Saturday, July 29, 2017

Asbaran Solutions, by Chris Kennedy, and the Border of Insanity

The condensed Amazon review may be found here, for those who wish to avoid commentary.

Said commentary, however, will of necessity be non-specific. There are too many stories which are not mine to tell, but I do want to talk about what I'm calling, for the lack of a better term, the Border of Insanity.

My undergraduate degree is psychology, and I have two graduate degrees in counselling, but when it comes to my definition of insanity, I rely on my personal experience of listening to the accumulated wisdom of recovering alcoholics over the past 29 years.  There are really two statements of the definition:

1. Doing the same thing, and expecting a different result. This is the one I hear quoted the most, even outside the meeting rooms. I heard it last from the lips of a wise non-alcoholic, while standing in his driveway yesterday. It's a great statement, with plenty of practical applications. That's probably why it has such broad distribution. However, it's the other definition I'm thinking about this morning.

2. Believing something is true, when it's not; or, believing something isn't true, when it is.

Maybe it's due to my own neuro-chemical-behavioral makeup, but I tend to see both of these statements as being primarily errors of logic, not of emotions or senses. However, rational thinking can be highly impacted by both of those, so it's not a philosophically pure process.

To illustrate, let me use the most drastic situation I had to face as a counselor: suicide.

The nutshell truth we bandied about was "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." It's so succinct that it tends to trivialize the issue. That's because, for the person contemplating suicide, the problem doesn't seem temporary at all. The overwhelming majority of the cases I had to deal with were triggered by the ending, or the anticipated ending, of a love affair. For the person involved, this did NOT seem to be a temporary problem; from their perspective, life was over, they would never be happy again, and everything was either meaningless or painful, and they saw no end to it.

They were standing at the Border of Insanity.

Now, as long as they were on the GOOD side of the border, counselling was helpful. They were being seduced by the false belief "If I die, it will solve all problems." As long as they hadn't given themselves over to that particular insanity, they were able to see the horrible impact that their death would have on other people. They could see that they had recovered from a similar situation in the past. Depending on the beliefs of the individual, there were appeals to their spiritual beliefs as well. And even if they themselves couldn't see a future, if they still had trust in others, they could rely on the fact that others believed in a future, and that could carry them through.

However, if they had crossed over the Border, and they were determined to carry out suicide,  the only fix was to have them committed to a mental health facility where they could be placed under constant observation, and provided the necessary interventions until they were stabilized. I spent the last half of my career working mostly with teens, and that population tends to act impulsively, rather than with a carefully thought-out plan, and they tend to rebound rather quickly.  

That's not the only country across the Border of Insanity, just the most lethal. I think it's far more common to encounter someone who is holding on to the idea that if they just give this failed money-making scheme a little more effort, it will work this time. Or, if they allow this abuser to come back in the home once more, this time it will be different. If they prevent this person from facing the consequences of their behavior just once more, they won't do it again.

It's easy to see the mistake, as long as you yourself aren't the one standing at the Border. But nobody ever said, "I think I'll take a stroll to the Border of Insanity today, just to take a look at the lovely scenery." They had good reasons for everything they did.

Which is why you may expect some difficulty to arise when you attempt to intervene. It is HARD for someone standing on the edge to give up their hope that it's going to be different, this time. However, with appropriate support, they may be able to accept the truth.

By the way: if you find yourself getting involved in these dramas a lot, take a look at where you are standing. It's likely you, yourself, are very close to the Border.

And that brings us to the Asbaran Solution.

So I almost forgot, I DID remember in time! Mad props to the people who did the cover, Brenda Mihalko and Ricky Ryan. Great spooky mecha art, and a design that fits in with the rest of the series.

Nigel Shirazi has spent his recent life hating his name. He hates his first name because it has become a personal acronym for repeated failure: "Never Is Good Enough: Loser." When taunted, he lashes out, and lands in trouble, sometimes in jail, and the cycle is then repeated elsewhere.

He hates his last name because it means that he is an unwanted member of the family that owns Asbaran, one of the Four Horsemen, the mercenary companies who survived the initial rounds of contract warfare when the Earth was admitted to the Galactic Union, with nothing to offer in exchange for economy-wrecking technology except fighters.

And Nigel doesn't want to be a mercenary. Nobody else wants Nigel to be a mercenary, either. He gets paid off to be a dilettante, a remittance man, someone who will stay away and not bother the important people who are carrying on the important business.

And then a bad thing happens.

Several bad things, in fact. All of the male senior members of the Shirazi are killed, the single surviving female is captured, and some strange events in the trading of securities and equipment have resulted in the company going bankrupt.

There is no alternative but to bring Nigel the Loser out of the junkyard, and put him in charge. He immediately dashes to the Border of Insanity, a place he has lived most of his life, and resolves to use the limited resources remaining to Asbaran to complete the same mission that has crushed everyone else.

There's something bizarre going on, though. It doesn't make sense that Asbaran would have been offered the mission in the first place. It's a garrison mission; go here, take up positions, and defend it, until a specified time. That's NOT what Asbaran does; they are an assault company. Drop in, kill things, then go away to the next mission. There's something funny about this, and it isn't Monty Python.

Excellent book. Lots of exploding spaceships. Lots of room for character growth. Lots of  Red Shirts. Lots of Bad Guys getting their just desserts. Buy it!

Peace be on your household.

No comments:

Post a Comment