Reviews: Area 51 1/2 March–April 2016


by Steven Sawicki


We see you think you found another planet. Look, this is not as big a deal as you think it is. They are all over the place. Like grains of sand on your beaches they are nearly everywhere one places a stability pod. Assuming you have access to near light drive technology of course. Which you don’t. Which is maybe why you act like it’s a big deal when you find another one. And why do you not have near light drive technology? Evidently because you do not want to have it. We have studied your choice making processes and it appears you prefer to eliminate each other, utilizing more and more creative ways, rather than spend the time to rectify processes that are leading to your elimination. But far be it from us to try to get you to change your ways. We are just observers. Observers that often do wonder just what you are about but observers none the less. Albeit observers who are standing by the door just in case. Let us share with you some of the things that we have observed. (redacted for references that would get us in trouble).

deadlands-300wDeadlands: Ghostwalkers, Jonathan Maberry, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7526-1, 476 pgs.

Again with the zombies. Only this time you posit that they were around in your old west, not that it’s all that old and let’s face it, directions are relative. Anyway, this is supposed to be part of a game and we should note that you are one of the few species that considers killing each other during recreational time, a thing worth doing. Anyway, again, this historical covers events after the great quake of 1868 which shattered California and created a substance called ghost rock. All of this is only relevant as it creates the situation into which one Grey Torrance walks into after meeting a Sioux scientist who is being chased by a posse. Turns out that there is a crazed madman who is building a demon-created zombie army just outside of Paradise Falls and it falls to Torrance, along with the Sioux scientist, Looks Away, to put an end to it. Sure there are zombies and other walking dead and maybe a demon or two (kind of hard to tell) and even the occasional dinosaur like thing, and more super science weapons than one could shake a stick at, although shaking a stick in this neck of the woods would pretty quickly get you shot, but the idea is still a simple one: stop the madman.

We liked this, more or less. We are suckers for gunslinging action and for histories that inform us of days gone by. As we pursue our desire to learn everything about your species, we have come to believe that it is a lucky thing any of you survived to this stage. We mean that, given the apparent huge numbers of zombies and vampires and other things that that evidently were running around in your past how did you manage to get out?

Anyway, yet again, we think this is something worth following up on, if only to be amazed at your own survival rate.

dragon-coast-300wDragon Coast, Greg Van Eekhout, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-2857-1, 316 pgs.

We liked this. We have no idea what part of California this took place in, maybe the same one as the above but many years later, but we are intrigued by what Eekhout has detailed. We have long known that you are what you eat. Klaarg will confirm this for you readily. But we never quite bought into the concept that what you eat defines you. Eekhout has straightened us out by continuing his tale which was begun in Pacific Fire (we loved that one as well) and giving us even more reason to want to find these folks so we can get to know them better. This is a mystery wrapped in a science project covered by a self-exploration journey folded with a buddy pic. When Daniel Blackland, a con man, magician, discovers that the only way to get his golem son back is by taking on the greatest Osteomancer ever alive, as well as his brother Paul, he gathers a few trusted companions and sets off the make things right. Wow, we had heard that California is a little bit out there and not a good measure of your species but we never suspected this. And there’s a dragon involved as well. We are near speechless with wonder and admiration at the way that Eekhout shares his knowing of these events. We say to all of you that you need to participate in the getting of this information for your selves. And you should do it before they make another dragon and set it loose on you.

eagle-300wEagle in Exile (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy Book II), Alan Smale, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-8041-7724-5, 576 pgs.

We have just one thing to say: Romans! We love Romans. In fact any one of you who gives us the coordinates of where Romans are will be removed from the probe list. Of course if you give us false information we will make sure you are at the front, and listed twice, and during the Flarks rotation. They have outdated probe equipment. Anyway, we like the concept of Rome, the way they ran their empire, very orderly. And we enjoyed the way that Smale tells of how the Romans journeyed, via the Vikings, to your Western continent so they could bring civilization to the people who were already there. Of course like your modern selves the Romans never quite think that maybe the people to whom they bring these things don’t want them or may already have them. Such is the case here, where the people of the land beat back the Romans and pretty much destroy their legion. The commander is left alive and has, essentially, gone native. We’re okay with this although his superiors in Rome, who have now followed him, are less than happy. It’s a conflict that has played out in your society time and time again and yet Smale makes this new and worth reading. Besides, it has Romans! We liked it, Klaarg loved it, we think you will enjoy it as well. And note that this is the second book of this history and that you definitely need to read the first and will yearn for the third once you finish the second.

ripper-300wThe Ripper Gene, Michael Ransom, Forge, ISBN 978-0-7653-7687-9, 333 pgs.

DNA. It is the basic building block of human life. You all have it. And yet you know so little about it. This long paper is about a scientist who posits that he can find deviants based on their having a specific genetic sequencing. In what we can only assume to be a controlled experiment he puts himself right in the middle of a series of murders to find out if his theory is true. Oh yes, he also works for the FBI, is not over his mother’s murder when he was a child, and has an ex-girlfriend who has a broken mind. As the bodies start to mount up his theory seems to be validated. Except it’s all so personal when it’s happening in your backyard and your own history seems to be driving everything. We liked this although we did wonder at the concept of conflict of interest. When we blow up a sun we are not allowed to investigate the reasons behind it. Another department does that, preferably one driven by cautious logic and not megalomaniacal reaction. We think you still have much to learn about yourselves and if you read this book you will begin that journey, or continue it depending on where you happen to be as you read this. On a final note we were initially quite incredulous when we read the reports about your self execution behavior. No other race has such a thing. Now, having been here for a while, we wonder why you evidently exhibit such self restraint. You should get this one if you like puzzles based on dead bodies and neuroscience.

sly-300wSly Mongoose, Tobias S. Buckell, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7630-5, 320 pgs.

Okay, we get around. Not as much as the Fflar for sure, but still more than you. So, when we say that there are numerous planets that have corrosive atmospheres you can take us at our words. Evidently you can take this Buckell fellow at his as well since he is describing just such a place as well as the people who live there. The people live in floating cities at a distance from the crushing pressure of the surface where they can eke out minimal survival, for the most part. They do mine the planet’s surface by utilizing small children. Timas is one of these miners, and one day he comes face-to-face with a man named Pepper, who is from space and who is saying that an invading force is on its way and everybody better get ready to defend or die. At the same time, Timas has seen something on the surface — something that might save everyone without having to fight. But, timing is everything and this battle has ramifications larger than just the planet, at least according to Pepper.

We are familiar with places like this although we do not actually travel there as it plays havoc with our complexions. Still, if you would like to get some idea of what it is like we can think of no better option than this one to use to give you the information that will surely allow you to also decide never to go to a place like this. Buckell has obviously been there to describe it in such rich detail. You should take advantage of that.

expanse300wThe Expanse, Based on the novels of James S. Corey, Developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, 2015, 10 episodes.

We have watched a lot of your films about space and we have to tell you that this one comes the closest to getting it right, assuming you do not have spendicular retrograde mechanisms. We like it, although it says you are on other planets and we have been to the other planets and you are not there so maybe just an analogy, which you are so fond of. In any sense, we enjoyed all of these and look forward to enjoying more of them. We could not find out who actually did the creative bits with words in this but that is not such a big deal in your Hollywood, apparently.

We would like to make comment that we can only produce if we receive. If you make something or are involved in the distribution of something interesting that you think others might also find interesting then we encourage you to send it to us. Books are particularly welcomed. We will receive, peruse and comment if we believe enlightenment is possible. Please do know that we can only share what flows across our awareness. In the meantime we are out. Look for us or not, we know where you are.

For more information pertaining to Steven Sawicki, please consult

If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of the March-April 2016 issue of FSI!

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