The Other McCain

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Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs

Posted on | October 28, 2013 | 26 Comments


Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, but frankly, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend between the covers of a book while playing Dad Taxi while my daughter was in town. Since I’m not going to be doing much else this week, you may wind up getting two book posts, but no promises. We’ll see how it goes.

First, the leftover recommendations by commenters from the last book post: L. Neil Smith’s The Nagasaki Vector got some love, as did Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson, Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks, and in the How The Hell Did I Manage To Forget These category, Tim Powers’ Three Days to Never and The Anubis Gates. Both of those are most excellent, as is pretty much everything Powers has written. Man deserves his own post, and one of these weeks I’m going to have to slap it together. Also, Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions.

I did find time to finish David Drake’s Loose Cannon, the Tom Kelly anthology. I thought I’d read Fortress, the second novel in the collection, before but guess I thought wrong – either that, or it was so long ago that I completely forgot about it, which is pretty unlikely considering that I can still remember plot summaries of stories I haven’t read since junior high school. Anyhow, in the unlikely event either Fortress or Skyripper get made into movies, Bruce Willis is a cinch to play Tom Kelly. No idea who’d they get to play Gisele, the German belly dancer, though. Anyway, as to the plot of Fortress: it takes place in an alternate history 1985 where the US did things right and got to the moon in 1963, in which year McNamara instead of Kennedy ate a bullet in Dallas, and American troops wound up in Lebanon instead of Vietnam. In this alternate 1985, Tom Kelly is an aide to a Congressman recruited by the CIA to find out what the hell is going on with some former Kurdish assets and some ex-SS men in Turkey…to say nothing of the aliens. There are references to an alt-history version of the USS Liberty incident and Kelly’s exposure of Israeli involvement, which is the reason he got turfed from the NSA, as well as what looks an awful lot like a rework of Drake’s short story “The Last Battalion”, which also involves Nazis and aliens. The first half of the anthology, of course, is the technothriller Skyripper – although Skyripper only fakes being a technothriller until you realize that the Soviet scientist raving about aliens isn’t raving*. Between the two novels, you really ought to pick up Loose Cannon if you don’t already own both novels.

The other book I managed to finish last week was Iain Banks’ Surface Detail, and I was surprised that it ended as happily as it did. This has not been my experience with other Culture novels by Banks, most of which feature the bulk of the POV characters dying in fairly unpleasant ways (and for no good reason to boot) but this one was a pleasant surprise, with the [deleted] dying a miserable and painful death while [deleted] get their [deleted] handed to them as they so richly deserve, and [deleted] as well as [deleted] get to live happily ever after. Which is a long, long time in the Culture. The story takes a while to get rolling, but is worth the time you spend on it. Some nice space battles in this one, too, although you might argue they’re more like deep-space ambushes where the ambushers don’t realize just how much trouble they’re about to get into. Bwahahaha!

Currently reading Threat Vector and already getting the feeling I missed a couple of books in the Jack Ryan universe, since the last one I read was The Teeth Of The Tiger.

So what have y’all been reading?

*This isn’t exactly a spoiler since whatever genius at Baen wrote the back cover blurb already SPOILED IT FOR EVERYBODY. Nice job there, spud.


26 Responses to “Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs”

  1. MrEvilMatt
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  2. CHideout
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  3. Lockestep1776
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  4. Resista38176897
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  5. Citzcom
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  6. jwbrown1969
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs: – Wombat-socho Apologies for the lack of book posts lately, bu…

  7. PATR2014
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs #TCOT

  8. BobBelvedere
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs #TCOT

  9. thatMrGguy
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs

  10. joethefatman
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

    No real reading time for me this week or last. I’m thinking I’ll be rereading the Timothy Zahn Quadrail series. Not a bad series. But not great either.

  11. BobBelvedere
    October 28th, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

    Loose Cannons And Enthusiastically Violent AIs by @wombat_socho

  12. Just another Dave
    October 28th, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

    I’m reading Tom Kratman’s ‘Carrera’ series, just finished John Ringo’s ‘Legacy of Aldenata’ (or the Posleen stories, some call it) series and Michael Z. Williamson’s ‘Freehold’ books. The last scholarly work was Gavin Menzies’ ‘1421, The Year China Discovered America’.

  13. Ray Stickler
    October 28th, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

    Reading alot of Urban Fantasy novels. The Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher, the Monster Hunters International books by Larry Correia, Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. As for SF, any book by John Scalzi, especially Old Man’s War….

  14. Mr. Michael
    October 29th, 2013 @ 12:35 am

    Re-reading “M.E.” by Thomas T Thomas. Excellent book written in the first person of the AI program. Unlike most near-future Sci-Fi, this one holds up after, what, 22 years? Paperback is impossible to find, but it’s on Kindle now.

  15. Eric Ashley
    October 29th, 2013 @ 12:53 am

    The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth (technothriller), and Under a Graveyard Sky (Zombie Apoc.) by John Ringo, and Narrative of the Life of David Crockett by Davy Crockett and The Rise of the Wyrm Lord (YA Dual world fantasy) by Wayne Thomas Batson. Best Practises of Spell Design is an e-pub that is easy to read about computer programming.

    I’ll check out Nagasaki Vector.

    Just Another Dave, Time Patrol by Poul Anderson has a short in it about the Chinese discovery of America.

    Ray, you should try Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles which has magic talents, and is set in an alt-Thirties.

    Infectress by then Commander Cool (Tom Cool as a commander in the Navy) had some interesting AIs in it. It had AI’s arguing about the existence of God.

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    October 29th, 2013 @ 8:56 am

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  17. archonix
    October 29th, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    Surface Detail. I just had a peek at my shelf and it’s the chunkiest Culture novel, alongside Matter (which I really didn’t like all that much).

    Banks’ culture novels have a tendency toward nihilism that I found… interesting. Given such a vast, superficially optimistic post-scarcity setting, it would be tempting to write all sorts of high moral stories of adventure and daring do. But then you sit down and think about it, and you realise that such a world offers very little of substance, either to a reader or to its inhabitants. They have everything. They want for nothing. They face no challenges. It’s one of the constant background themes of the Culture series that people deliberately seek out mortal danger just for something to _do_ with their lives, which are apparently so boring that they’ll voluntarily have bits removed or go lava rafting without “backups” just to get a momentary feeling of life.

    He writes nihilistic hedonism damn well. Or wrote, I should say. I’m not sure we’ll see his like again for a long time.

    Anyhoo, on the scifi theme, I’ve just finished reading Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s “The Long War”. I spent the whole thing waiting for the war. The writing style is unusual, perhaps an artefact of Pratchett’s early onset dementia, but it works so well for the concept of an infinite number of earths that are only one step away.

    Interesting thing that struck me just as I finished: there are hints that the “long earth” (the central conceit of the story and its predecessor is of the ability to step “sideways” through parallel dimensions and that ours is the only one inhabited by sapient humans) is managed or overseen by some sort of overarching _something_ that kicked the whole thing off just in time to save mankind from a world-ending disaster. If you read the two books you’ll understand what I mean.

  18. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with respect to most of the Culture novels – won’t say all, because I haven’t read them all – but nihilistic hedonism fits quite well.

  19. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    So what did you think about Under A Graveyard Sky? I read some snippets that Ringo posted on Facebook, and it sounded interesting…but on the other hand, zombie apocalypse. Yawn.

  20. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

    The Carrera novels are some grim fun…and another one’s coming out next week, four days after Ender’s Game hits the theaters. November’s going to be a good month. 🙂

  21. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    Scalzi is one of those authors like Stross, where I have to ignore pretty much everything they say or write that isn’t between the covers of a book. As it is, I’m checking their stuff out of the library instead of buying it these days.

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    October 29th, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

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  23. Ray Stickler
    October 29th, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    Then you should read the Correia Monster Hunters books. He is a big 2nd Amendment supporter.And check his blog

  24. Eric Ashley
    October 30th, 2013 @ 12:05 am

    I’ve only gotten to the beginnings of the outbreak. So society has not fallen apart yet.
    In that way, its like the real world…the ice over the lake is cracking, and in some places its looking kinda scary, but no one’s fallen through the ice yet.
    So far, its not one of his better ones. However, the details on the virus are really good.

  25. Wombat_socho
    October 30th, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    I’ve checked out his blog occasionally, usually due to links from Sarah Hoyt and Mike Williamson. Guess I ought to start reading his books too.

  26. Wombat_socho
    October 30th, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

    Drop me a line and let me know what you think when you’re done. I have an aversion to the whole zombie genre, but as I said, the Facebook teasers were interesting.