31 August 2013

Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks (...what!?)

The Acropolis, Athens.
A group of leading historians held a press conference Monday at the National Geographic Society to announce they had "entirely fabricated" ancient Greece, a culture long thought to be the intellectual basis of Western civilization.

The group acknowledged that the idea of a sophisticated, flourishing society existing in Greece more than two millennia ago was a complete fiction created by a team of some two dozen historians, anthropologists, and classicists who worked nonstop between 1971 and 1974 to forge "Greek" documents and artifacts.

"Honestly, we never meant for things to go this far," said Professor Gene Haddlebury, who has offered to resign his position as chair of Hellenic Studies at Georgetown University. "We were young and trying to advance our careers, so we just started making things up: Homer, Aristotle, Socrates, Hippocrates, the lever and fulcrum, rhetoric, ethics, all the different kinds of columns—everything."


27 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1) by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, #1)The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book on the strength of some great advance reviews that it received from a few book sites that I follow. And I agree with them, it's a really good book. It's a fun read that gallops along a fair old pace and the plot, along with the cast of characters, was enough to hook me right from the start. For an author new to this sort of thing, Hough writes incredibly well. As is often the case with me, I ended up having one of the 'baddies' as my favorite character. Says something about me, perhaps..?
The space elevator idea has always fascinated me and the book didn't disappoint with it's own take on this tried and true SF concept. Basically, some mysterious aliens visit our planet and weave this amazing thread down from their ships in orbit then sod off leaving Earth in somewhat of a mess. We don't know why they built the elevator and what it's intended purpose is but as the story progresses we learn more about it and the human society that has built up both along and around the elevator (it's 40,000 kilometers long!).
As one of the key aspects to the story line, again we get 'zombie' hoards made such by a mysterious virus somehow linked to the elevator. I must admit that I am getting a little bit tired of this theme seemingly everywhere in various fiction genres these days. But it actually works with the story okay. However, it's the only complaint from me about an otherwise excellent action sci-fi story, and the only reason I didn't give it five stars.
Overall it's pretty damned good and I liked it enough to order the next book in the series (The Exodus Towers).

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21 August 2013

A most admirable attitude to book sharing

What? Sharing your ebooks? Criminal!

I came across this website that publishes a serial fiction magazine in electronic format called Aethernet Magazine. It sounds like a really interesting magazine, but it was their attitude towards people sharing their magazine that really got my attention.

A page on their site titled "Free copy of Aethernet Magazine?" has this to say:

If you don’t want to pay for Aethernet Magazine you can get a pirate copy by following this link . We’re quite flattered by the fact that someone thinks our magazine is worth pirating.
Aethernet Magazine is published DRM free. We don’t believe in DRM. If you buy a copy of the magazine it’s up to you what you do with it. Copy it to all your different e-reading devices. Send a copy to a friend to read. You bought the magazine, why should we tell you what to do with it? 
If you enjoy Aethernet Magazine, we’re delighted. We started this magazine because we thought that people would enjoy reading serial fiction, and judging by our growing readership it looks as if we were right.  If you’re reading a copy of Aethernet that you didn’t pay for we hope you enjoy the stories, and we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve paid for your copy, thank you. The money we make from selling the magazine is divided equally between our team. We believe that writers should be paid for their work, and being able to pay them means that we can commission more stories.
Read for free, or pay for your copy and support us. It’s your choice.

This is a fine attitude and very conducive to a wide distribution (ie. sales) of their excellent magazine.

While I'm not an advocate of wholesale copying and distribution of authors' hard work, I do believe that an ebook should belong to the purchaser (ie. owner) after it has been paid for and for them to be able to do with it as they wish. Just like any form of book or other media. The restriction that is often imposed where the purchaser cannot even lend the book to a friend and they must "go to A**z*n and download their own copy" is just plain ridiculous and unfair.

I understand the whole profiting from someone else's work thing, etc. and all the intellectual property stuff, but that's not at all what I'm talking about here. What I mean is the sharing of good books between friends and associates - like people do with 'real' books every single day. This is how literature works and how good authors gain followers.

I've seen and experienced this many times. I myself, have been loaned an ebook file that has been recommended by a fellow reader and I've gone on to buy more from that author. Work it out, that particular author has gained sales that they would normally not have got. All from the 'illegal' sharing of an ebook file. Go figure.

19 August 2013

7 Scifi Literary and Journalistic Hoaxes that Readers Believed

The idea of sophisticated life on the moon might seem absurd today, but when a story about lunary civilization appeared in newspapers in 1835, many wondered if it could be true. And that's hardly the only sci-fi story readers have found credible enough to believe.

Lithograph of the Great Moon Hoax, via Wikimedia Commons.
Hoaxes, of course, have a long history in science and science fiction. Just this month, the Discovery Channel aired a fake documentary about the Megalodon with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it disclaimer. But there are decades of fake robots, fabricated scientific discoveries, cryptozoological taxidermy, and scifi movie productions that were actually scams. That's before we even get around to mentioning the Orson Welles' production of War of the Worlds.

In print science fiction, hoaxes hold a particular special place. A lot of proto-scifi took the form the "hoax stories," some of which appeared in newspapers. Sometimes these were stories that were genuinely meant to deceive the reader, but in other cases, they were simply a way to frame a fantastical story in a semi-realistic way. And even as science fiction matured and grew, sometimes tall tales were made even more engaging when the author claimed they were true.

This is by no means an extensive list, and while some of these fall clearly into the category of science fiction, others are false accounts of scientific discoveries and achievements by famous fantasists. And while some of these were deliberate hoaxes, others were accidental—and sometimes the authors continued to assert the truth of these tales after they were generally disbelieved...more

12 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this book has to rate as one of the best space opera books that I've read to date. Before I started it I knew it was a highly rated book but I have to admit I was a little surprised with just how good. I won't bore you with yet another summary, but rather tell what it felt like to read.

This author (or pair of authors) got the writing style just about perfect for this type of story and I got totally hooked into it. We've got excellent descriptions, action and character dialogue. The opening lines of some of the chapters are pure gold and just one of the facets that made me really happy that I was reading the story, eg. "Miller looked at the dead man — the man he’d just killed — and tried to feel something. There was the trailing adrenaline rush still ramping up his heartbeat." I even didn't mind the fact that there was some sort of horror/zombie aspects as they fitted with the story as a whole very well.

I thought the characters are fantastic (even if one was a tad crazy) as is the supporting cast. I found that it was a book that was a little difficult to read in small amounts, it really demanded that I enjoy a decent session and allow myself to get into the story. This, of course, was easy to do if given enough time.

Overall, a brilliant beginning to what sounds like is an awesome series. Read it, this is really, really good science fiction.

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10 August 2013

One second on the Internet

A whole lot happens online in just one second. Find out roughly how much HERE.

04 August 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga, #1)Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport "tunnels" known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star... vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.
Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship's mission for its own ends.
Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth... and humanity itself. Could it be that Johansson was right?

Simply put, this book, together with Judas Unchained with which it actually forms one rather large book, is space opera at it's best. In this book we are introduced to PFH's Commonwealth Universe which you will get to know well if you follow on and read more of his later work like the Void Trilogy.

Right from the beginning we're drawn into a huge universe of colony planets and alien civilizations all linked together by an incredible network of wormholes. The world building is about as good as it gets and the characters are superb. This storytelling really is next-level.

Essentially we end up with a massive galaxy-spanning conflict that will take your breath away. The scale is so vast, just what you'd expect from PFH and space opera in general. This storyline would be the most epic SF movie if it were ever made.

Along with the high-tech goodies like anti-gravity and wormhole generators there are the mystical and almost fantasy elements of the Silfen and their mysterious 'paths' that link together various points in the universe. I found this part utterly fascinating.

When things are reaching fever pitch, the book ends abruptly (but with a really cool cliff-hanger) and leaves you scrambling for Judas Unchained which picks right up where this book leaves off. Have it handy when you're close to finishing Pandora's Star because you will be wanting to keep going with the story.

One of my all-time favorite story segments from anything I've ever read comes from this book, where Justine Burnelli goes 'hypergliding' (massively awesome) over huge mountains on Far Away and eventually ends up meeting Kazimir. The author makes you feel like you're right in the cockpit for this wild ride. I've re-read this passage a number of times.

Read this and if you like large, epic and gritty plots with lots of cool tech, weird and wonderful aliens and really 'real' characters, you will not be disappointed. As you can probably tell I'm a huge fan. I think you might be just about to find out why. I hope that you enjoy the journey.

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03 August 2013

FREE BOOK: THE ICE OWL by Carolyn Ives Gilman

The free Phoenix Pick ebook for August is The Ice Owl by Carolyn Ives Gilman. This novella was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula when it was originally published.

The Ice Owl
Set in the same universe as Arkfall (although a totally independent story), The Ice Owl tells a tale capturing that moment when we start to lose our childhood...when we start to realize that our parents and the "grown-ups" are just as flawed as we are...everyone struggling to deal with their own demons.
It is also a story about past crimes and the haunting echo of ghosts long dead, of a life-long quest for redemption and, for some, the final revenge for crimes lost in the stellar dust...

The code for July is 9991670 and the link to download the book is available, as always, from our online catalogue page at http://www.PPickings.com.

The book will be available from now through August 31, 2013.