Saturday, July 28, 2012


By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

A new object appears in the night sky and it becomes apparent that it is no natural object and that it is headed to our planet. Humans are excited and fearful, especially as the object does not respond to human efforts to communicate.
Upon arriving, the object, a massive interstellar spaceship, attacks the space station, killing some of the astronauts and capturing several others, mostly Russians and one American congressman.
The aliens are large beings, looking somewhat like a baby elephant, except they have two trunks and their feet are clawed. They are herd animals and have strong herd instincts, even to going insane if separated from their herd for too long.
The alien home world is in trouble, and this ship has been sent out to establish a new home. They intend to conquer Earth, enslave humanity and incorporate them into their herd.
Their weaponry is better than anything humans have and they pretty much rule the sky, blasting anything that they deem offensive. They establish a beachhead in Kansas and force people to surrender to them. Once surrender is accepted, the aliens expect you to stay surrendered. They are shocked and very angry when surrendered humans launch attacks guerrilla attacks against occupying forces. The aliens respond harshly, destroying everyone they consider to be connected to the renegades.
Meanwhile, the captives from the space station and a few more taken from Earth are put to work on the spaceship doing menial chores, mainly cleaning ducts and working in the garden. They use this limited freedom to spy on the aliens and plot against them.
Back on Earth,  the Americans and Russians pool their remaining resources and launch several nuclear bombs on the alien foothold in Kansas. The surprise attack works and the alien base is destroyed. But in response, the aliens launch a large asteroid against the Earth, which smashes into the Indian Ocean and kills millions and throws Earth's climate into chaos.  They promise to send down more asteroids if humans do not stop fighting and surrender. So humans surrender. Or do they? Maybe humanity has one more act of defiance up its sleeve.

This was an OK story. It was very long and had way too many characters to keep track of. Plus I liked the aliens, I thought they were interesting and had a lot to offer. I would have liked a different ending, with the two sides coming together instead of one defeating the other.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sleepwalk with Me and other Painfully True Stories

By Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia is a stand-up comedian and this book covers some of the same ground as his act. He writes about his childhood, about his parents and growing up, his struggles with sleepwalking, his relationships and his efforts to build his career. It was a very enjoyable read, funny and entertaining. I liked it a lot.
Mike has done a movie based on his book and it will be in the theaters in August of this year.  Just viewed the trailer and it looks like it could be a very funny movie.

The Mote in God's Eye

By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Set in the far future, at a time when people have spread out into the galaxy, by virture of the invention of an almost instantaneous starship drive, the Alderson Drive. Another piece of priceless technology is the Langston Field, a kind of energy field used to protect ships and cities from attack.
Humankind had never found intelligent aliens before. So news of an alien ship required careful investigation. Sent out to meet the ship is the MacArthur, a battlecruiser. But the alien ship fires on the MacArthur and the alien ship is then captured, but no one is left alive on board.
So the MacArthur and another ship, the Lenin, are sent to the system where the alien ship originated. The MacArthur is to make contact and the Lenin is to insure that valuable human technology does not fall into alien hands, even to the point of destroying both the MacArthur and itself.
Upon reaching the asteroid belt around the home planet of the Moties, as they are being called, the MacArthur is approached by a Motie mining vessel, manned by a lone Motie Engineer and a bunch of small Moties, called Watchmakers. The Motie engineer consents to board the MacArthur and brings along two of the small Moties. These Watchmaker Moties are tinkerers and have a knack for improving the workings of machinery and tools. The humans mistakenly dismiss the small Moties as mere pets of the engineer and are not too concerned when they get loose on the MacArthur.
Meanwhile the ships move in closer to the Motie home planet and are greeted by a ship carrying a delegation of Moties assigned to communicate with and study the aliens (humans) entering their home territory.
At first, it seems like the Moties are gentle and welcoming and many of the human experts feel they are mostly harmless. But some have reservations, especially when a plague of Watchmaker Moties irrupts aboard the MacArthur.
What the humans don't know and the Moties don't want them to know, is that the Moties have a secret, a secret that could threaten the very survival of the human species.

This was a pretty good story, if rather long. It has a kind of sad ending, as the Moties secret results in the humans blockading the Motie system to keep the Moties penned up. Moties are very appealing aliens and it is too bad the authors couldn't think of a happier ending for them.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brightness Reef

By David Brin

Book One of Brin's new uplift trilogy.
The planet Jijo used to be inhabited by the Buyur, but they left it long ago and now it is set aside, a forbidden world, not to be colonized, allowed to go fallow. But nonetheless, six groups of refugees, human and nonhuman, have snuck onto Jijo and are living together, in cooperation, trying their best to minimize their impact on the environment and creatures of Jijo. And also trying to hide from the galactic authorities. So when a ship lands on Jijo, the squatters, or sooners as they are called in the book, are sure they are in deep trouble.
Everyone is thrown into turmoil. Some want everything destroyed. Some think all should flee into the wilderness. Some want to just wait and see what will happen next. Beings are frightened and old antagonisms reappear. But wait! This ship is not from the authorities. It is a bunch of criminals, come to Jijo to raid the planet for lifeforms. But is this any better? Perhaps not because criminals don't like to leave any witnesses to their crimes!

This first entry in the new trilogy seems to go off into a dozen different directions. There are five different ETs living on Jijo, plus the humans. So not only does the reader have to keep track of all these characters, you also have to keep in mind their species too. There is the traeki, a pharmacist called Asx. The traeki are a peaceful version of the fanatical Jophur. There is the mixed group of juveniles, Alvin, Huck, Ur-ronn, Pincer-tip, who are building a submersible to explore the sea bottom. There are the three adult children of a human paper maker, Sara, Lark and Dwer, who each have their plot line to follow. Sara is taking the injured, off-world human who was found wandering in a swamp to the people from the spaceship. Lark is helping one of the spaceship people in a survey trek of the area. And Dwer is leading a small group of humans to the back country, hopefully to survive whatever the spaceship people may be planning to cover their tracks. Plus there are the spaceship people and there is the group at the Holy Egg to keep track of and there is a back country girl, Rety, who has joined the ship people for a chance to get off Jijo. There is a lot going on in this story, so much so that at times I felt kind of lost and bewildered.  It was just too much to keep track of!
But despite the confusion, I still enjoyed the book quite a lot. And I am looking forward to the next in the trilogy, Infinity's Shore.