13 January 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Fortress In Orion by Mike Resnick

The Fortress in OrionThe Fortress In Orion by Mike Resnick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Democracy is at war with the alien Traanskei Coalition. War hero Colonel Nathan Pretorius has a record of success on dangerous behind-enemy-lines missions, missions that usually leave him in the hospital. Now he's recruited for a near-impossible assignment that may well leave him dead. 
At the cost of many lives, the Democracy has managed to clone and train General Michkag, one of the Traanskei's master strategists. Colonel Pretorius and a hand-picked team must kidnap the real Michkag if they can, assassinate him if they can't, but no matter which, put the clone in his place, where he will misdirect the enemy's forces and funnel vital information to the Democracy. 
Against the odds, Pretorius, along with Cyborg Felix Ortega, computer expert Toni Levi, convict and contortionist Sally "Snake" Kowalski, the near-human empath Marlowe, the alien Gzychurlyx, and Madam Methuselah - the Dead Enders - must infiltrate the Fortress in Orion, accomplish their mission, and escape with their lives.

The very second that I learned of this new book (which is the first of a series) set within Resnick's fantastic Birthright universe, I went straight over to my preferred ebook provider and purchased it. I'm a big fan of Resnick's and I haven't read anything by him that I've not enjoyed, some more than others, but generally I rate his work very highly. However, I admit to being a bit disappointed with this one. In a nutshell, the whole book felt like it was a young adult novel with a few choice profanities thrown in to make it seem a little more "grown up". Not at all what I expect from Mike Resnick. It's fast-paced storytelling and quite engaging with an almost pulp-style feel, but still it lacks any real substance. Anyway, here's a quick rundown of the book and a few things that I did like.
Our main man, Colonel Pestorius, recovering from injuries collected during his previous assignment, is tasked by his commanding officer to assemble a team to carry out a daring mission. This mission requires them to sneak up on the Democracy's alien enemy at a location some light years away across the galaxy and to carry out a somewhat tricky task. Pestorius assembles a small and eclectic group of misfits, all with a specific talent or skill necessary for the mission and gives them a rundown on the basic plan. They then set off across the galaxy, hashing out the details of the mission as they go.
The characters are fun and moderately interesting and I enjoyed their banter for the most part, even if the dialogue was a little "adolescent" much of the time.
The story ambles along at an okay pace throughout the middle fifty percent or so of the book, and we learn little bits and pieces about the characters, nothing too deep, just snippets of their pasts. We also drop in on some different planets across the Galaxy along the way, and see a few interesting species as well, which was another thing that I enjoyed.
The last few chapters is where the whole plot comes together, and comes to an okay conclusion, but just okay, because there's no real guts to it. By that I mean that there isn't a twist of any description or even a big surprise, the whole thing just ends without much fuss, albeit dropping hint or two to set up for the next book in the series.
If you need a simple-to-read, action-packed and mildly humorous novel with a straight forward plot that doesn't require much effort, then this is a good choice, but I don't think you'll find much to get hugely excited about.
I think that I probably will read the next book when it's released, to give it another chance. Hopefully Resnick, who I still rate as one of the best storytellers ever, will deliver us something with a bit more grit next time.

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10 January 2015

Olivier Pron's Art

Pretty decent artwork by Olivier Pron. Check out more of his work HERE.

All images © Oliver Pron
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08 January 2015

The Turbo Encabulator

My all time favorite YouTube vid. This is where I learned all about automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters and the proper application of reciprocation Dingle arms. Who would've thought that forty-one menastically-spaced grouting brushes could be so effective? Brilliant.

For more information click HERE.
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04 January 2015

Why English is hard to learn

It's a fair point that "Anonymous" makes.
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BOOK REVIEW: Xenopath by Eric Brown

Xenopath (Bengal Station, #2)Xenopath by Eric Brown (Bengal Station #2)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vaughan is a happy man, married to Sukara and with a child on the way. Working for a telepathic detective agency, Vaughan investigates a series of murders linked to the colony world of Mallory, and the slaughter of innocent aliens there by a colonial organization. But not only does the investigation put his own life in danger, but back on Bengal Station Sukara’s life is threatened too.

As with any story from Eric Brown, this Bengal Station story is pure fun. It's made up of some of my favorite sci-fi tropes, these being a future Earth, cool tech, faster-than-light space travel, distant planet colonies and wonderful alien creatures. I love this stuff, and Brown uses them to produce a kind of 'pulp sci-fi' feel which I absolutely love. His are the sort of easy-reading adventure stories that lend themselves to pure escapism, getting lost in an engaging story that moves along at a really nice pace and is wonderfully entertaining to boot.

In Xenopath, we again follow telepath Jeff Vaughan, our main character, and the story picks up his life on Bengal Station a couple of years after the events of Necropath, which is the preceding book in the series. Vaughan is again working as a telepath but this time for a private investigation agency, where he gets mixed up in the questionable affairs of a corporation who administer Mallory, a colony planet many light-years from Earth. Something strange is happening on Mallory and people are being killed to safeguard it's secrets and Vaughan vows to get to the bottom of it all. What ensues is a cool adventure that kept me interested right through.

The characters are interesting and developed well enough for the purposes of the story, but I can just hear some complaining about the 'shallow' or 'one-dimensional' characters. I disagree wholeheartedly, because it's a short and sweet book where Brown manages to show us just enough of the players in the story, as well as a nice look at a far away planet and alien species that are central to the plot. I'm withholding the fifth star from my rating only because I did find the plot a tad predictable, not enough to ruin any part of the book, but just enough to take the edge off it. It's like the author dropped little clues into the story a bit soon and had me figuring the plot quite early on.

However, I still enjoyed the yarn immensely, and I recommend this book to any fan of Eric Brown or lover of fun stories. My usual quip here: Once again, Brown fails to disappoint.

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02 January 2015

Refreshingly different sci-fi art

Jakub Rozalski

Polish Army 2215
Robot in the Mist
Preparing for takeoff

An Answer To The Fermi Paradox: Be Patient

The Fermi Paradox is a question that stumps and fascinates scientists (and pretty much everyone else, to be fair).

The question, originally posed by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, wonders at why there are theoretically so many habitable planets in the universe, but humanity allegedly has yet to make contact with any form of intelligent life.

Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, decided to tackle the question in a short video. And for the famous science educator, the answer is simple: be patient. Nye believes that the one of the biggest barriers to making contact with alien life is just timing.

I reckon he makes a fairly good point and his explanation imparts a more positive slant when it comes to possible reasons for the silent blackness that we call space. Other theories believe that our civilization has yet to reach the Great Filter, an evolutionary wall that's nearly insurmountable but one all species face if they wish to survive. Others believe we have already passed the Filter, and we just haven't found another species that is as fortunate.

Hopefully the answer is as rosy as Bill Nye suggests—a classic case of phone tag.

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Original article by Darren Orf at Gizmodo.