Month: March 2018

Review: Lensmen Series (5/5 stars)

The Lensmen series is arguably the first real space opera series. If you are a science fiction fan you owe it to yourself to read it, for historical reasons if nothing else. Not that you should only read it for that, the series is a classic for a reason. While I could not fully describe it here I will list out what is more unique about it, and what sticks in my mind.

One thing that was a driving force of the series was the development of technology, specifically weapons and other systems on ships. One thing Smith understood very well is that the biggest secret of any new technology is that it is possible. Once your enemy knows that something is possible, they WILL find out how to duplicate it, it’s just a matter of time and effort.

The technology and tactics also evolved, new weapons forced new tactics, and new tactics forced new weapons. Very few books show this, even though it would be pivotal in any large scale conflict.

Second the scale of the series was very well done. By scale I mean that civilization (good guys) covered most of the galaxy, but it was not as simple as us having 2/3 of the galaxy settled and that part being safe and known. It was more like we have small number of stars settled and most of the rest mapped. But this is spread through the whole galaxy, so there are planets in the middle of civilization that are unknown, maybe even whole empires that have yet to run into us.

On Goodreads

Review: Icerigger (9/10 stars)

Icerigger is written by Foster and is set in his Humanx universe.

In it the (human) characters crash on a planet. The planet is covered in ice, with islands popping up from the once ocean. While there is a human base on the planet, they crashed on the wrong side of the planet and they are way to far to radio them. They end up having to work with some of the natives, first to survive, then to make their way to the human base.

I love this book and its two sequels for several reasons, first it does a good job of letting the world and it’s people unfold. Learning about them is a shear pleasure. The second thing is the interaction between the humans and the natives. The humans end up using their superior science to help the natives, how they were able to do so makes a lot of sense, and is not as easy as many authors would make it.

While not hard science fiction by any means it is also not as soft as is all to common in many books with FTL.

On Goodreads

Review: A Wrinkle in Time (3/10 stars)

The first thing I will say is that A Wrinkle in time is not a Science Fiction movie, but a Science Fantasy movie. That means I will not fault it for any bad science, or even using magic as science.

I also will say that while I have read the book it was more then fifteen years ago, when I was in early high school or late middle school. So ya, don’t really recall much about it.

That out of the way I will say the movie has several problems, which kept me from really liking it.

The first is that all three of the human kids were not really good characters.

Meg, the main character, who is looking for her father, is a depressed and troubled teen who cares about her father and brother. That really is her entire character. We are told, but never shown, that she is smart and capable. I never really cared about her. This was not helped when the first part of the movie (before they left earth) dragged on waaaay too long.

Charles Wallace, her kid brother, had similar issues. We were told he was very intelligent. But like Meg they never really showen it. Worse they used every stupid cliche they could to try and rub our faces in the fact he is smart. EVERYONE called him Charles Wallace, not charlie, or even just Charles. His teachers when they were talking privately, his sister when she was running through a wind storm looking for him. Even his father, who had left earth before he was born. He acted more like an adult then a kid. A smart kid is still a kid, he still should act like a kid.

Calvin was the third, and was at best forgettable. A loner with a father who liked to yell at him for not getting A’s he started following Meg around because she stood up to a hateful girl at school. He was so forgettable that when he was left behind somewhere I did not notice it for two scenes. He spent most of his time standing quietly in the back then propping up Meg’s ego when needed.

I admit I may be too hard on the three of them. However I am judging them against the real interesting character, Meg’s father. He is more interesting them any of the three of them yet has hardly any scenes, and most of them are set before he does the really cool thing that makes him interesting.

The second set of problems is with “tessering” (teleporting from one planet to another).

When they first talked about it they showed Meg’s father with some equations, talking to NASA (where he and his wife worked). He said that he could teleport with the power of his mind.

The thing is that the movie went back and forth between Tessering being a mind over matter thing, and a math/science thing. From the talk Meg’s father gave it sounded like a science/math thing, but he had no evidence or reason to believe he was right. It he had SOMETHING, even something small and near-useless it would have been one thing, but he had no reason to believe he was right at all.

Then throughout the movie they hinted, then outright said that how you think influences the tesser. Then they had someone tesser who had no math know-how at all.

If they had stuck to quasi-science that would have worked. Or they could have stuck to mind over matter, and that could have worked. But they wanted to have it both ways.

What You Can Learn From Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon

For those of you (hopefully few) who have not seen A Taste of Armageddon, it is set on and around the planet Eminiar VII.

The Enterprise is sent to open relations. They know little to nothing about Eminiar (Its location would make it a very valuable ally).

It turns out Eminiar and its neighbor (a former colony) have been at war for 500 years. The war, however, is being fought with computers. The linked computers determine if someone was “killed” in a simulated attack if they were they have 24 hours to report to a booth for their death’s to be registered.

The idea was that neither peoples were willing to give up the war. Nor were they willing to devote their entire economy to it, nor destroy so many things of such great value. So they found a way to have their cake and eat it too.

This episode has two great things of value for writers. The first is that the people of Eminiar thought the war they fought was just how things were done, to the point they only explained it when it became obvious that Kirk did not know what was going on (he asked why they were talking about a nuke going off when they enterprise detected nothing). They fought tooth and nail to keep things the way they were, it was not a good way of doing things but they saw no other way.

99% of people see the way things are as normal, you must keep that in mind.

Secondly, it asked very big questions without bashing your head with them, nor did asking them slow things down. Questions about the nature of war, why it should be fought. Really heavy ones.

Allegories can be powerful, but they are like icing on a cake. You first need a good cake, then you need to make sure you don’t weight it down too much. Subtly is the name of the game.