Saturday, September 12, 2020

Planetary Anthology Series: PLUTO (!): A Red Friday Post

NEWS UPDATE:  I think I got this book a year ago. The review was begun on August 7, continued on  August 13, and then the last two thirds finished on September 12.

 And, here's a link you can use if you want to check out this particular tome. NOTICE: If you click on the link, it tells Amazon you came from my blog post, and if you BUY this, or anything else following the referring click, I get some paltry amount for the referral. Doesn't cost you anything, but it's only fair to let you know. 

A great good RED FRIDAY (again: August 7) greetings to all of my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land, on the day we Remember Everyone Deployed. A special shout-out to all the writers who have given me such GREAT material to be reviewed, only to be greeted with deafening silence from me. And, to family members who stumble on this: Yes, we are yet holding on, and daily discovering new ways to celebrate God's provision in the storm.

And a SPECIAL note to the developers of the Google Blogpost software: this revision is AWFUL, SLOW, and GLITCHY. I am ONLY trying it this one more time, and if I can't go back to the previous build, I'm leaving the platform. NEWS UPDATE: As of September 12, 2020, it's a little better.

A brief explanatory note. For months, I haven't been able to write.  I think I can blame some of the struggle to get words on paper (or on a monitor, to be precise) on some singularly horrific family illnesses. The worst of these was NOT COVID-19, but happened just at the time hospitals were locking down, and as a result, a family member grew gravely ill in isolation. 

Not only have I not been able to write, but I really wasn't able to read NEW work. Under stress, I seek comfort-food-for-the-mind, from favorite works by Robert A Heinlein, David Drake, Eric Flint, John Ringo, Michael Z Williamson, Larry Correia, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Rudyard Kipling, G. K. Chesterton, Tom Kratman, and collections produced by John Carr. 

This book was, I believe, the last NEW book I tried to attempt to read.  I was behind on my reviews; I was having to deal with some environmental stressors that ranged from trivial to life-threatening; I received a review request from a person who has been a source of quite a lot of GREAT work in the past. I grabbed the book, and eagerly attacked it....

...and then closed it and went away to do something else. 

I didn't like what I was reading, AT ALL, and, since that had NEVER happened before with a book from this referring source, I figured it was because I was just in a bad mood. So I rested; went back again, later; got the same result. At least three cycles of this,  probably more before I shelved it, and dived into my old favorites. Then, around the first of August, I tried it again, and got the SAME reaction. 

But THIS time, I struggled through. And, I started writing. And then: I quit. This time, for a different reason: I was writing a review about a story I hated, and I very much did NOT want that review to appear, without giving the writer some advance warning that I was going to eviscerate his work. So, I found his website, emailed him, and let him know it was going to appear, within the next day or so. And then, I abandoned it for another month. Therefore, what you have here is 1/3 of a review written in August, and 2/3 of a review written today. There were places where I felt I needed to insert some clarification, and those are designated by NEWS UPDATE

The review:  Somewhere, there is likely an explanation for this series, as collections of stories with themes related to a specific heavenly body. Other than a slight reference in the "From The Publisher" chapter at the end, I didn't find it in the text of my book. But, Amazon lists this as the first in a series. It DOES provide some opportunity for vile calumny to be poured on the  perpetrators of the banning of Pluto from the Nine. Some of the stories are quite lovely, in the Trees in the Fire Swamp sense.

Westley: [entering the fire swamp] It's not that bad.
[Buttercup stares at him incredulously.]
Westley: I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

NEWS UPDATE: After re-reading the stories again for this review, I find this overall negative approach to be unwarranted.     

Like So Many Paper Lanterns by B. Michael Stevens. Not a Lovely Tree; in fact, this is by far the Ugliest Tree in the Fire Swamp. Undoubtedly, there is an audience which greatly enjoys writing of this type. I am not included in that number. This is the fourth sentence, but I could have picked just about any other; ALL of the writing is like this:

With every passing day, I drink deep of guilt and anguish, but when the Leviathans pass over, I taste something sweet in the normally bitter brew of my reflections; I taste hope. Too purple.  There IS a story of love, pain, sacrifice, desolation wrapped up in the black sparkly packaging, but getting to it was just too tedious for enjoyment. And I don't know what it had to do with Pluto, either. Possible explanation: the blurb says the author writes horror. I do not READ &*^%$% horror, mostly because I'm a sissy, but having to read stuff like this is a sufficient reason in itself to avoid it, IMHO. YMMV. NEWS UPDATE: Here's the deal: I did not like the first story, at all. I didn't like the characters. I didn't like the plot. And the execution was worthy of a Hugo nomination, and I mean that in the worst way possible.

Time Out For Pluto by P. A. Piatt . A BARELY Lovely Tree. Spoiled brat/adolescent godling Pluto is aggravated at his loss of planetary status, and sulks. And then he plots. NEWS UPDATE: I didn't like the protagonist. He's a nasty teenager, even if he may be a few thousand years old. I don't like nasty teenagers; I was a middle school counselor for 16 years. Still, the story holds together.

NEWS UPDATE: From this point on, the stories are delightful; they are clear, cool, refreshing water. The funny stories are funny. The dramatic stories have drama. They. W.O.R.K!

A Brush by J.D. Arguelles. Another pleasantly Lovely Tree. I'm not sure why this on Pluto, BUT it's a cool story. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the brush is even better.

The Pluto Chronicles by Bokerah Brumley. A happily Lovely Tree. Truly, a ridiculous concept (a giant, marauding chicken), told as if it is a matter of fact occurrence.

Bat Out Of Hellheim by Corey McCleery. For all, I think this will be at least a nice background Lovely Tree. For some, though, could be the LOVELIEST TREE in the Fire Swamp. Uplifted Space Vikings from Midgard fight the undead denizens of Helheim.

The Rainbow-Colored Rock Hopper by J. Manfred Weichsel. A classically great Lovely Tree! A wicked bad guy of the "If you don't give me the deed to your ranch, I'll tie you to the railroad track" type against the poor-but-honest pioneer-type. So, naturally, he must catch a leprechaun (figuratively speaking).

The Heart Of Pluto by Christine Chase. This one is a personal contender for Loveliest Tree in the Fire Swamp. We have an old dude astronaut, first to land on Pluto, and about to become the first to die on Pluto. So, he hallucinates; except maybe he isn't. Loved this one.

NEWS UPDATE: Everything that follows was written today. Everything above was written in August. And, since I had the epiphany about these all being well-written, I dumped the “Lovely Tree” approach.

The Case For Pluto by A.M. Freeman. Pluto was deprived of planetary status by a wicked cabal of vampiric earth creatures, bent on crushing the spirits of nice people everywhere. In this legal procedural, will the right win out?

Marathon To Mordor by Karina L. Fabian. It's a space race, with all the glam and glitz and hype that we are accustomed to when the Super Bowl or the Olympics rolls around. Not the World Series, though; people CARE about this sporting event.

Miss Nancy’s Garden by Jim Ryals. Some cooks are sweet and polite, and always ready to give you a cookie. Some cooks will cut you in half for showing up late for meals, BUT they will go the last mile to get your food to you, hot and yummy, in the middle of a flooding earthquake. Got it? Well, Miss Nancy is like the second type. And she doesn't put up with anything. By anybody.

On Eternal Patrol by L.A. Behm II. Dead submariners save the world, even when the world is more bizarre than the concept expressed in the first four words of this sentence. Sea monsters and technological limitations combine. Work it out, people, we have a job to do!

Pluto Invictus by W.J. Hayes. On a cruise ship in space, con men, semi-heroes, and priests have to work together to destroy Vile Evil plots and robots.

 Worst Contact by Arlan Andrews, If you think about the gold disc that got sent out with Voyager, you'll recall it had our best wishes and info about the planet and people. Well, not every galactic follows that pattern.

Ambit Of Charon by David Skinner.  When the advanced-technology-indistinguishable-from-magic shows up, somebody still has to make sure the lights get turned of and the blinds get closed and the cat gets fed. Not much drama in that; just essential. But when the boogums slide down the chimbley, those are the guys you need.

 Sunset Over Gunther by Frank Luke. The statement "All is fair in love and war" becomes even more meaningless, when war is a prerequisite for love. How many impossible choices can you make, and still be a person who can love, and be loved?

Adaptive Reasoning by John M. Olsen. Andy's job is to prepare for the triumph of his people. He is willing to do whatever it takes, in order to reach that goal. But it seems that more is being taken than was in the original plan.

 Judgment Of Anaq by Andy Pluto. When I was three, I asked my grandmother if it was true that if you put salt on a bird's tail that you could catch it. She said it was, so I took the salt shaker outside to catch birds. Didn't work. They flew away! And that is the kind of story that this is: the more you grasp some things, the further they slip away. It also reminds me of 'Appointment in Samarra.'

Life At The End by Jake Freivald. This is an excellent story to study and discuss, and to seek some understanding about isolation. The physical distance between Earth and Pluto is isolation, but is easily overcome with travel. The isolation of the heart is the greater problem.

A Clockwork Dragon by Allen Goodner. Wait, WHAT? You sacrifice your daughters to a DRAGON? Are you out of you MINDS? I'm gonna kill that monster, if it's the last thing I do! You people are CRAZY!

The Collector by Declan Finn. Evidently, there are some museum collections which will never be shown, because there is simply too much in storage, and not enough space. And there are other reasons, as well. Listen kids: Stay in school; don't hoard.

Yes, Neil D. Tyson, Pluto Is A Planet by Richard Paolinelli. A nice, old-fashioned, feel-good story about the average family on the average vacation. Well, average for SOME locations.

Okay; that’s it. Now, let us discover whether with this one completed, I can start cranking out reviews for the dozen or so I have in the queue.

Peace be on your household.

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