SFRevu: July 1997 Vol. 1.1
New Releases: Star Trek: Avenger by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens with William Shatner, Fatal Terrain by Dale Brown The Year's Best SF: 14th annual edition edited by Gardner Dozois Foundations Fear by Gregory Benford
Interview: Author Interview: Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens - Star Trek: Avenger
Retro Review: Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove (review by Linda Zimmermann)
SFRevu goes to The Movies: Men in Black (with special Men in Black Bean Chili recipe)
Now in Paperback! Redliners by David Drake Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold Bellwether by Connie Willis
Contact Readercon '97 Report
Next Month in SFRevu: There's a great issue on the Event Horizon...
a word from the editor: Welcome to the second issue of SFRevu. This month we have lots of book reviews, a guest review by Civil War and SF author Linda Zimmermann, an interview with the authors of Star Trek: Avenger, Ern's adventures at Readercon, a Men In Black movie review and a recipe for Black Bean Chili. So go ahead and print off a copy or sit too close to the terminal and see what we've been up to lately. Share SFRevu with your friends and feel free to use anything in the issue in your own publication. Just remember to get my permission at SFReviewer@aol.com.
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Releases: Star Trek: Avenger by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens with William Shatner, Fatal Terrain by Dale Brown The Years Best SF: 14th annual edition edited by Gardner Dozois Foundations Fear by Gregory Benford
Star Trek: Avenger by Avenger by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens with William Shatner/ ISBN 0-671-55132-9 5/97 Pocket Books
Star Trek novels are an information virus. They are not the best of Science Fiction, but they are addictive, engrossing, and refuse to die. Just like James T. Kirk. He will not die gracefully, in a crowd, alone, at the hands of an old enemy, by falling off a mountain, into an energy vortex or of old age. He is protected as all deities are, by the determination of the devoted that he will exist. Of course, it helps that William Shatner has decided that his story shall continue unto the Next Generation. Not that I mind.
Let's see. Kirk was last seen about to die heroically after knocking out Picard and having him beamed off yet another place where somebody had to stay behind to throw the switch before it blows up. That was in The Return, the sequel to Generations, where they brought Kirk back from his last near death experience. Hopefully they are getting tired of killing him off, because it's getting a tad predicable.
In Avenger, we replay Kirk's last moments ala Tom Mix after the commercial (see history of Saturday morning TV) and find that he was beamed out of danger and into the lost memory of his near death (what again?) at the hands of Kodos the Executioner (see early history of Star Trek, the original series).
Meanwhile, Picard and the Enterprise E (see history of ships named...oh, forget it.) is enforcing a blockade of worlds carrying a plague that threatens to tear the Federation apart and kill billions. If you ever wished for a Trek future imperfect, you need look no further.
In Avenger you get both command crews, or much of them anyway, and Kirk in a variant of his standard role. Center stage? Well, yes, but he eschews the command chair this time. Kirk has moved on (at last) from the Captaincy to the mission.
In Generations, Kirk advises the Captain of another Enterprise to never leave the command chair, because while you are there you can make a difference. This is an unfortunate piece of non-logic of the sort that limits Trek from time to time. It's the sort of thinking that kept Shatner from allowing Kirk to go on to the Admiralty where he could help choose the mission, rather than just react to it.
Here Kirk tries on new roles, both healer and facilitator, as he tries to solve the mystery behind the origins of the plague and save the Federation and a long lost love. Again. He also needs to find out what really killed Spock's father, Sarek, and how it fits into the disaster at hand. The book is a lot of fun for fans of either series. Kirk gets to grow a bit, Spock takes it all pretty much in stride and Picard is well, Picard.
Reading joint TOS and Next Gen novels is much more fun than voting on who makes the better captain. The truth that emerges from these exercises is that they are different enough to defy comparison, but similar enough to entrust with saving the galaxy. One gets the feeling though that left alone on a planet with no way to contact Starfleet, Picard would learn to play the flute and Riker would get comfy in the big chair, while Kirk would convince the world to develop space travel just as Spock managed to locate the star system.
I dare you not to enjoy it.
Fatal Terrain by Dale Brown / ISBN 0-399-14241-X G.P. Putnam's Sons
Dale Browns 10th novel in the series that started with a 14th and armored B-52 in Flight of the Old Dog returns to the original premise in Fatal Terrain. The durable casts to these stories stars Patrick McLanahan, expert in aerial warfare development and former ace B-52 pilot. Though the supporting cast has suffered attrition over the intervening books, McLanahan survives both presidential administrations and dogfights to be on the scene to fly the right piece of advanced hardware at the right time to save the nations assets. Former Air Force General Brad Elliott, booted from the Air Force after having annoyed one too many administrations pushing the development and deployment of his advanced aircraft, is along for more than the ride as the latest progeny of his Old Dog B-52, the EB-52 Megafortress takes to the field. Since the downsizing of the Air Force and the shutdown of Elliotts HAWC weapons development center, McLanahan and design genius Jon Masters have put together a civilian counterpart named SkyMasters to explore the feasibility of heavy bombers into the next century. As usual, the test of their concepts takes place on the battlefield with more than contracts on the line.
The players on the field are the forces of the Peoples Republic of China, out to take on the newly independent Taiwan. Dale Brown takes the very real position that the United States armed forces are not up to the job of making good our assurances of support based on the carrier based strength of bomber fighters, reviving his classic argument that a heavily armed and stealthed bomber group could reach halfway around the world and "touch someone". Just as the B-52 has done for the baby boomers entire lifetime.
Fatal Terrain dishes up plenty of action as the conflict between China and Taiwan escalates and Elliott gnashes his teeth waiting for approval from Washington to take the fight to the Chinese. Seems like thats been the complaint of more than one American General in years past.
Dale Browns fiction is laden with cockpit chatter and descriptions of high tech hardware that you either love or hate. Personally, I love it. Science Fiction shies away from gadgetry today in order to broaden its market, or because its really being written by writers with little scientific acumen themselves, but this high tech military stuff gives no apologies for its arms catalog diatribe. Of course, to a very large degree it talks about hardware on or almost on the shelf, but if you read a lot of popular SF Battletech, David Drakes Redliners (see our review this issue) for instance, its not much more farfetched.
More techno than Tom Clancy, and more fun than a cat fight, Fatal Terrain is a fast moving read and welcome addition to the Old Dog saga.
The Years' Best Science Fiction: Fourteenth Annual Collection - Gardner Dozois, Editor / ISBN - 0-312-15703-7 St. Martin's Griffin
I look forward to this collection every summer. Gardner annually restores my faith in Science Fiction as a mind altering genre with his consistently superb collection. Short stories are often the best of Science Fiction, and Gardners collection is the best of the best. Not to mention the indispensable year in review commentary Gardner includes as to preface the edition. As editor of Asimov's SF magazine, Gardner is about as much of an insider as you could hope to get your intel from.
Often when a perfectly good author sits down with a perfectly good idea and puts together a novel as long as the publisher wants, a lot of bad things go wrong. The chapters dont quite track. The ending comes out of nowhere. The author gets lost in world building, and cant stick to one world at a time. The horse dies and still the beating continues. But when that same author gets an idea for a short story...Zing.
When short stories are as good as the ones in this collection, they are concept driven gems. Meet the idea, meet the characters, watch them dance together and hang on for that little twist at the end. You can feel the little zing and see the author smiling in self satisfaction. When its good, you smile along. I never had much interest in mind expanding drugs, just give me more stories like the ones in the YBSF. You can even read collections like this and have a normal life too. I mean, you read a story, do some life, read another story. Nobodys the wiser.
Gregory Benfords yarn about going native on an African reservation leads the anthology off smartly and leaves you wondering how zoos would be organized if one could see the world through the animals' eyes.
Nancy Kress spins an alien perspective yarn in "The Flowers of Aulit Prison" that Ursula LeGuin would have to envy. As in The Dispossessed, Left Hand of Darkness and other LeGuin classics, Terrans are the outsiders come to learn, but what the locals discover about themselves and their world view is at the heart of the story. Nancy is a consummate character writer, and here displays some world building to match. Surprisingly, Ms. LeGuin is absent from the anthology for the first time in several years.
Bruce Sterling has a great story in "The Bicycle Repairman" that hit most of my zing buttons dead on. It also happens to be up for the Best Novella Hugo award. It's got bicycles, fringe folks, rightwing extremists, never-aging boomers, high tech spy gizmos and a sense of humor. All it really needed was the bicycles and sense of humor for me, but the rest just adds to the fun in a very Sterling fashion. Tor has put this story up on it's web site in case you'd like to see it before you pick up the collection. It's at: http://www.tor.com/bicycle.html. (Im leading an SFABC Author Discussion Group about Bruce Sterling in August, at the Wayne NJ Borders, Books, and Beyond at 8:00 PM Thursday, August 14th. C'mon by and lend your support!)
There are several Retro-SF pieces, including John Kessles "Miracle of Ivar Avenue" which takes place in the Hollywood of the 40s when gumshoes and starlets ruled the land. A nifty time travel yarn to be sure, and one of Editor Dozois own picks for best of the bunch. My favorite retro pick is James P. Blaylocks "Thirteen Phantasms". Blaylock has penned a story Rod Serling would have loved which evokes nostalgia for the early days of SF strong enough to make me almost believe that you could bridge the years just by wishing hard enough.
Twenty eight stories from as many authors collected by the preeminent collector of short SF. Required reading? Absolutely.
Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford / ISBN 0-06-105234-4 Harper Prism March 1997
Forward the Foundation! The Second Foundation Trilogy begins with Asimov's friends; Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and David Brin each of whom have agreed to write a novel in the second Foundation Trilogy. The first, Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford, which came out in March, follows Robots and Empire, Asimov's last foundation work which tied his Robot stories and Foundation stories together. Central to these stories is Hari Seldon, creator of the science of psychohistory that drove the Foundations through the decline of the Galactic Empire and three of the best loved books in all of SF. In Foundation's Fear, Hari is aided by the woman he loves, despite having realized in the last book that she was a Positronic robot sent to protect him, and manipulated by the robot Daneel Olivaw, the longest lasting character in Asimov's universe. Towards what end? The fulfillment of the Zeroth law of robotics: The protection of mankind.
In the course of the book, virtual re-creations of Joan of Arc and Voltaire prepare for a public slugfest between Faith and Reason that would have been perfect on Steve Allen's PBS series Meeting of the Minds, where he provided much the same spectacle with actors. Still, I don't think Steve had to contend with rouge AIs taking it on the lam. Not so public are the efforts to thwart Hari's appointment to First Minister by the Emperor. Through it all the Empire slides into the coming darkness.
The team of authors signed for this project promise great things for the expansion of Asimov's last effort - the synthesis of his Robot and Foundation stories.
Interview: Star Trek: Avenger authors Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (courtesy of Sci-Fi Talk)
Tellado and I were on the air in NYC in the Spring of '97 doing the Sci-Fi Talk radio program. He's the Host, I'm the Co-host and reviewer. Then we ran out of air time and Tony is out looking for another venue while I write reviews for SFRevu. Maybe a nice spot on the Sci-Fi Channel? On our April, 2nd 1997 broadcast we interviewed Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, who were out promoting their Shatner Collaboration. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens are also the story editors and writers for Flash Gordon: The Animated Series. What's it like to work with William Shatner on a Star Trek Novel? From these authors, it seems like a lot of fun.
Ernest: Speaking of Star Trek, you folks have written a bunch of novels, Memory Prime, Prime Directive and you've just come out with another, Star Trek: Avenger.
Judith: We're doing five books with William Shatner. We've done three, Ashes Of Eden, The Return and now Avenger. There will be two more coming up. The next one is called Spectre. The editor joked that the fifth one would be called Chaos.
Ernest: And who is that editor ?
Garfield: John Ordover
Ernest and Tony (In unison): Oh yeah - we know John. (John Ordover is the Star Trek Editor at Pocket Books. He's provided us with a wealth of Authors, Galleys and Insights. He's also glowered at a few of my reviews - Ern)
Ernest: What's Avenger about ?
Garfield: The Ashes of Eden, The Return and Avenger are an actual trilogy. Each one is a stand alone novel. But there is a much bigger story about Captain Kirk that goes on behind the scenes.
Judith: And it involves Sarek and Spock.
Garfield: The Return was about how Captain Kirk wasn't really killed at the end of Generations but was brought back to life by the Borg.
Judith: We gained quite a bit of experience killing and resurrecting Flash Gordon for the animated series.
Garfield: The intriguing thing is that The Return ends with a sequence with Kirk, who is visited by the ghost of Sarek and this is the element that Shatner had put into Star Trek V which is Kirk said that he always knew that he would die alone.
Judith: We were able to play off that and that was a theme that runs through all three novels and is answered in the third one.
Garfield: The last scene in The Return is Sarek saying to Kirk, Avenge Me ! One of the things that we find out in Avenger is that Sarek did not die of Bendai Syndrome but was murdered.
Judith: We had a great deal of fun with those first three books. The first was almost like a romance now that Kirk was in his retirement years. The second one was like a terminator where he mowed down everyone in the Next Generation. Avenger is like a mystery story involving the death of Sarek.
Tony: How was it like to work with the alter ego of Captain Kirk, William Shatner ?
Judith: It's wonderful. In the beginning we saved all of our telephone answering machine messages because we couldn't believe he was calling us.
Garfield: I still remember being in his office once working on a pivotal scene where Kirk had a split with McCoy and Spock.
Judith: He found a particularly dramatic way to make his point on how we should look at how this scene unfolded.
Garfield: He acted out the entire scene for us doing all of the parts and all the voices.
Judith: We had our own William Shatner theater.
Garfield: It is interesting because he knows a lot more about Star Trek than he lets on. He has a lot of fun with people.
Judith: He is an experienced creator and producer of Science Fiction as well, having been through all of the Tek War series. It was a total joy to work with him. And we're all Canadians so we know the Canadian secret hand shake.
RetroReview: Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove (review by Linda Zimmermann)
When the reprint of Harry Turtledove's classic Guns of the South showed up in my mailbox, it almost didn't grab my attention. I'm not a big fan of Alt-Hist but I had heard of this one, and idly perused the first chapter. Well written, interesting, and&ldots;AK-47s in the Civil War?! This could be fun. Time to call in an expert. The expert I called is my good friend, Linda Zimmermann. Linda is the author of her own Civil War book: Forging A Nation (ISBN 0-9645133-1-5), as well as a book on the follies of astronomy through history: Bad Astronomy (ISBN# 0-9645133-0-7). Her first fictional SF title, Mind over Matter (1-55237-241-3) is due out this November.
The picture on the cover of the book answers the prayers of generations of Southerners; Robert E. Lee holding an AK-47. Why the famous 19th Century Civil War general is holding one of the most efficient killing machines of the 20th Century is, of course, what the 513 pages of small print between the covers is all about.
It is 1864 and Union General U.S. Grant is about to engage in a series of bloody battles which will begin in the tangled undergrowth of the Wilderness, and end in the front parlor of a farmers home in Appomattox Courthouse. General Lee will surrender, an enraged John Wilkes Booth will shoot Lincoln, and an already crippled South will endure decades of harsh Reconstruction policies as ex-slaves begin to take their rightful place in society. Or, maybe not.
At least not in Turtledoves alternate world. What if a fanatical group of 21st Century racists got hold of a time machine and were able to supply the Army of Northern Virginia with automatic rifles just as Grants campaign commenced? The solution would be simple: Lee + AK-47s = an independent Confederate States of America. What isnt so easily calculated is what the new nation would be like. This is where the bulk of book resides and after a brief flirtation with science fiction, Turtledove embarks an epic alternate history which only a serious Civil War enthusiast could truly appreciate.
Turtledoves meticulously framed Confederacy is so painstakingly thought out, it is almost a shame he ever added the infamous "Rivington men" and their automatic weapons. In the end, the gloss of science fiction appears intrusive and the obligatory battle of brave and wiser Southerners against the evil men of the future does not do the rest of the work justice.
The Guns of the South, while intriguing, might have been more satisfying if the Rivington men and their amazing technologies had played more of a role throughout the story. On the other hand, the book might have been even better served if Science Fiction played no role. Instead, perhaps dabbling with reality in the form of preventing Stonewall Jackson from being killed at Chancellorsville? Stonewall alive and at Gettysburg might have been just as effective for the Southern cause as a trainload of AK-47s.
Ultimately, the books greatest moments are found in the exploration of Robert E. Lee as the conquering hero, aspiring politician and budding abolitionist. Turtledove portrays him with such unflinching strength of character, that even the staunchest Yankee might not be able to suppress a good old rebel yell.
SFRevu goes to the Movies - Men in Black (with Ern's MIBB Chili recipe)
If you haven't been driving around Mars for the past month you've probably already seen Men in Black. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith both reprise their roles from former movies. Mr. Jones hunts Aliens instead of Harrison Ford (was Han Solo an Alien?) and Mr. Smith kicks yet more of E.T.'s little Alien butt, this time in his own hood. The two are perfect for this mutant Dragnet clone as is Linda Fiorentino as the smart, sexy and frequently memory wiped Deputy Medical Examiner. Rip Torn (Agent Z) is under used as the head of the Men in Black organization, but he does well with the limited role given him.
It's not often I like an SF movie as much as I enjoy it. I'm perfectly capable of enjoying mindless special effects extravaganzas, like ID4 (If you hold down the shift key that comes out ID$, which makes sense.). I don't like them all that much. They dumb down the average movie goer's idea of what SF is and add little to our perception of life the universe and everything.
MIB wasn't mind boggling in that regard, but it was at least clever. The idea of making a movie that used all the common reference points of UFOlogy, from tabloid papers to Elvis as an Alien abductee amused me greatly. Which was the point of the film. I regard this as an SF Comedy, placing it a full step above my usual gripe that movies are more Sci-Fi than Science Fiction. It's going in my video collection when it comes out. Congratulations to Director Barry Sonnefield (Get Shorty), kudos to Steven Speilberg for putting the project together, and a standing ovation to Lowell Cunningham, whose Men In Black comics provide the framework for the story. I loved driving upside down through the Midtown tunnel with K (Tommy Lee Jones) singing along with Elvis (He's not dead, he just went home) as J (Will Smith) peels himself off the car ceiling. My favorite device is the use of tabloid papers to keep track of Aliens.
When you watch it on video (and you should), try making up a batch of my Men In Black Bean Chili along with some tortilla chips or better yet...Cosmic Cornbread.
Men In Black Bean Chili (aka Ern's Black Bean Chili )
There are too many parallels between chili and the UFO phenomena to be mere coincidence. For one thing Roswell is in New Mexico.
2 - 16 oz cans Goya black beans, 1 - 16 oz can Goya red or pinto beans, 1 - 16 oz can peeled and diced tomatoes, 1 - lg. Spanish onion, 1.5-2 lbs. lean chuck steak - not ground beef., 1 - pkg Caroll Shelby Chili mix (its in a little brown bag) anybody else is ok. Heck, you can just use chili powder. Spices: (if you got the Caroll Shelby pkg. - they're in there) salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, masala (white corn flour). Can sizes approx.
Dice onions - 1/4-1/2 inch pieces, Cube beef - 1/2 inch pieces. Heat a deep skillet with burner on high, then don't walk away from it while you brown the ingredients. Brown onions in skillet with two tablespoons oil - remove. Brown beef, no oil needed. Add a little salt and pepper while browning to flavor the seared juices. Go easy - the chili mix has plenty of salt. Return onions to pan. Stir in. Turn down the heat...to about medium. Mix in tomatoes. Add chili mix.
At this point, stop and admire the chili. remarking to anyone standing that in Texas the chili would be done now.
Add all three cans of beans, with bean fluids.
Remark that we're not in Texas anymore. If you are in Texas, say Aliens made you do it.
Stir it all up.
Admire the galactic swirl pattern in the beans. You are located on the edge of the pot. Reflect on the vastness of the universe, the number of black beans in the pot, stars in the galaxy, chances of finding intelligent life, and the production of methane. Methane (aka Swamp Gas) is also useful for simulating UFOs. With enough chili you could start your own hoax. Stop admiring the chili and get back to work.
Add cayenne to taste, a little at a time. Same with salt. Remember, the spice will get more pronounced as it cooks. Turn heat to low. Simmer for an hour or put it in a crock pot on low and leave it for 3 hours. Add water carefully until you really like the consistency (it will be thicker tomorrow). Serve by itself, or on pasta (pene or spaghetti), or on rice. Sour cream and more chopped onions are my favorite garnishes.
Remember: You can't save the world on an empty stomach.
Now in Paperback!
Redliners by David Drake / ISBN 0-671-87789-5 July 1997 paperback
Then it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' Tommy, ow's your soul?
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
- Rudyard Kipling
Redliners starts out in Operation Active Clock as Strike Force Company 41 descends on Maxus 377 to take out the "Spook's" main spaceport and soften it up for the oncoming Unity invasion. The Strikers are Earth's best and most combat hardened troops, the kind of men and women you can count on deep behind enemy lines with little support.
Drake knows how to write combat, and Heinlein's Starship Troopers would have had no trouble believing the action or hardware carried by the hard hitting Strikers as they move with deadly speed through their target. What separates them from the classic is the premise of the book. By the time Active Cloak and the first chapter are done, the sharpened steel of the Strikers will turn brittle with the stress of combat, each of its members carrying back the memories of one operation gone horribly wrong, one time too many. They have crossed the red line between useful tools and broken ones.
Too battle shocked to be sent back into Earth's conflict with the Alien Spooks, the remnants of the 100 man company will fare little better if released to desks and pensions. Fortunately for them, there is another man who has been pushed to his limit of endurance as well. Tired of sending soldiers to their death or watching them come back broken and with no link to the society they fight for, the Unity commander too has had more than he can take. Redliners is about the chance for redemption he offers them, and himself.
The main action in the book takes place on a savage garden of a planet where the Strikers have been rushed along with a colonization effort of draftees from a Terran community. The construction of a one way starship, as it's being loaded along with the drafting of a skyscraper's inhabitants to tame a savage world and the detachment of shell shocked troops to protect them sounds like a typical government snafu, but it's all a plan to reunite the Strikers with the society and individual humanity they lost on the battlefield in the pursuit of their deadly craft.
The planner didn't count on a world so vicious that the plants shoot back or that the Strikers would have to protect the colonists on a forced march to the right landing spot. Drake finds plenty of action for his thin red line of 'eroes.
The story follows each of the troopers as they develop connections to the colonists and grapple with their nightmares. I often remember a line from the sitcom Taxi, where Reverend Jim, dropout from life and a Vietnam draft dodger, is confronted by 'Nam veteran Tony Danza. Danza asks what he has to say to all the guys that risked their lives fighting so that guys like Jim could stay home? Jim's reply of "Thank You", sums up both the answer veterans of that war were waiting for and Drake's point in Redliners. The Strikers are heroes, dying for a cause, but it's a truth that is too often lost on the field of combat amid the killing and dying or between the warring parties of the government. If any of them live long enough to get the colonists to safety, they may just save themselves along the way.
This is recommended summer reading. Take it along when you attack the crabgrass and weeds for that well earned break. You may not feel quite so safe surrounded by your own horticultural horrors after you finish Redliners.
Bellwether by Connie Willis / ISBN 0-553-56296-7 Bantam July 1997
The first Connie Willis book I read was Lincoln's Dreams, a mix of soft SF and Civil War flashbacks. I liked Lincoln's Dreams well enough to recommend it to friends, but I lost track of Connie in the interim. I missed The Doomsday Book, though I am assured by a usually reliable source (and the Hugo it won) that it was good. A bit slow to get to a plot perhaps, but intelligent, interesting and worthwhile.
Bellwether is certainly slow to get to the plot, usually intelligent and mostly interesting, but ultimately I'm not sure how worthwhile. Connie waltzes her characters around the corridors of HiTech, the commercial research firm they work for, for the better part of the book without getting past the sometimes Douglas Adamsesque business of corporate science, dating in the 90, and an obsession with fads throughout history. The central character is a fad researcher, trying to unravel their causes.
The historical notes about various fads that appear at the beginning of each chapter vie with the story for your attention, though the story is actually a pretty good read. It's not Science Fiction, though there are scientists aplenty, and a bit of research actually seems to be getting done, though far more form filling out. Which is of course precisely the windmill Ms. Willis is tilting at. When the book actually gets down to business, in the last few pages, all doubt as to the real nature of the book vanishes. It's a romance novel. A scientific romance novel, but a romance novel nonetheless. Well, except for the last few pages...where some interesting notions pops up. My big disappointment wasn't that the important action in the book winds up circling around love, heck, I like love a lot. I was just sorry that we never find anything useful about fads. Gee, I hope this doesn't catch on.
And now for a bit of heresy in the Church of Science.
One thing bothers me just a tad in Bellwether. The book's heroes are scientists forced to work for a corporation that has no interest in science beyond the money it can make off it. Oh Evil Corporation. The only scientist in line with the corporation's objectives is a self-serving dragon lady out to profile grant winners and remake herself in whatever image is au courant.
Ok, time out. I'm sorry that pure science doesn't get a better shake, but does it occur to anyone that taking money from HiTech while refusing to contribute to its goals is less than pure in itself? Yes, it is. Go ahead, shoot me. I just don't buy the Gilbert and Sullivan premise that organizations are inherently misdirected. Dilbert may be a folk hero, but is he contributing anything or is he just taking shots at the system?
The Rant Endeth.
Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold / ISBN 0-553-24170-2 Bantam Reissue 1997 July (first printing 1980)
In Trekdom, David Gerrold is best known as the author of "The Trouble with Tribbles". Thirteen years after the series ended its run he was one of the original authors to bring it back in the original Bantam Star Trek novels. In Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool, we get the best of Classic Trek, the full array of cast and situations, but with the savvy move of Kirk to slightly left of center stage. Lt. Reilly takes the spotlight, and using him shows the value of a younger, less finished character. Gerrold had over a decade to think about the show before writing the book, and some retooling is evident. Kirk has settled for being the second or third on the scene when a landing party goes down, and when he decides to dash off to examine a spatial anomaly not on his orders, he is careful to fabricate a plausible legal position that would cover the situation.
Young Lt. Reilly (you probably remember his rendition of "I'll take you home again Kathleen" from the show) beams down to an artificial world zooming through the void at a third the speed of light and with no apparent way of stopping. He winds up doing all the things normally reserved for James T. Kirk, but he does them with un-Kirk like self doubt that makes the character more interesting. Maybe there should have been consideration of a series based on his character, or maybe it's just his Gaelic charm.
The story revolves around convincing the inhabitants of a colony vessel that they are really on a giant spaceship in time for the craft to avert certain destruction. Certain death is played by a pair of whirling black holes three years distant in the worldlet's path, and the opposition to salvation is provided by a religiously fanatical Captain who refuses to believe in anything outside the vessel. Been there. Done that. Well, yeah, but David does it so well that despite my intention to read a few chapters while making coffee, I blitzed through the whole book in one sitting. At 222 pages that's not the feat it might be, but the bottom line is that the book remains engaging throughout. If you want proof that the space time warps exist outside Science Fiction, pick this up for a trip into Trek's past.
Readercon boasts more authors per square foot than any other con, and believe me, they deliver. Not just authors either - reviewers, publishers, editors and even the odd fan. I had a chance to meet Kim Stanley Robinson, the Guest of Honor, whom I'd interviewed over the phone when his Hugo nominated Blue Mars came out, chat up the editor of a Zine I've always admired - SF Chronicle, and collect Email addresses from many pros and fans I'd like to keep in touch with.
Allen Steele, author of The Tranquility Alternative, gave a great "How I did it" presentation that made me want to know more. As a result his interview will be in the next issue of SFRevu. Katya Reimann, up for her first John Campbell nomination for Wind from a Foreign Sky gave a compelling reading from her next book, in which she made me suspect she can turn a sword as neatly as a phrase. I even got to know some other reviewers, was amiably insulted by the editor of Pirate Writings, and in general enjoyed myself immensely. Even if I did stay up for 24 hours. If you want to get the best inside information on what goes on at Northeast Cons, Email Bob Devney for his quip filled newsletter: "The Devniad". Every time anyone who gets "The Devniad" sees Bob, their first act on receiving a new issue is to scan for their own name to see if they made the cut. Even if one doesn't, it's an enjoyable romp through the Northeast's fandom. For a copy of "The Devniad", Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next year I'm going to Readercon to meet GOH Bruce Sterling, another of my favorite authors. If you read or write SF or Fantasy and live in the Northeast, Readercon is the best Con you could go to. Check out the '98 con at http://www.mit.edu/~zeno/eradercon.html.
Next Month in SFRevu: There's a great issue on the Event Horizon...starting with The Tranquility Alternative by Allen Steele, and an interview with the author. Also reviewed: Mainline by Deborah Christian, Expendable by James Alan Gardner, Footprints of Thunder by James F. David, Slant by Greg Bear, How Like a God by Brenda W. Clough and a movie review of Event Horizon. If not more.
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