I have yet to read a bad Robert J. Sawyer tale! True, I have not read a lot of them – the WWW trilogy, Flashforward, Mindscan –The Terminal Experiment
I have yet to read a bad Robert J. Sawyer tale! True, I have not read a lot of them – the WWW trilogy, Flashforward, Mindscan – yet the flavor of these later stories pretty much began with his first Nebula award-winning novel, The Terminal Experiment.
As the author explained in his preface, he wrote this in the 1990s during the infancy of the Internet and the World Wide Web and did not want to update the story, yet this does not majorly affect the relevancy of the story nor the cool entertainment value!
First Impressions: I was impressed with Peter Hobson, a man who had it all – a great wife Cathy, who he dated since school, a great job and a best friend – a Hindu scientist whom he dearly trusted – and whose world comes crashing down!
No spoilers here, but Peter’s scientific mind works to solve a major personal crisis – he first of all discovers through his research what appears to be the human soul – he creates a device called the Soul Wave Monitor that can spot it near the moment of death.
What’s cool about this is Sawyer’s involvement in seeing how a world would respond to a scientific proof of the human soul, the religious and personal implications are amazing.
What’s disappointing is that the author did not play this up very much. It fell to a subplot! His focus was on the personalities of Peter Hobson – who has his brain copied and downloaded! These personalities escape into the World Wide Web with disastrous consequences!
Also the story is very “Canadian-centric.” I spent some little time looking up the places and events of Toronto during the story!
Bottom Line: You can see remnants of this kind of Web tale in his later WWW trilogy. Here, we see a peak of “our” future through the eyes of 1990s science (I like the idea of printing out your newspaper at a newsstand and his prediction of electronic readers), the moral implications of his soul detector and wraps up the story nicely in the never-ending saga of affairs of the heart, jealousies and tragedies as he searches for an answer to his life as it crashes around him!
Not Sawyer’s best novel, but an easy read that will get you thinking. Recommended.
The Writers of the Future enters its 28th and perhaps its largest volume to date, boasting 586 pages! I’ve been collecting these papeFirst Impression:
The Writers of the Future enters its 28th and perhaps its largest volume to date, boasting 586 pages! I’ve been collecting these paperbacks since 1986 and it never ceased to amaze me the opportunity for new writers to get published, often for the first time.
These volumes also have famous names as judges – a partial list: Mike Resnick, Robert J. Sawyer, Fredrick Pohl, and Robert Silverberg – all giants in the science fiction/fantasy field. And there’s an illustrator’s contest as well, such judges as Robert Castillo and Diane Dillion checking out the illustrations.
As with any anthology, some of the writers fall on their face and that’s really too bad. I can see the potential and hope that they will continue to write. Others do well and will probably move on to bigger and better things. Do we have another Kevin J. Anderson or Kristine Kathryn Rusch here?
It would be tedious to review every single story in this big volume. I will say that many of the tales were of androids/robots/artificial intelligences. Some made of woven wood, some even made of intelligent insects!
Mary Croke’s “Of Woven Wood” was a fun read. Lan, an artificial intelligence, keeping track of the laboratory experiments of Haigh, his creator. Except that Haigh is dead! The mystery of his death is secondary to the true nature of Lan, the mysterious past of his creator and the Queen, who has some involvement as she demands what she perceives was “stolen” from her by Haigh. Interesting fantasy.
I really liked William Ledbetter’s “Rings of Mars.” A man discovers intelligent constructs on Mars, except he wants to keep it to himself, afraid that the corporation who hired him will turn it into a Martian Disneyland rather than a valuable treasure of knowledge for Man. It is a story of Malcolm and Jack and how their friendship is strained as they both struggle with what they feel is just, yet their friendship is important too. Great hard science fiction here.
And Harry Lang’s “My Name is Angela,” in a society where clones have been created to take care of the menial tasks so that humans can rise to greater heights. A modern-day slavery tale, actually. And a criticism on our educational system. Angela is supposed to just watch the malcontented fourth graders but she discovers through the “Soul Man” that she has a soul (he reprograms her) and she teaches the kids French and regrets beating her husband with a hot iron! She grows a conscience but the draconian society fears this and handles it. Quite a morality tale!
Bottom Line: Some stories did not do it for me – slow starts, coming into the middle and not building characterization or using unnecessary ten dollar words to describe things. Quite a mess, but that’s to be expected in amateur writing.
Nevertheless, great little collection – also articles from L. Ron Hubbard and Kristin Katherine Rusch on the art of the short story and the importance of researching a story to make it fly, and Roy Hardin’s advice to new artists in “Fast Draw.” ...more
The Minutemen issue with DC Comics’ “prequel” of Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ classic was nicely done. The problem I had with the original WatchmenThe Minutemen issue with DC Comics’ “prequel” of Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ classic was nicely done. The problem I had with the original Watchmen were the many vignettes and breaking up the story into news articles – which is OK, but was overdone.
Rather, Darwyn Cooke (DC’s New Frontier, Richard Stark, etc.) does a great job of updating the beginnings of the Watchmen and reflects on what would happen if a team of heroes got together during the Great Depression. How would they get together?
The story starts out with a Mystery Man who is writing an autobiography and though his publisher is not really happy with it, gives the man pause to reminisce on his past pals – some becoming “heroes” due to their own insanities or love of profit, and others wanting to do something right.
Of all the vignettes, I loved the profit motive of Sally Jupiter – sexily drawn and fun to read. Another was the wasted hero Byron Lewis, whose addictions forced him into attempting to fly. Anti-heroes are included here too – Blake Edward, who busts a bar full of hoods but also busts the barkeep and keeps the change!
The retro look of Cooke's art is especially bright and sharp, with clear, deep inks and saturated colors with the tale of Ursula (Silhouette) which fight scene is pretty fierce, as she brandishes her guns and kicks some butt!
Bottom Line, loved the first issue of this mini-series. I was not a big fan of the Watchmen movie and though Moore’s comic series was well done, Cooke’s version cuts out the fat and gives us the meet.
DC Comics has a digital comic’s version where for an additional dollar you get a digital comics code number for online viewing. Each code is specific to that comic book. I did not get a chance to take advantage, but this sounds great for the comics industry which has been in print since the 1930s and really needs an upgrade.
At $3.99 a copy, you might be better off getting Minutemen #1 through a subscription service!
It’s not easy writing a short review of a major classic in the science fiction circles. It’s almost as if you have to write a positive review to reallIt’s not easy writing a short review of a major classic in the science fiction circles. It’s almost as if you have to write a positive review to really be “accepted.” Fortunately that’s not this review!
I like Heinlein’s shorter novels such as Farmer in the Sky, Starship Troopers and Space Cadets. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, story of a revolution against the harsh yolk of Authority from Earth, is a drawn-out ramble in deep need of editing.
Despite the rambling dialogue and pages & pages of family life and long commentaries on social etiquette on the Moon, there are several interesting themes throughout.
Manuel is an engineer and is disabled, and is able to put on various “arms” that he uses in his work. He has an extended or “line” family where you can have several wives and different levels of husbands. This gets confusing but is fun to read about. Heinlein’s version of new future relations no doubt. These are frowned on when Manuel gets back to Earth looking for acceptance for his new government on the Moon, even to a point of a jail sentence for polygamy!
Manuel’s friend is a computer that has achieved sentience -- Mike! Mike slowly learns the personalities of those around him as he develops his own. Unlike “computer comes to sentience and kills his creator”-type of stories, Mike becomes indispensable in rallying the humans to throw off the yolk of oppression.
Heinlein’s commentaries on governments, libertarian ideals and forcing acceptance through meteor-throwing are also interesting. Lots of people die in this novel – certainly not a young adult book! – But the reader does not have time to mourn as we move on through the book.
The book makes some very discussion-worthy comments on marriage & relationships, government oppression, the true meanings of freedom and what that costs and the realization that there really is no such thing as a free lunch!
Recommended for its place in science fiction and being brave enough to tackle the themes of the day, but be prepared for a long and at times tedious read! ...more
As a collector of comics I know that most comics are not for kids and often have adult themes that make you think, that makeX-Men: Magneto, Testament
As a collector of comics I know that most comics are not for kids and often have adult themes that make you think, that make you contemplate or are just plain fun and enjoyable.
Though not enjoyable in that sense, this compilation gives a true account of Max Eisenhart's (Magneto, enemy of the X-Men) experiences as a Jew growing up in 1930s/1940s Nazi Germany and Poland. After reading this, anyone who thinks comics are for kids or Holocaust deniers really need to wake up and smell the blood – the book is visceral, based on historic facts and explain a lot about Max and his dedication to his family and his deadening of feelings towards death and sacrifice.
Impressive art by Di Giandomenico was at times hard to take – the extermination of the Jews, the cruelty of their Nazi "masters" and the apathy and unbelievability of what was happening – really hits you in the gut in its realism and imagination.
Max's magnetic powers come to play in a javelin-throwing contest where he beats the Aryan competitors. He is called a cheating Jew and beat up for his trouble. The Berlin Games where African American Jesse Owens wins a few gold medals and the Nazi response is also telling.
To call the story a slam against racism and against prejudice is obvious and trite. It's about a boy who grows up quickly, protects his family and builds a center of hate. Pak writes a story much different than the origins of Magneto in the X-Men films or the earlier comics, so don't expect a lot of super-heroics – although heroism is another theme explored.
The end of the book has some references the writer gleaned from and even a Teacher's Guide for this book is also meant to be an educational tool. Finally, an article about a Jewish artist who, at the time of publication, is demanding her art work back from a Polish museum who have refused to do it – Dina Babbitt, who was forced to paint pictures of gypsies by Mengele himself. Art by Joe Kubert and others, and an essay on the atrocity by Stan Lee. Dina passed away after publication, so I don't know if she ever got her art back! A pity!
Bottom Line: Excellent piece of work – more for those who want to get a personal history of what went on at Auschwitz and other camps, or teachers who want to get a close, real look on the Jewish struggle to their young students – and even for X-Men fans! An honest and at times hard to read, but necessary to tell, tale. Recommended. ...more