Review: Sam Gunn Omnibus, Ben Bova (2007)

I read this book years ago, and then I read it again, and again, and just recently… you guessed it, again! Sam Gunn Unlimited is the culminated tales of a 21st Century scoundrel, pioneer, visionary, conman, lothario, hero and villain, the man who single handedly (with a lot of help from a lot of people.. umm…) dragged mankind kicking and screaming from Earth and out into the Solar System, and maybe beyond?

Sam Gunn is the focus oh the book, but he’s not the protagonist, the story really follows a news reporter born and raised on the moon as she learns about the mysterious loved and loathed figure of a man, a former astronaut, operator of the first space hotel, the man who took commercial passengers into orbit for the first time, a cruise liner captain sailing the outer belt for asteroids, this larger than life figure, who was really short, a man who chased and was chased by women in amazing adventures.

See, what I just did there is what most of the characters in the book do, allow Sam Gunn to overshadow everything. In fact, Jade is a fascinating character in her own route, an outsider in a nation of outsiders, the first space orphan, she can never go to Earth due to a genetic condition, but through force of will, she jumps careers from manual labour on the moon’s surface to that of a reporter, giving her the resources, (with some corporate wranglings), to really dig into Sam Gunn and get people to tell her their stories of the greatest reprobate in the Solar system.

Jade’s story sets up the framing device Sam Gunn’s story, she interviews people and then the story switches to those people’s narratives, as unreliable a narrator as you could possibly want, making each story seem personal, but sometimes inconsistent. Perspective is everything, and it’s fascinating.

I mentioned that Sam Gunn even in absence, tends to overshadow everyone, but as with Jade that doesn’t mean the characters, the story tellers, Jade’s supporters and antagonists, they’re nearly all rich, you learn their histories, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and their shames.

Sam Gunn’s life itself, is a story of an entrepeneur trying to make it rich on the new frontier, every step of the way he’s trying to push that frontier a bit further out so that he can net the profits while everyone else plays it safe and follows in his work. As is a common theme in Ben Bova’s stories, the corporations are the main antagonist in the story, they’re constantly trying to trick, cheat, or outright threaten our eponymous hero, but don’t worry Sam isn’t really a hero, as he’s more than happy to try and trick, cheat, and threaten them.

I love the scope of this book, it covers the preternaturally long life of Sam Gunn from his early days in NASA, until it catches up to the stories’ being told about him by Jade. There’s some fascinating discussions on the legal, ethical, and logistics of future space travel and colonisation. It has a fantastic finish, which leaves you wanting more from the cast of characters that come together at the end.

Literally the only thing I would change about this magical collection of stories is to embed more into the Grand Tour series, however as history is in places significantly different, and I think (off the top of my head), only one characters crosses over into Sam Gunn’s universe, I can see why it’s an independent story.

And one last note to add, and I’ll preface by saying this isn’t paid advertising, my most recent go through with Sam Gunn I did via Audible, where they had a tremendous multi-cast recording, so as you broke off into each of the different narrators it was a different voice, which really embedded the feel of the novel in a way single-voice recordings ever could. Really made you consider the biases, and the untrustworthy elements of the narrator. So I’d highly recommend if you want to experience Sam Gunn yourself, and you don’t have the time to sit down and read the whole thing, check out the Audible version. (Also it’s the Omnibus version, I previously only had the Sam Gunn Unlimited, which didn’t have the last few stories.. so that was a pleasant surprise to find out there was more to the story).

What I Blog About

So, let me make something clear – I’m in no way a successful writer, I’m not published, I enjoy telling stories and one day I may hit upon something I’d want to publish, but my craft is no where near where I would want it to be for that. I am an aspiring writer, hence the title of this blog,

I also really appreciate, and like to look at other people’s stories, which is why I’ve been adding in stuff about story telling from other writer’s, and other media. Now reviewing, or essaying about these is relatively new to me, and I’m early into honing it as a skill. I will improve though. I don’t think I’m going to ever be up there with the YouTube channel Movies with Mikey, who I highly recommend:

I can aspire though, and that’s what I’m all about. I will still be doing posts on the craft of writing, as I work out my way to becoming a half decent writer.

This isn’t a movie blog, but…

So, at the moment I’m really excited by a couple of movies coming up, the first for literary reasons, and the second for reasons nothing to do with writing but another interest of mine, (and it’s an excuse to talk about a non-writing passion).

There are spoilers ahead for the Le Mans 66 and new Dune movie, I’m feeling passionate about both, so I’m not self censoring – so it’s hidden behind the cut.

Continue reading

The 100 Follow Up

So a very quick follow up to my The 100 post…

I finished watching the show up to the end of season 5 – and season 5 was actually a good show that I wasn’t hate watching. Which makes me feel so much better, as I don’t like to think of myself in such a negative light, I may look miserable all the time, but I’m actually an optimist at heart.

Now, my own story based on the premise of The 100 came out pretty well, I didn’t write it out, just plotted it, did some art work to design my stations and space craft. It was just a thought exercise in effect to fix the problems in The 100. It also let me experiment with some different plotting techniques to get that story idea laid out ready to flesh out with words.

So nothing written, but great success anyway.

I’ll do a future post laying out that plot, the reason I’m not going to write it is because it’s literally derivative, while it was distinct from the original, it wasn’t an original idea in of itself. It’s okay to write something that’s not original, if you came to it independently and did some different things with it, it’s just one of those things. It is truly different to come up with something entirely new, and that’s what I’d prefer to do.

But again, the subject of originality is a post for another time – because it’s one of those that requires a lot of thought to say anything rational.

So this is a largely purposeless post, just following up on my rant, now on to some new things.

It’s been a struggle to get going…

While bored and looking for something to watch stumbled across The 100… so much stupid, poor storytelling, poor science.

I think I can do better, so I’m plotting out a better version of The 100, in detail. We’ll call it inspired by The 100, with some inspiration from Battlestar Galactica, FireFly, and Space: Above and Beyond – so there’s a bit more scope, more science, more interesting stories going on, and an ensemble cast of characters that are interesting and useful.

Still keep the dichotomy of a space side story and an Earth side story, with the challenge of little interaction between the two – but it wouldn’t just be a throw away plot line for series one/book one. However it wouldn’t be an overall recreation, it’s my own story – but inspired by the idea.

Yeah… I’m bored.

I’m also casting through idea after idea recently, nothing really sticks, so not been writing much of late. Plus there’s been other things on my mind, and other distractions, challenges and catastrophes, and some serious life shit going on. But once again, I’m going to try and get going.

Confession… I Failed NaNoWriMo

Yes – all that preparation, all the practice and warm up, and it didn’t add up to a win. A lot of stuff going on personally and professionally, plus I’ll admit there were more frivolous distractions like Red Dead Redemption 2, (great game), also listening to the Lord of the Rings novels, (great story, but so horribly written).

I made it to 28,469 words, and at the point where I stopped, I was still ahead of target. It wasn’t that I’d fallen behind, and just couldn’t catch up, I just disengaged and couldn’t get restarted after that.

In fairness it didn’t start great, struggled to get going until day 3, but with a sudden change in plot I flew off.

So, next up I’ve got to start writing again. No good dwelling on it, this post is to put a line under it. Going forwards I’m going to put the failed novel on the back burner – it was promising for a while, but it needs a good rewrite to fix some problems and let it flow again.

So, have some ideas for stories I’m going to explore with some plotting, and maybe the odd short story will come from those as a beta test. Also there’s an old story idea I want to revisit, if I’d written at the time it would have been very forward thinking, still is – but instead of being predictive, now it’s more stretching reality to it’s limit. Really have to strike while the iron is hot with an idea.

Anyway… went away to do NaNoWriMo, and should have come back earlier – I didn’t, but I’m back now. Let the writing commence.

And lastly – a sentiment just saw online – fail better. That’s definitely the goal for the next project.

Block Breaker #6

Block breakers are short stories, random ditties for which the only real purpose is to write something, anything when Writer’s Block strikes. Quality, verbosity, fidelity, consistency – none of these words apply. Just write or die.

So I’m procrastinating from prepping for writing, by writing… here we go again!

A figure, dressed in loose grey overalls stepped out of a car. He picked his way through the carnage strewn all around the city plaza.

“Stop this!” cried out the Gargoyle, “I’m here.”

From above a body hit the ground with a thud.

“Aww fuck, no, come on no,” Gargoyle said with despair in his voice, “Why’d you have to do that?” He was stood over the body that had fallen, a bloody and broken costumed man, he was so bloodied that there was no way to tell where the open flesh and the red of the costume began in the darkness.

“Just another fool wanting to play hero, no true power,” a deep female voice said, as a cape-clad white costumed woman floated down from the sky.

“This was all so meaningless,” the Gargoyle said, “You didn’t need to do any of this.”

“Of course I did,” she said as she landed lightly on her feet, “They were pretenders. Running and flying around thinking they were good enough, strong enough, to be paragons.”

“And why am I here?” the Gargoyle asked, “You wanted a witness from another time to see you beat them all?”

“No,” the woman said shaking her head, “That would be cruel and meaningless. No, I called you out so I can test myself against the best.”

“I’m an old man? Whatever I was or wasn’t, I’m hardly that now,” the Gargoyle said.

“Oh,” the woman said, over dramatically scratching her cowl, “You would think I’d have thought of that. The Gargoyle hasn’t been seen for nearly sixty years.”

“If you just want to kill an old man, go ahead,” Gargoyle said, “Finish all this with me. Kill me and vanish, leave this world in peace.”

“Don’t give up so quickly,” the woman said, “I have a plan. I need to face you in your prime.” She appeared to flicker for a moment, like a bad television image, and then suddenly she had a device in her hands, which she pointed at the Gargoyle, a beam of light emitted from it striking the old man who cried out in pain and collapsed.

Gargoyle struggled on the ground and started to drag himself back to the car, in pain and screaming all the way.

“I will be here tomorrow night Gargoyle. Come and face me, or I will rip this continent apart, fairly sure that should kill most of the people on it. Understood? I should think so.” Suddenly the woman vanished, flickering out and not returning.

The Gargoyle continued to drag himself along the ground, until the pain became too intense, back arching, a high pitched squeal wailing into the air, his arms and legs were thrusting out uncontrollably, with energetic pulses spreading all over, causing bulges all over his limbs.

It was over an hour until the attack stopped. By then the army had turned up and dragged the Gargoyle into a guarded ambulance, where he remained unconscious.

“Take him back to base, put him somewhere private but spacious. This man is not our prisoner, treat him with all due respect,” an anonymous-looking suited figure said, before walking away.

Gargoyle moaned, starting to come to, and then awoke with a start. He looked around bleary-eyed.

“So you’re awake,” the anonymous-looking man stated.

“Where am I?” the Gargoyle asked hoarsely.

“Porton Down,” the man said, “We brought you here after the fight.”

The Gargoyle sat up and lowered his legs over the bed, and looked at his now thick arms, still in their grey costume. “There wasn’t much of a fight on my part,” the Gargoyle said looking over his body, at his thickened legs, he turned his attention back to his arms and then his hands flexing and then making a fist.

“I have a few questions,” the man said, “Four to be precise.”

“Can this wait?” Gargoyle asked, “I need to work out what she did to me.”

“Well that’s question one right there,” the man pointed out, “Who is she? In one night she fought nearly a dozen supes, and didn’t just win, she slaughtered them all. We didn’t even know Starman could die, she ripped him into eight bits with her bare hands. Fifty police officers all dead. Who was she?”

“I don’t know,” Gargoyle said, he was playing with his throat. “You kept my costume on?”

“You survived, that seemed relevant, figured you’d want to keep your anonymity. Mister Bramley, we know who you are though. We don’t know who she is. We can’t match her to any watchlist.”

“So Big Brother can’t help. I remember when all your super technology, and databases, were meant to be superheroes redundant, never quite came off,” Gargoyle noted, “But I’ve no idea who she is either. I got a message, I ignored it. I got another message, I ignored it, then I saw what was happening in the news and paid attention.”

“You ignored her email so she wiped out most of the superhero community in Europe?” the anonymous man asked.

“A few enterprising people over the years have worked out my identity, mostly nerds,” Gargoyle said, “Thought it was another of them. They come expecting stories,  maybe even see the power, some come looking for power.”

“Okay,” the man said, “So, the second question, you retired sixty years ago. How do you look so young?”

“I didn’t before. I was fifty when I retired,” Gargoyle said, “My powers apparently slowed my ageing, but I was still old and tired when I went to the plaza tonight.”

“Last night,” the man said, “You’ve been unconscious all night, it’s late afternoon. You still didn’t answer the question, how do you look so young?”

“She did something to me,” Gargoyle said looking at his clenched fist, “Hit me with some kind of ray. It was incredibly painful, I could feel my body changing rapidly.”

“So there’s some kind of technology,” the man noted, “That helps narrow it down. If her powers are technology-based we can search through the universities, labs, and such.”

“Third question?” Gargoyle asked, “We don’t have long. She said I had to face her tonight, or she would destroy Europe.”

The man went to speak, then held himself for a moment, “Okay, so what do you intend?”

“Well somehow she’s made me younger, hopefully, my powers are there too,”  Gargoyle said jumping off the bed and doing a quick squat, “I guess I’ll have to face her.”

“Or you could let us handle it,” the man said, “We have facilities and tools to deal with criminal supes.”

“If you want a pop at her, go right ahead,” Gargoyle said, “But I’m going to be there. I can’t let her kill any more people.”

“Do you think she could destroy Europe?”

“I don’t know,” Gargoyle said, “I fought a god once, it was back in the late fifties. He had enough power to destroy the world, nearly did.”

“He was still beaten though,” the anonymous-looking man stated.

“Yeah, but it took everything I had to contain him, keep him occupied, and in the end, it was a magical talisman that took trapped him. The talisman with Wolfenden is being kept safe, isn’t it?”

“It’s locked in a vault, the location of which we don’t share, it’s secure,” he paused, “Do you think that’s what she is? Gods tend to be quite archaic, she used some kind of ray technology you said.”

“That’s your fourth question?” Gargoyle asked, surprised, “I’m fairly sure I know who you are. There are rules.”

“I wondered,” the man said, “But couldn’t waste a question on it. And yes, you’ve caught me, I’ve wasted a question, you may as well answer.”

“We met in the in nineteen forty-nine,” Gargoyle noted, “Think you were dressed in the same clothes. Anyway no, I don’t think she’s a deity.  She didn’t have that ageless quality you or Wolfenden have.”

“You need to test your powers,” the enigmatic figure said, “If you’re going to face her, you need to be at your best.”

“Listen, you did me a favour maintaining my anonymity,” Gargoyle said, “So here’s the answer to a question I suspect you wanted to ask. The answer’s no, well probably not.”

“Then we may as well make our peace with the universe,” the man said, “Because in your prime, I’m fairly sure you could have beaten me, and I grew up on Olympus.”

“Just get me back to the plaza,” Gargoyle said, “Just get me back there in time for tonight, I’ll do my best. You might also want to consider bringing supes from outside of Europe.”

“So you showed up, nice new look there Gargoyle, or should I say old look?” the woman said floating down softly to land on the cobblestoned plaza. The area was still carnage, though the previous night’s bodies had been removed, and little yellow flags had sprouted up all over.

“I can’t let you hurt anyone else,” Gargoyle said, his voice deep and intense.

“Well you’ll have to beat me then if you can,” the woman said laughing.

“I appreciate this young body, it feels a little weird,” Gargoyle said, backing off, “Besides there are apparently processes for these situations.”

“Oh?” the woman asked.

Just then, streams of blue rushed from atop buildings and high windows striking the woman, encasing in her in a blue field. Two figures in body armour came running in carrying large devices and threw them at the woman, the devices rushed towards the woman from the front and rear and grappled together encasing the woman in steel.

The woman collapsed to the ground as the blue sphere faded away.

“Hahahahaha,” she laughed maniacally.

“What’s so funny?” Gargoyle asked approaching, an army of body-armoured figures emerging from all around, weapons raised behind him.

“Oh these human games,” the woman said, and seemingly with a flex of her arms, the trap cracked, then she spread her arms wide and the metal device fell away sparks and smoke flying from it.

The collective body-armoured figures all opened fire, spraying the woman with more of the blue light. She continued to laugh maniacally.

Then suddenly she stopped, her attention snapped to the armed men all around, and then she flickered, and within the blink of an eye all the figures were suddenly collapsing to the ground, and black-clad figures were falling from rooftops and high up windows.

Gargoyle and the woman were the only ones left standing.

“Is all that you know death?” Gargoyle asked disgustedly.

“Yes,” the woman said, “But I didn’t kill the little mortals.” Her words were immediately belied by bodies falling from the roofs hitting the ground. She looked around, bemused, “Well mostly didn’t kill them. They’re so delicate.”

“So you’re a god then?” Gargoyle asked.

“Nope, not exactly. You ready?” she asked, “I’m getting bored of waiting, would hate to have to wipe a whole continent to get you in the mood.”

Gargoyle got into a read stance, “I’m ready,” he said, the skin visible from his costume visibly went grey and stone-like, his eyes burned amber, and his whole body seemed to grow filling out the costume even further.

The woman flickered, but suddenly she appears grabbed by the next by Gargoyle.

“Seen that trick enough,” he said.

“Hah”, she lashed out with her elbow into the side of his head sending him flying through the air several feet and crashing into the side of a building.

Gargoyle picked himself up, and shuck glass from himself, stepping out of the building he faced the woman.

“You don’t disappoint,” the woman said.

“Talk or fight,” Gargoyle said, charging forward with unbelievable speed, his right fist swing out, it’s arc passing through where the woman had been the briefest moment earlier until she flickered away.

Gargoyle flew from his feet, rolled in midair and then carried the roll through back onto the ground and letting the moment spring him back to his feet. He searched around for his opponent.

“Face me!” he yelled, fury filling his voice.

From out of nowhere the woman appeared flying through the air, she grabbed for his neck and using the momentum of her flight to spin around as if to break his neck.

Gargoyle braced himself, and the woman lost her grip and fell away, he followed her momentum, kicking her while she was prone, sending her body skittering across the ground into a pillar from the front of a skyscraper.

The woman got back to her feet, “Well that…” she started to say, but Gargoyle was already on her, with a double-fisted pump to her midsection, immediately followed by an uppercut that sent her flying back into another pillar.

The woman kicked herself from the rubble, propelling her self forward into a crunching spear into the Gargoyle’s midsection, paying him back. She went in for a punch, but Gargoyle blocked it with his left, arm, and then followed immediately with a headbutt to her face.

The woman staggered back, shaking her head, then her eyes flashed red.

Gargoyle charged, but with perfect timing, she shoved the Gargoyle to the side, letting his momentum beat him leaving him sprawling on the floor. The woman flickered, and suddenly appeared a hundred meters up, she orientated herself on the downed figure of Gargoyle, and started falling towards him picking up speed, then she flickered out.

Gargoyle was just picking himself up, when suddenly she flickered back into view mere inches from him, her fist slamming into him with such speed and force that he was driven into the ground, and the cobbles beneath exploded into shards and dust as the Gargoyle’s rock form sunk nine inches into the ground.

“Oof!” he exclaimed, as the woman bounced away, rolled and landed on her feet.

“Excellent,” she said, “You are most excellent.”

“Talk or fight,” Gargoyle said extricating himself from the hole he was in, raising himself painfully to his knees.

“You said that already,” she said.

“You talk too much,” he suddenly lurched forward, his momentum from rising pushing him into a sprint, powerful leg muscles straining as they propelled him forward with every ounce of his speed, turning him into a massive fast-moving juggernaut.

The woman flickered appearing just to left again and reaching out to push him aside again.

Gargoyle speeding towards where the woman had been, was already spreading his arms out ahead of him, and as he reached where she was pushing, he grabbed her rest, and then purposefully missing his step, sending his hulking form crashing down into the ground with tremendous force, and wrenching the woman from her feet, and round with him as he rolled.

He maintained his grip and followed through the momentum bringing her smashing into the ground with force enough to shatter the cobbles again.

From launch to smash took the mere briefest of moments.

Gargoyle wasted no time, he pressed home his advantage by rolling onto her, grabbing her by the thick strong hair and smashing her head into the ground repeatedly.

Amidst the pressure of his brutal attack, she bucked for all her worth, eventually dislodging him, then she shoved him back.

“Wait!” she shouted, as Gargoyle got into a ready stance, “I choose talk”.

The Gargoyle held in his stance, but didn’t make to move forward, “What’s there to talk about?”

The woman raked mud and stone from his face, then pulling a cloth from a hidden pocket, she wiped her face to clear it. Then she looked back at the Gargoyle, “Okay, I yield.”

“What?” he asked dumbfounded.

“I yield. It’s the only rational choice. You’re as strong, fast and smart as promised, you can’t beat me, but I don’t think I can beat you, so I yield,” the woman said, looking visibly relaxed.

“I don’t understand,” the Gargoyle said, “Why would you go through all this death and destruction just to yield?”

“I needed to find the strongest mortal this planet had to offer,” she said, “Now I have, and I can’t beat you. Well unless we go super extreme, I imagine even with your powers after a day or two, you’d be too exhausted to go on, and then I’d finish you. And if that didn’t work, I could fight you for a few decades, until your old again. Wouldn’t be a real victory though, daddy wouldn’t accept it as a fete of strength.”

“Daddy? Fete of strength? You’re a child of Ares?” Gargoyle asked.

“Ares? No, I guess I can see why you might think that, but no. Poseidon is my father,” the woman said.

“So you’re a demi-god? You said you weren’t,” Gargoyle said, “And why would Poseidon want you to slaughter all the heroes? And so many people in this city?” His face was twisted with anger, confusion and disgust.

“It’s complicated,” the woman said, “I’m less demi-god and more mortal plus.”

“Well I don’t care,” Gargoyle said after a few moments thoughts, “You should leave her and never come back. If you come back, I will find you, hunt you down and fight you as long as it takes to find a winner between us, or I find something to contain you indefinitely.”

“I can agree to that,” the woman said.

“Just like that?” Gargoyle asked.

“Yes,” she said, “The power of the gods has been tested against the power of man, that was my mission.”

“What is your name?” Gargoyle asked, returning to his human form.

“Kora Euryale,” the woman said. “I will take my leave.”

Gargoyle went to speak but thought better of it. The woman, Kora, flickered out of sight and didn’t return this time.

A cadre of armed black body-armoured troops came marching in, with the anonymous-looking man at their lead.

“Is it over?” he asked.

“Yes, she’s gone,” Gargoyle said, “It was a stalemate.”

The man looked around at the carnage, “This was a stalemate?”

“Yes,” Gargoyle said, suddenly feeling tired, “It’s not good though.”

“Oh?” the anonymous-looking man asked.

“The god’s are planning on returning,” Gargoyle said, “The Olympian ones. They wanted to see what strength mankind had.”

“There are contingencies for that,” the man said.

“Sure. Hope they work better than your contingencies for a rogue supe,” Gargoyle stated.

“What now, for you I mean?” the man asked, “We could use your help.”

“Call me if you need me,” Gargoyle said, “I’m going to enjoy being young as long as it lasts, forgot to ask about that bit.”

The end.