Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Frozen Sky ~ Needs Thawing and Proper Cooking

The Frozen SkyThe Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book sparked a lot of interest for me. Apparently, Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, has the potential for supporting Life, particularly in the light thrown by the discovery that tube worms and various clams can and do thrive in deep oceanic geothermal vents. In the story, this is a given and I was heartened to find that our heroine Vonnie is spurred on by ecology and outreaching rather than pulling out your laser and blasting everything that moves (although as I recall, there is some blasting and splatting as well). I also liked it that I could dredge up my schoolboy memories of chemistry, and go out on the net and investigate and find out fascinating details such as the poisonous hydrogen sulphide (bad egg gas) being a potential 'messenger molecule' between brain cells and elsewhere in the body. All in all, a fascinating bundle of things for me to go out and investigate and learn from.

And that strength was for me the inherent weakness of the 'book': although I thoroughly enjoyed my explorations, I had to remind myself that this was a 'novel' and not a research project given to me by my biochemistry master. If it had been that, I'd have grasped the project with aplomb, gophered some essential data, showed him the draft of draft of my 'story' and waited to see what Sir thought. If Sir had given me a pat on the back and told me it was a splendid start, but please flesh out the story more (if I intended to lengthen it) and to cut out some of the clutter (if I was going to keep it short) I'd have been heartened and begin to make my plans.

However, this is quite dreadful as it stands. It was a "fascinating bundle of things for me to go out and investigate" indeed, but I had to go out and do the investigating which I loved doing, but I was reading it on my Kindle, and can press buttons and things which go out and investigate for me. But supposing I hadn't got a Kindle or a good net connection?. What then? I would be well and truly stumped, stymied, painted and snookered into my corner! My dinner was supposed to be presented to me on a plate. Admittedly it was tasty chicken drum-sticks on the bone, but they weren't even thoroughly cooked. I had to finish them off in the oven myself and go to find tissues I could clean my fingers with!

More can be read on the Jupiter Project which is purported to be happening in 2020.

On the Europa Jupiter System Mission:

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Manual That Crept

ContainmentContainment by Christian Cantrell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While reading this story which has received some rather enthusiastic reviews, I kept on having the feeling that I was reading a technical manual — and I rather liked it. Of course it wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, or plate of coils and chips, but I was after all, reading Science Fiction.

Science Fiction has surely to be fiction with a lot of science in it. Switch them round and you'd have fictitious science, which simply wouldn't work at all. So without further ado, I read the fiction that goes into the science within it. And I could mostly keep up with the science, although at times it was slightly beyond me, but I don't have a problem with that. Not being a true scientist I can't attest to the authenticity of the science, but it seemed OK as far as I knew, at least at the beginning.

There's a loose story with a lot of particular detail in it and I found myself being particularly interested in the delicate matter of the interface between the biological workings of the brain and the implant inserted into it, along with the problems that can occur as the tissue begins to harden in the presence of conductive metals, even if they're sensitively aligned and harmonised.

Little by little the background atmosphere of the technical manual began to fade as the story welled up from its damp pages like an exotic fungus. This was going to suck me right in, I felt, and I settled myself in good and snug, to have a Good Read.

The story inched its way along. I didn't have a particular problem with that because inching is by and large the story of my life. It kept on reminding me of 2001 ~ A Space Odyssey, and I'm sure that part of its DNA at least was founded in that root-stock. I felt quite pleased when I sniffed out the odd red herring (but does the author really have to lecture the reader on what a red herring is?), however my sense of smell grew far too confused along the way: our hero Arik may well have become hypoxic and disoriented himself in the narrative, but does the reader really have to feel oxygen-starved as well?

I liked it in parts, I was really gripped at certain points, but my attention did keep falling apart, particularly towards the end, and the silly spelling mistakes at key points didn't help.

I ended up desperately wanting it to end, and now, with the penning of this brief review, that job is done and dusted.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Game For A Laugh??

 T r a n s l i t e r a t i o n:

A    Grand
  Of the Effects Produced by INHALING
Nitrous Oxide, Exhilerating, OR
L A U G H I N G   G A S  !!

Will be Given At         The Masonic Hall
Saturday  E V E N I N G,   15th

&   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &

30   G A L L O N S    O F    G A S
w i l l   be
p r e p a r e d     a n d    a d m i n i s t e r e d
t o    a l l     i n    t h e     a u d i e n c e  
w h o     d  e  s  i  r  e      t o     i n h a l e   it.

MEN will be invited from the audience, to protect
those under the influence of the Gas from in-
juring themselves or others. This course Is adopted
that no Apprehension of danger may be entertained.
Probably no one will attempt to fight.
THE EFFECT OF THE GAS  is to make those who Inhale it
LAUGH, SING, DANCE, SPEAK OR FIGHT, &c, &c according to the leading trait of their character. They seem to retain consciousness
enough not to say or do that which they would have occasion
to regret.

N.B. The Gas will be administered only to gentle-
men of the first respectability. The Object is to make
the Entertainment in every Respect, a Gentle Affair.
&   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &   ^   &

Those Who Inhale the Gas once, are always anxious to inhale it a second time. There is not
an Exception to this Rule.
No language can describe the Delightful Sensation produced. Robert Southey, (poet) once said
that "the atmosphere of the highest of all heavens must be composed of this Gas."
For a Full account of the Effect upon some of the most Distinguished Men of Europe,
see Hooper's Medical Dictionary, under the head of NITROGEN.