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

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Beggars in Spain (1993) by Nancy Kress

BeggarsInSpain(1stEd)

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

Moving Mars (1993) by Greg Bear

movingmars1stI was afraid this novel would fall short of its titular promise, a bait-and-switch piece that neglects the physical feat of relocating an entire planet from one part of the galaxy to another, for a politically-charged story about a radical movement on Mars. Sure, I love political science (it was my undergrad major, after all), but you can’t name a novel Moving Mars and not move Mars. But then the characters started talking about quantum physics, and…

*Spoiler Alert* Continue reading

People of the Wind (1973) by Poul Anderson

PeopleoftheWind1stMay was a month of second and third chances, when I read popular SF authors that have somehow captivated the fandom, but have not captivated me. In these cases, it’s simply a matter of preference: I’m not macho enough, girly enough, or childish enough. In the case of Poul Anderson, I’m simply not impressed enough. Maybe I haven’t chosen the right Anderson books. Continue reading

Protector (1973) by Larry Niven

protectorIt took me over a week to read this little 200-page book, but not for any reason other than lack of time (and the embarrassment of reading the above pictured paperback in public*). I would have preferred to read it in one or two quick sittings, in order to match the pace and style of the story. The story itself covers lots of temporal space, taking place over a few centuries (and thousands of millennia, really), but Niven’s style is sparse and germane enough to skip over that unnecessary human content and get down to the brass tacks. “Time. Setting. Person. This is what happened. This is what the characters need to find out. This is how they investigate. And this is how a Bussard ramjet works.”

It sounds boring, but it’s not. Niven’s brochure-style writing is enriched by his imaginative ideas about human origins, evolution, and wonked-out space worlds with weird grav. And I really just stuck around for the sweet potatoes. <– this is fun (here, too!) Continue reading