Reviews: Area 51 1/2: January-February


by Steven Sawicki


Greenings Thirders

You eat a lot of birds. We are not sure why but you do. Perhaps it is some kind of envy thing similar to your wanting to heat up your planet so it is more like the second one in the system. We call that Venus envy. We have not named the bird envy thing yet but are leaning toward something to do with woodpeckers. We’ll see. We have a question for you though. You know science, why do you not use it? You could resolve so many of your issues. In fact, we believe that you do not do so because you wish it to be so. The Kzanntoreffrin say that a system is perfectly designed to produce exactly what it does. Think about that. This, maybe, explains why you let rhetoric that is thought based interfere with science based applications. In other words, you tend to do things because you believe, not because they are. Lottery tickets. We could go on and on. And, in fact, we will. Just not about this topic.

Traitor-Baru-300wThe Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-8072-2, 399 pgs.

If we have one complaint about humans (and do not worry we have more than one) it is that you are not consistent with what you call things. This makes it very difficult for us as we try to find stuff. Take, for example, this. There are three main geographic areas mentioned here: Aurdwyn, Taranoke, and Falcrest. Search as we have, we can find none of them on any of your maps. Not even the Google one. However, we are not dismayed, except at you for the way you either do not name things or name things many things, as we will know them when we see them.

This is a history of how a young girl is taken from her parents and indoctrinated into the beliefs and mores of another society and how she works to bring down that very society through machinations within a third society. Yes, it is complicated. It involves humans. How could it not be? But complicated in a very intriguing way. And we thoroughly enjoyed the way the title was woven into the narrative at key times with different but all true meanings. And we think that this is true of Dickinson’s writings overall. They are true but more so for the time they are written than as absolutes. We enjoyed the whole thing, every word, and every motion and all of the different personalities that were at play. Well done we say. We believe you would say the same. Or something different that meant almost exactly the same.

first-fleet-bones-300wFirstfleet, Stephen Case, Retrofit Films, ISBN 978-0-98651157-7-6, 441 pgs.

Many think that we have no interest in studying your space efforts. Au contraire (yes we are learning romance languages as we have plans), we enjoy any good history regardless of where it takes place. Having said that we do wonder why so many of these involve war. Never mind, we thought about that for a moment and then we understood. In any way, this one is about, yes, war, in space. However, it appears that your government is holding out on you. No, don’t write to us, we understand that one as well. In this case it is about regeneration technology. Evidently when soldiers die in combat, so long as there is a piece of them, they can be regenerated and sent back to the front lines. We think this is a bad idea but, then, as a species, you seem to revel in bad ideas. Anyway, this is about what happens when the enemy manages to sneak alien parts into the regeneration chamber and the horrid effects it has. We say horrid because that is the way the people in this reacted to it but remember that all things are relative. So, as is often the case, it falls to a young, beautiful scientist to figure out how to figure out a solution that does not involve sterilization of an entire system. She also has to save her sister at the same time.

Overall we enjoyed this one, even though once again, we did not know any of the species involved. Seems like you have headed farther out onto the arm instead of inward which is denser and richer and more — well… we better not say any more about that. If you find you enjoy the space history then you would probably enjoy this one. We did. Even Klaarg. No robots you know, although we did not have the heart to tell him that your species considers androids to be robots and there were androids in this.

shards-300wThe Shards of Heaven, Michael Livingston, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-8031-9, 414 pgs.

This is one of your histories of the past although we are not sure about the magic involved since this is the first time we have been introduced to the concept during this period. This is the story of Octavian, Ceasar’s adopted son and great nephew, and Octavian’s adopted brother Juba, a Numidian. We believe times were looser then and the family unit less structured. Antony and Cleopatra are also in this as are two people mentioned only briefly in a previous history, a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires; Pullo and Vorenus. Juba has found a magic item and is searching for more. His reason is revenge, something we know you humans will relate to. But looking for a thing, finding it and using it are not all equal and Juba discovers that his foster brother is going to create some problems in his path of finding justice. For his part, Octavian, is hunting Antony with an eye to getting rid of anyone with a claim to the Emperor’s title. This mean he must take out Ceasar’s children from Cleopatra. This is a lot of work just to get and maintain a title and a lot of people are going to suffer for it. But, it does seem to be the way you humans approach a problem. We found this interesting although perhaps written more for smaller humans, and we do not mean petite women. We like Romans although we sometimes have difficulty knowing who to root for.

human-division-300wThe Human Division, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-6955-0, $8.99, 493 pgs., The End of all Things, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7607-7, $24.99, 384 pgs., both by John Scalzi

Two more offerings in the series titled “Old Man’s War”, which you understand if you know the series but would take too long to explain if not. We have to admit that this Scalzi fellow does not adhere to convention. He has taken almost as many variants in producing these as there are offerings. This time is no different as the first book is really a collection of things that originally were presented as e-books. So, if you read those then there is no need to read them here, unless you forgot in which case how would you know anyways. Stop confusing us with your twisted logic. There are 13 different takes on things here, each with its own set of individuals playing key roles. Does it all hang together? Well, more or less, yes. Does it advance things forward? Yes, it does, although sometimes in a more sideways fashion. Which brings us to the second one, which attempts to bring everything to a final concluding chapter, at least everything as could be defined from all of the previous offerings since it would be very difficult to conclude future events in the now, although many have actually tried. Things are still falling apart for the humans (that would be you) and it seems to be accelerating no matter what is tried. And many things are tried, although often in the human way of using the back door and half truth. This, apparently is not a sole human thing though as the many additional races explained in the narrative often have similar traits. It’s politics in space backed up with genetically altered soldiers and weapons of planetary destruction. We liked it. But we have enjoyed most of this Scalzi chaps offerings to day, although we have to admit to only having sampled his Old Man stuff. We believe you will enjoy it as well. Go out and prove us wrong. We dare you.

lash-up-300wLash-up, Larry Bond, Forge, ISBN 978-0-7653-3491-6,  415 pgs.

Okay, we need to know how you managed to get a grip on the Zuzzumuzzel Option 3b plan of planetary conquest (non-extinction event segmentation). Because clearly one of you has and some of details have leaked far enough out for them to have taken up residence in this document. Bond details how taking out GPS satellites essentially cripples a primitive people’s war inducing technology to the point where it becomes pretty ineffective. Fortunately, many of the particulars of the Zuzzumuzzel Option are not presented here. But now that we know the plan is in your hands we’ll be looking harder. Other than discovering alien information tucked away between the pages we found this to be an interesting premise. This assumes you enjoy the kinds of premise which involves building something last minute in your garage in order to stop global disaster. This tells the story of Ray McConnel an engineer who is a bit of a nerd but still manages to find himself in charge of a last ditch effort to cobble together a spacecraft that can launch and shoot down missiles. Ray gets a bunch of his nerd friends to help and before you can say ‘busy weekend’ they’re launching and off. We liked it and Klaarg highly recommends it. He does so because he is an engineer, although from what we see, all he does is push buttons and pull the big red lever. Still, he does not recommend lightly and we are not able to get off your planet without him so we concur.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 9.25.04 AMCargo, Screenplay by Yolanda Ramke, Produced by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, Starring Andy Rodoreda. 2013; 15 minutes.

This is a zombie movie. But we cannot just say that and move away. As you have been wont to do with many of your fabled religious structures, you have been toying with the premises. It is almost as if while you talk about faith you edit in order to align that faith requirement more with your behaviors. 
So, it is no surprise when we watch this and find ourselves somewhat outside the standard belief systems. Or maybe we do not. Art does that you know. We cannot say much more about this without giving away the cake filling. Let us just say that this is a zombie movie and it does, indeed, have zombies in it. And babies. And it is the juxtaposition of those two things that make this film unique.

We twit occasionally. How would you know? You need to follow us. Which is not easy, especially when we have the light bender going. Find us if you can. We would like to invite those of you who produce works that you think we might find interesting to send us such. We’re happy to look at anything. If you do not want us to have your address, send it to the device which contains our words and they will send it on. Or do something else. But seriously, we can only share what we stroke. We are done now. You can leave.

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