Thursday, January 31, 2013

January in Review

January was a great reading month for me.  I made a conscious effort to get back to reading and it paid off.

Challenges & Goals:

January featured two of my favorite challenges of the year-Vintage Science Fiction Month and The 2013 Science Fiction Experience.  I picked books that qualified for both this month.

1.     Perry Rhodan #2:  The Third Power by Walter Ernsting
2.     The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley
3.     Cap Kennedy #2:  Slave Ship from Sergan by Gregory Kern (E.C. Tubb)
4.     Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
5.     Spock Must Die! By James Blish
6.     Perry Rhodan #3:  The Radiant Dome by K. H. Scheer

It was a fun revisit of some of the series I loved in my younger days.  Perry Rhodan and Cap Kennedy were staples of my reading in the seventies.  At that time, Perry Rhodan was appearing three times a month.  The Bradley book was a fun pulp adventure that seemed like a dry run for her famous Darkover series.  I read the McCaffrey book as part of Carl’s group read.  The Blish book was part of an effort to read more of the Star Trek books.  The six books gave me a good start to the new year.  I also set a goal of reading at least 50 books this year so I am off to a good start.

The 2013 Graphic Novel Challenge began with a solid book and a very good one.  I read two graphic novels to a goal of 24.  “Annihilation Volume 1” was an all-out space opera war epic featuring most of the Marvel Universe cosmic characters.  “GrimJack:  Killer Instinct” was an intense Zelazny like noir story with parallel worlds, vampires, spaceships, aliens, and the nexus of all realities.  Both are recommended.

My goal for short fiction was to read 52 stories this year.  I read and reviewed seven in January.  The highlights of the month were the Harlan Ellison, Ken MacLeod, and Isaac Asimov stories.  In February I will start reviewing short fiction from this year.  I plan to keep a list of my best of the year by category (along the line of the Hugo list).  It will be interesting to see how my list compares to the awards list next year.

Not a challenge but just to satisfy my own curiosity, I kept track of the comic books I read this month.  The total was 71.  The leader for January was Marvel Comics with 28, DC was second and IDW finished third.  IDW published one of my most anticipated comics with “Star Trek:  Countdown to Darkness #1”.  It is a prequel to the upcoming movie.  This story brought back a character not seen in ages, Captain Robert April.  I was impressed with the first issue and anxiously await the next issue.

Coming in February…

Among the books that I will be reviewing are:
Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton
Anthem by Ayn Rand
Science Fiction:  The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 by Damien Broderick & Paul Di Flippo
The Aylesford Skull by James Blaylock
Perry Rhodan #4:  Twilight of the Gods by Walter Ernsting

Upcoming Graphic Novel Reviews:
Locke & Key Vol. 1:  Welcome to Lovecraft
RASL Vol. 1:  The Drift
RASL Vol. 2:  The Fires of St. George
Uncanny X-Force:  The Dark Angel Saga Part 1
Cyborg 009 #000

And at least two movie reviews are in the pipeline:
Tron:  Legacy
The Prestige

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Radiant Dome by K. H. Scheer

Title:  The Radiant Dome
Author:  K. H. Scheer
First Publication:  1961 (Germany)
Cover Artist:  Johnny Bruck
Series:  Perry Rhodan #3
Cycle:  The Third Power #3


In the previous book, Perry Rhodan and his crew established a base in the Gobi Desert.  "The Third Power" was created to bring humanity together.  As expected, the current governments did not agree with Rhodan's plan.  The Arkonide scientist Khrest activates a force field around Rhodan's spaceship/base.  The governments of the world do come together to attack Rhodan.  Rhodan's doctors work to cure Khrest of his illness.  Meanwhile, the governments send three ships with nuclear bombs to destroy the Arkonide ship on the moon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Best SF of the Year, One That is Okay, & Some Old Favorites

Like many fans, I am torn over which “best science fiction of the year” collection(s) to read.  I find myself enjoying short stories more than the door-stopper novels.  That doesn’t mean the long novels are not good it just means that I prefer reading many different stories in the short fiction (novellas, novelettes, short stories) to reading one long novel.  There are exceptions.  “Dune” is one of my favorites and I have read it many times.  But if you look at the novels I mainly read, they are the length I enjoyed reading in the 70s and 80s when I was getting into science fiction.  Look at the length of the typical works of Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, E. C. Tubb, and others of that generation.  Even many of Frank Herbert’s novels are not 600 to 1000 pages long.  Take a look at the majority of the novels I am reviewing.  Most are older ones.  Does this mean I don’t want to read newer authors?  No.  I plan on reading books by Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Robert Sawyer, Eric Brown and others this year.  In the words of Peter David, “But I Digress…”.

Cover by Jack Gaughan

Getting back to the subject of “best of the year” collections, my favorite in the early days were the ones edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr.  I plan on starting to re-read them with the first one this year.  Last year I took a good look at the current series.  I chose to buy two (the Gardner Dozois collection and the David Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer one).  From what I have read on other sites, the Dozois is generally considered the top series since it started.  Each year he includes a fascinating overview of the field.  So why did I pick up the Hartwell & Cramer book?  A friend of mine loved this series because it is more focused on traditional science fiction.  When I compared the two, there is very little overlap.  Part of my plan is to go back, read and review all of the Hartwell & Cramer collections.  It will take some time because last year’s edition is the seventeenth.  By reading these, it will give me a chance to read many of the newer authors I have not read or have read very little of.  Which leads me to the first story in last year’s collection…

Thursday, January 24, 2013

GrimJack: Killer Instinct

Title:  Killer Instinct
Writer:  John Ostrander
Artist:  Tim Truman
First Publication:  IDW Publishing, 2005
Cover:  Tim Truman

Synopsis:  The classic GrimJack team of Ostrander and Truman reunited to tell this story.  GrimJack returns to the city of Cynosure, the nexus of all realities,  where different worlds phase in and out of sync.  In this story he takes on a vampire hired by his "friends" to take him out.  He also makes his first visit to Munden's Bar where he meets many of the regulars from his original series.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spock Must Die! by James Blish

Title:  Spock Must Die!
Author:  James Blish
First Publication:  1970
Cover Artist:  None-photograph
Series:  Star Trek

Synopsis (from Amazon:

When a transporter experiment goes horribly awry, suddenly there are two Mr. Spocks. One is the true First Officer of the "Enterprise." The other is his complete opposite, a traitor whose very existence poses a grave threat to the crew, the ship, and the Federation itself. One of the Spocks must die. But which one?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Ghost Seas" by Steven Utley

Story:  Ghost Seas
Author:  Steven Utley
First Publication:  Lone Star Universe, 1976
Cover:  Joseph Troffimoff

On January 12, 2013 the world lost another writer.  Steven Utley was once called the most under-rated sf writer in the world by Gardner Dozois.  The collection "Ghost Seas" is an excellent one to read whether you are familiar with him or not.  In honor of his passing, I plan on reviewing the stories from this collection over the next few weeks.

Synopsis:  A man and his new wife go to the Texas desert to visit his wealthy old uncle.  What is unusual about that?  Nothing.  Then the uncle starts talking about the waves from the ocean  coming up to his back porch at night time...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Title:  Dragonflight
Author:  Anne McCaffrey
First Publication:  1968
Cover Artist:  Michael Whelan
Series:  The Dragonriders of Pern

"Dragonflight" has been sitting on my to be read shelf since the first time I spotted the Michael Whelan cover back in 1979.  I loved the cover but never got around to reading the book until Carl (of Stainless Steel Droppings) picked it for a group read. I missed getting my comments posted the first week so here are both week one and week two.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Slave Ship from Sergan by Gregory Kern

Title:  Slave Ship from Sergan
Author:  Gregory Kern (E. C. Tubb)
First Publication:  1973
Cover Artist:  Jack Gaughan
Series:  Cap Kennedy #2

Synopsis (from the back cover):
HUMAN VS INHUMAN To the reptilian mind - especially the intelligent type of planets like Sergan and Obrac - the lives of others were as nothing to the need for status. To the feline mind - especially to the clever advisor of the master of Sergan - the agonies of others were not only of no consequence, they could even be a source of joy. So when these two types of inhuman intelligences got together to defy the Terran orders against interplanetary kidnapping, space hijacking, and human slavery, it was definitely a case for a top-notch secret agent. Because Earth could not afford a showdown with more than one alien species at a time. The secret agent was Cap Kennedy, Free Acting Terran Envoy, and his pursuit of the SLAVE SHIP FROM SERGAN turned out to be one of his most dangerous single-handed adventures.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Door Through Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Title:  The Door Through Space
Author:  Marion Zimmer Bradley
First Publication:  1959 (Germany)
Cover Artist(from the 1961 Ace Double):  Unknown


Race Cargill is a Terran Intelligence Agent who has been working a desk job since he was disfigured by another agent who went native.  He is planning on leaving the planet for good when his sister approaches him with a plea for help.  Her husband, the agent who went native, has threatened her and taken their daughter.  Race stays to hunt down his former friend and the chess game begins.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Annihilation Vol. 1

Title:  Annihilation Vol. 1
Writers:  Keith Giffin (Drax & Prologue), Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (Nova)
Artists:  Mitch Breitweiser (Drax)Scott Kolins (Prologue), Kev Walker (Nova).
First Publication:  Marvel 2006

Synopsis (from Amazon):

The Annihilation Wave has come! Annihilus, lord of the Negative Zone, has declared war! Hordes of loyal soldiers swarm from the center of the universe, and only a handful of heroes can resist destruction! As the Xandarian Nova Corps meet its doom, only Richard Rider - the man called Nova - survives. Now the sole custodian of the Worldmind, the Zandarian's database of knowledge and experience, can he rediscover himself in time to lead the war effort against the Annihilation Wave? Drax the Destroyer returns from exile on Earth to mentor Nova - but wait until you see his dangerous new persona! Guest-starring Quasar, Ronan the Accuser, the Super-Skrull and Thanos! Collecting Drax the Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation Prologue and Annihilation: Nova #1-4.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"The Skull" by Philip K. Dick

Story:  The Skull
Author:  Philip K. Dick
First Publication:  Worlds of IF, Sept. 1952
Cover(not illustrating this story):  Ralph Joiner


Conger agreed to kill a stranger he had never seen.  But he would make no mistakes because he had the stranger's skull under his arm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Third Power by Walter Ernsting

Title:  The Third Power
Author:  Walter Ernsting
First Publication:  1961 (Germany)
Cover Artist:  Johnny Bruck
Series:  Perry Rhodan #2
Cycle:  The Third Power #2


After returning from the moon with the aliens he discovered, Perry Rhodan returns to Earth and sets up his base in the Gobi desert.  Rhodan plans on using the alien technology to unite the world but of course the various countries do not agree with him...