Monday, July 28, 2014


Author:  Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  1979

Source:  Bookstore

Publisher:  Del Rey

Cover 1:  Darrell K. Sweet
Cover 2:  Tim White

Some time ago I announced that I was doing a “Roger Zelazny Reading Project”.  My plan is to read or re-read the novels and collections written by one of my favorite authors.  I drifted away from it but plan on getting back on track during the second half of this year.  “Roadmarks” is the seventh read for the project.  It is one that I never read before but it is now on my shelf of books I plan on re-reading someday.

 The Darrel Sweet cover alone caught my eye.  A beat up old truck driving down a road, the sign reads “Last Exit to Babylon”, and a dragon is flying overhead.  Immediately you can tell that this is a fantasy or science fiction book.

Like many of his works, Zelazny keeps alive the science fantasy genre.  In this one we have science fiction elements (i.e. robots) and fantasy elements (i.e. the dragons).  It is also similar to the Amber series in that the hero does not remember who he is and travels between different alternate worlds.  Zelazny develops this book along different lines so that he is not simply rehashing the Amber books.

Everyone seems to know that the Dragons built the road that connects the alternate worlds and times, but does not know why.  It is one of the mysteries that Zelazny does not reveal.  I am not sure if he planned on revisiting this universe someday.  In some of his works, he left mysteries unsolved.  It makes the stories more realistic.

The author’s love of other fictional characters comes alive in this book.  One that jumped out at me was his description of someone named John who is hired to kill Red (the protagonist).  John is described as dressing in a single color.  The more he described John the more it reminded me of John Sunlight.  Sunlight was the only villain to appear in more than one of the Doc Savage books.  In fact, later in “Roadmarks”, even Doc makes an appearance.  It was a bonus trying to figure out who the different characters represented.

“Roadmarks” has jumped to the top of my favorite reads of 2014 list.  Highly recommended.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Perry Rhodan #4: Twilight of the Gods

Author:  Walter Ernsting (Clark Darlton)

First Publication:  1969

Source:  Bookstore

Publisher:  Ace Books

Series:  Perry Rhodan (German) #4

In many ways this is a major story is a major piece of history in the Perry Rhodan universe.  As the various countries try to blow up Perry’s ship with a nuclear bomb, other events are coming together to give Perry additional firepower.  

Mutants have popped up all over the world.  “Twilight of the Gods” shows the beginnings of Perry’s powerful group “The Mutant Corps”.  The members introduced to us in this story include a telepath, a telekinetic, a teleporter and another teleporter who is able to teleport through time.  I always grouped the time teleporter with Ferro Lad of the Legion of Super-Heroes.  Both end up sacrificing their lives to save the universe…or do they?  That is a mystery that is many stories away.  

The other big event in this story is Perry and his right hand man Reggie get hypno trained the way the Arkonides do.  I thought that Ernsting’s writing was not up to its usual standard but this is still worth reading as the series starts to gain steam.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eye of the Monster

Author:  Andre Norton

First Publication:  1962

Source:  Purchased at used book store

Publisher:  Ace Books

Series:  Council/Confederation #2

Other books in this series include:
#1-The Sioux Spaceman
#3-The X Factor

Andre Norton was one of my gateways to science fiction.  Many of her works were in our school library.  They fit the model of what was known as juvenile science fiction at the time.  The books I read of hers had fairly straightforward plots with a young protagonist who was put in exception situations.  Although I never read this book in my youth, it fits the mold.  

The viewpoint character is on an alien world with his uncle when one of the native races (the Crocs) decides to take charge.  The aliens launch a vicious attack destroying many of the human bases.  He rescues a few people, including two of the cat-like natives.  They have to trek across hostile territory and make it to one of the larger human bases with the hope that rescue is available at the base.  The writing is solid but the characterization falls short.  I found the characters to be very much of the stock variety with little that brings them to life.  Also, the motives of the Crocs are not well established.  

If you are looking for a short, quick read of an old school adventure sort this book is a decent read.  If you prefer more depth to your stories, I would look to other books of the time.  Although it is a "lite" book, I will be reading the other books in the series.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Makes This Book So Great

Author:  Jo Walton

First Publication:  January 2014

Source:  Purchased for Kindle

Publisher:  Tor

Anyone who has talked science fiction and fantasy with me knows that I love reading book reviews and commentaries on the field.  This collection of Jo Walton’s blog posts from is perfect for me.  She grew up reading in the same era as I did.  Her love of C. J. Cherryh, Steven Brust, Samuel R. Delany, and Roger Zelazny pours forth from the pages of this book.  Walton’s reviews have convinced me that it is time to read more of Cherryh’s books and to try Steven Brust’s work. 

 One of the interesting side articles are her comments on re-reading books.  I have a very small stack of books I like to re-read.  Among them are “Dune”, various Isaac Asimov stories, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, and numerous Zelazny books.  Walton likes to re-read entire series before starting the latest book in that series.  It is an interesting thought and I can understand the benefit.  I do not know if it is something I would want to do but I will consider it.  

Highly recommended.  This will be on my list of favorite reads of the year.  And yes, I have already re-read parts of it and will re-read the whole book again in the future.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Treasures from a Library Sale

Our local library has a room that is stocked with books they are selling.  As books are sold, more are added so you never know when or what you will find.

Last week I found 2 science fiction collections that were on my want list.

First up is a "best of" collection of the short fiction of James Tiptree, Jr. called "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever".  Tiptree, who was really Alice Sheldon, was one of the best short fiction writers of the seventies (my golden age of magazine fiction).  Among the classics I remember that appear in this collection are:

"Houston, Houston Do You Read"
"The Screwfly Solution"
"The Girl Who Was Plugged In"
"And I Awoke and Found Me on the Cold Hill's Side"
"We Who Stole the Dream"

I look forward to reading all of the stories in this book.  I am sure that I will find many more classic Tiptree stories.

The other book I picked up is "The Hugo Winners Vol. 4 1976-1979" edited by Isaac Asimov.  Many of these bring back fond memories and I am anxious to re-read many of the stories.

"Home is the Hangman" by Roger Zelazny
"The Borderland of Sol" by Larry Niven
"By Any Other Name" by Spider Robinson
"The Bicentennial Man" by Isaac Asimov
"Tricentennial" by Joe Haldeman
"The Persistence of Vision" by John Varley

And that is just a list of ones I read when they were first published.

The authors and time period make these part of my remembrance of Bob Sabella's Visions of Paradise blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beyond the Wall

Editor:  James Lowder

First Publication:  June, 2012

Source:  Netgalley

Publisher:  Smart Pop

Exploring George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire

Next to reading science fiction and fantasy fiction, I enjoy reading all types of non-fiction about the field.  In my teen years the first thing I read in the genre magazines was the book review columns.  Now I do not have to wait for the monthly magazines.  Between blogs and the numerous non-fiction books being published, my to be read list is growing faster than ever.

Editor James Lowder has put together a great collection of articles about Martin's wildly successful "A Song of Ice and Fire".  R. A. Salvatore starts the book off with a perfect forward for this edition.  One of the articles that caught my attention was Myke Cole's commentary on post traumatic stress in the series.  As a reader I did not stop to think about this syndrome.  I know the next time I read the series I will be keeping Cole's article in mind.  That is the sign of great non-fiction writing when the author shows you something you missed in a series.  

Highly recommended.

I read this as part of the "Once Upon a Time VIII" challenge.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doctor Who Time Trips: The Bog Warrior

Author:  Cecelia Ahern

First Publication:  2014

Source:  Netgalley

From Amazon:  Arriving on the planet Cashel, the Tenth Doctor witnesses a strange masked ball. To guarantee peace, Prince Zircon has to choose a bride from the Bog People - dead men and women who have been resurrected as slaves. Or as warriors. But Zircon is in love with the enslaved Princess Ash, whose parents were deposed and executed by the current Queen. As usual, the Doctor has walked right into trouble, and it's up to him to sort it out.

Adapting fairy tales, especially in the Steven Moffat era, as Doctor Who stories is not an unknown concept.  In many ways, Moffat has played around with fairy tales during the Matt Smith era.  What determines the quality of it is the way the author handles the characters.

I enjoyed the previous "Time Trip" I read.  In "Into the Nowhere" author Jenny Colgan nailed the characterization and dialog of the Doctor and Clara.  Here we see the Doctor teamed up with various beings from the planet Cashel.  Unfortunately for me, the story seemed to be going through the paces with a lack of real suspense.  And the characterization seemed to miss the mark.  The mystery of the Queen's power was the most interesting part of the story but it was not enough to excite me about reading the story.  I finished it because it was short.  If it had been a full length novel, I probably would have stopped reading it.  

I would recommend skipping this one.