Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

1931778This story and Coherence movie could greatly complement each other,though the latter one offers more thrill and grittiness to the concept.

In this first person narrative, a young man from the countryside shares with readers, his strange experiences at Harry’s all-nighter, where he worked his teenage days off. Harry’s All night Hamburgers could be considered as a Way Station, unlike Simak’s Intergalactic one, this version works on Interdimensional platform. Narrator encounters strange beings, multiple versions of same person and is occasionally seduced by the possibility of being an Interdimensional travel bug.

Most striking fact about this story is, that even in its pompous setting of parallel universes and wanderlust, it is essentially a pleasant travel motivation short. And the feelings I am left with, after the read, goes something like this.

I should make it to Banaras at least this year :).

full text available here for free read

 

The Crystal Spheres by David Brin

In this Hugo winning short story, David Brin looks back into our modern history to postulate a probable, though completely fictional explanation to Fermi Paradox. His interesting yet unclear universe includes Crystal Spheres – invisible envelopes, around every galaxy. Unlike the usual sci-fi route of metaphysical arguments, Brin’s Crystal Spheres are completely materialistic with seemingly protective intentions – like Kandor in Fortress of Solitude or dust cloud surrounding planet Krikkit in Hitchhikers.

Background of the story involves futuristic Earth with Interstellar travel and deep space dwellers,and Milky Way with ‘broken by accident’ Crystal Sphere. What troubles me is the entire breakage of so called gargantuan envelope in one single impact, whose physics and existence are completely unfathomable. God would have been like, ‘I need to shield every universe from each other, lets get the most brittle material for that’. Anyway, since then, humans were on an active SETI mission that ends in one solid clincher- unbreakable Crystal Spheres enveloping other universes. At the wake of the novella, a deep spacer is called for duty , on discovery of a broken Crystal Sphere, which could be humanity’s First Contact, and bright answer to many disappointing frustrated years.

cnhBrins argument actually aligns with the progressive Segan thought (aliens exists) and the relatively hegemonic yet pessimistic Hart- Tipler (where are they if they do exist) thought. Though fascinating and full of imagination, story didn’t work well with my rigid mind.

  • Included in The River of Time, collection, 1994, Bantam Spectra.
  • A well read audio version is available under this link starshipsofa

spoilers:

There were few things I couldn’t get my head around. Unnecessary word building, the whole idea of fixing cosmic stuff as Shards from Crystal Spheres and the voting out of night from Earth(?) would be a few. Also the incentive of meeting intelligent life seems far less convincing for suspended animation (or stuff) of a whole civilization (Natarals),since it practically bookends progress, leaving them inferior to the very intelligent life they seek so badly for.

The 43 Antarean Dynasties by Mike Resnick

Capture.JPGIn this Hugo winning short, Author intertwines the once glorious history of erstwhile Antarean Intergalactic dynasty and a guided tour happening in present through it’s remains. And a reader could relate with both sides, whether it’s the proud erudite romantic tourist guide, who is forced to chuck his pride and knowledge to make a living, or yokel earth tourists, keen only on the boasting rights and instagramming part of sight seeing.

Coincidentally I’ve been doing some readings on per-independent India and British Raj, while I came across the 43 Antarean Dynasties. Though panning over an Intergalactic scale, this story helped me understand the asymmetrical cultural shock and post colonial attitudes between the Orient and Occident, far better than any historical texts. Highly recommend.

“What is obscene to one being is simply boring to another”

A far better analysis can be found here, along with the free text to complete story http://martyhalpern.blogspot.in/2011/06/alien-contact-anthology-story-8-43.html

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a Nebula and Hugo Award winning novella and below review covers only the first installment of an ongoing series. An ambitious Wakandan-ish girl, also the very first person from her tribe to leave the planet, is left with the heavy responsibility of universal peace as some Romulans– ish race butcher her Starship,  which was on its way to Oomza University – this story’s StarFleet Academy.

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One is often insecure about his stand when it comes to registering his like or dislike towards a culturally or ethnically diverse work; which often leads to a personally unjust review, under peer pressure or the fear of being branded by the adjectives for intolerance, non progressiveness and their kins. I am unable to get my head around this old school racism or sectarianism, that forms the basic framework of Binti (also some how limited to protagonist’s particular tribe), considering the extremely diverse and pluralistic Intergalactic society, story’s universe is based on.

Okorafor is a really good writer, and I heavily appreciate the prose which consorted well with tribal girl narrative, and the non pretentious word/world/culture building; but as far as science fiction is considered, story is solid meh.

From a whovian perspective, the philosophy of Binti would be something like this – Hey, I can’t accept Martha Jones, but Sontarans are cool.

 

But, Afrotourism? Really?

also,

Bint(d)i- the red dot that decorates an average Indian lady’s forehead.

The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu

“The Universe consists of non-simultaneously apprehended events” – Buckminster Fuller
three-body-cover
There is this one particular scene where author explains how a 2D surface when unfolded contains more surface area for adsorption than its higher dimensional 3D form, with the example of a cigarette filter. Having given this analogy, Liu later cleverly segues into unfolding of proton which according to him is of 11 dimensions. This is the beauty of Three Body Problem, everything you require to pelt along the plot is right in front, kindling your scientific mind, like a Christopher Nolan movie.

I consider 三体 of a dimension higher than my usual perception, proper unfolding of which requires general understanding of engineering, physics, etiology, Chinese history, so on and so forth. Many allegories and references might have been lost in translation for English readers, who like me conclude the internecine civil unrest in China by a single red word – communism. Initial Red army prosecution of Zhetai for his reactionary ideas to the plight of Galelio or Brno, Red coast base for covert cold war weaponry, initial extremist transmissions for blind espousals, racial and communal fascism for officious government, scrupulous research for reservation of education, Trisolarian chaotic eras for Earth’s prime extinction events, ETC for religious invocation , miracles and religion in general were a few that caught my eye.
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As for the characters, though not coterminous, they were well developed for their roles, given proper background for their actions, allowing a character pov, from the Physicists Ye Wenjie, Nano research engineer Wang Miao to the arrogant Police officer Da Shi. The joy of discovering post convection zone reflectivity of Sun by Wenjie and the explanation of same was some of the finest science description I’ve ever encountered. Absolutely loved how they kept the mystery of Trisolarians till the end, though it was constantly teased through game plot of three body. Similarly the unfolding of Proton and the reaction of microcosmos on its first encounter with a higher dimension were highly thought provoking, bating the significance of our existence in the vastness of universe. And author was careful in keeping the Trisolarians on technologically comparable scale with their limitations rather than making them a highly Type 3 civilization.

I would advice a blind read, without any peek into the plot for the book cleverly holds back info, like the first Red Coast base did with Ye Wenjie.Perhaps the most science-y hard sci fi I have read till now, well written and translated, where it was way easier to consider the flummoxing science as something scholarly advanced than carefully crafted fiction. And Liu was considerate enough to give it a layman treatment where even the seemingly unintentional data dumps were secretly training readers for the intricacy of the plot that followed.

High quality of this book make me suspect a vastly unexplored sci fi scene from mainland China, which like Trisolarians, if could, would proton print these words to my retina.

“You are bugs”