Tag Archives: #SciFi

Lisle, H. (2014). Born from Fire. One More Word Books.

“The Truth of We”

“We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us,
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.

That none may laugh until All can laugh,
That All sleep on dirt until none sleep on dirt.

Dirt is Our birthright. Hardship is Our glory.
Hardship strengthens Us. Hunger feeds Us.

The Known is All. The new is Willful.
Welcome Pain. Pain is Knowledge. We are WE.

Self is selfish. One is none.
All are All. We are We.

Each flesh belongs to All.
Each thought belongs to All.

Children are duty. All tend All.
Duty is life. Life is dying. Dying is duty.
We die for Duty. We are WE.

Within Each hides Evil. Be All, not Each.
In Aloneness is Willfulness. We will never be Alone.

We share, We do not own.
Property is an abomination.

Beauty is property. Property is crime.
Passion is property. Property is crime.

Love is property. We out love and lovers.
Secrets are property. We out secrets and secret-keepers.

All is Sharing. Sharing is Duty.
We serve Sharing. We are WE.

We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us.
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.
The Will of All is all of Will. We are WE.” (Kindle Loc 307-339)

Since 1991 Lisle has published all kinds of writing from writing classes, short stories, poetry, novels (sci-fi & fantasy) and co-written material. I own many of the stories and have enjoyed the ones I have read, including Born From Fire.

Born From Fire is a 102 pages long science fiction novella. It is episode 1 of the Chronicles of Longview serial (i.e. not stand-alone). Its title suits the story well and has both a literal and figurative meaning. Born From Fire does not seem to have a particular age group in mind. There is no recognizable swearing, some violence and no sex. 

DOWN THE DARKNESS, down the line of standing cells, three words rippled urgently and under breath. “Death Circus here!”

In the dark, this criminal had waited long and longer for death to come. This criminal could not lie down, could not sit down—its captors had made certain its cell, and the cells of the others like it, permitted only standing.

With its bandaged knees pressed into one corner, its spine jammed into the other, this criminal drifted in that lightless place, never certain whether it was waking or dreaming. When it ate, it ate maggots. When it dreamed of eating, it dreamed of maggots. When it pissed or shit, it pissed or shit down its legs. When it dreamed, it dreamed of the same. (Kindle loc 37-44)

“It” or We-39R is a member of a People’s Home of Truth and Fairness (PHTF) settlement. These settlements are owned by the PHTF franchise and run by Speakers for We. As long as leaders of the various planets in the Longview universe do not execute their citizens, they may do as they wish with their people. PHTF franchises are the worst places to live for everyone but Speakers. We-39R earned the death penalty for Willfulness. However his death was delayed since executions must be carried out by Death Circuses, i.e. space ships travelling from collection point to collection point buying Class A (at least 30%) and Class B (at least 10%) prisoners.

The Longview is the biggest and most expensive Death Circus. It has the best salaries, the most extensive training for its crew and even offers investment incentives. More Class B prisoners are bought by them than by other circuses and it sells the fewest prisoners, yet it makes more money than any other Death Circus. 

Crew members begin as Provisional Crew Three Green. Once a person is hired on, they become Crew Three Green and advance up through Crews Two and One. Each crew is colour-graded from Green to Blue to Silver to Gold.

Born from Fire is told from three points of view, i.e. We-39R, Kagen (Crew Three Gold) and Melie’s (Crew Two Gold). The first half of the novella switches between We-39R and Kagen, the second switches between Kagen and Melie. Lisle handles the transitions well. The greatest differences lie between We-39R and the other two, however I do not think I could mistake Kagen for Melie (or vice versa). Since we see so much less from Melie’s perspective, she is less well-defined than the other two. All three are easy to sympathize with and their worldviews and reactions are believable. Our antagonist is less easily spotted. There is Mash, of course, but he is not the main one. That spot goes to the meta-entity that the Pact Worlds make up.

Freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences is a theme that runs through the entire serial. Anything that might lead to the slave conditions of the PHTF worlds is seen as something to fight against. At the end of my Kindle copy Lisle explains how she built a model of The Longview on Minecraft before writing about it. I appreciate her geekiness and as a reader I get to enjoy her dedication to detail when she takes us through parts of the ship. Both the world-building and plot are interesting, well written, detailed and dark. I liked Born From Fire and recommend it.

Saintcrow, L. (2016). Cormorant Run. New York: Orbit.

Cover design by Lauren Panepinto. Cover illustration by Kirbi Fagan.

STRUGOVSKY: All we can say for certain is that one night, eighty-six years ago, there were strange lights in the skies of many countries. Aurora borealis, perhaps. Then, the Event, at a very specific time….

… Rifts, are actually tears in a fabric we cannot adequately measure. It is not Einstein’s spacetime, it is not Hawking’s and Velikov’s layer cake, it is not the Ptolemaic bubbles of earth and air. When we know what fabric is being so roughly torn, we may begin to reclaim those parts of the Earth’s surface. (Kindle Loc. 125-135).

When rift bubbles appeared the world fell apart. Whole cities disappeared. If a bubble landed in a city, what was inside (even moving things) was lost to the rest of the world. People on the outside could only see a slow-moving opalescent sheen. Railroad tracks could run right through the rift-walls but what happened to the tracks on the inside no one but rifters knew.  Most of the people (military/researchers) who went inside to see what had happened disappeared, probably dead.

Rifters are people of high intelligence who survive running the rift bubbles but come out changed. Either a wanna-be rifter learns how to be still, to quickly analyse their environment, to plan and execute quickly, to test the ground for stability, to be patience, or they died. They developed an acute sense of smell and hearing. Addicted to rifting and different from non-rifters, most of them are underestimated.

The gleaming inside the shattered leav was skeletons, turned into some sort of alloy. It took two weeks of patient work by teams in magsuits to free them from the tangle, and they were carted away to the depths of the Institute. Someone did a hush-hush paper on them—the bones were alloy, where the ligaments were all high-carbon flex with an odd crystalline pattern all over. (Kindle loc 194-196).

Institutes were set up outside the bubbles filled with people wanting to study them. Most of the researchers who went inside never returned. Then the Crash happened. Eventually kill-zones and garrisons were set up outside the bubbles to keep the things inside from coming out and the curious from entering.

There, at the very edge of her vision, a shimmering. Light bouncing in weird ways, and the space inside her empty-aching like a pulled tooth. (Kindle Loc 233-234).

Asje Rajtnik (Rat) died as a result of not being listened to.  QR-715 takes exception to such stupidity and punishes it accordingly. After the attempt, the result was a “shoot on sight” order. However, greed is not always sensible and, one year later, 33-year old Tatiana Pajari, better known as “Svinga” or “Svin”, is taken from solitary in Guan prison to QR-715. Her two year stay in solitary darkness has left her underweight, sickly pale and traumatized. Svin has been a rifter since she was 16 and Kopeland wants because she was apprenticed to Rat. From the first moment in the leav I liked her and that like grew during the story. She is clearly a traumatized person who is making the best of this situation she suspects she is not intended to survive.

Kommandant Kopeland is a frustrated person. He is stuck as top of a local governmental installation and knows he will not advance. Being close to QR-715 tends to make people afraid and bored over time. Plus he is a bully. Combined with his boredom and his fears he becomes obsessed with acquiring the Cormorant and sees it as a way out. So, he has Svin brought to him.

QR-715 is our third main character. Its size makes it unique and full of weird fauna and flora. Geography moves around, gravity and mass changes and time is difficult to nail down. One moment you might die if you step off a ledge, the next you’ll be fine. As we get to know it, QR-715 feels intelligent and alive. And weird, really weird.

Saintcrow’s POV moved between various actors in the story.  Svin, Kopeland and QR-715 were the characters that were brought to life. The rest functioned more as supporting characters. At certain points the many POV’s hiccuped the flow of the story.

There are foot-notes that explain terminology. In my Kindle edition I pressed the highlighted sign and a definition popped up. In the paper edition, it looks like the footnotes are at the bottom of the page. Foot-notes work well for me and seldom mess up the flow, but they might a problem for others. General editing seemed fine. Saintcrow fed us information about the history of the Event and how the world turned out in bits and pieces throughout the story. That is my preferred method of getting to know the landscape.

I really liked Cormorant Run. Most of the people in it were just people. Blind, stupid, thoughtful, afraid, greedy, eager, sociopathic, kind and vengeful. You know, people. What it is not, is a story with a “happy ending”. Saintcrow seldom does those. While reading it, I sometimes felt the way I do when I read some of Philip Dick’s stories – “huh?”. I recommend this story to people who like science fiction weirdness. There is plenty of violence and swearing but Zero romance (YEAH!!!!).


Reviews:

Pratchett, T. (1990). Moving Pictures. London: Victor Gollanz

Reblog of my review of Terry Pratchett’s “Moving Pictures” from 1990.

Trust is a valuable commodity. To whom do I give my trust? The entertainment industry? News media? Scientific research? Pratchett’s Moving Pictures is a biting and funny social commentary about the impact and influence media can have on us.

About thirty miles Turnwise of Ankh-Morpork the surf boomed on the wind-blown, seagrass-waving, sand-dune-covered spit of land where the Circle Sea met the Rim Ocean.

The hill itself was visible for miles. It wasn’t very high, but lay amongst the dunes like an upturned boat or a very unlucky whale, and was covered in scrub trees. No rain fell here, if it could possibly avoid it. Although the wind sculpted the dunes around it, the low summit of the hill remained in an everlasting, ringing calm.

Nothing but the sand had changed here in hundreds of years. (p.10)

@Josh Kirby

Moving Pictures is the 10th novel in the Discworld bibliography and was published in 1990 (my paperback edition is 333 pages). Its cover was illustrated by Josh Kirby. His illustration is spot on with regards to both the spirit and letter of the story. Our narrator is omniscient and, therefore, knows and shares details from important places and people. One of Pratchett’s techniques is Footnotes. They aren’t essential to the story-line, but they do add to the narrative-believability. Chapter headings are non-existent. At first, that might be confusing but you soon get used to it. There are 17 non-English translations of the story and the novel has been dissected by scholars from some of those countries.

‘Oh, yes. Yes. Yes,’ breathed Soll. ‘What a picture! Pure kinema!’

‘A giant woman carrying a screaming ape up a tall building,’ sighed Dibbler. ‘And we’re not even having to pay wages!’ (p.300)

Making fun of the movie industry begins on the dedication page with Pratchett’s “Thank you speech” and continues throughout the story. Names (e.g. “Silverfish“), titles (e.g. “Last Keeper of the Door“) and places (e.g. “Holy Wood“) are from novels and films (e.g. “Gone with the Wind” + “King Kong” = “Blown Away”) that span the period that started with the Phantasmagoria shows of the 1790’s up through the one-reel Celluloid film from the late 1800‘s that developed into the silent movies of the early 1900‘s ending with the movies 1980‘s.

Many of the characters in this story are like people I know. Main characters are Theda Withel (Ginger/Delores del Syn), Victor Tugelbend (Victor Marachismo), Cut-My-Own-Throat Dibbler (Dibbler), Gaspode The Talking Dog (Gaspode), the Alchemist’s Guild, the Wizards of Unseen University, the Librarian, Holy Wood and Ankh-Morpork.

Our story begins and ends with Holy Wood. From the description above, it seems an idyllic place yet all Keepers of the Door have maintained a 3-times-a-day set of rituals to prevent an apocalypse. When Death puts a stop to the priestly line, whatever was kept back by the chanting begins to seep out……

The rest of the review is at TerryPratchettAndMe