June 6, 2020

Review: The Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick.

On sale in November!

Psst! Do you love a good mystery? Do you love the unfurling of the “Whodunit” plot-line, the murder by dimly-lit street light, the “It was a dark and stormy night” settings? Did you eagerly devour each and every Encyclopedia Brown novel as a kid, forcing yourself not to turn to the solutions at the back until you’d figured it out? Let’s see, one more murder-mystery intro… did you always wonder if it actually could occasionally be “Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a candlestick?

Then Prometheus Books has a great new line for you. Introducing its new imprint, Seventh Street Books, “Where Fiction is a Crime.” I know, we’re straying a bit out of the hard science fiction mold with this week’s review; time to become a more rounded reader, and all that stuff your high school English teacher told you after you handed in the 20th book report featuring Asimov or Clarke. (Has anyone done a Sci-Fi detective story PI-style, I wonder?)

To ease you into the world of mystery, this week’s review is by an author that you might have heard of, Mike Resnick. Fans of this space will recall our reviews of his Starship space opera series, Starship: Rebel & Starship: Flagship. Mr. Resnick’s latest offering, Dog in The Manger sees Cincinnati Private Investigator Eli Paxton on the trail of the disappearance of a prized Weimaraner (the “dog” in the title) and into a deepening mystery where things are not what they seem. Without introducing any spoilers (it is a ‘mystery’ after all) the title refers to a lesser known Aesop’s fable of the same name. OK, I’d never heard of that one either, but the ever present moral revolves around denying someone something that you have absolutely no interest in purely out of spite. Amazing, what talking animals can teach us…

What I really liked about Dog in the Manger was how Resnick took hard-nosed, street-wise Paxton out of his own element (i.e. the streets of Cincinnati) and sent him on the trail of a disappearance that spans Mexico and the American southwest. Aside from being set in our old Astroguyz stopping ground of Tucson plus environs, being thrust into the unfamiliar brings out the best in a character. (Try it sometimes!)

As you might expect, the tale presented in Dog in the Manger is much more than just a story about a missing canine. Watch those casually dropped references, as they come back as clues later on. The book also includes a teaser chapter to another Eli Paxton tale, “Even Butterflies can Sting.”

Looking at the forthcoming catalog, Seventh Street Books has titles soon to be released by Owen Fitzstephen, Adrian McKinty, Mark Pryor, Erec Stebbins, and more. It’s great to see the classic mystery novel finding a new market; lovers of mystery and thrillers now have a new haven in Seventh Street Books!

Next Week: Not to forget Prometheus’s other fiction imprint, we look at The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper, forthcoming from Pyr Books!


Nov09:Life in the Astro blog-o-sphere.

Coming to a November Sky near you: This month’s big sky-buzz will be the Leonids meteors peaking the morning of November 17th. Although this will be an off year for the shower, the Leonids always deserve some close scrutiny because of their outburst track record. Also, the Moon is New on the 16th, and thus safely out of the “obstruction” zone. There is some buzz in the online meteor forums that there may be some older, not very well recorded debris trails lurking out there, so keep watching your local dawn sky on those early mid-November mornings. The Full Moon occurs the night of the 2nd, and is always a pretty naked eye sight. Casting our eyes farther out into the local universe, watch this space for pieces on such deep sky wonders as M31, Gamma Arietis, and a little known gem called Omicron Eridanus!

This Month in Science: On the 24th of this month Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago. Of course, this demotion of man in the biological scheme of things pissed off some folks to no end, but hey, the truth hurts sometimes. Speaking of which, its time again this year for the Australian Skeptics annual Bent Spoon Award, given at their annual meeting held on the 28-29th in Brisbane. Be sure to watch the action on their site and keep an eye on current contenders! Farther down under, NASA’s Operation: Ice Bridge continues their bone-chilling mission of mapping the Antarctic ice flow. Don’t forget, it’s going towards austral summer down there! We’ve been having a great time following them via ye’ ole Twitter… closer to home, we here at Astroguyz will expose all you REALLY need to know about 2012 (as if you can’t get enough!) and look at a real-time human extinction event posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) and what could be done about it…bring on the destruction!

This Months’ buzz in Sci-Fi: Starship: Flagship, the latest in the swashbuckling series by Mike Resnick, is due out this December and available for pre-order this month…also watch for our review of City Without End, by Kay Kenyon. On a semi-sad note, the box office sci-fi smash this Veteran’s Day is gearing up to be…you guessed it; 2012. three more years to go…. even Y2K only had a 6-month or so run! Hopefully, we at Astroguyz will at least be pleasantly surprised if the movie isn’t a dud… we still think that if the world did end in 2012, humanity would be getting off easy! On a more serious note, in a recent episode of the new season of the Big Bang Theory, Shelton was….WRONG! Can the universe survive the paradox?

Launches for November: The Shuttle Atlantis is sitting on launch pad 39B for STS-129 on the 16th; this will be Atlantis’s 2nd to last flight into space. Other notables include launch of the ESA, Soil Moisture and Salinity satellite on the 2nd out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and testing of the SpaceX Falcon automated resupply craft for the ISS on the 29th. Check Spaceflight now for updates.

Astro-Blooper of the Month: Re-watching the earlier seasons of NUM3ERS, I caught a goof that deserves further scrutiny. There’s a point when Larry the astrophysicist is departing for the International Space Station. He then gives his girlfriend Megan a Celestron telescope, so she can “See me as I pass overhead…” Yes, you can photograph the ISS with a telescope, but it is a swift moving target! Larry could be forgiven because, after all, he is a theorist, but NUMB3Rs is a class show, and I won’t let it off of the hook that easily! It was also an excellent, but missed opportunity to teach some hands on science…many folks don’t realize that you can see the ISS with the naked eye! A much better gift (and free!) would have been to install Orbitron, complete with ISS alarm, on Megan’s laptop!

This Month in Astro-History: On November 19th, 1969, Apollo 12 landed on the Moon. Of course, no one remembers the 2nd lunar landing, but astronauts Alan Bean and crew performed a pinpoint landing next to the Surveyor spacecraft in the Ocean of Storms, and did some real science, to boot. Their Saturn V was also struck by lightening on takeoff, (launch restrictions were looser in those days) and there was no guarantee that the pyro technics that fired the chute on re-entry were not damaged, until they in fact were safely home!

Quote of the Month: “If doom isn’t impending, it’s out there, somewhere.”

-Andy Rooney