How hard sci-fi fails

Return to Enceladus: Hard Science Fiction (Ice Moon Book 4)Return to Enceladus: Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boy, did this book suck. I am wary now of any writer who claims to be writing “hard science fiction,” especially someone who feels compelled to put that in the title of their novel. It usually means they did their homework in regards to physics, chemistry, and astronomy, and everything else is FAIL. Their story world and characters show they have little grasp of sociology and psychology, their biology knowledge is half-researched, half hand-waved (non-sensical alien species, forex), and in the case of this story series, the artificial intelligence angle is complete FANTASY.

I don’t disagree that someday we might have very human-like and intelligent A.I.s, but you can’t hand-wave how they got that way. You need to give some plausible background DETAILS based on current trends in A.I. and cybernetics. Most especially if you are writing near-future sci-fi. Ignoring the explanation is what makes it fantasy, and bad fantasy at that, because at least fantasy writers follow clear ground rules in their stories regarding what is allowed and what isn’t.

Also? This author needs to jettison the audiobook narrator. He just makes trite material sound even more trite.

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911

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an amazing book. Despite the title, it shows a broad range of points of view of the events of 9/11–not just Air Force One, but workers in the twin towers and in the Pentagon, along with first responders, families of those who survived and those who didn’t, and airline employees and families of the plane passenger sand crew who got a glimpse of what what going on inside the planes as they flew to their various dooms.

The reason I am giving this a 4 instead of a 5 is the manner in which the story was told. These are all (with a few exceptions) actual first-person accounts read by actors (which is fine), but instead of getting anyone’s story from beginning to end as I expected, it’s all told in short 2-3 sentence vignettes from the vast variety of people the author interviewed. It ends up telling a complete narrative of each time and place, but in these tiny pieces, like a mosaic. The second you get interested in one person’s story, they switch to someone else’s experience to pick up the story, and the narrative may or may not return to that person whose story you were interested in specifically.

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Comfort food books

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

10/20/19: I’ve been in a weird mood lately with my reading. A lot of my recent choices have left me cold, and when those have been purchases instead of library books, that makes me gun-shy about buying new books. Also, I often buy books only to see them in the library offerings a month later.

So I’ve been going back to the books already in my personal collection, re-reading. With audiobooks, you don’t have to put a book down to walk across a room, or do the dishes, or drive to work. You just keep listening. And listening, to me, has become a security blanket. I get edgy when my brain’s not otherwise occupied and I’m not listening to a book.

When books are your comfort food, you want to read the ones you enjoy most. I figure with… 8 books? in the Expanse series, I will have something to read until my library wait list finally coughs up its next book, or The Expanse season 4 starts, or both.

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