Beyond the Ice Limit (2016) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is the creepiest book that I have R.I.P. XI Event, so it's fitting that it will be thBeyond the Ice Limit (2016) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is the creepiest book that I have R.I.P. XI Event, so it's fitting that it will be the last book logged for that reading event. The book is the unexpected sequel to Preston & Child's Ice Limit and it takes place five years after the tragic ending of that adventure. In the first story, Eli Glinn, the head of Effective Engineering Solutions, took a team to a remote island off the coast of South America to recover a gigantic meteorite--the largest that had ever been. He was in the employ of New York billionaire Palmer Lloyd who wanted to add the space rock to his collection of unique items.The mission ended in disaster when their ship, the Rolvaag, was attached by a rogue Chilean ship and went down in a vicious storm in the freezing waters and taking its unique cargo to the ocean floor. One hundred and eight crew members perished, and Eli Glinn was left paralyzed. read for Carl's
Now, five years later, Glinn is heading up a mission back to the site of the disaster. Reports he has been given show that the meteorite was much more than just a rock from space--it was a seed. And the thing has sprouted and is growing, reaching up through the watery depths like a giant tree. This time, it's not just a billionaire's rock collection at stake--but the survival of Earth itself. Gideon Crew has been added to the team to give them the benefit of his nuclear expertise, because it looks like the only thing that will take out the newly dubbed Baobab is an atomic blast. It's not as easy as dropping a nuke on the thing though (of course!). The Baobab has extensive roots under the sea floor and they will have to make sure they get all of it the first time.
The creature isn't just a mindless organism out to reproduce itself. It becomes apparent that there is an intelligence driving its actions and the creature isn't going to go down without a fight.
I haven't read a lot of Preston and Child's work (I'm a weenie when it comes to suspense thrillers), but I have to say that every one I've read has been well done and dragged me right in--in spite of myself. Beyond the Ice Limit was no different. And it made no difference that I hadn't read the earlier book. It may have helped fill in some of the backstory, but the authors give enough background information and context clues that this novel can easily be read as a stand-alone. It is an action-packed thriller and it would make a spine-tingling SF/suspense movie. Lots of scientific exploration and speculation and plenty of gruesome alien critter vs. humans action. I'm not going to spoil it--but let's just say I was extremely reluctant to go to sleep after listening to installments of the latter half of this audio novel. It was very interesting to see how the creature modified its attacks as it learned more about the humans--just as our heroes had to modify their reactions. My biggest quibble with the authors is that they killed off two of my favorite characters in the story--a strong female character (the only one we really get to know; and this is no spoiler because she's gone VERY quickly in the book) and a very sympathetic character who also happens to be a book-lover. Overall, another excellent action thriller by Preston and Child.
Up first is Robert Silverberg's 1963 novella, The Silent Invaders. Welcome to 26th Century Earth! It's a hustling, bustling, over-crowded world whereUp first is Robert Silverberg's 1963 novella, The Silent Invaders. Welcome to 26th Century Earth! It's a hustling, bustling, over-crowded world where aliens can take on human form and get lost in the masses. And they do. Aar Khiilom is just such an alien. Spruced up as Major Abner Harris, this Daruuiian has been sent to Earth to meet up with fellow under-cover aliens and attempt to win Earthlings over to their side of an intergalactic war with the dreaded Medlins. Every Daruuiian knows what evil creatures Medlins are and it's imperative to have every race on the right side of the battle.
Except....is the Daruuiian side really the right side? When Harris (to make things simple) meets up with an undercover Medlin (who just happens to have taken on the form of a beautiful Earth woman), he begins to have his doubts. And what about the race of super-humans that the Medlins have been encouraging along? Are they set to team up with the Medlins to destroy the Daruuiians? Or is this race the hope of the universe?
This is very early Silverberg and a fairly decent story. Once upon a time I read everything I could my hands on by Silverberg. Then there was a long hiatus from science fiction in general and when I took the genre up again, I read his The Masks of Time--which was an absolute dud (click for review). This one is better. I bought the main story this time. The hook is a good one--aliens among us and all that. I do have a bit of an issue with the super-humans, though. They're supposedly so much better than your average, run-of-the-mill humans (or Medlins or Daruuiians). Beyond all that war and greed and whatnot. And yet...they still think in order to deal with their "enemies" that those enemies should be killed. I'm thinking super-advanced humans ought to be able to come up with a better solution than that.
Battle on Venus (1963) by William F. Temple gives us the first manned mission to Venus. When the crew of the Earth ship break through the thick, poisonous clouds surrounding the planet, they find themselves in the middle of a war that has been going on for years. The war machines are familiar--they look like Earth tanks, planes, and bombs of the past. But the machines are all on auto-pilot. There doesn't seem to be any Venusians running the show.
Their ship is damaged and they need to find a way to repair it before they become real casualties of war. George Starkey (our hero) goes off on an expedition to see if he can find anyone at all who might be in charge, listen to their peaceful pleas, and give them a chance to head back to Earth. What he finds is a beautiful Venusian girl named Mara, an ancient seer who seems to know everything, and a immortal with a nasty sense of humor. Luckily the beautiful Venusian takes a fancy to him and has fantastic thieving abilities which aid him in his cause. But will he be able to stop the war machines long enough get him, Mara, and the rest of the crew off the planet? Or will the immortal practical joker have the last laugh?
This one feels a little more dated than the Silverberg story, probably because we know that humanoid life forms wouldn't be able to survive on the surface of Venus--but it still has a good solid base. George is a good lead character, taking front and center away from the rather weak ship's captain. The most enjoyable portion of the novella is after he sets off on his mission to find those responsible for the war. It also reminds me of a couple of Star Trek episodes: "A Taste of Armageddon" (where two planets have been waging computer war on each other for ceturies) and "The Squire of Gothos" (where an alien child with incredible powers plays deadly games with the Enterprise crew).
I was in junior high school when I first discovered Harlan Ellison. I brought home Deathbird Stories from the public library. I was immediately affronI was in junior high school when I first discovered Harlan Ellison. I brought home Deathbird Stories from the public library. I was immediately affronted, confronted, confused, delighted, amazed, intrigued, and literally thrown for a loop. Ellison has a way of doing that to you. And he offers no apologies for it. He is loud and brash and in your face. I've said in previous reviews of his work that Ellison isn't for everyone. He's not a safe read. His work is guaranteed to shake you up and make you examine yourself and your world in new ways....and to my mind, that's a good thing. Particularly in the days we're living in now. There are a lot of people who could use a good shaking up. But that's a discussion for another time....
I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (1967) is a collection of seven short stories by a master of the genre. The stories range from cautionary tales about where our computerized gadgets may take us to being careful what kind of heaven you wish for. He also gives us stories about love--but not the happily-ever-after kind; these are the kind that could cost you your life...or more. He comments on lust and luck and the ugliness that can sit in the midst of beauty. Another terrific collection from Ellison. ★★★★
The stories: "I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream": When mankind builds supercomputers to do their fighting for them, they shouldn't be surprised that when the computer minds blend together and become sentient then it doesn't look to kindly on its creator. A cautionary tale about man's intentions backfiring on him. But also...a tale of sacrifice. The narrator gives up (and endures) quite a bit to save his companions.
"Big Sam Was My Friend": Big Sam is especially gifted in the world of gifted circus performers. He's a teleporter who can move from place to place in the blink of an eye. He's on a search for his lost love...a search that will cost him just as much as the narrator of the titular story.
"Eyes of Dust": What does a world of perfect beauty do with the "ugly" offspring of two flawed individuals? The answer probably isn't too surprising....
"World of the Myth": Three space travelers are marooned on a plant inhabited by creatures with a hive mind. A mind that can reveal each traveler's true self to them. Can the traveler's survive once they know the truth about themselves?
"Lonely Ache": Paul is visited by horrible nightmares--men are sent to kill him and he must kill or be killed. But the worst nightmare is the soft brown staring creature he believes is living in his room. Again...the projections of the inner self can be the most dangerous of all.
"Delusion for a Dragon Slayer": Another cautionary tale that tells us that we all make our own heaven (or hell) when we die. But--having devised the perfect paradise we may forget that we're the ones who have to live up to it.
"Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes": A man down to his last silver dollar finds the slot machine of every gambler's dreams--jackpots every time. But the final payout may not be quite what he planned.
Lowry's story follows Jonas as he attends the annual Ceremony when children who are twelve (and now adults!) find out what their life's work assignmenLowry's story follows Jonas as he attends the annual Ceremony when children who are twelve (and now adults!) find out what their life's work assignment will be. His friends receive such familiar assignments as Caretaker for the Old and Assistant Director of Recreation and Instructor of Sixes. But Jonas is skipped and his assignment is saved for the very end because his assignment is out of the ordinary. He has been chosen to be the new Receiver--the Elder who holds all of the memories for the community. This is Jonas's journey--to experience every memory from the times before and the times before that and to learn the wisdom of memory which will help him guide his community. But Jonas will also discover the darker side of the community that has seemed to be so peaceful.
"The life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without color, pain or past."
The Giver presents what at first seems to be a perfect, Utopian society. There is no disease, no war, no poverty, no overpopulation. But it is also a society under strict regulation. The community is governed by The Elders who decide everything for the settlement--everything from names to life partners to the jobs assigned. There are strict rules for interaction with others and the worst offense seems to be rudeness--which covers such things as being late, expressing inappropriate emotion, and using imprecise language. All people look the same--no, they're not clones, but everybody has the same "color" eyes, the same "color" hair and they wear the same "color" clothes. I use quotation marks because I''m not sure you can say they have "color" in a society that has no concept of what color means. I'm not quite sure how the world of the Giver looks--but I imagine it as a world of black and white. Very bland.
Behind the perfect, safe facade, their lurks a different kind of evil, however. There is the whole concept of being released. Everyone has been taught that those who are released--whether that is the child who doesn't quite fit in or the person who repeatedly breaks the rules or the older person who no longer can be cared for...those people are sent to Elsewhere. It all sounds so gentle and innocuous. But Jonas, our hero, soon learns that being "released" isn't the pleasant journey he has always imagined.
“The community of the Giver had achieved at such great price. A community without danger or pain. But also, a community without music, color or art. And books.”
The Giver shows us what the possible costs of Utopia could be. It may be possible to get rid of war and conflict, pain and sorrow. But would that world be worth it if we also gave up joy and love and the power of choice? Humans may not always make the right choices--in fact, it seems like we don't quite a lot of the time, but would we really want to give up our freedoms and individuality in exchange for safety and a "perfect" world?
★★★★ for a thought-provoking read. The ending is a bit ambiguous--firming that up and a bit more character development would have earned it a full five stars.
First posted on my blog The Giver. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks....more
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.
Imagination Unlimited (1952), edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, is a collection of seven science fiction stories from 1939-1951. It providImagination Unlimited (1952), edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, is a collection of seven science fiction stories from 1939-1951. It provides us with a vision of the future from the vantage of the World War II- and post WWII-eras and does so through stories by Ray Bradbury, Theordore Sturgeon, L. Sprague de Camp, and others. According to the back of the book, it asks questions such as:
With the continual triumphs of medicine, how long will men live when cancer and heart disease have been conquered, as they will be within the lifetime of many who read these words? [We're still waiting to find out.]
With one rocket already in orbit around the sun [huh?], what will man be doing with rockets in fifty years. [Not a heck of a lot as it turns out...]
What happens when the earth's resources have been depleted and its population has increased tenfold? [We're working hard to make that problem a reality.]
This is a middle of the road collection of science fiction stories. The strongest are by Bradbury, Sturgeon and Phillips. "Dune Roller" is a fine second-tier story as is "Employment" and the remainder have concepts that hold the interest although the story-telling is not quite as good as the others. ★★★
Here are the synopses for the stories:
"Referent" by Ray Bradbury: In the future (1997 as it happens) a young boy named Roby is at a controlled, live-in educational facility on Orthopedic Island. Everything is controlled from activities throughout the day (down to the minute)--including instructional time and "play" time (which hardly seems like play when every detail is dictated) as well as regimented meals and sleep periods. One day a strange sphere lands with a being capable of changing shape--a capability that seems oddly connected to the thoughts and desires of those around it. Little does the alien know that it will provide Roby a means for escape from the facility.
"What Dead Men Tell" by Theodore Sturgeon: A young genius discovers a secret society who can offer him immortality. But he must accept an entrance exam challenge and there are only two possible outcomes: the promised immortality or if he fails the challenge....immediate death. He will have to figure out what the dead men can tell him if he is to succeed.
"Dune Roller" by Julian May: An ecologist is studying life in the tide pools of Lake Michigan when he discovers the reality behind local legends of a ravenous beast that comes from the lake "in search of a man" to kill...and then retreats until its hunger forces it from the lake once again.
"Employment" by L. Sprague de Camp: Definitely a precursor to Jurassic Park. A paleontologist/inventor devises a method to bring animals back from the dead--starting with more recent varieties and working his way back to the dinosaurs. His "creations" become a hit with zoos everywhere, but his employee fears what might happen if he reanimates the larger carnivores....
"Dreams Are Sacred" by Peter Phillips: Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Marsham Craswell has overworked himself and escaped the stress in a dream-state coma where he loves out the lives of his fictional worlds. His psychiatrist is afraid that if the dreams become too real and Craswell "writes" a story in which the hero (Craswell) dies, then it just might happen for real. The doctor has a machine that will allow someone to share Craswell's thoughts/drams and he asks his very down-to-earth, pragmatic friend to "go in" and bring Craswell back.
"Berom" by John Berryman: An alien ship shows up and the crew speaks in what seems to be gibberish. A translator discovers that the aliens are speaking in an obsolete code from the 1920s--which they picked up on radio waves before arriving. But what do the aliens really want?
"The Fire and the Sword" by Frank Robinson: Don Pendleton was sent to the primitive world of Tunpesh to live among the inhabitants. Inexplicably, he commits suicide and Templin is sent to investigate why. The investigator nearly suffers the same fate himself. What is it about the idyllic world that could drive men to kill themselves?
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."
“How could she Awaken people and tell them they were to be part of the genetic engineering scheme of a species so alien that the humans would not be a“How could she Awaken people and tell them they were to be part of the genetic engineering scheme of a species so alien that the humans would not be able to look at it comfortably for a while? How would she Awaken these people, these survivors of war, and tell them that unless they could escape the Oankali, their children would not be human?” (117)
There are few survivors left after the United States and Russia use their tremendous nuclear arsenal to try and decimate the planet. Lilith Iyapo is one of the "lucky" humans rescued by an alien species called the Oankali. The Oankali have kept the humans alive--mostly in stasis--for centuries while they worked to heal the Earth and prepare it to be lived on and healed the survivors, curing cancer among other things. Lilith has been Awakened several times during her captivity on Oankali ship, each time for a little longer as she acclimates to her new environment. On her final Awakening, she meets the Oankali for the first time and discovers just how alien they are....and what the cost of survival will be.
This is a beautifully written, disturbing, thought-provoking, frightening, yet interesting view of a possible future for humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. It has all the ingredients that an excellent science fiction novel should. It addresses what makes us human and whether the very things that make us human are beneficial to us as a race. What if some of the qualities that make us human are the very ingredients that would lead us to self-destruction? Would we cling to those bits of ourselves or would we be willing to change and adapt in order to stay alive? And how much change is too much? How much change would make us inhuman?
There have been many science fiction authors who have touched on this subject. Robert Silverberg broached the idea in his novel Son of Man. This is the first SF novel I ever read where the lead character was a woman and an African American woman at that. I read it back in the late 80s just after it came out and it blew me away then. I just had to get it for myself and reread it. It's just as disturbingly wonderful now as it was the first time I read it. The way Butler challenges the reader she reminds me of Harlan Ellison. Neither author is afraid to confront us with our most disturbing qualities. I always appreciate writers who make me think.
Using the last novella I read (Battle on Venus) as a jumping board, I moved on to The Hidden Planet (1959). This is a collection of stories by five auUsing the last novella I read (Battle on Venus) as a jumping board, I moved on to The Hidden Planet (1959). This is a collection of stories by five authors featuring Earth's sister-planet Venus. Written during a time when we had little information about the planet (the brief introduction details just how little was known), each author gives us a little different vision of what lies beneath the cloud cover of our nearest neighbor. We get stories ranging from the man who made Venus a breeding ground for experiments with people to the adventurer who went a little too deeply into the depths of Venus's ocean to those who investigated jungles where dangers lurk. As with most short story collections, this is a bit uneven. The best of the bunch are the stories by McIntosh and Weinbaum with Oliver and Brackett a distant second and Del Rey not even even making the race. I just found the story about the bad luck mascot to be annoying. Why not take the thing back where you found it and get yourself back to work so you can have the girl of your dreams? The critter doesn't even sound appealing and would be plenty happy in its swamp....An overall score of ★★★ for the entire collection.
"Field Expedient" by Chad Oliver (1954): Tells the story of a childless billionaire who pours all his wealth into creating a colony on the very Earth-like planet. The men of Earth have become very complacent and no longer wish to reach for the stars. Vandervort believes his colony will give mankind back his exploratory vision.
You're never finished with danger. It follows a brave man around. Maybe, but I'm not a brave man. Never was. ~Virginia Stuart, Warren Blackwell in "Venus Mission"
"Venus Mission" by J. T. McIntosh (1951): A ship is damaged on its way to a city on Venus and crash-lands far from their target. Venus has been hard-won after a war with the "Greys." Little info is given about the Greys except that despite the war being over and a treaty being signed, there are still renegade groups that love nothing more than to capture and torture humans. Will the survivors be able to make it to the nearest settlement?
"The Luck of Ignatz" by Lester Del Rey (1939): What happens when the luckiest man in the universe takes on the unluckiest mascot imaginable? Lots of bad luck for everyone else....and then nobody wants to give him a job or allow him to travel on their rocket ships. So, how's he supposed to rescue the girl he loves?
"The Lotus Eaters" by Stanley G. Weinbaum (1935): Patricia Burlingame, biologist, and her newly-wedded husband Hamilton "Ham" Hammond are asked by the Royal Society and the Smithsonian Institution to investigate the dark side of Venus. While there, they find a species of warm-blooded plants who can move about and share a communal intelligence. The plants reproduce through spores which, when they burst, have an effect on humans that can send them into a comatose state. Will Patricia and Ham escape?
"Terror Out of Space" by Leigh Brackett (1944): Operatives from the Special Branch of the Tri-World Police, Lundy and Smith, have captured an alien who has been wreaking havoc with the males of Venus. Whenever a guy looks at "Her," he abandons whatever he's supposed to be doing and follows Her wherever She leads. The alien causes men to see the her as the most beautiful woman ever--a dream girl, in fact. Lundy is the only one to survive the encounter and finds himself needing to defend Venus's plant people from Her as well. It turns into a very close call indeed.
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit & Other Plays for Today, Tomorrow & Beyond Tomorrow (1972) is a small collection of plays based on three of Ray BThe Wonderful Ice Cream Suit & Other Plays for Today, Tomorrow & Beyond Tomorrow (1972) is a small collection of plays based on three of Ray Bradbury's short stories. Bradbury was one of the most celebrated science fiction authors of his time. The plays featured are the titular "Ice Cream Suit," as well as "The Veldt" and "To the Chicago Abyss." I had read the short story versions of the last two but not "Suit."
In the titular story, six down-on-their-luck fellows pool their money to buy a spectacular, white (vanilla ice cream colored) suit that they all can share to impress the ladies, win new friends, and, hopefully, turn their luck around. They learn that there's much more to be gained in the friendship they develop with each other.
"The Veldt" is a very creepy story of the future. A future where two doting parents provide their children with every new gadget possible--including a playroom that can make the kids' every thought and dream come to 3-D life. When the children change their playroom to the African veldt, complete with hungry lions, the parents learn, too late, that gadgets can't take the place of love.
And, finally, "To the Chicago Abyss" takes the reader to a bleak dystopian future where all is rubble and there are few pleasures left. One old man can remember only the pleasures of the past as broadcast through the media or in the trivialities of everyday life--advertisements for coffee, cigarettes, kazoos for children, thimbles and imitation flowers. Speaking about the past--of things that no one can have now--is outlawed and the man must avoid the police and seek out those willing to listen to his memories.
The stories make for short, quirky plays and Bradbury does an excellent job adapting them. I, however, prefer the works in short story form. ★★★ and a half for the wonderful stories by a master.
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.
Once upon a time I was forced to read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein for my junior-year college-bound English class. I hated every minute of it. WhichOnce upon a time I was forced to read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein for my junior-year college-bound English class. I hated every minute of it. Which was quite surprising considering that I was heavily into my science fiction and fantasy reading phase at the time. But I suppose there's something about being force-fed books that makes them unpalatable. I totally get what Ms. Troop was doing (now)--and I couldn't have asked for better preparation for college than what she gave us. But there are very few books from my junior and senior English classes that I can honestly look back on without fear and loathing. 1984 by Orwell, Siddhartha by Hesse, and Wuthering Heights by Bronte are pretty much the only ones to escape. Moby Dick? Ick! The Old Man & the Sea? Felt like I was dragged kicking and screaming through the eons we spent on that thin volume. The Hobbit? Just seemed like one long, drawn-out, rambling tale.
So...when one of Megan's Semi-Charmed Reading Challenge categories called for us to read a book read by another challenger and I saw that Kalyn V @ Geez, Louise was tackling Tolkein's classic, I thought it a good time to give this much-beloved book another chance. And what did I think of it this time? Funny you should ask....
Since the movie came out not too long ago and this is such a well-known story, I'm not going to bother to give a full run-down here. Suffice to say that this is a Quest novel with a capital Q. Mild-mannered, home-body hobbit Bilbo Baggins goes on the journey of a lifetime and learns that he's braver than he'd ever suspected and certainly more than adequate for all the adventures in store (just like Gandalf said). So it's also a coming of age novel and all those other high-falutin' English-majorly things we talked about back in college-bound English. There's lots of adventure, sword-fighting with spiders and goblins, and some daring trickery with barrels. A lot to enjoy.
But...it is also one long, drawn-out rambling tale. Tolkein is a story-teller. I'll give him that. But there were quite a few points where my attention was wandering...and most particularly in the last quarter of the book where you'd expect the action and the wrap-up to be at its most riveting. I found myself skimming over whole sections and apparently not missing anything because the story kept making sense.
I will say that I enjoyed myself much more without Ms. Troop constantly at my elbow asking about motifs and metaphors and symbols and meaning. I do wish it hadn't been so long and drawn-out. ★★★ for a nice adventure story. I had hoped to give it more. The edition I read was really quite lovely. I adored the illustrations by Michael Hague.