Showing posts from July, 2021

A Review of To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

For fans of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series, To Be Taught, If Fortunate will be a bit of a surprise. Some elements that we know and love remain, like the chummy camaraderie of crewmates onboard a spacecraft, the sex, the proliferation of worldbuilding details about things like food, plants, and the delineations of the idiosyncrasies of individual characters. But Chambers also finds a different voice, or at least a new tone, which emphasizes the science in science fiction. To Be Taught, If Fortunate is very crunchy and sciency. Aliens of human-level intelligence are absent. There’s no AI. And while the premise of the novella is futuristic, the idea of Earth sending four astronauts fourteen light-years into the universe to explore several planets that allegedly have the conditions necessary for life to evolve isn’t one that gives readers pause the way it might have even seventy years ago.  Narrator Ariadne O’Neill and her crewmates (and lovers) Elena Quesada-Cruz and Jack Vo (yep, it’s

A Review of The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Remember that time you were stuck somewhere for an extended period of time with a bunch of strangers and you all became best friends? So much fun, right? Becky Chambers takes this Gilligan’s Island type of concept, in what appears to be the final installment of what is being called “The Wayfarers” series ( including The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, and Record of a Spaceborn Few). Chambers, who includes lots of anthropological details about the societies of the members of the various races which comprise the “Galactic Commons” throughout the series, gets even more ethnographic in The Galaxy and the Ground Within.  The protagonists are all GC- outsiders in some way, and Chambers focuses on some of the less- described races from the first three books including the Laru, gregarious, long-necked, furry, and flexible, the Quelin, beetle-like, officious, and arrogant, and the Akaraks, short-lived, birdlike, and xenophobic to undercut all of these stereotypes a

A Review of Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

Anyone who has seen at least one X Men movie has already seen this circus. Since 1980, one percent of the population has been born “brilliant,” gifted, possessing more advantages than others- not just in real life but also in Marcus Sakey’s novel, Brilliance (is it? You decide). One such dude is supercool government agent Nick Cooper, who has an amazing talent- for pattern-recognition (he can kinda-sorta guess what everyone else is about to do next)! Wow. Nick works for the DAR (no, not the Daughters of the American Revolution, silly- the Department of Analysis and Response) and gets pretty Jason Bourney on some terrorists from time to time.  But when the brand new stock market building gets blown up (allegedly by “abnormal” terrorists working for evil genius John Smith), Nick’s world gets disrupted. He and his boss concoct a crazy scheme to make it look like our man Nick has gone rogue so he can infiltrate John Smith’s gang of super-brilliant terrorists. Nick leaves his job, his kids,

A Review of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Are Friends

The irascible Toad and his best buddy, the ever-optimistic Frog first hopped into our lives in 1970. Fifty years later, they’re still doing it. In “Spring,” we meet Frog, running towards Toad’s place past piles of allegedly melting snow, yelling about spring-time. Toad greets Frog’s excited knocking with the exclamation, “I am not here.” It’s possible, of course, that Toad is hallucinating (did he maybe lick one of those toads?), but probably he’s just tired and cranky. In any case, this is when the life lessons begin. The moral of “Spring” is that it’s okay to trick your friends, if you’re doing it with their best interests at heart. A few pages later Frog has ignored his friend telling him to go away and has entered the house. We finally see Toad, in what might be a cut-away drawing, asleep in bed under many covers. Frog pushes him out of bed, as you do, and into the blinding Spring light on the front porch. After pontificating about all of the cool things they will do together this

Review of Admiral William H. McRaven’s Make Your Bed

After decades of slacking off, William McRaven has finally done the United States of America a great service. He has taken a giant leap forward towards the noble goal of uniting the sentiments of the eight-year-old children of both supporters of Bernie Sanders and the Squad, and those of Donald Trump and MTG. It is almost certain that the publication of his bestseller, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... and Maybe the World, has been met with a resounding “No” from the children of this country.  Of course, the books’ genesis as a 2014 commencement speech delivered at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that Admiral McRaven’s audience is actually “grown-ups,” those of us who have lived long enough to royally screw up our lives to the point that we need to read books about how to change them. Take, for example, deposed Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussein. I don’t think anyone can deny that he accomplished a few things in his life, but he, much like you and I, made s