Thursday, December 27, 2012

In Times to Come...

Looking ahead to 2013, two of my favorite "non challenges" are coming up fast.  

Once again, Little Red Reviewer is hosting "The Vintage Science Fiction Not a Challenge".  Any science fiction that appeared before 1979 is eligible.  It runs for the month of January.

Meanwhile over at Stainless Steel Droppings, Carl is coordinating "The 2013 Science Fiction Experience".  Since it goes for January and February, it overlaps with the Vintage Not a Challenge.

The first books I will be reviewing are:

Perry Rhodan #2:  The Third Power by Walter Ernsting
The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Cap Kennedy #2:  Slave Ship from Sergan by Gregory Kern

I will also be participating in the "Dragonflight" readalong.

Other challenges will be added during the year.

Reading Goals

In 2012, I only read and reviewed 14 books.  During my teen years, it was not unusual for me to read three to four books a week.  For 2013, I set a goal or reading and reviewing 50 books.  Based on my reading levels of the past few years, this looks like an impossible goal.  But if you don't set the bar high you never know what you are able to accomplish.

I will also be tracking my short story reading this year.  My goal for this year is to read a minimum of 52 stories.

In recent years I have got in the habit of watching television shows that are okay just because the television is on.  I have gone back to reading even when others in the house are watching shows.  I do plan on continuing to watch shows that I like (Doctor Who) or always wanted to see (Fringe).  I now have the first four seasons of "Fringe".  It is a show that one of my best friends (Terry) raves about.  He also gave me "Lost Girl Season 1" and both seasons of the old "War of the Worlds".  At some point, I plan on returning to my re-watch of "Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine" and my first time viewing of "Farscape".

As far as graphic novels go, I have the following ones ready to read:

Cerebus:  High Society (this is a re-read)
The Comic Book History of Comics
Critical Millenium
Daredevil Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
From Hell
GrimJack:  Killer Instinct
Invincible Vol. 16 to date
Lord of the Jungle Vol. 1
The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1
Rising Stars
Vampirella Vol. 1 (of the current series)
Warlord of Mars

Based on this list, I had best get back to reading.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2012

To Be Read List

This is the start of my 2013 list of books to be read.  I know I won't read all of them but it does make me realize how many books I already have.  The list includes books I have but never read and books I want to re-read.


Salt Adam Roberts
Chasm City Alastair Reynolds
Transit to Scorpio Alan Bert Akers
The Tar-Aiym Krang Alan Dean Foster
Coyote Allen Steele
Dragonflight Anne McCaffrey
The White Dragon
Roadside Picnic
Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey
Arkady&Boris Strugatsky
A Hostage for Hinterland Arsen Darnay
The Purgatory Zone Arsen Darnay
The Siege of FaltaraArsen Darnay
The Kar-Chee Reign
Masters of the Maze
Avram Davidson
Avram Davidson
Ben Bova
Ben Bova
Night Walk Bob Shaw
Vertigo Bob Shaw
Hellhole Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
The Gates of Eden Brian M. Stableford
Rhapsody in Black Brian M. Stableford
Singularity Station Brian N. Ball
Brothers of Earth C. J. Cherryh
Cyteen C. J. Cherryh
Foreigner C. J. Cherryh
Hammerfall C. J. Cherryh
Hunter of Worlds C. J. Cherryh
Merchanter's Luck C. J. Cherryh
Voyager in Night
Northwest of Earth
C. J. Cherryh
C. L. Moore
The Drowning Girl Caitlin R. Kiernan
Floating Worlds Cecilia Holland
Divergence Charles Sheffield
The Inverted World
Star Trek Typhon Pact 1:  Zero Sum Game
Star Trek Vanguard 1:  Harbinger
Christopher Priest
David Mack
David Mack
Doris Piserchia
Helix Eric Brown
Destination:  Void Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah Frank Herbert
Jem Frederik Pohl
Mindship Gerard F. Conway
Starmaster's Gambit Gerard Klein
Heads Greg Bear
The Quantum Thief Hannu Rajaniemi
The Mind Net Herbert W. Franke
The Orchid Cage Herbert W. Franke
Consider Phlebas Iain M. Banks
The Lucifer Comet Ian Wallace
Miracle Visitors Ian Watson
Under Heaven's Bridge Ian Watson & Michael Bishop
Forward the Foundation Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Earth Isaac Asimov
Foundation's Edge Isaac Asimov
Nemesis Isaac Asimov
Pebble in the Sky Isaac Asimov
Prelude to Foundation Isaac Asimov
Robots and Empire Isaac Asimov
Second Foundation Isaac Asimov
The Currents of Space Isaac Asimov
The End of Eternity Isaac Asimov
The Gods Themselves Isaac Asimov
The Naked Sun Isaac Asimov
The Robots of Dawn Isaac Asimov
The Stars, Like Dust Isaac Asimov
The Hobbit
The Best of IF Vol. 3
J. R. R. Tolkien
James Baen-editor
Inherit the Stars James P. Hogan
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie
The Heroes Joe Abercrombie
Seeklight K. W. Jeter
The Dreamfields K. W. Jeter
Queen of Candesce Karl Schroeder
Sun of Suns Karl Schroeder
The Star Fraction Ken MacLeod
The Stone Canal
Land Beyond the Map
Ken MacLeod
Kenneth Bulmer
The Disappeared Kristine Katherine Rusch
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Fleet of Worlds Larry Niven
Inferno Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Under the Green Star
Lavie Tidhar
Lin Carter
The City Machine
Lords of the Starship
Out of the Mouth of the Dragon
Linda Nagata
Louis Trimble
Mark Geston
Mark Geston
Siege of Wonder
Prince of Thorns
The Handmaid's Tale
Mothers and Other Monsters
Mark Geston
Mark Lawrence
Margaret Atwood
Maureen F. McHugh
Eyes of Fire Michael Bishop
CharismaMichael Coney
The January Dancer
Theft of Swords
Star Trek Stargazer 1:  The Valiant
Star Trek Titan 1:  Taking Wing
Michael Flynn
Michael J. Sullivan
Michael Jan Friedman
Michael Martin&Andy Mangels
Antares Dawn Michael McCollum
Nifft the Lean Michael Shea
Crossfire Nancy Kress
American Gods Neil Gaiman
Clay's Ark Octavia Butler
The Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss
The Quiet War Paul J. McAuley
The Walls of the Universe Paul Melko
The Windup Girl Paulo Bacigalupi
Pandora's Star Peter Hamilton
Peter Watts
Peter Watts
Dark as the Sun Philip Jose Farmer
Dayworld Philip Jose Farmer
The Wind Whales of Ishmael Philip Jose Farmer
The Stone God Awakes Philip Jose Farmer
A Maze of Death Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly Philip K. Dick
Clans of the Alphane Moon Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said Philip K. Dick
Martian Time-Slip Philip K. Dick
Now Wait for Last Year Philip K. Dick
Solar Lottery Philip K. Dick
The Divine Invasion Philip K. Dick
The Game-Players of Titan Philip K. Dick
The Man in the High Castle Philip K. Dick
The Man Who Japed Philip K. Dick
The Simulacra Philip K. Dick
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer Philip K. Dick
Valis Philip K. Dick
We Can Build You Philip K. Dick
Deus Irae

Philip K. Dick & Roger Zelazny
Piers Anthony
A Circus of Hells Poul Anderson
A Knight of Ghosts & Shadows Poul Anderson
The Day of Their Return Poul Anderson
The People of the Wind Poul Anderson
The Peregrine Poul Anderson
The Rebel Worlds Poul Anderson
The Trouble Twisters Poul Anderson
Trader to the Stars Poul Anderson
World Without Stars Poul Anderson
Fourth Mansions R. A. Lafferty
Blake's Progress R. F. Nelson
Wind Dancers
The Best of Raymond Z. Gallun
R. M. Meluch
Raymond Z. Gallun
The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
Forbidden Sanctuary Richard Bowker
Lord of Death and Life
Richard Kadry
Robert E. Vardeman
The Shrouded Planet Robert Randall
The Best of Robert Silverberg
Robert Sawyer
Robert Silverberg
Hawksbill Station Robert Silverberg
Kingdoms of the Wall Robert Silverberg
Project Pendulum Robert Silverberg
Thorns Robert Silverberg
Tower of Glass Robert Silverberg
Up the Line Robert Silverberg
Bridge of Ashes Roger Zelazny
Creatures of Light and Darkness Roger Zelazny
Damnation Alley Roger Zelazny
Doorways in the Sand Roger Zelazny
Eye of Cat Roger Zelazny
Isle of the Dead Roger Zelazny
Jack of Shadows Roger Zelazny
Lord of Light Roger Zelazny
Roadmarks Roger Zelazny
The Dream Master Roger Zelazny
This Immortal Roger Zelazny
To Die in Italbar Roger Zelazny
Today We Choose Faces Roger Zelazny
Trumps of Doom
Unicorn Variations
Roger Zelazny
Roger Zelazny
Psychoshop Roger Zelazny & Alfred Bester
Nova Samuel R. Delany
City of a Thousand Suns
Driftglass and Other Stories
Samuel R. Delany
Samuel R. Delany
Out of the Dead City Samuel R. Delany
The Einstein Intersection Samuel R. Delany
The Jewels of Aptor Samuel R. Delany
The Towers of Toron Samuel R. Delany
The Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch
Grass Sherri Tepper
The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum
Stanislaw Lem
Stanley G. Weinbaum
Dodger Terry Pratchett
Making Money Terry Pratchett
The Color of Magic Terry Pratchett
More Than Human Theodore Sturgeon
The Dispossessed Ursula K. Le Guin
The Lathe of Heaven Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

From Amazon:

In the climactic finale of The Corwin Saga of The Chronicles of Amber, the man clad in black with a silver rose at his throat takes it upon himself to draw a new pattern, so that there may yet be order in the universe, regardless of the outcome of the war between Chaos and Amber. In order to do this, he will have to travel with the Jewel of Judgment beyond the bounds of order and chaos, to a no man's land where the coming storm will not be able to harm him. But many forces are out to thwart his mission, including his brother, the traitorous sorcerer Brand.

My heart would always race when I received a new issue of Galaxy Science Fiction and the cover featured a new Amber story by Roger Zelazny.  The November 1977 issue showcased a cover by Wendy Pini.  Corwin is staring at the Jewel of Judgement.  In the background we see a storm rapidly approaching while in front of Corwin is a more pastoral land.  And the story never slows down after this point.

This one has it all.  People live, people die, worlds are born, all of reality is threatened with destruction, secrets are revealed.  Everything I wanted in a story was packed into this series.  Including the basis for the next five book arc.  Unfortunately, Zelazny was planning to write a third arc for the series when he died.  A few short stories appeared but we will never find out what he had planned for the rest of the series.  

The Chronicles of Amber receive my highest recommendation.  I know I will return for my fifth reading in a few years.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Halcyon Drift by Brian M. Stableford

The series is the story of star pilot Grainger, who is forced by circumstances, after his own ship is destroyed in a disastrous crash, to accept a job flying a new ship, the Hooded Swan, that is a fusion of human and alien technologies. She is faster and more manoeuvrable than any previous design, but despite the opportunity offered, Grainger resents the fact he is employed simply as a pilot but denied the position of Captain, and cannot resign at any time during his two-year contract without dire financial penalties that he regards as thoroughly unjust. In fact Grainger regards his terms of employment as making him little more than a slave, or at least an indentured servant. However, left little alternative by his financial situation, Grainger takes the job, and carries out a variety of assignments for his new masters, accompanied by the unwelcome alien symbiote sharing his brain.

My first exposure to Stableford's writing was his short story "An Offer of Oblivion" that appeared in Amazing Science Fiction.  It is part of a loosely connected series that is followed by the very good "Captain Fagan Died Alone" from "The DAW Science Fiction Reader".  They are worth looking up.  After I enjoyed his short story I went in search of his novels.  In the 70s, i was limited to what was in the library and new books on the newstands in our small town.  That is when i first found the last two books of this series ("The Hooded Swan").  The final two books were some of my favorites from that era.

Now I am going back and reading the series from the beginning.  I found this first story a disappointment.  Stableford violates one of the rules of writing.  He spends much of the early part telling us about events instead of showing them to us.  The elements of a good novel are all there but the execution undercuts the effectiveness of the story.  Based on my memories of the later books, I think this is just a temporary problem that the author corrects with future books.  I will find out when I read book two ("Rhapsody in Black").

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny

Book four of The Chronicles of Amber features Corwin on a trip to the true Amber.  He discovers the source of the Black Road and finds out what it will take to repair it.  He also determines that his father (Oberon) is still a master strategist.  His hand is guiding the pieces into place for the final battle.  The final page had a big revelation that had me anxious to read the next book when I first read it.

Rick Sternbach supplied the cover to the May 1976 of Galaxy Science Fiction that featured part 1 (of 3) of the serial.  One of the many reasons I loved Jim Baen's time as editor of Galaxy was because he published "Sign of the Unicorn", "The Hand of Oberon", and "The Courts of Chaos".  This is not the kind of story you would expect Sternbach to draw the cover for but it is a fascinating different type of cover for him.

The first five books of the original Amber series remains one of my favorite series.  It is hard to discuss events from this book without revealing too much.

The author appears as "Roger" a pipe smoking guard in the dungeons of Amber.  The guard is writing "philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity."  This is fitting since one of the main themes is the true nature of reality.

All I will say is that Zelazny plays fair with the big final revelation.  When re-reading the series you can see where he planted the clues to this one.  Like all good mystery writers, he gave the reader a chance to solve the puzzle.

Anyone who likes fantasy epics, parallel worlds, hard boiled main characters, and great mysteries will love this series.  I can not recommend the first five books too highly.  The second five are still good but are a step down from the original five.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I, Vampire Vol. 1: Tainted Love

As a sign of my age, I have to admit that I remember picking up J. M. DeMatteis’ original stories of I, Vampire.  It ran as a series of short stories in the old “House of Mystery” title in the seventies.  Marvel Comics had the excellent “Tomb of Dracula” by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan.  DeMatteis came up with a new vampire series that featured original characters.  Although it did not live up to the Wolfman/Colan classic, “I, Vampire” was a good series in its own right.  I had my doubts as to how good the new series would be.  They were laid to rest when I read a creator owned book by the same author (Joshua Fialkov).

Fialkov is rapidly climbing my list of favorite current comic book writers.  He kept the same basic idea for the basis of the series.  Andrew, a vampire, opposes the other vampires.  He wants to live in peace with the humans.  His lover, Mary also becomes a vampire but she embraces the dark side of the curse.  Over the ages she has taken the name Mary, Queen of Blood.  The two have been locked in a love/hate relationship.  Mary wants to take over the world.  Andrew goes after her forces and tries to destroy them.

In this first story line, the battle makes its way to Gotham City.  Guess who becomes involved?  Of the DC superheroes, Batman is one of the better fits for this series.  The mood and atmosphere seems perfect for Batman.  As the story ends, an even bigger threat emerges…

The combination of excellent characterization and story telling by Fialkov and the moody art of Sorrentino make for a very interesting book. 

Highly recommended for fans of vampires, or just well told stories.