Fugitive Telemetry

The newest novel  “Fugitive Telemetry” by Martha Wells is another wonderful exploration into the world of Murderbot, the part human, part robot security unit.  The following is from the book cover:

“No, I didn’t kill the dead human.  If I Had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on preservation station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people – who knew?).

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!”

-Jacket cover of Fugitive Telemetry 

At Preservation Station, Murderbot is hanging out watching media, protecting his humans and hoping that there isn’t an attack from GrayCris. When a body is found, SecUnit is contracted by Station Security to assist in the investigation. The story takes off, pun intended, from there.

One of my favorite parts of these novels is the conversations that Murderbot has with himself in his head.

“The weapons scanner (which I was not allowed to hack, and which I wasn’t hacking) alerted on me, but it had my body scan ID on the weapons-allowed list so it didn’t set off an alarm.  (I have energy weapons in my arms and it’s not like I can leave them behind in the hotel room.)  (I mean, my arms are detachable so theoretically I could leave them behind if I had a little help but as a longterm solution it was really inconvenient.)  I was sure the weapons scanner would alert Station Security that I was in the area.”

Chapter Three, Pages 45-46 of Fugitive Telemetry

The relationships that Murderbot has developed with the humans through the course of the novels continues to delight me. The quote below is about Murderbot determining who to call when he wants to break into a damaged transport.

“That left me with the human most likely to want to drop everything and come watch me break into a damaged transport and the human also most likely to come watch me break into a damaged transport but only so he could argue with me about it.

So I called both of them.” 

Chapter Three, Pages 47-48 of Fugitive Telemetry

If you follow the novels in the order that they were published “Fugitive Telemetry” is sixth in the series. But if you follow the novels as they happen in the storyline, “Fugitive Telemetry” is fifth in the series. My recommendation for reading the novels is to read them as they happen in the storyline which is as follows:

  1. All Systems Red
  2. Artificial Condition
  3. Rogue Protocol
  4. Exit Strategy
  5. Fugitive Telemetry
  6. Network Effect

If you would like to read my reviews of the other five novels, click on their titles here: All Systems RedArtificial ConditionRogue Protocol, Exit Strategy and Network Effect

I can’t stress enough how well written these novels are. Martha Wells captures the balance between the robotic and organic sides of SecUnits personality. She also tackles questions and issues that pertain to planet on which we are living. For example, what does it mean to be human? Corporations verses human rights. And many other thought provoking topics throughout the series.

Creative, fun and an enjoyable read. I highly recommend “Fugitive Telemetry” and the entire series of Murderbot novels. I haven’t heard if there are more books planned for this series. I am hoping Martha Wells will continue to writing about Murderbot’s adventures well into the future.

Summer inspired Haiku Poetry

every shade of blue

not a cloud in the big sky

it feels like summer

heat is stifling

ice tea, sunglasses, cool pool

help take the edge off

asleep in the sun

red as a boiled lobster

yep, that’s gonna hurt

standing by the gate

waiting for your arrival

summer light fading

scent, colour, sound, touch

my mother’s flower garden

feast for the senses

outline of mountains

across the perfect clear sky

oh! to be outside

6th Anniversary of Cats Out of the Box

Last year was tough.  I think most people would agree with that statement.  It wasn’t just one thing.  It was watching the surrealistic events unfold all over the world.  It came to a point where I just could not process it anymore.  I had to pause writing my blog while I watched and worked through what was happening.

In December, I started blogging again.  Slowly, with one blog post a month and most of them being book reviews to get back into the rhythm of writing.

I want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement as I continue to stumble through writing my blog this year.  I’m still not sure where things are going with my blog and writing.  As with any creative endeavor, it will continue to evolve and change.

  • To my family there are not enough words to express my gratitude for your assistance, patience, feedback and support.  I know that having me in your lives can be a challenge.  You help me to be the best artist and creative person I can be.  I am truly grateful for you.
  • To my friends, so often the conversations we have are the creative sparks for a blog post.  Thank you for your emotional and creative support.  You help me be a better writer, artist, creativity coach and teacher.  I am grateful for all of you.
  •  My friend, Eric Hanson, is an amazing poet and I have used his poems in my blogs off and on over the years.  Thank you for letting me share your beautiful creative work with others.  Eric has also let me bounce ideas for blog posts off of him.  Some are definitely a lot better than others.  Thank you for listening, making suggestions and not letting me embarrass myself in the written word.
  • I would also like to send a special thank you to the students who participated in the Art Sampler, Beginning and advanced Acrylic Painting, Fine Art of Book Making, Printmaking and Mixed Media Collage Classes.  You have inspired me with your stories, questions, and amazing creative work.  You are all amazing creative people and I am excited to see where your creativity will take you.
  • To my readers and blog friends who follow my blog as part of the WordPress community, I am grateful for your support.  I am continually inspired by all of you and the creative work that you are doing.  No matter where you are located on this planet or what your blog is about….. your creativity, bravery in sharing feelings and ideas, and support make me proud to be a part of the WordPress blogging community.
  • Thank you to those that like my posts.  I appreciate you taking the time to support my creative work.  You motivate me to keep writing.
  • Thank you to those that post comments and provide feedback.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts about my work.  I am so proud when something I have written inspires others.  Your words mean the world to me.

I am looking forward to another year of blogging and creative explorations. Thank you for joining me on this adventure!

Devolution by Max Brooks

 
“As the ash and Chaos from Mount Rainer’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined…. until now.  The journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the towns bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing – and too earth-shattering in its implications – to be forgotten.  In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.  Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.
Yet it is also far more than that.
Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible.  We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us – and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.
Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it – and like none you’ve ever read before.”
-Book Cover “Devolution” by Max Brooks   
 
 
Devolution

Some stories really get under my skin. I think about them long after I have finished reading them. Devolution by Max Brooks is one of those stories. I was very excited to receive my copy of the book last August and finished reading shortly after I received it. I have wanted to write a review of the book; but, needed time to process the story.

I want to put in a reminder that this is a book of fiction. So much of this book is written as if it just happened. Much like Max Brooks other novel World War Z.

Devolution starts with an introduction by the author explaining how he came to write the story of the firsthand account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Written primary through the journal of Kate Holland found at what was left of the eco-community, Greenloop when rescuers finally were able to reach it. Also included are interviews of the community founder, Tony Durant taken from NPR. Interviews from Frank McCray, the journal writer’s brother, and Senior Ranger Josephine Schell, who was first on the scene. These interviews add a sense of urgency to the story and validate the experiences Kate writes about in her journal. Quotes from scientific journals, myths, zoological texts and other sources lend credibility and interest to the story. Everything meshes together to tell the story and leave the reader to ponder the ultimate outcome. Like any good disaster story, I was left wondering if things had been handled differently, would the ending have changed?

What I enjoyed the most about this novel was the character development of Kate Holland. How the reader gets to know her through her own words. When she arrives, Kate goes on a walk and writes in journal the wonder she experiences of the natural world. Through her own words I saw her as a very timid. By the end of the novel, Kate has strength, courage and a will to survive that transcends through the horror.

The interactions of Kate with the other citizens of the small community and the development of those relationships is all documented in her journal. Mostar was another favorite character. Maybe because she was an artist, but more likely it was her no bull-shit attitude. Everyone in that community tip toed around the very serious situation that was starring them in the face. Only Mostar had the nerve to call it out.

There are some truly terrifying parts to this novel. The following happened fairly early in the book. Kate felt the urge to go for a walk down the road that had been washed out. At one point she thought she saw a boulder on the road. But then it moved, stood up and walked into the woods. The following exert is what happened next.

“When I looked again, the road was clear. The boulder was definitely gone. Then, as the wind shifted in my direction, I smelled it. Eggs and garbage.

I didn’t consciously consider what to do next. No internal debate. this was reflex. I turned and started walking back. My eyes kept scanning back and forth in a shallow arc, like they teach you on the first day of driver’s school. I tried to keep my pace steady, my breathing constant. I tried not to dwell on what I’d seen. An animal, a deer. Maybe that ‘boulder’ was just a speck in my eye.

But the smell was getting stronger, and I couldn’t keep from speeding up. I thought I saw something move off to my right, a sudden space opening between two trees.

I quickened again.

Silly. Irrational. Tired. Information overload from the news mixed with memory flashes of the bloody, butchered rabbit.

A light trot, at first, long controlled breaths. That feeling. The back of my neck. Being watched. My trot became a jog, my breath thundering in my ears.

I could not have imagined the howl. I definitely heard it, just like the other day. Deep, rising pitch, echoing off the trees. Lightening kicked up my stomach.

I ran.

Sprinting, gasping, the world shaking in front of me.

And fell. Just like in one of those stupid, cheesy horror flicks when the dumb blond eats it just before the knife-wielding psycho gets her. At least I had the presence of mind to close my eyes, hold my breath, but after face-planting in the ash, I couldn’t help but inhale.

Coughing, chocking, eyes blurry and stinging, I tore forward.

Don’t turn! I remember that clearly. Shouting in my brain. Don’t turn! Don’t think! GOGOGO!

Thighs burning, lungs.

I ran until I saw the roofs poking just above the driveway rise. The endorphins hit. Made it. Home. Safe!

Dan!

He was coming toward me, Mostar behind him.

Pages 88-89 Devolution by Max Brooks

This book is a cautionary tale about forgetting that nature can and is dangerous. Just recently there was an accident locally where some downhill skiers went out of bounds. One of them skied into a tree well and died. We hear all the time that visitors to Yellowstone and other national parks are injured because they tried to pet a bison or feed a grizzly bear. I blame Disney for this with the way it anthropomorphizes inanimate objects and wild animals. Wild animals are wild. Even the cute ones.

And just because you can make a call on your satellite phone doesn’t mean that bad things won’t or can’t happen to you when you are in the wilderness. The characters in this book thought technology would save them. They didn’t consider the idea that they wouldn’t be able to depend on it. None of them, with the exception of Mostar, had any idea of what it might take to survive the situation they were in.

I did not feel like this was a horror story. There were horrific events. To me, Devolution, felt like a survival story. Catastrophic natural event caused a series of things to happen. I enjoy a good survival story and this was no exception. Not a book for everyone. But if you like disaster stories or survival stories, this book has all of those components and a mysterious ending.

Aetherial Worlds: Stories by Tatyana Tolstaya

There are times when one wants to sit down and read a book but simply doesn’t have the time, focus, patience or energy to devote to such an undertaking.  That is where collections of short stories fit in.  They allow the reader to go through one or more stories as they have the time.  Allowing one to get that much needed creative break.

I was in one of these quandaries when I found the collection of short stories “Aetherial Worlds” by Tatyana Tolstaya.  These stories are contemplations of time, place and space.  Just out of the ordinary enough to make one wonder, could this really happen?  Or even has it happened already?

The description from the jacket cover is as follows:

“From one of modern Russia’s finest writers, a spellbinding collection of eighteen stories – her first to be translated into English in more than twenty years.

Ordinary realities and yearnings to transcend them lead to miraculous other worlds in this dazzling collection of stories.  A woman’s deceased father appears in her dreams with clues about the afterlife; a Russian Professor in a small American town constructs elaborate fantasies during her cigarette break; a man falls in love with a marble statue as his marriage falls apart; a child glimpses heaven through a stained-glass window.  With the emotional insight of Chekhov, the surreal satire of Gogol, and a unique blend of humor and poetry all her own, Tolstaya transmutes the quotidian into aetherial alternatives.  These tales about politics, identity, love and loss, cut to the core of the Russian psyche, even as they lay bare human universals.  Tolstaya’s characters – seekers all- are daydreaming children, lonely adults, dislocated foreigners in unfamiliar lands.  Whether contemplating the strategic complexities of delivering telegrams in Leningrad or the meditative melancholy of holiday aspic, vibrant inner lives and the grim elements of existence are registered in equally sharp detail, giving way to a starkly bleak but sympathetic vision of life on earth.

Written with wit and candor, compassion and depth, and piercing emotional and political acuity, Aetherial Worlds is a shimmering and unique collection from one of the first women to rank among Russia’s most important writers.”

I greatly enjoyed this collection of stories. Some are quite short, only a couple of pages.  Like “Passing Through” with its explanation of what happens to socks in the laundry, the mystery of missing objects and curious items that randomly appear.  Others were longer.  One of these called “The Invisible Maiden” seemed to be many stories in one focusing on the people who would come to a particular family dacha every summer. A cautionary tale, “The Window” hands out things free of charge but come at an altogether different price.

Ms. Tolstaya’s writing draws you in.  Reading her stories are like picking up a conversation with a dear friend that you haven’t seen in years.  No additional introduction is needed, they pick up right where they are supposed to be.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the dachas, delivering telegrams in Leningrad, driving in snow, illumination on Italian tombs and church ceilings in Ravenna, etc.  Each story captures the readers imagination in part due to the wonderful descriptions.

I highly recommend this collection of stories.  If you have a chance to pick up Tatyana Tolstaya’s collection of stories entitled “Aetherial Worlds” you will not be disappointed.

Enjoying the Possibilities

There is a lot of hype around New Years Eve and the ushering in of a new year.  (Even more so this year.)  I get that for some it is a time to party.  Others see it as a time for reflection and sending well wishes to friends and family.  Many people make new year resolutions.

The word resolution means a firm decision to do or not to do something, or the quality of determination or resolve.  But this is not a post about resolutions.  It is a post about possibilities.  A possibility is a thing that may happen, a state of being likely and/or a thing that may be done out of several possible alternatives.

Where resolutions are determined, a possibility is a maybe.  Resolutions are guidelines to getting things done; possibilities are open ended options.  Resolution is an exclamation point.  Possibilities are question marks.

There is nothing wrong with resolutions.  And to those who accomplish or keep them, I say, “Way to go!”  Making and keeping goals is part of the creative process.

But sometimes one doesn’t need resolution.  Nothing so firm.  A possibility, however, is just right.  Options.  Ideas.  Could be and may be.  Optimistic hoping and wishing.

The idea for this post came about from a conversation with a friend about receiving new art supplies for Christmas.  We are both in the process of organizing the spaces in which we create art and our supplies.  While I was going through a box, I found some paper that I hadn’t looked at in ages.  I went through the box touching each sheet of paper, enjoying the possibilities.

When I purchase paper I don’t always use it right away.  But I don’t want to miss the opportunity to purchase this sheet of paper.  I may not know right now what I am going to use it for, but I will use at some point in my artwork.  I am very aware of the possibility each sheet of paper holds.  A new tube of paint.  The purchase of a printing press.  The blank page or the blank canvas.  A yard of fabric or a skein of yarn.  A new herb or spice.  These all have possibilities!

Good and or bad outcomes may happen.  The paint may become part of a stunning landscape.  The story written on that blank page may fizzle out.  The printing press produces many beautiful prints and some major flops.  The dish made with the new spice is not to your tasting.  The socks you knit from the skein of yarn fit perfectly.  Yes any and all of this could happen.  But right now, in this moment, there is nothing but possibility.

And this brings me back to the beginning and perception of the new year.  One could think of this as a very negative time or could look at it as a opportunity for possibilities.  It would be very easy to get caught up in the negativity of the current state of our world: isolation and masks; lockdowns and travel restrictions; censorship and unrest and much more.  This is enough to cause depression in the most positive people.  If we allow it, these critical and negative thoughts will take control.  That is why enjoying the possibilities is so important.   Yes, the possibilities or outcomes could be a disaster, but they have just as much chance as being something wonderful or amazing.

I would like to leave you with this quote which has been accredited to Eleanor Roosevelt.   “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  And today?  Today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present.”

Take the gift of today.  Be in this moment.  Enjoy the possibilities.

Auxiliary: London 2039

What do a “Farm,” robotic arm, and a murder have in common? They are linked together in the brilliant science fiction novel, “Auxiliary: London 2039” written by Jon Richter and published by TCK Publishing.com.

This is not a cheerful novel where science has improved humanity and the world for the better. This is a dark, gritty, dystopian view of our future where we have given up our individuality and our freedom to computers. It is this vision that makes this novel so interesting and worth reading.

The description of the novel from the jacket cover reads as follows:

“The silicon revolution left Dremmler behind.

But a good detective is never obsolete.

Through the glittering urban wonderland of the future prowls Carl Dremmler, police detective-one of the few jobs better suited to meat than machine in 2039. His latest case: a murder suspect caught literally red-handed. The investigation seems open and shut, but the tech-wary detective can’t help but believe the accused’s bizarre story: that his robotic arm committed the grisly crime, not him. An advanced prosthetic, controlled by a chip in his skull.

A chip controlled by TIM.

TIM: The Imagination Machine. The silicon god of the UK. The omnipresent AI that drives every car, cooks every meal, and plans every second of human life in London. But if the accused murderer’s story is true, then TIM’s compromised … and Dremmler’s in horrible danger.

TIM’s systems were supposed to be impregnable. Un-hackable. Perfect. Only somebody very powerful could bend the AI to their will. Somebody with ambitions. Somebody willing to kill to keep their secrets. If Dremmler’s going to crack this case, he’ll need to question everything he thinks he knows-and face down every terror 2039 has to offer.”

One of the challenges of good science fiction novel, is the author’s ability to describe places and events. Jon Richter has definitely mastered this challenge. His ability to describe colours, scents, light, and sounds enhance the readers ability to suspend their system of disbelief. Transporting them into the places and experiences.

A great example of the amazing descriptions in this book comes from chapter 6, Dremmler goes to a club called Toxicity with Petrovic, his partner on this particular case. Part of the experience uses special glasses called spex. The following is the description of that expereince from page 26:

“As he followed her to join the other revelers, he clicked the spex to the right station , and a cocoon of swirling colours embraced them, washing the rest of the club away. It was just him and her, enveloped in a pulsating fabric of blue and green and silver and magenta and sapphire and emerald and amethyst and finally blue again, a glorious cerulean sky stretching into infinity above them, the sun suspended within it like a droplet of molten gold. Long blades of grass danced around their feet as they gyrated , and the sun sank slowly, its colour bleeding out into the sky in a deep crimson blot like the end of the world, the final gory hemorrhage of the earth, beautiful and brutal and pure violent red, like war, like the womb he had squirmed out of in the dying throes of the twentieth century, like lips, like Cynthia’s lips, and he was dancing and drinking with Cynthia, kissing her on top of a snow-capped mountain, staring into a sky so clear and crisp it might have been an ice cube floating in her glass.”

I don’t want to give anything away about the storyline or plot but nothing is as it seems in this novel. With the addition of the AltWorld, a computer generated alternative reality experience, there are times where it is hard to know what is real and what isn’t.

Another great aspect of this story is that it primarily told through the experiences of Carl Dremmler. On occasion the author shares points of view from others in the novel. It expands the readers overall view of this strange world without giving any plot information away.

One of the creepiest moments in the book has to do with a creature made by a 3-D laser printer. Earlier in the novel, Dremmler had seen the aftermath of this printer made creature killing someone. The creature or device as TIM calls it, had disappeared into the sewer. The following is an exchange between Dremmler and TIM about the device from chapter 33, page 147:

“Another fucking rogue robot we’ve lost track of,” Dremmler muttered.

“Incorrect. The device reappeared earlier today. It emerged from an open manhole and scaled the building.”

“Which building?”

“This building, Carl. Until two hours ago, it was attached to the outside surface of your bedroom window.”

I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of science fiction. While cautioning that this novel isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy darker literature and specifically dark science fiction, this book is definitely for you.

If you would like to find out more about Jon, check out his page on his publishers website https://www.tckpublishing.com/our-authors/author-jon-richter/ and the author’s website page https://www.jon-richter.com/,

If you would like to find more novels like this one or just another good book to read, please check out the TCK publishing website. https://www.tckpublishing.com/

Network Effect

“Now we’re here, ready for the next major disaster. (Spoiler warning.)” – Murderbot, page 37, Network Effect

Murderbot is back!  If you are not familiar with Murderbot and the four previous books that comprise the Murderbot Diaries, you can become acquainted with these delightful books clicking on the following links and checking out my reviews :  All Systems RedArtificial ConditionRogue Protocol; and Exit Strategy.

The Murderbot Diaries were created by author Martha Wells.  Martha is an excellent writer.  I have enjoyed her creative writing skills in developing characters and the plot.  I also enjoy Martha’s descriptions of the places and people that Murderbot interacts with.  In some cases her descriptions are so well done, I feel like I could sketch the person or draw a diagram or schematic of the place.

The overarching theme of these novels, to me, is what really makes us human.  This theme doesn’t just pertain to Murderbot and other AI that it meets but to the people as well.

I enjoy how all of these books tie in together but can also be read on their own.  I am not the only human who enjoys these books immensely.  Titles in the Murderbot Diaries series have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Awards.

Murderbot is paranoid, anxious, doesn’t like to be touched and enjoys the human media program “Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.” He has moments were he has feelings.  What Murderbot calls having an emotion.  He cares very much for the clients who have become his friends and recognizes why he considers them friends.

“Thiago had said he felt like he should apologize and talk to me more about it.  Ratthi had said, ‘I think you should let it go for a while, at least until we get ourselves out of this situation.  SecUnit is a very private person, it doesn’t like to discuss its feelings.’ This is why Ratthi is my friend.” -page 230-231, Network Effect

Things have a way of going sideways very quickly on strange planets and that’s why the humans need protection.  Providing security for humans is a monumental task.  Murderbot is quick to point the irony of its job with its quick wit and hint of sarcasm.

“I’ve had clients who thought they needed an absurd level of security.  (And I’m talking absurd by my standards, and my code was developed by a bond company known for intense xenophobic paranoia, tempered only by desperate greed.)  I’ve also had clients who thought they didn’t need any security at all, right up until something ate them.  (That’s mostly a metaphor.  My uneaten client stat is high.)”         Murderbot – page 9, Network Effect

Network Effect will keep you guessing until the very end.  And for those who have read the previous four novels, an old friend returns and desperately needs Murderbots help.  The description on the book cover reads as follows:

“I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90-plus percent of my problems are.

The bestselling Murderbot series exploded onto the scene with ‘one of the most humane portraits of a non-human I’ve ever read’ (Annalee Newitz).  Now one of the most relatable AIs in science fiction returns in its first stand alone novel.

It calls itself Murderbot, but only when no one can hear.

It worries about the fragile human crew who’ve grown to trust it, but only where no one can see.

It tells itself that they’re only a professional obligation, but when they’re captured and an old friend from the past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic Action it is, then.”  – Book cover, Network Effect

Network Effect by Martha Wells is a stellar read.  But don’t take my word for it, go find a copy of your own to read.