Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Slider by Bud Sparhawk from Analog Magazine, May 2015

26/100

It seems some situations are universal and may never change.

A man, now in midlife, transfers his desires to his son and pushes him in directions he may not want.

I slowly realized this story was bigger than its word count.  There were some profound questions raised by it that I found myself wondering; how much have I tried to transfer to my own daughters?

Does the urge to reproduce not end with the birth of a child?  Or is the impulse a bit more sinister than that, even if it's unintentional?  Are we, as individuals, compelled to create surrogates for ourselves?  Do we implant our underachieved goals and desires into our offspring in the hopes that we can see them realized in our lifetime, even if by someone else?  Is that even fair?

A wonderful story.

Bus Sparhawk's website is here:  http://www.budsparhawk.com/

His personal blog is here:   http://budsparhawk.blogspot.ca/

Bud Sparhawk

Monday, May 25, 2015

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Lust's Latinum Lost (and found) by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann - Book Report #135

I had so much fun reading this book.  It was a wonderful departure from so much of the Star Trek books that usually deal with very heavy topics and large stakes.

Here we find Quark, arguably the most "average Joe" of any character in Star Trek, searching for a rumoured sequel to a very popular holo-suite title.

Yup Quark is still trying to increase his profit at his bar on DS9.  I always found Quark to be one of the best realized characters in the show and to have an entire book devoted to him was a welcomed change of pace.  The authors nailed his voice and I found myself laughing and completely losing myself in the story.

This book is really a gift to the fans.  It is not trying to welcome new readers to the world of Star Trek but is, instead, rewarding those that are already hooked.

Buy this book.  Encourage Pocket Books to contract with these authors by making it a best-seller.

Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Zen Angel by Rajnar Vajra from Analog Magazine May 2015

25/100

I recently read a book about the Voyager missions, specifically about the messages that are attached to the space crafts.

In this story a similar device is found, this one is from another universe.  The outer message has been decoded and states that there are artifacts inside from the previous universe.  These items can be retrieved but only by species deemed worthy.

Big topic, one that would need the space only a novel can provide.

I liked the story, even though it is not my cup of tea, too many aliens, too many "magical" technologies and the premise of a competition to determine who gets to look inside the probe, well it was a bit much to swallow.  What I enjoyed most from this novella was the narrator, he was refreshingly irreverent and likable.

Even though I did not like the story itself I did enjoy how Vajra wrote.  I would like to find more of his stuff, I think he could be an author to look for.

Rajnar Vajra's website is here although it is not dedicated to his writings:   http://www.rajlessons.com/

To find out a bit more about his bibliography try going here:  http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?15728

Rajnar Vajra



Monday, May 18, 2015

Star Trek: The Original Seires: From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward - Book Report #134

Holy throwback Thursday, Batman!

Some of my favourite episodes of any Star Trek series are when they go back to a past era of Earth.

In this book Ward takes aspects of DS9's Little Green Men plus Carbon Creek from Enterprise and made it his own by following the lives of two human investigators searching for proof of alien contact on behalf of the US government.  They work from the first days of the Majestic 12 organization and through Project Blue Book.

I'd never heard of Majestic 12 (also know as MJ-12) and that's because it lives in the world of conspiracy theorists but Project Blue Book was real.  I also remember watching a TV show called Project U.F.O that followed two Project Blue Book investigators.  I was always disappointed that swamp gas seemed to be the answer behind most of the UFO sightings.  To be fair, Blue Book debunked most sightings it investigated.  Nine-year-old me really, really wanted to meet an alien.  In any case, you gotta love an author that can seamlessly blend fact and fiction to create, well, better fiction.

The story did bounce back and forth between Kirk's Enterprise and the Earth from the 40's to the 60's and made my head swim a bit.  Time travel stories have a way of spinning out of control if the author is not careful.  I did appreciate some of Kirk's musings on how time travel gave him a headache.

All in all the book was very entertaining and I highly recommend it.  As long as you have a passing knowledge of Star Trek you'll be fine.

Dayton Ward

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Wilderness by Ray Bradbury

24/100

A charming story about two women spending their last evening on Earth before they board a rocket destined for Mars.

This story is the first entry in the Fourth Planet From The Sun collection of Mars stories from the lovely people at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.





Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Star Trek: S.C.E: Invincible by David Mack and Keith R.A. DeCandido

23/100

A classic of pure science fiction.  This story felt like a throwback to the days when the monthly pulp magazines ruled the genre.

The first officer of the da Vinci, Sonya Gomez, is sent alone on a mission the "strange new world" of Sarindar, to help the locals complete a massive engineering project.  The planet is crystalline in structure, the people are somewhat primitive and superstitious, the government is not entirely friendly to the Federation and the pervading culture is misogynistic.

This project, when completed, will help relations between Sarindar and the Federation.  This puts a lot of pressure to succeed on Sonya and she has much to overcome.

I really enjoyed this story.  Like I said, it has the feel of classic SF dressed up in Star Trek garb; what could be better?  I simply sat back and let David and Keith tell me a story.  It was a nice escape.

I was happy to see that the entire story, which was originally published in two parts, was collected here.

I must say: The Core of Engineers series is starting to hit its' stride and I am looking forward to e-cracking the e-spine of the next e-book collection of stories.
Keith R.A. DeCandido
David Mack

Collection #2

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Star Trek: S.C.E.: Cold Fusion by Keith R. A.De Candido

22/100

A nice tie-in with DS9 where the crew of the da Vinci, with the help of Lieutenant Nog, go on a salvage mission to the abandoned Empok Nor, the sister station to DS9.

While attempting to salvage some spare parts they discover the station has been greatly modified. It is not long before some baddies from a previous S.C.E. story show up to complicate things.

I enjoyed the pacing and the appearance of Nog was most welcome. There is some nice character development with members of the da Vinci crew. I also appreciated how the end of this story sets up the next one.

This whole serialized series is a wonderful nod to the classic publishing model.

Keith R. A. DeCandido

Monday, April 20, 2015

Murmurs Of Earth, The Voyager Interstellar Record by Carl Sagan - BookReport #133

Think of the Voyager record as a time capsule from Earth of the 1970's.

The book is really a collection of essays about the creation of the Voyager record.  Which itself is quaint, knowing how technology has progressed since then. Even now, with the current resurgence in popularity of vinyl records, a person would be hard pressed to even play the Voyager record if it was available to buy.  It was encoded at 16 2/3 RPM in order to pack as much information as possible into it.

For The Future Times and Beings by Carl Sagan. I was surprised and a bit disgusted by the politics that came into the project and by some of the vitriol that was launched at the project team for what was included and what was left out.  It is lucky it was made at all.

The Foundations of the Voyager Record by Frank Drake.  The second essay tackles the difficult subject of just how you compose a message to an alien race.  There have been other instances of humanity sending proverbial messages in bottles.  Notably Pioneer 10 and 11 have plaques attached that caused much controversy because they included nude figures of humans.  In November of 1974, from the Arecibo radio telescope, a message was sent to the globular star cluster, Messier 13, which will take 25,000 years to get there.  In this transmission was an easily decode-able binary message that I thought would be quite difficult to understand.  As a matter of fact, I certainly would not be able to understand anything that has been sent so far.  I shouldn't worry about that since the intended audience are the scientific minds of unknown alien races not regular alien folks like me.

The plaque attached to Pioneer 10 & 11
The message sent by the Arecibo Observatory


The Voyager golden record cover


Pictures of Earth by Jon Lomberg: explains each individual photograph that is on the voyager record.   Here, again I was struck at how much thought went in to selecting each photo.  

There was a considerable effort in making sure each selection built upon another. Even with the nearly four decades that have passed you can get the impression that this is really a time capsule of sorts. The technology in the images has certainly moved on. But there is also a timeless quality to most of it; images depicting human beings will never be outdated. Unless we tragically don't continue as a race. 

A Voyager's Greetings by Linda Salzman Segan: was probably the most touching section of the book.  I was not surprised, by this point, that there was an agonizing amount of thought put into this portion of the project.  The bulk of this essay was occupied by a chart depicting; the language the greeting was spoken in, what was said printed in the characters of that language, the English translation, the speaker's name, the countries where the language is spoken, how many millions of people speak that language and the percent of the world's population that represents.

I was quickly drawn to the English translation column and found the greetings to be very poignant, hopeful, funny and respectful.  If I take this book off the shelf to show someone, I will most likely flip the pages of this section first.

Voyager

The Sounds of Earth by Ann Druyan.  On the Voyager record there is a collection of typical sounds from Earth; volcanoes, earthquakes, thunder, wind, rain, surf, crickets, frogs, footsteps, heartbeats, laughter, Morse code, train, truck, jet and many more.

All the sounds are laid out in a chronological order of life on Earth.  My personal belief is that this may be the most confusing portion of the record, just because sound effects, on their own require a familiarity with the source.  Many of the sounds tie with the pictures and are roughly in the same sequence as the photos so there is an elegance and logic to it.

Voyager's Music by Timothy Ferris.  I'll be honest here; I skipped most of this essay.  I love music and have something playing in the background as much as possible.  (I'm listening to some Gene Ammons as I write this). I am not, however, well versed in classical music, or traditional world folk music which comprises the bulk of the music selections.  I also am very weak in the terms used to describe music and its creation, so much of the discussion here just went over my head.

I do believe the addition of music on the record to be an inspired choice. Talk about putting our best foot forward.

The Voyager Mission to the Outer Solar System by Carl Sagan.  Since this book was published in 1978 and the first encounters with Jupiter did not happen until the next year the essay is worded in forward-looking language which made reading it quite special.  Sagan speculated on what would be learned based on what was then only theorized or remotely detected.  The flybys of Uranus and Neptune were still in the planning stages. 

It is a treat to see just how well the scientist of the day predicted what they found.  I was especially taken by what they knew of Io, Jupiter's innermost moon; they knew it was orbiting through a doughnut-shaped cloud of material that was thought to come from its surface but not why.  How wonderful it must have been when Voyager showed it to be caused by intense volcanic activity.

A massive volcanic eruption on the surface of Io.


The final essay is the Epilogue by Carl Sagan. Here we get back into the romanticism of the project and where we find ourselves today (2015).  Now that both Voyager 1 and 2 have crossed into interstellar space the final question to answer is what to do with the remaining propulsion fuel?  Currently the spacecraft are headed to open space but there is some thought being made to alter course and send them to nearby star systems.

Sagan also speculated how long the Voyager records can physically last given the environment of space; radiation and micrometeorites will have the greatest influence on the durability of the messages it contains.

Final thoughts.  If you can track down a copy of this book it is well worth adding it to your collection.  I took from it a sense of satisfaction and pride from what it contained and the efforts of the project team. I can't think of a better way to introduce humanity to the galaxy.

Carl Sagan holding the Pioneer plaque.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman- Book Report #132

One of my reading goals is to read most of the post-Nemesis novels in the Star Trek universe.  This is quite the challenge, not only because there are so many books but also because the plots have become so intermixed and complex that I need a flow chart just to keep track of it.

Luckily there are two sources that offer such charts.  My favourite is from Jim's Books where he has taken the time and effort to create a beautiful map using the cover art of each book.

http://www.shastrix.com/books/star-trek-reading-order.php

The other is provided by the Trek Collective and takes on the monumental task of charting all the books that fall outside The Original Series.  It's quite the head-scratcher, but also a lot of fun.

http://www.thetrekcollective.com/p/trek-lit-reading-order.html

------------------------

Death in Winter begins by explaining how Picard's genetic material was gathered in order to create Shizon from the movie Nemesis.

Crusher is on a mission to save a race of people who are suffering a plague while also suffering under Romulan occupation.  This is a covert operation that finds her held captive by the Romulans.  Call in Picard and two men from his past to rescue her.

The reason this book exists is to finally have Picard admit to Crusher that he loves her.  It is also the first treatment of the Star Trek universe free from the limitations placed upon authors of a TV or movie series that is still in production.  Death in Winter's job is to set up this new environment.  By doing so Friedman tells many important stories.  There is firstly the story of Picard and Crusher, which was the dullest of the plot lines that the whole book relies on to expose the other sub-plots.

Picard's two friends, from his days on the Stargazer,  Pug and Greyhorse, are re-introduced into the time line.  Tasha Yar's evil Romulan "twin", Sela also makes a welcomed appearance.  And the power vacuum in the Romulan Empire, that was created by the events in the movie Nemesis, is explored with yet more characters dredged up from the TV series.

The story of Picard rescuing Crusher was the least entertaining as it was used as a device to add exposition.  For the most part Picard and company spend a lot of time walking through snow storms and tunnels to avoid Romualn patrols.  While hiding, there was plenty of time to think about the past.

In the end, although I was disappointed with the Picard / Crusher thread, I was happy with the rest of it.  I was given a greater understanding of the bigger picture that is the Star Trek Universe.

Michael Jan Friedman's website is:
http://www.k8cooke.org/michaeljanfriedman/


Michael Jan Friedman




Monday, April 6, 2015

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Missing by Una McCormack - Book Review #131

For 2015 I've decided to keep up with the Star Trek novels as they are published.  All but The Original Series; although I grew up with Kirk and the gang, I consider The Next Generation "my" Star Trek.  That means everything that is set in Picard's time period I will read.

The Missing takes place at exactly the same time as the previous release - Takedown.

I really enjoyed the Deep Space Nine series because it was such a rich setting for stories.  All the activity around the station makes for a wonderful mess of possible plot lines to follow.

In what felt like a slice-of-life story we find a scientific expedition preparing to embark on a deep space mission, a wandering  band of space-Gypsies, protesters demanding the release of prisoners of war, one refugee, one spy and a new alien race.

Wonderful.

Through it all McCormack manages to mix these plots together into one novel.  She was able to capture the feel of what life on the station can be like.  It felt familiar, overwhelming and comfortable.  Through all the interactions and conflicts there was an inevitable feeling that everything will work out, somehow.  Just like life.

Reading this book was like sinking into a warm bath.  I felt like I was home again.

McCormack's website is:
http://www.unamccormack.com/

Una McCormack



Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Long Haul by Ken Liu


Issue 98, Nov 2014
21/100

Alternate history stories can really make you think.

Here the question of, what if the Hindenburg never crashed and burned?

There would be Zeppelins everywhere is what. 

In this story Liu shows us an impeccably realized time where a world that has embraced green energy and transportation solutions created a market for heavy-lift cargo Zeppelins. 

It is written like a magazine article where a reporter accompanies a married couple, who operate their own independent ship, on a typical run from China to the U.S.  

I loved this story, it showed what could have been just a normal slice of life. 

Recommended. 

Ken Liu's website is:
http://kenliu.name/

Ken Liu

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pernicious Romance by Robert Reed

20/100

Presented here is a mystery. What seems like a terrorist attack at a college football game has very unusual results. 

The blast at centre field was an unusual explosion. Those closest to the epicentre died but most of the 70,000 fans were knocked into a strange kind of unconsciousness. 

I liked the way the story was structured and I found it very entertaining. I could certainly see it developed as a movie. It's very cinematic in the telling and there is a lot to consider here. It's definitely something you can spend some time discussing with your friends. 

Robert Reed's website:
http://www.robertreedwriter.com/

 Robert Reed

Monday, March 23, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takedown by John Jackson Miller - Book Report #130

Oh my god - what fun.

It's Riker vs. Picard in a battle to save the Federation.  Yup William T. Riker is in a battle against our beloved captain.

What's going on?  Why did Riker sneak off to a super secret meeting and why is he and others from that meeting now attacking key infrastructures?

It's a mystery and a race against time to figure it all out and stop the attacks.

The novel was pure, thumping good fun.  I found the voices of the main characters were well captured and the plot felt like it could have come from a two-part episode of the TV series.

This is John Jackson Miller's first Star Trek novel and I believe we will be hearing more from him in the future.

Never a dull moment here.

Recommended.


Miller's website is:
http://www.farawaypress.com/

John Jackson Miller





Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cameron Rhyder’s Legs by Matthew Kressel

November 2014
19/100

What a strange time travel/alternate reality story.

A rock concert is the ultimate battleground in a war to preserve True Time.

In this battle technology so advanced is used to instantly occupy and control minds.  Warriors from the future try to change the outcome of the concert by manipulating small details of the lives of people in the concert hall.

Sound confusing?  Well, it kind of is but the author does a great job of keeping the story from spinning out if control.  It's disorienting enough to make you feel like you've had one too many drinks before you started reading.

This was definitely strange and fun. 

Matthew Kressel's website:
http://www.matthewkressel.net/

Matthew Kressel