Monday, September 20, 2010

Gearing up for the INSPYs

Recently selected as a judge in a new book award category, the INSPYs, I suppose I should at least update for all you folks that will click on my link.

The God particle, by Richard Cox.

Speculative/sci fi, about the possibilities that are brought to light by the scientific advances in particle research. The science of the book is believable, at least until the end, where the author gets a bit fanciful. Nothing wrong with that, especially with a refreshing writing style. Cox spent very little time setting the locations of his story, getting right into the characters, and then fleshing out the locations in subtle ways throughout the story. At first it was a bit irritating, with short terse statements about where the action was set, like the stage directions on the edge of a play script. After a while, you get used to it, quickly assessing the scene and getting right into the action.

Story in a nutshell involves the search for a unifying field present in all elements, the higgs bosun field, or "the god particle". Psychotic killers, A pseudo religious news anchor, a physicist under pressure to get results or lose funding, a ghosts, nano machines in brains, and mind over matter makes it an interesting read, a good diversion from the top 100 list, and a good springboard into my next project, judging for the INSPYs Speculative Fiction category. Bring it on!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catch up

Ok, here it is, I'll just give a teaser here about what I'll write, and then those who care can read the entire thing.
Fahrenheit 451: high school reading material, good emotions
Childhood's End: a bit weird, and more psy-fi than sci fi.
Wrinkle in Time: Kids book on the top 100 list of sci fi novels. Kind of a chick book, but the list compells me.
Snow Crash: Hiro Protagonist. Actual main character name. I think Heroes ripped this off.

Fahrenheit 451: Apparently everyone but me read this in high school, so I'll not go into too much detail. Basic premise: if we continue to value entertainment over knowledge, eventually, knowledge will be considered dangerous, and we'll burn all our books, and pay people to do it. Classic Dystopia, but I really enjoyed how Bradbury delved into the emotions of someone who is struggling against all he knows, but feels is not the way things should be. There is a paragraph toward the end of the book that struck me, and probably will remain how I remember the book. One of the old exiled professors talks about mourning the loss of someone. When we are gone, no one will ever, ever do things the way we do things, or say things the way we say things. Even if someone had a list of all the things we've ever done and will do, and tried to duplicate them, it still would not be the same. We are individuals, and that makes the loss of anyone a terrible loss.

Childhood's End: Weird. Basic premise: Aliens come to earth, and they take over all the workings of the world. They prevent humanity from going to war with itself, and then things just kind of settle. The real reason that they arrive is to make sure humanity's big moment goes off without a hitch. Humanity's big moment: All the kids, everywhere, develop beyond the normal capacity for thought and paranormal stuff, and they all become part of a really creepy/huge/weird overmind. the end. of earth. cuz the kids blow it up when they transform to pure energy. oh an the parents all have to watch it and then they have to leave. the end.

A Wrinkle in Time: Epic good and evil, with a bit of religion thrown in. Basic Premise: The Darkness is taking over planets and galaxies, and there are a few people with certain characteristics that are good at fighting darkness, and do so. Heroine triumphs by saving her little brother from the Darkness (represented by a big brain that controls people and takes away their free will) because she has something that the Darkness doesn't have; love. Yeah, it is kind of sappy at the end, but really a great wholesome kids book. That's right, kids books make it on the top sci fi novels of all time.

Snow Crash: really good cyber punk! And the (Hiro) Protagonist uses swords. a lot. I'm fairly certain that the Character of Hiro Nakamura, in the TV show Heroes is at least loosely based on this guy, but I'd have to do some research on that. There's definitely some entertaining views of the future, in both political, technological and social areas. If you've ever worked in any corporation you know the power of the three ring binder, which is the way corporate tells everyone exactly what policy is an how to follow it. Franchises are the way of the future, why not have a Mafia Franchise. Really a complex book, with a lot of double meanings and political satire, and mumbo jumbo. and the book was long! I love that! mainly because some sci fi novels get in, tell the story, and get out. but Snow crash takes you deeper into the world, into the minds of the people, and develops not just the main character, but the main nine characters. world building, at it's finest.

There you have it, I'm all caught up

Friday, April 23, 2010

Faith and Fiction round table: Offworld

recently, I have been really bad about blogging. But I have continued reading, mostly on my top one hundred list, Fahrenheit 451, Childhood's End, and a Wrinkle in time. I'll make a brief blog on each soon, but not this time.

also in the mean time, I participated in my first "book club" type thing. Offworld, by Robin Parrish. Just the basic gist for now, and maybe I'll get to a full blog also.

you can read the first chapter here: for a look into the writing style.

Amy: Do you read very much science fiction?

Ronnica: I do read and enjoy science fiction (and yes, enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek), but have never read any from a Christian perspective. I think this was a good example of how it could be done.

Mark: I read almost all mystery, but I picked up Offworld because of the author. I found Robin Parrish when he was covering Christian music for and followed his career off and on since then. I read and loved his Dominion Trilogy as well.

Jonathan: I've gravitated to science fiction primarily in the last few years, mainly because of the freedom that science fiction has to build a world, or describe our own in the distant or not too distant future.

Carrie: I can't say that I make a regular habit out of reading science fiction. I love watching science fiction movies but apart from Asimov, Lewis' Space Triology and Beddor's Looking Glass Wars, I'm not very familiar with this genre. I agree with Mark in saying that the biggest draw (and, quite frankly, the only thing that kept me reading!) was the mystery aspect of the book. I wanted to know how it would play out.

Jonathan: I've been thinking more about it, and through the discussion, I think that I've distilled a little more about how I feel about it: Parts of the book are well written, entertaining, intriguing, and compelling. If the whole book took place on Mars, or if all of the events of the blackouts were strung together, it might have gained a cohesive element. i realize that the blackouts allowed a slow reveal for the author, but there came a point that I just wanted to have the story, instead of the interruptions.

Mark: This book wasn't deep or complex. It was designed to be a sci-fi action tale. Taken as a sci-fi action tale, it was great. It won't take a spot on my best books of all time list, but I plan to loan it to some friends and rave about it to others.

Ronnica: I also enjoyed it and think it was worth reading it. Sure, it's not the best BOOK, but it's quite good at what it's supposed to be.

I'm not a fan of action (in movies or books) and generally just get lost/bored until the end until you see the outcome. But other than the action scenes, I really enjoyed Offworld.

Carrie: Generically speaking - I could take this book or leave it. If I had to choose between this book and the others that I'm looking forward to reading, I would leave Offworld behind. Science fiction just really isn't my thing at all and while I wouldn't by any means say that this book was horrible - I just didn't feel anything for it.

Here are the other fine people that I participated in some interesting discussion about the book, so you can visit their sites for more of this discussion.

Reading to Know
Ignorant Historian
Random Ramblings from Sunny Southern CA
Behind the eyes, oversimplified
Mrs. Q Book Addict
My Friend Amy

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Dune", or "Judeo-Christian burial customs of North America"

I finished the book that is on the top of lots of lists of best sci fi novels. In the Car on the way to NJ for my Grandfather's funeral.

On Dune, water is life, and is not to be wasted. A man's life belongs to himself, but his water belongs to his tribe. Crying at a funeral is the highest honor, as it "gives water to the dead." The legacy of each person is passed down to the tribe, divided up among those who must claim friendship with the dead, even if they were the cause of death in single combat, even if in life they were enemies. The dead are honored, and all their water is reclaimed to perpetuate the life of the tribe.

As I prepare to commit my Grandfather's empty body to the ground, I can't help but draw some comparisons to the customs that surround this sad, yet happy occasion. The legacy of my Grandfather lives on in the entire tribe, and his water, his life, has affected us all. All of the kids and grand kids are here, and we spoke his memory tonight. All of us share pieces of his life, and we shared those pieces with each other in our time of loss.

Yet one of our customs differs from any in the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve because we have lost a loved one, but have not lost forever. For we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in the eternality of the soul. I believe that we will see him again, in the life to come. For we have hope, because the same Messiah who was raised by God from the dead by the Spirit of power, will raise all who trust in him at the last day.

Yet now we have loss, and pain, and sorrow, and are weighed down by grief. Now we see in a glass, dimly, one day, we will see face to face.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reflecting on reflecting

As I read these novels, all about how science will impact our lives and culture and society, I'm struck by one underlying theme. We're all broken. Not one of these novels projects a good future for mankind. We are either trying to get out from under the thrall of aliens, super corporations, oppressive government, or we are the alien oppressors. I'm all for dystopias, but isn't there a chance that our super technology will actually solve more problems than it creates? Isn't it possible that enough socially responsible people will come up with a solution to overcrowding, class, and agricultural plagues?

Maybe not, maybe humanity is doomed, because, generally, we are kindof terrible to our neighbors, environment, and future generations.

Just a thought, maybe some motivation to be a force of change.... maybe one person or a small group of people can make a difference, and change the course of 6,692,030,277 (Six billion, six hundred ninety two million, thirty thousand two hundred seventy seven) human lives on planet earth.

Or maybe the course of human history is a downward spiral, and the weight of the masses outstrips the genius or social ambitions of the few.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why am I more sad about Mike than Prof?

The moon is a harsh mistress by Robert A Heinlein

Set it an overpopulated future, this story takes place mostly on Earth's moon. Agricultural development of the moon, through ice mining and hydroponic grain production feeds the population of earth. originally, the inhabitants of the lunar colonies come from deportation, similar to the Australian concept, but as the generations progress, and convicts serve out their sentences, they are forced by physiological changes to remain on Luna. This leads to a completely different society, being exploited by earth as a source of cheap agricultural labour. The exploitation of the workers on the moon prompts several people, Manuel, Wyoming, and Professor Bernado de la Plaz (Prof) to formulate a revolution. Luna will be free!

Enter Mike. short for Mycroft, the fictional brother of Sherlock Holmes. also, he is a super computer. he controls much of the maintenance of Luna. also, he just woke up, and attained sentience.

lots of cool, realistic sounding sci fi action, definitely possible science. The novel has some definite socialist roots, but simply because of the fact that every human even hinges and builds on all of our past events. wars of the future will be like wars of the past, for similar reasons, with similar messages.

Luna is free, earth tries to pacify, Luna fights back, Luna wins, Luna remains free. Prof dies at the end, and so does Mike. except Mike doesn't really die. his circuits are all still there, he just stops talking, responding, and interacting.

I think that the book is a tale of what it means to be alive, and about mike's journey into consciousness, set against a parallel story of a nation/moon's rise to independence and national consciousness.

so much message in these sci fi books, you have no idea.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ringworld, by Larry Niven: what happens when we forget how to do things?

I never know whether to put my feelings about the book first, so you don't fall asleep/lose interest during the plot summary, or to put it last, so you actually know what I'm talking about....

For me, this was an tremendously entertaining book, well written, full of humour, plot, twists, turns, mystery, danger, and sciency stuff.

It also reveals a potentially devastating trend in human behavior. As long as the lights come on when we flip the switch, we don't care how it does it. As technology advances, the intellectual elite become fewer and fewer, because we need fewer and fewer people to program the computers that make our technology. Extrapolate a few years and the computers program the computers that make our technology, and before you know it, we have amazing transportation, cool gadgets, and we have no idea how they actually do what they do. And if the intellectual elite disappear, or just fade away, it is just a matter of time before the food slot stops making the food, or the water filtration system no longer automatically does its thing, and while the factories still work, we just throw it away and buy a new one. But eventually, when the right piece breaks, and no one knows how to fix it, the chain reaction spirals the culture right back to stone tools.

This of course takes time, but the trend is already here.

On an Earth far in the future where "boosterspice" prolongs human life well beyond the 300 year mark, Louis Wu, human, is bored. With all the world connected by instantaneous travel, every room is right next door to the one you're in. And because of this, every room is exactly like the one you just came from. Earth culture/society/genetics have become so homogenized that it is impossible to see anything new.

Enter a two headed alien (called a puppeteer, for various reasons) with superior technology and a culture entirely devoted to minimizing risk, a genetically lucky human female(her parents, grandparents, and so on all won the right to reproduce by lottery, hence bred for extreme luck...) and a Kzin ( like a big orange panther/humanoid)ambassador, whose culture places such contempt on humanity that it would have wiped them out in a series of wars had not another superior alien race balanced the scales in favor of the humans.

Puppeteer tells them that all of life in the galaxy will be wiped out in twenty thousand years, and in order to escape they need what they can offer, but only if the motley crew goes on a space voyage to see what this ring around a star is. And if they do that, they get a super fast engine for their spacecraft and can escape the apocalypse of the galaxy.
So they all get on a ship and go hunting for the ring world, only to crash onto the surface of the ring, which is entirely too immense to wrap your head around. Or your understanding... ( its about a million times the surface of the earth, in a big ring, all of the surface facing the sun/star) And once they are on the surface, millions of miles away from anything, they have to figure out a way to get off. No problem right? I mean, a culture sufficiently advanced enough to make this ring should be able to give them some help getting home...

But whoever (humans of some sort, or not) built this gigantic ring world around a star made it able to support life, and then over time, apparently, all their technology stopped working.

Because no one remembers how to do anything. The engineers of the ring made it so stable, and so fail safe and idiot proof that the people living on it simply forget how things work. They just do.

Until they don't.

And then, just like the fall of the Roman empire, on a slightly larger scale, society reverts back to its most basic forms. Feudalism, Peasantry, Hunter/Gatherer, Priest/shaman/warrior leaders.

Do you know how a microwave oven works? Do you know how to design and manufacture a firearm? Could you build a fire without matches, a lighter, or other modern equipment? Where would your clothing come from if all the means for mass production ceased to function.

The late Arthur C Clarke, renowned British science fiction author (most famous for 2001:a space odyssey) formulated three laws, the third of which is "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
This law contributed to the decline and fall of the ringworld society, simply because no one needed to know how to fix anything, because the technology was so advanced. But the down side is, no one knew how to fix anything, because the technology was so advanced.

So perhaps I will google how something works, or what a transistor is made of, or how bronze is made, so that when the machine stops, we can at least start in the bronze age.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Talking about the difference between host countries and home countries in management class tonight, and randomness ensued.

Things that have hosts:
Talk Shows
Game Shows
Multinational Corporations
Computer Networks
Communion Crackers
Cupcakes (hostess)
Airlines (hostess)
Radio Shows
Sports Events

Am I missing any?