Various comments started on Oct. 13, 2009


Rammstein's latest

I've viewed the video from Rammstein's next album, and have to say that I have now seen more of the band than I could have ever wanted to. Yes, I was warned beforehand. It's an adult content siteand one must be 18 to enter. The warning did not adequately prepare me for the visual crescendo. Not linking to that one y'all. If you are that interested you will find it without me.


I recently discovered at the local second hand bookstore a collection of stories by an at times neglected (at least by the Pinellas County Library System) author by the name of Murray Leinster. Wikipedia says he wrote more than, "1,500 short stories and articles." The one that won a Hugo award in 1956 was "Exploration Team," recast later as "Combat Team" which is equally a propros.

Another story in the book was
Forgotten Planet. It's a pity this one is out of print. As I wrote in a review at Amazon in 2002, it "was written in a time when Americans felt good about their country and themselves. It is a story worth remembering." Both these stories convey a sense of self confidence and self responsibility that are sometimes lacking in American public life today. I've not read the same name story by Doug Wilhem which is available in the juvenile section of the Largo Public Library.


Asimov's December 2009 issue is well worth the reading. In it Mike Resnick has brought us a fresh "The Bride of Frankenstein," and made it wholly his own. Lovely Little Christmas Fire"-- I agree with John Thiel on the Asimov's BBS that the main characters feel disconnected-- needing to sneak around to do their jobs. Is there something about the milieu I don't know that the Army would interfere with members of a different agency on site to do a job? The overall theme seems to be that of the winsome mavericks who ignore all rules and think outside the box to catch the bad guys, blackmail the corrupt system into acquiescence, and save the day.

Having said that, I quite enjoyed the main characters. They are likable and believable. The sexual interplay was a tiny bit over done, but that may have more to do with my own obsolescence and out of placeness with the current idiom than a fault with the story. I also like the setting of "biotech gone wrong" as a thought/imagination provoker. Hopefully we'll see new writers take the hypotheticals and make them their own.

I also found the placement of "The Anti World" amusingly apposite.

Neal Asher--

In my first installment of Asimov's after I resubscribed was "The Gabble" (March 2006). Fascinating and mysterious, the gabbleducks intrigued me, and I was sure to read successive stories in Asimov's. In "Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck" (August 2005), the gabbleduck is a secondary character till the very end, where he becomes pivotal in resolving the one-sided conflict of the story. The same can be said of the Gabbleduck in "Alien Archeology" (June 2007). A species that has decided to give up sentience, they are the more noble inhabitants of Asher's Polity universe.

In Gridlinked we meet Ian Cormac, agent of the Polity, and second only to Horace Blegg in the trust of the Polity's ruling AI, Earth Central. Cormac, who almost loses his humanity and his life because he has become overly reliant on his connection to the "Grid" (internet), is an ardent believer in the rightness of the Polity and a punisher of any who would harm its citizens. Along with Cormac's becoming reacquainted with his own humanity, Asher explores what it means to be human. A part of his humanity is his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect others. This compares to Arian Pelter, who loses his own twisted humanity and his life in an effort to avenge himself against Cormac for killing Pelter's sister. The difference is in motivation-- the Pelters have killed and maimed hundreds of innocents in order to increase their own fortunes in the name of resisting Polity's tyranny. The question of what it is to be human is explored further in a universe where human consciousness (and conscience) can be uploaded into android bodies or stored for further use or transferred into a new body entirely.

These themes are expanded in Brass Man in which the title character, aka Mr. Crane, is a "broken AI" driven insane by having the memories of a homicidal maniac played into his own mind until his identity fragments and he eventually becomes a slave of none other than the Pelters. Mr. Crane serves as a foil for Cormac. Cormac endures torture, suffering and hazards his life as as a choice, over and over. It's a matter of character. Mr Crane, already in an AI version of Hell, struggles with the monster has become but time and again falls short of making the choice that will restore him to wholeness. In the end, as he reviews the actions he has taken and the reasons for his choices, he comes to grips with the responsibility inherent in the power of choice. He says, "I chose," and then "I choose." He walks off, wearing his trademark hat, to fulfill whatever remains of his destiny. He carries with him a last remnant of Jain technology, a symbol of ultimate risk and ultimate opportunity. He is not the only character in the story with choices to make.

In the quest to possess Jain technology, three ECS attack ships go rogue. They see the unlimited potential benefits to themselves (despite the obvious risk that Jain technology could destroy the Polity as it may have destroyed the Atheter) and do not trust Earth Central to manage the benefits in an even handed manner. Frankly, they fear the possibility Earth Central misusing this power to enslave them. Down three-to-one, the attack ship Jack Ketch chooses risk to self destruction to oppose them. Again it's a matter of character.

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