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The 13 Crimes of Science FictionThe 13 Crimes of Science Fiction by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A good collection of science fiction mysteries, along with an explanation of that relatively obscure sub-genre from Isaac Asimov. I've read a fair number of SF mysteries, and had read most of the ones in the book; most of them are excellent examples of the form. The leading story, "The Detweiler Boy" by Tom Reamy, was not particularly good; putting a relatively weak story first in an anthology is an unfortunate flaw.

But there are a number of gems here, including Larry Niven's "Arm". "War Games" by Philip K. Dick, was simply not readable for me; I can take some PKD, but only in mild doses - and not a lot of it. I don't know if it was the mood I was in, or if the story was particularly Dick-ish (sorry, couldn't resist), but after a page or two I simply skipped that story altogether.

That said, the vast majority of the book is excellent and well worth reading.



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First, I have to say that as a long-time Bostonian, it's really good to see a movie set in Boston that was actually FILMED in Boston. It was a real kick to see my former workplace and other old familiar spots in the background. Attention, Hollywood: Toronto is NOT a dead ringer for Beantown!

It was also rather a relief that none of the actors in the film attempted the obligatory and almost always lame imitation of a Boston accent.

As for the movie itself: the concepts aren't new. Keith Laumer could probably have sued the author of the original comic book miniseries that the movie was based on for plagiarism. The series (and therefore the movie) has much in common with Laumer's 1966 story "The Body Builders". By coincidence, the story is available online, legally, as part of the Baen Free Library; Google "Baen free library Laumer", and it will come up as "Keith Laumer: The Lighter Side". The story starts on page 31.

But the idea of a remote robotic body is probably new to most non-science fiction fans. And in any case, complete originality is certainly not mandatory. The movie is paced nicely, the acting is pretty well-done, and although there's not much that's terribly surprising in the plot, it is handled well.

If it weren't for the Boston element, I might have given Surrogates three stars - but the authenticity of the setting gave it just the extra boost needed to move it up to four.

[Netflix doesn't allow URLs, annoyingly - but the direct URL to the Laumer book is http://worldebookfair.org/eBooks/Baen_Library_Collection/0743435370.pdf]
bobquasit: (Default)
First, I have to say that as a long-time Bostonian, it's really good to see a movie set in Boston that was actually FILMED in Boston. It was a real kick to see my former workplace and other old familiar spots in the background. Attention, Hollywood: Toronto is NOT a dead ringer for Beantown!

It was also rather a relief that none of the actors in the film attempted the obligatory and almost always lame imitation of a Boston accent.

As for the movie itself: the concepts aren't new. Keith Laumer could probably have sued the author of the original comic book miniseries that the movie was based on for plagiarism. The series (and therefore the movie) has much in common with Laumer's 1966 story "The Body Builders". By coincidence, the story is available online, legally, as part of the Baen Free Library; Google "Baen free library Laumer", and it will come up as "Keith Laumer: The Lighter Side". The story starts on page 31.

But the idea of a remote robotic body is probably new to most non-science fiction fans. And in any case, complete originality is certainly not mandatory. The movie is paced nicely, the acting is pretty well-done, and although there's not much that's terribly surprising in the plot, it is handled well.

If it weren't for the Boston element, I might have given Surrogates three stars - but the authenticity of the setting gave it just the extra boost needed to move it up to four.

[Netflix doesn't allow URLs, annoyingly - but the direct URL to the Laumer book is http://worldebookfair.org/eBooks/Baen_Library_Collection/0743435370.pdf]
bobquasit: (Default)
The Questor TapesThe Questor Tapes by D.C. Fontana

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


How can I review this book impartially? It's the novelization of a Gene Roddenberry TV movie/pilot that I've been a fan of for a long time.

The pilot wasn't picked up, unfortunately. But The Questor Tapes remains an intriguing and deeply enjoyable movie. Veteran Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana did a fine job of novelizing the story of an android with incomplete programming, searching for the riddle of his existence with the help of a human friend - and with the usual Javert figure in pursuit.

As I said, I'm not sure what I would have thought of this book if I'd never seen the movie. But as a novelization, and compared to other novelizations that I've read, it works very well. Fontana must have worked from a late script, or even written the manuscript after the movie was filmed; there are none of those annoying omissions that so often mar novelizations which are based on early scripts.

There's humor, and moments of thoughtfulness. There's a quasi-religious element to the plot and some religious philosophizing that I find slightly irritating (and I'm not usually that sensitive to that sort of thing, believe it or not), but those were present in the original movie. All in all, a very enjoyable book.


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The Questor TapesThe Questor Tapes by D.C. Fontana

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


How can I review this book impartially? It's the novelization of a Gene Roddenberry TV movie/pilot that I've been a fan of for a long time.

The pilot wasn't picked up, unfortunately. But The Questor Tapes remains an intriguing and deeply enjoyable movie. Veteran Star Trek writer D.C. Fontana did a fine job of novelizing the story of an android with incomplete programming, searching for the riddle of his existence with the help of a human friend - and with the usual Javert figure in pursuit.

As I said, I'm not sure what I would have thought of this book if I'd never seen the movie. But as a novelization, and compared to other novelizations that I've read, it works very well. Fontana must have worked from a late script, or even written the manuscript after the movie was filmed; there are none of those annoying omissions that so often mar novelizations which are based on early scripts.

There's humor, and moments of thoughtfulness. There's a quasi-religious element to the plot and some religious philosophizing that I find slightly irritating (and I'm not usually that sensitive to that sort of thing, believe it or not), but those were present in the original movie. All in all, a very enjoyable book.


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bobquasit: (The Question)
The Sword and the EyeThe Sword and the Eye by Justin Leiber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wavered between giving this three and four stars. Once again, GoodReads' five-star system proves much too limiting. In a fractional scale, this would be a 3.5 at least.

It's really quite a likable book, in no small part because it takes some of the standard tropes of fantasy and fiction in general - going all the way back to The Count of Monte Cristo and, of course, Shakespeare - yet managed to surprise and move me at some points. I value that; when you've read as many books as I have, genuine surprises are rare, and to be cherished.

The language is a bit archaic and Vancian (i.e. reminiscent of Jack Vance, which is to say rather formal and old-fashioned). There are moments when the humor reminds me of Vance too - but nowhere near as chaotic and confusing as Vance can sometimes be.

It's an old story; the hero, cast down from his noble station, finds himself fated to set things right. The characters are the usual fantasy types, albeit with more depth than is usual. In fact, that's where Leiber surprised me; I was more than half-expecting the usual "this ends here" final encounter between the hero and villain, and instead was surprised by...well, I won't spoil it for you.

I'll note that Justin Leiber is the son of the famous Golden Age science fiction writer Fritz Leiber. He's a rare example of literary talent running true in a family (unlike the supremely untalented Brian Herbert, who, I must note, should have had his hands chopped off before he was ever allowed near a keyboard). Leiber (fils has also demonstrated an impressive range of ability, having also written some very good science fiction in a very different "voice". The Sword and the Eye is the next-to-last fiction book he published (so far); there's apparently a sequel (the cover calls it "Book One of the Saga of Eigin"), but that sequel was published in 1986, and there's been nothing more from Leiber since. That's a pity, because writers of his caliber are far too rare in the science fiction and fantasy genres these days!


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bobquasit: (The Question)
The Sword and the EyeThe Sword and the Eye by Justin Leiber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I wavered between giving this three and four stars. Once again, GoodReads' five-star system proves much too limiting. In a fractional scale, this would be a 3.5 at least.

It's really quite a likable book, in no small part because it takes some of the standard tropes of fantasy and fiction in general - going all the way back to The Count of Monte Cristo and, of course, Shakespeare - yet managed to surprise and move me at some points. I value that; when you've read as many books as I have, genuine surprises are rare, and to be cherished.

The language is a bit archaic and Vancian (i.e. reminiscent of Jack Vance, which is to say rather formal and old-fashioned). There are moments when the humor reminds me of Vance too - but nowhere near as chaotic and confusing as Vance can sometimes be.

It's an old story; the hero, cast down from his noble station, finds himself fated to set things right. The characters are the usual fantasy types, albeit with more depth than is usual. In fact, that's where Leiber surprised me; I was more than half-expecting the usual "this ends here" final encounter between the hero and villain, and instead was surprised by...well, I won't spoil it for you.

I'll note that Justin Leiber is the son of the famous Golden Age science fiction writer Fritz Leiber. He's a rare example of literary talent running true in a family (unlike the supremely untalented Brian Herbert, who, I must note, should have had his hands chopped off before he was ever allowed near a keyboard). Leiber (fils has also demonstrated an impressive range of ability, having also written some very good science fiction in a very different "voice". The Sword and the Eye is the next-to-last fiction book he published (so far); there's apparently a sequel (the cover calls it "Book One of the Saga of Eigin"), but that sequel was published in 1986, and there's been nothing more from Leiber since. That's a pity, because writers of his caliber are far too rare in the science fiction and fantasy genres these days!


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bobquasit: (Default)
I must have read Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters twenty times, easily, since the first time I read it in my mid-to-late teens. I can't say it's his best, but it's certainly one of the better works from what I consider to be his golden period. But in all those re-readings, I somehow failed to catch a rather huge logic hole in the plot - until realization suddenly burst in on me today.

Arrgh. Here Be Spoilers, Matey! )
Another minor point that occurred to me: To defend themselves from the Titans, the free humans adopt mandatory nudity. Several times, they mention a concern that the weather will soon be getting colder. Why wasn't transparent clothing ever considered?

It's still a great read. Heinlein was, without question, a master storyteller. Which may explain why I never noticed these gaping logic holes before!
bobquasit: (Default)
I must have read Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters twenty times, easily, since the first time I read it in my mid-to-late teens. I can't say it's his best, but it's certainly one of the better works from what I consider to be his golden period. But in all those re-readings, I somehow failed to catch a rather huge logic hole in the plot - until realization suddenly burst in on me today.

Arrgh. Here Be Spoilers, Matey! )
Another minor point that occurred to me: To defend themselves from the Titans, the free humans adopt mandatory nudity. Several times, they mention a concern that the weather will soon be getting colder. Why wasn't transparent clothing ever considered?

It's still a great read. Heinlein was, without question, a master storyteller. Which may explain why I never noticed these gaping logic holes before!
bobquasit: (Default)
We watched an episode of The Greatest American Hero tonight via Netflix on the Wii. Unfortunately the pilot isn't available for streaming, for some reason.

I was a fan of the show when it was on, but I'd forgotten how good it was! And what really surprised me was how much it reminded me of another of my favorites, The Rockford Files. But that's not surprising, in hindsight; it's a Stephen J. Cannell show, and a lot of the people from Rockford worked on it. Heck, even the theme is by Mike Post! There's really quite a Rockford feel to it.

Interesting thing: There's also a bit of a Sopranos feel to it! Many of the people who worked on Rockford also worked on the Sopranos. All three shows definitely share a similar "feel" and lineage.
bobquasit: (Default)
We watched an episode of The Greatest American Hero tonight via Netflix on the Wii. Unfortunately the pilot isn't available for streaming, for some reason.

I was a fan of the show when it was on, but I'd forgotten how good it was! And what really surprised me was how much it reminded me of another of my favorites, The Rockford Files. But that's not surprising, in hindsight; it's a Stephen J. Cannell show, and a lot of the people from Rockford worked on it. Heck, even the theme is by Mike Post! There's really quite a Rockford feel to it.

Interesting thing: There's also a bit of a Sopranos feel to it! Many of the people who worked on Rockford also worked on the Sopranos. All three shows definitely share a similar "feel" and lineage.
bobquasit: (Zelda)
I've decided to write reviews for every book in my GoodReads "My Books" listing - there are currently 215, and many of them don't have a review!

The Goblin ReservationThe Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Read more... )
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bobquasit: (Zelda)
I've decided to write reviews for every book in my GoodReads "My Books" listing - there are currently 215, and many of them don't have a review!

The Goblin ReservationThe Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Read more... )
View all my reviews
bobquasit: (Lo Pan)
Time Echo Time Echo by Robert Lionel


My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It didn't take long for me to realize that this was a bad book. I'm not sure which bit of lame dialog first alerted me to that fact, although I do remember that it was a painful redundancy.

But when the author told us that his "nightmarish" future dictatorship (which was actually somewhat ridiculous) was "a thousand times worse than Orwell's 1984"...well at that point I realized that life really is too short to waste on some books, after all.

This book is a relic of a time when there was some out-and-out crap being published in the science fiction field, primarily (I think) because some editors believed that all science fiction was crap - probably because them themselves never read or couldn't understand some of the classics that were being created in the genre.

This is a perfect example of a writer who cannot write.

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bobquasit: (Lo Pan)
Time Echo Time Echo by Robert Lionel


My rating: 1 of 5 stars

It didn't take long for me to realize that this was a bad book. I'm not sure which bit of lame dialog first alerted me to that fact, although I do remember that it was a painful redundancy.

But when the author told us that his "nightmarish" future dictatorship (which was actually somewhat ridiculous) was "a thousand times worse than Orwell's 1984"...well at that point I realized that life really is too short to waste on some books, after all.

This book is a relic of a time when there was some out-and-out crap being published in the science fiction field, primarily (I think) because some editors believed that all science fiction was crap - probably because them themselves never read or couldn't understand some of the classics that were being created in the genre.

This is a perfect example of a writer who cannot write.

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bobquasit: (Lo Pan)
Hidden Empire Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card


My rating: 1 of 5 stars
The label on the spine says "SCIENCE FICTION", but "FANTASY" would have been more accurate. "RIGHT-WING FANTASY" would have been the most accurate of all.

Global warming is a lie, and even liberals know it in their heart of hearts. Guantanamo is relatively "nice". Progressives conspired against America, and were roundly defeated by patriotic red-state forces. Fox News is the only channel that even occasionally tells the truth. A Rush Limbaugh analog is a brave, noble, and lovable hero.

Three thoughts went through my head as I read this:

First, that George W. Bush could have written the whole thing. I knew that Card had been getting more and more right-wing over the years, but this surprised even me.

Second, that with each page I found myself disliking Card more and more. Your mileage may differ, but I found his opinions really offensive. He really seems quite proud of his bigoted opinions; that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has read any of his homophobic and religiously-biased articles.

Third, whatever storytelling talent Card had has long since been replaced with a dumbed-down writing style and an urge to grab the microphone and preach the True Faith. He's really gotten himself into a rut; he seems utterly dependent on overly-precious banter between precocious kids and their parent(s), alternating with warmed-over right-wing political philosophy and rather limp and confused action scenes.

There's a worldwide epidemic and African warfare thread which is slightly less tedious than the rest of the book, but it certainly doesn't make up for the rest of it. The whole thing rather reminded me of the Left Behind series, and that's a memory I would rather not have dredged up.

It's funny; he was able to write well, once upon a time. It's hard to believe that this book is by the same guy who wrote Songmaster.

Avoid!

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bobquasit: (Lo Pan)
Hidden Empire Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card


My rating: 1 of 5 stars
The label on the spine says "SCIENCE FICTION", but "FANTASY" would have been more accurate. "RIGHT-WING FANTASY" would have been the most accurate of all.

Global warming is a lie, and even liberals know it in their heart of hearts. Guantanamo is relatively "nice". Progressives conspired against America, and were roundly defeated by patriotic red-state forces. Fox News is the only channel that even occasionally tells the truth. A Rush Limbaugh analog is a brave, noble, and lovable hero.

Three thoughts went through my head as I read this:

First, that George W. Bush could have written the whole thing. I knew that Card had been getting more and more right-wing over the years, but this surprised even me.

Second, that with each page I found myself disliking Card more and more. Your mileage may differ, but I found his opinions really offensive. He really seems quite proud of his bigoted opinions; that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has read any of his homophobic and religiously-biased articles.

Third, whatever storytelling talent Card had has long since been replaced with a dumbed-down writing style and an urge to grab the microphone and preach the True Faith. He's really gotten himself into a rut; he seems utterly dependent on overly-precious banter between precocious kids and their parent(s), alternating with warmed-over right-wing political philosophy and rather limp and confused action scenes.

There's a worldwide epidemic and African warfare thread which is slightly less tedious than the rest of the book, but it certainly doesn't make up for the rest of it. The whole thing rather reminded me of the Left Behind series, and that's a memory I would rather not have dredged up.

It's funny; he was able to write well, once upon a time. It's hard to believe that this book is by the same guy who wrote Songmaster.

Avoid!

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The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets by Lloyd Biggle Jr.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lloyd Biggle Jr. is best known for bringing the arts to science fiction (just as Mack Reynolds brought sociology and economics to SF). He had a gentle, thoughtful style that made his books a pleasure to read; in that, his work resembles that of James White.

The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is classic Biggle. The premise may perhaps seem a bit naive in these harsh days of realpolitik; a Galactic Federation which cannot expand unless a planet at its borders becomes a planetary democracy, without overt interference by Galactic agents. The natives of the planet, Gurnil, have a relatively low level of technology; they are not aware that aliens walk among them. If they discover that, the planet will be considered "blown", and the Galactic agents will have to withdraw in failure.

Those agents are also hampered by a web of regulations, rules, and maxims.

When Forzon, an officer of the Cultural Survey, is mysteriously reassigned to Gurnil he must not only find out why he was reassigned, but how to apply his speciality, the arts, to turning a brutal monarchy into a peaceful democracy. The natives have a magnificent appreciation of beauty and art, but seem to have virtually no political awareness. Forzon is allowed to introduce one technological innovation to the planet, but how can a single change literally revolutionize an entire world?

Biggle's answer is memorable and believable.

It must be noted that the book was first published in 1968, and that Biggle was not one of the "New Wave" authors who were in ascendence at that time. To some, his style may seem a little old-fashioned, though it's eminently readable. The romantic relationship between Forzon and Ann Curry, one of his agents, may also seem rather a bit dated - although accusations of sexism are not credible, since Forzon never treats Ann with less than respect, and her mistakes are not the stereotypical "stupid helpless female" behavior that was a staple of the poorer sort of science fiction a generation earlier.

The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is a short, elegant, and thoughtful example of a type of science fiction which is still all too rare. It's well worth reading, and re-reading. Although it's quite a short book, Biggle wrote other memorable books on the same general theme, and most of them are back in print.

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The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets by Lloyd Biggle Jr.


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lloyd Biggle Jr. is best known for bringing the arts to science fiction (just as Mack Reynolds brought sociology and economics to SF). He had a gentle, thoughtful style that made his books a pleasure to read; in that, his work resembles that of James White.

The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is classic Biggle. The premise may perhaps seem a bit naive in these harsh days of realpolitik; a Galactic Federation which cannot expand unless a planet at its borders becomes a planetary democracy, without overt interference by Galactic agents. The natives of the planet, Gurnil, have a relatively low level of technology; they are not aware that aliens walk among them. If they discover that, the planet will be considered "blown", and the Galactic agents will have to withdraw in failure.

Those agents are also hampered by a web of regulations, rules, and maxims.

When Forzon, an officer of the Cultural Survey, is mysteriously reassigned to Gurnil he must not only find out why he was reassigned, but how to apply his speciality, the arts, to turning a brutal monarchy into a peaceful democracy. The natives have a magnificent appreciation of beauty and art, but seem to have virtually no political awareness. Forzon is allowed to introduce one technological innovation to the planet, but how can a single change literally revolutionize an entire world?

Biggle's answer is memorable and believable.

It must be noted that the book was first published in 1968, and that Biggle was not one of the "New Wave" authors who were in ascendence at that time. To some, his style may seem a little old-fashioned, though it's eminently readable. The romantic relationship between Forzon and Ann Curry, one of his agents, may also seem rather a bit dated - although accusations of sexism are not credible, since Forzon never treats Ann with less than respect, and her mistakes are not the stereotypical "stupid helpless female" behavior that was a staple of the poorer sort of science fiction a generation earlier.

The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets is a short, elegant, and thoughtful example of a type of science fiction which is still all too rare. It's well worth reading, and re-reading. Although it's quite a short book, Biggle wrote other memorable books on the same general theme, and most of them are back in print.

View all my reviews >>
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Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 03: 1941 by Isaac Asimov


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cynic once said something like "The Golden Age of science fiction is about sixteen."

But they're wrong. 1941 was the heart of the Golden Age of science fiction. And this book is the proof.

If you've read a fair selection of classic SF, some of these stories will doubtless be familiar to you. Others probably won't be. In any case, these are some of the all-time classics of the genre.

Each story is introduced by Isaac Asimov, and he provides some interesting (and tantalizing) commentary. I can't help but wonder, for example, why he included Fredric Brown (one of my favorite writers) as an author whose personality was different from his stories (as opposed to authors who resembled their stories, some of whom he also lists). I was surprised and pleased to see that Asimov was, like me, a fan of Robert Arthur as well - although I have to admit that Arthur's story may be the weakest one in the book (though still worth reading!).

There are no stories by Robert Heinlein in this collection, apparently because he (or his wife) wouldn't allow it. Since this book was published in 1980 and Heinlein lived until 1988, Heinlein must have been aware of this. Nonetheless Asimov listed the titles of the Heinlein stories that he would have included in the book, and commented on them. I've often wondered about the relationship between Asimov and Heinlein, and this book only adds to the mystery.

There's a tendency to think of old science fiction as being corny and simplistic. In fact, the best authors of the Golden Age had a sophistication and brilliance which is rarely seen in modern genre authors. If you're not familiar with Golden Age SF, I recommend The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, volume I, which is the definitive collection. But if you get a chance to buy any of The Great SF Stories, grab them! I know I will.

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