Definition of a First World problem:
Me: I'd like a mocha, please.
Barista: I'm sorry, we're out of chocolate syrup
Worst time to discover you have a cold and get out of breath if you try to do anything faster than a slow waddle:- half a mile from the car, at the bottom of a hill, it's cold and drizzling miserably, and you suspect you may have left the car's lights on.
I don't have the strength to wheel more than half way up the hill at the best of times, and not having done any significant wheeling in a month I wasn't even going to try pushing up, so I got behind the chair and waddled, slowly. Fortunately the lights were off.
I genuinely didn't realise I had a cold until that point. I'd gone into town to post a parcel (my sister's Christmas present to her husband, which I'd ordered for her from Amazon as I have Prime and she'd left it until the last minute - the 23rd, but which I'd managed to get sent to Kent instead of Durham. I wasn't popular) and stopped off to have lunch. 10 minutes after putting in my order, I noticed a car pull up outside and turn its lights off, at which point my brain started panicking as to whether mine were still on. It wasn't the most restful meal I've ever had, though the fish and chips were tasty.
And the worst time for the blocked breathing to turn into sneezing was in the car, half way around a busy corner. I sneezed so hard I almost had my head between my knees and the only thing I could do was brake and hope I could keep it under control when I sneezed again. Fortunately I was one corner from home, but anywhere else I'd have had to pull over. I sneezed so hard turning into my road I swear I got an echo from the other end, and I then had a string of about 20 sneezes that were so hard I couldn't actually get out of the car. I could feel everything between nostrils and eardrums complaining for hours!
So today I'm living on Lemsip Max. If I can work up the energy I may make myself a hot toddy, and there's chicken soup in the fridge. (ETA hot toddy and soup successfully achieved).
First Flight, Chris Claremont
Re-read of Claremont's late-80s hard SF novel. 2nd Lt Nichole Shea is taking the final test before officially qualifying as an astronaut, having already qualified as an Air Force test pilot (her rank's a bit junior for her actual experience), when everything goes wrong and she and her co-pilot end up ramming their shuttle into the space station they were supposed to dock with. Fortunately it's a simulation. The deputy head of the astronaut programme wants to kick her out of the programme, but is overruled by NASA's head of manned spaceflight, General Judith Canfield, and throughout the book there are veiled references to Canfield's relationship to Nichole, which no one will ever explain to her.
Now qualified, Nichole, her co-pilot Paulo and newbie mission specialist Hanako 'Hana' Murai are paired with Cat Garcia, an experienced Mission Commander, the deadly US Marshal Ben Ciari, and a couple of experienced engineer/scientists, one Russian, one Israeli, for a year long mission out to Pluto. Mankind has stardrive, and extra-solar colonies, but starships are huge, expensive, and rare, so most spaceflight is pootling about the system on reaction drives.
Things settle into a pattern, with Hana pairing up with Paulo, and Nichole with Ciari, much to the annoyance of Cat Garcia, who perceives it as more favouritism, especially when Ciari starts training Nichole in martial arts, with the explicitly avowed intent of turning her into a killer, because, he says, she has the aptitude for it, and may need it. And then, passing through the Belt, they happen on a wrecked miner ship, with a dead belter aboard, a friend of Cat's. Things don't add up, so they head for his home rock, and walk into an ambush. Half the crew die, and the survivors are left with a wrecked ship, AUs from home, and where a mayday may bring the pirates back down on them. Then Hana spots the alien ship....
It's not perfect, it could do with being about 50 pages longer for a start, but I like it a lot, and it has an extraordinary cover, which I think was probably painted over an actual picture of someone in pilot's gear, the three-dimensionality of the equipment is striking, Nichole's face and limbs are okay, but not quite as good (and for someone whose nickname is Red, her hair is awfully black).
Spanish Mission, K B Spangler
The second Hope Blackwell novel. Hope's friend Mary 'Mare' Murphy is having a bit of a crisis, because the ghost of Tom Paine just manifested in her kitchen to check in on his great to the Nth niece, and if you're an organisational genius, and one of OACET's cyborg agents, then the sudden dissonance in your worldview caused by talking ghosts can be jarring. And it doesn't help that Mare has a fairly major anxiety disorder. Hope is mostly pissed because she sat the ghosts of the founding fathers down and got them to swear blind, over good whiskey, that they wouldn't manifest around the OACET agents who don't know about them. But done is done and Hope decides the only thing to do is to pack herself, Mare and Speedy the super-intelligent talking koala off to Las Vegas for a girls' (and koala's) week of fun.
But we start in media res
with Hope being chased across the desert by chupacabras. Monsters don't exist, but ghosts can manifest in any form they like, and the undead cryptid brigade, Sonoran Desert division, like chupacabras. Las Vegas didn't last long, Mare and Speedy creamed the tables, then they ran into the crew of a low-rent ghost hunting TV show, whose front man happens to be son of the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and therefore in a position to put an unfortunate crimp in OACET's funding. The ghost hunters are off to the desert to host Spanish treasure galleons and ghostly pirates (which isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds, think Salton Sea, plus once in a century storms).
As an aside, I really liked it that Hope, as a newly qualified doctor, immediately reacts to the description of Hawley, the pirate captain, as tall, elongated, with clawed fingers and toes by saying "Marfan's Syndrome", on the negative side, disabled villain again.
So Mare decides they're going to have to go with the ghost hunters and keep them alive. They're helped in this by front-man's mother having placed a pair of competent bodyguards (female twins) in the crew without his knowledge (and somewhat hindered by a complete dick of a cameraman), and by Mare arranging the loan of a bunch of military off-road vehicles, a pair of drones, and their operator. Unfortunately their operator, 'Fish' Fleishman, immediately pings Hope's radar as another psychic. And then they get into the desert, and meet Maria de Borromeo, who wears Keds and likes watching daytime TV on her cellphone, which wouldn't be remarkable but for being the four centuries dead ghost of a Spanish Jesuit nun, killed binding Hawley's ghost the last time he got loose. And the big problem is ghosts are powered by reputation/attention, and a team of ghost hunters are live-streaming the hunt for Hawley's ghost, with international media magnets Hope and Speedy along for the ride.
Things get complicated.
On the surface it sounds pulpish, but Spangler really knows how to use her characters, she's been writing Hope and Speedy in A Girl and Her Fed for over a decade, and while the Hope novels are written much more for laughs than her Rachel Peng technothrillers, she still has a habit of throwing in lines that stop you dead with how insightful they are. And on top of everything, it's one of the cleverest Coyote tales I've ever read.
The cover is by Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher, and features Hope, Mare and Speedy, threatened by Hawley and his crew in a style that seems inspired by AGAHF.The Mortal Word (Invisible Library Book 5), Genevieve Cogman
Irene Winters, agent of the Invisible Library, is just back from acquiring a book from the library of a witch-hunting German Graf on a world stuck in the 16th Century, and hoping for a quiet evening bonking the brains out of now ex-apprentice Kai, when she receives an urgent summons from the Library. There is a secret peace conference between the forces of the Dragons and the Fae (aka Order and Chaos), being brokered by the Library as the only neutral force that understands how the universe actually works, and someone just killed one of the dragons. The Library needs Irene and her friend Vale, the great investigator of his steampunk world's London, to hurry to the alternate world where the conference is taking place, investigate the crime and bring a suitable suspect to justice (them being the actual perpetrator would be a bonus, but isn't actually required).
So Irene, Vale, and Kai (arriving by total coincidence) find themselves in a 19th Century Paris, locked in the grip of a sudden cold snap - Kai's uncle Ao Ji, King of the Western Ocean, has an affinity with ice, has just lost his trusted spy-master, and is having a temper tantrum. Things rapidly get complicated. Not only is the Library blaming the crime on anarchists to keep the French police out of their hair, but there are actual anarchists at work, and more suspects than you can shake a stick at, including Irene's operational superior, who wants to turn the Library into an organisation that holds power by playing the Dragons and Fae off against each other.
The Fae Powers at the conference are the Cardinal and the Princess (think Richelieu and Snow White), archetypes so powerful that they bend everyone they interact with into their expected roles, while Ao Ji may be dedicated to human welfare in a way the Fae are not, but also in such a way that demonstrates why absolute order is as dangerous as absolute chaos.
Irene's position as the Library's member of the investigatory team is matched by Dragon and Fae representatives, the dragon is Mu Dan, a competent judge-magistrate, but the Fae is Lord Silver, Vale and Irene's regular semi-antagonist, who is slightly perplexed by his new role, though the perfect man for investigating the seamier underside of Parisian Nightlife.
Things escalate when an even scarier Fae archetype, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, appears, but is the legendary Blood Countess the perpetrator, or a convenient scapegoat, pre-empted in her attempt to stop the conference by someone much closer to home?
I was mostly playing XCOM2 over Christmas as I was offline, but I've been playing Ark again since I've been back. I missed their Christmas 'Winter Wonderland' event, where Raptor Claus flies over the map in his sleigh delivering presents, but as I play solo rather than on one of their servers I've simply added it to my start up, Christmas will continue until I'm sick of presents ;) They also have Gacha Claus who'll exchange the mistletoe and coal Raptor Claus delivers for more presents. The mistletoe isn't too bad, but the coal weighs a ton, so it was very convenient that Gacha Claus spawned just outside my base on the Scorched Earth desert map.
One of Raptor Claus's presents was a 500% damage crossbow, which has made taming things with tranq arrows much simpler, except when it does so much damage it kills them outright with a single shot. I managed to tame my first Rex with it, using only three tranqs, though admittedly she was a very low level Rex. Unfortunately I'm not at a high enough level on that map to actually build a saddle for her yet, but Regina is handling internal security for me at my base until that happens.
I took my small raptor pack out for a training run with the new crossbow and came back with not just the pack, but three direwolves, a pair of sabretooths, an australovenator (big raptor type from a mod), an extra raptor, and a terror bird (bad tempered carnivorous ostrich). Unfortunately I promptly lost the sabres and the new raptor when I took the newbies out for a run and ran into a tougher pack. And I finally have a flying mount on that map, which means my rate of exploration has just shot up, and generally makes things far simpler.
The makers of Ark have just launched Atlas, which takes a next generation version of the Ark engine and turns it into a MMO pirate game, with an absolutely ridiculous playing area hundreds of times that of Ark. It's in pre-release, but already looking very accomplished. I'm tempted, but I've got a lot of playing on Ark yet to do.
I'm experimenting with Dreamwidth's image hosting, not sure I quite understand incorporating images into posts yet (this may get edited a few times to try and work it out).Bringing Regina HomeGacha Claus Visits