Friday, May 14, 2010

Overheard on the Phone:

Shootin' Buddy, in an attempt to better understand wookie-suiters, has taken to reading a few L. Neil Smith novels. He is currently reading Pallas, and I got a call last night:
SB: "What is it with wookie-suiters and hand cannons?"

Me: "I don't... Why are you asking me?"

SB: "These are your people."

Me: "What's making you ask?"

SB: "Well, the main character of this book, Emerson, he's 14. And he just escaped from the ant farm, and they just gave him his first pistol, and it's a .45 Wildey Magnum."

Me: "Uh, I think that's more of an L. Neil Smith thing than a general wookie-suit thing. I mean, I've been known to carry a .32 Mag."

Pallas, as a novel, bugged me because Smith kinda squandered a good setting for a story. The low gravity of the asteroid it's set on is generally ignored except where it makes an interesting plot device or clever bit of decor (kind of like the high-pressure nitrogen environment of Crichton's godawful Sphere, which is seemingly forgotten about less than ten pages after being introduced.) The plot gets awfully rushed in the latter half of the the book, too; it has the feeling of having had whole chunks chainsawed out at random to make it fit between the covers. It's a fun-but-flawed read if you're a dedicated fan of El Neil, but I definitely wouldn't use it as an introduction to his oeuvre.


staghounds said...

I have to say I agree with SB. And it's gun tech in general. Characters drive generic cars to fungible houses wearing undescribed clothes, but every weapon gets a description Sotheby's would reserve for the Pollock on the catalogue cover.

Tam said...

"Characters drive generic cars..."

In L. Neil Smith stories? They drive Thorneycroft steam-powered hovercraft with paisley upholstery, man!

Mad Saint Jack said...

the Wookie Plan.

1. Escape to the wilderness.

2. ????????????????????????

3. Revolution!!!!

VM: dismat (go away or I will taunt you a second time.)

Mikael said...

"high-pressure nitrogen environment"

That'd be a cheap buzz... ;)

(nitrogen is narcotic in high pressure enviroments, it varies from person to person but normal air can be narcotic from about 3 atmospheres, though more commonly 4-5 atmospheres, that's 20-40m/60-120ft depth of seawater for example)

Tam said...

Oxygen, whatever. The main thing I remember about Sphere is how bad it sucked, and partly because Crichton spent the first chunk of the book setting up this elaborate underwater environment which imposed all kinds of special problems and restrictions, which he then cheerfully ignored for the rest of the novel.

og said...

Wow, I thought I was the only person who thought Sphere suxxored. I mean, I'm generally a fan of Crichton, but I'm damned if that book didn't suck me in, and then piss me off.

aczarnowski said...

I remember liking Sphere a lot, but I was in a college age Crichton reading spree at the time. Maybe I still have a copy I can try again with a couple more years in this crazy world under my belt.

The movie? Now that was crap.

og said...

Oh, my god, they made a movie of that horrible crap?

Tam said...

Apparently so, but I'll never know for sure, 'cause I'll have to take other people's word for it.

Mikael said...

"Oxygen, whatever."

That'd be even funnier since breathing too high concentration of oxygen at pressure leads to seizures and unconsciousness.

I didn't catch the depth the crashed craft was at in the wiki article of the movie, but it's quite possible they'd have to be breathing trimix(oxygen, nitrogen, helium) to avoid nitrogen narcosis and oxygen toxicity. Of course the side effect would be the entire movie being spent with everyone sounding like the chipmunks or donald duck.

Sorry, diving instructor, I'll stop now. ;)

Tam said...

That was probably it. I remember that talking funny was one of the side-effects that went away after a couple pages, when the author got bored with it.

Others were that it was cold as heck and people got tired quickly. But only for a few pages, then they were running around like monkeys in their skivvies.

Mikael said...

Here's a funny video that demonstrates about what they'd sound like. Commercial diver has a bit of a grouper problem. ;)

Anonymous said...


Yes, there was a movie version of Sphere. I saw it on cable, cost me (almost) nothing, and I still didn't get my money's worth.

cap'n chumbucket

Lergnom said...

First off, love your blog, Tam. I visit every day.
Now for a minor nit - Emerson's gun was a Grizzly Win mag.

TJP said...

Was that also an early Crichton? I thought Terminal Man was pretty dopey, too.

I think a better understanding of wookie-suiters can be had from reading Smith's editorials. My own personal understanding (or sympathy) of libertarians comes from being strictly compliant with the authoritarianism that pollutes our society, and then being told I've just lost a bunch of freedoms because some fraction of a percent of complete strangers don't follow the rules. Then I do my best to comply with the new rules, and when those rules predictably fail to perfect humans, I lose further freedoms....because of tele-guilt, or something.

Cybrludite said...

In the movie version of Sphere, they goofed around with the helium voices for a bit, then they used a McGuffin to banish the effect with a bit of hand waving.

Um, or so I heard.