Book Review: Strings by Dave Duncan (three stars)

Book Review: Strings by Dave Duncan (three stars)

“Need anything?” “Liberty. Explanations. I’d like to be treated with a little consideration for my feelings once in a while.” “So would we all, son. So would we all.”

An ingenious hard science fiction involving then-cutting-edge theory. Duncan posits a novel means of interplanetary travel without faster-than-light propulsion. Surprises abound. Even casual events early in the story pop up later as major plot points.

“Even if ends justify means, the means don’t have to like it!”

First published in 1990, the story weathers the intervening scientific revolution well. Most of Duncan’s canon is fantasy, but he handles science fiction with equal ease.

She let that one go, but her conscience was squirming: He had saved her life, and paid for it with a smashed nose and all-over bruises. Injury deserved compensation.

Casual sex as the “price” of a desired outcome is off putting. Love—or even lust—at first sight is better handled than this cold calculus of paying with one’s body. Walks close to making people into commodities. Cost him a star. Of course, Duncan raises that very issue with a plot thread which any reference will spoil the surprise.

“Everyone does it. Accountants did it to bookkeeping, lawyers did it to the law, teachers to education.” “Did what?” “Tangled it all up so it became meaningless.”

Book Review: Paris in Terror by Stanley Loomis (Four Stars)


Book Review: Paris in Terror: The Men and Women Who Led the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution by Stanley Loomis

(Four Stars)

“The past is also the present and the future. The nation that forgets that is doomed.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

A cautionary tale. These men and women meant to do away with all that was old and bad and create a heaven on earth. They not only failed but failed so horribly and spectacularly that the Reign of Terrorhas become the byword for populous hubris. It is not only the elites who degrade and dehumanize people; it is sometimes also those who purport to represent and lead the masses.

“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” Harry S Truman

Having said that, Loomis had a transparent agenda as well. He picks favorites among the revolutionaries and brings them to life, sometimes horrible, often fascinating. But after all, history is not fundamentally about days and documents and battles, it’s about people: who they are, what they believe, what they do. And also, how they influence or forecast what happens thereafter.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

(quotes not from book)

Book Review: Lincoln’s Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher (Three Stars)


Book Review: Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher

(Three Stars)

“Ask yourself: what is the justice in this case?” A. Lincoln

Exhaustive review of a trial transcript with explanatory amplifications. By the authors’ own admission, Lincoln was already headed toward the presidency, and their work gives no indication how it “propelled him to the presidency,” rather how he dodged a bullet that could have killed his dark horse bid at the Republican nomination.

“I must say I do not think myself fit for the presidency.” A. Lincoln (1959)

Based on the recently recovered transcript of Robert Roberts Hitt. Telling the story from Hitt’s point of view saved the author’s from Continue reading

“Between the Devil and the Deep Sea” public domain image public domain image

“Between the Devil and the Deep Sea”*

Americans must decide, do we want a president who is crazy or corrupt?

Those who tout Trump’s business acumen and frankness ignore his sleaze. Those who tout Clinton’s resume and experience ignore her chronic lying.

Partisans of each side recognize the mote in the other’s eye but overlook the plank in the eye of their candidate.

And both candidates will raise your taxes … even you who don’t think you pay taxes.

* The expression dates from 1637. Western civilization is no stranger to such a dilemma.

Election Fatigue

If this were a normal election (whatever those are), we’d be hearing a lot more about Obamacare’s implosion, with each side blaming the other. And the deficit. Ditto. And the Battle of Mosul, with both sides taking credit.The weather. Ditto.

Instead we’re stuck with character assassination.

Not a good way to run a country, no matter who survives this stupidity.

I’m tired of it. I just want it to be over.

(I have voted.)

Why Wait Until November?

We can hold the election next week. Everyone knows more than they want to know about both Clinton and Trump. Few will change their minds. We’ll just blow through billions of dollars and a Sirocco of hot air between now and November.

Nothing will change, except our distaste for the process. People exclaim how important this election is. They’re all important. This time neither candidate is fit to be dog catcher, let alone president.

Presidents don’t save nations, much less bring universal peace or prosperity. They lead us, but even more they reflect us. Perhaps the candidates are so divisive because we’re so flawed and divided.

1930s Redux

We’re watching a replay of Hitler’s absorption of central Europe in the 1930s. Obama, Biden, Kerry et al. are as ineffective containing Putin as Neville Chamberlain was with Hitler.

Obama isn’t singly to blame for the Ukraine mess (though Hagels’ Defense reductions are looking ill-timed); Bush did as poorly with Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. We have learned nothing.

The price of oil, of course, bounced upward. That helps Putin. Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on energy revenue. That, not a military confrontation, is where they are most vulnerable and where we should counter-attack.

Threatening does no good; we should say what we are doing and do it. This whole thing was planned and executed by Putin. If we don’t do something–I mean really do something–he’ll only get worse.

Hot Air from Washington, D.C.

Not able to win the climate change debate by executive order ( ref.: the State of the Union message), now the administration resorts to name calling. (ref.:  Secretary of State Kerry’s labels those opposing the party line as “flat earth society”). How mature.

Actually, I agree that weather is warmer now than fifty years ago. It’s why and what’s to be done where I fall out with Big Brother.