of most movies you can buy.  This filled that desire so very well.

I've enjoyed these volumes as audiobooks and I must say that the productions was very well thought out.  It was not just read by one person.  Since the books is nothing more interviews thoughtfully laid out to make a cohesive narrative, the producers of the audiobook hired a cast of narrators which made following along that much easier.  It would have been very easy to lose track of who was doing the talking had it been read by only one person.

I had no idea how scripts were written for the show, when you have that many people writing and making changes along the way to production, the original idea of an episod was often completely lost in the process.  How I would love to read the originally intended stories in book form, just to get an idea of what could have been.

The only example of that is Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever, which has been made into a comic book and released as a novela under his own name.  What was intended and what was delivered is actually quite disappointing in comparison.

I loved this series of books.  If you like knowing what happened on the set an in the writers room, then you'll love these books.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Long Way Back by Ben Bova

I found this story less plausible, so I had trouble getting behind the premise.

In America, after a nuclear exchange, society has devolved as you might expect - into tribal behavior.  One enclave is formed where the leadership decides to rebuild society by first scavenging rocket parts and then sending one volunteer into orbit to assemble a power satellite that has been parked there since before the war.

He has been trained by hypnosis (really?) and barely has enough oxygen to get the job done (odd).

Once the true nature of the mission is discovered, and the manipulations that took place to get it done, our poor hypnotized astronaut changes the rules.

There was something that could have worked in the story but placing it in a post-apocalypse setting threw the whole thing off balance .  At least for me.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Star Wars: Aftermath, Book One by Chuck Wendig - Book Report #230

This is an interesting series.  In the run up to the much-anticipated release of the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens Chuck Wendig wrote a trilogy that bridges the time between since Return of the Jedi.  32 years is a lot of time to play with.

The only downside to the story is the filler.  There are so many action sequences, that felt unnecessary, it quickly became boring.

But it was the narration, done by Mark Thompson, that kept the story lively.  He is a terrific voice actor with a complete command of accents.  This was impressive considering how many characters the author used.

It should also be said that the music and sound effects were amazing.  It was a complete experience.  It is unusual to hear a full audio drama.

There was a lot of exposition to cover, but since the leadership of the Empire is dead, Wendig chose to focus on one splinter group which control three capital ships.  During a secret meeting with this group of Empeirals an unlikely group of people come together to thwart their plans.

I loved the formation of that rebel team.

Chuck Wendig's website:  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/

Chuck Wendig


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sword Play by Ben Bova

This was not a SF story but more a coming of age one.

Luckily Bova writes an introduction to each story in this collection. Otherwise, I would have been left wondering why it was included. 

It deals with boys coming to terms with things they don't currently understand, about being open to others and willing to learn.

It was a warm story.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Count Backwards To Zero by Brett Halliday - Book Report #229

I must admit that I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes while reading this book.

Sure it's a hard-boiled detective story, which is something I love, but I couldn't help thinking about how it just did not stand up to what transpires today.  Okay, I know it's not fair, it was written in 1971 and things were different.

I may also have suffered by the fact that this is the 62nd volume in the series so there are many relationships in the book that seem so very convenient that they took me out of the story.

Here's the premise: an British scientist, suicidally depressed, is convinced to smuggle plutonium into the US on board the RMS Queen Mary.  Mike Shayne boards the ship in Bermuda and immediately becomes entangled in the conspiracy.

The moment the story had Shayne doing some pretty heroic automobile maintenance in the hold of the ship, I was out.  There is no way one man could do what he did, and talk about a dangerous job to boot!

Once he is on his home turf of Miami the level of suspension of disbelief I needed was too much.  It started with his personal car, which had a car phone - in 1971!  I had to Google when car phones first made it to market.  Yup, that fit reality, but it must have been incredibly expensive.  This Mike Shayne guy must be very successful and have tons of money.

This was further proven out when his car is shown to have a booby trap right out of James Bond.

It goes on - his reputation is so good that the local police allow him to investigate the conspiracy.  When the FBI become involved the local cops convince the feds to let Shayne continue.

The sex was unbelievable, the relationships and deals Shayne creates out of nothing were also impossible to buy.

In short, this book is terrible because it was written straight.  Today, with only a little bit of rewriting, it would make a terrific comedy.

Funny how nearly 50 years can change a story.

Brett Halliday


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Shining Ones by Ben Bova

This could be shot as a movie by Steven Spielberg.

It has all the elements; a troubled youngster, a small town, local police, the army and an alien encounter. 

Johnny has run away from home and discovered a UFO landing site.  While he hides out he watches the affairs around the craft. 

Forced by curiosity, his own personal need and hunger he sneaks into the camp the military have built around the UFO. 

The story was charming and warm. 

A treat.

Ben Bova's website:  http://benbova.com/


Monday, May 7, 2018

The 50 Year Mission - Book One by Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman - Book Report #228

Simply terrific stuff.

I am a person who LOVES DVD extras; this is over 400 pages (25 hours of listening) of unedited, unauthorized and unapologetic behind-the-scenes stories of the first 25 years of Star Trek creativity. 

The stories contained are fearless in exposing the warts, egos and political maneuvers that created this thing. 

My god, I would have thrown my hands up and gone on to something else if I had to work in such an environment. 

It is shocking that anything made it to television, never mind the movies.

All-in-all it was terrific fun.

Highly recommended - if you're a fan.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Next Logical Step by Ben Bova

Wow!

THIS is what great science fiction is all about. 

It is just as timely and important today as it was back in 1962.

A top secret computer model predicts the likely scenario of a world after a nuclear exchange. 

This should be required reading to those in power and to every high school student. 

Chilling. 

To me this is the best story in the collection. 

Ben Bova's website:  http://benbova.com/


Monday, April 30, 2018

Artemis by Andy Weir - Book Report #227

This was just the kind of science fiction I crave.

Jazz Bashara is a 20-something resident of the moon colony, Artemis.  She isn't a scientist or an engineer, no she is a smuggler.  Working as a courier between the bubbles of the colony she manages to eke out a living.  Which is why she brings in some contraband to supplement her income

When one of her customers, a very wealthy business man, offers her a lucrative payoff for doing a crime outside her usual realm, she takes the job.

Of course, things don't go quite as planned, there would be no story if it did.

For me, it's not the caper itself that drove me to turn the pages.  It was the setting.  Artemis is essentially a frontier town set on the Sea of Tranquility, 40 kilometers away from the Apollo 11 landing site.  The colony survives on tourism (a visitor centre is built at Tranquility Base) and by producing oxygen and aluminum from the regolith.

The place is populated with people who are making a living keeping the base operating and expanding.  It has its own economy, even it's own currency.

What I like in the story is how Weir answers the question; "What would it be like to live on the moon permanently?"  Well, you'd need to make it a place people would want to go - hence the tourism aspect, it brings in much needed money to build infrastructure. 

In order to build all of that you'll need trades people, who will bring their families or create them as relationships are formed.  This is how our character, Jazz has come to Artemis, she was born there. 

Back to the story.  All the stuff that makes humans so darn messy and interesting is on the moon too.  Greed, ambition and deception are all present during and especially after the caper is done.

There is an aspect of Weir's previous book, The Martian, here too.  When things go wrong, and lots of things do, the problems need to be solved one at a time.  Sometimes fixing one thing breaks another.  Which was almost comical but the stakes were too high for it be so.  Solving the problems required skills, knowledge and teamwork.

And ultimately the story was about people rising above their current situations. 

The dialogue was smart and sassy.

Artemis proves that Andy Weir will be with us for a long time, writing adventures and inspiring people to work toward a bigger future.

Andy Weir's website: http://www.andyweirauthor.com/

Andy Weir

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Blood of Tyrants by Ben Bova

A sequel of sorts to Escape!

Bova took the main character of Danny and put him in a far-different rehabilitation program. 

It was an interesting story where Danny takes everything he’s learned about how re-enter society and puts his own twist on things when he’s released. 

I’ve got to say this is the weakest story so far.  It relied too much on my willingness to suspend disbelief. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Star Trek: Envoy, a Captain Sulu Adventure by L. A. Graf - Book Report #226

At first I was disappointing by the short, one hour, run time of the audio book.

But it was well produced and narrated by none other than George Takei.  So I was in.

The story is set in the time period of Captain Sulu's command of the USS Excelsior.

Starfleet Command orders Sulu to board a shuttle and travel to a nearby starbase to assist in the final stages of a peace treaty between the Krikiki and the Den-Kai races who have been at war for decades.

When he finds out what his part in the peace process entails, Sulu finds himself in a battle between his personal morals and the greater good. 

This is the kind of subject matter that makes Star Trek so very special.

I enjoyed the story very much and found the one hour duration similar to watching an episode of the TV series.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Men of Good Will by Ben Bova

An interesting treat of a story.

What happens when you use weapons, designed on Earth, and fire them on the moon?

A funny and sobering look at orbital mechanics.