The very first book I ever remember reading. Five-year-old me absolutely loved it, to the point where my copy fell apart by the time I was six. The coThe very first book I ever remember reading. Five-year-old me absolutely loved it, to the point where my copy fell apart by the time I was six. The complete contents can be viewed here, in a blog by John Sisson: http://dreamsofspace.blogspot.com/201...
Holy Crom, this book pissed me off. It didn't start making me angry, though, until it was halfway over, so I stuck it through and finished the thing,Holy Crom, this book pissed me off. It didn't start making me angry, though, until it was halfway over, so I stuck it through and finished the thing, no matter that by the end I wanted to slap every single character. I was leery when starting the book, but for the wrong reasons: I was worried that a non-SF author attempting SF would try to reinvent a bunch of wheels that didn't need reinventing. That wasn't the problem here. From a technological extrapolation standpoint, Saturn Run is very well thought out. Suppose you wanted to get to Saturn in a real hurry. How would you do it? That question is answered just as well as Andy Weir answered the question "How would a lone astronaut survive on Mars?" in The Martian. No, my problem with the novel is in the attitude and focus of all the characters and, by inference, the author.
Basically, Saturn Run is "Tom Clancy's Rendezvous with Rama." And not in a good way. When signs of an alien presence are detected around Saturn, the U.S. government jumps on it as an opportunity to Get There First and Beat The Commies! (The commies in question are the evil, evil Chinese who have been preparing a mission to colonize Mars, those evil bastards.) The Chinese get wind of the American's secret plans and repurpose their colony ship, which turns the first half of the novel into a race. Who will get there first?
Let me just ask, who cares? Rant commences:
The entire focus of this novel and every single character in it is nationalism, presented in such a way that it seems the authors assume that their American readers will automatically buy in and equate America=good and China=bad. When aliens are discovered, not a single word of text is given over to exploring how something as paradigm-shifting as alien contact would affect the human race. No, the aliens are only seen as a source of new technology that America can use to beat the commies. Once contact is made with the alien intelligence it's presented as being about as awe-inspiring as a McDonald's drive-through, and all the Americans try to learn is technological information they can use to beat the commies. Once the Chinese and Americans come into direct conflict, the Americans are perfectly willing to destroy all information learned from the aliens - with no concern ever mentioned that doing so would be a crime against humanity - if that's what they have to do to beat the commies.
OK, so Sandford never actually uses the word "Commies" but the 1960's Cold War attitudes and "My country right or wrong" nationalism that Sandford seems to assume his readers share are both so thick you'd need a chainsaw to cut through them. As a demonstration of hypothetical space travel technology, Saturn Run is a success. As a techno-political thriller, it sorta works. As a science fiction novel speculating on the impact of first contact with an alien race, it's an abject failure....more
Wow. Seriously, wow. This book was something I really wasn't expecting: one of the most beautifully written novels I've ever enjoyed. It's almost as iWow. Seriously, wow. This book was something I really wasn't expecting: one of the most beautifully written novels I've ever enjoyed. It's almost as if Charles Portis decided to write science fiction under a pseudonym. I've had some Simak on my to-read shelf for a while, but this one I just happened to stumble across on a library shelf. So glad that I did.
Enoch Wallace is a Civil War vet who gets tapped to man a teleporter "way station" in his family home in the backwoods of Wisconsin. The price is isolation from the human race, but the reward is near immortality and the company of the endless stream of non-human travelers who stop off on Earth for brief visits during their sojourns elsewhere. Wallace's station isn't a big, central hub - more like a gas station on a back highway. Nevertheless, Simak evokes a large-scale galactic civilization all from the confines of an isolated farmhouse, which is no small feat.
He also evokes rather well the seductive draw of hiding from the human race and the personal toll that can take over time. I'm sure Enoch Wallace is a stand-in for any kind of outsider, but he feels especially relateable for the lonely SF fan, isolated and "weird" but with access to his own hidden world of alien marvels. Of course, everything can't stay blissful and static, as the outside world eventually encroaches on Wallace's serenity and he's forced to take a stand, either for his native world or the wider Galactic society. Good stuff, all around....more
Dreadstar reads like the storyboard to the best 80s Saturday-morning cartoon never made. Vanth Dreadstar is the last survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy,Dreadstar reads like the storyboard to the best 80s Saturday-morning cartoon never made. Vanth Dreadstar is the last survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy, enjoying his retirement several million light years from home on a planet of peace-loving cat people... until a centuries-long war ruins his idyllic life and he becomes the leader of a rebellion against two warring empires. The story is great, if you can get past the first chapter which contains a metric f#$&ton of exposition. Starlin picks up Dreadstar's story in what is basically the "third act" of his life, and spends the entire first issue of the series filling the reader in on his backstory. It's clumsy storytelling, but Starlin gets the hang of it pretty quickly.
I've read Starlin's "cosmic" stuff that's come out of the Big Two comics universes, but I really enjoy his creator-owned stuff more, in which he's not locked in to maintaining DC or Marvel's status quo. There's actually a major game-changing move towards the end of this omnibus, a ballsy shift in the state of the story that's only possible in a comic that's not twisted into a story knot with twenty other ongoing titles.
Two quibbles: One, since Omnibus Vol. 1 collects the first twelve issues of the series, it ends at kind of an arbitrary point in the story, not the overall climax to an arc. It might have made more sense to wrap up this volume with only the first 10 issues. It would have been less comic for my money, but it would have concluded at a more logical stopping point in the story.
Quibble two: The character designs don't really hold up. Everyone wears tights that, even with Starlin's art, are about as appealing as Adam West's Batman get-up. Seriously, does everyone in this comic need to dress like a 70s superhero? I felt embarrassed for all these people just looking at them....more
I'm consistently amazed at how good this comic continues to be. Vol. 5 is more of a page-turner than Vol. 4 due to the multiple storylines all focusinI'm consistently amazed at how good this comic continues to be. Vol. 5 is more of a page-turner than Vol. 4 due to the multiple storylines all focusing on the same thing: finding and/or freeing baby Hazel from the the crazed robot who kidnapped her.
I do need to serve notice, though: Since this is one of those series where, like in Game of Thrones, no characters are safe, Brian K. Vaughn better not do anything bad to Lying Cat or Ghus or I'm hunting him down....more
I read this one based on a recommendation in a book by Jo Walton, otherwise I'd have never heard of it. Nevertheless, it's the kind of thing I love: aI read this one based on a recommendation in a book by Jo Walton, otherwise I'd have never heard of it. Nevertheless, it's the kind of thing I love: a coming of age / slice of life story set on the moon, where the characters are a bunch of kids who grew up there and take everything for granted. There are big events going on for sure, such as an impending water supply crisis that concerns the main character's father, but it's all in the background. What the lead character, Matt Ronay, is mainly concerned about is what he's going to do with his life, how he can get off the Moon and into space, whether he and his friends can successfully take a clandestine train ride to a station on the Moon's far side, and how well his RPG character does in an ongoing game he and his friends have going.
This kind of thing, where there's no heroic quest or earth-shattering action climax, is what I think of as a kind of "anthropology of the future." Ford doesn't go easy on his readers, either. The kids all talk in a futuristic slang that has to be decoded; it's never directly explained, so getting your head around the language takes a bit of work in the opening. I almost said "the first few chapters" but that's another thing that makes this book something of a challenge - there are no chapters. There aren't even any "soft breaks" between scenes. One scene just blends into the next for the entire length of the book. It's neat in a "no one's ever done that before that I've read" way, but it also makes me scratch my head the same as Cormac McCarthy's lack of punctuation, making me wonder how the author got an editor to let him get away with it.
Still, if like the rest of us "slammers" (Earth residents who have a habit of slamming into walls in Lunar gravity), you'd fancy a vacation on the moon complete with train ride, I recommend picking this one up....more
Truth be told, I was surprised by how traditionally science-fictional this book turned out to be. I guess I was expecting something more like his lateTruth be told, I was surprised by how traditionally science-fictional this book turned out to be. I guess I was expecting something more like his later, more literary works and less like Invaders from Mars. Don't know why - I guess because the last Bradbury I read was Dandelion Wine. Nevertheless, The Illustrated Man showcases Bradbury from the Golden Age of SF and demonstrates in no few pages why he outshown his contemporaries with his lyrical style and his brilliant new angles on the then still-developing SF tropes. Somewhat jarring are the overtly 40's and 50's mannerisms and biases of his characters, as much as in Silverberg or H. Beam Piper. Also, Bradbury's insistence on using the word "rocket" - and nothing else - for space vehicles comes across as endearingly quaint. Not the best work of the man's career, but it still shows why he's rightly considered a Giant....more
If I told you this was a book about labor disputes between competing union recruiters and a multi-planet conglomerate set on a backwater world whose sIf I told you this was a book about labor disputes between competing union recruiters and a multi-planet conglomerate set on a backwater world whose sole export is industrial-grade molasses, you probably wouldn't expect wall-to-wall action, but that's exactly what this book provides. The heroine is a pretty stressed and burned-out labor organizer named Padma Mehta who's looking to retire to a life of rum-making if she can only help a few more corporate drones "breach" - that is, break their indentured servitude contracts and come over to the Union. The lengths she has to go to to help a handful of escapees jump ship, and the unexpected hellstorm it triggers, pushes Padma far beyond the lengths any sane person would go for a day's work.
Props to Rakunas for casting a female, non-white character as his John McClane. My one complaint is that frequently the action in the novel is so fast-paced that it's hard to follow everything that's going on. Nevertheless, Windswept is an exhilarating romp of a first novel. I also recommend you keep some rum handy when you read it....more
I'm really torn on how I feel about this book. It's a beautifully constructed nonlinear novel and is just dripping with style - which isn't always a gI'm really torn on how I feel about this book. It's a beautifully constructed nonlinear novel and is just dripping with style - which isn't always a good thing. Neither is having too many unreliable narrators. When not a single detail of a story can be trusted, even on its own terms, it's really difficult to connect with it emotionally. What you're left with is a book that's so artful and clever that you're constantly aware of how artful and clever it's being and therefore can't lose yourself in the story.
The story itself is so crazy that it's nearly impossible to describe, but I'll try: Set in an alternate universe where humans went to the stars in the 1800s and the movie industry blossomed on the moon (while never moving beyond silent pictures), Severin Unck is a documentary filmmaker who disappears while filming a movie about the unexplained mystery of a missing town on Venus - in the process becoming and unexplained mystery herself. The book is composed of film snips, interviews, and fictions-within-the-fiction created by those she left behind in their attempts to deal with her disappearance.
One problem, articulated in the book itself by one of the characters, is that in this kind of story the heroine isn't a character at all, but just some sort of idealized Grail that everyone else is seeking after. The other problem is that the main character doing the seeking, who would have been the hero in any normal narrative, is himself a fictional character created by the missing woman's father. Though based on a "real" character in the story, the "protagonist-version" of Anchises St. John (say that three times fast) is nothing but a tool for one of the "real" characters (who we never really meet directly) to come to terms with his loss. Since none of his sections of the book (the longest, most stylish, and most boring) really count, I almost gave up on the novel more than once.
I hate that I'm bad-mouthing this book so much. In the end, you can look back on Radiance as a beautiful work of fiction and a very original intellectual exercise. The experience of reading it, however, was 50/50 between being a chore and being a joy....more
Drifter reminds me of the strips you'll find in the average issue of Heavy Metal: fantastic art, nearly incomprehensible plot, with dialog and narratiDrifter reminds me of the strips you'll find in the average issue of Heavy Metal: fantastic art, nearly incomprehensible plot, with dialog and narration that feels like a series of disjointed nonsequiturs. The story is straightforward enough to follow most of it just from the action in the panels, but other important things - such as who the characters are, what's their motivation, and exactly what the hell they're talking about in any given conversation - well, I think the author is holding a little too much close to the chest. Which is too bad, since this is a very, very pretty comic....more
Ever had a book you disliked that redeemed itself with its ending? I was ready to lay some hate on Unwind until the last 10 pages. Now I can grudginglEver had a book you disliked that redeemed itself with its ending? I was ready to lay some hate on Unwind until the last 10 pages. Now I can grudgingly admire where the book ended up and some of the things the author accomplished along the way, but I can also honestly say that I didn't enjoy the ride getting there.
First, and this is odd for me, I had a hard time buying the premise. The idea of "unwinding" people as unwilling organ donors is hardly new to SF and isn't any more outlandish than concepts like Logan's Run, but something in Unwind's presentation of it didn't jibe with me. Maybe it's the idea that unwinding was a solution to the pro-choice / pro-life debate: for the first quarter of the book I kept trying to figure out whether the author had a personal axe to grind (he doesn't seem to). Maybe it's the fact that the world presented in the book is too similar to present-day America, despite the fact that it's supposed to take place after a second Civil War: there are no scars from this war on the landscape and the society of the future is hardly distinguishable from the present, other than a few token changes.
What started to grate me after I figured out that this wasn't a "message book" about abortion was that it's really just the same old teen-fic trope of "Adults are evil and want to kill you" that's present in so many other dystopias, only turned all the way up to 11 in this case. By playing on the "adults are the enemy" feelings I'm sure many kids have, this struck me as a gratuitous exploitation novel (and not in the sense that it's a book about exploitation, which it also is). This felt confirmed every single time an adult character turned out to be just another evil drone of the system, or worse.
The ending turned that around for me, but I almost didn't make it that far. There are some things in the book I did like: the character Lev's cross-country journey in the middle third of the book would have made a great stand-alone story, and the detailed, minds-eye experience of someone being unwound while fully conscious was brilliant. Still, the book was a slog for me and I don't expect to pick up the next volume....more
We may have to reformulate Clarke's Law for this novel so it reads: "Any sufficiently advanced psionic abilities are indistinguishable from magic." OKWe may have to reformulate Clarke's Law for this novel so it reads: "Any sufficiently advanced psionic abilities are indistinguishable from magic." OK, psi powers are magical anyway since they don't really exist, but neither does FTL and we allow that in the SF clubhouse, so telepathy gets in too. Forgotten Suns, however, is a space opera that really plays with that gray area between science and fantasy. The book generally lands on the "really alien higher-dimensional science that we just don't understand" side of the line, but since many of the characters actively refer to themselves as mages and their powers as magical (with, I imagine, an occasional wink) that line stays thoroughly blurred.
This book hit a lot of sweet spots for me: alien worlds, vanished civilizations, xenoarchaeology, superpowered demigods with questionable motives, people flying around in spaceships having adventures, and likeable, relatable protagonists. The two point-of-view characters are a former intelligence officer still damaged and suffering from the trauma of her final mission, and her thirteen-year-old niece Aisha who doesn't think twice about stowing away on a spaceship and traveling the galaxy to help out her family. Even though it's an adult novel, having such a young protagonist (a modern-day Arkady Darrell) lets Tarr easily convey the wonder so vital to fun science fiction.
The third principal character, and the major actor of the whole shebang, is an ancient conqueror from the planet Nevermore who's been buried in stasis for 6,000 years until Aisha accidentally wakes him up by blasting into an archaeological site with a little too much dynamite. This is the "superpowered demigod" I mentioned earlier, and in his earlier life he was something of a Dark Lord that his own people had to lock away for their own protection. Now that his whole race has disappeared, he goes from supervillain to questing hero as he travels across the universe looking for his lost civilization and the mystery of why they vanished. The answer is suitably epic and satisfying.
The novel isn't perfect, but the flaws don't get in the way. Tarr's characters have a habit of implying too much in the dialogue, and sometimes it's a chore to keep up with what's left unsaid in their conversations. One of the antagonist groups in the novel is an evil Psi Corps whom Tarr lifted directly out of Babylon 5, but since B5 lifted the Psi Corps directly out of The Demolished Man, then I figure fair's fair. The universe of the novel is one that I didn't really want to leave at the end, and I get the impression that Tarr didn't either, since she takes about as much time as Tolkien to wrap up the story after the climax. Still, an excellent, yummy space opera....more
I love a road trip, and I love a good road trip novel. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is definitely that - instead of an overarching plot, theI love a road trip, and I love a good road trip novel. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is definitely that - instead of an overarching plot, the book is structured as a series of episodes through which a cast of fascinating, well-developed characters grow, mature, and come to terms with whatever is going on in their lives. In this case, the cast are the crew of a ship that slogs from star to star drilling wormholes through space so everyone else can travel at their leisure. The crew is going after the Big Score - a job at the heart of the galaxy that will pay enough to let them upgrade to a higher level of work and prestige. This is set in a universe in which the human race itself is the low man on the totem pole, slowly pulling itself upward in galactic respectability.
The book opens with the obligatory new crewmember showing up for her first day of work, which of course gives the author an excuse for an introduction to everyone else and a tour of the ship. Each of the characters is flawed and no one quite assumes the role of 'protagonist,' though the newbie and the captain hog the limelight a little more than the others. In some ways this is a feel-good book, but not in a sugary-sweet way. It's a long year's journey with hard-knocks deep spacers, and it's a universe I'd love to spend more time in. Just before writing this review I noticed there's a sequel slated for later this year. Not complainin' one damn bit....more
Warren Ellis channels Michael Moorcock at his loopiest (there's a definite flavor of Jerry Cornelius here) to give us a reboot / follow-up to Alan MooWarren Ellis channels Michael Moorcock at his loopiest (there's a definite flavor of Jerry Cornelius here) to give us a reboot / follow-up to Alan Moore's run on Supreme from the 90s. That last bit is important, because without a familiarity of Alan Moore's take on Rob Liefeld's Superman rip-off, I doubt a lick of this would have made any sense.
Moore introduced the concept of the "Supremacy," the place where all the past versions of Supreme (groovy 60s Supreme, Dark 90s Supreme, etc) reside after each metafictional "revision" rewrites the history of the character and his world. Blue Rose runs with the idea that the most recent revision of the character went wrong, the world is now broken, and Supreme himself is missing. It's all very clever and Tula Lotay's art effectively plays with the idea of there being something fundamentally wrong with the world, but Ellis never sells any kind of emotional connection to the characters or why we should care what happens in the end....more