Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is there a right length for a science fiction story?

I have heard that the novella is the ideal length for a science fiction story. In some ways I have to agree. The short story does not allow enough room for the idea to be presented and the characters to be fleshed out. Over the years I have enjoyed many novellas in Galaxy, Worlds of IF, Analog, the Magazinze of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Amazing.

What is your favorite length?

I tend to favor a short novel like those that were published in the sixties and seventies. It seems like the author is more focused on the story in these books. The stories kept your interest. I was more likely to try a new author if I thought I could read the novel in a few days. The length of many of today's novels discourage readers from trying new authors.

What started me thinking about this? Two things.

First is one of the novels I am currently reading. It is by an author I have never read. The book looked good. The writing is good but to be honest, I was not in a hurry to pick the book up when I took a break from reading. At the local used bookstore, I found a copy of a Philip Jose Farmer book I have not read. I stopped reading the first book and tore into the Farmer book. Once I started it I did not want to stop. I like that in a book. It does not have to be cliffhanger endings to chapters. Sometimes it is the plot, sometimes it is the characters but some books are hard to put down. And this leads into the second thing on my list.

A review on SF Signal. Their review of Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny. I loved this story when it first appeared in Analog. Between it and the early Amber books, Zelazny became one of my favorite authors. The author of the review, Fred Kiesche, comments that this 180 page novel always charms him when he re-reads it. It is economic in language, packed full of ideas, and it still surprises him when he reads it again. I wonder how many of the giant doorstop novels will have that effect on readers in the future.

This does not mean that I will not read a long novel, one look at my bookshelf would tell you otherwise, but I will most likely continue to focus on shorter novels. Sometimes I will post reviews of longer novels. There are many forgotten classics like Doorways in the Sand. I will do my part to help people remember or discover them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Broken Cycle by A. Bertram Chandler


John Grimes is lost inside a giant alien spaceship. In addition to being lost, he discovers that they are also in an alternate universe. The entity who has captured Grimes appears to be the "god" of this other universe. His only companion in this adventure is the policewoman-Una Freeman. The alien "god" wants them to recreate the Garden of Eden. With Grimes involved, things are not going the way the entity plans.

Chandler was an Australian born author who wrote the first Hornblower in Space series. Back in the seventies, I read and enjoyed many of the Grimes books. Some I picked up in the old Ace Double books and others in DAW editions. Somehow, I had missed out on this one until I found it in a used book store last year. The Grimes novels are classic pulp style series fiction. The length is short and the action is fast. Due to the length the plots were not as complicated as some of the space opera novels published today. In some ways I miss the shorter novels.

The Broken Cycle was not up to the quality of many of the other Grimes books. I thought the first chapters focused too much on everyone trying to sleep with Una. It seemed to dominate the plot. The rest of the novel was okay but did not put it near the top of the other books in this series. I would recommend reading The Way Back, The Anarch Lords, or To Keep the Ship.

Rating: 2 out of 5.