Friday, February 28, 2014

Yellow Cake Summer: A Review

Guy Salvidge’s Yellow Cake Summer is set within an overheated, post-apocalyptic slow crash Western Australia. It is the sequel and conclusion to his earlier Yellow Cake Spring.

We discussed the author's Background when we reviewed The Kingdom of Four Rivers.  The author is a school teacher from Western Australia, it is my understanding that he does not intend to write anymore science fiction, so we likely we will no longer being seeing any more apocalyptic fare from him.
The novel involves a return of our earlier protagonists, Rion and Sylvia, by separate routes, to the Western Australia located, Chinese owned nuclear facility.  In this world, China is a dystopian mess, and Australia is a collection of collapsed urban hubs surrounded by a great lawless rural wasteland.  We get to see a little bit of this wasteland, and that is one of the more interesting sections of the book.  We also return the earlier novels controlled dreaming meme, and add to it very intrusive/invasive observation methods.
Most of the story involves some sad sack nuclear protestors, and the Chinese and Australian governments nasty efforts to keep the protests from getting out of control.  There is a fair amount of tension built up as we head toward the conclusion.
Unfortunately, while there is a certain amount of drama to the story, in the end it is a bit anti-climatic.  As noted, the issue at odds is the expansion of a nuclear facility run by the Chinese.  All of which would might lead one to believe that their are some sort of dire territorial issues at stake, except that the territory at stake is a barren post global warming dried up wasteland.  The Australian Government is more interested in protecting its citizens only as a matter of degree, they are not the standard bearers of liberty and justice.
In the end, nobody winds up being all that interesting, and the issues come across as rather small potatoes.  Beyond the individuals involved, life goes on as usual, without much enlightenment beyond the general dystopian warnings.
Did I enjoy it?  Not too much.  I am ambivalent. The author builds up an interesting world, but the story seems more like the middle connector to a trilogy than the conclusion of a duology.  I like a lot of the ideas, but the story left me a bit flat.  A lot of unrelieved, or maybe better stated as deflated, tension. The author writes well enough, that I lean toward a qualified recommendation.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Is it realistic?  It is more dystopian, than survivalist in the second novel, but it is a very near, plausible future.  Survival is not easy in either the dried up wilds, or the bleak urban setting either.  It is a seven.
Readability is fairly straight forward.  There is too much moping and pondering for it to be even remotely a page turner, but the author rights well and the story doesn't bog down.  The dream state sequences maybe add a little confusion, but any high level symbolism is buried enough that I missed it.  Not as much action this time around, so we will call it a 5.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Equations of Life: A Review

Simon Morden's Equations of Life is a cyberpunk flavored post apocalyptic novel set in the scarred remnants of London after nuclear terrorists have destroyed much of the country.  It is set after, and includes many of the characters who were introduced in, the short story collection we reviewed earlier: Thy Kingdom Come.  The novel is a standalone story, but there are three other novels that followed this one.

We went over the author's background in our earlier review, so we won't repeat it here. It is worth repeating that the metrozone series is a  Philip K. Dick Award winner.

The general theme, if you ignore the level of world wide ruin, is pretty standard cyberpunk fair.  Maybe not as much time in virtual reality, but there are all sorts of super bad assassin nun fighting women, dangerous AI computers, and dangerous machinations in a not very law abiding world. The poor are screwed, and the wealthy can fall quickly.
The hero is a not very reputable, not very legal, Russian immigrant who has been hanging out in London's overcrowded new-style slum district.  He is involved in physics research at the local university, but obviously has some underworld connections.  When he rescues a pretty young Japanese woman from Russian Ukrainian gangsters, he finds himself in the middle of a couple different fights: Gangsters versus Yakuza, and Church versus street gang.  And that is before it all gets really hairy.
The novel is entirely set in London.  It shows a plausibly collapsed society.  If not down to the stone age, it has the usual haves and the left behind.  Of course in a post-nuclear setting, even if the nukes were somewhat limited, the have-nots are in a very dire position.  Technology is advancing, but not everyone gets to share.
The novel is sort of a long form (367 pages) of an action adventure.  Outside of the various violent scenes, it is not a page turner, but it does move along.  Much of the action involves our hero getting himself beat up by various protagonists.  In fact there is so much of this, it becomes a bit implausible that anyone would even be still in one peace after even half the activities.
Did I like it?  Yes.  It has a reasonably enjoyable story line, even if all the adventurous activity gets to be a bit much after awhile.  A trimmer book would have been cleaner and faster paced without sacrificing much in the way of story.  So I enjoyed it, even if I am not willing to call it a new classic.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high.  Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting.  Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation.  Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism is moderate.  It is near future, but there are enough campy elements (zombie like nuke survivors, fighting nuns) of speculative science to give it an air of unreality.  That the hero comes up with plausible equations to fill in the voids of the unified field theory is not a particularly realistic element either.  So we will call it a four.
Readability is straightforward, a slightly overlong fast paced novel with only a touch of philosophizing.  A five.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Darwin Elevator: A Review

Jason M. Hough's The Darwin Elevator is an action adventure post-apocalyptic science fiction novel set within a mid-23rd century ruined earth.  Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the world is abandoned except for devolved (sort of zombie-like) humans.  Only the small Northern Australian coast city of Darwin, protected by a high tech radiant barrier, is safe for normal humankind.  And they are barely hanging on by their teeth. This novel is the first in a three part series.  This part leaves some plot lines hanging, but works reasonably well as a stand alone as some of the major issues are resolved. I "read" the novel as an audio book.

Jason Hough (pronounced Huff), per his Amazon biography lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and two children.  He is a former 3-D artist and game designer.

The elevator of the story is a big mystery object. It had shown up a few decades prior when an alien ship parked overhead and spun down a large tube like structure: what is commonly called a space elevator.  The aliens never told anyone what they were about, and never made an appearance after the elevator showed up.   A few years after its arrival, a pandemic broke out that killed most of humanity, leaving the few survivors as devolved primal urge driven ape-like creatures.  Only the tiniest fraction of the population was immune.  The one area where the disease seemed to have no effect was in the immediate area of the elevator.

There are a handful of major characters within the novel.  The key figure is an ex-Dutch pilot who is one of the rare immunes who flies a semi-legal scavenging craft to various locations, looking for items that will help the remnant population's life easier, and more importantly, get him paid.

There are a number of antagonistic groups within the remnant society, and much of the story revolves around their scheming.  There is another major plot line which involves the ultimate intentions of the aliens that built the elevator.  Although some suspect them of also introducing the virus that caused the collapse, it is still somewhat up in the air as to their ultimate plan.

The novel is entertaining as an action adventure, with the sub-humans making a more interesting variant of the zombie theme without slavishly following the type.  The morality of the various good guys and bad guys is a bit ambiguous.  If the author didn't make the bad guy out to be an opportunist pervert - with no actual logic as to why the bad guy would be the perverted one - you could reverse many of the good guy/bad guy parts pretty easily.  That, and the artificial nature of the survival setting kept me from getting overly involved with the fate of the characters.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high.  Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting.  Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation.  Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism.....hmmm....   The positive...  The weapons technology is identifiable with our own, a lot of fairly easy technology (drones) don't seem to be much used anymore.  So a lot of the action has a modern day shoot out atmosphere.   The negatives.  It is far future science fiction with a number of unlikely events having a major impact.  Much of the technology (the alien elevator, the virus, the electrically powered aircraft) is given some mumbo jumbo rational, but certainly isn't "real" in any modern sense of the word.  Too much magical happenstance.  It is a 2.
Readability is easier.  With the series split in three that keeps the novel from dragging out too long.  At 496 pages for just this first part, it is not a long novel chopped into novellas.  It is a true trilogy.  As I noted above, it is an action adventure, and a lot of the writing has a page turner feel to it.  There are is a little bit too much time spent with the dull beautiful Indian scientist with the Bollywood looks, and much of her plotline (investigating the aliens) seemed superfluous in the end.  It is a 5.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Watership Down: A Review

Richard Adam's Watership Down is a catastrophic (versus globally apocalyptic) novel of rabbit survival set in the English countryside.  Although there were latter add-on stories, this novel was intended to be a stand alone story.

Richard Adams is a famous English novelist whose most famous novel is Watership Down. Originally composed as a bedtime story for his daughters, it is a modern classic  selling over 50 million novels, being one of the top 25 selling single-volume novels of all time.  His novel, Plague Dogs, also made into a movie, has apocalyptic themes as well.
So why review a book about rabbits, when my usual fare is either outright apocalyptic, or somewhat apocalyptic future-dystopian?  Well it is the fault of that "Druid-guy".
The worlds of pulp fantasy are by and large worlds in decline, strewn with immense ruins and scattered with artifacts no one can duplicate any more. The heroes of pulp fantasy are caught up in the undertow of decline, and their battles and quests are generally defined by legacies of the pre-decline past that have to be preserved or destroyed before the future can begin to take shape...
A brand of fiction commonly dismissed as sheer escapism, in other words, provides narratives more useful to the current state of the industrial world than the supposedly serious narrative of progress that still shapes every detail of contemporary public discourse.
And I agree.  A lot of fantasy is very apocalyptic in tone. It various from the modern narrative in that the hero is generally in a position to do something about the impending doom.  The situation can be corrected.
What makes Watership Down, a talking-animal brand of fantasy, is that it is not a tale of avoiding an apocalypse, but of surviving an apocalypse.  Almost from the very get go, the small band of rabbits have been turned out of their burrows, and are out in the wilds without the safety of shelter.  They are thrown on their own resources.  And like its swords and sorcery cousins, the heroes are in a position to make a difference.
So how do the rabbits survive?  How do their survivalist techniques differ from the two-legged survivalist novel?
  1. They make friends with everyone they can by helping folks with no immediate expectation of return benefit.  Sometimes their friends help them in big ways, other times it is just a little warning that makes all the difference.
  2. They don't use a one-headed tribal model.  They have a variety of leaders, each tending to dominate within their area of expertise.  This is actually how most "tribal" societies actually work, rather than the head-man fantasies of many anthropologists.
  3. They are not particularly choosey about who joins them.  They value each other for company and friendship, and generally figure that just about everyone has something useful to add, even if it is only another pair of alert eyes.
  4. They don't really on firepower, and only to a limited amount on combat skills, to win their way through. 
In general, they succeed by being nice, and by being community spirited.  Some of their other methods are more traditional. They find a defensible position to live in. They work hard, are brave, cunning, and  doggedly determined.  So are these viable survival strategies for people?  I don't know;  But they certainly are nicer strategies.
The novel has a longer focus than most human-centered survival fiction.  This isn't too hard to do as rabbits don't live long, so it only takes a couple of years to get to the passing of a generation, and thus making it a more foundational story:  somewhat along the lines of George Herbert's Earth Abides.
So did I like it?  Of course, I read it when it came out in 1974, and my second re-reading was by way of reading it aloud to my son at bed time.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism?  It is a story about talking rabbits.  It is fantasy.  It is a one.
Readability?  It is an absolute classic.  It was published to instant acclaim.  There is some chatting, and philosophizing thrown in for good measure, but it reads pretty quickly for a book that is close to 500 pages long.  Remembering that this is not a qualitative ranking, we will call it a 6.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Last Werewolf: A Review

Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf involves an unveiling (of the supernatural), and a passing (obviously) so it is in this sense apocalyptic, which literally means "an unveiling" or you might also call it a "Revelation".  The novel was planned as the start of a trilogy, and the second novel, Tallulla Rising .  I "read" this novel as an audio-book.
Glen Duncan (1965-) was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, the first of his Indian-British family to be born in England.   He seems to have been the wild child of his family, being saved from a hedonistic collapse of his own by a trip to India with his father.  He currently lives in South London.
His tenth novel will come out in 2014.  Most of his novels seem to have bit of horror in their content, but they are not your standard fare.  Often the horror of the real world seems to intrude.  This novel was intended to be more of a mainstream breakout novel.  One way to do so seems to have been to juice it up with a lot of blood and sex appeal.
The book starts off with a very tired, anti-hero werewolf, who has hunters closing in on his rather nice lifestyle. But after 200 years at it, he just doesn't have the desire to put up much of a fight.  Anti-hero angst has been around for a long time, although the roleplaying game Vampire: the Masquerade probably fits closest to this world of darkness "world view". Cool angst ridden monsters started at least as far back as Ann Rice's Interview with a Vampire (1976).  The introduction of pornographically stylizations into the afterlife was pushed by Poppy Z. Bright's Lost Souls (1992).  It was new and interesting then; But it seems a little stale now.  Turning the "Cursed" individuals into werewolves, rather than Vampires, doesn't make it all that helpful.
Of course, the conceit of these "World of Darkness" scenarios is not so much that the world is falling apart, but that the world has always been a dark, brooding, dangerous landscape to begin with.   So if a typical "apocalypse" has the world collapsing under its rottenness, this scenario has the world being rotten pretty much from the start.   The world is controlled by dark forces unseen by the masses, et cetera.

Mixed in the endless musings and sexuality are some interesting bits of spy craft play.  Nothing that is likely to turn you into the next James Bond, but that theme does add a different flavor to the goings on.  At times you almost feel like you are in a John le CarrĂ© novel.  There is sporadic violence, and a number of sex scenes.

Did I like it?  It was annoying.  It had some very good moments interspersed with a lot of whining by the werewolf, and a lot of detail about what his "hot throbbing member" was up to.  It dragged on.  If you are used to reading those door stop Anne Rice books, that probably won't bother you. But unless you are fan of this specific genre, I think you will find it dull.   Which explains why the reviews seem to fall between people who loved it, and those who stopped prior to finishing.

We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.

Well it is set in what is supposed to be the modern world.  It's not like there are hobbits running around.  But I don't think I am going too far out on a limb when I say that the full moon wolfman is not very "real."  The spy craft will lift it to a 2.

The author is competent at putting words together, it is just that there is a lot of mental gyrations that have very little to do with moving the story along.  The extended sex scenes, and philosophic ramblings extend the length of the novel far past what the ideas are worth.  There doesn't seem to be too much in the way of hidden symbolism, or any tortured stream of consciousness though.  So I will call it a three.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Undead Situation: A review

Eloise J. Knapp's The Undead Situation is a zombie apocalypse.  The story starts in Seattle, Washington before moving further inland.  The primary twist on the story line is that the main protagonist is an anti-social (described as a sociopath) loner/survivalist.  The success of this novel generated a sequel, The Undead Haze.  I "read" the novel, as an audio book.

Eloise J. Knapp wrote the undead situation when she was a 16 years.  She is a resident of Seattle Washington, and is set to graduate from Seattle University soon.  When not writing horror fiction, she is also a cover designer.

Cyrus V. describes himself as a sociopath, but I would make a finer distinction and say that he is a highly antisocial person.  The key difference is, that while Cyrus is not particularly upset by the ongoing apocalypse and could care less about the fate of most others, he is not actively antagonistic in his endeavors.  If people don't come along and mess with him, he isn't going to go out looking for trouble.

But of course, trouble does come to him.  In the form of a young gal, clad in combat garb and armed to the hilt (see author photo below).  Zombies Cyrus can deal with:  people, not so much. Although a bit of a mess herself, she is a far more socialized person and finally manages to get Cyrus moving.
The tale than proceeds along a relatively fast paced adventure as Cyrus and new "friend" move out in a vehicular fashion to find a safer place.  The group gets larger as a couple of equally dangerous fellow travelers join in.   As with many of the today's zombie novels, the surviving people are generally a lot more dangerous than the zombies.
Did I like the novel?  Yes I did.  It was fast paced and fun.  Rather snarky and sarcastic throughout, it doesn't take itself too seriously, which generally keeps down any distracting analysis.  The ending was little contrived, but since very little of this seems to be of a real serious nature, and the whole concept of a zombie apocalypse is a bit contrived, I wouldn't say that was a big minus.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism is so-so.  Cyrus has a survivalist inclination, so it is not as if the issue of supplies is completely ignored.  But the whole story is set up to be one fast paced action yarn, without to much concern about realistic plotting.  Zombies are one of the few causes of collapse that, because of their continuing effect on the story line, I give a de-rating for realism. However enough of the problems come from people, and relationships, to warrant a realism is a five.
Readability is straight forward.  Obviously I was listening, but the story moves along fast.  I am guessing that the author read somewhere how to design a page turning novel, and did a pretty good job of it.  There are a couple of slightly slower sections that don't work that well, so I will call it a six.

Authoress decked out in survival garb

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" A Review

Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, is zombie apocalypse novel that is set out as series of individual intereviews of survivors of a world wide zombie-pandemic.

Max Brooks (1972-) is son of director, producer, writer, and actor Mel Brooks and actress Ann Bancroft.  He is an actor himself, but is most famous for his horror, zombie-horror in particular, fiction. 

World War Z is one of the more influential of the recent zombie genre that are based on the films of , the George A. Romero's Dead Series: the Romero Zombie if you will.  As advanced in this novel, the zombie-plague has a scientific cause (a virus), the life-force of the zombie is contained within the skull, and the plague is spread, much like rabies, by a bite.  That a bunch of shambling monsters could create a mass horde of zombies, as portrayed in this novel, quickly enough to overwhelm the general populace takes a bit of a stretch in logic.  Thus a number of novels have the plague spread through more means than just a simple bite, often with a air born flue-like disease, causing the initial spread.  There is also a common practice of mixing in some fast-zombies, to make the zombies a little bit more difficult to deal with.  In this novel, almost anyone over the age of 13 armed with a heavy club, who maintains their calm, should have no difficulty taking on a zombie one-on-one.  The zombies generally rely on surprise at first, followed by enormous numbers latter.

The novel spans the globe.  The author even finds an excuse to have an interview down in Antarctica.  It runs mostly chronologically through the disaster, but does a reasonable job of mixing in action elements throughout.  It is all laid out in an entirely reasonable mumbo-jumbo deadpan fashion that makes it all seem so reasonable.

Issues of preparation, and post-collapse skills are discussed at length.  The ability to act under pressure is also highlighted at many points.  Preparation without determination does not get you very far.  So for a zombie novel, it has an unusual amount of "realism" to it.  Although most governments collapse, a few isolated areas do reasonably well.  Cuba, who to some extent has already collapsed with the ending of the Soviet oil subsidy, manages to do pretty well.  North Korea seems to have messed up seriously.

There is a fair amount of political polemics mixed within the various interviews.  As the book gets to the recovery stages, a bit of triumphalism starts to creep in.  The neo-new deal patrician bureaucrat (narrated by Alan Alda in the audio book) is so smug as to be nauseating.  That the author also finds something useful for an heroic Hollywood-producer type (propaganda) I guess is to be expected if he doesn't want to be disowned by his parents.

Did I like it?  Truthfully, I was disappointed.  For a classic of the new zombie genre, I was expecting better.  It starts out well enough, but there is an odd bit of triumphalism in the novel, and not a ton of fear.  That the novel is written as a "history" takes out a lot of the suspense of who survives.  Still it has enough good moments, that I would give it a qualified recommendation.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
As zombie novels go, it is relatively realistic.  A lot of the military style combat portions are of so-so plausibility, but that is a rather common failing.  The author greatly underestimates the deadliness of modern firepower, and seems not to realize how much more powerful  modern conventional munitions are over their WW2 predecessors.  As I have noted, previously, zombies, because of their continuing effect on the narrative, are one of the catastrophic causes that I will de-rate for.  So we will call it a six.
Readability was pretty high until the half way point.  It simply went on too long.  Some of the storylines were of limited usefulness, and a bit of trimming could have been done.  The original audio book recognized this and edited out some of them; I was listening to the full length version. To much naval gazing, and issues of unreliable view points, make it a little less than a straight forward read.  It is a 4.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We're Alive: a Story of Survival: A Review

KC Wayland's We're Alive: A Story of Survival (Season One) (website) is an audio book rather than traditional print novel that portrays life in urban Coastal California during a zombie apocalypse.  As an audio "book" it is much more like one of the old radio dramas.

KC Wayland is a former high school teacher who now has a full time staff position at the Dodge College of Film and Media. Shane Salk is listed as an author, but a closer look at his biography leads me to believe he is one of the voice over folks.
It's alive has fast, and pretty smart zombies, with the occasional giant zombie, and other odd goings on that make the zombie breakout an odd combination of gritty urban survival and fantasy.  As a "radio show" style format, it has sound effects, and different actors taking up different voices.  There is a lot of dialog driven action.  With very limited narration, the elements of the story, for better or worse are talked through.
With such a deadly group of zombies, survival is very difficult.  The story is set in the Santa Monica harbor area of Los Angeles.  The initial nucleus of the survival group is thee army reservist, they report in to their headquarters just in time to get enough weapons and vehicles to survive the initial outbreak.  Early on, they save a number of young woman, who become love interests, and the focal point for much bickering.
This initial part of the series spends most of its time in a large apartment block that the survival group fortifies and holes up in.  It is sort of like Omega Man, but with more folks, maybe two dozen in all, although most of them are not "name" characters.  There are various, usually somewhat plausible attempts at survival outfitting, but the zombies are of such a dangerous nature that long range survival planning is a bit dubious.  There are some  people who wind up being dangerous as well, but the zombies are tougher: a rare turnaround for a zombie story these days.
The bickering between the woman is hilariously, and sadly realistic.  There are not a lot of children in the mix, but presumably their short legs couldn't move them fast enough to keep from being eaten.
Well, I don't want to get too involved with the details of the plotting.  The story is O.K., the tensions is built up well, and the radio play format is kind of fun.  It isn't the most stunning work of performance, but it is a lot of fun.  I am backlogged on audio-reading material, but I might get around to the other parts at some point. Since I rarely read more than the first part of a series, that would have to be a positive recommendation.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
It is in a modern setting, but beyond that it is all cinematic realism.  Is a Terminator movie realistic?  Not really.  The de-merit for zombies, and rather fanciful zombies at that, is counterpointed by at reasonable concerns about supplies.  We will be generous and call it a 4.
Readability is a bit difficult, because there is not text associated with the audio.  So will simply deal with its complexity, and delivery.  The differing actors and sound effects make it easier to follow than some audio novels, and it is usually pretty fast paced. It lists at ten hours, but does seem like a rather long ten hours at times.  With the episodes, but not the resolutions, piling up.  so we will call it a 5.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Upcoming book reviews

I have been busy with work, and occasionally out of town, which has been limiting my time here.
And although I have been reading a lot of non-fiction, I have also been able to fit in the occasional bit of fiction as well. The current freeze in the Carolinas has given me sometime to finish some reviews.

The intended order of listing and rough sub-grouping:

KC Wayland's We're Alive: A Story of Survival (Season One)
Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Eloise J. Knapp's The Undead Situation

Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf
Richard Adam's Watership Down

Science Fiction (near future, but still futuristic)
Jason M. Hough's The Darwin Elevator
Simon Morden's Equations of Life
Guy Salvidge’s Yellow Cake Summer

Satirical (by intent)
Doug Shear's Rhubarb Culture
R.W. Ripley's The Man Who Saved Two Notch

Realistic (by intent)
Ian Weekley's The Moving Snow
Scott B.Williams' The Darkness After
John S. Wilson's Tribes
F. Paul Wilson and Sarah Pinboroughs' A Necessary Evil
Jerry Pournelle, and Larry Niven's Lucifer's Hammer

As is typical, I have a few half-read books out there that may get added.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Empty pantries

One of the earliest apocalyptic stories I reviewed here was Michelle Widgen's But Not For Long.  It always sticks in my mind because of the quietness of the oncoming apocalypse.  In fact, although we have seen the metaphorical black dog of death at the very start of the story, we are left in a sort quiet peace, were wishful thinking has the urban folks thinking they will make a run of it.
In any case, the reason I bring it up here, is because one of the main characters is in charge of keeping the larder of a food bank stocked, and as the story progresses, he starts running out of supplies.  Here we have real life catching up to fiction.

Stretched food pantry runs out of food
Last Saturday, the Loaves & Fishes food pantry in New Haven, Conn., ran out of food.
Jennifer Liberto, CNN, 30 January 2014 (hat tip: NC)
Run by the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and St. James, the pantry has been pushed to the brink from recent decisions in Washington that resulted in cuts to food stamps and jobless benefits for the unemployed.
For most of last year, the little food pantry was feeding an average of 225 families a week. Then, starting in November, more families started showing up. That's when Congress failed to extend a recession-era bump in food stamps, which cut $11 less from each recipient's monthly grocery money.
The pantry is now feeding 300 families. And things could get worse.
The political slant is not particularly well disguised.  Food stamps were greatly expanded by Bush W. and O-man has gone further.  The revelation that many big box store employees are paid so little that they are eligible for food stamps muddies the waters a bit as to who is subsidizing who exactly.  I don't pretend to have the time to dig through all the relevant numbers (which likely don't exist except in various polemists' dreams) and parse out the truth.
But, whether it is on the supply side, or the demand side of the issue,  I think it is safe to say that food  pantries running out of food is not a really good sign.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bullet hole fix

Innovation is not dead.  A new idea in combat triage.

How A Simple New Invention Seals A Gunshot Wound In 15 Seconds
An Oregon startup has developed a pocket-size device that uses tiny sponges to stop bleeding fast.
Popular Science, Rose Pastore, Popular Science, 3 February 2014 (hat tip: NC)
The team’s early efforts were inspired by Fix-a-Flat foam for repairing tires. “That’s what we pictured as the perfect solution: something you could spray in, it would expand, and bleeding stops,” says Steinbaugh. “But we found that blood pressure is so high, blood would wash the foam right out.”
So the team tried a new idea: sponges. They bought some ordinary sponges from a hardware store and cut them into 1-centimeter circles, a size and shape they chose on a whim but later would discover were ideal for filling wounds. Then, they injected the bits of sponge into an animal injury. “The bleeding stopped,” says Steinbaugh. “Our eyes lit up. We knew we were onto something.” After seeing early prototypes, the U.S. Army gave the team $5 million to develop a finished product.
Obviously, shot placement is an issue.
On a different subject, I was out of town last week, and distracted by ice in any case.  I have been slow posting, but that is in part because I have been trying to catch up and fill out a number of book reviews.