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Brett Michael Orr

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brettmichaelorr

Terra Is a Planet Too

This short was inspired by a random conversation between myself and @farfromsarah about a very eyebrow-raising internet ‘article’, and why aliens will never visit Earth. 

 

“And why shouldn’t we consider it a planet?”

Scarllion fought the urge to roll their eyes as the argument crossed over into the sixth hour, a ceaseless shouting match that was currently headlining the end of a three-orbit-long debate between the rival scientific groups. The Captain wouldn’t have minded so much if the discussion was actually going somewhere, but by the ancient gods, it was just a bunch of sweaty nerds on one side, and a slightly more well-groomed but equally sweaty bunch of nerds on the other, and neither was willing to budge on their stance.

“We have very clear definitions of exoplanets and their classifications,” rumbled Tarivis, the eldest member on the Exoplanetary Discovery Committee. Their comment was backed up by a general murmuring and nodding from their colleagues, who quickly manipulated the large screen behind them to reveal supporting documentation. Bullet-points appeared on the screen in quick succession as Tarivis continued, “Exoplanets must be capable of supporting or promoting the development lifeforms with clear and rational consciousness and intelligence.”

Scarllion winced, bracing themselves for the retort from their own side – and sure enough, up stood Camben, dressed as usual in a weird tribute to the sixth century fashion of the Angillans, which essentially involved lots of ringing bells so that somebody could hear Camben coming through the hallways from somewhere across the other side of the gods-damned galaxy. Scarllion rubbed their forehead as Camben angrily shook themselves, bells ringing like the warning sirens on a battleship.

“Once again, Ensign Tarivis,” Camben spat, earning themselves a spattering of chuckles from the Supporters of Terran Recognition, “you fail to accept or acknowledge the virtue of all lifeforms, regardless of their supposed level of intelligence. Not,” they added, “that there’s much of a gap between their intelligence and your own.”

A collective gasp rippled through the room at Camben’s burn, and they sat down smugly, giving an extra wiggle of their bell-equipped tunic while the Committee hollered and demanded Camben be removed for ‘inflammatory comments’ and ‘biased statements you Terran-loving piece of Baastian excrement’ and also ‘take those gods-damned bells off I can’t hear myself think’.

Scarllion sighed and stood up, instantly hushing the gathering. They were, after all, the most senior ranking of them all in the room, and regardless of whatever the Committee thought about them throwing their weight behind the Recognizers, at least they all had the decency to respect the Captain’s opinion.

“Camben is right,” they said, gesturing to the screen behind their own group. Images flashed upon the black glass: small versions of the Terran species interacting with electronics, sprawling cities with towering buildings, spaceships burning through the atmosphere; gatherings of the creatures together, enjoying what researchers claimed was something called ‘music’, a concept they were still trying to translate into Centauri-relevant terms.

“Regardless of your own personal feelings about Terran’s current dominant species,” Scarllion continued, with a pointed look at Tarivis, “undeniably, these creatures possess intelligence and the ability to dominate their own planet. They may be inexperienced and young, but we must grant them recognition – and we must acknowledge that their home, that Terra, is most definitely a planet because of that.”

Heads nodded all around the room, including from the Committee – but Tarivis only chuckled, their double-row of lips spreading apart in a wicked, smug, grin. They stood, rotating their shoulder joints, and gave a nod to one of their colleagues, who put another image on the screen.

“Intelligence, you say?” Tarivis asked, looking around the room, meeting everybody’s eyes individually until they had undivided attention. “Our metric for deciding the status of a planet is clear, Captain. We are here today, debating whether these ‘Terrans’ deserve that title at all. Pretty imagery your drones have recorded, but even Baastis can sculpt castles out of silica.”

Another ripple of laughter from their colleagues. Scarllion frowned, their rigid eyebrows of cartilage knotting together uncomfortably. Their hopes sank when they read the translated text beneath the image, and a sickening sense of realization dawned upon them.

This whole debate had been lost from the start.

Behind the Committee, the screen showed an image taken from a prominent website that most Terrans seemed quite interested in perusing most of their strangely-short days.

“15 Hedgehogs With Things That Look Like Hedgehogs,” declared the title of the website, followed by inane drivel that was clearly written by a Terran who was either drunk or high or possibly both at the same time while attempting to balance the desire to cry while simultaneously drowning their sorrows in medication.

A few people from the Recognition group snickered before falling silent at Scarllion’s pointed glare – but even they couldn’t find a silver lining to that piece of woeful trash.

“It’s entertainment,” they offered meekly, an unspoken question-mark hanging at the end of their sentence. “Surely no Terran actually takes that content seriously.”

Tarivis snapped their long fingers and the image was replaced.

“8 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Hitler’s Taste in Interior Design,” was the title of this piece. The Recognizers groaned loudly and even Scarllion wiped a hand over their face – the infamous dictator had been one of the first things the researchers learned about Terran society, and the fact that some brain-dead so-called ‘journalist’ would even consider writing a piece about somebody so foul…

“Intelligent my armpits,” Tarivis roared with laughter, a statement made more impactful by the presence of their four different arms. The Committee laughed and pointed and name-called, but Scarllion stood their ground. They had studied Terrans for decades, spent countless rotations learning and researching, reviewing the data that Centauri probes had collected and streamed back to the orbital research station hidden just behind the Terran moon.

They had to believe humanity was capable of – of something, of some modicum of intelligence that would permit an actual mission to meet and discuss a potential future with this other species.

Tarivis waited until the laughter had died down, and Scarllion realized the Ensign was waiting for the opportune moment to deliver their final blow. They sent a knowing glance in Scarllion’s direction and clicked the button, revealing the final image.

“Woman In England Hopes To Breastfeed Daughter Until She Is 10 Years Old.”

Shocked silence gripped the room for several moments, then the Committee and Recognizers roared in a mixture of anger and outrage, throwing down their arguments with eachother and storming out of the room in unified disgust.

Scarllion groaned and finally slumped back into their chair.

“Yeah,” they muttered, sighing through their nostrils. “Fuck that place.”

 

 

 Yes, all three articles are definitely real. I weep for humanity.

Review – A Million Worlds With You

Claudia Gray’s stellar Firebird series returns for the final instalment in A Million Worlds With You, and delivers everything I’d hoped for and more. 

It’s no secret that Firebird has been one of my favourite book series of all time – and with good reason. The parallel dimensions and intriguing exploration of love and fate has created a powerful narrative about our destiny and our actions.A Million Worlds had a high bar set for it as we follow Marguerite’s adventures through the multiverse and her quest to prevent the destruction of multiple dimensions at the hands of Triad and potentially psychopathic versions of herself and her parents. 

Where the first book focused on the similarities our selves share among the multiverse, and the sequel looked at the strong differences between ourselves, the final book naturally strikes the middle ground – coming to accept that every person has a good and a bad version of themselves. Heroes can have darker, twisted versions; and villains can be normal, good people. The potential for all points on that spectrum exist inside us.

Travelling through new and old worlds, we see strongly varying versions of our beloved characters, each grappling with the actions they or their other selves have made. Claudia Gray expertly wraps up the loose ties from other universes, while ramping up the tension right toward the end – and it’s a very satisfying ending, too. 

Not every dimension gets a happy ending, but the reader – like the characters – can accept this. Over the course of the trilogy, we’ve come to understand the multiverse and the ways each of the characters differ; it makes perfect sense that their endings will all be different too.

In the end, A Million Worlds is the perfect and most natural end to the trilogy – I didn’t want the series end, but at the same time, the story has been neatly finished and completely exceeded the high bar I had set for it. This is an excellent end to a perfect series.

5/5 Stars

Review – The Malice

I absolutely loved this sequel to “The Vagrant”, which was one of my most unexpectedly loved books of all time. In The Malice, we follow Vesper, the baby from the first book all grown up, as she runs away with the living sword of Gamma, and realises she now has a burden to save the world from the Breach.

It’s less horror than the first book, filled with more comedy thanks to a new goat, and seemingly more self aware now. There are still moments when the depravity and darkness of the world presses against the reader though, and those moments serve to remind us of exactly what’s at stake and how bad the world has become. The continual conflict between Gamma’s bearers and her apathetic sibling gods is a powerful and subtly underlining aspect to this series, and it’ll be interesting to see this conflict come to a head in the next book.

With some extra backstory chapters thrown in to flesh out the history of the Breach and the Empire itself, the lore is starting to build into a more cohesive piece than the initially vague backstory of the first novel. These flashbacks also serve to throw the Empire into a different light, and really play into The Malice’s theme that not all internals are evil – and that not every righteous soldier is inherently good.

Overall I really loved The Malice, and can’t wait to see where the series goes in the third novel, The Seven, releasing April of 2017.

4 goats out of 5!

Review – Barefoot on the Wind

Thanks to Walker Books Australia for sending me a media release copy of Barefoot on the Wind.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is an established and familiar story, stretching from its traditional roots in 1700’s France to the arguably best-known film representations by Disney.

Zoë Mariott offers a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set against a rich Japanese backdrop that weaves together the traditional story elements with rich Japanese folklore and characteristics. Mariott’s Barefoot on the Wind is not merely a reskinned fairy tale, but instead a clever and thoughtful expansion of the Beauty and the Beast tale in a new and exciting direction.

At its core, the tale is wonderfully familiar – a beast in a dark forest, possessing great strength and imprisoned by both external forces and his own mind; and a young and courageous girl who grows to know him and understand him. And yet, Barefoot is so much more — this is, fundamentally, a novel about grief and loss.

Hana’s family and village has been torn apart by a curse that lays over the Dark Wood – once a month, a person from the village is called into the Dark Woods and brutally murdered by an impossibly strong beast. Hana’s brother was taken years ago, and her father has blamed her for his death. When her father is subsequently attacked and almost killed, Hana embarks on a mission of revenge, determined to kill the beast using her impressive hunting skills.

Injured by the beast, she awakens to find herself in the company of a strong and silent companion who is, at times, seemingly unused to human contact – but he possesses a heart of gold. Naming him Itsuki – or ‘tree’, after his strength and calmness – Hana overcomes her initial distrust and begins to work with, and eventually love, her rescuer.

The greatest flaw in Barefoot on the Wind is a rather obvious one – based on such a classic fairy tale, the plot itself is rather easy to predict. There are a few small twists, but largely the plot follows the expected route, robbing the reader of any great surprises.

This is, of course, a minor complaint. Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderfully engaging read, painting a gorgeous Japanese-inspired world thick with colour and life, weaving together traditional Japanese culture and folklore with the original French fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Opinion

A polished and entertaining retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with engaging characters battling grief and curses against a rich backdrop of Japanese culture and traditional folklore.

star-2-32star-2-32star-2-32star-2-32star-5-32

Review – Empire of Storms

This is a *spoiler-free* review for Empire of Storms. This review contains spoilers for previous books in the series.

The fifth book in Sarah J. Maas’ epic fantasy series was always going to be highly-anticipated and under pressure to deliver. As we reach the pointy end of Aelin’s journey to defeat the evil tyrant, the Dark Lord Erawan, and free her continent from enslavement, there are naturally dozens of plots and characters who have joined her on this epic quest – and unfortunately, Empire of Storms just can’t focus on them all at once.

Continue reading “Review – Empire of Storms”

Review – Poison City

Poison City has a very prominent hook – essentially, it asks the question, What would Harry Potter look like several years (and drinks) down the road? Reading this gritty South African fantasy though, it offers far more than a potential Potter fan-fic. Instead, Poison City offers up a twisted, gripping ride that feels a Neill Blomkamp-directed version of Men-in-Black.

Continue reading “Review – Poison City”

Review – Maladapted

Like a science experiment, Maladapted by Richard Kurti feels like a strange creation made from various parts, familiar in some places but alien in others. The result is a somewhat confused YA sci-fi that doesn’t quite reach its own potential.

Continue reading “Review – Maladapted”

Review – Desolation

Bring a strong stomach to Derek Landy’s latest demonic fantasy, Desolation, sequel to the surprisingly good Demon Road from last year. Blood drenches the pages (figuratively) from the very beginning, and the action doesn’t relent for the next five hundred pages – but there’s a rather human story being told beneath that devilish skin.

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Review – Six of Crows

What do you get if you combine the clever heists of Ocean’s Eleven with the multi-POV and superpowers of Zeroes? It’d look something like Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, a new series set in her existing Grisha universe – just make sure you’ve read Shadow and Bone first.

Continue reading “Review – Six of Crows”

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