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Last weekend I went to the California Conservation Corps (CCC) backcountry program camp where Devin has been the supervisor since late April. In the first few months, the corps goes out and does “front country” work, where they are within access to a vehicle for supplies and connection. But in the latter months they hike out into the backcountry, where they sleep in their individual tents, work a full-time job doing trail maintenance, then hike back to camp for the night. Once a week, on Tuesday, a supply mule train comes up with provisions for the week and other needs, and takes back the trash. On weekends, the crew goes  — backpacking.

I visited the camp at Sunrise Lakes in Yosemite.

On the way there I stopped at Olmsted point (see map below) and got a good view of the famous Half Dome. You can see how smoky the air is. It is actually due to a management fire in Yosemite (induced by the forest service) and they have signs up telling people not to “call in” the fire. Unfortunately, Half Dome was in a smoky haze.

Here is an overview map [as always, click to enlarge pictures]. Olmsted point from where I took the photograph above is indicated (blue arrow).  You can see the location of Half Dome (green arrow), the peak of Clouds Rest (orange arrow) and the location of the CCC camp where I went (red arrow).  In the lower left of the picture is Yosemite Valley, which is what most people think of as Yosemite. In reality, it’s a huge area of wilderness.

My hike started at the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead off Highway 120 right by Tenaya Lake. The colors indicate my speed. Red is fastest, blue is slowest. You can see where the switchbacks were and of course where I rested by the blue.

Here is a typical section of the trail. Huge boulders as one expects in Yosemite are everywhere.

Another section of trail.

Here I arrived at the “First Lake” and you can see the spot on the map above. The lakes are pristine, and as you can see, there is nobody there.

It took me about three hours to get to the CCC camp. Here is Devin at the hand washing station.

The crew does trail maintenance work, which would be felling trees, building rock steps, filling in washed out gaps, building retaining walls. All in all backbreakingly hard labor. That’s why it says on the back of Devin’s CCC business card: “Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions and More.” Here you can see their “tool shed” with sledge hammers, chain saws, and various gear. A tarp above keeps out the rain.

Here are more tools, clippers, rakes, shovels, all nicely organized.

Here is a picture of the “living room” which consists of a fire pit in the middle, log benches all around, and a large tarp over the top to keep out the rain, but mostly the sun. To the left is the kitchen. All the food needs to be stored in bear boxes, which are those big brown cases.

The crew members pitch their tents in the surrounding area, usually away from others for privacy and quiet. So they are actually quite spread out. Here is Devin’s tent, where he has lived and spent pretty much every night in the last two months, except for when he went off backpacking on some weekends. This is his home. Right now, the temperature goes down to the low forties over night, so it’s quite nippy already, and it will get much colder over the next few weeks. The sun goes down at about 7:30pm and it’s dark very quickly, and stays dark until about 6:00am. That makes for a long night in the tent.

There is a spot on a giant granite incline not far from the camp where they get phone reception. The picture below shows me on that spot. You can see the peak of Clouds Rest (red arrow), a sliver of Half Dome (green arrow) and the approximate spot of the cell phone tower (blue arrow) over Yosemite Valley, about 13 miles away, which brings in the signal. I got 3 bars on my iPhone from that spot, but when I hiked back the couple of hundred yards to the camp – nothing.

Below is a close-up of Clouds Rest and Half Dome from that same spot.

And while I was there, I checked my messages and my email. Here is yours truly, the Software CEO doing a bit of work while out hiking, answering a few urgent emails, making a few appointments, before walking back “off the grid” to get some dinner at the camp.

The next day we hiked down to the trailhead. Here is a picture of Devin in front of Tenaya Lake. The peak behind him is Tenaya Peak. That’s a 10,301 foot peak with no trail going to it. The next day, Devin was going to do a solo hike off-trail to that peak from the CCC camp, which is located to the right behind the peak. I wasn’t comfortable enough for cross country hiking at that altitude for that distance (at my age) so I didn’t volunteer to participate. Devin, as a crew supervisor, carries an emergency satellite phone with GPS, so he feels safe enough to go alone.

As I am writing this a couple of days after, I know Devin made it and has already sent me a picture from the top, looking down on the lake, But that’s for another post.

Another picture of Tenaya Lake, facing due east.

While we there, as we’re crossing the highway, I found an iPhone in the middle of the road, obviously run over by cars already. But as I picked it up it still worked and showed a photograph of the owner and his wife on the cover. So we hiked around a bit trying to find them and give them back their phone, but no luck. I decided to take it with me, and wait for the first incoming call. Sure enough, about 3 hours later, as I had already left Yosemite, that call came in and I was able to connect with the owner and arrange to return the phone to him, albeit run over and scratched.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. I saw Devin for the first time in 6 months, and were were able to catch up on life. I got in some good hiking and fresh air. I tested a new backpack and sleeping bag, and I am already looking forward to going back. To me, Yosemite is one of the best places on earth.

Here is a picture of U.S. Marine Nicole Gee In Kabul just days before she was killed in the suicide attack.

Image and Article at Redditt [click image for article original article]

Her good friend and a fellow Marine wrote this for her:

Her car is parked in our lot.

It’s so mundane. Simple. But it’s there.

My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half. We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over 3 years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We’ve been attached at the hip from the beginning. I can’t quite describe the feeling I get when I force myself to come back to reality & think about how I’m never going to see her again. How her last breath was taken doing what she loved—helping people—at HKIA in Afghanistan. Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.

Our generation of Marines has been listening to the Iraq/Afghan vets tell their war stories for years. It’s easy to feel distant when you’re listening to those conversations, it’s easy for that war & those stories to sound like something so distant—something that you feel like you’re never going to experience since you joined the Marine Corps during peacetime. The stories are powerful and moving. Motivating. You know it can happen. And you train to be ready if/when it does. You’re ready. Gung-Ho. You raise your hand for all of the deployments, you put in the work. But it’s hard to truly relate to those stories when most of the deployments nowadays involve a trip to Oki or a boring 6 months on ship.

Then bad people do bad things, and all of a sudden, the peaceful float you were on turns into you going to Afghanistan & for some, never coming back. It turns into your friends never coming home.

Her car is parked in our lot.

For a month now, it’s been parked in our little lot on Camp Lejeune at the Comm Shop where I work. I used it while my car was getting fixed & I just haven’t gotten around to bringing it back to our house. I drove it around the parking lot every once in a while to make sure it would be good for when she came home. So many Marines have walked past it, most of them the newer generations of Marines, our generation of Marines. The same Marines who often feel so distant from the war stories their bosses tell them about. I’m sure they thought nothing of it—just a car parked in a parking spot. Some of them knew her. Some of them didn’t. But they all saw her car. They all walked past it. The war stories, the losses, the flag-draped coffins, the KIA bracelets & the heartbreak. It’s not so distant anymore.

Her car is still there, & she’s gone forever.

I love the first photo. We climbed to the top of sugar cookie in 29 one Saturday morning a few years ago to pay our respects. I snapped the picture on my camera. I never would’ve thought her name would be on a cross like those one day. There’s no way to adequately prepare for that feeling. No PowerPoint training, no class from the chaps, nothing. Nothing can prepare you.

My best friend. 23 years old. Gone. I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person.

Til Valhalla, Sergeant Nicole Gee. I can’t wait to see you & your Momma up there. I love you forever & ever.

Here is a section of Trump’s $15 billion “beautiful” border wall after a monsoon flood. Damn those liberal floods!

It’s a good thing that Mexico paid for all this.

Of course, most of the $15 billion didn’t actually go into the wall itself but ended up in the pockets of a band of grifters.

This makes me really proud of my country.

 

The Bounty

Orion Pictures Corp. 1984, 2 hours

Starring Anthony Hopkins & Mel Gibson

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis

The year 1787 marks a milestone in American history: the Constitutional Convention.  In December of that same year, the HMS Bounty, a frigate of the British Navy, left England for Tahiti.  Its mission was to collect breadfruit seedlings for transport to the West Indies. A milestone in British history unfolded when the Bounty set sail for the West Indies with its cargo from Tahiti.  Led by Fletcher Christian, the midshipman, a group of disgruntled sailors mutinied against the harsh commander: Captain Bligh was forced into a boat with a few loyal seamen, and set adrift on the open sea with no land in sight.

Yet more newsworthy than the mutiny itself  was its aftermath.  Captain Bligh, a seasoned navigator, was able to steer the longboat and its crew through the treacherous waters of the South Pacific.  Relying on his compass, the intrepid Bligh managed to keep the boat on course for 3,600 miles, until the starving survivors reached the island of Timor in the Dutch Indies.  Bligh’s detailed account of the month-long ordeal is preserved in his diary.

Meanwhile, the Bounty had returned to Tahiti. Soon after the mutineers were reunited with the women with whom they had bonded during their earlier visit, the ship departed from Tahiti sailing into uncharted waters.  To avoid future contact with the British navy, Fletcher Christian steered the Bounty towards a remote uninhabited island (unmarked on contemporary maps) about 1,000 miles from Tahiti.  Pitcairn Island, the final destination of the Bounty, is still inhabited by descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian wives.

The story of the Bounty has been told and retold usually from a perspective that is critical of  Captain Bligh. Four out of the five adaptations for the screen reflect this popular bias. However, the fifth version adopts a historically more balanced account of the notorious mutiny.  The plot of  The Bounty unfolds as a series of flashbacks in the course of a court-martial of William Bligh for the loss of a frigate of the British Navy.  We first meet Bligh, played by Anthony Hopkins, as an affable officer, before we learn about his darker side: an arrogant commander prone to bouts of irrepressible anger.  No less surprising is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Fletcher Christian as a long-time friend of the irascible Bligh.  But the arduous voyage to Tahiti would test their bonds of friendship to the breaking point.

A digitally re-mastered copy of the original film was released as a Blu-ray disc in 2019.

Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) is a young man in a poor village in India. With poverty and corruption all around him, he decides to make a better life for himself. I manages to become the chauffeur of the son of a rich man, who just returned to India after living in the United States, with his American girlfriend by his side.

As the servant class is trained to do, he makes himself indispensable to his master. When trouble arises, however, the rich family betrays him and sets him up to be the fall guy to save themselves. He realizes that the class system is rigged against him, and corruption is keeping him low. Eventually he rebels and becomes his own kind of master.

The irony is that in order to escape poverty, overt oppression, and a corrupt system, he has to become corrupt himself.

And so he does.

Are Kids, Are Choice

Here is an enlightening picture of protestors in Science Hill, Kentucky.

Let them breate. We will pool are kids out of school so they don’t learn readn and writn and ritmatic.

Are Kids, Are Choice.

I wonder how the feel about Are Bodies, Are Choice when talking about abortion and contraception?

This is a little bit of evidence of the progressive dumbing down of America.

People want a choice about a cloth in front of a child’s mouth. But by exercising that choice, they are willing to expose their children, their teachers, and themselves to unfettered spread of a deadly virus, and to prolong the pandemic, and to help the virus mutate further.

But of course, the same person that can’t spell Are Choice is probably challenging Dr. Fauci and his recommendations, based on something they read on Facebook.

The virus does not care. It kills a substantial percentage of those that get infected, it leaves massive long-term effects for many of those who survive, and it creates massive hospital bills that most people can’t afford.

Good luck with Are Kids, Are Choice in Science Hill, Kentucky – oh the irony.

 

Pumpkin Flowers

I have never seen pumpkin flowers before in my life. Now we grew some in our yard. They are amazingly beautiful.

Here is what the plants look like from a distance:

Here is what that plant looked like just 50 days ago, grown from one seed, banana for scale.

We planted the seedlings on June 30th, when they looked like this:

Now let’s see what happens as the pumpkins grow…..

This photograph of earth from space shows the planet from a very unusual perspective.

Obviously, it illustrates that we’re a water world.

It also shows that literally and entire half of the globe is Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii is known as one of the most remote island chains in the world, with the most distance to any land anywhere. This is visible here.

California is at the top (see me there?) and the entire west coast of North and South America span the upper third of the globe.

Opa’s Truck

Happy grandson riding in Opa’s Truck.

 

Oliver!

Columbia Pictures, 1968, 2 hours

Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart

Directed by Carol Reed

Starring Ron Moody and Oliver Reed

 

Among English novelists of the 19th century, Charles Dickens indisputably ranks as the most astute social satirist of his age.  The appalling living conditions of the lower classes in Victorian England had resulted from the rapid economic transformation of society in the Industrial Age.  The most vulnerable were the poor and, in particular, young orphans whose plight Dickens depicts in several of his writings in realistic and unsanitized detail. The scathing satire flowing from his pen would target the class of powerful industrialists and snobbish élite who were mercilessly exploiting the less fortunate members of society.

Oliver Twist would advance the literary career of Charles Dickens not only as the most popular novelist of his day but also as a relentless critic of his contemporaries.  His appeal to readers across cultures is due to his deft portrayal of memorable characters: Oliver, the pitiable orphan; Fagin, the conniving swindler; Nancy, the kind wench; Bill, the ruthless criminal.   These archetypal players in a Dickensian drama breathe life into a convoluted maze of subplots, leaving readers to wonder how an orphan’s journey through life, starting in despair, may yet conclude in hope.

The novel evolved from serialized monthly installments published in a popular magazine. It finally appeared in book form, after two years, in three volumes! Its length was due to subplots that are usually left out in most film adaptations (except for a recent miniseries). The central storyline is compressed even more in the musical Oliver! and its film version, entertaining audiences with delightful song-and-dance numbers which have become part of the repertoire of  tunes from modern musicals.

The film would garner an Academy Award for Best Picture, and five other awards from a total of eleven nominations.  It is worth noting that the spotlight of this musical drama has always fallen on the British actor, Ron Moody, who would go on to win multiple awards as Best Actor for his flawless portrayal of the cunning Fagin (his signature role in a long acting career, on stage and on screen).  The demanding portrayal of the brutal Bill Sikes, the arch villain of  Dickens’ novel, falls upon the matchless British actor, Oliver Reed.

A man wakes up from a coma. He can’t remember who he is, where he is, and why he is there. He is tended to by a robot. He has a scientific mind, and he gradually figures out he must be in a spaceship, since the gravity is 1.5 g, which he determined by timing dropped objects. He is alone. The two companions with him on the ship are long dead and mummified. He figures out he was in an induced coma, probably to escape the boredom of a long journey.

But it gets much worse. After some observations of the stars around him, and the sun, he realizes that the sun is actually not the sun but some other star. Now he knows he is in trouble. The nearest star to the solar system is more than 4 lightyears away, so it must have taken decades to get to where he is. Decades alone in a spaceship.

Gradually, as his memory returns bit by bit, vignette by vignette of flashbacks, he learns his name is Ryland Grace, and he is a scientist sent on a one-way mission to investigate a solution to an existential problem at home: The sun is being drained of energy and the earth is rapidly cooling, Not only does he have to somehow survive alone, lightyears from home, his mission is actually to find a solution to save humanity and transmit his results back via high speed probes. It’s an impossible situation.

Andy Weir, who burst into the science fiction world with his first novel The Martian (which I reviewed here) has done it again. Project Hail Mary is one of the best and most satisfying science fiction stories I have ever read. Andy Weir’s stories play in today’s world, or in the very near future, perhaps just a few years off. All the technology in his stories is our technology today. There is Google and Facebook, there are laptops and iPhones. In near-earth orbit there is the good ol’ ISS. That’s the stuff Andy Weir’s science fiction is made of. He writes as the narrator in the present tense, which gives the story a feeling of rapid action.

Project Hail Mary is a page-turner that kept me riveted to the very end. It gets a solid four stars.

 

 

*** Spoiler Alert ***

I recommend that you do not read beyond this point if you intend to read the book. You should read it first, and then come back here to find out some of the reasons why I think this is one of the best science fiction stories ever, and I’ll also talk about some of the plot holes or flaws of the story (there aren’t many).

By astronomical observations and triangulations he figures out he is at the star Tau Ceti, which is about 12 lightyears from earth. Tau Ceti turns out to be the only star in the local stellar neighborhood that is not afflicted by the energy loss that the sun experiences. All other stars are also dimming. But here it gets interesting. An alien space ship approaches him and starts interacting with him. On board is an alien that is the most interesting, in my opinion realistic and credible alien life. My bone to pick with alien stories is that the aliens are too humanoid, usually about the size of a human, and suited to be in the same atmosphere. This alien comes from a planet in the 40 Eridani star system, which is 16.5 light years from earth. Grace calls them Eridians. The aliens resemble large spiders, the size of a medium-sized dog, with a carapace of about 18 inches in diameter and about 10 inches high. It has five arms, each with “hands” that have three opposing claws. They use the arms or legs interchangeably. They have no eyes and no sense of vision, since their planet is pitch black due to a very thick atmosphere of ammonia. The pressure on their planet is 29 times that of earth. It would crush a human instantly. Their body temperature is 210 degrees Celsius or over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so extremely hot. Imagine a creature that lives in 29 atmospheres of pressure with a body temperature of twice the boiling point of water, that breathes pure ammonia. There is no way such a creature would be able to survive a minutes in our world. And likewise, we’d burn up within seconds on theirs, and be crushed by the pressure and gravity.

The aliens have no vision, and all communication is via sound and echolocation, similar to whales. When Grace meets the alien, they quickly establish a way to communicate and learn each other’s languages. Over weeks, they build a sufficient mutual vocabulary to actually communicate productively. That done, they get to work on solving the existential problems of both their home worlds.

Some of the problems I had:

The Eridians do not know about radiation. They have no vision. There is no light on the surface of their planet. So how did they ever develop astronomy and space travel?

The technology of the Eridians is described as equivilent to that of earth in the 1950s. They have not yet invented the semiconductor or even the transistor and as a result they don’t have computers. However, their materials science is amazing and they can build just about anything from a simple raw material which is stronger than anything humans can build. They have robots. How can you have robots if you don’t have electronic processors?

There is one short episode back on earth where two brilliant scientists hook up and have a sexual relationship. It’s just a few pages of description, it’s pretty awkward and unrealistic, and it has nothing at all to do with the plot. Weir should have just left that part out.

Then there is the way Weir ended up on the mission. That was too dramatic and unrealistic, and he could have written the story without that twist and it would have been more credible. Yes, the amnesia he initially experienced after waking up would not be there, but so what. The story would have worked just as well.

But that’s all I could find that I had issues with. I like the science in this story, and the plot holes I described above are minor enough that I can accept them.

The description and depiction of the alien, however, is superb. The Eridians are the most realistic, credible, exotic and yet totally plausible aliens I have ever read about.

Here are some pictures Devin sent me this morning. He is on top of Clouds Rest in Yosemite. This is a 9,931 foot mountain in Yosemite with amazing 360 degree views of the park. It’s not the highest peak in Yosemite, but since it’s so close to “the Valley” it’s very prominent.

I’ll be visiting him in camp at the beginning of September, and I’ll definitely hike to the top of this mountain while I am there. It’s about a five-mile hike one way from camp, or about 10 miles from the trailhead. As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them – and when looking at this view, you had better do that!

Here is a selfie of him with Half Dome in the background and the Yosemite Valley to the right.

Here is a better view of Half Dome and the Valley.

If you want to read about my climb of Half Dome in 2012, here is the link. It was one of the most iconic hikes of my life. I am looking forward to hiking Clouds Rest now.

Thanks for the inspiration, Devin.

Branson in Space

Richard Branson  took the first ride to space today in the spaceship he dreamed up, designed and built – over decades. It’s a phenomenal achievement for a private individual, and it celebrates human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

In the early morning, at 3:00am, Musk showed up at Branson’s house to wish him well. Branson tweeted this.

As I read  the responses, I was astonished that there were quite a few adversarial ones. I posted a few here with my own comments.

Red talks about the “age of extreme greed” presumably accusing Branson, attributing his success to greed. There is so much wrong with this tweet.

  1. Who decides what is pointless as a task to spend one’s time on. I wonder what hobbies Red has that are less pointless.
  2. Branson is a private citizen who opened a record store in England when he was a young man. He called it Virgin Records, and eventually built an airline and now a space tourism company – from scratch. I wonder what Red has accomplished in his life that we can all read about?
  3. I wonder what infrastructure systems are failing, and how fixing those is somehow Branson’s responsibility?

Then I saw Natasha’s post below:

She is worried about the destruction of the world, and questions Branson and Musk about what they contributed to the world. Well, Musk probably has made more changes to our current world than almost anyone, perhaps except Steve Jobs. He has built a car company from scratch, and forced every major automaker in the world to start producing electric vehicles. Then he started a rocket company and revolutionized how America sends humans into space,  and in the process saved billions of taxpayer funds by drastically reducing costs. Musk came to Canada with a single suitcase in the early 1990ies and one of his first jobs was shoveling out a sewer line, standing knee-deep in shit. In 1995, he arrived in California, got enrolled at Stanford and then dropped out to start a software company. I wonder what Natasha’s credentials are, what she has done to save the world, and how it compares to the records of Branson and Musk.

Hmm, private citizens can spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on. I wonder what Neo’s fantasies are and what he spends his money on that is so lofty.

Scientific innovation is not a waste of money, it’s usually a seed to greater things. These guys are not billionaires because they are greedy, or were born rich, they are billionaires because they spent their entire lives coming up with new ideas and then materializing them, and getting back up after every setback and failure (and rocket explosion) and starting over again. Musk has earned fortunes through the companies he has started and almost lost them again every time, starting the next ones. But he has persisted.

Rolf has an interesting angle. He apparently thinks that it’s Branson’s responsibility to plant 100 million trees, or build the first efficient water desalination plant.

Why have we never heard of Rolf Oehen and his revolutionary desalination plants that he has invented and built. And I might ask, how many trees has Rolf planted? Surely not 100 million.

Has he planted any trees?

Then there is Greenspaceguy! He blankly states that billionaires don’t pay income tax? Really? How does he know? Does he listen to Bernie Sanders, perhaps?

The irony is that Branson isn’t even a U.S. citizen. He’s British. I certainly don’t know what income taxes he pays, but he wouldn’t owe the U.S. government trillions.

And no, billionaires are not created by not paying taxes. I know plenty of poor people who don’t pay taxes, but they are not becoming billionaires. You become rich by building stuff that millions of people want to buy and spend their money on. Then, after you make a lot of money, you get to start paying taxes on it. The money doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

I think I need to stop right here and enjoy Branson’s “overnight success” that he has worked his entire life on.

 

The only other Brunner story I ever read was Lungfish, and here is my review.

Brunner wrote A Maze of Stars in 1991.

Somewhere, sometime in the distant future, humanity has left its birth world, Earth, and developed a starship with a mission of seeding new planets with humanity. After initial robotic missions, “the Ship” takes a load of humans and seeds about 600 planets in “the arm of stars” or just called “the Arm.”

There are about six hundred thousand stars visited by man, and sixty thousand have planets hospitable to life, six thousand have developed life and six hundred have been seeded with humanity. Only about 60 of those are fairly successful, and most of them are in some state of devolution.

The Ship is artificially intelligent and has become sentient. It’s been about 500 years since the planets were seeded, and the ship is on an endless loop, visiting the planets clandestinely and observing the outcome. The only problem is, the ship’s jumps through hyperspace, called tachyonic space in this book, result in various jumps in time in addition to space. The ship can’t control the time jumps. So it sometimes “remembers” the future of a planet it is visiting, because it has been there “before” which was far in the future.

Are you confused yet? I certainly was.

A Maze of Stars has a solid and interesting premise, basically observing what happens to humanity in adverse conditions, left to its own devices. Each planet is different. The ship visits the planets undetected, and it has this amazing technology that it can project itself as a realistic human being on the planet itself and interact with the people. It can also “remote view” scenes on the planet and be an observer. Finally, it can show such remote viewings to its passengers, sort of like an immersion movie.

One interesting premise is that most of the planets are hyper-concerned about germs, diseases and viruses that might come from other planets that they have no defense against. Much of the inter-planet trade or exchange is therefore blocked by the various planets, and interaction is severely minimized.

All of this sounds very interesting, but Brunner has made it completely boring and a real slog to read. Nothing happens. The ship simply visits one planet with a weird name after another. We observe pointless vignettes of action by cardboard characters that appear in one chapter only to completely disappear in the next. There is no story, there is no plot, there is no common thread, there is no suspense. And when there is an opportunity to make it interesting, Brunner misses it. For instance, he describes weird mutations but does not “describe” them leaving the reader helpless. He mentions exotic extraterrestrial animals, but does not even attempt to describe what they actually look like. And there are no sentient aliens in this story, even among 600 seeded planets – not one intelligent alien culture that has productively interacted with humanity.

A Maze of Stars is full of interesting concepts, each worth a book of its own, but none of them explored in any detail. The printed edition of the book was 393 pages long. I read the Kindle digital version, and it seemed like two volumes of War and Peace back to back – endless. It slowed down my reading and made me thirst for novels that actually have some plot, some story that keeps turning the pages.

 

 

This is hilarious. It makes me proud of my German heritage.

To make it easier, here is the key:

  1. Germany
  2. United States
  3. Russia
  4. China
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Ireland
  7. Spain
  8. Switzerland
  9. France
  10. Belgium
  11. Turkey
  12. Poland
  13. Italy

 

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