Update: reading continues; blogging – fewer postings.

Thank you to all who follow/like/visit my blog site.

I’ve enjoyed very much posting summaries of the SF & Fantasy novels I’m reading. It has given my readings a more organized approach — which was my goal when I started the blog. I’ll be posting less frequently, and it’s likely the postings  will be random — my apologies. 

The postings will be more diverse — still continue to focus on SF & Fantasy, but there are novels in the historical fiction/ fictitious history/ historical fantasy genres, that I’ve read or plan to read.

For now: Novels that I’m reading/re-reading or plan to read:

Kim Stanley Robinson “The Years of  Rice and Salt” © 2002.
(KSR — of the RBG Mars Trilogy fame).
Alternate history: What if the Black Death of the 14th century had destroyed most of Europe’s population?
In “The Years of Rice and Salt” China and India dominate world history.

Iain M. Banks: “Look to Windward” (Culture #7) © 2000.
Iain Banks (1954 – 2013 ) was a Scottish SF writer. “The Culture” novels are set in a fictional world of interstellar civilizations, peopled by humans, humanoids, aliens, and very intelligent sentient AIs. The Culture is the most powerful and advanced of these civilizations.

“Look to Windward” is a novel of the consequences of political struggles, a civil war, of loss and mourning, and of suicide; a philosophical SF novel in many ways.

Ekaterina Sedia: “The Alchemy Of Stone” © 2008.
A SF steampunk novel about Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in alchemy; a story of the Alchemists, the Mechanics, and gargoyles.

Helene Wecker: “The Golem and the Jinni” © 2013.
Historical fantasy: A fascinating novel that brings together Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction, and fable.
The story, set in NY in 1899, of the friendship of Chava, a golem (from Poland), and Ahmad, a jinni (from Syria), and how they learn to live their lives, among humans, and in a place and a time very different from their own origins.


More novels to read….

pile of covered books
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Michael Swanwick: “Bones of the Earth” (c) 2002.

Michael Swanwick is a prolific American science fiction writer. His SF and fantasy stories are highly imaginative and vividly written.
He has received and been nominated for a number of awards, including the Hugo, the Nebula, the Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards, for his novels and short stories.   His novels include:

Vacuum Flowers (1987) (space & cybernetics)
Stations of the Tide (1991)
The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993) (fantasy; elves and dragons)
Jack Faust (1997) (modern retelling of Faust)
Bones of the Earth (2002) (time travel)
The Dragons of Babel (2008)
Dancing With Bears (2011) (post-Utopian Russia).
Chasing the Phoenix (2015) .

“Bones of the Earth” (2002)  was  nominated for the Nebula, the Hugo, Campbell, and Locus Awards.
It is based on Swanwick’s  short story “Scherzo with Tyrannosaur” which won the Hugo Award.

Bones of the Earth is a time travel story, spanning millennia of geologic time from the pre-historic past to the far future. The focus of the story is on  modern day expeditions to the Mesozoic Age, the age of the dinosaurs. The time travelers and scientific researchers are humans, but the time travel technology is from the far future, long after humankind is extinct.

Towards the end of the story, Swanwick includes the following verse from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

Prospero, scene i, Act IV, The Tempest
Source & Credit:

The main human characters;  and the “Bird Men” — the providers of the time travel technology:

The story begins and ends in the modern times, in 2010. We learn more about the time-travel technology towards the final chapters of the story. The technology is invented in the far future, the Telezoic Age, and is provided to the humans by the “Bird Men”, who evolved from an avian ancestor, long after humankind’s extinction.

The Unchanging are essentially machines made from human genetic material, and they are sent by the Bird Men to observe and record human behavior. The Bird Men in particular are struck by human curiosity and courage shown in scientific investigations. They provide the means of the time travel back to the Mesozoic, for scientific observations and research. There are stringent rules and regulations regarding time travel. No changes must be made to the events of the past. The consequence would be loss of the technology, and all knowledge gained through the time travel would be erased by the Bird Men.

The lives of three people become intertwined as they journey through time. Swanwick is a master story teller: Individual  life stories unfold as the younger and older selves of people,  as they travel to the prehistoric past, and return to their lives in modern times, in later decades of their lives (2034 or later).  The final return of the time travelers is to the year 2010.

Paleontologist Dr. Richard Leyster: researcher and lecturer with the Smithsonian Museum; his life changes dramatically when he is given the opportunity to study live dinosaurs, in their milieu, in the Mesozoic age. He is the leader of the expedition that is stranded for two years in the Mesozoic Age.

Paleontologist Dr. Gertrude Salley: she is brilliant in making the kind of visionary leaps needed to come up with new theories. But she is also manipulative, and uses people and their ideas for her own advancement. She changes events in the timeline, with dire consequences for the lives of expedition members.  Her understanding of her own character comes  when  she finds herself face to face with her older self, in the same time line.

Harry Griffin — plans and organizes the expeditions to the Mesozoic. Griffin is actually the younger self of The Old Man. Griffin’s knowledge of time travel technology and its providers plays a critical role in the rescue of the expedition that is stranded in the Mesozoic Age.



           The Mesozoic Age!                  (WordPress free photos)




Books: Art & art objects: early 20th century- “Books and Scholars’ Possessions”

Time for me to review my reading & postings….In the meantime:

 From the online images at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

from the Met. Museum of Art DP163170
Ten-panel folding screen; ink and color on silk: “Books and Scholars’ Possessions” Culture: Korea; unidentified artist; early 20th century Image – Open Access/ public domain at https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/73134

Ten-panel folding screen; ink and color on silk:

“Books and Scholars’ Possessions”

Culture: Korea;  unidentified artist;  early 20th century
From the Met’s notes:
This screen belongs to a genre known in Korean as chaekgeori ( “books and things”).
“Each panel portrays an assemblage of neatly stacked volumes and other objects associated with scholarly activities, including paper, ink, brush, and ink stone as well as archaic bronze vessels, porcelain, fruits, flowering plants, and small pieces of furniture.”

Image: Open Access / public domain, The Met.



Kristine Kathryn Rusch: “Buried Deep” (c) 2005.

“Buried Deep”  (Retrieval Artist #4) (c) 2005   by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The “Retrieval Artist” is a series of SF mystery novels,  set in a futuristic world  of co-existing human and alien civilizations.   “Buried Deep” is  the fourth novel in the SF mystery series .  

In 2003 Rusch won the Endeavour Award for “The Disappeared” (Retrieval Artist #1) (c) 2002.

Each novel is essentially a stand-alone mystery, set in the same futuristic world, and the two principal characters are Miles Flint and Noelle DeRicci.


 The Alliance is a governmental organization, an association of humans and aliens. It exists to handle the complexities and wide range of differences in governments, societies, cultures, beliefs, legal systems, economics, and diplomacy protocols.

The Alliance legal system is a complex one, and in resolving crimes, the law is that anyone who commits a crime against an alien race is subject to the laws of that race. Some of the alien punishments are very harsh, including vengeance killing. “The Disappeared Services” are companies which help people escape from alien justice systems. Trackers are bounty hunters whose purpose is to find “the Disappeared” and return them to face their legal charges. 

Retrieval Artists are private investigators who search for “the Disappeared” but safeguard the whereabouts of the Disappeared. Retrieval Artists have to consider the legal, moral and ethical issues involved in helping any of the Disappeared, who are considered to be criminals in the alien justice system.

Miles Flint is a Retrieval Artist. He was previously a computer specialist, then a police detective and a colleague of Noelle DeRicci, also a detective, in the Armstrong Dome on the Moon. Flint and DeRicci remain friends after Flint leaves the police department.

In the novel, “Buried Deep” (Retrieval Artist #4), Noelle DeRicci is appointed as the Chief of Moon Security, including all the domes and ports on the Moon. Noelle is known for her decisiveness and exceptional abilities in dealing with difficult investigations, including the investigation of the bombing of Armstrong Dome. Her priority in resolution of crisis is to save lives.

The Disty Aliens: their beliefs about death, and its impact on the legal system:

In this novel, the Disty aliens are at the center of human-alien interactions. The Disty are from the Amoma system, and have settled successfully throughout the solar system including Mars and the Moon. The Disty have a deeply rooted fear of death, and they have countless death customs. A Disty who touches or is exposed in some way to a dead body is considered to be “contaminated” – this has to do with the psyche, with cultural beliefs. The very presence of death can lead to panic and flight. A dead body is believed to contaminate the environment. The Disty have various cleansing rituals for different situations and the Disty Death Squad is responsible for the cleansing rituals. In the Disty legal system, the cleansing rituals include nonviolent methods, but also terrifying vengeance killings against anyone who has been exposed to the dead body.

“Buried Deep”:
The story begins on Mars. Both humans and Disty live in the Sahara Dome. The discovery of a human skeleton at a Disty construction site throws the local Disty into a state of panic, as a human death is considered to be a severe contamination.

Sharyn Scott-Olson, the Medical Examiner for the Sahara Dome , and Aisha Costard, a well-known forensic anthropologist and crime analyst from Earth, work together to analyze and identify the skeleton. It is of a human, a woman, who died about 30 years ago, and through bone DNA, she is identified as Lagrima Jorgen. She is one of “The Disappeared”, someone who escaped from a conviction for a crime against an alien. It also appears that Lagrima Jorgen herself was killed.

According to Disty Law, a relative of Jorgen, or her killer, must be found and brought to the Mars site where her body was found, for cleansing rituals to decontaminate the site. Since Sharyn Scott-Olson and Aisha Costard have handled the skeleton, they can be held responsible and face ritual cleansing.
The Disty allow Aisha Costard to go to the Armstrong Dome on the Moon, to search for more information about Jorgen’s family.

On the Moon, Aisha Costard asks Mike Flint for his help, as a Retrieval Artist to find Jorgen’s family. He agrees to investigate the case for the Sahara Dome Human Government. Using his expert computer specialist and investigative skills, Flint uncovers a great deal of information about Jorgen. When  Flint tries to contact Aisha Costard, he discovers she has been  killed in what seem to be an alien vengeance killing. It is possible Costard has been murdered by a human.

At about the same time, the situation at the Sahara Dome on Mars grows grimmer and more perilous, when a human mass grave is discovered deeper under the Martian construction site where Jorgen’s skeleton was found. The Disty flee by the thousands from the death contamination from the Sahara Dome. Their panic and fear spreads to other Disty populations in the other Domes on Mars. A massive refugee crisis begins to build as thousands of Disty head in space ships from Mars to the Moon.

The Disty on the Moon and everywhere in the solar system cannot come in contact with the Martian Disty, as they are now considered to be contaminated. The Disty Government blames the humans for this crisis.

The most important question first is how to avert the thousands of deaths, of Disty and humans.
As Chief of Security on Mars, Noelle acts decisively to close off all Moon ports and space to all incoming spaceships. The Disty officials support her decision as it will avoid contamination of the Moon. The Martian Disty will remain in orbit around the Moon, until either Mars can be cleansed through a ritual cleansing or an uninhabited planet can be found for them, for ritual cleansing and a new life.

It is now imperative to find relatives and/or survivors of the human massacre in the Sahara dome, to carry out the cleansing ritual of the Sahara Dome, and Mars. It is the only way to ensure the survival of both humans and the Disty on Mars.

The Mars massacre occurred ~100 years ago and was a vigilante type killing of a new group of settlers by the Sahara Dome Council. Flint discovers that there are in fact survivors, people who were children at the time. Some of the survivors now live on the Moon. When Noelle receives this information from Flint, she asks the survivors for their help in working with the Disty to resolve the death contamination on Mars. Seven of the survivors agree. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Noelle asks Flint to take the survivors to Mars aboard his space-yacht. One of the survivors is the murderer of Jorgen, the woman whose skeleton was buried on Mars. The murderer tries to kill Flint but with the help of the other six survivors, the murderer is overpowered.

The Disty government informs the human officials that the survivors of the massacre will be involved in nonviolent cleansing rituals. When Flint’s space-yacht is in orbit above Mars, he contacts the Disty Spaceship.

A Disty Death Squad comes aboard Flint’s space-yacht. The survivors understand they are the only hope of averting the deaths of hundreds of thousands of contaminated Disty. They learn from the Death Squad more about the particular cleansing ritual to be carried out on Mars. It is a nonviolent ritual, there are no vengeance killings involved. The survivors will have to sacrifice long periods of their lives, to go through cleansing rituals that will save the lives of the Disty and protect the lives of humans. Flint is impressed as the survivors ably  negotiate with the Disty an agreement that will allow the survivors to visit their families on the Moon periodically.

Only Noelle knows of the critical role that Flint has played in averting a dangerous situation and in saving the lives of humans and aliens.






Reading: “Railsea” by China Mieville; and “The Cassandra Complex” by Brian Stableford.

Thank you very much to those of you who follow/like my posts.

Continuing to read across the wide spectrum of SF & fantasy.

Currently reading:

 “Railsea” by China Mieville; and “The Cassandra Complex” by Brian Stableford.


“Railsea” (c) 2012 by China Mieville
A young adult novel set in a very imaginative world. The novel is a mix of SF & fantasy, with aspects similar to steampunk SF (salvage and archaic inventions extended into a futuristic world). The story is told in a language that is very expressive of its fictional world. Many elements of the story draw on Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby-Dick” and the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The railsea is an endless network of rail tracks over land, for all kinds of trains, including moletrains. Like whalers at sea, molers hunt with harpoons giant carnivorous moles (moldywarpes), and other animals that live underground. Sham Yes ap Soorap is a young apprentice doctor aboard a moletrain. His journey takes a different direction when he finds a corpse, and a memory card from a camera on a derelict train, with pictures of two children, and a single rail track running into the unknown.


“The Cassandra Complex (Emortality #1)” (c) 2001
by Brian M. Stableford

SF novel set in 2041 (London): a futuristic biotech thriller. It is a prequel, written after other novels by Stableford about longevity, near-mortality (or “emortality”), and immortality.

Dr. Lisa Frieman is an experienced forensic scientist working in the police department (London). Dr. Morgan Miller, a brilliant research scientist and geneticist in the areas of survival and overpopulation, was Lisa’s research mentor many years ago. They have been close friends for many years.

One night, intruders break into Lisa’s flat, threaten to kill her, and steal all of her computer data wafers. At the same time, Morgan Miller disappears (kidnapping?). A major long term genetics experiment involving mice is firebombed.

The term “Cassandra Complex” comes from Greek mythology. Cassandra was cursed by Apollo that her knowledge and warnings of future events would not be heeded. Anyone whose dire predictions go unheeded are victims of the Cassandra Complex.

Morgan Miller is a victim of the Cassandra Complex as his warnings of the impact of overpopulation have gone unheeded. Had he found a solution to the population crisis and was his disappearance related to his discoveries?

Lisa Frieman is drawn into the criminal investigation, to find Dr. Morgan Miller.


Paul McAuley: “The Secret of Life” (c) 2001.

Paul  McAuley  is a British biologist  and science fiction author.  He has written a number of series, novels, novellas, and short stories.
His science fiction themes include far-future space travel and planetary colonies, alternate history, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.
His novels have received or been nominated for a number of SF awards, including the BSFA Award, the Philip K. Dick Award,  the Arthur C. Clarke Award,  and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
His  novel “Pasquale’s Angel” , set in an alternate Italian Renaissance, won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History (1995).

Paul McAuley’s  novel “The Secret of Life”( 2001)  was nominated for the BSFA Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

“Some races are increased, others are reduced, and in a short while the generations of living creatures are changed, and like runners they relay the torch of life.”
– from the poem  “De Rerum Natura”   (“On the Nature of Things”)  by  the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC)  *.

“The Secret of Life”   is a biotech SF thriller set in the near future (2026 – 2028).

In 2026 an unknown microorganism appears in the Pacific ocean. It forms an enormous mass of long interconnected strands and the formations are called slicks. Preliminary research by US government scientists and Cytex, an American biotech company, shows that the microorganism feeds on phytoplankton. However, the microorganism’s fast and immense growth kills off the phytoplanton in the surrounding waters, and the impact spreads to all marine life.

Scientists suspect that the slick may be related to a microorganism, Chi,  that a Chinese expedition to Mars is reported to have discovered deep beneath the Martian icecap.

Dr. Mariella Anders, a biologist at the Arizona Biological Preserve, is recruited by NASA as a member of an expedition to Mars to search for microorganisms. Mariella is a brilliant biologist, with expertise and knowledge in molecular genetics, part of her quest into unraveling the molecular origins of life. She is extraordinarily creative in finding solutions to intractable and complex problems., with the ability to think in terms of the big picture and to think outside the box.

 The biotech company Cytex is underwriting the NASA expedition. The US government has given Cytex virtually exclusive rights to research and potential applications of the slick organism, and to any related microbiological findings on Mars. Cytex scientists have found that the slick organism in the Pacific uses the same molecular building blocks for its genome as all life on Earth. This means that microbial life on Earth and Mars must have arisen from the same ancestral microorganism.

The slick microorganism grows by combining its genetic code with that of the phytoplankton in the oceans. Its ability to modify its own genome and to adapt rapidly to changing conditions has far-reaching implications for commercial applications in genetic engineering.

Mariella and other scientists believe that all scientists should have access to the findings by Cytex. Mariella is very excited by the question of a common origin of life on Mars and Earth. But in order to go to Mars, she has to sign a confidentiality contract with Cytex.

On Mars, Mariella will work together with Penn Brown and Anchee Ye to search for microbial life.

Penn Brown is a scientist and one of the founders of the Cytex biotech company. He has built strong working relationships with key members of the White House Staff and NASA. Howard Smalls of the White House and Al Paley of NASA are in charge of organizing the Mars expedition, and provide key support from Earth.

Anchee Ye is a NASA scientist and astronaut. She has been to Mars on a previous expedition.

The story is about Mariella as a scientist, it is also about her courage and determination when she finds herself in life threatening situations. It is also a story about access to scientific research and applications, and about political struggles and conflicts between Cytex, NASA, the various US Government committees for science, space and technology, and individual research organizations and scientists.

The origins of the Slick microorganism in the Pacific

When a  Chinese expedition discovers microbial life deep beneath the Martian icecap,  the American company Cytex makes a covert arrangement to obtain a sample of the Mars microorganism, Chi, from a Chinese scientist in Shanghai. The plane with the sample on board blows up over the Pacific. The Chi is released into the Pacific, and grows into slicks.

The American Expedition on Mars

 The Lowell Base Station is NASA’s permanent base on Mars.
From Lowell Station, Mariella , Penn Brown and Anchee Ye leave in two rovers heading for the Martian Northern ice cap.  The icecap is believed to consist of water, rather than frozen carbon dioxide.

On the way to the icecap, the team receives news from Mission Control in Houston that a second Chinese expedition is already at the Northern ice cap, but something has gone wrong. The Chinese team was doing borehole work, and the Chinese government has warned of hazardous microorganism release into the environment near the camp. One crew member has been infected , and is at the camp. The fate of two others is unknown. A Chinese rover remains parked near their Mars spacecraft.

Penn Brown, impatient, to get to the Chinese camp,  drives his rover fast and recklessly and crash lands into a shallow crater. The rover is wrecked, Penn is alive, but may have unknown injuries. Anchee and Mariella work together to haul Penn out of his rover; they salvage equipment and supplies, and continue their journey in the second rover.

As they near the Chinese camp site, they see a laser signal flash near the base of an ice cliff, near the camp. They stop to rest for the night. However, sometime in the very early morning, Penn leaves on foot for the Chinese camp. Anchee and Mariella drive in their rover towards the camp, following  Penn’s footprints. Not far from a green tent, the footprints become unclear, and there is no sign of Penn. Suddenly someone fires shots at the rover. Mariella and Anchee scramble out of the rover, and take cover near the rover. There is a gunman near the green tent.

Anchee knows Chinese and she uses the rover radio to communicate with the lone gunman. The gunman is Dr. Wu, and he is dying. He can speak English, and knows about Mariella ‘s scientific work. Wu says that his team was infected by liquid water from a blow-back pressure release from the borehole. The team had been working to contain the Martian microorganism with a viral infective agent from Earth.

Suddenly Penn Brown appears from behind the green tent, running straight towards the rover. He crashes into Anchee and Mariella and says he has found the borehole. He removes cartridges packed with charges from a crate in the rover, and runs back towards the green tent. Dr. Wu shoots him. There is a fiery flash of light near Wu. And both Penn and Wu are dead.

By now, satellites and communication balloon drones are in the Martian sky, over the North icecap. As Mariella and Anchee bury the two men, the comm sats and drones relay photos to Earth. Over four billion people are watching the events through remote sensing technology.

Mariella and Anchee work out a plan for survival in an environment contaminated with deadly microorganisms, until rescue comes from Lowell Station . Their Rover is shredded with gunfire. Motors and computers are damaged. They set up an environmental tent, salvage equipment, food supplies, and get permission from Mission Control to do some drilling and sampling at the borehole.

The next day,  Mariella opens the  borehole icecap with a proton drill.  A trickle of water spills out of the drilled hole.  She takes samples of the borehole water, and sealed samples from Dr. Wu’s collection of   the Chi microorganism.

It will be several days before Mariella and Anchee can be rescued. The Lowell Airship is currently at the Martian South pole . However, Barbara Lopez, who has been living on Mars since 2017, radios them that she is on her way to help them.

Some days later, Barbara Lopez arrives in her rover, and with her is Alex Dyachkov, a NASA photographer, who is documenting Barbara’s  unique research of an ancient Martian lake.   Alex prepares NASA videos and photographs & documentation for the public. He videos the Chinese camp, the boreholes, and the graveyard.

Mariella  gives Alex half of the Martian microbial samples to take back to Lowell Station, and to Earth. She keeps the other samples for Cytex as part of her contract.

With tech help from Earth, Mariella and Anchee prepare and launch the Chinese spacecraft for their return to Earth. There is email and other news from Earth; The Slick has spread to other oceans on Earth. Cytex keeps in touch with Mariella. The US National Security Agency informs Mariella that she will be arrested as soon as she arrives back on Earth, for national security violations.

Mariella reads through scientific journals to get some idea of how to culture the Martian microorganism in the lab; and she prepares small sealed glass tubes containing frozen Chi samples and packs them into a thermos.

On Earth:

The spacecraft lands in the Gulf of Mexico, and not in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida as arranged by NASA. Mariella and Anchee are rescued by green activists working with the Clarice Bushor Group. Clarice Bushor is a wealthy and very influential woman, and her organization supports many different groups,  including ecology & environment  activists.

With the help of the green activists and Mexican revolutionaries, Mariella and Anchee are taken inland to a safe enclave, for recovery from their space flight. Anchee dies within a few days from a weakened heart. When Mariella is well enough, she travels to an Agriculture Research Station in an area controlled by Mexican revolutionaries. Bushor sets up a lab at the Research Station.

Mariella still has her samples of sealed tubes containing Martian microbes. Following a hunch she is able to grow  the Martian microorganism  in sealed tubes containing slivers of  porous rock. She seals the slivered rock samples with the Martian microorganism  into very small glass tubes and places these into a small stainless steel tube. On a journey filled with perils, she returns to the US with help of green activists. Her journey ends in Texas at a desert ranch which has a  Conference Center. Her Friends and colleagues greet her warmly as she arrives at the Center.

Within a few days, the scientists gathered at the Center complete the extraction, purification,  and genetic analysis sequencing of  the Martian microbial samples that Mariella has brought with her.

 The microbial genome turns out to consist of  thousands of tiny linear molecules. The genome has  the same genetic code molecular building blocks (A, T, G, and C nucleotide) as Earth’s life.  Life on Mars and Earth  must have arisen from  the same ancestral microorganism, perhaps  3 or 4 billion years ago.

Then Mariella goes to Anaheim, California. She is the keynote speaker  at the Conference of the American Society of Cell and Molecular Biologists. She  is  also to meet with US Sen. Mae Thornton and Al Paley of NASA.   But she is arrested by Secret Service agents as a risk to the US national security.   Her arrest brings Green activists by the hundreds to  the Anaheim Center, and conference delegates, including Nobel laureates,  join the activists demanding that Mariella be allowed to speak.

Al Paley of NASA learns from Mariella thar she has evidence that the White House staff member Howard Smalls has made a deal with Cytex in return for financial support of his election campaign.  The US government also learns that Cytex is withholding information  from their work on the Martian organism.

Al Paley secures Mariella’s release after a hurried court hearing. And next day Mariella gives the keynote address.


Mariella becomes  a special advisor to the Office of Technical Assessment in the US government.  Her responsibilities  including the planning & funding for the Martian microorganism projects, for the many diverse groups who  want a slice of the pie. She enjoys the work, and follows with keen interest  developments in the  research and containment  of the Slicks.  But the Martian slicks have  left a permanent mark on Earth’s ecology.

Mariella’s personal life:

Mariella’s team member on the Mars expedition Anchee Ye, and her husband Don Ye had planned to have children, after Anchee ‘s return from Mars. To avoid potential space-related biological damage Anchee and Don had placed ova and sperm into cryogenic storage, before Anchee left for Mars. Anchee died within days after returning to Earth.
Mariella persuades Don Ye, to allow a fertilized egg to be implanted in her — she is now pregnant with Anchee and Don’s baby boy.



“De Rerum Natura” (Latin; On the Nature of Things) is  a poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99 BC – c. 55 BC).  The poem is about  Epicurean philosophy and  physics, using images and metaphors, to explain
atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; sensation and thought;  and celestial and terrestrial phenomena.

Translation  by William Ellery Leonard (1916)



David Brin: “Kiln People” (c) 2002.

David Brin is an American  science fiction writer  whose novels  often have as their basis, the impact of  scientific or technological change on  human society.   The novels  are written with  vivid imagination,  thoughtful with philosophical and literary allusions,  and  have won or have been nominated for a number of  awards including the Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Awards.

The theme of  sentient-species and   humans as stewards of sentient species is the basis of “The Uplift”series of novels , including  “Sundiver “(1980); “Startide Rising” (1983) – Hugo, Locus , and Nebula Awards winner;  and “The Uplift War” (1987) Hugo and Locus Awards winner, and Nebula Award nominee.

 “Kiln People” (2002)  was nominated for the John W. Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo, and Locus Awards.  

I found this SF story fascinating to read : It is  about a technology that transforms how a society lives and works, and it is written as a  suspense story as Detective Albert Morris investigates the murder of the technology’s founder, Dr. Yosil Maharal.

“Kiln People” is about a futuristic society:
Kiln people are clay copies of real people. Using kilns and templates and neural probes, people can create life-like clay copies of themselves. The clay copies are referred to as “dittos” or as golems. Each ditto is unique as its initial set of memories and personality is made from the unique “Soul Standing Wave” of a real person.

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an anthropomorphic being created  from clay or mud. The original legend refers to a powerful golem made by Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the 16th-century rabbi of Prague, to protect the Jews from persecution.

The novel is divided into four parts, each part is divided into sections. At the beginning of each part, there is a quotation, and the title of each section is either a play on words or alludes to a literary or cultural or political or philosophical or historical connection to the story line.

Part 1 begins with lines from a poem by  John Keats (1795–1821) :

“On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again” (1818)  (*)

“Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute
Betwixt damnation and impassioned clay
Must I burn through …
But when I am consumed in the Fire
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.”

Part II  begins with a quote from  the Book of Job:

“Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me unto dust again?’

Part III begins with lines from  “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám” ; translation by Edward FitzGerald (1859)

(quatrain LIII).

“With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man’s knead,
And then of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:

Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.”

Part IV begins with a quote from the Book of Job:

“But this man that you wish to create for yourself is short of days and full of passion”.


The story:

“Kiln People” — Making a Ditto  and The “Soul Standing Wave” duplication technology

The ditto’s ceramic brain is imprinted with the personality and the memories of the original person using neural probes that sweep the brain and nerve profiles for downloading from the real person to the ditto.

Dittos can be made to resemble the real person very closely and are used widely, by rich and poor people, in all walks of life, for work and for pleasure; in situations which pose personal danger; and for legal and illicit purposes. The different qualities and levels of dittos are indicated by different colors of their pseudoskins. A platinum color is used for dittos involved in highly complex and intellectual work; a platinum ditto indicates a wealthy original person, and closely resembles the real person. a gray ditto is someone involved in business; a green ditto is made for routine errands and housework .

Dittos only last for 24 hours, turning into a lifeless clay slurry at the end. They can upload their memories and experiences only to the original person, referred to as the archetype or “real”. People can choose to upload their ditto’s memories into their own brains, or not.

Dittos are copyrighted, and there are laws against “ditnapping” and copyright piracy.

Principal Real persons & Dittos

Albert Morris is a private detective who uses dittos extensively in his work. He has the ability to make high quality dittos of himself. Using specialized programs on his computer, he can track his dittos, referred to as “ditAlbert”, on various assignments and tasks. The dittos have tiny subvocal recorders into which they can record their experiences and thoughts.

The narration in the novel is from the perspective of the real Albert Morris, as well as by the three ditAlberts, that he sends out to investigate the apparent murder of the developer of ditto technology, Dr. Yosil Maharal. The three ditAlberts each end up developing their own personalities as they have different experiences, and face life-threatening situations,. What would Albert do? With no real-time contact with real Albert, the ditAlberts must make their own decisions.

Universal Kilns is the major manufacturer of the kilns.

Dr. Yosil Maharal, a brilliant scientist, developer of the ditto technology, is one of the founders of Universal Kilns.  Dr. Yosil has been working on a revolutionary breakthrough in ditto technology. He is found dead under suspicious circumstances. His gray ditto, ditYosil, is still alive (referred to as a “ghost”).

Ritu Maharal, is Yosil’s daughter, and she believes Yosil has been murdered. Unknown to Albert, Ritu has multiple personality syndrome.

Vic Aeneas Kaolin is the chairman of Universal Kilns. He is a recluse, living at the Kaolin Mansion. His work is carried out by his platinum ditto, ditKaolin. Ritu and ditKaolin hire Albert Morris to investigate the death of Yosil.

Beta is a master criminal wanted for ditto copyright violations and ditnapping famous dittos, duplicating them, and selling them. Beta escapes a raid on his hideout by Albert and Inspector Blane’s dit-police.

Clara Gonzalez is Albert’s girlfriend. Like millions of people, she uses ditto technology to pursue multiple interests. She is a college student, and a competitive “warrior” – wars and battles have become sporting events, with the actual fighting done by dittos.


(Dittos only last for 24 hours)

Albert makes three different dittos:
Gray #1 has research and business capabilities, and he goes to the Kaolin Mansion to talk to ditYosil about Dr. Yosil’s death.

Gray # 2 handles an important meeting  with the actress and entertainment maestra Gineen Wammaker. Her dittos and templates have been stolen by Beta, who sells illicit cheap quality copies.

The third ditto, Greenie, is given a list of routine errands and housekeeping chores for the day.

Albert inserts a tiny subvocal recorder in the gray dittos. The dittos record all their experiences throughout the day into the tiny recorder and it can become very important if the ditto is unable to return for memory uploading from its brain at the end of its 24-hour life.

Later on that same day:
Gray #1 and ditYosil disappear from the Kaolin Mansion. Gray #1’s ID pallet is found in an off-limits area.

Gray #2 is trapped into a conspiracy to blow up the Universal Kiln factory. He realizes a prion bomb has been implanted into his injured leg. He blows himself up within a forklift, confining the impact of the prion bomb to a limited area.

Greenie sends a message to Albert that he finds himself in a strange mood and questions his usefulness. Albert has made a flawed copy: Greenie is a “frankie” , like Frankenstein. Frankies often turn out to be intelligent, and different from their originator. They are often allowed to to live their single day of life the way they want to.

At Universal Kilns, Chairman DitKaolin finds the tiny recorder that Gray#2 had carried . He hires Greenie and ditPal, a ditto of Albert’s colleague Pal,  to find the the perpetrators behind the bombing.

Dr. Yosil Maharal had spent a great deal of time for his research on digital technologies at his cabin in Urraca Mesa in the desert. There is a also a military base at Urraca Mesa, which is used as a site for international battle competitions. Albert’s girlfriend Clara is at Urraca Mesa competing with other warriors in a competition. When Albert learns of Gray #1’s disappearance at the Kaolin Mansion, he meets with Yosil’s daughter Ritu, to drive to Urraca Mesa, and hopes also to meet Clara.

On the way to Urraca Mesa, Albert learns from the news that he is now wanted as a criminal and perpetrator of the Universal Kilns bombing. He also learns that his own home has been destroyed by a bomb. He decides to drive on to Urraca Mesa. At night, a speeding car tries to kill Albert, who manages to avoid the first attempt. The driver of the car aims a powerful weapon at Albert’s car. Albert drives into the second car, and veers off the highway into the ravine. Albert and Ritu survive the crash and trek on foot the remaining miles to Urraca Mesa. Albert records the events into his subvocal recorder.

On Wednesday

At the Urraca Military Base, in an underground tunnel, Ritu disappears. Albert finds his way to Dr Yosil’s underground labs in the tunnel, below the cabin.

Dr. Yosil has developed renewal treatments to extend the life times of dittos beyond 24 hours. He has also developed technology for memory transfer from ditto to ditto. After Dr. Yosil’s murder, his ditYosil takes over the research, using Albert’s dittos as guinea pigs. The ditnapped Gray #1 has been copied into another ditto, and ditYosil plans the next step of Dr. Yosil’s experiments.

The brilliant Dr. Yosil had thought he could control the Soul Standing Wave of people. When Albert enters Dr. Yosil’s labs, he sees DitYosil  on a pendulum that swings from one ditto to another; the two ditalberts are strapped down, a Soul Standing Wave amplifying as it flows from one ditto to the other.
The amplified Soul Standing Wave grows beyond containment. It hurls the pendulum and ditYosil into the stone ceiling, and the Wave vanishes. Albert is the only one who seems to understand where the Wave has gone.

With ditKaolin’s help, Greenie ‘s 24 hour life has been renewed. He is at Dr. Yosil’s labs now. He and Albert wreck the computer system. An exhausted Greenie makes his way into the cabin and sends a fax. Real Clara, ditKaolin and warriors from the base rescue Albert and Greenie.

 About 2 weeks later:

Clara has pieced together many of the events that occurred. She confronts the real Chairman Kaolin with her conclusion that he is the arch villain, Although Kaolin is evasive, he agrees to reveal the newer ditto technologies for wider use.

Real Albert is alive, greatly weakened, he seems like a body without a Soul. Greenie has been restored. When Albert is ready to die, he says farewell to Greenie, leaving Clara in Greenie’s care. And he tells Greenie to uploads his memories to Albert’s mind. The Greenie’s mind can now have new memories, new experiences, and with extended ditto life, he can begin a new life with Clara.


*Sources and Credit

John Keats  (1795–1821).   One of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement.

The complete poem  “On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again” (1818)
is at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_Sitting_Down_to_Read_King_Lear_Once_Again
Works by this author published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain

The “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam” —  Translation by Edward Fitzgerald (1859)


Works by this author published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain.