Tag Archives: science fiction

In the End

Part I

The Earth has died, but we are still here. Living.

What has been left to us is dust. Clouds of it erasing the distance and swallowing horizons whole. We have covered the windows and taped all the seams, yet the smallest of particles still find their way in. Piling in the corners and ensnaring bits on our bare feet.

The Sun has become more powerful. There is no longer a layer to protect us from it’s blinding rays, the power of it’s ultraviolet light altering everything in it’s wake. Within the Day the rays stretch over the land, piercing anything unblemished; radiation consuming the ground. Not even the dust can save you.

We have become accustomed to the Night. Only then is it safe to wonder beyond a door, be it armed with a filter mask, layers of leather upon your skin, and a heavy knife. Never forget your knife.

The oceans are incubators, filled with the toxic aroma of death. The shorelines stretch deep into the land, extending miles beyond their said origins. Storms rage upon them for weeks at times, creating acid rains and winds that pulverize any remains among the abandoned cities.

Humanity once cared for one another. But that care has been replaced with fear. This fear is not like what our grandparents knew. It is ugly and traced with anger, confusion, and blame. No one wants to live in this world, but no one wants to die in it either. Yet we are the ones who made it this way.

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FEVERISH

PART 1

Sweat perspired on my forehead, glossing it like a shiny plastic doll. The heat was rising out of my head at an alarming rate, warming my thoughts to mush. I couldn’t think straight; everything was a magical blur of words and sounds.

The hard toe of my black Salvatores gently tapped the grey berber that covered the room. Puh. Puh. Puh. The rhythm brought some comfort to me. Something familiar, consistent.

There was a lady across the way. Mid-thirties, blonde, attractive. She wore a short navy blue skirt and polished white top. Her neck was curved to the right as she flipped through a magazine. Her long nails scratched the surface.

“David?”

I looked up. A woman stood at the door of the office entry, questions posed on her face. A pleasant face though.

“Yes,” I got up tugging my briefcase along, “yes, that’s me.” I smiled briefly and offered my hand. She returned it with a casual shrug and motioned for me to follow.

We filed past rows of glass doors. Each tightly closed with people inside bent over desks, their eyes constricted to screens. I caught a glimpse of one office that housed a plant. It’s bright red flowers a striking contrast to the bleakness that surrounded it.

“Here we are.” She stopped abruptly at a door labeled ‘Conference.’ “Good luck,” she said with a smirk.

I pushed on the faux gold handle and entered the room. A draft of cool air surrounded me as I looked around. The long windows at one side had been covered by a dark curtain, secured neatly at the sides. A long boardroom style table held most the space with recessed, circular lights along the walls perimeter. At the end sat a man slumped over a stack of papers and writing feverishly.

“Sit,” he commanded, not bothering to look up.

I made my way to the opposite end and drug out a chair. It was surprisingly comfortable. I rubbed the soft arm rests with my hands, flushing the material. It occurred to me after some time that the man had stopped writing and was observing my behavior. His face was cold and wrinkled. His glasses barely hung onto his paunchy face, his body an overflowing tub of grease.

“David, is it?” His voice separated by the effort to speak.

“Yes, sir. David Urnst.” I sat up and straightened my tie.

He made a mark on the paper in front of him. “Ohio?”

“Yes, Cleveland. Born and raised there.”

He grunted. “Kids?”

“No.”

“Wife?”

“No.”

“Family?”

I paused and looked at the grisly man. “At one point.”

His laughed stifled into a cough and he continued. “Past?”

“Accountant.”

He nodded and continued to write. “I could have guessed that. Future?”

I bit my lip. This answer was the crucial one. A wrong answer here and I would lose it. Or at least that’s what they told me. It would mean back to the grunge. Just another day, like everybody else.

“Tester.”

The man looked up, surprise covering his face. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” I smiled.

He raised his eyebrows and wrote down a long note. “Very well then. You may go.”

I looked around. “That’s it?”

He nodded. “See yourself out. Veronica is not the best at knowing when these little things are over.” He ginned, exposing his yellow teeth.

I got up but paused at the door. “When will I know?”

“Two weeks or so.”

“How?”

He sat back in his chair and looked at me for a moment. “You’ll know. There won’t be any toe tapping for home after that point, though.” He winked. “No such thing as a home really.”

I nodded and went out the door. No such thing as a home repeated in my head.  What did that mean?

At the end of the hall Veronica waited with door help open into the waiting room. I noticed the bright red flowers were now wilted as I passed.

JUST FINISHED: Seven Eves

Author: Neal Stephenson

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The moon blew up upon impact with an unknown force, that is come to be known as the Agent. The night sky takes on a different look as the human race prepares themselves for an inevitable Hard Rain, up to 5000 years of meteors and bolides striking plant earth and dismantling it to an age of fire. Every living thing upon its surface will be destroyed. Desperate for survival, the world “comes together” and forms a program named the Cloud Ark, intent upon sending the best, brightest, and varied lot of humans to attach to the International Space Station and survive the next millennias. And so the ISS must also prepare for them.

Stephenson introduces to us a wide range of emotional characters, each very independent and strong, that have to digest this unfathomable news and settle in with their new roles to keep humanity alive. His writing is incredibly thorough and detailed to work out every working piece of this disaster scenario. You are guaranteed to not come away lacking in any aspect of space survival, mechanics, and comprehensive long-term planning.

**SPOILER ALERT**

While I really enjoyed part one and two of Seven Eves, at part three my interest began to wane terribly. After we are left with the seven women that begin to recreate the human race, we fast forward into time to where there are now seven races, each being genetically and personally like their initial Eve. The Hard Rain has ended and they are now in the process of re-growing(Terraform) the Earth below.

Here was where Stephenson’s writing took a turn for the over-meticulated details of machinery and places to the point where I was bored. It became extremely dry with no plot movement and just descriptions of everything. I found myself skipping pages and moving to sections where there was dialogue or some form of action.

I had another issue with the unrealistic plot at this point as well. You’re telling me that somehow out the seven last women to survive in space miraculously two of their close personal relatives survived as well on Earth? One through a mining set up and the other by moving to the depths of the Ocean? It seems impossible that those chances would work out. I’m alright with perfected endings sometimes, but this one was just too much. There is no way when the earth was a boiling pot of fire and brimstone that there was still water cool enough to survive in. Even in the trenches. Same goes with digging to go down below. Even if they did accomplish the cave-like survival, then who is to say that no other set of people from the entire world could not have also had some success? Why is that only the two Eve’s family were the ones to make it on the planet?

And then there was the whole issue of the cheesy look back to the Epic (when ISS landed on the section of the moon where they would rebuild the human race) and references to their Eves and their qualities. Five thousand years later and they still talk about those women as if it occurred yesterday? In my opinion, that may be covered in a history course of the future, but other than that the origin side of it would be forgotten on a daily basis.

Maybe Stephenson will have a sequel that will answer some of those questions. But until then, I will probably just be annoyed with the happy, “oh, goody!” ending.

If you are in the mood for an interesting piece of science fiction that deals with the planning and turmoil of the inevitable end of the world, this one is for you.

JUST FINISHED:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Author: Jules Verne

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For whatever reason, I found myself in an ocean mood towards the end of the year and decided to try out the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This book was original published in 1870. 1870! One hundred and forty-six years later, it still makes for an interesting read.

We find ourselves fixed under the narrative of Dr. Aronnax, a French marine biologist that boards a vessel with his man-servant, Conseil, in search of the notorious whale that has been roaming the seas. The gigantic narwhal was said to single handedly (or fin-ly should I say?) destroy ships and constantly evade any captors.

While on the hot pursuit of this mysterious being, Aronnax and Conseil are thrown overboard and find themselves in the middle of the ocean and distraught. But to their great surprise, they encounter another passenger that had been aboard, a harpooner named Ned Land, that had taken safety atop the very whale itself. And that whale just happened to be made of steel.

They are let into this strange vessel after some time and become acquainted with the strange yet eloquent Captain Nemo who then holds them prisoner in order to preserve the secrecy of his prized ship. This submarine that has technology and advances far beyond the current society is called the Nautilus.

As the novel continues, the crew explores sections of the ocean never before seen by the human eye. Transcending into a world that could almost be called unearthly, they experience a once in a lifetime journey beneath the known living.

While I find some of Verne’s description a bit much, the overall plot and characters of this novel are quite extraordinary. And when you consider the time period in which Verne was articulating such an expedition it makes it even more impressive.

If you’re in the mood for exploring the ocean blue, this book is for you.

JUST FINISHED: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

So I’m just going to come right out with it—I hated this book. I actually hated it. There was no part I enjoyed. No part that fancied my imagination. I hated all of it.

Harsh, right? Well, let’s discover the why.

Reason one: numbers. There are way too many numbers and equations in this book. ‘I have x amount of water. At X liters per day, it will last X many days. I need to find more water for X additional days if I don’t want to die.’ This is too much information that I don’t care about. I could care less about the exactness of the situation. I only need to know that he doesn’t have enough water and needs more. And it’s not just the water, it’s about the soil, the growth rate of plants, and on and on and on.

Reason two: the mechanics. This book strives to be a non-fiction manual on how to survive Mars. Yes, a manual. You know like your car manual, that thick-paged book you shoved to the back of your glove box never to be opened? Every system gets described in depth in this novel. From the research center (HAB) to a rover to batteries and more. More information that is not needed!

Reason three: the main character. The character of Mark Watney is obnoxious and self-absorbed. Maybe he was supposed to be that way, but it’s comes off as really annoying to a reader. He is unrealistic and sarcastic to the point that I often just closed the book. For someone who may be doomed to death on Mars, he doesn’t actual seem to really care in the long run. It’s more of a big joke for him. And that loses all of the plot suspense (if there ever was any).

Reason four: unrealistic dialogue. First correspondence back to NASA from Watney: “…Really looking forward to not dying. I want to make it clear it wasn’t the crew’s fault. Side question: What did they say when they found out I was alive? Also, “Hi, Mom!”.” Then there is extreme overuse of the word “Yay!” and things like “Look! A pair of boobs!-> (.Y.)”. Enough said.

Reason five: unrealistic situations. Getting stranded on Mars, possible. Finding a way out of every bad thing that happens in good time, not possible. Come on Weir, everybody fails at something. There are many difficulties presented in the book but for one individual to miraculous solve every problem and it all go to plan is ridiculous. Also, boring and predictable. I didn’t even have to make it to the last chapter to know how this one would end.

Reason six: zero character development. Watney is the exact same person you met on page one of the book as you will know by the end. The other characters introduced just fade to the background. They are stereotypical people: shy computer programmer, remorseful captain, feisty PR woman, resourceful/strong-willed leader.  There is little more to them. Even their choice of words and thought patterns are stereotypes.

I will give credit to Weir for an outstanding amount of research to produce this book to the nth degree of accuracy. Apparently he started work as a “programmer at a national laboratory at age fifteen” with hobbies in “relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned space flight.” That explains a good deal of why this book turned out the way it did.

I wanted a nice space thriller with some intensity and what I got was a bland book filled with endless clichés and numbers (and I’m an engineer!). I’ve read other comments on this book where people took it more as a comedy, and perhaps that’s a better light to see it in. But even then, I didn’t find it funny. This book contains way too many meaningless situations and empty relationships void of development. Just a little bit of imagination, that’s all I ask for.

Would I recommend it to you? Only if you are infatuated with astronauts and space.  Otherwise, I would just wait for the movie because you might actually enjoy it more than the book.