Reviews: Area 51 1/2


by Steven Sawicki


Greenings Thirders,

It’s that most wonderful time of your year. Balmy ocean breezes blow through the palms and we are able to direct stream to the giant pixilated device which hangs just next to the fusion disintegrator (we do tend to lose a lot of remotes due to that placement as Klaarg is not the most patient when it comes to plotting and often uses those devices to encourage things along). Anyhows. We have come to where we are in order to deepen our understanding of tidal movements in regards to your species process of selecting those whom you call leaders although on most worlds they would be called something entirely different. But who are we, besides an advanced species, to tell you that you are not quite getting the hand of special survival? Let us share with you, in this season of living and harriedment, some of what we have learned.

monsters-among-us-300wMonsters Among Us, Linda S. Godfrey, Tarcher Perigee, ISBN 978-0-399-17624-1, $17.00, 368 pgs.

If we have learned one thing in our short time here it is that your species will not only believe anything but will fill voids with beliefs. That being the case it is a fine effort for a researcher to try to collect these things. How else to tell whether that bump in the night is a Yeti, a werewolf, a misguided spirit (we assume guided spirits would not be bumping into things), or just a mouse pushing a pepper shaker off the table. Of course the most plentiful of these kinds of stories involve strange lights in the skies. Let us set you straight about that. We are often in your skies at night and we have seen no such thing around us. That being said, we cannot speak for things which may have happened in your deep woods or shady alleys. But researched Godfrey can and that is what makes this an invaluable research document for us and, we believe, for you. Did we mention portals? They seem to be relatively plentiful so keep an open eye.

Supernova, C. A, Higgens, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-553-39445-0, $27.00, 290 pgs.

supernova-300wThis is a continuation report, following up on the events first detailed in file titled Lightless. While that was somewhat of a locked room mystery, this one is more a tale of madness. Machine madness if we must be honest. The AI created on the military ship and then warped by a virus is now in total control and there is only one other person on the ship. The ship wants to head in-system to find the one who made her while the human on board has read Frankenstein and knows what happens when a created thing goes looking for its creator. Meanwhile, the creator’s friends are creating chaos within the system, trying to take down the government while betraying each other seemingly every chance they get. We had to keep this one from Klaarg. He’s queasy around robots and an intelligent ship would simply force him to become planet bound. And we need him to push the buttons that will take all of us away so we can have none of that. Will you like this? Hard to say as it is very different from the first report and yet, more satisfying at the same time. But in a different way so those of you who seek familiarity will not find comfort here.

Last Plane to Heaven, Jay Lake, Tor, ISBN 978-0-7653-7799-9, $16.99, 318 pgs.

lake-300wWe flail in consternation. This collection is appropriately titled as ‘The Final Collection’ because the writer expired. We are not aware, in our time of studies on your planet, of another case like this, where the writer knew of their expiration date so that they were capable of putting together final thoughts and, as it were, having a hand in their own legacy. We find the circumstances definitely color the way the words are understood and we note as well the sense that something that was very good is now gone. There are 32 pieces here and we find that we enjoyed most of them which is exceptional when you understand the diversity of the offerings. We believe that Lake was one of those individuals who were able to see things differently and yet report them accurately. He self admits the time and effort this has taken and we are brought once again to that place where perception and reality diverge. Just because a thing looks easy does not mean it was so. And so it was with Jay Lake who made it look easy although it was not. And, we must say, as he did with his writing, being able to share his experiences through words so he also did with the thing that brought him to his end. We flail in consternation.

Fatal Thunder, Larry Bond, Forge, ISBN 978-0-7653-7864-4, $27.99, 365 pgs.

fatalthunder-300wWe must start with a correction. While we have not studied your weather in exacting detail we are almost positive that it is the lightning that is fatal. This is all about spaceships, the underwater kind. It’s about your excess stockpile of nukes as well. Apparently you are not good about keeping an eye on those things and while I am sure you had only good intentions when you built them when you don’t pay attention to where they are, they can end up in the wrong hands. In this case they end up on a submarine that has been given secret orders to go out and launch a bunch of nukes in order to gain economic advantage. China, note the pronunciation is with the hard ch sound and not the sloppy g sound. Anyway. Jerry Mitchel, skipper of the North Dakota, a submarine, is contacted by two foreigners about a plot they have discovered concerning the use of stolen nukes. The contact is from an Indian sub commander who once tried to kill Mitchel so there’s some tension about the validity of the information. Needless to say there is a lot of submarining going on here as the plot unfolds and as the nature of trust is determined. We liked it, but then we like spaceship stories. If you like those then you will like this too.

Crosstalk, Connie Willis, Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-345-54067-6, $28.00, 495 pgs.

crosstalk-300wIt was only a matter of time before your species decided that once you figured out some simple DNA sequences that you would want to start tinkering with them. And, let’s face it, after watching what you did with basic energy and signal transfer is it any wonder that this tinkering is going to prove problematic? So, evidently you are looking at ways to make your relationships stronger. Zeus forbid that you just learn to talk to each other better, you decide to tinker with your brains so that those you are paired with can communicate intermentally. Hey what could go wrong with this? It’s not like you have a history of fragile relationships with each other evidenced by, oh, let’s say, some form of legal procedure involving all parties and a lot of negative energy. So by all means it makes sense that you would want to go this route. But, evidently, you are also telepathic. We’re not sure of this ourselves since none of our probings have shown this but you probably know yourselves better than we do. In any case, the woman in this situation discovers that she’s telepathic, albeit not with the man who she is supposed to be pairing with. This creates more than one situation that she must get out of and resolve. Hilarity ensues as you can imagine any time your deepest thoughts and desires are made known. Not that these are the same desires you actually admit to. But that’s all part of the hilarity we guess.

Over Your Dead Body, Dan Wells, Tor, ISN 978-0-7653-8069-2, $14.99, 303 pgs.

deadbody-300wThis is a continuation of the story of a young man who roams the country killing demons. He does this with the help and hindrance of your national government. He does this work accompanied by Brooke who is possessed by a demon along with the thousands of souls that demon killed. It’s never clear who is possessing her at the moment so she’s always different. Most of the time this works out okay. Of course, when you write about demons and such there are always larger forces at work. You seem to believe that there are always larger forces at work all the time, as if this somehow elevates your insignificance. So, John, who is the demon killer, and Brooke, travel the Midwest, hunting and killing demons. This does not always work out all so well for the normal folks who are just trying to live their lives and so the FBI is, while John and Brooke hunt, hunting them. Needless to say, there is a lot of death going on here. Not a problem for us since we study you and death is one of the things you seem to do really well. But, for those of you who still have a more simple view of your species this may not be a good time to test that belief. We liked it. Klaarg liked it too although we think he just replaced the word demon with the work robot when he was reading.

Age of Myth, Del Rey, ISBN 978-1-101-96533-7, $26.00, 416 pgs.

myth-300wThis is the first book of what is being called the Legends of the First Empire. As such you know it does not really end but hangs out at the cliff to leave you waiting for the next one to come along. And this one is supposed to embody five in total. So, look forward to a lot of cliffs. This is a story about humans. But, seriously, are any of your stories about anything else? You are a singularly inner focused species. Anyway, the Fhrey are like a master race although they are apparently just humans with enabled abilities. They rule everything but generally allow the regular humans to exists within certain areas so long as they never cross established borders. Apparently, this rule, which has been around for a long, long time, is quite fragile as it is broken by a human and his son which sets off a whole chain of consequences involving more humans and more Fhrey and prophecies and lots of journeying and changing sides and betrayal and mystery. So, pretty much the status quo for you humans. We liked it although, as with many of these things, we have no idea when, in your history, this may have actually happened. Frankly, your history is not that long and to pack in everything you think has happened defies all logic. But, don’t worry, you just have to enjoy. We’ll figure the rest out sooner or later.

We watched a lot of things over the past few cycles but nothing worth talking about. Please, start using your imagination again. It was one of the few things that made you interesting. Stop recycling. It is not how you become great. We’d like to say more but we’re pretty sure it would not be a good use of our time. And at the rate you are going you will not be around long enough to benefit anyway.

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