SFRevu
1999 by Ernest Lilley

SFRevu February 1999 Vol. 3.02
http://members.aol.com/SFRevu
SFRevu brings Science Fiction news, reviews and interviews to the web each month. 
Editor/Publisher: Ernest Lilley, Associate Editor: Sharon Archer/ Contributors: Rob Archer, Paul Giguere, EJ McClure, Steven Sawicki, and Asta Sinusas

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First Contact
Letter from the Editor
Contact! Adventures in Fandom
- Boskone
Interview & Review
James Hogan/ Outward Bound / Inherit the Stars / Backlist
SF Bookshelf
New Releases : Not Exactly The Three Musketeers / Termination Node / Dream A Little Dream / Sky Coyote /   How to Save the World / The Warrior King / The Invisible Country/ ST:My Brother's Keeper Book 1 :Republic / Isaac Asimov's Valentines
Now in Paperback Contraband

Media SF
Movies:October Sky
Video: Sawicki's Picks

SFZines
Aboriginal Science Fiction

New Column! True Tales of Science by Linda Zimmermann (author of Bad Astronomy)

Credits & Coming Attractions

October Sky Outward Bound
inherit the stars Valentines Boskone 36
Not Exactly The Three Mussketeersdream a little dream.jpg (35556 bytes) Aboriginal SFHow To Save The World
  SFRevu's contents may be reused with the following conditions: 1) credit SFRevu@aol.com and list our URL: http://members.aol.com/SFRevu 2) contents may not be changed without the permission of the Editor

First Contact:A word from the Editor Contact! Adventures in Fandom.

But first, a word from the Editor:

The news at SFRevu this month is that we're adding a column and finding a home.

Linda Zimmermann, who has reviewed for us off and on will be doing a science column, titled (for now) True Tales of Science. For her first column she plays off my well known affection for the rocket launching goings on in OCTOBER SKY. She brings us a tale of when things went wrong at the launch site, examining the ill fated launch of the new Ariane-5 3 years ago. Linda is the author of BAD ASTRONOMY, a collection of stories about the pitfalls stargazers have been snared by over the ages.

The SF Site posted my Bruce Sterling DISTRACTION review last month, and we started talking about a closer relationship. SFRevu will be opening its own URL next month at www.sfrevu.com, and we'll be hosted by the SF Site (www.sfsite.com). They even promised a cool logo link like the ones that Asimov's, F&SF, Analog, SF Chronicle, Tangent, Aboriginal, and Absolute Magnitude (and others) have on their main page. Great company to keep. Of course we're just a Fanzine (for those of you marking up your Hugo ballots).

I think the SF Site is an excellent piece of work, and was tremendously gratified when John O'Neil, the site editor, sent me the following comment.

"While I've stumbled upon dozens (if not hundreds) of SF review sites on the Web, SFRevu is the only one I come back to with any real frequency…We stopped offering our hosting services to amateur sites over a year ago, but it would be an honor to bring you under our umbrella…"

Thanks John. We certainly intend to keep trying.

This month's issue brings bouquets for Valentine's day, a whole lot of Hogan (James) as our featured author, as well as reviews by Paul Giguere, EJ McClure, and Rob Archer. Make sure you check out Steve Sawicki's Video Reviews and see what he has to say about CUBE. Last year Steve unearthed the much underrated DARK CITY, and he seems to feel much the same way about this one.

As anyone who's run into me can tell you, I've been raving about ROCKET BOYS, reviewed in the last issue and now reissued as OCTOBER SKY to go along with the movie release Feb 19th. I've been pleased with the number of emails I've gotten telling me that folks picked up the book and really liked it. The movie isn't half bad either. Allen Steele had gotten the book for Christmas and hadn't opened it yet - after I plugged it he grabbed it off the shelf and found that the author had signed it for him when Steele's sister bought it - the next day Allen emailed me to thank me for the recommendation. Another satisfied customer. That's why were here.

By the way, we'll be reviewing Allen Steele's newest book SEX AND VIOLENCE IN ZERO GEE next month, so stay tuned.

Special thanks go to Elizabeth Stone, a.k.a. Conan the Grammarian, who fought valiantly to keep me from murdering the King's English. Thanks to her, this issue only leaves him in the ICU.

Ernest Lilley, Editor / Publisher SFRevu

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First ContactInterview & ReviewSF BookshelfMedia SFCredits & Coming Attractions

Contact: Adventures in Fandom!  Boskone 36

sex and violence or plan b.jpg (46038 bytes)green room.jpg (30112 bytes)steven youll, artist goh.jpg (97636 bytes)
L: Hugo Winner Allen Steele signs copies of SEX AND VIOLENCE IN ZERO-G while reserving PLAN B...just in case.
M: Continuing the theme, Welcome to the South Park Program Ops and Green Rm. Those Bastards! R: Stephen Youll, Artist GOH
david hartwell.jpg (46055 bytes) robert sacks sartorial splender.jpg (49661 bytes)
L: David Hartwell, NYRSF R: Robert E Sacks. Is SF a well dressed genre, or what?
you've got snail.jpg (48807 bytes)  damnation and salvation sale.jpg (49918 bytes)
L: Michael Burstei, "You've Got Snail,!" R: Offering tokens of Damnation and Salvation (Hershey's Kisses) to passerbys. I remember when kids just sold lemonade. (Fishy, the Lovely Cat MacDonald, Mi, the Elf, Kitty).
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L: Dealers Row M: Science of the X-Files author (Jeanne Cavelos) R: The Ira Donewitz Has Too Much Time On His Hands
mark olsen and bob devney.jpg (38413 bytes)harp.jpg (40103 bytes)steve sawicki and alexander jablokov.jpg (41787 bytes)

L:Mark Olsen and our favorite Hugo Nominee...Bob Devney! M:Author Barbara Chepatis R: Just a couple of wild and crazy guys! Authors Steve Sawicki and Alexander Jablokov

Connie Willis was GOH, and her coffeeklatch was booked early on the first day for the rest of the weekend, as was the traditional Saturday Banquet. Stephen Youll was artist GOH and had a number of exciting works on display, including an I ROBOT cover and the Star Wars pictures you see him with above.

Valentine's Day was nigh, which may account for the scarcity of Con-goers outside of panels.

Attendance at this year’s Boskone was reported to be up - 800 is the number I've heard bandied about. Including 8 past or future Wordcon chairs. I never would have guessed. True, I spent most of my time in the dealers room at the SFRevu table, and the few panels I got to were well attended, but compared to Boskones past it seemed too darn quiet. It also lacked some of the more traditional elements. There was no snowstorm Friday while I drove up (Arisia booked the storm last month) and sadly the quality of the chowder at Molly Malone's, the hotel bar and grill, was down - owing to a change of management at the hotel.

I had a good time catching up with friends, huckstering with SFRevu contributor Steven Sawicki and chatting up the esteemed fan author Bob Devney's brother Michael and his friend Masha Hamil till the wee small hours of the morning. It turns out the Michael is full of insights into sociology of the sexes, and as not infrequently happens, this post midnight session was the most interesting panel at the Con. Next year they should put it on the schedule. I also found a spirited debate over the renaming of Pluto, now that it has been found not to qualify as a planet. My suggestion was to rename it Brontosaurus, which everyone agreed has a certain logic to it.

I think I'll start carrying a placard around so I can put up a sign whenever a panel breaks out.

The few actual panels I went to seemed to dwell a bit on the past. The reviewers panel barely mentioned the web, and a panel on the relationship between fan and pro-zine spoke only of the great pro-zines of the golden age. Obviously, I shouldn't complain if I'm not willing to get involved, so I'm going to lobby the NESFAns to give me some airtime next year.

Helmuth, the official newsletter of the convention, is now available on the web at: http://www.nesfa.org/boskone/b36/helmuth.html

First ContactInterview & ReviewSF BookshelfMedia SFCredits & Coming Attractions
 

Focus On: James Hogan - Interview / New: Outward Bound  Retro Review: Inherit the Stars

Note: SFRevu / SFABC Event!: James Hogan Discussion Group
Location: Borders, Books and Music, Paramus NJ, Date/Time: Tuesday, March 16, 1999, 8pm
Moderator: Ernest Lilley - SFRevu

James Hogan has always been one of my favorite authors. Cast from the classic Clarke mold, he is an engineer turned to speculations and stories, Hogan believes that reasonable people can use technology to make a better world. Certainly it's not a fashionable point of view, and in a lot of hands it would come off as simply naive, and maybe in the final analysis it is, but when I read one of Hogan's books I can believe in a world where people work together, after a fashion, and science makes things better, mostly.

I took the occasion of the release of OUTWARD BOUND, his latest story about a street kid in space, to catch up with him for an interview:

SFR: You've said that your first novel, INHERIT THE STARS, was written on an office bet. How hard was it to write? Did you find a publisher right away? Do you still like it?

James P. Hogan: Not too hard, because I was driven by intense enthusiasm and the drive to explore something new at the time; also, I was blissfully unaware of so many things that take some effort these days. Ashley Grayson (who brought my first book to the attention of Ballantine and is now an agent on the West Coast), was also with DEC then as a software support specialist, and also the company’s in-house Science Fiction expert. I’d talked to him by phone from England, explaining that I’d written this manuscript and didn’t know what to do with it, and several people had suggested him as potential help. Ashley was curious to read it, and when we compared timetables it turned out that we were both due to attend a sales conference at Cape Cod later that year (1976). I left the manuscript with him, returned to England, and largely forgot about it. Six weeks later I got a letter from Judy-Lynn del Rey at Ballantine (neither name meant anything to me then), saying that the manuscript had found its way to her, she liked it and wanted to publish it, and offering a contract.

Yes, I still like the basic story, although there are things I would have done differently were I writing it today. If you can read anything you wrote as recently as a couple of years ago and not find anything wrong, it says to me that you’ve learned nothing in the meantime.

SFRevu: Your next book is CRADLE OF SATURN. What's it about and when can we expect it?

JPH: CRADLE OF SATURN is done now, with the final revisions e-mailed two days ago, and is scheduled for release in July. We’ve got a nice piece of cover art by Dru Blair, and the jacket copy does a great job of capturing the book’s essence.

It’s an end-of-the-world (at least, as-we-know-it) drama based upon a Velikovskian scenario of a white-hot proto-planet being ejected from Jupiter and going into an eccentric orbit that brings it close enough to Earth to wreak havoc. I’d been researching and thinking about it for around a year before—of course, totally predictably—Hollywood came out with DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON both in 1998. However, we have a lot more going than just a collision with a big rock, for example huge tracts of the atmosphere turned into fuel-air munitions by the infusion of hydrocarbon gases taken up from Jupiter’s envelope, and large-scale gravitationally-induced crustal upheavals.

Back when I was a teenager—somewhere between the Beatles and the last ice age— I got very excited about the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, and then largely forgot about them when Establishment science seemed unanimous in dismissing him as a crank. Those were the days when I was more inclined to uncritically accept what authoritative institutions said. In more recent times I had reason to look into the matter again, eventually coming to the opinion that Velikovsky was probably on the right track and the eminencies wrong.

Very basically, in 1950 Velikovsky produced a book, WORLDS IN COLLISION, that was the result of following the unthinkable premise that writers of ancient historic records might actually have know what they were talking about and have something to tell us. In particular, when accounts from cultures world-wide all seem to corroborate and describe the same thing, they should be regarded as providing serious data against which we might wish to compare our own theories.

His proposal was, in short, that Venus is a young planet not an old one, having evolved from a giant comet that made a close encounter with the Earth around 3,500 years ago, and that at some time before that it originated by fission from Jupiter. He was greeted with a furor seldom seen in the scientific community, although just about all of the concepts seen as heresies then--such as catastrophic events influencing the history of the Solar System; the origin of minor planets by fission from Jupiter-like proto-stars--have become progressively more respectable.

One line of the objections was that if such events had taken place within human history, the terrestrial geological and biological record should show evidence of it. Velikovsky obligingly produced a book filled with such evidence, EARTH IN UPHEAVAL, in 1952, making no appeal to anything written by humans, but providing just nature's records. It was then argued that historical chronologies, calendar's, timekeeping methods would have been disrupted. Velikovsky's AGES IN CHAOS, 1955, showed that indeed they had--everywhere.

Whether one agrees with these conclusions or not, I don’t think the scientific community did itself a service with the campaign of character defamation, distortion and suppression of facts that it conducted to discredit Velikovsky as a crank or charlatan, which has remained largely successful to this day. If these fascinating speculations weren’t getting the exposure that I felt they deserved from the regular scientific literature, then perhaps a fictional treatment would help promote wider awareness of them. Besides, the scenario makes a wonderful premise for a worldwide disaster setting. On a deeper note, too, the situation that develops in the book argues a case for vigorous expansion into space by humanity as a whole for reasons that go beyond short-term profits or military paranoia.

SFR: …and what are you doing next?

JPH: As to the next one, it’s still in the sketching-out stage. A lot of people have asked over the years if I had any plans for an Earth-versus-aliens story, and since it turned out that Jim Baen and I appeared to have been thinking along similar lines, I decided this was the time for it. We both wanted something different from the cliche of aliens showing up and immediately starting to bomb cities for no reason that ever makes sense. Instead, we begin at a point where the aliens have had a presence here for some time, and the line dividing the "good guys" from the "bad guys" is more complex. Some of Earth’s powerful commercial and political interests have aligned themselves more with the foreigners as agents to keep the natives in line and controllable, in return for wealth, prestige, advanced weaponry, and protection. (Does that sound like a familiar pattern?) Meanwhile, other sections of the native population are getting indignant about being sold out and want to preserve their own ways. So the conflict begins between opposed Terran factions, and the aliens gradually get sucked deeper in as things escalate. You’re not going to beat them in a straight, standup firefight, of course. But . . . there are other ways.

SFR: How old were you when you discovered SF? Do you remember the first book you read?

JPH: To be honest, I never "discovered" SF as something unique that I wanted to devote myself to as such. I spent a lot of my childhood years hospitalized and developed an insatiable reading appetite for just about anything. SF was pretty much just another ingredient in a varied diet, along with many other things. I suppose the first writers in that genre that I remember were Asimov and Clarke, though I don’t recall any particular titles. The bulk of my reading was nonfiction, and that’s still true today.

SFR: You grew up in the one of the working class parts of London just after WWII Assuming you were interested in SF before college, did you have friends you could talk SF with? Where was the first convention you went to?

JPH: I lived in London until I was 16-17, when I left to become an engineering student at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. Before then, the most common form of dialogue with friends on anything resembling SF consisted of comic-book swapping. (Real American ones, with the price printed in cents, were highly valued at anywhere from 2 to 5 English editions. Thicker, and much better quality then, too.)

Farnborough was probably the first place where I met and could talk with other people who read SF books.

The first SF convention I went to, believe it or not, was in Los Angeles sometime around 1978-79, after I’d had three novels published and had sold at least one more. I was still working for DEC and due to go there on a business trip. Ashley, whom I mentioned above, suggested that if I was going that week I ought to extend it to take in the weekend as well, ". . . and then you’ll be able to go to the Science-Fiction convention." I was so new to the whole business that my reply was, "What’s a Science-Fiction convention?"

SFR: You were 16(?) In 1957 when Sputnik went up. Do you remember your own reaction to this? What did people around you think? What did it change?

JPH: I honestly don’t remember that it had a huge impact. Perhaps since England didn’t have a missile program competing so intensely with the Soviets, and wasn’t spearheading the Cold War at that time, it didn’t get the same level of hype over there. Then again, it could have been that I was too young to take a lot of interest. You know, despite all the things we read about how terrible today’s education is, I find myself constantly amazed by how much young people know and how flexibly they are able to think. Three teenage sons of mine are currently at school in Florida. In terms of the kinds of issues they and their friends deal with at school and the awareness they show of what’s going on in the world and what it means, they could run rings around anything I knew or ever thought about at the same age.

SFR: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics have been the subject of a number of your books, including THE TWO FACES OF TOMORROW (Del Rey/Ballantine '79) and the Non-Fiction MIND MATTERS (Del Rey '98).

What was your reaction to HAL, the self-aware computer in 2001 when you saw the film? With the film's title less than two years away, will AI arrive on schedule? What will it look like when it comes...or is it already here?

JPH: I never really understood what HAL got so screwed up about. I loved the movie in the sense of the technical authenticity, sense of wonder that it instilled about humanity venturing into space, and especially the idea of something sufficiently mysterious turning up in the course of lunar exploration to get the entire scientific community excited. But for me, the ending just fell apart into a lot of weirdness and symbolism that didn’t say anything. In fact, it was my complaining about it in the office and being challenged to write something that I thought made more sense that provoked the bet that you alluded to earlier. So, in essence, I stole Arthur’s idea.

But that’s no great secret. I told him I had when I had dinner one night with him and Judy-Lynn in Boston in the early 80s. "I know you did, and I thought the ending was better," he complimented. And then chuckled. "But I made more money out of it."

Will we see "real" AI by next year? No. When it does come, I’d guess that it would be somewhat in the way I suggested in MIND MATTERS: gradually insinuating just about everything until we take it for granted. Magic will have happened, and we probably won’t even notice. Let’s face it: in many ways it already has (flying through the air; talking instantly to anyone, anywhere; viewing distant events as they happen), and we didn’t.

SFR: What did you think when you saw Robby in FORBIDDEN PLANET or was that before you started taking this stuff seriously? Will we ever see humanoid robots?

JPH: No, I saw the movie, liked it, and thought Robby was great. The greatest impression I recall was of it being such a pleasant change to see a robot depicted as warm, friendly, and humorous. Also, that it suggested a walking jukebox.

Will we ever see them? Well, I’m not going to start saying that anything will never happen. History is littered with the corpses of too many confident assertions that this or that would always be impossible on principle for that. But at the same time, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

SFR: What is the most exciting technological change you've seen realized in your life? What's the biggest disappointment?

JPH: The successful harnessing of nuclear energy. The implications go so far beyond just another way of producing electricity toward, for example, eventually revolutionizing entire industries of minerals extraction, chemical processing, agriculture, transportation, disposal or reprocessing of every kind of waste, and eventually bulk transformation of elements. In short, Malthus was wrong, and humanity’s material problems are, in effect, solved. (See what I mean about holding views that tend to be unfashionable?—for the time being, anyway.)

The biggest disappointment? The degree to which, it seems to me, the mainstream scientific establishment has sold out to money and politics. What we have today, in my submission, is reminiscent of the corruption of the medieval Church. The interesting question is, what will be the form of the new Renaissance that will get us out of it? Ironically, I believe the answer might lie in the value systems upheld by religions. Maybe a good subject for another novel one day.

SFR: OUTWARD BOUND (Tor) has just been released as this issue goes to press. You've described it as "Street kid makes good in space." Have you decided to focus on YA SF? Why? (One hopes it's because you're hoping to encourage young people) When Clarke and Heinlein wrote YA titles in the 50's they were the only SF teenagers could get, so they drank them up. Today, media provides plenty of SF, little serious. Can you get through to kids against all that noise?

JPH: The answers to all your questions are yes, but it wasn’t I who decided them. Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle got together with Tor Books to produce a "Jupiter" series of YA books aimed at all the objectives that you list. Charles invited me to contribute a title to the series. I thought it was a worthwhile thing to try and agreed.

Can one get through to young people against all the media puff? Well, to many, probably not. To some, I would hope so. If it doesn’t work out, it won’t be for lack of giving it a try. What else can one say?

SFR: What is the biggest problem facing mankind? How do you save the world? Your books are usually pretty upbeat. Is this just your nature or do you actually believe in the future? If one wants to roll up their sleeves, where do they start?

JPH: I’m not at all sure that we do have any really huge, insurmountable problems—unless it’s our gullibility in believing the problems that we’re told we have. I mean, really, just about all of the scares that the media inundate the public with are so inane or demonstrably false that if this is all they can come up with, things aren’t all that bad. When you need a multi-billion dollar propaganda and image-manipulating industry to convince you there’s a problem, you don’t have a real problem. At the time of the Black Death in Europe, people didn’t need TVs to tell them there was an epidemic.

But if I had to pick anything, I’d say greed, hatred, and general nastiness. These are the nutrients that all the other things feed on. One wonders what kind of society might emerge from an underlying value system whereby the aim of individuals, corporations, government departments, was genuinely to help rather than to exploit and profit from. Ultimately, kindness, tolerance, and compassion at the individual level are what decent societies are built on. Given that, I don’t think it matters much which political creed or economic ideology society nominally subscribes to.

 

Outward Bound

Outward Bound, A Jupiter Novel
 ISBN: 0-312-86243-1 / Tor, Hardcover, Mar '99 / Review by Ernest Lilley

The Jupiter Novels are a project with the ambitious goal of bringing back the "sense of wonder" juveniles of Robert Heinlein's heyday with better science and less objectionable politics. So far, they've been a mixed bag: some OK, some dreadful. Fortunately for YA readers, James Hogan is equal to the task.

Linc Marani is tough, smart, loyal, and way on the wrong side of the tracks. He's a street punk looking to graduate from juvenile delinquent to full time hood, so he can get the things in life that really matter. Cars, drugs, babes…the usual. Unfortunately for Linc, he's been picked up while doing a collection job for a guy named Kyle, and the DA's offer is easy - cooperate or we throw away the key. Fortunately, one society's trash is another's treasure, or at least raw ore, and he gets a third option - to go outward bound.

Linc accepts an offer from a recruiter named Dr. Groeber. It's an offer he's told that means to "...give up his rights, discover service and obligation, and to break free from the tyranny of expectation." Strange words to Linc, but he's told he can quit any time. It can't be worse than what the DA has in mind - he thinks.

The next thing Linc knows, he's at a mountain training camp where the slightest infraction of the rules gets you sent back wherever you came from and your past isn't something that matters. In fact, mentioning it is the fastest way back. The way forward, he learns along with the others that survive the grueling physical and mental training, leads to the stars.

OUTWARD BOUND reads like a cross between Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS (1958 - Not the movie, you apes, the book!) and Andre Norton's TIME TRADERS (1958). It's a bit handicapped by reality though, as Hogan knows better than to throw Faster-Than-Light interstellar warfare or time travel and alien derelicts into the mix. The guidelines for the Jupiter novels require the science to be solid. The author pits man against the hard business of colonizing the asteroid belt rather than aliens intent on human annihilation. As with Hogan's first book, INHERIT THE STARS (1977) the author shows his affection for Heinlein and his Clarkeian lineage, borrowing the ideals of meritocracy from the former and the scientific rigor from the latter.

Though it does not eclipse the 1950's YA titles it emulates, OUTWARD BOUND should be welcome on the shelves amongst them.

Inherit the Stars

Retro Review : Inherit the Stars by James Hogan
Currently Available in: The Giants Novels : Inherit the Stars/the Gentle Giants of Ganymede/Giants' Star/3 Novels in 1

"You'll be fine here for a while." The usual gruffness was gone from Koriel's voice. "I'll have the rescue boys back from Gorda before you know it." The figure raised a feeble arm. Just a whisper came through. "you - you tried…nobody could have…"
Koriel clasped the gauntlet with both hands. "Mustn't give up. That's no good. You just have to hang on a while." Inside his helmet the granite cheeks were wet. He backed to the entrance and made a final salute. "So long Soldier." And then he was gone.…
"So- it's just you and me now is it?" he snarled at the Universe. "Okay you bastard - let's see you take this round!"
- Inherit the Stars

 So begins James P. Hogan's first novel, INHERIT THE STARS. It was the first Hogan I read, and it's still my favorite. It's a scientific whodunit, where we get to come along for the ride as a team of researchers try to unlock a most puzzling mystery. A lunar exploration party has come across an astronaut in a red spacesuit stashed in a cave on the moon. Not only do they not know where he came from, but they are more than a bit disturbed that he's been there for the last 50 thousand years.

It's got 2001's influence all over it, and in fact it was written as part of a bet by the author that he could write a novel, and he's told Arthur Clarke that he was grateful for the use of the setup. While I'm not going to say that this is better than 2001 (book or movie), I will gladly take the stand to tell you I had a lot more fun reading it.

The central character is either Dr. Victor Hunt, the bright and determined British scientist that has developed an imaging system that uses neutrino interactions to allow you to look inside objects without touching them, or the 50 thousand year old corpse named Charlie that the United Nations Space Arm has sequestered in a biological institute near Houston. Either way, you get to know them both pretty well through the course of the book.

Hunt gets tapped to stick around after he's installed the scanner he developed, because the head of the UNSA group investigating the lunar anomaly likes the way he thinks and uses Hunt to help bring the findings of each separate branch of research working on the problem together. He serves as an ideal point of view character as he travels around listening to the latest facts. Two sets of facts gradually emerge from Charlie's remains and other artifacts that are uncovered on the dark side of the moon. The first show conclusively that Charlie is human. A bit hairier than modern man, but shaved and dressed up, he shouldn't draw stares on the street. Thus he obviously evolved on Earth. The other set shows that his circadian rhythms, his timepiece, the tins of food he kept all show clearly non-terrestrial origin. Therefore he came from outer space.

Pretty quickly a deadlock emerges between the two camps and you wonder how they're going to break it. The spirit of inquiry gets heated as the physicist Hunt squares off against a biologist named Danchekker, and everyone hammers away at the seemingly impossible contradictions in the story.

This is the best of Hard SF. Hogan makes the mystery the story and pulls in researchers from all over to engage in a tug of war over the facts.

It's a great view of the kind of world Hogan, and many of us in techdom, would love to live in. Scientists and engineers work on problems all day and get together at the bar to talk shop and flirt with each other and the "gals" from the steno pool. OK, it's a bit dated there, but don't get stuck on it. He's written plenty of later stuff with a better male/female balance. INHERIT THE STARS is a scientific utopian fantasy. Scientists get the girls. Science solves the problems. Mankind inherits the stars. Someone will tell you the characterization is weak. No, no, no. It's perfect and well realized. It's just limited to engineering types and written by an engineer himself with affection for the world he lives in.

Greg, the head of the UNSA NavComms division is something Dilbert could never imagine, a genius manager. Management as a heroic endeavor is rarely imagined, but it's one of Hogan's central beliefs - that good managers exist and can improve not only the lives of their staff, but the entire world, given a chance. No, really. It was written before Cyberpunk and I still enjoy going back to it for a breath of fresh air. Delusional perhaps, but they're my delusions.

There are two (Well, three if you count ENTROVERSE, but please don't.) novels in the series this starts, and you can get them all in a collection called The Giants Novels : Inherit the Stars/the Gentle Giants of Ganymede/Giants' Star/3 Novels in 1. But the first is the best by far, and if you like it as much as I did you'll wind up reading everything in the considerable body of work James Hogan has written. Except CAMELOT 30K. But the rest are really good. If authors like Clarke and Hal Clement turn you on.

Backlist: James P. Hogan

A check of Amazon's listings shows James Hogan to have a number of available works. I've made my recommendations in the "Rec" column. Click on the titles to take you to Amazon and order the book. (SFRevu is an Amazon associate) - Ern

Rec

  Title  amzn-crt.gif (3625 bytes) Author Form

SFRe-
viewed

Pub

Amazon
Price

  Discount
Bug Park James P. Hogan Hardcover

2.06

1997

$15.40

$6.60 (30%)
Bug Park James P. Hogan Paperback

2.06

1998

$5.59

$1.40 (20%)
Code of the Lifemaker James P. Hogan Paperback

1995

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)
Endgame Enigma James P. Hogan Paperback

1997

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)
Entoverse James P. Hogan Paperback

1992

$3.99

$1.00 (20%)

Great Book, Great Value!

The Giants Novels : Inherit the Stars/the Gentle Giants of Ganymede/Giants' Star/3 Novels in 1 James P. Hogan Paperback

3.02

1994

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)
Immortality Option James P. Hogan Paperback

1995

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)
Mind Matters : Exploring the World of Artificial Intelligence James P. Hogan Hardcover

1998

$17.50

$7.50 (30%)
Paths to Otherwhere James P. Hogan Hardcover

1996

$22.00

Paths to Otherwhere James P. Hogan Paperback

1997

$5.59

$1.40 (20%)

Yes!

The Proteus Operation James P. Hogan Paperback

1996

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)
Star Child James P. Hogan Paperback

2.06

1998

$4.79

$1.20 (20%)

Yes!

The Two Faces of Tomorrow James P. Hogan Paperback

1.05

1997

$5.59

$1.40 (20%)

Good YA

Outward Bound : A Jupiter Novel James P. Hogan Hardcover

3.02

1999

$16.07

$6.88 (30%)
Rockets, Redheads & Revolution James P. Hogan Hardcover

1999

$5.59

$1.40 (20%)

Yes!

Voyage from Yesteryear James P. Hogan Paperback

1999

$5.59

$1.40 (20%)


First ContactInterview & ReviewSF BookshelfMedia SFCredits & Coming Attractions

SF Bookshelf
New Titles       Now in Paperback      Retro Review

New TitlesNot Exactly The Three Musketeers by Joel Rosenberg Termination Node by Lois H.Gresh & Robert Weinberg Dream A Little Dream by Piers Anthony & Julie Brady  Sky Coyote by Kage Baker  How to Save the World Edited by Charles Sheffield The Warrior King by Chris Bunch The Invisible Country by Paul J. McAuley ST:My Brother's Keeper Book 1:Republic  by Michael Jan Friedman Isaac Asimov's Valentines Edited by Gardner Dozois and Shelia Williams

Not Exactly The Three Mussketeers

Not Exactly The Three Musketeers by Joel Rosenberg
ISBN 0-312-85782-9 / Tor Hardcover, Feb'99, 316 pgs. / Review by EJ McClure
 
 NOT EXACTLY THE THREE MUSKETEERS is a rollicking saga of swordsmanship and intrigue, spiced up with dragons, damsels and droll wizards. Pirojil, Durine and Kethol, swordsmen three, are sent by the dowager empress to investigate young Lady Leria's plea for salvation from a political marriage being forced on her by her guardian, Baroness Elanee. The politics of the Holtun-Bieme empire rival those of Imperial France, but Rosenberg handles the backstory deftly, weaving snippets of history into the dialogue and thoughts of the characters so it never encumbers the action. Of which there is plenty.

All of the players, from the shrewd and dumpy dowager to the sleekly scheeming Baroness Elanee, are deftly depicted. No stereotypes here. But don't try to make Rosenberg's trio of heroes into Dumas' swashbuckling musketeers. They will stubbornly retain their individuality. Pirojil is the ugly, cautious one, probably the brightest of the three, and certainly the one with the most experience in the politics of nobility, though he'd never admit it. Kethol, handsome and outgoing, a gambler to the bone, has an unfortunate penchant for heroics. Big, stolid Durine can be counted on to soldier through any misfortune. After all, everyone he has ever cared for has died, with the exception of his two comrades, and he is very careful not to care too much for them. Typical of soldiers, the three have cultivated a wary and humorous cynicism in their dealings with their officers and the nobility, along with an utterly pragmatic concern for food, fire and a good defensive position. Rosenberg is a gritty writer; this fantasy is firmly grounded in the ugly little details of living and dying.

The journey to Barony Keranahan, where Elanee continues to rule under the supervision of an appointed imperial governor, is fraught with unexpected peril, some of it of Kethol's making. Along the way they accidentally acquire the wizard Erenor, who is not exactly what he seems to be. Once in Keranahan, Lady Leria herself proves yet another complication. Especially for Kethol. Rosenberg smoothly shifts point of view during the story so we get in on all the action while being kept in suspense about the ultimate goal of Baroness Elanee's plotting as long as possible. He never allows the reader the smug satisfaction of omniscience. The narrative is stripped clean of nonessentials, and breaks crisply between scenes, making the book a page-turner from beginning to end. NOT EXACTLY THE THREE MUSKETEERS is exactly the perfect antidote to the February blues and the commercial romanticism of Valentine's Day.

 

Termination Node by Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg
ISBN: 0-345-41245-1/ Del Rey, Hardcover, Jan'99, 312 pgs. / Review by Ernest Lilley

Judy Armody, a.k.a. TerMight, is a legendary hacker. Lesser hackers worship her code and corporations pay almost gladly for her skills to seal off their data from the prying probes of lesser lights. She's got a few close friends, though she's never met them, screen names on the web, ghosts in the machine. Distant, simple, safe.

When she stumbles on a dry run for the biggest digital bank heist in the history of electronic cash her carefully constructed world falls apart.

Her bank account is suddenly empty. Her superhacker friends are being killed off. She's on the run from the police, framed for the murder of the guy who stepped in front of a bullet meant for her. And worst of all, she has to turn to real live people for help.

The cyber-attack on the bank she's doing a security consult for is so skillful that even she can't block it, but when it's over not a cent has been taken. She doesn't know the how, but she can guess the why. Judy knows she's seen a test run of what could be the biggest economic disaster in the history of banking. She's seen the work of a hacker so clever that he can slip into any bank in the world and loot its total assets despite her best security systems. To Judy, for whom work is life, it seems that nothing could be worse.

Then the names on the elite hacker chat space start being replaced by black roses. One for each very real death. Suddenly cyberspace isn't such a safe place anymore.

Who's killing the hacker elite? Where can she hide? And perhaps most importantly, who's planning the biggest bank robbery of all time?

THE TERMINATION NODE is a book that sneaks up on SF from the real world. Written by a computer security specialist and a pro writer, it takes place 15 minutes into the future and is made up of ideas whose realities lie just around the corner.

So the good news is that it comes off as plausible. In fact, the very woodeness of the writing serves to reinforce the feeling that these events are nothing farfetched, almost mundane in their inevitability.

The bad news is that it's been done better by SF authors from Vernor Vinge (TRUE NAMES) to Mark Fabi (WYRM). Ironically, that may not matter to the non SF readers the book targets. To them it may seem like fresh ground. SF is a genre with history. Much that is new technology is old SF.

If you didn't already know that nerds have distorted body images, that digital money is at risk, that porn rules the web and that super hackers are really nice folks at heart right after they stop telling you how they can crash the west coast power grid and ruin your life, then this book is full of surprises for you.

Oops. Was full of surprises. Well, You can still give this book to friends that don't read SF and they'll probably like it. For your reading pleasure, you should wait for the upcoming reissue of TRUE NAMES or pick up WYRM, now that it's in paperback.

Bill Gibson said of his seminal cyberpunk novel, NEUROMANCER, that he flouted SF convention and had expected to be ignored. Instead he legitimized SF Noir and created a genre. TERMINATION NODE flouts the conventions of cyberpunk in turn. Here, hacker heroes aren't romantic loners in dark glasses looking for ultimate highs.. They're just frightened, immature introverts with too much power who don't get out enough.

Sadly, I hold these truths to be self-evident.

 

dream a little dream.jpg (35556 bytes)

Dream A Little Dream by Piers Anthony and Julie Brady
ISBN 0-312-86466-3 / Tor Hardcover, Jan'99 / Review by Rob Archer

For those fans who have always had a place in their heart for Piers Anthony, his new work with Julie Brady, DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, is a must read. It has many of the aspects that remind a reader of Anthony’s earlier stories with the fresh spin that Brady can provide. The examination of a dream world that is paralleled with reality makes for an interesting tale.

Magical flora and fauna abound in the dream world, Kafka, with many familiar (to readers of Anthony’s Xanth novels) creatures making appearances. Among others there are centicores , demons, nymphs, and fauns. These are joined by some new ones that lend a distinctive flavor to Kafka

The main character Nola, is a "Creator"- one who dreams so vividly in the real world that her dreams come to life in the dream world. Brady touches on some of the raw pain and despair that are experienced in everyday life. This is the reality that dreams must balance to keep hope alive. As with the other creators, abused or otherwise disenfranchised in the real world, the solace Nola finds in her dreams sustains the dream world. The challenge for Nola and the others is to keep hope alive. Hope can be lost so easily and the evil those crushed dreams can cause will devastate Kafka. But Kafka is fighting back. Creators and their creations band together to find the strength to save their world from ruin.

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM is a quick read that is quite enjoyable. Having grown up with Piers Anthony as a staple, this new novel was easy to embrace. It also makes a great jumping off point for Julie Brady, making her first foray into the field. I look forward to any future stories she might tell, whether they be related or in a whole new vein. I’m sure that this book, pairing her with the popular, prolific Anthony has made this new author’s dreams come true.

   

Sky Coyote  by Kage Baker
ISBN: 0151003548 / Harcourt Brace, Hardcover, Feb'99 / Review by Paul Giguere

Baker's second novel, SKY COYOTE, is another novel of the Company (a.k.a.Dr. Zeus), an organization from the 24th century that uses time-travelling cyborgs to help investors profit from the artistic, scientific and cultural treasures of the past. Dr. Zeus accomplishes this by recruiting children from the past and transforming them into immortal cyborgs (a process that can only be accomplished with children). The agents then begin their careers in their original time periods and are given missions to accomplish as time progresses with the promise of a golden retirement when they finally reach the 24th century.

Mendoza and Joseph, who both appeared in last year’s IN THE GARDEN OF IDEN, are now in California of 1699. Joseph, the rescuer of Mendoza from the Spanish Inquisition, is given a mission to convince a Chumash village that he is Sky Coyote, a benevolent-trickster god who has come to save them before Europeans come and bring disease and slavery to their people. The underlying intent is for Dr. Zeus to transplant the entire village to a special site in Australia for covert study, but the villagers turn out to be a lot more sophisticated than Dr. Zeus has given them credit for. Joseph has his work cut out for him trying to convince the various factions in the village that this removal is a good thing while also trying to repair his relationship with Mendoza, who is still mad at him for the events that happened 100 years earlier in England.

SKY COYOTE is fun on a couple of levels due to the witty dialogue and situations but it does suffer from the "second book" syndrome and is not as good as it could have been. The characterization is weak; Joseph is just a walk-on in every chapter and goes through the motions without much effort. The plot moves along but ultimately goes where we expect it to without much fanfare or drama. There are some interesting plot points though, such as the "real" reason Dr. Zeus wants the Chumash village (which is contained in an untouched-encoded file in Joseph's head) and Joseph's long and interesting 40,000 year history (which is only hinted at). We also get to learn more about the Company. SKY COYOTE is a decent read and will be enjoyed by fans of the first novel but the next book, MENDOZA IN HOLLYWOOD, scheduled for September of 1999, holds more promise.

   

how to save the world

How to Save the World    Edited by Charles Sheffield
ISBN:0-312-86784-0 / Tor, Trade, Feb'99, 349 pgs / Review by Ernest Lilley

Charles Sheffield, editor of this delightful collection of SF cures and remedies for all that ails us, is at his best making guest of honor speeches, quipping devilishly as he toasts the crowd, a sort of Alfred Hitchcockian humor surfacing as he introduces the next guest. He did it resplendent in Pirate togs at last year's Worldcon, and he is an apt choice for this anthology, ready to set the stage.

Charles argues (both sides no less) that SF writers are brighter (or perhaps not) than the average lot, and saving the world is just the sort of project they love to set themselves to. Actually, SF writers spend far more time in cautionary tales than in blueprints for utopia, but why quibble?

In "Zap Thy Neighbor," James Hogan gives us Robert Heinlein's favorite fantasy. Instead of strapping on shooting irons though, all you have to do is dial your enemy's number and poof! No more troublemaker. Hogan's twist is devilishly clever too. Charles is right. These folks might be smart enough to save us!

"Choice," by Lawrence Watt-Evans, the first story to mention the war between the sexes, worried me. I'm pretty sure it worried the author. What scares me is that I suspect the editor is offstage laughing his ass off. And I've drunk with the man. For equal time, "Turnabout" provides an equally discomforting salvo from the other side in "The Guatemala Cure."

"The Meetings of Secret World Masters" by Geoffrey Landis, started off by disappointing me. The technology in HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD is starting to look dated, four years after its hardcover issue. Then it started to really worry me. Dated tech equals present threat. Better world domination through molecular biology. I work with people just like the ones in this story. The plausibility factor is uncomfortably high. Sheffield must be rolling on the floor laughing.

"The Invasion of Space" is just as bad, or worse. When SF writers start writing about SF writers (and themselves) and the failure of Science, it all becomes much too real. But fear isn't the only flavor in this book, by the end of this story I tasted guilt, shame, and even hope.

"Souls On Ice" by Arlan Andrews takes a look at what happens when too many opt out of the risks of life to gamble on the big chill.

Just when things started to get too heavy for me, the editor carts out a delightful little story to cleanse my palate with a few chuckles, "Raw Terra."

In "The Product of Extremes," Brenda Clough turns her hand to evening out our differences by making them more appealing. Quixotic logic, but it makes sense, after a fashion.

Jerry Oltion's "My Soul To Keep" is a stunning little story in which a small town doctor fights to prevent a religious infection from sweeping though the town. Unfortunately she's got the Pope for a patient.

"Defense Conversion" suggests an unlikely source for world saving ideas...the military.

I liked almost every one of the stories in this book, and by and large they gave me pause. The problem with saving the world is as Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly said long ago...We have met the enemy, and he is us. All too often, saving the world looks too much like suicide for my taste.

These stories aren't just good. They are powerful. Maybe even powerful enough to save the world. It's a big job, but is there any other one worth doing?

Maybe Charles Sheffield isn't so funny after all.

   

The Warrior King by Chris Bunch
ISBN: 0-446-67456-7 / Warner Aspect,Trade, Feb'99, 366 pgs / Review by EJ McClure

Third in a grand saga of military campaigns, magic and political intrigue, THE WARRIOR KING is robust enough to survive as a stand-alone adult Fantasy. Damastes a Cimabue, formerly the First Tribune of the Numantian Empire and right hand of the wizard king Tenedos, begins the novel defeated and imprisoned. The Maisirian invaders and their toadies rule Numantia. For more than a year Damastes has endured boredom in his island prison, waiting to learn his ultimate fate.

Damastes' story is told in first person, drawing the reader into the wily and experienced soldier's mind from the opening description of the galleys arriving to convey him to the Grand Council in Nicias. There he is offered the chance to gain vast wealth and a measure of freedom by leading an army against his former master and friend, Tenedos. That same night, Tenedos appears to Damastes in a dream and tries to win back his loyalty and service. Appalled by both options, unwilling to be the instrument of yet more death and destruction, Damastes attempts to flee.

He is successful in part--after many adventures he makes his way back to his family in Cimabue. But his plan to live out his days doing nothing more adventurous than hunting man-eating tigers is destroyed--along with a good many people he cares about--by Tenedos' ruthless sorcery. Grieving and enraged, Damastes plunges back into the tide of events sweeping three great armies to their doom.

The rugged countryside of Vietnam, where Bunch served with the Rangers, is reflected in the landscape of Cimabue as is the tropical weather. Not surprisingly, Damastes' field tactics are sound, though derivative; fans of military history will recognize some of the quotes. Pragmatic, profane and shrewdly opportunistic, Damastes is a thoroughly believable and even likeable warlord. The author seems to assume we met most of the supporting cast in the earlier novels of the trilogy; sketchily described, most blend into a jumble of strange names. But as bit-players they do an admirable job of carrying out Damastes' strategies and, after all, he is the center of focus in his own narrative. Other people are seen only through the filter of his prejudices and needs. What man wouldn't dream in such erotic detail of a lushly beautiful and spirited lover to match the adventurous magician Cymea? Damastes' private conquests are as robust and satisfying as his exploits in the field, and by the end of THE WARRIOR KING we know him well enough to anticipate the destiny he struggled so hard to deny.

 

The Invisible Country by Paul J. McAuley
ISBN 0-380-79299-0 / Avon EOS, Trade, Dec'98, 309pgs./ Review by EJ McClure

McAuley's vision of the future is breathtaking in its luminous clairvoyance. With the exception of "Recording Angel," which is set in the alien world introduced in "CHILD OF THE RIVER (SFRevu 2.8), most of the nine stories featured in THE INVISIBLE COUNTRY are set on a future Earth that has undergone vast climactic change. Technological advances have made possible the dolls, a slave caste of genetically engineered subhumans, and created a Fourth World of stateless refugees excluded from Europe's First World paradise of unlimited leisure and the universal unearned wage.

The title story leads the anthology with the story of Cameron, a canny hired gun struggling to defend a renegade biologist who stole a bootlegged gene of unimaginable political value. A virus that can replace the instinct for domination and aggression by a pack instinct to nurture and care. But only the cunning instincts of the wolf can keep Cameron alive.

"Gene Wars" is a cut-and-splice tale of the end of humanity as we know it. And not at all in the doomsday scenario you might imagine. But the last story was my favorite. "Slaves" carries on the ideas explored in "Prison Dreams" and the other stories of the doll revolution. Fittingly, it is a coming of age tale about a girl born into the tiny Frendz cult of women devoted to reforesting Europe. This gripping tale of first love and unexpected freedom is played out in a virtual dreamscape and the abandoned polders of Holland.

McAuley and Nancy Kress have both taken biological science as the foundation for their vision of the future, but they end up with very different constructs.

 

ST:My Brother's Keeper Book 1:Republic  by Michael Jan Friedman
ISBN:0-671-01914-7 / Pocket, Paperback, Jan'99 / Review by Ernest Lilley

(Also: Star Trek: My Brother's Keeper, Book 2: Constitution, Star Trek: My Brother's Keeper, Book 3: Enterprise)

These three volumes take us back to the very first episode of Star Trek, TOS, or the second pilot, depending on how you look at it. They take us that far back and beyond before Spock, to Kirk's days as an instructor at Star Fleet Academy, where he met a young man who would become his best friend. A best friend he would have to kill to save his ship Gary Mitchell.

The story's premise is that young Kirk, thought tenacious and dedicated to his goal of a Captaincy in the Federation fleet, was a bit of a stick in the mud. No initiative. Everything by the book. Awkward with others, and with women…well, he earned the name "icebox."

Gary Mitchell, on the other hand, was a happy go lucky, devil may care, skirt chasing son-of-a-gun. When they met, they each decided to correct the other's character flaws, and between them, they spend the next three books getting in and out of scrapes together. The pair go from an Academy training cruise on the USS Republic to Kirk's assignment as helmsman and second officer on the Constitution to his Captaincy of the Enterprise. Not always exactly together, but crossing paths and being shipmates at critical junctions in Kirk's career.

The stories are all flashbacks of Kirk's as he takes the Enterprise home to Earth following the disastrous first episode of the original series, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" when Gary's telepathic talent makes him susceptible to changes caused by a barrier field at that edge of the galaxy. Changes that make him more than human, and ultimately contemptuous of us. So Jim Kirk has to track him down with a phaser rifle and bury him under an avalanche of rock. Just in case you never saw the episode. Living in Tibet or something.

Around the backstory is the process of Kirk's warming up to his Vulcan first officer. If you remember the first episode, there was some pretty strong tension there, and the ship's style was much more military and strident. I always kind of liked the way Spock yelled out all his comments on the bridge, but these books evidentially chronicle the mellowing he went through before the actual first episode.

It's an interesting trilogy, the books covering some backstory that fans of the original series may enjoy, but the transformation of Kirk from stiff-necked nerd to captain courageous is more than a little hard to take. Much is made of the contrast between Kirk's famous intuition and Mitchell's high esper rating, but also to point. Though the young Kirk is a bit hard to swallow, young Mitchell is much more recognizable. He may not have been a god in the early years, but he certainly had enough attitude for the job. Long before the end of the first book I found myself wishing they would get it over with and kill him already.

If these stories were about anyone else in the Star Trek universe, they would be at least fair reading. Unfortunately they are about the one character we know better than any other, and fail to ring true. They would have been far better off if we were following the adventures of two Star Fleet Academy types we'd never met, like the excellent "Piper" adventures or STARFLEET ACADEMY by Diane Carey.

The MY BROTHER'S KEEPER trilogy explores an interesting time, but it's not handled as well as it could have been. Still, if nostalgia is what you're after, you get to meet most everyone for the first time in these books, and that's interesting in its own way. If you can believe the pasts the author had dreamed up for them, and I failed to.

Valentines

Isaac Asimov's Valentines edited by Gardner Dozois and Shelia Williams
ISBN 0-441-00602-7 / Ace Pprbk Feb '99 / 243 pgs / Review by Ernest Lilley

I actually picked this up on Valentine’s Day. At a Science Fiction Con. I mean, timing is everything. So I read it on President's Day. Kind of an interesting combination this year, what with Bill's acquittal and all. Maybe it's best to be reading this in the afterglow of Valentine's Day, or its chill aftermath. Ok, so timing isn't everything.

VALENTINES is a collection of ten short stories from the pages of Asimov's Science Fiction, Editor Gardner Dozois, presiding. Shelia Williams shares the bill for editing the collection. It's almost unfair to put together a collection from Asimov's. A little like mining for gems…in a jewelry store. Well, gems they are. And an anthology is perfect for the consideration of a question. Lots of viewpoints to pick from. Lots of answers.

Love is like aliens. If you haven't seen it recently you tend to forget that it really exists. And even when witnesses gather, their stories conflict and often involve grainy snapshots. Well, the editors have assembled some interesting cases for our review.

"Death Do Us Part" - Robert Silverberg: It was an April / December sort of romance after we'd learned how to make time stand still. Almost. "Chemistry" - James Patrick Kelly: Love is just a four letter chemical symbol. Want a snort? Just watch out for those hangovers. "No Love in all of Dwingeloo" - Tony Daniels: Tony has written some beautiful things about love. I strongly recommend the first half of his novel EARTHLING…and this story about the cost of love, aliens, and the future. "The Lovers" - Eleanor Arnason: A scholarly translation from the original alien texts. Sometimes love can move a world, though slowly and unforeseeably. "Press Ann" - Terry Bisson: I love Bisson's shorter stuff. This little love and an ATM machine piece is clearly a shadow of things to come. No, really. I mean it. "Romance in Lunar G" - Tom Purdom: If you can choose how you feel, is random love really what you want to live with? A future Casanova struggles to come to terms with his nature. "Always True To Thee In My Fashion" - Nancy Kress: I'm also glad Nancy got in here, not just because she's a terrific writer, but because I really like her insights into affairs of the heart. Here she probes the dangers of fashion…women love the changing seasons, but beware, she notes, a man may find something comfortable and refuse to give it up. Even when they are fashions of the mind. "Burger Love" - Robert Reed: Reed takes us back to those drive-in days, …well virtually, and helps us relive the deathless joys of adolescence. For better or for worse. "Blued Moon" - Connie Willis: Connie Willis believes in love, luck, and the ability of science and corporations to make a mess out of anything. Fortunately that sort of thing only happens once in a blue moon. And nothing can change the color of the moon.

The editors picked out some great stories, and I enjoyed the romp with Cupid, but I've got one gripe: for a collection called Isaac Asimov's Valentines, there is a remarkable lack of contributions by Sir Isaac himself.

Allow me to suggest two to correct this oversight: The first hilarious, the second poignant. And that's without bringing the robots into this.

"Playboy and the Slime God" (retitled: "What Is This Thing Called Love?") First Published In: Amazing Stories, March 1961, pp. 30-43

An alien exploration vessel investigates reports of a two sex species - namely mankind. The male and female subject they abduct deny everything, and are eventually returned to Earth. Since they've been introduced already, they might as well have a nightcap before going their separate ways. A truly funny story, which reminds me of Terry Bisson's "They're Made of Meat!," and which I always thought was titled "Look What They're Doing Now!"

"Eyes Do More Than See" First Published In: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1965, pp. 115-117

Foreshadowing Robert Reed's "Burger Love" in this collection, "Eyes Do More Than See" fast-forwards to a time when mankind has given up physical form for energy and two post humans decide to play with an ancient art form, stirring up memories.

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Now in Paperback: Contraband by George Foy Previously Reviewed in SFRevu

Contraband by George Foy
ISBN: 0-553-57548-1 / Bantam Spectre, Paperback, Jan '99 (orig.pub. May'97) / Review by Ernest Lilley

Armed with a copy of "The Smuggler's Bible," a laptop with more electronic counter-measures than most warships, and a profound need for speed, Joe Marak, a.ka.The Pilot, is the best of the best when it comes to getting cargo across borders without official attention.

But even the best is only a few seconds ahead of the newly created Bureau of Nationalizations anti-smuggling agency, which seems to have the prescience to know where every smuggler in the world is going to be next. Thanks to an act of Congress, BON doesn't have to worry about little things like due process, either.

Staying ahead of the law isn't The Pilot's only problem though, because he's starting to take it personally that every friend he's got, except for God ( the rat he keeps in his apartment in NYC), is either dead or locked away in BON's prison. Or in Bellevue, where his roller blader/stripper/ex-girlfriend is sitting staring at the TV wordlessly grieving for her brother, another BON victim.

Mad as hell and on the run besides, The Pilot teams up with an ex-aerospace engineer,   a.k.a. Rocketman who springs himself from Bellevue with the launch of an Orbital Smuggling Vehicle he built on the roof using junk The Pilot gleaned on Canal Street, and parts he built in the therapeutic workshop. Together with a society partyboy and the daughter of Hawkley they tour the globe looking for her father, the evasive high priest of smuggling and counterculture.

The elusive Forrest Hawkley Stanhope has been an LSD chemist, the smuggler's god, an author, a bad father, and now he may be the only person who knows how to elude the omniscience of BON.

Smuggling may be the ultimate Libertarian lifestyle, as the book tries to convince us, and it's a pretty good romp past the border guards of the world…but not quite convincing that The Pilot's profession is honorable. If you're looking for a rebel without a cause, you've come to the right place.

Now in Paperback! (Recommended Reading)
Recently published in trade or paperback editions, reviewed in Sfrevu as new releases:

Title Author

Form

Pub

Release

SFRevu Issue

A King of Infinite Space Allen Steele

ppbk

Harper Prism

Feb-99

1.3

Empire of the Ants Bernard Werber

ppbk

Bantam Spectre

Feb-99

2.4

Helm Steven Gould

ppbk

Tor

Feb-99

2.4

Maximum Light Nancy Kress

ppbk

Tor

Jan-99

2.1

On Basilisk Station David Weber

ppbk

Baen

Feb-99

2.1

The First Immortal James Halprin

ppbk

Baen

Dec-98

2.3

The Tooth Fairy Joyce Graham

trade

Tor

Feb-99

2.4

The War God's Own David Weber

ppbk

Baen

Feb-99

2.6

  

First ContactInterview & ReviewSF BookshelfMedia SFCredits & Coming Attractions

 

Media SF
Movies: October Sky
Video: Sawicki's Picks
 

SFRevu Goes to the Movies:

October Sky

October Sky - Universal Pictures     Review by Ernest Lilley
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Homer Hickam) , Chris Cooper (John Hickam), William Lee Scott (Roy Lee), Chad Lindberg (O'Dell), Chris Owen (Quentin), Laura Dern (Miss Riley), Natalie Canerday (Elsie Hickam)
Director: Joe Johnston / Screenwriter: Lewis Colick / Producer: Charles Gordon

In October 1957 the coal industry was declining, rock and roll was rising, and all over the world people looked up to see the first artificial satellite streak across the night sky. A Russian satellite named Sputnik.

While most Americans trembled with fear or anger, a few felt another sense - wonder. OCTOBER SKY, is a true (nearly) story based (mostly) on the memoirs of Homer Hickam, who was 17 years old when Sputnik went up, and living in a West Virginia coal town. Homer got the sense of wonder out of it. Suddenly the future wasn't something you read about or watched on TV. Suddenly for Homer, it was something you had to be part of.

His brother is a local football hero and his dad is the mine supervisor. He's nothing special, not a jock, not a genius, just a bit of a dreamer. The kind of dreamer that can change the world if he finds the right dream. And for Homer, that dream is building rockets and the world is Coalwood, West Virginia.

The first rocket blows up his mother's garden. Rather than accept failure, Homer makes the ultimate sacrifice - he teams up with the school's oddball geek Quentin, and forges a rocket building team out of a group of friends. Along the way, lots of things blow up. The rockets do it. The miner's union does it. The principal does it. His dad really does it. But after a while, things start to take off - spectacularly, and a band of outcast boys gets a chance to carry the hopes of a small town toward the stars. So to speak. Actually it's a science fair, but it's really a lot more than that.

And along the way, they launch rockets.

Not hobby shop, paper tube and pre-made ceramic and cardboard engines like you can buy today. Ones made out of seamless steel tube with machined steel nozzles that arrow into the sky like javelins hurled at the heavens…usually. Early on, stability isn't their strong suit.

There's a lot of coming of age stuff in the movie. In fact, the producer decided to make it the point of the movie. Taking hold of a dream, believing in yourself, sharing vision, risking failure. The whole feelgood deal. Which was good. But the rocket launches should have been the star of the film. Of course, I'm sure that was done in the name of broader appeal, and maybe this means you can take a date along and both find something in the film. Much as I like feeling good, I would have liked it if they'd kept in a bit more of the stuff that makes my heart race - Sex, Rockets, and Rock and Roll.

The book, hastily re-titled OCTOBER SKY, after its release as ROCKET BOYS (reviewed in SFRevu Jan '99 http://members.aol.com/sfrevu) pulled a lot fewer punches. Teenagers discovered the things teenagers always discover, to their parents' horror, Jocks tear down what nerds build and in general it's a rougher ride for the rocket boys. I liked the book's version a lot better. The challenges were tougher, the success sweeter, and the rockets louder.

In a way, OCTOBER SKY is the real revenge of the nerds, except that instead of defeating the people who laugh at them, Homer, Quentin, and the others manage to draw them into their dream as well. And yes, that's the real trick. Yes, that's the lesson more valuable than how to mix rocket fuel out of moonshine and potassium over an open fire.

The movie is good, though it slows down in places. The book is great, and for me time reading it passed unnoticed. Do both. Go see OCTOBER SKY when it opens this weekend. Go read the book now that it's a paperback. Then, after the movie is over and the book closed, go start a dream of your own. Just remember not to blow yourself up.

 

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SFRevu Video Review (by Steve Sawicki)

 The singular joy of reviewing videos is that you get to advocate for films that people may have missed at the box-office. That and having the opportunity to advocate for films that people may never have heard of. So, there are these two, singular joys of reviewing. Actually, now that I think of it, trashing a poorly made film contains much joy as well so I guess there are three singular joys of reviewing. In any case, it gives me great joy, and I mean that literally as well as figuratively as well as allegorically to present to you, this latest offering. (Be sure to note the heaping amount of joy added by the editor.)

ANTZ - Dreamworks, Rated PG, 83 Minutes
Starring the voices of Woody (am I being typecast or what) Allen as Z, Sharon (Look at all these legs to cross) Stone as Princess Bala, Sylvester (finally a role equal to my intellect) Stallone as Weaver, Gene (My career is sliding away as I watch) Hackman as General Mandible and Christopher (I even look like one) Walken as Colonel Cutter
Directed by Eric Darnell Jim Johson, Music by Harry Gregson Williams and John Powell, Screenplay by Todd Alcot and Chris Weitx & Paul Weitx.

(Insider note #12. You should note, assuming the editor did not fix it, that there are four names under director. These are two people with no connector used. This is the new way Hollywood lists pairings. What does it mean? I guess the second person is always seen as being of lesser significance when ‘and’ ‘&’ or ‘with’ is used. This avoids all that although it will confuse the hell out of the rest of us.)

Okay, besides the fact that this is one short little film (or, conversely, one long cartoon) and besides the fact that Woody Allen plays Woody Allen, and besides the fact that we’re still dealing with a form of animation here which requires more of a leap of faith than usual, this is a pretty good film. Actually it’s better than that in pure film sense but the points mentioned earlier take it down a few pegs.

The plot is simple, Allen, as a worker ant, falls in love with the princess and trades places with Stallone’s soldier ant in order to meet her. The soldiers go to war, Allen survives, Insectopia is discovered as well as a huge plot to overthrow the hive from within and everything comes to a fine conclusion.

A classic this ain’t. But, if watching bugs move around on screen floats your boat, there’s plenty of water here. Interesting and captivating for the short period of time it plays. See it with the kids although you don’t need kids to see it and enjoy it.

The Truman Show -  Paramount, Rated PG, 103 Minutes
Starring Jim (I park my car in my mouth) Carrey as Truman Burbank, Laura (I don’t kiss him once) Linney as Meryl Burbank, Noah (Count the beers I carry) Emmerich as Marlon, Natasha (Hired because I emote so well) McElhone as Lauren, and Ed (hat on hat off, vote please) Harris as Christof

Directed by Peter Weir, Written by Andrews Niccol, Music by Burkhard Dalwitz.

I have two major observations here. First, the music is wonderful. Second, I wonder what the film would be like if someone other than Jim Carrey had been in the title role. The music plays such a critical role in this film that it can serve almost as a study in how to do it right. It’s moving, moody, appropriate, links scenes, helps drive the plot and lends a synergy to the whole project that is quite incredible. As for the Carrey part, well, he does a good job with this role but he is still using the same rubber face which we’ve seen so many times before. Frankly, it gets in the way at times. Still, this is a great film, both for the concept and for the construction. Director Weir does an excellent job of setting scene and choosing shots. The editing is also first rate and should be used as a guide of how to construct scenes as well.

Those of you who’ve already seen this don’t need to read the review. If you have held out, like I did, then you should hold out no longer and go and rent this. It’s good stuff, especially the scenes with Ed Harris who steals the show in my estimation.

Cube -  Trimark Pictures, Rated PG 13, 90 Minutes
Starring Nicole (count on me) DeBoer as Leven, Nicky (Spread ‘em and smile) Guadagni as Holloway, David (beat me again, please) Hewlett as Worth, Andrew (twitch boy) Miller as Kazan, Julian (What’s up Doc) Richings as Alderson and Wayne (Fly boy, fly) Robson as Renne
Directed by Vincenzo Natali, Music by Mark Korven, Written by Andre Bijelick,Vincenzo Natali and Graeme Manson.

Imagine a huge cube. Imagine that this huge cube is filled with smaller cubes, say, a couple of thousand of them. Imagine each of these smaller cubes is 14 feet cubed. Imagine that some of these cubes contain deadly traps. Imagine that the cubes also contain clues. Imagine that you are put inside one--no food, no water, no instructions, no direction. Now, all you have to do is get out.

This is the basic premise of Director Natali’s vision. He puts a group of five people together, each with specific skills and personalities as well as faults and defects and lets us watch them as they struggle to not only survive but escape. This is a great film, great effects, very taut, very psychological, very tricky. Each time you think things are figured out something goes wrong. There is one clue which you, the viewer should get right away, that takes the cast much too long. Other than this piddling thing the film flies and will keep you riveted. One of the sleepers this year since no one, and I mean no one, has heard anything about it. Consider yourself in the know and go rent. Then you can go rave. A bit on the dark side in terms of story but good acting and good writing and great visuals. If you like puzzle boxes then you’ll love this one.

 

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SFZines

Aboriginal SF

Aboriginal Science Fiction - Issues 59 & 60, Winter 1998 Editor: Charles Ryan Publisher: A Crazy Alien / Review by Ernest Lilley

With a cover illustration of a Motie from the MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and a letter from the editor describing the "Changing of the Guard," Aboriginal Science Fiction hoists Warren Lapine's DNA Publications over Charles Ryan's zine. Publisher Lapine now has five SF mags in his empire, and it's interesting to watch them try and figure out the subscription offers at Cons. The hope is that with DNA taking over the dirty business of publishing, folks like Charles will have more time for editing. So far, so good.

The current issue certainly has range. It's got short stories, a science article, some excellent critical reviews, a letter from the Alien Publisher (I always though there was something inhuman about Warren's charisma) and a really bad interior print job. Charles promised that that won't happen again, and I believe him. The artwork is pretty good though and it's a shame you can't really appreciate it.

The "Domegame And Mr. P" by Keith Brooke - Here's an urban Fantasy I can't tell you much about lest I give it away. It starts with gang fights under watchful eyes with clubs and the occasional forbidden knife and medics that appear out of nowhere. No, I've said almost too much already. It's a decently written story, just don't expect to feel good when it's over.

"Going with Fergus" by Caroll Brown - This one stars out slowly...almost too slowly…and smells of fantasy at the beginning. Aliens in the mist and a downed space pilot. A war to get back to or a world to protect. It's about choices and survival. A Nicely written tale.

"E-Ticket" by J. Brooke - Though only three short pages long, this is one of my favorite stories in the issue. Alien tourists in LA's slums - if this catches on it could ruin the neighborhood.

"Angel with a Stainless Steel Soul" by B. McLaren - Is a well written Cyberpunk piece, full of kidnapping, blood farming (They keep you alive, but just enough to grow blood. Why didn't Ol' Drac' think of that one?), bioengineered bloodhounds, and a race against time. It's a kick-ass piece, with an unsettling ending.

"Watching Maynard" by Stephen Wallenfels - If you think neighbors with pit bulls are a problem, just imagine what your block would be like if the kid that spends all his time watching Rambo XIII got hold of a surplus military hunter-killer robot. Of course they'd take out the firing pin. Wouldn't they?

Besides these, there are the usual columns. Mark Olsen's reviews are right on target with his "Many Sequels" edition of "FROM THE BOOKSHELF," Darrel Schweitzer laments the generation gap in fandom, and makes some good points about the pitfalls of knowledge. Then he goes on to give reviews I wish I'd had a chance to print in our 'zine.

Then there's a science article about some big ideas by Robert Metzger called, logically, "Really Big Projects." You think a supercollider is big science? Ha. How about Venus-forming part of the Earth just to see what it's like? Or taking the solar system along when you go star voyaging? Go ahead, think BIG.

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ari.jpg (12105 bytes)

New Column! True Tales of Science by Linda Zimmermann (author of BAD ASTRONOMY) Let's Do Launch
Linda Zimmermann has contributed in the past as a reviewer, but finds she'd rather be writing her own stuff than telling people about others. It turns out to be our gain after all as she's signed on to do a column about the incredible happenings in the real world of Science. This month she starts things off with a bang, and all the more appropriately considering how much I've been pushing the rocket launching antics in OCTOBER SKY... - Ernest

Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain. -Schiller

At 12:33 GMT, on June 4, 1996, the unmanned Ariane-5 was launched from the European Space Agency's facility in Kourou, French Guiana. The first 37 seconds after ignition looked flawless. Suddenly, at a velocity of Mach 0.7 and an altitude of 3,700 meters, the rocket veered sharply. The stress began to tear it apart and to protect lives on the ground, the self-destruct system blew the multi-billion dollar Ariane-5 to multi-billion bits.

Like its reliable predecessor the Ariane-4, Ariane-5 was the product of Arianespace, a commercial company established in 1980. After a decade of research and development and expenditures exceeding $8 billion, the new rocket was supposed to revolutionize the satellite industry by doing more while costing less; truly a rare feat in the modern world.

So what massive catastrophe brought down the mighty rocket? Was it sabotage? Was it severe weather conditions? Was it a freak accident that never could have been prevented?

Or, could it possibly be that they loaded the old software from Ariane-4 into Ariane-5 and didn't bother to test it on all the new systems? Could anyone possibly make that kind of mistake with $8 billion dollars and lifetimes of work on the line? Incredibly, yes. A ten-year old child would have known better than to load old versions of software into a new computer, but unfortunately for the European Space Agency, they did not have any ten-year olds on their review committees for the Ariane-5 rocket.

To make matters worse, the rocket was carrying the Cluster project; four satellites designed to study the sun's effects on the Earth's climate. That project had employed over 500 scientists working over a span of ten years, at a cost of $500 million.

Nothing had been insured.

What was this software stone that brought down the Goliath rocket? Technophiles cringe at the simplicity of the problem. The disaster occurred because two computers (Inertial Reference Systems) used to guide the rocket shut themselves down due to a software error; the computers' inability to convert a 64-bit floating point to a 16-bit signed integer value.

In the words of the official report of the Inquiry Board, the old Ariane-4 software which caused the error actually "serves no purpose" on the new Ariane-5 after launch and never should have been active. Among the Board's brilliant conclusions to this report were recommendations to "Review all flight software" in the future, turn off anything that isn't needed, and test all systems with "realistic input data." Duh. One shudders to think what the original testing protocol required. Perhaps such crucial things as, "Make sure there are no pieces left over after you put the rocket together" or "Never test today what you can blow up tomorrow."

The conquest of space is truly one of mankind's greatest endeavors, and no undertaking of this magnitude can be expected to be without disasters. However, in the painful light of colossal blunders such as Ariane-5 and the Hubble Space Telescope, perhaps a simple motto should be sewn onto the lab coats of all the project scientists; "Try it before you fly it!"

Credits

Cover Art: pending

Posters/Photos: October Sky - Universal, Boskone 36 - Ernest Lilley

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Next Month in SFRevu

Titles we are considering include: A DeepnessIn the Sky - Vernor Vinge, Finity - John Barnes,

 

Also planned is an interview with Lunacon GOH Vernor Vinge plus photos and commentary direct from the Con. Attending SFRevu staff members and contributors will include Ernest Lilley, Sharon Archer, Steve Sawicki, Paul Giguere,Rob Archer and Bruce Wallace. See you in Rye Brook, March 5-7. http://www.lunacon.org/lunacon/lunacon.html

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