Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Departure

By Neal Asher

Alan Saul woke up not knowing who he was. But he had a voice in his head, Janus, who told him what he needed to know to survive. With help from Janus, Saul is going to go after those who done him wrong.
Saul's Earth is in decline, overcrowded with humanity ruled by a cruel, oppressive world government. Ecosystems are failing, people are starving, chaos is only kept a bay through the use of cruel crowd-control robot weapons.
But Saul doesn't really care about the starving masses. What he cares about is tracking down the man who stole his memory. What he cares about is revenge.
But the man Saul is after isn't on Earth anymore. He is on the Argus, a huge space station. But that isn't going to keep Saul from coming after him.
Meanwhile the Mars colony has just been informed that they are on their own and will no longer receive any more support from Earth. The Mars colony leader is instructed to kill off most of the staff except for a few of the key people in order make their limited supplies last longer. This instruction is kept secret but one woman suspects something is terribly wrong and discovers the truth and makes a stand against extermination.

I liked this story a lot. I liked Saul and thought the idea of man allied with machine was interesting and intriguing. But the author does like to add a lot of technical detail to the story, for example:

When this thing was up and running, deuterium droplets sprayed into the aggregation plants, where they froze, and were next electrostatically coated with tritium dust. The resulting microspheres were then conveyed to the injectors, to be fired into each combustion chamber. Once a sphere reached the chamber's centre, it was briefly captured in a magnetic bottle, then targeted with the beams from high-intensity stacked gallium-arsenide lasers. With each ignition, the bottle expanded to form a tubular containment field, focusing the resulting blast out of the rear of the engine. The lasers fired, igniting fusion, then this process repeated itself a hundredth of a second later, and from then on kept repeating. The resulting plasma explosion from the engine provided thrust measurable in millions of tonnes.

I just skimmed those parts since that kind of technical stuff doesn't interest me.


By Mardi Jo Link

Mardi Jo's marriage fell apart and she, staying in their family home, tried to carry on as best she could raising three boys and maintaining her acreage. Mardi had always wanted to live in the country and have horses and she and her husband had purchased the acreage with its hundred-year-old house and a barn and some pastureland. Mardi had also purchased two horses and installed them in the barn and put electrified fencing around the pasture for them. But then her marriage ended.
She stayed on the acreage with the kids and had to keep up the mortgage and take care of the place, the kids, the horses and herself on her now very limited funds. She had some income as a writer but it wasn't enough as became quite apparent when winter arrived and she couldn't afford to heat the house and had to rely upon the big old fireplace for heat. Due to lack of foresight and poor planning she had failed to acquire adequate firewood before winter. She had trees on her acreage but no chain saw so she and the boys had to gather limbs small enough to cut with an ax and scrounge for wood along roadsides.
After that first cold winter on her own, scrimping and saving and making due, the next summer she planted a large garden and bought a feeder pig which was later butchered and the meat stored in her freezer. But then there was a power failure and when the electric came back on, the power surge burned out the motor on the freezer and Mardi failed to check on the freezer periodically to see if it was OK. She didn't realize something was wrong until the meat began to stink up the whole house.
But somehow, despite her many goofs, she still managed to keep her sons clothed and fed and she also managed to hang on to the acreage despite the divorce. And at the end she marries the man who was doing some improvements to her house. Who, coincidentally, was granted his divorce on the same day as hers. Uh huh.
This was a pretty good story. I just have my doubts about how truthful it really is, which kind of spoils it for me.