Reviewing a review – 01

Not all reviews are created equal. While I greatly appreciate the many one- and two-line “‘da book rocks!” five-star reviews, they don’t tell me much about what exactly they did or didn’t like about it.  They also don’t tell prospective readers anything to help make up their mind directly, unless you go through their other reviews to see where some stranger’s reading habits overlap with your own.

One of my favorite reviews was a four-star review by “Russell May.” He was also kind enough to post the same review at GoodReads. While it was only four stars, he said a little bit about how he found it, what his misgivings about it were, what he likes, and a few general thoughts. It’s the sort of review that could really help someone decide if they want to spend their hard-earned money on the book.

Thank you, “Russell May.”

100k

Just passed 100k words on Insanity’s Children. Now in the home stretch, I hope.  Still open to recommendations for bad jokes and puns to add. A new company makes an appearance – Kadath Heavy Industries, an arms maker.

Themes

One of the things that I keep realizing is that there are themes running though TSCB that I put in almost subconsciously, themes that I keep seeing popping up in various other places.

One theme is the risk/reward of technology. I came across one of Vox’s reprints of an article he wrote about the Unabomber’s Manifesto. The Unabomber was afraid of technology, or more specifically that it be used by government to enslave people, and by companies and people to take from them their ability to support themselves, to make them dependent on goods and services provided by others. He wanted to have us all return to something like an Amish tech level or lower, on the theory that when you are in tune with nature you can’t be tech-traped (or something along those lines). That has problems to say the least.

In TSCB, the Armadillo warships and their AIs scared the government so bad that they put the kibosh on it, and reverted to an effectively lower and inferior level of military technology. Taj saw that for humans to be the most useful, they had to know how things work. She is constantly teaching everyone on board everything she can (a bit more on this in the sequel). From the fundamentals of language and math and story-telling with Quinn (note she doesn’t just tell him stories, but has him tell them back to check for understanding and cement the knowledge), to how to operate sensors and coms and understand how they work to anyone that spends time on the bridge. She requires the use of checklists so that the crew know the function and condition of the ship’s systems.

In the classroom I encounter a specific dichotomy regularly. Kids think they don’t need to learn and know things because they can “just Google it.” but they struggle to find good web resources and evaluate what they do find because they know so little. Often they lack sufficient fluency with math fundamentals to easily see more advanced concepts. They have a difficult time differentiating wikipedia and The Onion from peer-review papers (if they can find them). Technology can be a tool, or a crutch. Taj is, in a way, the ultimate tool, but she refuses to be used as a crutch because she has learned by hard experience that by definition crutches are for the crippled, and a team where everyone is as strong as they can be will be the most effective.

What to bring to a fight

It would be a good idea to bring a knife to a knife fight, no?

And if you have to go to a gunfight, packing as much gun as you can would be sensible.

So, when you get into a religious war, why would you go armed with… lawyers and political correctness? Even guns and money seems to come up a bit short. Wouldn’t a coherent philosophical argument, at the very least, be more appropriate?

Too long

It’s been too long since my last update. Life proceeds. Earning a paycheck, kids, and ordinary home life take a lot of time.

I’d like to take a moment to respond to reviews of The Stars Came Back that people have posted.  It may be the start of a series.

I’d like to address all the one star Amazon reviews first. There are eight of them at this time. Every one of them mentioned the screenplay-esque format as being a major problem for the reviewer.  I trust it was not a surprise, given the 30 pages+ of free preview. Sorry if it didn’t float your boat, but that’s how it started out. If you are willing to give the story another shot, I’ve finished the normal prose version and handed it off to an editor to work over, and I’m expecting it to be done any day. Castalia House, my publisher, will be releasing a military fiction / essay anthology soon, and because I have a short story that takes place in TSCB’s universe included, I’m assuming they’d like to release both at the same time. Then you can see if you can find out why the five-star folks liked it. I know no story will appeal to everyone *shrug* C’est la vie. Considering this oddly-formatted book has 116 reviews and only 8 are one-star, I’ll live with it, and while I won’t enjoy it, I do value honest feedback. Continue reading Too long

r/K selection

A recent article I wrote referred to a Blaze blurb with an excerpt from The Future of the Gun, by Frank Miniter. It explored the effects on world outlook and life choices that gun control laws have on the people subjected to them. Short version: because the gun is a symbol of power, taking away legal guns from law-abiding citizens undercuts the appeal of the “law abiding and productive life” to young men, making them turn to gang and thug life for “power” and respect,” via gun ownership.

Continue reading r/K selection

Armadillo short

Castalia House is going to be publishing an anthology, a mix of military essays and military sci-fi, edited by Tom Kratman, to be titled Riding the Red Horse. The goal is something like Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War series. For those not familiar with the biblical reference, the “red horse” is one of the four horses of the Apocalypse. Specifically, the horse of WAR.  For what it’s worth, there is a lot more to that little phrase than I thought there was (and they are not war, pestilence, famine, and death  as I had always remembered them). The article is worth a read.

In any case, one of the stories to be included in it, assuming they like it, will be a short by me. The subject is Armadillo’s first operational mission. I believe they are targeting “this year” for a release, but I don’t know if that will mean this week or late December.