All posts by ntbadmin

Cosmos #2

Tyson describes both artificial selection via selective breeding, using the example of humankind’s domestication of wolves into dogs, and natural selection that created species like polar bears.
The Ship of the Imagination shows how DNA, genes, and mutation work, and how these led to the diversity of species as represented by the Tree of life, including how complex organs such as the eye came about as a common element.

He covers the five great extinction events that wiped out numerous species on Earth, while some species, such as the tardigrade, were able to survive and continue life.

The episode concludes with an animation from the original Cosmos showing the evolution of life from a single cell to humankind today.



(Hunger #2)
by Jeremiah Knight aka Jeremy Robinson (2016)

The sequel to Hunger

Racing against this impending outcome, Peter Crane and his family attempt to reach a laboratory in Boston, where a slim hope of saving the human race from extinction exists. But before heading northeast, they must visit the swamps of South Carolina’s Hellhole Bay to find a scientist who can help undo the damage done by ExoGen, the corporation that created and unleashed RC-714.

Where the first book was a road trip, this is more like a siege. The team take refuge at a bio-dome. They they get split, all the characters look to be converging for a final all-out battle.

This is even better then the first, thanks to a more complex plot and changing motivation of the characters.

But things end abruptly, as this is the second of a trilogy and despite the third (Famine) due in 2017, it has yet to turn up.


(Hunger #1)
by Jeremiah Knight  aka Jeremy Robinson (2015)

Desperate to solve a global food shortage, ExoGen scientist Dr. Ella Masse oversees the creation and release of RC-714, a gene that unlocks millions of years of adaptation and evolution, allowing crops to use long dormant junk DNA to rapidly adapt to any environment. The world’s food supply grows aggressively, occupying every inch of earth, no matter how inhospitable. World hunger is averted. Humanity flourishes. RC-714 is digested, absorbed and passed on.

Peter Crane and his son Jakob survive the Change, living in their family farmhouse and eating non-ExoGen food from a biodome, one of many provided by Ella Masse, who discovered the ramifications of her breakthrough too late……

It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller, with bio-genetics gone wrong creating monsters. Of course it’s also just an excuse for to take a monster filled road trip across America. And it’s action all the way. Our hero is ex military (of course) and there may be a love interest.

Yet another recommended read from Robinson.



Cosmos #1

This 2014 series featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson is a re-creation of Carl Sagan’s original series from 1980. Tyson opens the episode to reflect on the importance of Sagan’s original Cosmos, and the goals of this series.

Then it’s into the “Ship of the Imagination”, for a reflection on our place in the universe. Just when it’s getting a bit vague, he concentrates on the persecution of Renaissance Italian Giordano Bruno who challenged the prevailing geocentric model held by the Catholic Church. This is illustrated by a hand-painted animation.

Then he is using the concept of the Cosmic Calendar to provide a metaphor for this scale. The narration describes how if the Big Bang occurred on January 1, all of humankind’s recorded history would be compressed into the last few seconds of the last minute on December 31. An old device, but it works to set the stage.

Produced by Seth MacFarlane and Brannon Braga (Star Trek) with music by Alan Silvestri.


Retail Robot

Rise of the Retail-Bot
(Space Police #4)
by David Blake (2018)

Meanwhile… Dewbush finds himself falling in love with a retail-bot who’s in illegal possession of a sense of humour. But when she’s recalled by her manufacture for immediate decommissioning, Capstan suspects they may have darker motives for wanting her silenced.

Stranger, sillier and with more nuts. This is even better then the previous one. Dewbush seems to have dropped in IQ, along with the villains. Yet again the team find themselves in a life and death situation solved by the obvious (to anyone but themselves).


Space Bastard

Voyage of the Space Bastard
by Andrew Lawston (2017)

A Military Science Fiction Novelette from Pew! Pew! – Bad versus Worse.

Here is an example of a story that gets things half right. The action scenes work well and the dialog is suitably snarky, tough and occasionally witty. Trouble is, the other things; characters and story just don’t work. It starts well with a prelude setting the scene, but I just couldn’t work out the motivations for the characters. They were rouges, but why did they take on the quest.

The author can write clear prose, but maybe other stories work better.

Cyborg Nana

A Visit from my Cyborg Nana
by Zen DiPietro (2017)

A novelette from  Pew! #3.

Zen DiPietro is a young writer and her prose has an easy flow and rhythm to it. What is surprising is that this is not much of a science fiction story. Most of it is a romance between the three main characters.

When they finally get to see Nana, there are some interesting science fiction ideas, but at the end of the story there is little space for them to be explored. She does write what appears to be military science fiction, so it will be interesting to read one of these.

Dan Shamble

Role Model
by Kevin J. Anderson (2014)

Dan Chambeaux, a.k.a. “Shamble,” is an undead Detective, working in some parallel universe to our own where Ghouls, Vampires and mythical creatures somehow also exist.

In this novelette, Dan attends a Comic-Con type event and solves a murder. It’s all rather ordinary and business-like prose from Anderson. He may be trying for humour, but the characters are a but too mundane to raise from the dead a hint of a chuckle.



by Madeline Miller (2018)

The Sword & Laser Podcast June 2018 pick.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Comparisons can be made with with Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master. Both have a mythological style and draw on material from Western canon. In fact Circe draws characters from Homer’s Odyssey.

The prose is rich and detailed, due mainly to sentence length. However where Lee’s writing compresses time into paragraphs and drives the story along, Miller’s prose adds details to scenes and dialog. This is fine at times, but it does lead to a slowing pace and little story.

This is the main problem with the book. At first it is difficult to get into, with numerous characters and an undefined setting. But when Circe finally lands on her island, the plot simplifies and the story gets going. It’s fine until about 80% through when the weight of all the talk, little action and slow pacing just drags everything down and reading it becomes a slog. It’s at this point I had to give up and move on to something new.


Idol 2018

American Idol 2018 was won by Maddie Poppe, with runner-up (her boyfriend) Caleb Lee Hutchison.

After careful consideration (and lots of YouTube repeat viewings),  my preferred winner would be Jurnee: