To my pleasant surprise it held up very well. It was one of the original Ace Specials published the late Sixties and edited by Terry Carr. Schmityz isTo my pleasant surprise it held up very well. It was one of the original Ace Specials published the late Sixties and edited by Terry Carr. Schmityz is an underrated gem and this novel was pivotal in my becoming a feminist. The hero, Nile Etland, is a female who is omnicompetent, kicks butt, takes no names. She is a biochemist working on a planet with a rich ecology that is suddenly the focus of a potential alien invasion. A colleague has been captured by the aliens, Parahuans, and is going through tests to determine how tough it will be to defeat humans. Nile knows nothing about this and flies into a trap. Through resourcefulness (and a bit of luck) she demonstrates to the aliens just how difficult it would be to invade and ends up exposing the invasion.
On the surface this is a first-rate adventure novel. The ecology is richly described and well conceived. But the prize is Nile, who is a female doing what ordinarily would be the job of a male (in novels of this era, that is) and the genius of Schmitz is that he makes no special case for her. She is fully herself and there is no question that she can do what she does. Her femaleness goes (largely) unremarked. This it at odds with most SF of the time which would try to do this but then would make an argument on her behalf that there would be no reason she couldn't do this, a kind of special pleading that, while understandable, often undermined the very point the author was trying to make. Schmitz avoided that pitfall and just treated her like a human being.
He did this in much of his work and to my mind is an exemplar of advancing the nonstereotyped female hero in SF....more
Grim, beautifully written examination of one of the primary conceits of science fiction that turns the usual premise of plucky, resourceful survivors Grim, beautifully written examination of one of the primary conceits of science fiction that turns the usual premise of plucky, resourceful survivors on an alien planet completely inside out and on its head. Sobering. Russ is rarely for the faint of heart, even in her lighter fare, and this is in no way "light." Short, incisive, paradigm-cracking....more
Meh. Banville spends too much energy trying to emulate the prose approach of Chandler that too many unlikelihoods pile up on top of genuinely jarringMeh. Banville spends too much energy trying to emulate the prose approach of Chandler that too many unlikelihoods pile up on top of genuinely jarring similes, metaphors, and plain out-of-context-and-character sentences. Homage as bad cover....more
Superbly crafted space opera with a twisty thread of subversive political theory and moral philosophy woven in. Reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh at her besSuperbly crafted space opera with a twisty thread of subversive political theory and moral philosophy woven in. Reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh at her best and Iain M. Banks at his most deceptively straightforward. It tells the story of Breq, the single surviving component of a starship called Justice of Torren, who is on a quest to assassinate the supreme ruler of the polity from which she originated. Breq was an ancillary, a human-bodied component of the ship's sentient AI, reduced to a single body by the destruction of the ship. Along the way, she finds one of her old officers, a wreck of a human, and for reasons not immediately apparent to her she rescues her and nurtures her back to health.
Leckie plays an interesting gender game throughout the book. In the Radch, the polity at the center of everything, the default pronoun is feminine, for both male and female, making for a continual sense of heightened awareness of identity issues, which gradually become paramount in determining right action. This is not your average action-adventure yarn but first-rate science fiction doing what it does best---challenging assumptions. Highly recommended....more
A superior collection of essays gathered from Patchett's long career as a freelance magazine writer. Ranging from adorable to sad to impassioned, thesA superior collection of essays gathered from Patchett's long career as a freelance magazine writer. Ranging from adorable to sad to impassioned, these pieces cover the whole range with a skill and brilliance and sensitivity rarely found in combination. Her essays about the writing life are especially fine. I am now an Ann Patchett fan. Highly recommended....more
This is a short, marvelously well-written set of contemplations on the wonders of the physical universe and our relation to it and stance toward it. LThis is a short, marvelously well-written set of contemplations on the wonders of the physical universe and our relation to it and stance toward it. Lightman's prose are quiet, elegant, a joy to read, and the ideas he ponders swirl through the mind long after each piece is done. It's subtitled "The Word You Thought You Knew." While the actual science discussed did not show me anything really new (except for the discussions about the Higgs Boson) it was the way he interwove our reactions and our contemplations into all this that made the experience unique. It was the universe of our apprehension and comprehension that he is talking about, but in such a way that it slips in and makes perspectival shifts leading to a new way of regarding ourselves as much as the universe. Highly recommended....more
There is a strong element of Huckleberry Finn in these linked novellas. B.D.---Brown Dog---could easily pass for a 40-something Huck had Huck been borThere is a strong element of Huckleberry Finn in these linked novellas. B.D.---Brown Dog---could easily pass for a 40-something Huck had Huck been born in the second half of the 20th Century and grown up in Upper Michigan. Some of the plot elements Harrison contrives resonate with Twain's story and certainly Brown Dog himself is very much a Voltairean Innocent. But there the comparisons stop and the tales become a catalog of a big dumb, good-natured Horn Dog who cannot manage to think past his frequent erections and improbable liaisons, beginning with the ongoing affair with an archaeology student who is screwing him to learn the location of a previously undiscovered Hopewell burial site. The situations B.D. stumbles into time and again are occasions for wry observations about human nature, lying, modern times, misplaced identity politics, and the power of dumb luck. While B.D. himself eventually becomes sort of endearing, his sheer cluelessness wears one to the breaking point. Huck Finn was perhaps unpolished but he was a hell of a lot smarter than this guy.
Having said that, there are many laugh-out-loud funny moments sprinkled throughout and ample dollops of irony, elevating what might otherwise be a prurient mess to the level of sharply observed commentary on what it means to be on the outside in modern society. While one is reading these stories, one is completely absorbed, and even roots for B.D. to find some kind of success and maybe even reliable love (or sex, which to him seem to be the same thing)....more
A very accessible overview of the new techno-economic "age" we're currently in. The authors examine the digital environment and its historic impact ofA very accessible overview of the new techno-economic "age" we're currently in. The authors examine the digital environment and its historic impact of our economy, society, and speculate a bit on where it will all lead. This is the kind of sobering analysis people should study in order to understand what is happening to our traditional view of labor, income, and society in the face of a fundamental shift in labor-productivity-wealth relationships. Recommended....more
Another excellent read from Laurie King. This is not a Mary Russell novel. A sort of sequel to Touchstone, the novel follows Harris Stuyvesant, formerAnother excellent read from Laurie King. This is not a Mary Russell novel. A sort of sequel to Touchstone, the novel follows Harris Stuyvesant, former FBI agent, in Paris on a missing persons case that turns into a macabre serial murder investigation. Set in 1929, King makes full use of the Left Bank mystique and even sets Man Ray at the center of the story, with all the peripherals of the period---Sylvia Beach, Kiki, Cole Porter, etc. Highly recommended....more
A story that skirts the boundaries of science fiction about a woman who dies often and is reborn to do over the life just passed, walking a differentA story that skirts the boundaries of science fiction about a woman who dies often and is reborn to do over the life just passed, walking a different path, from just before the first world war till long after WWII. Atkinson masterfully explores all the possible permutations life can take one person, goes down the branchings of choice and accident, works through a low-level examination of predestination, seems to discard it, and ends with meaning built up by the accretion of chance and personality. What if one could "go back"and do things differently? What would be different? The world, or just you? And of course, those in orbit around you would be dragged by the vortex of change into altered pathways as well.
Or would they? The more things change, the more they stay the same?
The novel is a massive, complex, and utterly engaging koan that leaves behind a residue of introspection....more
Fascinating thriller about the use of primal language as a means of control, with an organization of "poets" who study and understand language less asFascinating thriller about the use of primal language as a means of control, with an organization of "poets" who study and understand language less as a vocabulary than as a neuro-chemical "call and response" mechanism. A young street waif, Emma, is recruited, but her hard-bitten life of survival-by-and-means makes her an awkward fit for the group. She finds herself being used by its leader, Yeats, to unleash a "test" that will result in his absolute control through the deployment of a bare word---a foundational construct that turns the victim into a marionette. In her struggle to be free of his influence, she finds out more than she ever thought possible about human nature, power, and love....more