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.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe by Mike Massimino

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe by Mike Massimino

Every now and again, I find that I need to get away from the realm of Science Fiction and read something that is more based on fact. That opportunity presented itself recently when I became aware that Astronaut Mike Massimino had penned an autobiography outlining his experiences on becoming and being a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps.

Previous to reading Spaceman, my exposure to the author came through some of the interviews he conducted for the NASA Channel, some of the interviews of which he was the subject, and through his frequent appearances on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s weekly StarTalk Radio show which is available through iTunes. I have always enjoyed listening to Mike because, along with his giant sense of humor, he is an intelligent and thoughtful individual, but not one to be overstated when he talks. He is very personable as he visits with Dr. Tyson and others and just listening to him, you cannot call him anything other than Mike. So if he happens to read this post, it is my hope that Dr. Mike Massimino will forgive my presumptuousness in referring to him as just Mike. Along with listening to him talk and especially since reading his book, I feel this is a man that I could be friends with; he’s just an ordinary guy who found and made opportunities to do some truly extraordinary things in his life, and he’s still going strong.

Spaceman is the story of Mike’s journey to become a very important part of what has kept the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit and operating for so many years (the Hubble has been in orbit since April, 1990 and has taken numerous breathtaking photos as well as performed above and beyond expectations as astronomers continue to regularly make new discoveries about the universe). Starting out dreaming of becoming an astronaut at a young age, Mike would read everything he could get his hands on and dream of going into space. Among his inspirations there was the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, and the release of the film The Right Stuff  in 1983. From there, Mike embarked on his life’s mission to become an astronaut which took many twists and turns that could have very well ended any possibility of his achieving his goal. However, there is no quit in Mike and as each obstacle presented itself, he would find a way to overcome and persevere, usually with the help of others. In the book, Mike often writes about the importance of teamwork and how being a team player opened doors of opportunity that he would not have been able to open by himself.

Mike’s writing style is conversational and straightforward, and it is obvious that he intended this book for anyone to enjoy. While there are many references to the technical aspects of his work with NASA, the reader is not overwhelmed by those aspects and they are explained adequately so one can understand without being distracted from the author’s story. However, what I found to be outstanding in this book were Mike’s descriptions of his time in space; the sights, the sounds (or lack thereof), and the way that astronauts support each other.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys learning more about what the men and women involved with the space program sacrifice to achieve their goals, and to further demonstrate that an alternate way to approaching seemingly insurmountable problems is to face them and solve them as opposed to quitting. I would especially recommend this book to any young people that may be considering pursuing a career with NASA as a fine, inspirational starting point for becoming prepared for an interesting life if one is willing to do the work it takes to get there.

Well, there it is…


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Patriots of Mars by Jeff Faria - A Fine First Novel With A Surprise Ending!

Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed by Jeff Faria

A few weeks ago, I followed the author, Jeff Faria, on Twitter after he followed me. It wasn’t long after that he sent me an instant message offering to send me a copy of his new book, Patriot of Mars, in exchange for a fair and honest review of his work.  I replied to his message that I would be willing to do as he asked.

In the not too distant future, the Earth has all but run out of resources and has turned to our neighbor in the solar system, Mars to continue to provide what is needed for the continuation of life on our planet. In what is becoming an all too familiar trope, the corporations of Earth are in control of all aspects of mining the resources on the Red Planet and the workers there are little more than indentured servants. A small number of more wealthy earth citizens have also taken up residence on Mars to further add to the exploitation of resources and people there. While everyone seems to be happy with their situation, either running businesses or working for the corporations of Earth, a contingency would seem to be looking to gain independence when a freighter is attacked and its cargo is sent into space in a kind of Boston Tea Party-ish sort of move to claim Martian independence under the name of the Patriots of Mars. While I mentioned that this is an all too familiar trope, all is not what it seems as the story develops.

The story focuses on a young worker, Josh Reynolds who has no political aspirations, is not interested in Martian independence, nor wants any more than to do his job, take care of his mother, and hang out with his closest friends between shifts. Unfortunately for Josh, he becomes the object of scrutiny after he leads a group of his co workers out of a collapsed mine in a situation that no one should have been able to get out of. The police on Mars believe him to be one of, if not the leader of, a group of Patriots that caused the mining accident shortly after the routing of the freighter.

Back on Earth, the corporations convince the puppet government to dispatch troops to Mars to quell the uprising and their eventual arrival is going to make life for everyone on the Red Planet miserable, if not unbearable. Josh is thrust into the role of a leader that must find a way to turn the troop transport back before the unthinkable happens.

All the while, the plots weave in and out and everything comes to a head, but not in any way that might be called predictable, thus the trope is smashed and something new is coming to Mars.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons, one of which was the character development. As I read, I found that there were several characters that I was caring about and some that I was hoping would be successful. Along with that, there were other characters that, while interesting, were not very nice people at all; these were the people that were interested in exploiting any possible avenue to reap profit from any one else’s disadvantages. There was also one character in particular that intrigued me and that I want to learn more about; that character was named MOM. MOM is not a human, but rather a massive computer systems that regulates many aspects of life on both Mars and Earth. MOM’s role in the book is almost kept in the background for a good portion of the story, but makes her presence known in a big way in the final chapters of the book, thus setting up a next book.

One of the things that I was most impressed with was the detailed, yet not overstated world building the author incorporates in his work. The descriptions of the landscape and locations on Mars are plausible and palpable. That, along with the way that the characters at all levels interact with the environment and each other make this a fun and thought provoking story to read.

Patriots of Mars may be touted as a young adult sci-fi novel as it focuses a great deal on a small group of young adults, in my opinion, I think it would appeal to sci-fi fans of almost all ages.  However, due to the intricate blending of several story elements, perhaps readers aged seventeen and older would probably get the most out of it.

Well, there it is…