Wednesday, July 29, 2015

War is Hell.

Well, we're back in the alternate Earth wherein Captain Reddy took a WWI destroyer fleeing the Philippines at the start of WWII  through the Maelstrom into a world where the lizard like Grik are trying to annihilate the humanoid Lemurs, the mi-aanka.

So now, here we are 10 books in to what was originally announced as a trilogy.

Straits of Hell picks up with two fronts in the war, the allies holding Grik City on Madagascar and Fort Defiance in Costa Rica.

The book is mostly focused on defensive battles, with the exception of the naval excursion into Paso del Fuego by the Eastern navy. We do get some glimpses into other happenings along the way, including a Fascist state on the Mediterranean, "The League of Tripoli". Said League shows up first negotiating with Japanese leader Kurakawa who's busy trying to screw over the Grik.

The League is also in southern Africa interfering with USS Donaghey and their mission to rile up the Republik of Real People, who were supposed to be harrying the Grik further north to relieve pressure on Madagascar.

So, that makes our newest antagonist in the ever expanding war. Who seem to be mostly acting at diplomacy level intrigues rather than actually joining the war.

It's a long haul, what with the Grik trying to take back Madagascar and some political drama between different factions within their ranks, and the two fronts with the Dominion.

Again, we're also following around one whole hell of a lot of plot lines, which leads to Game of Thrones levels of giving major characters maybe one or two chapters throughout the course of the novel.

Good read, but wow, I think this has been going on longer than WWII did in our own world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sartre was correct.

Once again, this blog is descending into another version of Hell. Although this one had less to do with people going in or trying to get out, and more to do with the mechanics therein.

The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth focuses on Hell's Information Man (one of 3 at the outset), Thomas Fool. Fool's role in the afterlife is investigating crimes and passing the results up to the bureaucracy. He's also a lackey for said bureaucracy, thus why we meet him at the entrance to the tunnel to Heaven awaiting the Angelic delegation to arrive for negotiations with Fool's boss, Elderflower.

Said emissaries find out quickly that while in Hell, they must follow Hell's rules. Adam, of Gabriel's line is the nice one, while Balthezar is of Michael's lineage, and tends to think the current Hell of bureaucracy and random torment doesn't include enough suffering for the sinners within.

In this iteration of Hell, Souls swim in the ocean of Limbo, get fished out with no knowledge of who they were in life or why they're in Hell, only what role they are to perform in Hell until they either die again (and have to repeat the process) or they get elevated. Thus one of the major punishments is that of Hope. Hope of atoning enough to ascend, hope of surviving another day. (This differs from Dante's conception, where there was no hope in Hell. for that, one had to suffer through reading in Purgatory.)

Not long after meeting, Balthezar gives Fool one of his feathers, kind of as a joke. Mind you, everyone in Hell covets the damn thing, including the Man of Plants and Vines. Said man is somewhat like the sentient Vines in The Ruins, except he still has sort of a physical body. The Man trades in information and favors.

The major thrust of the novel, though, is the dead Genevieves, male prostitutes who whore themselves out to demons. The few witnesses (who don't really see much of anything) report nothing but a blue flash upon death. Those that Question the dead find that the bodies have no souls, leading to the conclusion that something is eating the souls, rather than sending them back to Limbo.

Fool, who spends most of the novel trying to avoid being noticed, gains notoriety among both demons and humans as he investigates, and by the end, we do indeed know whodunit and why.

While there are more than a few red herrings thrown in, it's not that hard to spot at least one part of the final twist fairly early on. Not a bad read, but not anything I see myself picking up again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Why am I covered in tally marks?

On July 9th, 2355, at 11 AM California time, the last broadcast from Dr. Zeus Inc is broadcast across the temporal advisory channel to all agents of a certain security. "We still do not know..." This marks the end of the Temporal Concordance and the end of known time as near as Dr. Zeus's operatives in the past know of it. Known as The Silence, it's been foreshadowed since early on in The Garden of Iden, and every book in Kage Baker's The Company has inexorably lead up to the arrival of the end of time. Which is finally covered in the penultimate book, The Sons of Heaven.

As a quick recap, we have at least 4 known cyborg factions going into the Silence. We have Aegeus and Labienus, the two Executive Facilitators who want the Cyborgs to rule the world after taking down Dr. Zeus, but differ on how humanity should be dealt with after that; we have the Enforcer Bupu, who wants to kill off the human behind Dr. Zeus humanity alone, and we have Executive Facilitator Suleymen, who wants the silence to end without cyborgs particularly killing anyone.

We have the Homo sapiens umbratilis running around, with one hybrid (Bugleg) working for Dr. Zeus, and Bugleg's cousin Ratlin, who figured out how to disable Literature Preserver Lewis in the underhill. Ratlin is adding nanobots to chocolate in attempt to disable the cyborgs. In the mantime, Tiara, one of the female Umbralites, has managed to escape from Quean Barbie and found her own lair, which conveniently houses the remain of Lewis. Whom she rehabilitates.

The Humans who actually work for Dr. Zeus are paranoid that the silence will be like the game Cyborg Conquest, which sort of resembles The Terminator on speed. They become convinced that ALL of cyborg kind will rise up in The Silence and overrun them. To that end, they create an AI to house all of Dr. Zeus, and use a Hellenic statue as its avatar.

And somewhere out of time, we have Mendoza, who has Nicholas Harpole and Alec Checkerfield locked in her head someplace, as Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax managed to remove both Alex and Nicholas from Alec's body and lock them up in Mendoza's head at the end of the last book. He'll release them, but only if given immortality and only if Alec's AI program helps Edward and Mendoza have twin boys who will house the consciousnesses of Nicholas and Alec. While Edward has his own designs on ruling the world, most of his plans change after having children. Some of this is due to figuring out how to free himself and Mendoza (and the AI Captain) from linear time, and some of this is from having to raise children of his own. However, the children have to be raised in linear time, so...

There's a lot going on throughout the book, and given that time does not particularly follow linear progression throughout, one is forced to read with the assumption that everyone will arrive where they are supposed to WHEN the are supposed to. Particularly when Suleymen goes back to Alpha-Omega (back at the beginning of time-ish) the night before the Silence to get all of Dr. Zeus's store genetic information. (which Alec et al raided in the last book for his own genome.)

While the book takes some time to get moving, and having to make a few detours to show where in the end times events in previous books got their start, by the time we reach July 8th, it becomes a masterwork.

On Catalina Island, Aegeus and Labienus gather the night before the Silence with their entourages, sitting in the same room for the first time since probably early Egyptian civilization. Both presume Victor, the plague bringer, is working for them. And dinner is superb, with all the courses the same as what were served to the First Class passengers on the Titanic. We see the two argue over their ideals while Gotterdamerung and requiems play accompaniment. And as the last course comes around, The Commandant from Don Giovanni comes to dinner. And the cyborgs become reflections of Don Juan, the statue, and the demons. It's beautifully rendered.

And towards the end, as the Silence descends, and all the characters wind up where they need to be for the end, Joseph finally reaches some kind of peace with his "daughter" Mendoza, and the world as was recorded ends. While I won't spoil the world to come, I was very amazed at how well Baker managed to reconcile so many disparate plot lines and give this series a satisfying ending. We've come a long way from the frightened girl rescued from the Inquisition, turned into an immortal cyborg, and then heartbroken as her first love, an English Lutheran/Calvinist is burned at the stake during the brief reign of Mary.

While I will admit concern as to how and indeed if the series would end, given that Baker died in 2010 and Wikipedia lists the last book in the series as being publish in 2012... However, a quick look at Amazon reveals that the books following this one are either set in the same setting, but not directly related to the main story arc, or are prequels.

Really, I wish more of my friends would read this series, since I'd love to have a big book club discussion on the series as a whole.