Million Mile Road Trip by Rudy Rucker

I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.

Imagine Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy involving a car instead of a space ship.

Now imagine that car driving across a parallel universe that is flat with valleys of lands instead of a sequence of globes hung in space.

Now imagine the characters and their encounters have more in common with cyberpunk attitudes and sensibilities than space opera.

If you’ve got all that in mind, then you’ve got a pretty good mental image of what you’ll find in Rudy Rucker‘s novel Million Mile Road Trip.

Now add a giant bagpipe the size of a mountain as the big bad, a Mayan pyramid as the ancient advisor, and three teens (18, 18, and 16) as the heroes. This is one road trip you don’t want to miss.

To be honest, I’d never heard of Rudy Rucker prior to picking up this book in my local library. The cover offered praises from William Gibson and promised a humorous scifi adventure. Once I’d finished the novel and read the afterward, I discovered that Rucker was influenced and mentored by Robert Sheckley, a personnal favorite scifi author I’ve mentioned in a previous post and one of the true kings of comedic scifi.

I really enjoyed this one and recommend it to all fans of scifi, humor, comedic scifi, and anyone else looking for a different spin on so old scifi themes.

I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.

Labor Day


Yesterday was this week’s session and my fifth session with the VA OT Creative Writing group I’m participating in. The writing prompt for the day was “Labor Day” wuth a couple of printed handouts on the origin of Labor Day in the U.S.. This is what I came up with.


The more things change, the more they stay the same. The bosses get the money, the workers get the shaft. I’ve heard there was a time when workers got a chance to push back, but that was obviously before the human race left Earth to colonize the local solar system.

Once the space race shifted from government entities to private companies, colonization began with the companies offering great benefits “on paper” to get the best workers.  However, what they leave out is everything about the job is dependent upon the company.

Your quarters are in a company housing area; your goods and supplies come from the company store, assuming the company paid its bills and the company transports were able to deliver new goods for the month; your money went into and out of the company bank, usually more out than in. You are what the economists call an indentured servant since you start out $1.5 million in debt to the company for the cost of transporting you to colony job site. We, the workers, know that we’re really just glorified slaves.

After the first settlements on Mars started, the workers there were too far in debt for word to get back to earth about treatment of them. So, as humanity spread to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, people quickly discovered their hopes and dreams of a new life beyond the stars was really just a nightmare in the void of space.

There are periodic attempts to draw attention to and improve the quality of life for the company colony workers, but those attempts usually don’t last very long. The most egregious example and the one the company bosses go out of their way to make sure everyone is aware of is the Europa Incident.

The company workers on Europa tried to organize and go on strike. The company brought in security personnel from the nearby Titan colony under the guise of stopping a terrorist cell that emerged on Europa. A few firefights took place between the Europa and Titan security teams, before the Titan team learned the truth behind what was happening on Europa and why the Titan team was really there. 

The two security teams worked together and joined with the workers to overthrow company management and attempted to create a worker-led work center. That lasted just long enough for the company’s on-site executives to make their way to escape craft bound for other company holdings and those same executives to vent atmosphere of the colony on the way out. No one can breathe in Europa’s atmosphere. The official story was the terrorists vented Europa’s atmosphere in a suicide attack when the Titan security team cornered them in one of the colony control centers.

When UN Space and US Space Command expressed questions and doubts about the official corporate story and their intents to send investigation teams, the company’s colony base on Europa suddenly exploded after some middle manager accidentally triggered a self-destruct sequence that was in place should another country, company, or species attempt to access proprietary data. But the message was clear to company workers on other colony sites, don’t cross the company because every worker is expendable.

The Overheard Remark


I missed this week’s session because of arthritic pain and project overcommitment. (I really do need to say “no” when needed and not feel guilty about it.) So, here’s last week’s (my fourth) session with the VA OT Creative Writing group I’m participating in. The writing prompt for the day was “The Overheard Remark”. This is what I came up with.


“Soon, the time comes” a voice whispers into the darkness.

He turns to look around for the speaker. There is no one there, as is to be expected, under normal circumstances. “Opportunities-to-excel” are usually lonely jobs at the best of times for the lowest ranking enlisted guy in a maintenance unit. Cleaning a drop ship in a hangar bay on a weekend only makes it moreso.

He shakes his head, picks up the hard bristled push broom, and goes to work on the undercarriage, always the worst part of this cleaning job.

“Soon, the time comes,” the same voice whispers out of the darkness.

Airman Darwin Moore shrugs his shoulders and decides to ask for clarification. “Soon, the time comes, for what?” he asks.

“I think one of the mortals can hear us,” another voice speaks out in surprise.

“What?” asks the original voice, somewhere between surprise and incredulity.

“Don’t mind me,”Amn Moore responds to the unattached whispers, and goes back to working on the backside of the right landing skid.

“I think you’re right,” the original voice speaks to the other. “I don’t know how this is possible.”

“Maybe we can convince him he’s going crazy and just hearing voices in his mind,” the other replies.

“Works for me,” Amn Moore replies to the darkness. “I got work to do here anyway.”

“Just don’t mention the prophecy,” the original voice says. “Maybe we can talk around specifics and still make our plans.”

“But the 30th of February is coming soon,” the other voice answers.

“You idiot,” the original voice says.

“No kidding,” Amn Moore adds, “everyone knows February only has 28 days, unless it’s a leap year, then you get 29 days. Never 30.”

“Says you” the other voice says defiantly. Then, addressing the original voice, it adds, “See he knows nothing of the workings of this world.”

The original voice speaks up again, “silence, you fool. In your effort to be right, you’re educating the mortal.”

“I’ll distract him,” the other voice says and then begins chanting, “tse roma siriuqer douq enmo.”

“Is that ‘All You Need Is Love’ in backwards Latin,” Amn Moore asks, recognizing the tune from a childhood of being raised by a Beatles-fan father.

“How does he…,” the other voice cuts off in shock. “He knows way more than he should,” the other voice huffs angrily. “We may need to just kill him to be safe.”

“No,” the original voice shouts with command. “We just wait until he finishes his job and leaves the area. The dimensional walls are thinner in this area than I thought.”

“Thanks guys,” Amn Moore says into the darkness. “I’m really busy here and don’t really have time to worry about your plans or getting killed.

He shrugs and goes back to scrubbing the drop ship. He shakes his head knowing no one’s going to believe this story.

Captive State

When I first saw a preview for the movie Captive State, I had high hopes for this film. I was expecting something along the lines of Netflix’s film Extinction, or the USA series The Colony, or the TNT series Falling Skies but with a bigger budget.

Sadly, what I expected and hoped for is not what I got to see. The dystopian elements that the previews promise and used to sell the movie get lost in The Wire-style questionable grey-area cops verses questionable grey-area “terrorists” storyline. The result is Captive State has more in common with the Bruce Willis/Denzel Washington movie The Siege or the Will Smith film Enemy of the State, but not as well acted.

Captive State is not all bad. John Goodman delivers an excellent performance as William Mulligan in a performance on par with Jon Simm’s portrayal of Sam Tyler in the series Life on Mars. The big reveal of Goodman’s character is probably one of the worst kept secrets in the film, and once made, it makes the viewer’s feelings of dislike towards the character seem all the more justified.

My recommendation is read the synopsis of this one and move along in favor of one of the other tv series or movies mentioned above. You’ll feel more invested in the characters and actual care when bad thigns happen to them.