Caution: Some cognitive dissonance may result when a tale of a macho hero, who one-handedly saves a planet while armed with guns and muscles and toughness and stuff, simultaneously triumphs scientific humanism, empathy, non-violence and cooperation.
Planet of the Damned is a tale with heart, but that heart is buried under the bulging pectoral muscles of a cardboard hero. It’s high brow scifi for the low brow geek.
Brion Brandd (that’s Branduh-duh) has just won the Twenties, the Anvharrian Olympics of mind and might– a true competition for the Renaissance man: chess, wrestling, sword-fights, poetry, etc. But Ihjel, a former Twenties victor, immediately recruits Brion for a mission to help save the planet of Dis from suicidal destruction. With Ihjel as his mentor, Brion discovers he has innate empathic abilities, which he must use to understand the barbaric inhabitants of Dis. Brion and Lea, a knock-out Terran biologist, work to stop the threats of nuclear annihilation between Dis and its neighboring enemy planet, the peace-loving, normally anti-violent, Nyjord. The pacifist Nyjordians set a deadline to destroy Dis unless the ruling Dis (Dissidents?) give up their cobalt bombs, (which are not pretty blue powder bombs, I checked). Continue reading →
“The sky above… was the color of a television tuned to a dead channel.”
When Robert Sawyer winks at this opening line from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it’s a reminder of how drastically technology has changed over the past 30 years. When Gibson wrote that line in 1984, it was intended to evoke the gray fuzziness of a disconnected screen. Two and a half decades later, Sawyer uses the same line to describe a bright blue sky. For me, five years and an awesome Sony app box later, a dead channel is as black as the night of a new moon (with an HDMI input notification in the top corner).
But that line also illustrates how drastically the cyber SF sub-genre has also changed over the past 30 years. Neuromancer is the seminal piece: dark, edgy, and weird, while Wake is safe, comfortable, and sweet. Neuromancer‘s main character is a suicidal adult male with a drug addiction. Wake‘s main character is an optimistic teen girl with good grades and high self-esteem. Both explore similar themes of emerging technology, primarily human interaction with artificial intelligence, but they go about it in completely different ways. If Neuromancer is cyberpunk, then Wake is cyberpop. Continue reading →
When a spaceship lands in the English shire of Ansby during the middle of the Hundred Years’ War, Sir Roger, Baron de Tournville, leads his knights to battle against strange blue “demons,” then hijacks their ship to mount an attack against France. But the lone alien survivor of the Wesgorix, kept alive for information, misleads his captors and autopilots a return to his home empire. Do the merry English bat an eye? Hardly! The sprawling interstellar empire of the Wesgorix is simply another territory for the Crusade-happy Baron to claim in the name of King Edward III and Christendom.
Monty Python meets Hitchhiker’s Guide? Why not? While the marrying of medieval romps and galactic pioneering sounds as fun today as it did over fifty years ago, the execution is sparse for modern SFers whose mash-up expectations require hundreds of pages, years of research, valid science, and ironic nihilism. But when the first tenth of a novel is dedicated to its most famous fans’ love letters, you know you’ve stumbled on to an important piece of SF history. Continue reading →
The first major SF book award of the year was announced today at The Kitschies Awards ceremony in the UK!
Although The Kitschies has only been around since 2009, established by pornokitsch.com and sponsored by a rum company, it may seem like a rather un-major award, but considering the impressive panel of judges, and its mission to recognize “the year’s most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining works” of SF from the UK is quite compelling. You can see the full list of winners and nominees here. I’m tempted to squeeze of few of these into my own, already overfull reading list.
Clifford Simak has an important message for all wannabe McFly’s and TimeLords: Don’t bother. Life moves with time. It doesn’t hang around to be observed by time travelers. The past is deserted of life, and the future is a void.
More importantly, Mr. Simak also has a message for NASA: Stop what you’re doing. Humans are too frail for space. If we want to explore space, we must do so with our minds (cue wobbly theremin music).
That’s the basic premise for Simak’s 1962 Hugo-nominated novel Time is the Simplest Thing (a.k.a. The Fisherman). Continue reading →
I didn’t really like the artwork on these books, so here’s a picture of an adorable little puppy.
I wanted to hate this book, just so I could call it Sharts of Honor, but my ambivalence toward this series is bereft of any emotion strong enough to justify the effort of a scatological insult. Actually, I really wanted to love these two novels, just so I could identify with the legions of Lois McMaster Bujold fans who buoy her consistent status as the second most nominated, and second most won, author of Hugo Best Novel Awards.
But, alas, I remain unimpressed. I’m sorry, Bujold fans. Once again, I am just not cool enough to fit with the in-crowd. Continue reading →