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Thoughts on Ascension – Part 1

This isn’t really a review because I don’t have the time or energy for that tonight. But I just watched the first part of Syfy’s Ascension mini-series and I feel like writing something.

Ascension promoThe show is pretty, and I have to give some to Syfy for their production and special effects. This is certainly a step above Sharknado. The premise was also interesting, with most of the show taking place on Ascension, a generation ship launched in secret by the United States sometime in the 1950’s. I wanted to know more about why and how this happened, however, which is not explained (at least in the first part).

When the show opens, a young woman on Ascension is murdered. The story follows the investigation of her death, with secondary plots involving a confusing number of cheating spouses, a strange little girl, and some brewing insurrection. A few scenes on earth are interspersed with those on the ship.

At first, the plot progressed logically, but as more twists came up and more characters became involved, the plausibility began to falter. Characters suddenly knew information that they shouldn’t, while others leaped to conclusions without any explanation of what led them to this. I could barely follow who was setting up whom for what. And as to why – well, I’d probably have to watch it again to guess at that, and I can think of at least a couple dozen better ways to spend another 90 minutes.

Photo by Tom, shared under Creative Commons license.

Here are a few other random thoughts:

Apparently, the standard procedure for surviving radiation is to go to sleep with the aid of a creepy breathing mask. Why would you need to sleep through the radiation? As long as you are in a shielded area, can’t you stay awake?

I don’t understand why the commander is elected position. If I understood correctly, he was once a working class guy from the lower decks. It is hinted that he saved some people from a fire and that propelled his political success. But – here is the problem. If he never trained to command a starship, how does he know how to do it? He acts as more than a politician, giving technical commands when the ship is in trouble. Clearly he learned that somewhere, but it defies my character logic.

Then there’s the big reveal at the end of the episode, which I won’t give any more specifics about. I don’t buy it. I doubt that this would have been possible to pull off.

Okay, so maybe this was a review. Who else watched Ascension this week? What did you think of it?

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Book Review – Kingdom of Cages

Catching up on some book reviews now:

Kingdom of Cages
by Sarah Zettel
Aspect (2001)

Kingdom of Cages is an older novel by Sarah Zettel and is the only work of hers that I have read. Set amidst a space-faring society, the novel focuses on the plight of a single mother, Helice Trust, and her two young daughters, Chena and Teal.

Human society is in trouble, plagued by the Diversity Crisis. I had a tough time figuring out what this really was, and to the best of my ability it was a collection of afflictions that are supposedly brought on a lack of genetic diversity, akin to a bottleneck phenomenon. However, it acted more like something infectious, and that is how the characters treated it, so I found the premise unbelievable.

With society in fear of the Diversity Crisis, many flee to Pandora, a world which seems to be unaffected simply for the reason that the inhabitants are kept in habitats separate from the ecosystems. This also didn’t make sense to me, because in the villages people breathe the air from the world and live in the trees.

Amidst this setting, Helice Trust and her daughters manage to make it to Pandora, but are misled about their roles there. The ruling body on Pandora has other plans for Chena trust, but cannot convince her to play nice.

I had a hard time finishing this book for several reasons. The story mainly followed Chena and Teal Trust, but wandered without a clear plot for much of the time. I never cared whether either one of them accomplished their goals, and Teal struck me as a spoiled brat, so I was actively rooting against her. Also, the antagonists were too similar and I kept confusing them through the entire book.

The writing itself was solid and did not distract me, so I would be open to reading another book by this author, but it needs to have a more logical premise.

Ken Liu Giveaway at Fantasy Scroll Mag

Hey, my friends over at Fantasy Scroll Mag are having a giveaway for Ken Liu’s first novel, The Grace of Kings. One prize is a signed copy of the book!

Other prizes in the giveaway package include a two-year subscription to the magazine and the Year One anthology e-book. It’s easy to enter, and you can make multiple entries. Check it out here:

Fantasy Scroll Mag Giveaway!

Want to avoid fencing injuries? Don’t be lax about the safety rules. Here are some true stories of what can happen.

The Fencing Coach

Capture

In a recent study on Olympic sport injury rates, Fencing ranked among the safest sports listed. Given the fact that Fencing is a combat sport rooted in duels to the death, it should come as a surprise that such a ferocious sport would be safer than say, Badminton or Table Tennis.

Yet, our equipment is (mostly) refined enough to prevent any serious bodily injury outside of pulled/torn muscles or cramps. Rarely does one see an injury related to impact with the intact blade, and if you’re wearing quality gear, most forceful hits feel negligible in terms of pain.

The more comfortable we get with safety, the more more our attention to safety can slip away. As I’ll detail later on in this post, I’ve been guilty of this myself. Sometimes you’ll see folks bouting only wearing shorts without knickers. Sometimes the underarm protector will be forgotten. I’ve seen an instance where a…

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