Star Trek: DS9 Season 4 “Sons of Mogh” and “Bar Association”

Hey! We have demands and stuff! Yeah!

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Sons of Mogh”

Synopsis

Worf’s brother Kurn visits DS9 to demand Worf help him regain his honor by killing him ritually. The dishonor is apparently brought on by Worf’s decisions to side with Starfleet and thus led to disfavor against Worf’s family. Worf agrees, but Dax and Odo get Kurn out in time to have him saved by Bashir. Kurn thus feels doubly dishonored, unable even to have an honorable death. Meanwhile, a discovery of a Klingon ship attempting to drop a cloaked minefield on DS9 means that Worf and Kurn must go undercover to discover the location of these mines. Kurn saves Worf on the mission, but now feels like a traitor as well. Finally, Bashir agrees to wipe Kurn’s memory and allow him to go with a family friend to assume a new identity, saving his life… kind of.

Commentary

Okay, do we really think that Bashir would agree to wipe Kurn’s memory? Seriously. That seems like a massive breaking of his oaths and vows, not to mention that similar cases have always had a “but it couldn’t possibly succeed” clause or some other major moral opposition to it, as should have happened here. I generally enjoy Klingon episodes, but this one seemed nonsensical. No one was acting in ways that seemed believable. I mean, did Worf really “save” Kurn by basically turning him into a completely different person? It definitely doesn’t seem like it to me. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, either, because according to the excellent Deep Space Nine Companion, many fans had outcry against this effective killing of Kurn by Worf.

If there is a plus side to this episode, it’s that Michael Dorn is a great actor and somehow manages to sell this as serious. Also, there is apparently a thing developing between Dax and Worf? Awesome. Also, the aforementioned Deep Space Nine Companion has a cool piece in it on this episode about the development of the mek’leth and how they made it by looking at a number of weapons one of the people working on the show collected. Neat.

Grade: C- “The characters are completely out of character here, and the solution seems so out of place that it doesn’t really feel the episode was resolved in any way. 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was a really cool episode, but so implausible a solution.”

“Bar Association”

Synopsis

Rom has an ear infection but doesn’t get it treated because he can’t get time off work. Ferengi don’t do vacations, obviously. It would hurt profit! But then Rom gets the idea, partially from Bashir, that a union ought to be formed, and he joins together with others at Quark’s to strike and get better pay and benefits. This of course goes against all that is Ferengi, and the Ferengi Commerce Authority sends Liquidator Brunt to end the dispute, threatening financial ruin. But Rom manages to rally the employees again and Brunt schemes to harm Quark in order to force Rom’s backing down. Finally, Quark and Rom come to an agreement that lets Quark honor the union’s demands in secret if they pretend he has won the dispute. They agree, but Rom decides to quit the job to become someone who can survive on his own, wrorking for the station as a diagnostic tech.

Commentary

Can we sit back and think for a moment about the massive gulf between DS9’s treatment of Ferengi and that of The Next Generation? I mean seriously, could you imagine an episode even close to this level of seriousness with the Ferengi as presented especially in early TNG? I definitely can’t. The writers of DS9 did us a service by salvaging the Ferengi and turning them into a genuinely compelling people. And the Ferengi Commerce Authority is part of that, here showing that the Ferengi aren’t afraid of gangster tactics when it comes to getting what they want. Sure, the episode is silly–it has Rom in it, after all–but it builds on the characters in believable ways, even if it does so in a condensed timeline that seems to stretch credulity a little far.

This is a great character developing episode for both Quark and Rom and introduces a number of other characters who become more important as the series goes on. I enjoyed it.

Grade: B “A great character piece for Rom, though it has elements that are maybe a bit too rushed or unbelievable. I do like how much DS9 has done with the Ferengi!”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I think Rom is great. He’s super fun.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

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Reading Through the [Alleged] Top 100 Science Fiction Novels- #76-80

I’m a huge science fiction fan, but realized I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

76. The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe Grade: B-
“As I read this, I understood how beautiful it was, and how it could easily be among others’ favorites. I’m not sure if it’s just the mood I was in, or what, but I could not get into it. The style seemed much more interested in prose than in telling the story, and that made it difficult to get into. Of the three novellas included here, I enjoyed the third the most, with its tie-ins to the previous ones. I suspect on a re-read I might enjoy it more, so I should get back around to it someday.”

77. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis Grade: B+
“Several parts of it seem dated–particularly the narration style, which draws heavily from H.G. Wells. Many good ideas are here, however, which make up for a somewhat disappointing lack of characterization given Lewis’ immense success at the same task in his Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoyed the different types of aliens, as well as the adventuresome plot. It’s a good, but not superb book.”

78. Ilium by Dan Simmons Grade: A
“A futuristic-ish reinvisioning of Homer’s epic with robots, insane technology, aliens, and more? Yeah, only Simmons could pull this off and not utterly destroy the source material. It’s not quite at the transcendent level of Hyperion, but it is simply phenomenal nonetheless. The different strands of the story get pulled together in surprising and satisfying ways, and it sets up for a sequel in a perfect fashion. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as good.”

79. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick Grade: C-
“The later in Dick’s career I get on this list, the less I like his novels. Thankfully, he actually constructed an attempt at a story with characters for this one. The problem is that the characters and plot aren’t very compelling. It’s one of those books you finish and you think: ‘Well, that was okay, I guess.’ And really, that’s all this book was. Okay.”

80. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan Grade: A
“It’s a sci-fi noir novel. Does there need to be any other reason to read it? Oh, yeah, and it’s a satisfying mystery, too. I forgot to mention that the science fiction aspects of it actually lend themselves to the mystery without feeling like they were invented merely to make the mystery easier to solve or make sense. It’s pretty fantastic. The reason I marked it down is because I think the sheer amount of explicit sex and extreme violence was overdone. Unlike many books, both make sense for the sake of the plot, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy reading them. Apart from those aspects, this novel was superb, and I think most readers would agree.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books– Check out more posts in this series as I continue.

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 4 “Crossfire” and “Return to Grace”

“You know how I can tell you’re upset? That out of place hair.”

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Crossfire”

Synopsis

Shakaar, the onetime Bajoran freedom fighter whose backstory was largely revealed in the episode of his name, is back on DS9 and Odo is not pleased by his apparently budding relationship with Major Kira. Quark and Odo have a story that goes laong with the main plot all the way through this one, going back and forth with complaints even as Quark is making it clear with his actions that despite his adversarial relationship with Odo, he enjoys his company. Quark counsels Odo to tell Kira his feelings, but even as he works up his courage to do so, she reveals she is falling for Shakaar. Meanwhile, a plot to kill Shakaar is unfolding and Odo, distracted, has to act himself to save Kira and Shakaar’s life. Worf, much to Odo’s annoyance, is the one who ends up capturing the Cardassian agent involved. Sisko is surprised by Odo’s distracted nature. Odo puts soundproofing in his floor at the end of the episode, ending something that was annoying Quark. The latter thanks him, but Odo plays it off as business, once again seeing Shakaar and Kira together.

Commentary

This is a good character-building episode for Quark and Odo. It shows the sometimes comical nature of the adversarial relationship. It also shows how they seem to be molding that relationship into a strange friendship. Odo’s feelings for Kira are a major theme, of course, but that seems to be played out in my opinion. He needs to just tell her already, or, like Quark said, get over it. The enigmatic ending of the episode made it hard to figure out where it might go next.

Seriously though, Quark. He basically is the glue that makes the whole show work at times. This episode is one of those. I could see this episode being quite boring, to be honest, but Quark’s character added the dimension of humor and friendship that pushed it over the edge into a good episode.

Grade:  B “I love the interplay between Odo and Quark, but wow Odo needs to just tell Kira his feelings already.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B

“Return to Grace”

Synopsis

Kira must ride with Dukat on a transport ship to a conference about the Klingon Empire. When they arrive, the site is a wreck and a Klingon Bird of Prey is leaving. Dukat and Kira rig the ship to fight the Klingon and defeat it, capturing the warship. Dukat destroys his transport gleefully, but is annoyed, to say the least, when the Cardassians don’t welcome him back into leadership for the capture of the Bird of Prey. He decides to strike out on his own in the Bird of Prey in order to fight the Klingons, but Kira refuses to join his crew and she and his daughter, Ziyal, go back to DS9.

Commentary

This episode is an action-packed whirlwind of crazy. Dukat, stripped of rank, is commanding a lowly transport! Ha! But then he manages to turn the transport into a kind of Q-Ship and takes over a Bird of Prey? Then, he goes seemingly mad for a personal vendetta against the Klingons? Yeah, these are the things that happened in this episode.

I think if there is any specific meaning in this episode, it is that the writers are saying Dukat isn’t going anywhere. That’s good, because he is a spectacular villain that I love to hate. They’ve given him some reasons to like him a little bit now, but this personal war seems a good setup for more drama.

Grade:  B “There’s a lot that happens in this one, and it makes me wonder what they’re setting Dukat up to do next.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Reading through the [Alleged] Top 100 Science Fiction Books- #71-75

I’m a huge science fiction fan, but realized I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

71. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (1988) Grade: A+
“Banks is a marvelous writer with stylistic flair and skill that is nearly unmatched. This story of a man who really just wants to play games develops as a slow burn, but touches on questions and ideas that are rarely even considered in science fiction. It is nearly impossible to describe how stunningly unique some of Banks’ ideas are. I mean this truly: there are ideas in this book which take a page or so to describe and are never touched again (i.e. they are used as ‘flavor’ for the universe) that could easily make a series of novels well-worth reading. Sure, there might be one point in this book that makes it difficult to believe a character would act the way that character does, but that small flaw does not keep this form being among the greatest science fiction novels of all time.”

72. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912) Grade: A
“It’s campy, classic, and fun. Burroughs created a world in which a cowboy can rule Mars. This is a classic for good reason. It has tremendous action and adventure all the way through, with just the barest nods to how silly it can be at times. More importantly, Burroughs managed to combine that action with a pretty interesting overarching narrative that continues through the series. The core of the story is obvious, but the window dressing is superb. It’s the kind of book that is fun to read all the way through. It’s excellent.”

73. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992) Grade: A
“Sometimes a book’s plot and characters are so raw, so emotionally captivating, that you’re willing to look past even major flaws. Doomsday Book was such a book for me. There are some big problems here, such as the fact that the first 300 pages or so of the ‘future’ time period is taken up with people running around trying to get a hold of others on landline phones or passing out just before they convey some absolutely essential piece of information. A couple times? Not too bad. Constantly? It starts to get old. But throughout this first section and through the end of the book, the story of a lone historian, Kivrin Engle, is utterly enthralling. She finds herself trapped in the midst of untold suffering of the Black Death in England, sees the struggles of the everyday people in the 14th Century, witnesses genuine faith, feels complete hopelessness, and more. Throughout it all, I could not put it down. It was so emotionally rich that it felt like I must race to the conclusion lest I lose myself utterly. It’s a fabulous story that transcends whatever flaws accompany it.”

74. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006) Grade: B+
“I truly do not understand why there is so little punctuation in this book. For that, it gets knocked down a few notches. I read about how ‘concise’ and ‘clean’ this type of prose is, but I think that if something is written such that I would have received an ‘F’ on it in English class, there’s a problem. That said, McCarthy’s take on the post-disaster genre is interesting, mostly for its incredibly narrow focus on two characters who have apparently no impact on any wider events. It’s unrelenting in its bleakness, and I love me some bleakness. It’s dreadfully sorrow-filled, but ultimately offers the barest glimpses of hope throughout. Disturbing, but beautiful. I enjoyed it, even though I was really annoyed when there weren’t quotation marks.”

75. Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein (1957) Grade: C
“I thought the start was promising regarding the characters, but it didn’t develop much of a plot. Yes, things happen, but despite some rather world-shaking revelations, all of it is delivered in a rather mundane style that makes it difficult to connect to the wider events. It’s an interesting story, overall, but one that wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books– Check out more posts in this series as I continue.

SDG.

My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1959

I have no idea who thought this was a good cover for this book, but here we are.

I’ve almost completed my read-through of the top science fiction books of all time and was casting about for something else to do. I decided that reading through the list of Hugo award winners and nominees wasn’t a bad way to spend my time. Each year, I will show which novel won the Hugo, as well as my own choice from the bunch of which should have won. They aren’t always the same!

We Have Fed Our Sea AKA The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson- Grade: C
It’s a kind of space adventure that this period is particularly known for, but I couldn’t honestly see anything distinguishing or interesting about this particular book. It’s an inoffensive, at times entertaining romp in a thoroughly 1950s style science fiction setting. If you like that, read it. If not, it’s probably skippable.

Who? by Algis Budrys- Grade: C
A man shows up and claims to be a lost scientist, but here’s the catch: the Soviets have had him under their power for a time. Is he really who he claims to be? Can he be programmed as a spy? Yep, there’s a lot of Red Scare in this one, and the characterization and pacing isn’t all that great, but the idea of it is interesting enough. How do you know someone is someone? What makes you you? Those are the kind of questions that are explored, with however blunt an instrument, in this book.

A Case of Conscience by James Blish (Winner)- Grade: B
I find Blish’s writing style to be a bit impenetrable for my taste. It’s like reading something through a fog. I don’t know how else to describe it. In this work, we have one of the few forays into religious questions found in this era of science fiction. How can an alien race without religion be moral? The Jesuit priest in this book asks that question and ultimately doesn’t really get an answer, leading to some spectacular difficulties in the process. Reading the book, though, is like wading through mud. I enjoyed the ideas, but had difficulty understanding the writing.

Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein- Grade: C
Younger Heinlein is in top form here, which means you get his action with much less of his preaching at you about how we should all have sex all the time. Unfortunately, this early Heinlein is not as talented as some of the later Heinlein turned out to be, though I think Heinlein’s works are kind of a roller-coaster of quality. Anyhow, this one is basically just a coming of age story with a spacesuit. If that sounds interesting, you’ll probably like it well enough.

Time Killer AKA Immortality, Inc. by Robert Sheckley (My Winner)- Grade: B+
The premise initially seemed pretty standard–a man gets sucked into the future without any knowledge of what’s happening to him. But as the story developed, the intricacies Sheckley adds, layer by layer, to the plot and premise makes the book feel more and more special. Exploring what would happen if there were a scientifically verifiable afterlife was an unexpected pleasure, as was the way Sheckley deftly danced around questions of the mind-body problem, religion, and more. None of it seemed heavy-handed, which is what I was expecting once I got a feel for what was happening in the book. Instead, it was a unique look at one of sci-fi’s tropes- transhumanism/immortality. It also had a couple compelling characters, which isn’t always the case in some of the classic sci-fi. I recommend this one, folks.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

My Read-Through of the Hugos- Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

Presidential Biographies: Millard Fillmore #13

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selection process (reading reviews online and utilizing and this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies) was Millard Fillmore by Paul Finkelman.

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to present my official ranking for the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!! The full list of the rankings with all the Presidents as well as comments on their careers, updated as I read through this list, may be found here.

Millard Fillmore by Paul Finkelman

Millard Fillmore’s story may be seen in a number of ways: his story was a truly “American” story where someone rises from absolute poverty (his parents were tenant farmers) to the highest office in the United States; or perhaps the narrative is of one who sought above all else to preserve Union in a time when pressure was increasing to split it; perhaps, instead, the narrative is of one who, having Southern interests at heart, pursued them with all his strength. Regardless of one’s thoughts on his life, it is clear Fillmore left a mark upon our country, for better or ill.

Fillmore’s story is interesting because he did seemingly pull himself up by his bootstraps (again, the traditional narrative of what people say happens in the United States, but rarely does), educating himself and becoming a lawyer. He got involved in politics in Buffalo, New York, and became a Representative.

Millard Fillmore’s ascent to the Presidency was unexpected, to be sure. He was the second “Accidental President” to happen, upon the death of Zachary Taylor. Added to the ticket as the Vice President, the Whig Fillmore was expected to help carry some of the Southern vote, and he did. However, he was not expected to become President in a time where the Vice President was largely a placeholder office. Yet when Taylor died, the nation was in the throes of some enormous sectional battles, particular among them that “peculiar institution” of slavery.

Millard Fillmore expended an enormous amount of energy to defend slavery. Though he decried it repeatedly as an evil–or at least morally wrong–he used both federal resources and his own power as President to pursue the ends of slaveholders throughout the United States. The Compromise of 1850–something that may have been vetoed under Taylor–was rubber stamped and pushed by Fillmore, who spent the rest of his Presidency eagerly pursuing the cause of the expanded Fugitive Slave Act. He repeatedly used federal soldiers to aid in forcing people back into slavery and allowed interpretations of the Fugitive Slave Act that led to the kidnapping and forced entry into slavery of any number of black people. His Presidency was shaped by this constant use of federal power to impinge upon states’ rights. Of course, the false narrative of “States’ Rights” that persists to our time regarding what divided the North and South is shown here in stark relief. Southerners weren’t out in the streets demanding states’ rights when federal troops marched into major cities in the North to assist in the kidnapping of black people. Fillmore endorsed and pushed these events forward, and states’ rights were trampled.

Some have read Fillmore’s pursuit of the Fugitive Slave Act and other parts of his Presidency as showing his unflinching commitment to preservation of the Union. On this scheme, Fillmore was enforcing a law that, if left alone, would led to the secession of the South. This narrative, though it paints Fillmore in a more positive light, seems to go against the thrust of his Presidency, which was filled with explicitly racial bias and intentional thwarting of the rights even of American citizens in favor of Fillmore’s favored people.

Another example of this played out in foreign policy, as Fillmore’s pursuit of a treaty with the Swiss included compromising the rights of Jewish Americans. His pursuit of economic success of those whose interests he protected superseded his commitment to defending all Americans abroad. The Swiss treaty included provisions for allowing citizens of both Switzerland and the United States to travel freely between the countries, but it allowed for the Swiss cantons to prohibit Jews (including Jewish Americans) from conducting business in or visiting specific juridictions. Fillmore, commenting on this treaty, said he found “nothing to object to,” even after concerns were raised on the floor of the Senate. On the other side of the world, Fillmore pursued an America-first policy that eventually (under Pierce) forcibly opened Japanese ports to American trade. Though this certainly benefited some portions of the United States financially, it was an imperialist, expansionist move that was well in line with Fillmore’s apparent policy of putting white American interests above all else.

After his Presidency, Fillmore joined the Know-Nothing party and helped push their anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant nonsense on the national stage. It was as though the clear white-first ideals he demonstrated in office weren’t explicit enough: he simply made them clear in further actions.

Finkelman’s summary of Fillmore’s legacy is on point:

[O]n the central issues of the age his vision was myopic and his legacy is worse. He opened the West to slavery and destroyed the Missouri Compromise line. The total appeasement of the South only encouraged new demands for more land for slavery… He ran for president on a ticket that openly attacked foreigners, immigrants, and Catholics. In reteriment, Fillmore opposed emancipation and campaigned for a peace that would have left millions of African Americans in chains. In the end, Fillmore was always on the wrong side of the great moral and political issues of the age: immigration, religious toleration, equality, and, most of all, slavery. (137)

Fillmore was a terrible President.

Millard Fillmore’s Original Ranking in THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES (Full and Updated List Here)

Millard Fillmore (13th President- Original Ranking: 13)- Fillmore put into practice those horrors that Jackson set up, for the same reasoning. He protected the interests of those he cared about: nativist racist whites. He allowed for the stripping of Jewish American rights abroad. He pursued the Fugitive Slave Act with the vigor of one who saw it as the highest good. He used federal resources time and again in defense of slavery. After his Presidency, he joined the Know-Nothings so that he could let his nativism truly shine, with their anti-Catholic, anti-immigration rhetoric that spread fear in order to pass policies that favored wealthy white protestants. He was a tool of slaveowners and, when he had power, he used it to full effect in ways that demonstrably did not assist all Americans. He was a terrible President whose only interests were those of expanding the influence and economic success of the narrow sphere of people he felt deserved it.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

A Stunning Epic – “Empire of Silence” by Christopher Ruocchio

A friend recommended I read Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio. I’m a sucker for science fiction, and I knew this friend had great taste, so I went and got it almost immediately. I was blown away as I devoured it over the next four days. I’ll avoid SPOILERS in what follows, because I just want to encourage you, dear readers, to go grab this book ASAP and read it.

The novel is told by Hadrian Marlowe looking back on his own life. It’s a kind of memoir/autobiographical storytelling style that I personally find captivating. It goes beyond a simple first person perspective by inserting “historical” notes into the text as you’re reading, casually dropping bits of world-building and storytelling into the main narrative. In this regard it reminds me of Fitzpatrick’s War by Theodore Judson, though that overlooked masterpiece probably won’t ring many bells. Anyway, the first person style is usually offputting to me, though I have enjoyed my share of first person perspective novels. For those who enjoy their sci-fi/fantasy in epic style, the first person narrative here doesn’t take away from that in any way.

Again, I’m really hesitant to spoil anything, so to introduce the plot I’ll just tell you what Hadrian himself tells you at the beginning. Hadrian is a man that would be reviled for killing a sun, and all those around it. He is writing from a point well in the future of where this novel begins, telling we readers the “real story” of what actually happened to get him to the reviled hero he is. Along the way, we learn much of Hadrian’s life, motivations, and meet many, many characters, each with unique personalities and contributions to Hadrian’s capacities and actions.

There’s a wealth of sci-fi greats I could see as inspiring Ruocchio’s book. The world building and writing style made me think of Iain M. Banks. The epic scale of the universe could only recall Dune. There’s a splash of Star Wars there, too, though only in the sense of the rise of a hero (anti-hero?) character. I’d be remiss to mention some aspects of the film Gladiator getting mixed in, too. And, for what it’s worth, I really got strong vibes from Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series mixed in, too.

If this seems like a grab-bag of awesome things, I’d like to downplay that a bit. Ruocchio has undoubtedly created his own style and carved out his section of the sci-fi universe. If it is reminiscent of all of these other awesome novels, that’s not because it is derivative. The richness of the narrative cannot really be overstated here. There are times the scale seems incredibly huge, but the reader is never left adrift because the narrative ties us down to Hadrian’s life and perspective, giving us a way to navigate the huge universe. As even more elements pile onto the plot–notably linguistics and archaeology coming into play–Ruocchio manages to balance all these elements and weave them into a deeply personal narrative that turns Hadrian into a fascinating, real character.

Perhaps most importantly for a novel like this–a near 600 page epic–is that although it is part of a larger series (according to a Tweet from the author after I asked him, it will span 4 books along with potential side stories), it has a satisfying ending. Readers won’t feel cheated or baited by the end. Instead, they’ll be lining up to get the next book, knowing how excellent this one was. Hadrian’s concluding lines in the book help to make it feel, truly, like the first volume of an immense memoir.

Without a doubt, Christopher Ruocchio has created a fantastic universe to explore. Empire of Silence is a superb space opera on an epic scale. I recommend it very, very highly. What we are seeing with this book is, I think–as does my friend who recommend it–the rise of a new genre master.

Links

“Space Unicorn Blues” and “The Stars Now Unclaimed” – Two Recent Debut Science Fiction Novels Worth Noting– Come read about two exciting science fiction debuts that couldn’t be more different. Space unicorn wha?

“Gate Crashers” and “Space Opera” – Two wild first contact novels– Do you like first contact sci-fi? Here are a couple novels to look at if you like a helping of humor to go alongside it.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.