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.
I sometimes think that there are, very broadly speaking, two types of good and successful authors: those who have one really great idea that goes intoI sometimes think that there are, very broadly speaking, two types of good and successful authors: those who have one really great idea that goes into a highly original début which later works, even if they are absolutely great, never quite match, and those who start out with a solid but rough and unremarkable début and hone their craft to over the course of a few or several books until they produce a carefully crafted masterpiece. John Le Carré belongs in the latter category. In this his first novel (short enough to be a novella) we can see the beginnings of what will two books later become "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold", by many considered a, if not the, defining spy novel of the Cold War. Call for the Dead, on the other hand, sits somewhere between a classic crime mystery and a spy thriller. The plot is clever, if somewhat predictable – around the midpoint or so we have figured out the main mystery (if not necessarily the details). By the third book, the focus in entirely on espionage in the Cold War era, a subject which Le Carré mastered. The characters are sketched – only Smiley is given some real development, and he spends a good part of the story in a sickbed – but we can see some of the skill that made the central characters of "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" stand out....more
Despite an insufferable Mary Sue protagonist and several other shortcomings an enjoyable easy read. It is the slightly self-aggrandising someday-they'Despite an insufferable Mary Sue protagonist and several other shortcomings an enjoyable easy read. It is the slightly self-aggrandising someday-they'll-see-my-worth daydream of anyone who was ever the "smart kid" in their middle-school class. There is some merit to to this. While one may justifiably argue that Card somewhat, in some sense, overestimates children, that is a much lesser sin than underestimating them. If Ender's Game is a children's/YA rewrite of Starship Troopers (which one can certainly argue that it is), it is not so much a dumbed-down version as a shortened one....more
Mini review: The Discworld has no definitive starting point, what with being round and all, but you could certainly find worse places to begin your exMini review: The Discworld has no definitive starting point, what with being round and all, but you could certainly find worse places to begin your exploration than Guards! Guards! Here we are introduced to the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, a motley crew of ragged characters whose success in making sense of their world is severely limited by said world's unwillingness to cooperate – but by god they try! With the introduction of the City Watch subseries of books, a deeper social satire is beginning to stir under the sit-com surface. Where earlier books have painted sometimes entertaining caricatures of fantasy tropes and folklore, here Pratchett holds up a fun-house mirror to ourselves....more