SFRevu brings Science Fiction reviews and interviews to the web each month.
A Word from the Editor:
Hot books in the summertime and our RAH response.
NewsBits: News from friends and SF luminaries.
Contact: SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom. WorldCon 1998 BucConeer Preview Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances
Interviews: HarryTurtledove - The Man Who Rewrote History
New Titles: Kirinyaga
by Mike Resnick Factoring
Humanity by Robert Sawyer The American Front by Harry Turtledove Icefire by Judith
& Garfield Reeves-Stevens Pandora by Anne Rice The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt StarWars: The Mandalorian
Armor by K.W. Jeta Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Dean Wesley Smith, Editor
Summertime is another great season for reading, and of course there are always movies to duck into to escape the heat. I miss Drive-Ins, but since I actually have to pay attention to the movies I see these days, they wouldn't help me anyway. Some of the summer's films surprised me pleasantly, and we have another batch of books we recommend for your consideration herein.
In addition to the regular crew, we're joined this month by Sarah Braun, who made the mistake of mentioning that she was a fan of Dan Simmons prophetically minutes before THE RISE OF ENDYMION appeared on my desk. Harry Turtledove has two works reviewed by another newcomer to our ranks, Rob Archer. And we have an interview with the author from contributor Dave Goldfeder at the last Balticon.
Trying to get a project like this done around vacation time is always a challenge, but not one I've enough sense to back down from. So this issue is going out more or less on time. In a few days I'll be off to Readercon, to see friends and authors, and I'm looking forward to sharing brunch with the SFReviewers in attendance Sunday at 10:00 in the hotel's restaurant.
Last issue I put together a Heinlein Retrospective with quotes from various SF fans, including Bob Devney, who wrote the fateful words: "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',". A considerable amount of net traffic ensued saying that it just wasnt so. Although a full transcript hasn't surfaced, an unaired bit certainly backs up the notion that RAH wouldn't have gone there. Devney, is standing tough though, and pits his memory against Heinlein's legions. (His retort, edited down considerably, follows below.)
Personally, I'm gonna believe that RAH is innocent until proven guilty. I'm not a coward, just a romantic. I think Heinlein did far more to champion women in space, science, and wherever they wanted to be than he gets credit for. There is a not too subtle difference between a man appreciating women for their biological femininity and limiting them to roles based on it, but people often seem to confuse the two, especially in the case of authors like Heinlein. Humans are sexual creatures, for which I'm grateful, as well as wonderful sentient beings limited only by their capacity to dream and their ability to argue the universe into accepting those dreams. Recognizing the first does not preclude the latter.
- 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).
Bob Devney Faces The Howling Mob: Gosh, who'd ever think my fellow RAH fans would be such crybabies?
Of course, when I saw the whole expansive universe of Heinleinheads arrayed against me, a little weevil of self-doubt crept in. After all, my statement was based solely on an unaided memory of seeing the telecast as a 17-year-old in 1969. Could recollection have failed me?
Well, sure. Maybe. But perhaps I'm remembering it right, and they're remembering it wrong. I don't know for sure ... and neither does anyone else who's responded to date. Please, anyone: got a full transcript on you?
Failing that -- look, let's get serious for a moment. Of course I'm not saying that Heinlein felt a woman couldn't be a spacewoman. I love and honor the memory of Hazel Stone and the Mother Thing, Holly Jones and Star Gordon. And most of all hot pilot Carmencita Ibanez and space station comm officer Gloria Brooks McNye (who never actually delilahed any space-riggers). Robert Anson Heinlein was quite a feminist -- for a man who remembered when women weren't allowed to vote in these United States.
I know we miss him. But listen, space cadets. The roads must roll. We've got to sail beyond his sunset. Move beyond his horizon. RAH has accepted an assignment in eternity. You know where that leaves us? Yup, orphans in the sky.SFRevu@aol.com with the Word NEWSBIT in the message title. Please keep bits down to 50 words or so, and brace yourself for my editing them anyway.
Everyone's going to Worldcon!: The 56th Worldcon reports that its membership has passed 4,800. Bucconeer will be held August 5-9 in Baltimore, MD. See http://www.bucconeer.worldcon.org or call 410-534-8136
Will the GALACTIC PATROL Arrive in time?: Nope. The final four Lensman novels were sent off to the printer this last week. Unless a Miracle happens they won't be ready for Worldcon . . . unless the Con suddenly moves back to Labor Day . . . sigh. The good news is that the printruns for each of the trade pb's will be about 5000 each (this is small press publishing??) (mwalsh@MAIL.PRESS.JHU.EDU, Middle Earth Books).
Steve Sawicki and the Damn Aliens review books: Steve Sawicki and the Damn Aliens will be doing feature book reviews monthly for Writers Market Webzine, which can be found at http://www.writemarket.com. Look for witty, intelligent, acerbic commentary. Sawicki will no doubt also have something to say.
Fourteen Year Odyssey Ends in Award: Co-authors Janet Berliner and George Guthridge worked together for 14 yrs to create the Madagascar Manifesto Alternate Holocaust Series. In June, the third book, CHILDREN OF THE DUSK, was awarded the Bram Stoker Award for Novel by the Horror Writers Association. http://members.aol.com/BerlPhil/.
How do you get to Worldcon? Practice, Practice, Practice!: Philadelphia Fantastic presents a series of readings of speculative fiction held on the fourth Friday of every month at the CCCUSA Gallery at 10 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia. On Friday, July 24th, we are having a Worldcon Warmup Party, and on Friday, August 28th, Darrell Schweitzer will be reading. For future events, our web-page is at http://www.voicenet.com/~camille/phillysf
Babes and Brutes from SarZeb: (Pam Sargent/ George Zebrowski): Firebrands: The Heroines of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with paintings by Ron Miller and text by Pamela Sargent, will be published in August 1998 by Collins & Brown/Paper Tiger in the U.K. and in November 1998 by Thunder's Mouth Press in the U.S. It will also be a fall selection of the Science Fiction Book Club. Brute Orbits, a novel by George Zebrowski, will be out in hardcover from HarperPrism in September 1998.
Andy Duncan: Hugo and Campbell nominee Andy Duncan sold a new novella, "The Executioners' Guild," to Gardner Dozois at Asimov's. His story "The Map to the Homes of the Stars," originally published in the Dozois anthology Dying for It (HarperPrism, 1997), will be reprinted in Stephen Jones' Best New Horror 9 (Robinson, 1998; Carroll & Graf, 1999).
Fred Lerner: I don't know if this counts as science fiction news, but: My new book, "The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age" will be published in November by Continuum Publishing of New York. The book is written for the general reader, though I hope that my fellow-librarians will like it, too. It will be a 264-page hardcover, at $24.95.
For once the WorldCon is within striking distance of the SFRevu crew, and we're champing at the bit to get down there and eat some crab with SF's finest. As this issue goes to press, there are close to 5,000 people preregistered, and I'm sure there will be a bunch more showing up at the door, so I'm glad we've got our hotel rooms booked mostly. I'm not sure where we'll be sleeping Wednesday night, but we intend to have so much fun we may not notice.
SFRevu will be behind some Fan Activity, but we don't know what yet. When we figure it out we'll make up tickets to hand out at the Con. The last time we tried this we managed to invoke the only snowfall in the NY City area this year by getting folks to come out for breakfast, but it can't snow in August. Right?
Special GOH is none other than J. Michael Straczynski, and I look forward to the opportunity to pick his brain about the future of B5 and other projects.
The regular GOH's are a pretty special bunch as well; CJ Cherryh, Milt Rothman, Stanley Schmidt and Michael Whelan rounding out that crew, while some joker chose Charles Sheffield for the Toastmaster. I've had the opportunity to drink with Charles, and in his hands a toast can be a lethal weapon.
The programming looks swell too (bite me, I'm a fanboy and can't help myself), and I'm looking forward to the nightly dance events, a.k.a "Bucky Balls" featuring a progression of styles from a Horror Swing Thing to A Grand Illusion Night of Harlequinery set to Techno/Electro/80's/New Wave Dance.
We'll certainly be at the 3:00pm Opening Ceremonies and the 4:00pm Queen's Reception on Wednesday. Then again at Crab Feast at the Museum of Science & Industry at 7:00 PM on Thursday. Then look for the crew at the Hugo Awards 10:00 PM Friday. Maybe we'll get nominated next year. And I probably don't have the sense to stay away from the The Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition on Saturday. Sunday I promise nothing.
Of course, you can get much better information from the Bucconeers site at: http://www.bucconeer.worldcon.org, and since they've put so much work into a mind boggling amount of data, it would be a crime not to. I only wish we could have info kiosks at the Con so you could consult the website onsite.
July 10-12 - Readercon 10:Guest of Honor: Bruce Sterling, Lisa Goldstein Location: Westborough, Massachusetts http://www.mit.edu/~zeno/readercon.html
July 11 - 8pm SFABC Meeting (off site for summer months) Barnes & Noble Bookstore Rockland Plaza, Nanuet, NY Guest speaker writer Susan Garrett
July 21 - 8pm SFABC Author Discussion Group moderated by Ernest Lilley, Borders Books & Music Garden State Plaza Rt 17S Paramus, NJ : Poul Anderson
July 28 - 8pm SFABC Topic Discussion group - First Contact :Borders Books & Music, Wayne, NJ
August 5-9 - WorldCon 1998 BucConeer: Guests of Honor: C.J. Cherryh, Milton A. Rothman, Stanley Schmidt, Michael Whelan; Toastmaster Charles Sheffield Special Guest J. Michael Straczynski / Location: Baltimore, Maryland http://www.bucconeer.worldcon.org/
August 20 - Robert J. Sawyer will be online for a real-time chat held at www.talkcity.com at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, August 20.
September 4-6 -Confluence 98 GOH Nancy Kress The Eleventh Annual Pittsburgh SF Conference http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~roboman/Confluence98.html - Mars, PA
September 18-20 - NotJustAnotherCon 14 The Science Fiction Conventioneers Of Umass - GOH: Terry Bisson- Amherst, MA
New Titles: Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer The American Front by Harry Turtledove Icefire by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens Pandora by Anne Rice The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt StarWars: The Mandalorian Armor by K.W. Jeta Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Dean Wesley Smith, Editor
One perfect morning, with jackals. The intriguing title of the prologue to Mike Resnick's utopian fable is a good analogy for the rest of the story about a group of idealistic Africans who abandons wealth and social status for the chance to recreate paradise. Lead by Koriba, an educated Kikuyu intensely proud of his ethnic heritage, the colonists leave the crowded, polluted cityscape of a twenty-second century Kenya behind and settle on a planetoid terraformed to resemble the pastoral landscape on the slopes of Mount Kirinyaga, where the Kikuyu tribe flourished before the coming of the Europeans. Only in this paradise there are no elephants, no lions. The great predators are extinct. In the new world Koriba takes on the role of mundumugu. He advises the chief and the elders, teaches the children, heals the sick, and, on occasion, curses the disobedient. He is the arbiter of good and evil. He stands as a doorway between the Kikuyu settlements and the well-intentioned interference of the Maintenance staff that oversees the colony on behalf of the Eutopian Council. His devotion to his ancestral customs is absolute. Compromise is a language he does not speak. The door only opens one way.
Each chapter opens with a parable, and follows with a short story narrated by Koriba. The stories link together to form a history of the colony from its idealistic inception to Koriba's return to Kenya where at last he meets a living elephant. In one story, Koriba must justify his decision to strangle a baby born feet first, an infallible sign, according to Kikuyu tradition, that the child is really a demon. Paradise comes at a price. A price too high for Kamari, a brilliant and fearless girl who realizes too young that she will never grow to her true potential in a society that forbids women to read. Another woman, a later immigrant whose husband is Kikuyu, also struggles painfully and unsuccessfully with the constricting customs of a static society. But even after the thrown stone sinks below the surface of the water, the ripples continue to spread. Change and rebellion crop up like weeds in a garden. Realizing that his time is running out, old Koriba takes bold young Ndemi for his apprentice, thereby precipitating the final, inevitable conflict related in the chapter "When Old Gods Die".
KIRINYAGA is on the Science Fiction shelf only as a courtesy to Mike Resnick's reputation as a Hugo and Nebula award-winning author. The scientific workings of the terraformed planetoid, the mechanics of the space shuttles that appear on demand (if only I could hail a cab so easily in Manhattan), and the ecological implications of moving this planetoid in orbit to produce whatever weather the witchdoctor forecasts concern the author as little as they concern the Kikuyu.
The deliberate pace of the narrative and the ritual style of the conversation give the book the smooth, polished texture of a tale often repeated around an evening fire. The inherent conflict between utopian ideals and the relentless forces of change is a staple in Science Fiction, and has been treated by authors and screenwriters ranging from Aldous Huxley to Gene Roddenberry but seldom has it been treated with the perceptiveness, ironic humor and well-honed skill of Mike Resnick's KIRINYAGA.
Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer
ISBN: 0312864582 / Tor Books / 352 pages / July 1998 Review by Paul Giguere
ISBN: 034540615X / Del Rey/Hrdcvr/Jun-98 Review by Rob Archer
Harry Turtledoves newest Alternate History, THE GREAT WAR: AMERICAN FRONT, takes place about 30 years after the Second Mexican War (the events of which were chronicled in HOW FEW REMAIN). This time the conflict is sparked not by direct actions between the United States and the Confederate States but by treaties the two nations had entered into with European powers. By involving themselves with countries on opposite sides they are honor bound by "entangling alliances" to take up arms when the Great War breaks out in 1914.
The U.S. is led by the flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt, who has overseen his country become much better prepared after losing consecutive wars to the southern confederates. He and General George Armstrong Custer are two of the only characters to make it to this sequel from the earlier novel, albeit in very different manners. Roosevelt is portrayed in a positive light while Custer is depicted as incompetent, almost to the point of being villainous. This shows what side of the fence that Mr. Turtledove sits on when the debate turns to what sort of man Custer was (still a fiery topic among historians). A definite advantage this continuing story has is that the author is extrapolating into the future from a past he himself created in HOW FEW REMAIN and therefore can twist many events to fit his concept of an alternate history. He also bases the book on fictional characters, rather than on the real life ones that filled his earlier work. That allows the story to flow much easier and gives Turtledove the freedom to develop the characters' actions and emotions in more diverse and interesting ways. His best work comes in the form of northern military man Irving Morrell, southern metal worker Jefferson Pinkard, and black Kentuckian laborer Cincinnatus.
Some of the trends of the era are also incorporated well. The growth of socialism inside the country is depicted, strengthened by the fact that in this timeline Abraham Lincoln was a proponent of it. A good touch was the showing of the underlying anti-Semitism that existed during this period. I was also mostly impressed with the feeling of trench warfare that Mr. Turtledove is able to convey. Certain points are reminiscent of an American ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, though it is hard to reach the mark set by that classic. Since the author is able to personalize his characters more, it is easier to show the feelings of the participants. The southern view of "the damnyankees need whipping on account of theyre damnyankees. Once youve gone and said that, what more needs saying?" is nicely contrasted with the scene in which U.S. and Confederate frontline troops call an unofficial truce on Christmas and wander across no mans land to greet each other and exchange food and tobacco (similar to what really happened between German and British troops during the First World War).
True to his style, Turtledove mixes in some interesting historical quirks, such as a U.S. attack on Pearl Harbor. This tale moves along quite nicely, and while not as "historical" as the first book in the series, it comes across as more of an entertaining fictional work. Some disagreement can be made with the U.S. forces lack of advance (based on the scenarios he sets up), but it is Turtledoves world and he does an adequate job of explaining it. This volume definitely leaves the reader looking forward to the next in the series to pursue the intriguing story that has been laid before us.
Steven King says (on the cover, no less) " I've offered quotes on perhaps three dozen novels over the last decade never offered one with more confidence a hardwired, totally riveting, dare-you-to-put-it-down story of disaster, heroism and suspense." Yeah, and Cujo ate your homework. Heck, I thought, I'll just take a look at the first few pages. ICEFIRE is 484 pages long and I read it in one sitting. Do not try this at home. No, I take that back. Don't try this anywhere but at home. In a comfy chair.
ICEFIRE combines Disaster and Techno-Fiction with a terrorist act of incredible magnitude and scientific brilliance. It starts out in Antarctica where Navy Seal Captain Mitch Webber is having a bad day on the ice. He's just lost his entire Nuclear Emergency Search Team to a traitor in the ranks, and here's a nuclear device hanging 1000 ft down an ice shaft in danger of detonating. That's nothing compared to what happens when the other five devices he didn't know about detonate, setting the Ross Ice Shelf (a floating slab of ice the size of France and 3000 ft thick) adrift in the ocean and poised to deliver the biggest Tsunami the Earth has ever seen when a final nuke airbursts over it. For the first few chapters things keep getting worse and worse until Webber and a militant Eco-Terrorist (who happened to be his ex-girlfriend) are practically the only humans to survive the holocaust that was McMurdo base, racing ahead of global destruction in a Harrier jumpjet without enough fuel to make landfall in New Zealand. A small enough price if they can only survive long enough to make radio contact with the US Military and warn the world. You'd think a Tsunami would be the kind of thing folks would notice, but the author has blindsided the world with some clever strategies, including using EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) bursts from the nuclear devices to knock out satellite imaging and communications.
Steven King was right. This is a real page turner, just short of qualifying as SF, but no less fun for that. It's interesting that Techno-Fiction has all the qualities of Early SF. Gadgets, minimal characters, maximal exposition, and a devoted male audience. There are gadgets aplenty as Webber works his way through every high tech aircraft in the US inventory, and a few that may or may not really exist in his efforts to outrun or outwit Icefire, a think tank scenario come horribly to life. Throughout the book Mitch Weber and Cory Rey, his antagonistic eco-activist and conspiracy theorist companion, squabble through tense cockpit after cockpit as they try to resolve a former affair while saving a world that doesn't want to believe it's even in danger. There had better be one hell of a lot of sexual chemistry between these two if it ever makes it to the movies, or audiences will wind up begging Mitch to pull the eject lever on his backseater long before the end.
Considering all the hours this book logs in the air, the only thing the authors missed was some good dogfighting to make it a perfect blend of Mil-Thrill and Doomsday Epic. What raises it above the run of the mill is the using a natural feature to leverage the power of a nuclear device, and the refreshing lack of comet impact, even though the effect is much the same. In their acknowledgements the authors point out that studies in the 60s examined just such a possibility, although those studies are not currently available. They conclud that either the government knows nothing about the Icefire scenario, or it knows too much. ICEFIRE is definitely recommended for Irwin Allen junkies and Dale Brown (FLIGHT OF THE OLD DOG) fans. Take it to the beach and cool off with the Antarctic sequences while contemplating those big waves coming in.
Pandora by Anne RiceISBN: 0375401598 / A. A. Knopf Hardcover March 98 / Review by Darcy Richardson
When I opened a heavily hinted for collection of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES a few years back I found an author that fulfilled the love of romance and danger classic vampires portrayals like Bela Lugosi's had stirred in me. As new books followed, I added them to my collection, though with a gradually sinking feeling. THE TALE OF THE BODY SNATCHER was entertaining but the style was reduced to base Fantasy. MEMNOCH THE DEVIL was an intriguing story that would have been a wonderful trip into spirituality had the author not tried to force Lestat into a character so unlike the one she had developed in the original chronicles. Rather she should have driven a stake through his heart.
Then along came PANDORA and almost I feared opening this jeweled box.
Much to my delight, this latest bauble recaptures the original feel of the THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES so much that old fans should be drawn back to the fold.
In PANDORA the tale of one of the oldest vampires is told in a journal written at the request of the fledgling initiate, David. Intrigued by his respectful curiosity, Pandora agrees to tell her tale. She tells of her mortal life as a woman on the run in ancient Rome and her flight to Greece where she takes on the name Pandora. A follower of Isis, she becomes haunted by dreams of blood-drinkers and a tormented queen held captive. While searching for the meaning of the dreams in the temple of Isis, she becomes reacquainted with an old friend by the name of Marius and discovers that he has been changed into an immortal blood-drinker. Finally, greatly disturbed by a nightmare, Pandora runs to the home of Marius and comes face to face with Akasha, the source of her dreams. As Pandora lay dying from the attack of an angered vampire, Marius and Akasha complete her transformation. Created in a time shortly after the mass extinction of the vampire world, Pandora helps Marius protect vampires from greedy immortals who would steal the mother's blood to heal themselves. Eventually they grow apart and Pandora leaves Marius to care for the immortals himself.
Pandora does not tell much of the events following their parting but does tell an intricate tale of her emotions and thoughts at the time. Anne Rice recaptures the storytelling feel of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and THE VAMPIRE LESTAT and her tales are again raised to the high level of Fantasy that brought to the forefront the romantic, sophisticated appeal of vampire legend which also lead to the creation of the popular White Wolf role-playing game, VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE. For those original fans of the chronicles who strayed away after the first few books, this is the story to return for - you will not be disappointed. For those of you who have never read THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, read the original three tales and then come to PANDORA. This book is well worth the read and Rice promises more to come with THE VAMPIRE ARMAND.
ISBN 0-345-42360-7 / Del Rey Hardcover / Review by Bruce Wallace
Alice Borchardt's book THE SILVER WOLF begins as the sun sets on the Roman
Empire. Powerful figures vie for power as the Dark Ages roll across Europe. King
Charlemagne is plotting with Pope Hadrian to preserve Rome as the Papal seat. This will
maintain the status-quo for Hadrian and give Charlemagne a powerful friend. The Duke of
Lombardy would also like to have the power of the Papacy in his court and under his thumb
ISBN 0-312-85968-6 / Tor Trade / Review by Steven Sawicki
This is the first novel of Goldsteins that Ive read and I have to admit that I approached it with some trepidation mostly because I read the words Urban Fantasy and Magic Realism on the PR material.
While Im not adverse to reading material in these sub-genres Ive found more books to not like than to like. Still, I had heard good things about Goldsteins writing and, being the well rounded reviewer that I am, decided to take a chance and see for myself. Part of reading should involve taking chances both with new writers and new material.
WALKING THE LABYRINTH is the story of Molly Travers, a young woman who lives in San Francisco and who leads a relatively ordinary life until she discovers that she is really the descendant of a family of vaudeville magicians who apparently performed real magic in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Molly gets drawn into this through the actions of a private investigator and soon finds herself traveling to England, visiting occult bookstores, discovering dead bodies, confronting the past and meeting relatives she had never even heard of before. The pivoting point for the whole book is the relationship between Molly and her aunt who has apparently hidden all of this past from her. The pace of the book is fairly slow and easy and we travel with Molly on this journey of discovery as she learns almost as much of herself as she does of the distant past of her relatives.
Goldsteins writing style is reflective and introspective and we learn as much through Molly as we do along with Molly. The characters are pretty human and the setting is quite ordinary with the extraordinary thrown in as the odd bump or twist. There is a struggle, which Goldstein does an excellent job of establishing, between what is real and what is perceived. The magic is real, the labyrinth is real and Molly must discover not only these facts but her place in all this. Its an interesting journey through a well crafted world of magic, the past, and family. Goldstein creates it, runs her characters through it and ties everything up at the end in a most satisfactory fashion providing an intriguing and entertaining read along the way.
The novel then shifts back in time to just after "Star Wars: A New Hope". Boba Fett has just managed to get the jump on two other bounty hunters and bring in a wanted man to an assembler named Kud'ar Mub'at. This creature has created subassemblies and gifted them with enough brains to do their assigned tasks. As they learn, they grow smarter and start to plot to take over Kud'ar Mub'at. Therefore, he has to periodically ingest these subprograms and create and train new ones. The most amusing of these is Balancesheet, an encroaching accountant that has gotten crafty and has almost outlived his usefulness. The assembler tells Boba Fett that the next job he wants him to do is to join the Bounty Hunter's Guild and to covertly break it up. Why? Simple economics: the bounty hunters will be cheaper and more competitive after the breakup. Boba Fett hasn't joined because he is so superior to the competition that he doesn't need them. However, he enters the brotherhood where corruption is an understatement and the hunters aren't as careful as Boba Fett about keeping their prey alive. What soon becomes clear is that the heir apparent, Bossk, wants to get rid of his father and the elder members of the guild who he feels are slowing them down, and tries to enlist Boba Fett's help.
Also entering into this intrigue is Prince Xizor, whose day job is to compete with Vader for the Emperor's attention. On off hours (and without the Emperor's knowledge) he is a crime lord of an interplanetary syndicate called Black Sun who has plans of his own for Boba Fett. The story goes back and forth between the two times, but the main thread throughout is that even though Boba Fett's down, don't count him out.
This view of the Star Wars universe is brilliantly told by a master. The crowning achievement is that the author is able to convince the reader that Boba Fett might be human. How can one of the most feared bounty hunters in the galaxy actually be a good guy? After all, he IS the one who managed to hand Han Solo over to be frozen in carbonite. Nevertheless, everyone has their reasons, and the author seems to defend Boba Fett by claiming that he's just a businessman like anyone else. I was also impressed with Kud'ar Mub'at, which is absolutely one of the most fascinating creations that I have read about in a while. The only down side to this type of ending is that there were a lot of clues that the author had dropped that will be utilized in later books. Therefore, the series must be read in sequence, which means I have to wait. (groan) My only suggestion is that since you're bound to become hooked, you're welcome to stand in line with me.
The book is organized by show, Starting with TOS (The Original Series) and ending with Voyager, well, actually ending with a section titled "Because We Could" where Pocket Books editors John Ordover and Paula Block added their own short stories. John's "The Man Who sold the Sky" is as enjoyable as anything in the book and I forgive him the exercise of privilege.
The whole sequence starts out fittingly with the recollections of a crippled man in a powered life support unit at a Starfleet medical facility on Starbase 11. Alone within the confines of his ravaged body, Fleet Captain Christopher Pike muses over his career, wonders about the meaning of reality, and wishes he could find a way out of the trap reality has laid for him. An excellent piece of work by Landon Dalton and clearly deserved of the Grand Prize awarded it.
Second Place went to Franklin Thatcher for another very strong story - "Of Cabbages and Kings" in which the Next Generation's Enterprise D's main computer is forced to fulfill its mission by itself when the crew suddenly vanishes. The kind of internal dialogue that a piece like this requires makes it unusable for TV or film, but allows the reader to connect with the ship's turmoil and cheer its struggle. No M5 this, but a crew member as faithful as any in the series.
There are plenty of interesting cross over stories, mostly from TOS to later series or movies as in "The Lights in the Sky"(Third Place). Here a former Thrall (TOS episode: "Gamesters of Triskalleon") on a diplomatic mission to the Federation is just in time to watch the Enterprise B depart for its fateful tour of the system with a former captain aboard (GENERATIONS). The tie-in stories offer a chance to compare and contrast the styles of different generations, usually with Kirk, but fortunately Kirk at his best rather than parading him around as the frustrated figure he would become. I especially enjoyed Sisko's encounter with the Gorn in "Where I fell before My enemy" and Voyager's encounter with a member of the original Enterprises crew, still kicking about on detached duty in "Ambassador At Large".
Some of my other favorites examine just "What Went On In Data's Mind 0.68 Before The Satellite Hit" and what happens after Cyrano Jones collects "The Last Tribble" off Station K-7. In "Goodnight Voyager", we find that starships can suffer the ills that flesh is heir to when the biogel computer components on Janeway's ship show all too human weakness.
Individual preferences differ, and though there are one or two stories here that I didn't love, I liked them all. Between you and me though, I bet we managed to find different favorites, so as a group, we'll make a liar out of Dean Smith yet.
ISBN 0-312-86004-8 / Tor Hardcover June'98 / Review by EJ McClure
JUNIPER, GENTIAN, & ROSEMARY is not Science Fiction. I am not even sure that it is Fantasy. I was intrigued by the nifty cover, with its artistic portrayal of a star field, cog wheels and the namesake plants of the three sisters, Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary. With fond memories of Madeleine L'Engle's magical fantasy A WRINKLE IN TIME, I began to read Pamela Dean's sixth book.
Gentian, the narrator, is a devoted astronomer teetering on the precipice of puberty. She lives with her cranky older sister, Juniper, and her little sister Rosemary, the determined Girl Scout. Her father is an eccentric author. Her mother is humorous, tolerant and talented at everything from rewiring the attic to balancing the family budget. Gentian has the good luck to go to an open school, which allows students come and go when they pleasevery convenient for the plot. She spars with her sisters, searches the heavens for new comets, and enjoys the camaraderie of the Giant Ants, the loyal group of girl friends with whom she grew up. All is well, until the new neighbors arrive.
The first sign of their oddity is the house that was built in three weeks - without anyone really noticing its construction. Then the contrary house blocks Gentian's view of the stars from her attic observatory - an improbable feat for a single-story dwelling. The lawn is immaculate...though no one is ever seen mowing or raking it. No snow falls in the driveway.
Like the house, the family next door at first attracts little notice. But gradually the darkly magnetic son Dominic comes to obsess the three sisters. Juniper, predictably, falls in love with him. Gentian's feelings are not so clearly defined. She resents his riddles and the classical quotations with which he deflects every question, but is intrigued when recruited to help him build a time machine. Even Rosemary briefly enters Dominic's orbit, but being a pragmatic eleven year old, rapidly achieves escape velocity. Is Dominic really a vampire? Is the time machine's purpose sinister or benign? Will the time machine really work? Even after finishing the book, I am still not sure of the answers.
Much of the story takes place in Gentian's charming old Victorian house. The dialogue was spunky and humorous. Each of the characters was vividly unique, not a stereotype in the bunch. But most of the book was spent developing the characters of the Giant Ants, detailing their school play, Halloween parties and conversations about Dominic and boys in general, poetry, astronomy, and the problematic state of adolescence. If you have a teenage girl in the house, or if you are one, or if you remember being one, you may find the meandering plot engaging and relevant enough to stick with Gentian until she figures out what the time machine really does.
Interview: Harry Turtledove Interview by Dave Goldfeder
SFR: What kind of backgound creates an alternate historian?
HT: Im that rare creature, a native Californian, a second generation native Californian in fact. I started college at Cal Tech. I flunked out after my freshman year. I flunked out for a number of reasons. I was too smart for my own good in high school. I breezed through and never really learned how to study. That doesnt work at Cal Tech. I also discovered THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I spent far too much time reading that and other things and not enough time reading what I was supposed to. After that I spent a year at community college getting my GPA up to a point where it was visible to UCLA and to my local draft board. That was a very important consideration at the time. I got a Ph.D. from UCLA in Byzantine history. I wrote a Fantasy novel (WERENIGHT) while in grad school. It made my dissertation a year late.
SFR: Who are your influences?
HT: I have two principal influences, the primary one being L. Sprague DeCamp. I read his book, LEST DARKNESS FALL. That got me interested in history. I had previously though to study one of the sciences but I was curious about what in the book he invented and what was true. From there I started the studies that led to my degree. My secondary influence was Poul Anderson.
SFR: Where do you get your ideas? Does your editor come to you and say wed like a book on X ?
HT: They come from anywhere, but I find my own. I dont work well with others suggestions.
SFR: How do you write?
HT: I write my first draft longhand. I write from an outline then I edit. I used to do my first draft on a typewriter. Do you remember those? Its amazing just how user friendly they werent. I would be typing a page and want to change a sentence. You then remove the paper from the typewriter retype up to the section you want changed and make the change. Id find myself making the same changes over and over. Eventually I started writing the difficult sections longhand. At that point, it was easier to hand write everything. With word processors I can type as fast as I can think. Its almost stream of consciousness. Writing long hand slows me down. Its a built-in style editor. The writing is much better. I write every day that Im not at a Con.
SFR: What are you currently reading and what do you like to read?
HT: I recently read Poul Andersons WAR OF THE GODS. I love Patrick OBrians books and the Horatio Hornblower books.
SFR: How long does it take you to finish writing a book?
HT: It takes anywhere from 8 - 18 months not counting research time. I work on multiple projects at the same time.
SFR: Does it get confusing keeping plots and characters distinct?
HT: I dont have a problem keeping things straight, but I find that if I use an interesting or unusual word in one project, it slops over into others.
SFR: How long does research take?
HT: That depends. For the books and stories with a Byzantine flavor, Ive already done the research. I know much more about the subject then my audience does. For the Civil War stories, Ive had to do a lot of research. There are a lot of people who are almost fanatic about the subject and know more then I do. The World War II stories were the worst. Those events took place in living memory, but not mine. There are people still alive who remember the events in detail, to the point of this squadron flew from this airfield on this day, the weather was this, the temperature was that. Chip flew first, Ace left second, Mike was grounded with an ear infection, etc. I have to work very hard on details for that audience.
SFR: While youre working on a book, do you ever think, "Yeah, I am good at this." ?
HT: No! I cant afford that. You have to write each book as if its the first and work as hard as you can. Humility is important in a writer.
SFR: You put out a tremendous volume of work. Do you play while you work?
HT: I have the greatest job. I get to sit in a comfy chair in my house, dress as I like and create movies in my head. I write them down and they pay me for it.
SFR: Do you have other interests?
HT: It seems the more I write, the more I have to and the less time I have for other things. I have a wife and children. They take up much of my time. One advantage of being a free lance writer is that Im home for my children. Only the oldest remembers me actually getting up in the morning and leaving the house to go to work. I also keep busy with book tours and Cons.
SFR: How did you come to collaborate with Richard Dreyfuss on THE TWO GEORGES ANNOTATED?
HT: He contacted me. I came home one day and my wife said, "Youll never guess who called." She was right. I would have gone through several phone books of names without guessing. I returned his call. He told me about his idea. I think he wanted to write a screen play. I told him that I didnt know how to do that and suggested a novel. He agreed to that.
SFR: Did working with him help you at all?
HT: Yes, it did. He would read passages aloud. I got to hear a very gifted, professional actor reading my dialogue. It would immediately show me which passages worked and which didnt in a way nothing else could. It definitely improved my dialogue skills.
SFR: SF seems to run in cycles. Hard SF is popular for a while then Fantasy is big then psychic stories are big. What do you feel about this?
HT: There are two kinds of SF writers, specialists and generalists. If youre a specialist, you find a niche and be the best possible writer in that niche. You exploit that niche fully. The only problem is youre screwed if that niche seriously falls out of fashion. I try to be a generalist, good at a number of things. Ive written Alternate History, Historical Fantasy, straight Fantasy. Ive written a straight Historical novel. It kind of annoys me when I see my publisher call me "The Master of Alternate History" though I know theyre doing it to sell my books.
SFR: You seem to have different styles in different books. Can you comment on this?
HT: Your attitudes change over time. Your abilities change over time. Hopefully, they improve. Im a better writer then I was when I started. When Poul Anderson re-released THE BROKEN SWORD he said he fixed it. I did not understand that. A publisher bought it, what could be wrong with it. I know what he means now. Not too long ago I got the rights back to my first book, WERENIGHT. I translated it into English and republished it.
SFR: Translated it into English?
HT: I improved it. Im a much better writer then I was. I applied my current skill level to my earlier idea. The story was fine. I improved the craft used to tell the story.
SFR: What are you currently working on?
HT: Im working on the next three World War books. They are set when the colonization fleet arrives. Im also working on some Fantasy books for Tor set on another world. The technology is at about 1930s levels but its based on sorcery.
SFR: Whats coming out next?
HT: BETWEEN THE RIVERS is already out. THE GREAT WAR: THE AMERICAN FRONT is coming out in June. This is a sequel to HOW FEW REMAIN. In August, ALTERNATE GENERALS comes out. This is an anthology I edited for Baen. I also contributed a story. The next Videssos story, VIDESSOS BESIEGED comes out in February. I wrote a time travel Fantasy with Judith Tarr. That also comes out next year. I also wrote a straight Historical novel. This will be released in August. I wrote this under the name H. N. Turtletaub.
SFR: Why the different pen name?
HT: Chain store computers. If your first book is, for example, Sex with Bimbos on National TV and it sells 20 million copies, the chain stores will order 20 million copies of your second book, Translating Etruscan for Fun and Profit. When it sells 20 copies, the chain stores will order 20 copies of your third book, More Sex with Bimbos on National TV. I expect the historical novel to sell fewer copies then my SF books so the pen name is a way around computer ordering patterns.
SFR: What is the book about?
HT: Its titled JUSTINIAN. Its not about Justinian the Great, it's about Justinian II. He ascended the throne when he was 17 and promptly squandered four generations of dynastic wealth and goodwill. He was driven from the throne and into exile in the Crimea. After a while he plotted to retake the throne. He was sailing back to Constantinople with his henchmen. (there are always henchmen.) when his ship was caught in a severe storm. One of his henchmen suggested that he promise God he would have mercy upon his enemies if God would spare him. Justinian replied, "May God drown me if I spare even one." At that point the storm ended. When I read that passage in a Greek chronicle, I knew I had to write a book about it.
SFR: When writing an Alternate History, how much of the backplot do you reveal?
HT: One thing is if there are 500 important things about your new history, dont tell all 500. Work the 20 big ones into the story where they will do some good. Dont explain simply to explain.
X141 / Berkley Medallion Paperback June 1967 / Review by Ernest Lilley
Back in the mid 60's, about the time Trek was airing with its vision of utopian humanity reaching for the stars, Poul Anderson introduced a character with no less charisma than James Kirk, but rather than a dashing starship commander, David Falkayn was an explorer merchant. It's easy to say that Anderson maintained that greed and need would remain constants in the human expansion to the stars, but the truth is rather that he recognized that where man goes, so goes trade. Trek itself only accepted this in recent years, and begrudgingly at that, characterizing the greedy Ferengi as vile creatures. And yet, there was one episode where Quark, DS9's oft derided bar owner, had to sit a Vulcan down and explain the economics of war to him. And offer him peace at a fraction of the cost.
Actually Anderson created a whole universe around the concept in his Polesotechic League stories, and Nicholas Van Rijn, the foulmouthed, overeating, womanizing, merchant who showed up in "Margin of Profit " (Analog 1956) is for many its first and favorite denizen. Van Rijn was a master merchant before Falkayn was born, and indeed, in "The Man Who Counts" (Analog 1958) Van Rijn is stranded on an alien world with a square jawed space hero, and the heiress to the throne of Hermes, Falkayn's homeworld. Falkayn himself is a Baron's son, albeit a younger one ("The Three Cornered Wheel") so it almost looks like the author had something in mind there, but as far as I can tell, he didn't go there.
THE TROUBLE TWISTERS, though not currently in print, isn't too hard to find at Cons and in used bookstores. In this slim 190 page paperback we watch Falkayn's career from his first adventure as an apprentice in "Three Cornered Wheel" where he is instrumental in finding a way around local taboos to move heavy equipment from a repair depot to the downed spaceship before the crew starves. He does it through a little applied geometry, in a solution that still impresses me years after I first read it.
He graduates to something of a mercantile secret agent in "A Sun Invisible" when the League is ordered summarily out of Beta Centaurian space by a powerful fleet that originates on an unknown world. David's adventures, including wooing a damsel of the opposition, are strongly reminiscent of the yet to be penned Dominic Flandry, Agent of Terra, but Falkayn isn't nearly as mercenary. Mercantile, perhaps, but not quite without compassion.
In the final story, "The Trouble Twisters", we get to meet what I consider the standard cast of a David Falkayn story. Master merchant of a Trade/Pioneer vessel, with an exo-biologist and planetologist along as well, he can sniff out rich new worlds to establish trade with before the competition gets wind. Two wonderful aliens round out the crew; Chee, a cussing, smoking, feline and Adzel, a dragon the size of a small tank, who happens to be an enlightened Buddhist. In addition is the ship itself: Muddlin' Through, a sentient starship that routinely beats its biolife counterparts at poker. Falkayn has been accused of chauvinism, but like many 50's and 60's SF characters, I think it's a bum rap. True, he is a sexually active male who isn't ready to settle down and Anderson is up front about his having a certain vanity. He never intimates that women should not or can not do anything men can, indeed, in "The Trouble Twisters" he meets and pursues a woman warrior, not unusual here since the entire human component of this world is in a warrior guild.
Science Fiction often loses sight of the cost of space travel, conveniently burying such concerns in military missions or man's desire for exploration. The historical fact remains that countries establish Navies in order to protect trade, as was the charter of our own. Congress did not say, "We shall establish ourselves as a naval power to be free of British rule.", they did it specifically to protect American vessels from piracy. Exploration is usually for trade routes, as witness the European discovery of America.
What I love about Poul Anderson's Polesotechic League stories is that he never beats you over the head with these truths, and his characters always think their way out of their predicaments, though they get ample opportunity to shoot and fight along the way. Do yourself a favor and read any of the stories in this series. The ones in THE TROUBLE TWISTERS being a fine place to start.
David Falkayn appears in the following stories of the Polesotechic League:
"Three Cornered Wheel" (THE TROUBLE TWISTERS, Analog 1963, Berkley 1967) / "A Sun Invisible" (THE TROUBLE TWISTERS, Analog 1965, Berkley 1967) / "The Trouble Twisters" (THE TROUBLE TWISTERS, Analog 1966 ("Trade Team"), Berkley 1967) / SATAN'S WORLD (Analog 1968, Berkley 1977) / "Day of Burning" (THE EARTH BOOK OF STORMGATE, Berkley 1978) / "Lodestar" (THE EARTH BOOK OF STORMGATE, Berkley 1978) / MIRKHEIM (Berkley 1977) / A descendant of his appears in "People Of The Wind" (Analog 1973)
From the chronology in the Berkley Putnam hardcover of THE EARTH BOOK OF STORMGATE: 2376 Nicholas van Rijn born / 2406 David Falkayn born "stories overlap around 2426"
Robby the Robot (Forbidden Planet: MGM 1956)
A while back I interviewed Steve Sansuite, Star Wars Ambassador at large and one of SF's biggest collectors. Steve is a supercollector, and makes regular appearances on the shopping networks hosting, and encouraging other collectors. He said some things about classic robot toys being a great collectable that tweaked my interest, because I firmly believe that you should only collect stuff that you enjoy having around, and as my friends will tell you, I'm something of a robot junkie.
A few days ago I stepped out of my car onto the New York streets just in time for the skies to open up and I looked around for a likely storefront to duck into. Imagine my surprise when I saw the window ahead filled with classic robots! Faster than you could say "Klaatu Barada Nicto" I was inside and shelling out $15 for the windup Robby above. Sure he's a reproduction, but the packaging is classically cool, he's nifty and pretty well detailed, and when you wind him up he walks. For my money (which you will note I put out) he's a value.
If you love Robby and price is no object, be sure to visit Robot Maker Fred Barton's website at: http://www.the-robotman.com/home.html. You can drool over his 7 foot fully automated Robbys made from the original molds, (the model's name is Chris Minor, while we're on the subject of drooling) and browse his Robot museum and Robby news collection.
Robby's not alone in the world either. He's part of an extensive series of classic robot reproductions made by the Masudaya Corporation of Japan and distributed exclusively by Rocket U.S.A. (Robby and lots of other classic toy reproductions can be found at: http://www.rocketusa.com/). Back in the 50's Masudaya began creating some of the most highly prized battery powered toy robots that eventually became known as The Gang of Five . Late in 1996 an original Machine Man , probably the most popular TGOF robot, sold at the Sotheby's Auction house for $42,550.00.
I have no idea whether the reproductions will ever increase in value, though I suspect they will, if modestly. Still, as I said at the outset, I think collecting should be about things that you enjoy having in the first place, and I'm thinking about filling in my collection with a few of these until I find a box of vintage mechanoids at a garage sale.
In NYC, I found mine at: B.Shackman & Co., Inc., 85 Fifth Ave. NY, NY 10003, (212)989-5162
On the web you can buy Robby and many of his friends at: http://www.robotsrobots.com/Armageddon
Cast: David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), Gillain Anderson (Dana Scully). Martin Landau (Dr. Alvin Kurtzweil) Crew: Director: Rob Bowman, Writer/Producer: Chris Carter
Fox Mulder: That was incredible, Scully!
Dana Scully: You mean that we have our own movie with two solid hours to solve the alien conspiracy that's been eluding us for the last 5 years? I have to point out that the odds on us making any meaningful headway are statistically insignificant considering that the last episode left you burnt out and disillusioned and myself pretty much disgusted by the whole mess. A reasonable analysis says the most that can happen in the movie is that you discover a conspiracy covering up an alien invasion been there.
Fox: No, no, not that. Though the scene where you showed up in your nightgown did get my attention.
Scully: Then you must be excited about bringing in lots of new viewers for the series by presenting it in a wide screen format with unlimited special effects, many of which resemble ALIEN RESUURECTION, and travel to exotic locations, all of which look the same. Demographics indicate that everyone who could possibly have an interest in the X-Files already watches it, though, and if you think watching two hours of dark sets full of innuendo and deadpan FBI agents is going to turn on the uninitiated, I think you've reached new heights of willful suspension of disbelief. Not even the prospect of seeing me nude and slimed could provide that kind of draw.
Fox: No Scully, I know all that. Geez, you can talk a blue streak.
Scully: (exasperated) Then what's the big deal?
Fox: That we get to use bad language in the movie. I get to say all sorts of things I never get to say on TV.
Scully: Grow up, Mulder.
In what amounts to a 2-hour post season episode, The X-Files movie is the first of its kind, and one can only hope, the last.
Taking up where the series left off at the end of the fifth season, it's intended to provide a bridge to the next. Unfortunately, it bridges a chasm they should never have crossed. Once you let the aliens out of the bag, you can never put them back in, and all the spooky plausibility of the series evaporates. I'm not saying that actually happens, but the series is rapidly going in that direction. Not that it can help itself. After 5 years of alien chasing, Fox and Scully had better be closing in their man. So to speak.
Following a Paleolithic opening with what we must assume are the earliest alien hunters (The X-tinct Files?) the film's storyline has Scully and Mulder facing separate reassignment after Mulder correctly determines (by hunch) that the FBI is searching for an explosive device in the wrong building. Another something he wasn't "supposed" to figure out. Despite their lack of an assignment and even with the X-Files unit disbanded, the pair trek across the county and beyond to uncover greater secrets about the alien presence, while still finding time to pop in and out of hearings. I don't know what FBI agents actually make, but I defy anyone to go from Washington DC to Antarctica in less than 48 hours without a government behind them. Fox manages exactly that with a simple scene change after an insider in the alien conspiracies gives him a lead he can't ignore in a DC alley, and seconds later, whoosh, Snow Cat, desolation and his own GPS system. American Express really missed a marketing opportunity here. "Don't chase aliens without it!"
When Fox does arrive at the secret location, he falls a few hundred feet through ice crevasses into a vast Geigeresque alien labyrinth. A nice set, though they could have saved some of the 60 million the film cost if they just dubbed our favorite FBI agents into sequences from ALIEN RESURRECTION.
Fox broods along through the movie, trailing Scully in his wake as usual. Scully has the good sense to spend much of the film unhappy with her lot in life, taking hits while Mulder tilts at windmills, and after a while I was wishing she really would leave the bum. Dana, you can do better. Honest.
In the movie, the X-Files regulars all make token appearances. The Lone Gunmen, Skinner, Cancer Man, all your favorites make their entrances and depart, but mostly without contributing anything to the story.
The X-Files couplet of catch phrases, "Trust No One" and "The Truth Is Out There", are ironically prophetic when dealing with the past, present and future of this originally imaginative series. Certainly it has lived up to the first part, as the reality Scully and Mulder attempt to uncover week after week morphs from season to season as the moneyed interests try to eke one more season out of the X-Philes devotion. Unfortunately, this once smart, hip conspiracy story is rapidly degrading into another "V" clone. The truth isn't out there because this is fiction, not reality, and because it's mutable according to the demands of marketers. There is a conspiracy at the heart of the X-Files, but it's not the government behind it, just a studio.
Robert Savoye is a longtime observer of SF and a regular contributor to the various discussion groups held by our Northern New Jersey SF group, the SFABC. Recently Bob's comments on the TRUMAN SHOW prompted me to ask him to contribute an essay on the meaning of life ours as well as Truman's. - Ed.
THE TRUMAN SHOW fulfills the possibilities of Science Fiction as a subset of Art. Anyone leaving the theater without reexamining how he construes reality is intellectually numb indeed. The difficulty is in keeping straight the various levels of irony.
Yes, the world is a stage and we as players view movies. In this movie, part of Trumans world is a stage but he alone is not a player. The others are playing a practical joke of enormous proportions on Truman. As usual, its not funny for very long. The participants are not all laughing at Trumans innocence. If this is not a comedy, what is it? Scientifically considered, maintaining such a sham would be impossibly impractical, so this is not being proposed as a serious cultural option. Things must be more than they seem to be. Truman is living in an Art form, a real-time picture show in a picture show about reality.
We are shown a world population that prefers watching to experiencing. Only the advertisers and the creator-director are not being manipulated. Amidst a multitude of ironies, in Trumans world the advertising is real and his life is not. This life of unrelieved banality is the content of the Show, presented as of consuming world interest. Trumans spontaneous fantasies are most entertaining episodes. Of course there is a romantic element, although his knowledge of love is limited to the fake affection of his professional wife and his false best friend. Yet he yearns for a woman he briefly met, sustained by a collage portrait of her made from bits of advertisements. She is real. She loves him.
Plot aside, philosophical questions occur about our view of reality. How are we like Truman? Who is in control? Does Truman have free will just because he is unscripted? Do we? Is there always a spin on truth? Is the director like God? This is a director who will let you die rather than permit you to exercise a supposed option to leave. Who if anyone is in charge of the world Truman escapes to? Is our best chance for freedom the sloth and indifference of monitors? These questions are not to be answered by a movie, but I am pleased that they are so entertainingly raised.
Cast: Bruce Willis (Harry Stamper ), Billy Bob Thornton (Truman), Ben Affleck (A.J. Frost ), Liv Tyler (Grace ), Will Patton (Chick), Steve Buscemi (Rockhound), Peter Stormare (Lev Andropov ), William Fichtner (Air Force Colonel Sharp), Jessica Steen (Co-pilot Watts), Charleton Heston (Narrator)
Crew: Director: Michael Bay, Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer, Writers: Shane Salerno, Tony Gilroy, J.J. Abrams, Paul Attanasio, Ann Biderman, Scott Rosenberg, Robert Towne
On the way to the theater I asked myself if I really needed to see another asteroid movie? Let alone one two and a half hours long? It was the wrong question. The right one was, why did I bother seeing any of the others?
ARMAGEDDON shows that there are times when Sci-Fi can do a job that Science Fiction can't handle, and it shows it right from the start, where a deadpan shuttle mission is ripped to pieces by a meteorite shower. One second Mission Control is worrying about an astronaut's heartrate while he replaces a computer chip on a satellite, the next, Houston has a bigger problem.
Mission Control director Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) quickly discovers that losing a shuttle on his watch is nothing compared to losing the planet in 18 days. Maybe, he explains to the President, we could have seen an asteroid the size of Texas heading for Earth if our space watch budget wasn't a joke. Personally, I love the snappy dialoge that runs the ragged edge of excess, as Truman sums up the coming cataclysm as "basically all the worst parts of the Bible".
Scrambling around for a plan to save the world, and incidentally prove NASA's value, Truman's pet genius explains that while exploding nukes on the surface of the asteroid will essentially just make it mad, drilling a shaft to the middle and popping a few off will split it into two big masses that will separate and just miss the planet. They have the ships (special military shuttles) and they have the time (time in this film works in the best movie tradition, it's variable depending on the plot), but what they don't have is a crew with expertise in deep core drilling.
Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) plays a Red Adair (http://www.redadair.com/) style oilwell driller with a colorful crew of misfits that he won't leave home without. Rushed in from an oil rig in southeast Asia, and rounded up by law enforcement officers across the country, NASA's efforts to turn them into astronauts in two weeks have a delightful DIRTY DOZEN GO TO SPACE CAMP quality to them. Soon they are whizzing off to rendezvous with the Russian space station and its only occupant, a space crazed Cosmonaut Lev Andropov (Peter Stormare) to refuel and continue on to a lunar "slingshot" orbit to catch up with the asteroid as it hurtles towards Earth.
Harry Stamper, his protgee A.J., and daughter Grace who form an uncomforatble father-boss, mentor-lover, daughter-love interest triangle is taken almost intact from HELLFIGHTERS (1969 - Universal) with John Wayne, Jim Hutton, Katherine Ross in the same roles. Ironically, when Producer Jerry Bruckheimer says he based the character on Red Adair, he really means he based it on the fictional charater based on Red Adair in the 1969 John Wayne film. Either way, it works fine. One wonders what other John Wayne roles Willis might fill?
Science goes right out the shuttle window throughout the film. The writers know this and make nods toward the physics they are playing fast and loose with. Space suits have thrusters on them to push the astronauts against the asteroid and the Russsian space station can spin to simulate gravity and keep the producer from going nuts rigging zero gee sets. It was thoughtful of them to remember these details, and absolutely correct for them to ignore the limitations real science provides.
I love Hard SF, but face it, for most of the audience it's dull and incomprehensible. Films like 2001 have a profound impact on one or two of us out of each thousand that see it, but the rest walk out of the theater going, "I didn't get it." (For the record, I got it, but heck, I read the book.)
What ARMAGEDDON serves up, in heaping portions, is a heroic premise and plenty of action to keep things going. Bruce Willis' character is a vast improvement on the shoot em up hero of most action flicks. He's a guy who's putting his life on the line because someone has to, and because he cares about the world he's saving. What makes the characters in this film notable is that many of them have to choose to run counter to their native bent in order to do the right thing.
The supporting characters make this film, and turn in performances that threaten to steal the stage. In particular I liked Steve Buscemi's Rockhound character. Gangly, brilliant, ready to crack under pressure, and horny as all get out. I admire a man who can blow $100 grand on a stripper the night before he takes off to save the world. These heroes may have feet of clay, but when you heat clay to about 2500 degrees it makes a pretty good statue.
A lot of people aren't going to be able to let go of reality long enough to enjoy this film. They have my condolences. I have my favorite asteroid movie.
SFRevu Video Review (by Steve Sawicki): An American Werewolf In Paris / Kull The Conqueror
Sometimes you just crave a bit of blood and guts mixed with some humor in your videos. The bad ones get it terribly wrong which can be fun in its own way and the good ones get it so right that it defies deconstruction. The reality is that no one really knows what will click and what will miss. For every "Ill be back" theres a, well, a phrase well worth forgetting.
An American Werewolf In Paris, Hollywood Productions, Rated R, 98 minutes,
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, Julie Delpy, Vince Vieluf, Phil Buckman,.
Director: by Anthony Wallar, Music: Wilbert Hirsch, Screenplay: Tim Burns, Tom Stern, & Anthony Wallar.
Movie Inside Info #1: When you see the directors name tacked onto the screenwriting credits it means theres been tinkering agoin on; and I dont mean theyre repairing pots and pans.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON was a sleeper film made so not only by the great special effects but by the running tongue in cheek humor which stole the show. The original also had reflections on the classic THE WOLFMAN so the whole thing operated on a bunch of different levels. AAWIP starts out nicely, recreating the moon scene from the classic werewolf film. Thats it though as the film decides to blaze new trails in legend building, special effects and humor. Where much of the humor in the London film had a decided black cast the humor here tries just too hard. I think the director let his ten year old have some input and it shows. The special effects arent all that great either especially in the age where we expect so much from them. There are no real close transformation scenes. Instead the director uses a bunch of moving shots where people transform more or less on the fly. Additionally the werewolves just dont look right. Not that I know what they look like for real of course. Still, the film has its moments and it's pretty entertaining from beginning to end with a decent love story.
My advice: wait for the next full moon, get a date, some pizza and have a howl.
Kull The Conqueror, Universal, Rated PG13, 96 minutes.
Cast: Kevin Sorbo (Kull) , Tia Carrere (Evil Red Witch), Thomas Ian Griffith (Chief Villian), Litefoot (Priest saved by Kull, brother to Lombard's character) , Karina Lombard (Major Babe / Harem Girl / Fortuneteller).
Director: John Nicolella, Music: Joel Goldsmith, Writer: Charles Edward Pogue.
In a sentence, Kull is less tongue in cheek and slangy than Hercules and theres no cute sidekick. Nice looking babes though, er, I mean there are attractive co stars who provide equal oogling time to Sorbos bare chested posturing. Cheap aside--they wanted me to body double for Sorbo but I refused to bulk down.
Surprisingly, this is an extremely entertaining hour and a half. There are no glaring miscues or mistakes and Sorbo acts just enough to get through. Carerre acts even less and Thomas Griffith would steal the show if they had written him a character. Karina Lombard takes the cake and should have gotten better than sixth billing. Fun and frolic in the time before Conan which was the time before the age of man which was the time before reason which all makes some weird sort of sense as to why all these peasants look so damn attractive as they wander around the great outdoors doing basically nothing. Evil sorcerers, nasty witches, intrigue enough for two medieval centuries and a basic plot that neither deviates nor twists but drives from beginning to end like a short sword to the gut. Great fun for the whole family. Seriously.
Kull, one barbarian with a serious ax to grind and the means to make the sparks fly.
Contents - News - New Releases - Interview - RetroReview - Movies - Paperbacks - Contact - Next Month The Blackgod by J. Gregory Keyes How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove Shadow Dawn by Chris Claremont The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
ISBN 0-345-41880-8 May 98 Del Rey Paperback Review by Ernest Lilley Apr-97 orig
In August, 1996 J. Gregory Keyes' first novel, THE WATERBORN, came out from Del Rey. It was, hands down, my favorite Fantasy work of the year. Not that it had much competition, because I'm not a big fan of Fantasy, but for the same reasons I love Hard Science Fiction, I was enthralled by Keyes' story of heroes and gods drawn from his own studies as an anthropologist and his childhood among the Navajos. Reading Keyes is part fantasy, partly a course in cultural mythology. Both are extremely well done.
In April, 1997 THE BLACKGOD, the second in Keyes' Children of the Changeling series, came out from Del Rey, continuing the story of Perkar, the cattle herder turned hero, and Hezhi, the princess who fled her powers to live among the Mang Horse warriors. In THE WATERBORN, Perkar discovered that heroes are not in control of destiny but are its tools. He also discovered that to be a hero is to watch your friends die all around you as gods prod you to their ends. Perkar is at once the powerful warrior - godsword in hand, guiding thrusts and healing him from mortal wounds, the song of battle burning in his blood; and at the same time a powerless youth adrift in the face of the needs of gods that scheme to force him to their will.
Hezhi is a princess of the blood royal and magical. Keyes' world mixes god and human in the fashion of many human dynasties, and Hezhi is the latest in the ruling line descended from the Rivergod, the Changeling. In THE WATERBORN, Hezhi escaped her transformation into a vessel for the power of the Rivergod to keep her human form and freedom from the enslavement by the Priests who control the transformed. She also narrowly escaped Ghe, the assassin sent by the Priests to slay her, by calling for a hero to save her...much to Perkar's dismay. Perkar kills the assassin at the conclusion of THE WATERBORN, freeing the princess from threat of the Priesthood, but not, as we discover in THE BLACKGOD, ending the story.
Now, in THE BLACKGOD, Ghe walks again as a ghoul, energized by the Rivergod, and determined to bring Hezhi back under the river's power. Though the humans in THE WATERBORN were often manipulated by gods, in the main they acted through their human powers. THE BLACKGOD pits the gods against each other, and takes place on a battlefield full of the powers of gods in conflict. Hezhi becomes a powerful shaman and the story revolves around her entrapment by the Blackgod to go to the source of her power and kill the Rivergod. Hezhi goes to free herself of the Rivergod's design, while Perkar goes to find that which he lost the first time he met gods; his honor, freedom from guilt, and freedom from the agendas of gods.
Fantasy fails to engage me for the most part because it doesn't teach me anything new. When Keyes writes everything becomes new, showing me the roots of his fantasy in mythology. Keyes' Fantasy is not Celtic, but seems to be a blend of other world cultures from the steppes of central Asia to the pantheon of Greek gods. This almost glimpse into our own mythology makes me wish that he would write stories about the actual gods and humans that inspire him in the Changeling stories.
THE BLACKGOD is wonderful. Keyes is as fresh a voice as Tolkien was in his time. Keyes brings a world of mythology to life, a world both new and familiar. If Joseph Campbell could write brilliant Fantasy, he might be J. Gregory Keyes. I keep hoping that everyone will discover him for themselves, while dreading the deluge of imitators that are bound to spring up as soon as they do. Buy it, read it, and tell your friends.
ISBN: 0345406141 / Del Rey Paperback June 1998 /Review by Rob Archer
"If the chance should come my way to fight the Confederate States of America, I shall never lose a war to them."
These are powerful words, but spoken by Theodore Roosevelt? How could he make such a statement when he was only seven years old when the Civil War ended? Harry Turtledove sets up a universe in which this and much more is indeed possible in HOW FEW REMAIN.
In Turtledoves alternate history, the southern states were successful in seceding from the Union in 1862. He sets his tale in motion by having a courier destroy the copy of General Lees Special Order 191 that he was carrying, the capture of which allowed the Union forces to win the battle of Antietam in our timeline. In our history this battle was followed by the Emancipation Proclamation, and a huge momentum shift to the north. Here, by changing this one event, Turtledove is able to write of a Confederate victory as they invaded the north. At that point England and France recognize the Confederate States of America and force the United States to admit defeat and allow the partitioning of the country.
Fast forward nearly twenty years to 1881, and the two nations chafing against each other are ready to go to war again. This time the issue isnt states' rights, but the purchase of two Mexican provinces by the South. This extends the Confederacys border to the Pacific Ocean, and is viewed as a national security threat by President Blaine, the first Republican to live in the White House since Abraham Lincolns ignominious defeat in 1864. Blaine ran on a pledge to stand up to the "rebels" and he follows through by declaring war. The resulting events constitute the storyline of HOW FEW REMAIN.
The story can be enjoyed on several levels. Many will read it as a pure fiction, while others will remark on many of the historical ironies hiding within. Those with a detailed knowledge of history will note this work is full of little interesting twists. These and the many appearances of real life characters make for engaging reading but also tend at times to stretch credibility of those conversant with the events and times. There are so many cameos that it begins to resemble the final episode of Seinfeld. However, Turtledove does a good job of breathing life into many know historical figures. He is largely successful in staying within their general characteristics, though Abe Lincoln as a leading socialist or James Longstreet as a masterful politician may be a bit of a stretch. He probably does his best job with the character of Samuel Clemens, editor of a newspaper in San Francisco. A realistic sense of Clemens sarcasm and humor is blended into the character that Turtledove portrays in the novel.
The story progresses along quite nicely with the exception of a few sticky points; at times the actions or inactions of some characters - Frederick Douglass and Lincoln in particular slow the pace unnecessarily. But the story is entertaining, doesnt openly defy reason, and has a good factual base as well as some interesting twists. On the whole this was an enjoyable book, setting up an absorbing alternate universe ideal for examining in future volumes.
SHADOW DAWN is the second book in the Shadow trilogy by Chris Claremont, which is a continuation of George Lucas' movie WILLOW. At the beginning of the previous book, SHADOW MOON, Willow Ufgood delivers Elora Danan her first birthday present. Later that night, Tir Asleen is destroyed and Elora mysteriously transported to the castle at Angwyn. As the Sacred Princess, she is imprisoned in a tower where her every whim is granted except that of freedom. The reason is to insure the risk of possible harm is decreased so she can fulfill her destiny. Meanwhile, Willow has assumed the name Thorn Drumheller and wanders the world in self-imposed exile. Elora's 13th birthday is supposed to be her Ascension where she takes command of the Twelve Realms. Instead, the Deceiver freezes Angwyn. Thorn manages to rescue Elora, but encounters an imperious brat that he has to drag along the way, kicking and screaming. The Deceiver, who is never far behind them, creates natural disasters to block their way. They manage to flee to safety, but the question is for how long?
SHADOW DAWN opens with a better-tempered Elora whose care has been entrusted to Willow's cousin, a forge worker named Torquil. To keep her identity hidden, she has been working as an apprentice, deep in the mountains. A baby firedrake starts the adventure by leading her to a renegade Rock Newlyn who is trying to open a World Gate. Elora stops him, but vows to venture out into the world to see what is happening. She is joined by her old friends, Rool, a brownie and an eagle named Bastian. In their travels, they come across a slaughtered village and Elora helps rescue a wandering bard who quickly attaches himself to her. The strange thing about him is that no one can meet his eyes directly. The group travels on, ever aware of the growing influence of the Deceiver and the Maizan, a warrior horde that is headed by Modhri, the current host body for the Deceiver. The people accept him because he brings stability, and they rationalize that it is worth enough to them that they give up on freedom. Meanwhile, Elora decides to disguise herself as the bard's apprentice and starts singing and dancing in nightly shows. She discovers that not only is she maturing as a power to be reckoned with, but also as a woman. She also realizes that she has a gift for entertainment. Through her songs and actions she manages to persuade a number of people that freedom is worth the price of chasing away the shadows.
The novel was well written from the beginning right up until the surprise ending. The main conflict has become quite potent, as the different races feel they can no longer live together. The explanation of how the twelve realms, the four elements (air, earth, fire and water) and the circles of the world, the flesh, and the spirit are all connected shows advanced thinking on the part of the author to conceive of such a concept. In SHADOW DAWN, events that occurred around Elora's Ascension are only cursorily explained, such as the reappearance of certain characters. As well, descriptions of such things like InSight (the ability to split one's self so that one part can merge with another being) appear in SHADOW MOON, which makes it required reading. I am currently awaiting the end of the tale, which includes how Elora manages to reunite the twelve realms, liberate Angwyn, restore Tir Asleen and convince everyone that they CAN live in harmony. (Hard work for a fifteen year old!) Nevertheless, as absorbing as SHADOW DAWN is, the story has become disconnected from its roots in WILLOW and SHADOW MOON.
I am hoping Chris Claremont completes the circle of adventure in his third book, SHADOW STAR.
ISBN 0-553-57298-9 Bantam / Pprbk / Jul-98 Review by Sarah Braun
THE RISE OF ENDYMION marks the fourth and final volume in Dan Simmons Hyperion series which he began back in 1990 with the Hugo award winning HYPERION. Despite being the last volume in the series, he does a fantastic job of reminding the reader of the events which occurred in the three previous volumes. This provides a convenient segue for those who may not have read the earlier novels, as well as a nice refresher course for those who have. Some of the terminology is tough to get a handle on, if you have not read any of the preceding novels. However, he does an excellent job of eventually explaining the science and theology behind the universe he has created.
The story itself, while technically Science Fiction, draws together styles of writing from many of his other novels which are outside this genre. There is a great deal of vivid imagery which, while tedious in places, serves to draw the reader mentally and emotionally further into the world and the lives of the characters he has created. This coupled with the nonstop action of the story are almost enough to send the reader into sensory overload.
One of the more interesting aspects to the story is his use of 19th and 20th century places and persona (especially those sections pertaining to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship). His attention to accuracy and detail in these portions of the book are commendable, and add a layer of satisfaction for those readers who may have more than just a passing familiarity in the places he describes.
The love story slowly transitions from a subtle background presence to a major component at the end of the book. The ending itself will come as a pleasant, if somewhat melancholy, surprise to those who allow themselves to actively experience the story, rather than to merely read it and analytically try and discern what will happen next.
Overall, the story is rather like waking up to a sunrise over a breathtaking landscape. After your eyes adjust to the brilliance of light, you try to absorb all the pieces of the scene before you, only there is too much to take in all at once. You may find yourself having to read and reread certain portions of the book in order to make sure you do not miss anything of consequence. That is not a problem, because this is a book meant to be read slowly and in small chunks rather than devoured a one sitting. The investment of time however, will reward you with a most memorable experience.
Among the titles we're considering: A Knight of the Word - Terry Brooks / Accidental Creatures - Anne Harris / Antarctica - Kim Stanley Robinson / Cyberweb - Lisa Mason / Heaven's Reach - David Brin / Lord of Sunrise - Parke Godwin / Newton's Cannon - J. Gregory Keyes / Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History - Gardner Dozios & Stanley Schmidt / The Centurion's Empire - Sean McCullen / The Death of the Necromancer - Martha Wells / The Shapes of Their Hearts - Melissa Scott
Plus a Startide Rising Retrospective, Interviews with David Brin and Gregory Keyes, more summer films and Cons.
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