Tag Archives: #Bureaucracy

Stross, Charles; Iron Sunrise (2004)

Considering this is my third or fourth time reading Iron Sunrise, it should come as no surprise that I like it. Iron Sunrise is a science fiction thriller space opera lingering within certain degrees of believability. There are two main characters. One of them was apparently in the previous Eschaton story, Singularity Sky.

Rachel Mansour is Black Ops, i.e. top-secret with/without wet-work (e.g. killing people). I’ve never figured out why politicians, academics and the military use so many substitute words in an attempt to camouflage what a soldier often has to do. Although, in the case of politicians, in real life and in Iron Sunrise, I expect it has to do with living in pretend worlds inside their own heads. Pretenses and pretty words do nothing to save people like Rachel from having recurring nightmares. She is the kind of person, who instead of asking “Why should I do this?” or “Why is this happening to me?” asks “Why not me?”. She is who the UN sends out to clean up their or other worlds’ messes. In the first part of Iron Sunrise, Rachel has a nasty encounter with Emperor Idi Amin. She manages to save Geneva from him. After that, she is sent off to save humans from themselves.

One of the people who experienced the start of the mess Rachel is trying to fix is our other main character, Wednesday Strowger. The first few pages are about her experiences three years earlier when  her invisible friend, Herman, asked for her help.

She’d read the papers in the strong room, realized how important they must be, and pushed the door ajar, thinking to leave – yanked it shut barely ahead of the snarl and the leap. Acrid smoke had curled up from the hinges as she scrambled into the duct-work, fled like a black-clad spider into the service axis and though the pressurized cargo tunnel and the shadows of the almost-empty dock, panting and crying as she went. Always hearing a scrabble of diamond-tipped claws on the floor behind her.

After the evacuation of Old Newfoundland Four, we next meet Wednesday three years later. She is now 19 has people out to kill her. Wednesday ties them to her past. Again, with the help of Herman, she jumps, once more, into the fray. That jump eventually brings her into contact with Rachel.

Another person sent by her government to clean up after other people’s stupidity is U. Portia Hoechst. Same thing, only she belongs to the other side, the enemy to Wednesday and Rachel’s beliefs about right and wrong. Portia is as convinced of the need for the ReMastered as Rachel believes in the need for Eschaton. Two people, each trying to bring the galaxy back into their kind of order. Take what it may. Already, Wednesday’s home-world, Moscow and her second home on Old NewFoundland have been destroyed or made uninhabitable for humans. Once more, Wednesday and millions of other people stand to lose their lives.

I’m on Wednesday and Rachel’s side, but that is because Stross has written the story with them made out to be the quasi-goodies. Yet I can see the attraction of a tyranny run the way the ReMastered do. Only if I was considered one of the usable ones. The only good tyrannies, in my mind, are ones with leaders who put the needs of their people before their own wants. Yeah, not likely.

There are some technologies that Stross describes that I wouldn’t mind. Smart pigments for hair and skin could be incredibly fun to play with. But not really practical unless you’re trying to camouflage yourself. I’m not sure about brain implants (basically a smarter brain) because the concept seems too easy to hack. Plus they seem kind of clunky. Plus I’m not sure which parts of the brain they would be hacked into. Our brains are only electrical impulses traveling along a fragile network easily disrupted by neurochemical signals. I imagine our calorie intake would have to increase to make up for the extra energy requirements of a global implant such as Stross describes. Cause we would have to be able to energize these networks by ourselves, the way we do with our meat brains. Which is why I’m not buying all the “hard science fiction” labels that Iron Sunrise has gotten. Not when it comes to Eschaton either.

Faster than light travel, wormholes, null spaces or even almost up to light travel are never going to happen for humans. We are too stupid to come together as a planet for long enough to get it done. Hell, we’re too stupid to make our own planet more environmentally sound. Even me, and I know what is going on. But that doesn’t make this stuff any less fun to read about. Iron Sunrise is an excellent thriller that is already, more or less, happening here on Earth. This is how stupid people are. And how dedicated. And how terrified yet willing. And how terrifying. And how greedy. Greed. Ain’t it wonderful. Where would thrillers be without it or fanaticism.

If ever an Artificial Intelligence comes about that is somewhat like Eschaton, it deserves a UN citizenship.

According to Stross, the set-up of Iron Sunrise

“allows for narrative structures that map onto intercontinental travel circa 1880-1914; we have railroads space elevators that link national planetary populations to ports space stations where steam starships dock, to transport passengers and cargo slowly between stops; and we have trans-oceanic telegraph cables causal channels to allow instantaneous (but expensive and limited-bandwidth) information transfer.”


My reviews of other Charles Stross stories

Lockshin, J.L.: Crash Landing (2013)

crash landing cover

Satire at its best. My goodness, all the issues an author can manage to cram into 16 pages.

I guess we cannot call Crash Landing an apocalyptic novel due to its humour. However, it is terribly tempting to place this dark humoured short story into this category due to its military and bureaucratic backdrop.

Bureaucrats were never so bored and generals were never so convinced of their ideas as the Secretary of State and General Wells of Crash Landing. The ending is a gem. All of Crash Landing is a gem. It has brought a smile to my face each time I have thought about it.


Shepherd, Mike: Kris Longknife – Furious (2012)

Cover art by Scott Grimando

I like this cover of Kris Longknife – one of those damn Longknives.

Mike Shepherd has really shown his gift for writing this time. Furious is one of those read-through novels that just grips you and does not let you go. The whole Kris Longknife serious is fun to read. It leaves you with a sense of having enjoyed a tale of adventure bringing Kris (the main character) into some incredibly unlikely scenarios. But if you take away all of the science fiction and just focus on the story, it is about the age-old question of peace and war. How do you keep the peace between nations when there are so many conflicting points of view and goals?

Well, history has shown us time and again that we don’t. Not unless we find a common enemy, someone we can join together in fighting. So the circle of war and peace becomes a neverending process that gives us a breather every once in a while.

Kris is now being punished the events and her decisions in Daring. I just discovered I haven’t written anything about Mike Shepherd yet. I’ll just have to remedy that.

Anyways. Kris and her crew have been shipped off to undesireable places in the Union in an attempt to castrate their ability to create trouble. But trouble isn’t something that avoids Kris. Rather it tends to send its tentacles off in search of the princess in an attempt to place her in life-threatening situations. There are a couple of those in this novel. Saving her own life and the lives of others seems to be a fate that Kris simply is not able to avoid.

Furious was a fun read. There was tension, humour, romance and a sense of enjoyment from the author’s side.

Mike was super-adorable when he wrote about “that” arriving in this novel. The way he avoided the word “period” was sweet. I don’t know if that is a US trait, but it is kind of cute when people avoid words dealing with bodily functions.

No Longer Blinded by the Right

The world is unfair. I am lucky and live in a country where water is abundant while people in other countries die of thirst. How is that fair?

Not only that. I live in a country that thus far has been lucky enough to have harvested the income necessary to keep Norway out of the financial crisis that has hit so many other countries hard. How is that fair? While we here in Norway are doing well, people in other countries are having to move in with their parents again, losing their jobs and not able to pay their debts. How is that fair?

Even here in Norway there is plenty of unfair stuff. My children are lucky and have parents who are  well-educated and who are lucky enough to be finished with our debts. They have grown up with safe and boring parents. How can this be fair, when there are children here in Norway who live in difficult circumstances and lack the opportunities that our children have?

I have a son that struggles with Aspergers. How is that fair, when others don’t?

Life is a joke. It really is. Most of all it isn’t fair, not for anyone. We do not deserve our lives, we just have them. That is all. Luck of the draw.

BroadBlogs

“It’s not fair that you get a free lunch when my mom has to work to pay for mine.”

That’s what I told a classmate at age 10.

In this view I was like a lot of conservatives.

In his book, Why Americans Hate Welfare, Martin Gilens found that while most want to fight poverty, many don’t like welfare, feeling the recipients are lazy and undeserving.

George Lakoff studies how language affects the mind. He says conservative morality is based on the notion that people should have “liberty to seek their self interest and their own well-being without worrying or being responsible for the well-being or interest of anybody else,” especially since — in their view — welfare fosters a “culture of dependency.”

All we need is equal opportunity, right?

Until taking a high school course taught by a conservative economist and a liberal political scientist, presenting opposing views…

View original post 482 more words

Asimov, Isaac: Foundation series

The Foundation series continues on from the Elijah Bailey series. The reason I call it a continuation of the series becomes apparent as one reads the books (too much of a spoiler to tell). If you go to Wikipedia, they will tell all. Having said that, their page carries quite an excellent description of the books along with analysis and links. For another in-depth analysis of Asimov’s work go to Wimmer & Wilkins’ blog. Asimov’s home page contains more general information about his life’s work.

Isaac Asimov brought fresh air into science fiction when he arrived on the scene in the 40’s. He wasn’t afraid of taking a hard look at the possible future of mankind based on what he knew of the day’s theories on sociology and psychology. The Foundation series is considered one of the most important contributions to the field of science fiction, a well-deserved opinion.


PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION (1988) AND FORWARD THE FOUNDATION (1993)

SciFi and Fantasy Art PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION by Slawek Wojtowicz
Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

The Foundation series was started in the 1940’s, but for easier reading you should start with Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. In Prelude we meet Hari Sheldon, the inventor of psychohistory. Hari’s goal was to be able to predict the general future of humanity, and during a conference he presents his fledgling theory to fellow scientists on the planet Trantor. Unfortunately the Empiror finds Hari’s theories a threat and begin to persecute him. This makes it necessary for Hari to flee, and his flight takes him around Trantor. In Forward the story of how Hari develops his theory continues. Sadly for Hari, the people he loves die off (naturally and unnaturally). Hari refuses to give up and finally develops what ends up being called the Seldon Plan, a way to save the future of humankind.


FOUNDATION (1951) / FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE (1952) / AND SECOND FOUNDATION (1953)

Cover for Polish Prelude to Foundation
by Slawek Wojtowicz

After this introduction to the future Galactic Empire, The Foundation Trilogy with the books Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, follow. These are Asimov’s first installments in the Foundation history. When you read these books, please keep in mind that the series was written well before Wikipedia or the internet came into existence. As such, they seem a bit dated. Some of the theory can be tedious, but the adventures and people we meet are quite fun. The titles are a dead give-away, so we know well ahead of time that the Foundation is bound to survive. But we know nothing about the road taken.

In Foundation and Empire the leaders of the Foundation has become corrupt. The internal strife that arises from that makes the organisation susceptible to “The Mule”. The Mule advances, conquering planet after planet, making the Empire deviate from Seldon’s plan. The Foundation does not have it in them to win over the Mule, and desperately some of the members begin seeking a rumoured Second Foundation.

The title Second Foundation kind of gives it away. In this novel we are going to discover the rumoured savior of the Empire while enjoying adventure, science and social interaction. The only way to kill the Mule is by allowing members of the Foundation to find members of the Second Foundation. But this also reveals the fact that there is a Second Foundation and that its nature is somewhat different to the First one’s. Herein lies the conflict.


Foundation’s Edge
by Michael Whelan

FOUNDATION’S EDGE (1982) AND FOUNDATION AND EARTH (1986)

And so we come to the two final books in the Foundation series: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. We meet Golan Trevize as main protagonist in both books. He is convinced the Second Foundation has survived the attempt to exterminate its members, and goes looking for them. His search brings him to many planets and finally to the ancient planets (no longer on any star-chart) of Solaria, Aurora and Melpomenia. Each journey brings Trevize closer to a conclusion that may or may not satisfy the reader. I felt ambiguous, and that seems to be the intent of the author.


  • 1966 –  Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award for the Foundation series
  • 1983 –  Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1983 –  Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Foundation’s Edge
  • 1996 –  A 1946 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel of 1945 was given at the 1996 WorldCon to “The Mule“, the 7th Foundation story, published in Astounding Science Fiction

Weber, David: Honor Harrington

Field of Dishonor by David Mattingly

The Honor Harrington series by David Weber consists of 12 books:

  • “On Basilisk Station” (1992)
  • “The Honor of the Queen” (1993)
  • “The Short Victorious War” (1994)
  • “Field of Dishonor” (1994)
  • “Flag in Exile” (1995)
  • “Honor Among Enemies” (1996)
  • “In Enemy Hands” (1997)
  • “Echoes of Honor” (1998)
  • “Ashes of Victory” (2000)
  • “War of Honor” (2002)
  • “At All Costs” (2005)
  • “Mission of Honor” (2010)

The Honor series is military science fiction. Technical information is important. The series goes into detail about the various vessels Honor is on. It also explores the relationship between the kingdom of Manticore and the People’s Republic of Haven. Honor is a citizen of the Manticoran kingdom, originally from the planet Sphinx. Along with her is her bonded companion, the tree-cat Nimitz.

Honor and Nimitz end up being in the center of conflicts between the Peeps and the Manties. They survive impossible situations in space and on the ground and Honor really needs her brass ovaries to survive the gruelling conditions she often finds herself in. At the center of each book is the conflict between the Peeps and the Manties. There is always some kind of scheme by the Peeps to get the Manties to reveal their military strength or to get the Manties to join in war. Part of that is due to the instability of the Peep system. Governments come and go and in many ways it reminds me of Russia at the time of the revolution in 1917.

The Manties, on the other hand, have a monarchy with all of its attendant problems. There is a government pretty much like the government of the UK – Overhouse/Underhouse with the peers in the Overhouse and the commoners in the Underhouse. There is plenty of corruption and political scheming. Someone is always seeking more power, quite often at the expense of the Manticoran system.

Wikipedia gives an excellent summary of each book, but be warned of spoilers.

David Weber is a fun writer. There are political discussions, but they are placed in a context that make them interesting not preachy (mucho importante). Adventure, adventure, adventure and then some humor are important ingredients. There is some romance, but thankfully not much. My favorite book in the series is Echoes of Honor. It seemed the most different from the rest, and the action centered around a great deal of people, not just Honor.