Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Lists and other subjects

I plan on publishing my recommended reading list for science fiction and fantasy. It will appear next Friday. The foundation is built. I started with all the books that have been nominated for a Hugo or Nebula. Now I am reviewing the list and making adjustments. This will be an ongoing project.

Monday's review will be The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson.

Tuesday through Thursday will continue my SF Experience postings. One of them will be about my time exchanging letters with Donald A. Wollheim. Everytime I see a DAW book(especially the ones with the yellow spine) I am reminded of Donald.

I just started reading Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn. Has anybody posted a review of it yet? Maybe I have missed them but it does not seem like Zahn's books get many reviews.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 SF Experience-Tom Swift Jr.

After I finished reading the Winston Science Fiction series, I went in search of more science fiction books to read. Luckily, the Tom Swift Jr. novels by Victor Appleton II were being reprinted and were widely available. The first one I picked up was Tom Swift and the Asteroid Pirates. This summary from the title page shows why it appealed to me.

A violent explosion in space touches off one of the most thrill-packed adventures in Tom Swift Jr.'s scientific career. The appalling news that a cargo rocket has disintegrated while en route with vital supplies to Swift Enterprises' research base on the asteroid, Nestria, sounds a grim warning that the lives of Nestria's personnel are at stake.
To rescue the marooned men, Tom undertakes a hazardous voyage to Nestria, only to find the way blocked by an invisible barrier of deadly radiation created by an unknown enemy whose objective is possession of the base.
Tension mounts at Swift Enterprises when a mysterious Oriental is shot while attempting to warn Tom that his life is in danger from the Black Cobra. The Oriental's mumbled warning, plus some revealing data collected by United States Intelligence, sends Tom winging to a secret fortress in South America for the first encounter with his inscrutable foe.
But the decisive encounter is destined to take place in space. How Tom uses his new invention, the magnetic deflector, to crack the radiation barrier around Nestria, and how the young space scientist and his crewmen pit their wits and courage against the asteroid pirates and their diabolical leader, the Black Cobra, will hold every reader breathless with suspense.

They featured a teenage inventor who went on Indiana Jones style adventures. He was similar to a teenage Tony (Iron Man) Stark. Tom and his best friend Bud starred in 33 novels. The books were similar to the Winston books except they featured a continuing cast. It was fun to read about Tom and his adventures. Truly a thinking man's adventure series. The part that really amazed me was when I found an older book at a used book store. This older book featured Tom's father in his own series of adventures. Over the years, I have seen some attempts at reviving Tom but they never did measure up to the original Tom Swift Jr. adventures.

The titles alone are enough to get your blood pumping. They were definitely inspired by the old pulp magazines.

1. Tom Swift and his Flying Lab (1954)
2. Tom Swift and his Jetmarine (1954)
3. Tom Swift and his Rocket Ship (1954)
4. Tom Swift and his Giant Robot (1954)
5. Tom Swift and his Atomic Earth Blaster (1954)
6. Tom Swift and his Outpost in Space (1955)
7. Tom Swift and his Diving Seacopter (1956)
8. Tom Swift in the Caves of Nuclear Fire (1956)
9. Tom Swift on the Phantom Satellite (1956)
10. Tom Swift and his Ultrasonic Cycloplane (1957)
11. Tom Swift and his Deep-Sea Hydrodome (1958)
12. Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon (1958)
13. Tom Swift and his Space Solartron (1958)
14. Tom Swift and his Electronic Retroscope (1959)
15. Tom Swift and his Spectromarine Selector (1960)
16. Tom Swift and the Cosmic Astronauts (1960)
17. Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X (1961)
18. Tom Swift and the Electronic Hydrolung (1961)
19. Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar (1962)
20. Tom Swift and his Megascope Space Prober (1962)
21. Tom Swift and the Asteroid Pirates (1963)
22. Tom Swift and his Repelatron Skyway (1963)
23. Tom Swift and his Aquatomic Tracker (1964)
24. Tom Swift and his 3D Telejector (1964)
25. Tom Swift and his Polar-Ray Dynasphere (1965)
26. Tom Swift and his Sonic Boom Trap (1965)
27. Tom Swift and his Subocean Geotron (1966)
28. Tom Swift and the Mystery Comet (1966)
29. Tom Swift and the Captive Planetoid (1967)
30. Tom Swift and his G-Force Inverter (1968)
31. Tom Swift and his Dyna-4 Capsule (1969)
32. Tom Swift and his Cosmotron Express (1970)
33. Tom Swift and the Galaxy Ghosts (1971)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Reviewers Links

Courtesy of Grasping for the Wind, here is the book reviewers list.

7 Foot Shelves
The Accidental Bard
A Boy Goes on a Journey
A Dribble Of Ink
A Hoyden's Look at Literature
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
Andromeda Spaceways
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Ask Daphne
Australia Specfic in Focus
Author 2 Author
Barbara Martin
Bees (and Books) on the Knob
Bibliophile Stalker
The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf
Bitten by Books
The Black Library Blog
Blog, Jvstin Style
Blood of the Muse
The Book Bind
The Book Smugglers
The Book Swede
Breeni Books
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Cheryl's Musings
Critical Mass
The Crotchety Old Fan
Damien G. Walter
Danger Gal
It's Dark in the Dark
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dear Author
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
The Discriminating Fangirl
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve's Alexandria
Fantastic Reviews
Fantastic Reviews Blog
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog
Feminist SF - The Blog!
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
Frances Writes
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
Fruitless Recursion
The Galaxy Express
The Gamer Rat
Garbled Signals
Genre Reviews
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Gripping Books
Highlander's Book Reviews
The Hub Magazine
Hyperpat's Hyper Day
Ink and Keys
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
King of the Nerds
Lair of the Undead Rat
League of Reluctant Adults
The Lensman's Children
Literary Escapism
Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars
Michele Lee's Book Love
The Mistress of Ancient Revelry
MIT Science Fiction Society
Monster Librarian
More Words, Deeper Hole
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
The New Book Review
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat's Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
Piaw's Blog
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher's Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Reviewer X
The Road Not Taken
Rob's Blog o' Stuff
Robots and Vamps
Sandstorm Reviews
Sci Fi Wire
Sci-Fi Fan Letter
The Sci-Fi Gene
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Science Fiction Times
The Sequential Rat
Severian's Fantastic Worlds
SF Diplomat
SF Gospel
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World's Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
The Specusphere
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Spiral Galaxy Reviews
Spontaneous Derivation
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stainless Steel Droppings
Stella Matutina
The Sudden Curve
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Tehani Wessely
Temple Library Reviews [also a publisher]
True Science Fiction
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
With Intent to Commit Horror
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
Young Adult Science Fiction

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation] [French]

Foundation of Krantas [Chinese (traditional)]

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [Chinese (traditional) with some English essays]

Yenchin's Lair [Chinese (traditional)]

Interstellar [Danish] [Danish]

Scifisiden [Danish]

Aguarras [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Fernando Trevisan [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Human 2.0 [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm [Brazilian, Porteguese]

Ponto De Convergencia [Brazilian, Portuguese]

pós-estranho [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Skavis [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Fantasy Seiten [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Buch [German, Deustche]

Literaturschock [German, Deustche]

Welt der fantasy [German, Deustche]

Bibliotheka Phantastika [German, Deustche]

SF Basar [German, Deustche]

Phantastick News [German, Deustche]

X-zine [German, Deustche]

Buchwum [German, Deustche]

Phantastick Couch [German, Deustche]

Wetterspitze [German, Deustche]

Fantasy News [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Faszination [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Guide [German, Deustche]

Zwergen Reich [German, Deustche]

Fiction Fantasy [German, Deustche]

2009 SF Experience-The Winston Science Fiction series

After discovering and enjoying The Runaway Robot I went in search of something similar to read. Fortunately, I had become friends with our reading teacher. She had inherited a room with many shelves and boxes of books. Two of my friends and I offered to give up a few recess periods a week to organize the books. First we unpacked and alphabetized the books. Then we created a card catalog. It was an interesting experience that made us appreciate librarians.

I knew I wanted to read more books like The Runaway Robot but I did not know what authors to look for. The Winston Science Fiction series came to my rescue. The rocket ship logo was a visible clue that led the way to the science fiction treasure in our reading room.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have experienced the Winston series, here is a short explanation from Wikipedia.

Juvenile science fiction hard covers had been published for some time prior to the beginning of the Winston series, most notably the
Tom Swift series published from 1910-1941. However, as the Tom Swift series declined, and the economic pressures of World War II escalated, juvenile offerings became slim.

The Winston Publishing Company had a history of publishing material for youth since the early part of the 20th century, such as the Young People's Library of Entertainment and Amusement and The Forward Series for Boys and Girls.[2] After the publication of Robert A. Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo in 1947 revived the juvenile science fiction market, The Winston Publishing Company decided to develop a juvenile science fiction series that would be set apart from the pulp fiction of its time. Known and respected SF authors were hired, and each novel was to include a factual forward explaining the science and technology referenced in the novel. The publisher's announcement of the series in Publishers Weekly clearly outlines the goals of the series:

Five compelling tales designed TO SELL to the expanding science fiction market! Only writers who have won the respect of the science fiction audience have been signed to write these accurate yet absorbing books. Each contains an explanation of new terms and a discussion of its scientific aspects. ... For all ages.

For my fifth grade mind, this was like hitting it big in the lottery. This series introduced me to many new authors and expanded my definition of science fiction. I learned to explore the ocean depths through titles like Attack from Atlantis and Sons of the Ocean Deeps. I traveled through the Solar System by reading Battle on Mercury, Five Against Venus, Marooned on Mars, Missing Men of Saturn, The Secret of Saturn's Rings, Trouble on Titan, Rocket to Luna, and others. The titles alone are enough to bring back happy memories of those days.

My favorite from that series was a book called The Star Conquerors. Imagine my surprise when I found the science fiction magazines and saw the name of the author of The Star Conquerors listed as the editor of Analog. And to this day, Ben Bova is still writing good science fiction books. Every time he releases a new book, I smile and remember the days when I first discovered science fiction.

Winston Science Fiction(list courtesy of Wikipedia)

Tomorrow I finish move on to the Tom Swift Jr. series.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 SF Experience-The Runaway Robot

As I started thinking about my experiences in SF for the 2009 SF Experience, the song "Reminiscing" by Little River Band played in my head. I always hear "soundtracks" when I am writing. I guess it is time to get out their greatest hits CD and listen to that song.

My first sf book was The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. I was looking for something to buy from the Scholastic Book Club way back in 1970. I was in fifth grade and had not locked into one particular genre that captured my attention. For some reason the robot on the cover caught my eye. A friend of mine said he liked that book so I ordered it. Thinking back, I can not remember if I read it all in one evening or if it took 2 nights. One thing I do remember is I found a genre that I could call home. From that day on, I was devouring anything that resembled science fiction. I have thought about going back and re-reading that book today but I am afraid that it could never live up to my memories. Some things are better when they are left in the past. After reading this review at Starlight Fading I think I will try to track it down and read it again. Back then, not many stories featured the point of view of a robot. Rex the domestic robot starts to develop human feelings and goes in search of the boy he is separated from.

Until I started researching The Runaway Robot for this posting, I did not realize that Lester Del Rey only wrote the outline for the book. Records show that the book was written by Paul W. Fairman based on Del Rey's outline. I thank both authors for introducing me to science fiction.

Join me tomorrow for the Winston Science Fiction series.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt

The first book I read in 2009 was a good one. Somehow, I had missed the career of Jack McDevitt. When I recently returned from my SF sabbatical I kept hearing about McDevitt's books. As is usual for me, I managed to pick up a few of his books before I found the first one in the Alex Benedict series. Now I see why so many readers like his novels.

A Talent for War sets the basic premise of the series. The death of Alex's uncle has left a mystery to be solved. With the aid of Chase Kolpath, Alex sets out to solve the mystery of what his uncle was researching. Although the story slows down in spots, overall it is an exciting story as the clues are revealed. Every time progress is being made another obstacle is thrown in their path. In this case, the journey is worth the effort. The author does a great job of showing how history is not always what it appears to be. But there is usually a good reason for the way history is reported.

I will be looking forward to reading other books by this author. In some ways this seems inspired by the sf mysteries of Isaac Asimov(The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun). If I had read this in 1989 when it was first published, I know I would have followed McDevitt through his many novels. Now, I have a stack of books to add to my must read pile.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Additions to the Reading Stack

Yesterday I went to the local (35 miles away) Barnes and Noble. I had some birthday money in my wallet so that meant I was filling in some holes in my collection. The following books won out.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi
The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Space Vulture by Gary Wolfe and Archbishop John J. Myers
The Moon Pool by A. Merritt
Last Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn
Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter

Scalzi is on my list of authors I want to read in 2009. I previously picked up The Ghost Brigade. This is a series I am really looking forward to reading.

From the reviews I have read, Space Vulture sounds like a good old fashioned Planet Stories type tale. It should be fun.

The Moon Pool is by a classic author. I like reading some of the older stories to see where the genre got it's start.

Last Train to Rigel seems to combine 2 of my favorite genres. The first is the classic film noir stories embodied by Bogie in the black and white films. The second is, of course, science fiction. If this one is good, I will look for the follow up novel(The Third Lynx).

Stephen Baxter is another author I have never read. It sounds like this collection is a good overview of his main series.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If everything works right, I plan on posting a book review each Monday. This will start next Monday. Already I have read the first 2 books. I am part way through a 3rd. I will try to get a good stack of reviews of shorter books built up before I dig into some longer ones. It will give me a chance to read through some of the older books I have collected.

My current schedule is...
1/26 A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt
2/02 The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
2/09 Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"In the Arena" by Brian W. Aldiss

Recently, I found a copy of Frederick Pohl's The Second IF Reader of Science Fiction. I have read many good stories that Pohl published in Worlds of IF so I was looking forward to this collection.

Javlin is a fighter in the arena. The only ways out of the arena are to win 12 bouts or die. Javlin has won his last 11 bouts when he gets the bad news. He has to fight as part of a team. And his teammate is a woman. The story focuses on the pair getting to know each other. It ends with them charging into the arena.

Brian Aldiss has written many classic science fiction stories. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. I was surprised to see this in a collection of the best from Worlds of IF. The only reason it I believe it was selected was the author's reputation. Personally, I would rather read a good story by an unknown author than a weak story by a big name writer.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Great Wall of Mars"

This year, I plan on reading many of the authors I have not tried yet. First on my list is Alastair Reynolds. Adam, at Visions of Paradise, recommended Galactic North. The first story I read was "Great Wall of Mars".

I was very impressed with Reynolds. It did not take me long to get into the story. The background is filled in and was easy to pick up. Humanity has divided into 3 groups. The humans, the Demarchists (who use implants to create an "instant" democracy) and the Conjoiners(similar to Star Trek's Borg). Neil Clavain is sent on a peace mission to the Conjoiners base within the Great Wall. The Great Wall is an interesting concept. It is the only thing that is protecting the Conjoiners on Mars. Neil's brother ambushes his brother's ship and makes it look like the Conjoiners did it. Neil makes it to the base and meets up with his former captor, the Conjoiner Galiana. Neil's interaction with Galiana and the young Felka is the backbone of this story.

An excellent story that definitely made me a fan of Reynolds. I will be looking for his other works.