ELL DONSAII stories, a fun series by Laurance Dahner

I just finished reading a delightful series by Laurance Dahners. Thirteen books in all (so far) it tells of the adventure of Ell Donsaii, a scientist and athlete of near-superhuman abilities. Unlike much of SF, integral to it is the science and the detective work involved in science.

It’s available in hardback, but I read it by downloading the ebooks. One great feature of Kindle editions is that you can go back and forth (as I did) between my mini iPad and my smartphone. Books stay synchronized in the Kindle apps on all devices.

Incidentally, I chose a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 over later versions because you can replace the battery and upgrade the memory, features not in the so-called “latest and greatest” Note smartphones.

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W. E. B. GRIFFIN – great author of military fiction

I took off a few weeks post-holidays to deal with some personal issues. Took advantage of that time to re-acquaint myself with my favorite writer of military fiction: W. E. B. Griffin.

I highly recommend him. I suggest you start with the first book in his The Brotherhood of War series. It shows the evolution of the U. S. Army from the Second World War through the Vietnam War, as viewed through the experiences of four soldiers, beginning with them as lieutenants in the last years of WWII.

He also wrote the highly acclaimed Badge of Honor series, about the Philadelphia Police Department. As with all his books, he also tells of the interdepartmental conflicts in military and police organizations which are as dangerous in their own way as the physical action and perils his characters endure.

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Great TV miniseries STRANGER THINGS

I much enjoyed Netflix’s miniseries “Stranger Things.” The 8 episodes are the length of three or four feature films so buying a month of Netflix for $ 8/10 was well worth it.

The series has been described as Spielbergian. I agree: it reminds me most of ET, with its not-quite-teen main characters of four boys and a girl who is something of a fledgling superhero. Adults and teens do have important roles.

The characters seem real and fully realized, especially the sub-teens, and the 80s era is unostentatiously done well. I suggest you save the last two episodes to watch at once. They make up a very enjoyable finale, rounding off the story arc in a satisfying way but leaving two or three hints that a sequel was planned. The nine-episode season 2 is shooting now for release later this year.

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A NIGHT WITHOUT STARS fascinating superscience fiction

If your Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza/Whatever is a busy time, you may want to wait till you are on the downside of it to begin Peter F. Hamilton‘s massive A Night Without Stars. This book is BIG, not just in pages but in concepts, number of characters, and action.

Yet Hamilton is one of those authors with the golden touch: every page sucks you further into the book. His books are hard to put down, even for necessary functions. Partly it’s deft plotting, a set of snares that captures your attention. But it’s also because even the secondary and tertiary characters feel real and important and you want to follow what happens to them.

In this book he returns to his Commonwealth, a setting more than a thousand years in the future which covers the entire galaxy, with many hundreds of advanced star-faring races, each of them seemingly fully realized whenever we encounter them. At the center of the galaxy is what we today think is a super black hole. Yet in the series it has been revealed to be a huge habitat, or at least the shell around many habitats, including human ones.

One of the human worlds drifts out of the hole into the wider galaxy. And it is in peril. To counter it, somehow, a human child has been born with astounding abilities.

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THEY GIRL THEY COULDN’T SEE fun urban fantasy

Just read a fun book by Laurence E Dahners: The Girl They Couldn’t See. A young woman learns that she can cause others not to see her, rather like The Shadow of pulp fiction days. At first just using the talent to avoid people she doesn’t like, she eventually realizes that she can use it to defend her family from mobsters. Discovering the threat is from a crime gang, she decides to take the whole gang down.

But first she must learn the limits of her talent, an activity which has problems of its own.

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GHOST IN THE SHELL Tokyo trailer & event

I just watched with great pleasure two YouTube videos for a movie I’ve long awaited, one a trailer and the other an event with the director, star, and an important supporting actor answering questions. The movie is GHOST IN THE SHELL, scheduled for release on March 31st of next year.

GITS is a sort of Japanese ROBOCOP, both featuring ideas long common in near-future and cyberpunk sci-fi. In their case their story revolves around a main character whose brain is put into a robotic body after most of their body has suffered catastrophe. As they plunge into an action-adventure story they also slowly build a new sense of who they are, rebel against those who would pigeon-hole and control them, and create a new sense of their place in the world.

GITS first appeared as a Japanese comic, then as a work of Japanese animation. It eventually inspired other books and animations in the series, and comics and animations based on similar stories. In 2008 Dreamworks bought the rights to the series and began the long process which ended in the final creation this year of the movie, starring Scarlett Johansson.

Her casting spawned critics who claimed it was “whitewashing.” Most of them seem to be Westerners. Japanese fans and the GITS creators widely approve of the choice of Johansson, already very popular as an action movie star in the East as well as the West from her roles in the Avengers movies and Luc Besson’s Lucy. Many hope the series becomes a big world-wide success rather than merely a locally Japanese one. Which may lead to a world-wide GITS franchise and business success for similar comics, animes, and movies.

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Latest & greatest WONDER WOMAN preview

The latest Wonder Woman trailer is out & it’s a doozy. I definitely will be in the theater the first hour of the first day when it comes out in June 2017.

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Just finished the latest book in the series about Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. Laurell K. Hamilton has that golden touch, which can make almost anything fascinating.

But not quite everything, at least for me. This 25th book in the series has two chapter-length sex scenes and two much shorter sex scenes. I skipped them, not because they revolted me though they included multiple partners, homosexual, and S&M elements, but because erotica bores me.

It also includes lots of relationship scenes, of who likes or dislikes whom and how they navigate the difficulties. That I found more interesting, partly because most of the characters are werewolves or vampires; you may not.

Scattered throughout are several action scenes, culminating in a large-scale brawl between Anita and her allies and an army of vampires and selkie mind-slaves. Hamilton is a master of this kind of action.

Haven’t read any of this series? Then you might want to dip into the very first book and see if you like it.

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KANTOVAN VAULT now available (Spiral Wars Book 3)

One of the best space-war writers is Aussie Joel Shepherd. He gets everything right: the human side of war, military tactics, hard science, and alien biology and psychology – all in stories which move briskly along.

Now he’s released the third book in his Spiral Wars series: Kantovan Vault. It’s available as an Amazon ebook for $3.99. I believe a printed book will also soon be available.

Click on the image for a preview and to buy the book.

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NAPOLEONIC WAR WITH DRAGONS series finale available

Naomi Novik in 2006 introduced us to her Temeraire series. It re-imagined the Napoleonic War if both sides had dragons to use as an air force.

Normally stories with dragons bore me, as they strike me as being out of sync with the rest of the ecologies shown in the stories. Plus they can fly and shoot flames from their mouths, ridiculous possibilities to an engineer who has been very involved in creating aircraft to do the same. But Novik thought out all the details so well, and presents them so vividly, that the dragons in her stories seem utterly believable.

Her dragons are also willing and willful characters, each with a personality of its own. They are primary characters in their own right; their desires and thoughts drive the stories as much as those of the humans. In the course of the series the main characters, Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire, visit China, Africa, Australia, as well as Britain and France. We see how differently the societies treat dragons. In China, for instance, they are equal citizens with the humans, and the two species live mostly in harmony.

The latest book, League of Dragons, draws the series to a satisfying close. If you’ve not read the series I suggest you start with the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon.

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