Saturday, May 23, 2020

Book Review: Rogue Protocol

book cover for Rogue ProtocolMurderbot learns from the newsfeeds that the case against the nefarious GrayCris Corporation is floundering. It decides to help out Dr. Mensah from afar by digging up more dirt on GrayCris at an abandoned terraforming project. Once there, it encounters a team from GoodNightLander Independent (GNL) trying to salvage the terraforming station before it crashes into the planet. Unfortunately, GrayCris doesn't want that to happen.

Murderbot encounters a child-like bot named Miki who works with a bunch of humans that actually seem to care about it. Too used to humans that treat anything synthetic as disposable, Murderbot isn't so much conflicted as nauseated. Oh sure, Murderbot can't help its programming: It needs to save humans, at least the ones who aren't murderous jerks, but the lovefest between Miki and its humans is too saccharin for Murderbot.

There's plenty of action and tension as Murderbot works with Miki's group to deal with the surprises that GrayCris left behind. The security team hired by GNL to protect Miki's group don't trust Murderbot, but the feeling is mutual. The security team recognize that Murderbot is a SecUnit, a very effective killing machine. Not wishing to have its independence discovered, Murderbot fakes being an additional security hire from GNL and has to rely on Miki to convince its owner to trust Murderbot. A bit like hoping the dog you've befriended can convince its owner, the guy with the shotgun, that you're ok.

One thing that I've noticed in this series is women have been given leadership roles in every book up to this point. And it's not like the women leaders are the "good guys" and men are the "bad guys." Women have been given all the leading human roles. Even the hired security in this story is a two-woman team. It's refreshing.

I enjoyed this one. It had the right blend of Murderbot snark, humans in peril, and action. Murderbot may have even learned a thing or two about human-bot interaction.

4.5 stars.

\_/
DED

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Book Review: Jar City

book cover for Jar CityWhen a lonely old man is found dead in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl's grave. Inspector Erlendur discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, but not convicted, of an unsolved crime, a rape. Did the old man's past come back to haunt him? As Erlendur reopens this very cold case, he follows a trail of unusual forensic evidence, uncovering secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man.

I bought this book as a gift for my wife. We'd visited Iceland to celebrate our 20th anniversary, and I thought that it might be cool to read a murder mystery that takes place there. She enjoyed it and, although I'm not much of a mystery reader, suggested that I give it a try. While the names of places—not to mention the bloody weather—stirred up fond memories, it didn't veer off into nostalgia porn.

Originally published in 2000, it was a bit weird encountering police detectives who were new to the Internet and all that it had to offer back then. By contrast, the whole gene sequencing angle still felt fresh.

Unfortunately, too much of the story was "told" rather than "shown." For those of you unfamiliar with the "show, don't tell" advice given to writers, it's a bit like the difference between attending a concert and having someone tell you about it because you couldn't go. I wanted the author to bring me into certain scenes so I could experience what was going on between the characters rather than being given a summary of what happened. And these were interesting characters! I really wanted to get to know them and their relationships with each other, but Indriðason kept me at a distance too often. It left me feeling a bit disengaged from the story.

3 stars.

\_/
DED

Friday, April 24, 2020

Revised Armistice Day now Available on Nook and Others

New book cover for Armistice DayThe revised version of Armistice Day is now available on the Nook and other devices. Smashwords has a large number of those formats including: epub, pdf, rtf, lrf (older Sony ereaders), and pdb (Palm OS readers). I'm told that it is, or will soon be, available at Kobo, Apple, Scribd, OverDrive, and other platforms that I'm too unsure of to mention. It might even be available at your library. [shrug] Who knows? I saw the old cover on a couple of those sites this morning, so clearly eBook distribution isn't as fast in some corners of the internet as others.

The Smashwords Meatgrinder seems to be ok this time around. With any luck, all of the changes that I made to the kindle copy were ported over. If you spot a mistake, please let me know in the comments.

My cover designer is on vacation right now (he had Covid-19 so I think he deserves the time to recuperate), but when he gets back, I'll be talking to him about the print cover.

\_/
DED

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Revised Armistice Day now on Kindle

New book cover for Armistice DayI'd forgotten how much I hate formatting a manuscript for publication. Nevertheless, the new version of Armistice Day is now available on the Kindle.

How much has changed? The cover is the major difference. A couple of paragraphs changed, but there was some capitalization issues with the phrase "my lord" that I finally got figured out. There were some layout issues encountered when I re-uploaded the manuscript. I don't know if they existed before.

Other eBook versions are in the process of being made. Once they're set, I'll be commissioning the print copy of the cover.

\_/
DED

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Book Review: The Pluto Files

book cover for The Pluto FilesBasically, this book explores the history of humanity's relationship with Pluto. From discovery, to Disney's hopping on the new planet (at the time) bandwagon, to the AMNH's scandalous reclassification in its exhibits, and eventual demotion to dwarf planet. Offers a look into how people can get let emotion get the better of them on even such mundane matters as the scientific definition of celestial bodies.

As this book was written and published several years before New Horizons' encounter with Pluto, you won't get any of the really cool photos that probe produced nor speculation as to what it all means.

This is the first book by Tyson that I've read despite my enjoyment for how he talks about science. His normally prolific enthusiasm seen during interviews is tempered here, though you can catch glimpses of it from time-to-time, including the essay he wrote defending the AMNH move that landed him in hot water with Plutophiles. The addition of the satirical cartoons was a good move.

3 stars

\_/
DED

Friday, April 17, 2020

New Cover for Armistice Day

Hi all,

I hope everyone is healthy and safe.

Here's the new cover for Armistice Day!

forthcoming book cover for Armistice Day
It was designed by the good people over at Goonwrite.com. It's a legal adaptation of a work done by the fabulous artist Tithi Luadthong.

Next week I hope to get the cover uploaded for all of the ebook formats so that all new ebooks will have this cover. After that, I'll pony up the dough for the dead tree version.

\_/
DED

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Book Review: Artificial Condition

book cover for Artificial ConditionIt has a dark past—one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot”. But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more.

Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue.

What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks…


Artificial Condition picks up right where All Systems Red left off. Murderbot has a need to know what happened that fateful day on RaviHyral when it dubbed itself with that moniker. It hops from one transport to another until it encounters ART, a transport AI who sees through Murderbot's thin disguise. The two are initially suspicious of each other's motives. Their back and forth quips and probings takes up a good chunk of the beginning of the story.

Murderbot needs a pretense and a better disguise to get to the surface of RaviHyral as the news is filled with reports of a "SecUnit gone missing." It answers an ad for a group of researches in need of a security consultant/bodyguard as they're dealing with a local corporation that's stolen their data from a parallel project and bilked them out of their pay. We know that Murderbot is a softie for naïve humans who are in grave peril and can't help but take the job to make sure they don't get slaughtered.

Unlike All Systems Red, which hits the reader from the start, the pace starts slow and doesn't really get going until Murderbot reaches RaviHyral. Once there, the pace picks up as Murderbot has to simultaneously conduct its investigations into its murky past and keep its clients from walking into traps.

There's an interesting peek into the hierarchy of individual freedom based on levels of physical augmentation or processing power. SecUnits (murderbots) and ComfortUnits (sexbots) are at the bottom of that list, not really more than property. Even an emancipated bot like our protagonist doesn't truly enjoy freedom the same way that heavily augmented humans have. Even AIs, with vastly more processing power than shuttle pilots (a task handled by computers not humans), are constrained to an extent by their programming. For example, while ART is free to interact with Murderbot and others through the feed and is entirely capable of many things, being a transport ship for humans is still its raison d'être.

The interactions between Murderbot and other machines (a lump all term I'm using here for anything not mostly human) is notably different than the first story. Every computer or machine in All Systems Red were things for it to hack, which it did with ease. Other SecUnits had to be defeated in combat. In Artificial Condition, Murderbot has to actually converse with other machines. Murderbot needs to know why the sexbot is following it. What does it know? And ART is way too powerful for Murderbot to attempt any violent act. It has to negotiate from a position of relative weakness, albeit a bit sullenly. It was refreshing to see that Murderbot could have complex, non-violent encounters with other machines.

While this one didn't have the feels of the first, it was still a highly enjoyable story.

4 stars.

\_/
DED