Tag Archive: science

Straight up: you are going to get to the end of this book, and let out a little squeally gasp reserved for something slimy slithering down the back of your shirt.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Tony Bertauski has the uncanny ability to split and sustain a climax over a sequence of several events.  You’re hoping the heroine makes it out alive…the tension drops and immediately begins to rise…you’re hoping the heroine manages to save the rest…then the third time, you’re hoping the heroine has the ability to lay a whooping on that guy.

51pzT8Sl3ULIn Foreverland is Dead, Tony Bertauski creates a world that was first intimated in Annihilation of Foreverland.  While this place is alluded to, it is only a small element of that tale.  This world is entirely different, and lends a new meaning to ‘the cold, harsh world’.  Annihilation of Foreverland isn’t required reading to enjoy Foreverland is Dead and it doesn’t matter which you read first.  The plots are completely distinct and where the stories overlap, they are not hindered by too much or too little information.

While Annihilation of Foreverland ponders some philosophical ideas, Foreverland is Dead contemplates them with much greater earnestness.  Tony Bertauski presents concepts that have been the burden of philosophers since man began thinking.  He explores the meaning and complexity of self and reality. He asks who are we, and who we are at the same time.

What does it mean to ‘be’? Do we consist solely of our bodies? Or are we the thing inside? What comprises the borders of our selves?  Are we nothing more than the sum of our memories, and if so what becomes of us if our memories are lost?

What defines reality? In Annihilation of Foreverland, a character declaims, “Reality is what we perceive in our minds.”  The reply, “That is the definition of delusion.”  If reality is not what we perceive  (and how can we know what is strictly a mental perception or what is an accurate representation our senses give of the world around us?) then how do we determine reality?  Is this a dream, and if I wake from this dream, how do I know that I am not waking to the dream of my dreaming?

In the midst of this, Bertauski weaves a well-crafted tale of exploitation, selfishness and deceit.  Yet, Foreverland is Dead is a greater tale of strength and survival.  To find the way in a world that has undefined rules with very harsh consequences, when resources are scarce and not all are who or what they seem, somehow, six young girls manage to waken from that very dream.  What they awaken to, however, is a question of reality.

Bertauski infuses his stories with hard concepts and encourages, even challenges his readers to answer the question for themselves.  Not many authors can claim success at telling the story and being responsible for answering the questions raised.  I’m hoping there is another Foreverland story out there that might take up where that squeally gasp left off.

This is probably the best philosophical science fiction I’ve read in years. I’m looking toward Bertauski’s other series to draw me in like this one has.

There’s a limit to everything, and at some point you have to ask yourself if you are capable of stepping beyond that limit.  Are you capable of truly identifying reality and yourself?

Halfway Home — Hugh Howey

51+TigdtjhL._BO2,204,203,200_PI35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_In the interest of full disclosure: I virtually know Hugh Howey; to be exact, I know Hugh Howey virtually.  That has nothing to do with my thoughts about this novel.

I am well behind the power curve with my reading friends because I have been delaying reading Half Way Home until such time that I could really enjoy it.  Having cleared my slate, and knowing I’d be able to read it through in one sitting (no, it’s not that short, it’s just that good) if necessary, I cracked it open, on my kindle on the way to work, yesterday.  I finished it on my way home tonight.

This is a brilliant story. All the things I look for in a tale are in there.  There’s hard science, star travel, pathos, conflict, death and loss, but most importantly the will and drive to overcome obstacles of nature and man, and to survive in a hostile environment.  There’s also an artificial intelligence, a madman at the helm, love and desire and the loneliness of leadership.

Colonists are thrown into space landing on some predetermined planet with the sole mission of enriching the company/country that sent them.  “All for the glory of the colony” has been imprinted on each colonist as they have been trained by the AI that guides their journey.  Except that something goes wrong.  Horribly wrong.  In the end, only a tenth of the colonists remain, and the AI (referred to as Colony) keeps secrets about what they are now expected to do.

There are even more secrets and it falls to the colony psychologist to work out what Colony intends. Porter must shoulder a burden of leadership he does not want and one which seems almost overwhelming, but a burden that can not truly fall to anyone else.  All around him he sees couples forming and finds he truly is alone among the 53 remaining colonists.

You really must read this novel if you consider yourself a science fiction aficionado.  This has elements of the space operas of the early sixties, and the subtle complexities of more recent efforts to define star travel in fiction.  With technology becoming ever more capable of sending humans to another sun and another planet, it is increasingly difficult to write scientifically plausible plots.  We already know what WON’T work, and defining what does work in fiction has many pitfalls.  This is true particularly in a genre that is read by a more technically minded audience.

Howey has avoided these by leaving the science to the AI, and leaving the dealing with technology to the humans. This leaves him free to work the natural surroundings of a planet that may or may not be hostile.  It also leaves him to work in detail with the intricate workings of man as an individual, as a member of a tribe and as cog in the larger wheel of a social construct.

His character development is in tune with his characters’ developing. This may sound tautological, but in fact, the characters have to discover themselves and what they are made of after the initial tragedy, and each internal journey is worked out even as the character works it out with others. It is subtle and complex, and Howey pulls it off to perfection.

The story line is well considered, and has the right amount of unexpected events that the reader isn’t waiting for what’s next, and can’t predict what’s coming.  This is listed as YA in some places, but I would argue that it’s an adult novel that young adults would find accessible.

If you’ve read this and you haven’t read Wool, go there. Do that.

Lucky’s Memoir

Lucky Charms: A Memoir – Lucky the Leprechaun

From the beginning of our reading careers we’re told not to judge a work by its cover.  In no case is this truer than in Lucky Charms: A Memoir.  This is a work without pretense, without guile.  Some readers will feel that this should be a standalone work, yet, it has a depth and continuity rarely found in this genre.  When Lucky first came to us, he had in his possession, stars, a moon, hearts and clover.  As his work has matured, new elements have been added and brought to the fore; we now have the added benefit of red balloons, a shooting star and rainbows to accompany his initial offerings. Even more recently, Lucky has developed the concepts of horseshoe, hour glass, and lucky hat.  This memoir clearly has avoided the trap of becoming placid in its role as a household staple.

Many might feel that this is a work geared more to a younger audience, but I would argue there is plenty of food for thought for everyone.  If we start at the beginning, we see that Lucky prides himself on his appearance and on displaying a positive attitude at all times.  There is no dark side to Lucky, after all his magic is delicious. He has no hidden agenda, displaying his charms for all to see.As we delve deeper we see that this is a motivational text.  On the one hand, Lucky lays out everything to be examined.  He provides the necessary information needed to make the right choices for enjoying his world. There is a table of contents, and then, broken down into an almost statistically precise accounting he describes how this work can personally impact your life.

On the other hand we see Lucky embracing his role as motivator.  He encourages the reader to make wise choices.  He diagrams the great pyramid, and explains it within the context of his work.  He urges us to engage in intellectual and physical pursuits as a means to a mind-body balance, and assures the reader of the benefits of this course of action.

Finally, toward the back, the fun begins.  We are invited into his magical realm to romp and frolic in a world of fantasy. Here he gives us an opportunity to momentarily escape from this world’s cares.  There are great things to be done here, and new friends to accompany us on a wonderful journey.  Sadly, it is a journey that is over too soon, and although we know we can come back anytime, we find ourselves at the bottom of the bowl.

The more serious reader of Lucky’s work can delve deeper into his box of tricks.  Here you’ll find a second, more mysterious, world of puzzles and games.  Here we see Lucky in an instructive role.  The older reader can take this opportunity to test his skills at various tasks and gauge his performance.  But this portion of the memoir is directly geared toward a more mature reader bonding with a beginning reader by using the material to develop a love of learning and an appreciation of reading that will last a life time.

Clearly, Lucky’s Memoir is a much more finely tuned discourse on human reasoning, desire and achievement, than most give it credit.  This is a work that can be read over and over and each time the reader will find some new empowering message that is exactly what is needed at that moment.

Either that or it’s the sugar.