Oct 1998 Vol. 2.10
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SFRevu brings Science Fiction reviews and interviews to the web each month.
1998 by Ernest Lilley

Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month



Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies -Next Month

Contents: A Word from the Editor:
NewsBits: News from friends and SF luminaries.  Contact: SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom Calender of Events: Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances

Focus On: Author David Weber Honor Harrington Retrospective New Release - Echoes of Honor Now in Paperback - In Enemy Hands RetroReview - On Basilisk Station

New Titles:(Fiction) Inherit the Earth by Brian Stapleford Heartlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley Moonseed by Stephen Baxter The Ghost of the Revelator by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski ST TNG:Triangle: Imzadi ll by Peter David In Legend Born by Laura Resnick Kings of the High Frontier by Victor Koman (Prose) Beyond the Wall of Sleep by Andrew Heidel Paperback/Trade: (New) B5: Dark Genesis by J. Gregory Keyes Aftermath by Charles Sheffield (Now in Paperback) Forever Peace by Joe Halderman Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury Earthling by Tony Daniel The Gift by Patrick O'Leary Departures: Stories of Alternate History by Harry Turtledove
RetroReview: On Basilisk Station
by David Weber
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: Antz Pleasantville Practical Magic What Dreams May Come
Video Review: PHANTOMS I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER LOST IN SPACE
Media View: Tony Tellado Audio SF:The Invisible Man Credits:  Next Month in SFRevu:


 

But first, a word from the Editor:

Welcome to the latest issue of SFRevu. Time got away from me. I've had a lot of fun since the last issue, but as a result the zine is a bit late. We'll get back on schedule with the next one, which is already more than half done. It's not the starting that's hard…it's the finishing.

Usually I try to bend my taste towards horror for October, but this issue is solidly SF. We went overboard with Honor Harrington, including a retrospective and three book reviews. , I turned to Christina Schulman, (http://cafe.ambrosiasw.com/~schulman/SF/index.html ) whose knowledge impressed me enough to and ask her to contribute a piece on the series and co-opt her review of ECHOES OF HONOR.

INHERIT THE EARTH by Brian Stableford is worth picking up, and October had lots of great titles, including KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER for fans of private space travel, and THE GHOST OF THE REVELATOR, an Alternate Earth Spy Story.

It seems like it's movie season again, and we've got a slew of reviews. I liked PLEASANTVILLE, regretted WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, and got raves from Bob Devney for PRACTICAL MAGIC and a close second on ANTZ.

Sawicki's video column keeps getting better, and Steve shares his picks for a scary month with us. Sci-Fi Talk guy Tony Tellado is back with media buzz and the usual suspects (Paul Giguere, EJ McClure, and Rob Archer) have turned in their literary picks far more on time than my column.

Hey, it's late enough as it is. Start reading the issue before I get the next one done.

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 -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies -Next Month


Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - 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 50 words or so, and brace yourself for my editing them anyway.

 

Ghosts of Rockland County by Linda Zimmermann: SFRevu contributor and friend Linda Zimmermann has done several historical books, mostly around the Civil War. Now she's turned her pen to the Ghosts of Rockland County. Exploring over 300 years of haunting Rockland County, Linda visited many of the haunted sites; ghoulish grounds that have seen murders, suicides and other tragedies - and are reported to still bear witness to these deeds. Some ghosts are violent, some just like classical music, some haunt homes and others are easily accessible to the public following Ms. Zimmermann's directions. Next Linda takes on Ghosts of the Hudson Valley, and would like to hear from a few good ghouls at lindazim@ucs.net.

 

GORC is available by sending a check for $8.24 ($7 + $1.24 postage) to: Linda Zimmermann, P.O. Box 487, Piermont, NY 10968

LENSMAN REPRINT INFORMATION: Michael Walsh: Well, I sent the bluelines and waterproofs of the last four Lens novels to the printer today (8/26/98). Should arrive there tomorrow, Wednesday 10.30am. I don't have a due date, but guess that a minimum of seven weeks for 5000 of each of the four titles. Other than that, a more than fulltime job, and moving (only 15 blocks, but still), life is just peachy keen fine. (This long awaited reprinting of the Lensman series is the only thing later than the current issue of SFRevu! - Ern)

Jbyrne@midnight.com.au :Call for Papers for Aussiecon Three in 1999: Here's the brand-new, semi-official "call for papers sort of" that Jenny and I are sending out to the People That Matter <G>. As you know, Aussiecon Three, the 1999 World Science Convention will be held in Melbourne from 2-6 September 1999. Jenny Blackford and I will be convening one strand of the programming, the "academic track", which will take place mainly on Saturday and Sunday, 3-4 September, though we will also run a few hours on one or more of the other days.

The guests of honour at the convention are Greg Benford, the late George Turner (in spirit) and "big name" Australian fan, editor and critic Bruce Gillespie. Given that the convention is taking place in Australia in the last year of the 1900s (if not strictly the last year of the millennium), and also given the nature of the work of Benford and Turner, some obvious themes suggest themselves.

We have a considerable time between now and the convention, but we'll be sending versions of this "call for papers" fairly widely. We want to get discussion going and to hear people's ideas. What we propose is this. We intend to give recipients of this message and its variants until the end of 1998 to contact us with ideas, proposals, suggestions. We will then be in contact to work as closely with you as we can to shape a coherent program. We will try to work through this stage in the first two to three months of 1999, in order to give you the maximum time to prepare papers or panel presentations. Note that this is the Academic Track--presentations will be at a level of professionalism comparable with that of an academic conference.

 

GNP CRESENDO: HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Twenty years ago, GNP Crescendo Records released Greatest Sci-Fi Hits Vol. I, which featured guitarist/synthesist Neil Norman and his band performing the best science fiction hits of the time. This highly successful series continues Nov. 3 when GNP releases Greatest Sci-Fi Hits Vol. IV. This time, Norman has assembled a 65-piece orchestra, in addition to his own Cosmic Orchestra for these new, all digital recordings.

Greatest Sci-Fi Hits Vol. IV features 28 songs including "Amazing Stories"; "The Outer Limits"; "Men in Black"; "Universes/Star Trek: Encounters"; and "The James Bond Theme"(recorded live at the House of Blues in Los Angeles). Other songs include Norman’s renditions of themes from films like: Escape from the Planet of the Apes; Reanimator; and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and from television programs like: Babylon 5, The X-Files; and Xena: Warrior Princess. Greatest Sci-Fi Hits Vol. IV carries a list price of $12.95. http://www.gnpcrescendo.com.

(SFRevu will be reviewing this next issue, but I can tell you already…it's a fun CD.)


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Contact SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom.

 Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances:

Nov 17 8:00pm SFABC Author Discussion Group: Harlan Ellison- Discussion lead by SFRevu Editor Ernest Lilley Location: Border Books & Music Rt17 So. Paramus, NJ.
Nov 22 3:00pm New York Science Fiction Society (Lunarians) Meeting - Location :TRS,Inc. NYC
Nov 24 8:00pm SFABC Topic Discussion - Alternate Histories, Location: Border Books & Music Wayne, NJ
Oct 6 8:00pm SFABC Classics of Science Fiction Discussion Group : Gateway by Fred Pohl Location: Barnes& Noble Rte.17 So., Paramus, NJ

Oct 23-25 -CouverCon '98 The Sentinel Benefitting The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation Location: Westin Bayshore Vancouver, B.C., Canada http://members.aol.com/trky12/home.html
Oct 25-27 - Contact 16 GOH Frederik Pohl Location: Holiday Inn-Airport Evansville, IN P.O.Box 3894 zip 47737
Oct 29 - Nov 1 - World Fantasy Convention Location: Monterey, California http://www.pensfa.org/wfc98/ - winners of World Fantasy Awards to be announced at banquet Sunday - see Award Nominees for listing of candidates.
Nov 6-8 - Sci-Con 20 GOHs Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Collen Doran Location: Holiday Inn Executive Center Virginia Beach, VA www.scicon.org
Nov 11- Science Fiction Association of Bergen County Meeting -8:00pm Cultural Center Upper Saddle River, NJ. Guests: Theatricus Science Fiction Theatre Company performs SF and Imaginative Fiction plays by Terry Bisson, James Patrick Kelly and Joe Halderman Northern NJ's premier SF club http://sfabc.home.ml.org
Nov 13-15 - PhilCon98 Guest:Bruce Sterling,Artist Bruce Jensen Location: Adam's Mark Hotel Philadelphia,PA http://www.philcon.org

Nov 13-15 - WindyCon XXV Celebrating 25yrs of fandom in Chicago GOHs Allen Steele, Phil Foglio Location: Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg, IL www.windycon.org
Nov 13-15 - OryCon 20 GOHs Lois McMaster Bujold,Alan Clark, Ellen Asher Location: Doubletree Hotel Portland , OR www.teleport.com/`osfci/orycon
Nov 13-15 -Tropicon XVII GOHs Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess Location: Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek Hotel Ft. Lauderdale, FL http://scifi.squawk.cm/tropic/tropic17.html
Nov 14,15,21&22 - Virtual Con 1 SF & Non-Fiction Authors in live audio,contests, workshops, chat room Location: Cyberspace www.lrt.org


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Focus On: Author David Weber Honor Harrington Retrospective New Release - Echoes of Honor Now in Paperback - In Enemy Hands RetroReview - On Basilisk Station

Honor Harrington Retrospective by Christina Schulman

At a time when most protagonists are flawed, frail, and all-too-human, there's something gloriously self-indulgent about a hero who's better, braver, stronger, more noble, and purer of heart than all lesser mortals. Honor Harrington is just that sort of hero in the tremendously popular series by David Weber.

Honor is an officer in the Royal Navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. In the first book, ON BASILISK STATION, Honor kicks off her command of the cruiser Fearless by embarrassing an admiral during naval wargames. She is consequently exiled to Basilisk, a low-prestige post, with a sullen crew and a commanding officer who actively hates her guts. Honor barely has the resources to cope with the local smugglers and increasingly dangerous aborigines; affairs quickly worsen thanks to the meddling of the People's Republic of Haven, an expansionist galactic power that would love to gobble up the Basilisk system.

In the second book, HONOR OF THE QUEEN, Honor is sent to Grayson, a technologically backward planet in a strategically important location. The Graysons are deeply sexist, which makes it a bit difficult for them to cope with a female starship commander. Naturally, Honor gets caught between the Graysons and an invasion by their mortal enemies, a bunch of raving misogynists from the planet Masada.

Further books in the series chronicle the escalating war between Haven and Manticore. Honor herself is a loose amalgam of Horatio Hornblower and Horatio Nelson, with Manticore and Haven standing in for England and France. Honor's personal life is even more melodramatic than the war. Love, tragedy, politics, and duels at dawn keep her on her toes.

And then there's her telepathic treecat, Nimitz. Nimitz is fuzzy and adorable. He rides around on Honor's shoulder. He purrs. He says "bleek" a lot. In short, he ought to be saccharine enough to make an Ewok gag, but somehow he's endearing instead. Mostly.

Weber's prose ranges from passable to laughably bad. He will descend into hand-waving technobabble for pages at a time, apparently under the impression that there are readers out there who really want all that detail. (I suppose there must be a few; after all, somebody's buying all those "Science of Star Trek" books.) Personally, I'd be just as happy if he simply wrote, "and then they went into hyperspace and got the hell out of there". The weapons and drive technology are contrived to make naval tactics from the age of sail applicable here.

Don't get too attached to any of the supporting cast. Honor and her people always wind up covered in glory, but an appalling percent of her crew are usually too dead by then to enjoy it. Battles are certainly more suspenseful when you know Weber is entirely willing to maim or kill characters who have been around for several books.

There's no moral ambiguity, no concentration required. The good guys are easily distinguishable from the bad guys. (Particularly at the end of the book, where the good guys are covered in blood and tears, but the bad guys have usually become rapidly expanding clouds of radioactive gas.) Of course, by the current book in the series, Honor practically leaves glowing footprints wherever she walks. I don't care. I enjoy reading about a hero who is courageous, and brilliant, and possessed of unwavering personal integrity. I especially enjoy it when she kicks the snot out of the bad guys against impossible odds.

The cheap initial fix is a time-honored marketing strategy, one that drug pushers and CD mailorder clubs are very fond of. Now Baen, operating on the same principles, has issued an anniversary edition of ON BASILISK STATION for $1.99. It's certainly worth two dollars to find out whether this is the sort of thing you like - but be careful. It only takes one hit to get addicted.


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 Echoes of Honor by David Weber  (this review appeared previously in rec.arts.sf.written and is reproduced by permission of the author. More of her reviews can be found at http://cafe.ambrosiasw.com/~schulman/SF/)

ISBN 0-671-87892-1 / Baen, hardcover,569 pp.,October 1998 / Reviewed by Christina Schulman

Echoes of Honor is the eighth book in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, highly addictive space opera loosely based on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and history's Horatio Nelson. If you're new to the series, start with On Basilisk Station, and read the series in order.

It's impossible to discuss Echoes of Honor without revealing the events of the previous book, In Enemy Hands; so if you want to avoid spoilers for the latter, stop reading now!

At the end of In Enemy Hands, Honor and several of her crew escaped from Peep custody to land on the prison planet Hades. The rest of the galaxy believes her dead, a belief the People's Republic of Haven goes to some effort to confirm, although they're just a little embarassed about the actual details of her apparent demise.

Hades is a hostile jungle planet, with no foodstuffs digestible by humans, and full of predators reluctant to believe that they can't digest humans. Primitive prison camps are scattered around the largest of its four continents. (Prison planets always do seem to suffer from a scarcity of continents. And climates.) The prisoners' survival depends upon regular shipments of food from State Security, which controls all the firepower and transportation on the planet -- except for the pair of assault shuttles and assorted weaponry appropriated by Honor's people during their escape.

The question is, how much damage will Honor and her merry band inflict on the Peeps on their way out? Honor Harrington books are like Roadrunner cartoons that way: You know all the Peeps in her vicinity will end up as greasy black spots on the pavement; the fun lies in seeing whether they're shot, stabbed, detonated, or catapulted over a cliff.

Echoes of Honor is quite a long book, 569 pages in all, but only about half of that is devoted to Honor's activities. The rest alternates between various Peep and Manticore viewpoints of the ongoing war, liberally sprinkled with reaction to Honor's "death." Honor's martyrdom is carried a bit too far; Grayson and Manticore mourn her with the sort of reverence usually reserved for Catholic saints and baseball heroes.

Weber advances the course of the war considerably with plotlines devoted to a savage Peep onslaught and Manticore's reinvention of the aircraft carrier. The result is a handful of great combat scenes embedded in excruciatingly dull infodumps. Entirely too many pages are spent on events peripheral to Honor's escape; I waded through these sections as quickly as possible, with my eyeballs set on "skim."

Still, Echoes of Honor is a lot of fun. Honor's storyline is worth the price of admission; my only complaint is that it ends much too abruptly. She kicks butt and takes names with one hand not so much tied behind her back as entirely absent. This unrepentant world-striding heroism is what addicted me to the series in the first place, and I want the next one now.


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In Enemy Hands by David Weber

ISBN 0-671-57770-0 / Baen Paperback, Oct-98 (orig.publ. 1997) / Review by Bob Devney (previously reviewed in SFRevu 1.2)

Friend Bob Devney (and editor/reporter for the Con activity following Devniad) made the mistake of commenting on my vast knowledge of Military SF. " It's great to see this stuff reviewed by someone who really knows the genre," he opined, "All I read is Honor Harrington…" We'll, I may get a kick out of cybernetic tanks dealing tetrawatt onslaughts, or space dreadnoughts slugging it out in the void, but I never did get around to reading Honor Harrington. Mr. Devney corrects that slight with his review - it's up to you whether he comes to praise Honor or to bury her. - Ern.

Honor's in trouble again.

She's suddenly developing feelings for an attractive older man she's liked for a while, but not THAT WAY until now. Unfortunately, he's her superior officer. Even more vexing, he's got entirely the wrong slant on some new multistage missiles with a performance envelope she'd gladly sacrifice 18 percent of her broadside for!

As if that weren't bad enough, comes the most one-sided defeat in the history of the Royal Manticoran Navy. Plus, since the book title already gives it away … let's just say that anybody whose fantasies feature Honor looking fetching in handcuffs may be pleased with this seventh far-future space navy thriller starring the beautiful and deadly Lady Dame Honor Harrington: Countess, Steadholder of Grayson, newly promoted Commodore of the Royal Manticoran Navy, and complete 40th-century fox.

The Honor books combine a dash of Danielle Steele's romanticism with a big dose of Tom Clancy's technothrills -- and anti-leftist politics -- in an SF military/adventure milieu. Usually, they're a pleasant read if you like anything in that mix.

Unfortunately, here the politics threaten to thwart the thrills. The book's three measly space battles are swamped by three thousand political discussions. Starting with the opening scene, which excitingly features people sitting around a conference table thinking about recent political history.

In a nod to the French Revolution, the kakistocratic nogoodniks heading up Honor's enemies, the People's Republic of Haven, are called the Committee of Public Safety. Led by Rob Pierre, get it? The Peeps are set up (and I do mean set up) as a straight Marxist/socialist bureaucracy.

While the good guys, Manties and Graysons, are enlightened products of 40 centuries of human political development. You know, a hereditary monarchy and a hereditary oligarchy ...

Weber does get your blood boiling as his bad guys commit the usual socialist outrages. Tying the hands of the military, gutting free speech, providing welfare to the poor, and so on. But in extrapolating a huge star-spanning socialist empire just to expose its sins, isn't he flagellating an extremely ex-equine?

Luckily, there are other familiar pleasures here.

We get the first inkling of a new parallel to wet navy technology, with mention of sortieing the Manties’ light attack craft from something reminiscent of an aircraft carrier. This kind of thing is an enjoyable constant in the series. Space navy technology 2,000 years from now seems to be a mixture of 1805 (broadsides and a 3D equivalent of lines of battle) and about 1985 (lasers, missiles, electronic countermeasures).

You keep waiting for Weber’s swabbies to start sponging out their impeller missile tubes.

Also returning, naturally, is Honor's cute, furry yet formidable empath/symbiote/pet treecat, Nimitz. Along with so many relatives that the next volume may be called THE TROUBLE WITH TREECATS.

Plus the usual quota of old friends, subordinates, and retainers. All so besotted by what a good person and outstanding officer our heroine is that they're glad to be slaughtered so Honor can move on to higher command in the next book …

 


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New Titles: (Fiction) Inherit the Earth by Brian Stapleford Heartlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley Moonseed by Stephen Baxter The Ghost of the Revelator by L.E. Modesitt, Jr The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski ST TNG:Triangle: Imzadi ll by Peter David. In Legend Born by Laura Resnick Kings of the High Frontier by Victor Koman (Prose) Beyond the Wall of Sleep by Andrew Heidel

 

 Inherit the Earth by Brian Stapleford

ISBN: 0-312-86493-0 / Tor Hrdcvr, Sep-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

Damon Hart is one of the first generation born in the artificial wombs developed by Conrad Heiler after the global fertility crisis peaked and mankind's future came to a grinding halt. He's Heiler's biological son, and the foster son of Silas Arnett and Eveline Hywood. Swimming in denial, he changed his name, struck out on his own as an exhibition streetfighter making sensory tapes for audiences that can relive every bit of bloodlust and letting in the safety of their VR hoods. Of course, he's past that now, making a living and a new reputation as a commercial VR artist while copying friends and lovers into cyber-porn and editing out everything but the meat.

Silas Arnett is an old man in a young body maintained by IT, nanobeasties swimming in his blood, taking care of all the little details of biology, from the suppression of pain to the enhancement of Eros. Silas is a living fossil. He's a left-over from before the fertility crisis that threatened to wipe man off the face of the Earth in a single generation. Once he was a researcher with Conrad Heiler, one of the team that developed the technology of the artificial womb. Now he's retired - wealthy, self indulgent, sleeping with an endless stream of genuinely young women in Brian Stapleford's Brave New World.

Until he's kidnapped, purged of his IT, publicly denounced and tortured for all the world to watch on the Net. All to give Damon a message. Conrad Heiler, once the hero of humanity, didn't really die. He's alive, and guilty of crimes against humanity - find him and we'll let your foster father live. Yeah, like Damon really cares.

INHERIT THE EARTH follows Damon as he searches back through the personal past he'd tried to bury to find the truth about his father. He spends a lot of time zipping around the New World tracking down his elusive progenitor and getting kidnapped by the various players in the game as he keeps getting his nose rubbed in his own self-importance.

The action, and there's a fair amount of it, contrives to tie together the book's real context, a discussion of the tensions threatening to rip society apart as the race steps onto the escalator of immortality. If no one ever dies, exactly how do you inherit the earth?

Among the current crop of cyberstories dealing with life extension, from Gibson's IDORU to James Halperin's FIRST IMMORTAL, the questions posed and the technologies explored in Stableford's novel are its strengths. The plot moves along reasonably, but the central character is disconnected enough from everyone around him that the story never quite catches fire. As Hard SF is works fairly well, but the character's journey from disassociation to involvement falls short of compelling.


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Heartlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley

ISBN 0-312-86508-2 / Tor Hrdcvr, Sep-98 / Review by EJ McClure

Fans of the DARKOVER series, be warned: this is not the Marion Zimmer Bradley you know and love. HEARTLIGHT, the fourth in a new series, is light years apart from Bradley's medieval fantasy books in both style and substance. To begin with, it is set not on an alien world, but here on Earth, in our own familiar timeline. HEARTLIGHT begins in September of 1960, the year Kennedy began his presidential campaign and Gary Power's U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union, and spans four tumultuous decades. Colin MacLaren's life plays out against this vast historical canvas in a series of loosely interrelated episodes. I kept waiting for the plot to come together in some grand scheme that I could neatly summarize for a review, and realized (about page 300) that I was going to be disappointed. Whose life neatly lends itself to a 300-word plot summary, after all?

On the surface, Colin MacLaren is an eccentric professor of parapsychology, an esoteric field that provides excellent cover for his real calling as an Adept of the Right-Hand Path, a warrior for the Light. He spent his youth on the battlefield of Nazi Germany, a titanic struggle from which his Order emerged victorious. Returning home he finds not the peace for which he hoped, but a more subtle and insidious threat against which he must rally all his strength and cunning.

He is not alone in this struggle. Alison Margrave, music teacher and former mentor, summons him to California, that land of youthful dreams and rebellion, where he meets and rescues Claire London. For a brief time Colin thinks Claire might be his disciple, the one he must find and train before he can lay down the burden of his calling. But Claire falls in love with a young policeman, Peter, and Colin reluctantly realizes that though Claire will be a life-long friend and sometime ally in his struggle, she is not the pupil for whom he waits.

Long he waits, and many times he is disappointed. Many times he must pit his skill against illusionists, charlatans and the dangerously misguided. There is the flamboyant and unethical Thorne Blackburn, idealistic radical and apostate of Colin's own Order. There is the witch Sara, practitioner of the Church of the Antique Rite and possessor of the body of young Sally Latimer. And most tragic of all, the brilliant musician Simon Anstey, once Alison's disciple, but now drawn down the dark path by a rage of loss and mutilation. But Colin's first and last struggle is against the rebirth of the ancient evil he thought destroyed at the end of World War II, the soul-sickness of the Armanenschaft of the Thousand Year Reich, represented by the brilliant and charismatic Toller Hasloch.

Bradley has carefully researched historical details, and masterfully evokes a sense of time and place almost painful in their authenticity, particularly for one who has been to San Francisco or New York. Her vision of the great events of our times reflecting moves in the eternal battle between Light and Darkness has a seductive plausibility. Her narrative is more detached and dispassionate than in the DARKOVER adventures, a style that works well for a book of such breadth and scope as HEARTLIGHT. We are allowed to love Colin, but only at arms' length, the distance at which he keeps his friends for fear of hurting them, and his comrades for fear of losing them in battle. The magical rites are sketched in the telling detail a learned and discerning eye would notice, but the reader is not buried in arcania beyond what is necessary to convey the action and advance the plot. Don't worry about reading the other three books first; you will be able to enjoy this one on its own merits.


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Moonseed by Stephen Baxter

ISBN: 0-06-105044-X / Harper Prism, Hardcover, Nov-98 / Review by Paul Giguere

Stephen Baxter has given us huge epic novels that have taken us to a universe that has a gravity a billion times that of our own (RAFT), a trip to the end of our universe (RING), a sequel to H.G. Wells' THE TIME MACHINE (TIME SHIPS), and an alternate history of the American space program (VOYAGE), just to name a few. Now Baxter, arguably Science Fiction's best active Hard-Science Fiction writer, turns his talents to the thinly worn and well trodden path of the SF-Disaster novel.

MOONSEED isn't about meteors or comets slamming into Earth, rather it is a kind of invasion story that actually begins thirty years before with the Apollo Moon landings. Venus has begun to glow bright in the sky and resemble a nova. As scientists try to figure out why and what repercussions this will have for Earth (droughts and strange weather patterns have already begun to take place), geologist Henry Meacher continues his study of Moon rocks and is assigned to fly a piece of unexposed rock to Scotland for research.

Of the many tons of Moon rocks brought back to Earth, much still remains sealed in the original plastic bags that the Apollo astronauts used to collect the specimens. One such specimen, brought to Scotland, contains a dust (later called Moonseed) that seems to react with Earth's rock causing it to deteriorate into a silvery powder-like substance. After some of the Moonseed is accidentally released into a dormant Scottish volcano near Edinburgh, eruptions start occurring. The Moonseed starts to spread all over eating up the Earth's crust causing a meltdown of the planet. Scientists eventually look to Venus and the Moon for the answers, the latter as a possible means of escape from the impending disaster. All this is told with great technical and scientific detail.

Baxter's novel is huge and complex. There are at least thirty or so characters to keep track of and many subplots. The technical detail is amazing and covers everything from geology, to astronautics, to physics. Baxter's trademark Hard-SF stamp is all over the book. The origin of what the Moonseed is and where it came from however, sets up a mystery that although intriguing failed to keep me engaged in the story. The disaster is frighteningly believable but the conclusion is not. The book's major problem is the immense padding of the story with irrelevant subplots and characters that detract from the main plot and fail to build towards a conclusion in a satisfying and believable manner. Big ideas and technical detail just aren't enough to sustain a story through 500 pages.

MOONSEED isn't a bad book, the Hard-SF detail is excellent and the ideas presented are definitely worth reading but MOONSEED just isn't up to Baxter's usual standard of storytelling. If you are a Baxter fan, you may find MOONSEED to be worth the time commitment simply because it is a new Baxter book, but if you're new to Baxter start with RING or TIME SHIPS and prepare yourself for a mind-expanding trip on a scale so big, the universe can't contain it. Hopefully Baxter will take us on such trips again in the near future.


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The Ghost of the Revelator by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
ISBN 0-312-86426-4 / Tor Hrdcvr, Sep-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

In L.E.Modesitt, Jr.'s Alternate Universe, there never was a United States of America. Washington died before taking office, and Adams wasn't the man for the job. Europe is in tatters, France destroyed under the heel of a despot, and North America is made up of nations struggling for control of precious energy resources.

Johan Esbach is a retired Minister of the Colombian Government, as well as a former member of the Colombian Intelligence Agency, the Spazi. Johan is supremely content with his position as university professor, sharing his family homestead with his beautiful wife, the former French Diva - Lysette DuBois. Both are back from Modesitt's earlier book, OF TANGIBLE GHOSTS, whose back story colors the present novel, without dominating it. GHOST OF THE REVELATOR is a sequel, but with aside from the lack of a much needed map of the territories in question and a few well placed paragraphs about the divergence of this alternate timeline, it stands on its own feet quite well.

In the previous book Lysette lost France, freedom, and her music. Settling in New Bruges with Johan, accepting a teaching position at University and teaching voice to "Dutch Dunderheads" is survival, of a sort, but hardly - for one once expected to develop into the world's next Prima Donna - living.

Johan is devoted to his wife. Happy to be retired from politics and intrigue, and hopeful that the closet full of ghost creation technology hidden in his study will never need to see the light of day again. Ghosts, yes, astral spirits, are very much a real part of Modesitt's universe. They are the astral component of each of us, released in death to pass onto another plane if lucky, bound to the spot if not. Bad luck manifests itself as violent death or other psychic trauma. Recent advances in difference engine technology (you remember, Gibson, Sterling, THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE? Computers, you dunderheads!) allow the artificial creation and destruction of ghosts. Johan is one of the few who posses the technology, the legacy of his previous adventures. The Colombian Government is the other, and neither is telling anyone.

When Lysette is suddenly given an invitation to perform for the Mormon Nation of Deseret, at the arts center in Salt Lake City, the innocent recognition of her talents seems at hand. But innocent is something former Spazi Agents aren't, and when briefing materials concerning the impending performance and the oncoming energy crisis and negotiations between Columbia and Deseret start appearing in unmarked manila envelopes Johan knows better than to take things at face value. When the attempts on their lives begin, he reluctantly realizes that no matter how much he might enjoy retirement from the Intel community, it's time to shed his turtle shell and again become the hunter, lest his new wife be the hunted.

Esbach is my kind of Secret Agent. Quiet, thoughtful, observant, a great cook and a loving husband. And when need be, incredibly deadly and without remorse. Ian Fleming would have enjoyed Esbach (Esback....Johan Esbach....) if he were alive today. Of course in Modesitt's universe his ghost may yet. THE GHOST OF THE REVELATOR is part Alternate History, part Hard SF, and from beginning to end a superb piece of fiction.


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 The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski

ISBN: 0-312-86716-6 /Tor Hardcover, Sep-98 / Review by EJ McClure

When Brother Rod rescued six-year-old orphan 'jum from the refuse of her plague-stricken world, the sentient Station was irate. Once again the Spirit Caller had exceeded his immigration quota. Brother Geode, the nanoplast sentient, was also annoyed. Older children are much more expensive than infants to lifeshape for survival on Prokaryon, with its atmosphere rich in arsenic and triplex DNA. The mission was on precarious financial footing as it was, eking out a meager subsistence on native crops and prospecting for gemstones to bring in cash needed to pay medical bills and education expenses for the colony of children rescued from L'li. But there 'jum was, fait accompli; there was really no choice but to begin the lengthy and expensive lifeshaping process.

Slowly the complex machinations of the wealthy and long-lived Elysians are revealed, with the fate of Prokaryon hanging in the balance. One faction wants to sterilize and terraform the planet, and aggressively colonize it. It will never be financially viable otherwise; though humans can be lifeshaped over a number of years to eat native food and breathe the air, they can never reproduce on Prokaryon, never be a self-sustaining colony.

But Brother Rod and his colleagues, aided by the reclusive and enigmatic scientist Sarai, are gradually convinced that there is intelligent life on Prokaryon. Not the smelly tumblerounds, or the predatory megazooids, or the flying helicoids, but something else, something capable of controlling the weather, and perhaps the destiny of the universe. Something so alien that they have not yet recognized it for intelligent life.

The tidy little mystery is gradually unraveled, leading to a surprising but logical conclusion. Though not a fast-paced adventure, THE CHILDREN STAR was still a satisfying yarn. The ecology of Prokaryon was detailed enough to provide subtle clues that allow the reader to share Brother Rod's gradual understanding of the true nature of his enemies. The host of minor characters, scientists, bureaucrats and sentients, are fleshed out enough that their motivations are understandable, and their struggles engage the reader's emotion. If the book has a weakness, it is that the core of the plot only comes clear about half way through, and one has to have quite a bit of patience with Brother Rod and his band of infants. In the end, though, the children begin to grow up and Brother Rod loses his sententious complacency to become a far more likable--though less perfect--man.


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The Essential Bordertown - Terri Windling & Delia Sherman eds

ISBN: 0-312-86593-7 / Tor Hrdcvr, Aug-98 / Review by EJ McClure

We had a really great review of this. EJ said it was a worthwhile collection. I lost it. Now you'll have to go buy it to find out what was so great about it. Let me know.


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 ST TNG:Triangle: Imzadi ll by Peter David
ISBN  0-671-02532-5 /Pocket Hardcover, Oct-98 / Review by EJ McClure

The book flap promises "for the first time the full story," an irresistible lure for a romantic TREK fan. Peter David follows up his best-selling novel IMZADI, the backstory of the relationship between Deanna Troi and William Riker, with a sequel set shortly after the crash landing of the ENTERPRISE on the eve of the war with the Dominion. The crew is at loose ends, waiting for the next ENTERPRISE to be commissioned. The romantic passion that simmered between Worf and Deanna during the seventh and final season of THE NEXT GENERATION matures into an engagement that forces Will Riker, First Officer of the Enterprise, to re-examine his own feelings for the ship's Betazoid counselor, Deanna Troi.

Tom Riker, the uncanny duplicate of Will Riker created during a transporter accident, has no need for introspection. He knows how he feels about Deanna, and what he would sacrifice to get a second chance with the woman he remembers as "Imzadi", his first beloved. A chance it seems unlikely he will get, now that he is a prisoner in a Cardassian labor camp for his involvement with the Maquis resistance fighters. But the vengeful and manipulative half-Romulan Sela has a diabolical plan for him, a plan that brings Tom once more back into Deanna's life and puts the Klingon-Federation alliance at risk.

Meanwhile, Worf and Deanna go visiting prospective in-laws. Though startled, the Rozhenkos are tactful and reluctantly supportive. But in Lwaxana Troi Worf meets his match. As Daughter of the Fifth House and Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Lwaxana is keenly aware of the vast cultural differences between the Klingons and Betazoids, and does her best to make Deanna and Worf acknowledge the difficulties they would face in a marriage. Being an empath, she has insight into the feelings that both Worf and Deanna are hiding from themselves and each other. Though her intentions are good, her schemes range from annoying to ludicrous, and severely tax Worf's patience. Deanna, as usual, tries to soothe everyone's feelings. Alexander, as usual, is caught in the middle.

Geordi and an amazingly wooden Picard make cameo appearances, and Odo gets to be the deux ex machina, an irresistible casting call for the shape-shifter. Jadzia gets passing mention, in case DEEP SPACE NINE fans were wondering. Initially I had a hard time imagining Will Riker, a man who is all about moving on and moving ahead, getting so stuck on Deanna. However Peter David works hard throughout the book to tie Riker's stalled relationship with Deanna with his stalled career, and in the end it hangs together fairly well.

The soap-opera plot of IMZADI II is chock full of cloak and dagger politics, kidnappings, mistaken identities, torture, assassinations and daring rescues, but very little science or common sense. Peter David's relaxed conversational style and his intimate knowledge of the characters and history of the STAR TREK universe make IMZADI II an easy read, but not a voyage I would recommend attempting without a sense of humor.

 


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In Legend Born by Laura Resnick

ISBN: 0-312-89055-9 Tor, Hardcover, Aug-98 / Review by Asta Sinusas

"Why have we borne their yoke for so long? Why have we let them take whatever they want? Why have we never taken from them? It's time to say no."

"Words do not fill bellies,' Amitan argued.

"No! Grain does!" Josarian answered. "Meat, milk and cheese do! The produce of a thousand groves does!"

"But that all..." Lann frowned. "That all belongs to the Valdani."

"It does not belong to them!" Josarian answered fiercely. "This is Sileria, and every crop grown, every animal butchered, and every mineral mined belongs to Silerians!"

"You mean take it away from them?" - In Legend Born

The action takes place in the land of Sileria which has known nothing but one conqueror after another for hundreds of years. It has been so long that the people have forgotten how to fight and live in terror of their oppressors. Perfect for the conquering Valdanians, who take all they can from the land, making the natives poorer as they get richer. The people are so submissive and Sileria is so pathetically easy to manage that Valdania sends all the army rejects to police the land. However, that's all about to change.

The book opens as a strange swordsman named Tansen returns to home after nine years of exile, punishment for a muder. At the same time, a Guardian named Mirabar has had visions that say the destined one is coming and he will destroy the Valdanians and restore Sileria. A dangerous vision indeed, as it fortells the unthinkable, the revolt of Sileria.

This book covers a lot of ground. Betrayal, conspiracy and even an ancient and mysterious race hiding to save themselves from extinction. Add in a Society of Waterlords that have the power to dry up streams and flood villages if their tribute isn't met. The Waterlords believe in overkill, keeping a band of ruthless assassins working for them as if blight and famine weren't potent weapons.

What I found fascinating was how the author shows the growth of a grassroots movement from its origins with a handful of outlaws to an organized army. Ms. Resnick paints the picture of a people who have been brainwashed into believing that their way of life is acceptable and how difficult it is to grasp any other point of view.

Ms. Resnick is a talented writer who weaves a great spell and has conjured up one of the best Fantasy novels to come out this year. I hope this is the specter of things to come…


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 Kings of the High Frontier by Victor Koman  ISBN 0-9665662-0-3 / Bereshith Pub.,Hardcover $24.95 ($75.00 deluxe edition),October '98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

If you ever dreamed of going into space but have realized that it's never going to happen, read KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER. If you have been into space, and wondered why it was so hard to get there, you should read it too. If the dreamers in Victor Koman's latest book don't remind you of yourself, you're either too young to remember the thrill of the Space Program or somebody who doesn't remember their dreams. This is a book bound to ruffle some feathers.

If you ever dreamed of going into space but have realized that it's never going to happen, read KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER. If you have been into space, and wondered why it was so hard to get there, you should read it too. John Glenn should read it. The head of NASA should read it. If the dreamers in Victor Koman's latest book don't remind you of yourself, you're either too young to remember the thrill of the Space Program or somebody who doesn't remember their dreams. This is a book bound to ruffle some feathers.

In the very near future several private enterprises decide to establish cheap, effective orbital access without the hindrance of NASA. About the same time the United Nations votes to establish all space as a noncommercial zone owned jointly by the nations of the world, much as Antarctica is today. Private entrepreneurship, or even private spacecraft, would be illegal.

To the handful of entrepreneurs scrambling to make their visions of cheap space travel a reality, this is a gauntlet is thrown down. A "Space Race" is declared, complete with a $500 million dollar prize.

The characters are colorful, the action is fast, and the approaches to Low Earth Orbit give us a veritable smorgasbord of shuttle alternatives. Wonder what happened to the Delta Clipper SSTO? Here's a variant with rocket powered props to stage it into the upper atmosphere. Remember the X-15? If you do, you've probably wondered what all the fuss about a spaceplane is about. So does Larry Poubelle, who's building a 2x scale version to be launched off the back of a 747, if the government doesn't find a way to stop him, legally or not. Building rockets is a hazardous business, after all. There are still more oddball designs plausibly proposed, and the entry most likely to win the hearts of fandom is the South Bronx student entry - the secret effort of a group of extraordinary New York college students, led by a descendent of Davy Crockett. Even the things we don't talk about get discussed. Sex, drugs, and rockets roar get their due as the black market entry secretly prepares to set up shop in its own LEO Casablanca.

Against the backdrop of these pioneers, Tammy Reis, NASA astronaut and shuttle mission commander on a politically disastrous mission, tries to sort out exactly whose side she's on. She chose NASA over the boy she loved in order to get into space, but she's been screwed and dumped from flight status, for the good of the program. Now she's deep undercover waiting for the chance to stop the private space program and regain her space wings. Unless she finds something, or someone to believe in first. I really worried that wondering what happened to the boy she loved would get old long before the book was done, but the author kept enough twists in the story to keep it fun to the end.

KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER is a fascinating indictment of NASA, an organization its author claims was designed to keep the common man out of space, ensuring that access would be restricted to a few government approved technicians, rather than the hordes of entrepreneurs, tourists, and pioneers that would flock there if they could only buy a ticket. Oh, by the way, it's only fiction. Any resemblance between the characters and real people is purely the result of juxtaposing the first and last letter in the names of folks in SF and Space World. Some of the near names made me groan, Larry Poubelle for instance, though prominent author and columnist Jerry Pournelle doesn't seem to mind, having added his own praise to the end of the book. The reference to real people, if thinly disguised, is just a game - though it does keep one wondering just how close to the mark the characters are drawn.

Of all the accolades overused in Science Fiction, Heinleinesque is surely the most worn. Well, Victor Koman can wear it proudly. KINGS OF THE HIGH FRONTIER carries on the grand tradition established in ROCKET SHIP GALILEO and THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON, without any taint of imitation.

If you can't wait to get your own copy, though you should, you can download the book on the web, where it' was first published in electronic form in 1996, winning the literary award of the Libertarian Futurist Society, the 1997 Prometheus Award (http://www.pulpless.com). Or, if you can't find it in your bookstore, you can order it directly from the publisher at http://www.bereshith.com/final.htm. It's a limited edition, so you'd better hurry.


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  Beyond the Wall of Sleep by Andrew Heidel (Prose-)

ISBN 0-9665224-0-0 / First Mortco Printing October '97 / 56 pg. $16.00 / Review by Ernest Lilley

"I was drunk with death. She had been drinking heavily for the past three hours when I found her at the Slaughtered Lamb Pub…" - Beyond the Wall of Sleep

All in all, this is an interesting and one imagines, illuminating collection of things that fell out of Andy's head. The stories are very short, each a few pages. They are mostly morose, but engaging, and one can imagine the author sitting up late at night with something to lubricate his mind in one hand and a quill pen in the other thinking up entries for this self-exposing soiree.

Andrew Heidel's collection of personal prose and poetry begins with a short story in which Death, despondent, decides to quit her job and get blind stinking drunk. Fine, for her, but not so bonny for humanity, which needs death's release from the usual things. Disease, famine, age. The line's getting quite backed up with no ticket taker at the head. The author concedes that everyone's got their own problems, and sits down to buy Death a round. It's a nice tale, and one I'll reflect on in the next pub I crawl through.

In barely more words than I can tell you about it, "Skipping Skyward" follows one person's musings as everyone else around him finds salvation, or something, one by one. It's a bit nerve wracking wondering if you're the only one not invited.

"The God Makers" is a nicely executed parable about the creation of mythos, and the woe due those who inspire it. Be careful what you say in jest, for your own words may grow to consume you. In "An Interview with God" we pause to wonder what use heaven has for the earth, and in "The Dead Travel Fast" Arthur Dent wonders briefly (in the span of two pages) about his life of misdeeds and time misspent.

After a handful of stories, the prose gives way to rhyme of the deep kind. The best I can do is to let it flow over me, darkly, and hope that I'm taking it in on some level. I confess I prefer the prose. The release is well timed for late autumn's dreaded dance with darkness, and it would be pleasant enough to curl up with this in front of a warm fire, brandy in hand brooding over mortality.


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Paperback/Trade: (New) B5: Dark Genesis by J. Gregory Keyes Aftermath by Charles Sheffield (Now in Paperback) Forever Peace by Joe Halderman Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury Earthling by Tony Daniel The Gift by Patrick O'Leary Departures: Stories of Alternate History by Harry Turtledove  

B5: Dark Genesis by J. Gregory Keyes

ISBN 0-345-42715-7 / Del Rey, Paperback, Oct-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

June 2115, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine receives a paper she really hates. The last thing she wants to do is publish irrefutable proof of extra sensory perception. Why would it show up now, anyway? Didn't the research of a century ago prove that it was little more than wishful thinking? Not only does she want to defer the scorn the article would call down on the Journal, but if there are telepaths living secretly among us, how will the world treat them?

Badly, as it turns out. Very, very, badly. Think witch hunts and genocide.

Of course, where some see a problem, others seize an opportunity - others like Senator Lee Crawford. By carefully fanning the flames of distrust, he winds up the head of the newly formed Metasensory Regulatory Agency, an organization made up of telepaths, devoted to controlling them, as far as the world was concerned, to keep them from gaining an unfair advantage on "normals". Of course the PSI gifted humans don't always see it that way. Taken from their birth families (The Corp is our mother, the Corp is our father) and forced to live in a regimented military organization, hunting down their free brothers and sisters, a silent war rages between the free underground and the military police of the MRA.

On the other side of the law are the renegade Teepers, sworn to thwart the PSI Corp by stealing fledgling teeps before they can be taken and brainwashed (The Corp is our mother…). The Underground is headed by the daughter of the head of PSI Corp itself, which makes for a lot of intrigue, if nothing else.

DARK GENESIS covers the period between the discovery of telepathic humans through the creation of the PSI Corps, First Contact with the Centauri, and culminates in the unraveling of the mystery of the sudden emergence of PSI powers in humanity. The story follows its outline more than its characters, though a few manage to live through the whole story. Surprisingly, the Centarui don't figure much in the story, making but a few walk on appearances, getting drunk and belligerent, and walking offstage again.

JMS penned the outline that Gregrory Keyes worked from, and as such I'm not entirely sure whom to credit with what. Keyes is undoubtedly responsible for the mythological elements and the southern color, having lived with both all his life. JMS more likely the homage to Alfred Bester and his classic SF work, THE STARS MY DESTINATION, also about the persecution of telepaths.

JMS is also a big fan of E.E."Doc" Smith (as everyone should be) and a number of elements in DARK GENESIS evoke a darker and more updated version of the Lensman saga. I'd love to go on about that, but It would spoil the story's mystery.

Fans of both Babylon 5 and Gregory Keyes should find this first installment about the birth of the PSI Corps worth reading. It's interesting the way Babylon 5 draws talented people to it, first as fans and then as contributors. The next installment, DEADLY RELATIONS is forthcoming.


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 Aftermath by Charles Sheffield
ISBN 0-553-37893-7 / Bantam Spectre, Trade, Aug-98 / Review by Paul Giguere

It is 2026 and Alpha Centauri has gone supernova creating a second sun in the sky. The problem is that Alpha Centauri isn't suppose to go supernova, leading some scientists to the conclusion that it wasn't an act of nature. At first, the main problems are radical changes in weather patterns causing draughts, floods, and famine world-wide. As if that isn't enough, gamma rays from Alpha Centauri eventually reach Earth and knock out all electronics (computers, automobiles - everything) around the world basically eliminating all forms of long distance communication and transportation.

The novel then jumps around to various story-lines. A cult sets off to free their leader who was put into a long-term coma as punishment for her crimes. Three cancer patients are trying to free a criminal/scientist who may hold the key to a treatment which would help keep them alive. Astronauts from the first manned Mars expedition are returning to an Earth that not only can't communicate with them but also can't get them back to Earth.

Sheffield's disaster is actually a refreshing change from the typical Disaster novels and movies that we have seen come out this past summer. Also, the story actually starts pretty much after the main event has already happened - thus the title, AFTERMATH. Sheffield however does fall back on the tried and true means of telling a disaster story (which I think Fritz Leiber pioneered in his novel THE WANDERER). This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it does knock AFTERMATH down a notch or two on the creative-scale. That issue aside, I found the story to be very engaging and I found myself enjoying AFTERMATH. Be warned however, the story does not end with this novel. There are still many questions still left unanswered (like who or what caused Alpha Centauri to go supernova). An obvious sequel (or series) will most likely appear early next year.

In an already crowded SF-Disaster novel market, Sheffield has written a Disaster novel that avoids the typical "comets hit Earth" story and gives us a Hard-SF novel with standard Disaster novel underpinnings. A good read and probably one of Sheffield's best offerings to date.


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 Forever Peace by Joe Halderman

ISBN 0441005667 / Berkley Pub Group Oct '98 / 368 pages / Review by Ernest Lilley

Last year Joe Haldeman came out with his second Hugo winner, one every 22 years, as the author put it while receiving the award. Not a sequel to his earlier work, FOREVER WAR, but a new take on war fought through tele-presence from a safe distance through robotic proxies in distant Third World countries.

Set in 2043, Julian chase is the ultimate telecommuting soldier, jacked into the senses of his Soldierboy and the shared consciousness of his platoon. America is at war with a Third World collective called the Ngumi. Thanks to the carefully protected secrets of our nanoforges, machines that take raw materials and turn them into anything the constituent elements are available for America is still top dog and envied with the usual results. The war against the Ngumi seems slated to drag on, but the more important discovery is that the same cybertechnology that allows Julian to merge minds with his platoon has the capability of transforming man into an empathetic and peaceful race.

There is an awful lot of Heinlein in here, with the cult of the uplifted humans spreading in ways very similar to Michael Valentine Smith's cult in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Though the novel isn't as good as FOREVER WAR, it's a decent story, if somewhat overdue. The end lacks a bit of closure and begs for a sequel, which should be forthcoming soon.


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 Driving Blind by Ray Bradbury

ISBN:0-380-78960-4 / Avon Paperback,Oct-98 (orig.publ.Oct-97) / Review by Ernest Lilley

The title of this collection of Bradbury short stories, 21 in all, came to the author in a dream in which he found himself riding along a country road in a car driven by his inspirational muse. Blindfolded. To trust or not to trust? In the afterward, Mr. Bradbury talks about following the muse, "when the muse speaks, I shut my eyes and listen". Once in Paris he touch typed 150 pages of a novel in a dark room, without seeing what he had written. If that doesn't sound like something out of a Bradbury short story, I don't know what does.

The stories in DRIVING BLIND evoke the old familiar disquiet borne by the author's writing. An America gone by, full of attics, musty air and children without enough sense not to ask how the magician pulls the rabbit out of his hat. These stories take me back to a small town and long gone friends and relatives, to the smell of leaves in the autumn and mown lawns in the summer. Ray Bradbury owns a time machine that steals the reader into their past and then returns them to the present unmarked, but not unchanged.

A number of the stories are retellings of the author's own experiences, with varying fidelity. "Driving Blind" the title piece, recalls a human fly he knew as a child. "That Old Dog Lying in the Dust" recounts in crisp detail a one ring border circus he saw as a young man. The eerie experience of seeing his high school chums faces seem to appear in yearbooks encountered by chance became the equally eerie story, "Nothing Changes" and in "Night Train to Babylon" a traveler makes the mistake of standing between the irresistible force of a con and the immovable faith of the fleeced.

The stories often answer the question, "What happened to so and so? I wonder how he came out?" You may rest assured that in the hands of this master, the answer will be something as unexpected as it will be unforgettable.


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Earthling by Tony Daniel

ISBN: 0-312-86661-5 / Tor Trade, Oct-98 (orig. publ. Dec-97) / Review by Ernest Lilley

"...What kind of man are you? Are you a man at all?"

 "I'm a ranger."

"Yes, of the United States Park Service." She gingerly places a hand on Jarrod's leg. She rubs his thigh. "I've lost my son," she murmurs, almost to herself, Jarrod thinks. "I don't have a son." - Earthling

The robot stares at the little girl. Her eyes are, mercifully, closed but her mouth is pulled open and her teeth , still baby teeth, exposed.....The robot feels one of its feet jerk spasmodically. Then the other jerks, without the robot wishing it to do so. The robot stares at the young girl and jitters and shakes for a long time. This is the way the robot cries. - Earthling

Earthling is an uneven trilogy of novellas about a tectonically uncertain future in the Northwest. The cental character of the first isa mining robot named Orf, who becomes a research tool for a geologist. Orf ties the stories together, making cameos down the line. Pity, because his story is by far the most moving and well conceived. A close second is the POSTMANesque story of Jarrod, an exiled Park Ranger. Jarrod is exiled when he breaks taboo and impregnates a female ranger, a crime because Rangers do not breed, only taking in children from the communities outside the Park. His journey through California to another Ranger enclave bears a kinship with David Brin's THE POSTMAN. The third, a far future muse, adds little but confusion to the book.

The best of this book is very good. The characterization of the robot Orf is deeply moving. No pun intended. Orf goes from a rusting and abandoned hulk in a field to a deeply faceted individual. One of my favorite moments is when the robot realizes that he will never be a scientist, and the scientist he works with will never be a poet.

I would rather have had either of the first two stories expanded to fill a whole novel, but I can understand that Tony Daniel isn't the sort of author that writes to specification. Instead I suspect that he listens for his characters leads and conveys their message to us. Regardless, he is a writer with an entrancing voice and EARTHLING is well worth reading.


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The Gift by Patrick O'Leary

ISBN: 0-312-8643-5 / Tor Trade, Oct-98 (orig.publ. Nov-97) / Review by Ernest Lilley

"THIS IS A STORY ABOUT MONSTERS. The real ones, not the ones we tell children about." -- The Gift.

On a ship becalmed in the night the body of a young girl is fished from the water. A storyteller, respected as a mage, begins a tale that unfolds the fulfillment of the last desperate efforts of the age of wizards, weaving the tale of the Usher of the Night together with a woodcutter's son and the King of the land. It is the entrancing story of a time of darkness, and the quest to oppose it, oddly enough, by bringing death back to the land. The storyteller's voice manages to create that same web I remember from my childhood, listening to stories read to me. What happens next? What happens next?

Three boys begin their lives in the story. The first, an orphan left to the care of a selfish woman who warps him into the creature that will become the Usher of the Night, traveling through the land offering healing magic much more terrifying than the ills it replaces. The second is Simon, the son of the old king, quickly to become king himself and afflicted with deafness that only a magician can cure. Simon's cure by the Usher is to have hearing so acute he can hear a whisper at the edge of his kingdom, leaving him in pain and torment. The third is the son of a woodcutter, gifted with the magic of the winds to oppose the Usher.

Spider Robinson warns that we will be tempted to compare O'Leary with the likes of LeGuin and Zelazny, and he's exactly right. O'Leary is of that company, though thoroughly his own man. His prose is beautiful, and I would read him for that alone, but the story he tells is as well crafted as it is told, surprising and enchanting me along the way until at the end he manages one more surprise...and one more yet. THE GIFT is a wonderful book with a strong voice and the first Fantasy offering by the author, whose Science Fiction novel DOOR NUMBER THREE received acclaim.


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Departures: Stories of Alternate History by Harry Turtledove

ISBN: 0-345-38011-8 / Del Rey Paperback, Oct-98 (orig.publ. Jun-93) / Review by Rob Archer

For those who consider themselves fans of alternate history short stories, especially those written by Harry Turtledove, DEPARTURES is a must have. Laid out in chronological order, progressing through time from ancient civilizations to the far imagined future, there is a story for everyone.

Turtledove is at his best when you feel an attachment to the characters portrayed, no small feat in short stories. This compilation has quite a few tales where the reader quickly develops a rapport. As in most short stories, the ending is the clincher for most of these, but part of the enjoyment is building up to guessing how these tales will turn out.

Religion is rather prominent throughout the book, but not in a preachy sort of way. It can’t be when there is a story about what would make pork an acceptable fare for one of Jewish faith. Two stories broach the persecution of Jews in a more serious manner, but they are still entertaining. "In The Presence Of Mine Enemies" was one of my favorite works in the anthology. As for the other major religions, "Islands In The Sea" touches on some of the conflicting beliefs in Islam and Christianity, as both try to sway barbarians to their side. There is even something for those interested in shaman witchcraft in "Secret Names".

Turtledove ventures into the world of monsters in a few of the stories. "Not All Wolves" combines an important message along with a werewolf. Not to leave it at that, there are also some surprises in "Batboy" and "Clash Of Arms"(another favorite of mine).

No collection of alternate history stories would be complete without paying homage to the staples: a reference to the Civil War and World War II. The second world war is covered by the previously mentioned "In The Presence Of Mine Enemies" which uses a standard divergent history storyline - a victorious Germany - but with an interesting and thought provoking variation. In a break from the usual alternate scenario of a successful southern secession, the Civil War is referred to in a very different light in the "Last Reunion". It is not much of an alternate history at all, but rather an interesting tale of the supernatural. Still, it certainly fits in.

Last but not least come the various futuristic yarns. These run the gamut from an Earth ravaged by the Big Oops in "Secret Names", to several stories of humans interacting with aliens in the far reaches of the universe. One of the most clever endings comes in the final story, "Nasty, Brutish, And…", but I’ll leave that little twist to you to enjoy on your own…


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Retro Review : On Basilisk Station by David Weber

ISBN: 0-671-57772-7 / Baen Paperback, Oct-98 (orig. publ. Apr-93) / 422 pgs. $1.99!/ Review by Ernest Lilley

Baen has brought out a special edition of the first Honor Harrington novel, ON BASILISK STATION, to celebrate the issue of ECHOES OF HONOR and IN ENEMY HANDS. It's a good idea at a great price, only $1.99, or if you're determined to buy all 3 books, there's a coupon for $3 off. Thus, from a certain point of view, the real cost of ON BASILISK STATION is $-1. At least, I'm sure Baen would like you to look at it that way.

The very first Honor Harrington is a very good piece of Space Opera. We meet Honor as she assumes command of her second hypercablable warship, the HMS Fearless, and 25 Earth years after entering the Manitcorian Naval Academy. Having worked her way up the officer ranks, albeit rapidly and with considerable distinction for her 40 equivalent Terran years, she is delighted with the good news that she is going directly from a course in advanced tactics to command of a cruiser, which, in here estimation is the dream of every officer worth her salt. "Cruisers were the Manticorian Navy's eyes and ears, its escorts and its raiders, the stuff of independent commands and opportunity."

The she gets the bad news. Instead of the normal armament of a Light Cruiser, she has been selected for the singular honor of trying out the latest gadget from fleet R&D, the shield piecing Gravetic Lance, capable of (theoretically) collapsing the defensive screens of the mightiest battleship and leaving them vulnerable to conventional weapons.

Unfortunately, about half of the ships conventional weapons have been removed to accomplish the refit, and the utility of the Lance is pretty dubious at best, requiring the Fearless to maneuver right alongside an enemy vessel and expose it to the fury of the enemy's weapons. Tactically, it's not the sort of thing one actually volunteers for. Honor's reputation for unconventional tactics having preceded her, she's been given the opportunity to prove someone's brainchild brilliant.

Unfortunately for her, she manages to pull off a coup in the opening round of the war games she's sent to, killing the flagship with the new weapon by lying possum and playing her only card when dismissed as a threat. This sort of trick only works once though, and for the rest of the games the H.M.S. Fearless gets hammered by the half of the fleet out to get even. By the end of the games, her crew is demoralized, her exec never got over being passed over for command anyway, and the powers that be have forgotten her brilliant opening stroke and remember only the pounding she's taken since. As a result, the Fearless is sent to the backwaters of Basilisk Station to be the junior ship in a largely ignored system's military presence.

When she arrives on station, she finds that the senior officer is none other than Lord Pavel Young, who'se family status kept him from suffering the indignity of being thrown out of the military after trying to rape Honor when they were both at the Academy. Nothing had protected him from her martial arts skills though, and he's been nursing a grudge for a long time.

To ensure her failure, Lord Pavel decides his ship need a serious refit and leaves her alone to guard the system. Early on in this series one learns that underestimating Honor is a mistake to be avoided. Honor is left to police a solar system rife with smugglers and a possible covert enemy mission with one Light Cruiser with crippled armament. If you've read any of the other books in this series, you know the fairest thing Honor could do is wait for the bad guys to call for reinforcements. Which she very nearly winds up doing.

By the time the dust has settled, we've had ground battles, court battles, and of course, space battles pyrotechnic enough to warm E.E, "Doc" Smith's heart.

Honor's strength lies in her ability to take impossible orders and get the job done regardless. I think it's interesting to contrast her against one of SF's other favorite heroes, Lois Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan. Miles often decides that his superiors are at best misguided though more often merely blind, and hence not worth paying attention to. Driving superior officers crazy is often cited as Mile's main talent. By comparison, Honor often comes to the same conclusion, but she's a much better soldier, trying twice as hard to make the mission succeed rather than coming up with her own alternative orders.

ON BASILISK STATION is a good read in itself and the cornerstone for one of SF's most popular series. Thanks to Baen's special pricing there's no excuse to not picking it up if you haven't followed Honor from the start.


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SFRevu Goes to the Movies:

Pleasantville - New Line Cinema Review by Ernest Lilley

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels, Don Knotts. Director: Gary Ross

Pleasantville is very, very good. Transported to a 1950's TV show unreality by a remote control provided by TV repairman Don Knotts, a pair of fraternal twins face a world without color and find it not what they expected. In return for a bit of self-knowledge, they give the town the reality it lacks, not that it's a completely welcome gift.

In the film, Pleasantville is a 1950's TV show modeled after FATHER KNOWS BEST and seen in reruns on "TV Time", a retro cable channel. David, the brother, is a devotee of the show, capable of feats of trivia normaly only found at Trek conventions. Jennifer, his sister, is doing - as she puts it - "the slut thing". Fighting over the new TV's remote they break it, just before the Pleasantville Marathon Contest or the killer concert that Jennifer hopes will prove the backdrop for her sexual conquest of the school's coolest boytoy. The remote is the only way to run the TV…it's like new, ok?

Enter Don Knotts, an inspired choice for the weird TV repairman who first quizzes David about Pleasantville, then finding him worthy, gives him a special remote with a little more oomph. Enough oomph to transport both David and Jennifer into TV reality as characters Bud and Mary Sue in time for breakfast with their wholesome parents. I never realized just how bad grey scrambled eggs, hotcakes, and of course, a slab of ham, could look.

For Dave/Bud it's almost heaven. He knows everything that's going to happen, having seen it already, knows everyone in town, and gets the unbroken family he craves in the real world. For Jennifer/Mary Sue, it's the end of the world, at least until she takes a look at the captain of the basketball team, and David/Bud tells her they're in the episode where he "pins" her. So what if he's monochromatic?

The TV repairman who sent them to Pleasantville didn't expect them to affect the show, but they do, first through the sexual onslaught of Jennifer, and then the intellectual and emotional awakening that David brings to the town. Before they arrive, Pleasantville's temperature was always 72 degrees, the only alarm the fire department ever responded to was to save a cat up a tree, and no bed wider than 36 inches was ever seen. Nobody knows what kids do up at lovers' lane, but it sure wasn't sex. In defiance of the laws of reruns…things are about to change.

First a red rose, then a rainstorm, soon hearts open to love, and inevitably, fists clench in rage. Welcome to reality TV.

The script, by the writer of DAVE and BIG, Gary Ross, who ascends to the director's chair here as well, is excellent. Tobey Maquire as David/Bud anchors the movie with an engaging performance as the only person who understands and cares about what's going on. Everyone in the cast is good. Jeff Daniels, a former sitcom character himself, turns in a compelling performance as his character evolves from a robotic soda jerk to a man in love with art, and incidentally Bud's mom.

We needed this movie. For all of us who lived through the breakdown of the traditional small town and family in the 50s, it's full of truths about what happened next. Served up a bit smoothly, perhaps, and mercifully before the start of the 60's, but served up nonetheless. David's broken explanations of life outside Pleasantville resonate with Beat poetry. "There are some places, The road just keeps going." There are Bradburian scenes with firemen throwing books, once safely blank, now scandalously filled with ideas, onto a bonfire. This movie is so full of cultural history that picking out all the assimilated icons would make a better history course than anything I ever sat through. Beyond that though, its message about the dangers of sanitizing reality is as current as any. Of course the first radical change in the movie is the introduction of sex, and if you think we aren't still scared of that, you just aren't watching.

For once the excellence of the production is equaled by the excellence of the writing. What a pleasant surprise.


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 PRACTICAL MAGIC (Warner Bros.) Reviewed by Bob Devney

Cast: Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock), Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman), Aunt Jet (Dianne West), Aunt Frances (Stockard Channing), Gary Hallet (Aidan Quinn), Jimmy (Goran Visnjic)

Director: Griffin Dunne Writers: Robin Swicord, Akiva Goldsman, Adam Brooks

There have been Owens women dwelling on this small island off the New England coast since that bother at Salem. In this generation, there’s Sally (Sandra Bullock), quiet but strangely ... bewitching. And Gillian (Nicole Kidman), who’s more of a hellraiser. The two share a strong sisterly bond -- something their batty aunts Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest), who raised them, fear they’ll need.

For one thing, all four are witches. Which keeps the island’s townfolk a tad twitchy. For another, there’s the curse threatening any man who falls in love with an Owens ...

Many of this movie’s first reviews were horrible; I don’t have a clue why. In PRACTICAL MAGIC, director Griffin Dunne has crafted a relaxed, accomplished slipstream fantasy/comedy/romance. Some shots summon a true enchanting beauty, as when a young girl’s spell send her hopes spiraling up as petals toward the moon. The movie even plays to genre fans’ intelligence with a consistent internal belief system. Oh, I doubt that Alice Hoffman, who wrote the novel, spent much time researching wiccan. Just applied a few well-known legends and broomed out a niche for the modern witch.

Mostly these sorcerous suburbanites concern themselves with the more practical magical arts. Love potions. Home remedies -- Bullock’s Sally accommodates the 90s with a shop selling herbal preparations and bath oils. But when Kidman’s Gillian brings home her unpleasant "Dracula cowboy" boyfriend, the conjury cookbook gets opened to instructions like "Insert needles through eyes of corpse."

Eldritch evil aside, there’s considerable comedy in the reactions to the spooky carryings-on -- by the townspeople, and especially by Aidan Quinn in a nice turn as an out-of-state investigator. In town a day, he’s already going down the street mumbling about THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

I don’t want to spoil any surprises on the romantic side. Let’s just say that Kidman is effective as a good witch with a wild streak. And this is Bullock’s most appealing performance since WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING and SPEED. She gets her dark hair and eyes going in a kind of Cher-but-shy thing, playing demure-and-awkward against enchanting-exotic until a guy needs a breathing spell. Ooo-ooh, witchy woman, she’s got the moon in her eye-yi-yi-yiiiiis ....


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Antz - DreamWorks Studio Review by Bob Devney

Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson Writers: Todd Alcot, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz

Cast (Voices): Z (Woody Allen), Princess Bala (Sharon Stone), Azteca (Jennifer Lopez), General Mandible (Gene Hackman), Weaver (Sylvester Stallone), Colonel Cutter (Christopher Walken), Queen (Anne Bancroft), Barbartus (Danny Glover), Chip (Dan Ackroyd), Muffy (Jane Curtin)

You’d think a cast this strong could lift 20 times its own weight in dramatic material. And this first, let’s call it antimated all-computer-graphics feature from DreamWorks Studio does provide a mound of entertainment.

But masterpiece? It just ant so. ANTZ is quite good without ever becoming great.

Woody Allen stars as the insectile schlemiel Z, "the middle child in a family of five million." Hanging around in a bar with a buddy sucking down aphids, he meets Sharon Stone's slumming Princess Bala and shows off his individualistic dance stylings. Since ants don't HAVE individuality, she's impressed. Later, they both leave the anthill for a trip outside that's no picnic. Or is it?

I particularly liked a sequence where the unsoldierly worker Z gets caught up in an attack (orchestrated by Gene Hackman's power-mad General Mandible) on a threatening termite colony. Z seeks reassurance first: these termites aren’t so tough, right? Bad news: "They’re five times our size, and squirt acid from their heads."

Eventually Z's exploits stir things up in the hill, and insects start proclaiming stuff like "Workers should control the means of production!"

The look of the animation is first-class, with cute Thing Orange ants and grandly intricate interiors. We're not as excited as when total computer animation was brand new, in TOY STORY. But ANTZ shows this approach can tell a story without BEING the story.

SF fans will enjoy the way the movie worldbuilds on our knowledge of ant life: Ant castes and (like Z) castaways. The queen’s quality time with her kids (about 2 seconds each). A dark little glimpse of life after decapitation. The travails of surface tension.

But why not have fun with more esoteric stuff, like the way ants communicate chemosensorially? (Remember T.H. White’s totalitarian ants in THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, and their anthem: "I Pledge to Thee, My Smell"?) Or how about their short-livedness? The fact that all workers are wingless, infertile females? (With an all-girl cast, this could have been the first big-time feminist cartoon.) Or the major differences between ants?

After all, family Formicidae comprises about 2,500 different species. Even for an ant, it’s not such a small world after all ...

ENDZ


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What Dreams May Come PolyGram (official site: http://www.whatdreamsmay.com/)

To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.- Hamlet

Robin Williams faces death…and blinks.

When I saw the trailer for WDMC at Worldcon this summer, the idea of two people separated in death by Heaven and Hell and determined to find each other sucked me right in. The incredible worlds generated by their imaginations and countless hours of computer imagining looked pretty good too. Not to mention Annabelle Sciorra as the object of romantic obsession. I vowed to love this movie, no matter what.

Vows, as Robin Williams is slow to learn, are made to be broken.

Oh, I got caught up in the romantic struggle. I even shed a tear at the ending, but the movie stepped up to the plate to deal with some really big questions about death and love, and then stood there swinging lamely until someone paid off the umpire and declared a run. Translated, I mean that the answers to the questions about what happens after we die turn out to be arbitrary and inconsistent.

Evidentially Heaven consists of whatever we imagine it to be. On the other hand…so does Hell. If you go to Heaven you can see your old friends anytime, supposing that they made it too. If you kill yourself, or do something else really bad, you go to Hell. There are no visitor's passes from one to the other. Unless you're Robin Williams and Max von Sydow feels like showing you the way. You can't be hurt, since you're dead already, and the psychic pain that Hell inflicts on you can be pretty much shrugged off with a few jokes. Of course you need to keep the scriptwriter on your side to bail you out if you get in over your head.

In order to set up the plot, everybody has to die. Preferably in such a way as to leave the survivors in increasing anguish. Waiting for the main characters to die off so the story can go on is pretty ghoulish, and the last character to go, the wife/mother played by Annabelle Sciorra (Annie) seems a bit cheated by the needs of the film. To me she actually seems like one of the characters best able to cope with loss, not the one to finally roll over to it.

The special effects look great. Big deal. True I kept wishing I could buy paintings of the scenery, as Robin Williams' Heaven was evidently painted by Maxfield Parish and some impressionists. In Hell the resident artist is evidently Hieronymus Bosch, the painter who produced " The Garden of Earthly Delight" around 1504.

A serious movie about the afterlife aimed at Baby Boomers is a tough proposition. WDMC carefully avoids answering any of the substantive questions about God and how things work, and winds up spinning a none to consistent fantasy solely for the benefit of the special effects artists at work. If you want to see a movie that uses special effects for more than space wars or pretty backdrops, go see PLEASANTVILLE instead.


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SFRevu Video Review (by Steve Sawicki)

 October is an excellent time to rent genre films. Halloween approaches and there is one sure fire way to celebrate this national holiday - rent scary movies. Assistance for this task will be readily available as stores start shelving a plethora of video offerings.

Invite a loved one over, make some popcorn and then scare the dickens out of them. And if you’re easily scared too (and you know who you are because you’ve done it before), you better make sure to add some SF or Fantasy and watch that last.

PHANTOMS, Dimension Home Video, Rated R, 96 minutes

Starring Peter (you’ll be shocked I’m in this role) O’Toole as Professor Timothy Flyte, Rose (maybe next film she’ll be naked) McGowan as Dr.Lisa Paley, Joanna (gonna be two films for me) Going as Dr. Jenny’s younger sister, Ben (I’ll be in anything) Affleck as Sherriff Bryce Hammond and Liev (They needed a nut) Schreiber as Deputy Stu Wargle.

Directed by Joe Chappelle, Music by David Williams, Screenplay by Dean Koontz.

This is somewhat of a rarity - a screenplay adaptation actually adapted by the author. One would guess that pretty much everything the author intended got into the screenplay. The basic story here is that something has happened in this out of the way, mountain surrounded little ski town. Evidently, everyone has disappeared. Well not everyone since you often need to have someone still around to explain the strange way everyone else left. That person in this case is Sherriff Hammond and his band of merrry men, including the oddly delusional Deputy Wargle. The third officer remains nameless so you know he dies fairly early. Dr. Jenny arrives with her younger sister to find the town empty. They are quickly joined by the men in uniform. Everyone then is free to go about and discover all the bodies, weird noises and bizarre occurrences that plague this town. Peter O’Toole is the hired gun, brought in by the military who somehow have learned about the odd goings on.

Extras die, no one gets naked, lots of odd things happen and the plot rolls on whole-heartedly to its inevitable conclusion. There is a great beast here and the way it’s destroyed is a bit unbelievable but by the time it happens we don’t really care. Touches of humor grace the effort and the direction is quite well paced. Nice pictures, good music, super acting and a plot that works like a book. Rent it, turn the lights out and let the mayhem begin.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, Columbia, Rated R, 101 Minutes,

Starring Jenniffer (I’m a depressed Gen-X’er again?) Love Hewitt as Julie James, Sarah (Not buff yet but getting there) Michelle Gellar as Helen Shiver, Ryan (the only naked one in the pic) Phillippe as Barry Cox, Freddie (anti-Barry) Prinze Jr., and Johnny (I die again?) Galeckie as Max

Directed by Jim Gillespie, Mucsic by John Debney, Screenplay by Kevin Willliamson.

This is based on the incredible and formulaic story of a group of teens who inadvertently kill someone and then decide to cover it all up by dumping the body into the ocean. A year later they start getting notes which indicate that someone has seen what they did. This provides the basic premise and a nifty title as well. Soon after things start to happen, including murders and other grisly offerings which indicate that not only has someone seen but that someone wants to start rectifying the situation. The group starts doing some detective work, hoping to self preserve themselves. Trails lead to places which turn into dead ends and as they are stalked and start dying the tension mounts. The puzzle does get resolved and there is a happy ending but there is also enough of a mystery to lead to a sequel (which has already been done.) A pretty taut little Thriller with bunches of places to make you jump and a story you won’t figure out before the characters do. Great chills but don’t watch it alone.

LOST IN SPACE, New Line Home video, 130 min, Rated PG 13

Starring William (I’m good just so long as I don’t emote) Hurt as John Robinson, Mimi (damn I look good in rubber and spandex) Rogers as Maureen Robinson, Matt (anti-friend) Lebalnc as Don West, Heather (why am I even in this flick?) Graham as Judy, Lacey (cute with attitude) Chabeat as Penny, Jack (cute with aptitude) Johnson as Will and Gary (I’ll just use old lines) Oldman as Dr. Smith. (The robot plays itself.)

Directed by Stephen Hopkins, Music by Bruce Broughton, Written by Akiva Goldsman.

Movies know everything. This is why, on a world of depleted resources, we build a ship of flat surfaces and then thrust it up through the atmosphere. And to think that for years NASA has been wasting all that time with those pointy things. You can’t bring enough paper or write quick enough to list all the flaws, technical, plotting, or logic-wise that exist in this flick. Never mind that the whole thing turns on time travel, and poorly used time travel at that. Never mind that there are plot elements in place merely to provide events and not because they are natural occurrences. Never mind that there is still no reason for Dr. Smith to be on this ship. Never mind.....Oh, just never mind.

On the positive side, Gary Oldman does a great job of making Dr.Smith fun. He reuses many of the cliche lines from the television series in odd ways. The special effects are also great although nothing special. The acting is not bad (okay, it’s bad considering the caliber of the cast) and moves the plot along. The story is pretty dumb but so long as you turn your brain off before you turn the video on you should be fine. An interesting romp and it would be even more interesting to see how those who had never seen the original series reacted.


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Media View by Tony Tellado

The WB Network has launched two new series this fall which bear looking into. First, a television version of THE CRAFT called CHARMED starring Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs as teen witches. This series can only be helped with the arrival of the film, PRACTICAL MAGIC starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman Hopefully the series won't  be done in by real black magic...poor ratings.

Second, the WB has also teamed  Harve Bennett with  Stephen Spielberg to bring us the animated INVASION USA where a teenager leads an invasion against aliens. Featuring the voice-over talents of Leonard Nimoy, Ronny Cox and Robert Urich. The artwork looks good and it's a prime time series hoping to attract a larger audience. With BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and these two new offerings WB has a solid foothold in the SF and Horror genres

UPN'S Mercy Point was shown none and canceled after only a few weeks....Actor Kurt Russell told me that he liked the script for SOLDIER and that was something that he was interested in back in 1996. The film debuted on the big screen  this month. There is an intriguing film by Canadian Director, Vincent Natali called CUBE which features Nicole De Boer from STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE along with David Hewlett, Nicky Guadagni, and Maurice Dean Wint. She plays one of six people who awaken in a room with two doors and no windows and both exits lead to deadly traps ...

Lastly, actor JT Walsh collapsed from a heart attack this past February in San Diego. He was 54. This Bio appeared on the web page. He was known for his stage work in plays such as GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS on Broadway. This led to Hollywood where he appeared in nearly 60 films including, A FEW GOOD MEN, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, SLING BLADE, and recently as the heavy against Kurt Russell in BREAKDOWN. His last film was PLEASANTVILLE which has two teens from the 90's transported to a fictional TV sictom from the Fifties. Walsh plays one of the last hold outs against the teens who introduce color and 90's values in this Black and White community. On the TV series, DARK SKIES,  he played Captain  Frank Bach, the boss of Majestic-12. According to the Save Dark Skies Page, He said of his character:

"Bach reminds me of many people I've met. He's on a no-nonsense mission to get the job done, and he doesn't want any questions. He's not evil, but I see him as a master of bureaucracy, a career guy who takes responsibility for his actions. "


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Audio SF : THE INVISIBLE MAN - H.G. Wells

Alien Voices Inc. 1998 First Simon & Schuster edition

Simon & Schuster Audio Division

ISBN 0-671-58104-X

Alien Voices productions are a rich collaborative effort between Leonard Nimoy, John de Lancie and writer-producer Nat Segaloff. As you would expect, the cast of this brilliantly orchestrated production includes actors familiar to Star Trek viewers, such as Kate Mulgrew, Nana Vistor, and both Nimoy and de Lancie themselves. It was fun to listen to them enjoying themselves so thoroughly under John de Lancie's deft direction.

De Lancie collaborated with Nat Segaloff on a brilliant script that masterfully condenses H. G. Wells' classic tale of selfish ambition fulfilled and the ensuing torment of loneliness and thwarted passions into a fast-paced two hour dramatization. The original music carefully paces the plot, and the layered sound effects make full use of modern technology to smoothly draw the listener right into the scene. You'll never confuse an audio production with "books on tape" again.

Earlier productions by Alien Voices include THE TIME MACHINE, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and THE LOST WORLD. What a wonderful way to introduce a new generation to some of the classics of Science Fiction, and to offer the rest of us a nostalgic yet refreshing venture into the imaginative world familiar to the generations that grew up with radio broadcasting instead of television. THE INVISIBLE MAN makes a good companion for a car trip, or a quiet evening at home.


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