November 2nd, 2008

_Kris Longknife: Intrepid_, Mike Shepherd (kindle)

I think this is book 5, but please do not hold me to that assertion.

This series is related to another series by this author (and possibly a co-author) under another name which I haven't read.

This series is primarily about a multi-generational vendetta between two families and the multi-planet systems they rule? Have substantial influence in? Dunno how precisely to characterize it. They've been kidnapping and/or assassinating each other for a while now. Both sides have daughters (Kris and Victoria) in their respective militaries. They've gone up against each other directly and indirectly in previous outings; this time, they've actually teamed up and there's a tantalizing possibility that they might be able to bury the feud. I'm sure this hope will be dashed in the future (or, possibly, the Smythe-Peterwalds will be run out of Greenfeld in some kind of revolution and take refuge in US space).

Kris also has to deal with someone who used to be her CO when she was a boot ensign (and who has since been run out of Wardhaven's military). Thorpe is a party to an invasion of a Rim colony and Kris is not in time to head him off but IS in time to beat back the invasion with the assistance of the Scrappy Libertarian Locals. She picks up the ground CO as a POW and he is clearly going to come in handy in the future.

In the course of attempting to claim an evil slaver pirate ship as a prize, and trying to figure out what to do with Hernando Cortez, she encounters Creepy Shysters who are clearly a party to all of the above.

Oh, I'm sure something else happened, too. Like, Nelly picking up valley slang (which makes no sense, but let's not think about that too hard) from the 12 year old relative of Abby they picked up in the last book (or maybe the one before that; it's so hard to tell any more). There's also the obligatory bloodbath, this time on a farm and in some tunnels, complete with white robed religious nutjobs on the opposing team (as mercenaries, no less).

Look. Don't _start_ this series here. But if you have a serious weakness for female heroes in really cheesy mil sf, this might be enough to carry you over between, say, Honor Harrington novels. Particularly since Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series has been wrapped up and you never know when there will be another one.

_Live Free and Die Hard_ movie review (sort of)

This had been sitting on the Tivo for a while; I figured I'd give it a try. I am so sorry I did. Even fast forwarding through large chunks of it, it was still shockingly bad.

Highlight: I liked the bit (not quite 40 minutes in) in which Willis drives a cop car over a fire hydrant and the resulting spritzer knocks a shooter out of a helicopter. Very nice. The car taking out the helicopter was okay; the airborne car in the tunnel felt derivative.

In fact, a _lot_ of this movie felt derivative. And misogynistic, at times.

Also, the cybersecurity chief was unbelievably useless. His idea of dealing with a breakin to his computers? Round up the usual suspects. And he _evacuated_ his HQ in response to an anthrax alarm (an _anthrax_ alarm? How could such a thing even exist?) going off, even tho he knew that air traffic control was down, Amtrak's control system was town, blah, blah, bleeping blah. Anthrax does not kill you quickly. Anthrax kills you _very very slowly_. (a) You could probably bet that if all those other computer systems were going down (and you knew your operation had been compromised recently), then that alarm is likely bogus. But more importantly, (b) if the entire freaking country is under multiple attack in your area of specialty, you suck it up and risk anthrax rather than abandon your post.

Do firefighters run out of a building when the smoke alarm goes off? No. They run _into_ the building. Geez.

On the bright side, this in no way detracts from the believability of the film; one could reasonably expect that emergency services under this administration would display this level of incompetence.

Unfortunately, while the film makes one toss off acknowledgment that in order to access some systems you would have to be physically on site, the film as a whole is predicated on a very small number of people compromising, like, _everything_ remotely. Also, the description of the power grid in the movie is so unbelievable that if you have any problem with incontinence from laughing too hard, you should probably go pee before you get to that part of the film (say, if you're pregnant, which is when I had problems of that nature).

I recognize that action movies are not supposed to be realistic, but I tend to take it a little personally when they get the computer stuff this far wrong.

On a final note, I suddenly realized that in addition to the more obvious similarities between romance novels and cheesy action flicks, they share a structural problem. Let's say you're reading a romance novel, er, erotica or whatever for "the good bits". Not that anyone actually does that (gosh no). But the "good bits" tend to actually only be good if the context has made them compelling: through good characterization, so you can relate to the people involved and can really believe they'd be doing what they are doing (to/with each other, in the way that they are doing it, etc.). Through reasonable plot development. Etc. Similarly, if you are watching an action flick for bits like the helicopter and the hydrant, you have to actually care somewhat about the people involved and have a backstory that makes you accept that what is happening is happening -- these people would do these things, etc.

This movie really failed on a lot of that. That's the real problem. I don't mind completely fictional computer systems if the story is there and working for me. And here, it just was not.

ETA: Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Judging by googling, a shocking number of people out there actually think that this kind of attack is somehow possible. I don't even know what to do with this. Do they not realize how ancient and patched together and impossible to use most really important control systems really are? Even onsite with full access it's hard to get this stuff to do anything new and different. What a bunch of optimists.