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The Last Days of Krypton
By Kevin J. Anderson

One out of ten stars (assuming zero isn't an option)
Shelves: Library, science fiction

The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson was disappointing and lame - so lame that I only got about 130 pages into it before returning it to the library.

Okay, I'm being a little harsh here. Actually, as modern SF goes, I've certainly seen worse (see the execrable Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, which was co-authored by Anderson. Or rather, DON'T see it if you value your sanity, as it may be the worst book ever written. But reading it gave me an insight into why I hate the vast majority of modern science fiction so passionately: it's stupid.

It seems to me that the current generation of SF editors and publishers came into the field after the Golden Age - in most cases, post-1970s. Lots of people working in the business now wouldn't know Roger Zelazny or Fredric Brown if they leaped out of their graves and bit them on the ass.

And I believe they think of science fiction as "childish" literature, for immature, adolescent minds.

Which, of course, it has often been from the very first. But there were always exceptional authors - the cream that rose to the top - who wrote truly intelligent, imaginative, and adult science fiction (and fantasy, of course; I'm not making a distinction between the two right now).

The problem is that back then, there were at least some editors and publishers who could recognize greatness. Now, those perceptive and mature people in the SF publishing industry seem to be gone - probably, I suspect, because the whole industry is far more commercialized than it used to be, far more integrated into the craptastic Hollywood culture that dominates American society. They're all looking so hard for the next Harry Potter that they would not only MISS the next Cordwainer Smith - he wouldn't even be able to get in their door.

I fear that the same must be said for fans. It may be that the vast majority of younger fans simply don't know what good writing is, because they've never seen it.

There are still a few good writers out there, of course, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

Like Hercule Poirot, I'm not going to pretend that I'm stupid. I'm more intelligent than the average reader (I have other flaws, but I'm not stupid). So maybe that makes me more sensitive to having my intelligence insulted. I can tell when I'm reading something written by someone who is dumber than I am, to put it crudely, and I'd say that 97% of everything new being published these days is either written by a relatively dim person, or deliberately slanted for an audience that the producers of the product consider to be - there's no other word for it - idiots.

And even so, the people producing this crap are not bright. If they were, even their dumbed-down writing would show it - and it doesn't. Typos, logical failures, unbelievable characters, the same tired old cliches again and again and again...lord! I'm so sick of it!

Anderson is a really awful writer, and should never be allowed near a keyboard again. Perhaps he could take up some useful trade, like shovelling raw sewage.

Okay, that's not fair. He's not quite that bad. He'd probably be a very adequate ditch-digger. Just keep him away from a keyboard!

Note: A comment on the original post of this review (elsewhere) asserted that it was unfair of me to criticize a work based on a comic book, by comparing it to high art. The comment also questioned my criticism because I am not a published author. Here's my reply, editing out the quotes from the original comment:

I do see your point. In the same vein, since I have never been a professional chef, I should never criticize any meal served to me at a restaurant, not even if they hand me a dog turd on a plate. Why didn't I see that before?

Okay. Sarcasm aside, although I have never been a professional author - I did make one sale, but the magazine folded before they paid me or published the story - I have indeed written a lot of stuff over the years, and have published both online and in several different amateur press associations. I have one of the older continuously-operating websites still in existence, and have received plenty of feedback, both positive and negative. I don't see why any of this is necessary to justify my low opinion of "The Last Days of Krypton", but there it is. More to the point is that I've *read* a lot.

If my review gave you the impression that I had expected "The Last Days of Krypton" to be high art, you can chalk that up to my lack of professional credentials as an author. I have strong feelings about the decay of modern science fiction and publishing, and inserted those views into the review because that's when those thoughts happened to come into my mind.

However, the fact remains that it is possible to judge quality even when dealing with a genre or class of works which are of generally low caliber. You can taste the burgers of McDonald's and those of Burger King or Wendy's and make perfectly valid comparisons and judgements between them; there are degrees of quality both in swill and the sublime. Merely mentioning that the sublime exists does not invalidate criticism of swill when it fails *even as swill*.

And even as swill, "The Last Days of Krypton" is abysmal. I've read my share of comic books, both crappy ones and those that transcended the former limitations of the genre; I grew up reading comics in the 1960s and 70s, and directly experienced the renaissance of the field in the 1980s and 90s. So I have some experience from a reader's point of view. And from that vantage point, I still maintain: "The Last Days of Krypton" is pure and utter *crap*, an absolute waste of time, and an insult to the intelligence of any reader who actually possesses a mind to be insulted.

To put it as simply as possible, it's a bad book. Really astonishingly bad, which at this point is pretty much par for the course for Mr. Anderson. That there are some who apparently admire it and him baffles me, but there's not much I can do to help such unfortunate souls; all I can do is post my opinion of his shoddy and idiotic work as a warning to others.

This have I done. If your opinion varies, go and do likewise!
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Lord of LightLord of Light by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Although he's best known for his Amber series, Lord of Light was unquestionably his greatest masterpiece - despite the fact that it's a remarkably slender book. Nonetheless, Zelazny managed to brilliantly combine science fiction, fantasy, and Hindu mythology in a truly...

Due to the acquisition of Goodreads by Amazon, the complete version of this review has been moved to two new homes:

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If you, like me, object to what Amazon has done to the world of books, book lovers, and book shops, you can find many alternatives to GoodReads (for reviews) and to Amazon (for shopping) at the "Escaping Amazon" community [https://plus.google.com/communities/1...]. Our free public resource listing and describing alternatives is at [https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/c...

Readers and their love of books are not commodities to be bought and sold - unless we allow it.




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Shadows in Flight (Shadow, #5)Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I don't like Orson Scott Card. There was a time when he was a gifted writer, but that was decades ago. And I'm rather glad of that, I must admit, because his homophobia and religious bigotry offend me.

But Shadows In Flight isn't as bad as most of his recent books have been. Yes, it has the usual "genius" children talking to each other in "shocking" ways; Card seems to find them irresistible. There's even some of Card's trademark child-on-child violence, which makes me wonder just how badly screwed up his head is. But for once he doesn't take it too far.

This is no Ender's Game or Songmaster. It isn't even A Planet Called Treason. But it's readable and not annoying, which is a big improvement over Card's other work this millennium.



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The Chameleon Corps and Other Shape ChangersThe Chameleon Corps and Other Shape Changers by Ron Goulart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ron Goulart is one of the four funniest science fiction writers in the world (the other three are Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley, and Keith Laumer, if you were wondering). And in The Chameleon Corps and Other Shape Changers he's at his hysterical best. There are many lines here which have stayed in my head and amused me for over thirty years now.

The book itself is divided into two sections. The first five stories are about the adventures of Ben Jolson of the Chameleon Corps. Esoteric treatments applied at a young age have given Ben the power to alter his form at a moment's notice; he can impersonate anyone, as well as objects of his own general size, flawlessly. Problem: he'd rather sell pottery than be a secret agent. But you're not allowed to quit the Corps.

So Jolson finds himself being sent to one hot spot after another throughout the Barnum system of planets, carrying out odd, sometimes bizarre missions for a government that often seems a lot like ours - given to hypocrisy, greed, idiocy, and sudden tragic bursts of realpolitik.

In that, it's rather like the CDT of Keith Laumer's Retief series, albeit considerably less broad. But Goulart's style is considerably more modern-feeling than Laumer's, with more of a 1960s (and, oddly, 2010s) feel. And Jolson is not the superhuman figure that Retief is, for all his powers. Retief saves the world despite its idiocy; Jolson can't be sure that what he's saving is better than the alternative, or even that he's necessarily saving anything. He's just trying to get the job done and survive.

But oh my god, the stories are funny. Jolson often has to impersonate eccentric characters, and Goulart gives them personalities and verbal quirks which are absolutely hysterical - mother of goats, would you question my word? When you reach the end of the fifth story, you'll wish there were more. And there are, I believe; there was at least one Chameleon Corps novel, I think, as well as (possibly) more stories. In any case, much of Goulart's work is of the same quality: just as funny and enjoyable.

The last six stories are not connected to each other, and tend to be a little darker. But they're still very funny and very memorable. This is one of those outstanding collections of clever, jewel-like short stories that's a real treasure for anyone who loves science fiction and/or humor.

So why isn't it in print any more?


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The Chameleon Corps and Other Shape ChangersThe Chameleon Corps and Other Shape Changers by Ron Goulart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ron Goulart is one of the four funniest science fiction writers in the world (the other three are Fredric Brown, Robert Sheckley, and Keith Laumer, if you were wondering). And in The Chameleon Corps and Other Shape Changers he's at his hysterical best. There are many lines here which have stayed in my head and amused me for over thirty years now.

The book itself is divided into two sections. The first five stories are about the adventures of Ben Jolson of the Chameleon Corps. Esoteric treatments applied at a young age have given Ben the power to alter his form at a moment's notice; he can impersonate anyone, as well as objects of his own general size, flawlessly. Problem: he'd rather sell pottery than be a secret agent. But you're not allowed to quit the Corps.

So Jolson finds himself being sent to one hot spot after another throughout the Barnum system of planets, carrying out odd, sometimes bizarre missions for a government that often seems a lot like ours - given to hypocrisy, greed, idiocy, and sudden tragic bursts of realpolitik.

In that, it's rather like the CDT of Keith Laumer's Retief series, albeit considerably less broad. But Goulart's style is considerably more modern-feeling than Laumer's, with more of a 1960s (and, oddly, 2010s) feel. And Jolson is not the superhuman figure that Retief is, for all his powers. Retief saves the world despite its idiocy; Jolson can't be sure that what he's saving is better than the alternative, or even that he's necessarily saving anything. He's just trying to get the job done and survive.

But oh my god, the stories are funny. Jolson often has to impersonate eccentric characters, and Goulart gives them personalities and verbal quirks which are absolutely hysterical - mother of goats, would you question my word? When you reach the end of the fifth story, you'll wish there were more. And there are, I believe; there was at least one Chameleon Corps novel, I think, as well as (possibly) more stories. In any case, much of Goulart's work is of the same quality: just as funny and enjoyable.

The last six stories are not connected to each other, and tend to be a little darker. But they're still very funny and very memorable. This is one of those outstanding collections of clever, jewel-like short stories that's a real treasure for anyone who loves science fiction and/or humor.

So why isn't it in print any more?


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In the Beginning (Babylon 5)In the Beginning by Peter David

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm not a Peter David fan. Oh, I've read a few of his books, but I consider him to be a workmanlike author rather than an artist. Of course, I also consider him to be a newcomer, since I respect very few post-1980 authors (exactly three, in fact: Brust, Brin, and Watt-Evans).

But In the Beginning is surprisingly well-written. It was shot in the dark for me, quite literally; I don't remember where I'd originally picked it up, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new (the pencil marking inside says $2.95). It was late at night, I desperately needed something to read, and I'd just turned off the light in the den; it was pitch-black. So for a lark, I pushed aside the books in the outer layer of one of my bookshelves (I'm terribly short of shelf space), and pulled out a book at random from the row of books behind.

Now, I must admit up front that I was a big fan of Babylon 5. In fact, it was the last show that I would call myself a "fan" of; I think I got too old for the fan phenomenon after that. But from seasons 1-4 I was a big fan, and even wrote a one-shot zine for a Babylon 5 APA (amateur press association, a collection of zines on a topic).*

Anyway, I have to say that Peter David captured the voice of the narrator, Londo Mollari, extremely well. I could hear the voice just as Peter Jurasik performed it while I was reading it. I don't know if someone who isn't familiar with the show itself would get the same enjoyment out of the book, therefore.

In any case, I'd call it a successful novelization; it captured the plot and essence of the broadcast show extremely well. There was only one jarring note. On page 75, there's a line:
Indeed, the gravity on the Babylon 5 space station was achieved entirely through a steady rotation, the same as that on any planet.

Perhaps Peter David only meant to say that planets have a steady rotation, but it certainly seems as if he's saying that centrifugal (or is it centripetal?) force is the source of gravitation on planets - and of course, that's absolutely wrong! If planetary gravity was caused by rotation, everything not fastened to the planetary crust would be flung into space. Could a modern science fiction author really be that ignorant of basic physics? I have to wonder!

All in all, though, an enjoyable read. I was tempted to give it four stars. But if you're not a B5 fan, you're probably more likely to consider it a 3-star work.

----------
* - I'm not sure if this link will work, but if it does here's a link to that zine: http://www.maranci.net/babble-on5.pdf . It has been annotated from a years-later perspective.



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In the Beginning (Babylon 5)In the Beginning by Peter David

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm not a Peter David fan. Oh, I've read a few of his books, but I consider him to be a workmanlike author rather than an artist. Of course, I also consider him to be a newcomer, since I respect very few post-1980 authors (exactly three, in fact: Brust, Brin, and Watt-Evans).

But In the Beginning is surprisingly well-written. It was shot in the dark for me, quite literally; I don't remember where I'd originally picked it up, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new (the pencil marking inside says $2.95). It was late at night, I desperately needed something to read, and I'd just turned off the light in the den; it was pitch-black. So for a lark, I pushed aside the books in the outer layer of one of my bookshelves (I'm terribly short of shelf space), and pulled out a book at random from the row of books behind.

Now, I must admit up front that I was a big fan of Babylon 5. In fact, it was the last show that I would call myself a "fan" of; I think I got too old for the fan phenomenon after that. But from seasons 1-4 I was a big fan, and even wrote a one-shot zine for a Babylon 5 APA (amateur press association, a collection of zines on a topic).*

Anyway, I have to say that Peter David captured the voice of the narrator, Londo Mollari, extremely well. I could hear the voice just as Peter Jurasik performed it while I was reading it. I don't know if someone who isn't familiar with the show itself would get the same enjoyment out of the book, therefore.

In any case, I'd call it a successful novelization; it captured the plot and essence of the broadcast show extremely well. There was only one jarring note. On page 75, there's a line:
Indeed, the gravity on the Babylon 5 space station was achieved entirely through a steady rotation, the same as that on any planet.

Perhaps Peter David only meant to say that planets have a steady rotation, but it certainly seems as if he's saying that centrifugal (or is it centripetal?) force is the source of gravitation on planets - and of course, that's absolutely wrong! If planetary gravity was caused by rotation, everything not fastened to the planetary crust would be flung into space. Could a modern science fiction author really be that ignorant of basic physics? I have to wonder!

All in all, though, an enjoyable read. I was tempted to give it four stars. But if you're not a B5 fan, you're probably more likely to consider it a 3-star work.

----------
* - I'm not sure if this link will work, but if it does here's a link to that zine: http://www.maranci.net/babble-on5.pdf . It has been annotated from a years-later perspective.



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Lost Race of MarsLost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closet) for something to read to my son, Sebastian. Lost Race of Mars almost fell into my lap. I'd read it several times as a child myself, and remembered liking it quite a lot. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I grabbed it and read it to him.

It was written by Robert Silverberg in 1960, and includes some charmingly albeit slightly crude illustrations. Sebastian loved the book, and chuckled over every drawing.

It's the story of a family who visits Mars for a year on that far-off date of 1991. The children, Jim and Sally, are the primary focus. But what grabbed Sebastian the most were the cats. First was the family cat, Chipper, who is left behind on Earth early on. Sebastian asked several times if we'd see Chipper again. A few illustrations later in the book showed Chipper, and he was particularly interested in those. He is a cat person (we're a cat family, in fact), so his interest was quite natural. Perhaps someone who doesn't like cats wouldn't enjoy the book as much as we did.

There was also Mitten, the Mars cat, in the later chapters. Again, Sebastian loved Mitten and chortled over the drawings of him.

The story is nicely paced, well-written, easy to read aloud, and has a very satisfying ending. The science is a little shaky, but not outrageously so (I'm still tempted to look up the temperatures on Mars). The prognostications are way off - a thriving Mars colony by 1991?!? - but that's not an insurmountable problem. The Martians themselves are, well, pedestrian by modern science fiction standards. But they work well for children, and that's who the book is written for. I'll also credit Silverberg with giving Sally, the younger girl in the book, a stronger-than-customary role for the time; she's not simply a stereotypical docile little sister, nor is she one of those cliched "spunky" girls.

Sebastian is nine and a half. He's a bit advanced when it comes to books, but I'd say we hit the sweet spot with this one - he's the perfect age to enjoy it. I think any child from say, eight to thirteen would be likely to enjoy the book, and many older children would too.

I'm giving the book four stars just because I can't classify it as a deathless classic that will last through the ages. But Sebastian gives it fives stars without reservation.



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bobquasit: (Sebastian)
Lost Race of MarsLost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closet) for something to read to my son, Sebastian. Lost Race of Mars almost fell into my lap. I'd read it several times as a child myself, and remembered liking it quite a lot. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I grabbed it and read it to him.

It was written by Robert Silverberg in 1960, and includes some charmingly albeit slightly crude illustrations. Sebastian loved the book, and chuckled over every drawing.

It's the story of a family who visits Mars for a year on that far-off date of 1991. The children, Jim and Sally, are the primary focus. But what grabbed Sebastian the most were the cats. First was the family cat, Chipper, who is left behind on Earth early on. Sebastian asked several times if we'd see Chipper again. A few illustrations later in the book showed Chipper, and he was particularly interested in those. He is a cat person (we're a cat family, in fact), so his interest was quite natural. Perhaps someone who doesn't like cats wouldn't enjoy the book as much as we did.

There was also Mitten, the Mars cat, in the later chapters. Again, Sebastian loved Mitten and chortled over the drawings of him.

The story is nicely paced, well-written, easy to read aloud, and has a very satisfying ending. The science is a little shaky, but not outrageously so (I'm still tempted to look up the temperatures on Mars). The prognostications are way off - a thriving Mars colony by 1991?!? - but that's not an insurmountable problem. The Martians themselves are, well, pedestrian by modern science fiction standards. But they work well for children, and that's who the book is written for. I'll also credit Silverberg with giving Sally, the younger girl in the book, a stronger-than-customary role for the time; she's not simply a stereotypical docile little sister, nor is she one of those cliched "spunky" girls.

Sebastian is nine and a half. He's a bit advanced when it comes to books, but I'd say we hit the sweet spot with this one - he's the perfect age to enjoy it. I think any child from say, eight to thirteen would be likely to enjoy the book, and many older children would too.

I'm giving the book four stars just because I can't classify it as a deathless classic that will last through the ages. But Sebastian gives it fives stars without reservation.



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The Cyborg and the SorcerersThe Cyborg and the Sorcerers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Lawrence Watt-Evans is the best light fantasy writer of the past twenty years. He's put out some serious, massive fantasy tomes lately, too - as if P.G. Wodehouse were forced to write Wagnerian operas. Not that his serious stuff is bad, mind you! It's just not as good as his light fantasy.

But once in a while he steps out of the fantasy field altogether, and the results are usually impressive. The Cyborg and the Sorcerers is a relatively early science fiction novel from Watt-Evans; I think it might be his first, but it's not easy to find a straightforward bibliography of his novels.

TCatS is actually a mixed-genre novel; Slant, a STL-traveling interstellar elite military cyborg scout, finds a planet where the inhabitants have developed the ability to use magic. This is cursorily explained as the product of mutation, originally, although the ability can apparently be developed in any human being by a trained sorcerer.

One of the most refreshing things about Watt-Evans is that he almost never resorts to the "missing the obvious" plot coupon. His protagonists are generally sensible, reasonable people, and most of them are intelligent. Even better, they use that intelligence...intelligently. This is an astonishingly rare event in modern science fiction and fantasy fiction. One common shtick that often comes up in SF-meets-fantasy books is a refusal by SF characters to believe that magic could possibly be real. Slant accepts the "magic" he sees (albeit within the context of the mutation theory) after witnessing a reasonable amount of evidence.

It's the ship's computer, which is in many ways Slant's master, that has more difficulty accepting the idea of magic - although it nonetheless manages to come up with some intelligent ideas of its own.

The novel chronicles Slant's attempts to cope with the demands of the computer, and finally to escape its control altogether. It's well-told and entertaining. It does feel a little bit sketchy, though. I can't help but feel that another fifty pages or so would have helped the book; Slant could frankly use a bit more depth, and apart from the computer the other characters in the book feel a bit empty. There's an emotional potential in Slant's psyche that isn't sufficiently addressed, to my way of thinking. His past has been partly erased from his memory, and his world has been destroyed; slower-than-light travel has made him a chronological castaway, forever cut off from his birthplace and time. His struggle to recover an important memory is just slightly too easy.

There's one slight anachronism in the book, one hardly worth mentioning - but since I brought it up, I will. It's mentioned at least twice that Slant's skeleton has been reinforced with steel. That strikes an odd note. I'm surprised that Watt-Evans didn't make up some sort of space-age alloy, such as the adamantium that Marvel used long before for Wolverine.

I also recently came up with a solution for one of Slant's problems. But since it involves a spoiler, and I don't want to have to hide the whole review, I'm going to put it in a separate comment on the review itself - if GoodReads will allow it.

Oh, one more thing: although I usually like the cover art for the Ethshar books, and this one seems to be by the same artist who did several of the early Ethshar entries, I think it was an unfortunate choice to make all the characters on the cover look like Biblical patriarchs. It probably hurt sales.

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My spoiler-comment is behind this cut:
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The Cyborg and the SorcerersThe Cyborg and the Sorcerers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Lawrence Watt-Evans is the best light fantasy writer of the past twenty years. He's put out some serious, massive fantasy tomes lately, too - as if P.G. Wodehouse were forced to write Wagnerian operas. Not that his serious stuff is bad, mind you! It's just not as good as his light fantasy.

But once in a while he steps out of the fantasy field altogether, and the results are usually impressive. The Cyborg and the Sorcerers is a relatively early science fiction novel from Watt-Evans; I think it might be his first, but it's not easy to find a straightforward bibliography of his novels.

TCatS is actually a mixed-genre novel; Slant, a STL-traveling interstellar elite military cyborg scout, finds a planet where the inhabitants have developed the ability to use magic. This is cursorily explained as the product of mutation, originally, although the ability can apparently be developed in any human being by a trained sorcerer.

One of the most refreshing things about Watt-Evans is that he almost never resorts to the "missing the obvious" plot coupon. His protagonists are generally sensible, reasonable people, and most of them are intelligent. Even better, they use that intelligence...intelligently. This is an astonishingly rare event in modern science fiction and fantasy fiction. One common shtick that often comes up in SF-meets-fantasy books is a refusal by SF characters to believe that magic could possibly be real. Slant accepts the "magic" he sees (albeit within the context of the mutation theory) after witnessing a reasonable amount of evidence.

It's the ship's computer, which is in many ways Slant's master, that has more difficulty accepting the idea of magic - although it nonetheless manages to come up with some intelligent ideas of its own.

The novel chronicles Slant's attempts to cope with the demands of the computer, and finally to escape its control altogether. It's well-told and entertaining. It does feel a little bit sketchy, though. I can't help but feel that another fifty pages or so would have helped the book; Slant could frankly use a bit more depth, and apart from the computer the other characters in the book feel a bit empty. There's an emotional potential in Slant's psyche that isn't sufficiently addressed, to my way of thinking. His past has been partly erased from his memory, and his world has been destroyed; slower-than-light travel has made him a chronological castaway, forever cut off from his birthplace and time. His struggle to recover an important memory is just slightly too easy.

There's one slight anachronism in the book, one hardly worth mentioning - but since I brought it up, I will. It's mentioned at least twice that Slant's skeleton has been reinforced with steel. That strikes an odd note. I'm surprised that Watt-Evans didn't make up some sort of space-age alloy, such as the adamantium that Marvel used long before for Wolverine.

I also recently came up with a solution for one of Slant's problems. But since it involves a spoiler, and I don't want to have to hide the whole review, I'm going to put it in a separate comment on the review itself - if GoodReads will allow it.

Oh, one more thing: although I usually like the cover art for the Ethshar books, and this one seems to be by the same artist who did several of the early Ethshar entries, I think it was an unfortunate choice to make all the characters on the cover look like Biblical patriarchs. It probably hurt sales.

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My spoiler-comment is behind this cut:
Read more... )
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I've been bored, and World of Warcraft sucks - I'm pretty much being ganked by the Horde three or four times a day now - so I watched some stuff on Netflix. Just for the heck of it, today I watched an old episode of Columbo, "The Greenhouse Jungle" from season 2. You know, it was surprisingly good! So I looked up some of the actors. I thought the villain was being played by Carl Reiner, but it turned out to be Ray Milland. Two of the actresses in the show surprised me; one of them was the actress who played T'Pring on Star Trek (the original series, of course). As a blonde, she was totally unrecognizable! Another actress had also appeared Star Trek; she was the villain in the final episode, "Turnabout Intruder", and has the distinction of also being the only person other than William Shatner to play James T. Kirk in the original series.

God, I'm such a geek!
bobquasit: (Default)
I've been bored, and World of Warcraft sucks - I'm pretty much being ganked by the Horde three or four times a day now - so I watched some stuff on Netflix. Just for the heck of it, today I watched an old episode of Columbo, "The Greenhouse Jungle" from season 2. You know, it was surprisingly good! So I looked up some of the actors. I thought the villain was being played by Carl Reiner, but it turned out to be Ray Milland. Two of the actresses in the show surprised me; one of them was the actress who played T'Pring on Star Trek (the original series, of course). As a blonde, she was totally unrecognizable! Another actress had also appeared Star Trek; she was the villain in the final episode, "Turnabout Intruder", and has the distinction of also being the only person other than William Shatner to play James T. Kirk in the original series.

God, I'm such a geek!
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We had a nice breakfast (buffet) with my parents this morning. Then we left Sebastian to play at Fast Track while Teri and I looked around Dealer's Row.

The "LOTR: Movies Vs. Books" panel was quite loud and contentious, but fun and interesting; as always, I was able to get some good laughs out of the audience, which is always satisfying.

The "Avatar: The Last Airbender" panel was also good. We only talked about the movie for the first twenty minutes; most people hated it, some (including me) were lukewarm. So we moved on to the series. Again, I was able to get some good laughs, and as a bonus found out that a sequel series of twelve episodes is coming out! Sebastian will be thrilled.

I went upstairs to check on Teri and Sebastian after that panel. One of the audience members who was wearing a pretty cool Kiss costume with 8-inch heels got on the elevator too, along with several other fen. Lastly, a drunk blonde woman got on; I instantly knew that she was Not One Of Us, not a fan. What would you call the science fiction equivalent of gaydar? Mine is nearly infallible.

She was clearly bemused by the costumes.

"Who are you supposed to be?" she asked in a friendly but condescending manner. The Arisian explained that he was dressed as one of the members of Kiss.

"What does that have to do with science fiction?" she asked. In an ensuing conversation, several of us explained that there had been a movie and comic book about Kiss, and that they'd fought Doctor Doom in the comic. We got to her floor, and she got off.

The rest of us eyed each other. After a long, long pause, I couldn't resist speaking.

"Mundanes..."

Everyone laughed. "Just what I was thinking!" someone said.

"And they're worse when they're drunk." I added, as I got off the elevator to more laughter.

Sebastian was asleep and Teri was in bed, so I went back downstairs and saw the last two-thirds of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal with Klyfix and Stairflight. It was pretty riveting, so I'll doubtless look it up on Netflix.

Tomorrow is the end. I'm not looking forward to my last two panels tomorrow; neither topic really appeals to me, and neither was high up on my list of choices. I'll try to be a good panelist nonetheless, but perhaps I won't be one of the loudest and most vociferous panelists.

I wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to have fun among my own people again!
bobquasit: (Default)
We had a nice breakfast (buffet) with my parents this morning. Then we left Sebastian to play at Fast Track while Teri and I looked around Dealer's Row.

The "LOTR: Movies Vs. Books" panel was quite loud and contentious, but fun and interesting; as always, I was able to get some good laughs out of the audience, which is always satisfying.

The "Avatar: The Last Airbender" panel was also good. We only talked about the movie for the first twenty minutes; most people hated it, some (including me) were lukewarm. So we moved on to the series. Again, I was able to get some good laughs, and as a bonus found out that a sequel series of twelve episodes is coming out! Sebastian will be thrilled.

I went upstairs to check on Teri and Sebastian after that panel. One of the audience members who was wearing a pretty cool Kiss costume with 8-inch heels got on the elevator too, along with several other fen. Lastly, a drunk blonde woman got on; I instantly knew that she was Not One Of Us, not a fan. What would you call the science fiction equivalent of gaydar? Mine is nearly infallible.

She was clearly bemused by the costumes.

"Who are you supposed to be?" she asked in a friendly but condescending manner. The Arisian explained that he was dressed as one of the members of Kiss.

"What does that have to do with science fiction?" she asked. In an ensuing conversation, several of us explained that there had been a movie and comic book about Kiss, and that they'd fought Doctor Doom in the comic. We got to her floor, and she got off.

The rest of us eyed each other. After a long, long pause, I couldn't resist speaking.

"Mundanes..."

Everyone laughed. "Just what I was thinking!" someone said.

"And they're worse when they're drunk." I added, as I got off the elevator to more laughter.

Sebastian was asleep and Teri was in bed, so I went back downstairs and saw the last two-thirds of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal with Klyfix and Stairflight. It was pretty riveting, so I'll doubtless look it up on Netflix.

Tomorrow is the end. I'm not looking forward to my last two panels tomorrow; neither topic really appeals to me, and neither was high up on my list of choices. I'll try to be a good panelist nonetheless, but perhaps I won't be one of the loudest and most vociferous panelists.

I wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to have fun among my own people again!
bobquasit: (Laszlo Late)
Gateway (Heechee Saga 1)Gateway by Frederik Pohl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Pohl won a Hugo and a Nebula for Gateway, deservedly so.

Frederik Pohl was, of course, one of the Golden Age writers of SF. But Gateway showed that he was hardly stuck in the 1950s. It was very innovative for its time. The general tone is quite modern. Much of the book is about the therapy of Robinette Broadhead, an ex-astronaut with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD is understandable, since his spaceflights were taken in several alien spacecraft that no one knew how to operate; operating out of an abandoned alien base in the solar system, the "prospectors" of Gateway faced an extremely high casualty rate.

Robinette Broadhead is a complex character; unpleasant in some ways, and often not admirable. But since the story is told from his point of view, in first person, it's clear that we're not getting an objective picture of himself or, probably, his experiences.

Pohl also put whole-page inserts in the book, including conversational program read-outs from Robinette's therapist (a computer program), excerpts from science lectures, classified ads, and letters - all of them relevant to the story, of course, and many of them quite funny. The novel itself is not a comedy, I should note, but there are many very amusing moments.

I'll also quickly note that Pohl's representation of future society is dystopian and rather prescient. Desperate poverty is, apparently, the norm for most of the world's population. People sell organs and body parts to the rich in order to survive. Much of the environment is hideously despoiled, although there are domed enclaves where the elite live. Health care is more than ever a matter of life and death, priced beyond the ability of most to pay; but for the wealthy, life is comfortable and long. A look at current health care statistics makes the world of Gateway seem not very unlikely. Except that we're unlikely to find an alien base with FTL spacecraft in nearby space, of course.

The ending is rather touching. No spoilers, but one of the strongest and most likable characters in the book is Robinette's therapist; I've always found his final remark oddly moving. It's a pity that he (it) wasn't given more of a role in the sequels.



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bobquasit: (Laszlo Late)
Gateway (Heechee Saga 1)Gateway by Frederik Pohl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Pohl won a Hugo and a Nebula for Gateway, deservedly so.

Frederik Pohl was, of course, one of the Golden Age writers of SF. But Gateway showed that he was hardly stuck in the 1950s. It was very innovative for its time. The general tone is quite modern. Much of the book is about the therapy of Robinette Broadhead, an ex-astronaut with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD is understandable, since his spaceflights were taken in several alien spacecraft that no one knew how to operate; operating out of an abandoned alien base in the solar system, the "prospectors" of Gateway faced an extremely high casualty rate.

Robinette Broadhead is a complex character; unpleasant in some ways, and often not admirable. But since the story is told from his point of view, in first person, it's clear that we're not getting an objective picture of himself or, probably, his experiences.

Pohl also put whole-page inserts in the book, including conversational program read-outs from Robinette's therapist (a computer program), excerpts from science lectures, classified ads, and letters - all of them relevant to the story, of course, and many of them quite funny. The novel itself is not a comedy, I should note, but there are many very amusing moments.

I'll also quickly note that Pohl's representation of future society is dystopian and rather prescient. Desperate poverty is, apparently, the norm for most of the world's population. People sell organs and body parts to the rich in order to survive. Much of the environment is hideously despoiled, although there are domed enclaves where the elite live. Health care is more than ever a matter of life and death, priced beyond the ability of most to pay; but for the wealthy, life is comfortable and long. A look at current health care statistics makes the world of Gateway seem not very unlikely. Except that we're unlikely to find an alien base with FTL spacecraft in nearby space, of course.

The ending is rather touching. No spoilers, but one of the strongest and most likable characters in the book is Robinette's therapist; I've always found his final remark oddly moving. It's a pity that he (it) wasn't given more of a role in the sequels.



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bobquasit: (Ordinary)
The Gods LaughedThe Gods Laughed by Poul Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A fairly large collection of science fiction short stories from Poul Anderson, weighted towards the earlier part of his career. Quite good, but not all of it is his best work; the older stories are a little simplistic. Still well worth reading, though.



View all my reviews
bobquasit: (Ordinary)
The Gods LaughedThe Gods Laughed by Poul Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A fairly large collection of science fiction short stories from Poul Anderson, weighted towards the earlier part of his career. Quite good, but not all of it is his best work; the older stories are a little simplistic. Still well worth reading, though.



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bobquasit: (Default)
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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