The Churchill Quote On Democracy

Every time a democratic kind of government comes under discussion, sooner or later somebody will pick up a famous quote of the late Winston Churchill on the subject.

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Winston S. Churchill, 11 November 1947 (*)

This is a perfect show-stopper. It’s a strong argument; it comes from a famous historical character, it also has that kind of British humor that always hit the spot. The real question here is: can we put democracy under a real debate?

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Michael R. Johnston – The Widening Gyre

Author: Michael R. Johnston 

Title: The Widening Gyre

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on March 2019]

 

Synopsis: Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship. Given a place to live by the Zhen, humans are safe. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species, and humans have faced persecution. One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero but he failed in a crucial mission and resigned in disgrace. When Tajen discovers his brother has been killed by agents of the Empire, he and his crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity.

Review: 

Every now and then the Space Opera genre wakes up from its current day mediocrity, and something good shines under the light of a different star. This is what happened with this book, which has the predetermined potential to become the first of a series. The basic concept (see the synopsis) is not new, and the setting is also a well-known trope in the business, what shines is the craft of the author and his ability to create a real page-turner that releases here and there moments of fun alternate with a lot of well-depicted action.

Quite frankly, it’s not a back-to-the-basics novel. Space Opera was pulp action set in a science fiction environment (back off, this is my opinion!), most of the time centered on a likable character and a set of useful cardboards supporting actors. The gist was the struggle against big enemies, with a flamboyant third act to prepare the final triumph. In this book we got plenty of conflict, drama and almost impossible odds; but the characters are all well-portrayed, believable and “real” enough to keep the reader close to every page. Plus, we have a current level of complexity in the world building and a lot of hints about the backstory of the whole alien civilization in charge.

The plot is a crescendo, which is a tradition for a Space Opera. The difference between this book and many others is about the plot management. Every step, every bump-and-grind moment of the story, flows naturally with ease. That keeps the reader comfortable, well set in the story. The use of the first person is often criticized in a story full of action, but it works just fine in this novel. It’s an old trick, a way to tell the reader that there is always a way out for the main character. Just stick with Tajen Hunt and ride shotgun in his spaceship, the ride will be worthy of your money.

The pros of this book are based on a magnificent world-building, with a believable alien race. The backstory of the Zhen empire is solid, and it’s functional to the comprehension of their civilization. The main character development is also substantial, and the same applies to the main cast.

The cons of this book are about tropes. I know, it’s tough to create something new in a subgenre explored for decades, not to mention the movies. Let’s say that the ghost of Han Solo and the spirit of the Millenium Falcon are in their places, OK?

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 07,50 / 10,00.

A Quick Sketch – because Neil Gaiman say so

You know, sometimes it just happens. You stumble on a quote, some strange connections work in your head and here it is, you find yourself drawing again after too many years.

This is the original quote, from Neil Gaiman:

The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

You don’t have to put the blame on him, of course. It’s about my Pilot V5 and a few minutes of free roaming from some brain cells.

National Science Fiction Day

I borrow this one from the US list of national days. I do it because science fiction is, and was, very important to me. From ground-breaking thoughts to differents points of view, from larger-than-life characters to incredible lifeforms, science fiction is a game changer for me. Learn what you “should” do here.

Today is also the birthday of Isaac Asimov. If you don’t know who he was, then you’re very young or very misinformed. Take a look around and get yourself on track. Ad Astra!

Farewell to 2018

When flown without tethers, the Avrocar was unstable and could reach top speed of only 35 mph. (U.S. Air Force photo)

You know, it’s “that” time of the year. Yep. The last day, time for check and balances and all that. A time to think about all the excellent stuff we planned and to realize what happened when reality took its toll from it. To tell the truth, it’s also one of the peak dates for suicides.

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Daniel M. Bensen – Junction

Author: Daniel M. Bensen

Title: Junction

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

[Advance reader copy, due to be published on January 2019]

 

Synopsis: There’s a wormhole in New Guinea and, while much isn’t known, one thing is for sure – on the other side is a planet similar to ours, with a habitat suitable for life. Japanese nature show host Daisuke Matsumori will be one of the first to visit Junction, a patchwork planet of competing alien ecosystems. But his exploratory party crashes in the wilderness and members continue to die. What is causing these deaths? At first it seems clear that is must be an alien predator or the hazardous landscape, but Daisuke starts to wonder wheter human politics might be more deadly than alien biology.

Review: 

One of the significant challenges of science fiction is world building, a key factor for any novel-length work. If the author fails to deliver a believable world, then everything else fails, no matter how good could be the prose or how accurate could be the cast of characters. It’s a dangerous game, balanced between the need to portray something different from reality and the challenge to win the suspension of disbelief from the readers.

Daniel Bentsen apparently doesn’t like to play safe and starts this novel with a bang, placing a wormhole on Earth. That’s a bold move for sure, followed by another – on the other side of the wormhole (!), there’s a planet that connects an unknown number of wormholes (!!), each with a different ecosystem in the closeness.

Add to the mix one of the most peculiar cast of characters ever seen, set up as an exploration party in this strange new world, then put in a massive dose of well-built scientific speculation about different life forms and biochemistry (yay!) plus the familiar thrill of the adventure and a whodunit that leaves corpses scattered along the path. What do you get? Well, it’s one of the most unique science fiction novel in the last ten years or so. What’s even more interesting is that there is the potential for much more, for more novels or even a shared universe, all along the n-ways to get in and out of Junction.

The pros of this book are about originality, solid bases on real science (biochemistry), humor and some great choice in the development of the main characters.

The cons of this book are about a lack of perspective about the potential of such a discovery in the “real” world. We get a lot of hints about the tension between countries and such, but it’s the weakest part of the book.

Where to find it: Flame Tree Pressamazon.com

Vote: 08,00 / 10,00.

Five reasons to say NO to the Global Compact for Migration

A few days from now (10-11 December 2018) will be held in Marrakesh (Morocco) a United Nations conference for the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration (from now on, GCM).  This will be the end of a long journey for GCM, and a very important step in the fulfilling of the  New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

As previously stated in the title of this post, I’m all against this agreement. I’m also fully aware of the growing problem of forced migration all around the world, not to mention the growth of a number of endogen factors that will likely cause more migration in the near future.  To state the obvious, I’m not some kind of racist nutcase.

I’ve spent a bit of time reading the full GCM text, available here courtesy of the UN. Well, it’s not what the mainstream media are trying to sell.

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