Book (and other stuff) Reviews

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Antares Dawn - Michael McCollum

The Antares duo of books is one of my favorite adventures, and I re-read them every couple of years. Though you won't be able to find them new, they are worth searching some used bookstores for.

Centuries ago, humanity discovered that the galaxy is riddled with foldlines... creases in space-time that spread outward from the center of the galaxy. When these foldlines come near a star, if the star is massive enough it will focus the foldlines into a foldpoint, much like a lens focuses light. If an object places itself inside a foldpoint and releases a ton of energy, it can instantly travel to the next foldpoint along the foldline. This makes travel between the stars possible, since you don't have to cross the massive distances between stars. Earth was found to have two foldpoints, but the champion of human civilization is the super-giant star Antares, which has six foldpoints and is one of the hubs of human space.

Alta is a small colony two fold-jumps from Antares... a dead-end system with only a single foldpoint. However, the colony world is nearly ideally Earth-like, and within a couple of centuries after its founding, Alta was a self-sufficient colony of almost a billion people. Then, one day, Alta's foldpoint suddenly disappeared... Alta was cut off from the rest of humanity.

Over a century later, the Altans finally have a reason for the disappearance of their foldpoint. Antares, a bit over a hundred light years away, suddenly explodes in their skies... Antares went supernova a century ago, distorting the structure of foldspace.

A few weeks later, an Earth blastship appears in Alta's star system. At first, the Altan people are thrilled... the foldpoint is back! However, the Earth ship does not respond to communications, and when an Altan ship catches up to the blastship, they discover that it is half destroyed, with its entire crew dead.

Somewhere on the other side of the foldpoint, humanity is a war....

Antares Passage - Michael McCollum

Several years have passed since Captain Drake and the Altan people ventured through the single Altan foldpoint. On the other side, two fold-jumps from Alta, they found the world of Sander, fighting a desperate battle against an alien foe called the Ryall, who has cut Sander (and now Alta) off from the rest of the human star systems. Knowing that it is only a matter of time before the Ryall find a way to sweep through and destroy Sander and then Alta, the two governments attempt a desperate plan... they must go through the foldpoint to the remains of the Antares supernova, and then try to reach Earth.

Though they manage to survive the radiation of Antares by using new shield technology, they find several surprises, including a new foldpoint at Antares that leads to a small and undefended Ryall mining colony. Captain Drake may have found the keys to the war, if they can just get the information to Earth!

Replay - Ken Grimwood

Without a doubt, this is one of the most thought provoking and interesting books I've read recently. Its a story of time travel, but not in the typical sci-fi style... not time machines or final explanations of how the time skipping is happening. Instead, the novel focuses entirely on the characters and the situations they get into.

In 1988, forty-three year old Jeff Winston dies of a massive heart attack, but he then finds himself in his college dorm room in 1963... he is once again eighteen, with his entire life in front of him. However, this time he knows what the future holds. After a few bets on sports events, he sets himself up for life, and builds a totally different life for himself.

However, on the same day in 1988, he once again dies of a massive heart attack, despite better health and expensive doctors. Once again he wakes up as a young college student, this time leaving behind a beloved child who now has never existed. The cycle repeats again and again as he tries to understand what is happening to him... why his life replays itself over and over.

Replay is a brilliant book that sucks you in with interesting characters and ideas. Definitely a must read!

Dave Berry In Cyberspace - Dave Berry

It is rare that a book makes me laugh as hard as this book did. Dave Berry explores computers and the internet in his special style of humor.

From the horrors of installing software (or "how to make your computer stop working"), to exploring a number of actual (if useless) websites for wasting your time at. If you love or hate computers, you are sure to get your funny bone smacked around with this book.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go - Philip Jose' Farmer

I had a bit of trouble getting into this first book in the well known "Riverworld" saga, despite the unique concept behind the story. However, once I got a couple of chapters in, the book took off and became enjoyable.

Every human that ever existed has been brought back to life along the shores of a massive and nearly endless river between steep valley walls. The story follows the historical character of Sir Richard Francis Burton as he tries to figure out why he and all thirty six billion people who ever existed have been resurrected, travelling up and down the river searching for its source.

Sometime soon, I'll need to pick up the second book in this award winning series.

Saving Private Ryan - Steven Speilberg movie

This movie is the most horrifying and yet amazing pieces of cinematography I've ever seen. More than any movie out there, it gives the viewer a real sense of the confusion, fear, and intensity of war.

The opening shots of the film chronicles the landing of the allied forces on Omaha beach on D-Day. This was one of the bloodiest encounters in the history of warfare, and Speilberg captures every essence of the slaughter, holding back nothing. Front there the movie tells the story of a small squad of the D-Day survivors as they look for a private who has recently lost all three of his brothers. Along the way, the viewer gets to witness all the horrors of warfare.

This movie was so intense that I will probably not try to see it for a while, even though it is an amazingly crafted film. If you haven't seen Saving Private Ryan, but be prepared for the gore and intensity of this film.

Antz - animated movie

Antz is a very well crafted movie. The computer animation is nearly flawless and quite pretty, and the movie is backed up by a good script and a huge cast of famous actors doing the voices.

The story follows a worker ant who meets and falls in love with the princess of his colony, while the head army ant general schemes in the background.

This is a very enjoyable movie, both for the technical expertise the movie displays and for the story itself.

Aftermath - Charles Sheffield

After Tomorrow and Tomorrow, I knew that a new book by Sheffield would be good... the fact that it was an apocyliptic story made this novel even more irresistable. Though I would not say that this book is a classic, it is a fun read.

In the year 2026, our closest neighbor star, Alpha Centauri, goes unexpectedly supernova, despite all the theories that say the star is to small for this type of explosion. A second sun appears in the southern half of the world, causing severe weather changes. To make matters worse, a few weeks later Earth is blasted by a flood of gamma rays... when the bottled up energy of the supernova blasts out of a weak spot in the expanding shell of the star's outer layers, the jet of radiation just happened to be pointing towards our solar system. The gamma rays produce a massive EMP, an electro-magnetic pulse that wipes out all of our planet's advanced technology... anything that used microchips, which includes most of humanity's technology, is fried into uselessness.

Humanity is thown backwards in technology nearly a hundred years, to whatever old systems were stockpiled or mothballed years before.

The book follows several seperate stories that thread through each other... the President of the United States as he tries to make the necessary decisions to preserve his country... a trio of people who must find a brilliant serial killer to find a way to maintain their cancer-filled bodies without modern technology... the astronauts returning home from the first manned Mars mission, who now must find a way to land on Earth without the support of the EMP wiped out orbitting space stations.

If I have one complaint about this book, it is that the story never really shows the devestation of the world or the panic and depredations of the people, except from the distance of presidential reports and dialog. However, the story is quite enjoyable.

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