June 1998 Vol. 2.6
Copyright 1998 by Ernest Lilley.
SFRevu brings Science Fiction reviews and interviews to the web each month. SFRevu's contents may be reused with the following conditions: 1) creditSFRevu@aol.com and list our URL: http://members.aol.com/SFRevu 2) contents may not be changed without the permission of the Editor.
Contents - News - New Releases - Interview - RetroReview - Movies - Paperbacks - Contact - Next Month
A Word from the Editor:
NewsBits: News from friends and SF luminaries.
New Titles: : Secret Realms by Tom Cool Komarr by Lois Bujold Earth Made of Glass by John Barnes Moonfall by Jack McDermitt In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker The War God's Own by David Weber Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle
Interview: : Lois McMaster Bujold
RetroReview: SFRevu's Robert Heinlein Tribute Everything I Need to know I learned from Robert Heinlein A Few Words From The Dean Requiem and Tributes to the Grand Master by Robert Heinlein, Yoji Kondo
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: Godzilla Deep Impact
Sawicki's Video Review: Destroy All Monsters Volcano Alien Resurrection
Now in Paperback! The Heritage Trilogy: Book 1 - Semper Mars by Ian Douglas Fire Watch by Connie Willis Fiddler Fair by Mercedes Lackey Star Child by James P. Hogan Forever Knight-These Our Revels by Anne Hathaway-Nayne Bug Park by James P. Hogan
Contact: SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom.
Next Month in SFRevu: Interviews with Harry Turtledove and J. Gregory Keyes, The X Files Movie, and among the titles we're considering…. Antarctica - Kim Stanley Robinson / Factoring Humanity - Robert Sawyer/ Heaven's Reach - David Brin / IceFire - Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens / Kirinyaga - Mike Resnick / Newton's Cannon - J. Gregory Keyes / Pandora - Anne Rice / Shapes of their Hearts - Melissa Scott / The American Front - Harry Turtledove / The Blackgod - J. Gregory Keyes / The Silver Wolf - Alice Borchardt / Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - Dean Wesley Smith, Editor
But first, a word from the Editor:
After April showers bring May flowers, what does June bring? Well, at SFRevu it brings a new year, our second in fact. With the start of the second year comes changes. Sharon Archer, who has been fighting a holding action against my typos for two magazines (Sci-Fi Talk Frequencies was the other) is now stepping up to Associate Editor. She believes that she can add some order to this chaos, and I'm more than willing to let her try.
Last month I wound up talking about SFRevu's first year at a meeting of the SFABC, the local SF group in northern NJ. Reading the account of that event I came across the comment: "Much to his surprise, he (me) is getting recognition…David Brin told him to stop sending it." No, no, no. David asked me to stop sending him the email edition. Not everyone wants 30 odd pages of text every month. Check the Newsbits for the kind of recognition I was talking about.
We're backing off on the email issue. Much as I like getting SFRevu out into the world, after laying it out for the web, it's a real pain to strip all the formatting out and break it up into emailable bites. We could send it as a file, and if you send a request for an issue, I expect we'd be disposed to do just that. Personally, I delete files attached to email unless I'm totally sure of where they come from.
In this issue we are delighted to have a Bujold interview to go with a review of KOMARR; authors and readers contributed their thoughts on how Robert Heinlein influenced them 10 years after the Dean of Science Fiction's death; Steve Sawicki has settled in with his video review column; Paul Giguere continues to fight with me for the choicest books to review; Darcy, our reviewer of fiction of the undead finds that not all tie-ins bite, Bruce Wallace takes a look at Dave Weber's latest book, and EJ McClure reviews collections by both Connie Willis and Mercedes Lackey. Read on!
Ernest Lilley, Editor / Publisher SFRevu
Subscribe now by Emailing SFRevu@aol.com with "Subscribe" in the subject to be notified when new issues go online ("Remove" gets you off the list).
Contents - News - New Releases - Interview - RetroReview - Movies - Paperbacks - Contact - Next Month
NewsBits:If you’d like me to consider a plug for your next book, congratulate you on marrying a space alien, or whatever, send your newsbits to SFRevu@aol.com with the Word NEWSBIT in the message title. Please keep bits down to 100 words or so, and brace yourself for my editing them anyway.
Mary Doria Russell: (THE SPARROW, CHILDREN OF GOD) I have a great piece of news for you, Ern! Just got back from London where I got a chance to meet my UK publisher in 3-D, and eventually asked him, "So, how did you first hear about The Sparrow? Did someone at Random House pitch it to you? Did the idea of Jesuits in space strike you as stupid, or what?"
Imagine my delight when he told me, "No, I saw a review of the book in SFRevu on line, and it sounded great, so I got in touch with Random House and asked for a copy as soon as they could ship it to me. We closed the deal the next week."
This means that the estimable Ernest Lilley is ultimately responsible for the fact that The Sparrow was published in the UK and thereby became eligible for the BSFA Best Novel award and the Arthur C. Clarke prize, both of which it just won! Many, many thanks! - Love, Mary
Ellen Asher (SF Book Club Editor): "SF is one of the more CONTENTIOUS fields of literature. The book clubs send out surveys from time to time, and the SF ones are the ones that come back all written over and scribbled upon." (courtesy of Bob Devney, Boskone, February 1998)
David Brin: HEAVEN'S REACH (the final installment of the Second Uplift Triology) doesn't reach the stands officially till June 1. I'm going on tour for it at the same time as my new nonfiction book, THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY: WILL TECHNOLOGY FORCE US TO CHOOSE BETWEEN FREEDOM AND PRIVACY? "The sole thing accomplished by privacy laws is to make the bugs smaller.' RA Heinlein
Sightings: Bioperfection: Building the New Human Race: The Sci-Fi Channel's UFO's, Mystics and More program has a 2hr special coming up June 13th from 7-9 that explores the techno-future of humanity. David Brin makes several appearances among the many roboticists, neurophysiologists, computer scientists, chess grand masters, bioaugmented humans and even the occasional luddite. Though the show is supposed to be about human techno-evolution, it strays beyond to contemplate our replacement by computer intelligences.
From one perspective, there's nothing new here. Just the same stuff we've been reading and writing about for the last 50 years. But Sightings has brought the whole business of genetics, biomechanics, artificial intelligence and the general building of superhuman together in one show. Some of it's a bit hokey, but most is worth catching. You just might not realize just how close the future's gotten. Sightings predition the end of the world as we know it - in 20 years.
Robert J. Sawyer: delivered his eleventh novel, MOSAIC, to David G. Hartwell at Tor; the book will be published in the summer of 1999. Rob will be USA TODAY ONLINE's "Author of the Month" for July 1998. Rob and Robert Charles Wilson will be touring in June to promote the release of their novels FACTORING HUMANITY and DARWINIA. Bookstore signings can be found at: www.sfwriter.com
Katya Reimann: A TREMOR IN THE BITTER EARTH, the sequel to WIND FROM A FOREIGN SKY, and volume two of the Chronicles of Tielmark, will be shipping from Tor Books May 5th, 1998. It goes beyond book one in a lot of ways--and makes some of the same idiot mistakes. My first review ran along the lines of "Hey! I was pregnant and miserable and unable to read and this book gave me the gift of an absorbing read back!" But Rachel is currently changing diapers in the first few weeks of pregnancy, so that review surely won't (even in tidied form) see daylight. Still, it was great to hear. –Katya
Nancy Kress: Unfortunately, I have no newsbites, unless you count the fact that Charles (Sheffield) will be GOH at a con in Leipzig, Germany, June 14-16, and I'll be an auxiliary guest. We're combining the trip with a belated honeymoon in England. Oh--and I have a book coming out in October, STINGER (Tor), a sequel to OATHS AND MIRACLES.
Keith R.A. DeCandido: has formed his own company, Albé-Shiloh, Inc., through which he will be providing writing and editorial services. His primary client will be Byron Preiss Multimedia Company, Inc., for whom DeCandido has worked as an Editor since 1993. He will continue to serve as Editorial Director of the Marvel novels program, based on the popular super heroes, which he has edited or co-edited virtually all of the novels in the series-currently over thirty titles are in print, with another nine due by the end of 1998. "This is a move I've been wanting to have the ability to make for a long time," DeCandido says. "I'm very grateful that I'm going to be continuing my association with the company (Bryon Priess Multimedia) in general and with the Marvel books in particular." DeCandido chose to make this change himself in order to "free myself up for more writing."
Contents - News - New Releases - Interview - RetroReview - Movies - Paperbacks - Contact - Next Month
New Titles: Secret Realms by Tom Cool Komarr by Lois Bujold Earth Made of Glass by John Barnes Moonfall by Jack McDermitt In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker The War God's Own by David Weber Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole Forever Knight-These Our Revels by Anne Hathaway-Nayne Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle
Secret Realms by Tom Cool
ISBN 0-312-86417-5 / Tor Hardcover May 1998 / Review by Ernest Lilley
Inside a building on an island off the coast of China, 15 cyberwarriors have been raised from infancy with no knowledge of any world outside virtual reality. An especially violent virtual reality at that. For their entire lives, Trickster, Cat, Snake, Dreamer and the others have fought endless simulated battles with every conceivable weapon in mankind's arsenal, unaware that there is a realm beyond the cyber-simulated battles they live in. As they re-fight mankind's historical wars in endless simulation they have no idea that they are being readied for the ultimate challenge - the defense of China against a renewed Imperial Japan.
What their masters don't realize is that having created and honed this tribe of ultimate warriors, they have unleashed a machine to whom killing is like breathing. When unleashed in their flesh "avatars" in the real world, they move with the speed and precision 17 years of nonstop battle training have taught them.
The first half of the book takes place in cyberspace - battlespace - where the tribe is faced with increasingly difficult conflicts to survive, or occasionally to learn the Kobiashi Maru facts of war, that you can't always win. Here Trickster, the most aggressive and flexible of them, watches the brightest lose their grip on virtual reality, moving to a realm beyond their ken. Unlike the pragmatic Snake ready to challenge his dominance, Trickster can glimpse the truths in the thoughts of visionaries like Dreamer, but falls just short of being absorbed by their fantasies. Everything changes when one of the scientists that created the experiment shows him the way to infiltrate System, the god who creates the world, then Trickster has to find a way for the tribe to win more than survival. Trickster will settle for nothing less than freedom.
Outside battlespace, a war between China and Japan is heating up. The tribe have been given the challenge of infiltrating Japanese electronic command and control systems and causing as much confusion to the enemy as they can. At the same time Trickster is becoming aware of their true nature and looking for a way to free the tribe. When battle is joined in real space, they adapt quickly to a realm with "full pain" as their cyber augmented senses and endlessly exercised bodies allow them to dance through real combat against all comers.
In a desperate gambit to seek asylum in a neutral country, the tribe brings Americans into the conflict, only to come to understand that bigger stakes exist in the real world than their own survival. Thrust into a world where death is a final time out, the tribe begins to face the consequences of war as China and Japan move to the brink of mutual nuclear destruction.
Commander Tom Cool, USN, (that's the author, not a character) is currently serving as Deputy Director of Plans and Programs for the United States Southern Command. How he gets away with writing this stuff on active duty I'll never know, but with SECRET REALMS he's hitting his stride. This is future warfare set in the middle of the next century, and though it's Science Fiction today, little here is beyond the reasonable progression of the art of war.
The story doesn't hit full speed until halfway through the book, when the action moves outside cyberspace, but when it does, Cool's knowledge of shipboard warfare delivers all the action and realism that any Clancy fan could ask for. Marines in powered suits, noise canceling jumpjets, virtual reality battlespace, and the calmly frenetic pace of modern warfare all come across with crisp clarity in the author's view of the next century of warfare.
The only problem I have with the story's execution is the ability of the tribe to master their physical forms unencumbered by cybergear and their strength, endurance and resistance to pain in the real world. They do concede that whoever designed this (the real world) realm made pain about 12db stronger than he should have, in a wry comment on the weakness of flesh. If this hangs you up, the book will grind to a halt, but I was willing to concede this to the author to enjoy the bigger picture. Cool does suffer from the action writer's syndrome of allowing his characters to run full tilt longer and through more physical shock and injury than any real human could endure, but he may grow out of it yet.
SECRET REALMS shows Tom Cool's growth as an author, creating a brand of fiction very much his own. I am begining to see the differences in military viewpoint derived from the different branches of the service, here the tendency to see a battlefield from a distance with assets to be manipulated as compared to Ian Douglas's SEMPER MARS, where the characters slug it out on the ground toe to toe in the Marines tradition. Or maybe not. Unlike the author of SECRET REALM, I'm only an armchair analyst, so don't go start a war on my say so. You can however, go buy this book on it while we leave the bigger tactical questions to professionals like Commander Cool.
Komarr by Lois Bujold
ISBN 0671878778 / Baen Hardcover June '98'/ Review by Ernest Lilley
"Confusion to the enemy" - The Art of War
"We have met the enemy and they is us" - Pogo
"I spent a whole career fighting the powers-that-be. Now I am them.
Naturally I'm a little confused." - Miles Vorkosigan (Komarr)
In KOMARR, Miles takes on his first mission as Lord Auditor, having traded his role as agent provocateur for the Barrayaran Empire for his new role as one of the elite imperial investigators. As such, the approach of his polished black half boots is enough to prostrate the Emperor's subjects in supplication and send conspirators scurrying with dismay. Or they would, if he could makeup his mind to put them on. This isn't just any Lord Auditor after all. It's Miles.
Miles arrives on Komarr to investigate damage to a mirror array that is instrumental to the terraforming of the planet. It's a big orbiting mirror, costs a lot, and somebody broke it by crashing an ore freighter into it. At the least, the Komarrans should expect seven years of very bad luck. At the most, they may have to add decades or centuries to the process of creating a world they can walk the surface of without freezing or suffocating. Miles and fellow auditor Vorthys must determine the cause of the damage and make recommendations to the Emperor as to whether or not the considerable cost of repair is merited.
A lot of back story is woven into KOMARR. After centuries of isolation and really unpleasant conditions, combined with harsh rule, Barrayar became reconnected with the rest of the Galaxy through the discovery of a wormhole in Komarran space. The Komarrans pretty much appear to have sat by while others plundered Barrayar and when the doughty Vor finally repelled their invaders and emerged from the wormhole to secure that crucial access to their world, they made it the first order of business to conquer Komarr and gain control of the system. That generation was notably unstable and seriously pissed. As a result, it was not a pretty conquest. Miles' own father, whom readers of these books have never known to be anything less than honorable, and a bit morose, is known for his role in this conquest as "the Butcher of Komarr". This fails to win Miles a lot of points initially with the locals as he roots around for clues.
Miles is at a serious disadvantage in this book, beset with obstacles his career as galactic agent provocateur never prepared him for. Instead of his trademark "Confusion to the Enemy", he finds himself on the defensive, quite confused, and worse distracted by the wife of one of the prime suspects. The Komarrans do not hesitate to remind him of his heritage, and if Miles intends to perform his usual sleight of hand and co-opt the enemy, he has a his work cut out for him. Worse, he spends much of the book tiptoeing around trying not to misuse his authority, equal to but responsible to the Emperor himself in matters regarding the mission at hand. Miles is remarkably like a soldier sent into enemy territory with "weapons free" who then stumbles along without firing because visions of Nam fill his head.
Bad as this is, a crueler fate yet awaits befuddled Miles. Having burned his romantic bridges behind him (and toward the end of the book he gives a lovely litany of the lasses Lois has lent him) he proceeds to fall in love with the wife of the Barrayaran head of the terraforming project, Tien Vorsoission. A despicable cad, by the way.
Dazed and confused, Miles wanders around the scenery mooning over Ekaterin Vorsoission. Ekaterin married the wrong man, put her own life on hold, and has sworn to be the dutiful Vor wife and stand by her Count. She didn't count on either his self absorption or his role in the destruction of the orbital mirror.
Komarr comes down to more Romance than Space Opera, and more of Ekaterin's story than Miles'. Ekaterin is a rather new type of woman for Bujold's saga, a devoted mother who gave up too much in the name of Vor duty, marital vow, and motherhood, and who is now awakening to find that she wants it back, and on her own terms. No Elli Quinn she, playing the man's game and beating him at it, Ekaterin is ripe for the realization that a woman needs a man like a Vorkosigan needs a basketball court. Cover art has always been a problem for our hero, but to reach the audience she's aiming for here, only Fabio could play him on the cover. A really short Fabio.
Miles finally gets to do something toward the end of the book, despite his dazzlement, but never has he managed to be of so little use to anyone. Not even when he was dead. The book belongs to Ekaterin's rueful rumination that there are some vows not worth giving one's life for, and being Vor might just be one.
Miles' parents are notably absent from both this and the previous book, in which Miles managed to muck up his military career after a decade or so running around playing a cross between James Bond and Horatio Hornblower. This is a great pity, as the boy could dearly use some advice, preferably from his father.
This is definitely not the place to start your acquaintance with the Vorkosigans, but if you've come this far with Miles you should certainly tune in for this episode. Next time, on As Barrayar Turns, Gregor, Miles' boyhood friend and emperor, marries a Komarran, healing a few more wounds between those worlds. I'm sure it will be a lovely, if perilous affair, which I'm certain to attend.
EARTH MADE OF GLASS by John Barnes
ISBN 0312858515 / April '98 - Tor - Hardcover, 448 pages / Review by Paul Giguere
John Barnes has gained a reputation as a first rate storyteller and stylist. In EARTH MADE OF GLASS, a sequel to his 1991 novel, A MILLION OPEN DOORS, Barnes immerses us in a new culture that defies easy definition.
When humanity first reached to the stars, they did so in sub-light speed ships. Thousands of ships carried settlers in cryofreeze as well as the genetic material, tools, and resources to establish new worlds. Each world had particular characteristics that would set them apart. Some were based on literary references, ancient civilizations, or some strange cross between the two. Others were based on an historical period in Earth's past. The isolation from Earth and the other worlds gave each civilization a chance to develop according to the original specifications and plans set forth by the designers of each mission.
Then the "springer" was introduced, a device that allowed instant transportation between any other springer, and everything changed. As each civilization was contacted and built their own springer, they became open to many of the other worlds that had been settled. Many times, the first contact resulted in chaos. In order to deal with these situations and prepare planets for membership in a larger interstellar society, the Council of Humanity's Office of Special Projects was established.
Giraut Leones and his wife Margaret are special agents whose job is to prepare newly contacted planets for the influx of new people, materials and ideas. Their current assignment brings them to the planet Briand, an inhospitable world, where two cultures are on the verge of open warfare. Giraut and Margaret, while dealing with their own crumbling marriage, must help the two cultures find some common ground and establish a quick peace before the Office of Special Projects is forced to take more drastic measures.
The pressure to establish contact (and eventually conformity) with the last remaining worlds is great due to the belief that humanity is on the verge of making contact with an alien race and the Office of Special Projects wants to present a unified human race.
An incredibly thought provoking novel, EARTH MADE OF GLASS immerses us in two cultures that are trying to shed their racist tendencies while still maintaining their philosophy and social fabric. There are no easy answers here and Barnes does not shy away from exploring them. Giraut and Margaret's marital problems sometimes overshadow and interfere with the larger story, but Barnes' skillful narration helps to keep the novel on course. Reading A MILLION OPEN DOORS is not necessary to appreciate and enjoy this novel (although AMOD is an excellent novel in its own right and is highly recommended). The narration, the well drawn characters, and the fascinating backdrop make EARTH MADE OF GLASS an excellent novel.
Moonfall by Jack McDevitt
ISBN 0061050369 / Harper Prism Hardcover April '98 384 pages / Review by Paul Giguere
I must admit that I am beginning to get weary of the all the disaster-related novels and movies which seem to dominate the Science Fiction genre lately. With the plethora of comet movies and books coming out this summer, it is gratifying to find a disaster novel that not only stands out from the pack, but just may have raised the standard for this type of fiction.
MOONFALL takes place in the year 2024 when Earth is enjoying a period of peace and economic prosperity. Poverty has been brought to an all-time low; the major diseases of the twentieth century such as AIDS and cancer have been brought under control; and Earth is once again reaching to the stars.
U.S. Vice President Charles Haskell is attending a ribbon cutting ceremony on a just completed international moonbase, which is coinciding with a manned mission to Mars which is ready to depart from a lunar orbit. All seems to be going well until a previously undetected comet is discovered on a collision course with the moon. An evacuation ensues and McDevitt takes us on a countdown to the last second where the last remaining evacuees, Haskell included, make an effort to save themselves before it is too late.
The impact causes the moon to breakup and large pieces head towards Earth which threaten to cause worldwide disasters such as tidal waves and possibly even a new ice age. The President of the U.S., following the advice of more optimistic scientists in an effort to keep people from panicking, decides to not order an evacuation of the coastlines of the U.S., an error that comes back to haunt him.
While the governments of Earth deal with the disasters that are occurring, we are introduced to other characters in the book who give us several different viewpoints to the events that are unfolding. The real star of the novel however is the comet (and later, the chunks of moon falling to Earth).
MOONFALL is a real page-turner and is hard to put down. The characters are well drawn and the plot grabs you from beginning to end. Speaking of endings, McDevitt brings the novel to a great conclusion without resorting to a deus ex machina, a complaint with some of his past novels. MOONFALL is easily McDevitt's best novel to date.
In The Garden Of Iden: A Novel Of The Company by Kage Baker
ISBN 0151002991 / Harcourt Brace Hardcover Feb. '98 256 pages / Review by Paul Giguere
In the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, five year old Mendosa is rescued from the dungeons by a representative of the Company, an organization in the24th century that recruits people from the past to act as agents and researchers to help preserve long extinct plants, animals, and anything else the Company deems profitable in the future. In exchange for joining the Company, agent's bodies are redesigned and developed into cyborgs which gives them virtual immortality, a process that can only be performed on children while they grow into adulthood.
With her newly outfitted body Mendosa, now eighteen, is sent as part of a three person team to 16th century England to gather various plant samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden while posing as the daughter of a Spanish doctor (also a cyborg). All is going well until Mendosa meets Nicholas Harpole, a devote Protestant and Sir Walter's secretary, and falls in love. The plot revolves around Mendosa and Nicholas' relationship amid the Catholicizing of England by Queen Mary and Philip of Spain.
This novel has a little something for everyone. It is at times a Science Fiction, Historical, and Romance novel. The narrative is crisp and funny and the plot moves along very nicely. Baker doesn't bog us down in technical detail regarding the time travel aspects of the story but rather, she immerses us in a historical novel that doesn't flinch away from the harsher realities of those times. A great debut; Baker is an author to watch for in the future. Delightful!
The War God's Own by David Weber
ISBN 0-671-87873-5 / Baen Hardcover May '98 / Review by Bruce Wallace
Mr. Weber has written a vastly entertaining story in many ways reminiscent of Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and Norse mythology. Entertaining, as in short on plot and long on action. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The characters are engaging and their banter as they travel, fight or eat is quite amusing. But there are also times when being swept along with the action you sometimes are unsure as to why or where you are going.
The story begins shortly after the main character of the story, Bahzell Bahnakson, is chosen by Tomanak the God of War to be one his champions in the battle against Sharna. There are eighteen champions selected seemingly at random by the war god, although not without good reason, we trust. They are to be the last line of defense against the return of the powers of Darkness. They also have the ancillary role of keeping the general populous from killing each other and stamping out pettiness and meanness. Bahzell and his sword brother The Bloody Sword, are traveling to Belhadan, the largest city in the Kingdom Of The Axe - an alliance between five of the six races of man, held together by the firm grip of the Emperor and his imperial troops. The Elves occupy the Kingdom of the Sothoii and disdain involvement with the other five races whom they despise yet also envy.
Bahzell and his companion are sent to Belhadan to present themselves to the city's chapter of the Order Of Tomanak. The reason for this visit becomes apparent rather quickly. They are met at the pier by Sir Vaijon a knight probationary who has the potential to become a knight of Tomanak, what has holds him back is his mindset. He feels that since he comes from a rich and powerful family he is due his knighthood as his hereditary right. It is up to Bahzell to set him right and in the course of the story he does so (even if it does means breaking both his arms) to the extent that Vaijon earns his spurs and eventually becomes a true champion himself.
The driving force of the saga is the need to eradicate Sharna and his minions. Sharna is this book's Ultimate Evil - depicted much the same way as Tolkien's character Sauron. Both Sharna and Sauron are described as an ancient evil that lives forever in the shadows, dreaming evil dreams of ruin and conquest. The only thing we really know about either one of them is that they want to conquer the world and kill or corrupt everything in their path. They have no motivation for this, they're just EVIL!
Sharna is not wiped out. Rather he is dealt a small blow that will no doubt slow him down a bit leaving room for future encounters. That they do not prevail totally over evil is not the important point. In the midst of sword fighting, bawdiness and badinage the spirit of camaraderie prevails and a genuine commitment to integrity and tolerance for the differences between the various races that comprise the kingdoms of this world is the novel’s main message. By the time the author is done he has outlined a primer of basic conduct that we would all do well to live by.
Packed with action, leavened with humor and seasoned with optimism this book is strongly recommended for armchair adventurers everywhere.
Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole
ISBN 0553108204 / Bantam Books Hardcover May 1998 480 pages / Review by Asta Sinusas
The latest troublemakers in the New Republic are a bunch of pirates that have an Imperial starship named the Invidious, a word which means to cause to be objectionable, unpleasant or envious. These raiders seem to have developed a knack for infiltrating poorly defended sites, almost as if they had access to insider information. Corran Horn is an X-wing pilot with Rogue Squadron whose goal in life is to get rid of this threat. When he returns home from his latest mission, he finds out that his wife is missing. Seems she tried to go play spy on the Invidious, but was caught. Corran then calls on his old friend, Wedge Antilles to help him out, which that leads him to Luke Skywalker. Luke suggests that Corran, who is strong in the Force, train to be a Jedi at his new academy (surprise, surprise, courses are coincidentally starting next week...). His reasoning is that Corran can then be better equipped to rescue Mirax, once he finds out where in the galaxy she is being held.
Corran agrees and is part of the first class on Yavin 4. What follows is just a summary of the Jedi Academy series by Kevin Anderson told from another point of view. In the end, Corran decides that what he really needs to do is to play detective not Jedi. He leaves the academy and goes undercover to infiltrate a pirate squadron that frequently raids with the Invidious. In the end Corran realizes that he is both Jedi and detective and that both talents can co-exist (The sign on my office says: Sam Skywalker…Private Jedi. I didn't hear her enter…but I could sense her disturbance in the force a parsec away…).
Whoever is responsible for letting Michael Stackpole fool around in the Star Wars universe should be taken to the back of the Banta Books and buried in Bantha dung. Stackpole fans that liked his X-Wing series will probably enjoy this book, which really should be named as the fifth X-Wing book, as it is a continuation of Corran Horn's latest adventures. The major failing of the book is that Stackpole's story weaves in and out of the Star Wars universe. The fact that it is not at a consistent level makes it that much more annoying. The Jedi Academy section contains some of the strongest writing in the book and is quite close to the Star Wars we all know and love, probably because Stackpole is so reliant on Anderson's work. Other times the book is very loosely connected to Star Wars, if at all. Part of this is due to the fact that Stackpole relies on a classic stereotype, the American detective, for his main character, right down to the gratuitous use of first person. Stackpole is so affected by the American culture that he lives in, the main character could easily be taken out of the Star Wars universe and plunked down in any major US city. Unless your goal is to read every Star Wars book out there, force yourself to pass this one up.
Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle
ISBN 0312861834 / Tor Hardcover May 1998 352 pages / Reviewed by Dave Goldfeder
Kip Brewster is an orphan living with his Uncle Mike at Starswarm Station - a research facility on the planet Paradise. Mike is a hunter who gathers meat and trains dogs for the scientists at the station. Kip seems like an ordinary boy save for one thing, he hears a Voice in his head. This is no ordinary voice; it answers his questions, advises him, guides him, helps him with his homework, and sometimes seems to make things happen for him.
The story focuses on Kip’s early adolescence; his growing up, his search for his identity, and his relationship with the Voice, named GWEN. At the beginning, Kip believes that GWEN is God, later he comes to believes that GWEN is a computer. When he asks, GWEN tells him he is almost right - GWEN is a computer program created by Kip’s mother. It resides in the main computer of Great Western Enterprises and communicates with Kip via an implant in his brain.
Great Western Enterprises, founded and owned by the Trent and La Scala families, is the company that financed the colonization of Paradise and in effect, owns the planet. Great Western is currently under a takeover threat from the Hilliard Combine. This conflict, and its relationship to the murder of Kip’s parents forms an important aspect of the storyline.
The nature of Starswarm is the other important issue in the book. Starswarm are plant-like entities that live in bodies of water on Paradise. Starswarm Station was set up to study them. What exactly they are has serious consequences for the entire planet .
In a field where much has been done before, it's impossible to keep from using ideas others have already tested. Pournelle has at least chosen to emulate two of the best, George Lucas and Robert Heinlein, and STARSWARM's lineage is evident as it draws heavily upon Star Wars and the Heinlein juveniles. Both those authors used time tested concepts themselves, so where it all begins is a question one can debate endlessly, but to little point. The important thing is to be influenced by the best models you can find, and certainly this author has chosen wisely.
Pournelle has written an excellent juvenile that adults as well as children can enjoy. The writing is crisp. The science is deftly handled. STARSWARM is a classic hero tale. It is the story of the hidden prince (Luke Skywalker, King Arthur) and the villains who killed his parents. It’s the relationship with the mentor (Obi Wan Kenobi, Merlin) who teaches what is needed to claim that identity and avenge his parents. This tale has been told and retold. Good ideas never go out of style, and Starwarm does this legend credit.
Interview: Lois McMaster Bujold
With the release of Miles' first post Admiral Naismith book, I thought it was time to see where Ms. Bujold was heading with the series. The author was willing to stop packing for Austrailia long enough to answer some questions and I'm pleased to be able to share them along with the review of Komarr in this issue.
SFRevu:KOMARR's first five chapters are online at www.baen.com. Was this your idea? Do you like it?
Lois McMaster Bujold: No, this is part of Baen's general on-going publicity and promotion. They hope to eventually have excerpts from all their titles, not just the lead books, up for web wanderers to sample. In view of the increasing number of books which are ordered on-line, I think it's an excellent idea.
SFR: How has the reaction been?
LMB: Very interesting. I have a chat group devoted to my books on which I occasionally lurk. They seem very excited, and full of speculation about What Happens Next. The trouble is, they are such a bright group, and there are so many of them, I'm afraid they'll come up with every possible plot twist including all the ones I chose before the book is published! My chances of surprising them narrow by giving them three months to think about it before they read the rest of the book.
SFR: Have you ever tried reading online?
LMB: Reading things which are posted? All the time. I drop into newsgroups and so on. If you mean, reading extended works on-screen, no, I haven't tried that yet. I think the CRT lends itself to, um, smaller thought-bites.
SFR: Does the feedback you get from readers make you second guess yourself while waiting for the book to be released?
LMB: Not feedback from the Baen postings. By the time a book gets up on their website, it's finished, turned in, has had its final edit, is paid for, and I'm several chapters into the next book. By that time It's Too Late To Fix Anything.
I do make use of a lot of test readers, both my critique group and some out-of-town friends, on a chapter-by-chapter basis while the book is still in process of being written. What feedback does at this point, mainly, is reassure. Almost all writers need lots of reassurance at this stage, because after multiple drafts, edits, revisions, worry, and to top it off at least two trips through the galley proofs, one is really sick of one's own prose. It's a nausea tempered by wild hopes -- will this book be the one at last to hit the bestseller jackpot/garner a movie deal/get that great review/finally impress your parents/insert personal goal here? The writer's soaring, not to mention megalomanic, aspirations have not yet been readjusted by and to reality. Is it dreck, is it brilliant? I can't tell anymore. Just-pre-publication is a crazy time.
My author's copies of KOMARR just came directly from the printer today, by the way. They're lovely... it's in print, real at last.
SFR: What's the new book about? How is it coming? When can we expect it?
LMB: The new book is a direct sequel to KOMARR, so I can't say much about it at this point without creating spoilers. The main plots of KOMARR were finished within its pages -- don't worry, it's a complete book! NOT one of those end-in-the-middle-with-no-warning things -- but one important story arc not only required continuation, but also required a major shift of tone. KOMARR is many things, but it's not a comedy. I've been wanting to do a romantic comedy, a Barrayaran Regency Romance, since forever, and I'm finally indulging myself.
The working title is "ImpWed: A Comedy of Biology and Manners", but I have no doubt that will change. I've completed nine chapters, a bit short of halfway, here in April, but I'm about to run off to Australia for three weeks, which has stopped it cold. If I stay home from Worldcon, I might get back on track this summer. If I finish it towards the end of this year as planned, Baen should publish it sometime in the fall of 1999.
SFR: Miles has grown up a lot in the last few books, and his adventures have been getting more cerebral as a result. Have you thought about a new protagonist? (No, it's not that I don't love Miles.) Someone that can swashbuckle the way Miles did in THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE? Or the way Cordelia did in BARRAYAR (Every Vor lady goes to the capital to shop) ?
LMB: One of the things I like about my series is just exactly that I have been able to grow Miles up. I don't have to repeat the same kind of book over and over. Now I admit, the more mature books are harder to write, very demanding, and take more thought and emotional energy. I can't crank them out quickly. After "ImpWed" I will probably take a complete break from the series, not only away from the characters but away from the universe, to refresh my mind for at least one book, just to let the well refill. Maybe another Fantasy? We'll see.
SFR: From FALLING FREE to KOMARR, you've carved out quite a volume of space, and developed one of the most engaging cast of characters in SF, past or present. Far more than one writer has time to fully explore alone. Have you given thought to sharing Vor Space with other authors, like McCaffery's Ships Who Did Whatever, or better (because I really like them) Larry Niven's Man Kzin War series?
LMB: Urk. No, I don't think so. My take on this is, I have had to share, at various times throughout my personal life, my house, my time, my energy, my refrigerator, my car, my bank account, my bed, and my body. My books are, by God, the one thing in my life I don't have to share. They are mine alone.
They are also the one thing I've been able to make go really right. I think I shall let that be a lesson to me.
SFR: Cloning technology is certainly catching up to your stories. What new technological horizons are you interested in? Artificial intelligence? Life extension? Nanotechnology?
LMB: I read Scientific American monthly, not so much to keep up, as to find out how much farther behind I'm getting. (Last month's issue had an article on laser tweezers which could hold and manipulate a single sperm cell, or cut a chromosome in half. Jeeze.) My natural interests and strongest science background run to biology. I'm weak on AI and nanotech, though I have had an experimental robot named after me by a professor at the Colorado School of Mines. (Check out http://www.mines.edu.fs home/rmurphy/mrmp/mrmp.html for photos of both Robot Bujold and Robot Willis.) I enjoy reading history.
SFR: Did you just get online recently? What do you think of the online world?
LMB: I got online about two years ago, when I gave my college daughter my old computer and bought myself one with a modem. The online world is amazing, though I've barely scratched the surface. E-mail is just great, and I conduct a lot of business with it. I now get e-mail fan mail, which is so easy to answer that my snail mail pile has gotten horribly neglected. But it's a terrible time-sink. I have mostly eliminated television, and many other pastimes, from my life in favor of writing; I definitely have to go on an Internet diet as well, or I'll never get another word written... except online interviews...
RetroReview: SFRevu's Robert Heinlein TributeEverything I Need to know I learned from Robert Heinlein A Few Words From The Dean Requiem
Everything I Need to know I learned from Robert Heinlein
May 8th was the 10th anniversary of Robert Heinlein 's death, and I wanted to do a retrospective/tribute piece in the SFRevu. Inasmuch as I'm the editor, I can. What I really wanted was bits from fans, pro and not and since I asked nicely…I got them. I've also included some quotes from the Dean of Science Fiction, and Dave Goldfeder has a review of REQUIEM, a collection that grew out of the Heinlein Tribute at the National Air And Space Museum the year he died. - Ernest Lilley
For my own part, this was a lot of fun, and I learned quite a bit from your responses and my researches around the Web. I loved the juveniles, still do. My favorite may be HARSH MISTRESS, but STARSHIP TROOPERS still has some points to make and I'll never forget CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY. I never could warm up to the later books, and the truth may be that my favorite author was a Campbell/Heinlein synthesis. He had the advantage of doing it first, and doing it at a time when the science was far enough along to be exciting, but not so far along as to limit him. Even though his philosophy reflects WWII America, rather than Post Nam, there is plenty in the current political atmosphere that he predicted, and is still hotly debated.
Either I learned the belief that rising to a challenge is good for you from RAH, or it resonated against something already in me. RAH was like a grandparent in his attitudes, clearly out of synch with my own parents. I ate up his constant admonishments to young protagonists that it was a cold hard universe and standing up to it was the privilege of humans. Yes, I know he was writing in a time when others had the same notions, Ayn Rand for one. But how many were writing to the young, actively preaching those lessons? Not enough. Kirk has a lot of Heinlein in him, Picard, 100% RAH free. Janeway on the other hand is in RAH denial.
I was surprised by the number of Hard SF authors that told me they hadn't read RAH. James Hogan never read MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS? Pity. I was gratified when James Halperin (THE TRUTH MACHINE, THE FIRST IMMORTAL) went out and picked up some RAH titles I recommended. I'm looking forward to seeing what he says when he finds a kindred author staring back from the pages.
RAH certainly went through different phases in his writing life, from a counselor of honor and free-thinking to the espouser of some truly regrettable views on women in his later years. I feel free to pick and choose, though I am reminded that in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND the soup made from Michael Valentine Smith is found to be wanting in salt, but left as is out of respect. Still, I think Heinlein would support the notion that we not take his truths as self evident, but rather as places worthy of beginning the debate.
Ernest Lilley - Editor/SFRevu
Don't take my word for it! Here's what SF Luminaries have to say on the subject - Featuring: David Brin / Brenda Clough / Bob Devney / John Douglas / James Alan Gardner / Joe Haldeman / Warren Lapine / Kevin B. O'Brien / John Ordover / Uncle Bear / Rob Sawyer / Ian Randal Strock / Allen Steele / Michael Swanwick / and more
David Brin (The Uplift Series) - I think RAH's juveniles are timeless. Unlike some of his more cantankerous 'adult' books, the juvies were politically neutral while culturally assertive. What do I mean by that? HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL can be loved by anyone who believes in 'western' values of tolerance, ambition, individualism, and skeptical openmindedness. In fact, they helped teach those values to several generations. Almost any democrat or republican would be proud to have his or her kids partly raised on two dozen such Heinlein books, even if they disagree loudly over more superficial political issues.
Still, my favorite RAH book is his quirkiest. His only 'utopia' -- BEYOND THIS HORIZON. At first sight, it seems a bit of a libertarian rant, with a weird, Campbellian obsession on guns. But read more carefully and you'll find he's got his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, while making a dozen or more thoughtful observations on everything from economics to genetic engineering, breaking across all sorts of standard political ideologies, showing the freshness of one of this century's most original minds.
Brenda Clough (HOW LIKE A GOD) - I think my favorite Heinlein books are the juveniles. They're so young, so full of hope and optimism and can-do spirit. And they've had a significant impact on modern life -- a substantial fraction of the people working at NASA will tell you that they got into the space program because the Heinlein juveniles inspired them so much when they were kids.
Bob Devney (Hugo nominee, Editor of the Devniad) - Growing up, I hero-worshipped the guy like everybody else. But put that aside. Let’s agree that, good or bad, Robert Anson Heinlein and his drop-dead storytelling gifts helped loft (or slough) science fiction into the mainstream.
In the 1950s, he was first to sell real SF into slicks like The Saturday Evening Post and Boy’s Life. And in 1969, when TV newsgod Walter Cronkite covered the moon landing, the SF writer he interviewed was RAH ... Although Heinlein used this worldwide exposure to dis the idea of a female astronaut as "110 pounds of recreational equipment." As I said, "good or bad."
John Douglas (Editor, Harper Collins) - It would be hard to pick an actual favorite from the long list of Heinlein's works but I think I can tell you the ones I've re-read the most which might amount to a version of making that choice.
The MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS (great story and I'm a sucker for sentient computer stories), DOUBLE STAR (for the wonderful evolution of the lead character from ham actor to statesman -- all in first person, too), and THE DOOR INTO SUMMER (for the wonderfully sweet romance at its center and for the cat insights) are probably the three most-worn books in my collection. Although I love many of the juveniles, I came to them after I'd read most of his adult work to that date (probably mid-70s) and they somehow never entered the regular rotation of my re-read cycle.
I think the exercise for Heinlein, like the one I've done for years with Philip K. Dick as well, should be less about selecting one favorite than about picking a personal top 5 or top 10. With a large body of work, it's so difficult to settle on a single favorite since the range of appeal is so great and the mood of the moment effects the decision.
I only ever saw Heinlein live a couple of times and the most memorable was when he did an appearance at the East Side Y in New York. He asked for questions on 3 x 5 file cards and answered the ones he felt like answering as he flipped through the stack collected for him. He also did a signing afterwards and insisted on only one book per person in the line. You were allowed to go through again for a second book if you were willing to step to the back and start over. The collectors weren't at all happy.
My feeling has always been that the later books were more about Heinlein playing with his own personal obsessions than with any attempt to entertain which editors had previously imposed on him. His feeling seemed clear to me that if you were prepared to enjoy his fantasies, fine and if you weren't he didn't care a bit.
James Alan Gardner (EXPENDABLE & COMMITMENT HOUR )- I read my first Heinlein book at age 12. It was STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND...from which I remember the wonderfully idealistic notion of Fair Witnesses, and a tiny passage where Jubal writes a saccharine story about a kitten lost in the snow at Christmas. The other characters roll their eyes about this story, as if they can't believe he would write something so unworthy of him...and that was the first time this 12-year-old writer wannabe realized that you weren't just supposed to write whatever you could, you were supposed to write stuff that meant something real. - Thanks, RAH!
Joe Haldeman - I never knew Heinlein well, to my regret. We had lunch together a few times, and three or four times I got to be the lucky guy with the short autographing line next to his infinite one. Once I ran a blood drive for him, when he wasn't able to make it to Atlanta.
People assume we were adversaries because our politics were different. That's just strange. Heinlein had friends all over the philosophical map. He had strong opinions, but he allowed other people to have different ones.
I don't think I've ever known a more dignified yet charming man.
Warren Lapine (Absolute Magnitude) - You might be interested in how Absolute Magnitude got the name it put its first two issues out under: Harsh Mistress. Obviously the name was an allusion to Heinlein's The Moon is. . . Well when my ex-business partners and I were trying to name the magazine we were throwing out all kinds of names. All three of us were Heinlein fans and we wanted to put out a magazine that he would have liked and that published the kind of things that he would have written. Well, as a joke I said Harsh Mistress. Both of my partners loved the name. I lost two votes to one - mine was the dissenting vote. It was then that I decided that they were bigger Heinlein fans than I was.
Kevin B. O'Brien (http://www.ccaa.edu/~obrienk/): It is hard to put in only a few words what Heinlein means to me, but one anecdote may help. In CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY he talks about the "Baslim-conditioned reflex", where you find yourself doing something because Baslim taught you to do it. I found there is something I call the Heinlein-conditioned reflex. This happens when you find yourself in a difficult situation, you wonder how to behave, and suddenly something Heinlein said in one of his books comes into your mind. At that point, you know what to do. In fact, you can't really do anything else. I've talked with other Heinlein fans, and found that they have similar experiences.
Bob Mayer aka Robert Doherty (AREA 51) - I enjoyed the early Heinlein, but the later stuff was kind of weird. Loved HARSH MISTRESS. The quote I love from Heinlein is a Lazarus Long one: Stupidity should be the only capital crime. I find it interesting that he was a Naval Academy Graduate while I went to West Point. I can see some of the effect of the Academy in some of his philosophy. Shame what they did to STARSHIP TROOPERS in the movie.
John Ordover (Editor, Pocket Books) - HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL is my favorite Heinlein novel -- I've had a crush on PeeWee for 29 years now....:)
Rob Sawyer - I'm a Canadian, and Robert A. Heinlein's politics were right wing for American, making them, if I may be forgiven for saying so, extremely right wing from the northern perspective; several of Heinlein's novels disturbed me a great deal -- which is fine, of course; they did make me think, but they rarely made me agree with him. Although I have soft spots in my heart for many of Heinlein's tales -- STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND certainly; and THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS; and even THE PUPPET MASTERS (whose influence can clearly be seen on my own END OF AN ERA), my actual favorite Heinlein is one of the juveniles, FARMER IN THE SKY. There's no doubt that those visions of Jupiter hanging over Ganymede inspired my Quintaglio trilogy (FAR-SEER, FOSSIL HUNTER, and FOREIGNER), set on the moon of a Jovian-style world in an alien solar system. But I think what I'm most grateful to Heinlein for is his advice to writers: I've built my career around his famous five rules, and early on I benefited from several established pros, doing what Heinlein asked, paying forward to the next generation.
Allen Steele (THE TRANQUILITY ALTERNATIVE) - Robert A. Heinlein was, and remains to this day, Science Fiction's answer to Ernest Hemingway. The literary mainstream has Hemingway; we've got Heinlein. Both men were controversial in their time, both were larger than life, and each of them changed the rules of the game.
ROCKET SHIP GALILEO was the first SF novel I read; when I briefly met Heinlein during the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, I told him this, and thanked him for writing it, along with everything else he had done since then. This was during an overcrowded party, and I didn't realize that I was standing on his toes. He was very gracious to the nervous teenager I was then, and patiently waited until I had my say before he asked me to get off his shoes.
So far as I'm concerned, this is a mark of true class. Hemingway probably wouldn't have done that, so I think the literary mainstream got the short end of the stick. For my part, I measure everything I write against his work. It's a hell of a yardstick, and an impossible level of excellence to meet, yet it keeps me honest, and even sane.
Ian Randal Strock, (Editor, Artemis Magazine http://www.lrcpubs.com) - I don't have an anecdote about Heinlein, because he died six months before I got into the SF field. Heinlein was one of my "big three" before I knew about the "Big Three". I discovered his "juveniles" at a used book store near college, and read most of them before I discovered they were "juveniles". I always wanted to be Lazarus Long, until Greg Bennett wrote an article for Analog (where I was working) about the Artemis Project. I read the article, and decided I wanted to be D.D. Harriman. Well, maybe not Harriman, because I want to get to the moon while I'm young enough to enjoy it, but definitely a man who sells the moon.
Michael Swanwick ( JACK FAUST) - HAVE SPACE SUIT--WILL TRAVEL breaks very neatly into two separate stories. The first, shorter, and better half is about a high school student's efforts to restore a used space suit to full functionality. Heinlein was involved in the design of pressure suits during WWII, and his close description of what it really would take to refurbish the suit is riveting. The scene where Kip pumps his suit full of pure helium at two atmospheres absolute and it holds, is the emotional climax of the novel.
For the second half, Heinlein obviously made up a list of every cheapjack sci-fi element he could think of, and proceeded to prove that a good writer can make anything work. So Kip is kidnapped by a space pirates, encounters a bug-eyed monster, foils an invasion of Earth, rescues a princess, and must defend humanity before a tribunal of alien races. It is a brilliant tour-de-force.
But what people remember about the book is not the second half but the first--that magically flawless description of the joys of hard work and good engineering. Heinlein was always at his best when he was writing about something he understood.
Uncle Bear (Editor, GeekMedia) - One of the first SF I novels I ever read was THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, and today it still sticks with me as one of the best books ever written. It not only contains prototypical Science Fiction elements (men living on the moon, super computers, speculative social and political systems), but it bridges Heinlein's earlier, "juvenile" writing style and his later "adult" style. Action, intrigue, sex, humor, and memorable characters -- whenever I run across someone who (gasp!) has never read RAH before, this is the one I suggest.
As a kid, we weren't allowed to read Science Fiction in the house; it was in the same category as junk food and too much tv. Our well-intentioned mother was an English teacher at the time, and wanted us all to be raised on the classics. Our father, however, was less strict, and would sneak us Twinkies, candy bars and Heinlein novels (he was a fan, too!), which we would hide under between the mattress and the box spring. To this day, it's one of the strongest bonds I share with my siblings.
Nancy Lebovitz: What impresses me most about Heinlein is the way his books get richer as I reread them. The characterization is better than I'd noticed when I was a kid, and sometimes themes appear-- almost everything in STARMAN JONES is about how information moves or doesn't move in a hierarchy. He was over-optimistic about sex, but he was remarkably unsentimental about other sorts of relationship.
Unfortunately, I've been finding that, as I come to like the juveniles more, I've been liking the late works less--but the juveniles get better and better.
Tom Francis - I had just finished reading STRANGERS and decided that RAH had gone senile. I sat down and wrote a long letter establishing RAH as such and sent it off to the publisher.
Lo and behold, three months later I received a letter from RAH thanking me for pointing out his apparent mental deficiencies, suggested that I re-read STRANGERS again (this time with help from someone more intelligent that I) and additional thanks for being a fan.
Well, I did eventually re-read STRANGERS, still don't like it or his subsequent books. I have, however, his letter, sealed and framed and it's a highly prized possession.
Curt Phillips - There's a scene in the novel SPACE CADET that describes the entrance tests that the prospective cadets have to take. One is a test where they had to enter a room alone and with eyes closed drop beans into a small bottle. The lead character is a little worried because he was only able to get a few beans in while he later finds that some of the applicants got most of them in. He asks the examiner, "Excuse me sir, but what's to keep someone from cheating at this?" The examiner smiled and replied, "Nothing at all. Go on to your next test."
Thus Heinlein taught me that you don't always know what you're being tested for - a lesson that has served me well many times in my life. I'll always be grateful to him for that.
A Few Words From the Dean…
Even if the later stories fall apart as fiction, they're still a bully pulpit for the crotchety Dean of SF. If what he passes off as wisdom doesn't fit with your worldview, I'm sure he'd defend your right to argue the point.
It's likely that I won't be writing very much longer. With the way things are shaping up, I'll probably have other things I'll have to do, as will others here, whether we like it or not. But I hope to be a fan of science fiction for at least fifty years if I can hold myself together that long and keep from getting my teeth kicked in. All I really want to do is to hang around as long as I can, watch the world unfold, see some of the changes, what they really are, that suits me. - Guest of Honor Speech at the Third World Science Fiction Convention, Denver, 1941
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. - Lazarus Long in TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE.
Sleep whenever you can; you may have to stay awake a long time. - ibid
If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. - ibid
The Ten Commandments are for lame brains. The first five are solely for the benefit of the priests and the powers that be; the second five are half truths, neither complete nor adequate. - Ira Johnson in TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET.
What good is the race of man? Monkeys, he thought, monkeys with a spot of poetry in them, cluttering and wasting a second-string planet near a third-string star. But sometimes they finish in style. - Potiphar (Potty) Breen in THE YEAR OF THE JACKPOT.
"Why don't they make more science fiction movies?" The answer to any question starting, "Why don't they-" is almost always, "Money." - From "SHOOTING DESTINATION MOON"
But does Man have any "right" to spread through the universe?
Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics--you name it--is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is--not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be.
The Universe will let us know--later--whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it. - Juan Rico in STARSHIP TROOPERS.
The greatest productive force is human selfishness. - Robert Heinlein
By then most phones were working and Complex could be called. Punched MYCROFTXXX. No answer---So went out by Rolligon. Had to go down and walk tube last kilometer but Complex Under didn't seem hurt.
Nor did Mike appear to be.
But when I spoke to him, he didn't answer.
He has never answered. Has been many years now. - Manuel Grace O'Kelley in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS.
Requiem - New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master by Robert A. Heinlein, Yoji Kondo
ISBN 0-812-51391-6 / Tor Paperback Aug '94 / Review by Dave Goldfeder
When Robert Heinlein died 10 years ago Dr. Yoji Kondo organized a retrospective and tribute at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. At the event the author was posthumously awarded the NASA Medal for Distinguished Public Service. REQUIEM grew out of that event.
The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is a group of works by Heinlein. They include his Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, magazine pieces that have not previously been printed in book form, the story for DESTINATION MOON, an article about the filming of DESTINATION MOON, and also the story "Requiem".
The second part of the book is the transcript of The National Air and Space Museum Heinlein Retrospective. It begins with the citation for the NASA Medal for Distinguished Public Service for Robert A. Heinlein; followed by Heinlein’s "This I believe" read by his wife, Virginia Heinlein, in lieu of a speech. These are followed by transcripts of the speeches given by panelists and guests.
The Third part of the book contains tributes to Robert Heinlein from different authors. These tributes range from thankful tales of Heinlein’s influence, to personal anecdotes, to Larry Niven’s fictional tribute "The Return of William Proxmire".
The book is not easily classified. It is part anthology, part testimonial, part fact, part fiction. Any fan will enjoy the Heinlein materia, most of which are magazine pieces that have not seen the light of day in the 40 years since they were first presented. That is not the sole purpose of the book. Perhaps the primary purpose here is to give Heinlein’s friends a forum to publish their views of the personal Heinlein. Heinlein has always had his critics. The contributors to this book are not among them. As such, this book does not attempt objectivity, having come to praise RAH, not to bury him.
The list of contributors is impressive to any SF fan. Tom Clancy, L. Sprague de Camp, Jerry Pournelle, Charles Sheffield, and Nasa astronaut Jon McBride were the panel at the event (Jon is an astronaut and NASA Congressional Affairs Administrator who was to command the March 1986 Space Shuttle mission that was canceled after the Challenger explosion in January 1986). The authors writing tributes to Heinlein include Poul Anderson, Jim Baen, Greg Bear, Arthur C. Clarke, Gordon R. Dickson, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Spider Robinson, Robert Silverberg, Harry Turtledove, and Jack Williamson. These men have produced a sizable percentage of the major works of the SF field. One and all were challenged by Heinlein’s work. In many cases, exposure to Heinlein while young started lifelong affairs with SF. Heinlein challenged their imaginations and provided a standard of excellence in the field. In several cases Heinlein provided personal support and charity to struggling SF writers. When asked how such debts are paid back the author replied, "You can pay the debt back at any time but the best method is to pay the debt forward." A man always thinking of the future.
I read FARMER IN THE SKY at 10, and followed it with his other juveniles. As I got older, I moved on to his adult works and to this day, RAH is my favorite author. The worlds and characters Heinlein created have influenced my life more then any teacher I’ve had, and this book showed me that I'm not alone.
Ten years after his death, his work and memory are still prominent in the field. Someday they may even use his stories in a decent movie. In the Almost 60 years since he was first published three generations have read, enjoyed (or occasionally been appalled by) and been shaped by his work. As long as Science Fiction is read, I'm sure Heinlein will be shaping young readers' ideas.
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: Godzilla Review by Ernest Lilley Deep Impact Review by Tony Tellado
Godzilla Review by Ernest Lilley
Cast: Matthew Broderick (Dr. Nick Tatopolos), Jean Reno (Philippe Roache), Maria Pitillo (Audrey), Hank Azaria ("Animal"), Kevin Dunn (Colonel Hicks), Michael Lerner (NYC Mayor Ebert)
Director: Roland Emmerich Creature Design/Supervisor: Patrick Tatopoulos Visual Effects Supervisor Volker Engel Producer: Dean Devlin Screenplay: Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich
Picture credit: Copyright ©1998 TriStar Pictures, Inc. All rights reserved.
How do you follow the success of a film like INDEPENDENCE DAY and bring in the big green a second time around? Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich faced that monstrous question daily as they traveled the world promoting ID4 and watching it sweep away box office records. Well, for one thing, you play to your strengths, and for Devlin and Emmerich, that means really big special effects and classic SF concepts. There is perhaps nothing bigger or more classic than Godzilla, which first terrorized Tokyo in the 1954 release, GOJIRA. (American version: 1956 GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, starring Raymond Burr and Takashi Shimura.)
"We passed four times," Emmerich recalls. "I just wasn't sure it could be done without being kitschy. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how fascinating it could be."
"The challenge of GODZILLA is that when people think of it, they immediately think of something that has a great deal of nostalgic fun but is not to be taken seriously. For us, that posed an intriguing question: How do we reinvent Godzilla?"
Godzilla got seriously reinvented in the new film. Standing in the concrete canyons of New York he represents everything that has added to our store of filmmaking and dinosaur lore in the past 40 odd years. It's a pity that the Museum of Natural History trailer didn't make the film, showing the big G's foot coming down through the skylight to smash a T-Rex fossil, because the whole notion of a fast, agile, voracious dinosaur has evolved in the last few decades to rewrite the classical view of the terrible lizards.
This Godzilla is a high rent, low brow Frankenstein. We (or at least the French) created him through nuclear testing. He is just doing what his vaguely remembered dino-loins tell him, finding a big island to lay eggs on. His dino-brain is somewhat scrambled. Why didn't he attack Paris? It was their bomb.
Unfortunately, this beast lacks his predecessor's charm, and the human cast doesn't add any warmth of its own, so the whole rainy film winds up cold and damp. Little or no attempt is made to scare us either, in fact the only emotion courted by Devlin and Emmerich is the fabled "G-Whiz!"
JURASSIC PARK did it first of course, and the impact on GODZILLA is unmistakable, as the new big G looks more like a bumpy velociraptor than his old self. In particular the later baby-zilla scenes look eerily like raptor footage from J PARK.
But GODZILLA is more (and less) than JURASSIC PARK TAKES MANHATTAN. It is devotedly a monster movie. Its only plot is the classic minimum. Show the destruction, meet the scientist (Matthew Broderick), show the monster, piss off the monster, lose the monster, find the girl (Maria Pitillo), find the monster, kill the monster, lose the girl, revive the monster, find/save the girl. Hook the sequel.
But you have to do it with a 90s feel. The scientist is an ex nuke rally-er, the girl is a reporter wannabe, the hero is a French guy. Some standards remain, including more evidence that military and intelligence should never be used in the same sentence (not true, but useful in monster movies).
It's interesting to see how science has changed over the course of Godzilla's career. Scientific accuracy hasn't gotten any better in 40 years, and the monster's motives are reduced to basic animal drives. Gone is the manlike monster, conscience and champion of the land of the Rising Sun. Still, the monster is the only character worth watching here, and only for the brilliant special effects work done by Patrick Tatopoulos (Creature) and Volker Engel (Visual Effects).
On the other hand, the characters have more depth, less respect, and are totally forgettable. The only possible exception to this is the "French Guy" (Philippe Roache) and his band of merry "insurance agents".
For all the work that went into the film, it's uneven. Godzilla's footsteps tear up streets in one scene and leave them unmarked in the next. Cars bounce up and down as he walks, but buildings are unaffected. The character story actually slows down the film, failing to generate enough interest to merit it. Broderick isn't bad, though unusually wooden, but the best performances are turned in by the "French Guy" and "Animal" (Hank Azaria's manic Manhattanite video reporter).
If the golden age of Science Fiction is 14, the golden age of Monster Movies must be about 12. I can reach back and find my 14 year old brainstem without difficulty, it's putting it away that always gives me trouble. Reaching back to 12 is a bit harder, but I've no doubt that millions will accomplish the feat over the next few weeks.
Broderick has signed for two sequels, which should be interesting if only to see if they can manage to stave off boredom now that they've let the monster out of the bag. Now that would be a good trick. I confess that I miss the man in the rubber suit, but fortunately he will always live again on video.
Deep Impact Review by Tony Tellado
Cast: Morgan Freeman (President Beck) / Robert Duvall (Spurgeon Tanner) / Téa Leoni (Jenny Lerner)
Director: Mimi Leder / Script: Michael Tolkin, Bruce Joel Rubin / Producers: Richard D. Zanuck, David Brown (DreamWorks Pictures/Paramount) / Special Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic / Novel: Arthur C. Clarke
Picture Credits: © 1998 by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks L.L.C. and Amblin Entertainment.
DEEP IMPACT owes a lot to an earlier classic, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and to a new one, the unsinkable TITANIC. Two amateur astronomers who gaze as much into each other's eyes as to the heavens (Leelee Sobieski, Elijah Wood), find a comet streaking towards Earth on a collision course. Ambitious reporter (Tea Leoni), finds what she thinks is a code name for the President's mistress. But before she can cry foul, the President ( Morgan "I would vote for this man" Freeman) comes clean and admits there is a comet on its way to put a damper on his administration. Robert Duvall and his crack team of astronauts are tasked with the mission to destroy it and save the world. Their attempt and its aftermath make up the rest of the film, woven with almost cliche character subplots. But the film is saved by its effects (ILM) and a stellar veteran guest list such as Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, James Cromwell, and Blair Underwood. Wood and Sobieski supply the romance during a comet disaster portion of the film. DEEP IMPACT strikes the first blow in a titanic battle of SFX behemoths. Next month, Bruce Willis and his ARMAGEDDON arrive for the Fourth of July fireworks and we will find out just how much destruction the public will pay to see.
Sawicki's Video ReviewDestroy All Monsters Volcano Alien Resurrection
While the new and improved (?) Godzilla stomped through New York, I visited the video store with thoughts of city wide destruction and resurrection. Sometimes you find what you are looking for and sometimes your mind gets sidetracked. Surprisingly, this time it was fairly easy to find videos which met my anticipated requirements.
There were, in fact, quite a number of newer entries involving destruction on at least a city-wide basis. Must be something in the air.
Destroy All Monsters
A.D.V. Films, Not Rated but give it a G, 90 Minutes, Starring Akira Kubo, Yukiko Kobayashi, Kyoko Ai, Jun Tazaki and Yoshihio Tsuchiya. Directed by Ishiro Honda, Music by Akira Ifukube, Written by Ishiro Honda & Kaoru Mabuchi.
Regardless of what it says on the box about the human actors, the real stars here are the monsters and the campy presentation. This film tries to combine all of the Japanese beasts in a single 90 minute adventure. Needless to say, destruction is rampant. It should also be noted that Godzilla destroys New York for the first time. The plot (what, you think there should be a plot?) basically involves a group of evil aliens intent on world domination. The aliens are led by a beautiful young woman who appears occasionally to taunt and brag about her race's intentions. The monsters of the world; Godzilla, Mothra, Anguirus, Baragon, Gorosaurus, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Rodan, and Varan (you did not even realize there were so many, did you?) have all been placed on a remote island called, what else, Monster Land. The monsters are set free by the aliens and each heads off to attack a world class city; Godzilla in New York, Mothra in Beijing, Rodan in Moscow. We don’t see much of this though as the film needs to gather all the beasts for a final assault on Tokyo.
About halfway through it happens and the monsters converge in the greatest all-star monster battle ever filmed. This was originally released in 1968 so it contains state of the art special effects for the time. All right, so it’s just a bunch of guys in rubber suits stumbling around models while human actors spout tacky dialogue; still, if you are a Godzilla fan and you’ve made it this far in the series, this is a film you are gonna love. Campy, cheesy fun. Watch it with all the popcorn you can eat. Make up your own dialogue or laugh along with what’s provided.
20th Century Fox, Rated PG13, 103 Minutes, Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gaby Hoffman, Don Cheadle. Directed by Mick Jackson, Music by Alan Silvestri, Screenplay by Jerome Armstrong & Billy Ray.
First you have to believe that a volcano could actually erupt in the center of Los Angeles. Second, you have to believe that the office of emergency services actually wields as much power as it does here. (Remember the CDC in MIMIC?) Third, you have to be willing to forget what you know about heat, lava, fire and combustibility. With all that out of the way, you can mindlessly go ahead and enjoy this film.
Tommy Lee plays the director of LA emergency services. Anne plays a cute geologist (I went to college and I knew geologists, trust me when I tell you none of them were that cute or that funny). The volcano has a cameo.
We spend the first third of the film laying the groundwork for the plausibility of a volcano actually being underneath Los Angeles. This is perhaps the best part of the film with some good acting and some interesting establishments of setting and character. We spend the middle part of the film watching the thing erupt. Lava flows, hot gasses spew, exploding rocks are ejected, people die, stores burn, cars crash, relationships are jeopardized. The final third of the film is spent trying to save neighborhoods by diverting the flow of lava. Okay, so there’s just one lava flow and they pretty much just let the fires burn out of control, but you can only spend so much film time on reality. In the end, Los Angeles is pretty much destroyed, Tommy Lee has a new girlfriend, geologists are revered and you’ve spent a relatively enjoyable two hours watching things burn. Gives new meaning to having a hot time in the old town.
20th Century Fox, Rated R, 108 Minutes. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, and Dominique Pinon. Directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet, Music by John Frizzell, Script by Joss Whedon.
Just when you thought both Ripley and the Aliens were dead, some producer comes along and decides the movie-going public is either stupid enough or forgetful enough for a sequel. Ripley’s back, having been cloned (they are a bit foggy on the details of this) along with the alien beastie inside her. She (they) are both on a military vessel outside the orbit of Jupiter (I guess - they are a bit foggy on this detail too) where scientists have gleefully been trying to build better organisms through stubbornness and idiocy.
Ripley slowly gains awareness, a crew of pirates delivers frozen humans and then decides to take over the ship, a covert agent snoops for details and the Aliens (Gasp! Who woulda thought it?) get loose. Pretty soon everyone’s either dead, incubator material or future Alien baby food with the exception of the pirates, Ripley, the secret agent and one original crew member. Aliens are everywhere. There is only one course of action; self-destruct the ship. You military builders out there should pay attention as this option rarely seems to work very well. In any case there is much chasing as the surviving crew (shrinking rapidly as they flee) tries to escape. There are some very neat Alien swimming scenes (when you see GODZILLA remember this) and much death on both sides.
Weaver as Ripley has some good one liners but otherwise plays the part, or I should say underplays it, with much sarcasm and fatality. Loved the ships, loved the supporting cast, liked the Aliens although they seemed to die easier this time around. Turn off the right side of your brain for this one and just let the left half sit back and enjoy.
Now in Paperback!The Heritage Trilogy: Book 1 - Semper Mars by Ian Douglas Fire Watch by Connie Willis Fiddler Fair by Mercedes Lackey Star Child by James P. Hogan Forever Knight-These Our Revels by Anne Hathaway-Nayne Bug Park by James P. Hogan
The Heritage Trilogy: Book 1 - Semper Mars by Ian Douglas
ISBN 0380788284 / Eos Paperback May 1998 376 pages / Reviewed by Ernest Lilley
Two thirds of the way through the next century, in the shadow of the rock face staring into space from the surface of Mars, ruins of an advanced alien colony are discovered by US and Russian scientists. The UN has voted individual countries out of existence, leaving only the US and Russia as free agents, unwilling to sign away their sovereignty. The US Marines face extinction as well, as the President considers dissolving them in favor of a unilateral military force. In an age of pushbutton and computer screen warfare, who needs ground pounders anyway?
US Marines are sent to Mars, "to protect American interests" in the face of mounting international tensions and concern over the mission of the UN troops already on Mars, as allowed by the US open exchange of information policy. There will be roughly half the number of Marines on Mars as the UN-French Legionaries already in place. Controlling the high ground of space and the undiscovered country of the future is the heady prize at stake if diplomatic solutions break down. Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. When it's the history of the United States Marines, taking the course over can be hell. Frozen Martian Hell, in this case.
If it weren't for the alien artifacts, whose mere existence stirs up trouble, this book would nearly qualify as a Clancyesque Techno Thriller. The world political situation is well constructed and plausible. America comes under attack for the first time since the war of 1812 as the UN forces its world government agenda down our throats. Ian Douglas knows his Marine history and uses it to establish a very plausible Corp in the near future as the viewpoint shifts from the frozen desert of Martian soil to the political turmoil in Washington.
On Mars, the Marines are stripped of their arms and dumped at an abandoned research base while the UN scientists appropriate the alien artifacts. Of course it takes more than a mere strip search to disarm a Marine. Mostly you have to kill him to take away his most potent arsenal. On Earth, friendships and loves are tested as the world fragments into un-crossable lines of nationality again.
The alien artifacts promise to figure more prominently in the remaining books of the trilogy. I regard this as a pity, since their relative low profile here allowed the author to focus on the mechanics of extraterrestrial combat, which he does very well. I can't help but wonder what the jarheads will make of it in their racks waiting for their next mission, or the planners that are shaping the future of the Corps today.
SEMPER MARS gets my vote, and I'm looking forward to the next volume. I hear they're forming up an assault group to take back the lunar base. Semper Fi Marines, wherever your missions take you.
Fire Watch by Connie Willis
ISBN 0-553-26045-6 / Bantam Spectra reissue April 1998 / Review by EJ McClure
Though in print for some time (Bluejay edition published Feb 1985, Bantam paperback edition originally published July 1986), the reissue of FIRE WATCH as a Bantam Spectra paperback deserves special mention because of the solid craftsmanship of the writing and diverse choice of topics. Connie Willis is as adept at the short story as she is at the novel, and each one of these 12 little gems was a pleasure to read.
"Fire Watch," the lead story, is a gripping account of the battle to save St. Paul's Cathedral from the Nazi's fire-bombing campaign against London. The storyteller is a conscientious young history student, sent to London on less than two days notice after spending three years preparing to travel with St. Paul the apostle. Adrift from the future world familiar to the readers of Willis' prize-winning novel DOOMSDAY BOOK, the young scholar struggles to regain his memory of the tragic events of 1940 in time to figure out what he must do to save St. Paul's Cathedral. Along the way, he learns the value of history, human life and the cat.
"Daisy, in the Sun," is a hauntingly restrained piece about a young girl on the cusp of womanhood in a world fearfully waiting for the sun to go nova. "Service for the Burial of the Dead," narrated by a young woman whose drowned lover insouciantly shows up for his own funeral, is a delightful bon mot with a decidedly Victorian flavor. "Blued Moon," a wacky tale of coincidence, environmentalism, love and poetic justice, was another favorite of mine. And whatever happened to the rest of the inhabitants of the slumbering castle after Sleeping Beauty was awakened by Prince Charming's magical kiss? We find out in "Father of the Bride" that the truth was nothing like the Disney fairy tale.
"Samaritan" was probably the weakest story in the collection, the strong characterization marred by its heavy-handed message and maudlin ending. The complex "Sidon in the Mirror" could have been a little longer; reading it, I got the impression that it had been condensed and edited and revised until it was as confusing as an unexpected reflection. But maybe that was the point.
Connie Willis is primarily a writer, not a technician. Her characterization is fresh, her insights often amusing, her use of language both sure and subtle, but her stories are unencumbered by the technical detail some readers demand of the genre. She invites us to explore the possible futures created not by new inventions or scientific discoveries, but by humans. For readers interested in these possibilities, FIRE WATCH is a treasure trove.
Fiddler Fair by Mercedes Lackey
ISBN 0-671-87866-2 / Baen Paperback Apr '98 / Review by EJ McClure
Both books I reviewed this month happened to be short story collections by relatively new authors, a pleasant change of pace from the more common thematic anthologies. If Connie Willis’ FIREWATCH is a hand-crafted Amish quilt, then Mercedes Lackey’s collection of short stories is a carnival ride. Both books have their roots in the same heritage, and can found in the same section of a bookstore, but could not be more different in content and tone.
FIDDLER FAIR spans a decade of creative work. Fortunately, Mercedes Lackey has resisted the urge to revise the older stories, so you get a sense of her growth by reading the copyright dates. Having the confidence of a master of her craft she has also resisted the impulse to apologize for the earlier works, and contents herself with a brief, factual statement of the genesis of the idea, and its publishing history. She does include a lengthy forward in a question and answer format, which gives some insight into her view of the creative process though little of the kind of personal details fans may crave--but don’t need to know.
Many of the stories in FIDDLER FAIR are Romantic Fantasy. A lithe, handsome young swordsman is tasked with defending an irascible middle-aged sorceress-and falls in love with her along the way. A talented girl disguises herself as a boy and wins admission to the exclusive Bardic Guild-but painfully learns that true bards are nothing like the pompous judges who reject her when they find out her gender. Isadora Duncan gives up the stage--and gives driving lessons to James Dean. And after suffering brutal humiliation at the hands of Turkish captors, Lawrence of Arabia finds both the freedom and power to make the dream of Arab independence a reality.
There is a humorous leit-motif running through FIDDLER FAIR. The first two stories are delightfully tongue-in-cheek. The leading story, "Aliens Ate My Pickup", written entirely in first-person in a thick Oklahoma dialect, offers a delightful solution to the Superfund Site dilemma. "Small Print" takes a poke at televangilists and lawyers. The bad guys generally get their comeuppance, as with a Ferris wheel, what goes around comes around. A full plate of poetic justice will be served; with guilt and revenge for garnishing, as in "Dumb Feast."
It’s easy to understand why Mercedes Lackey has such an enthusiastic and devoted following. Readers who enjoy Anne McCaffrey, Jennifer Roberson and Marion Zimmer Bradley will find Lackey’s spunky heroines likable. The stories are character driven, and the inner dialogue satisfyingly reveals the protagonists’ feelings. The plots are simple, the action straightforward. The settings are only casually sketched, but are so familiar that they require little effort on the part of the reader to fill in the details. And a little comforting, amusing wish fulfillment is the point of escapist reading, isn’t it?
Star Child by James P. Hogan
ISBN 0-671-87878-6 / Baen Paperback June 1998 / Review by Ernest Lilley
Taya is a typical eight year old human female. Her only friends are a robot named Kort (Glatu Barada Nicto?) and a doll named Rassie…which she made herself, as Kort is seriously lacking in imagination. Ok, maybe she's not so typical. Taya lives on a worldship which calls itself Merkon, which is travelling towards the star "Vaxis", due to arrive there in ten years. "Ten Years…I can't wait ten years to find out what happens!" complains Taya. Heck, kid don't worry, it's only the next chapter.
The first chapter of STAR CHILD is actually the short story "Silver Shoes for a Princess" published in DESTINIES (Vol. 1, #5, October 1979) by ACE Books and expanded into a collection of four stories detailing the phases of Taya's life: childhood, young adulthood, maturity, and old age. STAR CHILD, like BUG PARK, is written for audiences of about age 12. James Hogan has gone from writing the fantasies of a middle aged engineer (We all got together, built the gizmo, and went out for happy hour with the receptionists.), to engaging stories for young people with enticing science behind the light plot. (Look! Science is cool! And young people get the best parts!) Considering this, I found it mind boggling that the author told me he never read Heinlein, the undisputed master of the SF Juvenile, but Hogan is British and maybe they didn't get Boys' Life over there. Though I have seen him quote RAH from time to time.
STAR CHILD starts off with Taya's discovery that she is the product of an experiment by the shipmind, which has fragmented itself into a host of individuals with names like Scientist, Skeptic, Mystic, Biologist, and then mixed them up a bit to make composites like Kort while it tries to make sense out of the world. After the addition of a second generation of vatgrown biolifes from old code found deep in its memory, Merkon pulls up alongside a likely looking planet, 3rd from its star, and peopled by…yep, people. People living in a feudal, warlike world, where kill or be killed is the rule of the day. A rule that the unchallenged shipminds and biolifes can scarcely imagine. On the planet there is a legend of silver gods coming down from the sky to bring a time of peace and plenty that they may be able to make the most of. Especially if it's prophesy.
I've already said too much, but since STAR CHILD moves more from revelation to revelation than among plot points, it's hard to talk about the book without giving things away. Seasoned readers of SF will tend to squirm at the leaps of logic the author takes you along for, but the book has been carefully constructed for new readers of the field. It's chock full of science and logic, from artificial intelligence and plate tectonics to the meaning of life. The cast of robotic characters argue constantly amongst themselves, giving the author the opportunity to expound to his heart's content. The best use of this book would be for an older reader of Hard SF to give it to a niece or nephew and then see if they catch the bug. I learned a heck of a lot of science from reading stuff like this when I was young, and even if it's a bit overstocked, STAR CHILD is quite a tour of modern science, seen through the eyes of a people making it up as they go.
Adult fans of Hogan may recognize the premise of this book as having been recycled from an earlier book of his, VOYAGE FROM YESTERYEAR, in which a mission to a nearby star encounters colonists grown from DNA under the tutelage of a computer considerably more reasonable than any human parents. The author tells me that VFY has been out of print at Del Rey for some time, but the rights were recently bought by Jim Baen so we may see a reissue. Which is good news, since it's a much better book - for adults. Other titles worth mentioning if you are putting together a robots-preserve-mankind marathon are James White's SECOND ENDING (Ace double 1962) about the last man alive and the robots that set out to recreate a world for him and a short story by Keith Laumer ("The Night Of The Troll", THE COMPLETE BOLO available as a Baen paperback). Laumer's story featured an astronaut who came out of cryostorage years after his launch was put on hold, to find that civilization had reverted to barbarism. At its end the astronaut launches the starship heavenwards to return a few hundred years hence, knowing that it would be a long time before mankind again stood ready to grasp the stars. Both were great stories and worth boning up on while you wait for a chance to discuss STAR CHILD with the next generation. Better yet, go out and read the author's excellent (and very readable) book on artificial intelligence: MIND MATTERS, from Del Rey, and give some thought to the science behind the curtain.
STAR CHILD will probably disappoint veteran fans of James Hogan, but should be strongly considered for introducing younger readers to the genre.
Forever Knight-These Our Revels by Anne Hathaway-Nayne
ISDN: 0-425-16491-8 / Berkley Boulevard Paperback April 1998 / Reviewed by Darcy Richardson
Many among the Science Fiction and Fantasy community are familiar with the cult show Forever Knight, the series in which a vampire, Nick Knight, is one of the finest homicide detectives in Toronto trying to appease his own conscience by helping bring justice to murdered innocents. Born Nicholas de Brabant he was brought to immortality in 1228 and has struggled since the beginning against his vampire existence. He has come to peace with himself by helping the innocent, while he searches for a way to become mortal again. Much like the Highlander Television series, Forever Knight intertwines flashbacks with the primary story occurring in modern time.
Based on the television series created by James D. Parriott and Barney Cohen, THESE OUR REVELS follows Nick through a segment of his life during the late sixteen and early seventeenth centuries as Nicholas Chevalier. In midsummer 1599, befriended by William Shakespeare, Nick is enjoying his immortal life as an actor on the stage when he is visited by his master, Lucien LaCroix, and beloved sister Janette DuCharme. Having tried to slip away from LaCroix and the vampire realm, he is confronted by the person he least wanted to see in the world with the one person in the world he most dearly wished to see. Following his family back to Paris, they soon return to England at Nick’s insistence to see the performance of Shakespeare’s newest play. The performance is interrupted by a crazed girl, Isabella. Nicholas departs from his family to care for the dying girl and struggles between his love of Janette and his desire to help the girl in her final days.
In the book's "B" plot, the vampire in the Queen's regime, Aristotle, follows a trail of human and rat corpses to find the vampires responsible for littering the landscape with leftovers. Such untidiness threatens to expose the existence of their kind to the mortal world, and the offenders must adhere to the rules of the vampire community or face death.
The story is unlike the television series in that there is no modern story accompanying this visit into Nick's past. The prologue and epilogue are the only scenes in which Nick appears in his modern role. The world presented in the story is very much like that of the world Anne Rice creates in her Vampire Chronicles. The trio of LaCroix, Nick, and Janette function much like that of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia and could easily be transposed into one of her stories.
Readers should not be scared off by the fact that the book is based on a television series. We all are aware that this is often a sign of disaster and I was skeptical when presented with the book but as I moved beyond the prologue I was absorbed by the story and was pleasantly surprised. THESE OUR REVELS is well worth the read but those in search of a detective story should look elsewhere.
Bug Park by James P. Hogan
ISBN: 0671878743 / Baen Paperback May 1998 416 pages / Reviewed by Ernest Lilley 4/5/97
BUG PARK is a strong juvenile from James Hogan. Though I always enjoy this Hard SF author, this does not have the same dry intrigue as INHERIT THE STARS, or earlier novels. With a clear view of cutting edge nanoscience and robotics, and a cast of young protagonists, it's still a good choice for all those school libraries that don't know what to buy in SF.
BUG PARK is about two boys, Kevin and Taki, and their toys. Well, not really toys - Kevin's dad is president and chief scientist for Neurodyne, where direct neural interface technology is being used to control microrobots ranging in size from a flea to a peanut. Leave it to the grownups to see the practical applications for this technolgy....but leave it to Kevin and Taki to find the fun in it. Fighting giant insects while linked to their miniature warriors may just be a game now, but Taki's father might just make them all rich with the entertainment rights.
The only fly in the ointment is that someone might be trying to kill Kevin's dad and take over the company and you know how adults are when things need to be done. Pretty useless. Fortunately Kevin and Taki are just kids. Very bright kids.
I liked BUG PARK from one end to the other, my only complaint being that we didn't spend enough time fighting bugs, and too much time trying to save grownups from their nearsightedness. I hate it when reality gets in the way.
This is the first time I've seen the nanoworld explored plausibly. James has gone on a fantastic voyage of his own, and without shrinking the kids. Though he included direct machine interfaces to the nervous system that are a bit beyond the drawing board at present, work is starting to progress in this area too, and we may yet learn to hook machines up to our own nerves. Hogan doesn't lecture endlessly about the technology, demonstrating it instead, with just enough background thrown in so that you want to know more. Acknowledgments in the front of the book should guide the interested reader to sources for more in-depth information.
This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved in my early teens as I devoured the school library. On the other hand, I enjoyed if just fine from my grownup viewpoint. It's got believable technology, characters, plot and plenty of action. If you like gadgets and action, go bug fighting with James Hogan.
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