May 30, 2020

Review: Cold by Bill Streever.

On sale now!

Need to take the heat off this summer? We certainly did, as the sultry Dog Days of 2012 seem to march endlessly on. Fortunately, we found a “cool read” (last bad pun, I swear) in the form of Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places by Bill Streever. We were happy to find this gem up for library loan on our Kindle Fire, and would heartily recommend this look at the frozen places on our planet to anyone in any season. [Read more...]

Review: Solis by A.A. Antanasio

Every once in a while, we come across a book that sat on our shelves for years unread, only to later wonder how we could have by-passed such a gem for so long. Such a find is a book is Solis, by A.A. Attanasio the topic of this week’s retro review. Mr. Attanasio is also the author of another all-time Sci-Fi favorite of ours, Radix. Apparently, he has yet to write a bad novel, as evinced by this 80’s work of the distant future. All of Mr. Attanasio’s novels assume a sleek and sophisticated audience; rather than spoon-feed you an idea or concept, he allows the reader to piece things together.  Solis is a twist on the old Rip Van Winkle theme in Sci-Fi; this motif has a lineage way back to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but also has its contemporaries in works such as Larry Niven’s outstanding Out of Time, which will also be a subject of review one day. Perhaps only Robert Silverberg’s Son of Man beats out Solis in its sweep and scope of social commentary.

The key protagonist and window into this future realm is Charlie Outis, a 21st century man who had his brain cryogenically frozen in the hopes that future technology could one day reanimate him. This concept isn’t entirely fiction; the Alcor Foundation out of Riverside California promises just such a hope for its customers. Of course, there is much controversy surrounding the concept, as it’s hard to quickly freeze neural tissue without any cell wall rupturing or damage, but in Solis, a future technology has found a way to reverse and repair this, albeit at extreme cost.

However, the parties responsible for Mr. Charlie’s revival turn out to have less than benign motives; instead, they install his brain as a slave controller for an asteroid harvester. Much of the motive for this and the subsequent tale stems from Mr. Charlie’s legal status; being that he was technically “dead” thousands of years prior, his standing in this twisted future technocratic society is little more than that of hardware or property.

Mr. Charlie’s disembodied brain is able to summon Munk, an android with a seemly superfluous sub-program that gives him an affinity for archaic humans, and Jumper Mei Nilli, a spacer with a thirst for adventure. The tale that unfolds on and around future Mars is one of journeying towards cognizance and what it truly means to be human. As they escape and encounter more fellow travelers of their elk, Mr. Charlie and his band must overcome a menagerie of menaces both personal and external. This lends itself towards a very Odyssean-style tale. Their goal: Solis, a mythical haven for humanism deep in the Martian desert. A parallel could also be drawn between Solis and The Wizard of Oz; each character is on an individual quest of self-fulfillment; Mr. Charlie to become human again, and Munk looking to understand human motives.

Like Radix, some of Mr. Attanasio’s wonderful prose is really allowed to shine through in Solis; you actually care about what happens to his characters, and he paints a future universe of autobots, andrones, and neo-sapiens that is totally convincing. I would even put Solis in the select realm of books that are worth re-reading, high praise in this short time span we have on planet Earth.

Read Solis and dig up an undiscovered gem by an under-appreciated author. I would love to see more adventures in the Solis universe, but Mr. Attanasio doesn’t seem to lack a new and unique backdrop for each tale he pulls out of his fertile imagination. I’d also love to see Solis make the big screen one day… are you listening, SyFy?

Note: At the time of posting this, Astroguyz will be live and underway at the STS-132 NASAtweetup… now’s a good time to hit that Follow Me button on this page as we track space shuttle Atlantis’s final mission. A full after-action post will be the topic of next Friday’s review!

May 2010: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

May brings ultimate news to the Astroguyz camp, with the selection for yet a second NASAtweetup, this time to the final launch of the shuttle Atlantis! Expect us “to be all STS-132, all the time” as we track events leading up to and during the launch. With that in mind posts will be noticeably space shuttle oriented, so be forewarned. So without further digression, here’s what you can expect from an Astroguyz soapbox coming to a viewing device of your electronic choosing…

Coming to a Sky near You: You’ve heard of em’, but have you ever tried spotting a quasar yourself? This month, we show you what it takes to cross this elusive class of objects off of your life list. And of course, we’ll keep you abreast of the latest STS/ISS sightings, as the pair couples and uncouples in low Earth orbit. For those fortunate to be positioned from northern Africa through Southeast Asia, the 2 day old Moon will occult Venus on the 16th. The rest of us will see a close conjunction of the pair. On the lunar surface, we explore Aristarchus, a crater home to the most recorded Transient Lunar Phenomena. On the final day of the month, the Moon once again meets up with S Scorpii in an interesting occultation of the close binary star. On that same date, we’ll point you towards an offbeat reader submitted event; Jupiter’s moons positioned in 1,2,3,4 order. Our own Moon will reach New on the 14th and Full phase on the 27th.

This Month in Science: Did we mention that we’ll be attending the NASA STS-132 Tweetup? Expect you-are-there tweet-reporting, videos, deep ponderous thoughts, and a full length after-action post. For those who didn’t get picked (hey, this was us more often than not!) we’ll give you a complete guide to off-site observing, good for both manned and unmanned launches both out of the KSC and the Cape. We also resume our exposé on Great Orbiting Observatories, this month delving into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. And speaking of UV, we review the UV flashlight from INova, and why you need one of these curious devices…

This Month in Science Fiction: This month, we take advantage of the spring publishing lull to work through some of our backlog. Expect a review of Solis by A.A. Attanasio, a book that we can’t believe let sit on our shelves all these years before finally cracking. We also review what’s rapidly become our favorite in Sci-Fi podcasting, the Drabblecast. In the hot-off-the-press-department, our advance copy of Dervish House by Ian MacDonald, soon to be released by Pyr just hit our doorstep and we’ve delved headlong into this tale of a futuristic Istanbul.

Launches in May: What with all this talk of adventure in a time of NASAtweetups, you might get the impression that STS-132 launches on May 14th at 2:19 P.M. EDT! This mission will be deploying the Russian-built Mini Research Module to be attached to the Zarya Module, as well as carrying further maintenance supplies and spare parts to the ISS. The flight is also notable as it is more than likely the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis, unless it launches in the very unlikely event of a rescue op during the final two missions. Astroguyz will be on hand to witness the final flight of Atlantis as she rides into orbit one last time. About a week prior, Falcon 9 will launch out of the Cape on May 8th at 11 AM EDT, on the qualifying flight of Space Xs Dragon spacecraft. This flight test is crucial to demonstrate that private companies can indeed fill in the gap left by the termination of the shuttle program and take up the duty of unmanned resupply of the ISS. Another interesting launch of note occurs on May 17th at 5:44 PM EDT, when Japan’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter departs Tanegashima Space Center for a journey to the cloud-shrouded world.  Follow these latest mission updates courtesy of SpaceFlightNow.

Astro Bloopers: Alright. This month’s snafu is spaceflight related, and the offense was committed twice in the past month by two separate organizations, both of which should have known better! The problem occurred with a common misconception of the Kennedy Space Center versus Cape Canaveral; both tend to be interchanged by the media, but are in fact separate installations! KSC is the launch site for manned missions such as the Shuttle and the Apollo missions; the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the home of unmanned satellite and deep space probe launches. NOVA recently got the two exactly wrong in a recent otherwise outstanding episode, and then CNN bumped the lunacy up a notch during Obama’s visit to the Space Coast, referring to the KSC as the Kennedy Space Station! And they complain about us upstart blogs…what are they, missing a science reporter?

This Month in Astro-History: On May14th, 1973 Skylab was launched. The first manned space station for the United States, Skylab utilized left over Apollo hardware to cobble the station together and saw its first crew of three opening it for business on May 25th of the same year. Two more crews followed until abandonment in early 1974. Astronauts conducted several science experiments while in space, including solar observations and microgravity experiments. Ideas to eventually reoccupy Skylab when the Shuttle came online in the 80’s never materialized. Skylab re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere amid much media craziness on July 11th, 1979.

Astro Quote of the Month: “Everything really is made from one fire, the fire of all the stars. In that furious light, the stars forge the elements, strew them into the black void, and then stand around and watch the frantic atoms huddling together in the cold limits, sharing their small heat and enormous dreams.”

Solis, A.A. Attanasio.