Book Review #28

Days of Future Passed

The shape of things to come!  This author was prescient.  This is where it all began, or at least, a big part of it.

The book: Neuromancer

The Author: William Gibson

The Review:
This book was written in 1984.  I had a chance to read it over 30 years ago.  The son read it, but I passed on the opportunity.  It would not have had the effect on me back then, as it did to read it recently.  I read a post by a blogger who was doing what I am doing, taking old Science Fiction books out of storage, and re-reading them.  His description intrigued me, so I got a 2010 re-published copy from the library.

The story itself is not all that exciting –by today’s standards.  His protagonist is a computer hacker who can mentally access, not merely individual computers, but can surf the entire Internet.  Of course, the author doesn’t call it that.  The term, and the function, did not exist back then.  He did not coin the term Cyberspace, but this book popularized it.  Soon, readers and other authors were regularly using it.

In 1984, computers, and their interconnectivity, were far less common than in his then-future fiction.  Since he couldn’t call it the Internet, he coined the term The Matrix.  While this author, and this book, are not completely responsible, they both heavily influenced Tron, and the three Matrix movies.

The précis reminded me of Johnny Mnemonic.  A bit of research revealed that, 17 years later, he shuffled some concepts around and wrote the novel that another Keanu Reeve movie was based on.  Microsoft had incorporated in 1981, but the microsofts (small m) that the hacker uses to jack in, are nail-sized inserts that plug into a socket at the base of his skull, like Sim-cards, or SD cards.  They contain relevant data, and operating code – the Apps of their time.

The plot involves the hacker either slicing or surreptitiously oozing past security protocols, to free a manacled A.I. – Artificial Intelligence.  The story also contains a couple of computer ‘Constructs’, which are essentially the uploaded knowledge, experience and personality of hackers who were killed while online.

This author impresses me like the deaf composer, Ludwig von Beethoven.  He conceptualized huge amounts of technology that he couldn’t see, but which later came to exist.  Finally, there is another peculiarity, not of the story, but of the particular copy of the book that I received.

It is in the page numbering.  Each page is numbered in the lower corner.  Each number is underlined.  The underlining on the right-hand, or Recto page, extends to the edge of the page, across the thickness of the sheet, and continues till it underlines the number on the left-hand, or Verso page.

Infinitesimally and imperceptibly, the numbers and the underlining rise and fall several times through the book.  If you firmly close the book and look at the lower edge, the ink forms an EEG brain-scan readout.

TILWROT III

In Search Of A Name

I was reading a Science Fiction book that began with a Space Navy shipwreck.  After her husband dies, the group of survivors is led by a broadly knowledgeable and adaptable woman with the Italian-ish name of Buccari.  I mentally pronounced it boo-kar-ee, until the author had one of her compatriots address her as, “Hey, Booch.”  I was reminded that in Italian words/names like bocce and Puccini with double C’s, they are pronounced as CH, so she was boo-char-ee.

Now I was curious.  Beginning with The DaVinci Code, I realized that authors often hide Easter Eggs in the background of their books.  What does the name mean??  Whatever it is, there’s a bunch of them, because the final I indicates a plural.  Translation programs just shrugged and walked away.  Google and Bing and friends, didn’t do any better, although one admitted that it was a surname, but the 286,532nd most/least common one.

Down at the bottom of the page, the note said, People who ask about Buccari also research Buccari fiasco navale Croazien.  Clicking on that delivered an article, all in Italian.  I fed the first section back into the translation program.

Apparently, just at the end of World War II, a division of the Italian navy decided to shell the Croatian city of Bakar, because it had been used by the Italians as a concentration camp.  Based on the plural of “people from the city of Bakar,” the Italian name for it, and anyone from it, is Buccari.

Bakar, in Croatian, means ‘copper,’ and our heroine’s head is adorned with luxurious, Italian, copper-red tresses.  The author brought the uncommon name completely around in a circle.

***

The great-grandson is approaching his first birthday.  While a little slow starting, he is developing a nice head of Italian-red hair.  He and his parents will be joining us for a belated Easter/birthday celebration this Sunday.  I’ll bet that a photo or two of him will sneak its way into a blog-post before the end of the month.  😀

’21 A To Z Challenge – V Twofer

’21 Reading Challenge
Vanquished

I read somewhere…. That I read somewhere.  In a vain attempt to brag (Are there any other kinds??!) about all my free time in retirement, I present a rogues’ gallery of the books I read last year.


Gregg Loomis – The First Casualty

Tom Clancy’s series

Line of Sight


Oath of Office

Enemy Contact


Code of Honor


Lee Child – Blue Moon


Lee Child – The Sentinel

Gregg Hurwitz – Out of the Dark
Gregg Hurwitz – Hell Bent

Nick Petrie – Burning Bright
Nick Petrie – Light It Up
Nick Petrie – Tear It Down

Ilona Andrews – Sweep Of The Blade

Ilona Andrews – Sweep With Me

Ilona Andrews – Magic Steals

Ilona Andrews – Blood Heir

Steve Berry – The 14th Colony

Steve Berry – The Lost Order
Steve Berry – The Bishop’s Pawn

Raymond Khoury – The Templar Salvation

Mark Greaney – Gunmetal Grey
Mark Greaney – Agent in Place

Crawford Killian – The Empire of Time

Mark Greaney – Agent In Place

Eric Flint – The Course Of Empire

Mike Massa – River Of Night

Grant Blackwood – War Hawk

James Rollins – The Demon Crown

James Rollins – Crucible

H. Beam Piper – Paratime

H. Beam Piper – Lord Kalvan Of Otherwhen

Philip K. Dick – The Zap Gun

A.E. van Vogt – Masters Of Time

James S. A. Corey – Persepolis Rising

James S. A. Corey – Tiamat’s Wrath

John Brunner – Time Jump

John Brunner – Total Eclipse

Kenneth Bulmer – The Key To Venudine

Neal Stephenson – The Rise And Fall Of D.O.D.O.

Crawford Killian – Red Magic

Seth Andrews – Sacred Cows

Herman Melville – Bartleby The Scrivener
*
Edgar Allen Poe – The Cask of Amontillado

Mark Twain – Letters From The Earth

Ward Bowlby – A Canadian’s Travels To Egypt

Flash Fiction #275

PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda

MORLOCK

Gather ‘round me, fellow agents of darkness.  We pay tribute to those who provide the needs of the sun-loving Eloi.

Many of the Early Birds are so proud of themselves, when they get a fast start on the day and show up at the Golden Arches at Six A.M. or the Mermaid Coffee Shop at Seven.  They don’t realize that those who waited on them, had to get up at three, or have been up all night, to get the grills hot, and the coffee urns bubbling.

They also serve, who work the night, for the benefit of the day-shift.

***

If you’d like to join the fun, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Sailor Smart

Some people will not be educated, no matter how hard we try.

When I attended high school, each year’s English class required that all students read six non-curriculum books.  You could pick them.  They could be about anything, but to prove that you had read them, you were required to submit a Book Report on each one – remember those? – fondly??

To prevent nerds like me from submitting them all in September, rules stated that they had to be spaced out.  A lad a year older than me, from landlocked Ontario, Canada, decided that he wanted to join the Navy, so he didn’t need to read no stinkin’ books.  Nearing the end of the year, he had managed to submit only five; although I think that a couple of them were based on Classics Illustrated comic books (Remember those, too?) – so he invented one.

Possibly using a reference to Herman Melville’s book, Billy Budd – Sailor, he gave it the title Sailor Smart, supposedly printed by a known school-text publishing house – number of pages and a plot précis – the story of a landlocked, Midwest boy who wanted desperately to join the Navy.  I’d have been tempted to let him away with his ruse, just for demonstrating such creativity and inventiveness.  The tough old schoolmarm, who made Archie’s Miss Grundy look like a kindly nun, spent most of an instruction period excoriating him, and demanded a real book be read and report filed.

He must have succeeded.  He graduated Grade 12, moved to Halifax, joined the Navy, and was never seen again.  Reading for enjoyment seems to be a Yes or No proposition.  My Mother read!  My Father didn’t!  I’ve known many intelligent, successful people who won’t read a novel, even when they could spare the time.  I just can’t imagine me without a book…. Or three.

I have seen many reading challenge posts.  I recently ran into this one.

In 2021, choose 6 books that have titles that contain a:

  • One/1 (ex. One Second AfterThe 100)
  • Doubled word (ex. In a Dark, Dark WoodWolf by Wolf)
  • Reference to outer space (ex. The Fault in Our Stars)
  • Possessive noun (ex. The Zookeeper’s Wife)
  • Botanical word (ex. The Language of FlowersThe Sandalwood Tree)
  • Article of clothing (ex. Bossypants)

The writer had read 12 books in a year, for a Goodreads challenge, but had read them all in the month of January, and then added 30 more by the end of the year.  I don’t understand the point of such challenges.  It can’t be to get people to read, because those who accept, already read – usually, a lot.  It doesn’t seem to be to get readers to read outside their preferred genre sphere, because you could pick books to satisfy all these requirements – in Romance, Sci-Fi, action/adventure, murder mystery, religion or political science.

In 2020 I read almost 40 books, from all the above varieties except Romance.  I checked them against this artificially concocted list, and found that I only had a match in (Maybe) three of the six categories.  No ‘ones’ or 1’s.  No doubled words.  Outer space came with Space Vikings, Star Rangers, Star Soldiers, and When The Star Kings Die – although both of The Expanse series, Babylon’s Ashes and Nemesis Games occur in outer space, but their titles don’t indicate that.

Possessive nouns returned with Babylon’s Ashes in hand.  The mystery Kevin: Murder Beneath the Pines provided the only botanical reference.  The requirement for an article of clothing might be satisfied, if you consider a gold watch to be clothing.

I refuse to obtain books just to satisfy some synthetic list.  I read what I find, that interests me, and Damn the Book Titles!  Full speed ahead!  How about you?  Would you buy/read just to check off some list??!

All The Languages Of The World

I am so glad that my blog-buddy, BrainRants made me aware of The Expanse series.  I have been reading the books and, not quite as quickly, watching the TV programs for several years.  It is a great epic series, not just because I love Sci-Fi, but because the writers provide tons of eclectic detail to flesh out the story arc, and the characters.

Two male writers, taking a cue from their mentor, George R. R. Martin – he of Game Of Thrones fame – and/or J. R. R. Tolkien, publish as James S. A. Corey, when neither of them is James, nor Corey.  As male authors, they have created at least four powerful, well-defined female characters.

The depth and breadth of their knowledge, which they work into the books is awe-inspiring – especially (for me) the linguistics.  Millions have gone into space, and many are mining the asteroid belt.  People move around on Earth, and the language where they migrate to slowly changes, but remains basically the same.

There was no Native Tongue in the Belt, so a new language, called Belta, has come into existence.  It includes some sign language, for folks encased in space suits, who can be seen but not heard.  The spoken language is mostly English, with additions and admixtures of American Spanish from Pittsburgh to Patagonia, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Maori, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more.

Every chapter brings examples of words and expressions that impress the Hell out of me, or drive me to dictionary or search-engine sites.  Remember, Belta is like Star Trek’s Klingon.  It is a non-existent language that these two are completely creating themselves.  The fact that I’m at least a year behind the avid fan readers, means that I sometimes reach a site where others have gone for explanations.

Recently, I hit four words on two pages that I needed to research.  One of the asteroids described, was not an asteroid, but rather, a collection of rocks with enough common gravity to hold them together, but not enough pressure to coalesce into a single unit.  Like a bag of giant marbles – without the bag.

The writers described it as a Duniyaret.  The Hindi word duniyah means ’world,’ and the Hindi word ret means ‘sand, or gravel.’  They had created a neologism in a foreign language, to describe this conglomeration of rocks.  A habitat had been created on the biggest chunk, by welding together, what were essentially steel shipping containers, at a slight angle to one another, to bend around the curve.  The authors called this “town”, Nakliye, a Turkish word that means ‘shipping.’

On the next page, I found a blazon – from heraldry, a patch or badge, often worn on lapel or sleeve, indicating owning or belonging, especially with good qualities.  When we affix such a marker, we use the slightly more-common word, emblazon.

The residents drank water that was hyper-distilled.  At first, I thought it might be like double-distilled whiskey, but the Hyper, in this case, refers to Hyperion, the Titan that the Greeks believed was the father of the sun.  They didn’t waste precious power, but used a large parabolic solar-collector, aimed at the distant sun.  I had trouble researching this term, because the search engines kept throwing up an American company named “Hyper Distillation,” which is not the same thing.

The UN Space Navy had an Admiral named Souther.  I was reminded of J. D. Souther, a singer/songwriter from Detroit, who influenced Glen Frey of The Eagles, to compose country-lite style.  I had assumed that the basis for the name was someone originally from the South of England – a southerner.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the name is occupational, coming from old English/old French soutere – a boot or shoe – therefore meaning a cobbler.

I have cobbled together a little more click-bait to lure you in.  Drop by in a couple of days, to see where my mind has gone without me.  😎  🌯

Flash Fiction #260

                        PHOTO PROMPT © Russell Gayer

FLYING CAR-PET

I can’t believe that this van is flying.  There must be some kind of technology involved.  Anti-gravity is tough enough to accept – but MAGIC??!

It’s not MAGIC magic.  It’s just that some of us have learned to harvest and direct cosmic radiation.  Harry Potter’s car flew.  I often wonder if Rowling is one of us.

But people must be able to see us.  I’ve never heard even nut-case reports.

The diffraction field makes people view us as birds, or distant airplanes.  We might even be some of those government UFO reports.  We’ll need to wash the unicorn shit off later.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Book Review #24

I just read the most sumptuous book.  It was as rich and satisfying as a slab of red velvet cake.

The book: The Boat of a Million Years

The author: Poul Anderson

The review: There are only seven story plots.  All of the millions of novels are just variations and combinations on those themes.  This one is a reworking of the movie Highlander, which was released 2 years before this was published in 1989.  I got a cheap 2004 Kindle re-release, while I was COVID-isolating.  The immortals can be killed.  It’s just that they heal quickly and totally.  They survive and recover from, wounds that would slay a normal person.

It’s ‘like’ a time-travel novel, but the travel is all from past, to the future.  Perhaps once per century, a person is born who does not age and die.  Unlike the Off With Her Head movie story, this book is about survival.  The author wants to show that, while these people are different from the rabble in one way, they are quite the same in others, and different from each other.

It is not at all like several other ‘ray-guns and space-ships’ books of this author’s that I have.  He treads lightly, but shows the historical foolishness of religions, when viewed over hundreds, or thousands of years

The most common, though not universal, drive is to find others of their kind.  A Turkish trader in post-Roman Britain spends parts of several decades finding an immortal Norse warrior.  When he finally locates him, he offers him partnership in a safe venture and way of life that will guarantee them both great wealth and political power.  The Viking turns him down, and walks away.  Several years later, he hears that the berserker died in an epic battle.

It takes over a century for a Mesopotamian ship-fleet owner to locate another male.  When he does, the outgoing extrovert is dismayed to find a reclusive milquetoast who is content to follow, and allow someone else to make decisions and take care of him.

Some of the men make the obvious search for females of their kind, for wives/companions, and to find if two immortals would produce immortal offspring.  They don’t.  After several more centuries, the pair locate an immortal woman in Rome.  Pointing out the gender inequality, she has advanced from prostitute, to madam, to courtesan, where she creates great wealth through pillow-talk investments.

Even before computers, birth certificates or accurate census forms, it was not a good idea to remain in one location with one name, for more than a couple of decades, lest the superstitious populace grow suspicious.  The trader suggests that they move back to Nineveh, or Tyre, and sells off his ships and cargoes, converting them to a more easily transported chest, full of gold and jewels.  Her history made her distrust all men, so she betrays them.  The two men escape with their lives, but lose the fortune which takes the one a century to recoup.

This is a psychological and sociological account.  With no ‘action’ to spur the plot, there is no urgency to rush this deep and lengthy book along.  The author has the time and opportunity to compose it like a story from the Golden Age of Literature, of a hundred or two-hundred years ago.  It is rich, luxurious, and full-bodied.

The construction was intriguing and complex, occasionally non-linear.  The history and geography were informative, well-researched, and wide-ranging.  The words were substantive, and often archaic.  There was hardly a page where I wasn’t poking the Kindle screen for a definition.  Words and phrases like, limned, bedizened courtesan, uxorious, an austere magus, lineaments, indolent insolence and caparisoned, peered from almost every page.  For a word-nerd like me, it was Nirvana.

Reading this book was like wearing a silk shirt and walking barefoot across a Persian carpet, while eating a filet mignon.  It was rewarding and satisfying on several simultaneous levels.  I was delighted with the social and personal insights that the mere-mortal author provided.

Flash Fiction #247

PHOTO PROMPT © Alicia Jamtaas

LEFT HANGING

Ah, the joys of being a writer.  At least I’ve identified my Flash Fiction.
Big deal!  We’ve got your number,

I downloaded Rochelle’s photo.
Ho Hum!  After only eight years of practice.

I have a title.
Life imitating art – again.

I have a theme.
Your therapist will be intrigued.

I have a bright, colorful story arc.
Which will not end in a pot of gold!

All I need now is a great finish, a fascinating denouement.  Think, Archon!
We’re sorry!  The inspiration that you are trying to reach is currently binge-watching The Expanse, on Amazon.  Please try again later.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

A Love Of Reading

Even for a grumpy, retired old dude like me, with nothing much to do, COVID-infested infected 2020 provided me with a little extra time to read ‘em and reap.  I thought that I was doing well, but….  The son swore off TV some years ago, and spends all his spare time reading – something.  He still reads the occasional dead-tree book, but gets most of his from Kindle Unlimited.  Kindle keeps track of how many books he has read – and reread.  In 2019, he went through 152.  During Apocalypse 2020, his list numbered 213.  I recently went to bed.  By the time I arose, eight hours later, he’d (re)read 3 books.
I only got these 37.

Hawking dumbed down ‘A Brief History of Time’ enough that I understood a lot of it. Mlodinow further simplified the concepts, in this version.

Book number 6 of The Expanse series. I am currently watching my way through series number five, on Amazon Prime

Interstellar Sci-Fi, with magic. Thanx to the son for introducing me to this series.

A time-filling men’s adventure book

A little bit of spaceships and ray-guns Sci-Fi

Alternate-Earth, with magic. Second book, Red Magic will be in this year’s list.

More Action/Adventure

A Sci-Fi book about time travel. One of several read last year.

A stand-alone book from these author’s ‘Magic” series, explaining some plot focus changes, and allowing for the beginning of a new series.

A murder mystery from fellow blogger K J Ivany. A post about this book will soon follow.

The culmination of the ‘Magic’ series. Swords, vampires, shapeshifter were-animals, and various monsters. It’s been fun.

Book #2, mate to last year’s ‘Saints.’

Book number five of The Expanse Series – the one I’m currently streaming. Thanx BrainRants – great reading, and watching.

Bourne Identity type of men’s action/adventure

Another in The Innkeeper, ‘Sweep’ series. This husband/wife writing team are almost as prolific as Isaac Asimov, with four series and several singletons.

More mindless men’s adventure. I am highly qualified.

Another Jack Reacher book. Another in the series has just been released for this year’s reading. As Clive Cussler passed his series on to his son, so has Lee Child passed his on to his son.

Tom Clancy’s heirs just passed the writing of the Jack Ryan series on to a committee of commercial writers.

Same series – different author

An invading alien machine makes the gods of Greece, Egypt and Rome real for those trapped inside a reality bubble.

If one was fun – and more importantly – sold, let’s trap another group with the Norse gods.

One of several ‘Classic’ Sci-Fi books that I reread. A book review will soon follow.

I realized that I had not read this book in the 1960s, so I bought it from Kindle for $1.99.

For the same two bucks, Star Rangers (above), came attached to this book, which I had read in the mid-’60s, titled ‘The Last Planet.’ As a matched pair, this second novel now makes more sense.

Eight millennia-old immortals among us, and how they have dealt with change. Another upcoming book review will tell you how.

Historical/urban fiction to pass the time

More Sci-Fi rereading. I originally read this, titled as ‘The Junkyard Planet.’ How to pull a failed world up by its financial bootstraps.

More interesting men’s action/adventure to pass the time. The first of another series which I believe I have to thank River Girl for introducing me to. The rest will help keep me busy in 2021.

Another reread from the ’60s. Urban fiction which barely qualifies as Sci-Fi because a man finds a way to get rich through industrial espionage, by inventing a device which allows him to move about, unseen and unstopped, while time stands still for everyone else.

More historical/urban fiction. They contain a pleasant amount of fascinating trivia.

Not much blood and guts, but lots of brains and gunplay. Solid story arc and character development.

Were the ten plagues of Egypt actually real?? Is the entire biome of the Earth a semi-sentient, interlocked, Gaia-type entity? Dunno! But it makes good reading.

Another ghost-writer, for Clive Cussler, presents a period-piece action/adventure whose hero is an early 20th century detective, reminiscent of the real Alan Pinkerton.

Time travel without leaving home. Bits and pieces of geography and time periods are inexplicably swirled together. Can our hero figure out how to put it all back where/when it belongs?

Centuries of life through organ transplants for planetary monarchs, but not for the their subjects. A topic brought up in this ’60s novel. The author also wrote the 1776/1976 American Bicentennial Saga series. If I read this book soon after its release, I don’t remember it. It was a pleasant discovery in a storage box.

At least one book to reinforce my lack of belief in the supernatural/religion. A disappointing little 156-page novelette with several passages repeated in different chapters.  Trying to justify his position through  philosophy and logic – and failing miserably.  As dry and tasteless as Muffets.

COVID19 should have given most of you some extra time this past year to read.  Aside from my magnificent prose, did you encounter anything morally or intellectually uplifting?