art reviews

For now, "art" means novels.

my rating system

My rating system is based on an observation about Drum Corps International scoring. The scoring system is created by music teachers, not statisticians. It tends toward encouragement and not bell curves. It's rare to get a score as low as the 60s. The worst score I ever saw was something like 28, and that was very, very rare. I think I've seen some in the 40s.

In any event, my score of 50 means that it was just barely worth seeing, reading, listening to, etc.

Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, Dodge book 2, Neal Stephenson, 2019

I listened to this fairly soon after it came out. I checked it out of the library and had read a few pages, then months later I started over and finished the audiobook (Malcolm Hillgartner narrating).

Perhaps I give this an 82. It's been a year or two since I listened to it. I mention it only because I have a lot to say about the next Stephenson novel. I started with a 78, then I remembered that (I think) I was brought to tears by the final scene. That gets points.

I don't think any of this is a spoiler. It's part of the world Stephenson created, but it's mostly background. I got somewhat worried that Stephenson was going libtard. I won't give away my conclusions during this novel. Whether he went libtard or not, the background of what America looked like is interesting.

Fall is sort of a sequel to REAMDE (not a misspelling), and elements of other novels come up, too. I'm almost certain the story stands alone, though. Richard Forthrast of the gaming company is back. Zula and Csongor Takacs are married and have a young daughter, Sophia, at the start of the story.

A major section of the story begins when Sophia is roughly 20, so that part takes place in roughly 2036. America has split into Democrat Blue big cities and "Ameristan." Stephenson heavily implies that Ameristan is accomplishing nothing technologically. Perhaps more later, but I mentioned this so I can write about his next novel.

Star Trek: Picard [book 3]: Rogue Elements

Probably somewhere between books 1 and 2. This one was quite funny--lots of literal LOLs. I'm not sure if we're supposed to know who the main character, former Star Fleet Commander Cristobal Rios, is. Ok. A quick glance says that we are supposed to know: he comes up in the Picard TV series. I have not watched any of the TV series, although it's been on my list for years. Obviously I don't know how much is lost by not knowing, but apparently not too much.

The character Kivas Fajo returns. He kidnapped Data in TNG s3, ep22, "The Most Toys." Saul Rubinek played him then. I just watched parts of the last episode of Warehouse 13 a few days ago. Rubinek plays the boss (character Artie Nielsen).

Yes, from TNG we should know who one of the Ferengis is. Another character who interacted with the Ferengi shows up, too. I vaguely remember the Ferengi from TNG, and I definitely remember the other character. I won't reveal the other one because it's a spoiler. Off hand, it looks like Admiral Martha (Quinn?) is only introduced within the Picard TV series. I thought we should know her from earlier, but it appears not.

Star Trek: Picard [book 2]: The Dark Veil

This was a bit better than book 1, perhaps a 75. It was exciting in that I wanted to know what happens next, so I probably listened to too much, too quickly. This one features Captain William T. Riker and his wife Counselor Troi when Riker is captain of the Titan. They have their first child, a five-year-old son who is prominent in the story; he is Thaddeus.

I'm pushing to get to other books, so I'll leave it at that.

The Last Best Hope (Star Trek: Picard series, book 1)

Update: I finished it a couple of weeks ago. I'll stick with what I said at 70%.

I'm going to start at the end with what I'm listening to right now. This may or may not expand. Right now I'm listening to McCormack, Una The Last Best Hope: Star Trek: Picard. Narrated by: Robert Petkoff Series: Star Trek: Picard, Book 1. Audiobook release date: 2020-02-11. Audible link. I'm listening to the book from Audible.

I'm about 70% of the way through, so I can't give it a final rating. I would overall give it a 70 or so. That doesn't mean a low letter grade of 'C.' It means entertaining and worth listening to and no regrets about engaging. I'm not sure I'd ever listen again, though.

Petkoff does a great job imitating the voice of Patrick Stewart's Picard.

There are so far at least 2 scenes that exceeded the 70. I don't think anything here is a serious spoiler. The first scene begins in Chapter 7, about 22:17 into the chapter, which is not quite halfway. I'm going to avoid a full bibliography because I don't want to dig too far on the web. I suspect there are more books in the series, and I don't want to hit spoilers. In any event, Picard beams down to encounter a convent of Romulan "warrior nuns." The nuns hate the Romulan Tal Shiar, which is very close to the KGB. The notion of such rebel Romulans was a lot of fun. The nuns advocate for truth and openness over typical Romulan secrecy. Romulan secrecy across the whole society is greatly emphasized in this novel. In what I've seen of Star Trek, that was only moderately implied. The scene about mid-way through Chapter 8 where Picard beams down to collect the head of the nuns is moving.

There is a slight spoiler below.

Romulan boy scene

Then another great scene is right at the end of Chapter 8. A young Romulan boy who has been raised by the nuns is brought to his new home, a Federation world. The boy sees a Ferris wheel for the first time and is very impressed and curious. A 7 year old human girl takes his hand and leads him onto the Ferris wheel. She "shrieks" in delight, and the boy gives the equivalent Romulan reaction, which is more subdued.

I hope it's extraordinarily clear from this site that I am no libtard. Such scenes in some contexts are purely malicious psychological war. To try not to mix too many topics, I elaborate on that elsewhere.

page history

  1. 01:59 - close to posting
  2. 2022/08/13 00:59 - page creation (EDT / American/New_York timezone. I'm near Atlanta and not near New York, thank God.)