Caliban's War by James S.A. CoreySecond in the Expanse series, this volume revolves around the crisis on Ganymede, and the associated blue-eyed beastie. Entertaining adventure SF, recommended.
Far-Seer by Robert J. SawyerA tale of Galileo, if Galileo was a sentient dinosaur living on the moon of a tidally locked gas giant. Interesting world- and myth-building, recommended.
Winter Witch by Elaine CunninghamSet in the world of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, this is a light fantasy about a Viking woman, an urban mage, and the icy witch who brings them together. Mildly recommended.
Damnation Alley by Roger ZelaznyLoosely similar to the movie, murderer and rapist Hell Tanner is given a chance at a clean slate if he'll ferry a plague cure across a ravaged America. It's clearly supposed to be some sort of redemption tale, but Zelazny missed the memo that some crimes don't get redemption. I honestly prefer the movie.
Venus Equilateral by George O. SmithFixup novel of a series of stories published in the 1940s in Astounding, revolving around a communications relay station and the scientific geniuses therein. The science is advanced and accurate for its era, but has not dated terribly well. (The problems they encounter in communicating with, and locating, spaceships were solved in much simpler ways within the author's lifetime.) By the end, the science has advanced so far that it's almost shifted genres from hard SF to morality play. Mildly recommended.
I managed to pick up the pace on my reading so it hasn't been a month since the last review!
First up Age of Assassins by RJ Barker. As I've said, I prefer my heroes a bit on the older side these days because I am and I enjoy reading about characters who aren't driven by teenage emotions. You Die When You Die was a pretty good book but the teenaged protagonist was a chore to read sometimes. That said, here we are with another book about a young teenager trying to figure out this grown-up thing. This is complicated by the fact that he's being raised and trained by Merela, a professional assassin.
The book's setting has a Dark Sun vibe, people can use magic but it draws on life force so if you want to do a big magical spell, you can, but a huge section of land will become barren and lifeless. Luckily, you can reverse that. Unluckily, you reverse it by spilling blood onto the "sourlands" magic leaves behind. So there's a pogrom out for people talented in magic and pretty rough existence for everyone else.
Girton, our hero, and his master infiltrate a castle on a mysterious mission. The mysterious mission is a set-up. The local queen needs an assassin to prevent another assassin from killing her son. The queen has plans for her son to take over not just the local kingdom but to marry into the High King's family and take over from there. The son is a jerk and not terribly popular and the grandson of the previously deposed king is around. So there's intrigue aplenty.
Girton, of course, is just an apprentice so he winds up doing a lot of grunt work and even when he finds the important clues, he doesn't realize it until Merela puts it together. That's not to say he's stupid or incompetent (he doesn't kill without reason, but he does kill), just that he's a teenager and there's a lot he still doesn't know. It's a bit like a Nero Wolfe mystery in which Archie does a ton of running around and then Nero just looks up from his chair and tells you the solution.
All in all, it was an ok book. I'm curious to try the next one in the series, but I wasn't super blown away by it. Certainly a good source for plots in a LARP or RPG.
Next I read Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill and it's probably one of the better books of fiction I've read this year. Not terribly literary, but It really sucked me in and held my attention with good characters, dialog, world-building, pacing, and even the deeper themes it touches on.
In this book, the robots rose up and killed all of mankind (and most of the life on the planet). The story follows Brittle, a service robot who used to work for humans and now scours the Sea of Rust, the upper Midwest of the US where the freebots try and eke out a living. Freebots? Oh yes, because after the robot uprising, the giant mainframe AIs said "download yourself to our servers and let us use your body. join the One. resistance is futile". For the most part, resistance has been pretty futile and robots who don't want to be part of one of the major mainframes are out in places like the Sea of Rust trying to keep their heads down and keep a supply of spare parts handy.
Brittle does a lot of this -- she follows malfunctioning bots out into the wild and when they shut down, she loots them for parts -- either parts she needs or parts she can trade to get what she wants. Coming home from a successful mission, she gets ambushed. She survives but gets injured in the process and now she needs to secure a new core for her model or she'll go mental as well. About this time one of the mainframes makes a major push into the Sea of Rust.
The book alternates a bit between Brittle's narrative about what's going on and Brittle describing the rise of the AIs and their overthrow of the humans. That sometimes annoys me (it seems like your padding the page count), but it was pretty well done here. Although the book plays out like a robot Western or Noir, there are quieter moments where robots probe interesting philosophical questions that lead you down very different and very similar paths when your a robot and not a biological being. Oh, and yeah, Brittle is a she and why that is so is one of the interesting questions they deal with.
It was a solid book and I highly recommend it.
"The American democratic awakening spurred by resistance to Trump will be short-lived and ineffective if more people don't vote.
Nearly 100 million Americans didn't vote for president in 2016. Trump won with just 26% of the eligible vote. That is a crisis level.
Apathy is self-censorship and it concedes power. Treat your democratic rights like duties. They will weaken and be lost if you do not."
Ailsa Cunningham Ek said:
"Problem is, we need greater citizen input into the primaries first. Closed primaries are undemocratic. Superdelegates are super undemocratic. The election shouldn't be a choice between two incredibly unpalatable individuals selected by someone else, or if they want to be able to pick them for us, we need a "None of the above" option.
Come downtown to stand in line for hours to choose between being kicked in the balls or shot in the head. Bugger that, I'm not going to *ask* to be kicked in the balls. If so few people volunteer to be kicked in the balls that we all end up shot in the head instead, among other things it says something about people's desire to be kicked in the balls, and maybe, just maybe, if we had listened to everyone's opinions on the matter, we might have had different options."
To which David Policar responded:
"Given a choice between being shot in the head and not shot in the head, I choose not being shot in the head.
Sure, I'd rather choose not being shot in the head and eating cherry pie than not being shot in the head and being kicked in the balls. Absolutely. No question.
But either way I choose not being shot in the head."
Well, I guess the ones who know me probably can predict what's coming, but for the benefit of folks who do not know me very well, here it goes...
I would like not only to agree with David Policar, but add to it: the results of the last election basically convinced me that for now, the *best* thing we can do is to close the primaries: if you want to vote in the primary, register for the party you want to win; I think that many people did in this election what they've done in many many many previous elections -- they wanted party A to win, so they gave up voting in their own primary and went across the isle to vote in party B's primary for a candidate so unpopular that they thought *no one* would vote for them and then stay home.
What they forgot is that Liberals fall in love, and if their favorite candidate did not win the primary, they do everything (fail to vote, vote 3rd party, write-in their favorite etc) but vote for the one who won the primary. Meanwhile, Conservatives fall in line, they hem and haw about how awful so-and-so is, but you will notice they vote for so-and-so *anyway*.
That's how we got Bush I, Bush II and now Trump.
Do you remember when a candidate could lose just for flip-flopping? Or for lying about something? Or refused to serve in times or war? Or for being perceived as nasty to women, or having an affair, or for even showing sympathies for Russia?
Can you honestly show me *one*, just one wrong thing from the immense list of "candidates that did this do not win" that Trump has not checked? I am under the impression that he personally went and "checked" every single box in the "this is not a good candidate if..." list and he *won* *anyway*, because for decades now, there are about 30% of registered Republicans, and they *all* vote, so they win even if there are over 50% registered democrats.
Please tell us honestly: if this were any kind of game (D&D, videogame, *any* game), do you think Republicans with such bad candidates would have won so very often if it depended on random chance? Worse yet, if over 50% of the players were D and barely 30% of the players were R, wouldn't you expect D to win almost all the time if it depended on simple voting?
People say they didn't vote this time because the Clinton wasn't leftist enough, or progressive enough, or because they wanted to "teach the Democratic Party to select better candidates". Among other things.
Well, guess what, you can't teach an organization to select a "better candidate" unless *you* vote for the better candidate, otherwise, the only data that the Democratic Party will add to their already large amounts of data is that "the American public likes extreme-right candidates, in the future, if we want to win, we need to offer someone more like Trump than more like Sanders, Clinton or Warren". *That's* what they learn, and that's why over the last 50 years the politics in America has moved so far to the right that Clinton and Obama are considered "centrists" and Sanders is consider "left wing" -- I want you to appreciate that by all we know, Sanders is a right wing guy compared to Nixon, who, despite being the extreme right of his time, would appear to be completely pinko-communist today; if you are not aware, Nixon tried to have this country pass laws for affordable college, universal health care *and* Universal Basic Income. In fact, Nixon tried for Universal Basic Income *twice* and it nearly passed, but Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree on the yearly *salary*.
Meanwhile, I'd describe the situation that you described as "shot in the head or kicked in the balls" a bit differently.
I'd say Bernie's and Hillary's platforms/agendas were so *close* that we couldn't insert a vacuum cleaner crevice attachment in between them. I remember many years ago, I got my rental car in the airport in Omaha NE, this was before simple people like me could have GPS, and I made one wrong turn and ended up across the river in Iowa, luckily all I had to do was turn around and I was where I needed to be again.
So anyway, I felt like we were in Chicago and Bernie offered us to go to Iowa and Hillary offered us to go to Nebraska, or vice-versa. But, they both said, "eventually our goal is to end up in San Francisco". Instead, people kept bitching about how the destination couldn't possibly be Nebraska or Iowa, even if just for 4 years, because the *only* good places are on the West Coast, and "if they can't pick California, we won't go, just to teach them a lesson!"
Well, now we are lost halfway in the Atlantic Ocean, because, despite the fact it was *obvious* that Sander's and Clinton's platform were a millimeter apart and their platforms were 10 miles to the left of Trump's, people thought they "could walk back" the 10 miles after 4 years. To teach the Democrats a lesson. Now you are, with the rest of us, over 1,000 miles *off* course, because the idiotic president currently there doesn't even know how to serve food at the soup kitchens he visited for hurricane relief.
And no, I am not blaming you personally. I'm super pissed off at my own people who think they'd keep their souls pure and their hands clean if they didn't vote for Clinton.
Well, if you ask the rest of the world, they do not make this differentiation -- they think *all* Americans are to blame for Trump. Any crap that he starts internationally *will* be a stain on our personal and collective souls.
With all that in mind, I humbly ask you to please stop repeating Soviet Russia Propaganda designed to divide the progressives. About 2 centuries ago there were not even "primaries" -- the parties put out their candidates and you voted in the general election. *All* coalition building currently happens at the primaries in US and, if you want to influence the candidates for the general, vote in the primary. All this "closed primaries are not democratic" and "super delegates are not democratic" are *all* propaganda straight from Putin's hands. The Republicans *wished* they had super delegates, they could have gotten rid of Trump no problem that way. Notice that the Republican Party per se could have just voted for completely new rules and just said "we don't like Trump, the second winner is the candidate *this* time around", which is even less democratic than well, the Democratic super delegates.
My point, and I do have one, is that *anyone* and *anything* the Democrats could have offered this time was better than Trump and we *knew* it: Bernie, Clinton, a prairie dog or a baked potato. It doesn't take a genius IQ to get to that conclusion, but we, collectively, decided it was better to bet the country on the guy who got us lost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and about to start a nuclear war, because we didn't want to be the ones to be blamed for a brief stop over in Iowa or Nebraska on our way to California.
If we can't recognize that we were not being invited to sleep with Clinton or Bernie or even just have dinner with them, we did not have to *like* them at all, they are just the president that was going to be *much* better than Trump even if not ideal, do we even deserve a chance to get better as a country?
If we can't recognize that Clinton was *right* about all that she warned us about Trump, and that he's been doing everything she told us about -- if we can't recognize that she *knew* more than we did -- do we really deserve to get better and do we really have a leg to stand on asking other countries not to laugh at us?
I hope most agree with me those are much more serious things to think about than "shot in the head" vs "kick in the balls".
Also, despite some thinking that Clinton was unpalatable, I say I've heard that lots of dishes are an acquired taste. But Trump is a metric ton of manure, and I've never heard anyone claim they like or even tolerate eating manure.
More on that later, but I wanted to get the thought out.
I still have many images and some text messages I would like to recover from it. I am willing to pay someone to get them back for me.
If you have had good experiences with a service and you would like to recommend them, please let me know.
Shadows of tree trunks march like bars
across the barely visible trail
a small weaving gap in the ferns and ivy
thriving in the detritus of old pine needles
and the leaves of beech and birch
soft, damp footing our hooves tread
carefully as if we might disturb
the the freshness of the morning air