Reviews: Area 51 1/2: February 2015


by Steven Sawiki

area51-200Greenings Third Worlders

This sub cycle we attribute to Paul. Any problems with any of these thoughts can be sent, in writing, directly to him. You can get him at any of his names—Atreides, God Emperor, Muad’Dib, Usul, the Preacher, all on Dune. Or maybe the Harkonnens would be happy to deliver your message for you. Good luck.



abyss-300wThe Abyss Beyond Dreams, Peter F. Hamilton, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-345-54719-4, 615 pgs.

This is a novel of the commonwealth. We have to admit that we were just there. But we were in Boston and not the places that this Hamilton human writes about. Must be he was in the western part of the commonwealth. In any case, just like the big dig (see, we know how to make cultural references) this is a big book. Not just in size, since at 615 pages it is a bank vault door stopper, but in concept and scope. This particular book is told by one Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the commonwealth, although we did not see his name anywhere on the town hall plaques. Still we move forward with a few grains for the sake of progress. Besides this book is not so much about the commonwealth as it is about the Void. We’ve been there, by the way. Well, not quite there since no one wants to go to the Void, but near enough to say we’ve been there. The Void is guarded by the Raiel. It is a construct that is growing and devouring everything it comes in contact with. It has managed to withstand everything the Raiel have been able to throw at it, including themselves. Now they figure they have nothing to lose by throwing Nigel in.

They think this is a good idea because some human, inside the Void, has been dreaming about it and those dreams have gotten out. The problem with the Void is that the laws of physics are, apparently, just slightly off and organic beings gain increased mental abilities. And so, Nigel builds a ship, heads out to the Void where the Raiel have gathered a few suns that they plan to implode to generate enough energy to squirt Nigel inside, and off he goes. He does not go alone but brings a few near clones and geo forms with him. Unfortunately, once he is on the inside he discovers that not everything there is as it was in a dream. (Really?) To make matters worse, Nigel ends up on a different planet than intended, discovers that this planet is under assault by a race of alien mimics called the Fallers, and that human society on the planet has been stagnant for thousands of years.

We could go on and on but then you would have to pay us the $30 and we think that you should probably be rewarding Hamilton for putting the time in.

We liked this book. It is a big concept book and we like big concepts. It is about aliens and we would not be here if we did not like them, and it is about how culture and society organizes itself and we are studying that. So, what is not to love? We are sure you will love it as well and that you should go out and buy copies. Before you do though there is one more thing you should know. This is the first book of a two book series. We believe though that you should just forge ahead and not worry about that.

the-high-druids-bladeThe Defenders of Shannara, the High Druid’s Blade, Terry Brooks, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-345-54070-6, 305 pgs.

Paxon Leah is a descendant of the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands area. That was a long time. Long before we got here. Paxon has nothing from that time except for an old sword that hangs above his fireplace. Paxon runs a shipping business and leads a quiet life. But you know that is going to change because no one wants to read 300 pages about a quiet life. When Paxon’s sister is abducted, he grabs his trusty old sword and goes after her. Boy is he surprised, as he confronts a mighty magic user that the sword contains great magic itself. So he frees his sister and joins the Druids. But everything is not as it seems, another tenet of books of this sort, for who wants to read about things as they seem. He becomes a Druid and when his sister is kidnapped again he sets out to rescue her once more by facing the mighty magic user again and solving a few other mysteries along the way.

We liked this one overall although we get confused by all these places that have similar or common names. We liked the druids even though they reminded us of wizards and acted in very similar fashions. We liked the characters and if we had to make a recommendation we might be inclined to say this one is for younger humans up to, say, 60 sun cycles or so. But we could be wrong. Ha, we made another funny.

This book is part of a series of books all set on the same world although at different times. As if your reality were not difficult enough to try to keep track of you feel the need to write in the past/future/present mode much of the time. That’s okay, we know how to figure these things out. We did manage to find your Earth did we not? And this is not the easiest place to find, even with your electromagnetic signatures and chemical effluence shooting off into the cosmos.

All in all we give this one a tenstacles up. We have the sneaking feeling that it is better to have read all the preceding books. On the other hand, you may want to start with this one as a gateway novel since it should work in that way as well. Go at it.

1617209430Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons, Tom Purdon, Fantastic Books, ISBN 978-1-61720-943-7, 355 pgs.

This is a collection of short stories that have, oddly enough, all been previously published by Asiimov’s Science Fiction mostly within the last 10 sun cycles. While we could go over each short story we have realized that since we produce content of quality that doing so would consume the rest of the space we have and we would not be able to tell you about Klaarg’s latest trip to the video store. So, instead we will discuss en masse. Tom Purdom is a gifted writer who is adept at the short form. This is not an easy form to work in. And he has been doing this for a long time. All of this means something although we have no immediate hypothesis.

We liked the book and all of the stories contained within. We find this form enjoyable to peruse. We find the timing almost perfect for those moments when we are in the can and working hard to extricate fused remnants. We find it also enjoyable for those short, fifteen minute flights between, say, LA and China. So, needless to say we devoured the content in a most satisfactory way. We believe you will do likewise and tell you to go seek out a copy of your own.

Willful-Child-Steven-EriksonWillful Child, Steven Erikson, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7489-9, 349 pgs.

Well, we stand here in horror. We are dismayed. We are aghast. We are apologetic for a second time in these writings. In the past we have spoken very highly of this Erikson writer and we have recommended that you all acquire everything he has written. We were wrong. Let us enlighten.

The Willful Child is a new starship (we just assumed this was another fantasy since you cannot even get into stable orbit never mind expel yourselves from your own star system) with a new crew and a new mission. The Captain, one Hadrian Alan Sawback, has, essentially, hijacked the ship and taken it out. His crew are little better than a bunch of morons who exist simply for him to lecture to and be the victims of his sexual innuendos. The rest of Earth fleet seems even more incompetent since they are unable to rectify any of this. And it just goes on and on. We believe that this is exactly what Erikson was attempting. And we believe he succeeded. But it is not good writing and it is not good story and it is not worth picking up (unless you plan to immediately eject it from an external lock on your ship).

While we typically would say that it is the creator who must bear the salt that comes with production, this time we believe that the editor and the publisher must upend the shaker.

Sadly, we have come to the conclusion that we are also responsible for this. If we had not been so effusive in our praise, if we had hesitated just a bit with our excitement, if we had perhaps shown some restraint in our guidance maybe the editor would have recognized the future error of their ways and made better choices.

9780553804690_p0_v1_s600The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-553-80469-0, 650 pgs.

Locke Lamora and his partner Jean, have managed to make their way to the city of Lashain, fleeing from a major heist gone wrong. They’ve escaped with their lives although Locke has been poisoned with something that no one can seem to cure. As he grows weaker, Jean scours the city looking for someone who can produce an antidote. While in his poisoned state, Locke dreams of Sabetha, a girl he loved but could not keep. The end seems near but just before the final curtain call, Locke and Jean are visited by a Bondsmage. And, worse, the mother of the Bondsmage that Lock and Jean defeated in Camorr, the action that set them on the road to begin with. The woman offers them a job and a promise. All Locke and Jean have to do is help her Bondsmage faction win an election against a rival Bondsmage faction. Do so and Locke is cured and they can be on their way. What they don’t know is that the rival faction have hired their own consultant — the very same Sabetha of whom Locke has been dreaming.

This is the third segmentation of this travelogue. We found it to be as good as the first two, which is to say that is was fine and enjoyable and entertaining. While we are not sure we wish to actually visit any of the places detailed here we are glad that Lynch did and survived to tell about it. We would highly recommend it but are feeling a bit reluctant after the recent events spoken of earlier. We think you should purchase but only because you feel like it and not because we said so.

Lucy-Poster-WallpaperLucy, Universal Pictures, 89 minutes, Luc Beson; Director,

This is exactly why we have been sent here to study you. In this documentary, Beson shows us what happens when you give a human multifold abilities. Yes, indeed, they become human to the nth degree. Surely you all see the problem with this? You are a bloodthirsty species that preys as much on itself as on everything around you. You are destroying your planet because you believe a higher being is okay with it. You are destroying your lives with cheeseburgers and bacon because you believe convenience and money is more important than health and effort. And you believe that progress is best achieved at the end of a pill or through some form of dishonest persuasion. And this documentary highlights the effects when you increase exponentially. Nothing good we tell you. This is why the universe would be terrified of you — if only they knew you existed. The odds are 12,452 to 1 that you will self-destruct your planet before you manage to escape the gravity well and this documentary simply shows this to be true. Not only that but you have once again chosen a female to be the engine of your destruction. You cannot proceed so long as half of your species hates the other half simply because of gender. Klaarg liked the thing, though, so take that as you will.

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