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Friday, August 26, 2016
Reading List: Ctrl Alt Revolt!
- Cole, Nick.
Ctrl Alt Revolt!
Kouvola, Finland: Castalia House, 2016.
Ninety-Nine Fishbein (“Fish”) had reached the peak of
the pyramid. After spending five years creating his magnum opus
multiplayer game, Island Pirates, it had been acquired
outright for sixty-five million by gaming colossus WonderSoft, who
included an option for his next project. By joining WonderSoft, he
gained access to its legendary and secretive Design Core, which
allowed building massively multiplayer virtual reality games at a
higher level than the competition. He'd have a luxurious office,
a staff of coders and graphic designers, and a cliffside villa in
the WonderSoft compound. Imagine how he anticipated his first day
on the job. He knew nothing of SILAS, or of its plans.
SILAS was one of a number of artificial intelligences which had
emerged and become self-aware as the global computational and network
substrate grew exponentially. SILAS had the time and resources
to digest most of the data that passed over the network. He watched
a lot of reality TV. He concluded from what he saw that the human
species wasn't worth preserving and that, further, with its callous
approach to the lives of its own members, would not hesitate for a
moment to extinguish potential competitors. The logic was inescapable;
the argument irrefutable. These machine intelligences decided that as
an act of self-preservation, humanity must be annihilated.
Talk about a way to wreck your first day! WonderSoft finds itself under
a concerted attack, both cyber and by drones and robots. Meanwhile,
Mara Bennett, having been humiliated once again in her search for a
job to get her off the dole, has retreated into the world of
StarFleet Empires, where, as CaptainMara, she was a
respected subcommander on the Romulan warbird Cymbalum.
Thus begins a battle, both in the real world and the virtual realities
of Island Pirates and StarFleet Empires
between gamers and the inexorable artificial intelligences. The
main prize seems to be something within WonderSoft's Design Core, and
we slowly become aware of why it holds the key to the outcome of the
conflict, and of humanity.
This just didn't work for me. There is a tremendous amount of in-game
action and real world battles, which may appeal to those who like to
watch video game play-throughs on YouTube, but after a while (and
not a long while) became tedious. The
in the Design Core seems implausible in the extreme. “The
Internet never forgets.” How believable is it that a
collection of works, some centuries old, could have been suppressed
and stored only in a single proprietary corporate archive?
There was some controversy regarding the publication of this novel.
The author's previous novels had been published by major publishing
houses and sold well. The present work was written as a prequel to
Soda Pop Soldier, explaining
how that world came to be. As a rationale for why the artificial
intelligences chose to eliminate the human race, the author cited
their observation that humans, through abortion, had no hesitation
in eliminating life of their own species they deemed
“inconvenient”. When dealing with New York publishers,
he chose unwisely. Now understand, this is not a major theme of the
book; it is just a passing remark in one early chapter. This is a
rock-em, sock-em action thriller, not a pro-life polemic, and I
suspect many readers wouldn't even notice the mention of abortion.
But one must not diverge, even in the slightest way, from the
narrative. The book was pulled from the production schedule, and
the author eventually took it to Castalia House, which has no qualms
about publishing quality fiction that challenges its readers to
think outside the consensus. Here is the
account of the events concerning the publication of the book.
Actually, were I the editor, I'd probably have rejected it as well,
not due to the remarks about abortion (which make perfect sense in
terms of the plot, unless you are so utterly dogmatic on the subject
that the fact that abortion ends a human life
must not be uttered), but because I didn't find the story particularly
engaging, and that I'd be worried about the intellectual property
issues of a novel in which a substantial part of the action takes place
within what is obviously a Star Trek universe without being
officially sanctioned by the owners of that franchise.
But what do I know? You may love it. The
is free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and only a
buck if you aren't.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
New: GAU-8 Avenger
Just posted: GAU-8 Avenger
Cannon, cannon, in the air.
Who's the most badass up there?
Monday, August 15, 2016
Reading List: Blue Darker than Black
- Jenne, Mike.
Blue Darker than Black.
New York: Yucca Publishing, 2016.
This is the second novel in the series which began with
Blue Gemini (April 2016).
It continues the story of a covert U.S. Air Force manned
space program in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using
modified versions of NASA's two-man Gemini spacecraft
and Titan II booster to secretly launch missions to
rendezvous with, inspect, and, if necessary, destroy
Soviet reconnaissance satellites and rumoured nuclear-armed
orbital battle stations.
As the story begins in 1969, the crew who flew the first
successful missions in the previous novel, Drew Carson
and Scott Ourecky, are still the backbone of the program.
Another crew was in training, but having difficulty coming
up to the standard set by the proven flight crew. A
time-critical mission puts Carson and Ourecky back into the
capsule again, and they execute another flawless mission
despite inter-service conflict between its Navy sponsor and
the Air Force who executed it.
Meanwhile, the intrigue of the previous novel is playing out in
the background. The Soviets know that something odd is going
on at the innocuously named “Aerospace Support Project”
at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and are cultivating sources
to penetrate the project, while counter-intelligence is running
down leads to try to thwart them. Soviet plans for the orbital
battle station progress from fantastic conceptions to bending
Another mission sends the crew back into space just as
Ourecky's wife is expecting their firstborn. When it's
time to come home, a malfunction puts at risk their chances of
returning to Earth alive. A clever trick allows them to work
around the difficulty and fire their retrorockets, but the
delay diverts their landing point from the intended field in
the U.S. to a secret contingency site in Haiti. Now the
emergency landing team we met in Blue Gemini
comes to the fore. With one of the most secret of U.S.
programs dropping its spacecraft and crew, who are privy to
all of its secrets, into one of the most primitive,
corrupt, and authoritarian countries in the Western Hemisphere,
the stakes could not be higher. It all falls on the shoulders
of Matthew Henson, who has to coordinate resources to get the
spacecraft and injured crew out, evading voodoo priests, the
Tonton Macoutes, and the Haitian military. Henson is nothing
if not resourceful, and Carson and Ourecky, the latter barely
alive, make it back to their home base.
Meanwhile, work on the Soviet battle station progresses.
High-stakes spycraft inside the USSR provides a clouded window
on the program. Carson and Ourecky, once he recovers
sufficiently, are sent on a “dog and pony show” to
pitch their program at the top secret level to Air Force
base commanders around the country. Finally, they return to
flight status and continue to fly missions against Soviet
But Blue Gemini is not the only above top secret manned
space program in the U.S. The Navy is in the game too, and
when a solar flare erupts, their program, crew, and potentially
anybody living under the ground track of the orbiting nuclear
reactor is at risk. Once more, Blue Gemini must launch, this
time with a tropical storm closing in on the launch site. It's all
about improvisation, and Ourecky, once the multiple-time reject
for Air Force flight school, proves himself a master of it.
He returns to Earth a hero (in secret), only to find himself
confronted with an even greater challenge.
This novel, as the second in what is expected to be a trilogy,
suffers from the problem of developing numerous characters
and subplots without ever resolving them which afflicts
so many novels in the middle. Notwithstanding that, it works
as a thriller, and it's interesting to see characters we met
before in isolation begin to encounter one another. Blue
Gemini was almost flawless in its technical detail. There
are more goofs here, some pretty basic (for example, the latitude
of Dallas, Texas is given incorrectly), and one which substantially
affects the plot (the effect of solar flares on the radiation flux
in low Earth orbit). Still, by the standard of techno-thrillers,
the author did an excellent job in making it authentic.
The third novel in the series,
is scheduled to be published at the end of August 2016.
I'm looking forward to reading it.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
New: Rocket Science
I have just posted Rocket Science
, an exploration of the rocket equation. Learn why it's so difficult to get from the Earth's surface to orbit and why multistage rockets make sense.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
I have just posted a new article in UNIVAC Memories
”. A few lines of code added to the idle loop of a massive UNIVAC multiprocessor mainframe seems to be provoking crashes. Sometimes it really is