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.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lost Days By Michael Jan Friedman - Aimed At Younger Audiences, But A Great Read For Any Age

Lost Days by Michael Jan Friedman (2015)

A few months ago, Mike Friedman announced a second Kickstarter project to raise funds to publish a new story that he explained was to be aimed at younger readers. Well, as a professional educator and science fiction fan, I immediately got on board with this. Mike explained that he is concerned that students (just to be clear, the author is also a junior high history teacher) aren’t reading enough and struggle learning history. Well, Mike thought that he would write a history lesson into an entertaining story and hopefully make learning history more palatable. After reading Lost Days, I must say that I think he has succeeded spectacularly.

The story centers around young Anthony Borelli, a pretty good student who, with the encouragement of one of his teachers, has become very interested in history, particularly that of the Italian Renaissance. He is not a large kid and is often bullied, but manages to weather the storm well. One day, after a series of small calamities, Anthony is exhausted and falls asleep on his bed. When he awakens, he finds himself in very unfamiliar surroundings. As a matter of fact, he has somehow time traveled from 2015 back to the year 1582!

For those of you that are not aware, one of the major events of that year was when the Julian calendar was adjusted by ten days to bring about the calendar that we use today, the Gregorian calendar. For many years, the calendar had the date for the Easter holiday drifting around when in the days of the early church, it was originally tied to the first day of spring. Owing to the research of Italian scientist, Aloysius Lilius (as well as others later on), Pope Gregory XIII adopted what became our modern calendar with twelve months in the year instead of ten, and made sure that Easter fell at the same time every year, in accordance with the early church. So, since there were ten days taken out of the calendar, Mike saw the opportunity for an imaginary paradox in which he would tells the story of what might have happened during those ten lost days.

Anthony has been thrust into carrying out a most daunting mission, and that is to be sure that the change in the calendar does indeed take place, because if it doesn’t, it may very well have grave consequences that reach far into the future, or perhaps the destruction of the entire human race.

Along with the story that Mike has woven, he has included a very vivid picture of what life must have been like for the common people of a small town in Italy. While conditions there might not have been ideal by our modern standards, things were much as they are today with people having to maintain their standard of living through perseverance and hard work. When disaster strikes, people pull together to help one another, kids run and play games, and community leaders work to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. The characters that Mike has created are people we might recognize as our neighbors and friends. Make no mistake though, while times are rough in the late 16th century, they only get tougher as one turns the pages. It is pretty plain that the author has done his own homework on this one as he uses words to complete what it must have been like to live in the past.

While this book is categorized as being for younger readers, say from sixth graders on up, I found that I was enjoying it and appreciating it for what it is; a great story. I think people of any age could pick this up and be entertained, or even absorbed, as I myself was. I was hooked from the start and seriously regretted having to set this book aside to take care of my own responsibilities.

If you are a teacher with students who are reluctant to read a book, or likewise a parent who struggles with children that believe reading to be boring, then I would suggest that this might be a good book to introduce those young people to, because this is one story that has characters that kids can relate to in situations that are not only interesting, but a little harrowing at times, and who knows, perhaps they will learn something along the way.

Well, there it is…


Saturday, November 14, 2015

In Ashes Born By Nathan Lowell - Another Brilliant Installment Of The Solar Clipper Series

In Ashes Born: A Seeker’s Tale From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper By Nathan Lowell (2015)

It was just about this time last year I visited with my friend, J.P. Harvey, on Skype so he could tell me about the Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper series of books by Nathan Lowell. There are six books in that series that I started reading at the beginning of the holiday break from school and was so taken by the series that I proceeded to read five of the six books during that not quite two week break. I finished reading the sixth book soon after break was done. If you are interested, you can find my reviews of the first three books by clicking HERE and the second half of the saga by clicking HERE.

The events of In Ashes Born begin just a few days short of six months after the end of Owner’s Share, the sixth book of the Solar Clipper series. At the end of that segment, we left Captain Ishmael Wang, the owner of his own small freighter, healing from a wound he sustained in an attack from an unknown assailant who also took the life of his newly found love, Greta. Previously, Ishmael, or Ish as he is often referred to, had come upon a freighter whose crew fell to a tragedy thanks to neglect. Ish and some of his fellow crewmates went aboard the ill fated and adrift derelict Chernyakova and returned it to a port.  While Ish stood to gain financially for the salvage rights, he was also sickened at the condition of the ship and especially at seeing how the crew had all perished.

It is now May and Ish has sold his business and has banked enough credits that he will never have to work another day in his life. He has many options open to him but cannot seem to decide what exactly he wants to do. The only other home he has ever known, other than ships he has served on or commanded, is the officer’s academy on Port Newmar, where he has returned. As a captain and graduate of the academy, he is welcomed by his former captain and now commandant of the academy, Alys. He also runs into other friends such as Cookie who supervised him at the beginning of his career and, more importantly to this story, Philip “Pip” Carstairs, with whom Ish had learned the fine art of trading.

While Ish is looking for a new path, Pip has been planning to go into business for himself, and his plan includes Ish. Pip plans to purchase the Chernyakova, restore it to space worthiness and begin hauling freight. He wants Ish to be the captain, but the latter refuses the offer and comes back with a counteroffer to become Pip’s partner in the venture as well as captain of the ship.

Ish and Pip have many challenges facing them as the make arrangements for financing, but the challenges for Ish go even deeper as he faces what has transpired in the more recent past. Out of the ashes of the past, Ish and Pip rise like a phoenix and form their company, which brings about a whole new bunch of challenges and makes one great story.

Dr. Lowell continues to pen brilliant stories in this series of books. One does not necessarily need to be a fan of science fiction literature to find enjoyment in The Solar Clipper series of books. The “hero” of the story, Ishmael Wang, is an orphan who, partially by luck, and mostly by hard work and study, has risen to the top of his game as a captain of freighters that just happen to be delivering cargo between spaceports. All of the characters in Lowell’s stories are basically ordinary people doing ordinary jobs under extraordinary circumstances. The ships that travel from place to place are not armed, are not equipped with transporters, and the crews are not bigger than life. They are just people with particular talents and they use those talents to haul the freight and stay alive in the “Deep Dark” between star systems.

This story is clearly written as we follow Ishmael through his adventure. There isn’t a lot of technical jargon to get through, and the author only explains the technical aspects that really need to be explained. The chapters are short, each being a snapshot of a scene, and are often a small story in themselves. While I think that the story in this book could stand alone, it is even better when one is familiar with the universe created by Dr. Lowell.

One of my favorite aspects of this author’s writing is how he quickly develops characters that the reader can care about, and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series which Dr. Lowell promises will be very soon.

Well, there it is…