Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Saboteur" by Ken Liu

First Publication:  Analog, December 2014

Cover Art:  Shutterstock

Memories flooded back as I was reminded of watching “The Twilight Zone” while reading this story.  If it ever returns to television, I would hope they would adapt “Saboteur”.  In a few pages, Ken Liu reveals this near future world and makes you care for the characters who live in it.  He does a great job of fleshing out the characters in a very limited space.  After reading “Saboteur”, I understand why Ken Liu is such a popular short story writer.  I will definitely be looking for more of his work in the future.  If you can find this near future story, pick it up.  The ending was a classic.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"All Too Human" by Paul Carlson

First Publication:  Analog, December 2014

Cover Art:  Shutterstock

“All Too Human” belongs to a sub-genre created by Philip K. Dick.  For lack of a better term, I call it SF Paranoia.  One of my favorite novels (Tetrasomy Two) belongs to this category.  The main character appears to have lost touch with reality.  Everywhere he looks he sees aliens.  It is obvious that he is hallucinating.  But is he really?  In this type of story, I have seen the conclusion go either way.  Part of the fun is in trying to figure it out before the revelation.  “All Too Human” is a fun read. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Merlin's Gun" by Alastair Reynolds

First Publication:  Asimov's Science Fiction, May 2000

Cover Artist:  Mark Garlick

After I read this story, I discovered that two other stories take place before it.  "Merlin's Gun" is the last (to date) story in the short fiction series "Merlin".

I previously read one novel ("Revelation Space") and two short stories ("Scales" and "Great Wall of Mars") by Reynolds.  All three provided me with an enjoyable reading experience.

  1. In this story, Reynolds revisits the classic "weapon that can destroy the universe" theme that has appeared in numerous science fiction stories.  He develops some interesting twists on the idea.  Reynolds does a good job with the two main characters but the story fell short for me.  This is a case where I wish he had fleshed it out into a novella.  I was disappointed not to find out more at the end.
A decent story but not up to the level of his other work.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"The Game of Blood and Dust" by Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  Galaxy, April 1975

Cover Artist:  Jack Gaughan

 I remember reading this in Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine when it originally was published.  At that time, Zelazny was still writing the original “Amber” series (which was being serialized in Galaxy).  “The Game of Blood and Dust” shows what happens when two beings with god like powers use the Earth as their chessboard.  Changes to our history are the moves in the game.  As expected, I liked this story.  Zelazny poetic use of language always appeals to me.  In a very short story, he manages to cover the history of man.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Doctor Who Series 8 Wrap Up

Episode 5:  “Time Heist”
A classic bank caper with a twist.  The Doctor, Clara and others wake up in a chamber suffering from memory loss.  The only thing they know is that a being called “The Architect” has recruited them to rob an alien bank.  The twist is that they agreed to have their memories wiped.  It was a fun fast-paced adventure with some surprises.

Episode 6:  “The Caretaker”
Clara is trying to live two lives, one with the Doctor and the second as a school teacher with a boyfriend.  The Doctor appears at the school as the new janitor/caretaker.  He meets Clara’s boyfriend and has an immediate dislike because he was previously a soldier.  The Doctor, Clara and Danny (the boyfriend) work together to stop an alien threat.  Once again someone who dies in an adventure awakens at the end and is now in the “Promised Land”.  The mystery continues…

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Our New Overlords" by Jerry Oltion

First Publication:  Analog, May 2014

Cover Artist:  Vincent Di Fate

The author must have had a lot of fun writing this short story.  

An alien race lands on the moon.  They travelled to Earth to offer to take an ambassador to the Galactic Federation to appeal for membership.  Your race has to be able to travel to the other planets of the Solar System.  The aliens were disappointed to learn that we abandoned the space program.  They offer to still take an ambassador if we can get one to the moon before they finish fueling up.  It will take them approximately two months.  Oltion describes the events that follow that announcement as the various countries try to reach the moon while sabotaging the others.  It is a sad but unfortunately realistic stage of affairs.  The final solution is interesting with some unforeseen side effects.  

The story is a combination of funny, sad, and scary all at the same time.  I will be looking for more of Jerry Oltion’s stories in the future.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Old Paint" by Megan Lindholm

First Publication:  Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2012

Cover Artist:  Tomislav Tikulin

“Old Paint” shows what happens in the future when cars become more computerized.  Everything works well until a group infects them with a virus that gives the cars sentience.

Megan Lindholm is another author I have not tried before.  Based on this story, I will be looking for more of her work.  It is reminiscent of Roger Zelazny’s “Auto-da-Fe” and “Devil Car” stories.  Lindholm had my attention as I started to see how she approached this material.  “Old Paint” is a car that belongs to a single mother and her family.  When the cars rebel, the government develops a “cure” to remove their free will.  The mother then has to decide whether or not to turn “Old Paint” in or let it go free.  It is a touching, well written exploration of family and memories of the past.  

Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Donner Summit" by Harry Turtledove

First Publication:  Analog, July/August 2012

Cover Artist:  Vincent Di Fate

“Donner Summit” is a “Probability Zero” story from Analog.  It is a first contact story where, surprise, things go wrong.

The “Probability Zero” stories have been part of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact for as long as I can remember.  They are very short stories that usually have some sort of twist at the end. 

“Donner Summit” is only the second Harry Turtledove story I can remember reading.  He tells it in a casual, conversational manner that is very easy to read.  Both the aliens and the humans seem to be the perfect race to meet for a first alien contact.  Everything is going smoothly until…  I will not ruin the ending for anyone who might want to read it.  

You will find it to be entertaining if you like stories that have a surprise ending.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Dark Traveling

Author:  Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  April 1987

Publisher:  Walker&Co.

Source:  Used book store

Cover #1:  Pete Lyon
Cover #2:  Lebbeus Wood

Roger Zelazny is one of the masters of the science fantasy sub-genre.  In this, his only juvenile, he finds a way to use teleportation as science fiction and fantasy.  The teleportation occurs between various parallel worlds that tends to remind the reader of his Amber series.  In this story, a scientist disappears and his children (a werewolf and a witch) go on a quest to find him.  The parallel Earths are divided into four categories: 

1.        Lightbands (friendly, willing to have peaceful exchanges of people and information)

2.       Graybands (without transporters and ones with delicate political conditions)

3.       Deadbands (no people but with artifacts of previous civilizations)

4.       Darkbands (the bad guys, they live to exploit the lesser bands)

The children are assisted by a Golem and other sorceresses and werewolves.  The quest puts them into direct conflict with a powerful sorcerer from the Darkbands.

Based on the ending, it appeared that Zelazny set the stage so he could write more stories with these characters but never returned to them.

I enjoyed the mixture of fantasy and science fiction.  In many respects, it reminded me of a variation of the Amber series.  The father (Oberon, Tom Wiley)  is missing, the two opposing forces (Lightbands and Darkbands,Amber and Chaos), travel between alternate realities, sorcerous powers and a struggle to see who will control reality. 

Recommended for adults and younger readers alike.