Rob Weber

GUEST REVIEWER

Rob Weber developed a fantasy and science fiction addiction as well as a worrying Wheel of Time obsession during his college years. While the Wheel of Time has turned, the reading habit that continues to haunt him long after acquiring his BSc in environmental science. To keep withdrawal at bay, minimum required intake is currently about two books a week. Other peculiarities include a fondness of Rory Gallagher’s music, katjang pedis and volleyball. Favourite fixes include works by Kim Stanley Robinson, Ian McDonald, Nancy Kress and Daniel Abraham. Rob keeps a blog at Val’s Random Comments.

Pacific Edge: Visions of a high-maintenance upotia

Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Where The Wild Shore shows us a post-apocalyptic California and The Gold Coast deals with future where urbanisation is out of control, in Pacific Edge Kim Stanley Robinson explores a utopian future: a California where people have learned to listen to the land and to pursue more sustainable population levels and economic activity. Together, these three books make up the THREE CALIFORNIAS TRIPTYCH.

In 2065 the world looks quite different from what we are used to. The unsustainable economic practices of the past have been severely curtailed by putting limits on company size and personal income among other, equally drastic measures. The main character is Kevin, an architect judging from the descriptions of designing lovely s... Read More

The Gold Coast: A very possible, but unpleasant, future

The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Gold Coast is the second book in Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias trilogy in which he presents three radically different future Californias. Where The Wild Shore showed us a post-apocalyptic society, The Gold Coast is more or less a continuation of where most people assume we’re heading at the moment: California, or at least the part that isn’t covered by freeways, is slowly turning into a gigantic mall.

A synopsis of The Gold Coast is pretty hard, since we get a lot of different points of view. The central character is Jim McPherson. Jim is the son of a defense contractor. His family is well-to-do and he moves in fashionable circles, but he's not a happy man. For one thing, he... Read More

Hellhole: A major disappointment. Not recommended.

Hellhole by Kevin J. Anderson & Brian Herbert

After a failed rebellion against the corrupt regime of the Constellation (an interstellar empire that spans dozens of worlds) General Tiber Adolphus is exiled to the newly colonized and extremely hostile planet of Hallholme. Because of the harsh conditions of this world, it is quickly awarded a nickname: Hellhole. His rebellion may have failed, but Adolphus still commands the loyalty of much of the population. Despite attempts by the ruler of the Constellation, Diadem Michella Duchenet, to make sure his attempt to settle Hallholme fails, he survives the first years there. Now, more than a decade later, Adolphus is at the point where he once again has the support and resources to undertake action against the tyrant Duchenet. And this time he means to succeed.

Hellhole is without a doubt, one of the worst books I've read in the past few years. Read More

Dreamer of Dune: A faithful portrait of a sci-fi legend

Dreamer of Dune by Brian Herbert

In 2003 Tor released Dreamer of Dune, a biography of Frank Herbert (1920 - 1986) written by his son Brian Herbert, who has written a number of novels as well. The best known of these are the DUNE prequels and sequels written in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson. Dreamer of Dune is not the only book about Frank Herbert or his works but the others I am aware of are currently out of print. My copy had been sitting on a shelf for years before I finally picked it up after finishing Frank Herbert’s The Green Brain.

Dreamer of Dune covers Herbert's entire life from his birth in 1920 to his untimely death in 1986. ... Read More

Whipping Star: One of Herbert’s more interesting novels

Whipping Star by Frank Herbert

Whipping Star is one of Frank Herbert’s non-Dune books that Tor has been reprinting in recent years. This 1970 novel is the first full novel in the ConSentiency universe, which up to this point consisted of only two short stories. Both of them are contained in the collection Eye and may very well be included in other short fiction collections. Like these short stories, Whipping Star features the unusually observant BuSab agent Jorj X. McKie as a main character. This universe is also the setting of what I consider to be Herbert’s best non-Dune book: Read More

Fort Freak: A WILD CARDS novel that can be read as a stand-alone

Fort Freak by George R.R. Martin

Fort Freak is the twenty-first entry in the WILD CARDS universe, a long running series of mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin. It is not necessary to have read the previous twenty volumes to read this one; Fort Freak works fine as a standalone. There are numerous references to earlier books and cameos by characters that starred in them, but nothing that makes it absolutely necessary to have read earlier volumes. That is probably a good thing. The WILD CARDS series is currently published by Tor, the fourth publisher to take on this series. Some of the older volumes are pretty hard to find these days. The original WILD CARDS novel (1987) has been reprinted by Tor recently, with a number of new stories added, so if you want to read... Read More

Suicide Kings: Surprising depth

Suicide Kings edited by George R.R. Martin

Suicide Kings is the third part in the latest reincarnation of the long-running WILD CARDS series. Together with Inside Straight and Busted Flush it forms the Committee trilogy. I guess you could consider this trilogy WILD CARDS the next generation. These books are meant to be an entry point for new readers. Like most of the previous novels, Suicide Kings is a collaborative effort. This volume is written by six authors — Daniel Abraham, S.L. Farrell, Victor Milán, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector and Read More

Busted Flush: Not very satisfying

Busted Flush edited by George R.R. Martin

Busted Flush is the nineteenth entry in the Wild Cards series of mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin. The previous book, Inside Straight is something of a new beginning for the series, a new trilogy with new characters and a couple of new writers. It's a good point to get started. Unfortunately Busted Flush falls a bit short of the standard set in the first book of the Committee trilogy.

The story picks up some time after the events in Inside Straight. The UN secretary-general has snapped up the new American heroes after their dramatic performance in Egypt and formed the Committee — a group of Aces dealing with everything from genocide to natural disasters.There is plenty of work; our heroes are spread thin. In fact, the cracks in their organisation are clearly beginning to show. There ... Read More

Inside Straight: A WILD CARDS reboot

Inside Straight by George R.R. Martin (editor)

The year 2008 saw the (second?) rebirth of the WILD CARDS series edited and co-written by George R.R. Martin. These are ‘mosaic’ novels — stories written by several authors and set in a shared universe. The first book, Wild Cards, appeared in 1987. Inside Straight (2008) is book 18. To make this 18th book a good entry point, Martin and his companions created something of a Wild Cards: the Next Generation to reboot the series.

What do you need to know about the back story of the Wild Cards? Not a lot really. In 1946 an alien virus hit earth. It killed ninety percent of those infected, disfigured nine percent and left a lucky one percent with superhuman powers. The unlucky nine percent are referred to as Jokers ... Read More

Jokers Wild: Fast and fun and hard to put down

Jokers Wild edited by George R.R. Martin

Jokers Wild is the third volume in the long-running WILD CARDS series edited by George R.R. Martin. These books are written by a writer's collective in a style that they refer to as mosaic. Most of the books are written by a group of writers, and Martin (increasingly assisted by Melinda M. Snodgrass) edits them into one story. The series has gone though several changes in publisher but, partially carried by the success of Martin himself in recent years, seems to be going strong at the moment. This third volume was first published in 1987 and features contributions by Leanne C. Harper, Lewis Shiner, John J. Miller, Edward Bryant, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Walton Simons and George R.R. Martin himself.
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Flandry’s Legacy: Finishes the Technic Civilization stories

Flandry's Legacy by Poul Anderson

Flandry's Legacy is the conclusion to Baen's project to publish all Anderson's works in the Technic Civilization in chronological order. In total the series covers seven volumes and over 3,000 pages, all published between 1951 and 1985. This last volume contains two novels and four shorter pieces that cover almost four millennia in Anderson's future history. I must admit that after reading the previous volume, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Kinight of Terra, I suffered from a bit of a Flandry overdose. I'm not a huge fan of this character, it turns out. In this volume, Flandry makes his final appearance before Anderson takes us into the Long Night and out the other end. I had high hopes for this last part in the sage and indeed, I enjoyed the last stories in the collection a lot.

The collection opens with the last novel in which Flandry is the mai... Read More

Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra

Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra by Poul Anderson

Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight of Terra is the sixth part in Baen's project to publish all of Poul Anderson's works in the Technic Civilization universe in chronological order. This edition is again marred by some truly horrific cover art. I have a hard time deciding which of the volumes with Flandry in the title has the worst cover. I guess Baen is trying to emphasize the James Bond is space image of Flandry but it could have been done a bit more tastefully. Can you see yourself reading this on the train going home from work? I'm going to have to keep this cover carefully hidden from visitors. Let’s get back to the actual content. This volume contains three full length novels as well as well as a short story. The most interesting piece was the last novel in the collection, A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.

The... Read More

Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire

Captain Flandry by Poul Anderson

Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire is the fifth part in Baen's project to collect all the stories in Anderson's Technic Civilization and publish them by internal chronology. Three of the previous four books centred on the characters of Nicolas van Rijn and David Falkayn. In book four, aptly named Young Flandry, a new hero takes over. It is graced by one of the most horrific covers I've come across although Captain Flandry is giving it a run for its money. This cover even got the attention of the bad cover art blog Good Show Sir! I suppose it is the content that counts however, so let's have a look at that.

Captain Flandry contains six stories — one full novel and five shorter works, including the first Flandry story ever p... Read More

Young Flandry: Three novels about Flandry’s younger years

Young Flandry by Poul Anderson

Young Flandry is part four in Baen's project to publish all of Anderson's work in the Technic Civilization in chronological order. The cover of this book is so hideous that I almost gave up on this project. After reading the first three, none of which were graced by particularly good cover art, I thought it would be a shame to give up now though. In part three, Rise of the Terran Empire, we witnessed the last adventures of Nicolas van Rijn and David Falkayn, marking the end of the Polesotechnic league era of Anderson's future history. We also see humanity slip into a dark age and witness the rise of the Terran Empire. Most of the remaining stories in the Technic civilization is set In this Terran Empire phase of history. As the title of the book suggests, a new hero enters the stage. Dominic Flandry.

Young Flandry contains ... Read More

Rise of the Terran Empire: Transitions from the Commonwealth to the Empire

Rise of the Terran Empire by Poul Anderson

Rise of the Terran Empire is the third in a series of seven books collecting all of Poul Anderson's writings in the Technic civilization setting. The stories are presented by internal chronology and in this book we have reached the boundary between the two eras Anderson set most of these stories in: the time of the Polesotechnic league (Nicolas van Rijn and David Falkayn) and the era of the Terran Empire (Dominic Flandry). The previous two books contained quite a few pieces of short fiction but this third tome includes two full novels with room left over for four shorter works. One of these, “Sargasso of Lost Starships,” originally published in Planet Stories, appears for the first time in book form, so if you are a completist this is a must have.

The collection opens with the 1977 novel Mirkheim. It features both Falkayn an... Read More

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