Crichton is incredibly popular - wch is enuf to make me suspicious of him immediately! Nonetheless, I found a few bks by him for a dollar or so &Crichton is incredibly popular - wch is enuf to make me suspicious of him immediately! Nonetheless, I found a few bks by him for a dollar or so & decided to read them. He's prolific, he's directed 10 movies & 12 others have been made based on his plots. I've liked some of the movies. SO, even though he's popular, maybe he's really a smart guy, eh? Nah.. "Timeline" is a time travel novel. There's nothing new here, for dedicated readers of SF like myself this is just another generic variation on the theme. Crichton is a competent (or even excellent) formula writer, he's got the generic thrill-ride down, he slots in the latest scientific possibilities, but he's completely unoriginal both in the writing style & in the content. He's probably a little 'better' than Dean Koontz. Still, I liked it ok, it wasn't until I got to "State of Fear" that I started to despise the guy. More about that later. ...more
If I hadn't already read Greg Bear's "Blood Music" before I read this I wd've liked this alot more. But this just seems like a rewrite of "Blood MusicIf I hadn't already read Greg Bear's "Blood Music" before I read this I wd've liked this alot more. But this just seems like a rewrite of "Blood Music" (even if it's not) w/ less interesting characters. I read in the Wikipedia entry for Crichton that most of his stories are cautionary tales of technology gone awry despite "failsafes" - w/ the additional comment that he's NOT anti-technology. I never saw him as anti-technology, I just saw him as using the usual fear tactics to drive his plots. ...more
This is propaganda written by an ultra-rich person. Utterly despicable. I just thought Crichton was mediocre until I read this. Now I think he's insidThis is propaganda written by an ultra-rich person. Utterly despicable. I just thought Crichton was mediocre until I read this. Now I think he's insidious. There're 2 basic thrusts: Global Warming is a myth & ecology activists are phenomenally stupid. I don't actually have much of an opinion about global warming one way or the other so I don't hate this novel so much b/c it's a threat to mass consciousness there. I hate it b/c it's so repulsively propagandistic (w/o any self-acknowledgement as such).
The basic plot is what you'd expect: a thriller about 'good' vs 'evil'. The 'evil' people are the ELF, the Earth Liberation Front - whose name, of course, is directly slanderous of the actual ELF & Earth First!. One of the 'good' guys is John Kenner. Strangely enuf, ELF is just a bunch of dumb hippies who somehow manage to have one of the most diabolically clever plots to technologically create eco-disasters ever conceived of. How such bumbling idiots have such genius for invention & planning is never explained. Of course, in formula-writing-world, the 'evil' plot HAS to be diabolical so that the 'hero''s genius for defeating it can be exciting.
Kenner, contrary to the dupes & imbeciles of the ecological activists, is a superhuman genius: you know, the guy who can recite an encyclopedic array of scientific 'facts' from memory & shoot machine guns while parachuting? The guy who makes 007 look like a kindergarten student? Highly intelligent but also w/ a perfectly honed killing machine body - one of these 'geniuses' that we know constitute the US ruling elites that justly run this world for the better of mankind? Right. Who on earth believes this crap anymore?! Apparently Crichton does & the extreme popularity of his bks might indicate that many people at least get off on such myths. ...more
As I sink more & more into senility (no longer precociously so), I might just read more & more bks like this. Actually, I enjoyed it just fineAs I sink more & more into senility (no longer precociously so), I might just read more & more bks like this. Actually, I enjoyed it just fine. I have a deep affection for stories like this, the stories written by authors who'll probably never be popular like Michael Crichton is b/c their plots are just a little too silly.. or cheesy.. or ridiculous. The plots that're based more in imagination & fancy than they are on the latest technological blah-blah. A helicopter containing a stolen army payroll crashes near a jungle & some underground insectoid/humanoid creatures swarm over it, people get taken into their queendom, there's fighting, spicy dialog, love interest. It's all good-natured fun. ...more
Wow! I just created the entry for this bk & the "original language" selection has expanded to include what seems to be an attempt at comprehensiveWow! I just created the entry for this bk & the "original language" selection has expanded to include what seems to be an attempt at comprehensiveness! Congrats to whoever did this! But I digress.
This is one of the more medicore bks I've ever read.. not even that enoyable as a pot-boiler. Still, I'm a champion of pretty much all pulp SF. I reckon all works are 'works of the imagination' but pulp SF always strikes me as a particularly raw (or refined?) version of that. This imagining of other planets, even when it's so imbued w/ yr typical pirates & conflict like this one is, was still somewhat fresh in 1966 when this was written. It's got class conflict in it wch is usually something to peak my interest. Still, this is the only novel I've read by Davidson & I'm not in any hurry to read any more. ...more
Sometimes, when I'm writing these 'reviews', I feel like I shd just give up & embrace my lack of memory of them & have a special column somewhSometimes, when I'm writing these 'reviews', I feel like I shd just give up & embrace my lack of memory of them & have a special column somewhere called "Korsakoff's Amnesiacs Corner" or some-such. Almost all novels for me have become just alternate worlds that I enter into b/c my own life is so lacking in adventure these days. But what about when my life was full of adventure? I read novels galore then too & I don't remember them either. I suppose the point is that I get engrossed in the plots & 'escape' for awhile but I don't retain anything b/c none of it really ties that much into my 'real' life.
Anyway, "Freaks' Amour". Does the title remind you of anything? "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn? Well, lest you think that De Haven was inspired by Dunn, let it be known that Dunn's bk came out in 1989 & De Haven's in 1979. I haven't read "Geek Love" but it's been enthusiastically recommended to me by many a friend. I don't know if the similarities between the titles is where such similarities stops but looking at the Wikipedia plot synopsis for Dunn's bk the similarites seem to run deeper. I'm not saying that Dunn plagiarized De Haven, the sensationalist taste for 'freaks' will always be there in the zeitgeist.
Otherwise, HEY!, I remember nothing about this bk. I've just read the back cover description & skimmed thru it to remind me. It was probably funny, etc; I probably enjoyed it, etc.
Perhaps now is the time to insert a bit of personal philosophizing to explain my indifference to getting into this bk (& many others) in detail. My interest is in living a fantastic 'REAL' life. I've spent my life trying to be here now. & that's not influenced by the bk by the same name (wch I haven't read - but might someday). So why do I read so many damn novels & watch so many fictional movies? I know, I 'know', it's contradictory.
BUT, if you read my more autobiographical bks, like "How to Write a Resumé" & "footnotes", you'll realize that my main interest has been to lead an assertive life that manifests my imagination, to not just stand by & watch my life trickle away - wasted on vicarious living. Even writing these sometimes shallow 'reviews' is an attempt to get a grip on my life by using reading these 'escapist' bks as an excuse to write shit like I'm writing now, to be less passive, more ENGAGED.
I've always tried to create an ACTUAL LIFE that's special - that's why I don't write (much) fiction. I like fiction but I feel like trying to provide texts that're as interesting as fiction but about my own personal 'REAL' experience is more important. As such, I run the risk of being written off as an egomaniac. But my egomania is beside the point, my life-as-example it to the point. I think most people PREFER fiction, though. Maybe even I do - after all, I've read a zillion novels & very few biographies.
But wch ones stick w/ me more? Crowley's "autohagiography"? Or "Freaks' Amour"? Definitely the former. I read "Freaks' Amour" w/in the last 5 yrs & the Crowley bk 20 yrs ago. One cd attribute my more recent lack of memory to age deterioration but I don't think that's actually the case here. Anyway, I'm not saying "Freaks' Amour" is a bad bk, I'm just saying that novels, & living in fantasy worlds, are less important than trying to live yr own life to the fullest. I love bks & bookworms (like myself) usually have pretty active brains, but if you don't APPLY THAT ACTIVE BRAIN you might just be missing out, eh?! ...more
Samuel Delany is in my top 5 favorite SF writers - & there's much more to him than that. He might've been around 19 when he wrote this so it's preSamuel Delany is in my top 5 favorite SF writers - & there's much more to him than that. He might've been around 19 when he wrote this so it's pretty damned precocious but his later writing's so much 'better' that I have to acknowledge this as somewhat 'immature'. Brilliant, but obviously written by someone who has a long way to go. Delany's one of those people who sets just about anybody's stereotypes on their heads by being such a free thinking, strong minded individualist.
I remember reading something by him where he discussed liking a Robert Heinlein novel b/c the protaganist isn't revealed as 'black' until very late in the bk - in a casual mention so casual that it establishes this particular fictional future as having gotten past the endless racism that our own time period is so sickeningly mired in. This, as I recall, stimulated his interest in writing SF. & Delany's bks address political issues of race & class & sexuality w/in fictional contexts in ways that few other people have ever had the inspiration to do. Or, at least, didn't until more recently than Delany did. More about that later. I'll probably read everything by him someday & I even recommend reading this one just for thoroughness's sake. Delany's worth it even at his 'worst' - b/c his 'worst' is far more intensely thoughftul than many, many writers' 'best'. ...more
It's pathetic, I know. Samuel R. Delany was, at one time, in my pantheon of 3 favorite SF writers: the other 2 being J. G. Ballard & Philip K. DicIt's pathetic, I know. Samuel R. Delany was, at one time, in my pantheon of 3 favorite SF writers: the other 2 being J. G. Ballard & Philip K. Dick. &, yeah, he's still in that pantheon except that it's expanded to include the Strugatsky Brothers, Stanislav Lem, & 'James Tiptree' (Alice B. Sheldon). &, yet, I've listed a slew of bks by him that I've read & I don't remember a single thing about them. Hence, no reviews. My excuse, as usual, is that I read this stuff at least 20 yrs ago, At least I can remember my girlfriends from back then. "Nova" is probably the 1st of his bks where I felt like he was "in his stride", where his no-doubt-substantial life experience was beginning to manifest itself in a greater richness of characters & social detail than previously - his earlier novels having been precocious but maybe just a little bit too much of-the-genre & a little-too-little original. ...more
My bookshelf for this is named "SF" precisely b/c of the ambiguity of having SF possibly stand for "Speculative Fiction". According to WikiPedia, "TheMy bookshelf for this is named "SF" precisely b/c of the ambiguity of having SF possibly stand for "Speculative Fiction". According to WikiPedia, "The term is often attributed to Robert A. Heinlein. In his first known use of the term, in his 1948 essay "On Writing of Speculative Fiction," Heinlein used it specifically as a synonym for "science fiction"; in a later piece, he explicitly stated that his use of the term did not include fantasy. Heinlein may have come up with the term himself, but there is one earlier citation: a piece in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1889, in reference to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward: 2000–1887." I don't remember where I 1st encountered it, but I embraced it immediately - science fiction seemed too restrictive.
Delany's the archetypal Speculative Fiction writer. Science may play a part in his SF but, more importantly, possibilities of social development are explored. Here are the titles of the stories in this collection:
The Star Pit Dog In A Fisherman's Net Corona Aye, And Gomorrah Driftglass We, In Some Strange Power's Employ, Move On A Rigorous Line Cage of Brass High Weir Time Considered As A helix of Sem-Precious Stones Night and the Loves of Joe Dicostanzo
Look closely at the cover image of my copy of this bk & you'll see that even the rats loved it! That wd be the title of some speculative faction by myself. ...more
What did I learn from this bk?! Probably nothing.. but it's still one the greatest SF novels I've ever read. On the back-cover of my smoke-damaged copWhat did I learn from this bk?! Probably nothing.. but it's still one the greatest SF novels I've ever read. On the back-cover of my smoke-damaged copy there's a ball-point pen created arrow pointing to the publisher's blurb. This blurb consists of 10 lines. I scratched out the 1st 9. I can barely make them out:
"THE SUN HAS GROWN DEADLY THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD; SOCIETY HAS PERISHED; SAVAGERY RULES OVER ALL. ALL THAT WAS KNOWN IS OVER, ALL THAT WAS FAMILIAR IS STRANGE AND TERRIBLE. TODAY AND YESTERDAY COLLIDE WITH TOMORROW IN THESE DYING DAYS OF EARTH;"
Those are the lines I scratched thru. You'd think they were describing "Planet of the Apes" or something. The line I left is:
"A YOUNG DRIFTER ENTERS THE CITY..."
That's more like it. This back-cover blurb tries to sensationalize a bk that's anything but. It tries to sell it as a disaster novel - but what is it really? Yeah, the sun has changed & that's a vague pretext for what's changed socially. I must've read this around 1984 (24 yrs ago) & my memory of it's pretty vague too but I do remember it as being close to a description of urban decay (or is it just urban change?) in the mid-late 20th century - in an only slightly alternate universe. There's the middle-class white family trying to hold their old world together in the face of a new society where all the support mechanisms just aren't there anymore. Like so many of Delany's novels, lawlessness prevails.. but w/ the sensitivity of an anarchist (& I have no idea whether Delany IS an anarchist) 'lawlessness' doesn't necessarily mean "savagery": it means the characters who want to keep their delicateness intact have to adapt, they have to be clever & alert. They can be KIND, they can be GENTLE, but they can't necessarily rely on an externally imposed 'order' to protect them. ...more
This was probably the Delany bk that most intersected my own life. As I recall, the novel begins w/ a street performance group entering the "u-l" wchThis was probably the Delany bk that most intersected my own life. As I recall, the novel begins w/ a street performance group entering the "u-l" wch I think meant "un-lawful" zone or some such. I've done many a guerrilla 'performance', I've walked down the streets of Baltimore dressed in totally bizarre clothes completely high at 3AM KNOWING that it was always open season on people who looked different, that I cd be killed at any moment, that there was no such thing as police protection for people like me, & knowing that the only thing likely to keep me alive was my alertness, my articulateness, my quick wit, my very audacity, my extremely necessary psychosis. Like the time 2 thugs flanked me & sd "You owe me $5" to wch I replied "No, I distinctly remember that you owe ME $5." Back & forth, them fucking w/ me, me giving it right back, defiant. Finally a 3rd friend of theirs appeared & heard the interchange & told them to leave me alone & they left. In order to defend myself physically I wd've had to've gone completely psycho - something I was prepared to do - & it wdn't've been pretty - but I preferred talking my way out of it. A dangerous game to play. But I wasn't going to hide in a car, in a protected neighborhood - even if I cd've afforded to - wch I cdn't. & Delany's characters were just like I was. This was the 1st novel where I ever saw MYSELF depicted. & one of the very, very few. ...more
I read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many ofI read Stephenson's "Quicksilver" w/in the last yr & was very impressed. His fictionialized acct incorporating real historical characters (many of them likely to be known only to scholars) was thoroughly worked out. It was over 900pp long & took me at least a mnth to read. Now I've just read his collaborative political/medical thriller cowritten w/ J. Frederick George & I'm less impressed. While "Quicksilver" might've been somewhat comparable to something by John Barth &/or Robert Anton Wilson, "Interface" is more comparable to Michael Crichton &/or Robin Cook. In other words, while it's carefully written & well-worked-out, it still reeks of writing aimed at a market rather than something written to develop original ideas.
Take, eg, the title: There's already a SF bk by Mark Adlard called "Interface" from 1971. Not that that's such a big deal, the word's used in a significantly different way in each bk, but it immediately makes me think of mainstream cinema's seemingly endless remake mentality. An ad blurb on the front of the bk calls this most recent "Interface" "A Manchurian Candidate for the computer age" & that's entirely too true for it to be a compliment from my perspective insofar as the plot isn't really that original.
Even the multi-culturalism of the bk seems forced: just about every character is a representative of a different ethnic group. Nonetheless, I'm thankful that the politics aren't as numbnuts as Chrichton's "State of Fear" even if they are more than a bit improbable: a black woman who'd attained prosperity as a banker married to an engineer experiences an economic downslide & other miseries: she & her husband end up in a trailer park, he commits suicide, her son gets shot, she teeters around bag-lady-ism, she criticizes a racist politician in public, the politician's career gets ruined as a result, she gets launched on a political career on her own b/c people are so impressed by her articulateness, & becomes, what else?, the 1st black woman president. Well.. I'd like to see it happen, so I enjoyed the story, so.. whatever.
Anyway, it's 616 pages long so, as usual, any capsule critique is going to be grossly oversimplifying - as this one is. I read it quickly b/c I was sucked into it as I might be by any well-written thriller &, yet, wd I recommend it? Not really - there're so many truly great bks out there to be read: Read McCoy's "The Politics of Heroin" or Joyce's "Ullyses" if you haven't already - & skip this one. ...more
"Anvil of Stars" sequel to "The Forge of God".. - just the titles alone are enuf to make me wary.. BUT, that sort of thing is par for the golf course"Anvil of Stars" sequel to "The Forge of God".. - just the titles alone are enuf to make me wary.. BUT, that sort of thing is par for the golf course of black holes in SF - so no biggie.. In other words, the title is so rotten-cheese-ball that many a sensitive literary type might avoid it.. BUT, I liked this bk. Bear's plots are GRANDIOSE. I vaguely recall reading that he & Greg Egan are 2 of the main 'hard science' SF writers (or maybe that's just what I thought at some point or another) - meaning that all their plots have to be backed up by significant scientific projection of the day.. BUT, this is basically pure SPACE OPERA. The plot? A group of young people, survivors from a destroyed Earth, are traveling in a "Ship of the Law" seeking out those responsible for Earth's destruction to avenge it. They form an alliance w/ another Ship of the Law populated by a dramatically different species from another planet that's been similarly ill-served. Regardless of how much this story pulls out all the melodramatic stops, its scale is impressive: How many people can imagine conflicts that loom this large? Not many.. & reading such tales stretches one's own sense of possible proportion. W/o getting into spoilers, though, the ethical problems in all this, while addressed, aren't delved into as satisfactorily as a sentient being truly concerned w/ such things might like. ...more
I was turned onto Goulart by my friend John Sheehan - who gave me a collection of Goulart's books. As such, I'll forever associate Goulart w/ John - &I was turned onto Goulart by my friend John Sheehan - who gave me a collection of Goulart's books. As such, I'll forever associate Goulart w/ John - & I can appreciate how their 2 peculiarities coincide. John also exposed me to 2 inventions of his own: balloon fishing & slow-bowling - but that's a story for elsewhere.
I'll probably never read anything by Goulart that I'll be able to bring myself to give more than a 3 star rating too. "Liked it" sums my response. Goulart's too much of a gimmick writer - nothing that I've read by him tries to accomplish anything beyond short books w/ recurring themes & style. NONETHELESS, I've enjoyed them all! A few obvious pseudo-critical clichés come to mind: "guilty pleasure", "book to read at the beach while on vacation", "escape fiction"..
&.. yet.. somehow I think he deserves more credit than that. His gimmick, in most, or all, of the 28 books I've read by him, is dysfunctional technology &/or technology imbued w/ human failings - elevators w/ limited artificial intelligence that have opinions about the people who ride in them, robots as racist as their inventors, shoe dispensers that don't pop out matching shoes.. that sort of thing. AND there's more to it than that. His books are satires, somewhat outspoken about sex, race, revolution..
Take "Wildsmith": an android secretly built by a publishing company to crank out best-sellers - & very successful at that. BUT, in order for the android to have the appropriate personality it's had quirks built into it - like apparent alcoholic behavior. Since the public isn't supposed to know that Wildsmith's an android, all the aberrant behavior has to be kept in check enuf by his PR man to keep this a secret - wch means preventing Wildsmith from unscrewing his hands in public & such-like.
This being not only a satire of the publishing industry but also of the political atmosphere of the time there's an apparent parody of Al Capp & his "Li'l Abner" cartoon - in this case as Joe Chuck, creator of "Tiny Boob the Hillbilly Midget". In Goulart's rendering, Chuck is a nasty stereotyping creep whose comic is banned in Mexico b/c Chuck expresses such sentiments as:
""These amusing greaseballs come from a distant planet and they landed right in Tiny Boob's hillbilly home town of Hogwallow. They resemble wax basketballs and have amusing little legs and wear sombreros. They've come to our poor, plundered portion of this planet because they've heard you can get a handout quicker here than anyplace else in the universe. If there's one prick things these greaseballs hate, it is working for a living.""
NOW, that's somewhat the way I remember Capp as being - so imagine my surprise when I skimmed thru his Wikipedia bio & found naught but praise for the guy. It's even claimed there that John Steinbeck (who I have deep respect for) "called Capp "the best writer in the world" in 1953, and even earnestly recommended him for the Nobel Prize in literature"! AND Marshall McLuhan (who I'm beginning to think was a bit of an idiot) was reputed to be a fan. Contrast that to the footage of Capp's hostility to John Lennon & Yoko Ono as presented in Paul McGrath's movie "John & Yoko's Year of Peace".
At any rate, Goulart's satire seems just as pungent & pointed as, eg, Terry Southern's "Candy" - but "Candy" was made into a movie w/ prominent stars & I don't know of any Goulart movies (wch doesn't mean that they don't exist - eg, he's somehow connected w/ "Battlestar Galactica"). In fact, "Wildsmith" is somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen's "Broadway Danny Rose" - but 13 yrs earlier - & w/ the Sci-Fi touches lacking in Allen's story. Funny, I often feel the same way about Allen's movies as I do about Goulart's books - they're clever but gimmicky - & they usually don't go far enuf.
STILL, I recommend Goulart - it only takes a few hrs to read one of these so it's easy enuf to whiz thru one - & if you don't get anything out of it there's no great waste of time. Besides, he seems worthy of recognition as a precursor to Jonathan Lethem, eg, & as a prominent figure in the shaping of the fusion of detective & science fiction. For me, the dysfunctional technology is enuf of a hoot to make it worthwhile - given that tech-heads often act like technology is some sort of perfect savior - rather than just another product of imperfect humans.
I note that Goulart has a series (?) of books w/ Groucho Marx as a "Master Detective" that I've never seen. That seems like perfect grist for Goulart's mill. ...more