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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Recently read: "Long Eyes and Other Stories" by Jeff Carlson

Long Eyes

This was my first introduction to Carlson.  There's three stories here:

"Long Eyes" a story about a human/spaceship hybrid, and what makes someone human.

"Planet of the Sealies" about future archaeology, and the skills necessary for survival of the species

"Pressure" about a human/sea creature hybrid.

I've said before that I don't read a lot of short fiction, and I know that it's my loss, since so much interesting work (and new authors) first show up in the shorter length.  I assume Carlson is more know for his Plague novels (Plague Year, Plague War and Plague Zone).  Based upon these shorter works, I may have to try Plague Year.

I've also heard good things about The Frozen Sky, so I should try that.

Recently read: "Moon Flower" by James P. Hogan

Moon Flower: N/A (Baen Science Fiction)

I really didn't want to read this.  I first read Hogan in high school, starting with Thrice Upon A Time.  That book, along with Inherit the Stars help cement my interest in SF.  I followed Hogan for a long time, until he starting going off the rails (my last book of his was Cradle of Saturn, which I knew was bad, but read just to see how bad it could be).

One of my book groups picked this one to read (I think partially because Hogan died last year, and this one was in print and easily found) so I read it to see how bad it was.

Ugh...Earth is a mess, being dominated by massive corporations (ok, nothing new here) and "developing" new worlds (there's a FTL drive which allows us out of the solar system).  On the planet Cyrene, Terrans from the base are disappearing.  Myles Callen, a facilitator for the Interworld Restructuring Corporation is sent to find out what is going on, and to find physicist Evan Wade, one of the humans that has left the base.

Marc Shearer, an idealistic physicist who was a colleague of Wade's, is given the chance to go to Cyrene (the corporation hopes Shearer will lead Callen to Wade).  Once there, Shearer finds that Wade has laid the groundwork for him to follow, with help from the Cyreneans.

Once on the planet, most humans find themselves becoming more like the Cyreneans, less interested in being selfish, and more about "doing the right thing".

I guess this is a spoiler, though the once you start the book the title gives a bit of it away, but there's a flower on Cyrene which somehow (handwaves quantum physics) allows some communication backward in time.  This allows people to make the "correct" decisions.  (This occurs on Earth, but is too faint for anyone to recognize.  Shearer has been doing research into this.  The flower acts as a sort of antenna for the waves).

One of my biggest problems with this story is that, given that humans are screwing up the planet, the solution is through a "magical flower".  It's very depressing.

Well, that's one problem  The book is also badly written, with most of the characters being bland, despite some background information.  There's also bad science (including a bit of Velikovsky, which really serves no purpose in the plot) including some wonky orbital dynamics of the Cyrene system.

***Spoilers over***

Hogan isn't the first author to lose his way as he got older, but really stands a an excellent example of such.  I saw him a few years ago at an ArmadilloCon, and got him to autograph a couple of books.  He asked "why none of the new books..." which I was able to laugh off (I really didn't want to go into that with him at an autograph table).

Recently read: "Leviathan Wakes" by James Corey

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse)

So, does this qualify as "the new space opera"?  Given that it's confined to our solar system, I suppose not.  I did enjoy the book a lot, though.

We have alternately chapters, told through the viewpoints of two characters. 

Jim Holden is the XO of an ice miner.  His ship investigates a derelict, and while aboard his shuttle, his mining ship is destroyed.  Based upon evidence found aboard the derelict, he broadcasts that Mars may be responsible.  This causes an immediately increase in tension between Mars and the Belt, with violence of various levels starting to break out.

Miller is a detective on Ceres.  Given a side assignment to find a missing girl (who's parents have money and pull) he realizes that she may be the key to what's actually going on.  He may be too good (or too determined) for his own good, since he's ordered to drop the missing girl case.

There was a time, about 3/4 of the way through the book, when I thought that maybe the authors (Corey is the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) had stretched the story out too long, but it picked back up, and had a bang up ending.  Miller and Holden are both well written characters, I think, and some of the secondary ones are interesting also.  It's not quite "hard sf" (the Epstein drive is sort of a magical space drive, though I think they were right in not trying to explain it) and it's not clear that the economic situation makes sense (Earth and Mars are the two major powers, with the Belt a minor third one).

It's book one of a trilogy...I certainly plan on seeing how the second one comes out.