Thursday, September 29, 2016

Geek Mafia, Rick Dakan

Geek Mafia (2006) is a book by Rick Dakan. It is available for free on

The setting is a decade ago. Computers at that time had reached maturity. High speed Internet was in its infancy. There is a mafia in San Jose, California, whose mission is to steal using the tools at their disposal: technology of the day, via hacking and other methods.

The main character, Paul Reynolds, was fired from a company whose existence was his brainchild and creation. The company, getting close to making his brainchild into a successful game is on the verge of making serious money, and choose that moment to force him out. As such, he's been made by a group of hackers who decide to con the company and himself out of a big payout.

It succeeds, and they manage to squeeze $850,000 out of the company through blackmail and extortion. That might have been enough for Paul to live on for a long time. But he's gotten a taste for Chloe, and Chloe has gotten a taste for Paul. He loves the life that she brings him into.

However, Raff, one of her crew, feels betrayed by the fact that Chloe falls for Paul and she attempts to let him off with his money (although perhaps this was inadvertent, as is later revealed by some failure to track Paul as he found a place to stash it). He tries to join the crew and helps orchestrate a few cons, the last of which makes him wanted by the FBI. It was a set up from the inside which unravels the last and nearly costs him his life.

The narration is pretty decent for a free modern novel. Rick Dakan has skill. The novel is hindered, however, by many mistakes which could have been corrected by a decent proofreader. The worst mistake was one chapter that ended abruptly and reprinted previous chapters. It did not usually detract too much from the story. However, it would have been much better without all of the mistakes.

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley

Mary Shelly is a pioneer and legendary writer. Some argue that she wrote the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein. Her father was a famous writer, as was her husband. However, I think it likely that she is today the most famous of them, and her work is seminal to the great genre that is science fiction. She wrote at a time when women often used pen names to hide their femininity. I think this made her something of a feminist.

A common theme among many science fiction stories is the idea that too much science is a bad thing. While in fiction she may be the first to describe the consequences of too much science, certainly there are many real life examples in history where a scientist has suffered for his science. “... if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, America would have been discovered more gradually, and the emperor of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.” However, I would lay the blame of this at the feet of religious intolerance rather than the pursuit of science. I think, rather, that science is a vehicle for significant change, and change frightens most people.

Consequence of too much study: “Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime.”

A part of the narrative includes a description of superficial prejudice, which will come up several times throughout the book. For instance, “No mortal could support the horror of that countenance.”

The mad laughter of the mad scientist, “...he saw a wildness in my eyes for which he could not account, and my loud unrestrained, heartless laughter frightened and astonished him.” I can't help but wonder if Victor Frankenstein was the first mad scientist. What a brilliant invention of character Shelley created! I don't know how those critics could not recognize her genius.

The monster with no name observes a family and becomes a member without their knowledge. Through observation and study in less than a year he has aquired the ability to read, speak, and even write. One of the books which he reads is Milton's Paradise Lost, which is quite an advanced piece of literature.

He eventually seeks them to know him. But they fear him because of his appearance. He runs away and finds Frankenstein's village. He meets and kills the younger brother and frames a close servant (like family... but a kind of slave, too) who is later tried, found guilty, and then executed for his crime.

The monster demands of Victor that he build a female like him that he might love her. On the brinkin of doing so, Victor realizes that creating a female may as likely result in a new terror. Further, and more importantly, they may be able to procreate, creating a race of monsters. This is something he refuses to allow regardless of the consequences that the monster can bring about in his life.

In the beginning of the novel, the monster is only good in his thoughts. It is only through the treatment from others who judge him by his appearance that anger, rage, and the desire to do evil overtake him. Of course, his supernatural strength, intelligence, and iron will, which make him dangerous. Imagine the maturity of a toddler in the body of a creature with super human strength and intelligence. The monster's revenge is completed against his wife on their day of marriage (Victor expected the monster to kill him, not his new wife). His father dies soon after from grief.

Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me.” Victor says this at the burial grounds of his beloved. However, it was the monster's wish to share his agony with his creator, to which end he succeeded. Perhaps, though, the monster can never know the pain of losing loved ones since he never knew love.

Victor pursues the monster. The monster could have turned around and killed Victor, I am sure. However, this hunt is more than that: it is a torment for Victor rather than the monster. The monster writes in a note left for Victor, “Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives, but many hard and miserable hours must you endure until that period shall arrive.”

Had Victor spent time with his creation in kindness, perhaps he would still have had everything. To Victor's credit, as he lays on his death bed aboard the ship, he owns to what he should have done to avoid the tragedies, “In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being... but... my duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention...”

In the finale of the book, Frankenstein's monster mourns his creator's death and seeks forgiveness before leaving.

Ultimately, this is a story about prejudice. Evil came not from his heart, but rather the misfortune of Frankenstein's monster's hideous artifice. What he created outwardly ugly was inwardly beautiful until perverted by the outwardly beautiful, but inwardly superficial prejudice.

The monster could have been a great man due to his super human abilities. However, he was unfortunate in being unable to find anyone.

This book is necessary reading, I think, for anyone interested in science fiction. It is hard to believe I have waited so long to finally get around to it. But, to be fair, the sentimentality of much of it is a little wearying. I read around a bit online to see what others thought of this book.

Wikipedia quotes Brian Aldiss who wrote, “(Frankenstein) should be considered the first true science fiction story because, in contrast to previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character 'makes a deliberate decision' and 'turns to modern experiments in the laboratory' to achieve fantastic results.'”

Regardless of her amazing achievements in this seminal work of literature, the British critic wrote, “The writer of it is , we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment.” Few authoresses, to use the word of the critic, at that time, would dare to use their own names. Often, they chose male pen names in order to find an audience which did not judge based on the gender of the writer. For this reason, I think that Shelley is also worthy of outstanding merit for being a feminist well ahead of her time. She was the daughter and wife of two very famous writers of her time. However, while those of us deep into literary study or reading may recognize their names, Mary Shelley's character, Frankenstein, and the basic outline of that narrative, is globally well known nearly two centuries after she wrote it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Herland is a utopian novel written by a feminist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935). Gilman was a feminist writer. I think she was a pioneer in the realm of feminism, and needs to be remembered with a great deal of respect for that reason. This is supposed to be #2 of a trilogy. Unfortunately, does not have the first or third of the series. Fortunately, they might not be necessary, as the story is fairly well contained. I did not feel like I missed anything in the beginning, but I found myself wanting more at the end. I felt like there was an untold story, and apparently there is, and I cannot have it it would appear. Herland can be found here at

I have already read Gilman's famous short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," which was decent, and somewhat comparable to the weird fiction that one might expect from Franz Kafka (a favorite short story writer of mine, so that is a compliment). This story is not really at that level, in my opinion, but is important as a voice for the rights and value of women. I didn't fly through this story. It had its moments, but it was largely a dull piece, like other true Utopian works (as opposed to Utopias formulated into Dystopias). It has a few serious flaws, which I will get to later. For now, these are my impressions as I read through the story.

The story's setting is contemporary to Gilman's era of the early 20th century. Technology is in its infancy. Somewhere in the world there is an island of isolated women. There is little connection between the Amazonian women of Greek legend and the women of Herland. They are warriors, and tough, despite the fact that they do not have any kind of competition.

Three men set out in search of the mythical society which has swallowed a few men who have sought it out. Later, however, it becomes clear that their expedition is the first to actually reach these women, and that whatever men there were before simply did not make it to the culture.

They are isolated by geography. They are surrounded by insurmountable mountains, on a plateau high above a jungle where a primitive culture thrives. They have lived excluded from the rest of the world for about 2,000 years. While Amazonian women would kidnap their men to have babies, and treated them like slaves, there are no men in this society at all. They are able to reproduce asexually, and when they give birth they have baby girls, and no baby boys.

When the three men get to the plateau via an airplane, they cannot believe that the area is populated exclusively by women. Women cannot build heavy or complicated things, goes the sentiment. However, when they walk into the village, thinking that they will have no problem dominating the women whom they preconceived would be as submissive as the women of their own societies, are easily overpowered by powerful women and imprisoned.

One might expect terrible treatment in the prison that they are put in. However, they are treated more like naughty children, and guests. They are well fed and treated very well at every turn. The narrator writes, "...we were free of the garden, but not wholly alone in it. There was always a string of those uncomfortably strong women sitting about..."

There are three male characters, each a representative of a degree of common males: there's the one who loves and worships women, the centrist, and the ego-macho-male. It is Terry who cannot seem to understand that women can or should be powerful. The prison in which they are held, he says, "This thing is a regular fortress--and no women built it, I can tell you that."

One of the chief objections I have to the story is the racism which appears in a few sections of the novel. This race of women is referred to as Aryan, and that is an explanation as to why there is little or no criminality within this female race. This is the reason why it is a strong and intelligent race.

The contrasts between the two societies are not as important as the points that Gilman makes about how women are viewed and treated then, and much of the criticism remains valid a century later. Women who work are viewed in a negative light. Those who do work, earn a fraction of what men do. About a third of women are working poor according to the narrator. Jeff, the most sympathetic and supportive of women mentions that poorer women tend to have more children, and that they live harder lives. This also remains true today.

Sexuality here is also brought up. In the old days (and in some cultures today), husbands have the right to 'master' their wives. That is a roundabout way of saying that they may rape their wives. The three men end up marrying their three women, but none of them are able to engage in sex. Terry attempts to rape his wife, and consequently, gets banned from the country.

But this brings up the other major point that I take issue with of this novel: the asexuality of this race. These women do not have sex. It is not just about not having sex with men, they also do not seem to masturbate or have sex with the other women. There is no sex at all. Perhaps the hymen itself is broken when they give birth, I wonder. This virginity of all sexuality is a serious point that is missed or avoided by Gilman and is a deep flaw in the book. Did she believe that she would tarnish the reputation of her fictitious race? Perhaps this is the case, and it would have tarnished in those closed minds of her own day (and our day). Certainly, in women's prisons, women engage in sexual activity with each other. There is a clitoris which gives women pleasure.

There are some other minor issues with the culture or race: there is no real opposition. There is nothing to fight for or to survive which is not overcome. There is no power struggle. Everything is appointed and accepted. But, these things are not as important as the statements about how women deserve better in the cultures in which they exist with men. That is the main message of this story, and makes the book worth reading. Come on Gutenberg, et al! Please publish the next story, With Her in Ourland.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Security, Poul William Anderson

This is the last story of Poul William Anderson's that I downloaded from There are a few more that I didn't download yet. So there are two more to come. Poul William Anderson (1926-2001) is a brilliant science fiction writer, worthy of the acclaims and accolades that have been given to him. "Security" is another short story, well worth downloading and reading. It is available at

This short fiction has political elements that are similar to "Industrial Revolution," whose review can be found in the link provided.

America has become a tyrannical power which no longer holds to democratic elections. Those who disagree with the state are often taken into custody and never seen again. Subversive talk is treason, and being accused of treason is the same as being given a death sentence.

Dr. Lancaster is a brilliant physicist who doesn't realize the predicament that his culture is in, or the loss of individual freedoms. He is one of the masses who believes that what the government does is right and necessary.

There are rebels, and they need a good physicist who can help them develop weapons that can be made cheaply while being better than their contemporaries. They manage to trick Dr. Lancaster into believing that he is being brought out into space to develop some technology which will give the rebels this edge: a kind of way to store a great deal of energy. A super battery, in effect, which can be used for powering weapons and vehicles in a revolutionary way.

By the time he has succeeded in his project, he has begun to appreciate the community of the research lab. He isn't under constant threat of security. He doesn't have to worry about saying the wrong thing. He feels free (though I don't think that's how rebellions really work. Usually they're just a different form of tyranny). This is something that catches in him. When he returns to earth, he cannot help but start to see through government hypocrisy, the fake manufactured news, and the seed of doubt begins to grow. However, he is still content to continue on.

While he was gone to that space station where the research was taking place (why not on earth in a bunker... maybe the process required something that the vacuum of space has that a bunker doesn't. I'm not entirely certain.), a double was placed for him so that no one would know he had been abducted. This would have worked, but the project manager, Berg, had ratted on him. The government picks him up, tortures him, trying to get him to give up the secrets. At the end of the torture, he's come to realize that he's covering for the rebels, and he's still ready to die with the secrets. Berg, however, arranges to have him rescued. It was a kind of test, and he wanted him back to continue doing his work.

The story was quite enjoyable. Poul William Anderson is a really good writer who has something interesting to say, something to think about in his stories.

Eventually, someone rats on him

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Man Who Came Early, Poul William Anderson

"The Man Who Came Early" (1956) is a short story by Poul William Anderson.

"The Man Who Came Early" is one of those stories within a story. The narrator tells the story to a priest about a strange young man who came to Iceland before 1,000 AD. Somehow, he was struck by lightning which sent him from the then modern world to the very old world where Vikings were one of the great European powers.

This story is extremely well told. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend taking the time to read it. I read it from start to finish without putting it down. The style has a real charm and rhythm to it which shows how skilled Anderson can be.

Many people might suppose that by having many skills and knowledge from a modern time that they might flourish in an age a thousand years gone. However, this story does a good job at repudiating such a belief.

The young man, "Sergeant Gerald Roberts of the United States Army base on Iceland" is an engineer working for the US army. Therefore, he feels he can be an important contributor to his host (who is also the narrator of the story). However, the tools are very primitive: a hammer, a forge, and little else. He is unable to do much with these tools. He then tries to reinvent the sailboat, but it does not fit the requirements.

As time goes on, he and his host increasingly feel his worthlessness to the house and community. But it does not stop Helgi, the narrator's daughter, from falling in love with him. Another was in love with her, which sets up the fight. With an axe, and little such battle experience, he cannot win the battle. He resorts to using his firearm, which causes more problems. The family of the slain wants revenge, and he loses his host's graciousness as a result.

The family of the slain man go after him until he runs out of bullets. He then puts on a fight with the sword that they respect, but he ultimately cannot withstand their attacks and dies.

I think the premise of a modern man in an old world is a good one. Though, it is not the first effort to do so, it is well done. I definitely recommend reading it.

Industrial Revolution, Poul William Anderson

"Industrial Revolution" is a novella by the acclaimed science fiction author, Poul Anderson (1926-2001). It is available for free at

This novella is the story of how a corporate fledgling enterprise invested in an asteroid mining outfit. The group are referred to as 'asterites' without the capital A. Not sure why that is if they are a distinct people. The group was a part, or even the root of, the revolution. I suppose this is a nod to the Red Scare that America was undergoing in its efforts to undermine communist movements within the US.

On earth, America is going through a socialist revolution where the party in power is demanding that the government or the people ought to own everything. That includes an outfit that invested in a mining operation within Jupiter's orbit.

A naval vessel is sent out to deceive the group into thinking that a nuclear warhead was accidentally released and put the entire operation at risk. However, Blade (the protagonist) sees through the deception and jury rigs some devices to fight back. He succeeds, and the spirit of capitalism is saved.

A few things that short circuit a few points: first, when Blade threatens the captain of the vessel with his defenses, he claims that the hull of the navy vessel cannot withstand the explosion of Jupiter gas (which is supposed to be combustible. Though, of course, I don't see how that is possible) and that it doesn't have sufficient defenses against the improvised weapons. What kind of navy vessel is this that cannot defend itself against the equivalent of a bunch of rowboats? In any case, the ruse works. The mining operators are able to maintain their hold on the outfit.

This novella isn't as good as the last pieces of Anderson's that I read. I don't recommend it. But it is short.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Burning Bridge, Poul William Anderson

"The Burning Bridge" (1960) is the second of five available Poul William Anderson (1926-2001) ebooks available at It is a good short story and I recommend reading it.

This is the story of a long voyage from Earth to a planet called Rustum. The passengers are mostly frozen in a deep sleep due to the longevity of the voyage. The deep sleep allows for fewer fights over cabin fever. The crew take shifts so that some are able to take care of the ship and her needs while others sleep. They are political dissidents who are given the chance to live on another planet.

Earth is inferred as a dirty used up planet ravaged by war and humanity (fairly accurate description for this century as well). Rustum has been visited previously, and is described as being a kind of clean slate. The air is fresh. There are new opportunities there for the colony.

A message from earth, however, creates a conundrum for the protagonist, who is also the captain on duty. The message is that the ships are free to return to earth. The 'education decree' is the legislation that they are trying to escape. It sounds much like some kind of forced propaganda: perhaps similar to something big brother would do in George Orwell's brilliant novel, 1984, when finding people that thought outside of what was required.

Women and men are segregated during the voyage. Even married couples are not allowed to be wakened at the same time. When they have a video conference, the women must wear a veil (sounds Muslim to me) so as to not make the men horny. The men do not have a similar requirement. It is an ongoing cultural phenomena that is funny (as in sour milk, not ha-ha) to see in science fiction. Today, there are female students who have a different dress code than the boys. They cannot show a part of a bra or too much thigh in case it distracts the boys and causes problems. I suppose in the future this problem will not be solved, either. The hypocrisy remains in tact.

Another rather sexist point that is made in the story comes from the female he consults with over the conundrum of either continuing onto Rustum or returning to earth. Teresa says of how women think, and their place in making such a critical decision about their future:

"Few of them (the women) really wanted to come (to Rustum) in the first place. They did so only because their men insisted. Women are much too practical to care about a philosophy, or a frontier, or anything except their families."

The ship is close to a no return point where it would take as long to stop and turn around to return to earth as it would to continue on to Rustum. In fact, there would be little difference in time to simply go to Rustum, decide collectively who would stay or go. However, it is reasoned that they are decades away from being able to reach earth, and that changes may take place in that interim which would make everyone want to go back to Rustum. However, there is not enough fuel to change their minds again, and there might not be another chance at the voyage should governments on earth decide not to resend the ships.

Therefore, after much deliberation, Coffin decides that they are better off to go to Rustum regardless of the political situation on earth. However, he fears a mutiny should he try to force the issue. He decides to make a fake message designed to make everyone decide to continue onto Rustum. He makes a message sound like they are being compelled to return to earth, which of course would have the opposite effect. In his effort to create this tape, an officer catches him. They fight, and he forces the man into 'the vat' where he can sleep until the end of the voyage.

It's an interesting story and worth reading. Reading these science fiction stories certainly gives me an interesting view into how women were (and arguably still are) treated and perceived. I wonder if any stories out of the Golden Age of science fiction viewed women as equals or perceived a future where women would be treated as such.

The Mind Games Women Play on Men, Tonya Love

"The Mind Games Women Play on Men" by Tonya Love was free for awhile on Tonya Love is the author of the classic, "The 20 Types Of Bitches In The World." Now "The Mind Games Women Play on Men" is selling for $3.99.

This ebook is rather short. As such, each subtopic that Love brings up is poorly developed.

I don't know if Tonya Love is a male or female. I'm kind of on the fence here. My first impression is that it reads a bit misogynistically. On the other, some women are misogynistic. Regardless, when using the pronoun to refer to the writer, I'll assume that the writer is female.

There is one couple which she uses repeatedly throughout several of the subtopics as an example to help each of her theories. There are a few contradictions here: in one chapter, the man asks his woman (who manipulates him all the time with sex and other tools) to marry him every year, and she turns him down. Then Love writes that "She also knew that if she was married to him, the house would be half hers and he couldn't make her leave it anymore! So she would bait him with, 'We have been married together for six years, and still you haven't married me.' So which is it? Is he asking, then she says no, and complains that they're not married? Wow, if she's like that then she's really into creating drama over nothing. Be grateful, whatever guy Tonya Love is basing her narrative on, that the lady never said yes. She's deadly poison.

In any case, the type of woman she describes seems based on a kind of trashy person one might want to avoid altogether. I have this urge to suggest that the 'house' she refers to that the couple share when they're together is in fact a trailer in a park somewhere.

Tonya Love didn't bother with a proofreader, and it shows. There are a lot of grammatical errors, wrong words, "your/you're" issues, and more. But, it does not detract from what she's trying to get across.

I think that the writer believes that all women play these games. I do think that the author is a woman, and no I don't think she's misogynistic. The last lines of her book are, "Those who play together, stay together." So clearly she thinks that games are normal for relationships. This may be true, particularly for her and her circles. Perhaps this is fairly normal for the American woman or other women, but very few of the games she refers to am I familiar with. I am 41, and have had six major relationships lasting 2 or more months, with the last 4 lasting for 4 years or more. There are some games, but not the ones she has talked about.

Why did I get this book? Well, I thought it might be a bit more amusing or offer some interesting insights into some types of relationships. I got something out of it. I was amused. It's short enough that I made it to the end and didn't waste too much time on it. 

Is it worth $3.99? I'll go with no.

Brainwave, Poul Willian Anderson

This journal entry continues from my last entry, covering the partial story called "The Escape." At the end of that ebook is written, "To Be Continued." I had to do some digging to find that it is a part of the complete work called Brainwave. I considered reposting the previous journal entry here, but decided not to at last. So, continuing from where I left off:

I do like this novel, thus far. I am roughly 1/2 way through it at this point. However, I find the consequences to everyone having great intelligence faulty. In "The Great Escape," there was some room for debate, I thought. However, at this point I find myself in thorough opposition to the points that Anderson is making.

Concerning art, the author's protaganist says,

Art, throughout history, has had a terrible tendency to decay, or to petrify into sheer imitation of the past.

Art does not suffer from this. Not every artist is a great pioneer like Picasso. But that doesn't mean that it is less artistic. Great scientists are equally rare, but the work of common scientists and engineers is still vitally important.

Scientists work hard to try to revert humankind back to its less intelligent level. Men have become lazier. They don't want to work. They would rather sit around philosophizing than working to build things. Intelligence has created a " of rootless intellect (which) has lost all its old dreams and loves. We want to restore humanness)."

Some people put together a ship that will return the earth to its pre-superhuman intelligence. However, their efforts are thwarted. The Hindu man who was a part of the plot says in his defense, "Are all the glories man has won in the past to go for nothing? Before he has even found God, will you turn God into a nursery tale? What have you given him in return for the splendors of his art, the creation in his hands, and the warm little pleasures when his day's work is done? You have turned him into a calculating machine, and the body and the soul can wither amidst his new equations." This suggests the idea that atheism is a product of superior intellect. I am an atheist and feel that intellect must eventually bury religion. However, I always have to keep in mind that Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest scientific and mathematical genius of the second millennium, was a Christian of a sort. I am in no way equal to him.

I have finished the novel at this point:

The story ends with Sheila joining Archie Brock and his group of animals and other intellectually challenged people to find her new life. Archie Brock is still very intelligent. But he doesn't reach beyond the necessity of survival.

The rest of humankind is ready to leave the planet and travel amongst the stars. Perhaps that is not a bad end. The great intelligence manages to overcome violence. Perhaps it manages to find a place for the advanced intelligence of humans.

I think the story is a very interesting one. It is his effort to explore the idea which is written at the end, saying, "What would happen If." What would happen if, somehow, everyone became super intelligent?

Another interesting question might be: are we doing that now? Did Anderson at least in part predict what would happen if we suddenly became more intelligent as a species? Are we doing that now?

For instance: machines are evolving to have artificially intelligent brains and vastly evolved robotics that so many jobs are being done by them. More are coming. Automated cars and transport trucks are on the horizon. Pizza delivery is already being done by drone. Inaugural farms are being run exclusively using AI and machinery. The consequence is that our current economic model means that many people are without jobs. The jobs themselves being lost are not the problem, but rather that money is printed on the basis of production, and with fewer people being involved in the production, that means there are fewer economic avenues available to workers. If we are able to evolve a monetary system based on the intrinsic value of a human life rather than, say, a barrel of oil (and print money based on the human value rather than the barrel of oil), then those people would be able to take care of themselves and enjoy the evolution: a kind of emancipation. Alas, so few people understand that economic models are based on theory and capable of being altered by governments. A majority have not yet realized the benefit of such a transition.

So, we are intellectually evolving. The machines are taking over. And these years are the pains we must endure before the benefit affects everyone.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Escape, Poul William Anderson

Poul Anderson is another legendary science fiction writer who wrote during the Golden Age of science fiction. I don't recall having read any of his books before, so The Escape will be the first for me. It is freely available at

At this point, I'm almost 3/4 the way through the novel. I think it's brilliant. It's a real work of genius. It's quickly shaping up to be the best science fiction story I've read this year. 

The book has some resemblance to George Orwell's Animal Farm. Animal Farm is the story of how some animals grow intelligence to rival their human owners, and rise up against them. However, this story takes it a step further. It's not just the animals: it's the humans, too.

There are essentially two narrative paths that Anderson writes from: a farming laborer, and a physics theorist. The farming laborer was of below average intelligence. He required some help to function, but was strong physically, honest, and important to the farm.

The amount of intelligence that everyone and everything gains is 'quadruple' of what it was.

While the premise is great, some of the assumptions seem mistaken. There is a general growing panic. The growth of intelligence has created a great deal of fear. For Brock, the laborer, the effect hasn't taken place. While the farm manager has decided to quit his job and undertake a new experience, and Joe the other laborer decides to take off, he remains on the farm. This, in spite of the fact that animals are approaching human levels of intelligence. They are able to overcome obstacles like latches. They know how to use their power to win freedom. It creates danger for him, including a near death experience with a bull. Many others, from the narration of Lewis, the physicist, are also quitting their dreary jobs that are important for survival: garbage men, for instance, no longer find their jobs interesting enough to continue their work. While this may be true, it does not mean that people would automatically cut themselves off from employment which gives them a source of income.

Another assumption that Anderson makes is that communication becomes stunted. He writes,
The conversation here was rapidly becoming a new language. The old way of speech was too slow and cumbersome, loaded with redundancies, ignrant of a thousand subtle possibilities. When your mind was of quadrupled capability, a single word, a gesture of hand, a flicker of expression, could convey whole paragraphs of grammatical English.
I believe, contrary to what Anderson is suggesting, that intelligence creates more language and more communication, not less.

However, these assumptions that greater intelligence creates such problems is not unheard of in fiction. Many Americans believe that intelligence causes problems. In fact, people graduating from universities with degrees are finding themselves without the jobs they thought they could have. There simply doesn't seem to be the jobs requiring the type of intelligence that is required to thrive in the work place. Is this a problem with intelligence and education, or is it a problem with our economy? That is a question I have been asking myself for a little while this year.

I have now finished this ebook.

At the end of this ebook there is a mob which nearly kills the physics scientist. They have gone mad and seem to have lost their wits.

The last chapter has Archie Brock, the farmer's laborer, returning home to find the pigs and bulls having taken over the farm. His dog, Joe, has nearly died. To his rescue came an elephant and some apes which understand English (isn't it funny that the increase in intelligence gives them the ability to understand English, but not the man the language of any of the animals).

I don't think that intelligence leads people into madness. I see madness as a defect of the mind, not a defect of superior intelligence. 

Warning! This book 'is to be continued.' After looking around for awhile, I have discovered that this book is only a part of the longer work, Brain Wave. I had a hard time finding it. I did not find it for free anywhere as a Kindle book. But there is a PDF available at

I really hate reading PDFs on the Kindle. One is forced to choose: a reasonably sized font and having to navigate through the document left to right, and then down, or put it on horizontal, which is still a bit small for my bad eyes and deal with it. I did this with Stephen King's book on writing. I will do it again for this book. But I really, really don't like it. However, I have discovered that one can convert pdf to mobi at

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Daughter of Erlik Khan, Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) is a legendary writer and pioneer of the sword and sorcery sub-genre of fantasy. "The Daughter of Erlik Khan" (1934) is available freely at

The main character is an American named El Borak. He has lived in and around the Afghan mountains for a number of years, establishing a reputation for being a dangerous fighter.

He is hired to escort and guide two Englishmen to rescue a friend. However, the mission was a fraud, as they were really after a young woman, Yasmeena, who serves a demonic cult as a goddess. Their intent is to capture her and return her to the man who 'loved' or felt insulted by her desertion.

He has similar characteristics to Conan. He is very strong and capable of withstanding physical trauma that would break anyone else. He manages to take over a group of men by killing their leader and promising great monetary rewards.

He manages to foil the kidnapping, and discovers the mining operation that had veins of gold so large that he could work chunks of gold out with a knife.

I didn't find this story quite as entertaining as "The Feud Buster," which I read last night. However, it's entertaining enough.

One comment, though, is that Howard has a way of touting the superiority of the white man. A white man living in the harsh reality of the Afghan is stronger and smarter than the others. The survival instinct, once mastered, gives him an edge over the natives around him who are in turn stronger than civilized men. This is a pattern that can be identified in other stories such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories where Lord Greystoke is raised as an ape, but has natural superiority of intelligence that gives him an edge over both his adopted ape brothers and the Africans whom he fights with.

There are moments of brilliant description that I admire that add a kind of poetic edge to his style.

The Feud Buster, Robert E. Howard

I think, for as long as I can remember, I've been a big fan of Robert E. Howard's. Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) was a pulp fiction writer who died far too young. When his mother died, he decided to take his own life. Conan the Cimmerian is his most famous character, and probably his best. I grew up reading Marvel's renditions of Howard's barbarian tales, read his books, and watched the movies
countless times. Later on I read some of his other books, which are also good entertainment. "The Feud Buster" is available freely at

The narration is in first person from the point of view of a massive and powerful man, Breckinridge Elkins. He's mistaken at one point for a bear. He believes his sister has given up herself to a man named Dick Jackson. This makes him very angry and so he sets out to force Dick Jackson to marry his sister. The language of the narration is quite entertaining. It's a kind of hillbilly dialect which is easy enough to read and adds a certain charm to it.

Like his other hero, Conan, this guy is of near super hero ability. When he's trying to figure a way into the cabin in which Dick Jackson is in, he hears a mountain lion in the hills. So, he goes up into the hills, finds the lair of a male lion, grabs the lion by the hand and throws him through the window of the cabin. When the lion does its thing, enemies of the family are about to string up Dick Jackson, but because he wants Dick Jackson for his sister, he's ready to fight all seven of them to get him. If it had been mere knuckles and whisky bottles, I'm sure it wouldn't have posed much of a problem for the brawny bearish giant. But, they had their rifles ready to defend their hanging. But it wasn't for himself he was wary.

But for one thing I'd of taken them guns away and wiped up the floor with them ungrateful mavericks. But I was afeared Jackson would get hit in the wild shooting that was certain to foller such a plan of action.

But the cabin, already damaged from the rampaging lion, had only the main post at the center of the hut. So, he tears it up and the roof comes crashing down on them all. He pulls Dick Jackson out of the rubble and takes him back to his sister.

But, Dick had failed in his attempt to woo his sister, and had decided to slut shame her for it anyways. Breckinridge lets him go (I don't know why. He deserved an ass kicking).

Howard has a way with telling a story. I don't know if there's anyone like him. He has the ability to grab my attention from the first paragraph and hold it steady until the last paragraph. This story is the hell of a fun one. If you like a good comical super human gun slinging Texan story, I highly recommend this one to you.

Warm, Robert Sheckley

"Warm" (1953) is a very short story by Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) available for free on

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. It seems like the result of an acid trip. The narrator never mentions taking any kind of drugs. However, there is someone inside the narrator's head asking for help. This is the second time I've seen the theme of two people in one mind I've read today from Sheckley.

As the story progresses, the world becomes more and more surreal. His girlfriend, the people at the party, a beggar, all become little more than robots, flesh, and atoms, in a kind of deconstructive vision. At the end of the story, the narrator finds himself on his bed, dressed.

It definitely seems like some kind of LSD trip.

Reborn Again, Robert Sheckley

Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) is a well respected author of science fiction. I have read most of his free short fiction. "Reborn Again" is available freely at

This is a story about two people or souls in a single mind and body. Ritchie has money. He needs a new body. Grelich is a bit of a philosopher who wants to end his life. Grelich's choice is something of a suicide.

However, the operation does not go according to plan. The surgeon cannot bring himself to end the life of Grelich. So, when Ritchie wakes up, he finds that the two of them are in the same mind and body together.

Initially, Ritchie doesn't want Grelich in his life. He doesn't have any negative feelings for him. He's just not happy sharing the body. Further, Grelich has a kind of control over the mind and body while Ritchie 'sits in the back seat.'

There is no attempt at fraud. It was never Grelich's intention to keep the body and inherit Ritchie's wealth. Nor is Ritchie a bad person who is happy about the thought of murdering Grelich, even if Grelich is willing to follow through with his original intention.

Ritchie is a lonely person, having some family still alive but not at all a part of his life. His parents are gone. He is introduced to Grelich's friends, whom he has a near instant fondness for. He ends up deciding that it is better to be a 'mindmate' than to be lonely. They decide to try to cohabitate together.

Sheckley is an interesting writer, without doubt. The beginning of this ebook has an introduction saying that Sheckley deserved better recognition. Perhaps this is true. Sheckley is gone, however, and I'm sure his position within the rankings of "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America" is irrelevant. 

The Big Trip Up Yonder, Kurt Vonnegut

This is the second short story of Kurt Vonnegut's (1922-2007) that I have read. "The Big Trip Up Yonder" (1954) is available freely at There are not many of his stories on, so unless I can find more of them elsewhere, this will be the last.

"The Big Trip Up Yonder" is similar in theme to his other story, "2 B R 0 2 B". Aging has been cured. Unlike "2 B R 0 2 B", no attempt at population control has been made. Growing food hasn't kept up with the population. Breakfast is "egg-type processed seaweed." The apartment is very small, but occupied by many generations. The eldest owns it, and has control over where those who live in the apartment may sleep.

The medicine that is used to stop aging is 'anti-gerasone.' To get rid of Gramps Ford, the medicine is poured down the drain. Gramps Ford catches Lou in the act, but says nothing. The next day, they discover a note with a will leaving the small apartment to them all in equal proportion. This creates a battle which " 500,000,000 delighted viewers on the Eastern Seaboard" get to see on TV.

The family members find themselves in a prison where the conditions are better than they are on the outside.

Em and Lou, in adjacent four-by-eight cells, were stretched out peacefully on their cots.
"Em," called Lou through the partition, "you got a washbasin all your own, too?"
"Sure. Washbasin, bed, light—the works. And we thought Gramps' room was something. How long has this been going on?" She held out her hand. "For the first time in forty years, hon, I haven't got the shakes—look at me!"
"Cross your fingers," said Lou. "The lawyer's going to try to get us a year."

In other words, the small prison with the cots and the wash basin give them the most space and privacy than they've ever had in Gramps Ford's small apartment.

Meanwhile, Gramps Ford is back in his apartment, all alone, and watches on the TV an anti-aging medication which will allow him to return to a youthful state. Of course, he starts to order it.

This is an awful dystopia. Of course as technology develops, humankind's ability to produce more food improves. Today there are prototypes of automated farms and gardens, while LED lights are efficient and capable of growing food. However, there will of course be limitations in the number of people who can live on the planet. But no one really knows what that number is. As technology advances, so too does the ability to expand the population. Further, if populations do explode to that degree, it may erode the natural world to the extent that it cannot sustain us in terms of atmospheric gasses (no trees). It's hard to imagine where we're headed. Also, natural disasters are fully capable of killing millions when in populated regions.

The idea of an immortal grandfather perpetually holding over his kin their pecking order within his will is quite comical. It is a dark piece of science fiction comedy.

Anyhow, it's a very short story and a good read.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

2 B R 0 2 B, Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) is one of the important writers of the golden age of science fiction. I don't recall having read any of his books or short stories. I know him by reputation only. With "2 B R 0 2 B", which is quite short, that has changed. It is available for free at

The setting of "2 B R 0 2 B" is a few centuries in the future. A great doctor who had cured humankind of aging is being put into a mural along with others.

Mr. Wehling has just had triplets. The consequence is that for every birth there must be a death. Since humans no longer die (except by accident, I'm sure), someone must volunteer to die so that new borns can live. Because there is just one volunteer, Wehling is told he must choose one of the triplets with other two being required to die.

Dr. Hitz is somewhat flippant concerning the prospective deaths of the other two infants, saying that thanks to population control, the one child will lead a happy life on a "happy, roomy, clean, rich planet."

China is the only country to try to tackle the problem with overpopulation. If parents have triplets, they are not required to choose one while letting the others die. On the other hand, Chinese have not cured aging. There are a few scientists out there trying to cure aging. It's my hope that they succeed.

World population today continues to explode. When will it end?

Mr. Wehling decides to murder the doctor, the nurse, and himself, so that his grandfather (who had volunteered, but doesn't want to die) and his three newborns can live.

The painter of the mural seems already profoundly unhappy with life. I can't imagine being unhappy with life if life was perpetual. But everyone is different. After witnessing the murder-suicide, he decides that he himself has had enough of life and calls the number, "2 B R 0 2 B" ("to be or not to be") to make an appointment for his own destruction.

One man's Utopia is another's Dystopia.

War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

This is not the first time I have read this book. This might be the third time. I used to listen to the old radio show on cassette, narrated and directed by Orson Welles. The Orson Welles radio broadcast (1938) was so realistic that many people believed it to be real and panicked. I cannot begin to guess how many times I listened to that in my youth, as it was a favorite of mine. Then there is Jeff Wayne's (1978) musical which I probably listened to on cassette at least a hundred times. There was also a TV series very loosely based on The War of the Worlds (1898). I recommend all of them without reservation. I still consider The War of the Worlds to be perhaps the greatest science fiction classic of all time. H. G. Wells (1866-1946) is legendary. There are many other greats in the canon of science fiction, but he is one of the greatest pioneers of the genre along with Jules Verne. No fan of science fiction should miss reading The War of the Worlds. It's available for free at numerous locations, including

The opening lines of the book are brilliant. It's an exceptionally well written introduction to the topic of the book: we are not alone in the solar system. There are intelligences greater than our own. We are an object of scientific curiosity:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

We are poor keepers of our planet. But Mars is much poorer than our own, for it cannot sustain life. In those days, however, there was speculation that there might be some form of intelligent life. Certainly there were no robots being sent to scour the rocky terrain of the Martian surface. But there are certainly other planets near to our own, but as seemingly impossible to reach today as Mars may have been to his period in the late 19th century.

For centuries, England, along with several of the other powerful European powers of the day, sent out colonies to other continents hoping to settle and expand the presence of the English empire. Only in the most technologically primitive continents was this a success. The narrator describes a feeling that surely natives of other nations must have felt.

I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel. With us it would be as with them, to lurk and watch, to run and hide; the fear and empire of man had passed away.

I find Wells' ability to imagine the feelings of the very animals which are under us quite remarkable, and unique in popular fiction in his day, and still rare today.

Ultimately it is the very small organisms that defeat the Martian invasion. However, at the end of the story, the narrator is confident that the Martians can be defeated as they are vulnerable in the period when they emerge from their cocoon like vessels. Of course, the Martians might be wiser, next time, to land their craft further away from populated areas that they might build their machines without human interference. Though, they would have to come up with a defense against bacteria. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone (1868) is another classic detective story of fame that I have chosen to read. It's written by the acclaimed Wilkie Collins (1824-1889). According to Wikipedia, among other sources, this is the first English detective novel.

The Moonstone is a diamond which was looted from a holy Indian site by the English, which eventually falls into the hands of Colonel Herncastle. It's a flawed diamond of significant size and quality. There are several Indians who are looking to retrieve it for their temple. The Colonel Herncastle is ostracized by his family. The diamond is considered to bring with it a kind of curse. Therefore, as the Colonel is dying, he bequeaths it to she, Rachel Verinder, whom he considers the original instigator of the ostracism on the date of her first birthday after his death.

The story is divided into several parts. Part one follows the narrative of an elderly servant, Gabriel Betteredge, who has served Lady Verinder's family for pretty much his entire life. He's an honest man with a few interesting traits that stand out. First, he loves Robinson Crusoe, a book which is his favorite literary retreat which he mentions several times throughout the narrative. Initially he served as a grounds keeper. But in his older age, he is turned into a well respected servant. It's hard to imagine working into your 70s with never a retirement in sight.

After the first detective investigates the puzzle but cannot solve the case. He therefore sends for a Detective Cuff, who is renowned for his reputation. He seems to have been able to solve the mystery of the case, but the resolution is never come to. The theory is that it was never stolen, but rather that Rachel stole her own jewel to sell it for some unknown reason.

Roseanne kills herself over Mr. Franklin. She had fallen in love with him, apparently, and he ignored her. It's unknown why she might have felt that she had some kind of possible relationship with him. She is referred to as 'ugly.' The narrator does not know, either, why she fell in love with him.

At the end of part one there are several mysteries left unsolved.

Thus far (I am at the title of part two), I am quite impressed by the book. I really love how authentically British the narrator's voice is. He has this charm and method of throwing together a phrase that has a real charm to it.

Part two is narrated by the character of Miss Jane Ann Stamper. However, she is more often referred to as Miss Clack or Drusilla. The character is a fanatical Christian. As such, she is a nuisance. Her favourite thing to do is to distribute books and pamphlets promoting her Christian cause. She does everything she can to coerce people to read it. She goes so far to say that Rachel's mother had not properly converted to Christianity, and therefore would not have achieved a position in heaven. By doing so she burns her bridges.

The mother, Julie Verinder, dies a few days after she makes her will. She had something for Miss Stamper. But rather than talk about the something she had set aside for her, Stamper insists on the subject of her views on how life should go.

There is little about the Moonstone in this part. It is more about the situation Rachel Herncastle gets into. Godfrey, her cousin, wants to marry her. He and she both change their minds. His father is most upset by this. He is the brother-in-law of Julie. Julie had named him as the person as her executor. In revenge for the breakup between her and his son, he forces her to leave the home she grew up in. The house 'was hired in his name', so I am not sure if that means it is rented or exactly what it is. In any case, her lawyer invites her to stay in his home.

It is here that the narrative of Miss Drusilla Clack, aka Miss Jane Ann Stamper, comes to an end. It wasn't nearly as charming as part one because of the voice of the narrator. Now, this is an excellent accomplishment on the part of Wilkie Collins. He manages to create two very distinct voices within the novel. I haven't yet read another novel that has done the same (although, to be sure, there must be another).

I found part two to be a bit dreary, although it was in the last scene quite good.

On to part three. Part three is narrated by Mathew Bruff, an honest lawyer who works on behalf of Rachel. The voice in this case is different again from parts one and two. Part one had a lot of sentimentality. Part two a kind of crazed well meaningness. While part three is a cold and brief accounting of his perspective on the mystery of the Moonstone. He has the theory that the Moonstone is pawned for a sum of money to be repaid in a year, or the diamond defaults to the lender. The lender is one Mr. Luker who "stand(s) at the top of the prosperous and ancient profession of usury..." If this is the case, it casts my glance on Godfrey, since he has been the one shown to require a large sum great enough that he voided his pending marriage to Rachel.

It truly is remarkable how adept Wilkie Collins is in adopting a variety of voices.

Part 4: Third Narrative Contributed by Franklin Blake. It is through this narrative that we discover that Rachel saw Franklin Blake steal the Moonstone. However, if his narrative is to be the truth (which I think is Collins' intent), then he never meant to steal it at all.

It is revealed in this part that the evidence against him held by Roseanne was in fact his sleeping clothes with the paint stain on it. She buried it in quicksand in a strong box attached to a metal chain. She leaves the information on how to find it with her trusted friend.

Franklin learns from Rachel that she witnessed him taking it, but his narrative shows that he did not know what he was doing. Nor was the diamond in his possession following the theft. So, this was the reason that Rachel hated him, but not enough to give that information to the police.

A kind of practical joke was played on Blake that night by the Doctor (Dr. Candy) who had given him a dose of opium. While under the deep drugged sleep, he had stolen the diamond. Dr. Candy suffered an illness that ruined his mind, so it is from his recorded ramblings that reveals the joke played on him. His assitant, Ezra Jennings, informs Blake of the joke when Blake tries to interview Dr. Candy for whatever information he had. Dr. Candy's illness stole the large part of his memory, and therefore he was unable to extract the confession directly.

While many of the narratives had a strong distinct voice. However, Blakes voice in this case isn't terribly dissimilar from that of the lawyer, Mr. Bruff.

The final part is told by Ezra Jennings. The voice I referred to before isn't conferred so much by the inner vocabulary of the narrator, but by his feelings and his readings of other peoples' feelings towards him.

He is a sick man, addicted to the relief of opium. His internal motivations are selfless. He is attempting to recreate the situation, with the help of some willing and some unwilling participants, the night of the Moonstone diamond's disappearance. It is sad to read how people judge him (and other people who are physically unattractive). He reacts to Miss Verinder's positive treatment of him. His sacrifices to make this experiment work is also a result of the kindness and respect that Blake had given him. (It would appear that the gratitude of the ugly for the kindness of the beautiful has a profound effect on the victim of physical circumstance):

"I can't treat you like a stranger, Mr. Jennings," she said. "Oh, if you only knew how happy your letters have made me!"
She looked at my ugly wrinkled face with a bright gratitude so new to me in my experience of my fellow-creatures, that I was at a loss how to answer her. Nothing had prepared me for her kindness and her beauty. The misery of many years has not hardened my heart...

At this point, I have concluded the tale. As expected, Godfrey was at the bottom of the theft. Blake had been an involuntary accomplice. Godfrey's crime catches up to him. When he gets the diamond back from the loan, he attempts to run away with it. He is watched, however, and murdered by one of the Indians whose mission it was to retrieve it.

They are unable to repossess it. The Indians successfully bring it back to their temple. Their reward is a punishment for betraying their caste. The diamond is seen at the temple. I think that perhaps the diamond had been stolen from their temple in the first place, and was restored to it.

The book was quite good. Although not as intriguing or well written as that of Monsieur Lecoq, the creation of Émile Gaboriau. In other ways, in particular the numerous narrative voices which were skillfully used, it is unique and masterful.