Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Artimis By Andy Weir - Good Fun Story And Fine Second Novel

Artemis by Andy Weir

In 2011, author Andy Weir blasted onto the Sci-Fi scene with his first novel The Martian. Some may say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but as we who read often find, there are authors who seem to have a gift and can crank out one good story after another. Weir would seem to be one of those authors who has found his gift and proves it with his second novel, Artemis.

Artemis is set completely on the Earth’s moon around the year 2080 which has been colonized. The small city known as Artemis is made up of a complex of large dome units that house its residents and provide workspace for numerous craftspeople that work to make a living in the hostile Lunar environment. Artemis is located in the Sea of Tranquility very near the landing site of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission that also affords a fairly active tourist trade. The story centers around a character of somewhat questionable character named Jasmine Bashara who is commonly known as “Jazz” to her friends.

A “porter” by trade, someone who delivers packages to people in the Artemis complex, Jazz also runs a small but mostly harmless smuggling operation. She barely makes enough money to live in Artemis and is under the constant scrutiny of the stations security officer. She has learned how to work the system to her advantage, but also has a reputation for being a bit dishonest and somewhat promiscuous in her personal life. While most serious crimes are punished with deportation to Earth, Rudy, the security chief, handles minor crimes in his own way. While Rudy keeps Jazz under loose scrutiny, he also seems to overlook a lot of Jazz’s petty criminal activity.

For those who have lived their entire life on the Lunar surface, deportation to Earth is the worst possible thing that could happen. Imagine living in an environment that had one-sixth the gravity of what we here on earth live our lives in and then suddenly having to adapt to the full gravity of our panet. So Jazz has managed to avoid doing anything that would sentence her to live the rest of her life as an invalid. That is, until she gets caught up in a plot for a hostile takeover of the Moon’s biggest industry, the mining of aluminum.

Jazz is offered a very large sum of money to perform acts of sabotage against the established company so a new company can take over operations. While she has an idea of how much trouble she will be in if caught, she agrees to take the job. When the company holding the contract sees through Jazz’s very carefully designed plan, she learns that she has gotten in to a situation that is way over her head. What follows are murders and threats to life in Artemis making this story a great sci-fi thriller and a fun read.

For the most part, Artemis does not follow the same formula as the Martian in that this is a thriller involving a lot of people. However, at the same time, There are some similarities in that Jazz is concerned with survival, just as Mark Watney. Once again, as in The Martian, Artemis’ author uses explanations of science that Jazz has access to in her adventure is well within reach of the common reader. Along with that, the main character has a great sense of humor and the same snarky attitude affording the story to inject a little humor into even the most grim situation. Many of the interactions between the characters had me laughing out loud.

Weir seems to enjoy writing about a single character and going well into their development. I found that I did care for Jazz as the book went on, while at the same time not being impressed with her behavior. Let’s face it, she is a criminal and is committing crimes of various levels from very petty to an incredible attempt to sabotage the work of a company that was responsible to providing all of the oxygen to the Artemis community. The characters plan was well thought out by the author, but he left plenty of holes for the antagonists to see through. There is no doubt that Jazz is a very intelligent individual as well as a strong female lead for the book, but she is not all knowing and does make some almost fatal errors. As to the other characters and their development, there isn’t much there, they just seem to be supporting characters that are either there to help or hinder Jazz as she goes about the business she chooses. I would have been interested to see a few of the supporting characters get a little more growth in the story.

The most impressive part of Artemis for me was the elaborate depictions of the environment of the moon, both inside and outside the station. Weir seems to have a huge fascination with surviving in space and explains the construction of the Artemis station domes and the other fixtures with great detail. The author would seem to have gone to great lengths to make the science believable and easy for the common reader to understand. He goes into great detail on the tasks that Jazz does to avoid problems as she moves through the story.

As mentioned earlier, Jazz seems to have a well known reputation around the moonbase of being quite sexually active. Everyone seems to know it and there are numerous references to it; perhaps too many. No matter where she goes, or who she meets she, and the reader, are reminded of this and Jazz seems to not be a bit put out when someone makes reference to it. Funny thing is, during this entire story, Jazz has no intimate contact with anyone and seems to not think about it very much. I found myself wondering why this was part of the story, it had such a large presence and not a lot of substance. It felt to me like it might have been part of an attempt at humor. For me, these parts of the story fell flat and were unnecessary. Fortunately though, it didn’t overshadow the real meat of the plot and I was able to overlook them in retrospect.

The overarching theme of Artemis would seem to be one that is becoming more popular as time goes on; how will those who are outsiders or disadvantaged to be treated in the future? We have seen it in other feature films including The Force Awakens. We have seen it in recent television shows such as The Expanse, Defiance, and even Star Trek: Discovery.  It hasn’t been long since all we had in sci-fi was a more utopian view from shows such as Star Trek in which there is no want and everyone is more interested in bettering the human condition than in obtaining wealth. In Weir’s story, Jazz is a subservient character who is relegated to getting minimal compensation for delivering goods to her betters. Her personal living space is so small that she can barely stand upright and she envies the more affluent tourists and residents that can afford such things as food not grown in vats and a private bathroom. She then learns to live a little better by performing petty acts of smuggling until an ambitious customer dangles a carrot in front of her where she is then all in for some major criminal activity. How will this actually play out in the future? Only time will tell, but I am thinking that the ideal of a Star Trek-like utopian future is not what the future holds. Rather the opposite is what I think, and as it is now, the gap between the haves and the have nots will only become wider. So it is with Jazz; she is not greedy, she just wants something better for herself and finds the only possibility of advancement in illegal activity

While not perfect, I was not in the least disappointed. I did enjoy Artemis and was entertained all during the time I read it. I would recommend it to readers who appreciate good sci-fi with solid science, and a good story, but aren’t too absorbed in well developed characters beyond the star of the show.

[Well, there it is…


[Qapla’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim - Meeting Nellie Oleson at O Comic Con Was An Unexpected Treat & The Book Is Awesome!

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim

As a Sci-Fi fan, it usually surprises people that one of my favorite television shows of all time was Little House on the Prairie. It still is to this day. Whenever I happen to be channel surfing and I run across an episode, I will stop and watch it. We have even begun to get the complete series on disc and I have been known to binge-watch several episodes in a single sitting. I cannot pinpoint why I enjoy Little House so much. As I think about it though, there are many reasons. I suppose that some of what I enjoy is that the portrayal of the characters made them real to me, and they became people I actually cared about. Pa Ingalls was always the hero as he guided his family through the rough times, very seldom losing his composure, but willing to do whatever it takes to make as comfortable a life for his family as possible. I really loved the family friend, Mr. Edwards, who always sang “Old Dan Tucker,” a song I learned from my dad long before Little House ever aired. Then there were the townspeople that were always fascinating, especially a spoiled little brat of a girl named Nellie Oleson who made it her mission to make the life of Laura Ingalls as miserable as she possibly could.

I was very surprised last year when I learned that the actress that portrayed that spoiled brat was going to be at the O Comic Con in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The first question that came to mind was, what the hell is Nellie Oleson doing at a sci-fi convention? Seemed a little odd to me, and still kind of does, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to meet and get an autograph from a favorite television personality. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did suspect that the actress would be far different from the character she was on the show, and I was right. While everyone was lining up to meet Ray Park (Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace) I saw that Alison Arngrim was sitting at her table with not a single person in line there. Chrissy and I visited with Alison for several minutes, picked up a couple of autographed photos, had our photo taken with Alison, and I bought her book, which she happily autographed for me. I finally found an opportunity to read the book recently and enjoyed it immensely. I was also happy to learn that my suspicions about Alison were correct. She is not the bratty, combative, and sometimes hateful character she was on Little House. She is a kind and friendly person who is also hilariously funny and she appreciates her fans, even those who cannot disconnect her from her character. If you are a fan of the show or not, if you ever have an opportunity to meet her, take advantage of it, it will be well worth the time.

I had no idea what to expect from the book beyond a few stories about her life as a childhood actor and her time on Little House. There is that, but there is much more in those pages published in 2011. Alison discusses her life in some detail from her earliest memories through her efforts to combat AIDS and child abuse. In those pages she outlines some very disturbing episodes of her life as well as many good times. Of course, my favorite parts of the narrative were those that talked about the behind-the-scenes happenings on Little House.

I don’t usually make it a habit to follow the personal lives of the personalities that I admire because I am often disappointed in what I find. I was shocked to learn that Alison is a victim of sexual abuse by her older brother. It began at the age of six and continued for six years until she began working on Little House. Along with that, her older brother introduced her to dangerous drugs. I also learned that he was on the show Land of the Giants, not one of my favorite Sci-fi shows; I have watched a few episodes, but I guarantee that I will never watch it again. When the Little House chapters begin, very little is mentioned about these early years of Alison’s life until later in the book when she finally dealt with her feelings with some help. It was some hard stuff to read and I had a hard time reconciling how someone who had endured this didn’t snap and have deep emotional problems. Alison said that her time on Little House was like therapy to her because she found a caring family there, and playing a girl who “kicked and screamed, and ranted and raved” helped to alleviate her “demons.” Alison’s writing about her trauma is very matter of fact and there are no indications that she feels sorry for herself; instead, she shows herself to be of very strong character and I admire her for how she dealt with something that could have very well made her a bitter and angry person.

In the chapters that discuss her time on Little House, she writes about the relationships with the other actors on the show, many funny, and not so funny happenings on the set, and some hilarious incidents away from the set. One such story that made me laugh uproariously was when Alison and Melissa Gilbert discovered some rum-soaked snack cakes at a neighborhood grocery store during one of many sleepovers that the girls shared as they grew up. Apparently, Melissa Gilbert was not allowed to have very many sugar-laced snacks at home, so on the occasions that they were together at Alison’s home, they would take full advantage of any opportunity to indulge themselves in unhealthy bliss. The rum-soaked cakes were later removed from the shelves when it was discovered that a lot of kids seemed to be buying them by the sackful and enjoying them for other reasons than satisfying a sweet tooth.

In the years following Little House, Alison discusses her finally confronting her demons and her healing, her activism in her causes, and her continuing relationships with those that she was on the show with.

If you are a fan of Little House, I think you would enjoy this book and I would recommend it as a good read about what it means to be a childhood actor. It sure isn’t easy, and there are times when it isn’t fun either, but if you have the strength of character that Alison has, one might find a successful and satisfying life.

Well, there it is…


Qapla’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Just Some Thoughts On The Movie And Fandom

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - My Thoughts on some aspects of the film.

At the outset, I am going to say that I enjoyed this film very much, and there will be spoilers here, so read on at your own peril.

As the film opens, we find that the Resistance (previously known as the Rebel Alliance) is rapidly being wiped out by the First Order (previously known as the Galactic Empire). In the previous film, The Force Awakens, Rey found Luke Skywalker on the planet Ahch-To where he is living in self-imposed exile. She is asking him to return to help with the fight and to train her in the ways of the Force as a Jedi. This is the setting for the much anticipated eighth part of the saga.

This post is not so much a review, it is more of a gathering of my thoughts, both positive and negative. I have read posts that have presented both sides of the argument for and against this film and I figured that I might as well weigh in too. So take it for what it is worth and try to remember, it is, after all, just a movie.

At the end of The Force Awakens, there were a couple of questions that I had on my mind. After giving it some thought, I had two theories about the characters Rey and Snoke. First I thought that it would turn out that Rey was the daughter of Luke Skywalker. I thought that some of the evidence that pointed to this included how she, while trapped on Jakku, had a Rebel Alliance pilot helmet and a doll dressed in an X-Wing pilot’s flight suit. I also thought that Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order was the resurrected Darth Vader, either in spirit, or in person. The reason for this was mainly for the scars that seemed to be in common with Anakin’s scars from Return of the Jedi. Well, both of my theories were wholly inaccurate as Rey turns out to be nothing more than an abandoned child left behind by uncaring parents (that is also dependent on whether we can believe what Rey was told by Kylo Ren).  Snoke has no real background revealed in the film and remains a mysterious figure who arose to power because of his command of the dark side of the Force. I am thinking that in the new novels currently being published, and also being touted as the new canon for the expanded universe, we are going to get the backstory on these two and many other characters as time goes on. I am not, in the least, upset that my theories were wrong.

I was somewhat upset by Luke Skywalker after my first viewing of the film. However, after the second viewing, I had a better understanding of the situation. In the original trilogy, Luke was the most optimistic, hopeful character one could ask for. All he wanted out of life was to be a part of something that was bigger than him. Thanks to Obi-Wan, instead of going to the Empire Academy, he wound up becoming a member of the Rebel Alliance and accomplished a great many things resulting finally in the downfall of Emperor Palpatine and the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Luke’s character in Last Jedi is a complete opposite of who he once was. He is a bitter old hermit who seems to be full of regret and anger. It was sad to see how he had almost become the anti-hero. On the other hand, I can see how he might have gone down the path of bitterness when looking at his failures. Luke was strong with the Force, although he didn’t know it, but because of his lineage, Obi-Wan knew it and made him his padawan learner. While Obi-Wan did give him some training, it turned out to be more of making Luke aware that he had abilities rather than any hard training. When Luke sought training from Yoda, it also was cut short because Luke felt obligated to save his associates at Bespin. Now, as we know, Jedi training is a lifelong study not only in the art of fighting, but in academics and philosophy as well. As a result, Luke took a quick path in his training, missing much of the philosophy of the Jedi. All of this was not Luke’s fault, but rather because of the desperate situation facing the Alliance to end the tyranny of Palpatine and restore liberty to the galaxy. With this in mind, Luke decides he will bring back the Jedi by training a new generation of students, and it leads to his biggest failure and the reason for his self-imposed exile. He is given his nephew, Ben Solo, to train in the ways of the Jedi. Son of Han and Leia, Ben is a descendant of Anakin Skywalker, who himself was seduced by the dark side. There was always a danger that Luke himself would fall to the dark side if he gave into his inner hatred of the Empire and the anger he was given to. It would seem that Ben Solo, was even more possessed by hatred and anger which caused Luke to even consider killing the son of his best friend and his sister. So, it would seem that Luke feels that he would do far more harm than good and decides to sequester himself and stay out of the picture altogether. He has become a conflicted and sad shadow of his former self. I first felt that he had become a coward, hiding away on a remote world only to let his sister lead the fight for freedom. Later I came to understand that he is not cowardly, but has convinced himself that any further involvement would only lead to disaster. He believes this so deeply that, whether we agree or not, it is the reality.

Luke is considered to be the last, best hope for the survival of the Resistance. While Luke himself doesn’t agree, he finally redeems himself in the end by providing a smokescreen for the ragtag remnants of the Resistance to escape and maybe fight another day. His self-imposed exile had made him into somewhat of a legend, but, in the end he is nothing but a man who has to reconcile his accomplishments against his failures as he fades out of existence. Luke’s passing is also a passing of the torch to the new generation of Star Wars fans. It will be interesting to see how this future unfolds. The old is now over as it has overlapped with what is new and the franchise will move forward with new heroes and ideas. One of those new ideas is the First Order under the leadership of Kylo Ren.

Speaking of Kylo Ren, here is one sad and messed up man. He is one of the most powerful villains in the Star Wars franchise but that isn’t enough for him. He wants to emulate his grandfather, Darth Vader. In Force Awakens, he runs his father, Han Solo through with a lightsaber and, while he hesitates himself, seems perfectly content with having his mother’s command ship attacked by TIE Fighters putting her at risk. At the same time, Ren is in telepathic contact with Rey and he tries diligently and unsuccessfully to talk her into joining him on the dark side. At the same time, Ren seems to be more influenced by Rey than anything. Ren is a very conflicted character who has started down a dark path, and there would seem to be no turning back.

Kylo Ren, or as I have come to refer to him as “Emo” Ren (yes, I understand that the term Emo refers to a sub-genre of Punk Rock music and has been misused for a long time, I am using the vernacular as it is commonly defined by today’s teens and young adults). Here is a man, all dressed in black with a very dark personality to match, all in the name of trying to impress his Supreme Leader, but never quite hitting the mark. Ren seems caught in the middle between being evil and good, and could fall either way given the right circumstances. That is, until he steps up and kills Snoke! I didn’t think Ren had it in him, but he makes himself the Supreme Leader, a role that seemed destined to be given to General Hux. Instead, leadership falls on Ren, who is given to fits of rage and episodes of melancholy. What kind of leader will he be? It is hard to say, but judging from how he was portrayed in Last Jedi, I am thinking that he will not be a great one. His conflicted, almost bi-polar instability may be of great detriment to the First Order, and there is always the question of whether Rey can turn him away from the Dark Side.

Rey herself is an interesting character to me for numerous reasons. One of those is that I can identify with her personally when thinking back to a scene from Force Awakens. As Rey went about her business on Jakku, collecting old parts and selling them for her subsistence, there is a scene in which she looks across a cleaning vat and sees an old woman cleaning parts to sell. I can imagine that she was terrified that one day, she would find herself in the same position. At that moment, she realizes that she must find a way to better herself and become someone who could make a difference. I, myself had the same realization when I was working at a gas station with a man who was 70 years old and had no hope of retiring from a nothing job. That is the moment when I decided to go to college and get a degree, but that’s a story for another time. In the case of Rey, while she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself, she was also reluctant to leave Jakku because she was holding vigil for her parents. Well, Rey found herself thrust into a position that allowed her to test her mettle, and so far she has been well up to the task. During her young life, she has learned to be strong and independent and that has taken her quite far. When you add her apparent natural ability to channel the Force, she would seem to be unstoppable. She is very sure of herself and quite admirable and I look forward to her future development in the franchise.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I love this film, however it is not without its flaws and disappointments. As far as I am concerned, the biggest disappointment was the humor as it appeared in Last Jedi. Every film in the franchise contains humor that adds much to the story and provides a little comic relief to the intense moments. Up until now, the humor has always been more subtle and part of a character’s personality. Last Jedi is different because the humor seemed more forced and over pronounced. It was as though the script and the director were reaching for the laughs. This is an unforgivable flaw that I had to work hard to overlook lest the film would have been ruined for me (I felt this once before when I saw The Phantom Menace). The entire scene with Poe Dameron taunting General Hux is a prime example of this kind of humor. While it might seem hilarious on the surface, that particular scene took a very strong character and made him look like a buffoon. Remember that speech given by Hux in Force Awakens? The one just before the First Order fired the planet killing weapon at Coruscant that wiped out all traces of the Imperial government. That speech sent chills down my spine and served to make me see Hux as a formidable individual. What happened in Last Jedi made Hux look like an idiot as Poe talked trash to him and Hux bought into it. It is very sad to see a character like Hux get nerfed so badly that he may never recover.

And while I am thinking of characters that were badly nerfed, what of Poe? Here’s a character that appeared in Force Awakens as an amazing pilot and trusted high ranking officer as well as a confidant to General Skywalker herself. In Last Jedi, he appears to be an insubordinate maverick who believes he can just disobey orders whenever it suits him. But he doesn’t just stop at insubordination, he goes to the level of treason when he openly defies the commander who takes over when Leah is incapacitated! In doing that, Poe seemed to be more of a threat to his own people than the First Order ever did. His actions would only serve to kill what little morale was left in the Resistance movement where he should have been leading by example, even if he did disagree with the lawful command of Leah’s replacement, Vice Admiral Holdo. If this is the Poe we are going to get in future installments of Star Wars films, my vote is to drum him out of the service and maroon him on an out of the way planet.

While any movie will have plot holes and inconsistencies, one was pointed out to me by a friend whom I respect and admire. She said that “it ruined her entire childhood,” but I took this very much as a tongue-in-cheek remark because I know she is not that superficial. It was a slow night at the writers meeting I was attending when my turn came up to read what I had written. I read the first page or so of this post. A discussion broke out about the film and my friend said that she thought it strange that when Luke disappeared, his mechanical hand also disappeared. She thought this unusual since it was not a part of him. As I thought about this I found that I was in agreement with her. Why would his robe stay behind while his prosthetic went with him into wherever Yoda went when he moved on leaving his cane and robe behind? And when Obi-Wan was dispatched by Vader, his robe and lightsaber were likewise left behind. After Luke defeated Vader and dragged him to the shuttle in Return of the Jedi, we knew that a lot of what was left of Vader was “more machine than man” as Obi-Wan informed Luke. We all saw what happened to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith when Obi-Wan severed Anakin’s legs, and he was badly burned on Mustafar, not to mention that Luke had also severed Vader’s hand in Return of the Jedi. Yet, when Anakin appeared with Yoda and Obi-Wan before the closing credits of Episode VI, he was whole again and restored. Now to me, this is a very small plot hole, or perhaps an oversight, but nonetheless, it is something to be considered.

In any case, there is no shortage of fandom opinion, mostly negative, and much of it is vulgar. Hatred for Last Jedi can be found everywhere, and even more for Disney and for the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. I am not going to point out where it can be found on the internet as it is everywhere. On the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, the current numbers are, to me at least, very weird. Right now, as I am writing this, the critics give Last Jedi a 91% approval rating while at the same time, only 49% of audience respondents liked the film. Wikipedia reports that the film has grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide, so someone must be liking it. Those who don’t are saying that they are through with Star Wars altogether and will not be returning for further installments claiming that Disney has effectively killed the franchise. One such person is a friend of mine that was so incensed by the movie that he posted nearly every day for two weeks about all of the things he hated and the reasons he would no longer be a fan. That’s a lot of hurt.

Personally, I do not understand why fandom feels the need to not only hate something that they do not have control over, and then try to convince others to go along with their point of view, as if they need to be validated for their feelings. If you are one of those that didn’t like Last Jedi, I am quite okay with that. Go ahead and hate all you want, rant all you want, and threaten to never again watch another Star Wars movie. It’s all good; no one dragged you to the theater to see it, and no one will drag you there to see the next one, but I will go on record now saying that I am sure you will actually be in the audience for whatever comes next. You’ll pay your admission, grab a popcorn and soda, and go in with the expectation that you are going to hate what you are about to see. You’ll do this because you need something to gripe about. Even if it is a perfect film, you’re still going to find something that rubbed you the wrong way, and you’re going to blow it way out of proportion. Further, you’re going to go on Facebook and try to convince others that you are right, and you may even find a few others that agree with you. And when you fail to convince everyone that you are right, you’re going to call them names and ridicule them because they didn’t see the same flaws you did, and you’ll troll others trying to pick your little fights with them. All of this because perhaps you have nothing else to look forward to in your life than nitpicking an entertainment.

I have said before, fandom is insane.

But I don’t care, I loved The Last Jedi, and I know that I will enjoy whatever is next. See, it is all a matter of perspective. Love it or hate it, but at the end of the day, it’s just a movie. At any rate, what we have seen is a resetting of the saga. The torch (or lightsaber) has been passed to a new generation and I am excited to see what is coming next.

Well, there it is…

May the Force be with you…

Qapla’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Nomad: A Thriller (The New Earth Series Book 1) by Matthew Mather - Thrills And Disturbing Science

Nomad: A Thriller (The New Earth Series Book 1) by Matthew Mather

I learned about this title on Facebook and decided to give it a look because of the description on Amazon.com.

Ben Rollins is an astrophysicist who learns of a massive gravitational anomaly in space headed for our solar system. The anomaly called Nomad will, at best, lay waste to the surface of the Earth. Nomad will cause tidal forces on the planet that will result in massive tsunami, major seismic disturbances, as well as rampant volcanic activity. At worse, Nomad will tear the solar system apart sending the sun and the planets careening off into space in different directions. What’s more, Nomad is just weeks away from passing through the heart of our solar system and there is nothing that can be done about it.

Meanwhile, several hundred miles to the south in Italy, Ben’s daughter, Jennifer and her mother are vacationing when they become caught up in the middle of a feud between two families that only want to be sure they come out on top, even knowing that the world is about to come to an end.

All over the world, there are wars starting, or escalating, there is looting and violence breaking out across the globe and, of course, the religious fanatics are fueling the fire by preaching that their “god” is bringing this about because of the evil that has gripped humanity.

Matthew Mather has penned an awesome picture of a possible apocalypse in this first of four novels. This book is awesome in how scary it is as well as the feel of realism and plausibility of the events that take place in the narrative. I honestly found myself reading every spare minute I had to digest this story from the very first page. There is a lot in this book; it is very fast paced and engaging.

Nomad is touted to be a thriller which veils the Science Fiction aspects of the book. It is very much a work of Sci-Fi that reflects some of what we have learned scientifically over the past few decades.

The author has taken great pains to be sure that his work is scientifically accurate. Mather consulted with astrophysicists and astronomers to make sure his creation would work scientifically. In Mather’s scenario, Nomad is a binary primordial black hole system. That is, two black holes orbiting each other as they move in a straight line through interstellar space. Each of the black holes has a mass that is forty times that of our own sun, which means that Nomad’s gravitational effect on objects that it comes near is huge. Mather crafted his story so that Nomad would pass the Earth and the Sun at very near the same distance, which means that Earth’s orbit around our star isn’t affected as much as some of the other objects in our solar system. As far as the inner planets are concerned, two of the four are thrown completely out of their orbital plane. Saturn, is pulled into a new orbit that has the probability of a very close encounter with the Earth some time after Nomad has passed through the solar system. In the meantime, the Earth will stay within the “Goldilocks Zone” in relation to the Sun, which has also been sent on a new path through the galaxy. The end result is that, in Mather’s scenario, the Earth experiences cataclysmic destruction but remains intact allowing for future stories. I found a video of the author demonstrating the science behind the story...


The question in my mind is whether something like this is
actually possible. We often refer to the universe as a cosmos, which can be defined as a complete, orderly, and harmonious system. The reality of space is hardly cosmic in nature. Even within the confines of our own planet there are forces at work that cause disasters all the time. They are recorded as part of recent history in the forms of earthquakes, volcanoes, massive fires, and weather events that we read about or see in the news. On the scale of the galaxy, or let alone the universe, the distances are so vast that encounters between objects happen on equally astronomical time scales.

As to the story, there are actually two main plots that run through the book. That of the approaching Nomad anomaly itself, and that of Jennifer and her family. There isn’t a lot to say about the Nomad part of the plot because it is headed into the heart of the solar system and there is nothing that is going to stop it. For its part, There are small vignettes of stories that are in the form of reports of events that are, or have taken place before and during Nomad’s encounter with our planet. They are just little snippets that are ominous themselves, to remind us that something big is about to happen.

Jennifer’s story is not what I would consider a sci-fi theme as she and her mother are trapped in Italy while on vacation and they become caught up in a feud between Italian families. Jennifer herself is an interesting character in that she is a veteran, a rock climber, and an amputee, having lost a part of a leg in an IED attack during a war. She is a dynamic character and in this story, we find that she is a survivor. She knows how to stay calm in seemingly impossible situations and cope with surprises. Not only that, she seems to be a well educated young woman that knows what the implications of Nomad’s approach to Earth will be, and thanks to that, she will survive to carry on in future novels. Many have said that she is not a very likable character, to which I can somewhat agree. Along with her strengths, she seems to have a number of emotional issues that are more of an impairment than her physical challenge.

The major theme of the book is how the human race decides to cope with the approach of Nomad. Will everyone just accept what is about to happen, and quietly succumb to extinction? According to the author, that may be the case for some, but others are going to be sure they get their last shots in at their enemies. All over the globe there is rioting, and looting. There are numerous skirmishes that would seem to be carried out by government entities, and nuclear weapons are exchanged. After all is said and done, the end result of the wars will not matter, most of the population will perish. No one will be able to enjoy what they have looted, it won’t be of use after Nomad passes. It is really sad that I share Mather’s vision of our behavior in the true last days; I fear he may be
all too right.

I recommend this book and intend to read the rest of the New Earth Series that is in four volumes.

Well, there it is…


Qapla’!

Edited by Benjamin Arrowood