Book Review: Chill (Jacob’s Ladder Book 2)

chill

Cover image for Elizabeth Bear’s novel “Chill”

Today, I finished the science fiction novel Chill by Hugo and Sturgeon award-winning author Elizabeth Bear. Unfortunately, when I checked it out of my local public library, I didn’t notice that it was the second installment in the three-part Jacob’s Ladder series.

The series tells the tale of a generation ship, a proposed means of crossing interstellar space by having a space vessel carry multiple generations of people across long distances at relatively slow speeds. It’s a trope that’s very familiar with science fiction fans.

Ms. Bear did something new, but it was hard for me to figure out exactly what, since I was coming into the story in the proverbial middle of the second reel.

Apparently the generation ship, Jacob’s Ladder starts out in the first novel “Dust” trapped in orbit around a doomed star, using its resources to replenish the ship’s damage. I don’t know how that works, and like I said, I’ve never read the first book.

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The Chiromancer

palm

A diagram of the palm of the hand from Magnus Hundt’s Antropologium de hominis dignitate (1501) – Found at Wiktionary

For the first time in her career, petite, forty-five year old Sheryl Valdez regretted being a chiromancer. Like the Prophet Joseph from the Bible, she had correctly interpreted a person’s future, but instead of being made a dominant ruler, she was on the run, at the moment, trying to blend in with the other evening commuters on the BART train approaching San Francisco International. Her only hope would be to grab the first available flight out of the country and then try to disappear.

“I want to know how my trial is going to go next week.”

His name was Rico Nguyen and he had been accused of being the financial manager behind the Hình Su gang, which was notorious for the flood of home invasions and mass transit robberies the Bay Area had suffered for the past two years.

“I’ve been wrestling with whether I should try to fight this in court or just get out of the country. No one else has been able to give me any input that helps me figure it out.”

He was effusive and thanked her repeatedly for the uninterrupted hour-long session, which was far more time than she needed.

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Quoting: Positive Thoughts Increase Energy

Positive thoughts add to your vitality and energy. Worry and other negative thoughts take away your energy. Be aware of what thoughts you would be wise to increase and what thoughts you should decrease or even eliminate.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Taking Action” – page 84

Quoting: Allow Yourself to Experience Happiness Now

You have a right to experience happiness right now, in the present. This is a very important concept to keep in mind. You don’t need to wait until you accomplish your goals before you are happy.

Many people think, “Only after I accomplish my goals will I be able to be happy.” These individuals mistakenly think that they need to wait in order to be happy. They feel that they can’t be happy right now. They tell themselves that they first need to achieve what they would like to achieve before they can be happy.

But happiness is a birthright. You were born. You are now alive. You are breathing now. Right now you have a right to be happy. You can choose to be happy now.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Taking Action” – page 79

Book Review: “The Man in the High Castle

high castle

Cover image for the novel “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick

My son Michael and I were talking about the television series The Man in the High Castle, which is based on the 1962 novel of the same name authored by the late Philip K. Dick. I’ve never seen the television show (and probably never will), but I did recall reading the novel sometime back in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, that’s all I remembered about it. Curious, I decided to check a copy of the book out of my local public library and re-read it.

The novel is set in the year it was published and postulates what the United States would have been like if the Axis powers had won World War Two thanks to the Nazis having developed the atomic bomb first.

The US is divided into three zones, with the Nazis in control of the East, the Japanese in control of the West, and a sort of DMZ existing across the Rocky Mountain States.

The “Man in the High Castle” refers to the author of a controversial novel called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” written by the mysterious Hawthorne Abendsen. It postulates what the world would have been like if the Allies had won the war. The book is tolerated in the West, but the Nazis have made it illegal in the East and there are rumors that there’s an ongoing attempt to assassinate the book’s writer. Thus Abendsen is said to live in a fortress (“High Castle”) in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Book Review of Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony

echo 3

Cover image of Kent Wayne’s “Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony”

I’ve been following Kent Wayne’s (pen name) Echo series for a few years now. Kent is an indie author with a vision for life on and in orbit around a colony world called “Echo” set a thousand years in the future. Being a veteran, he renders military action with a keenly realistic voice, sometimes going over the top. After reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter over two years ago, and Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes last October, I was anxious to get into the third installment, Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony.

“Agony” takes a very dramatic twist away from the first two novels. In “Shatter,” we are introduced to “Crusader” Kischan Atriya, an elite soldier who is becoming dissatisfied with his role as “Crew” but is unable to articulate why. He gets in deep with members of a despotic religious order who have ordered his death, and after a brief encounter with his mentor, the mysterious Verus, we follow him in a slow descent into what could be the end of his life, engineered by his own supposed allies during a mission into a “Scape.”

Volume 2 picks up right where the first tale leaves off, and the reader is thrust into an adrenaline-fueled power dive with wall-to-wall combat scenarios, the first half of the novel being non-stop action. Atriya manages to survive, thanks to his specialized enhancements, his own wits, and his unimpeachable sense of honor, but at a terrible cost to his body and mind. Having barely survived by the end of the story, he has few options left, all of them leading to tragedy and death.

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The Hunted

Frankfurt Christmas Market

The Frankfurt Christmas Market – image found at frankfurt-tourismus.de – no credit listed

The Israeli had been born in Frankfurt, so the Christmas market was familiar. He used to sneak out with his Christian friends as a boy to sample the lights, the music, and the smell from the food vendors (though he was still observant enough not to partake).

Elon Rosenberg, late of the Israeli Air Force, victim of a tragic air crash after his F161 fighter had been shot down by a Syrian missile, horribly mutilated, and rebuilt from scratch by an eccentric Scottish scientist, had altered his appearance to look like a typical Frankfurter. His would-be assassins did not recognize him, but he saw the pair very clearly.

“I could just walk away,” he muttered. “But no one must know my secret.”

Hours later, a cook found the two bodies in a garbage bin. By then, the synthetic man was halfway to Wiesbaden and his next assignment.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Frankfurt, Germany. I discovered that there’s an annual Christmas Market in Frankfurt. Also, being a child of the 1960s, I love a good cold war thriller set in Europe, so I borrowed a character introduced late in my Mikiko Jahn/Synthetic Woman saga and inserted him here.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Quoting: “To Do With Joy” List

People who get things done make “to do” lists. Considering it important to take action on your “to do” list leads to taking care of things. When you create a “to do” list, label it “to do with joy.”

When you explicitly write that it is a “to do with joy” list, you are giving yourself a valuable message: You are telling your mind to remember to be joyful.

A person might feel rushed to do all the things on the “to do” list. A person might feel a little resentful or overwhelmed that he or she has so many things to do. But when you call your list a “to do with joy list,” you are preparing yourself to feel good while you do the things that you want to do.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Taking Action” – page 72

A Greater Infamy

day of infamy

President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivering his “Day of Infamy” speech to a Joint Session of the US Congress on December 8, 1941, one day after the Empire of Japan’s attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. – Found at Vision Chasers’s YouTube channel

Florence paused at the door, “what the hell did you just say?” The fifty-nine-year-old housewife and mother of three stood in-between the kitchen and the living room in their third floor apartment on Montgomery Street. Her hands were pressed firmly on her hips, with the right one still holding a wooden spoon she’d been using to stir cookie dough in anticipation of the grandchildren’s visit later that evening.

“I said that after President Trump’s terrific speech, Congress still refuses to declare war on Japan.” Her husband Rudy was at the far end of the living room, dressed in his favorite flannel shirt and khaki trousers, light reflecting off of his balding pate, and leaning over the cabinet of their Philco radio which they’d received from their eldest boy Roger for a Christmas present last year. “They’ve been replaying the recording of the President’s speech. It’s just about over. Listen.” The retired chemical engineer turned up the volume just a bit.

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Quoting: Enjoy Your Self-Talk When Doing What You Must

Sometimes you can find ways to actually enjoy doing something dull or boring. But when you can’t come up with a creative way to enjoy what you are doing, you can still talk to yourself in interesting and fun ways. Your hands will be engaged in an activity that you need to do, but your mind will be engaged in a running dialogue that is interesting and even entertaining.

How you feel at any given moment will depend greatly on your self-talk at that moment. Even if you start out with negative self-talk that creates distress, realize that your thoughts are the key factor in whether you will feel good or bad.

People who have learned how to talk to themselves in ways they find enjoyable find enjoyment when others find distress. They don’t procrastinate as much. They get more done. If you can’t think creatively when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, you can always think thoughts of gratitude. Thinking gratefully lifts your spirit and is the basis of happiness.

-from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book: “Taking Action” – pages 69-70