I'm sorry Larry Niven, but what love I had for you (back in the 80s when I discovered science fiction) is rapidly disappearing. I read The Mote in GodI'm sorry Larry Niven, but what love I had for you (back in the 80s when I discovered science fiction) is rapidly disappearing. I read The Mote in God's Eye recently and wasn't nearly as thrilled with it as expected. I'm very tempted to go back and reread Lucifer's Hammer to see if it really is as good as I remember. I enjoyed that one when I read it. My memory tells me that it actually had a plot with a real story arc.
Ringworld doesn't really. Oh, yes...there's a plot of sorts. Let's have Louis Wu,our hero, team up with a Pierson Puppeteer (a two-headed, three-legged, horse-like [?] creature with it's real brain in a camel-like hump on its back), a Kzin (a huge, war-like, cat-like alien), and a human woman, Teela Brown, whose main purpose seems to be to love [and make love to] Louis...until she doesn't any more, to serve as a "good-luck charm" for the expedition, and to, occasionally, offer some fairly good insight into rather complex ideas [Hey, look, the woman has a brain! Why isn't she allowed to use it all the time?], and send them off to investigate an unexplored area of the universe in the hopes of finding a safe place for all the species when the radiation effects from explosions at the center of the galaxy reaches inhabited space. They discover this massive artificial structure shaped like (surprise!) a ring and orbiting a sun and make a pretty half-baked effort to investigate it. There you go. Sure, they meet people (really--very human-like people), but don't really interact with them much. They kindof, sortof explore--but not really.
Here is the plot in a nutshell: Long, lead-in where the Puppeteer convinces Louis and company to join the team. Smaller portion where the team is with the other Puppeteers getting ready to launch the trip. Long portion for travel to Ringworld. Another long portion traveling around on Ringworld. The End. There is no real goal--investigate and report back; conquer Ringworld; whatever. The story just really stops. I understand that this is part of a series and this was basically the book setting everything up--but 342 pages of setup? Add to that the fact that we really don't learn a whole lot about the characters and they don't seem to learn a whole heaping lot about themselves during this great grand adventure. Probably because there aren't many large problems for them to work through.
The science fiction conceit is brilliant. The idea of Ringworld itself is fabulous and was a major draw for me to read this story. But I really expected to be more engaged with the characters. To be honest--Louis and Teela didn't interest me much. Louis isn't very knowledgeable about space and exploration and seems more interested in making it with Teela than anything and Teela seems to be more decorative than anything else. The most interesting character is Speaker, the Kzin. I would love to have learned more about Speaker and his people. Both stars are for the basic idea and the potential that I can see for great stories--I certainly hope the rest of the series builds on this and ups the ante with some good story-telling. I'm not sure whether I'll be reading any more to find out, however.
This is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his oThis is most likely Isaac Asimov's best story. It appeared in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly and Asimov said [when he read his own stories: HERE) that "it is just about my favorite story of all the stories I have written."
It is certainly a superb story on the nature of entropy and the ultimate question: Can entropy be reversed? The twist which provides the answer comes in the final lines of the story and is stunning. There is little more that I can say without completely giving the story away. If you like Asimov, if you like good science fiction, if you like a blazing good story...just read it. Or, as I did, listen to it. I listened to Isaac Asimov read it. But my preferred version is the reading by Leonard Nimoy (HERE)....more
Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever is a graphic novel adaptation (by Scott & David Tipton) of Ellison's original screenplay for arguHarlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever is a graphic novel adaptation (by Scott & David Tipton) of Ellison's original screenplay for arguably Star Trek's best television episode. According to Ellison's introduction, the Tipton's have done a perfect job representing his original vision: "I could not have pictured it as perfect as it has turned out." And perfect it is. Ellison's vision, per usual, is a bit darker than the televised episode, but it also digs even deeper into Captain Kirk's psyche and the loneliness he feels as the man in charge. Ellison has presented readers with an intelligent story with meaning and he does us the great courtesy of assuming that we are fairly bright people who don't need absolutely everything explained. He lets the story speak for itself. That's a great gift from a writer.
There are a few differences between the screenplay and the episode that I'd like to point out. First, there is very little McCoy here. The character who goes a bit crazy and winds up going back in time to change history in the teleplay is a drug-dealing, murderous rogue lieutenant, not our favorite doctor accidentally injected with a full hypo. McCoy shows up just once, to attend to the man Lieutenant Beckworth attacked...and then not by name. And, of course, having a drug-dealer on board the flagship of the Federation is another change. It is also nice to see Yeoman Rand represented as a competent, serious member of the crew and not just secretarial eye candy for Kirk. The other biggie is the role of Trooper, the down-and-out WWI soldier who helps Kirk and Spock find Beckworth.
Trooper, it seems to me, was a huge loss for the televised version. The contrast between his historical value and the value of Edith Keeler is vivid and poignant. It makes a statement about sacrifice as well. Spock's sacrifice in Wrath of Kahn is important--but he makes the sacrifice for his friends and his shipmates. Trooper also sacrifices--but his sacrifice benefits strangers...and ultimately humanity's future. Hard-hitting stuff from a master story-teller.
As far as the graphic novel goes--it is gorgeous. The teleplay has been expertly adapted for the graphic novel and the artwork is impressive. Most of the regular crew members look as we expect--McCoy's brief appearance being the only exception, but perhaps since he wasn't center stage he was given quite the attention that Kirk, Spock and Rand received. Overall, a fantastic graphic novel that any Trek fan should make part of their collection.
You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its cYou know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)
And, at its core, that's what The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951) is about--how quickly everything mankind has been used to and sure of is destroyed when the majority of the population is blinded after the Earth's orbit takes it through a strange meteor shower (or comet's tail or even a nuclear fireworks show from orbiting satellites--we're just not sure) and venomous, carnivorous plants which are ambulatory start preying on the survivors. It is also about how humanity reacts in the face of such a shattering experience. Far more terrifying than the possibility of death by triffid is the realization of how quickly humanity could lose the qualities that have seemed to separate us from the beasts. Man can become very beast-like when the trappings of civilization are stripped from him.
Whether they decide polygamy is the way to go (to better ensure future generations) or to team up sighted people with those who are blinded or revert to strict religious tenets, it is interesting to watch various groups come up with survival plans and new "rules" for their colonies. It is also interesting to think about what tactics I might adopt if in the same circumstances. Despite the "Killer Plant" B-movie monster theme, Triffids is really a book of thoughtful contemplation about what makes humans survivors and what about humanity should survive.
(view spoiler)[The finale is very open-ended. Of course, so is life. We never know what will happen tomorrow. And neither do the survivors in Triffids. They have driven the man-eating plants from the island, but the triffids still hold sway over much of England and the world. Humanity will have quite a battle before them if they are going to reclaim the Earth. It's left to our imagination whether they succeed. (hide spoiler)]
This story wound up affecting me more vividly than I anticipated. My words of wisdom for my co-workers this morning? "If you ever decide to read the classic SF story The Day of the Triffids, don't do it right before bedtime."
First posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited is a collection of thirteen stories either based on Twilight Zone episodes or new stories written in the style oRod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited is a collection of thirteen stories either based on Twilight Zone episodes or new stories written in the style of the television series. As far as I can tell, five of the short stories aired as actual episodes. And it is not entirely clear where the others came from. The title page reads "adapted by Walter B. Gibson" but nothing in the book explains what he adapted these stories from....episode suggestions and outlines that didn't make the cut? I'm just not sure.
The collection takes me back to elementary school. The edition itself reminds me of the large school-binding editions of Alfred Hitchcock sponsored collections like "Stories to Read with the Light On," etc. with very elementary school style illustrations. It gives me a nice feeling of nostalgia--but I can't say that the book as a whole does a whole lot for me. Most of the stories are written in a rather pedestrian, just-the-facts-ma'am fashion--not a lot of frills, not a lot of description and explanation. The best of the stories provide a bit more background and window-dressing--not necessarily explaining everything about the odd things that happen (after all, it wouldn't be the Twilight Zone if we understood it entirely), but making the experiences of the characters a bit more believable.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the best stories are those I've identified as airing on television. While those stories are stronger than the majority, the strongest stories seem to be "new" (whatever that might mean) and feature ghosts or characters rooted firmly in the past. There are two men who survive the Civil War only to head west and inadvertently wind up involved in one of the largest Indian/Army battles ever waged. There is a reporter from the 1960s who is sent to write about a ski-jumping contest on Iron Mountain who interacts with ghosts from the turn-of-the-century. There's ghostly riverboat pilot who takes revenge on the man who sent him to a watery grave. And there is the house on an island haunted by the ghost of woman who murdered several patrons of the inn (as it was in the days of river steamboats) and who tries to add one more to her tally.
Overall--this is a book that I would have thoroughly enjoyed when I was in elementary school. Reading it now, it was a fairly good, light read with a mixture of highly interesting historically based/ghost stories and other somewhat entertaining stories about premonitions, genies, and various unexplainable circumstances. ★★ and a 1/4.
Eleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornamentEleven-year-old Sam Carnabie is not looking forward to a family trip to visit his Great-Aunt Roberta. Great-Aunt Roberta likes cats and china ornaments; she doesn't much like children. And there isn't even a proper park near her oppressively tidy home in Reading. Why can't the Carnabies be headed out for an adventure somewhere exciting instead. You know what they say: Be careful what you wish for....Because when Professor Ampersand and his adopted children Zara and Ben zoom up on a yellow motorcycle and sidecar to whisk Sam away from the proposed dreadful visit in Reading, the adventure is well on its way. And it will be more adventure than Sam could possibly imagine.
Sam barely has time for a quick investigation of Professor Ampersand's awesome inventor's digs when one of the professor's colleagues arrives with news that the evil Professor Murdo is out to kill the rest of the original "7 Professors of the Far North"--a group of brilliant scientists who were once going to teach at a university on Nordbergen, an island in the Arctic Circle--as well as making preparations to take over the world. The other professors are called for a meeting at Ampersand's home--but before Professor Gauntraker can fully explain the dangers, Murdo's henchmen arrive and kidnap the professors. Sam, Zara, and Ben manage to hide and Gauntraker leaves a clue behind that will allow the kids to follow to Nordbergen. But how can three children take on an evil genius and his armed minions? The fate of their friends...and the world...is in their hands.
A wonderful adventure book for the nine and older crowd. The opening immediately grabs the reader and the story provides an exciting ride. This is definitely the type of book that I would have devoured in my younger days and I found it quite enjoyable now. It reminds me of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories--written as a straight narrative. While the idea of three children defeating an evil genius may be a little hard to believe, the story as told sweeps you right along and the kids have enough doubts and get just enough help along the way to make it really easy to suspend your disbelief. Great fun and interesting story. There is also a parallel story about Marcia and her parents that works well as it dovetails with the adventures of Sam, Zara, and Ben--and it serves as a nicely done morality story about being happy with who you are and letting others be exactly who they are as well. Good, solid story-telling.
Ships of the Line by Doug Drexler and Margaret Clark (eds) with Michael Okuda providing text is a gorgeous book of Star Trek artwork. It features beauShips of the Line by Doug Drexler and Margaret Clark (eds) with Michael Okuda providing text is a gorgeous book of Star Trek artwork. It features beautifully drawn images from the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars and was put together as part of the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek. The artists have taken various ships from all points of the ST universe (through 2006) and rendered them in scenes from both the series or movie from which they came as well as from their own imaginations. The result is a delight for Trek fans.
The book was a serendipitous find for me...just sitting there on the featured books shelf of our Friends of the Library bookstore waiting for me to bring it home. As any good Trek fan would, I did. And promptly sat down the same day (May 1) and read it straight through. And somehow forgot to write up a review--so here it is, better late than never. Highly enjoyable--I spent a delightful evening flipping through the pages and reading the descriptions of each piece. Now I'll be passing it on to my son.
My take: This is a difficult review for me. I almost always can give high marks to the review request books and virtual tour books that I read becaus My take: This is a difficult review for me. I almost always can give high marks to the review request books and virtual tour books that I read because I carefully screen the books I agree to review. The synopsis really grabbed me. Roland Hughes has developed a fantastic premise. I liked the idea of tying in all kinds of SF writing and television shows into a fantastic piece of fiction. I had great expectations....
But, I have to be honest (and I only do honest reviews), this book was not, ultimately, for me. The interview format really got on my nerves. The entire book is all tell and no show. No action--none. Even when John Smith is describing what happened it has little effect because it's all dialogue and he sounds like he's giving one long lecture about absolutely everything from what a computer is to why the Hebrews had dietary laws to where the Atlantians went to how the Druids and Mayans figure in to finally answering the question his interviewer came to ask in the first place--what happened in the Microsoft Wars. And he does it all in such a condescending manner.
I also did not care for the antagonistic tone against the sexes. The reporter obviously doesn't care for men although her comments are few and far between and John Smith repeatedly makes incredibly misogynistic remarks about women throughout the book. My "favorites":
The longest lifespan known, or at least told to me, was roughly 250 clock years for a man and 325 clock years for a woman. The stress of living with a woman really does kill a man. That much has remained universal throughout all cycles. (p.133)
Women can't resist making things up for no reason at all and being mad about them for years but that isn't the story we are telling here. (p. 150) [So, your point in saying this is?]
The tone is bad enough...but it might be useful and understandable if Hughes explained why these people are like this. What motivates them? But he doesn't--we're supposed to accept this, apparently, just because that's the way it is.
There are also great inconsistencies...for instance, the reporter supposedly lives in a society that has developed after the Microsoft Wars. Everything has been destroyed. Pretty much all knowledge of what came before is gone--Smith has to explain what computers, dvds, satellites, submarines, etc. and ad nauseum are--even hard copy encyclopedias and maps--and yet the woman knows what socialism is? Seriously? Her people have retained no memory whatsoever of tangible physical objects and yet she understands an obsolete abstract concept.
If you like unusual story-telling formats, then this book is for you. If you like incredible amounts of dialogue, then this book is for you. If you are interested in conspiracy theories and an explanation of what happened to Atlantis and the "truth" behind every UFO siting ever....then this book is for you.
I really am sorry that I cannot give this book a stellar review. But it just did not live up to my expectations and, overall, I just didn't become engaged with the characters. I'm giving it two stars--all for fantastic concept.
**This book was sent to me as part of the Premier Virtual Authors Tour in exchange for my honest review. I have received no compensation whatsoever.
Any project that involves Harlan Ellison really is a mine field...of explosive ideas, earth-shaking revelations, and mental confrontations that are noAny project that involves Harlan Ellison really is a mine field...of explosive ideas, earth-shaking revelations, and mental confrontations that are not for the faint of heart. Link him up with the provocative artwork of Jacek Yerka and you wind up with something very special indeed. Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka/The Fiction of Harlan Ellison does just that. An extraordinary collection of 30 images by Yerka with short pieces by Ellison which tell his story about Yerka's artwork. As Ellison says, "...after you've read my interpretation, you can come back to Mr. Yerka's art time after time and invent a new story each visit."
As one might expect from Ellison, his interpretations are generally rather dark and nightmarish--but beautifully written and exquisitely detailed nightmares direct from the author's fertile imagination. Ellison may have an extraordinarily different point of view--but one thing is certain. The man can write. My favorites in this collection were among the shortest pieces ("The Silence," "Darkness Falls on the River," and "Paradise") with "Between Heaven and Hell" and "To Each His Own" closely following.
**spoiler alert** In which I once again thoroughly dislike a book that my bestest friend in the whole world loved and sent me as a present. I'm sorry**spoiler alert** In which I once again thoroughly dislike a book that my bestest friend in the whole world loved and sent me as a present. I'm sorry to have to let the team down, Paula...and Ryan and Carrie and Michelle (and all my other friends who read and loved this book), but I'm just not feeling it. I wanted to. I really did. It sounded like a spectacular premise. Y'all seem to think The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss was amazing (and so did a bazillion folks on Goodreads). But...
Who doesn't give a flying fig about Kvothe, who is perfect at everything? Um...that would be me.
I spent nearly 800 pages waiting for Kvothe the Wonder Kid to impress me as much as he's impressed with himself and searched in vain for any real plot structure. Yes, I realize that this is the first book in a trilogy. But there really ought to be a sense of a story arc within this book. Here's what happened: Kvothe (pronounced like Quoth) has been living incognito as an innkeeper for the last so many years with his bestie Bast. Along comes a storyteller called Chronicler (aka Devan Lochees) who recognize the humble innkeeper as the Awesome. Legendary. Perfectly Heroic. Kvothe. Kvothe, after a bit of wrangling, agrees to tell his story.
So...Kvothe grows up with a troupe of performers--not just any performers: THE Greyfallow Players. Where he learns ALL the things about performing. He's the best singer and the best actor and the best...well, you get the idea. They hook up with a man Kvothe calls Ben who teaches the young man about magic and science and all things. And Kvothe learns ALL the things much faster and more perfectly than anybody else has ever done before. Until Ben falls in love and leaves the troupe. Then along come some bad guys (Chandrians, we think) and they kill everybody in Kvothe's troupe, including his parents, and almost kill Kvothe, but he's spared. 'Cause he's the hero. He goes off and lives in the woods for a while and survives because once upon a time a man traveled with them who taught the boy (he's not even 15 yet at this point in the story) ALL the things about living in a forest--how to trap and dress animals, what plants to eat, what's good for boo-boos, how to move soundlessly, blah, blah, blah.Then he moves on to a town where he has to live off the streets and he teaches himself how to beg most effectively and how to pickpocket without getting caught and how to pick locks and blah, blah blah. And he's the BEST at ALL the street-smart things. Because he is. And then...he goes off to "Magic University" (where Ben always knew he'd go and be awesome) and even though he hasn't enough money to get in and is still only about 15 he takes the entrance exam and answers ALL the things in the most perfect way possible. And they let him in as the only student ever on fellowship. Because he is AWESOME (in case you haven't been paying attention). And he learns ALL the things better than anybody else has ever learned them because...(you know, AWESOME). And--sure, he has people beat him up and he runs into a dragon-like thing and he has to rescue a girl (Because that's what the women-folk are for in this story--to have babies (specifically Kvothe's mom to have Kvothe) OR to be rescued and/or drool over Kvothe)....but he always triumphs. Why? Because he's AWESOME. There is that pesky Ambrose at the university who takes a huge dislike to our wonder boy and plots revenge--but we won't find out about that until the next 800-page book (maybe--I don't know. I haven't read it and don't plan to). And by the end of this book the plot (if you want to call it that) has gotten us exactly to this point. Wonder boy is still at university and there are hints of Ambrose's revenge to come. Ta Da!
I realize that epic heroes are a thing in fantasy. I'm good with that. BUT I might have swallowed Kvothe's awesomeness a lot easier if A. His best pal Bast had told the story and it didn't come off as Kvothe's ego trip. "I'm awesome. I've always been awesome. My whole family and the troupe and the instructors at university and just about everybody (except Ambrose) thought I was awesome." and B. The backstory had been condensed WAY down. Give us a condensed version of Wonder Boy's history and get on with the really interesting bits that are hinted at: Who or what are the Chandrians? Why--really (I know why Kvothe decides)--did they kill Kvothe's whole troupe? What are those evil spider-like critters that are introduced at the beginning of the story and what happens NOW with Kvothe and those things? Why does the book open with Kvothe waiting to die? He seems to be only in his twenties--why not send him off on a current adventure and show us right now why he's so awesome. SHOW--don't tell us "once upon a time when he was 15" stories.
I'm sorry. But I was completely underwhelmed by this "epic" fantasy story. Bast and the Chronicler and their interactions were WAY more interesting than Kvothe. When Kvothe first started telling his story, the actual storytelling was pretty good. I was ready to settle down and be entertained. But then when the story seemed to consist of him telling how perfect he was at learning everything--he always learned whatever it was much quicker than anybody else--and very little real action took place, Rothfuss lost me. When I finished and still didn't feel like I had even the first hints of why this character becomes SO legendary, I felt let down. I wish I had spent 700+ pages reading something else. ★★ for the hints of a good story, the occasional bursts of good prose and fair storytelling, and the few quotes that I gleaned.
Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos is a rare thing for me...a graphic novel. But, being the Ellison fan-girl that I am and having read the synopsis of tHarlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos is a rare thing for me...a graphic novel. But, being the Ellison fan-girl that I am and having read the synopsis of the book sometime last year, I promptly put it on my Christmas wishlist, my own personal Santa came through, and I found it under the Christmas tree last December 25th. I was very excited that two of my category challenges called for a graphic novel, because I knew I had the very thing just waiting on the TBR pile.
Sometime in Earth's distant future, the planet is in danger--not just physical danger, but the very fabric of reality is being ripped apart. The elite call on once-decorated, but then disgraced General Roark to gather six others with special abilities to save them. With elaborate promises of rewards to come, Urr, the renegade robot; Mourna, the Amazon-like woman with steel claws for hands; Tantalus, the incredibly swift insect-man; Ayleen, a Venusian woman with quite literal fire-power; Hoorn, the stealthy and adept cat burglar; and Kenrus the brilliant, outcast technologist all agree to join Roark on a deadly journey to Earth's past on a mission to save its future.
As a graphic novel, the book is pleasing. It has an old-fashioned feel and reminds me of the comic books I used to buy when I was a preteen. I have a certain nostalgia for those stories--I would read everything from those with a science fiction feel to the mysterious and creepy (think Tales from the Crypt). I enjoyed those far more than most of the graphic novels I have tried in recent years. Paul Chadwick's artwork is fabulous.
The story, however, is a bit clunky. There are instances of Ellison's brilliance, but, as other reviewers on Goodreads have noted, there is a certain lack of continuity as if panels or even pages are missing. I'm not sure if that's a result of Ellison writing in short bursts for each panel or what. One can see the bones of a good story, but it is never completely covered with flesh and made whole. It begins with a bang--and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of how Roark gathered his colleagues for the e journey. The trip through the black hole is well done and enjoyable as well and there are moments when the Seven face the villain of the piece that are quite good. Over all, a three star outing for an interesting story and great artwork. A more cohesive storyline would have brought up to four.
Asimov's Choice: Black Holes & Bug-Eyed Monsters (1977), edited by George H. Scithers, is a collection of stories featured in Isaac Asimov's ScienAsimov's Choice: Black Holes & Bug-Eyed Monsters (1977), edited by George H. Scithers, is a collection of stories featured in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine--including a story by Asimov himself. Writing a really good straight short story takes a lot of skill; writing a really good short science fiction is, I believe, even more difficult. To drop a reader in a brand new world--whether that world is an alternate Earth, future Earth, or an entirely alien world--and make it comprehensible as well as believable within the limits of the shorter form is no easy task. And, unfortunately, not all of the authors in this collection were completely up to the task. There may be a reason why I am thoroughly unfamiliar with the work of writers such as F. M. Busby (although I have, at least, come across his name before), Richard Lee Hawkins, and Steven Utley. One does hope that other work--for I see on the interwebs that some of them are "well-known"--is stronger than the stories here.
The best of the bunch are John Varley's "Good-Bye, Robinson Crusoe," "Low Grade Ore" by Kevin O'Donnell, Jr., "Perchance to Dream" by Sally A. Sellers, and "To Sin Against Systems" by Garry R. Osgood. The story by Asimov is, as always, a fine one, but it is one of the Black Widowers tales and not, strictly speaking, a science fiction tale--though the solution does involve science. And, besides, I've read it before so the impact wasn't quite as great.
Varley does a marvelous job of selling me on the idea of an artificial world in the heart of Pluto. We know that Piri, our narrator, is playing at a second childhood in those undergound waters, but we don't know exactly why and there is great pleasure in finding out at the end. "Low Grade Ore" by O'Donnell is also excellent. In just twenty-five pages, he convinces us of alien invasion by teleportation and the method by which a little child leads humanity to successfully fight back against the victors. "Perchance to Dream" and "To Sin Against the Systems" each give us a different take on what life for someone with an extended life-expectancy would be like. In one case, the young woman longs to die, but can't--until her husband, a doctor, is willing to help her find a way. In the other, a man with the capability to repeatedly "metamorphose" into a new life must outwit a man determined to learn--and use--his secret.
The collection wound up being very balanced and enjoyable--not quite "The Best in Science Fiction" as promised on the back cover. But a solid group of stories from the 1970s.
What can I say about Harlan Ellison that I haven't already said in other reviews of other books? This extraordinary author writes with a burning luminWhat can I say about Harlan Ellison that I haven't already said in other reviews of other books? This extraordinary author writes with a burning luminosity that most authors only dream of. His writing has an energy and compelling tone that pulls the reader in and sweeps her along with the force of the story. He writes everything from straight science fiction to dark humor to bone-chilling horror. He is hard-hitting and pulls no punches. He parades ideas before the reader, disguising them as fables and stories that seem at first glance to be mere throw-away lines, but they are packed with everything that Ellison expects the reader to know and feel...and ultimately do something about. Whether it is making a change in yourself or getting angry enough about what's going on in the world today (whether that's the today of 1978 when it was written or the today of now) to try and make a broader change in the way things are.
As I've said before, Harlan Ellison is not for everyone. He's not for the squeamish. Or the prudish. You want your fiction all neat and tidy and full of rainbows and sunshine and happily-ever-afters. Ellison is not your man. That's not to say he can't write a happy ending. He can. He does in this collection. But it's not your everyday, fairy tale happy ending where everyone lives happily ever after....and getting there may be a bit more painful than you'd like. His horror isn't based on the non-human, but on the worst behaviors and twisted desires of very human people. He shows us ourselves at our weakest and ugliest and then tells us that we are better than that. That he believes that we could be better than that (who would think it of one of the crankiest, old so-and-sos in science fiction) if we'd only want it badly enough.
Each of the stories in this collection is a winner--making for another ★★★★★ outing from an excellent author. If you want a few highlights, then "In Fear of K," "Hitler Painted Roses," "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," and the titular "Strange Wine" are not to be missed.
These are the voyages of the Starship Endocrine. Its mission: to cruise around the universe looking for novel predicaments"Space. We need more of it.
These are the voyages of the Starship Endocrine. Its mission: to cruise around the universe looking for novel predicaments to get into. To sear the outskirts of the galaxy for areas with less crowding, lower tax rates, and better schools.
To boldly go where nobody wanted to go before!"
Star Wreck III: Time Warped is the third in a series of Star Trek parodies by Leah Rewolinski. I'm a sucker for a good parody and when the parody is about Star Trek I definitely can't resist. The stories feature both Classic Trek and Next Generation crews and this installment pokes fun at Trek's fondness for time travel stories as well as sneaking in a few zingers on the ways and mores of Trek fandom and conventions. The two crews are off on a mission to track down a videotape that slipped through a time warp and wound up in the hands of a teenager who spawned the "Wrekkie" fanbase--a bizarre cult of U.S.S. Endocrine crew wanna-bes. They blunder their way through the past and the present--making mistakes and affecting such minor events as the Civil War and World War II. But will they be able to get the video tape back before the fans view more about their private lives than they want known?
Parodies are great fun when done well and Rewolinski handles the Trek universe well. I will say that I think it's a good thing that I've spaced these out...I don't believe the parodies would read as well if read back-to-back. A little humor goes a long way. ★★★ for a fun, quick read.
Triumph by Philip Wylie is a terrible book. No--I don't mean the writing. Or the way Wylie tells his story. Or anything to do with Wylie's craft as anTriumph by Philip Wylie is a terrible book. No--I don't mean the writing. Or the way Wylie tells his story. Or anything to do with Wylie's craft as an author. That is all top-notch. Five-star reading material. What I mean is...this is the most horrific rendering of World War III, of nuclear holocaust, that I've read. To think that any member of the human race could possibly commit themselves to the wholesale slaughter of the entire Northern Hemisphere just so they could say that they "won." I can't imagine. Or, rather--now, thanks to Philip Wylie, I can.
And that, in a nutshell, is what Triumph is about. It is the 1960s and the height of the Cold War. The Russians have long been plotting the ultimate assault that will lead to control of whatever remains of the earth. Russia's Red army marches into Yugoslavia to "liberate" its people and an ultimatum is given to the President of United States and the leaders of England and France telling them they have two hours to confirm with Russia that they will not interfere. The President barters for time to negotiate, but it really doesn't matter if he has two hours or six. Because at the appointed time, Russia begins attacking the U.S. with everything they've got.
No one ever believed that either of the superpowers would go all-out. If nuclear war came, only certain strategic targets would be hit in order bring surrender. Russia isn't interested in surrender--they want to remove any possibility of any Americans (or any countries in the Northern Hemisphere) interfering with a plan for world domination. So, they play dirty. Literally. Using dirty bombs loaded to the gills with material that is hundreds of times more radioactive than necessary and then setting off special bombs that will send radioactive salt into the atmosphere to clean out anyone the missiles might have missed.
Russia's plan also includes secret, hidden bomb shelters specially designed to preserve a few thousand of the elite, super-Russians (sound familiar? master race anyone?) who will come forth to take over the earth once all phases of the war plan have been carried out. But Russia doesn't reckon on a few specialized submarines that the U.S. navy had managed to keep hidden up its sleeve...or bomb shelter fortress prepared by a Connecticut millionaire which saves the lives of fourteen Americans.
It's not just the idea that anyone could be so hell-bent on power that they would systematically eradicate everyone in the Northern Hemisphere (including, through what retaliation the US and its allies can muster, their own people). And, of course, the U.S. is not portrayed as the white-hatted hero. There is plenty about how our stock-piling of weapons and contributions to the Cold War made this event possible. All adding to the horror of the nuclear onslaught. What is also horrific about Wylie's story is the detailed descriptions of what happened on the surface of the northern part of the earth during the missile strikes and their aftermath. Realistic and terrible. And even knowing that we are no longer living in the Cold War Era doesn't prevent the shivers and the question...what if? What if another Hitler-like madman seizes power in a country with nuclear capability? Would that person be willing to go all-out just for the chance to say, however briefly, "I'm the winner! I rule the world!" It's a very sobering thought.
It is also very interesting to read Wylie's 1960s take on race relations and gender. Yes, it's dated. Yes, there are a few stereotypes that will bother modern sensibilities. But it very much represents the time it was written while allowing Wylie to examine those stereotypes and give them a bit of shake. He allows his characters to learn and change and grow through this horrible experience. Is it realistic to expect that all fourteen of the survivors would miraculously break through whatever hangups they brought with them to the shelter? Perhaps not. But it does provide an excellent character study. As mentioned--five stars for every thought-provoking moment and every horrific shudder at the thought of all-out nuclear war.
Harlan Ellison is an author who likes to shakes things up. He is well-known for his own dangerous visions and his skill at twisting the everyday and mHarlan Ellison is an author who likes to shakes things up. He is well-known for his own dangerous visions and his skill at twisting the everyday and making it thought-provoking. And just when you think you've figured out what kind of writer he is...science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, black comedy, psychological...he throws you a curve ball and does something completely different. Those qualities made him the perfect person to collect and edit the Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions collections back in the 1960s.
Dangerous Visions #3 is the paperback version of one-third of the stories which appeared in the original hardback collection, Dangerous Visions. In it you will find stories by SF greats such as Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard and Samuel R. Delaney. You will also find names that may not be quite as well-known to you (this was at least the case with me): Kris Neville, Jonathan Brand, Sonya Dorman.... A total of fourteen stories which are every bit as disturbing and thought-provoking as when Ellison first tossed them out to the reading public in 1967.
My personal favorites:
"Judas" by John Brunner: where a man thinks he's defying and dismantling the mechanical "god" of his times...only to find that he's playing right into the myth.
"Test to Destruction" by Keith Laumer: A rebel leader is tested to the limit--both by his opponent and by alien forces. He manages to use one against the other...but at what cost to his own humanity?
"Encounter with a Hick" by Jonathan Brand: A young man's explanation to the court about why an elderly man dropped dead in a hotel bar. Some people just can't take the demolition of their cherished beliefs.
The stories are a mixture of styles and subject matter...as well as producing a mixture of reactions. There were a generous portion that I enjoyed and found interesting and through-provoking as well as those that just didn't touch a chord with me. And one that I just sat and thought "What?" the entire time I was reading it. Good solid science fiction selected by a master...three stars.
We scientists have been responsible for many of the world's ills for a longtime. We've failed to understand that science moves fast, it is revolutionaWe scientists have been responsible for many of the world's ills for a longtime. We've failed to understand that science moves fast, it is revolutionary, while the human mind is slow, evolutionary. As a result, we have a gap of thousands of years between scientific achievement and the human capacity to use it wisely. ~Dr. Dawson (p. 144)
The Big Eye was written by Max Ehrlich in 1949 about the future...the near-future of 1960. In Ehrlich's vision, mankind has learned very little from the two world wars of its recent past--even less than we who have survived the '60s (and '70s and '80s and...). The Cold War has resulted in everyone having a piece of the atomic action and Russia and the United States are playing a nervous game to see who will drop the bomb first. It isn't a matter of "if," but "when."
Dr. David Hughes is a young astronomer sent by his boss Dr. Dawson to meet with the top US officials in an effort to determine if it is in the nation's best interest to be the first to launch the attack. At the last minute, Hughes is called to return to the Palomar Observatory where Dawson has made a discovery that will change everything. The days of the Earth are numbered. A rogue planet, "Planet Y" is speeding through the galaxy on a collision course with Earth. A collision that will take place in exactly two years on Christmas day 1963. Dawson has gathered the world's astronomer's to verify his calculations and they make the terrifying announcement to the people of Earth.
In the wake of the horrible news, David finds some happiness with the woman he loves; and, ironically, the world is able to settle its differences creating a world at peace with the problems of war, hunger, and even cancer solved in the shadow of doomsday. When Christmas 1963 comes, David and Carol go out into the open (along with most of the citizens of Earth) to face The Big Eye (as Planet Y has been named) and meet their doom. What happens next is not a miracle, but a very believable twist that brings the story to a very satisfying conclusion.
This was a decent look at what a writer who has just been through World War II saw as the near-future of the 1960s. The basic story line was interesting and believable--although the viewpoint is old-fashioned and somewhat preachy (particularly as viewed from the 21st Century). I like the idea that mankind when faced with a common threat might actually pull itself together and look beyond our petty fears and disagreements--it would be nice if we could that act together without a catastrophic event looming over us..... Three and a half stars.