Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

The Restoration of Ystron-Mhavrieth

The Restoration of Ystron-Mhavrieth

When Jaraswat’s crate was unpacked, a small and well-shielded niobium casket proved to contain a dragon-shaped sweater with a grand of neck-holes indicating as many languages spoken. There was no further information on it, but whose could it be but Jaraswat’s vanished student Ystron-Mhavrieth?

And where could Ystron-Mhavrieth be?

Tultamaan interviewed Lhury, the detective who had investigated Ystron-Mhavrieth’s vanishment.

“I understand that the Evidence you found was Incomplete. It was Inferior. It was not All It Might Be. If it were a dragon, it would be Myself,” said Tultamaan.

“Yes. Exactly,” snapped Lhury.

“Might further Evidence be of Any Use to the Investigation that is surely Ongoing?”

“There is no ongoing investigation. Nobody cares anymore what became of some unwise perverted bachelor drake who plotted against his mentor,” said Lhury. “Nor should they.”

“As it happens, Bachelor Drakes are the citizens of the world I have the Honor to call Home. The more Perverted and Unwise, it seems, the Better. From which you may Conclude whatever you Like. Well, Jaraswat is Dead or Gone Forever, or perhaps both at once. So it is About time to collect Ystron-Mhavrieth.”

“Dead, you say?” Lhury glared at Tultamaan with the painful glare that some light-breathing dragons develop. “Tell me of the circumstances of his death, and the evidence.”

So Tultamaan did, though he somehow minimized his own role in the affair and left off the other dragons’ names.

“I shan’t re-open the investigation. It was futile before, and after such time has passed, it shall be more futile,” snapped Lhury.

“Then you must have no further Need of any records or other Notes you may have taken during the investigation,” said Tultamaan, who had probably plotted the whole conversation. “So there is no Obstacle to providing me with them.”

“I suppose not,” snapped Lhury. “Here, take them, and pester me no more about one of my rare failures in detection!”

Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.
Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

On Tolerance

I've been in the blast radius of several attacks on liberalism that involved the word "tolerance" lately.
The substance of these attacks amounts to, "How can you claim to be tolerant if you don't tolerate my homophobia / transphobia / bigotry / denialism / monotheism-and-expunging-of-all-other-faiths / whatever?"
Tolerance doesn't mean that I'm obliged to put up with everyone and everything regardless of how badly they behave. It doesn't mean that I need to tolerate outright evil. It doesn't mean that I need to accept everyone's philosophy and theology as the equal of my own.
Tolerance means that I consider myself obliged to recognize everyone's humanity, no matter how badly they behave, and to reject certain tactics as inappropriate for use on any human. For example, there is no excuse for rape or torture, and no excuse for threatening them, either.
Tolerance means that I consider myself obliged to attempt to find ways in which we can live in the same society and world without violence or misery. For example, the one-word description of my religion is "polytheism", and there is absolutely no useful way to reconcile that with orthodox Judaism. Which is fine; there is no need to reconcile them.
There *is* a need to abandon witch hunts and pogroms though. To denounce them. Absolutely not to tolerate them.
Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Review: Origins

Origins, by Mark Hendrikson, is a clumsily-written Frankenstein monster of space opera, wannabe psychodrama, and von Daniken style Bible-rewriting in which Exodus is all due to the aliens. I can't off-hand think of *any* character in the book who makes much sense. (Why does the reincarnating alien commander come tell the whole story to a random psychiatrist? And his explanation for getting slaves get lost for forty years in the desert is pretty contrived too. Why are the enemy aliens stereotypical sneering villains? And, sheesh, Pharaoh.) The science doesn't either: somehow the eruption in Thera (I guess) caused most of the Exodus plagues in Egypt, at convenient times. The main point of reading this is to watch the train wreck. One mind-preserved alien soldier out of five.
Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Review: Broken Symmetry.

Broken Symmetry, by Dan Rix, is a surprisingly engaging bit of mirror mystery. In this world, people with the right gene can go through a mirror into a slightly distorted version of the universe, where events are *not* reflected into the original world. The original world (labelled "source") is where the action starts; an unscrupulous group of researchers and teenagers with mirror-travelling powers exploits the travelling power, ravaging parallel universes for treasures and even replacement hands. It's dangerous work, and more so as the government has a mysterious "artifact" that somehow relates to travelling. The book is somewhat confusing, as the characters dart around in slightly-variant alternate universes constantly. But it's somewhat dramatic, as the characters work hard to finish their quest before the stress of mirror travel destroys them. The plot twists in intriguing and unpredictable ways, and the characters have actual personalities. The crudely-done teenage romance doesn't help though. Two tape X's on mirrors so you can get back through them right, out of five (which is to say, worth reading if the mirror mystery appeals to you.)
Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Review: Khe

sentient buildings, planetary consciousness, soft science, interesting cultures. Khe is a doumana, a woman, from a country commune/village. Her species have some cool features, like built-in mood rings — dots around their necks which change color with their emotions. (Wear a tall collar if you want secrecy!) The countryfolk are communist/collectivist — and sexual separatists, with villages segregated by sex and only meeting during the mating season. Khe isn’t affected by the mating season. She seeks treatment for this disability, and is given an experimental drug, and gains the superpower of being able to increase plant fertility by 20% in exchange for losing years off her lifespan. So she seeks treatment for that, much to her village’s dismay. Things get complicated and more troublesome from there, as she learns some of the secrets of who or what actually rules her world, and gets into a very uncomfortable relationship with them. </p>

The writing is uncontrived and plain, and fits the first-person narrative of the fairly unsophisticated Khe herself. The science is kind of wonky. The ideas range from standard-but-interesting, like energy beings, to downright eccentric, like intelligent buildings and villages.

Three blue dots out of five, making it about average for SF books that I finish. Enjoyable and interesting.

Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

free ebook review: The Chocolatier's Wife

"“Nay, my dear, I am supposed to slay dragons for you, not deacons."

The Chocolatier's Wife, by Cindy Lynn Speer, is as sweet as the title. In this 18th-century-ish land, everyone is shown their optimal spouse by a scrying spell at an early age, so there's approximately never any doubt about who should marry whom. William, scion of a rich merchant family in the South, is unfortunate enough to should marry Tasmin, a sorceress from the despised North. Actually they don't meet for a long time, but do correspond and send gifts and sort of fall in love by mail. But then William decides to open a chocolatierie, much to his family's dismay, and the local Bishop is found dead of poison with a box of William's chocolates at hand. So Tasmin comes South to try to rescue her fiancé from jail and execution. Things get complicated from there, in a sweet and stylish murder mystery and romance.

Very nice. Four perfectly-roasted Halsey almonds (which are deadly if they are not properly roasted) out of five.

Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Occasional Review: Forbidden the Stars

Forbidden the Stars by Valmore Daniels is a large tofu-flavored lump of Space Does Not Work That Way. I think there's a plot there and some characters, but they're pretty forgettable and/or nonsensical compared to the scientific mistakes and malaproprisms. (In fact, the author spends 3/4 of the book setting up a particular pirate king as the major villain, and then entirely forgets about him.) The author feels the need to remind us of the main character's main life event constantly — the life event from chapter 1 — and that's actually almost appropriate, because it's insipid enough so that we might have forgotten it. Oh, and there's also some connection with ancient Mayan legends, and modern Mayan people who somehow carry them on, except that there isn't.

But the most memorable stuff is the nonsense science and malaproprisms. We're talking nonsense highschool-level science here.

Like, the McGuffin of the stuff that enables near-lightspeed travel (occasionally and confusingly described as "lightspeed travel" or "faster-than-light travel" — Daniels evidently couldn't remember which it was) is a new and previously-undiscovered element, but one that exists in mass quantities in the asteriod belt. And, when the lightspeed-or-so travel is first observed, all the scientists instantly assume that some new element is responsible for it. There is mention of "hundreds of undiscovered new elements with attributes that could improve the quality of life for everyone on Earth." Elements do not work like that.

"Casement" — normally defined as "a window or part of a window set on a hinge so that it opens like a door." — is used as a synonym for "case". Constantly. On every other page, people are staring into their computer casements, or thumping on engine casements, or that sort of thing.

When the pirate ship is trying to ram the explorers' spaceship, the explorers can't alter their course because, at that velocity, course changes would rip their ship apart. Motion does not work like that.

"The phenomenon is not uncommon to people who have been struck by lightning. They, themselves, have become living ions." Lightning does not work like that.

"…the most important byte of intelligence that could ever have been forwarded to him…" There are only 256 possible bytes. That's approximately like saying, "The most important letter of the alphabet that was ever sent to him". A single byte does not have much information in it.

Alec is not a "fortuitous youth", though he is a "fortunate youth".

I don't even get the title. Nobody was forbidden any stars.

Anyways, this was terrible. I only finished it so I could write the review. Rating: one undiscovered new element out of five, or hundreds even.

Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Lacuna, by David Adams

Lacuna, by David Adams, is a flat space opera.

Good features: Um ... the spelling and grammar are fine. It's original, not a rip-off of any particular other work I could identify. Some details are nice: see below.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Humans invent some useful space and space-weapon technology, in the lampshadey "Chekhov Arsenal". Unknown aliens show up and destroy three cities and say "Don't work on the jump drive on pain of death" (in bad Chinese), and vanish. So humans build three giant space-battleships to defend themselves, and tangle with the aliens, and there's fighting and some victory. (This is book 1 of a series.) This is not inherently boring, and a good writer could do a lot with it. But the quality of this space opera is in the details, and, though David Adams certainly tries, the details don't sing.

Case in point, with minor spoilers: the aliens don't want humans (or anyone but themselves) to use the jump drive. The reason, when they get to explain it surprizingly late in the story, is sensible enough. Once in a while, the jump drive accidentally creates a singularity that wrecks the star system it's in. It ate the aliens' home world, and so they don't like it at all. This is a good idea! But: the aliens use the jump drive constantly and freely. They won't let anyone else use it because of those singularities, but they use it despite that possibility. Also, humans insist on using it, without any qualms, despite knowing that it could destroy the Solar System.

Case in point: the jump drive cannot be used inside a gravity field. (Presumably, of a certain strength — everything is within a gravity field.) But Adams says that it can be used at Lagrange points. Now, there's a certain sense there — Lagrange points are where two gravity fields, say Earth and Moon, balance. But they aren't gravity-free. There are other gravity fields around, like the Sun's, and the galaxy's for that matter. (Also, wouldn't any point between starts work fine? Go a couple light-weeks from the Sun and the gravity is weaker than at any Lagrange point in the inner solar system. This would ruin an important plot point.)

But this could be forgiven if the characters were interesting. They're not. They're flat and flavorless, and when Adams tries to make them have a personality (as with the wisecracking science lead) it's even worse. They have lots of sex and a few conflicts, but there's no passion or interest there. The alien commander suddenly acquires a personal vendetta against the human captain, wanting to torture her by killing her entire species while she watches. OK, he has a good reason to be angry — she did just do a Pearl Harbor kind of thing on his military base — but his posturing and sneering is stereotypically and melodramatically evil, and it's unclear why he would care about her in particular. An honorable or cold-blooded enemy would make a lot more sense.

It's not the worst free e-book I've started by any means. But it's in the bottom 20% of e-books that I've finished, so it gets one Lagrange point out of five.

Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

CYBORGED!

I have been assimilated!
I am now a cyborg with a part-titanium skeletal structure!
I have powers far beyond those of my mere fleshy frame!
Such as — being able to chew on both sides of my mouth!
And — having one tooth that is probably cavity-proof!
Floki (icon by Kim Liu)

Book reviewlet: Krakatoa

This is only a free book in the sense I got it out of the library. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded is, of course, about the Krakatoa explosion in 1883. It's a wonderful book, just my style. It talks about the science of plate tectonics and geophysics that makes volcanoes. It talks about the science history, of how plate tectonics went from a crackpot theory to totally accepted. It talks about the history of Java as a Dutch colony. After the explosion, we get some biology: how does life reappear on an island that got blown up, or in the case of "Son of Krakatoa", on a 100% new volcanic island? And some connection with modern society: how the volcano was a trigger for some radical Islamism. (Odd story there: indigenous Javanese religion treated the volcanoes as gods. That's obviously not Islamic — but nonetheless the eruption was interpreted as an intensely spiritual occurrence).

Anyways, excellent book, and lots of interesting material.



(Oh, and if any pseudoscientists complain that science is insular and rejects crackpot theories, plate tectonics is a wonderful example of how outsiders can get their theories accepted. Hint: have tons of evidence and testable hypotheses.)