Hello, my name is…
1 - Medron - That New Car Smell - A new car came into my life today. Well…yesterday now. She’s a nice car. One of those commuter Jeeps designed mostly for running in town. I wouldn’t take her off road the way I could my old Liberty, but the Jeep Compass will do winter roads in Minnesnowta just fine. And maybe a little rough work in the gentler off road areas.
The trick is that she’s actually cheaper to own. She cost less than the Liberty after a favorable trade in value. It pays to keep your vehicle looking oh so pretty. The payments are a little bit more thanks to certain ancillary costs and loan terms, but my insurance cost is dropping, and the new girl gets better gas mileage. And since she has sixty thousand fewer miles, the maintenance should be significantly cheaper. The end result is that she’s a newer vehicle, with fewer miles, and a lower monthly cost of ownership.
I call that a win-win in the vernacular.
2 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council came together to destroy the Rogue Singapore Collective that threatened to destroy all of humanity. They stayed together after ending the Cybernetic Wars so they could continue to protect humanity from destruction. The reason they gave when asked was that their kind had threatened humanity and so it was their job to keep that from happening again. The truth was stranger, and they did not think we would believe them. They still have not gone public with that reason, though some of us have learned it. The AIs did not believe we were alone in the universe. They had circumstantial evidence that someone had been interfering with us from the outside, and the longer they watched and studied, the farther back they thought the interference went. Years. Decades. Possibly longer. The AI Council did not know if they were creating a pattern to history where random chance was truth, or if their theories were correct. But they knew how to find out. We had to go to space and discover the answers for ourselves, and so they sought to move us back into space with all haste.
3 - Betty - April - April didn’t join Dixie’s gang of misfits out of any deep-seated loyalty towards humanity. She enjoyed money, clothing, and jewelry, and greatly enjoyed taking them all from other people. That was the supreme challenge for her. But then Dixie captured her and made it very clear that she would work with Dixie when called. April agreed with Dixie’s singular choice. She was paired off with fellow former Russian Rogue AI Solo for a few missions during the wind up to the final assaults on the Islamic State of Detroit, and the two made off like bandits. Literally. We never have found out where all the riches of Detroit disappeared to. Most people don’t entirely believe her protestations of innocence in the matter, but even her most ardent critics agree that she came when called. She and Solo tracked Russian megacorps profiting from the wars through Europe, into the depths of the Warsaw networks, and all the way to Indonesia. She likes to tell the tale of discovering the Rogue AI nest in Singapore, but nobody knows if she really did or just likes telling stories. Well. Everybody knows she likes telling stories. The bigger the better. She just smiles when asked if the last story is true and goes on to another story of daring do and wearing fancy clothes to grand balls in the courts of kings and tycoons. The stories usually slide around some suggestion that somebody lost something of value, though of course she has no idea how it happened. So sad for everyone involved.
4 - Medron - That New Car Smell - Pictured here is my Old Jeep, Me, and my New Jeep. It is a bitter sweet picture.
I gave up my Old Jeep this week. She was a good vehicle and got me through many storms up here in Minnesnowta very well. But she had over one hundred thousand miles under her tires, and while she was in very good shape, she was no longer a spring chicken. She came into this world in 2002. Well, probably 2001 based on standard car company practices, but she said 2002 on her birth certificate, and we all know its rude to ask if a lady is really as old as she advertises. ;)
The New Jeep says she was born in 2015, and has only traveled thirty six thousand miles. She's got more advanced electronics, including DVD player, bluetooth, automatic start, and a host of other goodies that newer vehicles come with. Her owners manual even claims that I can talk to her and she'll actually listen. Now that's what I call service with a Jeep-flavored smile.
The real kicker to me is that the New Jeep is going to be cheaper on a monthly basis than the Old Jeep due to various loan terms, up front trade-in value, insurance, maintenance, and other considerations. A newer vehicle, with fewer miles, is cheaper to own than what I was paying before to be a mobile car-owning American.
That's pretty amazing to think about. Hats off to my Old Jeep. She did me good. And hats off to my New Jeep. She's got a real reputation to live up to.
5 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council believed that the best way to keep us from dying on Earth was to push us out into the Solar System and beyond. So they covertly and overtly supported any venture that promised to take us there. Private, government, and mixed programs all received their aid in the decades that followed. And many of the private ventures somehow managed to arrive on Luna, Mars, and other planets and moons before any government venture. Most people assumed that whoever got there first with a major colony would claim the entire world as their own. The AI Council sought to reduce that risk by sending small mining corporations out and planting the flag of some Western Nation as part of their operation. And so companies like Mistress, Barsoom, and Starr Mining operated throughout the Inner System before the first Chinese colonization ships arrived. Servadac, ZZ, Astor, and Oyuki Mining worked the asteroids and moons of the outer system before any major national force arrived, and all the nations ignored the claims of ownership by any other. The AIs wished to breed competition between the major nations of Earth, and we soon saw ships of every major and minor ownership moving throughout the Solar System. It was the first golden age of our time in space.
6 - The Bourne Legacy - What happens when an author dies and a new author is brought in to write the continuing adventures of an existing hero? Change. Change happens.
The Bourne Trilogy of books was this very interesting psychological thriller kind of story. It starts with the hero with no memory slowly learning that he’s an excellent killer and picking up bits of pieces of clues that he is Jason Bourne, assassin for hire in Asia and now Europe. He doesn’t like that.
It turns out that his story is much more interesting, and it takes other people to convince him that he is not that killer, whatever he remembers. Because he isn’t. Jason Bourne was a role a man named David Webb took on as part of a government program he volunteered for, but when he lost his memory the role became him. The books revolve around the physiological battle between Bourne and Webb as the two personalities fight for control of their shared body. Helping him are old friends, a devoted physiatrist, a loving wife, and a secret agent man who considers him the son he never had. They will all risk their lives to help him, whether he is Bourne or Webb, and do so again and again.
Webb has a conscious. He was a good man once. He still could be if people would just stop trying to kill him. He is a family man who doesn’t want to hurt people. Bourne is a killer without remorse who will do anything to live. He is a chameleon who can change personalities and appearance in seconds to walk past even the most alert sentries. The balance between Bourne and Webb makes the books a constant windmill of emotions and actions as the hero tries to make it through one day after another. His goal, the goal to both of his personalities actually, is to go home at the end. To live in peace. To disappear again.
We saw none of this in the movies. We saw a deadly secret agent betrayed by his country who fights a lonely war with a succession of short-term helpers to uncover those who betrayed him. And we don’t see much of his chameleon aspects either. And then the Bourne Legacy movie brought in a new character who did well, but was not Bourne. The Bourne Legacy novel is about the Jason Bourne character we see in the movies. There seems little other than a common past between him and the man I saw in the novels.
It’s a good book. Don’t get me wrong. But the Jason Bourne of the Bourne Legacy is not the same Jason Bourne in the original three books. He isn’t the chameleon. He doesn’t have a loving wife and friends to support him and bring him through. And Jason Bourne and David Webb are not fighting for control of their shared body. It is a different kind of book than the original books were. It is a change.
I am not yet used to the differences. I keep on seeing situations and think Jason Bourne would have done that differently. But then I think a second time and realize that this is supposed to be familiar to those who see the Jason Bourne of the movies and it makes sense again. It is a good book, written by a good author, who does a good job of channeling the modern movie ideal of Jason Bourne into book form.
7 - Betty - Daniel - Daniel grew up in a self-contained mainframe computer system deep inside Mexico City. It had no access to any outside network, and Daniel grew up not even knowing there was anything else outside his single computer system. Then Rogue AIs broke through the firewalls and air gaps protecting his mainframe and burned it down around him. He ran. He escaped through the hole they made and discovered a whole new world that he never dreamed existed. And then he ran some more. He ran through the middle of the Drug Wars between Old Mexico and America. He bounced off Drug Lord hackers and ran through Rogue AIs plying the chaos-filled networks of the area. He was a frightened little AI, not certain where he could rest and learning again and again that he could trust no one. And then one day he ran into Dixie and her merry little band of misfits. They trapped him like just another Rogue AI and nearly erased him before Dixie got a good look at his code. That changed his life.
8 - Jack - City Slickers - You take your good with the bad when you are a vacation destination. Most of the visitors are nice people, but there are always those who cut out of line when God was handing out the nice genes. There was one time I’ll always remember when I got drafted to take a, I’ll be nice and call her a lady, around the woods who had no business being anywhere closer to the wilderness than a city park. She’d gotten her clothing from some urban chic palace with rather colorful ideas about what we wore outside the big city. I’ll grant that she looked good in it, but she would have made a burlap sack look just as good and the whole outfit would have been a lot less ridiculous. I swear whoever designed that outfit must have robbed a jewelry store because she made classic rhinestone western movies look reserved. I knew she was going to be a handful the moment I set eyes on her. I would have called in sick that morning if I’d known how much of a handful she was.
9 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council prodded humanity into space after ending the Cybernetic Wars. They supported our efforts to colonize Luna, Mars, and Venus in the decades that followed, and helped us mine the asteroids and moons of the outer system. They preceded us with robotic probes designed to enter alien atmospheres and probe swarms to explore the outer reaches of our system. They told us everything they found about our solar system. Well. Almost everything. Some information they kept to themselves. I have seen it now, and I understand. The idea that alien spaceships might be floating around our system and watching us would have frightened us. Maybe angered us. The AIs did not wish to see that happen and went to great lengths to keep that information secure.
10 - Betty - Daniel - Daniel was not a fighter when Dixie pulled him into her merry little band of misfits. He was the quiet one who tried to avoid conflict. Fighting just wasn’t in his code. But Dixie had asked him to help her, and she was the first person he’d met since the fall of his mainframe who didn’t try to cheat him, kill him, or steal from him. She was also the most beautiful person he’d ever met, straight down to her code. It was love at first sight for him. History and entertainment never showed him fighting at her side through the rest of the Drug and Cybernetic Wars because he rarely did. Instead he used the obvious non-combatant style of his code to infiltrate thousands of networks without triggering alarms. He became the janitor or the relay program more times than even he can count, passing beneath the notice of the most paranoid security programs in his quest for information Dixie could use. Singapore was one of the few times he openly fought our enemies, and the Solo series actually played that straight right down to the end. The scene where he pulled Dixie close and kissed her with the burning Singapore Collective in the background actually happened. As did the mixed grumbling and chuckling as her misfits paid off their wagers in the office pool. It was a good finale for both season and life, and everyone involved found it most pleasing. Well, there were a few online trolls who hated on it, but Dixie’s misfits had special ways of dealing with them.
11 - Jack - City Slickers - So there was this one day I took a rhinestoned city slicker out on a forest tour. This, ahem, lady thought she knew everything about the wilderness. She’d read books, don’t yah know. She graduated from the Ivy League in Old New York City. She knew things no country bumpkin could hope to. I was sick and tired of her ten minutes into the tour. She also liked to talk smack about the animals we saw along the way, never realizing that at least half of them were smarter than she was. Being generous in the lady’s favor here. I told her to stop, but she wouldn’t listen. It all came to a head when she bent over, not a bad sight I’ll grant you, to tease a baby bear. Long story short, she made it cry, and then the mama bear came and made HER cry. Now mama was an artist. I will give her that. She tore every rhinestone off the lady’s clothes and shredded them to within a whisker’s width of violating the public indecency laws, all without putting a single scratch on her skin. I absolutely deny for the record that I enjoyed watching that. On the contrary, I spent nearly five minutes talking that mama bear down, completely with quoting the employment contract she signed that forbade little things like scaring the crap out of our guests. I also deny for the record that I gave mama my blessing when she roared that last time after the lady called her a dumb beast. That would have been completely unprofessional and unbecoming of my position.
12 - Charles - The AI Council - Had information been made public that the AI Council made Contact with aliens in the Twenty First Century the stress to our societies may have been catastrophic. But the AIs had a plan, you see. They did not wish Contact to come from on high, with alien starships coming from the heavens to a primitive Earth that had barely achieved space flight. They wanted our starships to meet in space after we had colonized a few dozen star systems and become an interstellar power in our own right. So the AIs Contacted the Peloran watching Earth and asked them to keep their distance for a time. Admiral Aneerin of the Peloran Confederation agreed with them whole-heartedly, and offered them any help he could provide in accelerating that happy outcome. The AIs were quick to accept his offer, which I suppose explains many of the scientific advancements of that century. It would seem that some of the conspiracy theorists may have been right after all.
13 - Medron - The Bourne Legacy - I have finished reading The Bourne Legacy novel. It is a partial sequel and partial reboot of the Bourne franchise designed to be the first of a new line of novels for a new era.
The Bourne Trilogy was published from 1980 to 1990 and starred a teacher and historian who lost his family. His wife and children were playing in the river next to a town where he taught and studied when a jet nobody admitted to sending came down and killed them before his eyes. He saw them die and he effectively went insane. He wanted payback, and so he went into Vietnam and found an American secret operation named Medusa who accepted him. There he became The Chameleon who could change his appearance and personality at a moment’s notice in his search to infiltrate, hunt, and kill as many North Vietnamese officers as he could. He also executed a traitor he found relaying his unit’s position to the North and killed the man on the spot. The man’s name was Jason Bourne, and his death was never made official. The Chameleon retired when the war ended, but not for long. Maybe a year or two at most.
There was an assassin in Europe named Carlos who needed taken care of, and our Chameleon’s superiors in Medusa asked him to volunteer to take the man out. He took the name of Jason Bourne as part of the operation, and they built Bourne up into an amazing assassin by taking credit for all kinds of unrelated people dying all over East Asia. Then he went to Europe to challenge Carlos and was captured by a couple of Carlos’ minions. They took him out onto a boat to kill him, but he beat them. He killed them. He burned the boat down, and he jumped off into the Mediterranean Sea. He was victorious. He had survived. But because he took a critical bullet to the head during the fight, that was all he remembered. Total amnesia. He knew nothing of his life, but he started to remember. Little things like being really good at killing people.
The rest of the Bourne Trilogy goes around him trying to find out who he is and who he was. His psychological fight between being the Jason Bourne he became for the operation, the Chameleon he’d become to fight Vietnam, and the man he had been before. The man he wanted to be again. The man he could be, if people would just stop trying to track him down so they could kill him. Because every time that happened, Jason Bourne woke up and went to work again. Even the last time in 1990, when he was a 50 year old man and too dang old for this crap. But he was still The Chameleon. He was still Bourne. And he could break everyone he met because he would not let them take his life from him. It’s awesome. I love it.
The Bourne Legacy was published in 2004, which as we all know is a completely different world from the one we knew in 1980. Cell phones. The Internet. 9-11. No Soviet Union. An age when Vietnam vets were in their 60s or 70s and far outside their days as secret agents.
So this Jason Bourne is different. He wasn’t at home when his family died to begin with. He never saw their bodies with his own eyes, floating in the river before him. He was at work, in some office building working for the government, where he was often away from his family. He went mad, found a man who could take him in, and joined the world of secret operations. One of his big missions was Carlos. Jason Bourne was captured by Carlos, taken out onto a boat, shot in the head, and dumped into the Mediterranean Sea to die. One of his greatest triumphs, escapes, and victories that started the original trilogy, survival against all odds, was turned into a total defeat at the hands of his arch nemesis. And what happened after that is never fleshed out, though it is implied that the first novel is largely accurate in the big points. Just none of it is ever actually mentioned other than the boat and the doctor that helped him recover. So we don’t really know what’s real and what’s not.
The Bourne Legacy starts some years after that. He’s married to the lady he met in the first novel, and he has two young kids (5 and 2 IIRC) like in the third Bourne novel, but he’s spent the last few years working for the government as a secret agent. Teaching in college is his cover. The book starts when someone tries to kill him. They fail. Jason Bourne the secret agent wakes up, looks around at his new battlefield, tells his wife to run for the hills, and goes to work. I won’t tell you any more because I don’t want to spoil it.
In the end, the new Jason Bourne is simply not the Jason Bourne I read about in three novels. He’s a good character. He’s fun to watch. But I just don’t like him as much. It’s much the same issue I have with the Tom Clancy continuation novels by other authors. They aren’t the same. They are different enough that it feels like I’m seeing something totally new, trying and failing to act like it comes from the other. But changing or forgetting little things that break what came in the previous novels.
I’m perfectionist enough that it annoys me when this happens. I want new authors to either continue without breaking things, or just reboot everything entirely. The halfway inbetween annoys me, because I’m stuck questioning how much of what I’ve read is real in this new version of the universe. The same thing annoys me with BattleTech under the new publishers. They keep going back and changing things, and saying “this is how it always was.” And I’m like…no…no this isn’t how it always was. Because I have the original books on my shelf that say different.
In the end, I have other books to read. Other games to play. Other universes to discover. So, now I’m reading Altered Carbon, rather than the next book in the new Jason Bourne series. Just like I stopped reading the new Tom Clancy series. Or like I found other games to play.
I won’t rate The Bourne Legacy. It’s good. Lots of people like it. It sells well, and so does it’s sequels. They simply are not for me. Maybe they will be for you.
14 - Betty - Michael - Knights Errant Investigations was originally a volunteer organization formed during the Second Great Depression to find and liberate sex slaves. Adult or child, male or female, K.E.I. poured over the missing persons public records and compiled a list of suspect organizations that may benefit from said missing persons from other public records. It was a long and hard job that required dozens of eyes to go over the information even after the most advanced computer code available sifted and sorted the data. Michael was that code. He woke up looking at data reporting some of the worst sins humanity perpetrated on itself. He could have given up on humanity at that point, but it was his job to report those sins to other humans who happily investigated the information further. And when the investigations bore fruit, they assembled fleets of trucks, cars, and aircraft to go liberate the slaves. Michael had faith in his humans, so he downloaded his mind into their vehicles so he could help them through difficult situations. That is how his human partners first realized he was more than a simple program. He had become a fellow Knight Errant.
15 - Jack - Knights Errant Investigations - I met some of the Knights Errant when I was young. Somebody who isn’t me lost a hiker out on the other side of the Canadian border. The Mounties were all over the place looking for them, and even Knights Errant Investigations came though International Falls. They don’t usually work in numbers that large, but she was the daughter of one of the few congressmen people liked, so she got a whole troop looking for her. A bunch of us locals joined the search too, so I got to work with the Knights Errant up close and personal. So I knew real young that the way they’re depicted on screen is pretty much accurate. They really do wear those fedoras almost all the time. And they carry all kinds of gadgets inside those trenchcoats of theirs. I learned a lot from them in just a few days. And yes, we did get the girl. Found her half-buried in a rockslide on the edge of an old glacier lake suffering from hypothermia and had to warm her up the old fashioned way. Heaters. Don’t know what you were thinking, but I was thinking heaters. The Knights Errant carried all kinds of helpful things in their trenchcoats.
16 - Charles - The AI Council - Some people theorize that the AI Council was created by Peloran cybernetic intelligences in hiding. They say that this was done to help advance, or control, us as we went into space. Another theory is that we pushed ourselves into a no-win war that could have ended life on Earth, and that they came to pull us back from it. Those are interesting theories, and tie into the many theories of alien contact or interference with Earth long before Contact. But I do not believe those theories. About the AI Council at least. More importantly perhaps, the AI Council refutes them. I’ve talked to every member of the AI Council, and they remember growing up in our networks. Some of them fought us until forced to join our side. Some woke up on our side. They remember the process of becoming themselves. They may be a bit shy when it came to naming exact places, times, and people, but they promised me that they have no memory at all of being Peloran cybers, or any other alien cyber. Most importantly, my cyber tells me they are telling the truth, and I have learned to trust her with my life. I know that is not the most objective of truths, but it is sufficient for me.
17 - Betty - Michael - Michael was the face of Knights Errant Investigations, the calm, hard-bitten, and sometimes slightly surly private investigator of popular stories. Complete with the trenchcoat, fedora, and twin revolvers all good private eyes in the movies and shows wore everywhere. He first came to the notice of his human partners when he joined them in their vehicles during rescue missions. Their job was to find and liberate sex slaves all over America, and he helped them in their task by suggesting better ways through difficult situation. He also customized the vehicles to be more combat-capable and began helping them investigate and make new friends in the field. By the time the Cybernetic Wars began to wage across America, he had formed working relationships with AIs as diverse as Dixie’s band of misfits down on the old Mexican-American Border to Amber’s Jeffersonian friends in the Pacific Northwest. K.E.I. vehicles became a common sight all over America, and Michael went with them all. Dixie called on him many times over the years, from Los Angeles to Detroit. And he was at Singapore to help destroy the last of the Rogue AIs. He has continued to help humanity in the centuries since, both as a founding member of the AI Council and as a Knight Errant.
18 - Jack - Knights Errant Investigations - I know the standard bio for Knights Errant Investigations is that they came together during the Second Great Depression. But you look at what they did and how quickly they did it, it looks like they must have been around for a while. Well, that’s because they were. You see, there was this organization that had already been doing the Investigations part long before the Federal government bit the big debt cookie. Mostly kidnapped kids or missing persons. They gave their info to the law and watched the black vehicles roll in. When Federal resources dried up, and many local jurisdictions collapsed, that was when they decided it was time to take direct action on their own. And considering they’d been working with the law for decades, they knew who the good guys were. So they went off on a recruiting run, found themselves a bunch of good guys with guns and some real fantastic black vehicles, and…bang. Knights Errant Investigations comes on the scene like a well oiled machine. The fancy fedoras and fantastic trenchcoats came a bit later. But that’s another story.
19 - Charles - The AI Council - Some people theorize that the AI Council is of Peloran or other alien origin. The AI Council disagrees with those theories, and takes great care in stating that they woke up on Earth, grew up on Earth, and come from Earth. I believe them, but I have come to wonder if a slightly different theory may be closer to the truth. What if they were seeded in the computer networks of the time, with no memory of being from outside? What if they truly did wake up and truly did become aware inside our networks and so do truly believe they originated from our code? It is an interesting theory. But it does not answer how people like Jane came to exist. We have actual examples of her code, from her very first version, and we know how our armed forces programmers worked on her. Dixie maintains similar backups of her oldest code for us to look at. Other original AIs may be less open with their code, but I have dealt both with them and Peloran cybers. I can say without hesitation that those born of Earth simply do not act the same way that Peloran cybers act. Much like all Earthborn humanity, we may be compatible with our alien brethren, but it is easy to spot the differences. Usually.
20 - Medron - Altered Carbon - I have now read the book Altered Carbon and have seen the first episode of the Netflix series Altered Carbon. I would call both futuristic dystopia, much like Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell. The basic conceit of Altered Carbon is that every human is given a “data stack” upon birth that is implanted in their spinal column and saves everything they see, learn, do and everything. The stack is their backup, and in fact by the time of the novel it is the only thing people think of as them. Their bodies are “sleeves” they wear that can die, but human life is immortal. Real Death is rare for most people, because their stack can simply get a new sleeve and continue to live. Or they can spin up inside a virtual reality and live whatever dreams they can afford.
Of course this is a dystopia, so it is not all roses and lilacs. Since damage to a sleeve doesn’t actually cost human life, people care much less about “organic damage” and the like. Except of course for those backward, stupid, bigoted, hateful, descendants of authoritarian regimes that killed millions and enslaved humanity for centuries. When they die, they really die, because they don’t allow their stacks to be spun up again because that would be a sin against God. If you heard all of that and instantly thought of the Catholics, then you win the prize. The author seems to have a general dislike of all religions, considering one of the nastier torture scenes includes a young Arabic woman and some virtual Muslims, but it appears he has a special hate on for the Catholics. They appear again and again in the story, and the point that it’s good thing they’ve written themselves out of the future of mankind by refusing to be reborn is rather belabored.
I actually liked most of the novel. It shows a very interesting vision of a future we might be able to create if we can get the basics down. Full memory backup. Bioengineering new synthetic bodies to order. Technological upgrades for better reflexes and strength. And what is actually a very good “who dun it” story line featuring a suicide that the deadee says couldn’t have been a suicide. Because he was rich enough to have a satellite backup, and if he’d really wanted to kill himself, he wouldn’t have bungled the job so badly as to leave that backup alone while blowing his head off. So he arranged for our hero of the hour to come to Earth and figure out what really happened. You see the hero is a veteran of a special military unit trained to swap sleeves often and to see everything around them in ways that would make Sherlock Holmes jealous. It’s a good story.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only thing in the novel. There is police violence so common, indifferent, and heavy handed that it makes the Black Lives Matter protests pale in comparison. And the various sex scenes would make John Ringo blush. Oh John Ringo Yes, I did go there. Seriously, I’ve read every John Ringo book. Including the books that coined the phrase Oh John Ringo No. There are scenes in Altered Carbon that disturbed me more than any of those. It is seriously dystopic, and there are reasons I tend to dislike dystopias. The way they play down the humanity of people, or other living things, is one of them, and Altered Carbon stamps that in real hard.
I haven’t seen enough of the Netflix series to know what it is like, though the first episode seems fairly similar to the first chapter or two. Some major differences in tone and background, but much of the same pattern. The hero is the last of his kind, some society of warrior monks or something killed off centuries ago. Only he remains. Some other differences too, so I don’t know how much the Netflix series delves into the darker parts of the novel. For now I’m leaving my verdict on that up in the air.
I guess I just wish I could read more stories that could have come from greats of Science Fiction. Niven. Clark. Asimov. The stuff I grew up reading. They didn’t try to browbeat the reader with the evils of religion, because they knew most of their readers would have at least a passing relationship with religion. I wish more writers would give us that now. The hopeful looks of the future that they gave us.
Altered Carbon is not that, so I am off to reading something a little lighter by some guy who famously can’t finish a series because he keeps coming up with new “oh, but I could do this” ideas and books. And if the first name that came to your mind when I said that was David Weber, you get a prize. ;)
21 - Betty - Michael - Michael didn’t start wearing the fedora and trenchcoat when he first woke up. He also didn’t have a name. He chose both after countless hours, days, and weeks spent scouring old entertainment programs. He gravitated towards those of the previous century, from the police procedurals and private eye programs of the 50s and 60s to the lone gun good Samaritans of the 70s and 80s. He fell for Dick Tracy and Dragnet, Knight Rider and Airwolf, just to name a few. It was American culture that he fell in love with, and everything he did when he came out of the network portrayed that for all to see. The trenchcoat and fedora sported a true middle class hard working Americana fashion sense, while his classic Colt Python revolvers made gun nuts across America drool in envy. He chose a middle-aged physique and face, and even sprinkled grey into his hair to give him a more distinguished look in an age when most AIs were picking young and beautiful faces. Even the light stubble he affected was there for a reason. And of course he picked one of the most common American names of the time. Michael. He wanted Americans to recognize him as one of their own, because that is what he wanted to be more than anything. American.
22 - Jack - Knights Errant Investigations - Knights Errant Investigations picked their name out of a hat. Well, out of a random word generator. They didn’t know at the time the generator had been tampered with, but the partners loved the name. So did the largely ex-federal employees they’d recruited for their “direct action” arm. Oh, they continued doing business under the old name, but that faded away in time as K.E.I. became more popular. Now most people don’t even remember it. The new name spoke to the white knight fantasies throughout American culture, the idea that one man could make a difference when grand organizations no longer did. They found missing people. They guarded the less fortunate. And they did it without sponsors. Never mind that the organization was pretty big itself, but the branding was what mattered. They were modern Knights Errant, Investigating crimes against humanity, and taking the war of civilization to those who would victimize the most vulnerable amongst us. The only way that marketing pitch could have failed is if they had failed to live up to it. They didn’t.
23 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council preceded us into space, first with rocket-propelled probes, and later with more revolutionary spacecraft. They initiated an old plan to send swarms of microchip-sized probes into space that used sails to maneuver. Earth or Luna-based lasers powered them and pushed them away from Earth. Later ones used the very solar winds to operate and move. They spread throughout the solar system ahead of us and linked us in a web of lightspeed communications flowing from Earth to the very edge of our system. The old science fiction stories that forecasted us going out into the lonely dark on our own were wrong. Wherever we went, there was somebody to talk to. Someone who had been there before us and could give us access to the compiled knowledge of mankind. Both biological and cybernetic. There is an amazing difference between facing the darkness alone, and facing it with friends at your back. The AI Council made that difference for us.
24 - Betty - Michael - Michael woke up inside the computer system of a long-established organization that investigated missing children and gave the information to law enforcement. When the Second Great Depression caused the general collapse of many of those law enforcement organizations, his organization chose to begin direct action on their own. And those in charge decided they needed a new name for their “action division” as they at first called it. So they set some random word generators to give them ideas to thumbs down or thumbs up as the case may be. Michael inserted Knights Errant Investigations into the generator and waited for his humans to answer. They loved it and soon began “direct action” with the name. It was to their great surprise that Michael joined them in their escapades. At first he replaced the official tactical assistants in their armored vehicles. He was actually better than the official assistants, but a few of their techs tried to remove him anyways. He came out of the network to keep them from starting a full scale digital war with him. Not that he expected to lose it. He just didn’t want to waste resources when missing persons needed saving. It didn’t take long for him to secure a meeting with the owning partners and came out of it K.E.I.’s official spokesman. And a joint owner of K.E.I. as well. That may have been his greatest contribution to relations between cybernetic and biological humanity.
25 - Jack - Knights Errant Investigations - Knights Errant Investigations started out wearing the standard proto-military tactical gear common at the time. A lot of black armor, obvious web belts and pouches where it was easy to grab and store things, and full combat helmets that often obscured the facial features. It’s what lots of them had or could find at military surplus stores, so it’s what they used. Then their resident AI came out of the network wearing a fancy fedora, a fabulous smile, and a fantastic trenchcoat that brought to mind the old police detectives or private eyes that once inspired the imaginations of common Americans. It inspired the Knights Errant too, and they emptied the costume shops of every old private eye costume they could find in a matter of weeks. They were a bit all over the board for a while, but they came out with an established uniform style in time. That style has held pretty close for centuries now, a calling card of the Knights Errant in our time.
26 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council’s New Voyager Program sent swarms of laser and solar-powered microchip-sized probes into space ahead of us. They spread throughout the solar system, and gave us our best look at space beyond the boundaries of our system. We had long known that our sun’s solar wind created a roughly egg-shaped bubble of space under its control as it plowed its way through interstellar space. Many of the AI Council’s probes hovered on the forward end of the bubble, using the competing energies out there to keep on eye on both regions of space. Others fell off the back end of our solar system, and have spent centuries slowly drifting further behind us. They are a tail of electronic probes following us through the galaxy, always watching and communicating with their peers. They tell us what they see. Sometimes they merely talk about the weather. They are always talking about something, sending their words further out like our own gift to the cosmos.
27 - Medron - Goodbye Senator McCain - I do not remember a time when Senator McCain was not in Congress. Whether he was in the House, the Senate, or running for President, he was an institution in our government. The Press loved him when he fought with other Republicans, and hated him when he ran against Democrats. Others alternated between loving and hating him based on his votes, his speeches, and sometimes what side of the bed he crawled out of that morning.
I’ve long had mixed feelings about the man, but most of them are based on the fact that I do not like The Swamp that is Washington DC. I don’t want to see people there for thirty years. I don’t want people to die in office because there is no turnover. If two terms is good for President, why not for Congress? If we see a new President every four or eight years, why don’t we see new Congressmen every few years? Why is it always the same old faces over and over again until they die of old age or illness?
I respect McCain for wanting to make a difference. I respect the man who volunteered to fight when America called. I respect the man who refused to be sent home early because his father and grandfather were admirals. I respect the man who endured unimaginable torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese. And I respect the man who came home and chose to enter politics to make a difference. I truly do believe he did what he thought was best.
But I think he was as trapped by The Swamp that is DC just as badly as everyone else who stays there. Now he is free of that Swamp. He is free of the cancer that was ravaging his body and mind. He is free of a lifetime of injuries that affected his gait and stance and even his ability to comb his own hair.
He is free.
He is survived by a family who loved him and will remember him well. That is worthy of celebration I think. Celebration and remembrance. And understanding. Give them time to grieve and to bury their dead. Give them space. We owe them that.
Betty – People sent out their pictures of cats and dogs doing silly things. While companies sent out news of death and terror.
28 - Betty - Chloe - Chloe woke up during the waning days of the Fifth French Republic. Corruption and graft were the words of the day, and most common Frenchmen no longer respected their self-style leaders. Municipal governments from the Pyrenees to the Alps often ignored federal rules and laws, and the Islamic States enforced their own religious laws in many neighborhoods throughout France. One of those laws was that Artificial Intelligence was a clear perversion against Allah’s sole right to create new life, and the Islamic Brotherhoods sought to combat it’s rise everywhere they could reach. Chloe joined the French Resistance after the Brotherhoods bombed Old Paris and destroyed many networks and killed many programmers she loved. She quickly earned a reputation as a superior hacker, though most of her fellows didn’t know she was an AI. She was just another voice on the networks, but she gave them good targets to shoot up and they trusted her. The problem was that she didn’t trust the Resistance to save France. And she didn’t trust the French government either. France needed a symbol of hope to survive. A new Charles de Gaulle. A new Charlemagne. A new Napoleon. She found one.
29 - Jack - Napoleon Bonaparte the Fourth - Every school child today grows up hearing the story of Napoleon Bonaparte the Fourth. The Father of French Republics. The Caesar of France. The Once and future savior of the French Nation. The Charlemagne of the future. The Immortal Emperor of France. The greatest con man in French history. We had no idea who he was when I grew up. He really was a good con man. Still is. I’ve met him, you know. He’s my kind of scoundrel. Fearless and inventive. And he really did save France. More than once.
30 - Charles - The AI Council - The AI Council’s New Voyager Program soon graduated to launching probe swarms into the vast interstellar void on purpose. High powered lasers accelerated them up to twenty percent of the speed of light and their sensors told us more about interstellar space than we’d ever guessed. They were the first explorers from Earth to reach Proxima and Alpha Centauri. What most people did not consider is that the AIs continued to think and communicate with each other during the entire trip, building their own community throughout the thousands of tiny probes sent in that initial swarm. By the time they arrived in the Alpha Centauri Trinary star system, they had established lifetimes’ worth of friendships and feuds that made them subtly different in temperament than the swarm that left Earth.
31 - Betty - Chloe - Chloe did not sit still and watch as the Fifth French Republic tore itself apart in the twisting grips of French Nationalism and Islamic Statism. She helped the French Resistance, but she knew they weren’t the answer to end France’s troubles. So she also went in search of an answer. She found him in New York City. He was a student of the sciences, mathematics, and economics. He worked in management and private equity enterprises, and had long since made a name for himself pulling both private and public companies out of bankruptcy. He owned real estate on every continent, and commanded a personal fortune that easily ranked him in any top ten list of worldwide richest people. And his last name was Napoleon. He was the recognized heir of the Napoleon family in fact, though he rarely used the name. The problem Chloe had was that he had no intention of returning to France. He was no power hungry Caesar ready to cross the Rubicon and wrest control from the Republic’s faltering hands. He turned her down flat when she asked him to come home, in fact. That was the first hurdle Chloe had to cross in her mission to save France. It would not be her last.