Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Musical Interlude: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, "Mastermind"

This is totally on my wish list.

A Tale of Two Androids

I think at this point, we can all agree that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. Regardless of what Newt Gingrich might think, assuming that he does think at all, or the fondest hopes of the Paultards for a brokered convention (Please. I could use the entertainment.), he's going to be the guy who gets to lose to President Obama on the first Tuesday of November (Cthulhu willing).


The problem with Willard "Mittens" Romney is that in a time when the economy could, at best, be described as "meh" for most people, he is rich. And not only is he rich, but he's like a caricature of a millionaire. He talks about how he doesn't follow NASCAR a lot, but he has friends who own NASCAR teams. His wife owns two Cadillacs, and his renovated house in California will apparently have a garage large enough that he'll need an elevator to move his cars around. He tried to pander to Wisconsonites by joking about the time his Pappy moved a factory from Michigan to Wisconsin. When he went to college, he paid for his apartment by selling stock Pappy gave him for his birthday. I think what we've got here is a failure to communicate.

And you might say, "Dude, you're being unreasonable when you expect a millionaire born to a wealthy family to connect with ordinary people." The problem with that line of argument is that the 43rd President was a millionaire born to a wealthy family, and he spent eight years in the Oval Office. Not only that, but both Dubya and Mittens were born to politically connected families. The difference between them is that Mittens can legitimately claim to be a businessman of enough skill to have made some money, even if it came at the cost of American jobs. Before Bush became Governor of Texas, he basically failed into one company after another.

But one of them was someone a lot of Americans could relate to enough that they could picture sitting down with him and having a beer with him, while the other is stiff and awkward around potential voters, and doesn't know how to pander. Say what you will about Dubya, he at least seemed like a reasonable facsimile of a regular American. His policies may have been disastrous, and he may have left office with Nixonian approval ratings, but he had a modicum of personal charm.

I think the difference can be expressed in fictional terms by comparing both of them to notable TV androids. In this analogy, Bush is one of the skinjobs from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He looks and acts human, and only when you dig beneath that exterior do you find the heart of a robot bent on exterminating humanity.

Bush cylon

Mittens, on the other hand, is Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's obviously not entirely human, even though he tries to act like a human, and it doesn't take a keen observer to detect this. He's making a valiant effort to seem human, but it doesn't come naturally to him, and it's pretty obvious.


I'm sure he's desperately hoping that doesn't turn out to be a problem in November.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: The Host, by Stephenie Meyer

Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction.

I managed to finish this book, though it was a near-run thing. I'd heard that it was better than Twilight, and that is true, I suppose. Twilight was terribly painful, but the fact that this was "science fiction" meant that I could focus on the SFnal elements, as opposed to the incredibly boring characters.

So, let me tell you about these characters. The narrator for most of the book is a parasitic alien who has gone throughout the universe, and has now arrived on Earth, which has mostly been assimilated by the aliens, aside from a few pockets of renegade humans. The problem I have with the aliens, as opposed to other parasitic aliens, like, say, the Yeerks from the Animorphs series or the Goa'uld from Stargate, is that these aliens don't seem like tough opponents. They don't seem like the sort of species that would accumulate a space empire. They don't seem threatening as antagonists. Anyhoo, everyone talks about how strong the narrator is, but she runs away from her problems rather than face them, and when she can't run away from them, she just finds some dude who is strong enough to protect her, which is INFURIATING.

The second main character is Melanie Stryder, the girl whose body the narrator inhabits. At first she seems more interesting than the narrator, since she survived the apocalypse that swallowed up most of humanity, but when she and the narrator find her lost True Wuv, she melts into this babbling useless mess which is ALSO INFURIATING.

Then there are the survivors, who are quite a cast of characters, if by "cast" you mean "interchangeable bunch of ciphers", for the most part. There's crazy Uncle Jeb, who made the surprisingly large complex of lava tube caves, the adamantly anti-alien Kyle, and Ian, who falls in love with the narrator for some reason.

At any rate, as you might imagine, if you know Stephenie Meyer's books, the climax is resolved too easily and all the heroes end up paired off in heterosexual True Wuv relationships. If you have the opportunity to read this book, find something better. Something like, say, Charlie Stross's Laundry series (which has a new book coming out this summer) or Daniel O'Malley's recently published urban fantasy The Rook, both of which take place in Britain and are much more interesting.

Verdict: The tagline on Stephenie Meyer's website for this book is "Science fiction for people who don't like science fiction," but it's more like "Science fiction for people who don't understand science fiction."