Towing Jehovah (Godhead #1) (1994) by James Morrow

TowingJehovah1…opening God’s tympanic membranes would not be sacrilegious—heaven wanted this tow… loc. 1208.

A difficult book to grasp. A difficult book to review. James Morrow’s 1994 religious satire defies the excessive eye winks and elbow jabs of familiar SF critical humor, a la Pohl & Kornbluth or Pratchett & Gaiman, (calm down, boys, we get it), while also challenging the reader expecting relentless cannonballs lobbed at its religious and conservative targets. While those targets certainly do get their share of bruises, so do the skeptics, and the novel’s overall respect for faith, despite the blasphemy, makes this a very different kind of satire. Continue reading

Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest (1935) by Olaf Stapledon

OddJohn1I warned visitors in my last monthly post that my prescribed TBR as of late has wandered into more modern, mainstream fare (in other words, blah). As we know, I am a stubborn sort of reader, and I stick to my list, but I found a little extra time this month to indulge a little craving for something even older than my usual comfort zone. A sudden desire to spend my evening strolls listening to a pulpy dramatized space opera motivated me to look for that Jack Williamson retro Hugo nominee from last year—but then I stumbled across Odd John by Olaf Stapledon.

I’ve had bad luck with the childish space dramas of the 1930s but I’ve been promised by several good authorities that Olaf Stapledon is a special kind of 1930’s SF writer. They weren’t kidding. Continue reading

Kiln People (2002) by David Brin

KilnPeople1Also known as Kil’n People, which is why I didn’t expect a book about clay people. I thought it was going to be about some imaginary tribal culture. Maybe from space. But, no. It’s about clay people. That you make in kilns. Kiln clones. ALSO KNOWN AS GOLEMS.

In case you’re just joining me in my reading saga, I just read a book with 229 mentions of the word golem. I’m a bit golemed out.

“Golemetry is an interruption,” I read somewhere once. Continue reading

The Integral Trees (1984) by Larry Niven

TheIntegralTrees1

Not about a crucified Peter Pan.

Question: If an integral tree falls in a gas torus space jungle, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Answer: Your question is invalid. The tree might waver a bit, but air resistance would restabilize the structure, though it might shift nearer to its neutron star, causing a drought, which might result in the starvation of its inner-tuft inhabitants. Duh.

The last time I reviewed a Larry Niven book, I noticed that his penchant for Hard Science detail impacted not only the setting, for which he is so famous, but also the social structure of his two depicted cultures. The humans are dealt like playing cards: “The Captain,” “The Scottish Engineer,” “The Plucky Female” (effff). The alien culture is built into an all too familiar hierarchy: White on top, Brown on bottom, with little suggestion of struggle or complexity within the system.

I’m sure this is all very satisfying to Hard SF fans who like to fit characters into their proper toolbox compartments, but it’s called “soft science” for a reason. Hard edges are neither plausible nor compelling when dealing with people.

With 1984’s Integral Trees, (which I liked all right and I’ll get to that eventually), we see a continuation of the Hard SF habit influencing other areas of typically, er, soft portrayal. The following is uncut, but with my interjections. I repeat, nothing is missing from the following excerpt: Continue reading

Claire North wins the John W. Campbell Memorial Award!

TheFirstFifteenLivesofHarryAugustThe John W. Campbell Memorial Award was announced this weekend and Catherine Webb took the prize. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was easily one of the best and most satisfying SF novels of 2014 and well done to Catherine Webb (aka Claire North) for winning! Recognized on several shortlists, and competing against many well-deserved finalists for this particular award, I’m happy to see this well-written novel finally get some award recognition!

Here’s my quickie-review, and here’s more info on the award and the list of finalists.

 

 

 

The Wanderer (1964) by Fritz Leiber

TheWanderer1A predecessor to the disaster film genre, particularly the universally panned parody Disaster Movie (2008), where culturally-identifiable groups of people struggle, or amble, to survive against an uncontrollable, dangerous force. In the 1965 Hugo award-winning The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber introduces a sprawling cast of characters that spans the globe, while a UFP (unidentified flying planet) arrives in the sky and appears to consume the moon.

The shrewder souls thought: Publicity for a new horror film, or – aha—pretext for new demands on China and Russia. (ch. 14) Continue reading