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review 2018-06-20 18:31
Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission
Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission - Don Thomas

From the beginning of the 20th-Century the state of Ohio has seemingly been on the forefront of manned flight from the Wright Brothers to Neil Armstrong to the flight of an “All-Ohio” crew of STS-70 aboard the shuttle Discovery.  Don Thomas in Orbit of Discovery relates the entire history of the mission from his assignment to the crew to the post-mission events as well as the event that is it best known for, the woodpecker attack that delayed the launch.

 

Thomas begins his book with the sudden halt in his pre-flight routine when a love sick woodpecker drilled holes in the foam of the external tank forcing weeks of delays that put him and the other four members of the crew spinning their wheels.  This pause allows Thomas to give an account about how he personally got to this point through his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to his course of study in school to achieve that dream then his three time failures to join the program until finally succeeding on this fourth try.  He then goes into his time in the program before his flight on the shuttle Columbia and quick turn assignment to Discovery soon after his return.  Thomas then related the year long process of training and preparation for the mission until the sudden halt in the process when a woodpecker used the external tank to attract a mate.  After NASA was able to repair the foam, the mission returns to normal save for the humor inclusions of Woody Woodpecker throughout the flight in space and the numerous post-mission events that Thomas relates in detail.

 

The uniqueness of the mission’s delay as well as the fact that the crew was entirely made up of astronauts from one state—well one was given honorable citizenship—made for a good hook for any general reader who might have an interest in the space program.  Thomas with the assistance of Mike Bartell gives a very reader friendly look into what it was like to be an astronaut and the course of shuttle missions from assignment to post-flight events without becoming bogged down in technobabble.  At the end of the book is included an appendix for profiles for all the astronauts that came from Ohio which is in the spirit of the book and adds a nice bit of history for those interested.

 

Overall, Orbit of Discovery is a well-written and easy to read book that gives a first-hand account of everything that went into a space shuttle flight.  Don Thomas’ own story of his journey to finally getting to the program adds to the account in allowing the read to see how much dedication goes into becoming an astronaut.  For those interested in any way in the space program, this is a highly recommended book.

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text 2018-05-27 16:05
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers $2.99
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) - Becky Chambers

Embark on an exciting, adventurous, and dangerous journey through the galaxy with the motley crew of the spaceship Wayfarer in this fun and heart-warming space opera—the sequel to the acclaimed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

 

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

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review 2017-07-03 23:36
A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by BECKY CHAMBERS
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) - Becky Chambers

Audiobook>

So this is about the reset of Lovey/Lovelace and how Pepper helps her out and it's also flashbacks of how Pepper and Blue met and the AI "Owl" that helped them out. I couldn't figure out if Sidra would change or keep herself the same - she couldn't figure out what she wanted. But I loved the ending with Owl and how that turned out great. 

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review 2017-05-25 06:50
AI and a former slave
A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers

I’m divided about this science-fiction novel. It consists of two distinct storylines with alternating chapters that don’t intersect until the very end. They even happen decades apart. I loved one of the stories. I was ambivalent about the other.

Let’s start with the one I liked less: the story of Sidra, an AI in a synthetic, human-looking body. She calls it her housing or her kit. Sidra didn’t chose to be housed in the kit. She is an AI intended for a spaceship. She longs to be in a spaceship. But due to tragic circumstances before this story started, someone put her into the kit, and she is trying to adjust to life as a quasi-human.

Her situation is complicated by the fact that such constructs are illegal. If the authorities find out that Sidra, who tries to live like a human, is actually a software, they will terminate her and punish those who made her that way: Sidra’s friends. To prevent such an eventuality, Sidra’s only solution is to pretend. Unfortunately, an AI couldn’t lie – there is a protocol in place. Yeah, tough.

Sidra’s story left me cold. I couldn’t sympathize with her imaginary plight. I was a computer programmer before I became a writer. I dealt with software every day. Not an AI though; I programmed accounting software, but there is not much difference. A soft is still a soft, a complicated system of code that is just a non-linear, nested sequence of multiple ‘if-then’ interspaced with bits of action. It can’t develop emotions. I don’t believe it. So when Sidra started behaving like a hormonal teenager, exhibiting rebellion and self-disgust, I wanted to puke.

The only thing I liked about Sidra’s subplot is world-building. Ms. Chambers started building this complex cosmopolitan world in the first novel of the series – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – and I enjoyed it very much. She deepens her world-building here, gives us more details, more nuances, and more planets. 

The second story, the one I liked best, happens in an entirely different part of this galactic world, on a different planet. It is a much better story with a very likable heroine. It starts when a ten-year-old girl Jane escapes a factory.

She worked at the factory as one of a cadre of girls, all Janes, all numbered. Our Jane’s number is 24. She doesn’t know what is outside the factory walls. She only knows work – sorting scrap – and a little bit of free time for eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene. None of the Janes knows how to play or be children. Trapped inside the four factory walls since they were toddlers, they have never seen the sky or the sun. They have never made any choices – never been allowed. They are slaves without knowing it.

When Jane escapes – practically by accident – she finds herself alone in a hostile world, a humongous scrap yard with no humans. Everywhere around her are things new and frightening. By sheer luck, she finds a disabled space shuttle, discarded as scrap years ago. The shuttle’s AI is still functional, and Jane makes her home in it. Together, a ten-year-old girl and a broken machine form a family of sorts, while Jane learns about the real world around her and tries to keep herself from starving to death.

A Mowgli of science fiction, to a degree, with a computer for a foster mother, Jane’s story is a continual saga of self-discovery. It touched my heart on the deepest levels. I was so sorry for her and so awed by her courage and determination that I wanted to talk to her, to explain, to kiss and make better. This child made me ache for her. I was reading and simultaneously inventing better solutions for her problems. I wanted her life to be easier, but it wasn’t. It was hard and intense and imbued with Jane’s humanity. Her story alone makes this book worth reading.

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review 2017-04-21 07:32
A Closed and Common Orbit
A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) - Becky Chambers

I’ve written and deleted an opening paragraph for this review at least five times. It’s funny how I’m almost never at a loss to articulate my dissatisfaction . . . and then when I feel like no amount of gushing would be too effusive, I can’t find the words. Maybe I’ll come back and try again later, but even after letting the story marinate and the afterglow fade a little, every attempt to express why I loved this book turns into a super spoilery Becky Chambers love fest.

 

So instead I’ll just say I loved this book and its characters and their stories and all the feelings they gave me and all the lumps in my throat that I had trouble swallowing. From this day forward, if Chambers writes it, I’m probably going to buy it. In hardcover.

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