Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deal Me in Short Story Challenge

Deal Me in Short Story Challenge

For the short story challenge, I am assigning a different writer to each of the suits of the deck.

Hearts-Isaac Asimov
2-Ring Around the Sun
3-The Magnificent Possession
5-The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use
6-Black Friar of the Flame
8-The Secret Sense
9-Homo Sol
10-Half-Breeds on Venus
J-The Imaginary

Clubs-Robert Silverberg
2-The Road to Nightfall
3-The Silent Colony
4-Absolutely Inflexible
5-The Macauley Circuit
6-The Songs of Summer
7-To Be Continued
9-The Artifact Business
10-Collecting Team
J-A Man of Talent
Q-One-Way Journey
K-Sunrise on Mercury

Diamonds-Harlan Ellison
A-The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
2-Along the Scenic Route
3-On the Downhill Side
4-O Ye of Little Faith
7-Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes
10-Delusion for a Dragon Slayer
J-The Face of Helene Bournouw
Q-Bleeding Stones
K-At the Mouse Circus

Spades-John Varley
A-Picnic on Nearside
2-Overdrawn at the Memory Bank
3-In the Hall of the Martian Kings
4-Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance
5-The Barbie Murders
6-The Phantom of Kansas
7-Beatnik Bayou
8-Air Raid
9-The Persistence of Vision
10-Press Enter
J-The Pusher
Q-Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo

Favorites of 2014

As a tribute to the Visions of Paradise blog, I decided to start doing a year end review posting.

2014 saw the sixth anniversary for the blog.  Overall I did not get to post as much as I would have liked but I did read and watch a lot of good science fiction and fantasy this year.


I was torn between a few titles this year but the winner was "A Night in Lonesome October" by Roger Zelazny.  As anyone who has read this blog or spoke to me can tell, I am a huge Zelazny fan.  This year I read four of his books (the others were "Roadmarks", "Jack of Shadows", and "A Dark Traveling").  I plan on continuing my Zelazny reading with "This Immortal" in January.

What made this my favorite book of the year was the combination of prose, storytelling and characterization.  Any time a writer can make a dog the main character and have it seem so human(?) is a gift not everyone has.  


This was another close race.  In the end I went with "Old Paint" by Megan Lindholm.  While it's own story, the author managed to invoke the spirit of Roger Zelazny's short fiction.  I can't think of any greater compliment.


I plan on doing more features inspired by the late Bob Sabella (of the aforementioned "Visions of Paradise").  They will revealed in the near future.  In 2014 I became more involved with NetGalley and that will continue in 2015.  I am joining more reading challenges than I did in the past.  It is a way to help motivate me to keep up to date on my reviews.  In 2014 I read many books that I did not get reviewed.  

Short story reviews will be a regular feature in the upcoming year.

Expect to see more reviews of Zelazny and my other favorite who I did not review in 2014-Isaac Asimov.

2015 will be a year where I am stepping up my game.  I want to look back at the end of 2015 and be happy with my production and level of quality.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge


1.    Hard to be a God by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
2.    The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
3.    Who? by Algis Budrys
4.    The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
5.    If the Stars Are Gods by Gregory Benford & Gordon Eklund
6.    If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
7.    Seas of Ernathe by Jeffrey Carver
8.    Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
9.    A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
10.  This Immortal by Roger Zelazny
11.  Gateway by Frederik Pohl
12.  Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Author:  Joe Haldeman

First Publication:  1981, reprinted 2014

Publisher:  Open Road

Source:  NetGalley

Cover #1:  ???
Cover #2:  Peter A. Jones
Cover #3:  John Harris

The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience

Marianne O’Hara grew up on one of the orbital habitats (hollowed out asteroids that are in Earth orbit).  She leaves her home in New New York to travel to “old” New York to finish her education.  She finds herself pulled into an underground group that plans a peaceful revolt against the repressive government.  Things are not as they seem.  Will she help the Revolution?

“You can’t know space unless you were born there.  You can get used to it, maybe.  You can’t love the surface of a planet it you were born in space.  Not even Earth.  Too big and crowded and nothing between you and the sky.  Things drop in straight lines.” (from the beginning of the novel).

Joe Hdoes a masterful job of pulling the reader into the life of the main character.  Through her eyes, we learn what the Earth has become.  America has gone through a Second Revolution.  Nevada has seceded.  While it might not seem particularly oppressive to us, in comparison to her life on the “worlds” Marianne sees a major difference.  Although this was originally published in 1981, it seems like Haldeman was anticipating a post 9/11 world.  The changes that happened to this world are eerily similar to what happened in the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11.  Haldeman uses her exposure to this world to turn her into a very cynical person.  It is one of the better jobs of writing the growth of a character that I have read in recent times.  The author does not go in depth explaining the history of the future U.S.   Some readers might want to read more about it but I thought that it would have interrupted the flow of the story.  Haldeman chose the better path. 

The focus of this story is centered around the growing contention between the “worlds” and the Earth.  The “worlds” have discovered a valuable source for materials on the Moon.  The Earth government does not want to see this utilized because it would make the “worlds” less dependent on them.

Highly recommended.  The story continues in a second book.

My first Haldeman reading memories are of his short stories in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact (especially “Tricentennial”) and one of my favorite books of that time “All My Sins Remembered”.  This book served as a reminder that I need to read more of his work.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Man in a Cage

Author:  Brian Stableford

First Publication:  1975, reprinted 2014

Publisher:  Open Road Media

Source:  NetGalley

The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience

Harker Lee is known as a prisoner, a survivor, and insane.  These traits combine to make him the perfect candidate to pilot a faster-than-light ship.  All of the previous sane pilots either did not return, returned dead or deranged.  By taking a person who knows how to survive while insane, humanity might be able to leave the cage that is the Earth and spread to the stars.

“In the beginning, you create the heaven and the earth.  That’s the first thing you do, every time-build cages.  And the second thing you do is to pin the labels on.”  (from the beginning of “Man in a Cage”).

Stableford’s own words best sum up the idea behind this novel.  Harker Lee is the schizophrenic narrator of this psychological tale.  While it is short by today’s standards, it is not a quick read.  The basic idea falls in the same sub-genre as some other classics of that time.  I group it with “Mindship” by Gerard F. Conway, “Beyond Apollo” by Barry Malzberg, “The Black Corridor” by Michael Moorcock, “Tetrasomy Two” by Oscar Rossiter, and many of Philip K. Dick’s surreal works.

The author does an excellent job of handling the characterization of someone who is “not normal”.  One of the best things that comes out of well written science fiction is the ability to let us see what it would be like to be different.  Stableford’s stories continue to show that he is a very good writer who has been overlooked.  I would like to get back to reading more of his work in the upcoming year. 

The first works of his that I read were two short stories, “Captain Fagan Died Alone” and “An Offer of Oblivion”.  Both impressed me with “An Offer of Oblivion” being my favorite.  Both are worth looking up and reading if you can find them.

Highly recommended for fans of psychological fiction.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Friedrich the Snowman" by Lewis Shiner

First Publication:  Tor.com, December 2013

Cover Artist:  Ross MacDonald

I remember fondly watching “Frosty the Snowman” on the television each holiday season.  Lewis Shiner must have watched it too.  He incorporates parts of the song into this fascinating short story about reincarnation, being a stranger in a strange land, Nietzche, and the horror of finding your work subverted into something it was not meant to be.  After reading this touching story, “Frosty the Snowman” will never be the same again.  I know I will be thinking of this story every time I hear the song.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hull Zero Three

Author:  Greg Bear

First Publication:  November 2010

Publisher:  Orbit

Source:  Library

Cover:  Shutterstock

The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience

The holidays tend to make me reminisce and this year my thoughts returned to my youth when I make weekly trips to the county library.  My family would go to town on Friday nights to do the banking, go to a couple of stores and stop at the library.  My parents were not science fiction and fantasy fans but they were happy that I enjoyed reading.  I would usually pick up a book or two at the town newsstand, appropriately called “The Village News”, then end up checking out a couple of books from the library.  Especially in the winter, I would read a book in one or two days.  Granted, the books were mostly shorter in those days.