Monday, January 18, 2016

Changeling's Island, and Chicken Sexing

Well, something has happened which I don't like.  Dave Freer's book, Changeling's Island, has been released as a Baen ARC, but won't be out on Amazon until April 5.  And, since it hasn't been released, it isn't eligible for review on Amazon until then.
I'm not organized under the best of circumstances.  And if you knew what I had been experiencing over the past week…  Well, never mind.  I don't wanna get into that.  I'll just use this opportunity to turn a review and a couple of thoughts into a blog post.  That's probably the best thing, anyway.
Tim Ryan is a nice young man who has had a string of bad luck.  Part of that luck is having parents who are much more interested in being nice to themselves than being parents.  Another part is that he has fallen under the influence of a glamour-girl of his own age, who uses her feminine wiles to persuade him to make all sorts of bad decisions, the most recent one being shoplifting (rotten little snip!).  However, unbeknownst to him, much of the bad luck he's having is due to the fact that he is being followed and "assisted" by mumble pixie mumble fairy mumble.
Then we come to a sort of turning point.  Tim doesn't turn, at least not yet, but his circumstances, and therefore his luck, undergo a BIG change: he gets shipped off to live with his grandmother on Flinder's Island.  Important things happen immediately.  First, of course, he gets away from the combined rotten influence of his mother and the glamour-girl  (you can cheer at this point). The second thing that happens is that he meets a girl on the airplane who is not a rotten little snip, and he is nice to her, thereby winning her gratitude.
(two things you need to know: I am not an expert on magical terminology; I am using speech recognition to write this blog post.  I will therefore not attempt to recreate the names and titles and designations of all the magical figures.  I would get them wrong.  Sorry.)
What follows is a wonderful, delightful, classical coming of age story.  Under the influence of his grandmother, a lot of hard work, and a non-toxic school situation, Tim gets a chance to express those good characteristics which were there all along.  Let me emphasize the " hard work" aspect of that prior sentence, because it is that, as much as anything else, which helped him make the transformation.  He has to learn everything: how to milk a cow,  fork potatoes, and herd sheep.  He falls into bed exhausted every night.  Early.  Frankly, it's not a lifestyle I would enjoy, but then I am old, fat, and crippled; if I had gotten the opportunity at age 12, it likely would have been the making of me.
Thus endeth the abbreviated review of a book not yet released for review.  You might get more when it comes out in April.
And now, for the couple of thoughts I mentioned earlier..
I'm going to go on a snarky rant about the cover.  You may want to change the channel now, because this is both trivial and snide.  It's also no reflection on Dave at all, because he has nothing to do with the cover.  It is, in fact, discussed elsewhere that the cover blurb has very little to do with the content of the story.  I do not know how these circumstances come about.  Stuff happens.  If I were running the publishing company, things would be much worse.  I get that.  Even so, I MUST point out that the cover art contains a prominent feature which does not exist in the story: a blond mermaid.  Now, there IS a female aquatic being, but she is neither blond, nor a mermaid.
(At this exact point in my life, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, Georgia, is in the next room, stomping, sneezing, and slamming cabinet doors.  Speech recognition hears that; gibberish inserted in the text is likely due to that fact.  Sorry.)
Returning to the issue of the cover: I have friends who are artists, and they are… artistic.  They do wonderful, creative things which do not necessarily reflect the reality that we share, but instead are glorious features of their own internal reality.  It's a basic part of what makes them artists.  I have to accept that aspect of their art if I accept ANY aspect of their art.  And let me make this clear: it is excellent artwork on the cover.  It includes most of the significant elements of the story, and it's really well executed.
As I said: trivial and snide.
The second thought has to do with a post Dave made on Mad Genius Club today called "Desperado."He identifies something about the human race which I believe to be a feature and not a bug, which is that young man kill themselves off at a much higher rate than young women.  Beyond a passing reference to bad choices, he doesn't really get into reasons why this should be, he merely points out that it is true.
I'd like to observe that relatively few males are necessary for the species to survive.  In fact, unless a society engages in widespread gender selection, females outnumber males from adolescence on.  And that leads me to discuss China and chickens and decision points.
" Desperado" bounced one tiny little idea off of my tiny little mind: the decisions that are lethal are usually not immediately apparent as being lethal.  You don't plan to die in a fall, you just want to go rock climbing.  You don't plan to die of an overdose, you just want to get high.  And in some of those cases, experience is a truly brutal teacher: it kills its students, removing their genes from the gene pool.  In other cases, the pupil learns without dying, and in the process becomes a better rock climber.  But in every case, the consequences of the original decision are deferred.
Humans are not the only race in which a 1 to 1 ratio of males to females is not required.  When I was 16 years old, the assistant manager at the roast beef fast food restaurant where I worked had a second job on the weekend: he was a chicken sexer.  That's a real job; you can Google it if you want to.  Evidently, you can look at the cloaca of a newly hatched chick and tell if it's male or female.  The males get tossed into one chute, the females into another.  Now, at the point of the decision, it isn't apparent to the chick what is going to happen to it.  All it knows is that it's sliding down the slide.  However, at the bottom of the slide the female chicks are placed into cages where they are fed and watered; the male chicks are killed by some means (I think they smash them with a big hammer).  And that leads into my thoughts about China.
When I was in college, back in the early seventies, there was a lot of talk about  the coming population bomb.  It seems we're going to over populate the earth, and become marching morons or something like that.  It's my understanding that this idea still haunts many of our leaders.  However, I know of no country which took action on it, other than China.  China adopted a "one child per family" program.  And thus, they built a population bomb, which has already exploded and killed them.  They just haven't fallen over yet.
If given a chance for free expression, their program would have resulted in a roughly equal mix of male babies and female babies.  However, that didn't happen.  Because male babies are more highly valued in that culture than female babies, the lives of female babies were terminated at a much higher rate.  This practice has gone on for more than 20 years, and the consequence is essentially death for the Chinese culture.  Within the very near future, there will not be enough young Chinese to support the Chinese who are no longer able to work.  And, since there is a shortage of females, that population cannot be replaced.  Even if they change the policy today, they are still doomed.
And now, I have to wonder about the title "Desperado;" having adopted the chicken sexer program (in reverse), and seeing the consequences looming inevitably, is there outlaw behavior that the Chinese will adopt?  Or,…  There really isn't an "or" available; is there?

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