Book Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Zer0es (Zer0es #1) by Chuck Wendig

(Four Stars)

“Everything is connected. And all of it is vulnerable.”

Ready Player One meets Terminator. A chilling morality tale about life in a connected society. Well-conceived and told. Complex cast of stereotypical, but believable characters, designed to rub sparks from each other. None of them fit, one doesn’t even belong among them, and then there are the cops.

“What I do these days is a victimless crime. Money isn’t money anymore. It’s all just ones and zeroes.” “We’re all just ones and zeroes. The trick is figuring out which of us are ones and which of us are zeroes.”

Why not five stars? Didn’t care for the framing story–told too much and served no purpose except as a hook to book #2. Over-the-top profanity–unnecessary and lazy.

“Feels as solid as a paper airplane. It’ll fly, but I don’t know how well it’ll land.” “Relax. That’s hackers for you. We kinda make the parachute after we jump out of the plane.”

Quibbles: Brains may be computers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all wired alike or that you can just plug in and upload and download thoughts. Twice refers to Sidewinders as air-to-ground missiles; they aren’t.

“If Typhon was designed to protect America, she must first invokes chaos … because they have to be willing to accept us, she said. Because in chaos is opportunity.”

As we become more connected, not only does privacy, but accountability disappears. The real power in Washington lies with the bureaucracy, not the three constitutional branches. And a scenario such as Wendig describes–out-of-control AI concocted by quasi-official agencies two or three times removed from public visibility or control–is possible. Or soon will be.

Quis custodiet custodes?” Juvenal (“Who will guard the guardians [themselves]?”)

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Book Review: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“What do I have to be depressed about?”

Short story opening with a Wizard of Oz tie-in. Creative tying of Baum’s classic to previous novels set in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut universe.

“It shames me that my first reaction was anger. How dare he?”

Quibble: “They’ve got a slingshot that can launch a ship up to near light speed.” Maybe someday, but not with then-current technology. These folks still use punch cards to program computers.

“The decision would be easier if I knew when he would die. I still hate myself for thinking that.”

Book Review: Discovery of the Saiph (Saiph #1) by Pp Corcoran (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Discovery of the Saiph (Saiph #1) by P.P. Corcoran

(Four Stars)

“Your overriding priority is not the discovery of new life; it is the preservation of life on Earth. If, for whatever reason, something does not seem right to you, Captain, you turn tail and head for home.”

Excellent hard science fiction. A not-too-implausible future of mankind discovering we’re not alone and someone else would like to be alone–even if it requires annihilating everyone else. Despite covering an expanse of time and territory, Corcoran develops the personalities of key players to give them depth, even if it is stereotypical.

“The logistics behind establishing a colony are massive, never mind the expense.”

Lots of contacts with previously unknown peoples. Disappointing that first being-to-being contact always occurs Continue reading

Movie Review: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve

(Four Stars)

There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived.

Excellent hard science fiction. Despite that–and several Academy Award nominations and a Nebula and Hugo Awards–it was ignored at the box office. Probably because it was too cerebral.

Everything you do in there, I have to explain to a room full of men whose first and last question is, “How can this be used against us?” So you’re going to have to give me more than that.

Amy Adams makes the movie. She has the best part, best lines, and despite having only one glamour scene looks believable through it all. Whitaker and Renner stumble through their parts.

“Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”

There’s also a spiritual parable quality to Arrival which can’t be ignored. Let each make of it as he or she will.

“Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every moment of it.”

 

Movie Review: Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Captain Marvel, written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

(Four Stars)

“Space invasion, a big car chase. Truth be told, I was ready to hang it up until I met you today.” Nick Fury

Lots of fun amid the cinematic mayhem. I like this Nick Fury a lot better; he’s got the best lines. By the end of the film you’re convinced this is what Samuel L. Jackson really looks like. Brie Larson, frankly, is why this rating isn’t five stars. Agent Coulson!

“Does announcing your identity on clothing help with the covert part of your job?” “Said the space soldier who was wearing a rubber suit.”

Marvel seems to do best at origin stories. Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel doesn’t know who she is or what’s going on. So we ride along as she figures it out. Great ride. Along the way we find out a lot about Fury, SHIELD, and the Marvel universe.

“This war is just the beginning.” “I’m not going to fight your war. I’m going to end it.”

Unlike so many Marvel movies, not everyone is what they seem. I like discover. I like growth. This movie has lots of both. And lots of special effects.

“I’m kind of done with you telling me what I can’t do.”

Book Review: Honor’s Flight by Lindsay Buroker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Honor’s Flight (Fallen Empire #2) by Lindsay Buroker

(Three Stars)

“This woman has the self-preservation instincts of a rock.”

More of the same following Star Nomad. Snarky humor; cartoonish characters and story. A bridge story that goes almost nowhere. A little backstory revealed. A good heart, but not much body.

“I wasn’t hollering. I was arguing defensively.”

Quibble: Lots of improbable action with even more improbably low casualties. Unlikely all that shooting between armored space military results in no fatalities.

“It’d easy to be honorable when your life is normal and your needs are met. It’s when you get desperate that your morality gets tested.”

Book Review: Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“You can’t be responsible for every survivor of Alderaan, Leia told herself. It was worse than being the Alliance’s shining symbol and figurehead.”

The best Star Wars book I’ve read in years. Leia gets a story to show what she’s made of, and it’s quite a bit. True believers may argue whether this story is Expanded Universe or Legends or canonical. IMHO, it fits the canon well enough to make the discussion moot; read and enjoy.

“See, this is the part where you yell at me and prove with, I don’t know, brilliant logic or secret information, how of course we can trust them and I go away embarrassed but reassured.” Leia smiled wryly at her. “I wish.”

Set two years after Star Wars Episode Four (movie). Leia seems to have matured fast, and her relationship with Han more developed. Oh, it’s going where we know it will go, but it seems to already be there.

“Knowing too much about Han and Chewbacca’s non-Alliance-related businesses, past and present, just made her left eyelid twitch.”

Quibbles: “Terae stepped forward and pulled a fusioncutter out of her tool satchel.” Beyond imagining what a fusioncutter is, we’re told it’s pocket sized. “The asteroid riddles with tunnels that followed the paths of what must have been veins of various ores.” Most small asteroids are amalgams of material, not layers.

“When your decisions affected people’s lives, it was important to have the advice of someone who didn’t think you were always right because of who you were. Or who your father was.”

Book Review: Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Star Nomad (Fallen Empire #1) by Lindsay Buroker

(Four Stars)

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” “I know where I left the ship six years ago.” “That’s a no, right?”

Pseudo-Star Wars post Episode Six: defeated empire, dead emperor, Jedi/Sith, battered old freighter, wise-cracking captain, guys competing for the self-sufficient woman’s attention, but better. Humor.

“You humor is–” “Inappropriate, I know.” His eyebrow twitched. “It’s how I distract myself when I’m scared for my life.”

Well-drawn cast of conflicting and conflicted characters. Everybody’s got secrets and crossed purposes. Oh, and there are pirates and flesh-eating Continue reading

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

(Three Stars)

“I guess it is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different–unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”

The Diary of A Young Girl for an apocalypse. Told from the first-person point of view of a southern California tween in the near future, The Age of Miracles pulls readers into Julia’s world and engages their emotions as the normal is stripped away with the rotational velocity of the earth. Well written.

“We were a different kind of Christian, the quiet kind, a breed embarrassed by the mention of miracles.”

The characters are realistic and varied–Christian, atheist, Mormon, Jew–except they’re all white. It’s understandable that Julia’s neighbors might look like her, but Continue reading

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, directed by Dean DeBlois (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, directed by Dean DeBlois

(Four Stars)

“We are no longer safe here. We all have to disappear, completely off the map. We have to fight for their freedom.”

A satisfactory and satisfying conclusion to the series. Plot threads draw much of the earlier work together with a suitable threat to add tension. Lots of repetition from previous movies, but not entirely formulaic.

“You brought a baby to a battle?” “I couldn’t find a sitter.”

The animation is amazing. Human hair so much better done that some characters are almost unrecognizable. The youth are now adults, so of course they look different, though most haven’t changed much. Rendering of loose sand was especially good.

“Out there, beyond the edge of the world, lies the home of the dragons, and I believe it’s your destiny to one day find this hidden world.”