Reviews: Area 51 1/2, May 2015


by Steven Sawicki

Greenings Thirders,

The time has come to talk about pi. Yes, yes, we know we swore that we could not give you any of our superior knowledge because of the potential negative consequences to your cultures. And, while we do not believe your cultures could actually be all that hurt by a little knowledge, still, we have a code that we must live by. But, we believe we have found a loop hole and, in the spirit of cultures, we are going to slip through it. So, we come to talk about pi. Now, we know that many of you have no feelings about this whatsoever. And we know that others are quite fervent about the formulas that are involved. Honestly, and here it comes, there is nothing that cannot be fixed but for the use of pi. I happen to enjoy the chocolate cream pi, while Klaarg prefers blueberries. But, seriously, there is no bad choice when it comes to pi. We know that some of your numbers philosophers claim that pi can never be more than 3.1415. We say this is just silly, having recently finished 5 pis ourselves for lunch. Besides which, where is one to get .1415 pi? That is not even a sliver. We have discovered that while you can purchase a slice of pi you cannot get slivers. We know that you often use pi in physics and in geometry but we believe that it is best with whipped cream, unless you are having apple pi in which case frozen vanilla creamed ice seems most customary. Why even your most jaundiced urban or sub-urban service person seems to be aware of this so we are not sure what all the fuss about it being non calculable and infinite is about. Let us tell you right now. Pi is finite. Especially if Klaarg is around. And, remember, when the galactic overlords arrive to enslave you please try to act like you knew this all along. We are in enough trouble with the GO to begin with. So whether you like raspberry or peach or pecan remember that pi is good for you and all you have to do is cut across and measure around in order to understand why. We like a medium crust by the way. In case you would like to send us one. Or two.

Well, it is time for us to be off to the future so we need to make our regular attribution which apparently has been working out pretty well since no one has tried to take us to court so far. This time all of the blame must go to Simon. If you have complaints at all please put them in writing and send them to him. You can write to him at: Simple Simon, CO the Piman, any village, England. And, as always, good luck.

darkling-sea-300wA Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3628-6, 352 pgs.

In this work you humans have invaded the planet Ilmatar, ostensibly in order to study and research. Ilmatar is an ice world with an internal ocean and inhabited by a race that has a complex culture built on echo location. This is the first study of its kind, as the Sholen, an alien race whom we do not know, have made the humans enter into an agreement that they will not disturb the Ilmatar inhabitants. The problem is three fold. One, you are humans and you cannot abide by any agreement at all. Two, the Sholen are ruled by a desire to leave everything and everyone alone and see the human presence on Ilmatar as very problematic. Three, you are humans.

So, there you humans are, on an alien planet, at the bottom of an ocean, under a mile of ice. You would think you could behave yourself. But, no. At almost the first opportunity one of you decides that all the rules need to be broken, just because you believe you cannot get caught. What happens next? Well, these kinds of schemes rarely go well when you are just dealing with each other and here you are on an alien world, so, sure, things go badly. Directly after this the Sholen show up wanting to know how things are going. They don’t really care how things are going because they have already made up their minds that things will have gone badly because . . . there are humans involved. The Sholen want the humans off the planet before they contaminate the species living on the planet more than they already have. The humans get petulant, and by that we mean they act like 14 year old human boys, and decide that they don’t want to go. A bunch of them run away and end up interacting with the home species. The Sholen decide to attack them in order to kill everything involved in the contamination and it’s all a grand melee after that.

We have to say that we have been among you for a while now, exactly how long we cannot say, and while we have seen a lot of odd and childlike behavior we have not yet seen a group of scientists behave the way they are shown here. Perhaps they were Yalies. It is hard to know as the writer did not detail any of the credentials of the scientific expedition at all. Which is odd because even we carry a record of our past studies and pool risings. We kept thinking that the Sholen had the right idea only they did not act soon enough. Not that they were all that well behaved either. Perhaps it was something in the water that got to them all. Hard to say. Not enough information. You’ll probably want to go out and see for yourself. Which is fine with us as we have pi.

count-to-a-trillionCount to a Trillion, John C. Wright, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-6745-7, 439 pgs.

This is a future historical book. We have not yet come to terms with the conflicts inherent in such a description but we are working on it. In the meantime we feel it would be unfair to your species for us to leave such a thing uninvestigated. We think maybe it might be a metaphor or an allegory or just a synonym. In any case, this is to take place hundreds of years in your future. Well, in the effort to be transparent (something we have not been since crawling from the pool) we have to confess that it begins hundreds of years in your future. From there it fairly speeds through many more years beyond. But we digest. In this postman world you now inhabit it seems you have reverted to precolonial days, but only if you imagine your colonials having space travel.

Menelaus Illation Montrose is living in this world, he is a lawyer, a duelist, a world class mathematician and a spaceman. He is a crew on a voyage to a distant star to try to translate an alien artifact. Unfortunately, Montrose decides to tinker with his own brain in order to become post human. It does not go well and he ends up spending much of the voyage as a raving lunatic. (Honestly we are not sure how you decide these things based on our own observations.) He goes there and back and remembers nothing of it. When he does get back he is awoken and cured, sort of. The world has changed, being taken over by the crew from the starship who managed to translate enough of the artifact to use it to control everyone. Montrose is not happy about this and decides to fight them. Why they, who have this advanced ability to predict things do not kill him then and there is not specified. And so things go from bad to worse to terrible as Montrose marries a woman who was born on the ship from essentially leftover goo and who is going to return to the alien artifact as a means to save humanity.

There is a whole lot more to this than we are capable of transferring here. The book is a treatise on philosophy of being and there are pages and pages of discussion about various ways to be. It’s interesting until you realize this is future world and none of it makes any difference or real sense other than as an intellectual exercise. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it is not the reason we read histories. This is the first of four books that cover the life of Montrose. We can only speak of the first and figure that at this pace we will be hundreds of thousands of years in your future by the end.

blood-gospel-300wThe Blood Gospel, James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, Harper, ISBN 978-0-060199105-9, 671 pgs.

We find that many of your works are imbued or driven by your cultural mythologies. These religions as you call them often serve as a baseline of behaviors or as a means to justify an end or a lack of action. Sometimes it is more to the front than that, which is the case here. This archeological treatise tells of the search for the blood gospel, a book written by Jesus Christ and then secreted away although it is unclear why, but we find that true of most of your religions. In any case, the vampire priests are searching for it as are the regular vampires as well as a few fallen angels and Judas Iscariot. Apparently they have been at it for thousands of your cycles so they are not very good lookers. This particular treatise opens just as they have finally found it, although a land shake brings down the mountain within which it was buried so found is a relative term. We have also discovered that your religions enjoy riddles, almost as if they purposefully want to keep you away from the truth. In this case the riddle involves the three people required to find the book and do good things with it.

As is the case with many searches the people involved run hither and you (note our use of archaic forms to establish a mood) and to and fro and have many adventures along the way. There is even a Bishop which we interpret to be some kind of wizard as he has a lot of information but only hands out bits and pieces as he deems necessary. There are also traitors, past and present and all kinds of nasty beast things that we have never seen in any of your zoos so we are not sure about the veracity of the reporter here. Things are found, things are lost, people are bitten and a lot of blood is talked about, drunk and spilled.

In the end we discover that all of this frenetic movement is simply to get us to the first long pause as this is the first telling of three. Does it end? Well, no, since there are two more coming. Still, it was a fairly enjoyable process getting from the beginning to the end with many stops through your history. We would recommend it to any of you who like blood, want to bite something, or have religious leanings, although we are not sure the latter of you will be all that happy.

impulse-300wImpulse, Dave Barra, Daw, ISBN 978-0-7564-0996-8, 357 pgs.

In the full sense of disclosure we must tell you that we have never been in the navy, never mind the space navy. But, we have plenty of friends who were not smart enough to follow the academic track as we were and ended up in the military so we have heard their complainings and stories and so know enough to address what is going on here.

The Impulse is a starship built by Quantar. It is one of the elite ships in the Quantar navy and, as such, is crewed by only the best. The problem is that the ship was ambushed and needs a crew refit along with lots of repairs. Lieutenant Peter Cochrane is one of those crew refits, although he is also told that he should disobey orders and mutiny if it seems appropriate. (We are pretty sure these kinds of orders are not given by navies and we did not have to ask our friends to confirm this). He also has no experience whatsoever and so, evidently, is the ideal candidate to send into this situation. Which is all okay because the command structure is pretty much like you see on Star Trek, all loosey goosey (not a navy term) and whimsical. When he disobeys orders he is sent to his room only to have the acting commanding officer appear later and tell him that it’s all okay. This is nothing like academia where, if you do not do what your librarian commander tells you it is off with a tentacle or two and no two ways about it. To make matters worse there are these historians who evidently kind of travel on each ship and they are from Earth. And, get ready for this; they act just like wizards, yes, indeed, space wizards.

As you can imagine we had a hard time with all of this. We were expecting a rousing history of future space battles and conquest and adventuring and what we got was a young adult’s version of what someone else thought this might look like. We were, to put it lightly, not amused. Except for the space wizards as we are always ready to add to our accumulated lore about wizards of all sorts. This is also the first in a chronicle. We have noted before that a chronicle needs more than one so it is suspicious to us when this label occurs on the first of a thing.

Mercury_Poster_300wThe Mercury Men,, 80 minutes (roughly), Produced by Kati Lightholder and Chris Preksta, Written and Directed by Chris Preksta, Starring Mark Tierno, Curt Wooton, and Amy Staggs.

This historical feature takes place in your past before you had color. It is told over ten 7 to 8 minute episodes which are about right for the human attention span, although that is changing. This tells the history of how you Earthers fought off an invasion from Mercury. It was 1975 in Pittsburgh, which may explain the lack of color, where Mercurians began their takeover. A low level office administrator is witness to the beginning assault and is saved at the last minute by a member of The League, a mysterious group that is combatting the invasion using solid principles of engineering and fantastic weapons. We’ve never been to Pittsburgh because we did not think much happened there. Now we know different. If you want to know different as well, we encourage you to partake of this historical rendering.

In closing we say watch, read, follow us on twitter, ha we made a funny, and keep your heads down.

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