OUR FINAL CHANCE: TODAY IS EARTH DAY

After months in a cryo-tube, they finally woke me. What a headache! Sheesh. And holy moly, I really had to go to the bathroom, after which I needed not so much a shower as a sandblasting. That cryo gunk is sticky and it gets into places you just wouldn’t … well, maybe you would … believe.

Then there was food. Never in my entire life have I wanted to eat a starship, including the wings. Talk about an appetite. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone had just been wakened and I’m sure we all felt the same way: hollow.

A little piece of T.S. Eliot was spinning in my head:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
I vaguely remembered more of the poem.
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

I sure did hope that was not a prediction for our explorations to come. Because given what bad shape the earth was in, we needed more than a merely decent place. We needed a fertile planet on which crops could grow. Where the battered human race could remember itself, its better self. We hadn’t been better than cockroaches in a long, long time.

Finally after eating for what seemed an eternity, we donned our lime green suits — the lightweight ones for worlds that were not inherently hostile, merely unknown — and they opened the doors and we emerged. Into paradise.

It was breathtaking. The colors were a bit odd with that pink sky and pale blue clouds. And the plants were all kinds of colors, like a flower garden. Hell, the whole planet was a garden. So we named it “Eden” which I thought was a mistake. We got kicked out of Eden once already. But hey, what do I know? I don’t make the Big Decisions. Way above my pay grade. You might say I was just along for the ride.

Before we reboarded the ship, I had a little thought. I dawdled. Picked up the litter we’d left behind. I found a big piece of cardboard. Must have been a box of some sort, but it would make a pretty good sign. I found a piece of wood to attach it to. I had a nail gun in my tool kit as well as a big marking pen — fortunately it hadn’t dried out and worked in the lower gravity of this new planet. New to us, but home to so much life. As Earth had once been before we stripped her of everything but our trash.

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I planted my sign near where we’d landed. I was sure future expeditions would land in more or less the same spot. Then I wrote my message. In my best handwriting. Using huge letters so no one could miss it — or mistake its meaning.

WAITING FOR YOUTH TO OVERTAKE ME

Only Sixteen

Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen yet, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen. 

- – - – -

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Like Merlin in some old Arthurian tales, I am living backwards in time.

Right now, I’m entirely too old and most days, including today, I feel at least 100 years old.

And I’m pretty sure I was never truly sixteen and definitely never Sweet Sixteen. I wasn’t that kind of kid. I was old when I was young, so my reasoning is that as I get older, I will finally be young, like I should have been first time ’round.

Life’s been getting up my nose recently anyhow, so I’m fully prepared for youth — at long last.

It could happen, right?

So what do I want to be when I finally slide into youth? I want to be healthy. No drama, no teenage angst. I will be smart. I will find other smart kids to hang with. I will laugh at the bullies as the losers they are. I will enjoy the freedom of being young with all original body parts working properly for however long it lasts. Magic? Sure, why not.

Going backwards in time has got to give one a few advantages. Life and Karma owe me that much.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE COSTUME, ISN’T IT?

Despite my passion for masked heroes, I always preferred Superman to Batman. There were a couple of reasons. Superman was genuinely super. Invulnerable. And moreover, HE COULD FLY!

Never underestimate a guy who can fly at supersonic speeds. A boyfriend like that could prove most useful on a day-to-day basis. I mean really. Hey, Supe, can you give me a hand moving to that new apartment ?

Me Not Super

Hey, Supe … the roof leaks … could you take a look at it? And that big boulder in the backyard is ruining my plans for the new garage. You think you might relocate it for me? And if you have some extra time, maybe you could build a foundation for the garage while you are at it? It will just take a couple of minutes …

Marilyn again

So, I’m a Superman kind of gal.

Above and beyond those delightful and useful powers, I loved that no one recognizes him when he wears his glasses. As a long-time eyeglass wearer, I tried it myself.

“Garry,” I say to get his attention. I then whip my glasses off, stare meaningfully into his eyes and ask “Who am I?”

He laughs. So I do it again, but he just laughs harder. I persist and try this on friends, relatives and near total strangers, but alas, no one thinks I’m Wonderwoman or Supergirl.

Do you think I need a costume? Is my white hair too much of a give-away?

If I get myself a costume — a really good costume with a cape and everything — do you think maybe I could fly? Because that’s what it’s all about. Flying. And becoming invulnerable. That would be good too.

MEET FELIX CASTOR, EXORCIST BY MIKE CAREY

The Devil You Know | Mike CareyThere’s a rumor going around on Amazon that Mike Carey is going to publish another Felix Castor book. I hope it’s true. I’ll line up to be among the first to buy a copy. I love this series.

I discovered Mike Carey because I reviewed a Jim Butcher book and someone suggested I’d like the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey. I’d never heard of Mike Carey, but I was out of new authors to read at the time and I was ready to try anything that sounded good. I got what I hoped for plus a whole lot more.

Mike Carey is not merely a good writer. He is what I would term hyper-literate. He uses words like a rapier. His prose is beautifully crafted, often lyrical, yet never treacly or sappy. He is crisp.

He actually uses words I have to look up because I don’t recognize them. It has been decades since I learned a new word. Sometimes I don’t know the word because it’s British slang with which I’m just not familiar, but sometimes, it’s a word I’ve never seen before.

He does not repeat himself. He never uses the same descriptive passage more than once, nor does he — as many popular authors do — copy and paste sections from one book to another to (I presume) save writing time. Mike Carey doesn’t use short cuts.

The result is a style that is richly descriptive, a delicious combination of gritty street slang banging head-on into literary English. Guttersnipe meets Jane Austen in the streets of Liverpool. It gives the narrative a rare and rich texture.

What’s it all about? Felix (Fix) Castor is an exorcist. He sees the dead and the undead. They see him. He is no wizard who magics his problems away with the wave of a hand or wand. He can send the dead away when they linger and cast out demons who possess humans.

Where do the dead go after he sends them away?  He’s not sure, an issue that looms successively larger as the series progresses. His weapon is music in the form of a tin whistle, a thin armament in the face of some of the perils he faces. He has a few allies — human, formerly human plus one demon in recovery.

The series consists of five books, each building on the previous one to form what is essentially a single story in five parts. Best to read the series in order. All the books are now available on paperback, for Kindle and as an Audible download.

In order, the books are:

  1. The Devil You Know
  2. Vicious Circle 
  3. Dead Men’s Boots
  4. Thicker Than Water
  5. The Naming of Beasts.

None of the books are exactly a lightweight romp through a sunny meadow, but the first three books are much lighter in tone  … and funnier — Carey has a sharp, ironic sense of humor– than the final two, which are pretty intense.

Mike Carey (writer)

Mike Carey (author) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fix Castor works hard for short money, is rarely appreciated by the people he helps, has more than enough of his personal demons, not to mention some very real, otherworldly demons who are seriously out to get him.

It’s a unique series, unlike any other I’ve read. I wish there had been more of them, though I suspect the author is done with this series.

There are so many surprises in this series. The characters constantly surprised me by growing and changing, developing in unexpected ways and not doing the obvious. Characters make unique choices and don’t take the obvious or easy way out.

Mike Carey can be very funny. His subtle and elegant humor contains no belly laughs, but irony pervades his prose. None of the books are traditionally funny nor are the situations humorous or light-hearted, but the author’s writing style is wonderfully cynical. The stories, pun intended, are dead serious. Darkness notwithstanding, you can count on Mike Carey’s plays on words and twists of phrase to keep the dread from becoming too heavy to handle.

The plots are gripping and creepy. Any or all of the books would make great horror movies. I’m surprised no one has grabbed them yet. Maybe they will. Sooner or later, someone is bound to notice, right?

ARE YOU READY FOR THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

It has been two years since I discovered this fabulous piece of real estate. It’s still on the internet, but is it actually for sale today? No way to know, but no matter. I bet if you make the right good faith offer, you could snag this ideal piece of real estate for your anti-zombie compound.

- – -

Until I a couple of year ago, I never much worried about the zombie apocalypse. Was I merely naïve? Probably. After following a variety of blogs, not to mention social media sites, I have come to realize I’ve been failing to pay proper attention to this threat.

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In my innocence, I worried about health care, the environment, extinction of species, loss of water resources and the fate of the Monarch butterfly. I spent far too much time trying to survive cancer and trying to keep a roof over my head. Someone somewhere said you can only worry about seven things at a time. If you add one more, one of the first seven disappears, drops off the list. It’s possible I didn’t have enough room in my brain to worry about zombies and thus failed to see the dangers of the looming Apocalypse.

That failure has been rectified. I dedicate an appropriate amount of mental energy towards planning against the attack of the brain-eating undead. Don’t ask me how much time that is. I won’t tell you.

As soon as I saw this property, I knew it was the solution. I can’t afford it on my own (I can’t afford anything at all) but I’m sure if we get together — maybe collect all the money Nigerian princes have been offering us — we could easily buy it. It would be the perfect safe haven. No zombies will eat our brains! 

It looks perfectly normal from above.

A second view of the house and it’s sub levels.

It’s when you start going down to lower levels that you realize what a peach of a property this really is — although it’s actually a gorgeous location, even if the zombies never attack.

Aerial view

Aerial view

A beautiful house in the Adirondacks is all you see from the air. Woods, lakes and streams, it’s downright idyllic. It’s got everything including a runway and hangar for private aircraft.

It gets better as you descend.

BelowGroundZombie

Underground, it’s a world of its own. How about that media room, eh? I’ve always wanted a room dedicated to electronic media. And maybe movies. Music, too. So maybe a little fixing up to make it perfect. It’s doable.

Really great media room!

Want to be safe? Secure? This is secure!

And, just in case the apocalypse never occurs, you’ve got a lovely estate not far from Saratoga with plenty of room for company.

EvenlowerZombie

LOVE TO READ – HOW HARRY POTTER CHANGED THE WORLD

Recently I saw the 8th and final Harry Potter movie on Blue Ray DVD. In an introduction to the movie celebrated author of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, talked about the 13 year adventure from the time the first Harry Potter book was published until the time the 8th movie was finished. In case you did not know, the 7th book was long and made into two movies. They probably should have made books five and six into two movies each, but I digress.

harryPotter

The really remarkable thing about the series was not that it made eight movies, turned Daniel Radcliffe into one of the richest people in England and Rowling into a Billionaire. It is not that Radcliffe and his costars, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, are now the most famous wizards of all time, or even that a wonderful theme park was opened in Florida to celebrate the worldwide phenomenon. The remarkable thing is that it got generations of people to read. They were not reading because they were assigned these books. They were all reading because they wanted to do it.

The movie adventures came as a result of a global desire to read about Harry Potter.  It was not just hitting the New York Times bestseller list. It was rocketing through the roof.  Books were flying off the shelves like Harry in a game of Quidditch. If you don’t know that reference, than you missed out on something most of the world knows.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was finally published, almost exactly ten years after the first book was published, I wisely put a copy in reserve so I would not have to stand in line for the midnight release or miss out on getting a copy.

When I went to pick up my copy the following day I said to the clerk, “It must have been crazy here last night with all the kids screaming and pushing their way through.”

“The kids were not the problem,” she told me, “It was all the 20-year-olds pushing and shouting.”

It was the earliest generations of little wizards that were standing in line. Just imagine, some of them had waited half of their lives to find out what happened to the “Chosen One.” Many stayed up all night, not playing video games, but reading.

Yes, people all over the world were reading about Harry Potter, the boy wizard.

Nothing has captivated the reading public in that way since and perhaps nothing ever will again. It was the perfect mix of magic and wonder. And as Harry grew to be an adult, the stories grew to be more serious and complex. Just as Harry grew up, so did the books and with them, so did the reading public. No series had ever brought along a generation of readers from youth to adulthood merely through the pages of books.

It was the power of the books and the opinions of the followers of the boy wizard that the movies had to live up to. That is why movies five and six disappointed so many Potter fans. The books had spun the imaginations of readers into a marvelous vision of what these stories were and the movies had to cut much of the story to keep the length manageable. Reading had already painted the picture, but the movie screen did not display the scenes painted on the canvass of the mind.

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Thus book seven became movies seven and eight. There was no way to turn the long book into a two-hour and 25 minute movie. The only smart thing to do was exactly what the public was demanding. Film the entire book.

When book seven hit the shelves it sold 15 million copies in the first 24 hours. It has been translated into 120 languages. I bet you did not know there were that many languages. In its first week out, not only was it number one, but the other six books were in the top 20 best sellers. Everyone was loving to read the most fascinating series ever.

What about now? What about the next generation of readers? Will there be a next generation of readers? If you read the Potter series, then you know the joy of a good book. Many of us know the joy of many good books. If I had not already run up my word count with my joy of Harry Potter, I might list some of the great reads I have encountered in life.

There is nothing like a good book. It would be highly unfortunate for future generations if they did not know that. Harry Potter proves it, not just by the sales numbers but by the reaction of the reading public to the movies. Yes, they wanted the boy wizard to come to life, but they already knew what he should look like and what was happening at all the locations in the story.

Radcliffe may have come to be the Potter we saw as we read the books, but our imaginations took us to worlds only the mind can take us. Movie makers knew by book seven, they had to try to deliver something they could not, movies that matched the stories that already played out in our minds.

Teach your children or your grandchildren or your little brother or sister to read. It is not just about learning the words, it is about engaging the mind. They will find that a good book holds more excitement and wonder than a You Tube video or X-Box game. It is better than any 3-D spectacular or animated feature. The pictures it presents are the best pictures of all time, the pictures generated by the mind.

ABOUT TIME! THE UNDEAD POOL – KIM HARRISON

If, as I have, you’ve been following this series from the beginning, this book has been a long time coming. Rachel Morgan has traveled an enormous distance — professionally and personally — since she first decided to leave the I.S. and become an independent runner. She has transformed from witch to day-walking demon and repeatedly saved the world.

dead pool 7

Not that the world has been particularly grateful. She keeps pulling the world’s bacon out of the fire and the world continues to whack her over the head. A simple thank you would do!

Ivy has moved on to a genuine relationship — fragile but real — with Nina. Jenks has (apparently) finally recovered from the death of his wife, Matalina. Bis, the baby gargoyle, isn’t such a baby any longer. He’s coming into his own and may just live up to the name he bears amongst gargoyles — Worldbreaker.

Then there’s Trent. Rachel and Trent have been dancing around each other through a lot of pages. Approach, back off, sashay left and do-si-do. Finally all the waiting pays off and we get some long hoped-for romance.

This is a deeply satisfying book on many levels. Kim Harrison not only gives us what we’ve waited for, but she does it so deliciously. The characters — even background characters like Trent’s irritating fiancé Ellasbeth — are fully fleshed out. Great characters who have been MIA for a while, such as David and his were-pack, are back and ready to mix it up. Hail, hail! The gang is here!

Will Rachel save the world again? You bet.

A quick summary: Living vampires are rebelling. Their undead masters are asleep, apparently unable to waken. The world is being overwhelmed by wild Elven magic and Rachel is at the center of the maelström. There’s no question she has been chosen by the Goddess. Why? For what exactly? Where does Newt fit in?

Although not every question is answered in this next-to-last book in The Hollows series, it answers a great many of them. Things you’ve been waiting for through eleven books finally happen in this, the twelfth volume. It is about time and was absolutely worth waiting for.

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There’s a lot of exposition in the first half of the book. Action explodes in the second half. The momentum picks up to such an extent I found myself backtracking and rereading to make sure I didn’t miss a critical event or piece of information.

I have loved every book in this series and it was inevitable I would love this, too. Unlike many long running series, there’s nothing tired about this book. It’s as fresh, exciting and rich as it was in the beginning and in many ways, more so. I’m going to read it again. And probably, again after that.

Do not — please — read this if you haven’t read the rest of the series. You need the background of the characters not to mention a lot of development of relationships. And history. If you haven’t read the series, read it. It has been my favorite series for all the years I’ve been following it and has never disappointed me. It won’t disappoint you, either.

Marguerite Gavin is the narrator on the Audible download, as she has been for almost the entire series and does her usual perfect job.

This is, in my opinion, the best urban fantasy series. Period.

It’s available from Amazon (and other outlets) in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, CD and from Audible.com. 

IN THE ZONE AND OUT AGAIN

In 1965 when I was first married, we lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings. Our flat was 2 Q at the far end of the hall. A corner apartment, nice because we had better than average light.

I didn’t drive yet, but it wasn’t a problem. There was a bus stop right in front of our building and the university was just a 5-minute walk. When I wanted to go into town, I just hopped a bus. No parking problems, either.

One sunny day, I felt like going shopping. I did. Had lunch, bought a few things. Having taken the bus home, I took the elevator to the second floor, balancing my packages. I walked silently down the long carpeted hallway to apartment 2Q.

I tried to put my key in the lock, and it didn’t fit. Odd. Hmm. A nameplate was firmly attached to the middle of the door.

2 Q

KINCAID

My name was not Kincaid. I didn’t even know anyone named Kincaid. It was Apartment 2 Q. But not my place. Or maybe it was, but what was with the nameplate? Hmm.

Feeling increasingly dazed, I made a quick u-turn and walked back to the elevator. I pressed the button and rode back down to the lobby. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing. Then got back into the elevator back to the second floor. Should I have taken the stairs?

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Ding! I arrived. Clutching my packages against my chest, I — slower than before — walked down the hall. The pattern in the paint on the wall paint seemed cleaner and brighter. I was feeling a bit light-headed when I got to the end where that pesky nameplate still read “Kincaid.”

There was no question in my mind what had happened. I’d expected it all along.

I had slipped through an invisible wormhole. I was now in a parallel universe, another dimension. Everything was identical in this dimension to the world I knew except that in this place — I didn’t exist. Where I had been, someone named Kincaid was living. Maybe Kincaid was my husband. Perhaps I did exist and Jeffrey had gone missing.

I stood there. Breathing. Staring at the nameplate. Pacing a little down the hall and coming back.  Until finally, I looked out the window. And realized I was in the wrong building.

I’d made a simple mistake and gone into the wrong building.

I have forever since harbored a sense of disappointment. However weird, I wanted the magic to be real. I wanted an adventure in The Twilight Zone.

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HORROR OF DEATH WITHOUT HOPE: COBWEB BRIDE – VERA NAZARIAN

COBWEB BRIDE by Vera Nazarian

Publication Date: July 15, 2013

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Death has lost his bride and must find her, the Cobweb Bride, before he will again take up his task of bringing a close to life.

Many books … uncountable books … focus on the horror of death, impending death, death by disease, war, accident, murder. This is the first one in my reading experience that focuses on the horror of life with no hope of death, a life where nothing dies. Not a plant, animal or human. No living thing can pass out of life, no matter how damaged, mutilated or ill. No amount of pain, age or readiness will change anything.

Persephone (Percy) can see death. It is her gift, if you’d like to call it that. It makes her unique and eventually, powerful and frightening. But first, she is the most unattractive daughter in a household of three daughters, unloved by her mother, barely tolerated by her sisters. Her father loves her, though effusive demonstrations of affection are hardly his style. Is she destined to be the bride of Death, the one for whom he searches the earth?

Claere is the Infanta, only child, daughter of the Emperor and Empress. Now, because Death will no longer take away those whose time on earth is ended, though she is dead, she is not dead. She walks, speaks, thinks and (sort of) feels. She believes she is the rightful bride of Death. How much more appropriate? She is high royalty and already dead, the perfect Cobweb Bride. Is she the one?

There are others, many others for the Emperor has decreed every family must offer up a daughter (if they have an eligible girl child) to Death. He will only take one, but no one knows who it will be, from which kingdom she will emerge. All that is known is Death demands his Cobweb Bride. Until he finds her, the world cannot be made right. Soon, food stores will run dry and the world will starve to death, yet no one will die and Earth will be entirely populated by the dead-who-are-not-dead.

COBWEB BRIDE is the first book in the Cobweb Bride Trilogy, a grim Grimm-style fairy tale in a mythical version of Europe in the 1700s, a history-flavored fantasy that is both romantic and dark, full of symbolism and shadows.

There are multiple sub-plots and intricate relationships that develop along the way. As the first book of a trilogy, the landscape is laid out for you. The cast of characters is presented and introduced with their histories, strengths, failures, hopes and fears … but without resolution. I usually avoid reading the first book of a trilogy unless at least the second book is already in print. This time, I didn’t have that choice, since I am reviewing the first volume before its release. I wish there was a next book to read.

Corpse Bride in Cobweb inspired dress

Photo credit: lora70

This is a goodie. It’s different. A little slow getting started, but once it does, the concept and characters are intriguing, the story sufficiently unique that I was hooked.

How dreadful a world-view the author paints where there is no relief from life, when eternity looms before everyone. How bleak and terrifying is the prospect of eternal life? I’ve always thought that the only thing more frightening than death is the prospect of living without possibility of death, the premise on which this book is built.

The premise and the story work, probably because of the richly drawn characters and plot. The players are different, strange, and alluring. The dead and the living interact, to no one’s particular pleasure.

The living dead have varying reactions to their unexpected change of circumstance. The power mad feel they’ve found the ultimate road to even more power. Others wish only for oblivion. What do you do when you are in love with the man who murdered you? When you have to choose whether to obey the insane directives of a dead-not-dead monarch? When does loyalty end in the face of a world that has changed beyond recognition?

In an alternate reality, somewhere in a mythical “pocket” of not-quite-Europe in the Kingdom of Lethe, the strangeness unfolds and everyone must walk a path no one has trod before.

* * *

Vera Nazarian is a two-time Nebula Award Nominee, award-winning artist, and member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a writer with a penchant for moral fables and stories of intense wonder, true love, and intricacy. She immigrated to the USA from the former USSR as a kid, sold her first story at the age of 17, and since then has published numerous works in anthologies and magazines, and has seen her fiction translated into eight languages.

She is the author of critically acclaimed novels Dreams of the Compass Rose and Lords of Rainbow, as well as the outrageous parodies Mansfield Park and Mummies and Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons, and most recently, Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret in her humorous and surprisingly romantic Supernatural Jane Austen Series.

After many years in Los Angeles, Vera lives in a small town in Vermont, and uses her Armenian sense of humor and her Russian sense of suffering to bake conflicted pirozhki and make art.

Visit her official author’s website at http://www.veranazarian.com.

Love bites dark shapes

Love Bites – A dark tale of love, desire and dentistry.

Marilyn Armstrong:

If this isn’t the perfect opening chapter to a novel, I don’t know what is. I loved it. It’s wonderful, dark, sexy, and beautifully written. I presume fiction.

Originally posted on Beasley Green:

A dark tale of love, desire and dentistry.

He opened his eyes. His eyes saw nothing and his mind felt nothing. For a moment he had no idea of a before or an after. He had no interest. All was now and now was all inky-black nothing. He was blank.

Then clarity began to permeate the blackness. Sparks of memory, like tiny, phosphorescent, deep sea micro-organisms, flickering on and off like a coded signal trying to tell him something. Just small flickers of light, a slight pulse, then gone… then a sting, and that fire in his blood… Darkness swallowed him up again and he went under.

Love bites dark shapes

Zoe had dumped Luke almost a year ago. He hadn’t seen it coming – although she had been thinking about it for weeks; apparently. It was a few weeks before Christmas, which was harsh. But at least it gave Luke the ideal opportunity…

View original 3,723 more words

BEYOND THE MOON: ENCOUNTER WITH TIBER, ALDRIN AND BARNES

Encounter with Tiber, by Buzz AldrinJohn Barnes

Originally published in July 1996, Encounter With Tiber was released on Kindle on May 28, 2013. I’m a lifelong fan of science fiction and space exploration. I watched the moon landing in 1969 — the glory days of NASA — and dreamed I’d see space flight become accessible to everyone, even me.

I jumped into reading this with enthusiasm. Buzz Aldrin’s fingerprints are all over the first section of the book. Not only does it give you an up-close and highly personal look at the inner workings of NASA, but it gives you an uncomfortably intimate view of the politics of America’s space program. From this, I gleaned an enormous amount of information about what happened to the U.S. space program.

How it is that more than 40 years after landing men on the moon, our space program is moribund, hobbled by in insufficient budget. Our human dreams of venturing into space are dead on the launch pad. The 16-years since the publication of the book have dealt unkindly with NASA. It’s hard to see what would revive the program.

Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag on Mare Tran...

This first part of the book is a beautiful presentation of our space technology, why it worked, why it stopped working. For the first time, I understand the workings — and failures — of our technology.  Aldrin uses diagrams to explain all kinds of stuff that I had heard about and never understood. I know it is supposed to be fiction, but it felt real.

Then the book switches authors. Rarely in a co-authored book has it been so obvious when one author stopped writing and the other picked up. The style goes from scientific and precise, to … something else. Aldrin writes like a scientist, which he is. Barnes writes like a novelist for whom details are optional.

Aldrin poses on the Moon, allowing Armstrong t...

The change in “voice” is abrupt and somewhat jarring.

Both authors write well but very differently. This is an ambitious book which covers the development and fizzling of our space program then takes off into the stars with a crew composed of different sentient species leaving from other planets in yet another star system. The stories tie together by sharing a common theory of the life and death of stars and planets.

I was a bit put off by the sudden switch from Aldrin’s precision to Barnes lack thereof. Aldrin explains everything and can’t go 10 pages without a diagram. When he’s writing, you don’t spend a lot of time saying “huh?” Barnes, on the other hand, doesn’t bother to define any terms at all. Vague and belated attempts to rectify the initial omissions are more annoying than satisfying. Eventually, I just rearranged my brain and moved on.

The characters — human and otherwise — are interesting, though the aliens weren’t sufficiently alien for me to feel their alienness. More like humans in wookie costumes.

English: Footprint of Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

It’s worth reading just for the first half obviously written by Buzz Aldrin. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to our space program and why, this book will make it all clear as a freshly washed window. As science fiction, it’s a long and complicated book — 596 pages. And it’s really two books, the one Aldrin wrote and the one Barnes wrote.

The theory it postulates is troubling. If you accept the book’s premise, the failure of our space program will ultimately doom us to extinction. All of us. Not tomorrow, but eventually. The foundation principle of the plot is in the end, that everything dies.

Planets and stars have a life span. Worlds get old. Stars wink out. If a sentient species has no way to escape its dying planet, it will die with the planet. It’s enough to give one pause. If you never thought about it before, Encounter With Tiber will get you thinking in new directions, perhaps worrying in new directions.

Think of this as two separate book fused together, related, but not the same. It will make more sense and be easier to read. Essentially, that’s what it is. Two books. Two authors. Related, but not the same. Everything you never wanted to know about NASA and then a trip through the stars in an alien ship looking for a new planet to call home.

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I NEED A COSTUME!

Despite my passion for masked heroes, I always preferred Superman to Batman. There were a couple of reasons. Superman was genuinely super. Invulnerable. And moreover, HE COULD FLY!

Never underestimate a guy who can fly at supersonic speeds. A boyfriend like that could prove most useful on a day-to-day basis. I mean really. Hey, Supe, can you give me a hand moving to that new apartment ?

Me Not Super

Hey, Supe … the roof leaks … could you take a look at it? And that big boulder in the backyard is ruining my plans for the new garage. You think you might relocate it for me? And if you have some extra time, maybe you could build a foundation for the garage while you are at it? It will just take a couple of minutes …

Marilyn again

So, I’m a Superman kind of gal.

Above and beyond those delightful and useful powers, I loved that no one recognizes him when he wears his glasses. As a long-time eyeglass wearer, I tried it myself.

“Garry,” I say to get his attention. I then whip my glasses off, stare meaningfully into his eyes and ask “Who am I?”

He laughs. So I do it again, but he just laughs harder. I persist and try this on friends, relatives and near total strangers, but alas, no one thinks I’m Wonderwoman or Supergirl.

Do you think I need a costume? Is my white hair too much of a give-away?

If I get myself a costume — a really good costume with a cape and everything — do you think maybe I could fly? Because that’s what it’s all about. Flying. And becoming invulnerable. That would be good too.

THOUGH THE WORMHOLE

When first married, Jeff and I lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings — apartment 2Q, at the far end of the hall.

One day, having taken the bus home, I came through the front door, took the elevator up, then walked the long hallway to the apartment. As I started to put my key in the lock, I realized there was a nameplate on the door — “2Q, Kincaid.”

Not my name. The right apartment. But not mine. Hmm.

I took a deep breath, walked back to the elevator, made a u-turn and walked the hallway again. It still said “Kincaid.” Instantly I knew what had happened. I had slipped through an invisible gateway or wormhole into a parallel universe, another dimension where I didn’t exist. I’d been replaced by someone named Kincaid.

It took a while,  standing there, staring at the door before it occurred to me I was in the wrong building. A simple mistake: the two buildings were twins. Oops.

What was interesting is not that I went into the wrong building but I assumed I’d slipped into the Twilight Zone. Does everyone think like that? What would YOU think?

DYSTOPIA DOWNSTREAM – DHALGREN, SAMUEL R. DELANEY

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

Open Road Integrated Media

Publication Date: January 7, 2014

coverDHALGREN

In The Recombinant City, A Foreward, William Gibson says of Dhalgren:

It is a literary singularity … a work of sustained conceptual daring, executed by the most remarkable prose stylist to have emerged from the culture of American science fiction.

I have never understood it. I have sometimes felt that I partially understood it, or that I was nearing the verge of understanding it. This has never caused me the least discomfort, or interfered in any way with my pleasure in the text.

It caused me discomfort. A lot.

Maybe if I’d read Dhalgren in 1975, I’d have liked it more. I was 28, part of the youth culture, active politically and close enough to my college days that Dhalgren would have resonated and had context. But that was nearly 40 years ago. The world and I have come a long way since then.

When Dhalgren was originally published, I didn’t read it. I was working, taking care of my son, possibly too stoned to focus on a page. It was like that. Back then. Hey, how old are you? Have you qualified for Social Security? Almost there? Minimally, you have your AARP card? If not, you probably won’t understand this novel — and even if you are old enough to have been there back when, you may find — as I did — that the time for this book has passed.

To use an analogy, I read Thomas Wolf’s Look Homeward Angel when I was 14. I adored it. Pure poetry end to end. Five years later, you couldn’t have paid me to read it. The story was perfect for an adolescent trying to grow up in a world that didn’t understand her but was irrelevant to a young, married woman in the suburbs. Context counts.

The writing is beautiful and the analogy to Wolfe not accidental. Like Wolfe, Samuel Delaney wrote prose that is pure poetry, rich with symbolism. Nonetheless, this isn’t a book I would have chosen at this point in my life. I might have loved it at a different age and stage.

The story centers on a bunch of kids in a city called Bellona in which something very strange and evil occurred. Exactly what? Well, something. The TV, radio and telephones don’t work. Signals don’t work. People have reverted to a sort of feral hunting society, in an urban way. The Kid (whose name may or may not be Kidd) comes down from the mountain. He meets other kids. They talk about stuff. Poetry. People. Random events. Think Thomas Wolfe on purple haze with a beer chaser. Beautiful words, haunting images. Poetry that never ends and a plot that never begins. 

The publisher puts it this way:

In Dhalgren, perhaps one of the most profound and bestselling science fiction novels of all time, Samuel R. Delany has produced a novel “to stand with the best American fiction of the 1970s” (Jonathan Lethem).

Bellona is a city at the dead center of the United States. Something has happened there…. The population has fled. Madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. And into this disaster zone comes a young man–poet, lover, and adventurer–known only as the Kid. Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism.

It may be all those things and I’m not sufficiently intellectual or appreciative of art to enjoy it. After the first couple of hundred pages, I found it meandering and more than a bit pretentious. But to be fair, it’s a matter of taste. I have friends who really liked James Joyce and actually read Ulysses, not the Cliff Notes. Go figure, right?

This edition includes a foreword by William Gibson as well as a new illustrated biography of Samuel Delaney.

Dhalgren is available in paperback, hardcover and Kindle.

THE HOLLOWS RETURNS, FEB 2014 — THE UNDEAD POOL by Kim Harrison (Review by Annie Tegelan)

See much more about this book, this review and all things Hollows-related on KIM HARRISON’S DRAMA


Reviewed by Annie Tegelan
Posted January 1, 2014

Paranormal

Welcome back to the Hollows! In THE UNDEAD POOL, the twelfth book of the series, Kim Harrison gives readers exactly what they have been wishing for.

Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has a new set of problems wreaking havoc on Cincinnati. Spells are misfiring everywhere, but the origin of the glitch seems to be her ley line. Which makes Rachel responsible for cleaning up the mess. The timing is bad, to say the least. The union of humans and Inderlanders is shaky and Rachel wonders if this task is too big even for her. With undead master vampires in the mix, it could become war. There’s no time to waste.

If things aren’t sufficiently complicated, there’s the ongoing, always tentative relationship between Rachel and Trent. They’ve been dancing around it for what seems — forever? As they circle one another, giving hints and kisses, readers are on the tenterhooks while Harrison addresses the burning question: “Will Rachel and Trent finally get together?”

Harrison’s writing and amazing world-building are second to none. It’s no wonder this series has gained such a passionate following. The characters continue to grow, the world is constantly changing — and the plot in each book feel fresh and new. THE UNDEAD POOL is without question the best of the series!

In Pale Demon, Rachel Morgan saved the demon’s Everafter from shrinking and ultimately disappearing. But it came at a high cost. Strange, dark magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows. Spells backfire or go horribly awry. The truce between Inderlander and human is breaking up. Rachel must stop the dark necromancy before the undead vampire masters — those who keep the rest of the undead under control — are destroyed bringing an all-out supernatural war.

Rachel knows of only one weapon with the power to ensure peace: ancient elven wild magic.  Which carries its own perils.

And painful experience has shown Rachel that no good deed goes unpunished . . .

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

My favorite series is drawing to a close. This isn’t the final book. There will be one more ( I keep hoping for even more). In the meantime, I’m experiencing advance withdrawal pangs!

See on freshfiction.com

Daily Prompt: I Was Here – A NEW EDEN

Prompt: You are the first astronaut to arrive on a new, uncharted planet. Write the note that you leave to those who come after you.

- – - – -

After months in a cryo-tube, they finally woke me. What a headache! Sheesh. And holy moly, I really had to go to the bathroom, after which I needed not so much a shower as a sandblasting. That cryo gunk is sticky and it gets into places you just wouldn’t … well, maybe you would … believe.

Then there was food. Never in my entire life have I wanted to eat a starship, including the wings. Talk about an appetite. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone had just been wakened and I’m sure we all felt the same way: hollow.

A little piece of T.S. Eliot was spinning in my head:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

I vaguely remembered more of the poem.

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

I sure did hope that was not a prediction for our explorations to come. Because given what bad shape the earth was in, we needed more than a merely decent place. We needed a fertile planet on which crops could grow. Where the battered human race could remember itself, its better self. We hadn’t been better than cockroaches in a long, long time.

Finally after eating for what seemed an eternity, we donned our lime green suits — the lightweight ones for worlds that were not inherently hostile, merely unknown — and they opened the doors and we emerged. Into paradise.

It was breathtaking. The colors were a bit odd with that pink sky and pale blue clouds. And the plants were all kinds of colors, like a flower garden. Hell, the whole planet was a garden. So we named it “Eden” which I thought was a mistake. We got kicked out of Eden once already. But hey, what do I know? I don’t make the Big Decisions. Way above my pay grade. You might say I was just along for the ride.

Before we reboarded the ship, I had a little thought. I dawdled. Picked up the litter we’d left behind. I found a big piece of cardboard. Must have been a box of some sort, but it would make a pretty good sign. I found a piece of wood to attach it to. I had a nail gun in my tool kit as well as a big marking pen — fortunately it hadn’t dried out and worked in the lower gravity of this new planet. New to us, but home to so much life. As Earth had once been before we stripped her of everything but our trash.

I planted my sign near where we’d landed. I was sure future expeditions would land in more or less the same spot. Then I wrote my message. In my best handwriting. Using huge letters so no one could miss it — or mistake its meaning:

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