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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe (The Uplift Saga)Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe by David Brin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always wanted to get around to reading this guide but I wanted to wait until I did a re-read of the Uplift saga.

This encyclopedia of species is pretty good, but I did want one thing a bit more than the others: full color pictures. Indeed, I'd love full-on illustrations and glossy pages. The information is still great, of course, but I just wanted so much more -- like an actual encyclopedia.

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Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, #1)Sundiver by David Brin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in the old days, when the Uplift war had just been published, I was just then reading all of Brin for the first time and LOVING it. When I thought to myself, "Hey, how did Sundiver stack up against Startide Rising or Uplift War, I said, 'It was super solid but it just didn't have that same KICK the others had,' and I was right."

The fantastic science of the Sun's Physics, possible real options to send not just a probe, but ourselves into the photosphere, was enough to carry this novel. Throw in a VAST alien cosmography, a brilliant world-building universe of Brin's, an equally vast future-history of Earth, and not just one but three top-class scientific and old-school mysteries and a unique adventure, and this book easily outstrips most modern SF.

So yeah, when I read this back in the day, I poo'd on it because it wasn't AS brilliant as the TRULY BRILLIANT novels that came later, but this should not make a dent in the objective brilliance of THIS novel.

Honestly. It's one of the greats. I loved it -- AGAIN -- on re-read. I wish all SF could be as rich.

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Monday, June 5, 2023

Biomancer 2 (New Era Online: Biomancer #2)Biomancer 2 by Shemer Kuznits
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much solid fun as the first book in this series. Gotta love those corrupting vibes, taking down all those Druidic elders, destroying life.

The redemption bits were delicious, too, and I love the setup for more. I truly hope we can continue with this tale -- but if not, it's still satisfying.

I read it just because it's fun. And goodness, this LitRPG IS fun.

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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Biomancer (New Era Online: Biomancer #1)Biomancer by Shemer Kuznits
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These LitRPGs are super easy to fall into. Seriously. Total formula, but it’s a formula I love because it cuts through all the boring stuff and gets to the weird and gruesome game mechanics right away and lets us feel the blood spurt as we eviscerate our online enemies.

Me, I just wanna level up with him.

In this case, being Deathless and having so much flesh-crafting skills, from level one to almost twenty, is a real delight. Always looking forward to the next corruption.

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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Fables, Vol. 11: War and PiecesFables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That SEEMS to be it. The whole build up lead to this: war with the Empire. Invasion forces, modern tactics, the whole works.

That's it.

It was good, but quick. Very, very quick. I don't know how I feel about that, but I guess it doesn't matter. On to newer stories.

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Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 6/3/23:

My Buddy reader surprised me by finding and wanting to read this (for free, now) on Audible, and I thought it sounded great. So here I am, enjoying this very excellent skewering of all racism.

Of course, it's veiled behind SPECIES, but it really puts a pin in the kinds of assumptions that keep such bullshit going.

Suffice to say, it's a smarter, more intellectual, and heartfelt novel than most of the movies it has since spawned.

Original Review:

This is a book that deserves to stand the test of time. I think it's as valid now as it was back in the fifties.

Let's ignore the movies for just a moment. They're important in their own right for capturing a cultural zeitgeist and for showing us all how damning cultural bias can be. One can make the argument that the Planet of the Apes movies underscored the 60's, put it all in sharp relief.

But I'm going to talk about the book -- about why the book needs to be read now.

Cultural bias is everywhere. All around us. It's in the very air we breathe. In general, we don't see it.

Our assumptions make us prisoners.

The apes are the epitome of Western Thought. Casually racist in everything they do, they rationalize everyone OTHER than themselves into a kind of slavery. Whether it's about cultural superiority, scientific superiority, military superiority, or ANY reason to make themselves appear more important than the OTHER, they take it.

Because what would happen otherwise?

Rhetoric would fall apart, giving way to a careful observation of the real circumstances.

People are being kept in cages. They're experimented upon. They are left in atrocious conditions and made to fight for scraps to survive. The purpose is to turn them into animals FIRST in order to prove the original assumption that they are animals.

If this isn't classic racism, I don't know what is. Every argument they make must revolve around the basic assumption that THEY are better than US. If the argument doesn't fit, it is thrown out.

Only OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary can lift a single human out of this bondage, and but the great emancipation only works for this single human.

The pervasive racism persists.

Classic cultural bias.

We are fully immersed in it. We feel the hopelessness underlying their bulwarks of rationalizations. We are made small, helpless, even as we retain our dignity in all the tiniest of ways. And ultimately, we lose.

It takes a whole society to change a whole society.

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Friday, June 2, 2023

Station Eternity (The Midsolar Murders, #1)Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to enjoy this. I got the impression when I first started reading it that I was reading a Chambers-style SF that happened to be a Cozy mystery. That would have been fine, honestly.

It didn't wow me during the first parts but I was enjoying it enough, wondering just how crazy she really was or how it would circle back to the soon-to-be-murders. If I squint hard enough, I could see a Marple-esqe dotty, seemingly sloppy mystery that would straighten itself out by the end.

Instead, I was a bit nonplussed by all the other PoVs. I wasn't lost by them, mind you, but it did, eventually, kill my interest.

Best parts? Characterizations. So-so? The plot. The not so much? The mystery.

All in all, I thought it was OKAY. I thought it was kinda messy but not outright bad.

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