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Book Reshorts: The Thankening III: The Thankening Thanks Back

Despite everyone’s best efforts, the Thankers are back! This time Danielle and Sam do a little ego stroking to grow their already prodigious senses of self-importance. So enjoy as they discuss some of the media and themes they’ve shared which they’re thankful for, and just have all of the trouble speaking like normal human beings.

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 3

Sam takes Danielle back to Hyperion in part three of his epic journey through the 1990 book The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. We’re off to an amazing start as Danielle struggles to remember anything about the previous episode, but no time for that, we have a lot going on in this episode! The remaining pilgrims awake in the Time Tomb of the Sphinx, and before too long they are shocked to find that, rather than Father Hoyt, the cruciform parasite has resurrected Father Paul Duré. Duré seems rather sanguine about his being alive again, despite his best absolute torturous efforts to die earlier, and the Consul provides him with the records from his comlog so he can catch up on the pilgrims’ stories. Meanwhile, Brawne and Martin set off back to Keep Chronos to retrieve more food and water, but Martin quickly detours them to the dead City of Poets where he plans to stay and write his cantos, which surely won’t go wrong. Kassad, meanwhile, has found Moneta, but she doesn’t know who he is (time-travel shenanigans, don’t worry about it) but they fight and have sex anyway, so really, about as expected. Eventually the Shrike shows up and takes them all through a weird portal, which is a new thing for it to do. Also meanwhile, Meina Gladstone goes on a walk visiting all the worlds of the pilgrims and remunerates on the choices she made, which we’re still largely unaware of, so not much is learned. Martin is writing furiously, approaching the conclusion of his cantos, when the Shrike shows up and drags him away to its massive tree of thorns. Martin, understandably, is absolutely livid that he isn’t allowed to finish his work. Back in the valley, the pilgrims still there find a strange figure coming towards them, it’s Het Masteen, he’s back! Before we can learn more, we cut to Brawne, who wanders through the Keep, grabs some supplies, is briefly waylaid by a rock-slide, before going back to the valley and finding no one else there. That’s when the Shrike shows up and slips a blade surgically behind her ear. Then we cut to Meina Gladstone, at a war briefing, and to the surprise of everyone in the war room, and absolutely no one else, the Ousters have outwitted them again, and are currently invading the web, having launched the invasion decades ago, traveling at sublight speeds to avoid detection. The Web seems absolutely screwed (they really should have purchased a dehubridifier), but Meina steps up, outlines a plan, and then decides to convene the government to declare war on the Ousters (we guess they weren’t at war already?) and also maybe the TechnoCore. What does any of this mean? Absolutely no clue, maybe we’ll find out next time!

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 2

Danielle’s terrifying month continues as Sam brings her part two of the 1990 Dan Simmons book The Fall of Hyperion. Brawne and Kassad return to the other pilgrims with the rapidly dying body of Father Hoyt, and they decide to call in the Consul’s ship to see if the surgery on board can save Hoyt. However, as they pack to go meet the ship, Kassad’s perimeter alarms go off and he leaves to investigate. The others trudge up the valley but the ship isn’t there to meet them. It seems CEO Meina Gladstone has grounded the Consul’s ship lest they be tempted to use it to abandon their pilgrimage, so the pilgrims decide to seek shelter from the storm in the Sphinx. Meanwhile, Severn is invited to go visit Hyperion, in person, by Gladstone, as she wants a “poet’s perspective” on the situation. So Severn visits and runs into one Melio Alvarez, one time lover of the backwards aging Rachel. Severn interrogates Melio about if he still has feelings for the now infant Rachel, which seems like a real jerk thing to do to the poor man, and then he returns to the web, accomplishing not a whole lot on his trip. Back in the valley of the Time Tombs, Kassad is locked in battle with an unseen sniper he assumes is Moneta. He obliterates one of the Time Tombs, the Crystal Monolith, and then races across the valley floor to it smoldering structure, being heavily wounded in the process, but he sees a figure waiting for him high in the structure. Meanwhile, Severn goes to attend a briefing on the war with the Ousters and things are not looking good for the Hegemony. They will need to commit at least a third of their fleet to Hyperion to secure victory. When questioned about whether such an over-commitment is a prudent idea, Admiral Nashita assures everyone that while they grossly underestimated the Ousters up to this point, this time they’re super-duper sure they got it all figured out and should win the war within a week, what could go wrong? We’ll have to wait until at least next time to learn, as Danielle and Sam wrap this episode with perhaps their best business idea yet: The Dehubridifier, pre-orders are open now!

The Fall of Hyperion – Part 1

This week Sam kicks-off Spook Retorts by bringing Danielle’s greatest fear: more Hyperion! Get ready to dive in to the 1990 Dan Simmons novel The Fall of Hyperion. The Hegemony is going to war. At a party to see the armada off, we meet a man who claims to be Joseph Severn, the one-time friend of John Keats. He has a meeting after the party with CEO Meina Gladstone, where it’s revealed that he’s not only another cybrid persona retrieval project of John Keats, but also has been dreaming the events of the Shrike pilgrims through his psychic link to the other Keats persona currently residing in the Schrön loop embedded in Brawne Lamia. If that sentence made no sense to you, you should really listen to the first Hyperion book; it won’t help this make any more sense, but you’ll at least know who those people are. Anyway, Gladstone wants Severn (née Keats) to report to her the progress of the pilgrims through his dreams. The pilgrims haven’t really done much since the last book, having been unable to find the Shrike they set up camp and squabble about what to do. Eventually they go to bed, but Brawne wakes up to find Father Hoyt has wandered off to the now glowing Time Tombs, which can only mean one thing: DJ Shrike is in the house! Back in the Hegemony, Gladstone has bafflingly brought Severn to all her war briefings and given him the highest clearance. The Hegemony is supremely confident they can defeat the Ousters and defend Hyperion, though Severn thinks that’s hubris given how little the Hegemony actually knows about the Ousters or their capabilities. Unsurprisingly, things start going south in the war fast. Meanwhile, Severn gets himself seduced, kidnapped, and interrogated all by the same person. In his drugged, expository ramblings, Severn helpfully reminds us that the Hegemony orchestrated the war with the Ousters to get to Hyperion, the only variable that the TechnoCore cannot account for, and thus may save humanity from otherwise certain extermination by the AI civilization. Back on Hyperion, we see that Hoyt, mad with pain, has entered the Jade Tomb where Brawne sees him get his throat slit by the Shrike. Will Hoyt survive? Find out next time (maybe) in part two!

Be sure to check out the Authorized Novelizations Podcast, especially The Starlight Barking episode featuring Danielle and Sam. You can find them on Twitter @authorizedpod, Instagram @authorizedpod, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Also, a shout-out the excellent Dustin Can Read and Watch podcast, you should check it out on Twitter @dustin_holden, Instagram @dustincanread, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Dead on Target – Part 2

This week Danielle brings us the thrilling conclusion of the 1987 Hardy Boys novel Dead on Target by Franklin W. Dixon. The Hardys are on their way back to Bayport convinced that the infamous terrorist known as the Bullet is there to enact the opening night of his previous rehearsal bombing (no, a rehearsal bombing doesn’t make sense, but don’t ask questions). Back in Bayport, the Hardys and Frank’s girlfriend (or maybe Joe’s? Sam still isn’t sure) Callie go to the police. However, the new officer in town, Sam Butler, is not buying their terrorist rehearsal bombing idea, which is really the only reasonable reaction to their story. Undeterred, the Hardy’s decide to sneak into the mall at night to see if they can learn something. Fortunately for them, the mall is guarded exclusively by dogs for some reason, and even more bizarrely, Joe has brought a dart gun, since apparently every in this world just loves a worse version of a gun. While sneaking around, they stumble across the Bullet and instead of tranqing him, Joe shouts his name, alerting him to their presence and getting them all captured. Sam is unimpressed. The Bullet, equally as incompetent as the Hardys, merely ties them up in the mall basement near a pile of plastic explosives set to assassinate the not-yet-but-maybe-soon presidential candidate Walker. Why is this almost presidential candidate so important? Because something, something, anti-terrorism. Luckily, Callie was there with them and manages to escape and free them and Frank goes about disarming the bomb using the classic technique of a human pyramid. That was not a joke. With the bomb disabled, the Hardys still need to save Walker, for some reason, from the Bullet who surely won’t give up that easily. Will they succeed? Will Joe get revenge for the death of whatsherface? Is there a Lion King Mufasa’s death style scene? The answer to all these questions is of course yes, but it all happens in a way that only the Hardy boys can pull off: Hilariously.

Dead on Target – Part 1

This week Danielle returns to her teen detective roots with the Hardy Boys Casefiles book one, from 1987, Dead on Target by Franklin W. Dixon. Frank and Joe hardy are two young men who Sam cannot distinguish between despite Danielle’s instance that they are, in fact, very different characters. The book opens with a dramatic scene of Joe’s girlfriend, Iola, exploding in a car bomb at a political rally she was organizing for a presidential candidate. We cut back an hour and learn this rally is, in fact, a dress rehearsal for a political rally, which is definitely not a thing. After Iola gets explodified, Joe, who was a terrible boyfriend, is extremely distraught and Frank agrees to help him do what they do best: Incompetently attempt to investigate her murder until they luck into a solution. After talking to some people at the local mall, they’re attacked by unknown evil people with, hilariously, dart guns. They escape in the car of a government agent they met earlier named Mr. Gray. A brief car chase later, where Joe earnestly tries to murder some of their pursuers, and the Hardy bros are told to go hide in South Carolina while Mr. Gray and the secret government organization he works for, The Network, takes care of the terrorist organization that attacked them. The Hardys are not ones to listen to reason, so they muster all the hacking skills that existed in 1987, and hack into an airport computer to determine that Mr. Gray is headed towards London, and they follow him there. They quickly foil an attempted hijacking which, considering the terrorist weapons were a single grenade and a can of mace, wasn’t much of a threat to begin with. But the real mystery of this book, in Sam’s mind, is just one thing: How are these inexperienced bothers consistently able to insert themselves into a secret government anti-terrorism organization? And further, how has this terrorist organization, known as the Assassins, existed since the freaking Crusades? Unfortunately, the Hardys have no answers to these questions, but with any luck they may yet solve the mystery of who killed Iola, and bring them to justice. So join us for part one of this fast-paced reboot of the classic mystery series!

All Systems Red

For their 100th episode, Danielle and Sam are joined by their friend Jim who shares the first book of the The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, the 2017 novel All Systems Red. In the dystopian future, The Company is the major monopoly in the universe. Survey teams exploring worlds are contracted by The Company which also supplies at least one security unit robot for each team. One of these SecUnits has hacked its own governor to give itself free will and named itself Murderbot, and it has decided to use its new freedom to binge-watch soap operas and generally avoid people. Also, while Murderbot is called a robot, it’s more of an human-looking android, possibly made from a corpse? It’s unclear. Muderbot also has a dark history from before it hacked itself where it was accidentally ordered to murder its entire survey team. Murderbot’s current assignment is a survey team of space hippies, and they eventually encounter another evil sabotaging survey team that isn’t authorized to be on the planet and is undermining the space hippies for reasons that are largely irrelevant. The EvilSurvey team has been hacking other SecUnits using syringe darts (no idea how that works), which Sam thinks just shows that fleshy, human-like security robots are a bad idea. Murderbot is already hacked, so the dart has no effect on them, but eventually Murderbot fakes being hacked to infiltrate the EvilSurvey team in a plan so convoluted it can only be described as parody. Sam and Danielle do their best to follow a plot that seems almost perfunctory in a story that largely takes place in the mind of an antisocial robot and that is steeped in satire and Jim does an admirable job in the face of Danielle and Sam’s goofy incompetence. So join us for our 100th episode where we’ve come a long way, but are still just as weird as ever!

Hyperion – Part 6

This week Sam brings the long-awaited conclusion to the 1989 Dan Simmons sci-fi epic Hyperion. The pilgrims, fresh off the tramway, make a pit-stop at Keep Chronos, the now abandoned former resort hotel. As they settle in for the night, the sky explodes into battle as the Ousters begin their invasion. Our pilgrims, however, don’t have time for such things as they’d rather hear the Consul’s story. The Consul tells a story within a story about how a man named Merin, a Shipman aboard the Las Angels who came to Maui-Covenant ferrying the parts to build a farcaster. There, he falls in love with a local named Siri, but Merin can’t stay, partly because he murdered a bunch of locals after they killed his friend (it’s complicated). So, as Merin sails the stars back and forth he ages mere months for each trip while Siri ages eleven years, but every time he returns they still meet up, eventually even having children. Long story short, Siri eventually dies and Merin leads a doomed revolution against the Hegemony to protect Maui-Covenant. The only part of that which is relevant is that the Consul is his grandson and bitterly hates the Hegemony, but has worked for them biding his time. He was there when the Hegemony and TechnoCore encouraged the Ousters to attack Bressia as a test of their military strength, losing his wife and son in the war. He was eventually picked to liaise with the Ousters, this time to get them to attack Hyperion so the Hegemony could make it part of the WorldWeb and stymie the anti-human factions of the TechnoCore. If none of those machinations make sense, don’t worry, it only gets more complicated from there. In the end, the Consul, with the help of the Ousters, manages to start the process of opening the Time Tombs, and now their opening is immanent. Would you like to know what’s in the Time Tombs? So would we, but we’ll all have to wait until the next book for that be answered, maybe. In the meantime, enjoy an ending that makes Danielle rethink why she ever agreed to doing this podcast, but at least she takes solace in our new favorite character: DJ Shrike, dropping beats in the Time Tombs!

Hyperion – Part 5

This week is the penultimate episode of Sam’s deep-dive into the 1989 Dan Simmons book Hyperion. We open with the pilgrims on the windwagon in the morning, and it’s shortly discovered that Het Masteen is dead or missing. The pilgrims soldier on using a tramway through the Bridle range, which is when Brawne Lamia shares her story. Brawne’s story is a cyberpunk noir (how rad is that?!) and it opens with a beautiful man walking into her office asking her to investigate a murder: his own. The man explains his name is Johnny and that he’s a cybrid, a cloned body driven by an AI living in the TechnoCore; and if you think that technobabble filled sentence is nonsense, you better buckle-up for the rest of this chapter. Brawne agrees to help him find the people who briefly killed him (it’s complicated) but manages to accomplish virtually nothing except stealing a high-tech recreation of a flying carpet. Johnny reveals that he’s actually a personality retrieval project intended to recreate the persona of John Keats (of course), and this is about the time both Danielle and Sam regret their almost complete ignorance on Keats’ work. Anyway, they escape to a planet that is supposedly the TechnoCore’s recreation of Old Earth for reasons that are unclear but has something to do with the desire of the AIs to create an Ultimate Intelligence to give them perfect predictive powers. Instead of grappling with such heady ideas, Brawne and Johnny have sex instead, because that’s what everyone in this book seems to do instead of getting answers. Eventually, Johnny concludes that he wanted to go to Hyperion which the TechnoCore adamantly did not want him to do, so the only way to find out why is a cyber-heist into the TechnoCore! Long story short, during the heist a cyberpuke’s head explodes, but they get the data they were after. Will it be the solution that solves the questions of the book? Not at all, but it does raise yet more questions! So come on all you cyberpukes and cruise the datumplane in this totally jacked-in episode of Book Retorts!

Hyperion – Part 4

This week Hyperion is back, as Sam delves into part four of the 1989 Dan Simmons epic novel. As the pilgrims continue their journey, they depart the venerable Benares and take off on a windwagon across the Sea of Grass. After Brawne almost kills Martin due to him being so annoying, Sol decides it’s a good time to tell his story. Sol grew up on an unimportant and small Hegemony world as a scholar, meeting his wife Sarai at school. They had a storybook romance and, after five years of trying, had their perfect daughter Rachel. And if you don’t think that’s a setup for tragedy, then you haven’t been paying attention to this book. After Rachel starts a graduate program in archeology she decides to do a study on, where else, but Hyperion of course. While inside the Sphinx one night something happens to Rachel and the next thing she knows she’s in a hospital and her parents are there telling her she’s aging backwards and slowly losing her memories day by day. Sol and Sarai do everything they can to try and help Rachel, but none of the doctors have any idea how to treat her “Merlin sickness”. As she grow younger, Rachel eventually decides to stop being told about her illness and asks her parents to just let her believe she’s living in whatever past day she thinks it is. Meanwhile, Sol is having dreams about a mysterious voice demanding he take Rachel to Hyperion and make a burnt offering of her, something that Sol categorically refuses, because of course he does, and Sol will continue to engage with what he thinks is god in long, esoteric ethical arguments, as you do. Sol and Sarai do their best as they watch their child slowly regress from the adult they raised to the child she was, losing herself along the way, and boy, this story is sad, sorry about that. On the bright side, Sam does a pretty cool Shrike voice and Danielle learns more bird facts, so get ready for one heck of an episode!