Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rhesus Burn

I read the latest of Charlie Stross's (@cstross) Laundry novels "The Rhesus Chart" on my flights to Zagreb last month. I bought it in hardback, as my son-in-law (in Zagreb) also enjoys these novels - I left him the copy. This series has a great memotype: Dilbert meets H.P.Lovecraft at the bottom, with an additional flavor thrown in on top. Additional flavors have included James Bond and other spy novel variants. This time the special sauce is vampires.

Is there a scholarly study on why the vampire meme is so incredibly strong? There are so many variations. After the original Stoker, I think the Anne Rice novels reopened the doors. Then came Coppola, Blade, Underworld, UltraViolet, Twilight and a couple of TV series (of which I have seen zilch - should I consider that as "I've got that goin' for me" to check out, or should I ignore them all?) At one point, I had a life goal of watching all vampire movies - I have abandoned that goal.

The ship captain vampire was a great addition to Peter Watts "Blindsight" (which I've talked about a couple of times before), with a great appendix giving the details on Watts's version of What Is Vampirism.

I liked Charlie's postulate in the vampiric memespace: that as totally top-of-the-food-chain predators, vampires would pretty much always try to wipe each other out soonest.

So for this Laundry novel, Charlie picked the "bacon" of special sauces. I thought that this was one of the best plotted novels of the series. He continues to innovate to keep the series fresh, but I think a few more and he will be done here.

Of course, Joe Bob sez, "Check it out".

On the 16 hr trip home, I saved the one other novel I'd decided to read for the final legs and watched a few airplane movies on the long trans-Atlantic leg.

The 1st was "Divergent": should I say "Holy crap, what shit!", or "Holy shit, what crap!" I mean, really, at the end, after being rescued by her mom (our own Ashley Judd), who then buys it, the heroine winds up reunited with her boyfriend/mentor, her brother, her father, and the leader of their clan - Ray Stevenson??? I had blogged before about YA novels, and about how good they were. This is more what I would expect YA to be: complete adolescent crap.

Then I watched "Noah", OMG what a load of crap! It kind of reminded me of "City of God", in which a protagonist makes incredibly stupid, unrealistic, and unpragmatic decisions based on moral or religious grounds. I guess it's a good object lesson in how corrupting it is to allow your mind to be controlled by a virus. My recommendation is, spare yourself.

The 3rd movie I watched I can't remember, which is unfortunate, because it was way better than the 1st 2. OK, it's 4 days later, my subconscious is mute as to what this movie was. I'm assuming it's gone forever. YASM (Yet Another Senior Moment) :-(

And speaking of crappy movies, I purchased and watched "Under The Skin". Incomprehensible. Clearly an Art Film, but not a very good one. I find it particularly annoying when someone who doesn't know science fiction makes what they think is an edgy, artsy sci fi movie which mostly serves to demonstrate that non-afficianados have no idea how edgy good sci fi currently is.

So after the moviefest, I read "Cibola Burn" by James S.A. Corey (2 guys, @JamesSACorey). This is the 4th novel in their series - I have blogged the other 3. A good read. The hero - the incorruptible man who will always speak truth to power - is back, with the other 3 interesting members of his crew. Plus we get a character from the 1st book back in an interesting twist.

I think the series is moving into more conventional territory - we've gone from an ancient countermeasure bioweapon threatens life in the solar system to exploring 1000s of worlds opened through a newly awakened ancient portal system. But still good plotting, and a bad guy who I think speaks to our times: a psychopath whose dedication to corporate goals is beyond psychotic.

This is one of the best new series of the last decade. I think they can keep it interesting for at least a few more novels. They have also published 2 novellas in the same story universe which I have yet to read. I'm happy to say, I've got that goin' for me!

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