Perfect Pet

Building the Perfect Pet
by Joe Lallo

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An interesting science fiction story set several centuries into the future. It involves a self-obsessed scientist/inventor Karter, living alone in a lab with just his AI ‘mother’ named Ma. He builds bio-tech animals for clients who can pay and doesn’t worry about their future application. He builds a new ‘pet’ he calls Funk (a cross between a Fox & Skunk) that may be helpful.

This is the first story in Lallo’s “Big Sigma” series I have read, it’s a novella (about 25,000 words) so not listed as part of the series. The story presents some interesting ideas about the future of biotech but doesn’t amount to much. It probably makes more sense in the context of the series as it explains the evolution of one of the characters.

 

Baby Driver

 

Baby Driver is a 2017 action film written and directed by Edgar Wright. It stars Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal. The plot follows Baby, a young getaway driver, who is coerced into working for a kingpin.


The director really knows what he wants here. It’s a merging of music, action and some fantastic car driving. Jon Hamm & Jamie Foxx really seem to be having fun, with their characters almost caricatures of their previous roles.

This has received critical acclaim and has grossed $123 million worldwide from a $34 million dollar budget. A have to agree, one of the best of the year (so far).

 

Housewife Assassin

The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook
(The Housewife Assassin #1)
by Josie Brown (2011)

Every desperate housewife wants an alias. Donna Stone has one…and it happens to be government-sanctioned. She earned it the hard way: her husband was killed the day she delivered her third child. To avenge his death, she leads a secret life – as an assassin. But espionage makes for strange bedfellows – and brings new meaning to that old adage, “Honey, I’m home…”


This was unexpectedly a good read. It’s a satire of spy vs spy thrillers with an evil villain out to do bad things.

Told in first person from the POV of Donna, it’s sharp and witty writing. Despite not knowing her age (or of anyone) she becomes an agent while raising kids. Just when you think the plot is a bit hackneyed, it takes a few unpredictable twists (although I expected the last).

There are snippets of wisdom  at the beginning of later chapters on how to be a good housewife and spy.

A fun, light read although there is a bit of explicit sex.

Ghost Nova

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops are nine single-player mission packs for the military science fiction real-time strategy game.

The first mission pack was released March 29, 2016, the second mission pack released on August 2, 2016 and the final mission pack was released on November 22, 2016.

The main criticism of the game is that it’s short. I completed all nine episodes 10 days after purchasing the game. Previously, the three sections of Starcraft 1 & 2 took months to complete. For $20NZ it may appear to be not that cheap, however adventure games of a similar price take around 10 hours to complete, as long as Nova took.

The noticeable thing about the principal character Nova is the rather sexualised design of her costume, with emphasis on the breast plate. This is in stark contrast to Sarah Kerrigan, who’s costume was more neutral. The character design owes more to fantasy tropes than science fiction.

Gameplay is as expected, but with more units and ways to deploy them. The inceptor is useful in an attack as it can hold ground. There are add-ons for a lot of units, including a bio-mechanical repair drone that helps with quick unit repairs faster than SCVs.

As for Nova, she generally sneaks around with her cloaking and hits people over the head from behind or takes them out with a sniper rifle. Further on she gets what can only be described as Starcraft’s version of a light sabre. There is also a ‘plasma rifle’ which does a lot of damage, but only to ground units.

Most of the episodes are easy and involve just Nova. There are some resource gathering episodes and about half have some time restriction, either by countdown or the enemy forcing a timetable.

It’s not until the two final scenarios that the game gets tough and I had to go back to change equipment and tactics. In the end it was a new battlecruiser that made all the difference.

If you played Starcraft 2, you will want to continue with Nova Covert Ops. There are major characters from the main game present and a new story to experience.

 

 

Tiger Tail

Tiger by the Tail
by Poul Anderson (1951)

This is the first of the Dominic Flandry stories. Flandry is a field agent of the Imperial Intelligence Corps, apparently with a mission to infiltrate another civilization. Anderson’s story moves quickly, within the space of this novelette Flandry has infiltrated the society, learned their language and worked his way up their nobility, sowing seeds of distrust that brings down an empire.

Well written, but the story has such a pace there is little insight into the characters or the world building that has gone into the story.

IFSDB Info on Flandry


Dominic Flandry, as depicted on the cover of the December 1959 issue of Fantastic by Ed Valigursky.

 

Caprica 19 (Finale)

Apotheosis (2010-11-30)

In the aftermath of her failed attempt to kill the Graystones, Singh informs Clarice that he’s going to implicate them anyway. He arrests them, but they escape via heli-jet with the help of Cyrus and fly to the city park to find Clarice’s holoband.

Now in mourning, the Adamas and friends are visited by Fidelia, who realizes the ways of her father are misplaced and outdated. Daniel uses the band and learns the details of the STO plan to blow up the arena and resurrect the STO terrorists in V-world.

The Graystones immediately embark on trying to foil the plan in a race against time while being pursued by the GDD. Fidelia manipulates her father and then allows Joseph and Sam to kill him in blood-revenge for Willie, and she assumes his ring and title.

With help, Daniel is able to equip a laptop to wirelessly control all Cylons in the vicinity, and four squads of Cylon Marines then drop into the arena by heli-jet. The final battle is a race between the Cylons, Daniel, and the STO, and the Cylons manage to eliminate all but one of the STO terrorists, Olaf, who detonates the vest of explosives he is wearing; the resulting damage, however, is localized, and the arena remains largely intact.

In the end, Zoe’s avatar destroys the virtual heaven with its STO martyrs, and Clarice’s apotheosis plan has failed.

Scenes from the near future of Caprica are revealed, wherein a new era has dawned. Cylons have become integrated into society, rebuilding the part of the arena that was damaged and performing the jobs that humanity no longer wants.

Humanity is thankful, even constructing a monument to the Cylons who stopped the Atlas Arena attack, however the Cylons are still thought of by most as merely tools. Joseph and Evelyn Adama are revealed to have a new son, Bill, who is named after the deceased William in line with Tauron tradition.

Despite their foiled plan, the STO remain active. On Gemenon, Lacy Rand has assumed the position of the Blessed Mother, while Clarice Willow has escaped justice for her terrorist activities and begins to preach directly to the Cylons, reinforcing the STO concept that becomes the monotheistic Cylon God.

In a virtual church, she tells them that they are God’s children, that they are equals with humanity, and that they can become more. She then speaks of the one that loves them all and tells of a prophecy that their belief in God will allow them to crush those who gave them life.

A virtual copy of Zoe is in the audience. Finally, a scene is shown of Daniel and Amanda Graystone finally completing a human-looking “skin job” body for their daughter’s avatar.

Zoe Graystone is then seen rising from a small pool similar to the Cylon resurrection tanks from the Battlestar Galactica series, essentially having been “reborn” in the real world.

Caprica 18

Here Be Dragons (2010-11-23)

 

As the three search for Zoe and Tamara in V-World, Amanda distrusts Sam and ‘removes’ him from the game.

Based on his daughter’s feedback, the Guatrau also decides to remove the Adama brothers. Joseph survives a hit at home with the intervention of Ruth, and the family prepare to flee Caprica.

Meanwhile Clarice, Olaf, and Nestor break into the Graystone residence, planning to kill them and retrieve the holoband.

At the STO camp, the death of Lacy is also planned, however the trainees revolt and kill their STO trainers.
Lacy then activates the Cylons, who then begin to follow her.

The Willows are delayed when security doors seal the lab with Amanda and Daniel unaware of the intrusion and linked to the
holobands.

However, they finally gain access and hold them at gunpoint.
Just as Clarice is about to order them killed, Daniel stalls for time, and the original Zoe U-87 Cylon, dormant since the crash,
activates.


A terrific episode with lots of action, shooting and deaths. But somehow the main characters live through it.

The Adama brothers should really know how to cover each other when opening a safe. You never know who might sneak up behind you.

I don’t thing much of the Graystone security system. It seems that anyone with minimal effort can get in. And why don’t they have
weapons on the most secure place ?

And these STO recruits aren’t very well trained. You should also check your weapon before attempting to use it. It was clearly empty, and an experienced soldier would know because it would have been lighter.

So exciting, but only because people do stupid things along the way.

 

Zahnling

Starcraft: Evolution
by Timothy Zahn (2016)

In StarCraft: Evolution, the war between the terrans, the protoss, and the zerg has been over for years, but the fight for peace is still being waged.

As the Terran Dominion struggles to recover from the ravages of war, Emperor Valerian Mengsk has no intention of ruling in the same bloody manner as his father, the late Arcturus. Instead of seeking vengeance, Valerian is determined to maintain the peace. So when he receives an urgent plea for aid from Zagara, Overqueen of the savage zerg Swarm, he agrees to hear her case despite his personal misgivings and the severe disapproval of Hierarch Artanis of the protoss.


A surprisingly average novel from Zahn. This is his first Starcraft novel (there aren’t that many) and there seems that the concentration on keeping to Starcraft canon comes at the expense of an interesting story. This feels like it could be several episodes in the game, rather than establishing new ground.

 

Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a 2017 war film written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy. Set during the Second World War, it concerns the Dunkirk evacuation.

 


This movie is LOUD. Hans Zimmer is back with the church organ he used in Interstellar. If half a movie experience is sound then in this movie it’s three quarters. So many times the emotional content is transmitted by the sound, rather than the visuals.

As for the acting, the only actor I knew was Kenneth Branagh. He spent most of his time standing on a pier explaining the plot. The best character was Mark Rylance, who was really good in Bridge of Spies and here is a boat Captain.

 

Caprica 17

The Heavens Will Rise (2010-11-16)

Amanda finally tells Daniel that she is a mole in Clarice’s house and later meets Duram – who wants Amanda to switch Clarice’s holoband.

On Gemenon, Lacy watches in horror as an STO soldier orders a Cylon to shoot a young recruit who failed to salute. She tells the robot to stop and surprisingly it obeys.

Fidelia Fazekas, the Gautrau’s daughter and Joseph’s former lover, becomes increasingly suspicious of the missing Cylon units.


As Lucy can control the robots, does this mean that there is still a part of Zoe in them ? This could be the start of sentience for them.

And Amanda has her cover blown. Just what will Clarice do to her.  Only two episodes to go and it looks like there is a lot that needs to happen.