Copyright 1997 by Ernest Lilley
New Releases: Earthling by Tony Daniel In the Land of Winter by Richard Grant To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis Secret Passages by Paul Preuss The Red Wyvern by Katharine Kerr
Interviews: Robert Sawyer: Illegal Alien
SFRevu goes to The Movies: Alien Resurrection
Contact SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom.
Next Month in SFRevu: Government Employees save the world all month in January - see what's coming next.
But first, a word from the Editor: Happy Holidays - whatever you celebrate. It's the time of year when humankind gathers together amid bright lights and warm food to share comfort on lengthening winter nights. Be it Christmas, Chanukah, Yule, or just plain Solstice watching, remember to hold the good things the holidays bring in your hearts; fellowship, peace and joy...and a sense of wonder never hurts either.
The holiday season is replete with Science Fiction movie offerings this year, with Ripley back from the dead in ALIEN RESURRECTION and Kevin Costner bringing David Brin's classic THE POSTMAN to the screen. Of course if it's a good book to read you want, we've got plenty of them this month for you as well.
Why not give a subscription to SFRevu for the holiday? Being FREE, the price is right, and you get a monthly offering of reviews and interviews with top authors in the field. Now you can stop worrying and enjoy the holiday.
Thank you for all the support that SFRevu's readers have given us over our first year. I look forward to more great books and movies to share with you in 1998.
Ernest Lilley, Editor / Publisher SFRevu
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Contents- New Releases - Interview - RetroReview - Movies - Paperbacks - Contact - Next Month
ISBN 0-312-85571-0 / Tor Hardcover Dec '97 284 pg. Review by Ernest Lilley
The robot stares at the little girl. Her eyes are, mercifully, closed but her mouth is pulled open and her teeth , still baby teeth, exposed...
...The robot feels one of its feet jerk spasmodically. Then the other jerks, without the robot wishing it to do so. The robot stares at the young girl and jitters and shakes for a long time. This is the way the robot cries.
"...What kind of man are you? Are you a man at all?"
"I'm a ranger."
"Yes, of the United States Park Service." She gingerly places a hand on Jarrod's leg. She rubs his thigh. "I've lost my son," she murmurs, almost to herself, Jarrod thinks. "I don't have a son."
Orf begins his life as a poorly maintained mining robot in the Northwest. Self contained and able to dig tirelessly through miles of rock he swims far below the surface seeking wealth for the company that owns him. Until he is discarded and left to rust in a field as scrap. Here he watches the seasons pass, the life cycles of animals unfold, and civilization teeter. Here he slowly dies. One day he will be infused with the memories of a dead geologist and reborn. And one day he will discover beauty and sorrow. He will never be a scientist. He might become a poet. Daniel writes Orf with such a thoughtful and compassionate voice that I would have been happy to read his story alone, but EARTHLING is actually three stories linked together by the passage of time and the presence of the robot. Only one is truly Orf's, while the next belongs to the ranger Jarrod, and the last to the distant future.
While Orf's story spans the fall of civilization and the emergence of tribes, Jarrod's takes place as the remnants of civilization teeter precariously in the face of a geologic upheaval. Jarrod comes from a tribe that was once the Park Service, still protecting the forests from the tribe of loggers, still true to their creed. Jarrod finds himself cast out for breaking the social code of the rangers, and sent on a mission to take antibiotics across the open countryside to another enclave of rangers who have lost the science of medicine.
This middle story should be familiar to readers of Brin's THE POSTMAN, with its trappings of the old order striding through the pockets of civilization left after the fall. It presents a different take on things though as Jarrod, an outcast with a mission, rides through with his precious cargo. Like Brin, Tony Daniel has a knack for creating sympathetic characters and engaging the reader as they move through their trials.
The final story is essentially an epilogue, an exposition of the fruits of the first two. It is also where the author gives vent to his tendency towards spiritualism.
I would rather have had either of the first two stories expanded to fill a whole novel, but I can understand that Tony Daniel isn't the sort of author that writes to specification. Instead I suspect that he listens for his characters leads and conveys their message to us. Regardless, he is a writer with an entrancing voice and EARTHLING is well worth reading.
ISBN 0-380-97465-7 / Avon Books November '97 / $24.00 340 pgs.
Is there a moral here at all?
Life is a bitch,
Don't fuck with a witch.
She's just a crazy woman, maybe.
But with power.
As I read IN THE LAND OF WINTER, I kept trying to decide when the magic was going to show up. After a while, I decided that it had either been there all along or never arrived at all and I had failed to tell the difference. It's an easier question to answer standing at the end of the book than the beginning. The main character feels much the same way from time to time, and she is...well...a witch.
Pippa Rede is a single mother barely getting by. She and her nine year old daughter, Winterbelle, live with a sour old aunt in a small New England town and if her life isn't wonderful, at least she has a job (of sorts) and a roof over their heads. She's a witch, in a quiet Wiccan sort of way. It's not something she does fashionably, like the Barbies on Broomsticks buying herbs at the mall, or loudly, like her friend Judith who dresses the part and shouts her convictions to the world. Pippa believes in the pagan spirits pretty much the way lots of people carry their own faith, giving her solace, a place in the cosmos and comfort in the shortening winter nights. It's also something to pass on to her daughter, and therein lies the rub.
Winterbelle has come to the notice of Well Meaning People, and pretty horrid ones at that. In a trice the elements of what decent folks believe have taken Pippa's child from her and made it pretty well clear that she should kindly drop off the face of the earth. In a New England winter. I've been stranded with no place to go in the New England winter and believe me, it's no joke. Not that Pippa is laughing. Though occasionally when things get really bad she does cackle a bit.
The story sneaks up on you until you reach the end and look back at your footsteps in the winter snow to see the path you've been on when all along you thought you were lost in the woods. That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment in a book, when all too often I find myself thinking that the book must have ended the way it did simply because the author promised to finish it this year. This book ends the way it does because Richard Grant carefully planned it that way. Pippa's acts of faith are remarkably orchestrated. That each follows from her circumstances rather than contrivance makes the story all the more believable.
I was nervous about the Pagan/Christian conflict in the book. I'm sure that the author could have written a book about a sympathetic middle class Christian character, had he a mind to, but attractive as many of the Wiccan beliefs are, I sometimes worry about people who call themselves Witches and take license from that naming. Richard presents a spectrum of followers in the friends that rally around Pippa, showing that he understands the range of natures that tend towards these things quite well. It turns out that one may feel quite different about magic practiced in stories of distant time and space than one may feel about it happening next door.
THE LAND OF WINTER has the kind of interesting characters you might find on NORTHERN EXPOSURE or TWIN PEAKS, in Richard Brautigan's works (as the Washington Post alludes), or at a good Science Fiction Convention. I liked the book (after I got past being nervous about it) and recommend it for a cold winter's night. In fact, I want to go back and read the authors other works, starting with his previous novel, TEX AND MOLLY IN THE AFTERLIFE.
Merry Yule to all, and Christmas too - may your new year find you reading many books as good as this one.
ISBN 0-553-09995-7 / Bantam Spectre January 1998 / $23.95 343 pg.
This unlikely bit of time travel mixes P.G. Woodhouse's Jeeves and Wooster with a vaguely Dr. Whoian troupe of treasure hunters in Victorian England desperately seeking a glorified cast iron flower vase. After reading Connie Willis' previous book, BELLWEATHER, I had been indisposed towards the author, but TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG fully redeems her in my eyes. I say Jeeves, could you rustle up some of that lemon squash, what?
Ned Henry is a time traveler seriously in need of a rest. He's been shuttling back and forth to the 1940s to find "the Bishop's bird stump", a mysterious artifact in the Coventry Cathedral. Why? He often wonders himself. He's doing it because Lady Schrapnell has offered to handsomely endow the time travel program at Oxford if only they will help her gather information for her great cause, the rebuilding of the Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi raid during the war.
Unfortunately things aren't going well in the time continuum. A fellow traveler has brought back an "artifact", which should be either impossible or mean the unraveling of time, depending on how you read the equations of time travel. Certainly things aren't working quite right, what with time travelers stuck in WWII England and a certain amount of "drifting" creeping into where and when one might wind up. As a result, Ned gets to take a relaxing break in Victorian England, a few days boating on the Thames, sipping tea, and playing croquet while being endlessly buttled after. The only hitch being that he has to find his contact, return the artifact, put history back on track, and find the Bishop's bird stump. None of which is helped by his having been delirious during the briefing on his mission and the peculiarities of Victorian England. About the only thing that could mess matters up more would be falling in love in the middle of the mission.
If you've ever read P.G. Woodhouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories you will feel right at home in the world of English country manors, rich relations, butlers and charity events. If you haven't read them, PBS put out a wonderful series of tapes by the way. TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG is delightful fun in a novel setting for a Science Fiction adventure.
ISBN 0-312-86346-2 / Tor Hardcover, $24.95 ($34.95 Canada), 382 pg.
Review by Steven Sawicki
This is an extremely well written book, with interesting characters, colorful settings and an intriguing plot. Preuss uses a plotting style that jumps us from the now to the past to the near past providing us with just enough information, at just the right times to keep us involved and the story moving. Oddly enough, while this is a Science Fiction novel, the Science Fiction aspects do not become present until very late in the book. This is a book about people, relationships, dark secrets in the past and losses of faith. It is a book about ancient Greece, theoretical physics, rape, incest and death.
The story revolves around a woman, Anne-Marie, who is just recently divorced and who has lost custody of her son. This is a trigger for some fairly desperate actions, including the beginning of the unraveling of a deep dark secret. The secret is not all that elusive and the average reader should figure it out from the clues that are dropped. Still, it's the process used to get to the secret and the machinations involved in bringing the secret to light that make the book. Added into the mix is Ann-Marie's theoretical physicist husband, Peter Slater, who has lost faith in science and has moved to philosophy to find answers. Any college student will tell you how far that pursuit will get you. Add to this Ann-Marie's brother, sharer of the secret and a dealer in ancient artifacts (legal and illegal) as well as one Manolis Minakis, physicist and amateur archeologist.
Preuss weaves his story from present day Crete to a Crete during the war to Europe and back, providing a wonderful story of sacrifice and searching. It's hard at times to figure out just whose story this is. Preuss spends a lot of time focusing on the life of Minakis, and it is, in fact, Minakis life story that provides the impetus for Anne-Marie to come to grips with her own life.
I have to admit that I was somewhere deep in the book, page 280 or 290 when I realized that there had not been a single Science Fictional aspect. Odd for a Science Fiction novel, I thought. Maybe Preuss has something up his sleeve to slew the whole thing to the SF side at the last minute. Well, he does and he doesn't. What he produces is an extremely minor thing. What the minor thing does is produce a picture. What the picture does is trigger change. Now that is an SF concept.
This is an incredibly readable book, one of the few books lately that I've struggled to put down. The writing is active, fetching and fairly tight. The people involved are interesting and active as well. The basic concepts involved in the book are simple in nature but complex in action. Straightly put, this is a great book to spend the day or a weekend with. Lots of surprises, well written, must be read.
ISBN 0-553-37290-4 / Bantam Spectra, December 1997 review by EJ McClure
Katharine Kerr's new novel, THE RED WYVERN, continues the moving and complex story of destiny and reincarnation begun a decade ago with DARKSPELL, her first fantasy novel set in Deverry. We meet such familiar friends as Rhodry Maelwaedd, the former lord of Aberwyn, and Nevyn, the ancient dwoemer-master, but new characters take center stage for most of the book.
The story begins in Scotland, on the shores of Loch Ness. A clansman lost in winter meets a fey stranger, Evandar, who guides him to shelter on the magical island of Haen Marn, adrift in the tides between the worlds. There he meets Rhodry's lost wife, Angmar, and the dwarven smith, Otho. But this encounter is only set up to whet the reader's appetite for the meat of the book.
The central tale is spun around the fate of young Lillorigga, a girl coming to womanhood in a realm torn by civil war. Her mother, Merodda, is risking Lilli's life by using the girl's gift for scrying omens to guide their clan's efforts to hold the kingship of Deverry against Prince Maddyn, an earlier incarnation of Rhodry. Lilli, terrified of what is happening to her, secretly begins to study the dweomer, as magic is called in Deverry. Long before she can match her mother's power, an act of jealous murder forces Lilli to make a heart-breaking choice between Merodda and her foster family. It sets in motion a chain of betrayal and revenge that plays itself out centuries later in the Northlands. In a world where souls are reborn carrying their freight of guilt or rage, destined to confront again the heart-searing choices that can save or damn them, no act is without consequence. At the end of the book, the story circles back to the island of Haen Marn, where Angmar labors to bring twin daughters into the world.
As usual with Katharine Kerr's work, the reader must have patience with the meandering story-telling. Fortunately, her intricate plotting, graceful prose and humorous dialog make the journey a pleasure. Her characters are brilliantly depicted against the backdrop of battle and siege, statecraft and treachery. Magic in Deverry is a force of its own, with complex laws grounded in the nature of the ethereal and material worlds. The gods are capricious, and not easily controlled. The gritty realism of Katharine Kerr's world has its roots in a Celtic civilization free of the trappings of chivalry, and is refreshingly different from the Katherine Kurtz's massive Deryni saga and the host of other fantasy works set in the Middle Ages.
Kerr thoughtfully provides a table of characters to help the reader track their incarnations across the three timelines woven together in THE RED WYVERN, but even without this cheat-sheet, the book is a good read. The characters themselves will engage you, and draw you into the realm of Deverry.
ISBN 0-441-00476-8 / Ace Dec 1997 292 pg. - Review & interview by Ernest Lilley
Review: Illegal Alien By Robert Sawyer
Robert Sawyer, Nebula award winning author of FRAMESHIFT, STARPLEX, and the Quintaglios saga (FAR-SEER, FOSSIL HUNTER, & FOREIGNER) boldly takes SF readers where they have never gone before - the Los Angeles County Courtroom. ILLEGAL ALIEN is cross between a Perry Mason whodunit and a first contact novel, written by an author in a position to comment on the American legal system - a Canadian.
When an extraterrestrial lander comes down off the coast of Brazil and is greeted by the USS Kitty Hawk with a presidential science advisor and a PBS astronomy show host for a first contact team, things seem to be going really well for interplanetary relations. The aliens are reasonable, friendly, quick students of human language and custom and besides, they need our help fixing their ship and are willing to share their technology to get it done. Everything is going just fine, until the PBS host turns up very dead in the complex the aliens are staying in and from the evidence lying all over the dissected body, including alien blood, you don't have to be OJ Simpson's lawyers to point a finger at our friends from the stars.
But this is California, where the laws of space and time may apply but with the right legal team, anything can happen. Right? Frank Nobilio, Presidential Science Advisor and friend of the deceased, has to try to quietly engineer a verdict that won't start an interstellar war while serving justice for his friend. Finding out the truth might be nice if he can manage it too.
If you missed the OJ Simpson trial, or if you miss its daily appearance on the news, you can sit back with what must surely be the trial of the millennia, when illegal aliens meet our justice system. I enjoyed the story, reading it at one sitting, (Objection! The reviewer stood up several times to stretch his legs!...Sustained.) well, almost one sitting. This book would make great reading while waiting to be rejected from a jury, in fact it might pretty well ensure it from what Sawyer says about the jury selection process.
After reading the testimony in the book, we hauled the author in to answer a few questions concerning this and other acts of Science Fiction he has perpetrated.
Interview: Robert Sawyer
SFRevu: Great job on ILLEGAL ALIEN. I make it a point not to watch criminal proceedings on TV myself, but you certainly seem to know a great deal about what goes on inside a courtroom. Too much time watching OJ or just good ol' research?
Robert Sawyer: ILLEGAL ALIEN isn't so much a response to the Simpson trial per se as it is my response to the experience of watching that trial -- or, indeed, any American trial -- as a non-American. I'm sure the whole Simpson affair was bizarre to Americans, too, but I am a Canadian, and so I was looking at it from an outsider's perspective. And that thought kept running through my mind: an outsider's perspective on American justice.
The title ILLEGAL ALIEN popped into my head, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As far as research is concerned, yes, I did tons of it. I went to Los Angeles three times during the writing of that book, and I sat in on trials in the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts Building. I also read all kinds of books -- things with titles like THE ART OF JURY SELECTION and TECHNIQUES OF CROSS-EXAMINATION. And, as I always do, I enlisted experts to help me out, including Ariel Reich, a practicing California lawyer; Karl Fuss, who runs a court-reporting company; law professors, and more. And, yes, I did have the Simpson trial constantly running on the TV in my office.
SFR: Where does one start when writing a whodunit? Does the author know it was Col. Mustard in the Library and work backwards to lead a trail up to the door? How much Erle Stanley Gardner have you read?
RS: Actually, I've never read any Erle Stanley Gardner, but my mother was addicted to the PERRY MASON television series; it was on in our house all the time. But I do read a lot of Crime Fiction; I was reading one of Ed McBain's Matthew Hope courtroom dramas when the idea of doing ILLEGAL ALIEN occurred to me.
And, yes, really the only effective way to write a crime novel is to know who did it and why before you start; you've got to plant clues along the way, after all. I spent a lot of time trying different scenarios before I came up with the one I settled on. I won't give anything away, but readers familiar with my earlier books, especially FOSSIL HUNTER, know that I've got a fondness for playing with Darwinian theory.
SFR: Last time we talked, you told me you were intent on doing mainstream. Since then I've read FRAMESHIFT and ILLEGAL ALIEN to see how far you've gone. How far have you gone? How far will you go? Is the Science Fiction tag on the spine hampering sales?
RS: Lots of good questions. I don't deny that for a long time I wanted to break out into the mainstream, but I've had a change of heart. Winning the Nebula Award (STARPLEX) was probably the decisive factor, convincing me that writing Science Fiction was my first, best destiny. Sure, THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT, FRAMESHIFT, ILLEGAL ALIEN and the one I've got coming in July 1998 called FACTORING HUMANITY could all be read by any intelligent reader inside or outside the genre, but STARPLEX is also a recent book of mine, and it's pure spaceships-and-aliens SF. I don't want to give up writing about aliens or starships or time travel, and I've discovered, to my shock, that books like FRAMESHIFT -- difficult, complex novels -- really do go over the heads of mainstream reviewers; it seems the SF audience really is more intelligent, and more interested in being made to think, than the mainstream one is.
Still, as to whether that "Science Fiction" tag hampers sales, I'm afraid the answer is probably yes. When Tom Doherty Associates bought FRAMESHIFT, my editor -- the terrific David G. Hartwell -- and I had some discussions about where the book should be placed. Tom Doherty Associates has two imprints: Tor, which they use for genre fiction, and Forge, which they use for mainstream fiction. I wanted to be published as Forge, but David said the rule is that if there's more than one SF element, the book has to be Tor. Well, FRAMESHIFT has cloning, breakthroughs in DNA research, and a little bit of scientifically justified telepathy, so that made it a Tor title. I've come around to thinking that that's actually a fine thing, though. I'm making a comfortable living writing SF -- partly due to the generosity of Tor, but also do largely to my agent Ralph Vicinanza's ability to aggressively place me in international markets, and the work of Brian Lipson, my Hollywood agent, in optioning film rights to my books. Sure, I'll never become the next Michael Crichton by staying a genre-SF author, but the publishing world is littered with Michael Crichton wannabes who never caught on. It looks like I'm going to have a long and comfortable career inside the SF field, and I think I've become content to have just that.
As for how FRAMESHIFT did, the answer is very well indeed: so well, in fact, that when Ralph went to Tor to negotiate my next deal, they started out by offering double what they'd paid me for FRAMESHIFT, without Ralph having to say a word. Of course Ralph, being a great agent, got them to go even higher.
SFR: The normal approach to expanding the readership of SF is to try to hook young readers, Charles Shefield, Allen Steele and a few others are trying to go this route with varying success. You, on the other hand, seem to be trying to reach adult readers with techie stories that happen to have SF elements in them.
RS: You're right, although I think FAR-SEER, which I did early in my career, could easily be read and enjoyed by teenagers -- indeed, the New York Public Library called it one of 1992's best books for teenage readers. When I started out writing SF novels, I do think I was trying to re-capture the wonder I'd felt as a teenager reading SF myself for the first time. But now, I am indeed writing SF for a middle-aged audience. I know it turns off some younger readers who have no interest in reading about mid-life crises and marital problems. But in general the SF audience is graying, anyway. I entered Fandom in 1975, at the age of fifteen, and I seemed to be about the average age of the people I saw at SF conventions then. Now, it's 22 years later, and I'm still the average age. The field IS growing up, which is a fortunate thing for me, since I am indeed trying to write SF novels for mature adults.
SFR: OK, I believe you can write stories without dinosaurs in them. Don't you miss the cute guys just a bit? Will the Far-Seer fleet ever reach Earth to see what the old neighborhood looks like?
RS: I'm really amazed -- and very pleased -- by how much fan mail I still get about FAR-SEER, FOSSIL HUNTER, and FOREIGNER. I do dearly love those characters, and hope to return to them someday. But I'll tell you the honest truth: all three books are out-of-print; Ace would either have to reprint them, or they'd have to revert the rights to me so that I could sell them to someone else, before I could contemplate doing more work in that universe. That's not the answer the fans want to hear, but it is the reality of the publishing game. I really do hope that circumstances will allow me to write more about the Quintaglios soon.
SFR: What are you up to now?
RS: I'm about halfway through a novel with the working title of MOSAIC. It has to do with an experiment that goes awry at CERN (the European center for high energy physics in Switzerland), causing the consciousness of everyone on the planet to jump ahead twenty years for a period of five minutes. It's very much a character-driven novel, but with lots of nifty physics thrown in.
It'll be out in hardcover from Tor in 1999.
SFR: Besides writing, what would like to do that you haven't yet?
RS: I don't have many unfulfilled ambitions; I'm actually a very happy and reasonably contented man. My wife Carolyn and I both like to travel, and there are lots of places we haven't seen yet but want to -- including Australia, which we'll be visiting for the 1999 Worldcon. And one of these years, I'm going to take part in a real dinosaur dig. Phil Currie at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in the Alberta badlands is a friend of mine, and he's invited me to come out sometime. It's just a matter of scheduling. I'm sure that will happen someday. Also, I've spent a lot of time teaching SF writing, but I've never done it at Clarion or Clarion West. I hope to get asked to teach there -- I think it would be a fascinating experience.
(Robert J. Sawyer's homepage is at: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/sawyer)
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: Alien Resurrection Review A Letter from H.R. Giger Alien Resurrection Interview: Joss Whedon - Screenwriter
I thought you were dead!
Yeah...I hear that a lot.
- Alien Resurrection
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Michael Wincott, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Dan Hedaya Screenplay by: Joss Whedon Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet 108 min.
She's not dead, Jim. Well, she is, but she hasn't been feeling like herself lately, being a vat grown clone decanted 200 years after the ill-considered ending of ALIEN3.
Ripley is back for this fourth installment of the ALIEN series, having been resurrected through an unholy union of human and alien genetics. The new Ripley isn't quite human, with superacid blood and near alien strength and agility, and much of the tension in the film comes from wondering which species she will give her allegiance to. In cloning Ripley to retrieve her and the alien she was host to when she died (OK, that part's weak) a fair amount of Ripley's genetic material has gotten mixed in with the alien and visa versa. The script covers most of the holes that movies like this are heir to fairly well. Ripley the clone has many of the original Ripley's memories, along with a fair amount of the alien queen's instincts, due to the alien's ability to pass memory by encoding it in DNA. The general (Dan Hedaya) in charge of the deep space medical research facility has the good grace to express disbelief at this news too, so don't feel bad if you didn't buy it.
Gone is "The Company", lost 200 years in the past, but enter military researchers operating way above the law. When the aliens the military has been breeding for research get loose aboard the ship, the soldiers show remarkable good sense by evacuating at a dead run. Leaving Ripley, the head scientist (Brad Dourif), and a collection of none too lovable space pirates (including the bestial Ron Perlman), to try and stop the ship before it reaches Earth. Why is it going to Earth? It's an automatic emergency thing. If anything goes wrong on this military medical research ship it heads to Earth by itself. This is either the biggest hole in a reasonably well written script or a classic example of why the words military and intelligence just don't seem to work together naturally.
Sigourney Weaver's portrayal of the Ripley/Alien clone is truly chilling. She has managed to incorporate the distinctive body language of the aliens into her own physiology perfectly. I kept waiting for her to distend her jaw and the Alien second jaw set slide out. For all that she remains a sympathetic character, and the scriptwriter finds new and unusual hells to put her through.
Winona Ryder plays a do-gooder character out to shut down the military's experiment, but who gets caught in the middle of an alien jailbreak. She does a credible job of it, but none of the characters reach the level of likability that the marines in ALIENS managed effortlessly. The supporting cast does grow on one, though just in time to become alien treats, of course.
The sets are (surprise!) dark and gloomy. If you ask me, the future could use a breakthrough in cleaning and lighting, not another ultimate killing machine. The special effects are as good as usual - I completely forgot they were there and that aliens don't really run, swim, or jump around the interiors of vast spaceships. The only things that spoiled it for me were the effects in the final scene, which looked a bit hokey to me, unfortunately leaving me with a last image I didn't buy. While the people who did the set design and special effects deserve all the credit they can get for creating the atmosphere for the film, no one should forget whose designs the Aliens originally were: H.R.Giger. Unfortunately that's exactly what 20th Century Fox did by leaving his name off the credits. H.R.Giger is still very much alive, and none too thrilled by the oversight.
While not quite a match for either ALIEN or ALIENS, this film is much better than the mess they made of ALIEN3. In fact, it's better than most SF fare in general.
The following is H.R.Giger's letter to 20th Century Fox, written after Giger learned that his name is nowhere in the credits for ALIEN:RESURRECTION. [Thanks to Geekmedia for the letter - Geekmedia is at http://www.geocities.com/area51/vault/8559 ]
TO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
November 13, 1997
The Alien Quartet has, from the very beginning, contained my unique and personal style. For the first film ALIEN, I was awarded an Oscar for "Best Achievement for Visual Effects". In ALIENS, a film I was not asked to work on, I still received a screen credit for "Original Alien Design". On ALIEN 3, I was cheated out of the Oscar nomination received by that film because 20th Century Fox gave me the credit, "Original Alien Design" again, instead of "Alien 3 Creature Design", as it was my rightful title in accordance to my contract and the work I had performed on the film. In 1976 I had completed two paintings, "Necronom IV" and "Necronom V", in which two long-headed creatures appeared. In 1977 these paintings, were published in my book, NECRONOMICON, by Sphinx Verlag, Basel, in German. It was in this version of the book that Ridley Scott, in his search for a credible Alien creature, came across these two paintings and decided, on them for the full-grown Alien, using the words "That's it!" The statement has been graciously repeated by Ridley Scott in almost every interview about his work on ALIEN.
The creatures in ALIEN:RESURRECTION are even closer to my original Alien designs than the ones which appear in ALIENS and ALIEN 3. The film also resurrects my original designs for the other stages of the creature's life-cycle, the Eggs, the Facehugger and the Chestburster. ALIEN:RESURRECTION is an excellent film. What would it look like without my Alien life-forms? In all likelihood, all the sequels to ALIEN would not even exist! The designs and my credit have been stolen from me, since I alone have designed the Alien. So why does not Fox give me the credit I rightfully earned?
As for those responsible for this conspiracy: All I can wish them is an Alien breeding inside their chests, which might just remind them that the "Alien Father" is
This past March, Tony Tellado and I (He's the host, I'm the second banana.) had Joss Whedon, The Executive Producer Of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Screenwriter for Alien Resurrection on our radio program, Sci-Fi Talk. Here is an excerpt from that show. (Joss Whedon interview courtesy of Sci-Fi Talk. Sci-Fi Talk can be found at http://members.aol.com/scifitalk ) - Ern
Tony Tellado (T2): What led you to take on the challenge to bring Ripley back from the dead as a clone ?
Joss Whedon: When the producers first came to me...well it was an Alien movie so I had to do it. To me it was a sacred text...It was very daunting. I wrote a treatment that didn't have Ripley in it but they said that they liked it but they decided to bring Ripley back. So ok but she died so I decided that I should probably clone her because that was the closest thing to a logical way to bring her back. But for a while it still felt awkward to me. Was it cheesy and will people accept it ? What was interesting about this that it really became what the movie was about. If you bring her back you can't just blow it off like its no big deal, you have to make the story about that. Emotionally, that is what the story is about. It is about Ripley going through something that no one has gone through before. They clone her because she has an Alien inside her. They want the Alien. The problem is that she doesn't come back just the way she was. There is maybe just a little bit of the beast in her.
T2: Wynnona Ryder plays a space pirate of sorts I assume part of the dynamic will be how she interacts with Ripley.
JW: That's really the crux of the story. The two of them have their own issues. They don't trust each other. They learn to get something from each other and that's what the emotional arc is really about. They form an emotional bond.
T2: Will this be a first for you to get screen credit ?
JS: Yes, apart from BUFFY (The movie) . It's been a long time coming. I like to give voice to people who usually don't have one. To take the second thug on the left and actually give him a perspective. I try to give things a twist and make it different.
Ernest Lilley: You mentioned how important the Alien films were in SF. What did you think when you saw the first Alien movie ?
JS: That I had found God !! I was very terrified. I was very careful not to let anyone tell me anything about it. It was one of the best cinematic experiences I have ever had. It scared the hell out of me. It changed they way I looked at movies, like the way Star Wars did.
ISBN 0-671-87849-2 / Baen November '97 Paperback $6.99 / 377 pg. - Review by Ernest Lilley
"What about a story?" said Christopher Robin.
"What about a story? I said.
"Could you very sweetly tell Winnie-the-Pooh one?"
"I suppose I could," I said. "what sort of stories does he like?"
"About himself. Because he's that sort of bear."
-Winnie the Pooh
The opening to Winnie The Pooh may not seem appropriate for the adventures of Flight Engineer Peter Raider, formerly the first space fighter ace in the Molly war against secessionist colonists who want to leave the Commonwealth and take its anti-hydrogen fuel supply with them, but in fact one can easily imagine James Doohan, a.k.a. "Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott" sitting in a pub with S.M. Stirling listening as Stirling spins a yarn about a fighter ace (Doohan flew reconnaissance in WWII) turned engineer on the unproven fast carrier Invincible. "Ach, laddie, could the lass at the bar show a wee bit more interest in this part here? Do ya think it would be alright if I, er I mean this fine laddie, saved the ship single handedly with a ball peen hammer?" And so forth. Not that that's a bad thing. Like Pooh, Jimmy Doohan is a tremendously likable character, and a whole lot of that comes through in his alter ego in THE rising. In fact, the only real problem I had was in trying to remember that Peter Raider, dashing hero of THE rising is only 27, a bit younger than the real Doohan.
Peter Raider started out as a space fighter jock, full of the arrogance that only they can muster. When Peter lost his hand and flight status in combat, he went back to school to be an engineer, and much to his surprise landed a berth as Flight Engineer on the untried fast carrier Invincible. Although he might not get to fly the "darling" Speeds anymore, being responsible for keeping them in the fight is a challenge he's aching to take on. Of course he didn't know that the Invincible has been having a run of bad luck - or something worse. Why not a more experienced engineer to manage this critical role? The captain wondered the same thing when his choices came down to a handful of older third-raters and this young pup of an ex fighter pilot.
Stirling and Doohan have created an exciting backdrop for their character to run around in. Although rife with the familiar heroics of the Enterprise's CHENG (Chief Engineer to civilian types) the personalities and departmental politics onboard the Invincible demonstrate the authors' familiarity with military reality. If you happen to be reading this novel on board a Naval vessel, you will undoubtedly look at your shipmates and ask yourself how they got into the book. Impressively they even got the rules of fraternization for mixed crews approximately correct, nearly unheard of accuracy in Mil-SF.
For a shakedown cruise of a novel, they did a bang up job. I'm looking forward to the Flight Engineer's next mission.
ISBN 0-812-53519-7 / Tor Paperback July 1997 $6.99 348 pg. - Review by Ernest Lilley
2031: SETI finally pays off when an Alien message is beamed to Earth showing a cartoon version of 7 different Alien races presiding over the expansion and contraction of the universe, but nobody can figure out what it means...or the 8th Alien that is shown smashing the whole thing...but it doesn't look good. First impressions are often right.
THE OTHER END OF TIME starts another Pohlian Saga, with First Contact set against the backdrop of a near future similar to Greg Bear's in QUEEN OF ANGELS and SLANT. The government is oppressive, times are hard (even a government agent has to panhandle to make ends meet), Florida has seceded from the United States and you just can't tell who your friends are. When the defunct Starlab orbital observatory starts emitting radiation that none of its equipment could generate, Patricia Adcock, Director of the foundation that owns Starlab and the great niece of its builder, decides to take a quiet trip to see if there is anything up there that they can profit from. Of course she's not alone in the search for Alien-tech and the government has planted one of its best undercover agents in her crew. NBI Agent Dan Dannerman just happens to be her cousin. If you can't trust family, who can you trust?
Not the Aliens that have set up a matter transporter on Starlab, that's for sure. Patricia, Dan and their entourage get abducted by Aliens and stuck in a mirrored cage light years from Earth. Oh, but it's really much worse than that. A duplicate set of explorers return home with clear memories of the failure of the mission, and Earth has just become one more world in the middle of a war over the ownership of eternity. Well, the first duty of any prisoner of war is to escape, and the second may just be to save the world.
The story ends a bit episodically, setting up the next book, THE SEIGE OF ETERNITY out in December 1997. Next month we'll bring you a review of the sequel.
Frederik Pohl's writing career spans an improbable 58 odd years. Improbable not only because he's still writing, but because he writes in a contemporary voice while maintaining the best What If? tradition of Science Fiction. His Heechee Saga, written in the 70's and 80's recast man's role in the exploration of the universe as well as posing a number of interesting questions about the future and man's place in the cosmos. THE OTHER END OF TIME promises to give us more to think about (and enjoy) as a new saga unfolds.
The Heechee Saga: GATEWAY (1977), BEYOND THE BLUE EVENT HORIZON (1980), HEECHEE RENDEVOUS (1984), THE ANNALS OF THE HEECHEE (1987) and THE GATEWAY TRIP (1990) When Humans discover an intact Alien starbase in the solar system and use its abandoned starships to explore the galaxy, they discover that the owners haven't left...they're were just scared into hiding. Sort of like Andre Norton's GALACTIC DERELICT, but with a more Cyberpunk flavor.
With the oncoming holiday season, saving money for all those presents and whatnot, we won't be heading off to any Cons until '98. Here's the '98 List of Activities so far:
Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances:
January 10th - EOS Con Online -12 - 8pm http://www.Avonbooks.com/Eos Avon Books launches EOS, its new SF imprint with an online Convention featuring guests including Gregory Benford, Ben Bova and Ray Feist. Chat rooms galore, but bring your own munchies.
January 10th- SFABC Meeting 8PM Upper Saddle River Methodist Church, Literary Agent Lucienne Divers http://sfabc.home.ml.org (or call 201 447-3652)
January 20th: SF Topic Discussion Group -Borders Books and Music, Garden State Plaza Rte 4&17, Paramus, NJ 8:00pm. Topic: After The World Ends: New Title: EARTHLING by Tony Daniel, Classic: THE POSTMAN by David Brin. Moderator: SFRevu Editor Ernest Lilley
February 13-15th : Boskone 35 - Framingham Mass. -Guest of Honor: Walter Jon Williams.
February 17th: SF Topic Discussion Group -Borders Books and Music, Garden State Plaza Rte 4&17 8:00pm. Topic: to be announced Moderator: Ernest Lilley - SFRevu Sr. Editor
March 20-22 - Lunacon - Rye New York -SFRevu garage and bake sale.
April 28th SFABC Author Discussion Group:William Gibson, Borders Books and Music, Wayne Town Center, Wayne, NJ. Moderator: SFRevu Editor Ernest Lilley
Next Month in SFRevu: What do THE SEIGE OF ETERNITY by Frederick Pohl, James Bond in TOMORROW NEVER DIES, THE POSTMAN and TITAN by Stephen Baxter all have in common? Public servants out to save the world! So go hug a mailman, or buy an FBI agent a burrito...and read the January issue of SFRevu!
Also: MOTHER OF DEMONS by Eric Flint / THE STRANGER by Eric J. Fullgrove / NORTH WIND by Gwyneth Jones / THE SHIP ERRANT by Jody Lynn Nye
by emailing SFRevu@aol.com with "Subscribe" in the subject, and how you found out about SFRevu.