Reviews: Area 51 1/2 April 2015


by Steven Sawicki

Greenings Third Worlders,

Welcome to an entirely new cycle of wordings. This time we come to you from the banks of the West Fork of the Choctawhatchee River where we have been observing the Blurgghh during the probing and data acquisition period of their primitive species research project. We have to say that their choice of specimens leaves a lot to be desired. But, then, the Blurgghh are not really known for data accuracy. Something you who are reading this should be readily familiar with since you often appear to make decisions based on no data whatsoever and often just make things up.

For example, where did this idea that no two snowflakes are alike come from? Why, anyone with even the simplest of partial tachyon diffusion field devices could tell this to be a falsehood. Do you even know how many snowflakes occur during one of your full cycles? We don’t think we are giving anything away when we tell you that it is more than a couple. This is not like inverted hydrogen which is pretty tricky to get your hands on. And when we say hands we do not mean that literally since it requires a fully implemented infusion capture generator to track down and maintain inverted hydrogen long enough to see never mind touch. Yet you go on believing that no two snowflakes are ever alike. Who knows what kind of political systems have been influenced by this belief? We are pretty sure anarchists have this as a basic, self-evident truth in their manifesto. And perhaps that science one as well. Data is important. Making decisions on sound data is the basis for all of the sciences, except for the pseudo ones, which rely on shaky algorithms and too much base, but that is another sandwich altogether. If you are ever to become a space faring species you need to drop this whole concept that what is true depends mostly on how you feel. Go into space with a belief like that and you will be trying to get to Pluto by going through the sun. We’d like to show you how to stop doing this but it goes against the prime exception to the first declaration of secondary contact. You will have to figure it out for yourself. Really. It’s not hard. Everything you need is right in front of you.

Well, Klaarg reminds us that it is now time to depart and so we make our regular attribution. This time we place most of the blame on Hari Seldon. If you have complaints, please put them in writing and send them to him. You can find him at the Second Foundation: Professor of Psychohistory, Streeling University, Trantor. Good luck

unremembered-300wThe Unremembered, Peter Orullian, Tor, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7987-0, 400 pgs.

Have we mentioned that we are very concerned with your need to constantly change things, even when there is no apparent need? For example, Peter Orullian created this epic fantasy which was, according to the publishing empire which made it available, critically acclaimed. It was given glowing stars and praise — wait, we think maybe just stars and glowing praise. It was the star thing that threw us. Evidently the first edition was universally loved. So, there is going to be a second book, yes? And, in preparation of the second book (which is a continuation of the story by the way), the publishing entity allowed Orullian to rewrite it, in order to, and we attribute here, “A vision, in this instance, that reshapes the story, adding and subtracting to arrive at the volume you hold in your hands”. Um, okay. Explain this please? Never mind that they are speaking of this as an epic series when there is, as of yet, just a single book involved. So, you see why you sometimes wonder at our confusion.

In any case, Tahn is a hunter boy who is unaware of the peril that his world is in. He is approached by a man who is of the famed Order of Sheason. These guys are more or less wizards so it is perfectly all right for Tahn, and his friend we might add, to go traipsing off after him. Besides there is this babe of a girl who represents the Legendary Far so why not. After all, he might get lucky. And, let’s face it, when you go traipsing off after wizards you are going to need all the luck you can get your hands on. They journey on, never, apparently, taking the direct route, picking up others who join them as they work their way across the country side.

We perhaps make too much mock here because the book is certainly interesting and we have to admit that we have no idea where it falls within your history or pre-history other than to say that there’s a lot going on. It is a long, big book and this first one is clearly part of something longer. Honestly, we would have liked to have read it the first time around because, while we enjoyed it, if this is a big improvement over the first time around then the first time around could not have been that great. But, we have to keep remembering ourselves that you are only Human and that most of what you do has to be taken with that in mind. If you like this kind of thing then you will enjoy this thing. It is broad in scope, with interesting characters caught in difficult situations that do not always have a clear way out. There is also much ground laying going on here so you have to kind of just keep that in mind, knowing that things happening here will bear fruit later on — or you have to hope they do. Recommended in a middle kind of way.

v-s-day-300wV-S Day, Allen Steele, Ace, ISBN: 978-0-425-25975-7, 308 pgs.

It says alternate history right on the front. As if there is any other kind with your species. All of your history is alternate. You are, simply, incapable of reporting facts in a linear fashion. Just look at your various news channels if you seek proof. Same events but very different tellings. On the other hand, it is refreshing to find someone who is, essentially saying, “I don’t know, this is probably not the way it happened but I’m presenting it anyway.” We give kudos, or, as you say in English, kutwo, to this Steele fellow for being so forthright.

This is a telling about your world war. The second one, well, at least the one that you label as the second one. If you were labeling them in order you’d be well over a thousand by now but it is just another example of the way you keep recreating things. This time the focus is on rockets and the rocket men who build them. On one side is Wernher van Braun and his team while on the other is Robert Goddard and his team. Both groups are attempting to develop a sub orbital vehicle. Van Braun in order to bomb New York and Goddard so the bombing can be stopped. It is not easy to build rockets, especially from scratch. We know about such things. It is very, very tough. The clock is ticking as both teams work to get their rockets built, tested and launched. We won’t say more in case you are not aware of the outcome as we are not fans of spoilers.

We need to say something about the person putting all this together. He has managed to present both sides as if he had been there. Now, we know this is an impossibility because you cannot be two places at once, even with quantum mechanisms. So, we must say that this is so well constructed that we cannot tell which side he actually witnessed. Unless he’s twins in which case, mystery solved. But there is nothing to indicate such a thing is so. We liked it, we got through it pretty quickly and so we recommend it to you. Particularly if you like early rockets, the nascent space program, or Nazis.

Corsair-300wCorsair, James L. Cambias, Tor, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7910-8, 336 pgs.

The entire premise here revolves around mining on the moon. While we are pretty sure they mean the rock that orbits your planet, we have been there and we can tell you right off that there is no mining. What can we say? In any case, this is a story about pirates, and, thus, the title. It is also the story about two people who are similar but end up taking entirely different directions. David must sneak into classes because he’s essentially a genius school dropout while Elizabeth is pretty straight and narrow. David ends up becoming a space pirate and Elizabeth ends up in the Air Force fighting space piracy. And then the two of them meet in space. David is stealing a cargo of helium 3 that has been mined on the moon (remember the moon mining?) and Elizabeth is manning a satellite designed to stop pirates. Neither is successful although the damage to Elizabeth’s reputation is more severe than that to David’s.

We like pirates although we are not that sure about corsairs who are, evidently also pirates but we figure if they were really pirates they would just call themselves pirates instead of corsairs. We mean, if you are a tube of beef you are a hotdog. You can call yourself a frank but everyone knows you are a hotdog. In any case, for a story that involves two space pirates, most of it takes place on your planet. 
This is fine for pirates, but not for space pirates, although we figure this is the beginning of space piracy so maybe it’s okay, although we are sure that real pirates did not spend their first few years running around on land. Maybe they did, though. We’ll have to look that up some time.

Back to the pirates. The whole thing becomes quite a mess when Eastern Europeans become involved. We will make no comment here as the facts, we feel, speak for themselves. We enjoyed this although we still need to figure out what moon they were using. Maybe it was all a metaphor, but if it was we are not sure what the helium 3 represented. We’re not that good with metaphors. You don’t really need them to get galactic craft from the center of the universe out to one of the spiral arms. Manuals, yes, metaphors, no. Klaarg enjoyed this one a lot and he has been running around speaking pirate and threatening to broadside every craft that approaches low orbit. The Flirph were not that amused and we are not sure that Klaarg really knows what it means to broadside another ship. Still, the dents should buff out nicely in the end and it gives the engineer something to do. Go, buy and enjoy.

unbreakable-300wUnbreakable, W. C. Bauers, Tor, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7542-1, 368 pgs.

This is book one in the chronicles of Promise Paen. Promise Paen being the protagonist of this particular novel. We suppose it is not too much of a spoiler alert to let you know that she survives. Hard to have a chronicle otherwise. Promise Paen is a space marine, having left her planet (which we have not visited by the way) after her mother died of cancer and her father was killed by pirates, yes, space pirates. Paen joins the marines and rises in rank until one day her home world is threatened by pirates again and she is deployed there. Unfortunately the pirates are pretty well armed and Paen ends up being the highest ranking officer alive. Then, to make her homecoming even more complicated, the evil, Lusitanian Empire, responding to the pirate attacks they induced shows up to save the planet. Paen needs to figure out how, along with the planet’s government, to beat back a much superior force using just her wits, energy weapons and power armor.

This must take place in a sector of the universe that we have not been to. Perhaps in another universe entirely, although they mention a planet called Earth. Still many planets are named for the primary substance that makes it up. We can’t tell you how many planets are named some variant of gas. We enjoyed this, although we have to admit we enjoy most things involving space pirates and marines. But, having said that, this is still well done and enjoyable, word after word. The characters involved are interesting, in a marine kind of way, and the conflict is set up well enough that it seems genuine. We do not know if Bauers is a space marine or perhaps a space pirate although we would think that either profession would leave little time to chronicle so maybe not. Perhaps just hanging around in bars where space marines and pirates frequent would be enough to gather the kind of intelligence that is obviously at play here.

haphead-300wHaphead, Postopian Pictures, 90 minutes, Tate Young, Director; Anthony Cortese & Sean Lerner, Producers.

Klaarg discovered this when he was doing a Google search for futuristic films that did not include robots. It’s a small list. He also was not looking for anything that was too bright or too cheery. This says it takes place 10 years in the future, but from what we could see it looked like the back end of Chicago last week. We could be wrong because when we checked the tachyon stream 10 years into the future it still looked like the back end of Chicago last week. But, no matter, this is good stuff. Well put together, well written and shot. It’s about the next wave of video game technology where not only do you directly link it through a cable to the brain (although you don’t actually plug in) but you learn by doing. So, play a fight video game and you learn to fight, play a farming video game and you learn about potatoes and sheep we guess. Still, we liked it and we really liked the Maxine character although she evidently also goes by the name Elysia White. The telling is broken into 8 segments so you can watch it serially, or you can binge. And we know exactly which way you are going to go. They are also looking into doing a sequel although we are not fans of sequels, except maybe for the iron man series. We mean, even Copolla could not pull off Godfather 3. And what was Jaws II all about?

In any case, read, watch, enjoy and look to the skies. We might wave.

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