Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cap Kennedy 1: Galaxy of the Lost by Gregory Kern

I miss series like Cap Kennedy. One of the first series that hooked me on science fiction was Perry Rhodan. It was perfect for a young fan. New books appeared every month. Then DAW decided to publish their own version. Donald Wollheim contacted E. C. Tubb (writer of the popular Dumarest series) about writing a new house series for him. Cap was a mix of James Bond, Perry Rhodan, and Doc Savage.

In this book, starships are disappearing in the "Bermuda Triangle" of space. Cap goes undercover on a ship that is travelling through this sector. Cap's ship disappears.

"Galaxy of the Lost" is a fun, quick read. This is a fun introduction to pulp style science fiction. I know that Cap Kennedy and Perry Rhodan are not great science fiction but they are a good way to introduce a young reader to the field. If you are looking for deep science fiction that really makes you think, avoid this series.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I have decided to set some goals for this site.

So far I have reviewed 18 books and 7 short stories. Due to various factors, I have not read as much as usual this year. Between now and the end of December of 2010, I will attempt to review 100 books and 100 short stories. It sounds crazy when you look at my current output but I think I can do it.

Only time will tell if I can do it.

Short Story Review Index

Aldiss, Brian W. "In the Arena"

Asimov, Isaac "Button, Button" 
                       "Day of the Hunters"
                       "Let's Not"
                       "Shah Guido G"
                       "The Monkey's Finger"
                       "The Pause"

Bartell, David "Misquoting the Star"

Baxter, Stephen "The Ghost Pit"

Bradbury, Ray  "The Playground"

Dickson, Gordon R.  "Act of Creation"

Farmer, Philip Jose  "The Sliced-Crosswise Only-On-Tuesday World"

Heinlein, Robert A.  "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag"

Hemry, John G. "The Bookseller of Bastet"

Kress, Nancy "By Fools Like Me"

Lake, Jay ""Hello", Said the Gun"

Lovett, Richard A. and Mark Niemann-Ross  Phantom Sense

Martin, George R. R. "Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels"
                                   "Remembering Melody"
                                   "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr"
                                    "The Second Kind of Loneliness"
                                  "With Morning Comes Mistfall"

Nagle, Pati  "Draw"

Plante, Brian "The Astronaut"

Resnick, Mike "All the Things You Are"

Reynolds, Alastair  "Scales"
                             "The Great Wall of Mars"
Shaara, Michael "Beast in the House"

Shaw, Bob  "Light of Other Days"

Simak, Clifford D.  "The Birch Clump Cylinder"

Smith, Cordwainer "No, No, Not Rogov!"

Sturgeon, Theodore "The Graveyard Reader"

Wolfe, Gene  "A Fish Story"
                      "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories"

Zelazny, Roger   "And I Alone Am Escaped to Tell Thee" 
                         "Devil Car"
                         "Dismal Light"
                         "Love is an Imaginary Number"
                         "The Engine at Heartspring's Center" 
                         "The George Business"
                         "The Man Who Loved the Faoli"
                         "The Monster and the Maiden"
                         "The Naked Matador"
                         "The Night has 999 Eyes"
                         "The Stainless Steel Leech"

Monday, September 14, 2009

"The Graveyard Reader" by Theodore Sturgeon

The Graveyard Reader by Theodore Sturgeon

Published in Science Fantasy, 1958.

This is a different type of story to read for R.I.P. IV. The title led me to believe this would be a scary story. I was not exactly sure what a "graveyard reader" was but it sounded like the title to a good spooky tale. What I ended up reading was an excellent story that initially was not frightening. But then, upon further thought, it was a very scary story.

How many people would be happy to find that others could read their grave after they die? Would you want all of your secrets and actions revealed to others? Probably not. Sturgeon is an author I have not read much. After reading this story, he goes on my must read list. It is not a flashy story but it is well written.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

What do you think of when you see a copy of The Invisible Man? Normally, I think of a man's descent into darkness. Wells is able to create numerous full blown characters in this short novel. What amazed me this time around was the sympathy I felt for the Invisible Man early in the story. It seems like he is being discriminated against. Children make fun of him. Adults don't even try to think of his feelings. It turns out that they are right. He is evil but would his story have taken a different path if the villagers had shown him compassion? I don't know but it does make you think. Next time you see someone being ignored or picked on, think back to this story.

It makes me think that sometimes people are the scariest things in the world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Beast in the House" by Michael Shaara

Published in Orbit#4(1954)

Beast in the House was a very interesting story. The beast in the title is an ordinary looking dog that wanders into the yard. Nothing sounds scary so far. Then, the mother notices that the dog seems to be watching her. But something else does not seem right. The dog's ears do not move when sounds are made. Every dog she has ever seen has it's ears move in reaction to sounds.

In another part of the neighborhood, a man finds the dead body of a dog. The dog has been skinned. What would do something like that? And why?

After reading this story, I know I will be looking at stray dogs more carefully.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tetrasomy Two by Oscar Rossiter

Sometimes a book just jumps out at you. That was the case with this book. I was checking out at a used book store when I saw a table of discounted books. As I scanned the table I saw the name "Tetrasomy Two". The name catches your attention. Reading the back cover made me think of a Philip K. Dick novel.

The mind that runs the universe is locked in the body of a person in an asylum. What better place to hide?

The author naturally reveals the personality of the various characters until you start thinking of them as real people. The main character is Dr. Boyd. He reminds me of Monk on the USA Network TV show. It is obvious that he has numerous problems. As the story progresses the reader starts thinking that the doctor might be going insane. Are any of the things described by the doctor happening or is he suffering a breakdown? The reader is not sure until the final two pages.

I must also admit to being surprised by the revelation near the end. I will not spoil it for you but you will know what I mean when you read it. It was one of those great moments that made sense after you read it.

If you are a fan of Philip K. Dick or Barry Malzberg, hunt down this book. You will enjoy it.

After finishing it, I went in search of more books by Oscar Rossiter. Why did I not hear of him before? Probably because this is his only novel. The author, whose real name was Vernon Skeels, quit writing after completing this novel. Between his professional career and writing Tetrasomy Two, it left no time for his family. The choice was simple for Skeels, family came first.

In the final days of his life, his children would read this novel to him as he lay in a rest home. He was proud to tell people that he wrote a novel.

Why did he use a pen name? Because of his work as a psychiatrist in Seattle. He worried that people would get upset if they thought he used their personality and cases in a novel. Like most good novelists, he used real life as inspiration but did not copy specific cases.

A month after finishing this book, I still wonder what he would have produced if he had continued writing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod

Sometimes you pick a book because it looks interesting. The cover is amazing, the storyline sounds exciting, the reviews are good, and you take the plunge and buy it. Until I read this book, MacLeod was an author I had not tried. This looked like the perfect book to start with. Maybe it was me but this book sounded better than it actually was. By the time I was a third of the way through, it lost my interest. Other books were calling and I did not care if I read the rest of this story.

One of my problems was the way the author was sidetracked down other paths. It almost seemed like he was not sure what book he wanted to write. Authors like Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny can take you on side roads and keep my interest. Here, it seemed like MacLeod would obsess with details that did not interest me.

Another problem I had was the characters. In general, the characters were not likeable. I found myself not caring who was right and who was wrong. Usually I find some character to cheer for. That was not the case in Newton’s Wake.

I put MacLeod on my list of authors to try again in the future. For now I have too many other authors I want to try. Add the authors I already enjoy and it will be a while until I return to MacLeod’s books.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Walpurgis III by Mike Resnick

When mankind spreads to the stars, various groups filed claims to settle the new worlds. Walpurgis III was one of those worlds. In this case, Satanic covens and practitioners of witchcraft were the groups that claimed this planet.

The book focuses on three characters.

Conrad Bland lives to kill. He has led massacres on many planets. Now he has been granted sanctuary on Walpurgis III. Many people on this planet think he is their Dark Messiah. Bland is planning on killing the inhabitants of this world. When he is done, he will move on to another planet.

Jericho is the best hired killer in the underworld.The Republic (the ruling government of the human worlds) has failed to kill Bland so they turn to Jericho. He is hired to journey to Walpurgis III and kill Bland.

John Sable is the chief detective of one of the largest cities on Walpurgis III. He is an honorable family man who believes in the law. Sable believes that the Republic has sent a killer to his city on a mission to take out Bland. Even though he does not agree with Bland's philosophy and prior actions, he has sworn an oath to uphold the law. He tries to warn his planet's government but they are not concerned. It becomes evident that they are collaborating with the Republic. Sable tries to warn Bland but he also is not concerned.

Jericho moves like an irresistable force towards Bland. He kills effortlessly. Sometimes he does it only to throw the police off his track. By changing identities, he is able evade the police and Bland's troops.

Bland kills everyone in various cities where he thinks Jericho is located. Sable is captured and held prisoner by Bland. The two are waiting together for Jericho to arrive for a final showdown. As Sable sees first hand what Bland has done, he starts to regret trying to stop Jericho.

The book showcases the old question, what would a moral man do when a person wants to kill the embodiment of evil? Sable faces this choice when he has a chance to stop one evil person from committing a crime. In the end, he allows one crime to happen but follows the law afterwards. His choice probably saved millions of lives. It still does not make it any better in his eyes. Sable was a very realistic character. Like many people in real life, he wants to live in a world of absolutes. Sable has to choose between evils and live with the consequences.

Two things stand out at the end of this novel. One was how constant exposure to the atrocities committed by Bland had a numbing effect on Sable. After a while, some of Bland's acts did not create the revolting feelings they initially did. And this permanently scarred Sable. Another was how when Sable returned to his normal life, he could not stop smelling the decaying corpses that he was exposed to in Bland's city. I imagine he remembered that smell for the rest of his life.

Resnick's story is fast paced. His writing style is what I would call transparent. If you are looking for a literary craftsman like Gene Wolfe, this is not the book for you. The reader will not have to ponder and try to decipher the meaning of his sentences. This keeps the story moving and focused. Sable's story will stay with you long after you finish the book.

The author does a great job of incorporating the details that develope this fictional world. Walpurgis III becomes a believable world in Resnick's hands.

It is highly recommended to fans of pulp style stories with a modern sensibility.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Patrimony by Alan Dean Foster

I remember reading Foster's The Tar-Aiym Krang when it was first published. At the time, I thought it was great. It led me to read various other adventures of Pip and Flinx.

Flinx was an orphan gifted with the ability to read other people's emotions. Pip is a flying snake known as a minidrag. The 2 have had many adventures during the last 30 years.

In this book Foster is letting Flinx discover the truth about his father. I picked this one up for that revelation. Unfortunately, either Foster is not as good a writer as he used to be or my tastes have changed since my early teens. Patrimony was a disappointment. It seemed to take forever to get to the end of this 255 page story. It would have been a better story if he had focused on the main story. Instead, we were given many pages of details that were not necessary. The revelation at the end was well done once you get to it.

I do not plan on any more Foster books in the near future. Sometime I might go back and reread Midworld and some of his earlier books. But for now I have enough other authors to read. Alan Dean Foster will remain a favorite from my early years of reading sf but not part of my current must read list.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus on Mars by Philip Jose Farmer

Synopsis(from the back cover): As billions of people around the globe sit glued to their television sets in the year 2015, Richard Orme, captain of the first expedition to land on Mars, takes another giant step for mankind. His first words, as he steps out of the landing craft onto the red planet, are transmitted to Earth minutes later: "Christopher Columbus, you should be here." Perhaps he was. Someone has been here. A spaceship sits half-buried under the red dust and heavy boulders. Nearby, there's a tunnel door. Richard Orme and his crew, dragged into the tunnel by Martians, enter a strange subterranean world where Martians live in caverns in a hollowed out Mars, a world where Martians pay homage to a sunlike globe-floating high above their cities of the interior. Orme thought they were sun worshippers. But there is a man who dwells within the flaming orb. And these people call him "Jesus". And the man they called "Jesus" would go back to Earth. He would be labeled "the Anti-Christ." And Richard Orme asked himself. Would history repeat itself...once more?

With the death of Philip Jose Farmer on February 25th, 2009 I thought it would be appropriate to review some Farmer books this year. I made a trip to the bookstore and found a copy of Jesus on Mars. I have read some Farmer stories but do not remember seeing this book. Just from reading the synopsis it looks like this one could have caused quite a stir when it appeared.

When Orme and his crew are captured, they find a thriving civilization under the surface of Mars. The society is a mix of Krsh and Jews taken from Earth. Together they have formed a society based on Mosaic laws. The crew has mixed reactions to the revelation that Jesus lives in a glowing orb on Mars. He makes regular appearances to perform miracles, etc. This is hard for the crew to accept. They can see that this society seems to have a lower crime rate and is peaceful. It is completely different from the society they know on Earth. Earth still has problems with war and crime. Unity among the people of Earth is a dream.

Through the course of the story we read how Orme deals with the revelations about Jesus. Jesus meets with him and offers an alternate explanation to what Orme has been led to believe. Jesus returns to Earth with a Martian army to bring his gifts to our world.

This was a very interesting look at how one event can change a society. I liked the fact that Farmer does not preach. He presents various options and lets the characters(and the readers) decide for themselves. Too many times in a story like this, the author tells you what to believe. I prefer Farmer's method.

Jesus on Mars is similar to his Dayworld series in that it showcases the changes a society goes through when a major change is introduced. I have read too many stories where society was basically unchanged by a major event. One of the reasons I liked The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson was because of the way he showed the effects on the world of introducing the chronoliths.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin

From the back cover:
The Earth colony had been stranded on distant Eltanin for six hundred years. And its lonely, strained numbers were beginning to dwindle, their only neighbors fearful nomads who burrowed in beside them during the cruel, fifteen-year long winter...
Fortunately for all. Because this winter they would be descended upon by hordes of barbarians and the eerie, deadly snowghouls.
And native and exile would have to join forces-or be annihilated.

Sometimes you start reading a novel and think you are going to like it. Sometimes you are wrong. Based on the fact that I have liked one collection and two novels by Ursula K. Le Guin, I expected to like this one. For some reason this story never connected with me. After reading a few chapters, I did not care if I read the rest of the book. Other reviews I have found were positive for Planet of Exile. The story of Rolery did not keep my interest.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book Review Index

Anderson, Poul The Enemy Stars

Asimov, Isaac The Caves of Steel
                       Foundation Part 1, Part 2

Batson, Wayne Thomas The Door Within

Beagle, Peter S.  A Fine and Private Place

Biggle Jr., Lloyd  Monument

Budrys, Algis  Rogue Moon

Butcher, Jim Storm Front
                    Fool Moon

Campbell, Jack The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

Cherryh, C. J. Gate of Ivrel

Conway, Gerard F.  The Midnight Dancers

Del Rey, Lester The Runaway Robot

Dickson, Gordon R.  Dorsai!

Dvorkin, David Timetrap

Farmer, Philip Jose Jesus on Mars

Foster, Alan Dean Patrimony

Friedman, Michael Jan Double, Double

Gaiman, Neil  The Graveyard Book

Harness, Charles L. The Rose

Herbert, Frank  Dune

Kapp, Colin  The Patterns of Chaos

Kern, Gregory Cap Kennedy 1: Galaxy of the Lost

Le Guin, Ursula K. Very Far Away From Anywhere Else
Le Guin, Ursula K. Planet of Exile

MacLeod, Ian Newton's Wake

McDevitt, Jack A Talent for War

Morrow, James  Shambling Towards Hiroshima

Pratchett, Terry Going Postal

Resnick, Mike Walpugis III

Reynolds, Alastair  Revelation Space

Robinson, Kim Stanley  A Short, Sharp Shock

Rossiter, Oscar Tetrasomy Two

Scheer, K. H.  Perry Rhodan 1:  Enterprise: Stardust

Sheffield, Charles  Summertide

Strugatsky, Arkady and Boris  The Final Circle of Paradise

Tidhar, Lavie Cloud Permutations

Tubb, E. C. S.T.A.R. Flight

Wells, H. G. The Invisible Man

Williams, Sean Cenotaxis

Wilson, Robert Charles The Chronoliths

Zahn, Timothy Night Train to Rigel

Zelazny, Roger  Nine Princes in Amber
                         The Guns of Avalon

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Enemy Stars by Poul Anderson

Originally published in Astounding in 1959 as "We Have Fed Our Seas", this story was retitled The Enemy Stars when it was published a book. I think the original title was the better one. When you read this story, you will too. Over the years I have read mixed reviews. Some have trashed this book, others have praised it. I fall into the praise camp but recommend it with reservations.

For varying reasons Ryerson, Maclaren, Nakamura, and Sverdlov end up on a mission to investigate a black star. While they are on the mission, we get to see what happens back home between Ryerson's new bride and his father. The main plotline involves the men learning how to work together and what happens when tragedy strikes. Like many of Anderson's stories, this one reflects the Norse grand tragedy theme he is fond of. It is one of the things that makes his fiction stand out from others. You never know if the characters are going to suceed let alone survive. That sounds like real life to me.

I thought he was able to bring the characters to life in a short time. It is one of his many strengths as a writer.

This is a short book but it also feels "heavy" because of the storyline. The inevitable tragedy and how the characters cope with it is what makes this a memorable story.

The line "we have fed our seas" will have a meaning you might not think of after you read this story. I know I will never look at a sea or ocean the same way again.

If you like stories where you know everything will be ok at the end, avoid this book. Otherwise, by all means hunt this book down and read it. Especially fans of Poul Anderson.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"No, No, Not Rogov!" by Cordwainer Smith

Now this is an example of a great science fiction short story. Cordwainer (Paul Linebarger) Smith was one of the best writers the field had to offer. When you read his fiction, it becomes obvious that he influenced later writers such as Roger Zelazny. Some of the same themes and ideas that layed the groundwork for Smith also appear in Zelazny's fiction. This is most evident in the naming of characters, the classic fiction characters, and the blending of fantastic elements with the more mundane modern settings. Another author whose fiction shows ties to Smith's is George R. R. Martin. Especially in his early science fiction stories. The way the characters persevere in the face of their inevitable fates is a trademark of both writers. Take "No, No, Not Rogov" as an example.

The prologue describes events in the year A. D. 13,582. It shows us events that do not appear to connect with the rest of the story until the end. The majority of the story takes place in the 1940s and features a team of Soviet scientists. Rogov is the top scientist. His wife Anastasia is a brilliant scientist in her own right. They are working on at top secret project. The only other people with them are 2 security guards. The female guard is secretly in love with Rogov and resents his wife. This is the story of the project and what happens when they are successful. The life of Rogov and the characters who inhabit his world is an example of how dedication can inspire people to achieve great things.

Modern writers would learn a lot by going back and rereading Smith's short stories.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

This story is available on line by clicking here.

For more information on Cordwainer Smith go to

Monday, February 9, 2009

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin

Owen and Natalie are different from the average teenagers. Both are very intelligent in their own ways. Owen dreams of being a scientist. Natalie is a very talented musician. Neither wants to be normal or a part of the crowd. Owen just wants to be left alone. In an effort to make him fit in, his father buys him a car. Owen resents it until the day he notices that Natalie is different from the other girls. This is the touching story of friendship and love between two outsiders.

I picked this up because it was written by Ursula K. Le Guin. Everything I have read by her was either science fiction or fantasy. I liked her collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters and her novel Rocannon's World. When I grabbed this off the shelf at a used book store, I did not realize it was a contemporary young adult novel. It turned out to be an excellent story that would hit home with a lot of science fiction and fantasy readers. Many sf and f readers know what it feels like to be an outsider. Le Guin shows that it is okay to be different. Not everyone needs to fit in. Sometimes a person is happier when left to themselves. But it is nice to have someone you can relate too.

If you are looking for science fiction or fantasy, avoid this book. If you are looking for a novel that will remind you of the television show, The Wonder Years, this is the book for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Night Train to Rigel by Timothy Zahn

From the back cover...
It begins when a man delivers a message for former government agent Frank Compton-only to fall dead at his feet. The message is a summons from the Spiders, the exotic and mysterious creatures who run the Quadrail, an incredible transportation system connecting civilizations across the galaxy. The Spiders believe that someone or something is preparing to attack their entire network and the worlds it serves, by smuggling battleships through the Quadrail-something that should be impossible to do. Compton, with the aid of a beautiful but enigmatic agent of the Spiders, is their last hope.
Because nobody else has been able to find the elusive enemy who seeks to enslave the entire galaxy...and Earth is its next target.

Night Train to Rigel has all the elements of a very good novel. The Spiders are very interesting. The Quadrail is an intriguing transportation system. The mystery of the unknown enemy who threatens the galaxy. And their secret is handled very well. One of the genres that I enjoy is the Bogart type of film noir. This is best when done by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. This should be the perfect combination for me to read.

Zahn does not hold my interest with this novel. I kept reading for the ideas but the story did not keep me on the edge of my seat. So for the ideas and concepts, Zahn gets a high rating. For the story, a low rating. Because I like the concept behind the story, I will read the next novel. If it does not hold my interest any better than this one, it will be the last I will read in this series.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Suggesting Reading List A-Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson

The High Crusade
Tau Zero
The People of the Wind
The Boat of a Million Years
The Van Rijn Method
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows

This was hard to narrow down the list of Poul Anderson books. I could agree with arguments for dozens of other books.

A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows was one of the first magazine serials I read(in the much missed Worlds of IF). It was interesting reading about 2 opponents facing off against each other in the later days of an empire. Dominic Flandry became one of my favorites with this story.

I selected The Van Rijn Method as a good look at the flamboyant character. It contains The Man Who Counts, a classic Anderson novel set in the Technic Civilization.

The People of the Wind features the battle between the Terran Empire and the Ythrian Domain. One of my favorites.

Personal favorites that did not make the list are...

The Peregrine and World Without Stars-loved the Michael Whelan covers when these were reprinted in 1978. They cemented my love of Poul Anderson books.

I am currently reading The Enemy Stars. The beginning is classic Anderson. Something that I really like about his novels is the way he builds the characters. In very few pages, he makes you think you are reading

about real people. Without being boring, he works the characters background into the story without slowing it down.

Poul Anderson left a large body of work for us to read. Take the time to enjoy some of his creations.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Suggested Reading List A

Adams, Douglas

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is one book that I always thought about but have never read. It appears to combine the Monty Python style humor with a science fiction story. It is on my massive list of books to buy.

Aldiss, Brian

Helliconia 1: Helliconia Spring
Helliconia 2: Helliconia Summer
Helliconia 3: Helliconia Winter
The Long Afternoon of Earth(Hothouse)
Report on Probability A

Brian Aldiss could have many more books on this list. He is one of the legendary authors in the field. I have read mostly his short fiction but I am working on picking up his novels. Of the ones I have read, Starship(Non-Stop) is my favorite. It is a classic generation ship story. One of the best of it's kind. The one I have not read but am very curious about is Report on Probability A.

Next time, the list continues with Poul Anderson

My Suggested Reading List

Starting tomorrow, I will begin publishing my suggested reading list. I will be breaking it up over many postings so I can comment on the different authors and books. Tomorrow will feature the start of the authors whose last names begin with A. The list will consist of books that were nominated for a Hugo or Nebula and any others that I think should be on the list. The list will be very long.

When I am done I will post the complete list. This will be a work in process so it will be updated periodically.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson

Did you ever hear about a book that sounded fantastic? Some books just jump out and grab my attention. The various comments I read about The Chronoliths really caught my interest. I was afraid that the book would not live up to my expectations. Call me old fashioned but I still like to go to used book stores and find treasures. Robert Charles Wilson's novels all sounded interesting but this one was the one I wanted to read first. So, of course, I found Spin, Axis, and Darwinia but no copies of The Chronoliths. The other day I stopped and looked at the sale rack at our library. Due to space limitations, they regularly pull some books and sell them to raise money for new books. What did I happen to stumble upon? You got it. This book turned out to be even better than I imagined.

A warlord in the future starts sending indestructable monoliths(the chronoliths of the title) back through time. Each one is a tribute to a victory he acheived 20 years and 3 months in the future. The mystery is can the future be changed? Did the warlord actually conquer the areas the monoliths claim or is he trying to create the image of an invincible leader in the minds of the people? What if the response of the people in the novel actually creates the warlord in the future? The amazing thing about this novel is the characters the author creates. In the face of these big questions, the characters come to life. When I finished the book, I came away with the feeling that I really knew the people in the story. If his other books are close to being this good, Robert Charles Wilson will become one of my favorite authors.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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.