Reviews: Area 51 1/2: December 2014


area51-200by Steven Sawicki

We were wandering through one of your premiere economic exchange houses and noted a small section specifically dedicated to your printed materials. It was there, amongst the many offerings related to Lindsay Lohan and George Clooney that we noted a pair of items that drew our attention. The first was a fairly simple declaration of your science of astrology. We say simple because surely it was written for your youth as no adult would be able to maintain belief in such a simplified version of the way the cosmos works. We noted the particular and single minded self focus as well, as if the entire universe rotated around you. It does not, in case you were wondering. In fact, you are so far out on one of the spiral arms that it is a wonder that any other species has ever had the time to find you. The spiral arms are the slums of galaxies. All the real action is closer to the middle —but you will probably not survive long enough to discover that for yourself. In any case, we diverge. We perused your science book and it struck us that you may have let known some things you maybe did not wish to be let known. For example, you name your planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune — after gods. You name your own planet — basically — dirt. Your farthest planet you name after the dog of a mouse. We’re adding this to the list of things that you must someday explain.

The second thing was a vegetable slicer that we believe we could use to improve our fusion engine fuel and do some fine tuning on the ram scoop. We believe we could probably shave a couple of parsecs off the Kessel run. But we should not really say much about that because it might give you a clue to the whole fusion process.

getaway-300tThe Getaway God, Richard Kadrey, Harper, ISBN 9780062094612, 387 pgs.

Sandman Slim, who also goes by the name of James Stark (and, at one time Lucifer) finds himself on the wrong side of the supernatural once again. He’s being threatened by a race of angry old gods, by the organization that was created to keep those same gods from taking over and destroying the universe, by one of the splinters of God himself, and by a serial killer who is finding new and creative ways to commit mayhem and murder. On his side, Stark has his alien girlfriend, one of the other splinters of God, an angel, a mummified Asian mystic, and a friend whom he beheaded and whose head how resides on the body of a robot hell hound.
We love this stuff. Seriously. If we were not already committed to our very academic style of reportage we would totally write this way. We enjoy the dark humor. We enjoy the light humor. We like the vision of hell and Los Angeles. We find the way that Kadrey writes to be totally enthralling. We love this stuff so much that we read it all, then fed it into the ram scoop so we would have to go out and buy copies all over again. We do have a warning however and it is directed at Richard Kadrey himself. Do not stop or we will see that you go to the head of the probe list.

sodapop-300tSoda Pop Soldier, Nick Cole, Harper, ISBN 9780062210227, 360 pgs.

We have not really had time to try to figure out your advertising and now we do not have to because Nick Cole explains it all in this book. We would never have realized that all of your advertising space is assigned based on how well a particular corporation does in a video game. Those that win get the space, those that lose do not. We never would have thought your species would have gone for something so simple. Cole tells us about the gamer Perfect Question and how he fights for ColaCorp in WarWorld, an online arena where your megacorporations field virtual armies in a battle for dominance. Not only does this Perfect Question fight in that war but he also plays in the Black, which is an open source tournament that is also illegal — you know, sort of like Firefox and Ubuntu. Like many other things in your world though, the real world and the virtual world start to clash and become increasingly more difficult for Perfect Question to keep separate. So, while people are trying to kill him in both games, they are also trying to kill him in the real world

This is interesting stuff and we wonder whether Cole is, perhaps, this Perfect Question or something like him. The setting is real world and we enjoyed learning about the many different characters and the way they interacted in the game and outside the game. We may have to seek out other works of this Nick Cole. Perhaps he explains third quarter earnings and their impact on the price of foreign commodities in one of them.

demon-king-300tHeirs of the Demon King: Uprising, Sarah Cawkwell, Abaddon Books, ISBN 9781781082249, 380 pgs.

In this history, Sarah Cawkwell explains some of how the English monarchs managed to maintain their power. Evidently, Richard the Lionheart was able to cut a deal during the crusades that involved his getting his hands on the ability to do magic. This ability he passed around to everyone. But, as time passed it was thought that magic should not be in the hands of the common people, and, as more time passed it was thought that magic should not be in the hands of anyone (except, evidently, the king). We’re thinking that Kings may be something like wizards. But, back to the history. King Richard the Fifth is now on the throne and he has pledged to totally wipe magic from the land. He sends out his inquisitors to track down magic use and kill the practitioners. Unfortunately for Mathias Eynon, his father was an alchemist and he has some powerful magic in him — magic that must be wiped out. Just in the nick of time Mathias is whisked away through a portal with his girlfriend, another magic child, to a forest where he is set a task to find a group of people and learn. Sounds like a quest.

We worried as the settings in this book meandered all over the place. What kind of history is this that starts in England and spends time in the desert? But it all works out as Cawkwell evidently knows what she is doing when she puts words on paper, or wherever writers put words these days. We liked the story and we learned a great deal although some of these monarchs do not appear in other texts. But then your history is full of holes anyway so who can say what is what. We hope that Cawkwell tackles something else in the near future. Perhaps something Italian or Spanish.

thronesandbones-300wThrones and Bones #1: Frostborn, Lou Anders, Crown, ISBN 9780385387781, 321 pgs.

Thrones and Bones is a board game played in the far away land of, well, we’re not sure where, exactly but if pressed we’d say somewhere between Spain and New Jersey. In any case, Karn likes to play Thrones and Bones while his father would prefer that he pay more attention to the skills Karn will need when he takes over the family farm. Meanwhile, Thianna, a half human/half giant, is having troubles of her own as she tries to fit in amongst a race where she is much too small. Thianna and Karn find themselves together at an annual market set up so humans and giants can trade together. Soon, the pair are on the run, being chased by a group of undead and a trio of wyvern flying warriors. They do what they must and take off trying to figure out the best way to break free. They have adventures and manage to best a dragon before realizing that all this running is doing nothing more than tiring them out. They must return home and face their pursuers if they ever hope to be free again.

Lou Anders has written a very interesting tale for young adults. The writing is first rate as one would imagine should come from someone with the editing history of Anders. Regardless of history though, the book is worth reading. Why, even Klaarg liked it. Of course there were no robots in it and he does so enjoy a robotless tale.

We are theorizing, based on the title, that there are more of these in the pipeline. How many we can not tell. We mean that not in the way that we can not tell you about fusion drives but in the way that indicates we really do not know for sure. It does not indicate this future state anywhere, we are just using our superior skills of observation and reticence. We believe you would all, mostly, enjoy this. So, go out and consume. It’s what your species does best.

assail-300wAssail, Ian C. Esslemont, TOR, ISBN 9780765330000, 541 pgs.

Wow. Let us say that again. Wow. We wish every month worked this way. It is like we could not pick a bad thing to research this month. Each pick more interesting than the last, each richer and more tasty and less likely to be tossed into the molecular destabilizer. We are in a state of near liquid glee. We hoot our joy to the outdoor dark and flail about in ecstasy. Why, it is like Splarglaten in Corpu, or, as your Jesus would say, Christmas in July. We love this stuff. We loved it from the beginning when we were interrogating, in a nice way, one of your species and he admitted that he had a huge secret. Turns out that his simple mind considered a new writing to be a huge secret. In any case we quickly wrenched it from his mind and then had to wait for the thing to actually appear. But, when it did we became obsessively fascinated with what we first thought was a geopolitical treatise but then soon realized to be an historical reimagining, or so we believe at this moment.

This is set in the land of Assail (in case the title did not give you enough of a clue), and things are changing. On all fronts they are changing. Things are happening and people are moving and armies are arming and adventurers and fortune seekers are doing what they do best — getting in the way. And the Crimson Guard are back. A bit worse for wear but back none-the-less. And there are Tiste Andii and T’lan Imass and Malazans. Could it get any better than this? Why, yes indeed it can. All of this takes place on a tableau that is rich in setting and diverse in nature. And let us speak a moment of Esslemont who has taken the time to write all this down, most likely from some source close to him. We are sure it took a couple of days at least.

We love this book. We loved the last book. We’ve jumped into the future and we can tell that we are going to love the next one as well. Go out and consume. Start at the beginning. Not because you have to but because you can. We will recommend nothing so high as this book and this series, regardless of who is writing it.

rogues-300wRogues, George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, eds., Bantam, ISBN 9780345537263, 811 pgs.

This should have been titled the Big Book of Rogues we think, as it is a big book of, well, rogues. Besides, would you expect to find Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis or Garth Nix in a little book of rogues? No, no you would not. So, you ask, what is a rogue, and we thank you for the question. A rogue is that human who has a foot in both pools as it were. Good and bad, black and white, naughty and nice. Think of Robin Hood or that pirate fellow, Keith Richards. But never mind. This book allows you to do the one thing humans most want to do. Not think. With these pages are twenty one examples of what a rogue is, including an offering from one of the editors who tells a homily about ice and fire. You should not miss it for that alone. Or maybe that’s why it’s in this offering so you will not want to miss it.
But we get off the track. If you like your histories told in little bites then this is the book for you. It is like a box of cupcakes. And life, as you know, is like a box of cupcakes. So, go out and buy and enjoy. And we should also mention that these are all originals so you can’t beat that with a sharp stick. Well, you can but it’s not going to do you any good.

gog-300wGuardians of the Galaxy, 2014, Walt Disney Studios, 121 minutes, James Gunn; Director

Okay, so look, you know we know about the galaxy, right? We explained the whole spiral arm thing right at the beginning as you know if you were paying attention. If you skipped the beginning go back now and read it. We’ll wait.

Right then. We selected this offering for two very good reasons —We like the Galaxy and it had no robots in it so Klaarg could watch it with us. He makes the best popcorn. We have bad news for you. There are no shooting raccoons in the Galaxy. In fact there are no talking raccoons in the Galaxy. We actually have worse news. Except for Earth there are no raccoons in the galaxy at all. None. But then we realized that this was a Disney movie and they were taking poetic license and needed to include a talking animal to maintain continuinity. Yes, we know it’s not spelled the way you are used to but you are misspelling it and mispronouncing it as well.

So, there is this group, the earthman, the green girl from Star Trek, the space faring Ent, the funny talking wrestler (one of the Road Warriors we think), and the chatty raccoon. Well, well, talk about a lack of imagination. What more can we say. We watched it, sort of. We’re a bit light on the actual plot as it is hard to concentrate when you are laughing so hard and Klaarg tends to spray from every orifice when he laughs.

You should go see it anyway. What else are you going to do? Discover a cheap replacement for your hydrocarbon poison fuel sources? Hah, we made a funny. Go to the movies. You’ll end up doing less damage to everything if you are all just sitting quietly for a couple of hours. In fact you should read more as well. Everyone will thank you for it. Eventually. But first you have to stop most of what you are doing. Now. Really. Right now. Until next time, we’ll be in orbit just on the other side of the moon. Just in case.

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