Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Random items typed in spare minutes over the course of a day

Star Trek book news tidbit

Over on TrekBBS, Baerbel Haddrell started a thread about a list of upcoming Trek books published in a recent issue of TV Zone. There were a couple of unfamiliar titles. Editor Margaret Clark provided a little more info.

David A. Goodman is writing a book with the working title Decker. A sequel to the TOS episode "The Doomsday Machine," it's about Kirk and Will Decker, son of Commodore Matt Decker, who appears in that episode.

The post-Nemesis TNG novel by Michael Jan Friedman already mentioned here is called Death in Winter.

Well, I did say it was a tidbit.

A Doctor Who kind of day

The adventure begins in a small town, almost more of a village. There's an English pub/restaurant; the customers' accents vary, but the staff speak with Lancashire accents. For the thirstier customers, there's an ESB and a cask conditioned real ale, or a can of Boddington's, the Cream of Manchester. The menu has fish and chips, bangers and mash, mushy peas, chicken curry, and other classic English standbys.

It's a nice, quiet, almost rural establishment. Over near the bar there's a small table with locally made jams and chutneys for sale. It's relaxing and peaceful (though beer can do that anywhere, if consumed in moderation). But what lies beyond this quiet facade?

Not far away, there's a military guard post that doesn't seem to be guarding much of anything. Fences, a parking lot, some hilly terrain... and some odd protrusions from that terrain, definitely manmade. Communications antennas and less identifiable small structures, sheltered by the hillside, catch a visitor's attention. But then one notices the larger structure, which looks a bit like a garage set against the hill.

The door leads into a long tunnel. Halfway down its length, there's a break in the tunnel, blast doors leading to the interior of an underground military base. Decontamination showers. More doors. Down the hall there's a medical facility. There are offices and crew quarters. Stairways lead farther down to more offices, more quarters, a cafeteria, meeting rooms, a radio studio, fitness facilities. A situation room with large maps, computers, and TV equipment. A private suite for the Prime Minister. There's a large generator room and another room with air-scrubbing facilities to provide a constant supply of radiation-free air.

About all that's missing is a few Cybermen or Silurians.

Welcome to the Diefenbunker.

During the Cold War, a bunker designed to withstand a nuclear attack was constructed in the town of Carp, a short helicopter flight away from the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Officially referred to as Central Emergency Government Headquarters, it became known as the Diefenbunker because the PM at the time was John Diefenbaker. Not too long after it was constructed advances in ICBM technology made it considerably less likely that there would be enough warning time to evacuate senior government and military officials to the bunker. However, the facility was kept in service as a Canadian military establishment until 1994. It was later reopened as a museum.

It's a neat place, and you really do get that Base Under Siege feeling. You half expect UNIT troops fleeing an alien incursion to appear suddenly from around a corner. Starting the day with lunch at The Swan at Carp just adds to the atmosphere. (It may not for much longer, though, as it's going to be under new management and it's not known if they're planning to maintain the English pub atmosphere.)

A few links:

Official Diefenbunker website

Unofficial site with a few photos

CBC Radio story: Reporting Live From the Diefenbunker

The Swan at Carp

Recent Reading

EC Tubb's first Space: 1999 book since the late 1970s was a reasonably fun read, if not really essential. The adaptation of the episode "Earthbound" stays pretty close to the show as aired, with a little more attention paid to the perspective of Commissioner Simmonds, the political appointee who doesn't really have a place in the new Alpha's power structure. The other two sections, adaptations of early versions of scripts later significantly changed to reflect new producer Fred Freiberger's vision of the series and the resulting cast changes, are more interesting. "The Face of Eden" became the episode "The Immunity Syndrome." It has echoes of a number of other Space: 1999 episodes... a planet that isn't the haven it seems, something that causes people to revert to savagery, and so on. "The Exiles" is closer to the version eventually aired and is rather less interesting as a result. My main criticism would have to be Tubb's characterization. His Victor Bergman just did not seem like the warm and intelligent character played by Barry Morse. Also, Tubb's prose style makes a little too much use of sentence fragments.

I think I shortchanged Jasper Fforde and his third Thursday Next novel, The Well of Lost Plots, by reading it in short and frequently interrupted bursts. As a result, I never really got into the flow of the book and it came across as a choppy series of events that didn't become greater than the sum of its parts. Which is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable. It delves deeper into the Bookworld than its predecessors, it has some relatively conventional mystery elements, and it takes some potshots at thinly disguised real world targets. The introduction of UltraWord as a replacement for Book 8.3 will resonate strongly with people who mistrust the user-unfriendliness of certain proprietary ebook formats.

After watching the Rebus TV series again, I decided it was time to read another of Ian Rankin's books. I read an omnibus edition of the first three books a few years ago and liked them well enough but not so much that I had to rush out and buy the rest. Since then I've ought a much more recent novel and a short story collection and found them much more to my taste, suggesting either that my taste is changing a little or that Rankin improves a bit from book to book. Anyway, I read the fourth book, Strip Jack, and I'll read more. Though so far there's nothing earthshakingly new about the Rebus series, the depiction of Edinburgh and environs and the grim tone add a little freshness to the formula.

(Now playing: Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out," Franz Ferdinand.)


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