Of Time and Third Avenue, Alfred Bester: 3/5 The short-story format has always been important and held in high regard in sciMini-reviews of each story:
Of Time and Third Avenue, Alfred Bester: 3/5 The short-story format has always been important and held in high regard in science fiction. This classic twist-in-time mystery story is a good example of why. The short format allows a simple idea and plot twist to be explored without the need to build elaborate sets, plot, and side characters. Bester serves us with an enjoyable, if straightforward and somewhat predictable story, effectively setting a scene and executing a plot twist around one central idea in a few pages.
All Summer in a Day, Ray Bradbury: 2/5 What would it be like to live on a planet where the climate was one of constant rain, where a glimpse of the sun is as rare and remarkable an event as a solar eclipse is to us? The premise for Bradbury's story is an interesting one, especially in light of all the science fiction that assumes living on another planet is essentially like living on earth, either because planets are assumed to have the same general climate characteristics, or because of terraforming. However, while the setting is interesting, the story rather isn't. What we get is a very predictable little sob story, that is ultimately forgettable.
Mini-review: Ted Chiang is probably one of, if not the, most interesting writers in contemporary speculative fiction. Yes, speculative fiction. That iMini-review: Ted Chiang is probably one of, if not the, most interesting writers in contemporary speculative fiction. Yes, speculative fiction. That is really the only term that does any justice to Chiang's stories, which take cues from, but ultimately transcend both science fiction and fantasy. He is anything but prolific, but he replaces quantity with an astonishing quality. His stories are carefully crafted in all respects: each story revolves around a well though-out philosophical idea, which Chiang presents with characters, plots and use of language crafted to the purpose. There are many writers who can piece together an engaging story, some who can present an interesting idea, and a few who can turn language into art and shape it to their purpose, but there are very few indeed who consistently succeed in doing all three at once. Ted Chiang is one of them....more
Nominally the fifth book out of six in the Earthsea series, this collection of five short stories (one or two of them long enough to be properly calleNominally the fifth book out of six in the Earthsea series, this collection of five short stories (one or two of them long enough to be properly called novellas) is meant to give us some insights into the history of Earthsea and the school on Roke, as well as providing a bridge between Tehanu (book four) and The Other Wind (book six) in the form of the last story of the book, Dragonfly.
It strikes me as funny to place a collection of only marginally related short stories in the middle of a tightly knit series of novels, and when I read the other books, I did not know that this was in fact Le Guin's intention. I thus read this book out of order. Now, it has been a while since I read the other five books, so I may certainly be missing some fine points, but the way I see it, there is really no need to read Tales from Earthsea before reading The Other Wind. It is, however, necessary to have read the first four novels before reading Tales from Earthsea, primarily because the background is assumed, but also because there are some spoilers, in particular if you also read the supplementary information about Earthsea provided after the stories.
I find two reasons for leaving Tales from Earthsea until after all five novels. The first is that since only one of the stories is part of the story arc from the novels (and only marginally important at that), Tales from Earthsea forms an unnecessary hiatus. The second is that it is the weakest link in the Earthsea chain.
Le Guin is still on her feminist soap box from Tehanu, and as was the case there, she is so heavy-handed with her message that it overpowers the actual stories. Especially the first novella reads as if Le Guin is trying to shoehorn women into the history of Earthsea, and into her story arc. And just to be perfectly clear: it is not the women part I have a problem with, but the shoehorning part. The relative absence of women in important roles (with one very notable exception) in the original trilogy about Ged really was not a problem. The smooth addition of important women in The Other Wind is a good development. Having women play important roles in the history of Earthsea is a good idea, but Le Guin does not make much of it, as if their mere presence were enough to make a good story. Finally, as with Tehanu, Le Guin's feminism slips over into misandry once or twice, which really is no better than the misogyny she is rightly trying to combat.
The stories themselves are relatively weak. Le Guin is an outstanding storyteller, so the stories still provide an enjoyable read, but they are all rather predictable and not really very interesting. Only two of them, The Bones of the Earth and On the High Marsh really have that special Earthsea feel to them, which makes them enjoyable, even if they do not have much else.
All five stories share Le Guin's exquisite use of the English language. As usual, she uses very small means to paint a truly vivid picture, an art certainly not to be despite, especially in our time when some popular fantasy authors tend to go on and on in excruciating detail for hundreds upon hundreds of pages. If nothing else, these stories are well worth reading just for the pleasure of immersing yourself in Le Guin's flowing prose. Add her ability to weave magic and her wonderful characterisations, and even a less than interesting story is going to be good.
The notes about Earthsea provided after the stories are probably mostly of interest if you are really into the Earthsea fantasy world. Then again, if you are reading this book, you probably are. However, these notes read mostly like a sketch of the world in which Le Guin creates her stories, and less as living history. Still there is so much potential there, and I cannot help wishing that Le Guin had used some of the stories in there that are just waiting to be told. There are so many events in Le Guin's sketched history would have made for great stories in a collection like Tales from Earthsea. Yes, this would have turned it into The Silmarillion of Earthsea, but that really would not have been so bad....more
Die Verwandlung is the bizarre tale of Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find out that he has turne(I read a Swedish translation of the story.)
Die Verwandlung is the bizarre tale of Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning to find out that he has turned into a giant beetle. It is possible to see the story as an allegory over how society tends to treat those who are different, those who do not fit; the monsters, the not-quite-humans. However, there is really precious little of this, and while the story as such is slightly entertaining, I find that it lacks a real point, or well-developed thought....more