Reviews: Area 51 1/2  July-August


steven-fsiby Steven Sawicki

Greenings Thirders,

We float out among the Oort cloud, where the particles are many but small and the television is from the 70s.  We float and ponder many things.  We wonder if you will ever reach this distance.  Alive we mean, you may certainly blow bits of yourself this deep into space at any moment but we are pondering a more collective and total effort.  We reflect on all that you do not know, which is, unfortunately, much of what you think you do know.  We wonder and we read.  We have not much choice in the matter as Klaarg has broken the go button and we also wonder how long the engineer is going to take fabricating replacement parts.  Be that as it may, we try to assess our own feelings about your species which, in brief moments seems worth keeping around, but, for the most part, seems more the argument for the whole creator/jester myth.  It may be that you are the answer to the question of whether the universe has a sense of humor.

dinosaur-lords-300wThe Dinosaur Lords, Victor Milan, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3296-7, $31.50, 445 pgs.  The Dinosaur Knights, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3297-4, $26.99, 444 pgs.

We spoke of the problems with Urth last time and this time we must speak of the problems of Paradise, which is Earth but not, even though much is the same.  Parallel, parable, or not, we think if you are going to not be a thing then you should not be it.  In any case, the planet Paradise is just like Earth although it is not.  The culture is much like 14th century Europe, if this were like Earth, which it is not.  There are numerous rivalries, court intrigues, politics to avoid and dinosaurs.  The Empire of Nuevaropa is in charge, and armies of dinosaur mounted knights fight battles.   Karyl Bogomirsky is a disgraced war leader who died but has been brought back to life and is trying to figure out why.  Rob Korrigan, minstrel, rogue and dinosaur master, is just trying to stay alive.  They come together in response to a lost cause and end up knowing and respecting each other.  Why, if this were Earth we would think of it as a buddy picture.  But it is not, so never mind.  The two are beset by numerous problems, both internal and external, both from those who hired them and those they were hired to fight.  It’s an interesting premise and story albeit we had to keep reminding ourselves that it was not Earth even though the numerous references kept pointing us in that direction.  There is more to come and we will report on it as we can. 

Which is right now!  Knights, the follow up, continues the story begun in the first book but things grow more   complex.  Partly because we know and understand the players, although, historically, it is important to recognize the great deal we do not know about these people.   Like the first book, there is almost constant intrigue and political maneuvering.  Rob and Karyl continue to train their army so that they can defend those who hired them, the politics of that continue to ebb and flow and so while they defend they prepare to be betrayed.  And the princess has fled the capital and ends up, you guessed it, as a guest of the very same folks who have hired Rob and Karyl. Interesting times indeed.  Can we recommend?  Well, assuming you do not want to read something set on Earth even though everything seems like Earth, then, yes.  Besides, the dinosaurs are very interesting in and of themselves .

devils-bag-man-300wThe Devil’s Bag Man, Adam Mansbach, Harper, ISBN  978-0-06-219968-3, $24.99, 308 pgs.

We enjoyed ourselves the first time around, even Klarg who felt the desert would be no place for robots, given all the sand and everything he knows about what sand can do to delicate machine parts.  And, so, we jumped in when we saw this new entry.  It’s still all about Jess Galvan, which is remarkable considering he is possessed by a demon, battled a bigger demon, was to be sacrificed to the old gods, and managed to outwit a 500 year old Aztec priest.  Considering what went on the first time, not much has changed.  The world is still scheduled for destruction, essentially from the same source, and from essentially the same place, and with essentially the same players.  Makes one wonder what the whole point of the desert crossing and all the mayhem was about the first time through.  Still, this is very species like in that your people never seem to learn anything the first time around.  We liked the first one and we liked this one.  Klaarg liked it as well as it still had no robots in it.  Or, if it did, they were off to the side, rusting after having broken down from all the sand.  This has been our experience as well which is why we abhor desert planets.

atlantis-300wMeet Me in Atlantis, Mark Adams, Dutton, ISBN 978-1-101-98393-5, $16.00, 306 pgs.

At first we wondered why anyone would need this much paper to set up a meeting in Reno, Nevada.  Then we read a bit and came to understand that the Atlantis in question was the island nation and not the casino.  Sure, we thought , that one may take more than a few pages.  And it does.  The whole point of this is that Mark Adams goes out and tries to talk to all the main people who believe they have found where Atlantis is.  There really are not that many.  Oddly enough, none of them agree on the location.  We understand this used to happen to Alaska, Shangri la and Krispy Kreme.  We have to say this about your species.  When you believe something, regardless of what the facts actually say, you do so fully.  Here’s the thing with Atlantis.  Everything you know comes from one person, an old Greek guy, who liked to wander around and write down dialogues.  That’s the source that everyone then interprets to end up where they end up.  The problem, of course, is that while you did write things down, you did not do it very well and so much of what you did write down no longer exists, which makes finding anything based on ancient texts pretty much impossible.  Yet, still you look.  And, thankfully, Mark Adams has written this all down so that the next time this happens you will know where to start.  Interesting stuff.

night-wise-300wNightwise,  R. S. Belcher, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7460-8, $29.99, 318 pgs.

This is the story of Latham Ballard, a supernatural badass who is on the hunt for a Serbian war criminal that he plans to kill as a favor to an old friend.  You will note that Nathan has unusual friends.  We liked this one.  It had style and a certain fascination that was hard to get away from.  Belcher is very good at establishing his setting and filling out the particulars of the characters who then move through those settings.  Why, it was almost like being there ourselves, although, to be honest, we did look but could never quite find any of the mentioned locations.  But, this happens often so it is probably more due to translation and species to species referential distinctions than anything else.  Besides your species gives everything multiple names and then tends to forget things.  Look at Atlantis.  Any case, Ballard comes into contact with any number of nefarious and supernatural entities and organizations including the Illuminati, the Devil himself and more than a few Wall Street bankers.  We have to admit Ballard is very adept at managing all this which we really came to appreciate.  We think we might like to understand more of this Ballard and the other things that Belcher has put down.  Send them to us so we may gain knowledge.  Ha, we made a funny.  As if there were any knowledge to be gained from your species other than the exact way you will come to an end.

chasing-the-phoenix-300wChasing the Phoenix, Michael Swanwick, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-8090-6, $31.50, 316 pgs.

We liked this one very much as well.  Perhaps you are getting better at this. Perhaps it is just a fluke.  But, as the Flgga say, “ride the comet before the sun burns you off.”  We’re not sure what they actually mean but they often use it in a way that indicates chance is less than a random event and you should take advantage of things when set before you.  Feel free to attribute. This is a future history, which we have come to understand is more of a parable about present history using tropes of the past.  In this case we are following Aubry Darger and his dog, Surplus.  Now, Surplus is a genetically engineered, uplifted dog so more of a human than a dog.  Both are essentially con artists and both have wandered down from the mountains into China, or what is left of China.  Pretending to be immortals, they convince the Hidden Emperor, who wants to rebuild and make China great again under one ruler, that they should be his advisors.  This goes sort of well, in that the Emperor is one to take advantage of things when set before him but is also not a dumb guy and so is not afraid of using his pieces to extinction.  So, that’s the trick for Darger and Surplus.  Do the Emperor’s bidding but in a way that satisfies the Emperor without getting themselves killed but yet moving forward their own schemes.  Very interesting stuff indeed.  This Swanwick fellow knows what he is about.  We will have to make sure he is removed from the probe list.  Go out and enjoy just on the off chance we are not quick enough.

end-time-300wEnd Time, Keith Korman, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3557-9, $28.99, 524 pgs.

This is a predictive work.  We mean it is probably something that is happening right now and may be embraced by all of you in the very near future.  Think of it this way.  We have been trying to understand your species for quite some time now and that includes studying your government, which is up to so much stuff that not even we are able to catalogue it.  And most of it is not going to be beneficial to the majority of you.  But enough said about that.  This is, either a cautionary tale or a whistleblower trying to hide his identity.  We are pretty sure that Korman is not the blower but we can not be sure.  Any case, this is about a government bio experiment that either goes terribly wrong or terribly right, just not in the right way.  People start to appear to be infected with programmed madness.  At the same time, young women and girls start disappearing while at the same time a segment of the population appears to be able to read minds.  As you can see, not much of the above is good for you.  It falls to three people; an LA cop, a Lakota Sioux, and a space scientist, to try to figure it all out and stop it, if they can.  As they set out across America to try to puzzle out clues and track things down, everything around them gets worse, and worse, and worse.  Given what we know about you, we think you will find this refreshing.  We did.  Enjoy.

sos-300wSOS: Save Our Skins, Directed by Kent Sobey, Written by Chris Heywood, Nat Saunders, Starring  Sonny Adegboruwa, Tom Bolton, Michael Chwastiak, 1hour 38 minutes.  trailer

Wow, we could not have done a better job of detailing human behavior in light of disaster than has been done here.  Again, we believe this is predictive although it could have happened prior to our most recent arrival.  This is the story of two guys who, while attending a convention, wake up to find the world empty.  Well, not totally because there is the blue monster and the zombie girl and a few other nuts still out.  We found this on your internets and watched all the episodes.  We did not recognize the aliens involved.  But, hey, it’s a big universe and you are out here on a small spiral arm tip where there is no traffic.

That’s all for now.  Be good and if you cannot be that, just be.  It will keep you out of trouble.  Ha, we ended with a funny.

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