What I’ve read this fall

December 10, 2011

September issue August issue

Okay, it’s been nearly three months since I shared my readings here n the blog, so I’ve got lots to tell you about!

Please note: I will be discussing a plot spoiler for “Childhood’s End”, by Arthur C. Clarke further down in this post. If you don’t want to get spoiled on this fine book, then don’t read past the paragraph on “Castle for Rent.”

“The Gripping Hand,” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I finally finished this in early October. I loved the main thrust of the action within the Mote system, with the Empire expedition running into a new civilization of space-born Moties this time and getting caught in the middle of a war between them. Frankly, the novel could probably have done with less build-up to the point of “OMG a new jump point to Mote system could open up any day now!” and it would have been at least as strong, in my opinion. But I loved reading the build-up anyway.

“Gateway,” by Frederik Pohl. Overall, I really liked this – I liked the concept of humanity discovering strange and temperamental alien ships and heading out to prospect the galaxy in them. I want to read more of the Heechee series by Pohl, and I like a lot of his secondary characters. On the other hand, Robinette Broadhead just pissed me off a lot of the time, and as fun as Sigfrid von Shrink was, I didn’t really feel impressed with the therapy plot thread or Rob’s enormous survivor’s guilt for trying to do the right thing, to sacrifice himself to save his teammates, and getting the timing wrong.

I also had problems with the physics at the end – if you’ve got ships that can somehow circumvent the speed of light, then the event horizon of a black hole isn’t an impassable barrier anymore. I think that the Heechee ships must already cross an event horizon with every trip, so why can’t they get out of the black hole – or if the development of the black hole threw off their targeting, then how could Rob get back home once he passes the event horizon by another means?

Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday, my last real day at Dragon*Con

September 5, 2011

I’m feeling sad about having to leave Atlanta behind so early today – next year I’ll seriously have to plan to arrive on Thursday and leave on Monday, so that I really have four full days at the Con.

Here are just some of the highlights from yesterday:

  • The Red Dwarf Q&A with the voice of the toaster, which had hints about the new series to be filmed this winter.
  • Getting my picture taken with Autumn Reeser.
  • The Browncoats Redemption wrap panel. (I still have to watch that DVD.)
  • Trying to answer Anne McCaffrey trivia questions, (mostly NOT Pern trivia,) and eat a cheeseburger and fries in the same time slot.
  • The Anne McCaffrey art panel with Michael Whelan, who apparently put Pern onto the New York Times Best-seller list with the cover for “The White Dragon”, which I didn’t know.
  • A fan panel discussing Chuck and the upcoming new season, which reminded me of a lot of things that I love about that show.
  • The Doctor Who season six review panel, and asking a question about the missing pieces and unanswered questions of Melody Pond’s life.
  • The ‘Big Bang Theory’ discussion panel, which had a guy dressed up as Howard Wolowitz in the audience.

One thing that wasn’t particularly a highlight was not getting into the ‘Stars of Buffy’ Q&A, after leaving the Michael Whelan Q&A to wait most of an hour for it. Oh well.

I also thought it was interesting that most of the fans on the Doctor Who review panel had such hate for the little Amy Pond intro spiel on the North American broadcasts this season. (I think it originated with BBC America, but the Space channel in Canada airs it too.) They really seemed offended about how it introduced the Doctor as ‘The Imaginary Friend.’

Myself, I don’t really think that intro is necessary, but I rather like it anyway – mostly as a little recap of some of the basics of the current state of canon for anybody who’s checking out a new episode and needs those basics. “I ran away with him, and we’ve been running ever since.” Come on – what’s wrong with that?

A plot hole big enough to fly a starship through – or not?

July 25, 2010

I know that I do it myself, (and hope that my critiquers catch most of them,) but occasionally I do come across plot holes in great books that really annoy me, especially if they’re glossed over with an explanation that just doesn’t hold water.

Spoilers for the book ‘The Rowan’ follow from here, by the way.

An example just popped up recently – I’m about halfway through ‘Damia’s Children’, from the excellent Talents series by Anne McCaffrey. It deals with the third generation of a family of remarkable psychics, with strong telekinetic and telepathic powers, and what happens when they get caught up in the middle of a three-species interstellar war. In this passage, Thian Raven-Lyon is stationed on a Fleet starship as representative of the psychic ‘Talents’, and he’s speaking with ‘Gravy’, a friendly nurse on the same ship, about the enemy threat.

“They seem to think that you’ll reach out with your Talent and somehow do what the Fleet ought to be doing.”

Thian laughed more heartily then. “Gravy, that’s not very likely. Not to mention impossible.”

“But you Talents did that at Deneb. Twice!”

“Talents, plural, Gravy. In fact every Talent available down to kids of ten and twelve. Not singular, me, with a dozen minor Talents to assist. There’s no way I could or would grab any glory.”

On the surface, this argument of Thian’s makes a lot of sense – one guy can’t do what a huge crowd could do to blast the enemy with psychic powers alone. They probably can’t build ships big enough to hold huge numbers of ‘Talents’, and if you put a few of the most powerful on Fleet starships, then you’re risking very valuable people in case something happens to the ship and they can’t all teleport themselves off in time.

However, what isn’t mentioned was that in the Deneb encounters that were references, (and which were high points in the plot of ‘The Rowan’, the first in the series,) fairly few of the Talents who were participating were physically present in the Deneb neighborhood. Huge numbers of Talents were able to combine their powers across vast interstellar distances and take part in the effort to save Deneb from the evil aliens.

So, that’s where I see the ‘glossing over’ part. Yes, Thian is the only strong Talent who’s physically with the Fleet task force. If needed, however, couldn’t he serve as the focus point for all of the Talents back home?

Part of the problem, of course, is that the rules of the psychic powers in a book like this are hard to explain comprehensively, especially if you’re going to have much room for telling an interesting story with the characters. But it still nags at me to have cases like these.

Thoughts? Am I making too much out of a tiny little thing? Do you have ‘favorite’ plot holes to bitch about? I’m all ears, people. (Well, not literally, I only have two, and actually my eyes are more useful when it comes to blog comments. But it’s a figure of speech.)


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