Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Walkabout Amongst The Stars by Lezli Robyn

Yes.  I really liked this one.

One of my favorite space fantasies is to seek out one of  the Voyager probes, polish the Golden Record, refuel the tanks and restock the RTGs and send it on it's way.

It's like archeology.

In this story, somebody beat humans to it!  All of Voyager 1's systems mysteriously power up after going dark two years before.

Tyrille Smith goes out with her AI robot, IRIS, to investigate.  I loved that robot, by the way.  What a wonderful companion.

It's a mystery that turns into a sudden first contact event.

My goodness this was terrific fun.

I must seek out Leslie Robyn's work. -

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Race For Arcadia by Alex Shvartsman

What an excellent and unexpected story.

There is a new race to a distant planet.  The Russians want to be first to land a person on it, for the prestige and glory of being first.

But it's a risky mission.  Knowing that the Chinese and the Americans are committed to their own landings, they embark on a daring one-way trip.  By making the ship smaller and lighter Russia can beat the other countries to Arcadia.

This was particularly relevant given the recent discussion of mounting a one-way trip to land people on Mars.  Thankfully that idea has been canceled.


The Russian mission takes the idea of making the ship lighter one step further and that gives the story a sinister, dark twist.

This was imaginatively thought out.

Loved it.

Alex Shvartsman's website -

Monday, August 6, 2018

How Democracies Die by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky - Book Report #239

The sobering takeaway from this book is: democracies are actually very fragile. It can take only one person, with dictatorial qualities, to unravel decades, even centuries of democratic governance.

By exploring worldwide democratic history, the authors shine a light on the current sitting president, Donald Trump. 

It’s fascinating to learn how calamities from one era can significantly affect the future.  Take 9/11 and the Patriot Act as an example of how future presidents can leverage the act’s power and further erode the rights and freedoms that are the pillars of modern democracy. 

The intense polarization of political views and their parties, got its start in the 1970’s with Newt Gingrich and his viscous verbal attacks on the opposition.  He broke with an unwritten rule of respect and diplomacy. 

Obviously there is much more going on in the two parties than just one person.  Gingrich just marked a change in tone. 

The authors make some interesting connections with civil rights and the current political climate in the United States. 

What I kept coming away with is the fragility of our democratic systems. They only work if we believe, trust and respect them.  Supreme courts can be packed with politically aligned justices.  Filibusters can be abused to the point of making governments impotent.  Respect for the executive, the house and judiciary have been eroded. 

In order to keep democracy working politicians must respect the rules and customs that have been observed over the decades and centuries.  Once the unwritten rules of decorum and respect are broken democracy itself can unravel.

It was a chilling subject - the fragility of democracy. 

More information about the authors -
and -

Steven Levitsky (left) and Daniel Ziblatt

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Excalibur by Jack McDevitt

This one was so believable I actually looked up the fictional NASA mission the story was about.

What if Voyager 2 saw something unexpected when it passed Neptune?

A reporter stumbles across a mission called Arkon 1, but when he starts asking questions about it he is met with some resistance. 

I was rather disappointed the story only ran for 11 pages.  I wish it could have gone longer. 

Well done indeed. 

Jack McDevitt's website -