The Otissito Review

Month: March 2014

Total 22 Posts

Book Review: "Half Way Home" by Hugh Howey

Half Way HomeHugh Howey is steadily becoming one of my favorite self-published authors. I try to keep an eye out for new stories from him I have not read yet, but sometimes they slip through the cracks and I don’t find out about them until a little bit after they hit the shelves. Half Way Home is one of those. I was browsing Amazon a couple of weeks ago when it popped up and I made sure to grab it.

Half Way Home is the tale of a group of teenage colonists stuck on a planet they don’t know if they can survive. They are part of a colonization project that uses an artificial intelligence to land a bunch of equipment on a potential colony world and then determine its viability. If the planet is viable the AI then grows 500 colonists over a compressed timeframe to serve as administration, security, and manual labor. In this case, the AI initially decided the planet was viable and started the growth and training process of the colonists, but then halfway through the process decided to abort and blow everything up, and then tries to abort the abort process, leaving roughly 100 colonists alive to make do with what they have.

The biggest problem with this scenario is that the colonists are supposed to be grown to an age of 30, but these ones only made it to about 15 or 16, leaving them without half of their training. They make do as best they can, but things get pretty rough really quickly.

Howey builds an interesting world for these teenage colonists to deal with. There are trees so enormous you can barely perceive the curvature of the trunks, a canopy so thick and dense it can support a group of colonists trekking across it without falling through, and some underground creatures that consume ore and leave behind piles of gold as waste. The creatures don’t show up very often, but when they do it sure makes for a dynamic display of chaos.

The colonists are tasked with constructing a rocket to send information back to Earth about their situation and the planet, but the amount of work proves to be too much for the limited number of hands they have. The colony begins to crack, stress eating away at several members until a sort of martial law is imposed and people start to die when security forces overreact to small offenses. Soon enough a small group strikes out from the camp on their own, believing their safety is compromised.

By the end of the book, the colonists learn a lot about themselves and discover some interesting things about the planet they’ve been put on. They begin to realize that in order to survive they need to take down the AI running the colony, not the other colonists themselves. It was an interesting twist that I really didn’t see coming.

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Terra Nova: S1, E13 "Resistance"

Going into this final episode of the first and only season of Terra Nova I have a lot on my mind about the show. I’ve enjoyed the show quite a bit up to this point and I’m a little bit sad that I don’t get any more episodes beyond this one. I feel like the network made a sizable mistake in canceling the show and I wish another network had picked it up.

Terra Nova

Upon getting thrown into the brig by Lucas at the end of the last episode, Jim and Josh are left to their thoughts for a little while. Soon enough Lucas arrives to set Josh free and keeps Jim so he can torture the location of Commander Taylor out of him. Jim holds out incredibly well though and Lucas is left with no answer as to where his father is hiding in the jungle. Of course, Jim is left in pretty rough condition after the torture. In order to free him, Elisabeth dupes the corporate handler in charge of overseeing Lucas’ activities into thinking he’s been injected with a deadly parasite. She forces him to get Jim out of the brig and bring him back to their home.

Commander Taylor has arranged with Lieutenant Washington to get the Shannons out of Terra Nova and into his camp as a family. Lieutenant Washington is supposed to make the escape with them, but at the last-minute she realizes that they are going to need a bigger distraction in order for the family to make it out. She sacrifices herself to keep Lucas occupied while Jim and his family make their bolt for the tree line where Commander Taylor is waiting. When Jim tells Commander Taylor about Washington he is devastated, but he does his best to keep his eye on the prize.

As Commander Taylor and Jim try to devise a plan on how to stop Lucas from they come up with a pretty spectacular one. They decide that if they can cut 2149 off from Terra Nova by destroying Hope Plaza then Lucas’ remaining mercenaries will not be able to get any further support from the future. That means everyone currently in Terra Nova will be trapped there, but it also means no further mercenaries can arrive. Commander Taylor sends Jim Shannon back through the new portal established by Lucas and tasks him with destroying 2149’s link with the past.

Jim barely makes it back to Terra Nova alive as the portal complex in Hope Nation blows up around him. He does make it back though and the Sixer camp, along with Lucas and his mercenaries, make a run for an area known as The Badlands. Terra Nova belongs to Commander Taylor once again, and the credits roll.

Terra Nova was a quality television show. It had some interesting characters, a decent enough storyline, and a few other things going for it. Not every episode was full of meat and potatoes, some were a bit fluffy compared to others, but overall they were solid. The ending to the first season finale opened up so many interesting doors for where the story and/or characters could go in subsequent seasons that it’s really disappointing none of those ideas are going to get realized.

If you haven’t watched Terra Nova and you are a fan of science fiction mixed with a little bit of time travel, give the show a try. I think it’s a lot better than some of the other science fiction shows on television, but it obviously isn’t going to please everyone.

Next week, we’ll start in on a new show, Continuum. I know only the basics about the show, that it involves time travel and some rogue convicts trying to influence the future by altering the past, but it seems like it might be decent. I’m only going to commit myself to the first season of ten episodes though, just in case.

Older Science Fiction I Need to Read

In the past few weeks I’ve begun to realize I am lacking very much in my exposure to classic science fiction from days of yore. There are a handful of classic books I’ve read in the genre, but to be honest, I’m missing some of the big hitters of past decades. I think I need to compile a list of the best classic science fiction from the 60s, 70s, and 80s so I can add a few to my reading rotation. Seeing how books from that era were written will probably open me up to new things in the books I’m reading now because today’s books are often influenced by the ones from before.

Here is a list of the few classic science fiction books I have read:

There might have been a few more in past years that I don’t remember reading off the top of my head, but if there are, then I should probably read them again at this point. However, I can think of a longer list of classic science fiction I haven’t read:

I’ve also never read anything by Philip K. Dick or Arthur C. Clarke, which is a terrible admission to make given the circumstances. I’m guessing there are probably several other classic science fiction authors I still need to read, which is why I want to ask anyone reading this if they have some suggestions. I’ll take links to lists of books, Wikipedia pages for specific authors, or just a list of your own favorite classic science fiction books left here in the comments. Help me fix this terrible gap in my reading experience.

Book Review: "Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects" by Christie Golden

Thrall: Twilight of the AspectsThrall: Twilight of the Aspects is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Unlike a few of the other World of Warcraft novels I’ve read lately, this one deals specifically with a character I find to be very compelling and it deals with the dragon Aspects in the game, which I also find to be interesting, and I don’t know a lot about.

I’ve read books written by Christie Golden before, so I knew what kind of writing style I was going to get and I sort of knew how she was going to do things with the characters, but even then, I think this has been one of her better books as a complete package. She was given the chance to focus on just one or two characters instead of a massive cast of them and her writing was the better for it. She really managed to give Thrall, former Warchief of the Horde, newly instilled member of the Earthen Ring, some depth and emotion that is difficult to convey in a video game setting. I appreciated that as a fan of the game and as a fan of the game lore.

The book focuses on Thrall’s journey to discover who he really is and what his part is going to be in dealing with the various dangers that present themselves to Azeroth. Is he supposed to be leading the Horde? Is he supposed to give himself over fully to being a shaman of the Earthen Ring? Is he supposed to leave all of that behind and do something completely unexpected? Thrall simply does not know and he wants to find out, so he sets himself on a journey of discovery.

Guided through the early parts of his journey by the gentle prodding of Ysera, the Aspect of the green dragonflight, Thrall begins to understand the unity he must find between his former role as leader of the Horde and his new role as a guardian of the elements. He cannot be one or the other, he must be part of both. But, to be both he must learn some things as well as teach a few things to others, especially the powerful dragonflight Aspects who must band together to defeat an abomination that could spell doom for all of Azeroth if it remains alive.

Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects gave me a lot more to think about when I come across dragonflight characters inside the video game and it gave me a new appreciation for Thrall and what the game designers have been doing with him lately. These type of World of Warcraft novels do a lot of good for readers wanting to know more about the video game they are playing and I’m glad Christie Golden did a good job with this one.

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Up Next: "The Seafort Saga: Fisherman’s Hope" by David Feintuch

Fisherman's HopeThe end of the month is fast approaching and now that I’ve pushed my way through almost all of this month’s reading list it’s time to dive into the next two books of The Seafort Saga so I can be that much closer to finishing the series. Fisherman’s Hope is the fourth book in the seven book series and it seems that it’s the first one where Nick Seafort is in charge of his own destiny.

I’m hoping that Nick is going to continue to exhibit more growth as an individual as he works to understand the place for strict obedience in contrast to empathy for those under his command. I think this fourth book is going to be a turning point for both Nick Seafort and the series on the whole moving forward.



Nick Seafort returned to Earth expecting a court martial but instead he’s tapped by the Naval Academy. This is no ordinary desk job . . .

Luck has always run in both directions for Naval Commandant Nicholas Seafort. While he has managed to save the Hope Nation colony from alien attack, he and his friends have paid a heavy price. Most recently, his exploits have earned him a dignified position as an instructor at the United Nations Naval Academy. But, as Seafort suspects, trouble isn’t far behind.

A return to Earth means a return to his roots, some of which he wishes would remain buried. He’s uncomfortable with fame and can’t always restrain his temper as the political machine shifts around him. But when the fishlike aliens mount an attack, Seafort is the only man Earth can count on. Now he must decide whether he has the courage and fortitude to make a terrible choice . . .