The 45th Birthday Post

Time for a quick check-in and a Chucky Report for the occasion of my 45th birthday. I’d like to say these things are settling down and becoming more sensible, serious and mature over time, but … actually no, you know what? I don’t think I would like to say that. It’d be boring. I guess the old adage “you have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up” is going to apply here.

Also I have a lot of very silly friends and I mostly blame them.

These are actually a couple of the more mature ones. And I might as well include my nephew Walder in that.

I should backtrack a little, by explaining that living in Bar Äijä’s at this time and for about a week leading up to the party, we had none other than esteemed Hatstander Aaron “The Patriot” Sanders. Anyone who has spent more than a casual few minutes on the Hatstand will know him and his legendary opinions. He’d come for a lightning tour of Finland, and was very pleased to find that Bar Äijä’s doubled as a bed and breakfast. And when I say “doubled”, I mean “and make it a double.”

We welcomed our USian pal with a special celebratory sign (I mean the one on the left; I am aware there are several in this picture). I will not be taking further questions at this time.

So, the true hero of this Report, for the party itself and the days leading up to it while I was at work, is Mrs. Hatboy. Not only did she take care of a lot of the excellent dips and munchies and a huge amount of the planning for the party, but in between all that she put on her teacher, historian, and tour guide hats all at once and showed Aaron around, forcing him to walk many, many miles and see a lot of museums – including an exhibit of Tom of Finland.

I am reliably informed this was Aaron’s face on the metro on the way home from that trip. But that was more to do with the walking than the large throbbing slabs of leather-clad man-flesh.

Special thanks and kudos also go to Mr. BRKN even though he did not attend the party itself for the sake of his pure unblemished soul (and I can’t even argue with that at this stage). He did, however, provide a new barbecue for us (which we didn’t use yet but that’s not the point), and an excellent beer-bottle-shaped thingamajig that we upcycled into an ice box. His relentless scrounging at building sites is a source of great and constant joy to us all.

Anyway, he was there in spirit even if ironically it was the spirit that was keeping him away, also there were spirits at the party. But I digress.

The Level Up, found in a nerdy role-players’ cocktail recipe book, was coconut water and pineapple juice mixed with sparkling wine. It was also supposed to have a glass rimmed with honey and coconut flakes, but darn it, we didn’t want to make a mess.
Discourse was … also present.

Also attending the party were the regulars: my esteemed cousin-in-law Chris; the roleplayers Mikko, Elias, Saila (with her +1 Andre, that was a roleplay joke as well as a party joke), Kristiina and Linza; the Scots Daryl (and Skye, easily the most charming of them all), Wee Man and Chairman Dave; the Paloki Bella, Vuta and Wally; and additional guest appearances by Lionbride-in-retirement and long-time party attendee Jarmo, another cousin-in-law Wille (who I’m pretty sure showed up at around 2 or 3 in the morning), and Lili (who spent most of the evening inside doing a jigsaw puzzle and planning to buy a cult house with Linza).

Special kudos also to Linza for her generous but ultimately (I think?) unneeded car ferrying service to and from near-Hakunila regions in case of car parking spaces running out. And to Wille for his gift of a pocketful of Rammstein concert confetti, Chairman Dave for his almost-as-valuable magnet game that he found at a 1€ store, Vuta for his exceedingly generous gift of Laphroaig Lore, and Kristiina for putting in an appearance despite living like five hours’ drive away.  Also to Jarmo for bringing me an actual 45 record as well as a vitally important piece of official translation for our up-coming trip to Australia, and a bottle of limoncello. So – look, it’s not a competition, but (with the obvious exception of Mr. The Patriot crossing the globe and Lore being very fucking nice) Jarmo secured a win for that one.

I knew it was going to be a fun and exciting blending of synergies when I saw Vuta and Aaron sit down and start talking guns, and when debate turned to what things Scots had invented and were said Scots in or near America when they invented them, it all started getting out of hand.

I know it doesn’t look like it’s getting out of hand, but these images cannot adequately capture how many people Chairman Dave was calling cunts. 75% of those people were Aaron, but as I explained to him afterwards, if the Scots are calling you a cunt to your face, it means they like you. If they’re being polite to you, you can be relatively assured they’re saying really bad things behind your back.

The cultural highbrowity reached its blistering zenith when Vuta demanded to know a) whether the Scots were wearing underwear under their kilts; b) if so, why they were; c) why they weren’t taking said underwear off when he, Vuta, was certainly not wearing any underwear; and d) who they thought they were anyway. When his very obvious lie was revealed, he took a knife to his own underpants and cut them loose. Not very efficiently, but the point is, Mrs. Hatboy shouted at him and he decided to go for a piss and not come back not long after that.

Revels continued unabated.

There were some breakages, including a glass of jaffa belonging to Wally that I unfortunately knocked off a chair, and our giant glass bottle of bottle-caps that was underneath a falling extension-cord roll and absolutely exploded. I had a wheelbarrow of wreckage to carry down to the bin the next morning.

Wump didn’t really notice.

We continued in this idiom until quite early in the morning, when Wille turned up and then (I believe) the last men standing – Chris, Wille, Aaron and myself – agreed to call it a night and shuffled off to bed.

I’m probably forgetting something, but now I have to run.

Hatty birthday to me.

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The Audacity: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up for the SPSFC semi-finalists, I will be taking a swing at a review for The Audacity, Book 1 of the Audacity series, by Carmen Loup. As I already went overboard on Hitchhiker’s Guide comparisons with another book in our team’s semi-finalist set, I won’t bother too much with making the same set of comparisons here. Frankly, Douglas Adams made enjoyable surrealist sci-fi comedy and the world needs more of it. As my own work has also been compared with his, I feel a great affection and affinity for anyone in the same boat, especially when the boat is in space. Yes, this story takes a hapless human into mind-boggling alien environments just as Earth is being all wrecked up, and flings them down the slip-‘n’-slide of absolutely random adventures in the company of a frenetic grinning weirdo with a heart of gold (figurative in this case; the ship is actually called the Audacity) … but while Loup and Adams may share a spirit, Loup’s voice is entirely Loup’s own. And I salute them.

Nothing but respect.

From the opening scene of an alien watching Earthly TV to a couple of our protagonists meeting each other and revealing that their names are ‘May June July’ and ‘August’, you know what you’re getting into from the moment you open this one up. Probably even earlier than that, in fact – this is one case where it’s fine to judge the book by its cover (and title). Because they’re funny. It’s funny. This book is a good time.

When a giant alien ship called the Peacemaker, powered by a dwarf sun within which a parasitic Chaos God has been squatting (it’s a whole Thing), turns up near Earth and abducts everyone, blows up a bunch of shit, then returns them all with instruction manuals on how to do shit properly, the stage is set. Our main protagonist May (June July) escapes after her abduction and runs into August and Ix. Their daring escape goes awry and May ends up aboard the Audacity with Xan, our sassy I Love Lucy-loving alien from the prologue, and Ix and August end up flung into the past to continue their plot thread among a series of junkyard planets.

Yvonne, the head of the alien invader / organisers, is then possessed by Chaos in a way not unlike the events of Mantivore Dreams or The Chaos Job. Whether Yvonne would have been an enemy or not without Chaos being in control(ish) is a question for the philosophers, since a) a large number of alien pro- and antagonists are in love with her, and b) the invasion and rearrangement of Earth seemed to have been happening anyway but was just made worse by Chaos and assorted others, as well as being sabotaged by Chaos because … well, it’s Chaos. It’s right there in the name, really.

I found myself rather charmed by the time-travelly long-way-round subplot with August and Ix. I was left resoundingly uncertain how many angles there were in the inter-character love triangle, and since it was a wacky alien love triangle I don’t suppose it really needed to be a triangle anyway. I was also left at a loss as to what the main human characters’ names being months meant, if anything.

All the weird hijinks and adventures come full circle and they return to Earth for the big showdown, as slapdash and slipshod as you would expect these characters and this situation to dictate. Somewhere in the middle May and Xan had time to have a whole rocket-racing subplot and not really win anything or make any progress, everyone had a few cracks at the fourth wall, and we were left with a very satisfying cliffhanger and a generally fun read.


Pretty genteel actually, for a secondary protagonist who is a … gigolo? There’s a bit of sleazy dude action, and a bit of hot alien-on-alien on-getting in the final chapters, but all in all this is a civilised and fun-loving bit of sci-fi comedy and it doesn’t get too down and dirty in its charming idiom. A Deuce Bigalow out of a possible Deuce Bigalow in space for The Audacity.


We’re treated to some surprising moments of graphic violence nicely spliced into the witty patter. Generally tastefully handled though, so it wasn’t all that jarring. Just … merciless, really. The universe is bizarre, but that certainly doesn’t mean it can’t kill you in some horrendously inventive ways. Life lesson right there. Two flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.


Plenty, and nicely technicolour too! I can’t really list it all, but everything alien was beautifully alien and everything human was also beautifully alien. I was amused at the out-of-nowhere question about why spaceships would even have a self-destruct, and the subsequent realisation that so many spaceships in sci-fi seem to, and … why? They’re purely for drama, they can serve no other practical purpose. And no, “preventing the ship and / or crew from falling into enemy hands” is not a practical purpose. It’s drama. It’s a cyanide capsule tooth for a spaceship, is what it is. All in all though, this was just wacky surreal fun and I can’t say a word against it. My WTF-o-meter has given it a large alien slug inflated with helium and turned into a balloon out of a possible vending machine filled with strange alien underwear. It’s not for sale, someone just filled the machine up with pants and left.

My Final Verdict

The way Xan thinks of Earthlings is cute. The overall setup and mood of the story is cool, and the writing is very solid indeed. At the end, I was a little puzzled by May’s comment about getting a call and a job offer. I’m pretty sure she was being sarcastic and I was too tired to spot it. Overall this was pretty darn good, even if Douglas Adams did a lower-key and more subtle Douglas Adams impression in his day. Four stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale, 7.5 out of 10. I’ll round it up to 8/10 for the term “dastardly cleavage”, though.

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Exin Ex Machina: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up for the SPSFC’s 2022-2023 semi-finals, Team Space Leftovers is proud to present Exin Ex Machina, Asterion Noir Book 1 (aka. Amaranthe 11), by G. S. Jennsen.

Exin Ex Machina, Asterion Noir (Amaranthe 11), oh boy what a title. It all checks out though. It basically means “departure from the machine” or “out of the machine” in Latin, which is fun. Asterion is, I believe, Greek (“the stars”), and noir is of course French (“black / darkness / night”). As for Amaranthe, “Amaranthe as a girl’s name is of Greek origin, and the meaning of Amaranthe is “unfading”,” according to Google. What can I tell you, I got lazy towards the end there. The rest was totally me edu-flexing, though. I actually thought Amaranth was a song by Nightwish. Now I think about it, they’re probably referencing the same thing, although an amaranth is also a type of plant (still means “never-fading” though, and it’s in the lyrics of the song too). And don’t even get me started on armoranths from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

But I digress. Hugely.

Our story opens on a … kid? A robot? Our main protagonist, coming to with amnesia in an alley. There’s been some strange issue with her base programming, and she has no idea who she is. The fact that this prologue sort of coded Nika as a child made things all sorts of confusing for me for quite a long stretch of this book, but the simple fact is, there aren’t that many kids in this world.

Five years later Nika is head of some kind of rebel gang causing trouble for the establishment. The world slowly reveals itself to the reader and it becomes clear that these aren’t humans, not really. In this seven-hundred-thousand-years-in-the-future interstellar culture, the “Asterions” are considered robots by a lot of the alien species, and they habitually reload into new bodies / minds on the regular, every 300 years at the least-regular. Nika is one of the only newborn single-life people anywhere, and that’s only because she’s lost her past backups and so kind of acts like a kid, at least in terms of knowledge and experience. Not a newborn kid, or a five-year-old kid, but … something else.

How does Asterion civilisation even function? It seems close enough to humanity to be jarring, but I found myself wanting more and more to just dive deep and explore the reality of a post-human synthetically enhanced culture where people were functionally immortal and could be backed up and renewed at will – and minds could be re-written, erased, or placed in storage by the shadowy Guides. It felt like there was a lot more to explore there and the ramifications of their way of life would be far greater than what we see … but there are all sorts of other factors at play here as well.

The fossil fuel / whale oil of this civilisation is kyoseil, the fibres of which enable  the density of data storage and transmission that is required for reincarnation. It comes from a planet, Chosek, inhabited by inconvenient “primitives” … but this isn’t the point of the story either, just more backdrop. Which I love. The tale is interspersed with technical code-fragments that I confess I skimmed, but I got the gist.

Where were we? While Nika is acclimating to her new life and seeking justice for those forgotten by the Guides’ grand plans, some high muckety-mucks are looking for her. At first introduction – like I said, I was assuming Nika was a kid at this point – I thought Maris and Dashiel were her parents. When I later found out that Nika and Dashiel were damn-near-eternal lovers, it gave me a bit of whiplash but then I rolled with it.

It was a fascinating look at the possibilities of consciousness as entirely mutable data (although the phrase “maybe if you dialed down the autistic processes” made me splutter), and bodies as readily-renewable vessels. The fluid nature of identity and self, and how that search can be technology driven, all woven into a relatively simple story of amnesia-suffering protagonist up against a secret conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Indeed, we just begin to blow the lid off the whole thing when the story ends. A cliffhanger, but a satisfying one.

Nika makes some pretty dumb calls, the “betrayal” towards the end in the central tower was all a bit forced and contrived for the purposes of plot drama, but all in all I liked the characterisation going on. it was an exciting story that said very cool things about the human (“human”) condition. Speculative fiction at its most definitive.


In a classic cyberpunk and (literally right there in the name) noir world reminiscent of Blade Runner and Altered Carbon, sexy times abound in theory, off-page, and our protagonist has a couple of sexes. One nice sex with a casual boyfriend, and one very good sex indeed with her thousands-of-years life partner who really knows where her g-circuit is. All rather pleasant and heart-warming, really. Three chrome-plated robo-boners with LED-lit tips out of a possible five.


This one was a gory outing but the dismemberment and brutality was not necessarily permanent and therefore it all got a bit meaningless. As it explains in the story, people (Asterions) don’t generally bother doing gross violent shit to each other because the victims just re-up to a new body. Still, there’s some violence. Two quivering flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.


The emergent story has a lot of weirdness. I enjoyed the worldbuilding and backdrop and history a lot more than I enjoyed the narrative vessel through which we explored said worldbuilding and backdrop and history – and that’s saying something, because I was very happy with the surface plot as well. The extended lives and practices of the Asterions are strange, and – like I said – I concede defeat with the code stuff. I’m sure it means something but yeah, I sort of just sifted through it for some sign of a familiar clue. The Guides, and the plan they’re executing for the purposes of the wider series narrative, is … I mean, why aren’t they building more generation ships and getting out of there? Huh. The WTF-o-meter is giving this one seventeen kilobruhs where the red line for mind-blowing is somewhere around the twenty-five kilobruh point.

My Final Verdict

I did refer to this story as “Altered Carbon copy” at the outset, and that didn’t really go away – but I still liked it. More than I liked Altered Carbon, to be honest. The glimpses we get into the real story of the Asterions was fun – are they sentient robots (like the aliens called them) or post-humans? Where is the line, once technological and AI integration is complete? This was a well-written and very good story. I don’t know if I want to face the angst of a next book with its potential for Dashiel finding out about the casual she-didn’t-have-a-memory boyfriend, but this story in and of itself was fun to read. Four stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale.

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Intelligence Block: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up for the SPSFC semi-finals, I’m pleased to present Intelligence Block, of the Talos June series, by Kit Falbo. 1001011, 1000110, it says on the cover. Think about it. It means 75 and 70, in binary. Why? Who knows? Shut up, that’s why.

This was an easy-to-read and enjoyable mystery / adventure on the (almost literal interpretation of) the theme “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. We open on a fun scene where our technomage protagonist, oops, not technomage, I mean party wizard with nano / military illusion stuff … attends a kids’ birthday party and performs some cool tricks.

From this intro we learn that the Wizard Joontal is essentially a social media influencer and an entirely fabricated persona who does shows and mage-battles and stuff for entertainment. His real name is Talos June, and he’s a twenty-something kid who never breaks character as the crusty old wizard in the public eye (which, in this highly-connected future, is just about everywhere).

When the Wizard Joontal is targeted for for-real killing by people blaming him for shit he did back in the past that essentially never existed for the made-up persona, Talos is flung into an ever-complexifying situation where he is forced to retire his livelihood and go into hiding as himself, in order to get to the bottom of what’s happening.

Now, I’m not sure if I’m just a big inattentive dummy and I missed it, or if the story really did veer away and go into something else and we’ll get back to the Joontal Murder Mystery part at some later book. But what I felt was a very interesting look at a middle-distant-future entertainment industry and evolution of LARPing, roleplay and internet celebrity (to say nothing of the mystery of the persona and its apparent haunted past), instead turned into an also-interesting bigger picture about the UIs and their sentience. If the shift from one thread to the other was laid out and I missed it, maybe it could have been explained a couple of extra times because a few other plot points were nicely-adequately explained and repeated, but this one passed me by entirely. Combined with the strangely abrupt ending of the story, it left me … unsatisfied.

In short, the UIs are artificial intelligences, the next evolution of the smartphone that most people have with them as a companion, data reference, and in the case of performers like Talos, a projection system for their performances. The story behind them, and – as it turns out – the main plotline of the book, is an intriguing one. When Talos begins sleuthing his way through the mystery of Joontal’s would-be assassins, and finds a deep-nested flaw (an “intelligence block”, if you will) in the UIs’ programming, it leads him down a dangerous road.

Falbo has some issues with apostrophes. They’re almost random, and reminded me of the greengrocer’s from Pratchett’s Discworld “serie’s”. It was occasionally off-putting, but there was nothing here a good editorial round couldn’t fix. And I loved the spin on the “school of wizardry” trope for the future entertainment and media industry, with a fun flavour of 21 Jump Street as Talos goes undercover (as himself) into an academic world he is well beyond, despite his tender years.

What we got from this fun world and cool setup was an interesting and page-turny sort of story, although – like I said – it pivoted unexpectedly and didn’t seem to pivot back, presumably saving the full closure for later on in the series … and it ended too abruptly without any satisfying closure. I don’t know if you can pull off an Empire Strikes Back as the first story in a series, but I didn’t hate that this was what Falbo seemed to do here. Just … be ready for it to not actually finish by the end. An over-arching plot that doesn’t get a conclusion is one thing, but this one felt like it needed a bit more of an ending.

I also don’t know if I bought any of the dialogue and chemistry between Talos and Lily, but this is where it gets very strange. He was her Jedi Master when she was a kid and he was pretending to be an old man, and … I don’t know what the fuck that sort of relationship dynamic would sound like when the disguise is dropped, but it’s not this. Somehow. The relationship itself was sweet and Lily was given some agency by saying that she always kind of knew Joontal was younger than he pretended to be, and their age gap in the end couldn’t have been that much so her apprenticeship to another kid also doesn’t make much sense … but I was still left feeling obscurely queasy about the whole thing. This is as good a segue as any to the sex-o-meter.


We practically open on sympathetic company funded escort sex, points for sex worker positivity and the de-tabooifying of sex in general. When we move on to Talos having sex with the kid he mentored when he was in disguise as an old man, I mean he was in disguise as he was teaching her, he’s not when they fuck, um … anyway, it got a bit strange for me, although the whole romance was really rather pure and uncomplicated, which I liked. No angst. Talos is barely twenty himself and no more than a couple of years older than her, if that? Like I was saying, I don’t get the timeline of when she was a kid and he was teaching her. It seems weird and implausible but that doesn’t belong in the sex-o-meter’s variables-bucket. At least Talos / Falbo kind of acknowledges the ickiness of it, although I would have preferred a bit more thought on that matter. Maybe even not fucking on the matter. But okay, it happened and it’s fine. I give it a Ren fucking Rey out of a possible Obi-Wan fucking Luke on the sex-o-meter. There’s no happy way out of this, let’s just power on.


There’s a goodly amount of magical tech gore and some (actually quite a lot of) incidental deaths, but it’s blurred a bit by tasteful curtain-drawing and the clinical high-tech aspects. There wasn’t much in the way of confronting gore here. Two gobbets out of a possible five.


What the fuck is Dimi’s accent meant to be? And what the fuck is up with humanity being an interstellar and teleport-capable civilization, but that whole tapestry was never really revealed or explained in any way? I know I love an info-dump a little bit more than the average reader, but this needed something. Intelligence Block gets a nuclear wessels out of a possible uwuclear wewels on the WTF-o-meter.

My Final Verdict

I was super duper enjoying the culture and mystery-action of this story, and the cute if slightly cringey relationship thing, and then it just … ended? They went to Freedom Station, as was more or less telegraphed from the moment the UI bug was revealed as the main plot related to the Joontal assassination attempts, and it just stopped there.  I wanted more of a conclusion and some kind of connective tissue, because I was left with an overwhelming sense of “this was really interesting but what was the point?” There were also spelling and punctuation issues throughout, which was a shame but didn’t really take me out of the reading. Not very often, anyway. Three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale.

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Heritage: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

Next up for the SPSFC semi-finalists, I will be taking a swing at a review for Heritage, Tales of the Phoenix Titan Book 1, by S.M. Warlow.

This was a big one! Well worth the effort though, as it has that solid massive-foundation feel that comes with a chonker of a story.

A faceless horrible alien menace destroys Earth, and a vast military coalition takes care of those left behind after arriving too late to save everyone (thus setting the scene for one of the more interesting reveals later in the story). Out of guilt for their failure to deliver the human race from the Revenant, the Commonwealth gives them a retirement planet where they can just live in Universal Basic Income paradise forever. Cue some hustle-culture “being given leisure to pursue one’s own life goals results in laziness and a lessening of productivity” bullplop that I’m really getting tired of seeing in speculative fiction (I don’t know about you, but having to sit in an office for 60% of my waking life is not doing wonders for my fucking spark, y’all), but to be fair, a lot of people in Space Florida do seem to be dipshits so fine, we’ll let it pass. The story isn’t really about that anyway, but there are numerous threads of sociocultural and political examination running through the book that I found very interesting, although frustrating at times. The lens of an ignorant character made it forgivable, and encouraged me to self-examine. A good book will do that, and this was a pretty damn good book.

Anyway, yeah. The Revenant is threatening the galaxy, and the Commonwealth is fighting the good fight against them and providing safety – at the cost of everyone’s distinctiveness. Except the Evokers, who get to keep their culture because they have fucking superpowers. Enter Nathan, a survivor of Earth, small-time thief and haunted-past-haver.

When Nathan is sent on a job into a Commonwealth ship, he doesn’t expect to come face to face with an Evoker. But he does, and he’s still in the middle of giving her a mild-to-moderate male gazing when the ship is attacked by the Revenant and he escapes and crash-lands on a planet with a Commonwealth dude in a pod. So begins their journey to return to safety, find out what Nathan was really meant to be doing, and reunite with the Evoker whose heritage is the key to busting this whole thing wide open.

I felt there was a lot of potential in the setup and background of the story, even though by about 10% in I was floundering a little. I have to admit I was a bit put off by some of the clumsy anti-communist propaganda disguised as libertarian “government oversight bad, cooperation means eradicated individuality and diversity” stuff – even though, I hasten to add, I feel it was entirely intentional and not meant as a targeted attack on any specific present-day politics, so much as a broadside against how every human ideology flourishes by demonising and misrepresenting its opposing viewpoints. So the Commonwealth and its lifelong-indoctrinated inhabitants have their view of outsiders, and other groups have their take on the ‘wealthers, and all in all I dig that sort of thing. And the story, while on the surface being an adventure-quest for ancient alien weapons and the answers to deep mysteries, was also a loving examination of human interaction and beliefs.

It was an ideal setup to show how war, the war machine and a civilisation built on perpetual conflict is what will rob people of their individuality and creativity (while at the same time spurring the greatest and most terrible of inventions), not peace and plenty. It may not quite have lived up to that setup in my view, but the spirit was there. I was impressed at the viewpoints offered by Harrt, as the Commie Commonwealth point-of-view among the Capitalist and Anarchist worlds.

Were there issues? Yes, there were issues. I’m pretty sure Warlow used “homunculus” instead of “homogenous” at one point, and I’m 100% sure he used “populous” instead of “populace”. He used “you’re” instead of “your” which was unfortunate, and … look, it’s a millennium or just millennia, “a millennia” isn’t a thing. Nathan’s cynisim and selfishness was extraordinarily grating. He had his backstory reasons for this, but man. Also, Seig was on the nose. Like, Ronan-the-Accuser on the nose. Harrt could not realistically have expected to intervene in a mob goon loan collection deal and actually save the guy without dismantling the whole gooning mobbing loaning sociocultural structure, and yet he did. This was almost certainly intended to show his selfless idealism but it really just kind of showed that he was a dumbarse.

In this vein, I had a few random notes to close out with before we get to the meters, and I will dump them here without particular structure or planning. Because all in all, this was a big story and there was a lot going on, so I can’t do much better than a series of on-the-spot observations and then an overall vibe.

  • We finally get our characters on board the Phoenix Titan, possibly the point of the story and certainly the unifying thread of the ongoing book series.
  • A hundred and fifty feet (the Phoenix Titan‘s length) isn’t that big? It’s like fifty metres. The Commonwealth wossname Nathan tried to rob at the start was a mile long. It feels like things would be crowded on a fifty-metre starship.
  • David Jareth better not look like Bowie (spoiler, he kind of did if you read between the lines).
  • How do trillions of people fit in a river? That’s actually kind of cool. I liked the Revenant’s general aesthetic and construction. Good villain.
  • The Revenant don’t have allies or associates, but like two of the king’s main dudes were collaborator turncoats from the start?
  • There was a lot going on here by the end, with the alien origin humans and all. Some very cool scenes, imagery and concepts. Loved the scope of it.

Alright, let’s move on to the metres.


We are given one (1) sex, it felt almost obligatory and didn’t really fit, for me. The love-interest protagonists had very little interaction in relation to the size of the book, and very little in the way of chemistry except they were both … hot and existed? We would have lost nothing if they hadn’t fucked. Just saying. A YouTube Kids out of a possible HBO Max for Heritage.


Gross mutant space zombie missionary paladins versus techno commie marines, with plenty of dismemberment and blasting. Not super gory, but not not gory, either. Three gobbets out of a possible five.


All the WTF was happening in this one. The WTF ran all the way from the macro of the mythos and ancient history of the galaxy, to the micro of why Guttasnype was not just called Guttersnipe. I mean come on, he’s clearly an alien, that arrangement of syllables has already broken my suspension of disbelief and left me Fred Flintstoning along with my exhaust system of disbelief dragging along the ground behind me. Just call him Guttersnipe. Also, since I didn’t have anywhere else to put it and it reached the level of WTF to me by the end, Nathan’s decision not to shoot certain characters right in the face – while it certainly spoke volumes about his humanity and decency – was just unfathomable. Heritage gets an Ancient Aliens conspiracy theory out of a possible Ancient Aliens conspiracy theory generated by an AI so all their hands are fucked up.

My Final Verdict

Three stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale, a solid seven out of ten. I enjoyed this one despite the occasional times I had to shout at my Kindle.

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Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days: A Review

This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.

We’re running behind on our #SPSFC deliveries, so let’s get moving! Next up for our Team Space Leftovers semi-finalists is Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days, by Drew Melbourne.

I found myself halfway through this book with no notes whatsoever to make into a review. I was just reading the story and enjoying the crazy ride. This book is solid Hitchhiker’s Guide-level space fantasy, with added insane tech wizardry and world building, and a sprinkling of Space Nazis (although they don’t like to be called that). All in all, this story was a lot of fun and I enjoyed myself immensely.

Our tale opens on the titular Percival Gynt, accountant with a haunted past, and his non-titular but extremely cool umbrella, which almost certainly also has a haunted past. Percival meets a mysterious woman who steals (among other things) his hat and heart, and that’s where the trouble starts.

The year is 20018, a nicely exotic period in the future that still enables us to say “oh right, the 19980s were the ’80s, the 19940s were the ’40s, and so on.” The book is set, in fact, exactly eighteen thousand years after the year it was written. There’s still basically all the things we have today, just made a bit future-y. This kind of bugged me on some level, but I do get why the narrative device exists. We can’t go around making up entire new future histories, cultures, pop culture and restaurants. The reader wouldn’t stand for it anyway. So the result is a necessary dance between amusingly-and-comfortingly-familiar-shorthand and this-isn’t-even-a-thing-in-2023-anymore-why-is-it-a-thing-in-20018 – a dance that Melbourne performs with aplomb and very little tripping.

Things get a bit weird when Percival, and his new companions Tarot and Um, go to a giant cube in space made by a magician, but all I can advise for the slowly-panicking reader is – well, to borrow a phrase from the giants on whose shoulders we’re standing – don’t. Without revealing too much of the plot, which is a layered dessert of secrets and twists, back-stories and excellent science-fantasy concepts, I will do my best to explain what is going on and what I liked about it.

At the centre of our also-titular Conspiracy of Days is the concept that a machine, called the Engine, is destroying the universe. This has actually been going on for some time, but nobody really notices because part of destroying the universe is destroying it retroactively as well, so nobody actually knows or remembers what has gone missing – except the conspiracists with their backup data. A very cool concept for a sci-fi villain. It has some funky effects on time, memories, and character interactions and backstories, too. When the malevolent Driver is removed from the Engine and hidden away in a safe … let’s say ‘place’ … the immediate threat is defused – but for how long?

It’s up to Percival, his friends and family, and his many, many issues, to find the Driver and the Engine and stop the universe from continuing to always-having-been destroyed.

I greatly enjoyed the Adamsesque infodumps at the start of some of the chapters, and would happily have read a whole book (or at least a large appendix or wiki) of just those amusing and interesting asides about technology, history, and daily life in the … shit, what, the Two Hundredth Century? Maybe an addition to, what do you think?

My only minor gripe, and it is very minor, was that I was half-expecting the Mandela Effect to come into play as a plot point once the widespread rewritten history phenomenon came into the story and people wound up living in versions of the universe that they hadn’t lived in before, their memories no longer dependable and individual experiences varying depending on where they were at the time. It was tantalisingly close but didn’t quite manage to slip in. Could have linked this storyline to the real-world present in a fun “you may just have a gremlin in your house” kind of way. But ah well. The plot thread with the Devil was excellent, and more than made up for any minor disappointment for this greedy reader. And the pipeline between conspiracy kooks and fascism was never so hilariously illustrated.


Just as Melbourne walked the line between amusingly-and-comfortingly-familiar-shorthand and this-isn’t-even-a-thing-in-2023-anymore-why-is-it-a-thing-in-20018, so too did he navigate the line between horny and genteel. The result was innocent funny stuff, not particularly raunchy but most certainly horny in a charming kind of way. I give it an Arthur Dent and Trillian in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy out of a possible Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian in the porno version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that I will leave you to Google on your own time and computer. Warning: there’s even more head than you’d expect.


Surprisingly plentiful! Just when you fall into the trap of thinking Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days actually is a Douglas Adams story, it reveals that it has a shocking capacity for quite harrowing violence. I award it three and a half quivering bloody flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.


There’s a whole lot of the good stuff here too, as you would expect from a story with such a wonderful setting and premise. The advanced-tech-appears-as-magic trope is all well and good, but there seems like there’s solid magic in this one as well. As a known genre bender myself I am in full support of this literary conceit, and it’s the year 20K so there should be shit we don’t understand (as well as Starbucks). The WTF-o-meter was a bit discombobulated by the whole thing and has grabbed hold of the last thing I said, and so awarded it a Starbuck and Starbuck drinking Starbucks in a Starbucks out of a possible … I don’t know, is that a crude hand-drawn sketch of Rupert Grint and Percival by Gustav Klimt performing Peer Gynt in a Geared Pint? That’s fucking odd is what that is.


My Final Verdict

The whole story really seemed to begin losing coherence at the end, which may have been a combination of an intentional storytelling device and my own slowly-unravelling sanity and concentration due to weirdness and sleep-deprivation, but – well, if it was intentional, it didn’t land quite right. And if it was unintentional, it was maybe a little off-putting and unfortunate. But damn it all, I still liked it. I was well and truly won back by Wotan and Mecha-Thor in the final moments, and all was well in the world. Four stars!

Posted in #SPSFC, Edpool | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


Torstaina sain päätös maahanmuuttovirastolta että saan suomalainen kansalaisuus.

Haista vittu, persut. Torilla (ja äänestyskopissa) tavataan.

(switching to English in the comments, but it’s okay, you can Google it)

Posted in The Chucky Report | 9 Comments

Cancel of the Week: Dilbert (Another Hatboy’s Lukewarm Sociocultural Events™ Special)

Okay, fuck it, we’re doing this.

The “descent” of cartoonist Scott Adams has really only ever been of tangential interest to me, sort of like the stately collapse of Gina Carano and the supernova-level bed-shitting of Kevin Sorbo. These are just your average people, with some ideas I don’t agree with and some for which I have a certain sympathy, whose delivery and overall demeanour is … let’s call it sub-optimal.

Like many office rats, I have laughed at my share of Dilberts. I am (was, and am again, and probably always will be) a Technical Writer, and Tina the Technical Writer has long been an unofficial mascot for every Arts / Humanities graduate attempting to live in a world run by insufferable engineers.

Basically me right now.


A solid 15 or 20 years ago, I was given a book by Scott Adams. Not a Dilbert collection, but one or another of his Dilbert-adjacent works, the ones that lure you in with the fun cartoons and then start talking about general life philosophy and some of the weird shit to which Adams attributes his success. I read this book, and realised that while I would probably always find Dilbert funny and relatable in my own way, I wasn’t all that interested in the expanded Scott Adams egoverse. And when the US decided that Donald Trump was going to be a good administrator for their fucked-up excuse for a country and populism got its long-awaited 21st Century revival, Scott Adams went the proverbial full retard and that, to me, was a fairly predictable progression.

Fast forward to the year 2023 AD, and social media is alive with Adams’s next big cancellation. All the people who’d decided during his “if Biden wins there are going to be leftist kill-squads coming for us” phase that Adams was a right-wing loon they’d always hated, now jumped up and face-tweet-gram-share-tok’d him the rest of the way to oblivion. Newspapers dropped Dilbert, publishers dropped book contracts. All due to a “racist rant” he went off on as a result of a “dishonest poll” something something Rasmussen reports.

Now, like I was saying, this is just a random dude with a set of opinions. His right to them, and his reach with them, are not really of concern to me (although I do have my own opinions about it all, and I just realised that said opinion is coming up on a decade in age now, and it has not noticeably shifted … for better or worse, I suppose). The racist rant in question is apparently somewhere on his YouTube channel and I could not be bothered going looking for it, but before you go yelling at me for not digging deep enough, this interview is actually far more relevant:

Cheap clickbait title aside, this is a two-hour slog and only worth it if you’re a strange ‘un, like me.

So, I watched this video. It was interesting. Not, you know, very interesting, and like people are saying – if your comments require two hours of “context”, there may have been a problem with your comments – but yeah. It was alright.

I’ll put the main spoiler right here: while there were certainly elements of KKK manifesto and known white supremacist “intellectual” talking points throughout this conversation, I’d hesitate to call it a racist rant. I mean, his Boomer-grade delusions about what he is and is not “allowed” to say were adorable, and the persecution complex continues to be hilarious, and the “I identify as an attack helicopter” level of rhetoric was second-hand embarrassing as Hell, but frankly when it comes to racist rants I wouldn’t even put this in my top ten. I have no doubt the shit he soloed on his channel was worse. These guys always do worse solo.

Indeed, while I could add style notes (or “nuance”, as they liked to call it in the above video) throughout the production, not even I have that kind of time. So I will limit myself to a couple of suggestions:

Suggestion 1: When he was asked about his whole “identifying as black” schtick, he should have had a first-level response as well as the two he actually delivered. He should have started with “yeah, that was obviously dumb and I’m sorry it insulted people, it was clearly hyperbolic and silly but here’s why I did it,” and then gone on with his explanation, which I actually found refreshingly candid and compelling. Yes, it was still a long-winded speech in defence of the Attack Helicopter Joke, but it was at least a bit different.

Suggestion 2: When he talked about his charity and volunteer work and support of the black community, yes it was a bit self-serving but I think you get to list your credentials a bit when you’re defending your integrity. However, when it got down to his work with BLM and his finding that “they” weren’t interested in his practical solutions and were more interested in the grift of it, I would suggest that experience warrants further examination. Yes, it is extremely frustrating to be part of a protest movement that can’t seem to get anything positive or practical done (take it from someone who wants the latter-day Nazi regime to implode, rather than the environment). But instead of concluding that it’s all about hate, anger and making money, perhaps consider that it’s also about not being heard or treated with anything approaching dignity and respect? There’s shit to be introspective about there, I’d suggest.

This is what I mean about opinion-havers, though. They’re not a monolith, either of shit or gold. There is nobody with a perfect set of ideals, and this is what so scares the culture war idiots about “cancel culture” and the “woke mob”, and fuels their “they’ll come for you eventually, nobody can pass the purity test” paranoia. People are going to focus on the opinions they either love (agree with) or hate (disagree with), and the opinion-havers will either develop their opinions in accordance with feedback and changing culture or they will double-down and dig in. It’s almost always the latter of both of those options, because we are savage primates and the fight is never far beneath the surface.

For example, there was a long part in the interview about reparations to native and African Americans in the form of massive educational benefits and upgrades, and that sounded … good? Then of course there’s the consideration that the education system they’re talking about is a fucking dumpster fire no matter how many dollar bills you throw in as fuel. And the fact that Adams framed it as a “teachers’ union” problem. And the fact that Bill Cosby was also all about giving young black kids a proper education in order to help them become successful and stop being jive-talkin’ punks.

And we shall speak no further about the things Bill Cosby was all about giving.

There was also the host of the show declaring that he’d like his reparations in the form of extended, if not permanent, tax exemption. To his credit he stated up-front that this was a selfish desire, and to Adams’s credit Adams seemed extremely dubious that such an idea had any merit or practicality whatsoever. But I found it interesting.

There’s a whole lot more I could philosophise about here, but I don’t know how much value it would have. I know a post like this should end on some sort of judgement, about the man or about the cancellation frenzy that has occurred. I hope most of you reading this know better by now. There is no final state here, there is just a person in the public sphere saying shit, and everyone reacting to it with various levels of knee-jerk ignorance, and corporations seeing the way the wind is blowing and protecting their precious, precious profits.

One thing I will note, however, is the concept of (social) media bubbles. We know these are real. Adams talks about them a lot (especially during his very unfortunate attempts to talk his way through this insane shitstorm his over-inflated ego has gotten him into), while at the same time falling victim to them hysterically hard, apparently unironically. And the biggest bubble of them all, and the one very few of these celebrity train wrecks seem to be able to smash their way out of as they jump the tracks and send seven hundred tons of liquid dumb rich cunt into the datasphere, is the United States of motherfucking America. This is all about the US. Every time the interview started to go somewhere, they both went running back to the safely unsolvable “Republican vs. Democrat” issue, and didn’t seem to spend a single second considering the fact that the rest of the planet even exists. Which, to them, it doesn’t – and doesn’t need to. It just makes it very difficult for me to take their rhetorical and ideological positions seriously in any way.

It doesn’t help that Scott Adams is a self-confessed attention whore. This whole thing started, and will continue, because of that. He said it at the very start of the long-arse video above, and it’s painfully obvious in everything he’s ever done and said.

I mean painfully obvious.

So am I feeding the trolls by rambling about it? Sure. But now this is down on my blog, it doesn’t need to take up space in my head. Frankly I have better shit to do.

Posted in Hatboy's Nuggets of Crispy-Fried Wisdom | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Clown God, and other news

Hey there. Long time so see. Long time no … anything but SPSFC, actually. More of that to come but so far I’m at 30% through the first of my 5 (okay, second of my 6 since I already did one), and it’s a 170,000-word chonkminster so it may take a minute.

What else has been happening? Well, as all my main readers and commenters know, I quit my job as a technical writer and started a new job as a marketing copywriter in August, at a fancy little tech startup named Aiven. Did I even post about it in among the rest? Maybe I did, here? Anyway, that happened.

Then, well, this happened.

I find myself caught between wanting to say all the positive things about the few months I spent at Aiven, and all the cynical things about the way it ended. I will, for legal reasons as well as reasons of class, simply repeat what Oskari said. Leadership fucked up, and a lot of people paid the price for that.

Me, I was okay (and I feel confident the excellent people I worked with at Aiven will also land on their feet). After the long and weird process of being recruited and having my former employers bid for me to stay, I made sure that said former employers knew I wasn’t leaving because I didn’t like them. And they in turn assured me that, if things didn’t work out, I was welcome to come on back.

So, things didn’t work out. So, on Monday the 6th of March, I’ll be heading on back. And I’m fine with that. Only another 20 years to retirement, right? And it’s a nice crowd. And I learned a lot, these past six months. Will it be useful, back in the technical writing world? Enh. Maybe?

In far more interesting and important news, however, my latest book is finally live!

The Clown God is available here:

The paperback link, and other marketplaces, will be propagating through the Amazonisphere over the next few days. I hope you enjoy it! Party on April Fool’s Day. I feel the main players in these stories would have approved.

Next up, I need to update my phases graphic, order up some paperbacks to sell at the bar and pass on to my cover artist, refresh my pinned tweet, and get marketing!

Oh yeah, and the next book is already underway. Maybe I’ll just write that.

Posted in #SPSFC, Astro Tramp 400, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Our SPSFC semi-finalist roster

Having let you all know the three books Team Space Leftovers selected to move on to the next round of SPSFC2, the next step is for the semifinalists to actually get their moment in the sun. Or, in this case, the blazing readerly glares of Edpool, Starr, Pax and Grumpylo.

In accordance with the shuffling process, Team Space Leftovers will be reading the semifinalists from Team Red Stars and Team Tar Vol On, which means the books I will be reviewing next, in the order I’m gonna be doing them, are:

Heritage, Tales of the Phoenix Titan Book 1, by S.M. Warlow. This is the chonkiest of our semifinalist bois (albeit not quite as massive as some we have tackled), and I have a nice warm fuzzy space epic feeling about this one.

Next is – oh hey, The View from Infinity Beach by R.P.L. Johnson. Look at that, I’m a step ahead of the game, already having read and reviewed this one for SPSFC1. Here’s my review right here. Next!

Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days by Drew Melbourne, looks like a bit of fun and I do love a balls-to-the-wall massive jump into the future for my sci-fi. Looking forward to this one too!

Exin Ex Machina, Asterio Noir Book 1 by G.S. Jennsen, already wins the Most Cool Words In Title award for this round (it’s not a physical award, it’s more of a the-win-itself-is-its-own-reward type of thing, which is great for me because it’s cheap). Let’s see if the book itself fulfils the promise of all those cool title words.

Intelligence Block, a “GameLit inspired Space Opera” by Kit Falbo is up next. This one looks like it has corvids in it, so I am already envisioning a Hitchcockian take on Planet of the Apes where crows and / or ravens gain heightened intelligence and colonise Mars just so they can poop on things. No, I haven’t read the book synopsis. I like to go in blind and then be utterly disappointed, thank you.

The Audacity, The Audacity Series Book 1 by Carmen Loup, is our last semifinalist. This one is touted as a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the next generation, and I guess we’ll see about that because frankly we already have one of them and it’s Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, but sure, I’ll give it a try. I do love the title and the cover and the Ford Prefect for the next generation, who that guy doing the finger-gun clearly is. I’m on board.

Our scores are due on April 24th, making this a little less frantic than the last round but still not un-frantic. There’s a lot going on in the next couple of months and some of these books are pretty hefty. So I’ll probably launch straight in.

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