Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Life-Suspension by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

This was more to my liking.

There is a giant big alien threat that the officers of S.R.S Amaterasu are dispatched to deal with.

This could have been all about describing the aliens but instead it focused on the blossoming relationship between the commander of a fighter wing and an officer in charge of the life-suspension systems.

I liked that Modesitt didn't waste my time with explaining how "bad" the enemy was, I can take that as a given.  In the end, stories should be about people and how they are coping in a given situation.  The SF can take a back seat and be in the background and still be very effective as genre fiction.

I liked this story a whole bunch.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr's website -

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Empire Builders by Ben Bova - Book Report #188

Ben Bova has been writing my kind of science fiction for decades and I continue to enjoy every book I've read so far.

You have to approach his books with a pulp mindset.  The characters can sometimes be a bit one-dimensional which is okay with me.  In Bova's stories plot is king and characterization is secondary.  What you get are easily identifiable characters that behave and predictable ways, just like most movie thrillers.

I've been trying to read his Grand Tour series of books but he has written it out of order making it challenging to read in some kind of order.  Even the internet has difficulty putting the series in some kind of chronological order.

It is best to read each book as a stand-alone even though they are loosely connected.

In any case I liked Empire Builders, especially in a time with an Elon Musk in the world.  There are times I feel Musk has read Bova's stuff.

Dan Randolph, the owner of Astro Manufacturing loses everything and becomes a wanted criminal.  He finds his way into the underground society living on the moon where he plots his return and revenge.

I consider myself a futurist at heart and it hurts me to read about powerful people who try to prevent others from fulfilling their visions of a better place for humans by leveraging technology.  Power and money, baby!  Power and money corrupts so many minds.  Bova does a pretty good job of showcasing how powerful people control each other.

Yes, I liked the book.  But there are some flaws that many readers will have difficulty with; one-dimensional characters, obvious plotting and especially his treatment of some of the female characters will leave the reader wincing.

Overall, it still makes for a good read if you focus on the progress of humanity into space and how money can be made out there while solving some of our environmental problems.

Ben Bova

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Carthago Delenda Est by Genevieve Valentine

A message from the planet Carthage is received and delegates from every known world send a ship out to meet them.

Honestly, this was a mess of a story, which only came into some kind of focus in the last few pages. 

Once again so much word count was wasted on describing alien physiology and customs that it took too long before the aspect of a multi-generational (generations of clones) mission for first contact emerged.

This was another miss for me.

Genevieve Valentine's website -

Genevieve Valentine

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller - Book Report #187

This was a fun play on a general science book.

Ben Miller is a British comedian and actor who has a love of science and has published two books trying the explain the complex scientific theories to the general public.

In the book he takes a stab at explaining DNA, Evolution, Black Holes, Relativity, Quantum Physics and Cosmology.

It was a refreshing approach to the subjects and I appreciated the humor infused in it.

At one point I had an "A-Ha!" moment when he explained the time paradox but then I lost it again.  The theory that time runs at different speeds depending on where you are still throws me.  Why should a clock run faster or slower if it is on a speeding spaceship or on a planet?

It is a good book to have on hand when the conversation turns to science.  It would make for an easy recommendation to somebody who is trying to get a better understanding of the large-picture aspects of scientific knowledge.

If you like Bill Nye then you will like this book too.

Ben Miller -

Ben Miller

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mazer in Prison by Orson Scott Card

I don't really know what I think about this story.

On one side, it's an interesting take on suspended animation. Instead of freezing an individual he is put on a ship and sent out on a long journey at near-light speed.  This is to take advantage of the space/time effect that Einstein discovered. 

Then it is also a critique of military decision making and authority structure. 

There was a story of sorts in there, but I was not captured by it. 

It was a miss for me.

It should be noted that this takes place int the Enders Game series and this may be why it did not work for me.  I have not read the books.  As a matter of fact, this was my first story by Card.

Orson Scott Card -

Orson Scott Card

Monday, June 12, 2017

Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen - Book Report #186

This was a difficult book to get through, not because it was a hard read (I experienced it as an audio book) but because the subject matter was so difficult to digest.

The author, Jacobsen, did a staggering amount of research which I was so very impressed by.

I had a vague notion of Operation Paperclip - I knew it had something to do with the assimilation of Nazi scientists, the most notable of them all was Wernher von Braun who was instrumental in the design of the Saturn V rocket that took Americans to the moon.

But what did he do during the war?  What did he see?  What was he responsible for?

The questions were repeated many times for a surprising amount of men who were moved to the United States and exploited for their knowledge.

This book brought me to wonder just how important is it to stay ahead of the "enemy?"

Some good has come from all of this but the source material is truly terrifying and made me feel that there is no real hope for humanity.  We are so consumed with gaining power and killing each other that I wonder if there is any real hope for our species.

And much of the methods of killing, poison gas for instance, was simply added to the arsenal and perfected by the West.

I highly recommend this book.

It is truly a work that will help to heal the world that is, surprisingly, still influenced by the horrors of World War Two.

But be ready for it, Jacobsen does a commendable job of staying neutral in her reporting.  She just lays it out from the records that have been recently declassified.

It is a difficult thing to learn.

Annie Jacobsen website -

Annie Jacobsen

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Minla's Flowers by Alastair Reynolds

The protagonist, Merlin and his AI equipped ship are thrown from their flight path and have to land on a planet to make repairs.

There they discover a society on the cusp of an industrial and technological revolution.  Merlin also discovers that the entire system is threatened by a coming natural disaster and takes it upon himself to help these people.

It was an interesting story that, if you are a Star Trek fan, takes on the implication of a "prime directive."  How far should you go to help nurture progress to help a society?  What are the consequences if you succeed?

I enjoyed this story because, as the anthology suggests, this is just one small corner of a much larger universe that Merlin is part of.

Reynolds has used this character in other books so it's inclusion in this anthology does its job of whetting an appetite to discover what else he's written.

As a stand alone story it worked very well and hinted at the larger universe that is out there in the author's imagination.

Alastair Reynolds' website -

Alastair Reynolds

Monday, June 5, 2017

Strap Hanger by Taras Grescoe - Book Report #185

Being a daily commuter who travels by bus I found this book to be quite satisfying.

In it the author explores the rapid transit systems of New York City, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Tokyo, Bogota, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

All of these cities, including my own, have a combination of busses and rail as part of a larger public transportation system.

What was interesting was how some cities get the rail right and others simply don't.  It was interesting to learn how each system came about and how they evolved.

I read this book entirely on my commutes and felt pretty good about myself in that I am using a system that will play a bigger part in our lives in the future.

Not only was it informative on the subject of transit but it also worked as a travel book.  In each city the author gives a history of the city and a bit of the flavour and how the population lives.

I liked the book very much.

Taras Grescoe