Saturday, November 21, 2020

Book Reviews: Cold Storage

Cold Storage
by David Koepp

This story is just under 400 pages. It's by the screenwriter and director David Koepp, among other things the screenwriter for Jurassic Park, whose work was previously reviewed here and here. Cold Storage is your typical end of the world terror thriller. It imagines that after the Skylab crash in 1979 something else came back from outer space, something that views other living beings in the same way that we would view cattle. I like these sorts of stories in general so I was positively disposed toward the story. It uses just enough science to be believable to those of us who are not biologists, physicists, medical doctors, or otherwise well trained in scientific discipline. I guess if you are interested in this sort of prose the book might be right up your alley:
"We sent up a hyperaggressive extremophile that is resistant to extreme heat and the vacuum of space, but sensitive to cold. The environment sent the organism into a dormant state, but it remained hyper-receptive. At that point, it must have picked up a hitchhiker. Maybe it was exposed to solar radiation. Maybe a spore penetrated the microfissures in the tank on re-entry. Either way, when the fungus returned to Earth, it was reawakened and found itself in a hot, safe, protein-rich, pro-growth environment. And something caused its higher level genetic structure to change."
In 1987 Roberto Diaz, a Pentagon bioterror expert, is called upon to investigate some unsettling issues in Western Australia. One co-worker dies and Diaz barely escapes with his life. A fungus that normally just attacks insects and grows slowly now has a taste for warm blooded creatures, can grow exponentially, and most ominously seems to have the ability to learn and evolve at record, maybe even exponential speeds. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trump Lost: Now What?

Joe Biden won the 2020 United States Presidential Election. There's no question about that. There is only a question by how much of a win Biden will have when all of the certifications are complete. At this point in time it looks as if Biden will beat Trump in the Electoral College by 306-232. 

The solid South cracked, with Biden winning Georgia. Biden restored the Great Lakes Blue Wall, winning Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota and throwing in Pennsylvania for good measure. More ominously from a Republican point of view, Arizona and Nevada also went for Biden. This may have been in part because of former Californians moving to those states and voting for Biden. 

In a normal time the current President would acknowledge that he lost and, even if through gritted teeth, congratulate the President-Elect and urge the various executive branch appointees and career bureaucrats to work with the incoming Administration point persons to ensure a smooth transition.

Trump of course has done nothing of the sort. What he has done is file a cavalcade of lawsuits, most of which have gone nowhere. Trump voters and sycophants are taking their cues from him. 

The far right had a dream: That one day, people who had been exiled to the unacceptable margins of American political life could play the role of Donald Trump's brownshirts.

Book Reviews: A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England

A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of England
by Brenda Ralph Lewis
This coffee table styled hardcover book details the histories of the English Royal Family, or rather the English Royal Families, from the 1066 Norman invasion to the present day. Human nature hasn't changed. It will be obvious upon reading this, not that he's ever denied it, just how much this history influenced the writer George R.R. Martin, as well as many other speculative fiction or historical fiction authors. 
Although we consider kinslaying as morally disgusting, when people are vying for power they often reject any standards. If your second cousin once removed gathers an army to support her claim that she's the rightful ruler, a recurring issue in England, you might find yourself doing shifty things. 
Some Kings and Queens refused to carry out the ultimate sanction against wayward relatives, often forgiving them, fining them, exiling them, or even imprisoning them instead. Other rulers, though, had no qualms about chopping heads at the first sign of problems, blood relative or not.
King Henry I, who was present at the "accidental" death of his older brother Rufus, cultivated a reputation as a hard unforgiving man. However, he liked his treasurer Herbert. So when the king discovered that Herbert had been involved in a plot against him, the King cancelled the normal punishment for treason: hanging, drawing, and quartering. In what the King considered to be an act of mercy, he instead ordered that Herbert be blinded and castrated. 
Nice guy, King Henry.