The Godmakers by Frank Herbert

I seem to have a soft spot for science fiction novels with the word “God” in the title. And Frank Herbert’s name has some resonance for me. Although I am not a huge Dune fan, I do admire the novel, and quote weird funny lines from the film every now and again, in conversation. So I gave this a try.

It’s just okay, I guess. There are some Big, Weighty Issues presented, but the way they are tackled is disjointed at times, with some chapters meant to be payoffs turning out to be flops after unwarranted build up. This feels like the sketch of a better book, highly episodic in nature.

Once thing I do like is the disgruntled snarkiness of the protagonist, Lewis Orne, and the combative relationship with his asshole boss, Stetson. Orne acts like a really sulky son-of-a-bitch when he’s first called out and criticized, and to be fair, Stetson really rips into him with ridiculously funny churlishness.

One of the phrases in the book is “Gods are made, not born.” This makes some sense, actually, in the way that religion fashions gods, and in the other way that true “creator of the universe”-type gods ought not to have an origin story. Oh, and in the third way that there are priests literally making gods out of thin air by sitting in a circle and chanting.

The casual sexism is amusing, as a capsule of its time. Our hero encounters not one, but two fiercely female-led societies, one open and the other secret. The first is an authoritarian witch-planet that nearly kills him, and the second is a vast conspiracy of wives bent on manipulating their husbands into positions of power. Cool.

All these episodes culminate in a ordeal, a trial for Orne. It’s sort of a vague cacophony of religious mumbo jumbo that strains to hang all the ideas together, but just treads water attempting to do so.  The final confrontation works pretty well, though, evoking some swelling sense of awe, before the whole thing ends quite perfunctorily.

I did like some of it. 

I give this book a rating of 2.5 Helmets out of 5.

 

 

Blogging in the Time of Pandemic

So here we are in the thick of it, sequestered in our homes as COVID-19 spreads silently but surely through our communities. Terms we might remember from this time are “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” and “community spread”. I would imagine I’m not the only person returning to my half forgotten blog.

Another phrase I’ve heard a lot is that old adage “Perfect is the enemy of good”, which Google informs me is attributed to Voltaire. I might just go ahead and bust out a few blog entries without worrying about perfecting them, since they are mostly for me anyway.

Being home for now weeks on end with my wife and 2 year old son has been a blessing. What a wonderful time of his life to be so present in nearly every moment. It makes me also look forward to the day when he can read some of my favourite science fiction, and inspires me to record some of my thoughts on what I’m reading, and what I’ve recently read, in case that interests him at some point. Maybe he’ll discover some of these books in my library, or floating around in my Kindle cloud.

I use “recently” extremely loosely, as some of the most inspiring and affecting books I’ve read have been in these last 5 years or so. This past year I read The Disposessed, and finished the entire Expanse series. And before that The Starmaker blew my mind, and before that The Three-Body Problem series. These influences ought to figure prominently in my ever-germinating novel idea.

So here we go! Let’s do this thing.

Oh why the picture of Spam? I looked for a picture in my roll that suggested Pandemic, and nothing inspires you to buy and consume canned meat like seeing long lines to get into the grocery store.

Favorite Star Trek Episodes… To Hate

There are lots of people who write about their favorite Star Trek episodes, but I thought I’d try something different. I’m going to list my favorite Star Trek episodes to hate. To loathe. To rip apart, piece by putrid piece, on the Internet or at the pub.

You see, this evening I watched the notoriously bad Deep Space Nine episode “Profit and Lace”. It features Quark in drag. Yeah. Here’s the trailer:

I have all of Deep Space Nine available on demand from the cable company, and even though I profess to be a total Trekkie, I am woefully incomplete in watching the entire canon. I haven’t watched most of Voyager, only watched about a third of Deep Space Nine, and missed the back half of Enterprise. I’m told that Deep Space Nine is the best of all these, so I dove right into Season 6 and intend to watch to the end, before maybe starting again from the beginning.

So my wife and I have worked through most of Season 6 (pleasantly surprised), and came upon “Profit and Lace”. Afterwards, I turned to my wife and said “Weird, but that was pretty entertaining.” She said, “What the hell are you on? That was a nightmare. Maybe the worst episode ever.” I thought it was a funny take on women’s rights (Ferengi woman were finally given the right to wear clothes!) and it was progressive given how backwards Ferengi were about gender. My wife thought the whole episode was sexist and creepy and just… just horrible.

I agreed it was bad, but at least it was entertainingly bad. If I were to pick a worst episode at this point, it would have been a bit earlier in the same season. The episode was “His Way” and featured Odo learning to woo Kira from a holographic lounge singer, Vic. That episode was INTERMINABLE for me. We had to watch the improbably sentient and inexplicably powerful Vic sing an entire song while Odo pretended (yes PRETENDED) to play the piano.

However, the online vitriol against “Profit and Lace” is far more intense. It brings to mind the concept of fans targeting an episode that is so tonally different from the rest of a series that it becomes legendary in its badness.

For Star Trek: The Next Generation, that episode is probably “Samaritan Snare”, where a bunch of… simpletons, let’s say… abduct Geordi and force him to fix their ship. “We look for things. Things we need. Things that make us go.” Cringe. Nonetheless my brother and I still quote lines from it to each other, to this day.

My wife says the corresponding episode from Star Trek (The Original Series) is “Spock’s Brain”. I haven’t seen that in a long time, so I’ll have to re-watch that to see if I agree.

What’s your favorite Star Trek episode to hate?