I’ve been doing research for my next novel, Software by the Kilo and have always had a strong interest in World War II. Part of the novel takes place in Italy in World War II, one scene in particular during the bombing of Bari, Italy. Few people are aware of this bombing, which at the time was referred to as “Little Pearl Harbor”. As with Pearl Harbor, the Allies were caught completely unawares, this time because they were certain their airforce owned the skies over Italy. There wasn’t a single German bomber shot down, and the pickings were easy because the Allies had lights on in the harbor to speed the unloading by working at night.
There was mustard gas on one of the US Merchant Marine ships, the John Harvey which was destroyed in the bombing. The gas was being transported to Europe to be kept if needed for retaliation in the event Hitler used chemical weapons. This fact was covered up by both the US and British governments for a while, and it contributed to the deaths of many civilians and servicemen.
The table below compares Pearl Harbor with the bombing at Bari. (more…)
My friends at SFSignal.com invited me to interview Michael Hanlon about his new book Eternity: our next billion years. Michael is the science editor for the Daily Mail in the UK. His book goes against the current doomsday grain and looks through a future where us humans are still hanging around. It is split into three parts: near future (new few centuries), mid-future (few thousand years) and far-future (the point where the Earth will actually die, a billion years hence). The chapters are mostly science essays, but there is some sprinkling of speculative fiction in the later chaps.
Michael’s book covers a wide range of topics including how the geo-political landscape may change in the next few years, what languages we might be speaking, how drought, famine and over-population will affect the world, the singularity, things that he doesn’t think will happen, things that would change the course of history if they did happen, and others.
After the break is an excerpt: (more…)
Philip Jose Farmer has long been one of my favorite authors, with his Riverworld and World of Tiers series ranking high on my list of enjoyable speculative fiction series. The Doc Savage series has also been a long time companion.
Escape from Loki is PJF’s take on Doc Savage at 16, a pilot in World War I, shot down behind enemy lines. He meets Monk and Ham (who are also hiding from the Germans) but is eventually captured, and meets the Baron Colonel von Hessel, who somehow knows Savage is being trained by his father into some kind of “superman” (interesting shades of the German “master race” in the next war). Young Savage escapes, steals a plane and is shot down. While being transported on a train to a secure prison he encounters Renny and Long Tom, who escape by knocking a hole in the side of the train. Doc escapes himself, but is again recaptured. A three-time escapee, he is sentenced to Loki, an “escape-proof” prison, which Doc and his united five companions, of course, escape from.
Farmer’s Doc has many differences from Lester Dent/Kenneth Robeson’s Doc: (more…)
Dan Brown attempts to do for Washington D.C. and the Masons what he did for Paris, Rome and the organizations such as Opus Dei from The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. As usual, interesting, somewhat intricate story and well described places, but the ending gets a bit preachy and there is one story point that I either missed or is confusing (see the end, spoilers at that point).
Robert Langdon gets tricked into coming to D.C. thinking he is filling in for his friend Peter Solomon, who also happens to be the leader of the 33rd and highest level of the Masons. But Peter has been kidnapped and tortured by Mal’akh, a man who has infiltrated the 33rd level of the Masons and who wants Langdon to figure out where the Masons have buried the “Ancient Mysteries”, using clues the kidnapper has gotten out of Solomon, combined with an artifact Langdon was entrusted with by Solomon. Before Langdon can get started, the CIA (Director Soto) mysteriously appears, stating that this is a matter of national security.
What follows is a chase through the landmarks of D.C. and a race to diagnose a pyramid, combined with the capstone Langdon was keeping for Solomon, which shows the symbols that lead to the buried “Ancient Mysteries”.
Some minor spoilers below (but not the ending or storyline surprises). (more…)