The Hordes of Channakra: Snippet One

The sun had sunk below the distant peaks before Kreg reached the walled city, the like of which Kreg had never seen before. Mail-clad armsmen, wielding spears and short swords, stood guard atop the gray stone walls. Walls.  Around a city.  And men armed with swords and spears.  That was something he had only read about, something that only happened in the distant past, not in the present, not in the world Kreg knew.

In the distance, the last rays of the setting sun blooded tendrils of clouds stretching as diaphanous claws from the wall looming in the east. Those bloody claws reaching from the blackening hand gave warning of an approaching storm.

Kreg leaned on his staff and rubbed at his neck. Healing blisters still itched, legacy of the sunburn that had almost killed him after he found himself naked and alone in the desert. The waterskin slung over his shoulder, long since drained, slapped empty against his side.  The rutted track stretched behind him a dozen miles to where he had said his goodbyes to the nomads. His shoulders rose and fell in time with his deep, ragged breaths.

“The smoke does not command,” the shaman had said that morning. “It only gives counsel. And the counsel is that your path lies among others, among those of steel and stone. This is the Gods’ word, as told by the smoke. You will always be welcome in Three Mountain’s Clan, but it is to others you must go and this is the time to leave.”

Two weeks in this strange world and Kreg had to leave the only friends he had come to know.

“Halt and state your business,” said one of the mail-clad men from the top of the wall at Kreg’s approach.  The language was the same as what Kreg had somehow known when he first met the desert nomads although the dialect was different.

“I seek food and lodging.”  Kreg leaned against the staff, like his clothing a gift from the nomads.

“What brings you to Trevanta?”

“I am a traveler.” Kreg suppressed a hysterical laugh as he thought of just how far he had traveled, farther than the guard could possibly imagine. “I . . . was told I needed to be here.”

“A damn nomad.” The voice held more than a hint of disgust. “Off with yo–“ A softer voice interrupted the first speaker. Kreg only understood a few of the words of the second speaker.  Something about coin?  “He might have some coin?”

“As you say,” the first voice said, then louder, “Alone you are no doubt as harmless as you are worthless, nomad.  Enter and be done.”

The portcullis creaked upward.  Kreg shuddered. The spikes reaching downward from the bottom of the gate and the shadows beyond it made the opening look like a giant mouth preparing to swallow him whole. The gray wood doors behind the gate blew a blast of fetid air over him as they creaked open.

He swallowed once and forced the apprehension to the back of his mind as he limped through the gateway.

Rutted dirt streets, led in all directions.  The buildings blocked most of the light of the setting sun and the smaller of the twin moons leaving the city’s depths shrouded in gloom.  Trampled piles of animal dung littered the streets.  Since no street differed from any another that Kreg could see, he set off down the road that led straight ahead, into the city’s interior.

Kreg remembered the first time he had seen that second moon.  He had known then that he had not just appeared in some distant land, but on a whole other world.  Once more he fought down the panic that arose at that thought.  Another world, a world of two moons, dropped among people who wandered with their herds from well to well to well in the desert, then to a city guarded by stone walls and mail-clad men armed with spears and swords.  Had anyone ever been so lost before?

He hobbled through the soot-black shadows, his pace slow as the strap of his right sandal stung where it had rubbed his ankle raw.  He clung to his staff, leaning his weight onto it every time his right foot touched ground.  He had long since given up on trying to adjust that strap for comfort.  At one step something squished underfoot, releasing a noxious odor to assault his nose.

At the next intersection, Kreg peered down all four streets.  The narrow streets and the heavy clouds, which had rolled in with the setting of the sun, conspired to prevent him from seeing more than a few yards.  He gnawed at his lower lip as he considered.  The nomads had given him a few coins but he did not know how long they would have to last.  He doubted he would find anything like the welfare departments and homeless shelters of his own world.  The best he could hope for was a church that gave aid to the poor.  Yet he did not even know what religions exited, let alone which might have a tradition of charity. He did not even know what a church or temple might look like.  None of what he remembered from the stacks of history books he read helped him now, not even the time he had spent with the middle ages reenactment group gave any guidance.

He would have thought this a dream, created from the stories he had read, had it not continued so long.

Stumbling around the city at random seemed a hopeless task yet he did not know what else to do.

“Oh, God,” he whispered as once again despair and panic rose up within him. “What am I going to do?”

A moment later he shook his head and pushed the feeling down, where it lay like a block of ice in his belly.  He began walking once more.

A door opened ahead of him, releasing a pair of short, burly men into the street.  Through the open doorway Kreg saw men sitting around tables, drinking from enormous flagons before the door closed again.

An appetizing smell wafted past Kreg’s nose, driving away even the stink of the street, a smell of meat and broth and of fresh bread baking.  Hunger drove even his despair away.  He had not eaten since that morning.  For a moment Kreg considered entering and parting with some of his sparse funds in exchange for a meal.  He extended his hand toward the door then caught himself.  He could survive a night without food, but he might not survive a night without shelter if the storm clouds rolling in were any indication.  And meals in a tavern would be expensive at a time when he would have to make his few coins last.  He would be wiser to wait until day and find someplace where he could buy cheap food.  With a regretful glance over his shoulder, he walked away from the tavern.

After some time Kreg stopped.  Two lanterns, set on the ground, illuminated the scene before him.  Two men dressed in embroidered waistcoats over short-sleeved tunics and knee-length breeches held an old man wearing tattered robes by his shoulders, pressed against a wall.  A third waistcoated man drew back a fist in preparation for striking the old man.  Blood ran from the old man’s nose and smeared his upper lip.  More blood marked the old man’s lower lip and chin.

Kreg considered turning and leaving.  This was not his affair and he had troubles enough of his own.  But another look, at the blood trickling from the old man’s mouth and nose, quickly quelled any such notion.  Anger rose within him as his hands tightened on the staff and his lips pulled tight and thin.

Kreg rapped the tip of his staff against the boards of the walk.  “Don’t you think that’s enough?” Kreg asked, anger driving all traces of exhaustion from Kreg’s voice.

The men whirled to face him, releasing the old man, who slumped against the wall but remained upright.

“I’ll say when it’s enough,” said the man who had been doing the beating. “And I say it’s just begun.” He drew a long thin sword. “Begone, you.”

Typical bullies, Kreg thought, keeping what passes for brains in their muscles, and bone and muscle where their brains should be.  These were the same kind who had tormented him throughout his childhood until his parents had found a teacher for him and he had soon needed to fear bullies no more.

Kreg straightened his shoulders and looked down to meet the man’s eyes.  Drawn to his full height, he stood a full head taller than any of these men.  He held his staff in his left hand, one end planted on the ground, the shaft tilted forward and to the side.  Kreg’s right hand, under the cover of his cloak, gripped the cloak pin.

He drew a deep breath and blew it out slowly, then rolled his shoulders and curled his back, first to one side then the other.  With luck, the quick stretch would leave the men thinking Kreg were preparing some secret attack.  Whatever the men thought, the exercise served its primary purpose.  When Kreg spoke, his voice held no hint of either fatigue or fear, and most of his anger was under control. “Put that toy away.”

Raising his voice in a shrill shriek the man charged.  His sword snapped outward, the point driving at Kreg’s belly.

Kreg dropped his staff.  His right hand pulled his cloak pin free as his left hand came up to his collar.  He whirled the cloak from around his shoulders and around, tangling, for an instant, the other man’s sword and driving it aside.  In the instant that the other man’s sword was deflected Kreg stepped forward.  He released the hold on his cloak and grasped the other’s right sleeve with his left hand.  He stepped in further, pulling hard on the man’s arm, keeping him off balance while he grabbed the back of the man’s neck with his right hand.  He continued to turn, fitting his hips into the socket where the man’s upper body bent forward.  His right leg swept up, driving hard against the inside of the other’s left thigh.  Kreg swept his right leg up higher and pushed hard with his right hand, driving the man headfirst to the ground.  There was a soft crack then the man convulsed once and lay still.

Kreg stared at the body at his feet.  A stone.  His head must have hit a stone.  Bile rose in his throat and he swallowed furiously, fighting down an urge to vomit.

“All right,” Kreg’s voice sounded a little shaky, even to himself as he turned to face the other two men again. He managed to cover uncertainty with volume. “Who’s next?”

The two remaining men responded by backing away, their swords held at low guard.  In the gleam of the lantern light, Kreg could see their eyes darting from one side to the other.

“If that’s the case,” Kreg stooped to retrieve his staff and lifted it overhead, one end pointing at the nearer of the two men, the other slanting up and back, “get!” Kreg hoped that the pose would make him look larger than he was.

The men turned and ran.  Kreg sighed and let his arms drop loosely, still holding the staff.  His whole body shook.

“Oh, wondrous well done!” The voice came from close behind Kreg.
With a yelp, Kreg pivoted to face the direction from which the voice had come.

The voice belonged to a woman in her early twenties, about Kreg’s own age.  She was tall, nearly matching Kreg’s six feet, and towering over anyone Kreg had yet met on this world.  A tunic of chain mail covered her to mid thigh and down each arm to her wrist.  A massive sword hung down her back.  Leather boots encased her legs, their tops disappearing under the hem of her mail tunic.

“Kaila,” she said. “Knight in the service of King Marek Caelverrem.  And you?”

“I am Kreg,” he said. “I am a stranger in these parts, a traveler.”

“One of the desert nomads?” Kaila asked.

“No,” Kreg said, “Though I stayed with them for a time.”

They regarded each other for a few seconds, Kaila’s eyes, a gray that was almost silver meeting Kreg’s blue eyes.

“But we’re forgetting someone,” Kreg said.  He turned to look for the old man but found that he had already gone.  A moment later, Kreg saw the old man down the street, stooping from time to time to pick up something from the street and put it into a large bag.

“Have you never been to Trevanta before?” Kaila asked as she stooped to examine the dead swordsman, tugging at the body’s legs to pull it to its full length. “No,” she said before Kreg could respond. “I perceive not.  Still, few have I seen in this city given to much honor.  None, it is certain, who would have come to the aid of that one–” She jerked her head in the direction the old man had gone. “–saving perhaps me or my father.  As I saw you before you met those Briganti, you seemed to be wandering without purpose.  Have you no place to go?” She looked up at him.

Kreg sighed. “No, not really.”

“As I thought,” Kaila said. She removed something from the swordsman’s belt and flipped the body onto its back.  She then rubbed her upper lip for a moment and before continuing. “Come.  I will introduce you to my father, Shillond.  From him you will receive wise counsel.”

“Fair enough,” Kreg said.  Although he felt uncertain about following a stranger into the unknown, he could not suppress a surge of relief.  He could use advice from someone, anyone, who knew about this world, and no nonsense about smoke.

Kaila rose smoothly to her feet.  In her right hand she held a small leather pouch which she opened and inspected its contents. “Three norbeni, half a dozen rabeni, and a few ve’ib.  A good catch from such a one.”

She tossed the pouch to Kreg who caught it by reflex. “Law of this city.  A villain, slain in pursuit of villainy.  What was his, is now yours.”

Kreg stood looking at the pouch in his hand. “Brutal law.”
Kaila cocked her head to one side and stared at him for a moment. Her shoulders rose a bare fraction of an inch, and then dropped. “This city is scarce lifted from barbarism, it is true.”

“I see.” Kreg sighed. “Shall we go?”

“‘Twould be the course of wisdom to take yon briganti’s sword as well.” Kaila pointed at the weapon. “You have shown a skill remarkable without arms but such would serve you naught ‘gainst one more skilled than this briganti.”

Kreg laughed. “I’d be more likely to slice off my own head if I tried to use a sword.”

“You are unskilled in the sword?” Kaila looked Kreg up and down. “And yet, you would be so foolish as to be abroad after nightfall in a city unknown.”

If Kreg’s being out after nightfall was foolish than Kaila was as much fool as he.  He decided it would be wiser not to say so. “I . . . didn’t have a choice.”

Kaila regarded him for a moment. “I am a stranger in this city, but I think you are more so.  Whence come you?”

This was a hard question to answer in a way she would understand so he did not try. “I am from Earth,” he said. “Ever hear of it?”

“It must be far indeed,” Kaila said. “I am familiar with all the lands hereabouts and never have I heard the name, nor seen it writ on any map. ‘Tis not of the eight known kingdoms.  Still, whatever the customs of your land you would be wise to take the sword and learn its use.”

With an exasperated sigh, Kreg removed the sword belt from the corpse, struggling for a moment with the body’s weight.  He could at least humor her.  Besides, she could be right.  She knew local conditions far better than he did.  Primitive societies could be, often were, quite violent, with an unarmed man seen as fair game by anyone who wished to practice a little robbery, or a little assault as he had just witnessed.

He had, after all, just wished for advice and it would be foolish to spurn the offered advice.

He sheathed the sword and buckled the belt around his waist.  He then stooped again to retrieve his cloak and fastened the pin under this throat. “Now, Shall we go?”

Other stories set in this world: 

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Blast from the past: Science, Science Fiction, and the Possible

There has been some recent discussion online about the future, particularly the claim that Humanity will forever be limited to the Earth, that space colonies, and especially travel to the stars, will forever remain pipe dreams.

I, of course, disagree.  But it led to the thought of just what the limits of the possible might be and, particularly, how certain limits that scientific theory imposes on those limits might be.

This is a topic on which I have written before:

***

Some folks say that science fiction should be limited to what is possible according to current scientific theory.  Others (and I count myself among them) are a bit more flexible.

Imagine it’s 1890 and you’re a physical scientist.  Someone approaches you with the following:

“I have here two lumps of a material called Uranium 235.  If you slam them together correctly, they will release energy with the explosive force of more than one hundred million sticks of dynamite.”

You’d laugh at him.  The very idea is preposterous.  First off, what’s this “235” business?  Uranium is Uranium.  It doesn’t come in types.  You’re familiar with the atomic theory of matter, right?  Atomic.  From the Greek atomos.  It means “indivisible.  A Uranium atom is a Uranium Atom is a Uranium atom.  And this ridiculous release of energy?  Energy can neither be created or destroyed.  You’ve can convert from one form to another but that’s about it.  If there was so much energy, whether chemical or mechanical, in Uranium to do as you suggest, it would tend to go off at the slightest provocation–Like, say, sneezing anywhere in the same county.  What you suggest is flat out theoretically impossible.

Now, instead, suppose someone approached you with the following instead:

“You know, if you applied a force to something, like say with a rocket, and continued applying it for long enough, there is no ultimate bar to how fast it could go.  Enough force, for enough time, and one could travel between the stars in weeks, if not days.  Of course that much acceleration would crush most things and the engineering challenges are probably prohibitive, but there’s no theoretical bar to it.”

You’d probably have to agree.  After all speed is simply acceleration over time, and acceleration is simply force divided by mass.  Enough force, applying enough acceleration, for enough time and any speed could be achieved without limit, at least theoretically.  The engineering challenges might be prohibitive but there were no theoretical limits.

Now, instead of 1890 imagine it’s 1990.  Now the possibility/impossibility of those two events have reversed.  We’ve discovered the electron, neutron, and proton and learned that, far from being “indivisible” the atom is actually made up of components.  We’ve discovered that there are differences among atoms–isotopes–of the same element.  And we’ve discovered that matter and energy can be interchanged and very small amounts of matter can, in the right circumstances, be converted to very large amounts of energy.  And we’ve demonstrated the very thing in the first example–slapping two pieces of Uranium 235 together to make whopping big explosions. (And using different materials we’ve made even bigger booms.)  As for the other, we’ve found that force applied to an object will produce different accelerations depending on how fast one sees the object of moving and the faster it is moving–the closer it’s speed is to that of light–the less acceleration a given force will produce, with the result that it can never reach, let alone exceed, the speed of light.

Back in 1890 physical theory would declare certain things to be flat out impossible.  Other things were theoretically possible but perhaps practically impossible (such as, say, focusing light so that it can burn through an inch of steel in the blink of an eye).  Other things were readily achievable.

With the revolution in modern physics that came shortly thereafter, those categories got shuffled.  Some things that were utterly impossible under the old theory were found to be possible and even achievable once you knew how.  Other things that had been theoretically possible but difficult (which was why they had not yet been done) were found to be theoretically impossible.

The one constant was that things that had already been done clearly had to remain possible.  Obviously, whatever has been done is possible. (What was done might not necessarily be what you think was done–ask any stage magician–but what was done remains possible.)

So what about 2090?  Or 2190?  or 9990?  Will the things that the physical theory of that future day considers possible and impossible be the same as today?

I suggest that it is only hubris that would lead one to suggest that they will.  Unless one believes that we have actually achieved the final answer to physical theory, that all our current answers to “how does the universe work” are right, then one must conclude that some things we think are possible will very likely turn out to be impossible.  And some things we think are impossible (theoretically impossible) will turn out to be possible after all.

And nobody knows which things.

As a writer of science fiction set in the future (or in a present with alien cultures more advanced than our own), part of the job is to explore these possibilities.  Now, most people don’t expect a science fiction writer to explore the detailed ramifications of “what if conservation of Baryon number can be violated?” or “what if it’s possible to alter the Pauli Exclusion Principle?” or even “What if Planck’s Constant isn’t actually a constant?” but limiting oneself to what we now “know” is probably the last likely future of all.

"A gun in the home is more likely…"

People keep making the claim that a gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than it is to be used in self defense.

This all derives by a “study” by Arthur Kellerman which has long since been debunked but its fake statistics nevertheless continue to be cited by anti-gun propagandists.

Here are a few of the debunkings:
http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/01/william-c-montgomery/editorial-deconstructing-kellermann/
http://www.guns.com/2015/08/24/kellermanns-gun-ownership-studies-after-two-decades/
http://guncite.com/gun-control-kellermann-3times.html
http://jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/doctors-epidemic.htm
http://www.thegunzone.com/rkba/rkba-43.html

Some of its flaws:
On the one side: He only counts as “defenses” dead criminals when in truth in most cases where a gun is used in self defense merely presenting a gun is sufficient to end the threat. When the gun is fired, most of the times the person shot survives. This is even more the case in defensive shootings because when a person means harm, they are more likely to keep shooting until the target is dead whereas in a defensive shooting a person generally stops when they believe the threat is ended (and, in fact, is legally required to do so). So, the number of uses of a gun in self defense in the Kellerman study is low by orders of magnitude.

On the flip side: The original study spoke of victims known to the attacker. People citing the statistic morphed that into “friends and acquaintances” and then later to “friends and family”. But the statistic being cited as “friends and family” is actually “person shot by person known to them”. In a drug deal gone bad, the persons are known to each other. In a gang war, the members of the gang are often known to each other. An abusive ex shot in self defense is known to the person doing the shooting. And so on. So a lot of the things being included in that statistic are things that simply are not relevant to a law abiding citizen owning a gun.

The other thing that gets added in is suicide.  However possession of a firearm only really affects choice of method rather than suicide itself.  Japan, for instance, with its essentially gun-free society has a suicide rate higher than our suicide and homicide rates combined.

Looked at dispassionately we find that studies of gun use in self defense produce a low value of about 800,000 per year. The high value is 2.5 million. It’s hard to get a definitive answer to the question because see above: most times in a defensive use the gun is never fired. As a result, this means that most gun defenses are never reported to the police. In any case, most studies of the issue return results of 1 to 1.5 million gun defenses per year. However, even using the lowball estimate of 800,000 that’s quite comparable to the number of times guns are used criminally in the US. So, far from having a gun in the household making one at increased risk, one is instead about as likely (again, using that lowball result) to use a gun in self defense as to be threatened by a gun. More, actually since “gun owners” (the only population where one is able to use a gun in self defense) < "total population" (the population at risk for criminal use). Being criminally threatened with a gun has a risk of about 800,000 out of 321 (or so) million. Using a gun to defend oneself has a risk of about 800,000 (lowball again) out of 70-100 million. The latter is at worst three times the odds of the former.

Or look at it more simply. Gun ownership in the US has grown by leaps and bounds. The spread of “shall issue” and more recently “constitutional carry” means more people are carrying more guns in more places than ever before. If the “gun ownership increases risk” had any merit then we would be seeing homicide and violent crime going up. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s been going down since the 90’s and is currently at a 100 year low.

The simple truth is, the violent have been with us since the beginning of humanity. The violent have several inherent advantages. They get to choose time and place. They get to choose victims (generally choosing those smaller and weaker than themselves). What firearms do is level the playing field. With a gun, aged Aunt Millie is the equal of 6′ 4″ 300 lb, Joe Thug on Steroids. Guns are, therefore, a net good to society.

“God made man short and tall. Samuel Colt made them equal.”

“Be not afraid of any man, No matter what his size; When danger threatens, call on me — And I will equalize!”

Millenicon 30 Schedule

I’ll be Attending Millenicon 30 in Cincinatti March 19th and 20th.  The Con runs from the 18th but for scheduling and budget reasons I won’t arrive until Saturday morning.

Here’s my schedule:
Saturday 3:00 PM Science and Pseudoscience: How to tell the difference
Panelists discuss the difference between the two and share examples from science fiction and fantasy.
Room:  MR1216/1217

Saturday 4:00 PM Creative Destruction
Explore the act of destruction as a creative influence, drawing sources from economic theory, cosmology, ecology and technology.
Room:  MR 1216/1217

Sunday 11:00 AM Autographs
Lobby

Sunday 1:00 PM Reading
Room: Reagan

The Science vs. Pseudoscience panel is one I’ve done before more than once at various cons.

I’m kind of surprised by the Creative Destruction panel.  They had the same panel last year at the same con.  It’s kind of unusual to see a panel repeated two years in a row at one con.  Some “panels” are regular features but they’re usually of topical interest:  The “Mad Scientist” panel at LibertyCon for instance–basically a rather free-wheeling discussion of the preceding year in science.

Feeding the Active Writer

To Maim for Pasta Sauce

Most commercial pasta sauces are full of sugars.  Not good if you’re on a low-carb diet.  I found one available locally but it’s ridiculously expensive–something close to three times the cost of typical national brands.

So I’ve come up with this one.  It’s a meat sauce but if you prefer you can leave out the ground beef and it’s a pretty good marinara.  As it is, I won’t say it’s quite good enough to kill for, but maybe good enough to maim for. 😉

Ingredients:

1 28 Oz can diced tomatoes (no sugar added) undrained  divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Preparation

Combine half the can of tomatoes and the next eight ingredients in a blender and puree.
Mix in the remainder of the tomatoes but do not blend (I like to keep it a little “chunky”.
In a saucepan brown and crumble the ground beef.
Add the wine and olive oil to the saucepan.
Heat, stirring frequently, until the wine begins to simmer.
Add the tomato mixture to the pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, simmering for about 15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Works well with spaghetti squash.

Enjoy.

They Who Fell, a review

I’m not big on reviews.  To be honest I don’t think I do it well.  Still, from time to time I make an effort.

They Who Fell is a rarity:  a book I purchased based on a paid advertisement.

There has been another revolt in heaven.  A new crop of fallen angels has been cast down to Earth.  Generally of the traditional winged human form, the fallen angels are of surpassing beauty except where scars from their fall mar their features.  Not just their bodies are marred, but also their hearts.  A fallen angel can appear gentle and kind one moment, and fly into a rage the next.  Other’s are driven by cruelty or paranoia.

The fallen angel–strong, fast, many with powers, many armed with swords of flame–have become the overlords of the Earth.  Cities are largely deserted wastelands.  If I was reading the population figures correctly, more than ninety percent of humanity was slaughtered.  Some of the remaining people serve the fallen, hoping to avoid their wrath.  Others still eke out an existence in the countryside, always fearful that the fallen might come across them and use them for “sport”.

Jana is one of the servants of the fallen in their primary “Tower” in New York.  Her first task is serving table at a dinner party of the fallen, terrified that any slight misstep, even the noise of a plate tapping another, might draw the fallen’s ire.  Hoping for withdrawn anonymity she instead draws the attention of two of the fallen and is called up to be the personal servant for one of them, but it is the other who seems to have her interest.

Holt leads a cell of partisans, an assassination team.  Angels are extremely hard to kill.  A Stinger, anti-aircraft missile merely stuns one.  Yet a sufficiently strong electric shock can kill one.

As Jana faces dangers and intrigues within the tower, Holt leads his cell in a quest for the means to effectively fight the fallen angels.  These two threads of story remain mostly separate until the very end of the book.  Along the way we get hints of the reason for the angels’ rebellion; a promise broken by “The Maker”.  In the end, when that is explained, well, it was one of the fallen who related the story and the story might have been more self-justification than truth but it does give motive to their actions more than just a lust for power.

To be honest, the beginning of the book read a little slow and there were several times I considered dropping it.  However, it did pick up and I was glad I stayed with it.  The book had a good, solid ending, completing the current story while leaving hooks for the continuing series.

In the end, I used the “Buy the next book” option at the end to get the next book of the series so I did consider it worth continuing.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Saw this on a Christmas showing.  Theater was packed.  When I walked in, there were three empty seats.  I held three tickets:  Me, my daughter, and my wife (who wasn’t with us–she wasn’t feeling well and stayed home).

I’m not going to give a plot summary here.  I’m not going to discuss the characters, whether Rey is a “Mary Sue” or not.  And I’m certainly not going to give any spoilers.  Instead, I’m going to talk about the emotional effect of the movie.

Let me start by saying that in the days since then, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of “The Force Awakens.” Some valid and some off base. But even the valid stuff? Well…

Back in 1977 I was “that kid”. I took every opportunity to see Star Wars. I had the novelization and read it until it fell apart and was held together by rubber bands. I bought all the toys I could (which wasn’t much–poor. Really really poor.) I got the Marvel comic.

I got together with friends and made “blindfolded kendo” a thing (a wonder we didn’t maim each other). I tried to invent the lightsaber (not laser, I knew that you couldn’t make a laser go out a particular distance and stop, and I also knew that the beam of a laser wasn’t visible unless there was smoke or something to scatter the light to your eye, but I thought maybe an electron beam, “tuned” so that it would reach about a yard before the anode in the handle pulled it back. And two negatively charged “blades” would repel each other so one could block another. Okay, none of the numbers work on that in the real world, but that was still pretty good for a high school freshman).

I was that kid who tried to “anticipate” traffic lights and the other things in an effort to figure out “the Force”.  After all, I figured that short term precognition is probably the “secret” behind being able to block blaster bolts.

Well, when I went to watch The Force Awakens, all the movie’s flaws aside, for two hours I was that kid again.

And I don’t think you can get higher praise than that,.