I have loved everything I’ve read by Mark Kurlansky. So when I was in a small bookshop in a small town and saw a new book from him, I was pretty stoked. I half considered buying it as an e-version, partly because OH THE IRONY, but then my darling fawned her how pretty it is (and it really is very pretty, with rough-edged paper and all), so I bought the bard-back. Supporting small book shops for the win.
Tragically, I am disappointed.
I was trying to pin down exactly why the book didn’t work, and halfway through I realised: each paragraph felt like an extended dot point. Like he had all of these great ideas and fascinating points, mostly connected to paper, but… couldn’t quite nail the flow and structure. There are weird disjointed bits that entirely lack in connection, there are some fascinating bits about language and so on that aren’t clearly tied to paper, and… well. Disappointed.
I appreciated his discussion of the technological fallacy: that tech happens and then society follows. Rather, he argues, society creates a demand and THEN technology follows, playing catch up: why else is so much money spent on market research? So I liked that bit. However, as someone has pointed out to me, Kurlansky is entirely too linear in his perspective on the relationship between change and society. Civilisation just isn’t like that.
More serious than the lack of sequencing, though, were a few points where he was just… kinda wrong. For instance: he suggests that some people credit Ada Lovelace with inventing computers, and then reveals that actually she was inspired by Charles Babbage. And, uh, no. She invented the first computer language, and it’s no secret she worked with Babbage! … so this makes me a little concerned when he’s discussing those bits of history that I don’t actually have knowledge of. Because… can I trust him?
I gave it a four over on Goodreads because the ideas and the history really are fascinating, but the book itself as a piece of text ought to get a three.
This novella was sent to me by the publisher at no expense. It will be on sale at Tor.com on May 23.
HIPPOS. Hippos, folks. There need to be more hippos in my literature.
The foreword states that the American Congress debated importing hippos at the start of the 20th century, to resolve a meat shortage. I have no idea whether this is true. I presume it is; the foreword says it is. I could google it… but I choose not to, and live in the world where I believe that America actually considered ranching hippos. Because that’s way more fun than not.
And what’s even more fun than living in that world is this, Sarah Gailey’s debut. (Seriously? debut? kick. ass.) It’s an alternative history (which means it’s definitely not true, despite some recent definitions of ‘alternative’), pushing the date of hippo-introduction back half a century and imagining the consequences of actually hippo-ranching. Like cowboys riding hippos, and hippos going feral, and breeding hippos for stealth to help deal with the ones being raised for meat.
I’m just going to stop here for a moment and consider eating hippo-meat. Because… I dunno, the Anglo-Celt of my heritage just wants to gag.
Anyway, this is a crazy romp filled with wonderful characters and, as the name suggests, a whole lot of hippo-teeth-gnashing. Winslow Remington Houndstooth, putative lead and leader, is filled with desires for revenge and does his own share of teeth-gnashing. He rides Ruby: black, sleek, fast and deadly. Wonderful as he is, I adore Regina Archambault more: “Nobody ever suspects the fat lady”… who pickpockets and breaks hearts and helps save the day. She rides Rosa: three thousand pounds of albino hippo. Hero is also wonderful, and all about blowing stuff up (always the way to my heart), and the rest of the team fills out nicely. There’s a good villain (or two, or three…), so that’s the character side all sorted. There’s explosions, and card games, and feral hippos that are happy to eat people; romance, confusion, and a lot of crankiness and snark. OH THE SNARK.
You’ll want to get your mitts on this one, folks. It’s just way too much fun to miss out on.
Happy New Year edition! One last episode before we squeak into 2017. In which we sum up a year of culture consumed and other interests, and mourn the recently departed. You can find us on iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.
WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?
(note: we recorded this ep before the death of Debbie Reynolds was reported)
CULTURE CONSUMED IN 2016:
Tansy: Rogue One
Alisa: Operation Apocalypse Plan (books mentioned: Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse as a guide to the probable future, Defying Doomsday)
Alex: The Arrival
Tansy: Hurricane Heels by Isabel Yap (& Buffy rewatch with daughter, because this is what 11 yr olds are for)
Alisa: PhD & Jamberry
Alex: The Expanse
Tansy: Check Please fandom & Yuri on Ice
Alisa: Paleo Cinema Podcast
Alex: Octavia Butler
Link to call for Letters to Butler
Please send feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!
Enemy of the State
J: Straight into the action – with the same credits sound effect as Top Gun.
A: I haven’t seen this in ages… is it pre-2001? Yes, 1998. Because whoa, the whole thing about spying on American citizens… feeling very apropos.
J: Oh the poor Goldie.
A: Given that I’m also currently obsessed with Person of Interest, this is feeling a bit surreal. Urgh surveillance state.
Watching the credits and wait what? Jack Black is in this?? I had forgotten that!
Lisa Bonet, you are awesome. Will Smith, you look sharp as a lawyer, but I’m a bit worried about the dealings you two appear to be having.
Video player! And a mafioso… uh, mob… in a kitchen. Seems a bit old-fashioned frankly. Oh and now we have a mini video cassette player in the woods. Naw, 90s.
J: Love a good ops center… ‘Call it a training Op’ …. Duh …. Continue reading →
This book was sent to me by the editor, at no cost.
I have loved the Infinity series so far. I like that the focus is on science fiction, that it’s often a focus on the engineering side of the future but that that doesn’t preclude fascinating characters and intriguing worlds. I am consistently impressed by the variety of worlds presented and the writing talent included.
The anthology opens with a series of stories focused on the solar system. Alastair Reynolds gives us a problem with the sun where the narrative jumps tantalisingly between now and later, while Pat Cadigan provides what might be a prequel story for her “The Girl-Thing who went out for Sushi” in a story set on Earth but focused on colonising near Jupiter. Stephen Baxter goes to Venus with a sweeping story about human hubris and the problem of families. Charlie Jane Anders totally mocks the whole idea of going to space in a hilarious story of being, like, an adolescent in space? Tobias S Buckell and Karen Lord also take the long view, temporally speaking, about what it might mean to undertake engineering projects within the asteroid belt and elsewhere, given the distances (and therefore time) involved. Plus Calypso.
Naturally, there are some stories in the anthology that confront climate change – it’s understandably becoming a go-to theme. Cadigan’s story references the issues in passing; stories by Pamela Sargent, and Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty, suggest possible ways of dealing with the problem – the latter is one of my favourites, being both optimistic and pessimistic, and largely set in the Arctic. Ken Liu writes over an extremely long period of time in posing the idea that the coming of the singularity might solve climate change in a rather radical manner. And Thoraiya Dyer posits a rather intriguing solution to the loss of island real estate while also dealing with the problems of family.
There are also several stories with extra-solar settings. Kristine Kathryn Rusch combines desert urban planning on alien planets with a devastating mystery to great effect; Robert Reed writes a Great Ship story about how the materials you use (and the tools) can impact on the thing you’re making. Allen M Steele’s story sounds like it might be from a pre-existing set of stories, like the Great Ship suite, in that it’s focused on a group of wanderers in what is effectively a Dyson sphere called Hex. It’s less focused on the engineering and more focused on human exploration of alien tech.
A few stories didn’t especially work for me. Karin Lowachee’s story of a contractor alone on a supply depot installation didn’t have enough character development for me to get my teeth into, while Gregory Benford and Larry Niven made my teeth ache with their extra-heavy serves of techno speak and missing out on character or plot. An Owomoyela’s narrative didn’t quite seem to go anywhere… which given the narrative itself is kind of funny, but it still didn’t work for me.
Highly recommending this anthology for lovers of science fiction.
I have a new blog! and a new podcast! Acts of Kitchen is kinda just that. The blog is about whatever I’m cooking or reading about food or watching about food. The podcast (same name) is mostly about me interviewing people to get their food and cooking stories. It’s fortnightly, and I aim for it to be about 15-20 minutes in length – pretty easy-listening length, right? You can subscribe at iTunes or listen to it at the blog!
Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.
Season One, Episode Thirteen: The Flax
As always, when things go wrong they go wrong in multiple areas all at once. A simple flying lesson turns much more deadly when Aeryn and Crichton get stuck in The Flax, and all they have to rely on to help them in a ‘garbage connoisseur’.
K: Aeryn is trying to teach Crichton how to pilot one of the shuttles, to half-baked results, however he is happy enough – she reckons she’ll kill him if he pilots so poorly again.
A: this is hilarious and of course it’s basically a driving lesson, which is always dangerous.
K: Everyone’s getting a bit tetchy due to Moya’s pregnancy somehow. I’m not entirely sure what’s so bad – if they’ve managed to find an empty bit of space surely life ain’t so bad.
A: Or they’re just wandering along and happened across it?
K: Aeryn says that someday Crichton may be vaguely useful, which is almost a compliment, and then everything goes to shit. Probably literally.
A: An invisible THING pulling them in?? Oh no!
And the credits tell me RHYS MULDOON is going to be in this episode!! (HAWT) Continue reading →
*Yeh… not so much with the fortnight(ish)… but we ARE still committed to it!
(Of course, this is not actually chronological. But that’s because it turns out Bladerunner isn’t on iTunes, so now we need to source that. THEN we will be back to chronological.)
It should be noted that this is one of J’s favourite movies Of All Time, whereas A consistently and constantly disses it whenever it gets mentioned.
A: The opening music is very cool. It builds a lovely level of suspense. I even like the opening on the aircraft carrier; the music matches beautifully. This movie has the opening of a truly awesome film. (Context: I grew up wishing I could have been a pilot in WW1 or 2 with Biggles and his crew, ignoring the whole ‘you’re a girl’ aspect.)
J: Tobacco graduate filters, steam catapults, jets, slow motion footage. AFTERBURNERS. Jets doing unnecessary aileron rolls at takeoff. This is the film that made me fall in love with Tony Scott’s cinematography.
A: A plane takes off and KENNY LOGAN AW YEH DANGER ZONE. LOTSA planes taking off and braking and men looking serious. (cue some serious couch dancing)
J: All the aerial footage was all shot on super 35mm film from the jets and it still looks fantastic if a little gritty on blu-ray Continue reading →
This book was sent to me by a dear friend and unfortunately, it’s just terrible.
Too much? Perhaps:
This book is just not my thing.
I do believe that it has systemic issues that aren’t just problems for me, though.
Firstly, and I acknowledge this is partly my fault, I haven’t read the first book (Once Bitten, Twice Shy). So I don’t have the knowledge about the relationships that might have made some of the banter and the fraught silences make more sense. Pardon does attempt to explain how they’re all connected, but it didn’t always make sense.
Another thing that didn’t always make sense is the different others – and yes, that’s how they’re referred to in the book: the supernatural entities. It seems like a new being just pops up every now and then for the heck of it – and sometimes with narrative reason – and their powers or whatever aren’t clearly explained. Which is related to the biggest beef I had, narrative-wise: clearly Our Heroine, Jaz, is on the track of someone who happened in the first book – there’s occasional references to them and their Dastardly Deeds – but I have almost no idea what they did or how bad they are, aside being told they are Bad. I know info dumps are sometimes clunky, but gosh some detailed explanation would have been helpful so that I understood the stakes (… heh…).
Anyway. The narrative revolves around a team of maybe-CIA-connected types, who include a seer and a vampire, trying to track down and do… something… with a vampire who has stolen some technology. Things move incredibly quickly, but there’s still time for the description of intricate details about clothes, shoes and accessories being worn; this is problem for me, with rare exceptions like Gail Carriger. There’s a Winter Festival, and belly-dancing, and murder, and magical powers, and anti-other sentiment being expressed in unpleasant ways. There’s romance, although not in a very interesting way, and attempts at disguise, and Revelations of Nefarious Purposes.
And it’s just written badly. I did finish it, partly because I wanted to see how many twists cold try and get in, and where the romances would end up going (because this friend likes to send me romances), and because – well, it wasn’t quite so bad as to make me want to abandon it, and I was a little invested in some of the characters and knowing where they would end up.
I will not be chasing down any more Rardins.
Season One, Episode Ten: They’ve Got a Secret
Peacekeeper issues are still on board as fits with the plot when it suits. It may have infected D’Argo, who is then hurled out of an airlock. All in a day’s work when you’re on Moya.
K: I wonder how this conversation started – ‘John, come here, I need a ladder I can order about?’
A: Oh I HOPE so. Plus, D’Argo is a right little whinger. “Wah, I’m doing droid work!”
K: And I wonder if Pilot can regenerate just so it’s easier to have his puppets back to normal after the last episode…
A: what, you don’t think it’s narrative-driven?! Continue reading →