Category Archives: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Doctor Who

We have started watching Doctor Who again. I first started watching it when Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor. I was not familiar with the long tradition of new Doctors and new Companions every few years so I was hugely disappointed when Eccleston left the show but I soon got used to David Tennant and ended up liking him very well. But then he was replaced by Matt Smith. I suppose it was partly that I took one look at a photo of Matt Smith and immediately disliked him (He always looks like he smells something nasty.) and partly that I was just put off by having to get used to a different actor yet again but I stopped watching. I did not watch any of the Matt Smith episodes. I did catch maybe five minutes of a couple of episodes when I changed channels to watch whatever it was that came on after Doctor Who and those few minutes never did anything to entice me watch an entire hour.

Now here comes Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor. I don’t know why I decided to give it a try again but I did and I have really enjoyed the first four episodes of this season, even the one with the Daleks. I really, seriously, effing hate the Daleks. I know we’re supposed to hate them because they’re the bad guys but I don’t mean it like that. I really hate them as characters. I hate the whole idea of Daleks. Worst excuse for villains ever! They’re not scary; they’re just stupid and annoying. But in the latest Dalek episode there was one that turned good for a while and that was sort of interesting.

I like the unique British weirdness of Doctor Who. It’s not what we generally think of as “good science fiction” but it’s fun. I especially liked the most recent episode, Listen, which was actually rather serious and, I would even say, beautiful. I look forward to seeing what’s next and I hope that Peter Capaldi sticks around for several years. I like Clara, the current Companion, too. I have not disliked any of the companions.

Much is being made of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, with good reason, I think. That is an incredibly long time for a television show to last and it seems that it could keep going for another 50. The long line of new Doctors and new Companions – having a way to periodically change stars built into the story – is what has enabled it to keep going. Therefore I can’t complain about that anymore, Matt Smith notwithstanding.

“Oh!” – “I see, said the blind man.”

I had a 7th grade teacher who, whenever he would explain something to a student one-on-one and they would say, “Oh,” would respond, “I see said the blind man.” I suppose some students might have found this annoying but I always thought it was hilarious and I loved him for it. He was also one of my first Black teachers (I had two that year) and one of my first male teachers.

But that’s not what this is about. I just happened to think of it when I read this. That line from Star Wars, that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” has always bothered me. I mean seriously bothered me. A parsec is a measure of distance, not time. Things like this, to me, are worse than fingernails on a chalkboard.

Well, in fact, it does make sense. And I’m feeling quite annoyed at myself for being such a scientifically illiterate numbskull. This is rather obvious.

The main criticism of the line is that a parsec is a distance. Han saying that he made the run in 12 parsecs is like a runner saying she ran a marathon in 26.2 miles. This would be a legitimate criticism if the Kessel Run was a set distance like a marathon. In most cases, there are several different paths from point A to point B. For example, I live next to a lake, and there is a house across this lake. The direct route from my house to this house is to swim across the lake, but swimming is not an option for me because I can’t swim. To get to this house, I have to walk or drive. The same applies to the closest Target, which is a little over a mile away. To walk directly there, I would have to swim across a lake (a different one; I live in Minnesota) and walk across a freeway. Again, driving five miles is the best way for me to go to Target. On Earth, certain obstacles prevent a straight course; instead, a path around these impediments is the best way to travel.

In space, the obstacles are numerous. Planets, asteroids, comets, meteors, and black holes are just a few of the features a pilot has to navigate around in order to arrive at a destination safely. When Han has to get away from Tatooine, he tells Luke, “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy. Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?” According to the material in the expanded ‘Star Wars’ universe, the Maw is a cluster of black holes on one of the possible routes to Kessel. The safest course is approximately 18 parsecs. For Han to have completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, he would have had to travel near this cluster of black holes, which is dangerous. A black hole has a strong gravitational pull, and getting too close to one could result in the ship either being destroyed or pulled into the black hole to face an unknown fate. Traveling a direct route in space can be risky, and it takes a skilled navigator to plot a course that will get a ship to its destination in one piece.

The author goes on to say that Han’s boast “doesn’t sell him as a great pilot.” I don’t care. This line that has bugged me for over three decades now makes sense to me. Rays of glorious light shone down from Heaven and angels sang. You can’t take that away from me. Not even by going back to the time vs. distance issue:

The problem with the Kessel Run claim is the fact that Han says the line as an answer to a question about speed. Obi-Wan says he is looking for passage on a fast ship. Han asks, “Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?” Obi-Wan replies, “Should I have?” Then Han says the famous line, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” A parsec is a unit of distance, and distance is distance. You drive 60 miles; it could take you three hours if you go 20mph or one hour if you go 60mph, but you still travel 60 miles. Speed is determined by the relationship between time and distance. Again, without knowing how much time it took Han to complete the Kessel Run, the comment is an attribute to his navigating skills and not the performance of the ship. If Han has said, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in 11.7 parsecs in 3 days,” then the speed the Millennium Falcon could be determined, giving Obi-Wan an actual answer to his inquiry.

Okay, so she has a point. Sort of. But note the specific wording of the statement. “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” “The ship.” As if it was the only one that ever did it. A historic stunt that everyone is expected to have heard of, including other details, like time, that are not given in Han’s brief statement. Anyway, that’s how I make sense of it and I’m happy now. Star Wars is officially perfect.

Name

I keep getting spam comments from someone or something using the name ShoogeStulfef. I swear if I ever write a fantasy novel I’m going to name a character Shooge Stulfef. I haven’t decided what sort of character he will be. Certainly male, probably large and disheveled, and not necessarily human. Thoughts?

More Science Fiction TV

When I posted the Science Fiction Top 50 I said I might post a few that did not make it onto the list. I’m not sure I would put all of these on a “Top 50″ list but then I’m not sure I would put some of those that actually are on the list on the list. These are in no particular order.

Millennium – This was an X-Files spin-off. I remember liking this but can’t remember a lot of specifics about it and I’m not sure it really qualifies as science fiction even though it was spun off a science fiction series.

Gargoyles – It might be “just a cartoon” but this was a classy and sophisticated show, with some very famous and talented actors providing voices, including several cast members of Star Trek (mostly TNG), plus Ed Asner, Tim Curry, Matt Frewer, John Rhys-Davies, James Belushi, and many other notable names.

Stargate: Atlantis – This could easily win an award for the worst show with the best cast. I loved the characters on this show; they had great chemistry and were fun to watch. Unfortunately, they had nothing particularly interesting to do. You would think that if you sent a group of people to a distant galaxy they would find some fascinating planets, civilizations, and creatures but no, nothing of the sort. It was just the same kind of stuff they had on Stargate:SG1 only duller. The enemies, The Wraith, were mostly just tiresome. I was happy to watch it just for the characters but I always wished it could be more than what it was.

The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. – Crazy, weird, awesome show! Unfortunately it only lasted one season. I guess most people’s minds aren’t flexible enough to wrap around the concept of a sci-fi western. They never last very long.

Current Series:

The list of 50 did not include many current series but there are a few good ones on right now. This is actually a really good time to be a sci-fi fan.

Grimm – Another good creature of the week series that is in danger of being dragged down by the long term story arc but it’s still fun so far.

Defiance – I keep liking this show more and more. Which means that the rumors of cancellation that I’ve read are probably true. They just can’t give a great, original series a chance. Everything has to follow an established formula.

Under the Dome – Based on a book by Stephen King and he is also one of the executive producers and it shows. In a good way.

Extant – A relatively new series that I’m liking so far.

I have probably missed a series or three. That’s what the comments section is for. Your turn.

Science Fiction TV Top 50

Oooo! A list! A sci-fi list! The 50 Greatest Sci-Fi Television Shows. You won’t find the whole list there. I did click through to the list but it’s a slideshow and I just don’t have the patience for those. Not only that, this one spontaneously started to open up a new tab so I quickly left the site and went to the other link, Which turned out to be the first of a series of posts commenting on the list. So, strap in kids; here we go.

Science Fiction TV – Numbers 50 – 46

The Thunderbirds – I hadn’t heard of this one before.

Land of the Lost and Space 1999 – I think I might have seen one or two episodes each many years after they originally aired. That’s not necessarily by choice. We only received a very limited number of channels when I was a kid – only one up until about 1971 or thereabouts and then still just a few.

The Six Million Dollar Man – My little brother was obsessed with this show when we were kids so we watched every episode. It was okay.

Dark Angel – I liked it fairly well and was a little disappointed when it was cancelled but I agree that it wasn’t really a great show.

45 – 41

Knight Rider – I loved this show! A talking car? With a British accent? How can one not love?

Jerico – ummmm… sounds familiar? I think I might have watched a season of this but I’m not sure if it’s the show I’m thinking of.

Space Above and Beyond – Never watched it. I don’t think I ever had the opportunity.

Dollhouse – A serious disappointment

Battle of the Planets – Never heard of it.

40 -36

Life on Mars and Lexx – Never watched these. I was going to say never heard of them but I do think I remember seeing ads for the first one.

War of the Worlds – I didn’t know there was a series.

Twin Peaks – Never watched it. Didn’t even know it was sci-fi.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – Oh yes! A ridiculous and fun show.

35 – 31

Cowboy Bebop – Never watched it.

Caprica – I only watched the first episode or two. It didn’t grab me.

Alien Nation – Silly and cheesy but I sort of liked it.

Star Trek: Voyager – I watched about a season and a half, I think, (or was it 2 and a half?) but then we moved and couldn’t get it anymore. The ST series that I liked the least.

Lost in Space – This too, was on at a time when we had only one channel and this show wasn’t on it. I did see at least one episode years later. Wasn’t really impressed. I guess I need to have seen it when it was new.

30 – 26

Battlestar Galactica (1978-79) – I liked this one even though it was very cheesy and a number of things about the show really, seriously got on my nerves. It could have been a much better show if certain aspects, such as some of the made-up words, hadn’t made it seem so cartoonish. In science fiction it is often necessary to invent words for things but it’s a good idea to try to make them sound not stupid.

Futurama – A great, silly, hilarious show

Logan’s Run, Red Dwarf, and Ghost in the Shell – Never watched these.

25 – 21

Max Headroom – I remember this but I can’t remember if I ever watched it or if I’m just remembering the commercials.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – I was really getting into this when they cancelled it.

Torchwood – I watched one season and I’m looking forward to watching more. Weird and pretty good.

Farscape – I have watched a few episodes and I really want to like this show but I just can’t get into it.

Quantum Leap – I know I watched this but I can’t remember much about it.

20 – 16

Starblazers/Space Battleship Yamato – Hadn’t heard of it before

Babylon 5 – Love, love, loved this show! But then we moved and couldn’t get it anymore. Someday I’m going to watch it all from the beginning.

Sliders – Cute show. Sort of juvenile and silly but a pleasant diversion. I am surprised that it’s this high on the list.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Never watched it, darn it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Not my favorite ST but not the worst either. I liked most of the characters. This was another victim of the Big Move so there are several whole seasons that I have not seen yet.

15 – 11

Blake’s 7 – Sounds vaguely familiar?

Stargate:SG1 – I liked this a lot but always had the feeling it could have been better. It seems like every extraterrestrial human civilization they came across was almost exactly like every other. Still, it was a very enjoyable series.

V – I watched most of the original but very little of the reboot. Silly fun.

Lost – I watched the whole first season and part of the second but gave up on it because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Firefly – Do I even need to say it? And BTW, why is this only number 11? Because it lasted only a short time is not a valid excuse. It had more awesomeness in 14 episodes than most series put into five or more seasons.

10 – 6

The Outer Limits – I have watched several of these but not a lot. The rest of my family doesn’t seem interested but I think it’s quite good.

Fringe – I loved this show until it got into the alternate universe storyline and even then it wasn’t bad but I prefer just the plain, stand-alone, straight up weird phenomenon or weird creature stories. Loved the characters in this show. And we got to see Leonard Nimoy again as a different and very interesting character.

Neon Genesis Evangelion and The Prisoner – Never heard of these.

Star Trek: TOS – What can I say that hasn’t already been said many times? Seems like it should be a little higher on the list. In the top 5 at least.

Top 5

Twilight Zone – An undeniable classic. I don’t know that I’d put it ahead of Star Trek but, I don’t know, maybe I would. It’s pretty iconic and a few of the episodes are true classics.

Battlestar Galactica 2004-09 – I never got as excited about this series as some people did. It was undeniably well done and the acting and special effects were spectacular but it sometimes got tiresome. I certainly wouldn’t put it in the top 5 and probably not even in the top 10. Unlike most people though, I loved the ending.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – This was my favorite of all the ST series. I understand the complaints against it and agree with some of them but I don’t care. It was pure, delightful escapism. I am of the opinion that escapism does not have to be realistic or support your politics.

X-Files – Great show but too high on the list. The first two or three seasons were excellent but I was disappointed that they sunk into the conspiracy theory mire. I would put this just behind Fringe on the list.

Dr. Who – Well, I suppose it makes sense that this would be first on the list. It has been on for 50 years. I watched the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant episodes but I got tired of having to get used to new Doctors and new companions every couple of years. Aside from this, the show is weird and silly, which is not bad for a sci-fi series but it’s not what I expect in a top series.

Here I feel like I should do some “honorable mentions” or personal favorites that were missed but I might do that in a separate post.

I Don’t Have Anything To Say But I’m Going to Talk Anyway

Some days I have absolutely nothing to say and other days I have too much to say and no energy to say it and I start to think, “Why am I still doing this? How much longer will I keep doing this?” If Blogger would make one or two more little improvements I might switch back to that. I would miss my links page though. But I need to work on that some so, I don’t know… maybe I’m just getting tired of the whole thing. On the other hand, I want to have something for those times when I do really have something to say. And I like being part of a “community” even if I am destined to always be the weird, lonely girl that almost everyone ignores.

This week is the hottest this year so far. They are forecasting triple digits for this weekend. Everyone is complaining and yeah, I am too a little bit, but I really don’t mind all that much. Now I feel like it’s really summer, not just a perpetual spring. I know I’m making that sound like a bad thing. Of course I am more comfortable when the temps are in the 70’s and 80’s, but it’s August and it’s supposed to be hot. It’s hard to explain. I guess I’m more comfortable (in a different sense) when things are the way they are supposed to be.

I have really slacked off on sewing. I haven’t started one of these yet like I had intended to do. I have been working for over a week on a baby dress that I could have finished in a day. But you know, it’s like that sometimes. Sometimes you feel inspired and feel an urgency (which in my case is almost always imaginary) and other times you just can’t stay interested. Maybe it’s because it’s August. Is this the lazy month?

It’s also the month that school starts. Not something I have to deal with anymore, thank goodness. It always seems wrong to me that school starts in the middle of August. It’s supposed to start in September, the day after Labor Day. Anything else will always be wrong.

We started watching The Strain. I have mixed feelings about this show. It has a little too much “gross horror movie” stuff for my taste but it is also interesting enough that I want to stick with it to see what happens next. The new season of Haven starts soon. I’ve been seeing ads for it. I sort of feel like they started to lose me last season but not completely. I still want to keep watching.

By far my favorite series that’s on right now is Defiance. Here are two behind the scenes videos.

All We Need to Know About Israel/Palestine

I generally don’t do politics but this is too good to pass up: This Land Is Mine. There is plenty of reason for sympathy for both sides and plenty of reason to blame both sides. Most people only see blame on only one side or the other though.

Anyway, both sides are wrong; both sides are right. It’s been going on for thousands of years and there’s only one way the situation will ever be resolved. Aliens. That’s right, aliens invade the Earth and either kill everyone or they go all Mom on everyone and say, “I don’t care who started it. We are going to finish it,” and with technology so advanced it seems like magic to us poor, backward humans, they simply stop all fighting. I know, I know! Shut up. This is MY fantasy and it will go the way I want it to.

Reading

I do not know J.S. Johnson, author of A Door to Truth but there is what you could call an indirect family connection. Without that connection I probably never would have read the book simply because the title does not appeal to me at all. So perhaps I shouldn’t judge a book by its title? But if you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a book by its title how does one choose which books to read? Anyway, I am glad that I read this one. It is an interesting story.

Because of the connection I mentioned, I feel hesitant to write very much about the book. It honestly is a very good story so that’s no problem. It’s just, you know… talking about a book written by someone I could very likely end up sitting next to at a family picnic someday. This situation really lights up the “what if I say something stupid?” node in my brain.

You can read a little bit about the book in the author’s Introduction. Here there is something that bothers me and, though I am very reluctant to say anything, at the same time I have to because trying to make people understand what science fiction is is sort of a cause for me. Johnson writes:

“A Door to Truth” can be loosely defined as a science-fiction story. I’ve struggled with categorizing it from the moment I knew what I wanted to write about. The story has to be called science fiction, because it requires some science and is certainly fiction.

[...]

But it is a story of “why” vice “how,” and this is where I struggle to justify it as science fiction.

I have been reading science fiction for well over three decades and I have read hundreds of books. Science fiction is very much about “why”, far more so than “how,” though “how” certainly plays a part. So many people have this mistaken idea that science fiction is all about space ships and blasters and cartoon-style heroes and that it’s full of techno-babble. Science fiction is as much about spaceships and blasters as mainstream best sellers are about houses and furniture. Science fiction explores human nature, culture, and the “why” of things by putting people in situations that could not happen (at least not yet) in the real world. It explores possible futures and speculates about the ways people might behave in those futures. Sometimes it questions what we are doing in the present and warns about where it might lead in the future. Science fiction is an extremely broad and inclusive genre. Sometimes it’s just for fun but it is often serious and often very political.

A Door to Truth is unquestionably classic near future science fiction. And it’s good. Read it.

Books

It’s been a long time since I mentioned the books I’ve been reading so here, briefly, are the three most recent.

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin – This is a novel about a small group of Turkish Muslims helping Turkish Jews escape from France during WWII. I’m generally not a big fan of WWII stories but this one was very interesting to me. It is about a side of WWII that I had not read or heard much about.

When we were in Eureka Springs earlier this month we saw a little bookstore and since I hadn’t brought anything to read we stopped. It turned out to be a used books store and they did have a few science fiction novels. I picked two and a non-fiction book by Isaac Asimov, Of Time and Space and Other Things.

Heads, by Greg Bear, is set in a future Moon colony that has a social hierarchy based on important business families. A younger member of one of these families impulsively buys a cryogenic company and becomes responsible for over 300 frozen human heads. There is no hope of reviving the heads but there is a possibility of accessing their memories. The powers that be, including a religious cult with members in high places, are not happy about the situation and are determined to make things difficult for the young entrepreneur. Meanwhile her husband, a scientist, is trying to achieve a temperature of absolute zero. The one thing that annoyed me about this book is that the author partly gives away the ending on the very first page. I really hate it when authors do that. If someone sitting next to you said, “Oh, I’ve read that book [so and so] dies at the end,” you’d want to choke that person but for some reason some authors think it’s a good idea to hint at or just plain give away the ending at the very beginning of the story. But anyway, there are still big surprises and overall it was a worthwhile read.

Tau Zero, by Poul Anderson, is about a colony ship with fifty colonists bound for a star system about 30 light years from Earth. (if I remember correctly) But stuff happens on the way there – big, bad stuff – and they miss their target. And every time they figure out a solution to one problem another pops up and for a while in the middle of the book I was starting to get annoyed at the “one thing after another” nature of the story but it turned out to be quite unexpected and amazing. This is really not like anything I have ever read before.

I have to admit that the science in Tau Zero was a little beyond me. Not that the author spent too much time explaining the science (he didn’t) but the ship, which could not travel faster than the speed of light yet somehow traveling millions of light years in a few weeks ship time… well, I sort of understood how it worked in this story but it wasn’t the way I had always previously understood relativity. (not that I understand that at all) But I dealt with it the same way I deal with transporters, replicators, star gates, and the force: just accept it and keep going. Generally, I prefer books written by people who are not quite so damned smart (Please note that “so damned smart” is not at all the same thing as intelligent. One can be both at the same time or only one or the other.) I happen to like warp drive and artificial gravity and transporters and such and I don’t care if they couldn’t ever possibly exist. That’s why they call it fiction. But in this case the science was an essential part of the story and, as I said, it turned out really amazing. Stunning. I really can’t find adequate words to describe it. It’s a short book, less than 200 pages, but so much happens in those pages.

A Very Mixed Review

The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter was on Amazon’s list of monthly (or was it weekly?) Kindle specials. It was very cheap, and it looked like my sort of thing. It is a more or less average colonial rebellion story. In this future all the nations on Earth have been consolidated into just three nations and there is a Council, which has its own military “to keep the peace.” Alden, a member of an elite unit in the Council military, ends up working with Lunar colonists who are fighting for independence. It’s actually a reasonably entertaining story. Not great but it is a kind of story that I enjoy.

On the negative side, this book needs some intensive editing. It is full of obvious mistakes that made me feel that the author was a high school student who struggles to maintain a C average in English. Just a few examples: He used the word “formerly” when he meant “formally,” “disposed” when he meant “deposed”, “diffuse” when he meant “defuse”, and, most hilariously, “yolk” when he meant “yoke”. There are a number of awkward or confusing sentences, especially near the beginning of the book. Worst: “They moved past him towards the large windows that faced the street.” There are only two people in this scene. If “they” refers to those two people, as it must, then who is the “him” that they move past? Another problem was that transitions between flashbacks and the story’s “present” are handled rather awkwardly. There are also what are clearly just typos, the most frequent being failure to leave a space between words, as in “itwas” or “threedozen”.

The ending leaves readers with a big mystery. There will be a sequel and I will probably read it in spite of all the very annoying flaws in the first book because, you know, I have to know what happens next. I just hope the author discovers the value of proofreading, editing, and correct vocabulary before he publishes the second book.

Star Trek Continues

The coolest Star Trek reboot you’re probably not watching. How come I did not know about this until now? Of course, only the original is the original but this looks, possibly, not bad. (I know, glowing review, right? “Not bad”) Unfortunately, due to our primitive Internet situation we have to limit the amount of video we watch but I might try an episode one day when I’m not planning on doing anything else online for the whole day.

Back to Back Neal Asher

The last two books I read were both by Neal Asher and both were sequels. I always hate trying to “review” Asher’s books. I don’t ever quite know what to say because I feel like anything I can say will make the uninitiated go, “Huh? What?” And there’s always so much going on in his books that I just don’t know how to give a good idea of what they’re about. But if you have never read anything by Neal Asher and you’re interested I recommend that you start with Gridlinked. At first you may find it rather shocking but once you get into it it’s great fun. Anyway… on to my two most recent reads.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech is a sequel to The Skinner. I have been wanting to read this for several years and I have a sort of funny confession to make. For all those years I thought the title was The Voyage of Sable Keech. Do you see what I did? I missed the second “the” and totally changed the meaning of the title. I didn’t realize my mistake until sometime after I had the book and started reading it. Sable Keech was a character in The Skinner and in the sequel it is an ocean going ship named after that character. Both books are very good. The setting is an ocean planet with lots of huge, hungry, very dangerous sea creatures, as well as some insane humans and AI’s of varying levels of sanity, but mostly more sane than the humans.

The Technician is a sequel to Line of Polity. That book deals with an evil Theocracy and, as in most of Asher’s books, a lot of large hungry, very dangerous creatures. In the sequel, a former member of the Theocracy has a secret to what happened to the original inhabitants of the planet Masada locked up in his brain. People who formerly would have been trying to kill him now have to protect him from other people who are still trying to kill him. This might be my favorite of Asher’s novels. In addition to the usual kind of action, it contains a lot of insight into human nature and a number of very quotable lines, a couple of which I have already quoted.

And now I have started reading something entirely different, which I will tell you about eventually.

Two Quotes

These are both from The Technician, by Neal Asher.

“I think, Shree, that you’ve lost sight of what we were fighting for.”
I haven’t, it’s freedom.”
An airy concept often used by people who are really saying: I’m fighting for the freedom to tell you what to do.”

Too true in the real world. Then there’s this one, my favorite of the two, although I do somewhat understand the appeal of mysticism.

“That everything can be analysed, catalogued and understood does not destroy its value. Mysticism is the function of a mind looking for alternatives to reality.”

Reading

A few days ago I finished Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. Some time in the distant future, human civilization is destroyed by vicious alien invaders who will not negotiate, nor even communicate. A group of humans escape to a world they name Safehold. To insure they will not attract the attention of the aliens, they establish a low-tech civilization and to insure it will stay that way the leaders establish a religion in which progress is a sin. Fast forward almost 900 years and a survivor of the war, a cybernetic avatar awakens and sets out to change things.

I liked the book, did not love it. It’s an interesting enough story once you finally get past the “introductory” stuff. Fully two thirds of the book was primarily conversations about politics. Some of this is necessary to establish the political situation but I would have preferred to get to the main action much sooner. That action, when we finally get to it, is mostly an old style naval battle. A familiarity with sailing terminology would have been useful but, lacking that, I still found it interesting.

My biggest complaint, even worse than the several hundred pages of politics, is that the characters are not particularly well-developed. Mostly there are generic good guys and generic bad guys. The main characters are almost interesting but what little the author gives me about them just frustrates me and makes me want more. Even with all its faults though, I think I might read at least one more in the series because it’s really not all bad.

Oooo! A List!

And a pretty darn good and useful list: The Top 101 Science Fiction Adventures. These start with very early science fiction and are listed chronologically. Not surprisingly, I have read very few of these. Here are the ones I have read:

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. – Edgar Allan Poe – This one is bizarre and quite interesting, especially the part about Antarctica. It makes you realize that at that time in history Antarctica seemed as far away as Mars.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells – After having seen two movies based on this, I have to admit that the book was a bit of a disappointment.

The Lost World – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs – I need to read the rest of the Mars books.

At the Earth’s Core – Edgar Rice Burroughs

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

1984 – George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Stranger in a Strange Land(?) – Robert A. Heinlein – I think I read this one but I’m not sure. I really don’t care much for Heinlein except for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress so the other books of his that I’ve read all just sort of blend into one thing that I think of simply as “Heinlein”.

Dune – Frank Herbert – The first three books in this series are awesome beyond my ability to describe. The later books became tiresome.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin – Meh. Not one of my favorites by this author, who is not one of my favorite authors though there was a time when I really wanted to like her work.

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin – Sort of interesting even though very dreary.

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin – Probably my favorite of LeGuin’s novels.

Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – Loved it.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – I read at least part of it. I can’t remember if I finished it.

So that’s 16 or 17 out of 101. Could be worse, I suppose. I want to read more of the books on the list and not just so I can say I read them. Some are old enough to be on Project Gutenberg, which makes it easy.