Book Review #17

Dark Matter

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. In my list of books read in 2016, I included several time-travel novels. More recently, my Book Review #16 – The Whenabouts of Burr, was not really about time travel, but a voyage across parallel, but slightly different versions of Earth.

I recently read another alternate Earth novel. It was

The book: Dark Matter

The author: Blake Crouch

The review: This book is also about alternate Earths/Universes. The narrator is a man who might have been a great physicist, married to a woman who might have been a great artist. Instead, he is a university science professor, and she runs a graphic design studio out of their home, as they raise a beloved 10-year-old son.

He is kidnapped by Himself from a parallel existence, who never married or had a family, but instead invented/designed a device to make this transposition possible. He is thrust into the other’s frenetic life, while the imposter takes over his peaceful existence.

The ‘Burr’ book makes inter-dimensional travel possible by an electronic device that limits which realities are available. It is largely a discussion about social and political alternatives – USA vs. Russia vs. China – disguised in a roman a cléf.

This book is about infinity, quantum entanglement, and the definitions of ‘reality.’ The device is mostly an elevator-car-sized sensory deprivation chamber, because quantum theory says that merely observing an action, changes the outcome. Essentially, the traveller becomes Schrödinger’s cat. He got some help from a biologist friend who developed a serum that shuts down the section of the brain that accepts the remaining input.

Instead of electronic controls, where you end up when you open the door is controlled by the psyche, the subconscious. You go where you unconsciously want or feel to go. It takes him several months, in and out of the box, to train his mind to return to where he started from.

Just when the reader thinks that it is “Happily Ever After” time, the writer throws another curve-ball at reality. While there is only one ‘his world’, and ‘his wife’, and ‘his son’ to return to, decisions that he made during the months that he was gone, caused other versions of him to split off, and 110 of them return, most of them ready to kill to get the prize. How do you surprise, outthink, and win out over yourself??

I found that this was a great, thought-provoking Science Fiction novel, about something that may become science fact in the all-too-near future. What are you reading? 😕

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’19 A To Z Challenge – A

AtoZ2019Letter A

 

Life is moving too fast! I want to get off; I’m feeling woozy.

Logrithmic Scale

Humans used bows and arrows for thousands of years, then someone invented the crossbow. We used that for a couple of centuries, and someone invented the musket. That was used for over a hundred years, till someone invented the rifle. After less than a century, someone developed the repeating, lever action rifle. About fifty years later, the automatic rifle came into being.

Don’t like the idea of killing and maiming?? Let’s talk about recorded communication.

For eons, we scratched things into pottery or soft rocks. Then, some genius carved up a goose feather and dipped it into a dark liquid, and wrote on vellum (Scraped lamb-skin). We did that for a millennium, till paper was developed. Then later, someone created the reloadable fountain pen. A half century later, technology allowed Lazlo Biro to produce the first workable ball-point pen.

The typewriter was created, and Mark Twain was the first author to compose a novel, using one. He disliked the experience so much, that he tried to give it away – 8 times. Each time, it was returned to him. 75 years later, the first word processors became available, and in half that time, they’ve become quicker, more efficient, smarter…. and almost indispensable.

Isaac Newton said that he accomplished what he did, “Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants.” What I’m saying – the point I’m trying to make is that, as we progress, the progress comes faster and faster. Once, we had millennia, centuries, decades to get used to the idea of our basic world changing. Now, changes come in years, months, weeks!

Author Alvin Toffler invented the term “Future Shock,” the future is the way of life. The only constant, is change. Many of us have a hard time keeping up. Not only does the constant, rapid change keep us mentally off-balance – shocked – but it produces a related condition.

Alterity-
Alterity is a noun that means otherness; specifically: the quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation.

Alterity is related to the verb alter, which can mean to change something, into something other – something different. It’s also cousin to the adjective alter – as in alter-ego. Batman is Bruce Wayne’s radically different alter-ego.

The Canadian band, imaginatively named The Band, says that Life Is A Carnival. It often has me spun. Why don’t you spin back again in a couple of days??  😀

 

Book Review #16

The Whenabouts of Burr

I just got back from a short time travel trip.

I recently visited the website of a female author. She has written 5 or 6 Young-Adult Sci-Fi books, all centered on Mars – ‘The Tunnel on Mars, A Ranch on Mars, Subduing Mars, etc.’  The post I read was her book-review of Time And Again, a seminal time-travel novel.

I told her that I was also fascinated with time travel stories. I showed a bunch of them in my post of books read in 2016. I remembered a somewhat different time-travel book, and suggested it to her. Later, I went back in time, dug it out of my hoard of old Sci-Fi books, reread it, and decided to do a book review of it.

The Book: The Whenabouts Of Burr (1975)

The Author: Michael Kurland

The review: The time travel in this book isn’t – quite. It’s a story about parallel Universes, and alternate Earths, created by different choices at significant historical nexus points, like the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. Like a deck of cards skewed sideways, each reality is just over nine hours from its neighbors. The more levels you travel through, the further back in time you go.

It’s a great device for the author to make sociological comments – a fun game of “What If”. In some levels, Burr lives, but becomes an exiled political outlaw. Some levels have benevolent, supportive democracies, others have restrictive tyrannies. On some worlds, Europeans did not reach the Americas, and the natives have developed their own civilizations.

The sharpest social comment/warning comes from the author’s description of Prime Time, the world which originally developed the Temporal Translation Technology. The people have become like professional Victorian tourists, slumming, and gaily gadding about the alternate words, observing. The entire society has become effete and static. There is no interest, or challenge, nor further research or advancement through struggle, because they now steal/import all discoveries and new technology from the other ‘Earths.’

Published only a little over 40 years ago, it’s not as old as many of my books. It was a fun re-read, and a warning reminder of how Western society may be going. I got back in time to publish this post, and I’ll move forward, to have another ready in a couple of days. See you then. 😀

Offerings To Propitiate The Gods

Gods Our genial host, just back from an anger management class

Not that the lovely couple who we went to visit were actual Gods, but they had long since achieved that status with me.  Hell, anyone who doesn’t complain about my presence is nice.  Those who have the occasional kind word for or about me are saints.  And those who invite me into their home for an extended visit, are surely Gods.  Since we had to drive 500 miles of paved highways to meet them, they truly are The Gods Of Asphalt.

SDC10018A FEW of the son’s collection of skulls

3-D printers have become affordable for the average geek.  A son-in-law of the daughter’s friend acquired one, and started fooling around learning its secrets.  First, my son was given the larger, softball-sized skull.  It’s thermo-optic.  If sufficiently warmed, it changes from grey to white.  Later, the golf ball-sized, darker grey one was added.  They are all low-density plastic, and float like corks.

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The son’s two skulls at the back – the two Voodoo, “Impeach Trump” skulls, going to DC, in front

My limited etiquette knowledge only told me that a Hostess gift was good manners – and one for the host might also be a good idea.  Our handsome host instructed me not to spend much money, and assured me that it was our presence that they valued, not presents.  Still…. a few gewgaws to demonstrate Canadian my twisted culture.

One of the pair collects skulls, like my son does.  I obtained another couple of the smaller ones.  I leave it to you to guess which one is the blood-thirsty spouse.

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SDC10011Amethyst is supposed to foster peace and tranquility.  After adding skulls to the home of a skull-collector, and an ex-tank-driver, I felt that we needed all the tranquility we could get.  Since our host is Plus-sized, and his diminutive bride has trouble seeing over a garden hose, I brought a large chunk, and a smaller piece.

The best, darkest, amethyst now comes from Brazil, because most of the good stuff has been removed from mines just north of Lake Superior, in Ontario.  The daughter visited an online friend up there, a couple of winters ago.  She had just returned from a saved-for summer trip before we set out.  It is possible to walk the shores and occasionally find a good piece that a retreating glacier dug up, so these pieces were from both us, and from her.

SDC10007In return for throwing me a fabulous online birthday party, I once promised our hostess a 55-gallon drum of fresh, pure, Canadian maple syrup.  Of course, like most promises that men make to women, I wasn’t able to delivery anything that big.  Still, since our hosts had been so sweet to us, I felt compelled to bring along 2 liters (half a gallon for the non-metric Americans) of freshly-squeezed, Mennonite Maple Juice for them.  If you hear of an IHOP or Denny’s in the DC area going bankrupt, it’s because they aren’t going out for Sunday brunch till this is gone.

Actually, years of residence in New Hampshire has made her a bit of a syrup snob.  Like Florida has laws that translate, “Don’t f**k with the citrus, especially oranges.” Vermont also has strict rules against messing with the maples.  She would have requested some Maple syrup; but felt that it might be illegal to export.  Nobody asked me about maple syrup at the border, and she was thrilled to get the real stuff, cooking everyone blueberry pancakes the first morning.

SDC10650I told this little old guy that it was really important to me, and go out and squeeze his Maplest tree for my kind hosts.  He said that he would be happy to….  or maybe it was, ‘crazy English’…. something like that.  Coming up soon, a post about all the great stuff we brought back – aside from treasured memories, and happy hearts.

spacehounds-of-ipc

Since I have re-read them all over the last two years, and because our host is a great classic Sci-Fi fan, I offered him copies of every E.E. (Doc) Smith book that I possess, 24 out of the 25 that he wrote. Always a fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s works, I felt that he might appreciate obtaining copies of the seminal Space-Opera novels written by Heinlein’s mentor.

While I regard them as inexpensive paperbacks, many printed before he was born, he recognised their rarity, difficulty of obtaining, and the fact that they were collector’s items.  I usually don’t mind being kissed, just not by him.  Their value to me is that someone who really appreciates them, now possesses them. He said that he didn’t even know what order to read them in….and then found that I had obsessively boxed them up in chronological order.

Our deepest, sincere thanks to BrainRants and H E Ellis, two of the Titans of the blogosphere.