The Long Tomorrow (1955) by Leigh Brackett

Len Colter sat in the shade under the wall of the horse barn, eating pone and sweet butter and contemplating a sin [7].

That’s a killer first line. And now I want some cornbread.


With its bucolic setting and unsophisticated characters, as well as some rambunctious river moments with two growing boys, it’s as though The Long Tomorrow invites the tradition of Mark Twain into the realm of SF, supporting the success of Ray Bradbury’s nostalgia stories and setting the stage for Clifford Simak’s pastoral entreaties for peace in the following decade. (Yes, I know Twain wrote sci-fi. I saw that episode of Next Gen, too.)

An excellent example of a post-WWII attempt at post-apocalyptic fiction, a tradition that has endured and endured and endured. I often wonder if, after we finally suffer the apocalypse that humanity seems to crave, will we then sit around the campfire telling gripping stories about copy machines, fast food tacos, and skyscrapers. Continue reading

The Bone Clocks (2014) by David Mitchell

theboneclocks1What’s that you ask? A book from 2014?

Yes. This is a thing I do sometimes. This happened last September, too, because September tends to be “book release month of famous, well-established authors” and I just can’t resist some releases. Speaking of reviewing new books, Books, Brains, and Beer has started an interesting discussion about the benefits of reviewing upcoming releases, but this post is entirely coincidental. If you follow my Twitter feed (@couchtomoon, ahem) you’ll notice that my reviews are posted at least two weeks after I read the books.

There are a lot of reviews out there for David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, most of them written by fans and critics who are familiar with, and have expectations of, his work. I’m not and I don’t. I’ve neither read, nor seen, Cloud Atlas, nor any of his other works. I read this simply because the onslaught of marketing was difficult to avoid in early September and the plot caught my attention. A multi-character collage, in an historical and near-future real world setting, where small hints of magic intrude upon daily life and connect the unwitting human participants—sounds like a story I can dig.
Continue reading

Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 1st“’All the misunderstandings that tie the world up and keep people apart were quivering before me at once, waiting for me to untangle them, explain them, and I couldn’t’” (ch. 2).

Talk about a novel that transcends that limited retro-future aesthetic, Babel-17 chugs way ahead of its respective decade as even authors today fumble to attain the ethers of a world like Samuel Delany has dreamed. Strange, beautiful, and futuristic, Babel’s lingering noir tone coalesces with a techno-background that brings to mind the cyberpunk of the 80’s and 90’s, without so much of a “jacking-in” or a singularity event. Laser lights and crystal interfaces streak the scenery while disembodied ghosts and surgically-accessorized lowlifes aid our unflappable heroine as she chases down a mysterious language, all while wearing copper lipstick. Continue reading

Big Sky fanzine, the Hugos, and other updates


Want to increase your SF cred? You must check out Big Sky #3 & #4, the latest editions of the gorgeous book review fanzine, released this month for LonCon3. Issues #3 and #4 are dedicated to the Gollancz SF Masterworks list, in which SF fans share their thoughts about critically acclaimed works of the genre. Contributors include familiar names from the SF world, including some of my favorite writers, critics, and fellow blogger buddies from around the web. (Some of my reviews are in there, too.)

What else has happened lately? Continue reading

Let’s Go to the Hugos: 2004!

The 2014 Hugo Awards ceremony is this Sunday, August 17th at LonCon3. As we count down to the big day, let’s review the best novel nominees from previous decades.

Next up: 10 years ago! (See my previous posts on 1964 and 1974.)


2004 Winner!

2004: Not a good year. It began with promise when Opportunity knocked on Mars, and Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, but another divisive U. S. presidential election, followed by the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami ended the year on a depressing note.

Plus, Facebook launched, making it possible for grandparents worldwide to argue with other elderly family members in a public forum. Yay for technology. Continue reading

Let’s Go to the Hugos: 1964!

The 2014 Hugo Awards ceremony is this Sunday, August 17th at LonCon3. As we count down to the big day, let’s review the best novel nominees from previous decades.

First up: Fifty years ago!


1964 Hugo winner

1964: the U. S. abolishes legalized racial segregation, Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life in prison, and Che Guevara has a nice chat with the United Nations. The Beatles invade the west, Diet Pepsi is introduced, and Stanley Kubrick releases “Dr. Strangelove.”

… and Clifford Simak wins the Hugo Award for his 1963 novel Here Gather the Stars (Way Station) at Pacificon II in Oakland, CA in September.


I was -15 years old. Too young to vote, I suppose. Continue reading

Time Enough for Love (1973) by Robert A. Heinlein

This is what I’m dealing with here…Time_Enough_For_Love_1st

The long-lived galactic playboy and entrepreneur (who is generally good at everything without having to work too hard) Lazarus Long (a. k. a. Woodrow Wilson and a ton of other names) is having a conversation with his adopted daughter Dora, who he rescued from a fire that killed her parents when she was a young child: Continue reading

Cat’s Cradle (1963) by Kurt Vonnegut

CatsCradle1st“No damn cat. No damn cradle” (ch. 74).

When listless Newt Hoenikker, son of the dead co-creator of the atomic bomb, makes this statement, I can only settle back in comfort, knowing that this is a writer who gets me. He’s right. That arrangement of string doesn’t remotely resemble a cat’s cradle, and what the hell is a cat’s cradle anyway?

Obviously, the story is about more than just the string, but it’s a cynical idealist’s response to a world that wants us to see something that just isn’t there. The atom bomb will create peace. Patriotism is family. Religion is truth. Continue reading

Beggars in Spain (1993) by Nancy Kress


It’s an endless battle between me and sleep. There is always something better to do.

Nancy Kress must share that sentiment, because her Hugo award-winning novella, “Beggars in Spain,” and her subsequent novel of the same name, is an exploration of society in which parents can choose to endow their children with more time and productivity through genetic modification to never need sleep. Continue reading

More Than Human (1953) by Theodore Sturgeon

MoreThanHuman(1stEdPB)Between the cover art and the title, Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human might first appear to be about cybernetic- or genetically-enhanced human potential, in which the main character, maybe an athlete, is endowed by science to be stronger and smarter than the rest of humanity. At least, that’s what I was expecting. Perhaps something similar to its infamously terrible contemporary, the 1954 Hugo winner They’d Rather Be Right, in which people become perfect after interface with a machine. Instead, Sturgeon gives us something even more quintessentially fifties– an exploration of the paranormal mental powers of humanity. Continue reading