2020 continues to be a little bitch of a year by robbing the SF world of one of its luminaries. Bova died of a stroke and complications related to COVID-19, so let's be a sad reminder to wear your damn mask, social distance, and wash those grubby hands.
|A scout ship from Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares.|
No idea why, but my organic computer has been stuck on the idea of scout ships in SF recently. I think it might have come from thinking about the scout and outpost ships from one of my favorite computer games, Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares. In the game, the scout is the cheapest and quickest of your combat vessels that you can build early on. I would use the word "combat" loosely because while they are armed, they aren't at all suitable for combat. In fact, last night I was watching a video on YouTube of someone playing MoO2 and they went ahead and removed the weapons from the first scout they built because it was pointless equipping the ship with them. The main job of the scout is to well, scout. In the game, these are the ships you build first and send out ASAP to explore nearby star systems. Outpost ships, meanwhile, can serve a similar function, but with the additional ability to establish an outpost (just like the name says, wow!) in whatever system they're sent to (provided there's something there to build it on).
But it did get me thinking, though. First, it was what I want to call the quiet nobility of scouting vessels not just in Master of Orion 2, but in science fiction in general. If we think about them in a "in-universe" context, the nobility lies in the willingness of the crews to plunge into the unknowns of space, of the uncertainty of what they'll find when they drop out of FTL flight into an unexplored star system. Not knowing if that system is occupied or not and if it is, whether the inhabitants are friendly or hostile. The challenges that the crew of a fictional scout face would be myriad and immense. They're not unlike the scouts, pioneers, and frontiersmen in our real life history who would trek into the depths of unexplored land in order to make maps a little less blank.
The 'quiet' part of the nobility is that they're simply unsung compared to others. What I mean is which ships typically get the most attention in space operas, military SF, and other genres? The big ones like battleships, cruisers, and dreadnoughts. There's probably not many books, movies, TV shows, etc. where the small, "lowly" scout ship is the center of attention. And that's a shame because I have to imagine that the crews of these ships are among the bravest, hardiest, people to serve. You would have to be when you honestly have no idea if the next time your ship drops out of FTL, it'll be into clear space or right into an errant asteroid.
It's really a shame that they don't get more attention and "love" in SF media. I'd rather read about their adventures than those set on a warship or other big ship.
It's been a while since I've done a rundown on my recent reading adventures so I thought I'd share, because sharing is caring.
Marque and Reprisal By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #2): Speaking of which, here is the second novel. As I said just above, the overall plot of Vatta's War starts with MR. Ky's family and their interstellar trading empire are both devastated in massive coordinated attacks, leaving her to try and pick up the pieces and figure out who is behind the attacks, all while trying to survive of course. MR introduces several important characters that the story shifts between throughout the series.
Engaging the Enemy By Elizabeth Moon (Vatta's War #3): Yup, I read the first three books in a row. Kinda. There was a fantasy novel between the second and third books, but I think it still counts. Engaging the Enemy picks up not long after Marque and Reprisal ends. Ky now has a second ship, one much more combat capable than the one she started out with. This also means that Ky now has the capability to both find out who was behind the attacks on her family and to mete out vengeance. We also see a division form between Ky and her cousin Stella over how to rebuild the family business. While all this is going on, we get to see their Aunt, Grace Lane Vatta, begin her own investigation and revenge against those who were complicit in the attacks on the Vatta family's home planet.
The Last Emperox By John Scalzi (The Interdependency Series #3): Finally, a book that isn't Vatta's War! I finally got the chance to read the last book in John Scalzi's excellent Interdependency Series after the local public library reopened. It was worth the months of waiting too. TLE wraps up the series nicely. My only complaint is that the last part of the book felt rushed.
Network Effect By Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #5): Another long awaited read. I love The Murderbot Diaries and if you haven't read the series, then you should. Network Effect is the first novel in the series, the previous four books being novellas and I can say that while the series works well in both categories, I much prefer novel length. In NE, Murderbot and some of its supporting cast get shanghaied on a familiar (to the reader) ship in a long lost colony. Adventure ensues, much to Murderbot's annoyance.
Regardless, I really liked Command Decision. We get more action, the plot advances suitably, and I can't wait to finish the series.
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Considering we are, both, going through the Easter period, and going through The Lockdown, I figured it a good time to put a silver lining onto the cloud that is some of the darker moments during this time. So I've decided to polish some old skills and try my hand at some new ones! It is a time of rebirth after all. So, as you can see here, the obvious might look a little bit like a tiny helmet...which it is. One of my almost life long hobbies, that I've been following but not actively doing, is this. A company called Games Workshop...or plastic crack as "we" call it. Genuinely can't get enough of the lore they have built over the decades. They have been some of my most enthused reads! If you were in denial about me being a geek before, you can't hide from it now. Also, in the background of this photo, there may just be some completely new skills I'm working on.....or there may not be, so all of your eye squinting and attempts at digital unfocusing will be in vain....orrrr maybe they won't. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank, from the bottom of my heart, all of the NHS (National Health Service, here in the UK) and healthcare workers worldwide, for your unceasing efforts to protect us. I imagine it might be feeling a little rough right now, but you Ladies and Gents are absolutely smashing it! Keep it up! You got this. "Hold on a second", I hear you utter....."if he has both hands in the photo...how is he taking the photo??" New skills, my friends....new skills. #Easter #Passover #GamesWorkshop #ProperGeek #Custodes #NewSkills #NHS #ThankYou #Raggy?
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|This man has no right being this handsome. This is why I'm ugly AF.|
if you just scroll down a couple of inches), I bought this book last year at a new bookstore I had discovered in town. Having re-read the first book in the series, Mutineer, I decided to dive straight into Deserter and finished in short order. It was enjoyable, but didn't knock my socks off. I would still recommend it.
I'm already deep into Deserter and it's living up to expectations.
Rescue Party: A survey ship from a multi-species federation is dispatched to our solar system after it's discovered that the Sun is about to go nova. Their mission is to explore as much of the third planet as they can and if possible, rescue as many humans as they're able.
This is a neat story because it's told from the perspective of alien explorers. They've never encountered humans before, so they naturally don't understand most of what they find as they explore the Earth. This leads to a tense moment where a group of them find themselves trapped on a subway car. They're rescued, but the whole expedition is forced to leave before the Earth is destroyed, so they assume that their mission is a failure. It isn't. They discover humanity's fate and it leads to an upbeat ending.
This is one of my favorite stories of the collection because of the alien perspective and the ending.
A Walk in the Dark: The back cover of the book describes this as an "old-fashioned ghost story set on an alien world", but I would describe it as boring. I love Arthur C. Clarke's stories, but this one was just not good. The plot is a simple one where the narrator is walking to a spaceport on the aforementioned alien world at night when his flashlight fails, forcing him to make the journey in pitch blackness. He becomes unnerved along the way because the darkness forces him to dwell on a stories he has heard about near encounters with something that may or may not exist on what is believed to be an uninhabited (prior to humans showing up, that is) planet.
I didn't like this one because there was no tension or anything. Maybe this would have been a chilling story back in 1950 when this short was originally published, but not today. The ending felt tacked on too. A Walk in the Dark is probably my least favorite.