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RedFred
10-12-2003, 21:04:57
Extremes by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

One of my buddies watches Star Trek primarily for the amusement value of all those gaping plot holes and logic errors. Seems like a strange form of amusement to me.

I have a greater expectation that a book will be more consistant than some TV show that the writers have to crank out a new episode each week. This book doesn't do so well though. In this case poor research seems to be at fault.

The premise behind this science fiction story is that a cop is investigating a murder at the 'moon marathon'. We are told that this race, central to the novel, is open only to the elite of the elite, that a top three finish in another marathon is a requirement. But we are also told that the 'winner is to finish in a half hour, when an hour has passed since the lead runner has passed the five mile mark. 30 + 60 + time to run the first five miles = an unbelievably long time. Current elites are running sub 2:10 with earth's gravity. Under Rusch's reasonably utopian view of the future the current 2:05 WR could reasonably be expected to continue to fall. So the timeframe is not that unreasonable if the race was held on earth. But what about next to no air resistance and one sixth the gravity? Worse still, competitors are still streaming in hours after the start of the race.

I'll only raise one or two more issues with Rusch's 'moon marathon' only because it is central to the novel. Runners are described and depicted as running upright just like on earth. Front cover artwork shows perfectly formed treadmarks just like someone would have walking on a hard packed sandy beach. But try running in hard sand. Toe and possibly heel sections of the print will be deeper and spray will deform the print. But would a runner even stay upright with one sixth gravity? One of the later Apollo missions found a motion more like swimming is more efficient. Run 'four-legged' with most of the thrust coming from the true legs and using your arms for balance and some additional thrust.

An author's feminist agenda is not normally a handicap for me, particularly if the novel is set in the future. I can deal with all the strong dominant women in the story, even all the weak or subservient males. There is but one 'token' strong male, Miles. But to make the winner of the marathon a female is too much of a stretch. An obscure marathon perhaps. But not a race of elites. Not without some background plot to show a gradual future equalization of female and male strength and endurance.

The people depicted in this novel are living in a lunar dome when not running this marathon. Perhaps the most serious flaw is the excessively clumsy police versus the outside-the-dome experienced racers, many of which, including the winner are from earth. A passage on page 66 shows that a young detective is even having trouble standing up outside the dome despite living inside the dome all his life. This comes dangerously close to implying that the dome is under earth gravity while outside the dome is lunar gravity. Even this could be acceptable if there was a brief passage suggesting some hocus pocus like gravity waves was operational inside the dome. Without it, I am worried that stupidity waves are operational inside the author's brain.

I wouldn't be so bitter if it wasn't such a great book otherwise. Good plot, great pacing and interesting characters. Even the males ones. Despite the flaws it is still worth a read. But unlike my Star Trek watching buddy, I feel that every bit of badly researched background to the story grates rather than amuses.

BigGameHunter
10-12-2003, 21:11:08
Man, when I write my sci-fi book, I want to hire you as continuity editor.
Brutal!
:)

Darkstar
11-12-2003, 04:05:52
You were expecting LOGIC ? How shocking.

Best motion for 1/6th gravity is the kangaroo hop. And doing 26 miles on the moon would be insignificant, IF your vac suit is suitably refined. Using something Apollo or even Shuttle era would require a LOT of endurance... You can travel faster, safely, on the moon, but the resistance from the normal suits gives you the equivalent workout of doing it under water in basic resistance to all movements. And it's worse in zero G...

RedFred
11-12-2003, 23:14:01
Thanks BGH!

And Darkstar if you are still around, did you read the November edition of Atlantic Monthly?

For someone like me, not involved in the space biz, it seemed to be the most lucid account of the shuttle disaster and the various command structure issues leading up to the decision not to look for a damaged tile while the shuttle was still in orbit.

BigGameHunter
12-12-2003, 00:32:34
Sounds like they closed their eyes and tried to wish the problem away.

Darkstar
12-12-2003, 06:46:14
I haven't read Atlantic Monthly. However, if you can stand a LOT of material, the CAIB (Columbia Accident Investigation Board) covered it very well. NASA management screwed up. The CAIB points out that even WITH all the crappy, out of date and failing equipment, the first imaging analysis team, on MISSION DAY 2, knew the likely hood of a 12 inch hole existing in the left wing of the Orbiter existed was very high, and had already requested serious pictures, in anticipation of Flight wanting it. But NASA middle management in between canned that, because it was too expensive and foam was "harmless". (and had the foam struck a mere 3 inches higher or lower, it would have been.)

It's the ole, "We don't have funding for that!" which is the serious problem with all government work. Every little empire, lives on its meager little ration of hard channelled funding... very aggravating when there's a problem.

Darkstar
12-12-2003, 06:48:49
BGH, it was more... "that's never been a problem before, so it will never be a problem in the future... and WE are not risking our balls by mentioning it, or telling management they need to spend money!"

No balls = no astronauts.

RedFred
12-12-2003, 22:06:42
CAIB addressed the physical problem.

Atlantic Monthly was more interested in the personalities and politics that allowed the physical problem to occur first of all, and secondly, be ignored with considerable force and malicious intent while the shuttle was in orbit.

My take was that minions and even up to middle management was not the problem; senior management was. Along with politics interfacing NASA and elected gov't.

Darkstar
13-12-2003, 09:12:05
All management upward from those that didn't pass along the imaging information was responsible.

You can talk personalities all you want, but politics drove the culture, and the culture formed the personalities. Form follows function and all that.

Once you start passing blame around, you can go all the way back to the late 60s for "who and why they are at fault". CAIB showed that as well. The trick is that eventually, you just call it "Background Culture/Politics" and move on. It doesn't matter anyways... NASA is changing ZERO due to it. All this Safer Shuttle buisness is lip service only. We'll lose another bird and the people on it in another 50 launches or so. Only thing that will stop that will be not using the shuttles. NASA just refuses to do what needs to be done to avoid that outcome. It's already morphed the CAIB to be "it's his fault, and now, back to business as usual (plus a bit of extra one time cost to get the WH off our back)."