The CERBERUS Asteroid Diversion Program: Summary of Findings from the Several U.S. Gov’t Investigations into Cividan Laboratories

Documents released to the public in 2025 regarding the events leading up to and after the approach and diversion of asteroid HR42.   Presented in the form of transcripts conducted by the FBI, and a Senate investigatory commission, and a letter from the CEO of Cividan Laboratories, it tells the story of a suddenly discovered asteroid on a disastrous trajectory approaching the earth, and how Cividan Labs pulled everyone together to avert it by shooting a lot of nuclear bombs at it to deflect its course.

Ostensibly started by the government, the investigation after the fact was allegedly into misuse of government funds, and all was refuted by Cividan Labs, flooding the organizations with documents in the name of transparency, agreeing to numerous interrogations by the FBI on the condition that every word of the transcripts would be released to the public.

As time went on, it appeared that embedded in the digitized data submitted to all kinds of investigating divisions and organizations was some kind of code which created a back door into their computer systems, giving Cividan access, while leaving no trace of itself, so it could not be proved.

Led by an altruistic and wealthy man, Cividan’s motto is Make Better Things;  Make Things Better.

My only cavil is that there really was no twist, which I kept waiting for, which maybe was the twist.  It seems the guy really did want to make things better.  The various investigators kept asking what secrets Cividan was hiding what where they doing, and why had they launched a lot of equipment, parts, and fuel into orbit and left it there.  What were they DOING up there?  The CEO’s response was beautiful:

One of the most notable characteristic of space is that it is extremely cold.  Anything up there putting off any kind of heat is very easy to see.  Voyager I was built in the 70’s and is out past the edge of the solar system.  It’s twelve billion miles away from us.  You know how we track it?  It’s got a twenty-watt radio on board.  If you want to know what we are doing up there, look up.  Anything Cividan builds or does in orbit can be seen.

There is even given in the book the internet address for their ‘company’.   www.cividanlabs.com   Yeah, that site exists, and you can go there and read about all of their fictional programs and updates.  and even sign up for updates.

Very clever, and other than Cividan Laboratories, there is no author given.  Even the publisher is listed as Cividan Labs.   If it weren’t set in 2025, you would get to thinking it was real.

In Greek mythology, Cerberus, often called the “hound of Hades”, is a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving.

 

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FEEDBACK by Peter Cawdron

Groundhog Day with space ships!  Hot diggity dawg!

It’s a time travel-y thing, with a UFO space ship that is actually biological, and a kid who keeps appearing under variants of his name:  Jason, Jai-San, etc.

Here’s the low down:  “Twenty years ago, a UFO crashed into the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula. The only survivor was a young English-speaking child, captured by the North Koreans. Two decades later, a physics student watches his girlfriend disappear before his eyes, abducted from the streets of New York by what appears to be the same UFO. Feedback will carry you from the desolate, windswept coastline of North Korea to the bustling streets of New York and on into the depths of space as you journey to the outer edge of our solar system looking for answers.”

So, anyway, it’s kind of like karma — ya gotta keep coming back until you get it right.

I’m sitting here trying to think of something else to say, but I got nuthin’.  It was a fun and compelling read, and just the teensiest bit hokey at the very end.  Yeah, well. But there IS a part where a guy gets his fingers chopped off by the North Korean army, so there is that.

Oh, yeah.  The title refers to what happens when your amp is too close to the microphone.  You get feedback, right?   Infinite regress, and all that.

GNOMON by Nick Harkaway

“In the near future world of London, England, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history.

When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future call Gnomon.

Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.”

VERY interesting concept, and a pretty interesting execution …. for a while.  This book is  over 700 pages, about 300 pages too long.  Each of those fictional characters parading around inside the dissident woman’s head has its own (very long) story, which clouds what would otherwise be a nifty murder-in-plain-sight mystery.

I found it compelling and page turning for about 65% of the book, and then it just became tedious.  Once we Gentle Readers understand that all these separate stories and characters were deliberately made up by the dead woman to obfuscate her real intentions should she be subjected to interrogation,  the fascination with them plummets to nuttin’.   It’s like somebody telling you their dreams.  Who cares?  It’s dreams, it is not a real happening.  Side diversion while I bitch complain testily about fiction which recounts some character’s dream, yeah, like it means anything.  I don’t let people tell me their dreams in real life, why would I want to waste time reading about the fictional dream of a fictional character in a novel? So I spent the rest of the book skipping over the tedious and seemingly endless tales of these fictional characters in the head of a fictional character in a piece of fiction I was reading, till I got to the end, the mystery was solved, and ended with some very weird and unnecessary woo woo paranormal crap happenings.

Disappointed.  And I LOVED Harkaway’s other book, The Gone-Away World, which you will find here.  But as always, I am bedazzled by such a mind that can create a world such as exists in Gnomon.

LOSING MARS by Pater Cawdron

Disaster strikes in orbit around Mars. A Chinese spacecraft is disabled, stranded near Phobos. Well over a hundred million miles from Earth, their only hope for rescue comes from the American base on the edge of the Vallis Marineris on the surface of Mars. The Americans need to decide, do they lose Mars or their humanity?

Six scientists are on Mars for two years to map some of the terrain, and examine the rocks etc.  Three couples, one of which is a lesbian couple.  While out roving, one of the guys falls over a ledge into some kind of crevasse, and needs rescuing, which is done by the first person narrator, a botanist, whose spouse is the mission’s doctor.

Then, they are alerted by NASA that the nearby Russian ship which is orbiting Phobos, and exploring its surface. is in trouble.  Seems there was an explosion.  Our narrator feels they should attempt a rescue, which means using their only return to USA vehicle.  They can got to the Russians, but then must leave for Earth, leaving the others behind on Mars for the remainder of the mission.

So our narrator, once again playing hero, and another woman, take off for the rescue, and find nobody on the Russian ship, although NASA is telling them that of the 4 man crew, there are now registering only two heartbeats.  The woman takes a jet pack and enters the Russian ship, experiences something weird, and nothing more is heard from her.  Our botanist hero then goes after her, to find himself caught up in some surreal thing where he skips in time to various situations in his life, stuff in the past, the future.  He is pulled back into reality by the voice of his crew chief and his wife.  He manages to get back into his own rescue vehicle.

Then there is some convoluted stuff and he is asked to stop by Phobos as he passes it (could ya pick up a loaf of bread and quart of milk on your way home?) to take some pics, he crashes on Phobos, ends up finding some kind of huge cavern with hundreds of dessicated bodies of four-armed aliens, dead for millenia, gets involved in a lot more time travel horse pucky, finds the female who was with him in some kind of coma, rescues her, find the two Russian astronauts, also in comas, rescues them, and takes everybody back to Earth (along with the bread and milk and a Hershey bar), where he spends the next 50 years not telling anybody about any of this because the technology is so far advanced he is afraid that humans will destroy themselves in heartbeat.

Pros:  lots of good science kind of stuff, lots of good nitty gritty details of life on a dead planet, and NASA routines, some real creativity about the aliens, etc.

Con:  “I’m just a poor simple botanist”  schtick is really annoying.  He is the only hero we have in the story.  It is awkward having the narrator narrating how humble and wonderful he is.  For me, it would have worked better with an omniscient narrator.

Con: Too much moralizing and preachiness.  The last quarter of the book was for me really a drag, with too much wandering around time-space and hallucinating yada yada yada.

Three stars, maybe four if I’m having a good day.

NEW YORK 2140 By Kim Stanley Robinson

Another one of Robinson’s rants disguised as sci fi. “It is 2140.  The waters rose, submerging New York City. But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever. Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island.

Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides.”

Although meant to be a cautionary tale of what happens when the climate changes, basically, it fails at that, because although some folks lose out, most just keep on keeping on, moving to higher ground, and living their same old lives.  But in boats.   Let’s face it, people live their lives in Venice, and aren’t all tragic about it.

It has something of a plot, sort of.  It follows a smallish cast of folks and how their lives converge, centered on a huge building in midtown Manhattan, in the intertidal, a part of Manhattan that is partly submerged, most above the water line.

Oh, and us ladies are thrown a bone of one of the principle characters, a young hedge fund financial worker, who falls for a women 16 years older than he is, but decides it is alright.  Oh, geez.

There is a lot of what Robinson does best: description.  It is for this I fell in love with him after reading his Mars trilogy, which is 1/3 plot and 2/3 descriptions of Mars.  His book about Anartica is mostly description.  He is the James Mitchner of Sci Fi,  without the great characterizations and plots.   Let’s face it, Robinson’s characters are more stand-ins for ideas than characters, but it is OK if you are reading for the ideas, etc. His plots exist mainly to function as structure to hold together his screeds.  His descriptions in this book are of the landscape of the pre-drowned New York City and its five boroughs, and the currently drowned area, and detailed descriptions of how Finance works, and in this book, it would seem that the 1% have become the .10%.  Money goes to money, and there are layers and layers and layers of it and the vast majority of us have no idea of how it all works, other than somebody hires us, we get a paycheck which is not enough to cover expenses, and the wealthy have houses and apartments in all the important cities of the world.

As most of his books, it is long.  Really long.  Maybe a couple hundred pages too long.  A few less rants, a bit more plot, but, what do I know?

So, yeah, I liked it.  Not as much as the Mars trilogy, but hey, that was MARS, people.  Mars.

 

THE GENTLE GIANTS OF GANYMEDE by James P. Hogan

This is the companion book, a sequel of Hogan’s Inherit the Stars.  On another moon, Jupiter’s Ganymede, another mystery was found: a wrecked spacesuit, which had been there for millennia, and which obviously was designed for beings larger than the humans of Earth. The mystery seemed insoluble until another ship, manned by the strange humanoid giants arrived, and were very surprised to find humans inhabiting the Solar System.

The fourth manned mission to Jupiter, early in the third decade of the twenty-first century, marked the beginning of intensive exploration of the outer planets and the establishment of the first permanent bases on the Jovian satellites.  Instruments in orbit above Ganymede had detected a large concentration of metal some distance below the surface of the moon’s ice crust.  …. The spacecraft they found there, frozen in its changeless tomb of ice was huge.  From skeletal remains found inside the ship, the scientists of Earth reconstructed a picture of the race of eight foot tall giants that had built it and whose level of technology was estimated as having been a century or more ahead of Earth’s.

OK, we have the biologist Professor Christian Danchekker, and Dr. Victor Hunt again.   Lots more biology science, and discussion of evolution.  You will remember that there was once another planet near the Earth, Minerva, with its own moon, which turned out to be the Earth’s moon.  The giants who lived 50,000 years prior brought to Minerva biological life which evolved into two versions of humans, who warred with each other on Minerva and blew up the planet, leaving only the biological life existing on Earth to evolve into modern man.

Yeah, it all sounds pretty hookey and dry, but actually reads a lot better.  This volume is concerned with the 8 ft race, called the Ganymeans, traces of which were found on Jupiter’s satellite, buried deep in the ice, complete with skeletons, and skeletons of animals, etc.  While arranging to leave the area around Icaris, which was about to go Nova or something, another spaceship appears, and lo! and behold! it is a 50,000 year old spaceship of the Ganymeans, which had been traveling forever, and now only contained about 400 of them, most having been lost on their long journey.  They meet, everybody is nicey nicey, they go to Earth where they are offered a place to live, since their home planet is no longer in existence, and one wonders at the hopeful naivety of 1979 or whenever this was written.

But enough poking fun.  It was an enjoyable read.  I think we have become overly cynical in the ensuing years, and it was lovely to read about aliens who don’t want to kick our collective butts.

 

INHERIT THE STARS by James P. Hogan

A 1978 sci fi series starter, given rave reviews all over the place.  Well, I enjoyed it a lot, but rave?  Maybe not so much.

When they found the corpse on the Moon, wearing a spacesuit, lying in a grave of moon rocks, his identity was a complete mystery. The spacesuit was of a completely unfamiliar design. Then analysis showed that the corpse was 50,000 years old-meaning that he had somehow died on the Moon before the human race even existed.  They called him Charlie. He had big eyes, abundant body hair and fairly long nostrils. His skeletal body was found clad in a bright red spacesuit, hidden in a rocky grave. They didn’t know who he was, how he got there, or what had killed him. All they knew was that his corpse was 50,000 years old; and that meant that this man had somehow lived long before he ever could have existed!

Kind of a mystery, and who doesn’t love a mystery about a 50,000-year-old space guy still pretty much in tact?  Not a lot of actual action as in space opera, more like space analysis.  It  predominantly concerns how the scientists go about solving the mystery of this dude, going deeply into evolution theory, with lots of explanations of biology related matters.  I found it really interesting and fascinating because I slept through most of my biology courses back in the day.  Of course, keep in mind the investigation was of 1978 quality.  Since then, in the intervening 41 years, science itself has evolved, as has the theories it has spawned, and the techniques which were considered hi back then are now probably only medium.

Fun read, and there are several sequels, so maybe we will meet aliens.  I do hope so.  I love meeting aliens.