Monday, May 2, 2016

The Walking Dead Volumes 1& 2 by Robert Kirkman (writer) and Tony Moore (artist)

I will admit that I found the television series boring to the extreme.  There was simply far too much, "BOO!" ZOMBIE!!  After a while it got old.  I watched four episodes then gave up.

However, I loved the premise; instead of trying to explain how it all happened we just follow the main character, after he recovers from a coma, as he discovers and adapts to his world.  The narrative begins after the plague has been around for a long time.  How does he cope?  How does he come to terms with this new reality?  Where is his family?  Will he ever be able to have a normal life again?

I have coworkers who love the show and talk about it after every episode.  Everybody I talk to says the same thing; it's not really about the zombies but about how the "living" cope with a changed world.  It's a post-apocalyptic story which can always be interesting.  But I really did not want to invest in watching more television.  Instead I thought I'd go to the source material and read the collected editions of the comic series.

My friends were right the story is not about the zombies, although they are everywhere just like snow is everywhere in winter.  Volumes one and two collect the first 12 issues of the series.  Like a novel the entire story is told in chapters, also know as plot arcs, of 6 issues each.  There are currently 25 collections in print with the 26th due out soon.  The comic is still in production so there is a lot of this world to explore.

I've been reading the series in eBook format borrowed from the Edmonton Public Library.

Volume 1 tells the story of our main character, Rick, a sheriff's deputy recovering from injuries sustained on the job.  He makes his way from the hospital to his home then begins to search for answers and his family in Atlanta.

Volume 2 picks up the story with Rick, now the leader of the group, and their search for a safe haven.  First they find a gated community then a distant farm.  There is a gathering tension as food and fuel run low and members of the group begin to crack under the stress.

So far I've enjoyed the series but I am not sure if I'll be able to sustain my interest.  Since The Walking Dead is still in production as a comic there is likely no satisfying conclusion.  Comics live and breath on open-ended story telling, I get that, and each chapter is a story in and of itself, with a cliff-hanger ending.  I'm just not sure I'm willing to spend a lot of time in such a bleak world.  As story tellers I'm sure Kirkman and Moore will break the tension from time to time.

Robert Kirkman - writer

Tony Moore - artist.



Monday, April 25, 2016

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol 1 by Alan Moore (writer) and Kevin O'Neill (artist)

019/150/2016

I don't normally post about graphic novels but this one stood out so much that I felt it deserved mention.

Having never read the classics of adventure novels and knowing this was once made into a movie, I thought it would be a fun romp.  And it was.  Mixing Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll & Hyde and others from the period the reader is treated to a fantastic, Victorian tale of derring-do.

It was a charming story piquing my interest in H. Rider Haggard's stories of Quartermain's adventures.

There was also a treat at back the of the volume.  In keeping with the way these stories would have originally been published, Moore wrote a serialized, six-part adventure that explained how Quartermain found his way to opium den in Cairo.  It is there where he is introduced to the adventure of the graphic novel itself.  Moore's wonderfully ornate purple prose gave it the feel that it was lifted directly from a penny dreadful.  This made for a nice bookend to the whole thing.

Since the six-part story was prose I am counting it towards my short story reading challenge.

Alan Moore - writer.


Kevin O'Neill - artist.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Consequences by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - Book Report #155

07/15/2016

I keep saying Rush is one of my favourite SF authors but I just keep reading other people's work.

I dug this book out of my To Be Read pile and decided to just jump in, even though it is the third installment in the series.  The story stood on it's own but, as I feared, I felt that I was missing quite a bit by not having read the previous two novels.

There are two main characters; Miles Flint, a Retrieval Artist and Noelle DeRicci, a cop.  Both of whom used to be partners back when Flint was also a cop.  So there is the back story there that informs much of their current relationship.  

In this book Flint is contracted to reunite a daughter with her family. Things go badly when the family is then quickly murdered.  Now Flint and DeRicci are working the case but from opposite sides.  The plot is thickened by the introduction of a sub plot about an alien race that is seeking membership in the Earth Alliance.

All of this is, of course, tied to the primary plot.  I found myself getting impatient with the structure because, it was obvious these plot lines were going to converge but it was taking a long time to do so and I wasn't very interested in it in the first place.  I wanted more of Miles and Noelle.

It was a good story and Rusch has proved, once again, that I should be reading more of her work.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch -  http://www.kristinekathrynrusch.com/






Monday, April 11, 2016

Powersat by Ben Bova - Book Review #154

06/15/2016

This is the kind of stuff I like.  Plausible SF without aliens or FTL.

Bova has been delivering this kind of fiction for decades and I really enjoyed this audio book.

That's not to say it was perfect, to be honest I found his love scenes to be ham-fisted and the women were depicted in an antiquated way; only ONE woman was not driven by love.  That's not to say they were not strong or smart, each one was, but the underlying driver was that they were in love with the main character Dan Randolph.

Randolph himself was irrationally in love with a senator to the point that his proclamations of love to her grated on me.  I found myself saying, "Really??" a lot.

Okay, many of the characters were just a bit off, but one must remember that Bova has been writing this kind of thing right from the tail end if the pulps and for the entire life of the paperback thriller era.  His plotting was excellent, his villains were diabolical and Randolph's competitors were formidable.

I kept thinking that this was very close to what Elon Musk and SpaceX must have felt like when they were getting started.  Without the body count.  That's not to say the book is very violent.  The industrial espionage within was believable and the action sequences were thrilling and cinematic.

All in all, none of it felt impossible and I found myself wishing SpaceX would take up the challenge of developing space based power generation.  Randolph and Musk share the same vision, they want to make the world a better place and are willing to take fantastic risks to get it done. They are men of vision.

Perhaps that is what makes this book work for me; there is a real life Dan Randolph, and Tony Stark rolled into one and he is Elon Musk.

Go SpaceX!




Go Ben Bova!




Monday, April 4, 2016

The Next Ten Years by George Friedman - Book Report #153

05/15/2016

Once again I turned to the Edmonton Public Library's digital offerings and downloaded the unabridged audio book.

I thought I was borrowing a technology book, what I got was an exploration of the geopolitical future of the United States.  It was fascinating.  I was confused, outraged, saddened, disgusted, curious, amazed and given a glimpse at the overwhelming complexity of power politics.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to listen to this book.  At times I was dizzy with information and did not fully understand what I was hearing.  But as I went deeper into it, I began to think of the dealings the US has with other countries works much like a game of chess.  Politics are not so much about the current move but but what needs to be accomplished four or five moves from now.

Throughout the book the author stresses that the United States is now truly an empire.  Even though the US never intended to be one, nor is it comfortable in the role, but that is the position it finds itself in.  To that end, the president (whoever it will be) must be prepared to work in such a reality.

I now find myself listening more intently to the international news, trying to see some of the insights the author illustrated in action.  This book shifted my understanding of things. 

Highly recommended.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Created, The Destroyer by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir - BookReport #152

04/15/2016

There is a long history of men's adventure books. Paperback originals that were a quick and mindless distraction. The Destroyer series was unique in that it took a humorous spin on the genre never taking itself too seriously but delivering on the action and adventure.

This is the origin story and I was able to download it from the Kindle store for free.  Like a good drug dealer would do, the first couple of tastes are free.

There were nearly 200 stories written staring Remo Williams and Chiun and they do not need to be read in any order.

The dialog is crisp, funny, irreverent and intense.  The plotting is quick and the bad guys practically twist their mustaches.  It was a fun read.

If you like Bond, Spenser or even MacGyver then you will enjoy this.

Warren Murphy - http://warrenmurphy.com/

Richard Sapir -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Sapir





Monday, March 21, 2016

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - Book Report #151

03/15/2016

This was another audio book for me in Robinson's Mars trilogy.

Like the last book, I am certain I would have abandoned it if I were reading it.  Robinson has a way of digging into things that, if he were on my couch telling me this story, my eyes would glaze overt.

This time it was even worse.  Although, in the last book, I appreciated all the minute details he went into, this time I found it frustrating.  

I kept thinking "Yes, Mars is wonderful." 

"Yes, the scenery is amazing."

I got all that from the first book. All I wanted from this one was a story.  But every time he moved the plot forward he would spend more time looking under rocks and he would skip over important questions that would come up.

Like, after destroying a large structure in space, I would have been very interested in exploring the reaction from the UNTA, the government in the story.  But he had structured the narrative in such a way that we were limited by seeing events through the eyes of the First 100.

I guess I would have been happier had the book been a bit more aggressively edited.

After finally getting to the end I was left uncertain if I cared enough about this series to complete it.

On the plus side, the book explores just how difficult it would be to create a second planet for human habitation.  The first step is dominated by the engineering; how to get there, land and survive on the surface.  

Once more people start to arrive the problems on Earth are imported to Mars; differing motivations, religious freedoms, political ambitions and corporate influences begin to mix into the realities of life on another planet.

It's all very interesting but gets to be a bit dizzying to encompass it all into a novel, even if it's told over three volumes.  I guess the complaint I have with it is that it is a challenging story.  From the length, the depth of detail and the limited scope of the narration, it is not an easy read.  Or in my case, an easy listen.

Still, I came away from both stories feeling as though I have a much better understanding of the planet and the challenges of the endeavor.  I always come away from the experience feeling that I have spent time with a superior mind.  I guess it should be Robinson complaining about me, instead of the other way around.

Robinson's website -  http://www.kimstanleyrobinson.info/d/




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Analog Magazine March 2016

013/150/2016 - The Coward's Option by Adam-Troy Castro - Wow!  I was first hooked when this looked like a SF court room thriller then the story takes a sinister twist right in the middle, just when I was getting to like the main character too!  The story was exciting, terrifying and so, so satisfying.

I was happy to learn there are more stories with Andrea Cort plus two novels.  I've got to dig into these stories for sure.

http://www.adamtroycastro.com/

014/150/2016 - Unlinkage by Eric Del Carlo - Part military SF part underground sports.  I like the way this story played with the tele-operated/augmented soldier trope and how it turned into something completely unexpected.

 http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?14471

015/150/2016 - The Perfect Bracket by Howard Hendrix and Art Holcomb - This was a fun nearly comical story of scamming the NCAA basketball brackets.  Once the nature of the scam showed itself my head began to swim. But it was lighthearted enough to be mearly an interesting twist and I found myself smiling at the end of it.

Howard Hendrix - http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1691
Art Holcomb - http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?224628

016/150/2016 - Elderjoy by Gregory Benford - A quick and strange read. How do you keep a health care system funded?  By taxing behavior, of course.  Interesting, even though it's a bit creepy.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?109

017/150/2016 - Snowbird by Joe M McDermott - I kept feeling like this would be the kind of thing Steven Spielberg would tackle.  The setting is a rural orchard where RVs, driven by AIs, start arriving en mass.  Why?  Why here?

It was very well done.  It provided the sense of there being a much bigger world, just around the other side of the mountain.

018/150/2016 - Drummer by Thomas R Dulski - At first this story of a traveling salesman caught my attention for how unique it was.  I'm always a sucker for a mundane SF tale.  The day-in-the-life kind of thing grabs me.

Here our narrator meets a younger fellow "Drummer", what those in the business are called, in a bar and he engages him in conversation.  After a bit if time he gives the younger man the advice that he might be happier in some other kind of work. 

We then follow our man through the years and to other meetings with with the younger one.  

The story sort if lost cohesion for me as the younger guy kept making more radical moves as our narrator kept progressing in a more natural, tried-and-true career path.  Perhaps that was the point of the story.  Maybe you never know how a conversation, or a chance meeting will pivot a person's life trajectory.

Hmm, just by writing this entry I think I'm coming to understand it more.





Monday, March 7, 2016

Inhuman Garbage by Kristine Kathryn Rush - A Short Story Review.

013/150/2016

Set in the Retrieval Artist universe and available from Asimov's website for free while the readers' choice awards are still in the voting stage.

It is a straight-up murder mystery involving the main characters of her earlier novels plus a crime boss who is the main suspect.

It was well done with a good twist and a surprising conclusion.  It also does the added work of expanding her RA universe.

Not being a reader of the series I can say that it works very well as a stand alone story.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cold War by Adam Christopher - A Short Story Review.

012/150/2016

I was captivated by this story.  It is set in a larger world that Christopher has written about in a book called The Burning Dark.

A small group of marines are set on a frozen world for a search and rescue mission, only there is a secret secondary objective that puts the group in peril.

Wonderfully done.  I was heart-thumpingly scared for the group when a monstrous threat appears.

I was reminded of the scenes in the movie Aliens when the group is trapped in a room and the radar shows the aliens coming closer and closer and .... wait!

They're in the room!

But we don't see them ....

Yea, like that.

What fun.


Adam Christopher

Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Space Frontiers by Piers Bizony - Book Report #150

02/15/2016

Pretty cool, eh?  150 books.  That's something.

I borrowed this book from the Edmonton Public Library but I simply must get a copy of my own.

If you are even a little bit interested in today's space flight this is the book that will explain it all and be the starting point for deeper research.

It may surprise you to learn just how many projects are out there that are just about ready to break out.  If half of the programs that are explored here make it to flight, the next five to ten years will be so much fun to watch.

The book itself is just beautiful with the interior photos and artwork sending my imagination soaring.

The sad reality of the exploration of space is that it has held orders of magnitude more promise than results.  So it is with a cautious optimism that I follow these newcomers to the black.  The chief difference today is that it is private enterprises, who have a profit motive, that are creating the new hardware that will make the next leap possible.

Don't let anybody tell you that spending money in space is a waste.  The money is never spent in space, it's spent here on Earth and launched into it.  The human race must push forward or stagnate in place.

I found this book to be filled with hope for the future.

Piers Bizony

Monday, February 8, 2016

Analog Magazine, January/February 2016 - Part Three

Theories of the Mind by Conor Powers-Smith

006/150/2016 - A common subject in SF is exploring communication.  Its plausible even likely, that first contact will not come with a handshake and a "How do you do?"

In this story the direct method is not the only aspect explored.  There is the question of logic and individuality to be answered too.

I enjoyed this one, it had the feel of a 1950's classic science fiction, especially in the description of the aliens.  That 50's sensibilities won out when it came to good-old human ingenuity to win the day.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?133997

Nature's Eldest Law by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

007/150/2016 - This was another first contact story.  A team of scientists are exploring a planet when they suddenly discover a grove of plant life that wasn't there before.  These plants have an ability to enhance mental acuity.

It was a good story with believable characters and an ominous ending.

http://myaineko.blogspot.ca/p/home-page.html

The Heat of Passion by Grey Rollins

008/150/2016 - One of my favourite genres the SF Mystery.  Murder and cops in the future are a potent mix.  This one also involved the implications of genetic modification which made for a fresh approach to solving a crime.

Well written with excellent dialog. Rollins is an author to watch.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?11629

Woundings by George Zebrowski

009/150/2016 - I think it's a post-apocalyptic story but, I really didn't get it.  No.  I couldn't even understand it.  I'm pretty sure it was in English.  I mean all the words were English ...


The Shores of Being by Dave Creek

010/150/2016 - Part X-files part first contact, but not really.  There are alien artifacts in the woods, that's the X-files part. 

Two alien races are at war and Earth is caught in the crossfire.

 http://davecreek.net/Explore_Dave_Creeks_fictional_worlds/Home.html

An Industrial Growth by David L Clements

011/150/2016 - Post-apocalyptic with nanotechnology run amok.  A small team must confront a large concentration  nano-machines hidden away in an abandoned industrial plant.

This was a well-realized story that I enjoyed it very much.

https://davecl.wordpress.com/

# # #

As a whole this issue was a solid read and a good start to 2016.

Onward.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson - Book Report #149

01/15/2016

I "read" this book as an audio book loaned from my library.

I was stunned by how much research must have gone into it.

The scope of it was breathtaking.  It wasn't just about the getting there and setting up a base.  No, it went on to city building, immigration issues, corporate shenanigans, political power plays, environmental issues and incredible infrastructure construction.

It felt so real. 

Do not let the fact that it was published in 1992 make you think it's out of date.  It is not.  Everything discussed here is still fresh and relevant. 

A must read for sure.

It felt like a privilege to spend so much time with a superior mind.

KSR website -  http://www.kimstanleyrobinson.info/d/

Kim Stanley Robinson

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Analog Magazine, January/February 2016 - Part Two


We Will Wake Among the Gods, Among the Stars by Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly

002/15012016 - Remember how the big reveal of Planet of the Apes was that it was not the distant past but the distant future?  This is that same kind of thing.

Seven ships land in different parts of a habitable planet.  One is never heard from again and becomes a thing of legend, like Atlantis.  We are generations past the initial landings and find the descendants have reverted back to kingdoms and blind religious faith.  In this story we are following an expedition to find the lost Seventh City.

The story was well written and interesting enough but this kind of dystopian future is not my rusty tin cup of muddy tea.  These tales are best set right here on Earth, for the simple truth that we understand implicitly how tings were, we are invested in the past of the story.  For this very reason I found the story fell flat.  It may have worked better had it been a novel, making the end of the story even more powerful.

Caroline M. Yoachim -  http://carolineyoachim.com/

Tina Connolly - http://www.tinaconnolly.com/

Farmer by Joe M. McDermott

003/150/2016 - Another dystopian story, this time set on Earth.  A New York brownstone is converted into an urban farm.  Not because it's trendy but necessary for survival.  Things are not good in this future.  We are never told exactly what happened to cause the infrastructure to collapse as it has, only that this type of urban farming is not unique.  People live in squalor and are ever-fearful of superbugs, drug resistant infections.

It is such an infection of one of the farm's customers that threatens the livelihood of the two men who own and operate it.  The government still functions and now the men are under threat of an inspection to see if they are the cause of the infection.  Were they doing something illegally?

I liked this one.  It was very vivid in my mind's eye.

Joe M. McDermott -  http://jmmcdermott.blogspot.ca/

Rocket Surgery by Effie Seiberg

004/150/2016 - What happens when you give a guided missile artificial intelligence? 

This was a cool story.  I enjoyed how the AI evolves.

 http://www.effieseiberg.com/

Saving the World by James Gunn

005/150/2016 - An exploration about genre fiction.  How does reading Science Fiction affect the brain.  Can reading science fiction save the world?

This is a well argued story.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?1162

The Persistence Of Memory by Rachel L. Bowden

006/150/2016 - A quick story about a memory of a time and place that changed the direction of the narrators' life. 

I could picture it as a short film. Well done. 





Sunday, January 10, 2016

Analog Magazine, January/February 2016 - Part One

Wyatt Earp 2.0 by Wil McCarthy.

001/150/2016 - In Dawes Crater City, Mars, a facsimile of Wyatt Earp is printed. The head of security needs a bit of help to control the miners and convinces his superiors that a lawman from Earth's history is the correct choice to bring about a bit of order.

Earp wakes up complete with his memories and personality intact. At first we get a fish-out-of-water story but it doesn't take long before he gets his footing and starts asserting himself.  At first he struggles with whether he is a real person since he is a manufactured copy of a man long dead.

There is a fair bit of exploration of the meaning of life when you are the 2.0.  The old saying, The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same came to mind in the final action sequence.  The last scene made me happy for its cleverness and made me wish the story was longer.

An excellent start to the issue.

Wil McCarthy's website is here:  http://www.wilmccarthy.com/

Wil McCarthy



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Art of Space by Ron Miller

This is a coffee table book filled with beautiful art with space and science fiction as its theme.

It explores the history of the art form in five distinct areas:
 
Planets & Moons,
Stars & Galaxies,
Spaceships & Space Stations,
Space Colonies & Cities
and finally Aliens.

It's beautiful, informative and focuses occasionally on specific artists who excelled at their work.

I would recommend this book as a valuable addition to any personal library both for its own right and as a reference to other works.  It makes a good resource to seek out other collections from specific artists. 

Some of my favourite artists are Chesley Bonestell,

Alan Bean,
John Berkey,
Chris Foss,
Don Davis,
Robert McCall
and the ever-creepy H. R. Giger.

There is one other artist, who is not mentioned in this book,  but should be better known, his name is Wayne Haag who did a series of covers for Interzone Magazine.  He has a series of crashed and derilict ships, known as the Ankaris Project.

I have no idea if he had anything to do with the new Star Wars movie but you can get a real appreciation of his art in the opening scenes on the desert planet Jakku.  Below are pictures of his series not of the new movie.



  See?  The book is already working.  It will inspire you to look into this genre of art.