Vonne’s Shelf: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Vonne’s Shelf: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

This is a finalist for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. It is very good, but you don’t need me to tell you that (it’s a finalist for the Hugo, fercryinoutloud)! Let’s do a parental review, give a brief synopsis, a few thoughts on relevancy, and finally my take on its chances at the Worldcon for the Hugo in Helsinki, Finland in August.

Parental Review:

Profanity: Yes. The f*bomb is not quite pervasive, but becomes more so as you get into part two, when one of the protagonists learns to swear and takes up the practice with gusto. Notably, both Sidra and young Jane 23 are cautioned about their language, so that’s nice.

Sex/Nudity: None, really. There is some talk, but in regards to inter-species mating practices. This reminded me a bit of a Galactic Geographic documentary of alien natural procreation norms.

Violence: None. Yay! This is my favorite thing. There is some action, as one of the protagonists is attacked by wild dogs, and she has to defend herself. She kills some of them, and then learns she needs to start supplementing her diet, so this becomes a hunting scenario.

Brief Synopsis:

In a way, this is an indirect sequel to A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. That novel introduced a secondary character that is one of the main characters here. That novel also gave birth to the sentient AI that becomes the other main character here. However, make no mistake: this is a very different novel from that one. All those older, more fun, characters are gone, and instead we are dealing with a much more serious story with a more serious message.

Sidra used to be known as Lovelace, the AI on the Wayfarer in the other novel. However, her personality “died” at the end of that novel, and the core programming was downloaded into a human-analogue kit body, and this is Sidra. This story follows her as she tries to cope with the restrictions her kit-body imposes, and find her own way in the sprawling station known as Port Coriol.

Pepper was a secondary character in the previous novel. She takes Sidra to live with her and to take care of her, helping her to adjust to society and her new life. Half of this novel follows Pepper when she was a young girl named Jane 23 on an Enhanced World. There, she was basically slave labor to make tech work. This back story will take her to a damaged shuttle with a lonely AI named Owl. Ultimately, the two of them will repair the shuttle and escape the planet.

The story bounces back and forth, alternating chapters in the present with Sidra and Pepper and then with Pepper as Jane 23 in the past. The last section of the novel merges these stories to achieve a resolution to the real story, which I won’t reveal here.

Relevancy:

Right now the world is grappling with diversity. Exactly what qualifies as diversity, and what is merely aberrant behavior? I don’t know the answer to that question, but this novel seems to be tackling that difficult problem.

Here I’ll get into something called “literary symbolism,” which is a subject that frustrates me to death. This is my least favorite thing about Literature classes: the need to find some deeper meaning than just a good story. In my disdain for this practice, I am in good company. Mark Twain hated it also. Normally, I would rather not even acknowledge the beast, but this novel begs for it so here it comes.

Consider the challenge of being in a body you know is not yours. That is Sidra’s dilemma, and how that is resolved will be . . . unsatisfying in the “literary symbolism” context, but I cannot reveal that. Anyway, this is very like the challenges of those struggling with transgender, or Gender Identity Disorder, or something similar. I won’t pretend to understand those difficulties; all I will say is that our society makes life very difficult for such ones.

That means this story is extremely relevant, and that increases its chances for the Hugo Award.

Grief Management through a Personal Story:

A friend of mine claimed to have Gender Identity Disorder. He felt he was actually a woman, and resented being lumped in with males. His wife struggled along with him in this. Why they ever got married is baffling to me. They told me repeatedly they could handle it. It turns out they couldn’t. We had many discussions about this, and spoke openly and directly. My focus was not judging because, well, who am I to judge anything? It did make me do a lot of research, though. He argued that GID sufferers are shown in autopsies to literally have different brain structure that does identify as the opposite gender than their body presents. My research agreed with this, but also included the reality that by choosing to dwell on things, we literally change the synaptic connections, and therefore the structure, in our brains. The conundrum: Does the structure always present gender-opposition from birth, or do we create that structure by thinking repeatedly along those lines? We never got an answer to that. What we did get were numerous trips to the ER while he self-injured to make himself a woman; the marriage crashing; disturbing public behavior; ultimately, he committed suicide by cop to end his suffering. A tragedy that I still weep about in my heart.

Now that we’re all bummed out, let’s change the subject back to the novel’s addressing of this topic. Yeah, changing the subject: I’m down with that.

One of the things that highlights the gender challenges is one particular ensemble character that is of an alien species that naturally cycles through differing genders during its lifespan. When we first meet this character, they are a “she” p. 92. The next time they show up, they are “he” p. 138, and we are told up front that they have changed gender. Third appearance p. 187 back to “she” with no explanation. Then, p. 220 back to “he” with no explanation. Then, p. 300, bafflingly and suddenly, the uncertain alien gender of “xe” and “xyr” with no explanation. Finally, p. 312 back to “she” with no explanation.

Either this character is present to show that gender identity changing is perfectly fine and can be handled with equanimity, or this is some piss poor proofreading. I get real passionate about my favorite authors not being treated well by their publishing houses, so I hope this isn’t piss poor proofing. You won’t like it if I get angry.

Hugo Chances:

This is very good, and deserves a solid reading. I just don’t think it’s good enough to beat some of the other works in the finalist list. The relevancy factor is in its favor. Though the story must have been very difficult to write, it really isn’t that different from many other novels written in the same way. So, I’m thinking it won’t actually win the Hugo.

One thing is certain: there was a ton of quality SF/F produced last year, and making the Hugo finalist list in that kind of competitive environment should be a matter of great pride. The whole genre should be proud of itself.

Of greater concern to me is that it is so serious, I cannot even give it the 2016 Golden Giggle (or Giggly) Award like I hoped to! Gah!

Oh well, not every author should feel obligated to accommodate my need for inane silliness.

Well done, Ms. Chambers. You deserve the finalist slot, and I hope you win, but forgive me for not thinking you will. In fact, just ignore that.

Smile!

4/7/17
VA

My 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Awards Picks

2017 Arthur C. Clarke Thoughts

So, I mentioned in the previous post that I had chosen who I thought should get Clarke Award nods, and even the winner. Yet, I had not posted it here. So, here it is for your debating pleasure!

1. All the Birds In the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: This is my pick for the Hugo this year! It mashes up sci-fi and fantasy to make the case that SF/F geeks can defeat the corporate overlords! Timely and fun!

2. The Medusa Chronicles by Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter: This is GLORIOUS! To write the sequel to an Arthur C. Clarke Hugo winning novella from 1972, expand the story, even stay in that false universe’s future conceits, is a shoe-in for this award! Baxter has been nominated the most here, but never won. It’s time! Reynolds’ other work, Revenger, is good, but not anywhere near how good Medusa is. How can you not give the Clarke Award to a Clarke Sequel? This is not only short-listed, it is my prediction for the WINNER.

3. Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: Honestly, I haven’t read it yet. The noise surrounding it is cool, and it is my current top next-to read, and I’m psyched about it. That’s all the justification I have.

4. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: This is the worst thing Lee has written, and it doesn’t deserve to be on any list. It acts like gore is poetic, and provides a clunky, incomprehensible fake society to be the mechanism for this dreadful mistake. However, this has been highly anticipated, and though I hated it, I have to admit the Awards people are often mistaking art for mere wishful thinking. We love Lee’s short stories, and this has a lot of feel-good from the industry.

5. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: This actually WON the Hugo last year! Its sequel is being touted for further awards, and the final volume in the trilogy is hotly anticipated. This is EPIC SF/F and deserves every award it gets. This is going to become a “classic” in literature. It is really THAT GOOD!

6. Death’s End by Cixin Liu: Arthur C. Clarke has always been about epic science, and no one on this list explodes with epic science like this book. Just cracking the covers could put your eye out from the scientific ideas bursting from it! There are enough brilliant conjectures here to compose several novels, but are crammed into one. Actually, it has pretty big plot holes, and the author waxes pedantic at times. It shouldn’t win, but the mass of extraordinary ideas alone place it on this list.

There they are, my 6-pix and even who I hope wins.

2 April 2017

VA

Vonne’s Shelf: Borderline by Mishell Baker

Borderline

By Mishell Baker

This novel is on the shortlist for the Nebula Award this year, and rounds out my reading for that Award. When I first heard about it, I read the words “urban fantasy” and groaned until it turned into a yawn. Then I read the words “borderline personality disorder” and nodded until it turned into grunting with – well, maybe not approval, but – Why not give it a go? Could be interesting! (Spoiler: it WAS!)

Let’s begin with parental guidance, as usual; then a spoiler-lite synopsis; my useless opinion; and finally what I think of its award chances at the Nebula.

Parental Guidance

Profanity: Yes! I wouldn’t call the f*bomb pervasive, but at least common. Then the dreaded c**nuclear bomb went off around page 300. That can get you thrown off my website. I’m a little mollified that the utterer of the utterly unutterable immediately goes into a 2/3 page apology for their behavior and speech and recommends such language not be used in real life. “Little” mollified because the utterer is a fictional character made up by the author who could have just refrained from having someone utter it in the first place, but more about manipulation later!

Violence: Some at the very end. This is an action fantasy procedural private eye deal that keeps things swinging without actually hurting anyone until the protagonist has to save the day; then an evil person gets it but good!

Sex: No. Some talk, flirting, etc. But nothing showed on page. There’s a little nudity, but never described in detail and usually not in a sexual context anyway.

Spiritism/Occult: Kinda sorta maybe no-yeah? Please see synopsis to follow.

So, for parents, just because of the language, give this a read first, then do what you wish for your youngins. Remember that very few of the works I review are actually intended for YA audiences. So, the author of an adult fantasy is not obligated to keep it clean for an audience they aren’t writing for anyway. And now it’s time to make you wonder why that last sentence should even exist! Woot!

Spoiler-lite Synopsis

The protagonist of this has borderline personality disorder, however they are pretty far along in therapy and, at least, can identify the symptoms and start engaging in coping skills immediately. Her past mental health issues ultimately drove her to risky behavior followed by a serious attempt at suicide. That attempt left her with lots of scarring, a missing leg, and missing the other foot. Getting around is tough. She has prostheses and a wheel chair, but that doesn’t make an action adventure any simpler.

Borderline also describes the borderline between our reality and an alternative place called Arcadia, wherein all the inhabitants are “fey,” or fantastical in nature. No werewolves or vampires, but sprites, faeries, fauns, etc. These beatific creatures are usually reserved for children’s fantasies, and that’s why stating this is not aimed at that audience is a bit disingenuous. However, there is no rule forbidding an author to use children’s artifices for adult purposes, so do what I did: roll with it.

Our protagonist will be conscripted to search for a missing “fey” in our side of that borderline. She ultimately finds several more missing “fey” and will expose a terrifying plot to subvert the magic-folk for greedy purposes in our reality.

By the way, this all takes place surrounding Hollywood, so the magic is aptly placed! There gets to be some confusion between movie magic, fey magic, and human personality disorders that is quite engaging.

That’s all you’re going to get from me, so let’s get to . . .

My Useless Opinion

FANTASTIC! Go read this book! I know, I know, the sordid language is daunting, but . . . follow your conscience. This is a blast. It took very little time to read because the writing is so smooth and the pace is relentless and complicated.

There are only two nits I have. One is based on personal experience, and the other is just baffling.

I have a friend who’s been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She completely rejects the diagnosis and acts like it’s just foolishness. Everyone comes to me boasting about how wondrous and amazing she is – and I nod knowingly, waiting for – and regaling me with the things they are on their way to do for her – and I nod knowingly, diagnosis confirmed. And when she does something truly awful to herself and ends up in a mental hospital, they all rush to get her out and take her home because she is so wonderful and just misunderstood. I hang my head and weep for her. They are not helping.

So, I kept looking for that kind of surreal behavior from the protagonist, and just didn’t see it because she is so well developed in her coping skills that it’s obscured. Until the end. Then her BPD comes in real handy when the options are death or death. I waited to the end to see clear indications of her illness (and yes, that page 300 thing was the first real sign).

Second nit: On page 184 of my Saga Press edition, the characters attribute the Sistine Chapel to Leonardo da Vinci. Now, I LOVE Leonardo da Vinci (NO, eejit, not Leonardo de Caprio!) And I would love it if Leo da-V had actually painted the Sistine Chapel. I just don’t think Michelangelo would appreciate the mis-accreditation for his own really nice work on that Chapel. M-angelo is the better sculptor, but Leo is the better painter and all around genius, but M-angelo actually painted the Sistine Chapel. How did this odd goof happen? I kept waiting for the author to pull a fast one on me and show me how we were already in an alternate universe where Leo really DID do it, but . . . no. No further mention of it. A goof, I guess.

Nebula Winner?

I would love to say “Yeah!” because I really loved this book. It is great fun, and the protagonist has a sense of humor that is often sublime. But I don’t think it’s strong enough to overcome Jemisin. So, no from me, but who cares because I don’t vote anyway!

Really: read this book. It cooks. It rocks. It makes your heart, then breaks your heart, then almost makes it all up again.

I wonder if Ms. Baker plans a number of stories in this universe.

VA

15 March 2017

 

Health Care for Americans

To be clear: I am a disabled person with a debilitating, possibly congenital, bone disease who is unemployable, but requires regular health care, and am enrolled in ACA.

SO, I AM QUALIFIED TO CUT THROUGH THE CRAP! LASER SCALPEL IS UNSHEATHED AND SURGERY COMMENCING!

At its inception, President Obama offered something he called the Affordable Health Care Act. It included a “public option” to get health “insurance” directly from the government. But he also wanted the Insurance Companies to underwrite the law. They wouldn’t do it as long as participants in the program had the option to not go through an Insurance Company. So, Obama scrapped the public option. This decision effectively undermined the law’s effectiveness.

In reality, the AHCA then became an “Affordable Health INSURANCE Act” though no one changed the actual name to that.

Handing things over to the Insurance Companies, within a year or two, allowed said Insurance Companies to begin raising the premiums, excluding conditions, not covering some medications, even pulling out of markets completely if enough people didn’t sign up. This actually happened here in Arizona, where exemptions from the mandate were being sought by Congressional representatives because, at one point, NO INSURANCE COMPANIES WERE OFFERING SERVICES IN PINAL COUNTY. Effectively making all of its residents lawbreakers.

At this point, it was no longer an “Affordable” anything act in some places.

Now, it’s simply called the Affordable Care Act, leaving “health” out of it completely, whether or not it is affordable or even offers care of any type.

So, now Trump’s GOP is trying to repeal it for — I don’t know, just spite and political bragging rights? — reasons, and replace it with something — “better?” — else. And to do it, they are turning back to the Insurance Companies again, the very people who broke the original law.

WHY ARE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES EVEN INVOLVED???!!!???!!!

(Yes, I know the answer to that question: cronyism, making sure money pie is distributed to all lobbyists [no lobbying to Executive Branch for a time is fine, but the problem will only be solved when there is NO lobbying to ANY branch of the government EVER], and the Government doesn’t take on too much responsibility for the well-being of their citizens. HAH!)

Let me explain: the figures you are about to see are at least a decade old, and yet the reality is even worse now. Here goes:

Before the ACA, Americans were spending 16% of their income on health care. Meanwhile, a little drive north, Canadians with National Health Service were spending 9% of their income in the form of a tax. (Please don’t waste time telling me horror stories about NHS. They are generally happy with it, and Americans liked it enough to drive north every time they wanted a prescription refill, because it was so much cheaper. Guess what: Arizonans and others in the south make similar trips into Mexico for the same reason.)

Look at those figures again: 16% for us and no insurance mandated vs 9% tax for them and everything is covered.

Well, Canadians are pretty affable folks, and we Americans are pretty snooty folks, so lets strike a happy medium (that poor spiritist sure gets smacked around a lot, though she remains cheerful about it).

Let’s tell the Insurance Companies (insert Lobby here) to go take a flying leap. They are making plenty of money off of life, auto, renters, and homeowners insurance! They do not need our health insurance money. They can just go away.

Convert Medicare into actual Medical Care, and use their infrastructure already in place. Tax me and all my fellow citizens 12-13%. Give the entire country Medical Care. Simple!

After that, the only laws that need to be dealt with are the ones regulating who qualifies as a medical care provider and controlling what kind of profit the pharmaceuticals are allowed to make. After all, they’ll now be billing the government, and I’m sure the government won’t want to waste money, right? (Snark.)

But wait! What about the lost jobs to insurance employees? Well, I’m pretty sure the new Medical Care Department of the US Government will need experienced medical billing people, and the government always offers better benefits, and regular pay increases!

But wait! What about BIG GOVERNMENT getting BIGGER? Well, what about it? Do you not understand that government ALWAYS gets bigger? Do you not understand that the current President has no problem expanding the government to include Trump Towers and Mir-a-Lago (sic, yeah, look it up), Florida at a very hefty cost to the taxpayers? One man is exponentially draining the tax dollars all by himself at an unprecedented rate! He said he wouldn’t accept a paycheck as President, and for all I know, he’s not. But, he sure has transferred his expenses to US! No one gets to whine about big government anymore.

And no, I do not have a smartphone. Can’t afford it with all the medical bills. And buying one wouldn’t have been relevant to my health condition anyway.

So, to recap and refocus the foolish hysteria out there:

  1. Convert Medicare to Medical Care.
  2. Enroll every citizen in it.
  3. Tax us 12-13% for health care.
  4. Give us health care as agreed.
  5. Tell the Insurance Companies to take a long jump off a short pier.
  6. Regulate qualifications to be a healthcare provider and profit margins for pharmaceuticals.
  7. Done. Thank you.
  8. No, really. Thank you.
  9. Quit thinking about insurance, and start thinking about health care.
  10. We’re done here. VA 7 March 2017

Vonne’s Shelf: Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Arabella of Mars

by David D. Levine

This is on Locus Magazine’s recommended reading list under the category of First Novels, which makes it possible for this to be a Hugo Nominee. Is it good enough for that? Is it actually BETTER than that and should be eligible in the Best Novel category as well?

First of all, let’s look at Parental Advisories, as that is the main purpose for my reviews. Then a brief synopsis of the plot, with as few spoilers as possible; my inconsequential opinion of it; and lastly discuss that Hugo potential.

Parental Advisories:

Profanity: NONE, with only the suggestion of it. Those suggestions take this form: Do you know what “d—-d,” “d—l,” “b—–d,” or “f—–g” mean? That’s how the author writes them. You could probably figure it out. That is the extent of the profanity in this novel. Go back and look at that second one again. “d—l” means devil. I didn’t know that was a swear word, but I do understand why the author portrays it that way, considering this novel’s historical setting.

Sex/Nudity: One scene where a female character has her upper torso bared in preparation of a whipping. There is no description other than her efforts to cover herself, and as a result of what she couldn’t cover no whipping takes place.

Violence: There is some. The battle scene with a privateer corsair is very exciting, and some of the results are depicted. At all times, any violence in this is treated as sad, abhorrent, and to be rejected as unacceptable. A proper adult view.

So, as parental guidance goes: We have a WINNER! The most obviously fitting YA SF/F novel I have read in a long time. Parents, read it if you like, but I don’t mind recommending this to anyone over ten years old. Those under ten might not understand the societal norms on display here, but there is little to take offense at.

Brief Synopsis:

This novel takes place in 1813! Yes, that’s what I said: 1813! A Regency era where the galleons that plied the oceans blue also plied the route from Earth to Mars! It mashes up quaint manners and societal propriety with Mars, Martians, and space pirates. It makes the assumption that the scientific beliefs of the day regarding the makeup of space were correct: that it had a breathable atmosphere, was lit quite well, and had space currents the airships could catch, sailing away.

It follows Arabella Ashby, raised on Mars, whisked away at the age of 17 by a demanding mother who insisted she live a more proper life back on Earth. Arabella is attacked by a nefarious cousin, who is intent on getting to Mars to wrest the family estate there away from Arabella’s brother, Michael. Arabella escapes imprisonment and gets passage on a Mars Company airship named “Diana,” intent on getting to her beloved brother first to warn him of the cousin’s intentions. However, she must masquerade as a young man aboard ship and assume all the duties of a young man.

Because of her — er, his? — youth, she — er, he? — is appointed to be the Captain’s boy; someone who serves and the beck and call of the Captain, relaying messages, providing tea or dinner, generally keeping him at his best. (No, NOT the Captain’s boy you first thought of! Get your mind out of the gutter! Remember: propriety!) The Captain is enamored with his automaton named Aadim, which he can program to help with finer adjustments in navigation. Arabella also likes automatons, as her Father relayed his love for it to her when she was young. She begins to learn how to work the complicated mess of levers, weights, brackets, cogs, etc.

She hears some of the crew discussing mutiny. They are attacked by a French privateer corsair that very nearly overwhelms them. They survive, but the Captain is badly injured and comatose. It is up to Arabella and Aadim to navigate the battered ship to an asteroid to replenish and repair.

Ultimately they get to Mars, only to learn that the Martians are in full rebellion against humans and all their lives are at stake.

No more. Read it!

My Opinion:

I LOVE THIS BOOK!

The false scientific assumptions are whimsically pleasing. The romance and adventure is stirring, causing me to keep reading long after the lights should have been out! The Martians are alien enough to be fully fleshed out with cultures and rules of propriety of their own. There are surprises all over the place, and the ending surprise portends astonishing things for the next novel, if there is one. Its recognition of appropriate and inappropriate behavior is given the utmost respect, which is simply delightful.

I did find one little hiccup in the events, but this is so minor I’ll say no more about it.

Really, READ THIS BOOK!

And for the record: I WANT THIS COVER ART TO HANG ON MY WALL! It is scrumptious! If you doubted that a galleon could set enough sail to travel in space, study this cover’s brilliant depiction of the brave “Diana.” It’s simply gorgeous!

Hugo Chances:

Mr. Levine has received the Hugo and other awards for his short fiction, and that’s why this is in the category of First Novels. I would love for him to get it, but can’t quite commit that for three important reasons.

First, there doesn’t seem to be some deep truth that changes my life, or my understanding of others. Here’s the best I could come up with: this novel demonstrates that personal accountability includes word of ownership, followed by actions that demonstrate acceptance of the consequences, even if someone else is deciding the consequences.

Second, “Infomocracy” by Malka Older is also on this reading list in this category. I’m thinking it will take it. I also think “Ninefox Gambit” by Yoon Ha Lee will be nominated in this category, and this novel is unworthy of him. Yet, Yoon Ha Lee seems to have a lot of feel-good from the genre for short fiction, and that can sometimes mess up judgment.

Third, I don’t understand why this novel isn’t also included in the Young Adult category. Don’t some works get included into combinations of lists? I’ll have to research this. If it were in that category, I think it would be nominated for sure, and likely would win it.

I’ll say one more thing about this novel: Even if it doesn’t get the Hugo, it should go on every school’s reading list, and should be destined for “Classic” status right alongside “Treasure Island” by RLS.

Yes, it is that good as far as I’m concerned. A Classic that will be loved by anyone who loves adventure, romance, “other,” robots, powerful female leads, blah, blah, blah.

Seriously, read it and love it.

19 February 2017

VA

Vonne’s Shelf: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders

This is perhaps the most wondrous read I’ve had this year. Before we get to all that, though, let’s organize ourselves. First, parental advisories; then a short non-spoiler reivew; and finally, my unabashed awe with this novel and the reasons for it.

Parental Advisories:
Profanity: Yes, the f-bomb is very nearly pervasive.
Violence: Some, and it can be gruesome, but the author doesn’t glorify this. Instead, it haunts the characters, so that’s a good thing.
Sex / Nudity: Some nudity, but that’s not a big deal. There is some sex talk, and then the zaniest, somewhat graphic, sex scene I’ve ever read.
So: Parents, read this first and then decide if it is right for your younglings. You will not regret reading it yourself, but may vacillate between your love for this novel and your desire for your family to enjoy it, pitted against the hard reality that this is definitely an adult novel.

Spoiler Free Summary:
Patricia and Laurence are both eight-graders in school; both are part of dysfunctional families; both are different from their peer group and stand aloof, awkward, and friendless. Then they meet each other. Patricia is into magic and can talk to animals, and will ultimately become a witch. Laurence is a technological genius and will ultimately design and build some super scary tech.

As adults, they will meet again. Only this time it might be to do battle.

This is a clash of science and fantasy. Except for the twist: these two characters find comfort and peace in each other’s company, and will ultimately realize the love they have for each other. So, will the collision of science with magic destroy them, their relationship, or will they find harmony within themselves and this Earth? Who will win?

Meanwhile, the Earth has gone wonky with environmental changes and political contention, and the destruction of all mankind looms. Can these two save it?

Read it and find out. Caution: don’t rush through it, especially the last 40 pages. Take your time, savor it, meditate over it, relish the details along the way.

Why I love this book:
There is one word that keeps bouncing around my brain: intimacy. This is an intimate book. I have never felt this connected and intimate with any other fictional characters in my memory. It is not intimacy with the author, no, it is just that the author finds the little things that root relationships and shows them to us, drawing us into this world.

It is, in turn, whimsical, funny, sad, heart breaking, exciting, compelling and satisfying.

Every once in a while, a novel comes along that the reader can sense it will become an instant classic. I felt that way when reading Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbow’s End,” which won the Hugo the year it published. And I felt that again reading this novel. If there had been less profanity and slightly less explicit sex, then this one would become part of every school curriculums must read syllabus. As it is, it will still — in my opinion — become a classic of the genre.

Charlie Jane Anders is the editor of the ubiquitus io9 website that delves deeply into all things science fiction and fantasy. It is not her first novel, but is easily one of the most important novels to come along in a while.

In the current contentious state of our planet, this novel reminds us that there is peace and harmony between opposites; that everyone can cooperate for the greater good; that the world can be a better place if we leave our petty differences behind and respect, accept, and be grateful for each other’s contribution to civilization.

Do yourself a favor: read this. You won’t regret it.

2 February 2017
VA

Review: Rogue One

Rogue One Review

THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW IS SOLELY FOR PARENTAL AWARENESS! THEREFORE,

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CARRIES A CRITICAL SPOILER!

Hello Parents! There is probably not a kid on the planet that doesn’t want to see this Star Wars installment. But there is something important you need to be ready to deal with. I will not describe the story for you, as too many other people have already done that. This is simply so parents know what to expect.

There is no real profanity, nor sexuality. But it earns it’s PG-13 rating for this:

Violence! Lots of it! If it wasn’t blaster type fire that leaves a little smoking hole, there would be gore all over the place. But there’s not. This is a WAR story! Therefore, expect a lot of explosions and blaster fire. THAT IS NOT THE CRITICAL SPOILER!

THIS IS:

At the end, all the good guys die. That’s right. Die. This is a suicide mission. None of the heroes you will root for will survive. At all. Do yourself a favor and . . .

GET THE KIDS READY FOR THAT.

It is an excellent adult movie. Probably as good or better than “Empire,” if you can believe it. It is highly recommended for everyone who has been waiting for the real Stars Wars story telling and excellent dialogue. The plot intricacies will be beyond many young one’s abilities to follow. The opening scenes are from various places in the galaxy and seem only tangentially connected, but all of them come home at the end. Adults will love this movie.

Kids will have a tough time with it.

My job’s done here. Out.

Vonne Anton

21 December 2016

Vonne’s Shelf: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Revenger

by Alastair Reynolds

“Aye, it be a daaarrrk and stooorrrmy night!” Paladin said, clutching its sword menacingly. Paladin was a battered robot wheeling about the stage on one wheel and one peg leg. It sounded like “screech, stomp, screech, stomp.”

“That is the lamest intro to anything I have ever heard!” someone bellowed from the seated audience.

Paladin squinted into the dark theatre, which is quite a trick since it didn’t have eyes; although, to its credit, it was wearing an eyepatch to sell the squinting thing. “Who be that, then, that daaarrres to call me a liaaarrr?” The robot brandished its sword-like thing in one articulated appendage. The sword was really just a three-foot piece of wood and a small crosspiece at the hilt. It hadn’t even been cut to a pointed tip. So, actually, Paladin brandished a blunt piece of wood.

“Stop it, already, you’re no pirate!” the voice hooted from the crowd.

“Aaarrrgh,” threatened the droid. “Methinks I’ll be showing you some paaarrriting!”

“Squawk!” something . . . um, squawked from nearby. This confused everyone, so no one knew what to say.

“Um, Revenger?” someone in the front row whispered. From the back, they seemed to be wearing a robe that cowled their features, looking like a robed and shadowed MST3K character.

“Right!” Paladin caught the drift, almost. “I means ‘rrriiight!’ Now, landlubbers . . . ”

“Space,” that same stage manager whispered loudly.

“Er . . . maties!”

“Coves,” hissed the front row cuer.

“Aaarrrgh!” Paladin roared. “This heeerrre paaarrrit language be haaarrrd!”

“Squawk!”

“What the hell?” Paladin growled. “Somebody shut that thing up befooorrre I haves to skewer the . . . squawky thing. I mean, squaaawwwky thing!”

“Jeez!” the heckler in the audience said. “This is the worst review ever!”

Paladin squinted again, stubbing its wooden sword toward the voice, a silent warning.

“Ignore the heckler,” the shadowy blob whispered.

“As I was saaayyying,” Paladin continued. “This heeerrre tale is a paaarrriting tale . . .”

“Squawk!”

“I swear to God I’m going to kill that thing!” Paladin roared, swiping its eyepatch up. There was, as expected, no eye underneath to patch.

“Review,” hissed the front row.

“Right. Okaaayyy. This tale be called ‘Revengeeerrr,’ and it be a daaarrring tale of danger, excitement, quoins apleeennnty, bauwwwbles and ghooosties that’ll give even seasoned coves a deep case of the shivery! Theeerrre be maidens in distress, and . . . ”

“Hardly!” laughed the heckler. “These girls don’t need help! Dude, they got it going ON!”

“One mooorrre outburst from you, diiirrrty cove, and I’ll make ye walk the plaaannnk!”

“You can’t do that!”

“Just ye wait and see,” Paladin squinted at his anonymous adversary. “Anyway, these two laaasssies get into big adventuuurrre in the Empty, beyooonnd the Congregation, out among the bauwwwbles. The eeevvvil Captain Bosa Sennen, flying the daaarrrk flag of the Nightjammeeerrr, she be capturing one o’them giiirrrls and fooorrrces heeerrr to . . . ”

“Would you PLEASE stop all that hokey, fake pirate talk!”

Paladin swung its sword, er, board at the voice. “I spent a lot of quoins and time to learn Paaarrrit language and . . . ”

“Squawk!”

Anyone who had not wandered out from sheer boredom at this point, suddenly found a healthy reason to be elsewhere, so the ruckus included falling chairs, punches, ouches, doors flung open, shoving, and one inappropriate horse neigh (which has nothing to do with anything and was surprising to everyone).

That left only the Pirate Droid Paladin, the heckler, the cowled stage director, a sprinking of gold flakes flitting around, and one other droid standing behind the heckler.

The heckler sat, frozen in place, one hand full of popcorn poised to dock with its mouth, staring at all the Empty that was just created inside the theatre. The heckler finished the docking maneuver, and then stood to look at the rest.

The Pirate Droid Paladin leaned on its sword’s blunt end on the stage, idly snapping its eyepatch against its domed head. Pull, “snap!” pull, “snap!” pull, . . .

The stage director sat in the front row, holding its head in its hands, shaking back and forth with frustration at this failed review of an important book by an important author.

The gold flakes flitted around, but oddly slow and halting, like it wasn’t sure what it was.

The other droid standing behind the heckler, three feet tall, silver with blue trimmings, domed swivelling head, simply mourned “Blooooooooo.” It had a parrot sitting on its head.

And Vonne got it.

Vonne, the heckler, asked Paladin, “What do you think you are, again?”

The droid muttered, “A paaarrrite, dammit!”

“Squawk!”

Vonne nodded. “Every time you say pirate in that stupid accent, this parrot thinks you’re calling it. It’s answering. Now stop it, please. And, please, get on with the review. I’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t talk stupid paaarrrit-ese.”

“Squawk!”

Paladin sighed, then looked at the stage manager. Have you ever seen a robot shrug? It’s weird. Those little gold flakes seemed like an unqualified and slightly annoying dust devil.

“Parental,” the stage manager cued.

“Right! So,” Paladin began, pedantically boring and board, er, bored. “This is a story heavily influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s basically pirates in space. It occurs at some distant time in the future. Many of the planets of the Solar System simply don’t exist anymore, but there are tens of thousands of small artificial worlds orbiting the Sun. Most of these artificial worlds are rubble, but there are many dozens of engineered worlds that probably at one time were asteroids, or bits of shattered planets.

“Because this is so far into the future, it is unlikely humans ever got away from their own System. The ravages of broken civilizations have left strange baubles floating among the debris. These baubles are ripe for mining by various adventurers who want to strike it rich. They are full of odd technologies that either descended from past human civilizations, or perhaps even created by a couple of alien civilizations who have passed through. One of these alien civilizations still plays a major role as bankers for humans, controlling the flow of quoins (and hopefully you are smart enough to make that connection).

“The story centers on two sisters. One, Adrana, is old enough to qualify to be an adult and make her own decisions. The other, Arafura, is 17. She is the voice of the story, and is familiarly known as Fura Ness (Ness being the last name). They escape from their overbearing father and ultimately board a scavenger ship that has missions to crack baubles and mine their jubbly (treasures).

“The bad paaarrrr — um, pirate is on a separate ship called the Nightjammer. At one point, this bad pirate, Bosa Sennen, overwhelms the ship the girls are on and takes Adrana for herself to pilot her own Nightjammer. Fura is left behind.

“Now, the way into the baubles is by ‘reading the bones.’ This means there are skulls that can communicate over vast distances in an unknown way, but it takes a young mind to ‘jack’ into them and understand the directions. Older one’s brains lose their elasticity and cannot do it. Both of the Ness girls have this ability, which is why Bosa took one of them captive. She needs a new Bone Reader.

“Fura embarks on a rescue operation to retrieve her sister and bring down the murderess Bosa Sessen. She signs on with a young and inexperienced salvage crew to be their Bone Reader. Ultimately, she leads them to a particularly nasty bauble named ‘Fang’ that holds many lucrative secrets, and will set the stage to, perhaps, rescue her older sister and end Bosa Sessen’s reign of terror.”

“Parental!” hissed the cowled stage manager, adamantly.

“Yes,” Paladin acknowledged. “There’s a couple of bits of interesting tech here. Something called catchcloth that makes up the sails that enable these space ships to catch various solar winds to maneuver around the solar system. Most catch photons, but the kind the WIndjammer uses catch electromagnetic winds, allowing it to be completely black and camouflaged.

“Another is lookstones. These are basically spyglasses that can look through solid matter and see things any other visual tool would be unable to see.”

“What about weapons?” the heckler called while munching popcorn. “How cool are they?”

“The Ghostie tech is particularly exciting,” Paladin began, “but very rare because . . . ”

“Stop it!” bellowed Vonne from the audience. “I want to hear about weapons. What kind of cool weaponry do space pirates normally use?”

“Um. . . that would be crossbows.”

“Crossbows?”

“Yes, but it’s cooler than it sounds.”

“Oh? How does it work?”

Paladin paused, thinking. “These crossbows are . . . um, . . . er, they shoot arrows really fast.”

Vonne stood, scattering popcorn everywhere. “That’s it?!?”

“Well, yes, but they are really, really fast.” Paladin’s pause ground to a full and complete stop; and if a robot could sigh, it would have.

“That’s it, I’m out of here!” Vonne declared and began scooting for the door.

The stage director hissed.

Paladin stood straighter, brandished its wood, waving it wildly above its head (which sounds vaguely obscene).

The little droid behind Vonne moved in closer, articulated arms unfolding from his carapace, pincer joints sparkling blue lightning, but very, very, threatening blue lightning. He intoned, “Blup, blip, bloop, brew!”

Vonne stopped, staring at the little droid with a parrot on top. “Artoo?”

“Bleep, bloop,” R2 confirmed.

Vonne stared, caught between Paladin with a wooden furring strip sword, and Artoo with a built in defibrillator hardly ever used for healing. “How did you get mixed up with this bunch?” He asked.

“Pooo-re-et,” Artoo said.

“Squawk!” echoed in the theatre.

Paladin spoke, “You are being directed, Anton, to sit and listen to the Parental Reviews and the rest of this review.”

“Ah, yes, about that. What if I don’t? What?” Vonne asked, “Are you going to whack me with your cheap piece of wood, or make sweet Artoo here give me a tingle? Doesn’t sound very piratey to me.”

“Sit!” intoned the stage director, not even rising from his own seat to sound magnificent, stately, commanding, god-ish.

Vonne sat.

Paladin continued, “There’s no mooorrre of the stooorrry I can reveal, cove, because that would be spoileeerrrs, and they be not peeerrrmitted!”

“Oh, god, the paaarrrit speak again,” Vonne muttered.

“Squawk!

“Paaarrrents,” Paladin cried. “There be no vulgaaarrrities in this story. There be no baaarrreness or sex in this story. Aye, but there be a wee bit of violence, lad, or else how could this be a proper paaarrrite story!”

“Squawk!”

“A wee bit?” Vonne rose again. “Bloody hand to hand combat isn’t a wee bit!”

“Aaarrrgh, but it be in space and all!” Paladin retooorrrted.

“Decapitation? Skewering in various ways? That’s not a wee bit!”

“Alright,” Paladin conceded. “Let’s compromise around, say, a wee-bit-squared, shall we?”

Vonne was adamant. “Is this a YA novel, or not?!”

Paladin hedged, quirking eyebrows it doesn’t have over the eye patch it doesn’t need. “For a young-ish audience. How be that, then?”

“I guess . . .” Vonne allowed, nodding.

“But!” Paladin brightened, brandishing its wood. “Wasn’t it fun?!?”

“Yeah, yeah, true. It is a blast,” Vonne agreed. “So, you recommend it, then?”

‘Of course,” Paladin said. “Because – as everyone knows – whens you wants fun, it helps to be paaarrrites!” It began cavorting around the stage, in spite of its wheel and peg leg, singing. This sounded like “screech, stomp, ‘Rum,’ screech, stop, ‘Rum.’

“Squawk!”

“That’s it!” Vonne yelled. “You aren’t pirates!”

Paladin stopped cavorting, and raised its wooden sword. Artoo moved closer behind Vonne, threatening with crackling electricity and blooping, “Bloop!”

“Methinks,” Paladin sneered. “It be time ye waaalllked the plaaannnk, Anton!”

“Oh?” Vonne asked. “Artoo isn’t going to make that happen because he’s too nice. In fact, R2 is so nice, he gets to be called a “he,” while you’re stuck in “it-“dom. And you can’t make me because you have a peg leg and one wheel and I’ll be long gone before you even get here.”

The stage manager rose, turned, and released his cowl, revealing his face and his true identity. “Oh,” he said, making a mystical hand wave. “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

“Obi?”

“How can I be of service to . . . ” the golden sprite said, taking off it’s Ghostie helmet, which had obscured his identity. “Er, should I call you Lord or Lady?” C3-PO asked, a cocked golden head floated above an invisible suit of armor. The joint areas were exposed, which made up the golden sprite that had been jerking around the auditorium.

“Um, Vonne?”

“As a protocol droid, I am able to converse in thousands of languages, many digital, including paaarrrit-ese.”

“Squawk!”

“So,” C3-PO continued. “I have been ordered to assist you to walk the plank. Please come with me now, Vonne.” C3-PO reached out an invisible hand and grabbed the heckler’s arm.

“But, but, you still can’t make me walk the plank,” Vonne said.

“Oh?” Paladin asked. “Why be that then?”

“Because,” Vonne answered, “On this WordPress website, I never got around to installing the Plank plugin. There is no plank.”

“Oh, Vonne,” C3-PO responded, pulling on his arm. “Remember those digital languages I know?”

“Aha!” Paladin roared. “We win, coves, because we be paaarrrits!”

“Squawk!” the parrot and Vonne screamed in unison.

26 November 2016

VA

Making Medicare Healthier

So, there it is.

A new President-Elect who doesn’t like the ACA. Actually, what he said in his acceptance speech was, “We’re going to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something better!” Mysterious, isn’t it? What did he mean by that? Replace it? With what? Something better? Better for whom?

First of all, let’s get some “Definitions and Explanations” out of the way. Then you’ll be treated to something “Personal” about yours truly. You’ll hear an “Opinion” of mine. You’ll learn a “Fact” you might not be aware of, in the form of a contrast between two very close nations. And, finally, you’ll hear a “Simple Fix,” along with some adjunct “Consequences.”

DEFINITIONS AND EXPLANATIONS

Medicare is available to anyone over 65 (retirement age), or disabled. It’s basically an 80/20 proposition wherein the guvmint pays 80% of medical costs, while the citizen pays 20%. For a long time it did not include medications, which were becoming increasingly expensive, so a change was required.

Back in the early 20-aughts, there was this unlikely President with the unlikely moniker of G-Dubya who addressed that shortcoming. That’s known as Medicare Part D, and for a small-ish extra deduction, the citizen got prescription meds at a better price. Though Insurance companies were always trolling under the surface of Medicare, they stepped boldly into Part D and the citizen had to pick a plan.

This led to an outcry for national health care, and President Obama tried to get that past Congress and a bevy of lobbyists. Originally, it was called the Affordable Health Care Act (or, AHCA). It would be underwritten by Insurance companies, but there would be a “public option” for the citizen to choose the guvmint, and the guvmint would be the arbiter of how expensive the Insurance companies could charge and expect to get a meaningful piece of that pie. Unfortunately, the Insurance Lobby didn’t like that idea, so they refused to underwrite any of it while that public option was on the table. President Obama caved and removed this “single-payer health care system;” the Insurance Lobby got on board; chaos reigned among the citizenry because there were now too many bewildering options. Oh, and the deduction from Medicare income got bigger.

Somewhere along the line, the acronym for this was reduced to ACA (Affordable Care Act). Why they took the word “Health” out of it is a mystery, but there it is. Actually, in time the truth would come out. By putting the citizenry’s health care under the auspices of the Insurance companies, there are now conflicts about what will be covered, co-pays, formulary’s, etc, that allow the Insurance companies to play doctor. It was never really an Affordable Health Care Act because it was really an Affordable Health Insurance Act. The difference between “Care” and “Insurance” is significant. The citizens had no choice, because it became a crime punishable by a fine to not have insurance.

As time went on, it’s even lost its “Affordable” status, as Insurance companies are deserting segments of the population, and/or raising their premiums. In Arizona, Maricopa County — where Phoenix is — now has only two choices. In Pinal County to our south, they have NO choices. Senators McCain and Flakes are trying to enact an exception to the law that exempts such citizens from being punished.

So, now it is basically merely an “Act,” in so many, many ways.

PERSONAL REVEAL

I am disabled. I depend on this “Act” for some semblance of care. I have skin in this game. So, there it is.

OPINION

Any wealthy, progressive nation should assume responsibility to keep its citizenry healthy. America is wealthy, though “progressive” is in doubt at the moment. Many nations far less wealthy than the USofA provide for their citizen’s health.

You may have a different opinion, and that is fine. Go build your own website, meditate, then blog about your opinion over there. Invite me to have a look. Free speech and all that. So, there it is.

FACT

This will surprise many! According to a report dated 4 June 2009, published by the Denver Post, Americans spent 17% of their income on health care and only 85% of the population actually had coverage. Meanwhile, in Canada, they spent 10% of their income on health care in the form of a tax, and 100% of the population was covered. I tried to compile more current results, but the deeper you get into this, the more complicated it becomes; mainly because the Canadian tax is diluted across many expenses that have nothing to do with healthcare, and determining exactly how much of it goes to health care is like counting cards in a casino. They probably won’t throw you out of the country for that, though. After all, it’s Canada. So, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll go with this easier contrast.

Think about that fact. 17% versus 10%. 85% coverage versus 100% coverage. Add to it the reality that many Americans run both the southern and northern border for cheaper medications, and it won’t take long to figure out we are suckers. So, there it is.

SIMPLE FIX

Currently, President-Elect Trump and Speaker of the House Ryan are thinking about dissolving Medicare and replacing it with something called Privatization Insurance. In other words, the guvmint will give us a check that can be used to buy private insurance, even though it won’t cover the whole cost.

Currently, if you have Medicare now, you are not going to lose it. At least, that’s what we’re told. The Privatization Insurance will be for those going on Medicare in the future. What form this could actually take is unclear – mainly because lobbyists, congress folk, a new prez who doesn’t want to dissolve Medicare – all still will get a crack at it.

There is a much easier solution. Considering we already have the infrastructure called Medicare, it would be easier to expand it to all citizens. All of us can accept a – oh, compare the contrast under FACT and pick something between 10 and 17 percent – 13 or 14% health care tax. Everyone pays it, and health care is provided to all the citizens. Yes, the richer will pay more, but will have the joy and personal satisfaction of knowing they are helping their fellow citizens be healthier. (Sound naïve? Sure. But, this is exactly how Canadians view it. A healthier population helps those richer ones to become even richer due to improved working conditions.)

FIVE CONSEQUENCES

  • Insurance companies will get out of the doctor business and remain in the car, property, home, economic, and life business. There will be masses of lay-offs from this industry. However, the guvmint will need masses of extra staff that are already trained to do this, so virtually no-one needs to be unemployed.
  • The guvmint will need to establish qualifications for whom or what “approved health care providers” are, and regulate them.
  • The guvmint will need to regulate the pharmaceutical companies regarding how much profit they will allow the drug companies to make selling their drugs to the guvmint.
  • The expansion of the guvmint program, and regulating the medical industry, will drive fiscal conservatives stark, raving ga-ga.
  • Insurance Lobbyists will be invited to leave politicians alone, which will mean no more money mysteriously shifting from pocket to pocket. Now this one really IS naïve.

And there you have it. A simplified universal health care plan that would work, but no self-serving bureaucrat would ever let it become a reality. I think Bernie Sanders would have loved it.

So, there it is.

VA

14 November 2016

Review: Paternus by Dyrk Ashton

Paternus

by Dyrk Ashton

Guest Reviewer: Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies

Welcome, welcome, come on in! Have a seat! Pardon the flies; someone dropped a load in here earlier, and you know how much them flies likes them some dung, eh?

I’m Beelzebub, and Vonne has hired me to be the guest reviewer today. I’m more generous than Vonne is, because . . . you guessed it! Hot, fresh pizza in the back, and I brought one of my slav…er, Orc Gentleman’s Orc, to pour Dos Equis Amber into cold frosty mugs for you! It’ll stay nice until this review is over, which won’t take long.

In Paternus, the author hired all these gods, demons, succubi (is that the correct plural of succubus? I don’t know. I’m not a writer. I’m an artist. Yep, I can draw flies! Badabing! I’ll be here all weekend, thank you!), anyway all these demigods, uber-gods, even vampires and werewolves to tear the place up. I think me, Trump, and Clinton were the only ones not hired. The other two are busy, and Dyrk still hasn’t forgiven me for arranging those Jay Leno skits for him. Crybaby.

Basically, there’s a supernatural civil war on, kind of an immortal family feud, and a couple of people get caught up in it, and dragged along for the party. These two people are just twentysomething humans, or are they? Maybe not! You’ll see. The action gets hot and heavy in the last two thirds of the story, so if you like chases, battles, miraculous escapes, battles, intrigue, battles, shocking reveals, and did I mention battles? Then you will love this! Good versus evil on an epic scale, as you’ve never seen before!

A few things to be warned about: first, this is book one of a trilogy, so don’t expect everything to be tied up in neat packages for you. There are plenty of loose ends in this epic that should keep you interested for some time. And …

Please stop swatting the flies. I’m their Lord and they start whining at me to save them, droning on and on. Just leave them alone. Remember, I am their Lord? Don’t make me come down there and save them. You won’t like it. Thank you.

Second, this is not a novel for kids. How many here are parents? Oh, lots. Great! Vonne says I have to give parental advisories. Here they are:

Profanity: Yep. Check that one. Lots, but not pervasive f-bombs. However, if you were experiencing what these two humaniforms are going through, you’d probably be swearing yourself into a slapfest from your mother, too.

Sex/Nudity: Some. One masturbatory scene, and a bizarre memory that will be discussed under “Themes.”

Violence: Gobs of gore! Decapitations, dismemberments, entrails, ichor, enough blood to fill my Hades-sized very, very hot-tub. Splatters and brain bits everywhere; even the gobs are covered in gore.

Themes: Occult, spiritism, all kinds of evil in many forms. That one memory alluded to earlier under “Sex/Nudity” is one of the characters remembering being sodomized by their parents when young.

So, not for children, huh?

Speaking of children, will the Mexicans here please raise their hands? Ah, there you are! Great to see you! Okay, all you other people can stop sacrificing your children to me. White kids just taste like lard; black ones like catfish — whaddup wi’dat, anyway? —  asian ones just make me feel hungry again in two hours. But you Mexican ones! OMG — well, more like OYG (Oh, Your God) — I loves me some Mexican food! Keep it up, people! That’s some fine eating, right there!

There are three giant problems I have with this story. First, no mention of the Big Guy, Your God. We are led to believe Peter is the Father, but even he references God as someone else, so I’m a bit confused on that point. But, it’s a trilogy, so we’ll see.

Second, that sodomy scene: normally kids that are abused like this are not balanced, reasonable human beings. They are seriously messed up. But, this memory belongs to the most balanced, reasonable character in the milieu. That just doesn’t jibe. I hope it’s not just gratuitous sicko; can’t see how the author will make it relevant in the two installments to follow, but Dyrk’s got oodles of imagination, so we’ll see.

And third, no mention of me anywhere. I know! Go figure! Well, I do get a shout out in the Bible – one from Jesus himself – yet Dyrk isn’t mentioned anywhere in that perennial bestseller. Take that, Baldy! It’s a trilogy, so maybe cut me in on a little of that action later. Deal?

Oh, Vonne wanted me to read you this notice about the author, Dyrk Ashton, It says:

“When I first stepped into social media to enter the SF/F fray, one of the first people to follow my lunacy was Dyrk Ashton. He is generous, warm-hearted, friendly, and very funny. I have never met him personally, but hope to one day. Upon seeing him, I will give him a big hug … then shine his bald head … and give him a wedgie. That’s how we roll. With affection and gratitude, Vonne Anton.”

There you go, folks. That’s it! BTW, Dyrk self-published and is self-promoting this novel, so give the guy some love by buying this and reading it to your children so that they never sleep, won’t go near their closets, and grow up frightened and warped burdens on society, freeloading on death row. Meanwhile, be amazed at the depth and breadth of the author’s research. It is astonishing!

Go get some pizza and beer, everybody! Oh, wait … What? . . . oh my. Um, well we can strain the flies out of the beer; and be careful of the pizza. Those might not be black olives. “Shoo fly, shoo! Shoo fly, don’t bother them! You too, review reader pest, shoo!”

BZB for VA

5 November 2016