Book Review: Tour of Duty II

BW reviews Michael Z. Williamson’s Tour of Duty.

Tour of Duty is a pretty decent collection of short stories by Michael Z. Williamson. I enjoyed it. The sci-fi was detailed and exciting. The short stories set in hell didn’t fail to drag out a chuckle or two. Crazy Einar was a particular favorite. If I was a more barbarous man I’d take his advice, find the perfect ax for a large Germanic man’s rampage and enjoy ‘spoils’.

I hadn’t heard of Michael Z. Williamson and his Freehold except in passing, nor, sad as it may be, the Valdemar universe. This likely wasn’t the best introduction to either. There is a lack of context in my mind. I know that there’s some sci-fi things happening, and the hints of the people and events outside the small viewpoint are tantalizing. I wanted more.

His skill seems to be in the military recounting and strong realism. There’s strong organization in the tales. His past in the military comes out in the many science fiction short stories and personal tales. Military people writing fiction about military things adds a feeling that isn’t in non-military writers. Each story has precision to it, no word wasted or gained, which I favor.

As the other reviewer mentioned, this is a difficult book to review, so I’ll focus on my two favorites.

I mentioned the ‘Lawyers in Hell’ before, but I thought that ‘A Hard Day At The Office’ was superior. Hellfrica seems a terrible place, yet appropriate. Anyone can make a story about lawyers in hell, it takes a lot more effort to kill Theodore Roosevelt. Death had to take him in his sleep, after all, and being crushed by a giant hellefino is not exactly a worse fate.

The reason I enjoyed this story was not Teddy Roosevelt, it was the underlying humor of it all. Lawyers on pogo sticks are funny. The hopelessness of always losing your employers to the crazy hell-versions of animals has depth to it. And you’ve got to admit, having to face down something called a hellephant with a pea-shooter has a certain appeal. The best portion of the story are the hunters themselves. Each one somehow aware, or not caring, that they will die. Each one with motivations beyond simply surviving in Hell, making them larger than life, and maybe even more complex characters than the protagonist himself. At the end of the story the protagonist learns little and is no better off than he was before. Perhaps, that is hell.

The second story I felt worth mentioning is the first fiction. For a while I was confused as to the main character’s species and other facets of the story. But as it evolved, I got to see the motivations of the character. I got to look into an alien mind. Usually, those peeks are just giant ‘humans are bad’ or ‘different’ stories with the aliens having human tendencies and feelings. It’s similar to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, with the aliens being nearly without human traits and needing to imitate us, rather than develop new concepts on shared culture, to interact.

The main characters concepts of ‘duty’ and hunting spoke to me, in a way. It’s a theme of the universe, society cannot survive without those who do their duty. At the same time, it cannot have a hope to achieve victory without those willing to make the sacrifice. The terror of the soldiers was palpable, and the militaristic approach they attempted struck me as very realistic, but I did expect even one of them to survive. All in all, it was a great experience.

I got to admit that while I usually had very little of the overall contexts of the universes he wrote in and for, I did enjoy what little I saw. While I won’t recommend it to anybody. To the fans of Micheal Z. Williamson, go for it you bold beautiful bastards. If you’re not, this won’t be more than an enjoyable sightseeing tour. I’m not going to rate it with a number because of that reason. A couple short stories are a good 5/5, but not all of them.


Enough already

I like the idea of fewer preseason games, but further watering down the playoffs is not going to make them more exciting.  What makes the playoffs exciting is that they are exceptional games, so the more playoff games there are, the less exceptional and exciting they become.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that the league is “urgently discussing” the possibility of shortening the preseason from four games to three, with that adjustment coming hand-in-hand with an expansion of the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.

“That would offset teams’ lost revenue from the elimination of a preseason game, and it also could lead to additional television revenues for the league,” Mortensen wrote on ESPN.com.

Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly hinted at the possibility of a more populated postseason in an NFL.com interview last week. “A reasonable argument could be made that there are teams that should qualify for the playoffs and don’t and could win the Super Bowl,” Goodell told Judy Battista. “I don’t think we want to expand just to have more teams. We want to create more excitement, more interest and give teams a chance to win the Super Bowl.

A 14-team playoff — seven teams per conference — likely would limit first-round byes to just the top qualifying team. With that setup, six teams from both the AFC and NFC would compete in the current “wild-card round,” giving the NFL an extra game that weekend. The divisional round would maintain its current format.

I’d much rather see the playoffs consist of all four division winners only. No wild cards.  The second-round games are rarely all that entertaining; home teams win 74 percent of divisional playoff games compared to 57 percent of regular-season games. Anything that strengthens divisional play is good, anything that weakens in in the names of benefiting “the best teams” is short-sighted foolishness for the love of trouble-making.

There is nothing unfair about an 11-5 team sitting home when an 8-8 team goes to the playoffs. Win your division. Unless you’re dumb enough to go all the way, throw out the playoffs altogether and simply award the league championship to the team with the best regular season record, you’ve already conceded the point.  You’re just quibbling over where the line is drawn.


Mailvox: a creedal correction

In which my religious views are somewhat mischaracterized on Twitter:

Avenging Red Hand: Vox is amusing, but highly arrogant, and heterodox, if not outright heretical, on his views of the Trinity.

Uilesmiselani: Yes, he’s a heretic. Not even Nicene.

As it happens, my views are entirely Nicene in the proper sense, they simply do not happen to be in line with what should be technically considered Constantinoplene rather than Nicene.  Consider the actual Nicene Creed of 325:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.


And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;


By whom all things were made;

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man;


He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

I readily affirm all of that. Now, one can certainly quibble over the “one substance with the Father” aspect, as it can be interpreted in various ways and I do not accept it means that “the Father Almighty” and “the Son of God” are exactly equal and wholly interchangeable at all times because this is an explicitly anti-Biblical position; how can God the Father have abandoned Himself?

What I take exception to is the addition made by the First Council of Constaninople 56 years later, in which the simple belief in the existence of the Holy Ghost is raised to a quasi-equal status with both God the Father and the Son of God alike.

“And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

How can the Helper, who came after the Son, be considered the Giver of life when not only life, but life eternal, had already been given? And if the Father and the Son are wholly equal, how can the Holy Ghost proceed solely from the Father and not the Son, especially if the Son is the one by whom all things are made? Is proceeding more akin to being begotten or being made?

It seems to me that the true Nicene Creed is not only more fundamentally Christian, but more coherent than the later Constantinoplene Creed for which it is so readily confused. These questions don’t trouble me in the slightest, as we know perfectly well how dark the glass is through which we see these things, but I do think it is inaccurate to describe me as “not even Nicene” or a heretic in the Scriptural sense as opposed to one based on whatever the post-Scriptural dogma happens to be at the moment.

“Heterodoxically Nicene” would, I think, be a more judicious description of my Christian theological perspective.


A parody of scientody

“Hilarious incoherence” in the latest IPCC report summary:

A top climate scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology lambasted a new report by the UN’s climate bureaucracy that blamed mankind as the main cause of global warming and whitewashed the fact that there has been a hiatus in warming for the last 15 years.

“I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence,” Dr. Richard Lindzen told Climate Depot, a global warming skeptic news site. “They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase.”

Real scientists don’t think much of the scientistry that is an obvious parody of scientody. Nor does Nigel Lawson, Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, as he declares it to be “mumbo-jumbo”:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which published on Friday the
first instalment of its latest report, is a deeply discredited organisation.
Presenting itself as the voice of science on this important issue, it is a
politically motivated pressure group that brings the good name of science
into disrepute.

Its previous report, in 2007, was so grotesquely flawed that the leading
scientific body in the United States, the InterAcademy Council, decided that
an investigation was warranted. The IAC duly reported in 2010, and concluded
that there were “significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s
assessment process”, and that “significant improvements” were needed. It
also chastised the IPCC for claiming to have “high confidence in
some statements for which there is little evidence”.

Since then, little seems to have changed, and the latest report is flawed like
its predecessor.


VPFL Week 3

70 Greenfield Grizzlies (3-0)
68 RR Redbeards (1-2)

56 Suburban Churchians (2-1)
48 Bradford Gamma Rays (1-2)

92 Fromundah Cheezheads (3-0)
65 ’63 Mercury Marauders (1-2)

97 Bailout Banksters (1-2)
54 Mounds View Meerkats (1-2)
44 Bane Sidhe (1-2)
38 Boot Hill Hangmen (1-2)

This is starting to look disturbingly like the year when I led the league in points scored and somehow managed to remain in last place until the last week of the season. Although it is encouraging that Matt Cassel is starting this week against the Steelers; at halftime of the first game, I predicted that Christian Ponder would lose his starting job after the bye week.

Cassel doesn’t have to win any games with his arm, he just has to be competent enough to avoid turnovers, prevent defenses from putting eight and nine in the box and give AD a little room with which to unleash the purple greatness. And based on his performance in New England and Kansas City, he should be capable of doing that.

I still don’t understand why the Vikings didn’t go after Alex Smith last year. Of course, I’m still annoyed that they didn’t make any attempt to go after Drew Brees when he was available either.


Shameless eksoudenogyny

I could hardly refrain from commenting on THE MOST IMPORTANT CHALLENGE FACING YOUNG WOMEN TODAY, could I?

Women used to argue that if men would have only stopped oppressing
them, they would have totally written great books and advanced science
and cured cancer and in general improved the world in every possible
way. After all, if Man has achieved so much by utilizing only 50 percent
of the population, imagine if 100 percent of the population was able to
achieve its full potential!

Learn what amazing challenge the young women of today are courageously facing at Alpha Game.


Fascist “anti-fascists”

The government has taken several steps toward open civil war in Greece by attempting to criminalize the political opposition:

Nikos Michaloliakos, 56, was arrested on Saturday morning on charges of
founding a criminal organisation, with arrest warrants issued for dozens
more party members and lawmakers, officials said.  The arrest of Michaloliakos, along with 13 other party members including
spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, comes as part of a wider crackdown on the
far-right group following the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by
an alleged Golden Dawn member, which sparked riots across the country.

Pavlos Fyssas – known by his stage name of Killah P – was stabbed to death in
an Athens commuter town on September 17, triggering violent anti-fascist
protests across the country.

At least 10,000 people demonstrated in Athens on Wednesday in a protest
organised by left-wing political parties and unions. Golden Dawn has denied it had anything to do with the killing, but he was
stabbed to death by a self-proclaimed supporter.

The so-called “anti-fascist” protests are tiny compared to the general strike with which the Greeks have been protesting the government. To put it in perspective, this is as if Bill Clinton and twelve Congressional Republicans were arrested because Tupac’s killer was a self-proclaimed Democrat.

Both the Egyptian and the Greek governments are making the mistake of forcing their populist political opposition to turn to violence. The popularity of Golden Dawn and the Muslim Brotherhood are only going to increase as a result of this shamelessly political stunt, especially in contrast with openly anti-democratic governments that are shamelessly robbing the people on behalf of the IMF, the EU, and other globalist institutions.

The irony is that the Eurofascists are attacking their critics as fascists while operating in an observably fascist manner in cooperation with the international corporate megabanks. Meanwhile, in Italy, the resignation of Berlusconi’s alllies appear to have brought the Letta government down and made it likely that the anti-Euro Movimento 5 Stelle will soon come to power.

All five ministers from Silvio Berlusconi‘s centre-right party said on Saturday night they were resigning from Italy‘s
grand coalition government in a dramatic move that plunged the country
back into political uncertainty and raised the possibility of fresh
elections.

Note that Berlusconi’s action was the direct and predictable consequence of prosecutorial actions directed against him by his political foes.


95 percent certain!

This is good.  We’ve now got it on record that modern science is 95 percent fiction:

In its latest and most comprehensive report on the state of the climate, the
IPCC cautioned that change since the mid-20th century has taken place at a
rate “unprecedented over decades to millennia”.

The panel said it was 95 per cent certain that mankind had been the “dominant
cause” of climate change since the 1950s and issued an urgent warning for
governments to act fast to avoid a 2C rise in temperatures above
pre-industrial levels before the end of this century.

Scientistry has staked its reputation on global warming. The next decade should suffice to put a stake all the way through it.  My advice is to get everyone you know who is an annoying science fetishist to put down their certain faith in science in writing.

We’ve already got PZ Myers on record. We’ve already got Richard Dawkins on record. Get every punk evolutionist and Feynman idolatrist and God Delusion-thumping atheist on record too.

And in a few years we’ll put their credibility as well as their scientistic faith on spikes in public when the obvious falsehood of it all can no longer be concealed or explained away.


VISA and the assault on self-defense

Apparently corporations are writing bans of “the sale of firearms or any similar product” into their terms of agreement.

The assault on the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment continues.

This time big business is getting into the mix and they’re aiming for gun stores right at the source of their revenues – their transaction processing facilities.

According to Larry Hyatt, owner of the largest gun brokerage firm in the United States, Authorize.net, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Visa USA and one of the world’s largest credit card processing gateways, has terminated their relationship with the firm.

As usual, the Left shows how it works around the legal restrictions it puts in place. It tends to focus on effective bans rather than actual ones. Thus, a hotel that makes the mistake of not renting a room to a homosexual couple would do better to simply write a ban concerning “the possession of sexual lubricants or any similar product” into its terms of its room rental agreement.

Effective bans and selective enforcement is the tactic which gun owners can expect to see used against them. And the only response that will work is refusing to utilize the products sold by such corporations and rendering such attempts to dictate social behavior unprofitable.


Book Review: Lights in the Deep I

CL provides the initial take on Brad Torgersen’s anthology, Lights in the Deep:

The SF/F genre is one I’ve enjoyed for years and am a fan of Larry
Niven.  Stories like ‘Ringworld’ and ‘Neutron Star’ captured my
imagination.  So, after reading Torgersen’s self-described style being
like Niven’s, and the hope of finding a great-read in a genre I enjoy, I
took the plunge and volunteered to provide a review.

Lights in the Deep is a compilation of 10 short stories, all previously published.  It begins with 3 glowing reviews of Torgersen’s writing and story telling ability by veteran publishers/editors he has worked with.  After reading these introductory reviews, my hopes for an enjoyable experience were raised even further.

What could there be not to like?  Niven-type Sci-Fi.  Praise from veteran Sci-Fi publishers and editors.  Short stories, which make for quick reading and lots of variety.  Sounds like the perfect setup for either the discovery of a new treasure or deep disappointment.

It is with sadness that the verdict is ‘deep disappointment’. The disappointment stems from three issues and one ironic observation.  The issues: pointless stories, the inclusion of ‘the story behind the story’ after each tale, and rampant political correctness.  The ironic observation will be summarized later.

Having reviewed the disappointments, it must be noted there are positive aspects of the book.  Torgersen writes very well.  Story pace, literary elements and vocabulary are all really superb.  I kept thinking, “This guy writes well.  Maybe the next story will have a message, meaning, challenge, etc.”  But the next story failed to deliver and then it was on to the next.

Of the 10 tales, there are a couple stories that are somewhat engaging.  The issue of “pointless stories” infected every tale.  Whether the story is pure Sci-Fi or alternate history, there is not an underlying moral challenge, message, belief explosion or anything that made me sit back and ponder or question or exclaim.  Each telling concludes and its just over.  No surprises, no deus ex machina, no anger or relief, just an end to the words.

Unfortunately, the words didn’t really end.  After each tale, Torgersen then tells another tale about how the story came to be and who published it.  This was like rubbing salt in the wound.  As I was scratching my head asking why I spent 30-60 minutes reading the just concluded story, I then had to endure the history of how the story came to be.

The ‘story behind the story’ can be interesting, if the story itself leaves one: moved, pondering, angry, motivated, enlightened, etc.  But here, I left with the same feeling one gets after watching the vacation slide show of a family you don’t know, “That must have been nice for you, but I don’t really care.”

Next was the rampant Political Correctness.  These ranged from Black-American male and a Soviet-Jewish woman astronauts in the ‘60’s, to female commanders, a female President of the U.S., female battle marines, Asian business owners, etc., etc., etc.  I can take the occasional challenge to stereotypes, especially when it is backed with an underlying purpose, but when most characters are an anti-stereotype it seems to be attacking your basic perception of things as racist or bigoted, for no reason at all.

This feeling arose because there never was a reason why each person had to be identified in the anti-stereotypical way.  There was no background, benefit or reason why the heroine in the first story or the astronaut in the second had to be black.  Why a Jewish woman astronaut in the ‘60’s? How did knowing the businessman was Asian in a later story add anything?  Why a female base-commander?  Because these are short stories, the addition of the anti-stereotypical characteristics seemed forced in simply for the purpose of being P.C. not because they were relevant to conveying a point.

I was left with the impression that either Torgersen majored in women’s studies or feels anti-stereotypes are necessary in order to be published by today’s liberal publishing houses.  Either way, too much PC in any story, but especially in a short story, makes it seem silly.  In one very short story we have a female president, female base commander and female marine.  Rather than Sci-Fi, it felt like Fem-Fi instead.

This brings us to the final point, the ironic observation.  In the middle of the book, Torgersen writes an essay on why he believes Sci-Fi readership is dwindling, even as Fantasy readership remains strong.  He cites two reasons: our technological advances make Sci-Fi less ‘fantastic’ and the secularization of Sci-Fi has resulted in most Sci-Fi lacking an underlying morality or purpose for the story.

What makes this ironic is the lack of an underlying purpose or morality in the stories contained in this book!  There are several attempts to mention God, but they seemed thrown in, rather than meaningful additions to the plot.  So, Torgersen is correct.  One reason Sci-Fi is dying is because many formerly avid readers are longing for purpose and meaning to be conveyed in a story.

However, Torgersen missed another major reason for the failure of modern Sci-Fi.  Namely, Political Correctness, of which these stories are supporting evidence.  Too often today, Sci-Fi authors are constrained by PC to take the story to its logical PC conclusion.  Their worlds are turned upside down, where warriors are women, back-stabbing politicians are women, the random support character has to be gay or a kid with a middle-eastern mother and a Polish father.  The fact the author has to add these character descriptions are proof they are forced.

I submit the real reason Sci-Fi is dying on the vine, is because Sci-Fi has become the realm in which the liberal vision of how humanity ‘should be’ is presented to the public and the public rejects it.  Based on these stories Torgersen has fallen into the same PC failure trap.  If he can escape, and then add the purpose and meaning he notes is missing from Sci-Fi today, then he definitely has the literary prowess to become an excellent author.