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New Music Video: ‘Spotlight’ – Marshmello x Lil Peep

Everyone’s favorite Marshmello just released a new video for the posthumously released song ‘Spotlight’ featuring the recently deceased Lil Peep. The video is practically a direct translation of the song’s lyrics which describe bitter feelings of jealously, resentment and nostalgia after a relationship has ended. It also acts as a tribute to Lil Peep and features symbolism strewn throughout the scenes.

‘Spotlight’ begins in a 50’s themed, neon-lit diner. The character of focus is a young, green-haired female sitting alone in the diner when suddenly her ex-boyfriend walks in; he is accompanied by friends and what looks to be a new girlfriend. The green-haired female acts as a stand-in to Lil Peep as she actually experiences the torment of seeing an ex in public who has apparently betrayed her in some way. During these early scenes we also see the first set of symbols, such as the name of the diner which is Crybaby, the same word Lil Peep was known to have tattooed over his eyebrow. Marshmello’s smiley face logo can also be seen in various places. The green-haired female eventually leaves the diner and hops on her motorcycle. As she’s cruising the open road the video pans over the night sky where we can suddenly see constellations light up in the shape of more of Lil Peep’s most notable tattoos. At home, the green-haired female can be seen contemplating her past relationship with the guy in the diner. A plan begins the form, and soon after she heads back to the diner. When she arrives however, the diner is in disarray. The customers and workers have left save for a few stragglers. The place was robbed — most likely by the green-haired females ex and his friends. Regardless, she uses this as an opportunity to lay her past relationship to rest.

Lil Peep died in mid-November 2017 after an alleged drug overdose while on tour in Arizona. Since then dozens of tributes have been made to honor the young rapper. Lil Peep recorded many unreleased tracks with various artists, but very few have been released out of respect for the dead. Marshmello however was urged by Lil Peep’s mother to release the song ‘Spotlight’ which they created together a few weeks before Lil Peep’s death. The song itself sounds somewhat incomplete, but Marshmello was able to at least make it catchy and listenable.

Watch the video for ‘Spotlight’ below:

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New Music: Top 5 Favorite Track Releases This Week [2/4/18 – 2/9/18]

Darci – ‘At Least’

I’ve discovered Darci for the first time through this song and learned that they are a hip-hop duo comprised of a vocalist and a producer. Since then I’ve listened to everything currently on their Soundcloud page. This particular song is probably the most electronic-sounding, as opposed to the rest of their catalog which features more hip-hop/r&b-leaning production. Still, ‘At Least’ channels this duo’s r&b spirit with the vocalist staying true to his melancholy tone, lyrics, and flow. The vocals are backed by ambient electronic synths and a trance-like melody.

With the release of this song, they have also announced that they’ll be releasing even more music this year. Hopefully that will include an album or an EP. Until then they have plenty of tracks to hold you over. ‘Life’ is another favorite song of mine by them, and I am hoping to hear more songs that are more electronic like ‘At Least’.

Just A Gent – ‘404’

Just A Gent is no stranger to me. I first caught wind of him two years ago with his remix of Alison Wonderland’s ‘U Don’t Know’ which turned the song into an emotionally substantial EDM banger. Despite how good that track was, I didn’t think I’d hear much of him in the near future. A year later, after releasing various singles and remixes, he released an EP titled, Stories To Tell which was very enjoyable and made me realize that this guy was to be taken seriously. Today, Just A Gent officially released ‘404’, which has convinced me that we will be hearing from him for awhile.

‘404’ is a somewhat grimy bass track that starts out with some Twilight Zone-esque keyboard work leading into a deep and wholesome bassline. Soon after, the beat builds up and then drops into otherworldliness as distorted bass synths lead into some very wet, alien-like sounds. The song carries on like this for the rest of its three-minute duration, and never once did I want it to end. Judging by the album art, otherworldliness is exactly what he was going for, and he nailed it!

As an honorable mention, Just A Gent also released another track today which is a remix of Kill Paris’ song ‘Red Lights (feat. Dotter)’. Be sure to listen to that song as well. It’s a lot more melodic than ‘404’.

Deadman x Petey Mac – ‘Good In LA (Feat. President)’

This is the only track I’ve heard by Deadman and Petey Mac (and the featured vocalist President), but I think it’s a super fun track that would fit great in a DJ set or a hype mix. The track starts with some fast-paced House beats and then randomly drops into an uber wobbly Dubstep beat somewhere in the middle of the song. This part gives me goosebumps every time and is the main reason I enjoy it. Hearing it live would be amazing!

Marshmello, Anne-Marie – ‘FRIENDS’

I have a soft spot for Marshmello. Ever since hearing Mija drop his song ‘Find Me’ at a music festival a couple years ago I was enthralled by his minimal Trap beats. This was also before he revealed his physical identity complete with an oversized helmet and happy-go-lucky image. Since taking on his physical identity I watched as he slowly gravitated towards watered down Pop productions and probably left many of his original fans behind. Despite all of this, I still got excited whenever I saw that he released a new track. Sadly, much of the time I am left somewhat disappointed, especially after his mainstream hit, ‘Wolves (feat. Selena Gomez)’.

This morning I woke up and was surprised to see a new release from Marshmello and Anne-Marie titled ‘FRIENDS’. I wasted no time throwing it on and listening intently with no real expectations of what I would hear. Fortunately, I was happy to find that this track was very tasteful to my ears. ‘FRIENDS’ feels much less like a kids song; Anne-Marie adds flare with her badassery and Marshmello’s bassy production compliments her perfectly. Marshmello has redeemed himself in my eyes with this one and I am curious to see what he does next. Despite my disappointment in him sometimes, he does occasionally creates something for his day-one fans. Also, I understand that I am in no place to demand that an artist creates things a certain way, but as a fan, I am allowed to have an opinion.

Kai Wachi – ‘MUD (feat. Macntaj)’

Kai Wachi has been on a roll lately. He just released his epic EP Die Young four months ago (complete with a hard-hitting, Soundcloud exclusive bonus track), began his U.S. tour (which I attended in Portland not long ago), and now has just released a new single, ‘MUD (feat. Macntaj)’. Kai Wachi is known for his heavy Dubstep and Hybrid Trap beats that are usually infused with hip-hop and rap vocals. This track does not stray too far from this formula, although it is unique in its own right.

‘MUD’ starts off almost how you’d expect given the style Kai Wachi’s established in his latest EP. Rapper Macntaj leads the song over a growling bassline with some aggressive bars. The beat soon builds and then drops into an unexpectedly mild bass change tinged with some experimental synths that are characteristic of Kai Wachi. The song gets really interesting around the halfway mark when the beat transitions into a low temp piano outro that lasts an entire two-minutes! All the while, Macntaj continues to lend his vocals over the piano, and even he seems much more chilled out in contrast to the opening of the song. ‘MUD’ demonstrates an exciting refinement in Kai Wachi’s production as he proves that he can do both heavy and melodic music on a whim. I’ve been a fan of Kai Wachi for a few years after hearing some remixes he did for Dabin, so it’s been enjoyable seeing the evolution of this artist. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this bass-music hero.

Seven Lions Presents: Chronicles (Chapter 1)

The master of deep and spiritual EDM, Jeff Montalvo a.k.a. Seven Lions, has recently announced the start of a special live show he is calling Chronicles. The show will take place in Seattle at the WaMu theater on May 12th, 2018.

Jeff Montalvo recently moved near Seattle so it makes sense that the inception of this project will start there.

Presale tickets have since ended, but today General Admission just went live. Along with the opening of General Admission tickets came the announcement of special guests Kill The Noise, Liquid Soul, and Jason Ross.

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The Facebook Event page describes the event as follows:

‘Chronicles’ is a concept born out of the world of Seven Lions – a mysterious place that’s existence has been foreshadowed throughout the fabric of the project. Now, with Chronicles, it all comes together in a live spectacle that will usher in an expansion of the world of Seven Lions.

Curating a line-up that delves into all corners of his influences and tastes – with acts from the worlds of trance, bass music and psy respectively – Chronicles will also see Seven Lions play two contrasting sets to book-end the event’s musical journey. Opening up the room with a special ‘Observatory’ set, Seven Lions will explore his deeper and more experimental side as with his recently launched mix series, whilst his headline closing set will provide the classic peak-time Seven Lions experience that he has imported to festival stages, clubs and theatre halls across the globe.

I personally live close to Seattle so I’m definitely planning on going. I’m hoping to document it with videos and photos, so expect a new post sometime after the show!

Buy tickets to the show here (currently $42 + fees), and be sure to catch up on all of the music by Seven Lions and his special guests. Also have a listen to Seven Lions’ Observatory mix below:

New Music Video: ‘The Tide’ – Pale Waves

The up-and-coming English Indie-rock band Pale Waves has just released their 5th music video in a single year; this one being for their track titled, ‘The Tide’. The new video takes a slightly different approach than the others by being the only one to feature footage from live shows and miscellaneous tour moments.

Pale Waves has gained massive popularity since forming in 2016. With their nu-goth aesthetic, Pale Waves will quickly catch your eye, and with their catchy 80’s revival sound they will quickly become an earworm of nostalgia. Fans of The XX, Chvrches, or classic bands like The Cure will definitely enjoy Pale Waves.

Watch the new video for ‘The Tide’ below and keep a look out for their debut EP coming March 16th, 2018. An album is expected in the following Summer. In the meantime, the band is curating a playlist of their releases on Spotify.

New Music Video: ‘We Were Here’ – Lights

The multi-talented Canadian artist Valerie Anne Poxleitner — a.k.a. Lights — has released a new video for her song ‘We Were Here’ off her newest album Skin&Earth. This makes ‘We Were Here’ the 5th track on the record to receive a video.

If you were a fan of the connected story between the videos for ‘Skydiving’ and ‘Savage’, then you will be happy to find that the story continues with ‘We Were Here’. If ‘Skydiving’ is about newfound love, and if ‘Savage’ was a portrayal of the anguish following heartbreak, then ‘We Were Here’ is the retribution that follows. In this newest installment, Lights’ character can be seen preparing something sinister with the help of a familiar friend (this is the same silver-haired friend in the video for ‘Giants’). The tone of the video is a mixture of celebration and rebellion as the female duo gallivants through the city at night with a mission in mind. Supplemented by the song’s uplifting chorus and dancey hip-hop beats, Lights’ character is letting us know that she is moving on from her lost love and that she is ready to burn the past to the ground.

While there are 5 videos released so far for these album tracks, the 3 mentioned above seem to have the most apparent connection. Lights has, in fact, released an entire graphic novel with this album. Watch the video for  ‘We Were Here’ below and be sure to listen to the entire album Skin&Earth.

Also be sure to check out the videos for ‘Skydiving’ and ‘Savage’ which precede the one above:

New Track Release: ‘Follow Me Down’ – PatrickReza

LA-based producer PatrickReza returns with a brand new single titled ‘Follow Me Down,’ an upbeat House track released just in time for the weekend.

The track leads with high-tempo electro beats fronted by an unnamed female vocalist inviting us to follow her down. Where to, you ask? We soon find out where, right at the 1-minute mark as the beat immediately and seamlessly drops into a rabbit hole of deep, bouncy basslines supported by a glitchy, high-pitched sample of the aforementioned vocalist saying “down” repeatedly; the last word she utters before stepping into chaos. All the while, ‘Follow Me Down’ features familiar PatrickReza sounds and the high energy that is characteristic of many of his older songs. After a short break, the beat quickly builds back up and then transitions into another mind-bending drop.

‘Follow Me Down’ is the perfect precursor to your weekend night on the town. I picture myself jamming this song in my car as a head downtown to meet up with friends for some partying. Listen to the song below and be sure to check out some of PatrickReza’s older tracks which are nicely organized on his website.

Top 5 Favorite Books I Read In 2017

I chose to read 25 books for my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 2017 but ended up reading 36! I’m proud of myself. Pretty sure that is the most I’ve read in a year. I plan on upping my goal to 40 for 2018. Soon I want to be able to read 52 books in a year, which is a book a week. Before creating my 2018 challenge though I want to commemorate my favorite books that I read in 2017.

Friend me on Goodreads and let’s keep up with each other’s reads!

1. ‘Leviathan Wakes’ by James S. A. Corey

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This is the first book in The Expanse sci-fi series. I first caught wind of this series after discovering the TV adaptation which aired initially on the SyFy channel. I loved the first season, and after hearing that it was based on a book series I knew I had to read them. Shortly after finishing the first season I purchased a three-book box set online. At the time of purchasing, 6 books had actually been released, and the 7th book was just released last month. There will be 9 books altogether.

This book takes place a century or two in the future (it’s not officially mentioned what year it takes place in). Much of the solar system has been colonized by humanity, most notably Mars and the asteroid (or dwarf planet) Ceres. The plot centers around Earth, Mars, Ceres, and the rest of the outer colonies as they interact in the same economic and political fashion you’d find on Earth today in real life. Tensions between these various factions are rising, and a small group of asteroid miners find themselves at the center of the greatest war the solar system has ever seen; secrets will be revealed that take everyone by surprise.

What did I like about this book? Well, as the series title suggests, this book is far-reaching and mind-expanding. The delivery of these far-reaching ideas come packaged in extremely vivid writing with substantial — and sometimes lovable — characters, all the while remaining almost disturbingly realistic. The main strengths of this book are the world-building and character development. Since the book takes place in our own solar system, the writing will make you feel as if this is the way things already are in real life. If that is not how you feel after reading this book, then it will most likely make you wish our actual future contained some of the ideas featured in it, which I’m almost positive they will. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a refreshing sci-fi novel published within this decade. If reading isn’t really your thing, then definitely check out the TV adaptation which is streamable on Netflix. And also, fun fact: the books are actually a collaboration between two writers; one of them having been mentored by George R. R. Martin himself.

2. ‘The Three Body Problem’ by Cixin Liu

Here is another sci-fi book that was just so refreshing to me. The reason it was so refreshing was probably due to the fact that it was originally written in Chinese only to be later translated by the author’s son for a wider release. Chinese history and philosophy are strewn throughout the book, and this is a welcome relief from the characteristically Western novels I’ve read up to this point. If you enjoyed the movie Arrival which is based on a short story written by another Chinese author, then you may very well enjoy The Three Body Problem. This book has the same surreal, enigmatic feel as Arrival that reminds me of thick fog and vast, empty landscapes. It is full of desolation, which I almost found off-putting at first, but the fluidity of the writing kept me engaged. Also, this book references and relies heavily on real science. Any layman science enthusiast will quickly catch on to the concepts frequently discussed, but this book will probably be most appreciated by anyone with a physics degree. The book could very well be considered historical fiction in a few decades, because like I mentioned before, it is also based on Chinese history in the mid-1900’s.

The plot focuses on the past and present lives of a few scientists affected by the Chinese Cultural Revolution. These scientists (as well as a few other characters) are unknowingly involved in a mystery of interstellar proportions, and an ominous video game seems to be at the center of it all. The video game has users attempt to solve the Three-Body Problem, which is an actual scientific conundrum involving the dynamics of massive celestial objects in a trinary gravitational system. The plot may seem slow at first, but the payoff is well worth it! The Three Body Problem is the first in the series called Remembrance of Earth’s Past.

3. ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore

“But, but… Watchmen is a graphic novel!” I’ve debated with myself for months whether or not I should include graphic novels in my reading challenge, but after reading Watchmen I finally made my decision. I had seen the movie adaptation when it was first released in 2009, and finally, in 2017, I decided to read the original (at the urging of a friend, no less). This probably isn’t a book you can read in a day like typical comic books. This novel took me just as long as an average book. Why? Because there is depth to it beyond pictures and captions. Each scene is packed full of subject matter that takes longer than a few seconds to digest. The plot is also complex and requires some thought to really connect the dots. There are also intermediary, epistolary sections that explain backstory and help to enhance the realism of the novel.

Having watched the movie multiple times before reading the graphic novel, it was hard for me to put myself in the mindset of someone picking this up for the first time in the 80’s. But every once in awhile I would reflect on what I’m taking in and would think to myself, “wow, this is seriously some next level shit relative to the time it was released.” Even though I pretty much knew the outcome of the story, I was still actively connecting dots, and at the end, I was left with a mixture of existential dread and awe at the plot twist. I even went back and watched the movie a few weeks later. I have to say, the movie did a great job at recreating the graphic novel, but the big changes they made to the plot really made a difference. Overall the graphic novel is more worth the read.

4.  ‘City of Bones’ by Cassandra Clare

I didn’t think I’d like this book. I bought it back when the movie trailer was first released around 2013 and I thought it looked kinda cool. Unfortunately, the movie flopped so the book remained on my shelf. I feared that I had another Twilight Saga on my hands and was almost ashamed to have purchased it. But since I was determined to tackle my reading challenge this year I went ahead opened it up. Naturally, I was pretty critical of it as I coasted through the initial chapters. I chuckled at the characteristically Young Adult elements of the introductory scenes, but the more I read the more I saw the author’s intent. It turns out, this book is filled with awesome lore that draws from ancient mythology, urban legends, and whatever world-building the author tried to create herself. I also found the female protagonist to be somewhat like-minded, both in her interests and her behavior. I didn’t love the character, but I thought we’d be pretty good friends if she were real. The book had plenty of cheesy moments, however. Young Adult books just can’t seem to escape certain tropes. I frequently rolled my eyes at the protagonist’s thoughts towards her love interest, and unfortunately, this book also features the dreaded love triangle (I was however somewhat relieved at how that love triangle played out).

Overall, City of Bones left me with feelings of nostalgia due to its inclusion of mythology and colorful symbolism. I’m excited to read the rest of the series and am disappointed that I don’t already have them on hand.

5. ‘Accelerando’ by Charles Stross

This was actually my second time reading this book, but a second read-through was necessary because this book is admittedly a bit convoluted. Accelerando is yet another sci-fi novel which starts out in the very familiar early-21st century but quickly accelerates into far-future awesomeness (hence the title). Even though I found the book to be very convoluted my first read-through I greatly enjoyed it, mostly because of its techno-optimism and humor. Charles Stross deals with some mind-blowing concepts in this book, sometimes bordering on the absurd and often times seemingly plausible (possibly inevitable). If you are at all interested in the deep future of technology, are entertained by the idea of the technological singularity, and can handle some hard sci-fi then this book is for you.

I won’t explain the plot in this post because I’ve actually written a whole review of this book! You can also read it on Goodreads.

Honorable Mentions: ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson; ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J. D. Salinger

Book Review: ‘Accelerando’ by Charles Stross

Read this review on Goodreads!

The technological Singularity may never actually happen, but at least it makes for some great sci-fi.

Accelerando is an intelligent, fast-paced look across the event horizon of the deep future. It follows the endeavors and legacy of Manfred Macx as he attempts to jump-start the next Singularity. In the beginning of the book we marvel at the technological wonderland of the near-future; towards the middle we wonder what sort of rabbit hole we’ve stumbled into; towards the end we question whether the post-Singularity future is really all that it’s chalked up to be. But through it all we laugh, we love, and we are filled with existential dread as we wonder if this is really the direction humanity is headed.

This was my second time reading through Accelerando. It was great the first time but I admit much of it went over my head. This book required a second read-through. Charles Stross is extremely detail-oriented and not afraid to spew technical jargon with no explanation. There’s no time for him to explain it. Stross assumes that his audience is acquainted with hard sci-fi and at least knows a little of what the technological Singularity is. This allows him to play with the higher concepts that form the overall plot of the novel. I came into my second read-through equipped with more knowledge acquired over the years, and this allowed me to really appreciate the higher plot with its twists and turns. It also helped that I read another of Charles Stross’ books, The Rapture of the Nerds (co-written with Cory Doctorow), before coming back to this one. I began to realize that Stross’ writing style could be seen as an attempt at further defining a specific genre that I call “Singularitarian literature”. Stross loves instilling his works with Singularity ideas.. Singularitarian literature to me is just another subgenre of cyberpunk and more accurately a subset of post-cyberpunk. Accelerando itself is very self-referential in this respect, with frequent references to cyberpunk culture and the fact that it’s based around the idea of an actual technological singularity — as prophesied by Ray Kurzweil and the likes.

Accelerando is a showcase of awesome tech wrapped in a membrane of exciting buzzwords. Manfred’s goggles in the first part of the book are still my favorite piece of tech presented in this novel. After my first read-through I couldn’t wait until Augmented Reality goggles were actually created so that I could run around the city in an always-connected state, eating up information like a sponge. Lucky for me, it seems this tech is not too far away. And that is the main allure of this novel: most of the tech that Stross describes in this book seem like they are just around the corner in real life. Another of my favorite concepts explored in this book is the idea of sending a crew of uploaded minds into deep space using a vessel the size of a tin can. Seems weird, but it just might be possible when you consider 1) the need for spacefaring vessels to be cost-effective, and 2) the ability for uploaded minds to create virtual spaces within the tiny vessel that to them are life-sized and infinitely accommodating. In fact, this idea has very recently been proposed by none other than Stephen Hawking. It makes me wonder if he read Accelerando, or if this idea has actually been thrown around a lot in the scientific community. In any case, this is all just a taste of what Stross describes to readers in his book. Stross explores everything from mind-melding to wormholes and there is never a dull moment. He very casually strings together jargon and buzzwords in a way that is off-putting at first. After awhile though I saw it as a very deliberate attempt at establishing a writing style for this book. To Stross, this must be the way humans would naturally begin speaking after becoming so familiar with advanced technology and scientific concepts. When the entire population becomes sufficiently scientifically literate, our entire lexicon may change. At the same time there is a bit of humor in this writing style. I always chuckled to myself whenever business/economic terminology was dropped in a casual yet ironically serious manner. You’ll just have to read it to see what I mean.

Like all good literature, Accelerando is full of allegory and classical references. During my second read-through it was easier to pick up on these. Part 2 of Accelerando for example can be almost entirely compared to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I won’t go into too much detail on this for the sake of minimizing spoilers, but it’s definitely something to look out for if you decide to read this book. Aside from that, Stross uses this book as a philosophical megaphone exploring the implications of a post-Singularity world. You will most likely find every argument for and against the adoption of radical technologies, and you may be surprised to find yourself on the fence with things you thought you were comfortable with.

Despite all its technological splendor, Accelerando has its faults. For one, the book is so fast-paced that it was often hard for me to keep track of the setting. The combination of virtual and ‘meatspace’ worlds is disorienting. It is hard to tell when a character has transitioned from space to space. In addition to that, the attempt at coining new terms and concepts mixed with the use of technical jargon can further confuse things. This book will require a third read-through for me in order to get things fully situated, although I wouldn’t be too bummed to have to read this book again. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a book with deep characters dealing with real personal demons, this is not it. The focus of this book is more so to describe the deep future. Most of the characters are only homunculi acting as a vessel for ideas. Much of the “tragedy” in the story is short-lived and usually comes off as comical, but maybe this was intended. That being said, I am personally an effusive technophile and have no problem foregoing substantial characters for incredible technology and ideas about the deep future. I’m giving Accelerando 4 out of 5 stars because I really liked it despite how convoluted it can get. I will most likely read it again.

Book Review: ‘The Hour I First Believed’ by Wally Lamb

Read this review on Goodreads!

Disclaimer: This usually isn’t the type of book I find myself reading but my girlfriend and I have two copies of it at home so we decided to read it together. I’m most comfortable reading sci-fi and fantasy which are usually based on some larger idea in a reality very different than ours. I rarely tread into literature that is based solely on the actions of people living in a reality very similar to our own. But as a reader I am actively trying to branch out of my comfort zone. What really drew me to this book was its historical relevance with the use of the Columbine shootings as the main catalyst for the story. I recognized early on however that this book would indeed involve some larger idea woven throughout the book; an idea that is often used in many sci-fi works I’ve consumed throughout my life.

Starting with what I liked about the book: as far as craft goes I was immediately drawn into Wally Lamb’s writing style. Caelum’s narration was extremely fluid and understandable. While I didn’t really like Caelum as a character, I was still more than willing (at first) to explore his thoughts due to the fluidity of Lamb’s writing. And on that same vein, what I respected about Lamb’s writing was his consistency and ability to write extremely convincing characters, settings, and scenarios. A welcome reprieve from Caelum’s thoughts was when Lamb moved onto the epistolary and historical sections of the book. Even these read extremely fluid despite the unfamiliar voices and settings of these sections. I also appreciate how detail-oriented Lamb is. Overall, the mixture of symbols and tragedies that are strewn throughout the book kept me engaged and curious to see where it would all lead.

[Spoilers ahead]

I caught on to the core theme of the book as soon as it presented itself, and this is also the aforementioned idea that I’ve seen used in various works of sci-fi. The idea is chaos theory and it first presents itself in the memorable airplane scene where Caelum is introduced to the eccentric college professor whom he sits next to on the plane. As soon as I finished reading this part I discussed it with my girlfriend who was also very intrigued that this scene was thrown in there. While a very interesting concept, we both concluded that chaos theory was one of those overplayed plot devices similar to time travel. In my opinion, as profound and useful as chaos theory may be in reality, it has become somewhat of a cop-out substitute for an original idea. Again, this is coming from someone who reads tons of sci-fi and is used to big ideas. My girlfriend and I concluded that chaos theory’s debut during the airplane scene would likely be the one and only time it’d be used. Unfortunately, we weren’t terribly surprised to learn that chaos theory is indeed the core theme driving the story.

To be fair, while chaos theory is not an original idea (see: The Butterfly Effect), it did help to keep someone like me engaged in the story. I mostly just wanted to know what the point of it all was. The purpose of the story is not the Columbine shootings, although it did act as a major catalyst driving the chaos theory message. The further I read, the more I was disappointed to learn that Caelum is the purpose of the story. Caelum and his backstory, and how chaos is the ruling factor of his life. This was disappointing to me because I didn’t like Caelum to begin with. I didn’t like any of the characters for that matter. They were all so mundane, and maybe this is why I can’t read books like this. I prefer adventure, and characters that are diverse and dynamic. Caelum was the same dry person through and through, and the biggest adventure he undertook was going back to his hometown and reading letters of the past. The other characters in Caelum’s life were the same way; they all seemed to hate their lives. Janis was the best of them all, mainly because she showed the deepest sense of curiosity about the world and helped to piece together the most interesting aspect of the story.

I will stop there. I don’t want to write any more spoilers and I don’t want to get caught deeper in the chaos theory trap. My reasoning for giving the book three stars was this: it was all so average — the characters, the plot devices, the setting — nothing cried out to me as profound, and not until almost the bitter end do you really discover the point of the story. This book is an endurance run. I can see why some people may like it, but for me personally, it made me really happy to start reading one of my favorite sci-fi books again. And to end on a positive note: what I liked most about the book was the rich detail, the fluid writing, and the little bits of history and symbolism weaved throughout.

 

Overpopulation Solved: Space Colonization

Earth’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. This brings into question how much real-estate and how many resources Earth can actually provide for humans in the long run. There are many Earth-based answers to overpopulation ranging from regulated birth-rates to utilizing unconventional real-estate such as oceans and air. While the idea of creating ocean or air-based cities is tantalizing, I don’t believe they will be the best long term solutions, and regulating birth-rates inhibits freedom. By staying on Earth we are only putting the continuity of humanity at risk by not creating alternatives. Tech billionaire Elon Musk has recently unveiled his plan for putting humans on Mars. His primary argument is that we need to create a “backup” of Earth in the event that a catastrophic disaster wipes out its population. Water and air-based cities are wise and should be considered for the near future, but there are additional options we need to consider. Musk has already set into motion the most obvious option, and that is to get humans on the next best candidate planet for habitation. In the meantime we will need to boost public interest in his mission. But for those (like myself) who are not ready to venture to the red dessert planet, we should consider closer, more comfortable options, such as Earth-orbiting space colonies. And for those who want more options than Mars, we should consider the many other planetary bodies within the solar system such as the Moon, asteroids, or other planetary moons like Jupiter’s Europa.

Orbital Settlements

My favorite solution to overpopulation involves building orbital settlements in specific areas around Earth’s orbit, and after that, around various places in the solar system. These colonies can be built large enough to accommodate hundreds of thousands to a few million people each. Each colony could sit comfortably around stable pockets of gravity known as Lagrange points which exist around planetary bodies. Every massive object in the solar system has five Lagrange points where a large object could be placed stagnantly. If we decided to place a space colony at each Lagrange point they could accommodate anywhere between 1 million to 10 million people in total. Once we decide to spread further into the solar system however we can begin utilizing the Lagrange points of the various gas giants and their moons. Say we decided to place just 15 space colonies throughout the solar system. This would allow for about 30+ million people to offset Earth’s population. 30 million people is only .3% of a population of 9 billion, but it’s a start. In order to get 500 million people off of Earth we would need about 250 average sized space colonies spread throughout the solar system. Depending on how large we decide to make space colonies, we could potentially off-set about 10 percent of Earth’s population in the next century. I believe this is feasible due to the abundance of real-estate in space.

Orbital settlement from the movie ‘Elysium’

In case you’re wondering how orbital settlements work, I will offer the basics. Space colonies are essentially self-contained “biospheres” that attempt recreation of Earth’s conditions at optimal levels. They are depicted in many modern works of science-fiction. Think of the ring-worlds in the ‘Halo’ video games series, the orbital space station in ‘Elysium‘, or the cylindrical space colony Cooper Station at the end of the movie ‘Interstellar’. Space colonies use a combination of artificial gravity and climate control to produce near-perfect Earth conditions. Most space colonies will probably contain homogeneous weather patterns and will stay stagnant at a comfortable, mid-Spring temperature, but terrain and climate can definitely vary based on preference or natural causes. The “Sun” will most likely be artificial depending on the location and shape of the structure. Not only would orbital settlements create alternative habitats for humans, but they will also offer novel, breathtaking views of whatever planetary body they’re orbiting.

As I write this, news is circulating of a proposed space-nation called Asgardia which is petitioning to be the first space colony in Earth orbit. It is only in idea phase but has already garnered 455,000 signatures from people hoping to become the first citizens of Asgardia. This project, founded by a single man named Igor Ashurbeyli, represents the beginning of serious public interest in orbital space colonization. NASA believes that the speculative space-nation of Asgardia would sit well at Earth’s Lagrange 1 point. For more information visit the official website where you can also sign the petition yourself.

Planets/Moons/Asteroids

As mentioned before, plans are already underway for colonizing Mars. This has been the most obvious target for exploration and colonization since the beginning of the space race. Plans have been outlined through books and movies for decades. Recently, Elon Musk caused renewed interest and competition to reach the planet with his announcement that his company SpaceX will begin missions to Mars by 2020. Now, multiple private and government space agencies are racing to be the first to set humans upon it. Musk hopes to have millions of colonists on Mars by 2050. Soon, tickets to Mars will be as cheap as buying a car. Mars will develop cities, culture, and sustainability which will make it even more attractive to prospective migrants. A billion humans could inhabit the planet by the end of the century.

Mars is favorable because of its proximity to Earth. It’s about half the size of Earth and double the size of the Moon. It possesses a nice template for a future biosphere. Mars used to feature running water and maybe even life before its atmosphere all but dissipated millions of years ago. Although it is inhospitable now, I don’t doubt the human ability to adapt to it by using technology. Closed ecological systems, or biodomes, can be as big as they need to be. Light-weight, flexible exosuits can allow safe travels to and from the many landmarks and cities on the desert planet. Eventually, Mars’ climate could be manipulated towards an Earth-like state via a process known as terraforming, which I will cover later.

The Moon is another nearby object capable of harboring human life. It is less appealing due to its complete absence of an atmosphere and lack of geodiversity. I suspect far fewer people will opt to migrate to the Moon, but it will be a necessary location for setting up scientific and operational bases. The majority of the Moon’s population will most likely consist of scientists and workers helping to keep facilities functioning. Likewise, Mercury and Venus, despite their harsh conditions, can also be set up for colonization. Mercury is not the most appealing planet, but scientists may want to set up camp in order to conduct research. Venus is the other closest planet to us, but its atmospheric situation is the complete opposite of Mars’. Its extreme temperatures make landing on it a a difficult task, but like Mars, it can potentially be terraformed. Additionally, Venus has a thick cloud layer with cooler temperatures closer to the top. It could be possible to create sky cities in the top layers of Venus’ atmosphere.

The outer gas planets have an abundance of interesting moons that are viable worlds on their own. Europa, a moon orbiting Jupiter, is an ice world with a global ocean underneath. Colonizing Europa, like the Moon, Mercury, and Venus, probably won’t be at the top of the list of preferred destinations, but it will be a necessary world to establish bases and small ice villages. On Europa, igloo-like biodomes can be created on the ice, and subsurface cities can be built in Europa’s ocean. Saturn’s moon Titan has a thick atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane. Methane doesn’t have the same special properties that water does, but it is still a top candidate for the discovery of extraterrestrial, microbial life. There is no doubt that Titan will soon be colonized with scientists. There are estimated to be about 180 moons orbiting the various planets in our solar system, and just about all of them are worlds that humans can land on and create habitation in some way. I suspect many moons will be used as scientific stations or tourist destinations. They may not be a direct solution to overpopulation, but they can be used as motivation to journey into and colonize deep space in general.

Aside from moons, giant asteroids are another potential habitat for colonization. Ceres is one such object in the Asteroid Belt that is actually so big it’s considered a dwarf-planet, much like Pluto. In the far-reaching science fiction TV show ‘The Expanse’, humans have colonized the dwarf-planet Ceres for the purpose of supplying water to Earth and Mars. According to the show’s wiki page: 

the station has a population of approximately six million permanent residents with an extra one million transiting through at any given time. Eight hundred to a thousand ships are docked on Ceres every day.

‘The Expanse’ portrays a reality that is not too far-off from our own. Asteroid mining may be the new Gold Rush in the coming decades. Congress has recently implemented the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act which would allow space companies to claim ownership of resources they mine from asteroids. Companies such as Deep Space Industries are already devising plans to begin asteroid mining missions in space. It won’t be long before colonies will be necessary in the Asteroid Belt to house thousands of workers and travelers involved with resource gathering enterprises.

Terraforming

Most planetary bodies in the solar system are naturally inhospitable to life in general. Living within biodomes on Mars for instance wouldn’t be the most pleasant long term situation. Having almost nothing protecting someone from the harsh conditions of the outside environment will not promote migration to the planet. But humans have technology and centuries worth of scientific knowledge about how the climate on Earth works. It’s possible that someday, humans will learn to manipulate the environment of other worlds to better support life. Terraforming is the process of engineering a planet’s climate to match conditions on Earth. The necessary final step towards Mars colonization will be to terraform it. Many ideas have been proposed ranging from nuking the planet’s poles in order to melt the ice and release CO2, to creating massive machines that pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Whichever technique is chosen, the first Martians will be responsible for guiding their planets terraforming process.

Terraforming process of Mars

Before any world can be terraformed however, humans will need to have solved the environmental problems with the Earth today. Climate change is currently the biggest problem facing humanity, and we are the prime factors causing it. Once we have found a way to stabilize our own planet, only then will we be able to design artificial biospheres for space colonies and technology for terraforming worlds.

Exoplanets/Diaspora

Once humanity has inhabited just about every practical world in our own solar system, it will then become necessary to seed the rest of the galaxy with human life as well, assuming there are no other forms of intelligent life in the galaxy to compete with. Eventually, humanity will need to formulate plans for a mass diaspora to other solar systems similar to our own. Finding potential candidates will not be a problem. Thanks to the Kepler space telescope we have already surveyed the sky and have found thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy; many of them deemed potentially habitable. In fact, the star system closest to us, Proxima Centauri, was recently discovered to possess an Earth-like planet of its own. The world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking has already initiated plans focused on sending a reconnaissance probe to this neighboring star system. We will likely send many more reconnaissance probes to the star systems that are most likely to possess habitable worlds before ever sending humans.  After the reconnaissance missions, I imagine a moment in humanity’s future where hundreds of “generation ships” disembark from our solar system on a journey to the countless planets discovered in modern times by the Kepler space mission. These generation ships will house thousands of brave people ready to colonize the first exoplanets. Hopefully by then we will have developed engines capable of sending these massive ships to the nearest stars in a matter of decades, because the distances between stars are depressingly large. It could be argued that leaving our solar system is humanity’s manifest destiny, because if we aren’t to colonize the rest of the universe, then what a ridiculous waste of space. To quote Carl Sagan:

The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.

 

Image result for generation ships

Concept art for a Generation Ship


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