Lectio

Reading ‘Caliban’s War.’

By Heather - April 19, 2014

It did snow. Quite a lot. For most of the day.

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Snow and snow and snow.

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I tucked myself into Caliban’s War, the sequel to Leviathan Wakes and read the day away. It’s a very different book from the first; if you read them close together, there is a staggering sense of loss that carries through into the second. But there is still that levity to keep the book from becoming too somber, too dark.

The coffeemaker was broken again.

Again.

Jim Holden click the red brew button in and out several more times, knowing it wouldn’t matter, but helpless to stop himself. The massive and gleaming coffeemaker, designed to brew enough to keep a Martian naval crew happy, refused to make a single cup. Or even a noise. It wasn’t just refusing to brew; it was refusing to try. Holden closed his eyes against the caffeine headache that threatened in his temples and hit the button on the nearest wall panel to open the shipwide comm.

“Amos,” he said.

The comm wasn’t working.

Feeling increasingly ridiculous, he pushed the button for the 1MC channel several more times. Nothing. He opened his eyes and saw that all the lights on the panel were out. Then he turned around and saw that the lights on the refrigerator and the ovens were out. It wasn’t just the coffeemaker; the entire galley was in open revolt. Holden looked at the ship name, Rocinante, newly stenciled onto the galley wall, and said, “Baby, why do you hurt me when I love you so much?”

I enjoyed it quite a lot. There is quite a bit more political intrigue in this one, which can get a bit tedious at times. Overall, an excellent book with a deepened sense of worldbuilding and a lot of introspective work on the aftermath of horror and trauma — from the perspective, I’d argue, of several different characters, not just one. Bobbie, a newly introduced character, is the most obvious example. But the crew of the Rocinante — Holden in particular, but also the others — are quietly dealing with what happened at Eros station, one book ago, and they are changed because of it. And though it’s a story that is mostly about war and politics, this quiet subtext is what makes it so good, and quite sensitive.

I’ll be shortly starting the third book, Abaddon’s Gate. Later today, I think. And I have the two novellas lined up after that. Must do some of my own writing first; the book is going to be the carrot at the end of my stick. The sun is out for the first time in almost a week, and the snow is rapidly melting. The gloom of the week is beginning to lift.

Reading ‘Leviathan Wakes.’

By Heather - April 18, 2014

It was a very long week, and I’m glad to see it come to an end. It’s a holiday today; I decided to take Monday off, too. Four day weekend? Yes, I’ll take it. The weather has taken a turn for the gloomy and dark, and we’re under a ‘special weather advisory’ — Environment Canada’s way of saying ‘hey, guys? Guys? You might get a lot of snow, or maybe not. We’re not really sure.’

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It looks rather snow-possible to me.

I spent the week reading my way through James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, and now I’m working on Caliban’s War, the second in the series. Leviathan Wakes was outstanding — a really good space opera, combining elements of noir, horror, and sci-fi to great effect. The interview with the authors at the end (James S. A. Corey is a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is interesting, too — they were aiming, they said, for a ‘working man’s sci-fi’:

I have nothing but respect for well-written hard science fiction, and I wanted everything in the book to be plausible enough that it doesn’t get in the way. But the rigorous how-to with the math shown? It’s not that story. This is working man’s science fiction. It’s like in Alien, we meet the crew of the Nostromo doing their jobs in this very blue-collar environment. They’re truckers, right? Why is there is a room in the Nostromo where water leaks down off of chains suspended from the ceiling? Because it looks cool and makes the world feel a little messy. It gives you the feel of the world. Ridley Scott doesn’t explain why that room exists, and when most people watch the film, it never even occurs them to ask. What kind of drive does the Nostromo use? I bet no one walked out of the film asking that question. I wanted to tell a story about humans living and working in a well-populated solar system. I wanted to convey a feeling of what that would be like, and then tell a story about the people who live there.

I’m for it. There’s a place and time for what I’d call mathy sci-fi: the stuff that hinges on correct calculations and painstaking science. Mathy sci-fi is important and good, but there are times when you just don’t want to math as you read. Sometimes you want to be entertained and brought along for a good story…the kind that keeps you up reading past your bedtime.

That would be this book. At times, very serious and dark, but with just the right amount of levity:

“No one shoot the guy with the hat!” Holden yelled, then moved back to the edge of the desk.

Amos put his back to the desk and popped the magazine from his gun. As he fumbled around in his pocket for another, he said, “Guy is probably a cop.”

“Extra especially do not shoot any cops,” Holden said, then fired a few shots at the stairwell door.

Very highly recommended.

About yesterday.

By Heather - April 16, 2014

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It was a very long day yesterday; we were shocked and somber as we waited for news about the murder of five of the university’s students at a party celebrating the end of the term. It started rolling out early in the morning. We stood around a coworker’s computer in the advising office and watched the police chief’s press conference. More than one of us had our hands to our mouths. By the end of the day, none of it was any better and the media had arrived on campus.

There will be any number of things written and said about what happened at the kind of party students anywhere have at the end of the academic year, about the accused, and about what the motives may or may not have been. What it is, is this: unbearably tragic, for all of the young people involved. Five victims, one accused — six young adults, at that stage of their lives when everything adult is just beginning, just starting, when their potential is just beginning to bloom. There are countless friends and family who are waking up to a Wednesday morning that is cold and grim, that no doubt began, for a few moments, as though everything was fine until the reality came swarming back in. I am so terribly sorry for all of them.

I don’t know that there is much that can be said about this — no easy words. It is incredibly startling, terribly alarming, when young people are killed — moreso when they die at the hands of another. All that is left, I think, is compassion and love for the grieving, sorrow and sympathy. We carry on not because we have no choice, but because we must: but aware of how great the loss the families are enduring, and perhaps more aware of how precious this thing we call life is.

Monday morning.

By Heather - April 14, 2014

Early morning at work.

The workplace construction has reached the state where enormous holes are being dug, and enormous piles of earth are being piled up in one place, moved to another, and piled up all over again. It’s baffling. I know there’s a reason for all of it, but the daily building of piles of dirt is just…well, I don’t understand it. Why not just make one big pile of dirt way over on one side and leave it there the whole time?

One of the great mysteries of workplace construction, I suppose. I have a feeling it will be another noisy day at the office (all of this it taking place about forty feet from where I sit in my small cubicle).

Twitter movie night: Area 407 (with massive spoilers, but you’re not going to watch this movie anyway).

By Heather - April 13, 2014

It was bad sci-fi movie night again; we round ourselves up on Twitter, across three time zones, and we settle in to watch a bad sci-fi movie together. Last night, we took on Area 407. A movie ‘too real for reality and too disturbing for fiction.’ Taglines like that are promising; the trailer had us feeling hopefully optimistic:

The ‘lost footage recovered’ movies are always shaky, always filled with rather dramatic pieces of dialogue. This one was apparently filmed over five days, and all of the lines were ad libbed. Verisimilitude is an especially powerful way to tell a story, and the whole ‘lost footage’ trope really reaches for it — we are a culture of pictures and videos shot by phone, and the visual medium communicates life as we think it happened. We know that’s not always true.

Science fiction disguised as mimetic fiction is something I think I disagree with — the point of sci-fi and speculative fiction is to point to things that could be, not to present a story and assert that the thing is already around but escaping notice. There are too few things in the world today, I think, that are left entirely unknown. Nothing is secret.

So I say this: if the military were breeding large, angry dinosaurs in the dusty desert, I think somebody would have noticed by now.

Anyhow. This is what we thought of the movie. And, fair warning, massive spoilers ahead. But you weren’t really going to watch this movie anyway.

We did not like the quirky young heroine.

Then there came the plane crash.

Then came the dinosaurs.

Then Lois died, as the others clustered around her, looking distressed.

Then they started to argue, as you do, about whether they should stay or leave.

More dinosaurs. Actually, what looked like a dinosaur head on a stick making a fast pass by a window in the abandoned shack where the survivors were hiding.

The shack is on an abandoned military base, it seems. There is an army surplus box. With a radio.

Another run through the dark.

More dinosaurs. Or maybe just the same one dinosaur. We can’t be sure.

More running in the dark.

But finally…hope! A man in an improbably clean sedan car, driving through the desert!

A tragic death for Pigtails Trish.

But wait…more dinosaurs.

Verdict? It was a really good bad movie to watch with friends. We’re thinking Storage 24 or Robotropolis for our next movie.

Friday!

By Heather - April 11, 2014

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Friday! Friday! Friday!

After a long week (it’s been a long time since I’ve had a week that felt short and breezy), I had a hard time figuring out if it was indeed Friday or actually Saturday. Traffic was light this morning, too, which really didn’t help. I’m at the office, working away on the book, and it’ll be at least forty-five minutes before anybody is due to show up…so the curious feeling of ‘it’s Friday but it sort of feels like it should be Saturday’ will keep going.

I’m looking forward to a weekend of writing. For all that we had snow on Wednesday morning, the last couple of days have been windy and dry, and somewhat warmer. There are hints of green grass here and there. Rain with a thunderstorm possible today, though there’s the chance of snow tonight. The season is turning. And with it, I’m starting to find my stride with the story — it’s taken a while, and a lot of false starts, but it’s slowly starting to come together.

So just to get through today, and then I can settle in with my words tonight and for the next two days.

It’s not spring yet.

By Heather - April 9, 2014

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Sigh.