Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear – A Book Review

This won’t be a normal book review.  First of all, I haven’t finished reading it yet.  And it’s way too soon to say exactly what results I’ve achieved by using its advice because I really haven’t used any yet.

But what I can tell you is that the author, James Clear’s explanation of his strategies to allow people to break bad habits and make good habits, jibes remarkably well with my long, very checkered career of developing better habits for just about every aspect of my life.  It’s as if this book was written specifically for people like me.  And by people like me what I mean is extremely lazy people with an awful work ethic.

There are chapters on the psychological and neurological origins of habit formation and there are rules for optimizing good habits and rules for minimizing the temptations of bad habits (which tend to be mirror images of each other).  And there are checklists for scheduling all the good activities you will want to piggyback on each other in the course of your new, improved, productive but quite crowded day.

The book doesn’t have a large component of feel-good cheerleading.  It’s more of a how-to manual for maximizing success and minimize relapses.  And it isn’t one of those systems that depend on heroic willpower and any external products.  He’s not selling anything that I’ve read about so far.  It’s logical strategies to manipulate human nature to direct effort and provide support for the natural power of repetition and the application of small incremental change over time.

I think the reason I’ve been enthusiastic about this book is because it formulates things, I’ve already recognized about behavioral modification, but underpins it with explanations about what additional steps can be taken to protect against the everyday problems that so often derail people from making changes to their habits.

I don’t want to sound too enthusiastic about the usefulness of this book for everyone.  Possibly I am the poster child for this book.  Maybe most people don’t need to know about dopamine in order to institute a permanent habit for exercise or rework their schedules.  But for whatever reason this book clicks for me.  If you’re in a self-improvement mode and need a textbook to set it up this might be just what you need.  It’s probably in a library near you so you can check it out and see if it works for you.

Of Femme Fatales and Food

Brigid O’Shaughnessy is the love interest and principal suspect in Dashiell Hammett’s, “The Maltese Falcon.”  Whenever Sam Spade attempts to extract any sliver of truth from Brigid she fills the air with pheromones, lies and histrionics.  But perhaps the only slice of normal human interaction between them occurs the night of and the morning after O’Shaughnessy ends up in Spade’s bed.  Before and after this offstage sexual encounter we see the two of them sharing meals.

“Post Street was empty when Spade issued into it. He walked east a block, crossed the street, walked west two blocks on the other side, recrossed it, and returned to his building without having seen anyone except two mechanics working on a car in a garage.

When he opened his apartment-door Brigid O’Shaughnessy was standing at the bend in the passageway, holding Cairo’s pistol straight down at her side.

“He’s still there,” Spade said.

She bit the inside of her lip and turned slowly, going back into the living-room. Spade followed her in, put his hat and overcoat on a chair, said, “So we’ll have time to talk,” and went into the kitchen.

He had put the coffee-pot on the stove when she came to the door, and was slicing a slender loaf of French bread. She stood in the doorway and watched him with preoccupied eyes. The fingers of her left hand idly caressed the body and barrel of the pistol her right hand still held.

“The table-cloth’s in there,” he said, pointing the bread-knife at a cupboard that was one breakfast-nook partition.

She set the table while he spread liverwurst on, or put cold corned beef between, the small ovals of bread he had sliced. Then he poured the coffee, added brandy to it from a squat bottle, and they sat at the table. They sat side by side on one of the benches. She put the pistol down on the end of the bench nearer her.

“You can start now, between bites,” he said.

She made a face at him, complained, “You’re the most insistent person,” and bit a sandwich.

“Yes, and wild and unpredictable. What’s this bird, this falcon, that everybody’s all steamed up about?”

She chewed the beef and bread in her mouth, swallowed it, looked attentively at the small crescent its removal had made in the sandwich’s rim, and asked: “Suppose I wouldn’t tell you? Suppose I wouldn’t tell you anything at all about it? What would you do?””

I notice the gun that Brigid is still carrying.  Spade notices it too.  I think she’s trying to make up her mind whether to hook Spade or kill him.  But I also notice the meal.  Rich meaty tastes and rich stimulating drink.  This is comfort food for the damned.  Sensual pleasure for killers.  It’s late at night and Spade is still trying to figure out whether O’Shaughnessy killed his partner Miles and whether he wants the Falcon for himself.  And he’s most certainly trying to figure out whether Brigid will be in his bed that night.  He’s playing a very dangerous game with the most dangerous of the players in it.  He can deal with Gutman, Cairo and even Wilmer’s trigger-happy temper.  But Brigid is very dangerous because she distracts Spade while she plays her various parts.

He did not find the black bird. He found nothing that seemed to have any connection with a black bird. The only piece of writing he found was a week-old receipt for the month’s apartment-rent Brigid O’Shaughnessy had paid. The only thing he found that interested him enough to delay his search while he looked at it was a double-handful of rather fine jewelry in a polychrome box in a locked dressing-table-drawer.

When he had finished he made and drank a cup of coffee. Then he unlocked the kitchen-window, scarred the edge of its lock a little with his pocket-knife, opened the window–over a fire-escape–got his hat and overcoat from the settee in the living-room, and left the apartment as he had come.

On his way home he stopped at a store that was being opened by a puffy-eyed shivering plump grocer and bought oranges, eggs, rolls, butter, and cream.

Spade went quietly into his apartment, but before he had shut the corridor-door behind him Brigid O’Shaughnessy cried: “Who is that?”

“Young Spade bearing breakfast.”

“Oh, you frightened me!”

The bedroom-door he had shut was open. The girl sat on the side of the bed, trembling, with her right hand out of sight under a pillow.

Spade put his packages on the kitchen-table and went into the bedroom. He sat on the bed beside the girl, kissed her smooth shoulder, and said: “I wanted to see if that kid was still on the job, and to get stuff for breakfast.”

“Is he?”

“No.”

She sighed and leaned against him. “I awakened and you weren’t here and then I heard someone coming in. I was terrified.”

Spade combed her red hair back from her face with his fingers and said: “I’m sorry, angel. I thought you’d sleep through it. Did you have that gun under your pillow all night?”

“No. You know I didn’t. I jumped up and got it when I was frightened.”

He cooked breakfast–and slipped the flat brass key into her coat-pocket again–while she bathed and dressed.

She came out of the bathroom whistling En Cuba. “Shall I make the bed?” she asked.

“That’d be swell. The eggs need a couple of minutes more.”

Their breakfast was on the table when she returned to the kitchen. They sat where they had sat the night before and ate heartily.

“Now about the bird?” Spade suggested presently as they ate.

She put her fork down and looked at him. She drew her eyebrows together and made her mouth small and tight. “You can’t ask me to talk about that this morning of all mornings,” she protested. “I don’t want to and I won’t.”

“It’s a stubborn damned hussy,” he said sadly and put a piece of roll into his mouth.”

So, after climbing out of bed with Brigid he leaves and breaks into her apartment searching for the Falcon and any clues he can find.  Then he heads back to his apartment and cooks breakfast for his lady love.  Oranges, eggs, rolls, butter, and cream.  It’s domestic bliss.  A man and woman in love waking up to a bright morning with a hearty breakfast.  But there’s that gun again.  Always right at the edge of their love affair is Brigid clutching a pistol and seeming to endlessly oscillate between reflexes for homicide and passion.  And as he once said to her out loud, “Now you are dangerous.”

And Spade is a creature of passion and his appetites are for food, drink, smoke, action and women.  And Hammett does an admirable job portraying these things within the constraints of his time.  But to me I think he succeeded best with food.  There’s a zest in the type of food his character likes and I respond to the food and it seems to chime in with the moods he draws in those scenes.  I think they add to the story admirably.  A nice master class for any writer to consider when his characters have to eat.

 

 

What Must a Good Science Fiction Story Have?

 

I’ve returned to the land of the living.  My eyes track.  I can walk through a doorway without colliding with a doorjamb.  I can even keep up a conversation without sliding sideways off my chair onto the floor.  Next week I climb the Matterhorn.  Bravissimo!

I looked through the news feeds.  And, so help me, I even considered watching the Georgia run-off.  But there just wasn’t anything the least bit interesting.  I even considered pulling a Jussie Smollett.  I was going to claim that a Canon camera enthusiast sent me a derogatory e-mail making fun of my many bison photos of the day.  But my hard-bitten honesty just wouldn’t let me do it.  I love those bison!

I thought, “I’ll just write about something I like.”  After all that post about nuclear war had some great comments and that stuff really interests me.  Why not do something like that?  So that’s why this is coming out of left field.  I just didn’t feel like beating a political drum that’s already been beaten to a bloody pulp.

So, for a theme I’ll select the question, “What’s the most important component of a good science fiction story?”

Is it the tech?  Is it a good plot?  Is it well written characters?  Or does it absolutely require some balance between the three?

Let’s explore this a little bit.  Start with tech.  I suppose that space opera has lost a lot of support among the modern readers of science fiction.  Stuff like the Skylark of Space, The Legion of Space or the Lensman books are probably disqualified as too naïve and hopelessly early 20th century for anyone under sixty to consider reading.  But is the inexplicable faster than light (ftl) drives of these stories any less plausible than whatever also implausible ftl drives are currently being used by modern science fiction writers?  I’ve got to say I don’t think they’re disqualifications.  I’d say the rule is it just has to be self-consistent with whatever “rules” you’ve made up for the tech.  So, it doesn’t have to be somehow scientifically accurate.  It just can’t be bone-headedly stupid.  What it does have to be is convenient.  The technology has to allow the plot to evolve the way you want.  If space travel takes centuries, then don’t kill off too many good characters by leaving them back on Earth.  Or if time travel can only go backwards then don’t leave your spare batteries for your ray gun in your other pair of pants when you head back to the neolithic.

And the tech should be a fun toy for the reader if you can manage it.  I always loved how Heinlein lovingly designed his “torchships” and made the passenger and service areas of his ships seem well thought out.  But I also know of authors whose tech is basically a black box and for all we hear we could be sitting inside the fuselage of a jet plane.

While tech is necessary (after all it is sf) it’s not the deciding factor whether a story works.

Well, how about characters?  Yes, they are important, in the sense that they must at least exist.  But I’ve read some supposedly classic science fiction where the characters are as flat as pancakes (Asimov and Clarke come to mind).  Now this may no longer be the case.  I’m not sure.  I enjoy a good amount of character development in my fiction and I’ve been able to find it.  But I could easily believe there could be a very good story where character was in short supply.

What about plot?  Well, I could imagine a story that had a strong tech component and interesting characters but the plot was almost minimal.  Maybe like some of Bradbury’s short stories like the one where the Ladies’ Sewing Circle is trying to ignore the impending nuclear holocaust by concentrating on their work.  It’s all character.  But I guess you still have to say there’s a plot or more like a scenario.

I feel like, for the most part, and except for very odd stories, the sine qua non of a good science fiction story is a good plot.  If your tech is passable and your characters are at least bearable but you have a plot that rolls along and interesting stuff happening then you have a chance.  But you can have great tech and witty, erudite, droll fellows populating your world and if not much of anything is happening except talk, then your readers will throw the book against the wall (or the digital equivalent) and go look for something better.  And that’s that!

Now I know there are many sf fans in the audience.  I’d love to hear your comments, especially if you disagree.  I’m always interested in the opinions of sf readers.  The floor is now yours.

Nuclear Armageddon as a Plot Device

Recently Joe Biden made the news when he reversed a campaign vow and stated that under his administration the United States would maintain the right to nuclear first strike as a military option.  Now the idea of Dementia Joe mistaking the nuclear football for his tv remote and ordering up an all-out nuclear blitz on Russia and China while trying to access some kind of hair fetish programming is obviously concerning.

But really this article is more about fiction writing.  In a story that I have been working on (forever) I reached a point in the story where I considered that the best way to escape from the corner I’d painted myself into was by having thermonuclear war break out between Russia and the United States.

Admittedly, that seems like a sad statement on my writing abilities but in point of fact it provided a definitive solution to multiple plot problems I was faced with.  After all, there aren’t many scenarios that can put the US federal government on its heels.  But three 20-megaton thermonuclear ICBMs detonating over Washington is a leading contender.  So, I will confess that I considered the scenario very carefully.

One thing I noticed though is that the impact of a nuked United States is extremely disruptive to a storyline.  Even the most tyrannical US administration looks quite different after the mushroom cloud sprouts over it.  Because now all of a sudden millions of Americans are dead and the ones still living are stunned, scared and desperate for a path forward.  At that point they’d follow Satan himself if he knows where to get food and fuel.

So, everything in my story is turned upside down.  Instead of the plucky rebels fighting the evil feds in a series of hit and run attacks, suddenly they find themselves wondering how they’ll survive without the now non-existent FEMA agency to save them from starvation and hypothermia.  Now what happens to my rebellion story?  All of a sudden enemies need each other just to survive.  Freedom and independence suddenly don’t mean much when staying alive requires all hands-on deck.

So that’s the change in the atmosphere, the feel of the story.  Does it still make sense?  Can the story survive the change?  Not as originally conceived.  I was looking at a series of stories with the rebels taking on the Deep State one step at a time with the rest of the country sizing up the battle and the balance of power gradually tilting toward the rebels.  But now the battle is over but without the dramatic tension and the action.  Instead, we have a tale of catastrophe and dissolution.

And to make that story work will require a change in emphasis.  Now instead of a slowly building wave of battle we have a nuclear wipe out and a tide going out.  Instead of a war with winners and losers we have the flotsam and jetsam from a deluge struggling to survive and trying to rebuild some kind of patchwork of settlements.  That’s a totally different thing.  It becomes a bunch of smaller stories at the village level.  Instead of armies we have farmers and mechanics, men and women and their children trying to survive without supermarkets and gas stations, even without electricity.  It’s nothing like the story I was envisioning but somehow it makes sense.  Because even though we may have forgotten about the atom bomb it hasn’t gone away.  It’s still there and it has its own internal logic that makes it the executioner of last resort.  If we decide that the arc of history bends in our direction and we can do as we please no matter what, we may find that the arc is just the ballistic track of an ICBM.

So inexorably I think the story is telling me to make a turn.  Even as a fictional plot device it does make one pause.  Imagine the largest fifty American cities reduced to rubble and charred bodies.  Imagine fallout killing off a quarter of the survivors.  And food and fuel gone for the rest of the survivors.  The grimness of such a tale is hard to overstate.  How do you tell such a story so that people will want to read it?

Well, that’s a subject for another day.  But this one has helped me get my thoughts in some kind of order.  Okay, hit all those buttons!

What Does Science Fiction Want for Our World Today?

Back when my father was a kid science fiction was all about rockets to Mars, flying cars and atomic power.  The world would march forward in the same way that it had after science advanced in the generations before.  It would engineer applications for atomic power in the same way that earlier generations applied knowledge of chemistry and physics to create the internal combustion engine and airplanes.

When I was a kid science fiction had progressed to where relativity and quantum physics were assumed to be susceptible to human genius and no barriers were too tall to prevent humans from colonizing the stars, travelling through time and even traipsing into other dimensions.  Now this made for a lot of interesting stories about universes where humans could meet up with all kinds of amazing creatures and events.  But at some point, you have to wonder if the word “science” in the name science fiction should be changed to fantasy.  And that’s fine.  Having faster than light (FTL) travel opens up so many story lines for an author that it’s hard to resist.  Otherwise, we’re stuck with multi-generational ships depending on relativistic time dilation to reach the nearest stars in one or two hundred years.  Which, by the way, makes for a lot of very interesting sociological phenomena on the ship.  But anyway, you can see how FTL travel would be a very desirable pseudoscientific device.

But here we are something like a hundred years on in the “modern” science fiction timeline and we’re still engulfed in the FTL travel trope.  And we’re still nowhere near any kind of science that would lead us to believe that FTL travel is even remotely possible.  So, in my mind maybe science fiction needs to start looking at science again for inspiration for new themes.

Thinking about this, it’s not like there aren’t all sorts of scientific discoveries and avenues for new technologies that are not only possible but also exciting building blocks for science fiction stories.  In biology we have gene therapy and longevity research.  In computer science there is artificial intelligence and cybernetics.  The reality of atomic power as a replacement for fossil fuels is not really science fiction as much as fact but there are enough questions about how it will change the present world that it could provide plenty of fodder for stories.  And human exploration of the solar system is now much better understood than it was even back during the Apollo program.  Reimagining the directions that something like landing on Mars will take has already been a successful idea for one author who even saw it turned into a successful movie.

Perhaps some of this sounds a little tame for science fiction readers.  On the contrary, sticking to the reality of what it would take to put a small colony on Mars should allow a good author to engineer in plenty of human interest and adventure.  I could see how a story based on capturing and harvesting an asteroid filled with gold and platinum would make a very exciting tale.  A good author would include the part of the story that involves very rich and powerful individuals scheming to hold onto the profits from a mission that might include the most powerful nations on Earth claiming the assets as the “legacy of all mankind.”

So, this is something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Now I like space opera as much as the next guy.  I’m very comfortable with galactic empires and multiverse.  They’re great fun.  But I also think it’s time for some of the most creative writers to start adding some real science back into science fiction.

Nick Cole Talks About Becoming An Indie Author

Nick Cole is one half of the writing team that has produces the highly successful (and highly entertaining) military science fiction series “Galaxy’s Edge.”

Nick talks about starting out as an indie writer and his run in with the big publishers.  After his initial success as an indie, the New York publishers gave him a contract but as soon as something in his next story offended their woke sensibilities they gave him an ultimatum; take it out of the story or lose his contract.  He chose the latter and has never looked back since.

There was some very good information on holding onto an audience once the first book in a series appears.  Unfortunately, the strategy he recommends is writing several books before publishing them.  This way they can be released at one month increments to keep the audience stocked in sequels when they are most receptive to purchasing another book.  Considering my slow progress it’s pretty discouraging to think I’ll have to finish three books before I can get publish anything.  Ah well.

It’s about an hour long so it might be a little much for most people.  But if you’re a fledging author it might be worth your while.

 

 

 

The Bounty Trilogy – A Book Review – Part 2 – “Men Against the Sea” & “Pitcairn’s Island”

In this second part of this book review of the Bounty Trilogy I’ll include both of the remaining stories.  I think this is reasonable because neither of these later “books” has the same narrative clout as “Mutiny on the Bounty.”  Although each story has remarkable human interest and involves harrowing danger and human suffering neither is as dynamic as the tale in Mutiny.  And for this reason, I think I can do justice to both in this single review.

 

Men Against the Sea

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Men Against the Sea is the narrative of Captain Bligh’s Sea voyage.  I’ll let the narrator Thomas Ledward, the Bounty’s Acting Surgeon summarize the voyage, “Never, perhaps, in the history of the sea has a captain performed a feat more remarkable than Mr. Bligh’s, in navigating a small, open, and unarmed boat–but twenty-three feet long, and so heavily laden that she was in constant danger of foundering–from the Friendly Islands to Timor, a distance of three thousand, six hundred miles, through groups of islands inhabited by ferocious savages, and across a vast uncharted ocean. Eighteen of us were huddled on the thwarts as we ran for forty-one days before strong easterly gales, bailing almost continually to keep afloat, and exposed to torrential rains by day and by night.

And that description gives us the gist of the book.  But as remarkable as that voyage was what’s it like as a story?  I would say that the story is passably interesting and we do get a flavor of each of the passengers and especially Bligh but the circumstances of the story are on the whole too static to make the adventure come fully to life.  For this I don’t fully fault the authors.  I’m not sure anyone could figure out a way to fully document the voyage and still give the story a dynamic feel.  Instead, the book faithfully portrays the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere that eighteen men trapped on a twenty-three-foot boat for forty-one days must have been like.

Pitcairn’s Island

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Pitcairn’s Island is the story of the Bounty mutineers along with some women and men from Tahiti establishing a colony on a small, secluded and almost unknown island in the South Pacific in order to escape from the British Navy that would be searching for them over the mutiny.  This is a very strange story of how these Englishmen took what was potentially a tropical paradise and turned it into a private hell.  All of the human foibles are on display.  Greed, sloth, lust, intolerance, drunkenness and wrath play a role in destroying the colony.  By the end of the story only the women and children remain except for one mutineer who assumed the role of father figure for the children.

The story is an exciting one full of conflict and human tragedy.  And the pace of the story is much more engaging than Men Against the Sea.  But at points the dialog does seem to be a little stilted.  But this book is much more readable than the previous story.

 

Final Comments

“Men Against the Sea” and “Pitcairn’s Island” aren’t as engaging or have plots that are as well rounded as “Mutiny on the Bounty.”  But I would guess that nine out of ten readers of Mutiny will at least try to read these later stories.  Personally, neither of these later stories was as satisfying as Mutiny but I recommend that anyone who read Mutiny on the Bounty should at least give them a try.

The Bounty Trilogy – A Book Review – Part 1 – Mutiny on the Bounty

I’ve just finished the first part of the trilogy, Mutiny on the Bounty, and I’m so enthused about that book that I decided not to wait until I have finished all three books to start writing the review.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

I have seen a couple of the film adaptations of Mutiny on the Bounty previously and always enjoyed the story.  So I was impelled recently to hunt out the book to see what I thought of the more detailed treatment in the book and to discover just how closely the movies kept to the original text.

The story of the Bounty is the collision of a melancholy and headstrong Englishman, Fletcher Christian, with a brilliant naval officer, William Bligh, who was at the same time a venal, cruel and boorish man who inflicted brutal floggings on his crew for situations that he himself caused.  He starved his men for the sake of pocketing the savings he made on provisioning the ship and he belittled and accused his officers of petty offenses that he dwelt upon because of his obsessive nature.

The story is told from the point of view of one of the midshipmen, Roger Byam, a young gentleman whom Bligh convinced to join the journey in order to create a dictionary and grammar of the Tahitian language for a mutual friend of theirs Sir Joseph Banks who was the President of the Royal Society.  The mission of the Bounty was to sail to Tahiti and collect hundreds of saplings of the breadfruit tree and then transport the plants to the British West Indies where they might become a cheap food source for the slaves on the sugar plantations there.

The story chronicles the outward voyage to Tahiti and the mission on the island.  We meet all of the more notable members of the crew and several of the Tahitians who are important to the personal stories of the main characters.  Christian, Byam and several other characters become intimately involved with women on the island and this adds to the unhappiness when the return voyage begins.

Bligh and his minions in the crew confiscate the food and other material souvenirs from the men and officers, ostensibly for equal sharing but in reality, for Bligh’s benefit.  And when some of this plunder, a few cocoanuts, are stolen one night by one of the younger crewmen, Bligh accuses Christian of the theft.  This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  At daybreak Christian enlists some of the seamen who had been most afflicted by Bligh’s punishments and they seized muskets from the weapons locker, took Bligh prisoner and took possession of the ship.

Christian and his mutineers formulated a plan.  Bligh and the officers and anyone who wanted to remain loyal to him would be set adrift in the ship’s launch.  The Bounty would be commandeered to take the mutineers to an island where they hoped to avoid discovery by the British Navy.  But in the event, it turned out that there were too many loyalists to fit in the launch.  The excess loyalists, including Byam had to remain with the Bounty and Christian finally decided to make a trip to Tahiti to drop off the loyalists, purchase provisions and convince some Tahitian women and men to join the mutineers in their new home.

Once the Bounty leaves Tahiti the story revolves around the fate of the Byam and his comrades both on Tahiti and later on when a British Navy vessel comes looking for the Bounty.  Contrary to all expectations, Bligh was able to navigate his tiny craft 4,200 miles to Timor in the East Indies.  On finally reaching England he alerted the authorities of the mutiny and a man of war, the Pandora, was sent to the South Sea to find and recover the Bounty and bring the mutineers back for trial.  The loyalists left on Tahiti and some mutineers who decided to stay on Tahiti were all rounded up by the captain of the Pandora and the ship searched among the islands of the south Seas looking, unsuccessfully for the Bounty.  But when the Pandora struck a reef in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, the surviving crew and prisoners were in a similar situation to what Bligh suffered in travelling thousands of miles in lifeboats to reach port.

Finally, the story reaches its climax in the court martial trial of Byam and his companions.  And here we see circumstances conspiring to paint Byam as a mutineer.  Bligh misunderstood an innocent conversation between Byam and Christian the night before the mutiny and reported it as proof that Byam was part of the mutiny.  But the only one who had heard the whole conversation had disappeared in a ship wreck before the trial.  And so Byam is convicted and sentenced to hang.  By a miraculous coincidence the missing crewman is rescued and gives testimony of Byam’s innocence just a few days before his execution would have occurred.  After the trial Byam returns to naval duty and has a long and illustrious career.  But an epilogue has him return to Tahiti where the paradise that he had experienced there had been destroyed by exposure to the conflicting pressures that European lifestyle put on the natives.  Almost all of his friends were dead of disease or war and the population was reduced to a miserable and sparse remnant of what he remembered.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a fictionalized version of the actual Bounty story.  Although the characters are all based on actual people, I’m sure the authors have injected their own details and personality traits to give the story the desired tone.  It is not a history.  And for that reason, I will rate it as a work of fiction.  I consider it an excellent adventure story.  Being based on actual events the authors strove to convey the extraordinary hardships that the characters suffered while trying to survive the almost impossible conditions of their grueling sea voyages.  And the description of the idyllic world of the Tahitians in this early stage of their introduction to Europeans is remarkably effective in conveying a sense of sheer happiness.  It literally sounds like heaven on earth.  I haven’t read the other two installments of the Bounty Trilogy but I highly recommend the Mutiny on the Bounty story to anyone who enjoys adventure stories.

Improving My Mind

Watching Joe Biden turn into a mumbling moron with stuffed artichokes for brains has reminded me that for us older folks it’s use it or lose it.  So, I’ve initiated a cultural renaissance right here in Dunwich.  I’ve got three very different reading projects going on.  They are:

 

  1. Northmen: The Viking Saga, AD 793-1241, by John Haywood
  2. The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Oriented Deliberation in View of the Dogmatic Problem of Hereditary Sin, by Søren Kierkegaard
  3. The Bounty Trilogy: The Complete Series: Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea & Pitcairn’s Island, by James Norman Hall (Author), Charles Nordhoff (Author)

The Kierkegaard book on “Anxiety” is the most questionable project.  I took some courses in philosophy as an undergraduate and found them to be highly annoying.  They seem to spend so much time and effort splitting hairs that by the end, all of the audience has walked away in boredom.  And they employ so much specialized jargon that the notes for the vocabulary sometimes outweighs the text itself.  But I want to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.  He claims he wants to make philosophy more about what we need to do as human beings and less about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  I figure the least I can do is slog through the argument.

The Bounty trilogy is just a book I’ve always meant to read and now have finally gotten around to.  And so far, it’s a good one.  I’m finding that the 1930’s Charles Laughton movie is pretty close to the text.  It’s an exciting adventure story that has the added advantage of having actually happened.  It is a fictionalized account but it is based on the documents left by the protagonists and by their descendants.  Other than the myriad of parts of a sailing ship that I don’t know the names of the book is a fast read.  I’ll have a review of this when I finish.

The Northmen book is something I’ve been interested in learning more about for a while.  I was writing a sci-fi/ fantasy story that used Valhalla as a plot element and I just kept running into aspects of Norse mythology and history that I wasn’t up on.  This book looked to be a way to fill in some gaps and also provide me with some information I’ve always been interested in.  The Scandinavians had a very large impact on several different aspects of European and by extension world history.  I feel like I should know a lot more about their origins before I start introducing them and their culture into my stories.  I’ve just gotten started with the book but already I’ve learned a bit about the origins of the Goths, Burgundians and Vandals that I didn’t already know.

As I said yesterday, our whole lives shouldn’t be railing against the progs.  As the ZMan says, a negative identity does not provide a basis for a viable society.  We must pursue the actions and goals that have intrinsic value.  If we are claiming that the Left is trying to destroy our way of life by denying us the opportunity to do things that we value then shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to do these things?  Otherwise, it’s all just cant and posturing.

So, stretch your mind and learn something new.  Then figure a way to make some of it relevant to your life.

Galaxy’s Edge – Dark Victory – A Science Fiction Book Review

I’ve got to hand it to Anspach and Cole.  The world building they are doing in the Galaxy’s Edge franchise doesn’t seem like it will ever slow down.  They’re at least fifteen books into this universe and I keep running into newer and weirder twists and turns in the history of their galaxy.  And they’re always throwing in new characters and cross-connecting old characters and advancing new plot lines.  These boys are on their game.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

In this latest installment Aeson Ford (/Captain Keel/Wraith/Tyrus Rechs (imposter)) is working undercover for his old Legionnaire friend Chhun.  He gets mixed up with an investigation into Nether Ops interference into the chaotic political situation that has existed since the Legion put an end to the House of Reason.  Working with the Nether Ops agent “Honey” he infiltrates several bases of the nefarious spy agency leading up to the capture of vital intel.  Meanwhile Ford is also in search of information on his own forgotten origins in the Kill Team Ice that stretches back to the Savage Wars by means of cryosleep.

Meanwhile we discover that his crewmate Leenah was not killed when the Indelible VI was attacked by bounty hunters in the last book.  We learn how her ship was all but destroyed just as she made the jump to light speed.  The jump saved her life but left her stranded in the middle of nowhere with almost no air and no way to get help.  Through her mechanical ingenuity she rigs a signal and waits with time running out.  Meanwhile Ford’s other crewmate Garret is Lenah working with Nilo’s Black Leaf mercenaries and because he hasn’t given up on Leenah’s life, he locates her signal and convinces Nilo to go on a rescue mission.

When they get to the beacon Leenah and the ship is gone and Nilo figures out that Leenah has been captured by Gomarii slavers and they go on a mission to save her and take down the Gomarii.  During the rescue Nilo and Garret discover that the Gomarii vessel is actually a Savage hulk that contains information in its memory banks crucial to the upcoming resumption of the Savage threat to the galaxy.

Aeson Ford fabricates a plot to capture a rogue Naval Commander who has been doing the Nether Ops dirty work.  During the action Honey betrays him with her former colleagues in Nether Ops and she is killed along with the rest of the agents that Ford defeats.  When he returns to the Legion base, he learns that his old comrade Masters is in dire straits.  Instead of returning to Garret and Nilo he heads off with the legionnaires to save Masters.  But at the end of the book, we find that Nilo also has business on that same dangerous planet.

Dark Victory winds two plots together and both are done well.  The rescue of Leenah from the salvers is the more dynamic and satisfying of the subplots but taking Ford out of the action allows the secondary characters like Leenah and Garret to get their moments in the sun.  Plus, it allows Nilo and Garret to advance the information on the Savage Wars back story which will tie in with other characters that don’t figure in this book but will return soon.  Let’s face it, once you’re into the series this deep all you want to know is whether it’s still a good read.  It is.