Eta Cancri review

Please welcome Xewleer to Superversive SF, he is a new reviewer and you can expect a lot more from him. His review is cross posted from his blog millennialking.wordpress.com

Spoilers! It’s a great book, and worth reading.


I just finished Eta Cancri by Russell May. It was, surprisingly for an author who was not on my radar before, an excellent read chock full of delicious theology. It was a treat, to be sure. The characters are living and breathing with distinct personalities. The descriptions are on point. The science is a good medium-hard, with just the right amount of give for philosophical and theological conversations the teeth they need to grow. Ah… that more stories which pride themselves on science and philosophy would take this route!

The book switches through various characters’ POV. My personal favorites were Ed and June, along with the AI Archie. Each one has a solid voice and drive that breathes life into this book more than could be expected. Indeed, books that switch perspective live and die on this sword. I could tell that the POV shifted through the author’s choices in word play, character focus and other hints almost instantly.

The conceit of the story, which involves demonic possession, bacteria and genetic modification, was well done and quite unique to this author from my experiences. Though I have experimented and read up on demonic possession and stories about it, this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a broad and interesting way. Nothing triggered any sort of violation of the suspension of disbelief. It holds up the story incredibly well. This is dreadfully important in this genre as Russell did it. If the suspension of Disbelief is violated, then the entire book will fall over itself and the threads that he depends on to carry the story forward logically will be lost, unable to be gained back.

Though there is no part of the story I groaned at the reading of, I did feel fatigue about halfway through on chapter 3 or 4 (?). The story before and after focuses on multiple characters, the evil of the Demon Legion, the science, philosophy and theology mix and POV shifts. This middle bit has nothing that really sticks out too hard. The story sticks to Pierce the techno-everyman and doesn’t shift too much. There’s just too much dialogue and not enough cool stuff to give us a rest between theological questions. Not that I was exhausted by the questions, I just wish the heady brew was cut a little with soda. Even a bit where Ed deals with his crazy and preps for the ship coming in, or June sees something which heightens our horror at the actions of Legion would do much for the pacing and general interest. I’ll point out that Ed has no reason to not succumb or struggle with Legion’s influence and a decent POV could have been written comparing and contrasting his belief in Dame Fortune and the belief in God, which is touched upon later but not to my satisfaction.

I’ll point out that, theologically, what we call Dame Fortune is the Will of God. That the saved man has free will is not something I debate or question. I question how much Dame Fortune impugns it. (I use Dame Fortune as a conceit from the story. Mentally, I use the term ‘Fate’) Does a belief in Fortune change how free will operates as we continue in Christian Free Will or Willfulness Against God? I think that there might have been an excellent few points to be made there between Ed and Father Justinian, more than was done in story. Though, there is a sequel in the cliff hanger, and I will be purchasing it as soon as it comes out.

I also wanted a little more debate on the nature on Transhumanism. I am not fond of it, as I believe that the body has the critical mass to keep the soul ‘Human’ and that, at a certain point, the ‘I as I’ that is ‘You as you are’ becomes warped into something that could be described as ‘ME’ 2.0. Also, what is morality to someone who is neither permanent or baseline human? (Though those points are touched on) June seemingly has no contrast in character, but rather is June personality as June soul is June without much debate despite much lycanthropy. Various ideas are presented with authority, but I don’t feel it is earned. The matrons producing ubermenschen in the asteroid belts are not properly repudiated in a manner that I call an argument. Rather, it is just presented as wrong. I dig, but I’m really hoping for a similar thing to Ed in the sequel.

I’ve not gone into the plot because it’s quite simple. A colony goes dark and a ragtag group of cyborgs, everymen and mercenaries go to figure it out and cleanse with fire whatever’s in there. Just about right, really. You don’t need fancy pants intrigue for stuff like this. Most of the characters are moral, upright and probably one of the best portrayals of Christians I’ve seen in Science Fiction. I’m sorry John C. Wright, but sort of randomly turning Mickey the Witch into the Space Pope of the Seventh Humans because of his wife without a redemption scene just doesn’t compare to baptism after flamebroiling demonic abominations with improvised explosives created by a literal Biblical evil. But it’s different scopes. That scene doesn’t compare to the Cathedral of Luna in the 4th book of Count to Eschaton. Ahhhh it’s perhaps differences in scale. But I’d be very interested in talking with Russel May some time to break down what he believes and what his reasoning is.

I wanted MORE, if you could believe it. I find that I have a hard time reading philosophy directly, so I have a better time consuming it if its regurgitated through literature, especially when the author provides examples within the story to provide a more definite framework for the reader to investigate. It really does wonders for the most artistically inclined philosophers, who may not be able to as readily read the great works directly. Of course, this assumes the reader is able to properly manage things that are presented vs. their origin points. Counter and counter-counter is appreciated through the characters of Archie, Father Justinian and even Legion. Legion’s absolute Nihilism is well presented without the usual tropes in plain evidence. There’s always a fresh horror from him. His unfetteredness and nihilism make an excellent baseline for the ‘evil’ of the universe. Nihilism is a hell of a drug, kids, and leads to madness.

I also think the book is missing a carnival scene. But then again, I’m a sucker for them. I also wanted more crazy bomb stuff fight scene flip outs from Michaud and Lars, but ah.

The combat scenes are fresh, well done. The weapons properly treated with excellent extensions of characterization through them. The creativity that Russell displays drives the story forward with brazen steps. Lar’s and the rest of the characters’ spirituality treated so delicately as to be art. Ah! There are few flaws and many boons to reading this book!

Overall this book is mos defs a purchase soft-cover, maybe hard-cover kinda book. Sadly, there are only kindle copies available at this time. It is worth a read! It is SUPERVERSIVE. I hope with fervent prayer that we are coming to an era where the dominant voice in Sci-Fi is Christianity! If Russell May joins the luminaries of the Superversives, Castalia House and others, shall not the glory of God be expanded in this genre of atheists, science worshippers and deviants?  DEUS VULT!

Xewleer

I, even I, drink ink like wine.

CASTALIA: “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Dark, Brutal, and the most Superversive movie ever made

Okay, I’ve been waiting ALL YEAR to do the “It’s a Wonderful Life” post for Superversive Tuesday. For those living under a rock, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the endlessly remade and parodied Christmas classic about a man, George Bailey, on the verge of suicide. Before he can complete this ultimate act of despair God (!!!) briefs the witless but kind-hearted angel Clarence on the important details of George’s life, so that he understands the background and context of George’s actions before attempting to save his soul. And that’s where we get our movie.

I’m not going to bother adding spoiler warnings for this film. If you haven’t seen it, do so right now. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is far more than one of the greatest holiday movies ever, it is one of the greatest movies ever made PERIOD. While most famous for its brilliant ending, where Clarence shows George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he didn’t exist, the entire movie is excellent, featuring underrated performances from Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and a rich character study on the level of “A Christmas Carol”. It’s as much of a must-watch movie as “Casablanca” – you really can’t call yourself a fan of films without seeing it.

But the film doesn’t need me to sing its praises. What I want to focus on is a curious kind of nostalgia that I’ve noticed follows this film around. People tend to have this idea that “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a happy movie and Bedford Falls almost a platonic ideal of small town life, probably because of its upbeat ending and status as a holiday film (holiday films being rightly notorious for trite sentimentality).

A rewatch dispels such a silly notion very quickly. That is, if anything, the opposite of the truth. Bedford Falls is a coin flip – one life – away from being a terrible, terrible place. Drunken drug store owners beat disabled children. A cruel business tycoon (Mr. Potter, played to perfection by Lionel Barrymore) has near-dictatorial control over half of the town. A man punches George in the mouth moments before the famous suicide scene. There is, of course, much to love about Bedford Falls, but it is not even close to being the ideal of small town life.

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Interesting Article on Christians and Fantasy

An interesting article about the current difficulties of the efforts to write Christian Fantasy:

The real reason that Christians don’t read fantasy

There’s been an ongoing discussion in the Christian speculative-fiction community about why nobody can sell books. This discussion has gone on for years. “Look at our awesome fantasy!” authors cry. “Look at our amazing science fiction! Why doesn’t anybody want to read it?”

The Christians don’t want to read it, and the non-Christians don’t want to read it. So a lot of head-scratching goes on in the community. “What are we doing wrong?”

Read more…

Bronze Sunday

We continue from last week with part two of this Advent series, inspired by the Bohemian folk names for the four Advent Sundays. Last week was iron, this week is bronze:

Bronze Sunday

Bronze shields and spears arranged in ranks,
To form the fearsome Greek phalanx,
Conquered nations far and wide;
Now there’s a new source of Greek pride:

Bold theories and insightful thoughts
That they debate in marble courts.
“Whose wisdom can outshine our own
Or that of our great pantheon?”

Twixt oracles and temples grand
In Athens a small altar stands
Placed there as a reverent nod
To an as yet unknown god.

But soon That Day will come.


For more of my poetry, there are two of my collections available on Amazon:

 

CASTALIA: “Futurama” explores the big ideas while avoiding message fiction

Image result for futurama

From left to right: Fry, Bender, and Leela

There will be spoilers to endings of episodes. The subject of the post happens not to depend so much on twists, but even so, I recommend watching the show first before reading my review. In any case, all spoilers here on in are unmarked. You’ve been warned.

The more I think about it, the more I lean towards the conclusion that “Futurama” is not only superversive, it is one of the most superversive shows ever made. “Futurama” is the anti-“Rick and Morty”. Some episodes even share similar concepts in broad strokes – like, for example, the dual classics of “The Late Philip J. Fry” and “Rick Potion #9” (if you don’t see it, check out my original “Rick and Morty” article) – while somehow managing to end up almost completely opposite in tone and message.

In its prime, I think you could make the argument that “Futurama” was one of the funniest shows in television history; I defy you to find the man who can watch “Roswell that ends well” without cracking up. Even so, there are a lot of funny shows out there. What makes “Futurama” consistently different is that it nails its moments of sentiment and emotion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ANY show this good at making me care about its characters. “Luck of the Fryrish” (which actually made me tear up, something I never do), “The Sting”, “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings”, and “Meanwhile” all manage the trick with astounding success, among others.

(We will not speak of “Jurassic Bark”.)

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More Reviewer Praise for “God, Robot”

From Amazon unless specifically stated otherwise:

Get your copy here! And LEAVE A REVIEW!!!

  • 5.0 out of 5 starsMay God have mercy on our souls.,

    I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect going into this as the book is blatantly treading all over Asimov’s cultivated humanistic worldview. I expected something campy, philosophically engaging, and maybe a bit corny as I hadn’t yet to read any modern Christian authors that haven’t been. To my surprise and pleasure it was not corny, had just the right amount of camp, and really engaged me on a philosophical and theological level while telling stories with characters that made me care about them.

For the record, I find these sorts of reviews interesting. I’ve said it in the past, but it honestly never occurred to me that I was writing Christian fiction; I picked the concept because it sounded interesting. I’m pretty sure (though he’d have to confirm) that EJ Shumak’s robot wasn’t specifically Christian, and Vox Day’s definitely was not – yet both stories appear to have been very well received by readers, something I’m not at all surprised by. It was just a cool idea; that it ended up looking quite a lot like Christian fiction is something I’m not unhappy with but was never the plan.

  • 5.0 out of 5 stars True Sci-fi Philosophy
    By Joshua H.
    Fantastic series of short stories. Unlike anything. True old-school sci-fi/philosophy.
  • 5.0 out of 5 stars The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
    One can read each story on it’s own: it may be amusing, or straight up adventure, or grim, or contemplative… there’s a fair bit of variety in tone and style, as might be expected from having different authors for each one…However, all together they become complete speculative tale of how men might deal with the reality of true A.I. and Christianity. It’s also a real page-turner, despite having some wonderfully chewy philosophical meat on its bones. And I found the conclusion – no spoilers – truly poignant.
  • 5.0 out of 5 stars Reading twice is required
    A marvelous tale told in wonderful chapters. A belief in something greater then us has driven mankind to ultimate heights and deepest savagery. Here is a collection of stories about how belief can change individuals and entire worlds. You will read this and cheer, feel humble, and wonder about your place in the universe. A great ride as it will become, in my humble opinion, a classic.

(I really liked that last sentence 😉 .)

But the best yet, my true favorite review, is from Marina Fontaine of the Sci Phi Journal. Miss Fontaine reviews each story in detail, and ends her review with this:

And so, we come to the Epilogue, or which I will not speak except, as previously mentioned, the last paragraph made me cry…God, Robot is not a re-telling of an Asimov classic, nor is it a gimmicky story of science gone wrong. It is a tale of what makes us human, what makes us strive and fail and overcome. The reason so many adults are drawn to science fiction is because in showing us different possibilities, it reveals the truth we don’t always notice in everyday life. God, Robot succeeds in that regard, and therefore I can highly recommend it to dedicated science fiction fans as well to those who want to understand what makes this genre both special and timeless.

Awesome!

One last note: James Pyles (who wrote his own positive review) has taken inspiration to write his own tales of religious robots, all of which are excellent, and completely different from “God, Robot” in almost every way. I highly recommend them; they can be found on his blog “Powered by Robots”. The current full list of stories is here, as well as an additional story added since. Check them out!

Some “God, Robot” News

Big stuff happening! First, author Jonathan Moeller AND the Injustice Gamer have reviewed “God, Robot”. From Moeller:

I rather liked this anthology.

It’s a play on Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics: 1.) A robot can’t injure a human being, 2.) A robot must obey orders, so long as it doesn’t conflict with the First Law, and 3.) A robot must protect itself from harm, so long as this doesn’t conflict the first two laws.

…I definitely enjoyed it – I think my favorite stories were the ones featuring the bumbling scientists who lived in terror of their boss, and the final story, when a woman prepares to unleash a long-prepared genocide, but has doubts at the final moment. The best speculative fiction always asks the “what if” question, and this anthology does a good job of that.

From The Injustice Gamer:

To begin our list of infamous acts, the book is not just science fiction, but advocates throughout for Christianity. Theobots are created to assist in churches, the first problem encountered is the problem of logic versus evidence, and the flaws of building a philosophical Christianity without evidence in the way of testimony…

While this anthology only commits the act of treating Christianity not only as serious, but correct, it does so consistently, and with tales to terrify the heart of the Socially Just. In fact, the writing is so scandalous as to cause me to overlook it’s lack of other crimes against Social Justice, though some if it’s authors are crime enough.

Nine of ten fell deeds.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

Great stuff!

And last but certainly not least, the “God,  Robot” crew will be appearing on the Catholic Geek radio show TONIGHT at 7:00 PM EST!

This includes authors Anthony Marchetta (me), MJ Marzo, Steve Rzasa, John C. Wright, Josh Young, L. Jagi Lamplighter, and – possibly, if he can make it – Vox Day himself! Unfortunately, EJ Shumak can’t make it, but he’s there in spirit.

Check us out here!

Great stuff!