Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick
Michael Swanwick’s Griffin’s Egg tries as much to be retro sci-fi as it does to push the limits of the genre — or at least the limits when the novella was published in 1991. The story of a industrial worker on the moon who must deal with the spillover of violence from Earth to the point of post-humanism, Swanwick’s effort succeeds as much as it could be improved, making Griffin’s Egg at least marginally effective.
Gunther Weil is an employee of G5, one of the biggest industries mining the moon for metals and raw materials. Though working on a voluntary contract, he holds no place in his heart for the rote and plethora of bureaucracy, the rubbish strewn about th... Read More
Jesse HudsonGUEST REVIEWER
After learning his letters from the names stamped on the old woodstove parked in the kitchen, Jesse Hudson’s love of the written word was born. He can still recall scouring library shelves for that HARDY BOYS he hadn’t read yet, tucking fingers between pages trying to find the longest storyline in CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE books, and of course, that first time he read the literally moth-eaten copy of his mother’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
Not a “sci-fi or die” kind of guy, Jesse reads in most fields. He proclaims a good novel is a good novel based on theme, story, and style and dislikes matrices of genre (though he admits it’s very useful wandering a bookstore). Mysteriously yet to be explained, there remains a numinous force that has drawn him to the more imaginative side of literature the past two years. Ursula Le Guin, Stanislaw Lem, China Miéville, Gene Wolfe, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and several others have all made a strong impression with their ability to unearth the root of humanity — quality prose and imaginative story their spade and bucket.
Jesse currently lives in Poland where he works for a big corporation by day and escapes into reading by night. He posts a blog which acts as a healthy vent for not only his bibliophilia, but also his love of culture and travel: Speculiction.
Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick
Startide Rising by David Brin
I had never read a David Brin book before reading Startide Rising. Hearing his background was in math, physics, astronomy, etc., I went about buying one of his books with trepidation. Isaac Asimov, Vernor Vinge, Alastair Reynolds, and other popular science fiction authors may be good scientists, but they lack the touch and feel of an inborn writer and the style of their novels suffers. Though it’s prose is not glorious, Startide Rising was nevertheless a pleasant surprise.
A fun mix of hard SF and space opera, Startide Rising is a unique story that sets itself apart from derivative SF for its premise. A dolphin and human... Read More
The Blue World by Jack Vance
What’s to be said about Jack Vance that hasn’t already been said? The man is simply one of the most imaginative writers of the 20th century. His sci-fi fantasy styled adventures are deceptively simple, but the complexity of being human hides just below the surface, rearing its head in profound fashion in the middle of all the humor and fun. Vance’s 1966 The Blue World is no different.
Our hero, Sklar Hast, is an assistant hoodwink living on Tranque Float. Not a con or charlatan, Hast literally winks the hoods — in more complex Morse Code fashion — of the communicator devices located on the floats of their lily-pad archipelago, passing news between themselves. At the outset of the story, Sklar’s life is relatively simple. He sits in when the master hoodwink is away, teaching appre... Read More
God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
Given the coarse, operatic nature of Dune’s two sequels, I was reluctant to continue the series. I thought Leto II’s rise to power was an appropriate place to leave off in the cycle despite the three sequels Herbert penned. After reviewing Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, however, someone told me that the first three novels were in fact just stage-setting for the fourth, God Emperor of Dune, and if I was to truly appreciate the series I needed to continue. Continue I did, and though I still think Dune Read More
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
Based on the polar nature of the first two books in the DUNE series, Paul’s ascension in Dune and his descent in Dune Messiah, not much would seem left to be told in the House Atreides saga. Publishing Children of Dune in 1976, ten years after Dune, Frank Herbert proved there was still more to tell, telling a solid but not spectacular tale that has some big shoes to fill if it is to live up to the success of Dune Read More
Forever Free by Joe Haldeman
Joe Haldeman’s 1974 The Forever War and 1997 Forever Peace were huge successes for the author, winning many of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, not to mention garnering him a solid fan base in the process. Though they share similar sounding titles and a military motif, little else between the two novels resembles the other. When it was announced in 1999 that Haldeman would be publishing a true sequel to The Forever Warentitled Forever Free, the sci-fi community was abuzz: William Mandella was returning. Opinion in the aftermath could not be more divided. Read More
Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert’s 1965 Dune was an overwhelming success, winning awards and selling millions of copies. Little did readers know, however, that it was only the beginning of the Family Atreides saga. Picking up events roughly a decade after Paul’s ascension to Emperor, Dune Messiah is the story of his descent from power. Herbert knocks the hero he created off his pedestal, so readers should be prepared for many changes in the story — and not all are for the better.
Dune Messiah continues the saga of the Atreides family in epic, soap-operatic fashion. Paul, having expanded his power to over much of the known universe since becoming Emperor in Dune, is nevertheless helpless to prevent the religious fanaticism and destruction caused by his Fremen followers, drawing the hatred and ire of the opposition in the process. Chani, now his concubine, is unable to con... Read More
The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin
At age 84, I think it’s safe to say that Ursula Le Guin will not be publishing additional books in the EARTHSEA CYCLE. The qualities of the last book to be published, The Other Wind, particularly the subtle and cathartic value of its denouement and the state in which the main characters are left, make the extension of the Cycle beyond six books unlikely. Walking away on a high note, the Cycle is here concluded in grand style.
Unlike the personal storylines of the original trilogy, The Other Wind sees the continuation of the pattern established by Tehanu and Tales from Earthsea: groups of characters take center stage rather than individuals. All of the characters who have appeared in previous novels are drawn together. Their purpose: to eradicate the larger ills plaguing the archipelago. The dragons are uneasy and are disappearing to the west amid... Read More
Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
Despite the similarities in name, Joe Haldeman’s 1997 Forever Peace shares nothing in common with his huge success, The Forever War, save the military science fiction motif. Winning its own accolades (the Nebula, Hugo, and John W. Campbell Awards), Forever Peace is a novel less focused on the portent of war and more on the idea of universal understanding. Not without its share of action, however, readers will find Haldeman back in The Forever War form, the novel containing both depth and entertainment.
Forever Peaceis the story of Julian Class, both scientist and operator of a mechanized robot called a “soldierboy” for the US military. By jacking in to a device that collectively links operators... Read More
Tales from Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
In 1972 Ursula Le Guin completed The Farthest Shore and felt the EARTHSEA series was finished at three books. However, in 1994 she published Tehanu:The Last Book of Earthsea in an attempt to revise the gender and social roles she’d laid out in that original trilogy. Based on the title, this too was supposed to be the be-all, end-all. Apparently not satisfying enough; 2001 saw Le Guin publishing two additional books in the EARTHSEA CYCLE, The Other Wind and Tales from Earthsea, that both complement and redress the original books. The former rounds out the entirety of Earthsea’s story into a nice whole, the latter is a collection of short stories that fills certain gaps Le Guin identified in Earthsea’s mythos. Here is a loose breakdown of those stories.
“The Finder” — The opening story in the collection tells of the boy Otter, his im... Read More
Beggars in Spain (novella) by Nancy Kress
(This is a review of the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella, which we have linked here. There is also an expanded novel.)
What if a person no longer needed sleep? How would they spend their nights? And what if there were a number of people in the same situation — hundreds who could devote their evenings’ hours to whatever they desired? And what of the society they exist within? Would it be open minded? Would it accept these people for who they are? With mixed but predominantly positive results, Nancy Kress’s 1991 novella Beggars in Spain attempts to answer these questions.
The novellaopens with the rich entrepreneur Roger Camden consulting a gene modification agency on the options available to him and his wife for the child they desire. Wanting an exceptional daughter, Camden inquires into a new gene treatment available wherein the child will never need sle... Read More
Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling
Love him or hate him, Bruce Sterling is one of the most intriguing voices in science fiction. A successful writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a speaker of the most unique and presumptuous nature, his words carry regarding the future of technology and society. At base a humanist, Sterling’s work reflects the potential implications of applying the knowledge humanity acquires to economic, ecological, and socio-political environments. Islands in the Net, a good example of his aims, presents all of these facets in a political drama/thriller that continues to touch upon ideas in today’s world despite the decades that have passed since its publishing.
Islands in the Net opens in the year 2023. The world appears much the same as it does today, but with a few small differences. Multinational megacorporations wield ever-growing clout in systems which continue to utilize capitalism... Read More
Permutation City by Greg Egan
William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive, the concluding volume to his influential SPRAWLseries, saw several of the main characters living within an aleph, an idea borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges. An aleph is an object that contains a virtually infinite amount of knowledge, but the idea of it operating as a permanent virtual reality was only touched upon by Gibson, begging another writer to fully detail it. Greg Egan’s 1994 Permutation City does just that.
The world of 2050 that Egan imagines is not so far removed from our own, and like Gibson’s, is scarily plausible. Technology has advanced to the point that personalities are uploadable, the rich are able to afford the computing power necessary to maintain a virtual copy of themselves in VR while the less well-to-do save in the hopes of having immorta... Read More
Redwall by Brian Jacques
For those who have not discovered Brian Jacques delightful and exciting REDWALL series, you’re in for a real treat. Though aimed at the young (I first enjoyed the first book at age eleven), it can easily be enjoyed by adults as long as its intentions are understood (I read it this year, and though the experience was not the same, I still enjoyed it). A combination of animal and heroic fantasy, Jacques transforms the meadowlands and forest into an epic landscape where mice, badgers, shrews, moles, hares, foxes, stoats, and all variety of woodland creatures live in pastoral harmony, fighting for survival when evil looms. The series now standing at twenty-two books in total, the first, entitled Redwall, was published in 1986 and is the subject of this review.
Redwall Abbey is a brick structure standing in the middle of Mossflower Wood. A place of safety and tranquility, woodland crea... Read More
The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons
I’m a huge fan of Dan Simmons’s work — when he hits. With The Hollow Man, he misses. Though his talent as a stylist is once again on full display here, the story is confused and overly-complex, leaving the objective of The Hollow Man obscure and ambiguous. One look at the plot devices at work — neuroscience, serial killers, homelessness, telepathy, depression, the mafia, quantum physics — ought to tell you the story is bogged down with excess baggage. And did I mention the abused, deaf-blind boy with Down Syndrome who plays a hand in the novel’s climax?
Regarding content, The Hollow Man is the story of a telepathic man who undergoes a drastic life change after his wife, also telepathic, dies. The severing of this bond, which we are led to believe is stronger than the average relationship due to their mind-to-mind connection, causes the man t... Read More