Fallen Dragon by Peter Hamilton

It’s just that nowhere you live can ever be exotic. That’s only ever somewhere else.

Fallen Dragon

After finishing the fantastic House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds I decided to continue my adventures in Space Opera by returning to my favorite Science Fiction writer, Peter Hamilton. I picked up Fallen Dragon, one of Hamilton’s standalone novels. The other one being Great North Road which I loved. I was not disappointed.

Fallen Dragon takes place in a future where interstellar travel is possible, humans have colonized  and terraformed several new worlds. Unfortunately space travel and colonization is astronomically expensive and unprofitable. The interplanetary corporations who funded colonization now fight and raid colonies in what is deemed “asset realization.” Using private armies equipped with  nearly unstoppable biological combat suits  they overpower the less sophisticated colonists and loot and pillage as much as possible to take back to Earth.

This is the world in which Lawerence Newton lives in. A wealthy son of a colonial corporate magnate who gave up his wealth and heritage for a chance to travel the stars. Instead of becoming the starship pilot he dreamed of he ended up a grunt for Zanitu-Brauns, a vicious raiding corporation, planetary assault army.

The main plot of the novel revolves around Zanitu-Brauns latest raid on a small backwater colony. The operation that should of been a walk in the park for the well trained and equipped Z-B troops becomes a disaster due to a well organized and unexpected counterinsurgency. In the middle of the quagmire Lawrence hatches a scheme. Somewhere on the planet is a treasure that if he recovers would make him and his platoon rich beyond their dreams.

Fallen Dragon delivers on numerous levels and explores several interesting science fiction concepts. Planetary colonization and terraforming is a major part of the novels background, detailing a very interesting colonization of a frozen world. Advanced military technology and the price of interstellar travel is a key element. The price of space tends to be waved away by post scarcity concepts in most scifi. My personal favorite concepts was the exploration of post democratic corporate governments. Where the power of your vote was tied to the amount of stake you held in the corporation. Stake you could earn through working for the corp and investing your pay.

So in closing Fallen Dragon did not disappoint. Another massive piece of space opera mixed with a post cyberpunk aesthetic and a dash of military science fiction, that kept me thinking about its ideas and themes well past the end.

 

Hiking and Writing

ZushiBuddah

I feel like Nathan Drake.

In about two weeks the wife and I are going to climb Mt. Fuji. I’m excited because climbing Fuji has always been one of my life goals. Something I have always wanted to do as far back as I can remember.

In order to prep for the climb and also because we love doing it. We have been going on hikes in our area. Saturday we did one of the best hikes around here, Mt. Takatori. The top of the mountain is decorated with a great stone Buddha carved out of an old rock quarry. The hike up is fantastic, making it one of my favorite outdoor areas.

Besides hiking, I started work on a new short story. A darker scifi piece I hope to finish before I lose interest and throw it into my never ending unfinished folder.

Also I need to write a quick review for Coherence. A fantastic indie movie we watched this weekend. If you love intelligent scifi  give this one a watch.

 

 

Stranger Things

***Potential Spoilers Below***

stranger-things

As far back as I remember my choice of visual entertainment has been the long form television show. While I enjoy a good movie I  prefer the long arcs and character development found in television. Star Trek:TNG, DS9, Babylon 5, and The XFiles is what I loved. You can imagine how happy I am that we are now in a golden age  television. Even better, we are at the beginning of entire seasons instantly released  so one can binge entire shows in one sitting.

Netflix’s Stranger Things is a must watch example of this new format. A pastiche of 80s horror,  scifi, and pop culture, that pays homage to everything and everyone including Stephen King,  Stephen Spielberg, John Carpenter, The Clash, and classic Dungeons and Dragons.

The show takes place in Hawkins, Indiana over several days during the Fall of 1983. A 12 year old boy mysteriously vanishes one night. His close friends begin searching for him on their own while the town Sheriff begins  His disappearance sets in motion a chain of events involving secret government projects, psychics, and a horrible evil force from beyond.

Stranger Things has an outstanding cast of young actors complimented by a fantastic performance by Winona Ryder. If you enjoy 80’s genre horror/scifi movies like E.T., Poltergeist, Carrie, and Stand by Me, you will love this show.

**Some Potential Spoilers**

strangerthingsposter

While I enjoyed the 80’s references and old movie homage what I truly enjoyed about the show was the really good somewhat esoteric occult symbolism. Off the top of my head several things stood out.

The failure of fathers. Every father figure character in the show was a failure. From the creepy Dr. Breener the evil scientist abuser to Will Byers self serving waste of a father. Even Sheriff Hooper failed as a father in his own eyes and attempts to redeem himself. This theme coupled with El being a somewhat angelic figure(The gold wig, levitating above water) that is sacrificed alludes to a few occult/biblical themes. Contrasted with the portrayal of mothers it gives you plenty to think about.

Running away with the horrible father theme you could see the whole show  being about child abuse. Specifically abuse by fathers. El is clearly the victim of Dr. Breener who she calls “Pa.” The other main victim is Will Byers, the son of a druggie abuser who abandoned him, his brother, and mother. The Byers family has an alluded element of darkness and child abuse that is not hard to catch.

El’s name is Eleven. When you look at numerology and occult symbolism of the number just by doing a quick google search you realize it was intentional. It represents duality, psychic power, super intellect and danger.

The idea of duality in 11 is the key symbolism. She is two different things, on one hand a innocent child on the other a powerful weapon. The world is shown having more dimensions with the Upside Down, a good and a bad.

What does this mean? I think that the main monster, the Demogorgon is actually the Upside Downs representation of child abuse. The Demogorgon is the other side of El, the other half of Eleven, the representation of all the child abuse alluded or shown in the series. At one point El even states “I am the monster,” in one of the episodes.

What do you guys think, any other theories? I love weird occult stuff believe that symbolism of this sort adds depth to stories allowing for greater connection and enjoyment.

 

 

 

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

“To see something marvelous with your own eyes – that’s wonderful enough. But when two of you see it, two of you together, holding hands, holding each other close, knowing that you’ll both have that memory for the rest of your lives, but that each of you will only ever hold an incomplete half of it, and that it won’t ever really exist as a whole until you’re together, talking or thinking about that moment … that’s worth more than one plus one. It’s worth four, or eight, or some number so large we can’t even imagine it.”

Gollancz-08237b Reynolds House of Suns

House of Suns continues my ongoing obsession with heavy Science Fiction and happens to be my first read by Alastair Reynolds. It was a thoughtful and complex Gothic Space Opera that did not disappoint and kept me thinking about longevity, space, and time for days after I finished.

Millions of years in the future Abigail Gentian “shattered” herself into one thousand clones. Her clones “The House of Flowers” spend millions of years traveling the galaxy at sub-light speed collecting data and experience. Every two hundred thousand years they meet for a reunion in order to share memories, knowledge, and experiences.

Two Shatterlings, Campion and Purslane, secretly in love, arrive at the latest reunion to find devastation. Someone or something is exterminating the Gentian line. They are thrown into a dangerous mystery that spans across the galaxy and over thousands of years, involving sentient machines, post human civilizations, and exotic worlds.

I loved this book. It shares a mournful atmosphere with other Science Fiction novels such as Hyperion and Dune. A sort of new-Gothic Space Opera that touches on the concept of humanity in a post-Earth far future Galaxy. A fantastic novel and a great introduction to Reynolds. If you enjoy high concept Space Opera pick this one up.

 

Productivity

coffee

Coffee in Kamakura

Lets see. Over the past few days I have been doing a lot. Mostly fun exciting stuff. Unfortunately none of it involved writing or trying to write.

Quinn

Birthday Dog

I went to the 118th Corpsman Birthday celebration. Did a bit of exploring around Kamakura, finding this excellent underground coffee shop. Celebrated Quinn’s 2nd Birthday. Yet the biggest thing keeping me away from any semblance of productivity… Overwatch. Damn great game. I’m hooked. Typing this makes me want to go downstairs a play a few matches.:)

Tracer

Yep… there goes my free time.

Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan

altered carbon

Fighting off a massive hangover  I couldn’t think of a more appropriate activity than to spend a wet rainy weekend in Yokosuka reading a dark and violent cyberpunk novel. Altered Carbon has been on my to read pile for a very long time and after finishing it I am thankful for all the recommendations. Its a violent piece of cyberpunk that can hold its own with the likes of Neuromancer.

Takeshi Kovaks, a Envoy(special forces agent) turned criminal is taken out of storage and downloaded into a temporary sleeve(body) right smack in the middle of 25th century San Francisco. His probation and release hinge on completing a private murder investigation on the apparent suicide of his employer, a centuries old corporate billionaire. Kovaks navigates a bloody path through a dirty Bay City, dealing with prostitutes, drug addicts, corrupt police, psychotic assassins, cyborgs, and an A.I. Hotel in the likeness of Jimmy Hendrix.

The main science fiction element of Altered Carbon is the idea of sleeves and stacks. In the 25th century ones consciousness is digitized and stored in stacks mounted to the cerebral cortex. Human flesh bodies are now called sleeves because one can be uploaded into any empty available one. The novel hits some fantastic points about identity, human connection, and self-perception in a world where one can switch bodies. It also touches on the concept of near immortal longevity for those who can afford it.

Altered Carbon managed to touch all of my favorite elements. Dark, brutal, action taking place in a fantastic setting dealing with themes that touch on the philosophical. A fantastic read for anybody who loves cyberpunk and detective noir. I’m going to read more Richard K Morgan for sure.

 

Kamikochi Nature Trail — Gains Before Grains

 

This past weekend Judy and I took a 5 hour drive west to Nagano Prefecture home of Japan’s Alps. We spent the day hiking this beautiful trail admiring the gorgeous environment. We even ran into a pair of Snow Monkeys. Hop on over to Judy’s blog and check out some great pictures. Japan is hands down one of the most beautiful places in the world.

This past Saturday Alex and I went on a day trip to the Kamikochi Nature Trail. Located in the city of Matsumoto in the Nagano prefecture, Kamikochi offers a gorgeous backdrop of the Japanese Alps. A five hour bus ride there and back, including a couple of stops for food was well worth this scenic, […]

via Kamikochi Nature Trail — Gains Before Grains

A Plan to Climb

fujilake

I took this picture in January from the sacred springs.

Mount Fuji, 12,388 feet of Japanese national symbol that I will be climbing. Judy and I scheduled our Mt. Fuji hike for the end of August. We will be doing an overnight hike in order to reach the summit of the caldera and watch one of the worlds most famous sunrises.

I’m beyond excited and a little bit nervous. A 12,388 foot 6 hour hike is pretty tough for most people but my number one worry is the elevation gain. I’m a sea level guy, from Long Beach to San Diego I have never lived anywhere with any decent elevation. It took me awhile to adjust to the mountains at Bridgeport Mountain Warfare training. I even had a hard time running in California’s High Desert.

So in order not to embarrass myself I started a more intense strength and stamina training regimen. My goal is to train for the next two and a half months motivating myself to accomplish a great climb but also vastly improve my health and fitness.

mt-fuji-art

I can’t think of anything more motivating than a giant sacred mountain.

A quick trip to California

FlagSanClemente

Last week I went to Narita Airport in Tokyo and took a 5,000 mile 10 hour flight to San Diego where I spent the week on Camp Pendleton getting some excellent training  and certification. The best part was that I got to shoot up to Long Beach to catch up with friends and family.

California is a beautiful place. Very different from Japan. Louder, faster, ruder, and a lot dirtier. Yet I still find it charming. Nothing beats driving 100 mph down The 5 freeway with the sun setting over the Pacific at your side.

InNOut

You can’t visit California without eating at In N Out!

On the flight back I devoured a slew of short stories and two crime novels. Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol and Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis. Once I kick this lingering jet lag I’m going to sit down and write reviews for both. But for now I’m catching up with Japan and working on final edits for my latest short story.