Reviews: Area 51 1/2 May-June 2016


by Steven Sawicki


We have been spending a fair amount of time recently in the otherverse. You may be more familiar with it being called the multiverse. No matter what you call it, interesting things happen there. We have been searching for answers. We have theories. One of them is that this plane of existence is actually one of the lesser slimes of one of the lesser spills of one of the smaller leaks on the chain. It would explain much. But, the stars are not right and the taste of the interstellar dust is off. The ram scoops are never wrong. So, it must be as it looks and that is the most disturbing of all. We had hoped for some form of spatial anomaly to explain your behavior. A solid dosing of space radiation perhaps or too much star stuff. But, sadly, it is all just you doing what you do best. The kLMnaffra have a theory of sentience that it is inherently self destructive and that the majority of sentient races off themselves essentially by being stupid. We are sad to say it seems you are at that point. We could cite you numerous articles but perhaps there is nothing more telling than our just saying look to your leaders and those you support to become your leaders. We’re keeping the mothership idling and the door to the otherverse open at all times just in case.

unnoticeables-300wThe Unnoticeables, Robert Brockway, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7966-5, 286 pgs.

We note, we believe for the first time, your fixation with angels. We suppose if your life is going wrong you have to blame someone. Carey blames them for disappearing his friends. He thinks they might also be responsible for the tar monsters in the sewers and the unkillable psychopaths that seem to be taking over the punk scene. He could be right. But then he could be wrong as well. Kaitlyn, who lives on the other coast then Carey, is also having some angel problems. She has had a close brush with death when a former teen television idol tried to eat her and she’s recently discovered that the alcoholic bum that hangs out in front of her apartment is an angel. Before you can say Azrael, Carey and Kaitlyn are together, fighting angels and demons and tar monsters and a few psychopaths along the way as they try to stop the human race from going down for the count. This is certainly an interesting premise and it does explain a great deal about punk music. We’re likely to believe only parts of it though as anytime teenagers are involved reality becomes a bit suspect. You should get a copy to see for yourself. We recommend that you do. Don’t let the angels or the tar people know about it though.

Solar-Express-300wSolar Express, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-8195-8,  447 pgs.

We need to point out that this is a NASA inspired work. Ironically, it involves things happening in space, something which NASA has been sadly remiss in pursuing from its own end. Evidently there was an object that was found to be approaching your system and efforts were made to go out and see what it was. This is a good thing as comets and rocks and big ice chunky things can really play havoc once they get inside your atmosphere. Not that you would be able to really tell, having messed up your atmosphere so much all by yourselves. But, take our word for it. This object turns out to be an artifact of an alien species, and it’s on a cometary trajectory, which means it has come from deep space. It also means the thing will speed up as it gets closer so the time period to do any study at all is pretty limited. So, the North American Union (remember, NASA has no capacity to get anything into space) sends a single pilot ship to investigate. Due to space limitations (ha, we made a funny), only so much can be brought. The pilot reaches the artifact to find that it is pretty much incomprehensible. The Sinese Confederation also send a ship to investigate. At the same time, tensions in lower Earth orbit increase between the three nations with orbital capacity. As the artifact gets closer to your Sun, things begin to get a little tense. Shots are fired and lives are lost but NASA still can’t get anything into orbit. Klaarg particularly liked this one as it contained a lot of navigation references. He found them all very accurate and was impressed that a species that cannot get into space seems to know how to drive there. Navigator approved.

sleeping-giants300wSleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, Del Rey, ISBN 978-1-101-88669-4, 305 pgs.

It took us a while but we believe we have found the tool to decipher your culture. It is all made clear here. While the framework is all about the finding of a giant robot, one part at a time, that has been buried on your planet, the core is really about the manipulation of your species by an unidentified individual/group/organization. While the behavior of your species continues to be capricious and barely logical, the driving force is the exact opposite, often having planned years ahead and in multiple ways. We knew you could not just be bouncing willy-nilly from one crisis to the next, surviving purely by luck and randomness. We wish we had come upon this kind of work earlier but it may be that those who produce such things are quickly silenced. We note that this is a first offering from Neuvel. We are not sure if the giant female robot that is found is a real thing or a metaphor for something else but that’s okay because it is, in actuality, nothing more than a device to wrap the real information around. Well done, Neuvel, we say. We hope to see more from you in the future. In the meantime hide.

DarkOrbit300wDark Orbit, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3629-3,  303 pgs.

Speaking of the Otherverse, a team of scientists is assembled to investigate a new planet only to find that the planet is inhabited but not in the way one normally inhabits a planet but by inhabiting through a kind of transdimensional gate, or something. Not only that but the inhabitants a blind and have built a culture and society around navigation perception. To make matters more interesting the crew of scientists is evidently suspect since the senders of the expedition have included a watch dog to keep an eye on things. That the watchdog herself is a bit off only makes the whole thing even more odd. There is political intrigue galore, mysticism and philosophy that all comes into play when it comes time to save everyone. We like this, sort of, as the essential premise seemed just a bit awry. Well done even though and we would have to say it is good enough that you need to make your own impression. Wait, we are about to make a funny. Now that you have our take on this, you can go into it with your eyes open. Ha.

sleepingking300wThe Sleeping King, Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-3514-2, 496 pgs.

We always grow a bit concerned when a history uses the name Urth instead of the name you normally use; Dirt. It implies to us a couple of things; first that so much time has passed that your species is either spelling or pronouncing things differently or, that you have simply forgotten some things while retaining phonetics. We are pretty sure that beings will choose to remember other things than that given the choice. On the other hand we are watching your politics so maybe you are not good with choices. Anyhow, just like your politics, this is about the search for a leader that will save everyone. Some want to be saved, some want to maintain things the way they are, and some are just afraid that any change will be bad, regardless of how bad things are currently. Anyhow, everyone kind of runs around here and there and to and fro, mostly because this is going to be a trilogy so there is lots of space. There are elves and orcs and other things that we have never seen but, then, we have not yet seen abominable yetis or those other things we have not seen yet. We forget what they are called but we will know them when we see them. It all comes to good order, or as good an order as you can get with two thirds still to come so we have to hold final judgement until later but the first part speaks well for things so we have hope. You should too. Hope is good. We imagine it is always a tricky thing and Klaarg often cautions that just because the beginning of a trip is wonderful it does not mean that there are not things to go wrong directly after. And he would know. He is one of the few navigators to repair a ram scoop while a ship was in motion. Not that he had much choice since we had tossed him out with his tools and refused to let him back in until it was fixed. Serves him right for trying to toast blaargats in the scoop’s fusion jets. They really gum up the works if they manage to work themselves off the stick.

luna-300wLuna (New Moon), Ian McDonald, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7551-3,  398 pgs.

We knew a dog named Luna once. Good dog. This is not about her. Instead this is about your moon, which, like your sun and your planet, you have given more than one name to. This is a complicated telling involving many families focused on populating and controlling your moon. Now, we have been there and it is empty and desolate so we are not sure if this is one of those past future things or future past things but it is not current. In any case, we liked the way McDonald uses the various machinations to move things forward and to keep the information flowing. We liked the description of how the satellite has been managed and for what reasons. We did find that your bringing your petty arguing into space to be not at all surprising. So, there are the companies who are using the moon to make money and then there are those who are involved in supporting the individual companies. And then there is all the competition, which, on your satellite, gets a bit life or death. It’s all very interesting and we did get from the front to the back fairly rapidly. Try it yourself. We are confident you will enjoy.

We have not watched anything we liked lately. It seems like you have let your imagination run dry. Everything is something that is either a reimagining (fancy word for repeat) or a sequel (fancy word for repeat) or a related thing (fancy word for lazy). Let your minds loose again. Even if they get away you will not have lost much. We promise.

Hey. Yeah, you. Send us things. It’s not like we can just break into the library anytime we want and remove books. You have to give to receive. Some famous human said that. We forget who at the moment. Books in paper form are particularly welcome as your digital material tends to get erased when we cross through the cosmic curtain that keeps your world segregated from the rest of the known universe. For now, we are gone. Do not look for us. We are not here.

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If you enjoyed this, check out the rest of the May-June 2016 issue of FSI!

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