Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: science fiction (page 1 of 3)

Altered Carbon – TV series

I watched this ten part series on Netflix recently, and it’s left me with mixed feelings. On one note, I hope the future depicted in this series (and the books) never comes to pass. On another note, I was impressed with the cast of the series, each of whom acquitted themselves excellently, particularly Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs and Martha Higareda as Ortega. Kudos to the ever-reliable James Purefoy too.

It’s gritty, well-made and produced, full of death, gore, nudity and the high-tech. No nice guys anywhere. It’s a neon-glitzy yet filthy future no decent person wants to find themselves in. Apart from the excellent fight scenes and gripping action, the series also has its lulls, and Episode 7, which dealt mainly in flashback with Kovacs’ time with Quellcrist on Harlan’s World dragged on. And that last episode? Talk about end with a whimper. I don’t know yet if Netflix made enough dough to put Broken Angels into production, but there’s hints the storyline of Kovacs continues.

The book Altered Carbon (which I reviewed here) isn’t fresh enough in my mind to know whether the series stuck to it or not. In the main, I think it did, but I do recall Kovacs being sleeved into the body of a woman at one stage, something the series omitted. The series kept the dystopian, hopeless for most future of the book intact though. Being able to save your consciousness to a device and then be implanted into a new body is something I hope never happens. It probably will, and that’ll be another slide down the self-destruction slope for humankind.

The story illustrates the philosophy that immortality is a bad thing and if it turns out like Altered Carbon, I thoroughly agree. If I hate to rate this series, I’d give it an 8/10. It’s very good, if you’re willing to put up with a few lulls and too many trips into flashback.

Mass Effect 2 – crashing after Stolen Memory mission

Once you’ve completed Kasumi’s loyalty mission – Stolen Memory, and gotten the mission rundown, your game may crash. This is what worked for me (Windows 7, 64 bit, Origin edition).

In Windows Explorer, navigate to the ME2 folder – the default is C:\Program Files (x86)\Origin Games\Mass Effect 2\ and go into the Binaries folder. There, make a shortcut to ME2Game.exe on the desktop and in the properties of that shortcut, add -nomoviestartup to the end of the Target section. Make you sure you put it outside the quotes.

Load the game and it should work. If not, try the above with MassEffect2.exe instead.

Edit: this fix works for the crash at the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker mission too.

Thanks to the various posters here for the tips.

Blade Runner 2049 plot holes

Spoilers abound! Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film.

  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and steal Rachel’s bones without being apprehended/shot/zapped or whatever?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to traipse into a police station and kill the lieutenant, after previously stealing bones, and killing the forensic scientist?
  • As a civilian, how was Luv able to deploy an armed drone and fire missiles?
  • For that matter, how are air vehicles allowed to carry armaments and use them in a public area?
  • K is a LAPD cop yet he pulls his badge out on the orphanage master, and the film states he’s in the San Diego area. Isn’t he out of his jurisdiction?
  • Why would Wallace want to send Deckard off-world to show him pain? Doesn’t a guy of his clout and power have the facilities on Earth? Since his enforcer Luv has already demonstrated a blase disregard for the law, why would it matter?
  • What made K so special that he had Deckard’s daughter’s memories implanted into him?
  • Joshi and Luv seem to have a history. How do they know one another?

I’m sure I’ll think of more as time goes by. I liked the film, despite its propensity toward artiness and consider it a worthy successor to the original.

Matthew Hughes – The Other

The OtherThe Other by Matthew Hughes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ah, judging books by their covers, what folly. You know, from the sly and self-serving smirk on Luff Imbry’s face, I expected this to be a tale about deception, intrigue, derring-do, skulduggery and the like. No, what we have here is an adventure tale cum quest fantasy where Mr Imbry is not really in much of a position to play scoundrel, rogue or rascal. In fact, he spends much of his time figuring out how to escape from the world of inbred religious loonies he’s been stranded upon.

In fact, I feel a little cheated, though I shouldn’t be. The novel’s blurb states quite unequivocally that Imbry is a rascal and a crook and I guess in the other stories he features in, he may well be precisely those things. In this book, his implied talent for cleverness and deception is put aside by a need for self-preservation and some mystery solving.

All that aside, the novel could be best described as pleasantly serviceable. From what little I know of this author, I believe he writes in the Jack Vance vein, which is something I’ve always thought to be fraught with deceptive danger. Vance had a style that is seductive to an author – you want to imbue your every sentence with whimsical poesy and colourful verbiage. He’s easy to imitate – I’ve done it too, but he’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to master. Underneath the “big words” and the dash and the colour lies a scintillating internal logic that only Vance understood. I don’t think anyone will master his voice, only approximate it.

While there are echoes of Vance’s work in the beginning and end sections of this book, it’s too matter of factly constructed to be Vance. It’s also decidedly nastier than anything Vance ever wrote. Vance liked to throw the odd barb at religion and those who adhered to it like glue, but this book all but names religions the playground of the weak-minded and pliable. Doesn’t disguise itself in any way.

Also, I felt like I was reading one novel and portions of another. The beginning and the ending seem to come from outside the central narrative – there’s things going on before and after this story that are alluded to, but I’m not seeing anywhere in the book that this is part of a series. Goodreads isn’t listing it as one. And only about two thirds through the novel does Imbry actually list who may have led him to the forsaken planet he ended up on. Almost an afterthought.

A couple of quibbles that other reviewers have pointed out. Hughes overuses the word “ineffable” a lot. And why call Imbry a fat man throughout? Does Imbry being fat have any significance above and beyond the fact he likes his dinners? Is it part of some characteristic or notoriety he gained in another story? Without knowing this, I wasn’t sure what the point of it all was.

Anyhow, I like enough of what I saw in this book to seek out more of Hughes’ work.

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Jack Vance – Lurulu

LuruluLurulu by Jack Vance
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m not mean enough to give Vance’s last published book one star though there are plenty of reasons to do so. As with Ports of Call, this book dispenses with any kind of plot and character development and instead we get a colourful travelogue, with a cohort of nameless ciphers who go traipsing about one planet after the other and not a whole lot happens, apart from an early episode of vengeance.

My pet peeve with Vance is all over this book too – everything and everyone is a miser. It’s all about the freaking money. One half of the universe is trying to rip off the other half who are trying to haggle their way out of paying retail. Seriously, Vance has been at this unwelcome shenanigan for much of his fantasy and SF writing career and it overstayed its welcome about thirty books ago.

Yes, I’m being captious. Vance was ninety or thereabouts when this book was released. Few people will live as long as he did let alone write legible fiction then. On its own merits, that aspect is to be commended. But also on its own aspects, this book is an ipso facto stinker. Not the most ideal way to bow out, Jack, but the sheer fact you even got this book out is something I’ll raise a glass to. Vale Jack.

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Jack Vance – Vandals of the Void

Vandals of the VoidVandals of the Void by Jack Vance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first “new” Vance book I’ve read since Night Lamp about twenty years ago. So, I only need to get hold of Lurulu now and that will be soon. Then, I’d have read everything he’s published.

Ok, this isn’t a bad book, yet it’s a product of its time and the genre. Typical juvenile SF – young, resourceful lad uses tenacity, bravery and logic to overcome the nefarious schemes of adults. Vance’s imaginary future timeline at the beginning of the novel is off, and it’s actually rather odd seeing Vance write one of these and I wonder if an editor urged him into doing it (without researching the answer).

It’s an average work of fiction, tightly plotted and written in a straightforward, serviceable manner that’s largely unlike Vance’s usual way – outside of his mystery and police procedural novels. But his fondness for baroque language threatens to break through the simple and flowing text, hinting at where he’d been withThe Dying Earth, and where he would go with the remainder of his extensive SF and fantasy oeuvre.

Second order Vance for sure, but I’m glad I finally tracked this book down.

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Philip K Dick – Martian Time-Slip

Martian Time-SlipMartian Time-Slip by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a landmark work! You know, this is another novel I swore I’d read but no, I never have until now. Well, I’m absolutely elated that I did get around to reading it, as this is a keystone member of the SF oeuvre – union cronyism and corruption, infidelity, mental illness, autism, greed, capitalism, land speculation, racism, ableism, indigenous land and cultural rights – it has it all. And all of this in a work of science fiction that was written in 1962. 1962! The topics Dick touches on here are just as relevant today and apart from dated references to voice recorders and other 60s technology, this book could well have been written now.

The book challenges the notions of reality arguably better than any other work I’ve read – science fiction or otherwise. Those sections where Arnie plays his messed-up version of Mozart are both stark and off-putting. Arnie Kott himself is a real piece of nasty work and everything you’d expect in a corrupt union boss (is there any other kind I wonder?). In fact, there’s not a character out of place here, from the indecisive and cowardly Dr Glaub to the mysterious yet touching Manfred Steiner, he of the titular time-slips.

As the cliche goes, it all comes together. This is equally the best work of Dick’s I’ve read along with The Man in the High Castle.

Oh yes, gubble gubble!

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Arthur C. Clarke – The City and the Stars

The City and the StarsThe City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another book I thought I’d read already, but no…

Well, this is typical Clarke really: big ideas, sense of wonder, driven characters, yearning, advancement, eyes to the future with a fondness for times past, subtle digs at religion, no villains in sight, science with a mystical bent.

Really, this is very good like practically everything else Clarke wrote. It didn’t connect with me as much as Childhood’s End or Rendezvous with Rama did…there was an aloofness in this book that was all-pervasive. As much as I sympathised with Alvin, I couldn’t equate with him in any way. He’s a transhuman character for all of his questing nature, and just as alien. Hilvar is more like us, but Clarke seriously expects us to believe that after a billion years, his kind of human would be practically the same as we are now, apart from telepathic powers? Plot-holes in a Clarke story? Say it isn’t so!

But…it’s all good, except for that sense of detachment.

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David Haden – The Time Machine: a sequel

The Time Machine: a sequelThe Time Machine: a sequel by David Haden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short and fairly sweet. This author approximates Wells’ voice adequately, though he also pays homage to the 2002 Guy Pearce film with an all-knowing virtual librarian. He also integrates the so-called “lost chapter”, The Grey Man, into the story.

With this all said, I was acutely aware reading this novella that this was not Wells’ work. It’s not where he would’ve taken the story had he been of a mind to craft a sequel, at least I don’t think so anyway. He was less interested in the fate of Weena than he was in the fate of humanity, but quite naturally, these sequels by other hands have all made the attempt to rescue her from the fire with varying success.

Does this sequel by another hand succeed? Well, read it for yourself. For a dollar on Amazon you can’t go wrong, just don’t expect anything stunning or extraordinary in any area.

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The 85000 word challenge

Over at the writing thread of the Whirlpool forums, a challenge was issued recently. Before the 31 March, 2016, the takers of the challenge are to write an 85000 word novel. I accepted the challenge, despite the fact I’m working on a couple of other stories.

When I write, I usually revise what I’ve written the next time I look at it. Not on this occasion. There’s minimal editing and I’m simply putting down whatever comes to mind, and going with the creative flow.

The story? Science fiction, and it’s based around an idea that I’ve had developing for some time. Several hundred years in the future, most people have left Earth for other worlds. Left behind were about 100 million people and they banded together to redesign the world in a self-sustaining ecological manner, and based their society on an anarchic meritocracy.

Through huge engineering projects, the old continents were broken up or shifted around, allowing for better oceanic flow, thus allowing the world’s land to receive more reliable (and higher amounts of) rainfall. Then the world was divided up into preserves for nature, called Greenbelts, which humans living in smaller regions surrounded by the Greenbelts.

The tale starts with a character called Jacqueline 5146 Advanced, who finds herself on trial for manslaughter and possession of alcohol and cocaine. She dodges the manslaughter charge, but isn’t so lucky in regards to the others as drinking booze and doing drugs are serious crimes in the future age that is dominated by logic and reason.

The trouble is, she was employed at the time by one of her world’s more influential people…and questions were asked: why did he have booze and cocaine? Some people are not happy about these polite enquiries and seek to eliminate anyone that knows anything. Including Jacqui.

Life has now become very interesting for Miss 5146 Advanced…(and yes, there is a perfectly logical explanation for her silly name.)

Once this tale is done, and I’ve edited it, I’ll put it up here.

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