Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 53


Dublin Core


Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, Page 53


Science Fiction


Fifty- Third page of Fosfax, Issue 205, Part One: Book reviews Cont.


Joeseph Major, Timothy Lane


Fosfax, Issue 205, Part 1, July 2002




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Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe is a thorough-going debunking of the "Roswell Incident", thoroughgoing with a thoroughgoingness that only an insider could achieve. Pflock tracks down the witnesses, or alleged witnesses, to the "saucer crash" and its aftermath, and finds, well, nothing. Alleged witnesses did not exist. Real witnesses were said to have said things they did not say, or (all too commonly) to have changed their stories in the interim. (If this development seems reminiscent of the changes, always towards the more conspiratorial and spectacular, in Kennedy Assassination testi¬mony that were discovered by Gerald Posner and revealed in his Case Closed (1993), perhaps a reasonable person could conclude that that behavior demonstrates a basic principle of such activity.)
But of course Pflock has to present the story before he can debunk it. This is, I understand, a useful principle of argumentation: to be able to show that the arguer understands the other side. The cranks who compare themselves to Galileo conveniently forget that Galileo first understood the prevailing Classical model of the universe. And so, Pflock presents clearly the "accepted stories" of the Roswell crash. Yes, "stories"; one point he touches on (and could develop more) is the divergency of the stories, how many alleged crash sites, all of them different, described differently, there are.
Pflock also touches on the Paranoia Culture, exemplified in such works as The Day After Roswell. (As an aside he manages to debunk Corso's claims about his violent relationship with the CIA.) This could be done in more detail, but that might weaken the thrust of the book, being about a peripheral matter.
He has included in an appendix copies of many original tran¬scripts, documents, and other relevant items. The reader need not take his assertions at his own word, but can cross-check with the statements made at the time.
Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe is useful, not only for its relevance to the alleged event it dissects, but for its great¬er picture of the employment of proper investigative techniques. Alexander Hero, one would think (absent the auctorial hand), after finding that time and again every extraordinary experience was a mis¬apprehension, if not an outright fraud, would become a nonbeliever, a very cynical and sarcastic one; and in the "real world" (whatever that is) one could predict a similar fate for Pflock. (Some readers might be put off by the introduction, written by someone unaccustomed to writing and showing it. Don't let that stop you.)
Review by Joseph T Major of Guy Gavriel Kay’s
I’ve never been as fond of Guy Gavriel Kay as blurb-writers seem to be. For example, the Fionavar Tapestry started off poorly, to my mind, when the five blank (Ritalin-hooked?) kids made absolutely no response to the astounding claim from this guy they met that "I'm the wizard Loren Silvershield and this is my source, Matt Soren, once king of the dwarves," and went downhill from there, ending up with King Arthur and Sir Lancelot ceasing to be sixth-century Christian defenders and becoming twentieth-century poly amorists. Tigana was not so bad as that, but it was padded and padded (and did I say it was padded?).
I’ve also been dubious about some of the latter-day travelers to Byzantium. Flint and Drake, for example (An Oblique Approach et seq.), have made it into the standard Weber-like Emperor-of-Every- thing over-the-top matter, crossed with Flint’s seeming inability to see that not everyone is a progressive twenty-first centurian.
Strangely enough, when these two trends collide, the result is not so bad as you think I’m going to say it is.
The first volume sets up the situation, where Crispin the mosaicist of Batiaric Varena takes the place of his master to
create a great mosaic of the sun god Fhd& Jad in the temple of HtigiYi SbfiHiYi Jad’s Holy Wisdom in B\&WtUhtt Sarantium at the
behest of Emperor lU&khftkYl Valerius II — bearing a secret message from Queen Gisel requesting that the Emperor put away
the Empress Alixana and marry her, giving him a claim to
the lost west. (Hey, he left out Mysterious Martinus and Rhavas — copyrights, y’know.) Politics in Sarantium are of course Byi&Nfftte Vid^kYi Sarantine with fighting chariot factions, which climaxed recently in the Mktt Victory Riots that nearly toppled the Emperor until the Empress reminded him about winding-sheets, whereupon Strategos BdlMViUi Leontes dispersed the rioters Wti
The second volume has things going off the rails, anyhow, with a rather warm governmental realignment. Meanwhile, the physician Rustem of the MAWfr&h&k Bassanian Empire (okay, okay,
I'll quit) has been sent to Sarantium to be a spy and assassin. Crispin, Rustem, the dancer Styliane, and others become caught up in the tides of imperial conflict and covert warfare. And then, Kay has a really interesting change-over . . .
As I said, you won’t be reading this for background, although I must admit the part where he departs from his model makes it finally interesting. Will people get to it, it being more than halfway through the second book? Similarly, he evokes his model well enough, but falls between the stools of evoking history as de Camp did, or reshap¬ing it into its own, but similar, belief as Turtledove did. You end up making comparisons like I did. And there were a few times when he had a style of infodumping that had eerie flavors of "John Norman" (no, no, not his topic, not even the worst of his style, thank Phos, er Jad, but it was getting there).
At the same time, Kay indulges in all sorts of foreshadowings that imply he is either going to write a sequel, which seems unlikely going by his record, or are put in to imply depth, which don’t come off. From describing how a blinded traitor became a stylite prophet, defy¬ing the calque-Muslims (I promised I would stop it) to the somehow Incredibly Meaningful Portent of Rustem’s son’s magical powers, the book is littered with them. In this context it comes off as padding (see above about Tigana).
Still, if you have a long trip to get through, and want something with conflict and a surprise happy ending, this should do the trick.

by Harry Turtledove (Baen, $21)
Review by Timothy Lane
As might be guessed, this is the sequel to Sentry Peak, and deals with General Hesmucet’s campaign to take Marthasville, the crucial glideway junction and industrial center in Peachtree Province. There are the usual referential analogs to our own world; I worked up a list of 66 additional ones (it helps having Sherman's memoirs, which had to be a major source for Turtledove).
Like the previous work, this one provides a reasonably accurate fantasy version of a campaign from the War of the Rebellion (I would hope most readers can guess which one). Again, however, we should note that this is a work of fiction, not straight history. Thus, from my own extensive reading, I would say that several commanders (such as Generals Hood and Hooker) were a lot better than their analogs in the book. Is that a historical disagreement, or poetic license? I’m afraid that's up to the author.
One interesting aspect is the discussion of Patrick the Cleaver and his memorial on ending serfdom and using freed serfs as soldiers. In our world this actually happened, with results pretty much as indicat¬ed here. (Back when I was at Purdue, I once photocopied this item, from Buck’s biography of the general. I don't know where it is now, but then I now have a copy of the book anyway, so I no longer need it.) Also interesting is General Bell’s analysis of Patrick the Cleaver, and why he shouldn’t be promoted above divisional command even aside from political difficulties. The most recent biography of the real world equivalent takes a similar view.
Well, there’s little more to say about this. If you like this sort of book (as I do, being very fond of history in many forms), then you’ll Find Marching Through Peachtree a delight. And as always, some of the references will really make you gag. Which, of course, is exactly their purpose. Whole Mackerel may be the best example, but it was fun telling Joseph about Commissioner Mountain (and also about one

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