Reviews: Area 51 1/2 Nov-Dec 2016


by Steven Sawicki


Greenings Thirders,

We no longer inhabit the Oort. Television from the 70s is not all it is cracked up to be. Instead we have wandered through the remnants of your solar system’s cataclysmic birth, and, yes, Planet X is out here, along with enough other bodies of that size that you will need to adopt numerous other alphabets if you are going to label them all. But, you’ll find that out, assuming one of the dozen or so planet-killer asteroids heading in your direction does not make the exercise moot. Why, you may ask, are we spending so much time out here? To be honest, it is political. We could not stand being around you any longer while you apparently try to beat the asteroid at its own game. While watching you elect leaders can be fascinating it also becomes a bit repetitively apoplectic. Please, just choose a path of annihilation and stick with it. This would allow us to plan when we could and should not be around. As it is now, we’re going to stick with the planet killers — they are both quieter and more joyfully purposeful in their pursuits.

starwars-battlefront-300wStar Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company, Alexander Freed, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-345-51121-8, $28.00, 397 pgs.

We do find this interesting. We have seen your videos of these star wars and, frankly, we were not impressed. We think they were for children? How else to explain all the wrong physics and language used unless it was conceptually designed for infants and not anyone with a relatively normal functioning brain. But here you seem to be correcting many of those errors and giving a more accurately plausible story of what space combat would really be like. While we have never been in space combat (given the distances involved it is really not very economical and given the disparity in the levels of species it is not very ethical or remunerative) but we have heard of it. This telling is all about the Twilight Company although you probably already figured that out. This group of diverse combat members fly from place to place, kill and get killed and then fly off to do it all over again. Most have figured out that this is a non-productive way to gain advantage but stick with it anyway. We liked the beings involved and it seemed true that for most there was not really much choice. We liked the telling and the different planets although we had been to none of them ourselves. We might like to read more but this is not happy joy kind of reading so maybe not. However, if you do want to get a feel for what space combat is all about we think this would be a good choice. We do recommend it.

barsk-300wBarsk, Lawrence M. Schoen, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7702-9, $56.99, 384 pgs.

We’re not ones to cling onto things when we find them but we have to tell you that we found this offering quite enjoyable. Again, we are not sure how you come to know about these places or whether you are just parabalizing as it seems is your nature, but, in this case you are telling us about a planet which is inhabited by elephants that have been uplifted, which is a quaint term you use when you mean you have interfered with species evolution. The elephants inhabit a planet all by themselves because all of the other uplifted creatures have fur and elephants have none. The elephants produce a drug that is greatly wanted by everyone else and so they are tolerated although if the creatures inhabiting the universe would have their way they would take the drug and do away with the elephants. So, you can see that when these creatures were uplifted they picked up all the worse traits of the species. The wild cards in this tale are two elephants, or fants, who fall outside the societal realm and who will ultimately be involved in the way things work out, although not in the way that anyone really expects. We liked this and believe that you will as well. We also understand that there will be more from the writer along these lines in the near future.

knight-300wA Knight of The Seven Kingdoms, George R. R. Martin, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-345-53348-7, $30.00, 357 pgs.

Yes, yes, we know the first question you will have and we can answer that yes it is although prior to what you already know. That being said, this is about a hedge knight who finds himself in quite a few odd situations, mostly through circumstance. Dunk, the knight, has, as his squire, Egg, who is actually part of the royal family who is out to learn about life. The two wander hither and yon, from there to here, with no real plan other than to find enough food to eat and a roof without holes to sleep under. As they progress across the country side they stumble upon plots and mischiefs which sometimes threaten them and often leave them wondering if the land itself is against them. But, as they succeed, more or less, they both learn about life and about what it means to be honorable and true to one’s word. We should note that for those of you who struggle to picture what is happening, this one comes with illustrations so it will be an easier road for you. And they are numerous and quite good. We think those of you who asked the question to begin with will find this enjoyable albeit set quite a while prior to the events you are most familiar with. To those of you who wonder if you need to have that knowledge in order to enjoy the proceedings we would say you do not. In that case we can recommend to everyone.

time-salvager-publication-300wTime Salvager, Wesley Chu, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7718-0, $25.99, 380 pgs.

Occasionally you produce something that is so illogical and just impossible that we truly wonder. Then we pay attention to the way you are on a daily basis and all that wonder just goes away. In this case, this guy is a time traveling thief. Evidently, you posit that your future is so corrupted and destroyed that it can only survive by raiding the past. Now, yes, there are rules about this and procedures and an entire organization built around going into the past just before a disaster happens and snatching material and getting out before everything collapses. No, no, don’t say it. We understand the problems with this just like you do and the inevitability of creating a time fracturing ellipse that ultimately loops everything into a destructive cycle. Putting that inevitable destruction aside, and we know you can do that because we watch you do it on a daily basis, the premise is interesting and the ones involved in the snatching and grabbing end up being forced to face their own inevitable relationship with time and space as things start coming to the place that they had to come. We enjoyed it, partly for the impossibility and partly for the crafting of path to the inevitability. You will like it as well assuming you can put aside the laws related to temporal displacement.

cyclops-300wThe Cyclops Initiative, David Wellington, Morrow, ISBN 978-0-06-224883-1, $25.99, 377 pgs.

You seem to write about this individual quite a bit. Once again, Jim Chapel, the one armed spy, is called on to save the world. This time from an internal conspiracy in your government, which we thought was just a collection of internal conspiracies to begin with but maybe this one is special. In any case, Chapel ends up on the wrong side of the conspiracy and finds himself a public enemy. To help resolve some of the issues he needs to contact his handler, a woman he knows as Angel. Oddly enough she is kept in a trailer at an abandoned place. So, Chapel, along with his ex-lover, and a couple of old friends, manages to break her out just in time. Just in time as it relates to a rogue drone that has gone independent. We did not mention the sniper, nor the squads of police, nor the military individuals who are all looking to take him out because, while they are in the storyline they are not all that important. You know, Chapel could take them with one arm tied behind his back. Provided it was the right one. Or the left one, we forget which one he is missing. As logic chains go this one is missing a few links. It was enjoyable to the end but we kept looking at the cover trying to remember whether the word comedy appeared anywhere. Nope, this is a serious shooter. Enjoy it with salt, as it were.

grim-300wGrim Tidings, Caitlin Kittredge, Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-231693-6, $14.99, 259 pgs.

This is a book about demons and hell hounds. We think these are just versions of vampires and werewolves but it’s hard to say since your species seems to think every slight breeze blowing through a bush in the darkness is some kind of menace. This is a continuation of the adventures that Kittredge started telling in her treatise Black Dog. This time Ava, the hell hound, is finding that freedom is not quite what it is cracked up to be as she finds herself hounded by nearly everything. Ha, we made a funny. What she discovers is a government conspiracy involving zombies and vampires and military agents. Everything comes to a gruesome conclusion as one often expects when humans are involved. We like it as it continued to fill in some gaps around human behavior for us. We believe that you will like it too.

poe-coloring-book300wEdgar Allan Poe, an Adult Coloring Book, Odessa Begay, Lark, ISBN 978-1-4549-2135-6, $14.95.

We are not sure why this is an adult coloring book and we gave it to Klaarg since he is the one with the extra color receptors (it is always good, when you are on your way to the crimson galaxy to not end up in a red dwarf). Klaarg liked it although as a side note he bemoans that your species is so color blind. You will never get into deep space until you understand that there are more than 128 colors. And, no, Pumpkin is not a color, it is simply another version of orange. And stop trying to convince yourself that there are 50 shades of grey. There is gray and there is grey and that’s it. And you are going to probably need a lot of gray for this as we understand your Poe to be quite disturbed. And red, lots of red.

inhumanconditionInhuman Condition, Directed by Jared Pelletier, Written by RJ Lackie, Starring Torri Higgi, Thomas Olajide, Clara Pasieka, Cara Gee, 33 episodes, most episodes around 8 minutes. 

We enjoyed these episodes although we are perpetually confused as to your true relationship with vampires, werewolves and other things that are extra special. Are you afraid of them? Hunted by them? Incredulously derisive? Or, as it told here, trying to help them through therapy and other means. We are not sure what to make of this and we have been unable, so far, to find one to ask questions to. This series was very well done so we are thinking it may be closer to the truth than other things we have seen. But, we remain skeptical. You should definitely see for yourself.

That’s all for now. We could say more but what would be the point? You are, as a species, apparently unable to take good advice.

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