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.