Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Polymer by Sally Rogers-Davidson

This  review is posted as part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge. I have cross-posted it on my review blog.

Polymer by Sally Rogers-Davidson is a science fiction story which I would categorise as adventure. Apart from being in first person, it reminded me of pulpy SF adventure stories from way back when. Except with a female protagonist and, like, more female issues than would ever have come up in those books.

The main story takes place within the pages of a long-lost journal written by Polly Meridian (aka Polymer). On the night of her graduation ceremony, her space station home is invaded by aliens. (Aliens, in this book, pretty much means "people not from the same place as me who might be human or could be blue aliens".) She almost dies in the invasion but is "lucky" enough to be taken prisoner and enslaved instead.

Without spoiling any plot, a lot of things happen to her. Some of them are externally driven (like being taken prisoner) and some are on her own initiative. Either way, the book is full of action (although I thought there was a bit of a slump shortly after the invasion, it definitely picked up later on).

Unlike Spare Parts, the other Sally Rogers-Davidson book I've read, I wouldn't call this one YA. Sometimes the writing felt like it could be and the main character is horribly na├»ve as isn't uncommon in YA, but ultimately the book dealt with more grown-us issues. I wouldn't stop a teenager reading it — it's not very M rated (there's sex and a bit of rape but it's mostly off screen or not described in detail) — but I wouldn't call it YA. Also, I think the main character is right on the cusp of the YA protagonist age range.

There were some problematic elements in the book. I don't want to spoil anything, but I felt a bit uncomfortable by Polly's shifting attitudes towards one of her captors. Given earlier events, it just didn't sit well with me, even though I could understand it from her point of view.

I would recommend Polymer to anyone who enjoys a SF adventure story. I think Rogers-Davidson's writing style improved in Spare Parts, but that's understandable since Polymer was published four years earlier and I think it was her debut novel. If you enjoyed Spare Parts, give Polymer a go. It's a very different setting, but there are some similarities in outlook (relatively cheery). From a science point of view, it's fairly soft. There's hyperspace and FTL comms but it's not trying to be realistic, so the lack of rigour is in no way abrasive.

If you're wondering about the different covers, the top is the recently released ebook cover (which is the version I have), the middle is the original paperback cover, now out of print, and the bottom is the re-released paperback. I think the bottom is my favourite.

You can currently purchase Polymer from Lulu in paper or ebook formats. Hopefully the ebook will be coming to Smashwords and other retailers soon.

3.5 / 5 stars

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Other Foreign Skies

This post is a response to a question I got on my Ask Tsana page.

Sam Keola asked:
Love the views of Jupiter from Ganymede and Io. How large would it appear from Europa or Callisto? And how large exactly would the sun appear? (I know tiny as hell, but another lovely picture would be amazing.)
The mathematical answer to that is explained in this old post. And my first set of Jupiter images (Io and Ganymede's skies) can be found here.

Jupiter

This time around, I used a different image of Jupiter so if you're wondering why it's rotated relative to the old pictures, that's why. For the Jovian images, I've used the same starting image because in the year since I last did this, I haven't managed to take a more suitable photo. Such is life.


The original photo with a full moon in Earth's sky.
So. Europa is the second Galilean moon out from Jupiter. It's made mostly of ice, is the smallest of the Galilean moons and might harbour life in its subsurface liquid ocean. The diameter of Jupiter as it would appear in the Europan sky is almost 24 full moons across. Remember that Europa's sky wouldn't actually look blue either since it doesn't have an atmosphere but I don't have a decent night skyline to work with. I'll do a night version eventually.

The size Jupiter would appear in Europa's sky. Or in Earth's sky if you swapped it with Europa.

You might be wondering whether Jupiter would actually be oriented the way it appears in these images. Well it depends. The direction the bands run relative to the moon's horizon would depend on where on the moon you were. Close to the equator, the bands would be vertical (although if Jupiter was high in the sky, it would be pretty difficult to tell. Perhaps better to say east-west). If you were near a pole, they'd be horizontal as in these images. And remember, the Galilean moons are all tidally locked, so Jupiter would never move, just change how much of it was illuminated by the sun.

And Callisto, the most distant of the Galilean moons. Callisto's Jupiter would appear "only" about 8.5 full moons across.

The size Jupiter would appear from Callisto. If Callisto had an Earth-like atmosphere and gum trees.

The Sun
 
The second part of Sam's question was how large would the sun appear from Jupiter. Well, on Earth, the sun and the moon appear to be approximately the same size (there's a little bit of a difference when the sun is at its closest and the moon at its furthest and vice versa). So the sun from Earth is about one full moon in diameter.

From Jupiter (or its moons) the sun would appear about 0.4 full moons across which is a little bit less than a sixth of the area of the sun as seen from Earth (remember, the moon and sun seen from Earth are on average the same size).

I cheated a little bit with these next two sun photos. They're actually two separate photos and I made the sun smaller in one of them. The reason the rest of the photo looks darker for the Jovian sun is because I was fiddling with settings on my camera. And if you're wondering why I chose sunsets, it's because those (and sunrises) are pretty much the only kinds of photos where the disc of the sun is properly visible.

Ordinary sunset on Earth:
Sunset. A little bit more than half the sun is below the horizon.
Sunset if Earth was at the same distance as Jupiter (but yet still warm enough to have liquid water. And plants. By the way, with these two, it's probably clearer if you click on the images to enlarge and compare the sun side by side.
A more diminutive sun, less than a sixth of the area of Earth's.
And there you have it. Photoshopped images (well, actually, I used Pixelmator) depicting the sizes of Jupiter and the sun from the Galilean moons and the Jovian system, respectively.

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