Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Oh John Ringo, No

I just finished reading Live Free or Die: Troy Rising by John Ringo. I would like to first say, John Ringo is a passably good writer, he can develop a decent plot and has an interesting sense of humor. The big problem with this book is the heavy handed right wing political agenda and Mary Sue central character. Don’t get me wrong, neither of these things is a necessarily a deal breaker, after all I have read and enjoyed the majority of Heinlein’s work. The problem is Heinlein was a better writer and knew how to convey an idea without shoving it down your throat. I was half way through my second reading of Star Ship Troopers before I realized the government of earth was not a real democracy, but rather a military dictatorship, where only those who served in the military were allowed to vote.

The Good: The book has a neat premise and a pretty good plot. I especially love the proto Death Star.

The Bad: Tyler Vernon, the main character, can do no wrong, he is the smartest, richest most excellent man in the universe. he is also boring and two dimensional, there is no other significant characters in the book.

The Ugly: When the aliens attack earth, they use biological weapons designed to kill everyone except blondes and makes blonde women go into heat on a regular basis and capable of multiple birth. Further, when the aliens start bombing from orbit they target all the big cities in blue states, I am pretty sure Dallas and Houston survived the bombing. Essentially, he killed off most of the non-white people in the world, turned all the blonde women into baby making machines and eliminated all the liberal strongholds in the country. Then Tyler Vernon commented while it was really horrible all these people died, it was really a good thing because it would help the economy.

Stories dragging on and on

I don’t really like 800 page books, I especially don’t like 7 book series of 800 page books. Unfortunately, this trend is now affecting Comic Books as well. For some reason the current crop of Comic Book writers have taken to writing stories that develop at glacial speeds. Please, if you can not write a Comic Book story in 3 issues, 4 at the outside, give it up, you are in the wrong business. For example, DC’s current crossover event Forever Evil is by itself a 6 issue mini series, now add in the three other 6 issue mini series that tie into Forever Evil and both Justice League and Justice League of America are tying in as well. That is 36 issues over 6 month period for this story line, we are barely 4 months in and I want it to be over with already, no more navel gazing Lex Luthor.

Forever Evil is not the only story line dragging. Both Earth 2 and Worlds Finest are killing me as well. Earth 2 is currently in a story line about the re-invasion of earth by Darkseid, okay, fine and dandy, this could have been done in 4 issues, The Legion of Superheroes did the Darkness Saga in 6 issues, we are currently on issue 12. Worlds Finest is almost as bad, They are currently telling a story about Power Girls abilities going all wonky on her, 2 issues right? We are on issue 6 of this story line and we are about to cross over to Batman/Superman. Please make it stop.

Two Reviews

The Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell: It normally takes me seven to ten days to read a book, I know, I know, I am a fairly slow reader. However, I have plowed through the first three books of this series in the last week. Campbell builds an interesting universe where humanity has been engaged in a galactic war with itself for more than a century and due to staggering losses, the war has degenerated into horrible stale mate with the two sides throwing cheap ships with raw crews at each other in near one for one exchanges. The main character John “Black Jack” Geary is an interesting characterization of a man out of time. Although some times it feels like a cross between between Andromeda and Idiocracy, over all it is an excellent read.

Legion of SuperHeroes/Star Trek crossover: When this first came out, I avoided it like the plague, I figured there was no way this was going end well. So by the time the 3rd issue was out, I started reading some reviews of it saying it was turning out pretty good. So I went to my friendly neighborhood comic shop and picked up the first three issues. All I can say about this is, it really sucks ass far worse than I originally thought. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to fired from IDW and DC Comics. Seriously, I knew who the villain was by page twelve of issue 1, the plot is not only predicable, it is BORING and predictable. The characterizations of the Legion is completely two dimensional and the Enterprise crew is presented in extremely cliched manner and is almost a parody. Please do not waste your money on this crap.

RIP: Anne McCaffrey, 1 April 1926 – 21 November 2011

This last week Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragon Riders Pern, died. While she was not my favorite writer, I have read much of her work, and she writes in that light, fun sort of way that new writers don’t seem capable of. I suggest everyone dig out their copy and re-read Dragonflight next week.

Cyberpunk RPG

This totally theoretical. I am thinking a game in the cyberpunk genre that capitalizes on the fact that we play online. We are in fact a small group of people in different locations, with varying jobs, responsibilities and resources. So picture this, the game is about a group of near future techno peasants, who in real life are your basic run of the mill losers and corporate drones, but that part of their lives is not relevant to the game. What is important, is online they are a powerful people who influence the cyber world. Perhaps they are a gang of hackers, maybe they are a guild in an online game or they run some sort of legitimate business.

The game would be played in real time, meaning, their real lives keep them from meeting except for a few hours every Friday night and all other communications are done through a forum, email or social network through out the rest of the week. The game would be as much about what they could do individually as well as a group. This game would be the hardest on the GM who would have to deal with actions on nights and at times other than the regular game night, but even the other players would have to be diligent about reading their email and interacting in a meaningful way.

The other interesting question about such a game is what system to use. It would not be terribly necessary to define the actual characters but rather the hardware they are using and how it interacts with the cyberspace environment. Perhaps grab the cyberdeck designing rules from GURPS Cyberpunk or other genre game and use that as the basis of the game.

Another important feature is how cyberspace itself is defined and perceived. Is it simply an extension of the current Internet with some fancy new interface gear or is it a fully immersed environment in neuro interfaces plugged directly into the brain. Is the environment completely “Cyberpunk” and looks like Tron where data centers look like huge glowing dystopian fortresses or is it a game similar to World of Warcraft that grew beyond its original purpose where the same data centers may look like deep dungeons built into a tall mountain.

Hmmm, maybe next year.

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a rags to riches story set in a near future dystopian America. The basis of the story is the world is in extreme decay, human civilization in decline, the only escape most people have from their bleak lives is the OASIS, a huge virtual reality where most people spend their days. When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves his huge fortune to anyone who can solve his three puzzles. Wade Watts is a poor chubby little boy living in a trailer park who solves the first puzzle and it launches him into the adventure of a lifetime.

Cline writes very well and I really enjoyed his characterizations. I completely understood why Wade Watts was in love with the primary female character Art3mis, because I had a crush on her myself by the middle of the book and Wade Watts was a likeable character who I readily identified with. The book is full of 1980′s nostalgia and trivia because James Halliday, then inventor of OASIS, grew up in the 80′s and his puzzles involved 80′s movies references, video games and music. Because I myself am a child of the 80′s, this made the book all that much more fun to read. This book is the best book I have read all year, it is fast, fun and intelligently written. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Why SteamPunk Sucks

I have never cared for the SteamPunk sub-genre. I have never read a SteamPunk book or comic that was anything more than mildly amusing and even SteamPunk movies don’t really do much for me. For a long time I couldn’t really figure out why, I am a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror reader. I enjoy most other sub-genres within those categories, so it felt odd that I didn’t really enjoy SteamPunk, especially since I enjoy SteamPunk’s elder cousin CyberPunk a lot.

Recently it dawned on my why, so far everything I have read has the emphasis  on the “Steam” and not the “Punk”. What I mean is they tend to be gee wiz stories talking mostly about clockwork this and steam powered that, descriptions about an idealized Victorian setting. The problem is the Victorian age was not much fun and an idealized form of it is outright boring. The genre, paints a shallow facade of the 19th century where wars are fought by gentleman and no one of any consequence ever dies (except the peasants) and technology is a great fashion accessory but has not solved any real problems.

To any prospering SteamPunk authors out there I would like to explain to you what “Punk” actually means in the cultural sense. Punk is at its core about rebellion, it is about youth rebelling against the oppressive moral values of the older generation, it is rebellion of the poor and disenfranchised against the wealthy elite of society. Punk stories should be about cynical protagonists fighting and carving out a better life for himself against a society that wants him to grow up, accept his place and go back to the ghetto. Punk is about being beaten down and pushed into the sewer, it is dirty, it is gritty, but it is also about getting back up, crawling out of the sewer, screaming “I am not going to take this any more !” and fighting back. If you don’t understand what I am talking about go sit down and listen to everything done by the Romones, the Clash and the Sex Pistols between 1975 and 1980. If after that you still don’t get it, then might I suggest you move on to writing Romantic Fantasy.

The Best Star Trek Episodes

I read The 10 Best Star Trek Episodes article at The Best Article Everyday with some reservations, this sort of thing is way too subjective and many a forum flame wars have been fought over this subject. I do not necessarily agree with all their choices, some of them seem to be stretching it to include one from every series (except Enterprise). However, it is a good try, there are several excellent choices and I 100% agree that Balance of Terror is probably the single best all time episode of Star Trek.

 

Review: Tron – Legacy

Normally I try to add some substance to these reviews, but Tron – Legacy was entirely “Meh”. While it did not suck, it was also not exceptional in any way. Don’t bother buying it unless you already have the original and are a completest of some kind. It is probably worth rotating through Netflix, but honestly, there is no hurry.

My Memory

I have a pretty good memory, although sometimes it is a bit selective. For instance, I remember D&D games from 1980, I remember pretty much every TV show I have ever watched and I remember every book I have ever read, at least I thought I did anyway. Of course don’t ask me what my cell phone number is or my mothers birthday, because I will have to look it up.

For the last couple of years I have been re-reading many of the books I read as a teenager and young adult. So far I have remembered everyone one of them. Before re-reading them, I could tell you the plot, all the major characters and describe significant scenes. Some of those books stood the test of time and others did not.

These last couple of weeks I have been re-reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Oddly, these books have been a blind spot for me. I remember reading them, PezWitch remembers me reading them. However, in the re-reading it is like I never read the books at all. The only thing I remembered from the books is the main character Hagbard Celine and Fnord. This is a bit disorientating for me, however at least all the gags are new. The only explanation I have is obviously I am a victim of the Illuminati Orbital Mind Control Laser.