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Mamelukes Is a Fitting Final Novel in the Jerry Pournelle Oeuvre

Last night, I finished reading the last novel by the late Jerry Pournelle I will ever read.

For me, who has been a Pournelle fan for almost half a century, it was a sad moment. In my last review, of Starborn and Godsons, I reviewed Pournelle’s literary career, so I won’t repeat it. It is extraordinary.

Book Review: Avengers Infinity Saga and Philosophy

Avengers Infinity Saga and Philosophy is a collection of philosophy essays seeking to use Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame to present various philosophical ideas. For example, the multiverse theory means that those who use the likely consequences of their actions to determine the right thing do to are paralyzed, while those with a clear moral structure can still act decisively. There are more than thirty essays in Avengers Infinity Saga and Philosophy, so there’s literally something for everyone. (Including those who agree with Thanos’ doomer worldview or literally see him as the hero.)

Entertainment in the Time of Pestilence

About two weeks ago (as you read this column), just as the coronavirus lockdown was beginning, I decided I needed a break from anything too contemporary, and to watch something “historical” for entertainment. I picked re-watching World Without End, the mini-series based on the novel by Kenneth Follett.

I wound up laughing at myself. It had been almost ten years since I had read the novel, and seven or eight since I watched the series. I had forgotten that a large part of the story deals with how the principal characters dealt with the Bubonic Plague of the mid 1300s.

The Paranoid Squint of Tim Powers

Tim Powers is my literary hero. He creates secret histories in which historical events are “explained” through fictional embellishments which completely alter history’s meaning. Secret histories have been written by Alexandre Dumas, Gore Vidal, Umberto Eco, and they are especially associated with genre writers like Elizabeth Bear, Steve Berry, and above all, Tim Powers.

Powers’ approach is rigorous. He never allows his fiction to contradict any known historical fact (and he knows a lot). He does, however, allow his fictional additions to make full use of magical and science fictional elements.

Book Review: Neil Gorsuch’s A Republic, If You Can Keep It

Wanted: Civics and Civility

If we are fortunate, the Civil War will be the last time we face destruction by a fire set with our own hands. The threat is now dry-rot, that spreads like a fungus from our lack of understanding of our nation’s fundamental principles, and the lack of communication skills needed to convey them to our fellow citizens. A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch is a plea on both counts.

Book Review: Mistress of the Waves

Amanda Kirasdotr, the main character, grew up on the colony world of Goddard. Enough time has passed that her people are natives of the world and generations behind Earth in technology. It makes the interstellar visitors an incredible novelty, though they have little interest in the colonists. That is, until Amanda saves on who had the misfortune of going sailing without knowing how to swim on a world that lacks the many safety systems they’re accustomed to. This one act turns her life upside down, and it may change her world. And that is the beginning of the book Mistress of the Waves by George Phillies.

Rereading My Favorite Novel: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

In 2019 I read again my favorite novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The experience only hardened my adoration of this book. It’s so full of wonderful descriptions and crazy characters.

Book Review: ‘Spoiler Alert’ by Richard Greene

Spoiler Alert by Richard Greene is, no spoiler here, about spoilers. This philosophy book by Open Court Press is unusual for discussing the ethics, the ethos, the philosophy and many other details about spoilers.

As a science fiction fan and author, I found the concept intriguing. And as a periodic book reviewer, I wanted to know where others thought the line between blurbs and spoilers, trailers and big reveals were.

Reviewed: The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF

I picked up the “The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF” out of curiosity because I read, write and review science fiction, especially apocalyptic science fiction.

The book contains a mix of new and classic science fiction stories grouped by type of apocalypse. For example, there are plague stories and catastrophic global warming stories are grouped together. Then there are classics like “A Pail Full of Air”, “Fermi and Frost” and “When We Went to See the End of the World”.

The stories themselves are hit and miss, and unfortunately, the classics are often better. One notable exception was “The Clockwork Atom Bomb”. A post WW3 Kinshasa has weaponized black holes, and a poor country hit by biowarfare will make use of every resource it has. Another was Cory Doctrow’s “When Sys Admins Ruled the Earth”. Of course a working IT clean room is a safe place to hide during a biowarfare strike. And as XKCD has joked, there are sys admins who will crawl over glass to maintain 99.999999% uptime.

The Psychology Underlying Robert Heinlein’s ‘Friday’

The titular character “Friday” in the novel of the same name is an artificial person. She’s quite human, but she was created in a lab, born via an artificial uterus and raised in a corporate crèche. Her society sees her as inferior, and she sees herself as inferior. That is despite her greater speed, strength and intelligence. I spent a while wondering why, and then it hit me. It is as much due to her upbringing as the much vaunted “conditioning”, though both are by design. Furthermore, social engineering (or a good PR campaign) of broader society has been undertaken for the same purpose.

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