28 December 2013

Our future with computers by Arthur C. Clarke (1974)

Not only was Arthur C. Clarke an amazing author, he was a real visionary as well. Check out the following video where he predicts in 1974 what our future with computers will be like with incredible accuracy.





BOOK REVIEW: First Contact (Moon Wreck, #1) by Raymond L. Weil

First Contact (Moon Wreck, #1)First Contact by Raymond L. Weil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disaster has struck the first moon landing to be attempted in years. Commander Jason Strong and his fellow lunar explorer Greg Johnson have become stranded with no way home. In desperation, they set off in their lunar rover to check out an anomaly they discovered on their descent. What they find will shake their beliefs and what they know of human history. 

This is a short story of 13,000 words.

I've had this story waiting on my Kindle for some time and I recently got around to reading it. This is another example of the self-publishing that the ebook revolution has spawned, of which I am a huge supporter of. It's the first of a group of short novels that introduce a trilogy called 'The Slaver Wars'.
The story is okay, with a fair bit of intrigue. It's rather reminiscent of the first Perry Rhodan book 'Enterprise Stardust' where a moon landing is affected by mysterious forces and a journey across the Lunar surface reveals a startling discovery. I don't know if the author is familiar with the classic German 'pulp' sci-fi tales, but this had a very similar feel. (Click HERE for Perry Rhodan ebooks.)
The story feels like it's written more for a teenage/young adult audience, which is okay, but felt a little 'juvenile' for my liking. I would have absolutely loved this as a 14-15 year old.
On a more negative note, there were more spelling mistakes than I'm comfortable with. I seldom read a book without picking up at least a few typographical erors (joke) but this one was a bit on the high side. Typical of the smaller amount of editing that a self-published story would get, so I guess that's quite forgivable.
Overall this story was alright. I'm not sure if it was enough to get me to go and get the following stories, but it may very well draw in other readers.
There are some positive reviews around and I wish this author well. It looks like he's putting in the effort.

View all my reviews

26 December 2013

FREE MUSIC: Happy Holidays from DREAM THEATER

TO OUR FANS ALL OVER THE WORLD!

It is because of all of you that “A Dramatic Tour Of Events” was such a success. We enjoyed playing to you all each and every night on the road!

As a special “Thank You” we are releasing a compilation of live tracks that were not included on “Live At Luna Park.” With these now being available, you have a complete documentation of all the songs that were played during the tour (with the exception of cover songs.)

Happy Holidays, and we look forward to having you “Along For The Ride” in 2014.

~Dream Theater



CD1: 
01 Under A Glass Moon (Phoenix, AZ 12/4/11)
02 Forsaken (London, UK 7/24/11)
03 Peruvian Skies (London, UK 7/24/11)
04 Endless Sacrifice (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
05 Drum Solo (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
06 YtseJam (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
07 The Great Debate (London, UK 7/24/11)

CD2: 
08 Another Day (Austin, TX 7/7/12)
09 Through My Words/Fatal Tragedy (Montreal, QB 10/7/11)
10 To Live Forever (Huntington, NY 7/19/12)
11 Learning To Live (Tel Aviv, Israel 7/19/11)
12 The Count of Tuscany (London, UK 7/24/11)
13 As I Am (Shibuya, Japan 4/24/12)

Concept : Rai “Weymolith” Beardsley
Produced By : John Petrucci
Archive Management & Selection : James LaBrie & John Petrucci
Keeper of the Archives : Maddi Shieferstein
Live Sound Engineer : Nigel Paul (Tracks 1-3, 7, 11-13)
Mixing & Mastering : Richard Chycki
Artwork : Hugh Syme


This material included in this special Holiday 2013 release has been copied and communicated to you by or on behalf of Dream Theater/Ytse Jams Inc. and is copyrighted.

All music and lyrics by Dream Theater and published by Ytse Jams (ASCAP).

Distribution of this electronic file set is allowed as long as this information file is included and remains unaltered.

SALE STRICTLY PROHIBITED.


Download the torrent here : 

Unfamilar with BitTorrent : http://www.utorrent.com/

Information and software for decoding FLAC files : https://xiph.org/flac/


BOOK REVIEW: My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII by Norman E. Berg

My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII (Hellgate Memories Series)My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII by Norman E. Berg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From his days as a Naval aviation cadet learning his trade aboard the "Yellow Peril" biplane trainers in 1942, to his first bombing runs on Guadalcanal, to life aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, Norman Berg offers a fast-paced narrative filled with humor and meticulous attention to detail. Much more than a simple WWII memoir, this story goes beyond the action of battle to explore one young, wartime couple's struggle to balance love, duty, and their commitment to each other.


This book is an honest account of Berg's journey to become a US Navy carrier-based attack pilot during WWII. We follow him right from school through training and eventual deployment aboard Navy aircraft carriers operating in the Pacific theater against the Japanese. Throughout all of this, he has a young wife at home and a baby on the way, so this adds an additional stress to his tour.
Berg's first tour of duty involves operations around the Solomon Island chain (Guadalcanal, etc.) where he gets his baptism of fire and first real experiences of the unique challenges and horrors of war. After a stint back in the USA, he is redeployed on another carrier and this time is involved in action along the Marianas Islands, including the famous "Marianas Turkey Shoot". After this the push continues on to the Philippines where Berg leads raids right into Manilla Harbour.
The book is fairly well written and it doesn't appear to have had any serious editorial input which I really liked as the story remains more 'real' to me. Written in a style that is quite conservative and with well-chosen words, unlike the Vietnam War era Chickenhawk (the best war memoir I've read) which is a bit more gritty but I still found it to be a compelling read which many times had me feeling like I was there with him in his Avenger bomber at 200 feet racing toward a Japanese ship under heavy anti-aircraft fire. One aspect of the text that I liked a lot was the regular insertion of what appear to be snippets from his wartime diary that gave further insight into his thoughts and moods.
Overall a very good book that I would recommend to anyone, whether they be interested in war stories or not. A great story of fear, doubt, courage, tribulation, triumph and love. Well worth the purchase. Top stuff.

View all my reviews

25 December 2013

Iron Maiden Tracks Down Pirates…. And Gives Them Concerts

Iron Maiden - embracing piracy

The following is a great example of a band (Iron Maiden - one of the best rock bands to ever play a note) embracing the file-sharing culture and reaching out to their fans. A pretty damn admirable attitude on the part of Iron Maiden and their management. It's about time that a lot more folks saw 'illegal' file-sharing for what it really is - their art and products being exposed to a massively wider audience than it would normally be. And the smart business people will find a way to use this to their advantage. Nice work Iron Maiden!


Anyway, here's the article courtesy of TorrentFreak...

For more than a decade piracy has been a hot topic in the music industry. While some of the major labels have tried to eliminate the problem by taking pirates to court, English heavy metal band Iron Maiden has taken a more positive approach to the phenomenon. Instead of hunting down pirates for lawsuits, the band is using file-sharing data to plan their tour locations, and not without success.
Over the past several years numerous studies have shown that on average file-sharers spend more money on legal purchases, including concert tickets and merchandise.
The most logical explanation for this finding is that “pirates” are more engaged than those who don’t share, and that they complement their legal purchases with unauthorized downloads.
This means that unauthorized file-sharers are in fact the music industry’s best customers. So, instead of hunting down these pirates for lawsuits, it may be more rewarding to play for them.
The English heavy metal band Iron Maiden is doing just that. The veteran musicians use the services of music analytics company Musicmetric which allows them to see where their albums are most pirated.
“If you know what drives engagement you can maximize the value of your fan base. Artists could say ‘we’re getting pirated here, let’s do something about it’, or ‘we’re popular here, let’s play a show’,” Gregory Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric told Cite.
Instead of suing these unauthorized file-sharers, the band used the information as input for its tours, and not without success.
The overview below, for example, shows that Iron Maiden is most popular among Brazilian pirates with 463,467 downloads in recent years. The band is also relatively popular in Chile with 1,300 downloads per 100,000 Internet users, which totals 70,932 downloads.
In part based on this file-sharing data, Iron Maiden’s recent tour had a heavy focus on South America, where the band has a lot of Twitter followers and unauthorized downloads. The band played in Paraguay for the first time, for example, and concerts were sold out throughout the region.
According to Musicmetric the file-sharing data helped Iron Maiden turn these pirates into paying customers, simply by heading over there and playing for them. It’s impossible to download the true experience of a live concert, so the chances are high that several pirates will turn up.
“If you engage with fans, there is a chance to turn a percentage into paying customers. You can see that through various bands using the BitTorrent network in a legal way to share content,” Mead says.
It’s refreshing to see that instead of hunting down pirates for lawsuits, file-sharing data is being used by artists to plan their gigs. After all, it is much more rewarding to play for your fans than to try to bankrupt them in court.
************************* 

There's a great discussion by readers following the original article HERE that really highlights the varying attitudes toward pirate music and the music industry. It appears that Iron Maiden might be on to something here, if their sold-out concerts are anything to go by. I say cut a lot of the fat cats (middle-men) out of the equation, and spend your money on merchandise and concerts where the artists get a better cut.

19 December 2013

AWESOME! A Commando comic treasure trove!

The file links on this page are dead and I'm unaware of any other hosting sites where Commando is currently being shared. I'll update the blog if and when when I do come across any live links. In the meantime, check out the comments section below for some torrent links.


I recently stumbled upon this online archive of Commando comics that has a good range of comics from early issues to recent ones. They're all in either CBZ or CBR format that will work with any comic reading app or software on your devices (I use Sumatra on my PC and Comicat on my Android tablet).
NOTE: The Mega page that lists the comic files doesn't appear to load when using a mobile browser (it suggests that you install an app), so you need to view the desktop site in your mobile browser or use a computer. Otherwise all works fine.
I loved these comics as a lad and still love them now, a few years on. In fact, I've bought a few compilation editions in recent years and have really enjoyed a stroll along memory lane with good yarns about courage and valor in the line of duty. We can be with a Hurricane pilot during the Battle Of Britain, Royal Marine commandos sneaking into a Norwegian fjord to sabotage a battleship or with a long-range desert patrol in North Africa causing havoc for the Nazis.

In the early years, all of Commando stories were devoted to the Second World War but in more recent decades, the comic has extended its range to a variety of conflicts including the First World War, the Cold War, Spanish Civil War, the Falklands, Korea, Vietnam and some Ancient & Medieval conflicts. There was even a science fiction themed Issue 2774 - Space Watch. I'm really keen to read that one!



Read below for a further description (from Wikipedia) of this excellent comic series:
Commando For Action and Adventure, formerly known as Commando War Stories in Pictures, and colloquially known as Commando Comics, are a series of British comic books that primarily draw their themes and backdrops from the various incidents of the World Wars I and II. The comic, still in print today, is noted for its distinctive 7 × 5½ inch, 68 page format that became a standard for these kinds of stories. It has remained more popular than many other British war comics, and some would say British comics in general, despite its simplistic stories and simply sketched black and white artwork, with only the covers in colour.
The stories contain certain characteristic motifs; to mention a few - courage, cowardice, patriotism, dying for the sake of one's country, noble actions, and making a cup of refreshing tea while in the face of danger, enmity turning into friendship when the going gets tough, and so on. Apart from portraying these universal qualities, Commando Comics also show soldiers in national stereotypes, glorifying Allied soldiers, but showing soldiers as a mixture of good and evil. There was usually no continuity between books; each book was a complete story with start and finish, though recently series (2 or 3 stories) of books following the same character have been published.

16 December 2013

More On Sharing Knowledge And Culture

Our Free Society Stands Or Falls With Our Defense Of Sharing Knowledge And Culture
by Rick Falkvinge @ TorrentFreak


Yet once more, The Pirate Bay has switched domain names, this time to Peru. In its promise to make DNS restrictions obsolete, The Pirate Bay creates a greater promise against all censorship.

The Pirate Bay has been no stranger to jumping domain names to evade feeble censorship.

Starting out at thepiratebay.org in 2003, it switches addresses nowadays as soon as one is threatened. However, the fact that Internet addresses can be censored like this is a large problem.

The copyright industry has been pushing relentlessly for the ability to censor sites they don’t like. Unfortunately, through a mix of digitally illiterate politicians who don’t understand that they’re creating censorship, and digitally literate bureaucrats who want to create this kind of censorship if they can get away with it, several legislatures and administrations have agreed to the insane demands of the copyright industry.

It’s not just bad because it blocks access to The Pirate Bay – because it doesn’t. It’s bad because it creates a precedent of how administrations and legislatures can, and should, deal with publishers they don’t like for whatever reason.

For once the censorship regime is in place, you won’t think for a second that it will stop at culture-sharing sites, would you? Once such a tool is available in the bureaucrat toolbox, it will be applied to anything and everything considered insubordinate or troublesome.

There is a reason the copyright industry loves child pornography so much – the reason that industry lobbied hard to create censorship of child abuse sites, actively hiding the problem and preventing assistance. They knew politicians wouldn’t dare disagree on such a toxic subject, and once the box was open, “other illegal sites” – those that circumvent the harmful copyright monopoly – were next in line. In reality, the culture-sharing hubs had been the target all along, and mentioning “child pornography” had merely been a battering ram to get the censorship started – notwithstanding that the censorship actually creates more child abuse and protects predators, something the copyright industry doesn’t care about at all.

Governments would not hesitate to build further on such a censorship regime. In Finland, meta-discussions about the child pornography censorship were themselves placed under censorship – effectively censoring political discussion that was embarrassing to the administration. In the UK, censorship that started as “violent pornography” has crept to “all pornography”, already censoring a lot of political opinion under that definition, and crept further into “extremist views” and other clearly political material.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see where this is going. And the copyright regime is pushing for an actively-censored society to protect their monopolistic and parasitic business interests. It is therefore, exactly therefore, that the free society stands or falls with our defense of sharing knowledge and culture, and activists like the operators of The Pirate Bay.

In their wannabe censorship regime, the copyright industry has attacked the DNS infrastructure, one of few systems on the Internet that is relatively centralized. Wisely, activists with The Pirate Bay have therefore announced a browser package that makes DNS censorship utterly ineffective.

Now, one could argue that this is a technically advanced solution that would challenge ordinary people’s uptake. While such an observation would be correct, it doesn’t really matter: 250 million Europeans and 150 million Americans have learned to use BitTorrent, which is far from a walk in the park. The demand for sharing is so great that entire generations gladly climb the learning curve without blinking. Any new censorship attempt has always resulted in more traffic to the culture-sharing hubs. It would be a safe prediction to say that a permanent anti-censorship device would be quickly taken up.

Therefore, the copyright industry’s screams for censorship are actively driving the defense of a free society. While I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the copyright industry, it’s heartwarming to see the battle for a free society take place in a location where people actually mount a defense, and make sure that censorship can always be circumvented.

For if such censorship can be circumvented for culture-sharing sites – and it can, and it will – then we still have some hope of communicating insubordinate political opinions in the future, too.


About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

15 December 2013

Stopping piracy on the internet? Good luck.


The reasons why people share and download copied/pirated things like movies, music, books & magazines, etc. is hugely varied. The fact is, they do download and I, for one, seriously doubt that it will ever be able to be stopped. Part of me doesn't really care, either. Besides, what's the difference between sharing a music album or an ebook online to lending a CD or paperback to your friends? I say there is no moral difference - only an imagined difference, a guilt-trip created by the fat cat money-makers in the media and entertainment industries.

Okay, yes there are duplicates being produced for no gain to the original publishers, but were those downloaders/borrowers ever going to purchase the item anyway? I say probably not, so therefore "piracy" could be a good thing - seeing music and books and movies get into the hands of a wider audience who might someday decide to actually purchase something. Also, it's a fairly undisputed fact that there are untold millions of folk out there who can't afford the often overpriced items in question and the chance to grab them for free does massive things for the spread of culture and knowledge across the globe. The fine people at TUEBL are a great example of this ideal - bringing ebooks to the masses.

Taking the "anti-piracy" agenda to the next level would have to be the banning of all kinds of lending libraries, because even though the official ones pay royalty fees, there's no effective controls over who gets hold of the media and what happens to it whilst in their possession. Case in point: the literary world, for one, hasn't collapsed and book libraries have been around for a long time. Go figure. It's total bollocks, the whole thing. A few missed bucks (in the grand scheme of things) for an already fat industry? Cry me a river.

Anyway, the following is an excerpt from an interesting report from the New Zealand Herald about the ongoing Pirate Bay domain seizures that suggest some reasons why people might decide to download something "illegally".

This begs the question to be asked - if regulators cannot hope to stop piracy, why adopt such a blunt approach in what is a seemingly unwinnable battle? Wouldn't it make more sense to fix the larger issues that are driving people to piracy?
Excluding greed and an urge for freebies, fixing piracy isn't an impossible task. Adopting some simple measures such as reducing the crazy timing gap between cinema and Blu-Ray releases, decreasing some of the frankly absurd pricing on CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray titles and most importantly of all, not treating paying customers as criminals via bizarre and restrictive DRM/zoning measures, will go a long way to reducing demand for pirate services.

The complete article can be found HERE.

14 December 2013

Should we just rename Uranus already?

It's not very often I can see Uranus
Two-hundred-and-thirty-two years ago a mistake was made. The question is, do we have to keep living with it forever, or is it finally time to rename Uranus?

A profound question indeed.

Click HERE to join the discussion over at io9.com.

13 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner

Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon StoryWager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don Sheldon has been called 'Alaska's bush pilot among bush pilots', but he was also just one man in a fragile airplane who, in the end, was solely responsible for each mission he flew, be it a high-risk landing to the rescue of others from certain death in the mountains of Alaska or the routine delivery of supplies to a lonely homesteader. Read James Greiner's Wager with the Wind to learn how a hero was born, and also how he made his courageous journey to the unknown skies of dealing with cancer.

After seeing footage of some amazing bush flying where highly skilled flyers land and take off from some pretty gnarly places, I had a scout around to see if there were any books about this sort of thing. I was compelled to purchase this book as it came highly recommended. I can say that the book is well written and about a pretty incredible bloke who I reckon I would have liked if I'd have known him. However, the author spends the majority of the pages on describing the mountaineering expeditions that Don Sheldon flew support for. Interwoven through this are some really good flying tales and stories about incredible high-altitude mountain rescues, stormy lake landings (and crashes), soaring mountain thermals and the various trials and tribulations of this hugely hazardous flying, but I learned more about the mountain climbing than I did the flying. This really disappointed me, as I thought I was going to read about lots and lots of bush flying. The flying yarns are good, but these seem to take second place to the stories of the people that Sheldon flew around Alaska on various adventures. All that said, I still got a sense of the man and his trade, but not enough. Overall an okay read, but would be at least four stars if the flying stories took centre stage instead of the climbers. Don Sheldon was clearly an amazing man and a massively skilled pilot, but I'm not sure this book does him justice. Sorry Mr Griener, because you do write very well.

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02 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Weird Space: Satan's Reach by Eric Brown

Weird Space: Satan's ReachWeird Space: Satan's Reach by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Satan's Reach is the second volume in the Weird Space series, a thrilling Space Opera series created by master SF author Eric Brown.

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan's Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death; and comes face to face with the dreaded aliens known as the Weird. Satan's Reach is the second volume in the Weird Space series, a fast-paced action-adventure that pits humanity against the unimaginable Terror from Beyond.

Carrying on from events a little while after those of The Devil's Nebula, this book rips into another action-packed adventure. This time, we follow Den, a runaway telepath, who is on the run from a double set of enemies. The flight takes us across a huge swath of space known as Satan's Reach and we drop in on some wonderful locations and planets along the way. By now, the Vetch and humans have formed and uneasy alliance to deal with the threat of The Weird, of whom we learn a bit more and their desire to occupy known space from their place in another dimension. At the end of the book we again meet some characters from the first book, and the story hints at another installment, which I hope gets written, although I've not heard anything yet. All in all, Eric Brown fails to disappoint me again.

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01 December 2013

FREE EBOOK: The Last Legends of Earth by A. A. Attanasio


The Phoenix Pick free ebook for December is A. A. Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth. The book is one of the few rated a full 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and it was critically acclaimed by nearly every critic who reviewed it.


Seven billion years from now, long after the Sun has died and human life itself has become extinct, alien beings reincarnate humanity from our fossilized DNA drifting as debris in the void of deep space. We are reborn to serve as bait in a battle to the death between the Rimstalker, humankind’s reanimator, and the zotl, horrific creatures who feed vampire-like on the suffering of intelligent lifeforms.The reborn children of Earth are told: “You owe no debt to the being that roused you to this second life. Neither must you expect it to guide you or benefit you in any way.” Yet humans choose sides, as humans will, participating in the titanic struggle between Rimstalker and zotl in ways strange and momentous.

The coupon code for December is 9991563 and will be good through to the end of December.

As usual, please to to www.PPickings.com to access the book.


29 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Retribution (Mass Effect #3) by Drew Karpyshyn

Retribution (Mass Effect, #3)Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Humanity has reached the stars, joining the vast galactic community of alien species. But beyond the fringes of explored space lurk the Reapers, a race of sentient starships bent on “harvesting” the galaxy’s organic species for their own dark purpose.

The Illusive Man, leader of the pro-human black ops group Cerberus, is one of the few who know the truth about the Reapers. To ensure humanity’s survival, he launches a desperate plan to uncover the enemy’s strengths—and weaknesses—by studying someone implanted with modified Reaper technology. He knows the perfect subject for his horrific experiments: former Cerberus operative Paul Grayson, who wrested his daughter from the cabal’s control with the help of Ascension project director Kahlee Sanders.

But when Kahlee learns that Grayson is missing, she turns to the only person she can trust: Alliance war hero Captain David Anderson. Together they set out to find the secret Cerberus facility where Grayson is being held. But they aren’t the only ones after him. And time is running out.

As the experiments continue, the sinister Reaper technology twists Grayson’s mind. The insidious whispers grow ever stronger in his head, threatening to take over his very identity and unleash the Reapers on an unsuspecting galaxy.

A rating so well deserved, and probably the most 'unputdownable' book of the series so far. The action is non-stop and the overall plot really opens up. I did find the scale of the story to be a little smaller than the previous novels, but the excellent action more than made up for it. I find myself really torn between the Illusive Man and the rest of Alliance society. The xenophobic cult that is Cerberus, at least, are trying to combat the lurking threat of the Reapers while elsewhere the 'myth' is suppressed and nothing is done. I'm guessing that more unconventional pacts and alliances are formed in the next book to really have a crack at the Reapers. That said, I've read some not-so-positive reviews of book four, claims that it errs somewhat from the established plot. However, Dietz is a fine author so I'm sure it's not all that bad. I think I will read it.

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23 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Earth: An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human History by Timothy Good

Earth: An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human HistoryEarth: An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human History by Timothy Good
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fascinating new volume tells the story of contact between aliens and humans from all across the globe, dating back to 1932, including meetings with military personnel and American presidents such as Eisenhower and Kennedy.

For the first time, a former member of MI6 reveals her conversation with Neil Armstrong at a NASA conference, when he confirmed that there were "other" spacecraft on the Moon when Apollo 11 landed in 1969. Armstrong also confirmed that the CIA was behind the cover-up.

In a further admission in December 2012, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev revealed that "the president of Russia is given a special top secret folder [that] in its entirety contains information about aliens who have visited our planet. Along with this, the president is given a report of the Special Service that exercises control over aliens in our country. I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic."

A very interesting book, this one. The basic premise is that Earth is being visited (and has been for some time) by numerous extraterrestrial races who are watching us very closely, and in some cases, taking an active role in manipulating events from behind the scenes. According to Good, the governments of our larger countries are in deep with these races.
There is a detailed story of an Royal Air Force airman who is involved with the care and keeping of two ET beings that I found fascinating. Also, the information allegedly given by Neil Armstrong about the Apollo missions encountering alien craft on the surface of the moon was enlightening. This might explain some of the cryptic statements that Armstrong made during his rare appearances over the years.
The book covers most of the well known alien visitation and abduction stories as well as a few accounts and theories that I had not heard of before, and I think that it would be a good book for those who are new to this subject.
Overall a good read and well written, highly recommended for those with open minds and those who question the information that we are supplied with by our governments.

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20 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Starship Summer by Eric Brown

Starship Summer  (Starship Seasons, #1)Starship Summer by Eric Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of David Conway and his new life on Chalcedony, a planet renowned for its Golden Column, an artifact that is mysterious and strange, no one knowing why it is present there. Conway meets some locals in the town of Magenta Bay and buys an old starship from Hawksworth, who runs a scrap yard in the town full of old and disused starships. Conway sets up the ship on his land and uses it as his home, but the presence of what can only be described as an alien ghost starts a string of events that lead to a revelation that will change everything for humanity.

I've said it before, Eric Brown fails to disappoint again with what is probably the best sci-fi novella that I've read to date. I can't quite work out an exact reason why I love this story so much, but maybe it's just the wonderful combination of setting, characters and storyline that does it. I ended up feeling a connection with every member of the cast, people who share a common bond in that they're running from their pasts and the demons therein. Brown relies on his often used 'burnt out' main character that he does so well and I love the way he builds the character relationships. I found myself almost wanting to be a character in this story and therefore was drawn in easily. A bloody good yarn and the perfect length with a great triumphant conclusion, a fine example of why the short forms suit this genre so well. I am now suitably eager to devour the other three novellas of the 'Starship Seasons' series. Eric Brown writes fantastic stuff, it's as simple as that.

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18 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet (Brian's Saga, #1)Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brian Robertson, sole passenger on a Cessna 406, is on his way to visit his father when the tiny bush plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. With nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present, Brian finds himself completely alone.
Challenged by his fear and despair -- and plagued with the weight of a dreadful secret he's been keeping since his parent's divorce -- brian must tame his inner demons in order to survive. It will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed.

I read this book alongside my son for a school project and I actually really enjoyed it. While carrying the burden of a secret about his mother's affair, 13 year old Brian is the sole survivor of a plane crash who has to survive in the harsh Canadian forest. He learns how to spear fish, gather turtle eggs and make fire, all with the help of a small hatchet that his mother gave him before he left on his ill-fated journey. The universe throws heaps at poor Brian, but eventually he is able to salvage a survival kit from the wreckage of the plane. He unwittingly sets off the emergency locator transmitter and is rescued shortly after. The lessons he learns over his 54 day survival effort will stand this lad in good stead. A great little book that is aimed at young adults and has a strong message of determination and keeping your head in tough times.


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17 November 2013

Run your car with a water-hydrogen converter

If you're interested, HERE are instructions for converting your motor vehicle into a water burning hybrid. Not sure yet if this system utilizes the effect of cardinal grammeters or uses the combined effect of nova-trunnions in conjunction with sinusoidal Dingle arms to achieve the desired goal. Have a look. Might save you some money..?


15 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Two novellas by Brad R. Torgersen

OutboundOutbound by Brad R. Torgersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The award-winning science fiction novelette from award-winning writer Brad R. Torgersen. "Outbound" first appeared in the pages of Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine, going on to earn the praise of readers and authors alike.

Upon reading this novella, one can most certainly appreciate why it has been so successful - it's really, really good. Full of heart and soul, it's an emotional roller coaster like I've never experienced before in a science fiction story. Not without Torgersen's trademark hard sci-fi elements, the story is one of love and loss, pain and hope and, above all, humanity. Read it, you'll love it.


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Ray of LightRay of Light by Brad R. Torgersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not your typical tale of alien invasion or apocalypse, "Ray of Light" is the story of Max and Jenna Leighton, father and daughter, trapped by catastrophe in the last place on Earth humans have been able to survive an endless, sunless night.

A really superb story that tells of human survival and hope. The post-apocalyptic theme is a little different and the finish is full of wonder and excitement. I felt really absorbed into this story while reading it and found it very enjoyable. Torgersen never fails to impress me with his work, he seamlessly blends science, humanity and faith together superbly.

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14 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Mass Effect: Ascension (Mass Effect #2) by Drew Karpyshyn

Mass Effect: Ascension (Mass Effect, #2)Mass Effect: Ascension by Drew Karpyshyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When they vanished fifty thousand years ago, the Protheans left their advanced technology scattered throughout the galaxy. The chance discovery of a Prothean cache on Mars allows humanity to join those already reaping the rewards of the ancients’ high-tech wizardry. But for one rogue militia, the goal is not participation but domination.


Scientist Kahlee Sanders has left the Systems Alliance for the Ascension Project, a program that helps gifted “biotic” children harness their extraordinary powers. The program’s most promising student is twelve-year-old Gillian Grayson, who is borderline autistic. What Kahlee doesn’t know is that Gillian is an unwitting pawn of the outlawed black ops group Cerberus, which is sabotaging the program by conducting illegal experiments on the students.


When the Cerberus plot is exposed, Gillian’s father takes her away from the Ascension Project and flees into the lawless Terminus Systems. Determined to protect Gillian, Kahlee goes with them… unaware that the elder Grayson is, in fact, a Cerberus operative. To rescue the young girl Kahlee must travel to the farthest ends of the galaxy, battling fierce enemies and impossible odds. But how will she be able to save a daughter from her own father?


The second Mass Effect novel continues on from the first in a similar manner; fast-paced and massively intriguing. While it's not until quite late in the book that the story line realigns with the first book, you can see how the Mass Effect plot as a whole is building, and building well. There are some major events that have happened between the two books, but these are covered in good enough detail for us to fill in the gap and the books fit together well enough.

The story follows Kahlee Sanders from book one (Mass Effect: Revelation) but takes place a few years after the events of that book. We learn more about some of the species that inhabit the galaxy and their history, particularly the Quarians and the Migrant Fleet, who play a major role in this book. You really start to get a sense of the wider story, of a menace lurking out there in the darkness of space (Reapers?) ready to pounce upon the mostly unsuspecting galactic community. However, it seems that there are some factions of various races who seem to know or suspect more, and are secretly trying to prepare a defense, or at least for a way to ensure their species' survival. The only reason I didn't five-star this one was because mid-way through the story felt like it dragged a bit, lost it's pace. This said, it comes back and redeems itself with a great ending that, again, is very satisfactory yet leaves the way clear for the next installment in the series.
I absolutely love Drew Karpyshyn's writing style and, once again, he delivers a story with great world-building, characterization and action scenes. A superb sci-fi action series, and I disagree with some other reviewers in that I don't think it's necessary to be familiar with the Mass Effect games to appreciate the story, not at all. I have really enjoyed this series so far with nil exposure to the games. Books are way better anyway;-)

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12 November 2013

On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction

Here is an excellent essay by SF author Brad R. Torgersen that looks at how and why modern science fiction is losing ground to the fantasy genre.
I didn't realize that SF was in decline and giving way to fantasy, but the sales numbers apparently show that this is indeed the case. Here Torgersen offers his views on why this is happening, and I think that he's right on the money.
The essay was originally published on the Writers of the Future web site and reprinted in Torgersen's excellent short story compilation Lights in the Deep.



Please click on the links above to check out Torgersen's website and some of his work. He is one of my favorite authors and I look forward to much, much more from him in the future, maybe a novel or two as well.

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On the Growth of Fantasy and the Waning of Science Fiction
Copyright © 2012
Brad R. Torgersen

It may seem a bit ironic for an author who primarily perpetrates Science Fiction to then turn around and talk about how Fantasy is eclipsing its cousin. Nevertheless, the writing (pun intended) is on the wall: the fantastic is outpacing the speculative, both in the written arts, and in television and motion pictures. Whether it’s the explosive popularity of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, or Stephanie Meyer’s ultra-hot Twilight—both of which earned hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars at the box office in 2011, on top of print revenue—or the timeless and enduring power of J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal Middle-Earth saga, as told in The Hobbit and the three volumes in The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy has come into its own as a phenomenally successful creative and commercial enterprise, while Science Fiction has drifted on the consumer seas—falling back into niche popularity, where it first began.

Granted, the television and motion picture industry does its best to keep Science Fiction afloat. Movies like Avatar, Tron: Legacy and Transformers all performed incredibly well with recent audiences. There have also been prolific small-screen series like Dr. Who, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica. Not to mention the time-tested Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, which so revolutionized both the fantastic and the speculative on big and small screens, that no fantastic or speculative program can emerge in the 21st century without first tipping its hat to these ground-breaking 20th century forerunners.

So how come Science Fiction in print continues to see its sales steadily slipping? Where are the ‘skiffy’ equivalents of Twilight and Harry Potter? Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games has come forward as a very-strong example of Science Fiction that’s hitting home runs with both readers and—potentially—movie-goers. But The Hunger Games is more of an anomaly than a rule. In fact, Science Fiction’s all-time bestselling novel, Dune, was written almost half a century ago. Runners-up, such as Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game were written approximately thirty years ago, and when one does straw polls at writing conferences—to see how many people are doing Science Fiction versus Fantasy—the numbers of hands raised for Fantasy (especially Young Adult Fantasy) are overwhelmingly in the majority.

I think this is a problem.

I’m not proposing that Science Fiction is dying or is about to be shuffled off the bookshelves and dumped into the returns bin. It is not. Rather, I’d like to offer a theory or two: as to why Fantasy is so tremendously and energetically embraced, while Science Fiction has to work harder to interest and retain a much smaller segment of the readership, if not always the viewership. At which point I will end with a suggestion for possible remedy.

Firstly, the audience of the Anglosphere—and much of Europe and Asia too—is living in a “science fictional” time. Unlike the 1930s, we enjoy a gadgetized and digitally-instant, globally-interconnected society. Much of what was speculative in the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, is mundane reality for us today, to include wireless cell phone communication, wireless computing, wholesale mass storage and distribution of data, and much else that most First World citizens can take for granted, including rapid and affordable transit, mass production and distribution of consumer goods, not to mention satellite television, the International Space Station, and reliable ground-to-orbit transportation operating in multiple countries.

Thus the 21st century reader has a bit of a blind spot for Science Fiction in ways his or her grandparents did not. When the Golden Age was under way, it was still common for many rural households to lack the kind of plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electricity that many of us in our time consider to be basic essentials. Our science has literally made the fiction into reality, thus the “magical” shine of what was once dreamed of in the Golden Age, has slowly faded into the hum-drum of every-day existence.

Secondly, the reality of science and the emergence of a science-dependent, technological society—as different from 17th and 18th-century pastoral and agrarian times as the Roman Empire was from pre-historic tribal life—has somewhat robbed modernity of the mysticism and sense of otherworldly wonder that most of our ancestors had. So that while the emergence of modern science—courtesy of the Enlightenment, and all that followed on—has given us an amazing and vital number of improvements, not the least of which are medicine, electricity, mechanical means of performing laborious and repetitive tasks, and an explosion in both life spans and the amount of time freed for leisure, science has also effectively pulled the curtain back on much which was previously mysterious and otherwise attributable to the Divine.

There are no more Gods, no more Devils, no more Angels nor Demons, and also no more magic—the intangible sense that there are deeper forces and destinies at work in the universe; the clashing of cosmic Goods and Evils.

Yet, as humans, we still long for these things. Well, a good many of us long for them, anyway. I believe that part of the reason why Fantasy continues to swell and Science Fiction has somewhat shriveled, is that Fantasy is a genre where we as a society can recapture what we miss: wizards and warlocks and necromancers, Dark Forces allied to battle the numerically-inferior but heroic Light Forces, and above all else a sense that life has meaning and purpose beyond the merely material, or the tangible. That there is a universal justice operating in the world, and while it is not always readily-accessible or apparent, it exists just the same. Not all is random. Not every meaning is a man-made, artificially-imposed meaning.

Consider Star Wars, which still ranks as one of the most financially-dominant film franchises of all time. Ostensibly technological—spaceships, laser guns, robots with artificial intelligence, interstellar travel—Star Wars survives and thrives not because it’s a picture of a very-advanced, polyglot interstellar civilization, but because Star Wars uses that civilization as a canvas for what is, essentially, a classically-legendary tale about Cosmic Good and Cosmic Evil. There is magic—in the form of The Force—and there are both good and evil wizards—in the form of the Jedi and the Sith. Seemingly random events often have the scent of deep destiny about them, and the technological aspects of Star Wars often take a back seat during Star Wars’ most triumphant—and tragic—moments.

Consider also the Dune saga, begun with the novel of the same name. Much like Star Wars, Dune is a story about a very-advanced, almost super-technological future interstellar society. But also like Star Wars, Dune is a story about mystical forces, the coming of a messianic savior, events which seem predestined and foretold, the triumph of ordered good over chaos and evil, and more deeply, how these triumphs can sometimes presage an even greater evil amidst even greater chaos. And so forth. Not technological themes at all. The Spice Melange is as otherworldly and magical as any tincture brewed by Merlin in the court at Camelot, and Paul Atreides is very much an Arthurian figure: the boy-king come to set the world to rights, and unify the land. At least for a short time.

Even the movie Avatar relies on mysticism and legendary aspect for its success, since all the stunning 3D special effects in the world could not have held up a plot sustained purely by natives-versus-invaders. Jake Sully is another Paul Atreides: a young outlander who must first prove himself to the Na’vi (Fremen) and then master the Toruk sky dragons (sand worms) before leading the Na’vi (Fremen) against the corporatized and despotic, not to mention debased and immoral, Company with its mercenaries (Harkonnens and the Imperial Sarduakar) seeking to strip Pandora (Arrakis) of its singularly-vital commodity, Unobtanium (Melange.)

In each case, both Dune and Avatar employ fantastic story elements and underpinnings to tell what are essentially fantastic and legend-like tales. The technology that infuses both is merely a vehicle for the deeper, more mystical (spiritual?) elements which are both present and apparent—if you look for them.

Yet, Science Fiction has staked its claim as the anti-mystical genre. A great many of its practitioners are outspoken or otherwise avowed secularists. As are a great many of Science Fiction’s fans—not all of whom share an overlapping love for Fantasy, the way many Fantasy fans share an overlapping love for Sci-Fi. So it’s perhaps not surprising then that much of the Science Fiction being written in the 21st century concerns itself strictly with materialistic concerns: climate change, global warming, the decay of governments and the onset of dystopian hegemony, or anarchy, and an overriding message that humans are small, flawed, puny creatures living on a small, flawed, puny planet in a lost corner of a gargantuan galaxy, which is itself lost in still some other corner of the much greater and enormous universe.

True or not—I won’t debate the evidence, one way or another—this “small” view of the human being is often at odds with the “large” view offered in works like The Lord of the Rings. In fact, Tolkien’s main thrust in the telling of the tales of Middle-Earth seems to be that even the smallest of us can have the most vital importance, and that great deeds and great destinies await even the most unlikely and innocent of people. Bilbo and Frodo are the “everymen” of the world, thrust quite against their wills into a wider, more dangerous arena. Doubtless Tolkien would dislike the application of allegory, since he is on record as having stated that he disliked allegory in his time and especially disliked seeing it draped over his books. Still, I think the point is made: the most timeless and successful and memorable Fantasy work of the last 100 years is a work which takes humble, ordinary folk and sets them up as extraordinary and heroic.

Science Fiction? Science Fiction often seems less sure about its mission. Since the so-called New Wave which brought literary aspects to the genre, Science Fiction—at least in print—has gradually become more and more concerned with the meaninglessness of life, the random and even hopeless nature of our existence, and while the vistas and landscapes offered can only be described as wondrous and vast, the impact on the human psyche is often the opposite: we do not matter, we are not important, nothing of us has any great impact on the universe, therefore the only meaning available to us is that which we create artificially, and then often with much struggle and ultimate futility.

Orson Scott Card’s memorable and famous novel, Ender’s Game, breaks from this significantly. Ender Wiggin being much like Paul Atreides and Jake Sully: the young “changer” who overturns the tables of the “game”, while vanquishing great evil in the process. Card goes one step further in that the Buggers have their time, too. In fact much of the Ender saga concerns itself with the ramifications of what Ender does in the first book, and how Ender—and humanity—seek redemption when faced with a very terrible—sinful?—legacy. So, in that sense, Ender’s Game is not about the war with the Formics. It is not even about the (current, by our standards) remotely-operated video-game-like nature of future war in space. It’s about the desperation of survival against the odds, and the realization that sometimes the ends do not necessarily justify the means; that even heroes have much for which they should atone. In one form, or another.

It is often said of the Writers of the Future Contest that Science Fiction stories have a better chance of succeeding than Fantasy stories, and this is true. But only because Fantasy is so popular with many new writers that the amount of Fantasy received by the judges is larger than the amount of Science Fiction.

I suspect this is because Fantasy is a more accessible and emotionally-meaningful genre for new writers, many of whom have grown up steeped in the Fantastic most of their lives. Books, movies, and sometimes television: Fantasy stories and Fantasy tales which elevate the human being to an important place in the world, in much the same way all children and teenagers wish to be elevated—and all “ordinary” men and women, too. Thus when a new writer sits down and thinks, “Aha, I shall enter this Contest and win,” he or she is much more likely to start with Fantasy. It’s the familiar thing, and it’s the thing about which new writers most naturally feel compelled to tell meaningful stories.

It’s harder with Science Fiction. Seventy years ago, the mere act of landing on the Moon possessed its own meaning: it was an imagined technological triumph foretold in an era replete with technological triumphs, all mounting towards a transformation of society and the human condition. But now? We landed on the Moon, and we came back, and despite all of our numerous technological and material advantages in our time, society and the human condition aren’t that much different. In fact, we seem to be more ourselves than ever before.

I think that perhaps Science Fiction’s road has taken it down an uneasily-traveled path. The number of readers for whom a Fantastic tale like Harry Potter is meaningful is much larger than the number of readers for whom a Science Fiction tale like John Varley’s Steel Beach is meaningful. And while the combined effort of Science Fiction and Fantasy is made richer and more complex by the Steel Beach books of the co-genre, I also suggest that pursuing a Steel Beach course—while seeing the readership peel away and find interest in happier, maybe even simpler imaginary lands—is problematic at best. Science Fiction won’t survive forever if all but the most hard-core readers decide that there’s just not enough emotional (moral?) uplift in Science Fiction for them to keep reading it.

In order for Science Fiction to have value and meaning—to say nothing of an audience—I think it could stand to go back to the “mythic” tropes more than it has of late. Re-explore some of the more classic, more time-honored themes. Re-elevate the human to a place of dignity and power. Re-embrace themes that are hopeful, optimistic, perhaps even spiritual in nature. The movie industry seems to have it: they have profited mightily from exploiting Science Fiction’s sunny-side disposition and prognostication. I think Science Fiction writers could do similarly, but first it’s going to take a little unconventional thinking, and a willingness to break with established preconceptions about what Science Fiction is for, the kinds of stories you can and cannot tell, and having the courage to know when it’s worth it to be optimistic—even when scientific evidence or political reality or industry forces may dictate otherwise.

02 November 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Mass Effect: Revelation (Mass Effect #1) by Drew Karpyshyn

Mass Effect: Revelation (Mass Effect, #1)Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every advanced society in the galaxy relies on the technology of the Protheans, an ancient species that vanished fifty thousand years ago. After discovering a cache of Prothean technology on Mars in 2148, humanity is spreading to the stars; the newest interstellar species, struggling to carve out its place in the greater galactic community.

On the edge of colonized space, ship commander and Alliance war hero David Anderson investigates the remains of a top secret military research station; smoking ruins littered with bodies and unanswered questions. Who attacked this post and for what purpose? And where is Kahlee Sanders, the young scientist who mysteriously vanished from the base–hours before her colleagues were slaughtered?

Sanders is now the prime suspect, but finding her creates more problems for Anderson than it solves. Partnered with a rogue alien agent he can’t trust and pursued by an assassin he can’t escape, Anderson battles impossible odds on uncharted worlds to uncover a sinister conspiracy . . . one he won’t live to tell about. Or so the enemy thinks.

This book is good, very good. I am not at all familiar with the Mass Effect games, but I'd seen a few of the comics around the place to be curious enough to check out the novels. I'm really impressed with this one, the first of four shortish novels in a segment of four. The plot is really cool with action aplenty and intrigue with various species competing for control in a vast galactic empire, of which humanity is the newest member. It's sort of like a sci-fi thriller/mystery with nice twists and turns, and some cool combat sequences. While it's true that much of the book could be called 'typical' action science fiction, that's good, very good, because Drew Karpyshyn executes these tropes perfectly. I love stories that have interstellar travel, exotic worlds with mysterious alien races and ancient artifacts, etc., all that good sci-fi stuff that this book (and hopefully the following books, too) has in abundance. I love it.

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26 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Area 51 by Mack Maloney

Beyond Area 51Beyond Area 51 by Mack Maloney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The truth can’t be hidden forever.

Few have ventured into the many heavily guarded, top-secret locations scattered across the earth. Even fewer have emerged with stories to tell. Yet every now and then the common man is given an illicit glimpse of something extraordinary...

In Beyond Area 51, Mack Maloney explores the truths behind the many myths and legends surrounding some of the world’s most mysterious locales. From the Homestead Air Force base in Miami, Florida to Russia’s Kapustin Yar, Maloney investigates incredible reports of extraterrestrial experimentation on animals, UFOs with road rage, and other unbelievable tales beyond our wildest imaginings. Filled with fascinating, true accounts, Beyond Area 51 will convince any skeptic of the infinite possibilities of what exists on, and beyond, our tiny planet.


Alien Body 080723 at Kapustin Yar, Russia

This book was actually better than I thought it would be and is very well written. Not really about Area 51 at all, but it's essentially a brief rundown on a number of 'secret' bases and facilities around the globe that are alleged to be connected with the UFO phenomenon (see image above) and other strange events. Maloney presents the information in a relatively neutral way and tends to call a spade a spade, ie. when something sounds bogus or outrageous then he says so, which I liked. A good book for those new to the UFO and conspiracy topic, it's all quite general and impartial in nature with a closer look at a few cases. It introduces the reader to the bigger idea that there's quite possibly more going on around us than meets the eye. I recommend it.

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24 October 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge by Mike Resnick

Seven Views of Olduvai GorgeSeven Views of Olduvai Gorge by Mike Resnick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge is one of the most celebrated novellas ever written. It not only won both the Hugo and Nebula, but also the HOMer award and the SF Chronicle Poll and was a nominee for the Locus Award and the Sturgeon Award. It was also nominated for a number of international awards, winning the Ignotus and the Universitat Polytechnica Awards in Spain, the Prix Ozone Award in France and the Futura Award in Croatia.


In the far future, eons after the demise of Humanity and its far-flung galactic empire, a group of alien archeologists visits Earth to uncover the secret of the dead race's initial overwhelming success and its ultimate death. Digging through layers of archeological strata at Olduvai Gorge, they discover seven unique artifacts, each related to a different era of humanity's history and each telling a unique story about humankind's strengths and weaknesses. But are they prepared for their final discovery, which will change their worlds forever?


An excellent piece of short fiction from an excellent storyteller and it's clear to see why this story has won pretty much every major award possible. I found it fascinating to viewpoint looking back on our own species from the far future after we've built ourselves up, achieved so much and inherited the stars only to descend back to where we started. Ashes to ashes indeed. This story helps me to see our ignorance, the arrogance that we possess as a species. I never thought I would find the viewpoints and opinions of a group of aliens so enlightening. A great read and another example of how fiction in short form suits the science fiction genre so well. A very enjoyable read.


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