Reviews: Area 51 1/2: March 2015


by Steven Sawicki

Greenings Third Worlders,

We have questions. Actually you have questions. We have answers. The being who manages this enterprise has sent us an accumulation of ponderings that we might be responsive. To Glee in Arkansas. We do not know your cousin. To Mark in New Hampshire. There are 6 of us, unless we are budding in which case there can be as many as 14. To Shyree in Los Angeles. No. To Dwayne in Indianapolis. We enjoy many Earth foods including pudding. To Jefferson in Detroit. Global Warming is really a misnomer. What is really going on has more to do with Human self-centeredness than anything else. You are simply polluting your planet to the point of its death. To Scott in Phoenix. It looked like a completed pass to us. To Jennifer in New Orleans. We cannot think of anything that will keep Ben Affleck from being the next Batman. To Defreet in Mumbai. Combine 23 atoms of sodium under slight pressure with oxygen, sulfur and bromide in equal portions and drink once in the morning and once in the evening. Do this for three cycles. To Hector in Mexico City. Si. To John in Dubuque. I am Hemonemoneffra, sometimes called Hummer, and I am the pilot. Klaarg is our Navigator. Papsuptra is our Engineer. Shthrhth is our steward. Beng is in charge of planetary relations, essentially our diplomat. And Xz is the co-pilot, cook and communicator. To Carleen in Atlanta. Unfortunately we cannot explain pooling to you. It is a very private process for us and one in which not many survive so it also holds tedious and tremorous memories. To Bridgette in London. In all of our travels we have never seen a Dr. To Ernest in Washington. The importance cannot be overstated. And, finally, to Steve in New York. Do not make us get a restraining order.

As we have been doing we will attribute this rendering. This time it appears that the White Wizard is to blame. We have no idea how to contact him. Nor, in our experience, are wizards worth contacting to begin with. But, feel free to try. We’re sure he’ll have an adventure for you. Good luck.

blackdog-300wBlack Dog, Caitlin Kittredge, Harper Voyager, ISBN: 978-0-06-231691-2.

Ava is a hellhound, the servant of a reaper, which is a kind of a demon who collects souls to send to Hell. Ava does the collecting and has been doing so for some time. One bright and sunny day, Ava runs into a Necromancer who convinces her to go against her demon master and steal his scythe, the thing that contains great power for a reaper. Ava does this and in the process, kills her reaper and incurs the wrath of another, even more powerful demon, Lilith. Being a fairly nice demon, instead of killing Ava outright, which she could quite easily do, Lilith orders Ava to finish her job and collect the rest of the souls that were on her reaper’s list. Unfortunately for Ava, or perhaps Lilith, a couple of those souls belong to Angels.

Whew, and you thought the Bible was confusing. We’re all for the whole Hellhound thing and the concept of dead humans being turned into these creatures is intriguing and interesting. That they apparently maintain all of their human desires and wants and needs is less so. For example, Ava, as powerful as she is as a Hellhound is still looking for a man to complete her. Maybe she watched Ghost too many times. Hard for us to say. But we did find this aspect a minor annoyance. Just once we would like to read about a human female who does not go all aflutter when her soul man walks into the room.

We enjoyed this otherwise, liking the many places that were described and the ways that the different creatures interacted with each other. There is more going on here than one is able to glean just from the words. This is often true of human behaviors so it makes a lot of sense to us. We think you should read it if you are looking for more information on hellhounds or if you just want to find out more about the supernatural world that is, apparently, all around us.

echo8-300wEcho 8, Sharon Lynn Fisher, Tor, ISBN: 978-0-765-376374.

Dopplegangers begin to appear around the planet. They apparently are from an alternate planet which has had a catastrophic meteor event. Note that we have not said that either of these is an alternate Earth. This is because in response to the doppleganger situation one of the world’s top parapsychologists is engaged to figure things out. And we are pretty sure that you do not use parapsychologists on your Earth, excepting for Long Island which has its own numerous idiosyncrasies. In any case Tess is the parapsychologist previously mentioned and she is put in charge of figuring out the dopplegangers, or echos, one of which is Jake, who now inhabits the lab below where Tess lives. The problem with the dopplegangers is that they need energy to live and they get this energy by touching and draining people on the planet that Tess inhabits. To keep Tess safe the government has assigned Ross to watch over her. Unfortunately, this creates the dreaded love triangle. Not only that but it is unrequited love. Jake and Ross do not want each other. Jake wants Tess and while Tess is kind of taken by him she would rather forgo the energy draining and is kind of more enamored with Ross anyway although not willing to show it as she has a problem with FBI agents and their attitude. Did we mention that Ross is an FBI agent? He is, and also enamored of Tess although not able to do much about it for ethical reasons as he believes he cannot protect someone he really cares for. Besides, Tess has been ordered to work with Ross to enhance his latent Psy abilities.

Still with us? Tess gets drained by Jake, and hangs on the edge. Ross revives her but in ways the Victorians would blush at. Tess changes her mind but still is kind of taken with Jake. Jake, after draining Tess has fallen in love with her but, because of the memory transfer that accompanies draining, now has awareness of her feelings for Ross, who is still trying to hide things because he is still protecting her.

It grows more complicated but since we are not really into gossip you are going to have to pursue the rest of this on your own. Needless to say there is an old ferry involved and much adventuring on the meteored world before things start to kind of settle down. We liked it, more or less, although again, there is this woman in need of a man to make her complete thing that you can’t seem to let go of.

harrison-300wHarrison Squared, Daryl Gregory, Tor, ISBN: 978-1-466852716.

Harrison Harrison is a boy who has a water problem. His dad disappeared under the waves of the Pacific when he was a toddler, taken under by a huge sea creature. A dozen years later, his mom, this time in the Atlantic Ocean disappears when the boat she is on begins taking water and sinks. Unfortunately for Harrison, he no longer resides on the west coast of North America but in Dunnsmouth. He’s attending high school there and very quickly notices that strange things seem to be occurring. We are surprised that the school fight song: two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Old Ones, Cold Ones, Deep Ones, Cthulhu! did not tip him off. But he’s starting to figure it out, or at least will try since his mom has been taken by the old church to be used in ritual and Harrison’s efforts are not appreciated.

So, hey, we appreciate a good story of alien overlords as much as anyone and, while no evidence yet exists to confirm that this particular brand of alien overlord actually slithers around, who are we to say for sure. It is a vast universe and we are here stuck out on a lonely spiral arm. With you. See what we mean? We are always cautious when the protagonist in one of your tellings is an unformed adult. Sure, this works for the Greek epics but people only survived until they were in their early thirties for the most part. About the half-life of a Hostess Twinkie. But, look, good writing is good writing and we feel the need to point that out to you from time to time to see if we cannot break through your stereotypes. Not every telling involving young adults is meant for young adults In this case we are just not sure but think that it will probably find a wide audience, and deservedly so, for how often do you get to enjoy a story that is both intense and humorous that involves giant tentacled things — besides the obvious answer of course.

We enjoyed this although we have come to question Gregory’s upbringing as we think he may have been oxygen starved as a child to come up with such things when describing what we have found to be simply quaint, albeit a bit eccentric, communities tucked away, here and there, along the northeastern coast of the United States. On a rather odd note, we want to comment that the protagonist in this telling has a prosthetic leg. We comment because we have mentioned a previous telling where the protagonist had an artificial arm. Pay attention below and we will string these together.

onhermajesty-300wOn Her Majesty’s Behalf, Joseph Massise, Harper Voyager, ISBN: 978-0-06-204878-3.

This the follow up, or follow on, to Massise’s first novel which, if we remember correctly, was called The Blood of Heroes, where Massise tells a version of your World War II that has supernatural elements in it. There are zombies, electric weapons, odd devices, and the occasional wonder.

This time Major Burke is tasked with traveling to the heart of London to retrieve the royal family before the undead find them. Burke takes his unit with him, along with a few others, and jumps in a submarine to travel up the Thames. He manages to get into Buckingham palace, but then things start going badly. Now he and his men have to figure out how to get out of a London that is full of zombies and a German advance scouting party as well.

This is certainly a part of WWII that we had never been aware of prior to coming across Massise. We assume that he managed to stumble upon some old record, perhaps buried in an old building in England. Regardless of the source, it is interesting reading and does tie in a bit with the Blitzkrieg and bombing that we know took place. Oh, and we need to mention that Burke has a mechanical hand. Ah, you say, now we get it. But surely you do not. We need to stop here and comment on your seeming desire to mechanicalize yourself. Sure, we understand your thinking — we have a Roomba and soon it will be deciding when to turn on and off and which room to be in. This will lead to the blender becoming self-aware and attempting to kill us. But, you are thinking, the more we look like a blender the safer we will be. Therefor we should replace our parts with machine parts the better to blend in (ha we made a funny) when the great winnowing takes place.

Certainly it is hard to argue against this kind of logic. Medication would work much better. You need to stop trying to become robots. Do you truly want to make the Earth a place that Klaarg cannot visit? There is no benefit in it for you so please, just stop. Besides, you are much more likely to blow yourself up or simply poison your planet before your iPhone ever gains the ability to call its friend in China on its own.

old-venus-300wOld Venus, George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, eds., Bantam, ISBN: 978-0-345-53728-7.

We have been to Venus. Three times. Once in the winter and twice during the rainy season. No, we are just kidding. Venus has no rainy season. It is a hot desolate place. Which is why we are a bit confused by this Martin and Dozois travel guide. Within it speaks of a Venus covered in jungles, awash in amphibians, and with the occasional Venusian Beach Bunny thrown in. We thought at first, that this was one of your ironical devices. But it does not seem to be so. We thought, also, that the title might hold the key as in this being a telling of the way things were for old Venus. But, we took the mothership out beyond the galactic edge to gather tachyons so that we could view old Venus and, alas, just as hot and dry as the current Venus.

Oddly enough, even with these glaring inaccuracies we found the various components within quite enjoyable. We liked what Allen M. Steele had to say and Paul McAuley seemed very adept at describing situations that we were glad to avoid. Gwyneth Jones described a Venus we might like to visit for a short while and Elanor Arnason likewise an old Venus that stands to be discovered. There were others as well, sixteen in all, all equally, nearly, enjoyable for their detailing, albeit inaccurate, details, through which visitors adventured their ways. Honestly, we do not know how to respond to this other than to say that occasionally it is all right to enjoy the inaccurate so long as it is done well.


Still, Chronicle Factory, Web based series, Jonathan Holbrook, Executive Producer 

We sent Klaarg out to get videos. It seems we will never learn. He got some, along with pizza, and then took the mothership out to the dark side of the moon for target practice. It’s a good thing you are not planning to go there soon, is all we can say. So, instead of the latest video adventure we were left to wander the internets for entertainment. We found some in this series, which is internets based, and falls in the range of dark fantasy or horror. The series takes place in Oregon we think, which is evidently a pretty depressing place. In any case an alien sound fills the sky and right off we must say that it was not us. This sound has been heard worldwide and we need to point out that even on his worse day, Klaarg can produce noise that maybe reaches from a coast to the nearest mountains. This noise may, or may not, be responsible for the odd behaviors that the inhabitants of a small town are beginning to exhibit. All we can say is that it is creepy and much, much better than anything we have seen on video in the past couple of years.

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