Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living

Author:  Paul Collins

Publisher:  New Harvest

First Publication:  August 20, 2014

As it is approaching the fall time of the year, I thought it would be interesting to read about the life of Edgar Allan Poe.  Unfortunately “The Fear of Living” missed the mark for me.  It was interesting to read about some of the incidents of Poe’s life.  I was looking for more poetic writing but thought this book was a little “dry”.  I have no reason to question the facts presented here but will look for another book that does a better job of  drawing you into the life of Edgar Allan Poe.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jubilee


Author:  Karl Schroeder

First Publication:  2014

Source:  Amazon

Publisher:  Tor

Cover:  Victor Mosquerra

Karl Schroeder is an author I always thought of trying but never got around to it.  When I saw “Jubilee” was available I thought it would be a perfect time to try his work.  It is a far future version of “Romeo and Juliet”.  The other thing is that it belongs to the same universe as his recent “Lockstep” novel.  Schroeder chooses to tell the story from one of the planet’s natives who is supporting the main story.  If this is typical Schroeder, I have another author to add to my must read list.  He seamlessly works in classic style science fiction ideas with a modern storytelling style. 


Based on this story, I have to read “Lockstep” in the near future.  

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

World Without Stars

Author:  Poul Anderson

First Publication:  1967

Source:  News stand

Publisher:  Ace Books

Serial:  Analog June & July 1966

Cover 1:  Michael Whelan

Cover 2:  Kelly Freas

Cover 3:  Chesley Bonestell

Way back in the days I bought books off a spinner rack at a newsstand, one series of books seemed to jump off the racks at me.  They were the reissues of Poul Anderson’s novels with new covers by Michael Whelan.  Whelan has created many classic covers but one of my favorites was always his one for this cover.  To this day I still can spend time staring at it.

A bonus, in addition to the cover, was the fiction of Poul Anderson.  I had previously read one of his Dominic Flandry novels in the final issues of “Worlds of IF”.  That was “A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows”.  It led me to search out other books he wrote.

“World Without Stars” has many classic elements.  Travel to an alien world, trying to establish trade relations, alien contact, and a traveler who is separated from the woman he loves.  That relationship is what ties the book together.


At this short length, I would recommend reading this Anderson classic.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Roadmarks

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
#4-Voorloper

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 Tor.com 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.