SFRevu
1999 by Ernest Lilley

SF Bookshelf
New Releases: Rainbow Mars / The Last Continent / White Silence / Finity / Eyes of Silver  ZineScene: Rosebud #15Now in Paperback

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...Svetz and his companions encounter a tree of mythic proportions growing along the Martian canals. The myth happens to be Jack and the Beanstalk...

Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven
ISBN:0-312-86777-8 / Tor Mar '99 Hrdcvr / Review by Ernest Lilley

The good news is that Svetz, Larry Niven's time traveler, is back. The bad news is that we seem to be caught in a temporal loop. Rainbow Mars turns out to be a novella and two previously published short stories. Good stories all, but not all that new.

When Svetz steps into the cage that is his time machine and the Temporal Institute sends him back from his present to somewhere in the past things never go as planned. Until now his mission has been to bring back pretty animals to make the idiot ruler happy. Happy ruler means Institute funding. If you're familiar with Svetz's adventures you already know that while the cage always comes home, it tends to drift "sideways" in time a bit on the way back in time. This accounts for the tendency for fantasy elements to show up in Svetz's finds. The horse with a horn in its head, a white whale with a whaler still ensnared in his line. That sort of thing.

When the head of government dies and the Space Institute merges with the Temporal Institute, suddenly mythological animals won't cut it. Somehow the merged institutes had better come up with aliens or the joint heads will roll. The only place within reach where there's any chance of finding aliens is Mars. Ancient Mars. Mars before it dried up. More importantly, before humans proved there was no life there. Proving a thing impossible turns out to have dire temporal consequences.

So Svetz is teamed with two female cosmonauts and sent back to archaic Low Earth Orbit, then on to archaic Mars. Just to save on time and consumables, they've installed a temporal travel gizmo on the ship, and the trip whizzes by in a fast forward frenzy. Then life gets interesting.

Svetz and his companions encounter a tree of mythic proportions growing along the Martian canals. The myth happens to be Jack and the Beanstalk, because the tree is a natural space elevator, growing from Mars to Low Mars Orbit. Back in the future Svetz's bosses decide that a space elevator tree seed would make the mission worthwhile, and Svetz begins a trek to find one.

Readers of Ringworld will recognize the tone and terrain as our party encounters different species, abandoned alien technology, and even love in the dunes. Readers of other Martian sagas will recognize every Martian myth and fantasy ever sown woven into the story. Lowell’s famed canals are here, as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ warriors and even a few Martian invasions, including Orson Wells' radio broadcast. Niven thoughtfully includes a brief compendium to keep it all straight at the end.

Larry Niven has come up with a genre in which Fantasy and SF can mix. I fear he did it because he’s had to face the reality of the future’s failure to accomplish SF’s agendas, and it falls in line with a number of Sr. SF authors who have stopped writing in their early universes for ones more technologically modest, more’s the pity. Robert Heinlein did almost exactly the same thing in his tragic Number Of The Beast, but Niven manages a far better story out of it. In fact, one notes a certain similarity between the hard to control space drive RAH invents that dumps one in whatever fantasy universe you are thinking of, and the crosstime slipping time cages of Niven’s Temporal Institute. Rainbow Mars isn’t about originality as much as it’s about creative rearrangement.

The other stories; "Flight of the Horse," "Leviathan!," "Bird in the Hand," "There’s a Wolf in my Time Machine" and "Death in a Cage" are a collection of the Best of Svetz. The short story form works better for these flights of chronic fancy than the novella, and besides, they predate "Rainbow Mars." The short stories included ironically work with the premise of the book. Sometimes you have to mine the past for gems.

If you have not read them before, I urge you to ignore the order of the book and start in by reading them first. Not so much because you need the backstory, but because it builds better that way.

In fact, throw caution to the wind and read the author’s afterwords first. It gives nothing away but the moral of the story, and you knew a story with a beanstalk had to have a moral. Right?

It doesn’t hurt to hear it more than once, so here it is. We can reach the planets. We can stretch out towards the stars. What we can’t do is go back and change the past. The space program was whatever it was and as Allen Steele notes in Tranquility Alternative, that doesn’t mean different would have been better. Start today and build tomorrow. It’s the only way.

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"Discworld is a world and a mirror of worlds. This is not a book about Australia. No, it’s about somewhere completely different which just happens to be, here and there, a bit Australian... Still…no worries, right?"

- The Last Continent

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett
ISBN 0-06105048-2 / Harper Prism Mar ’99 Hrdcvr / Review by Ernest Lilley

Discworld is a magical place full of wizards, gods, mortals, and the occasional kangaroo. In other words, a fine place for a holiday if you don’t have to actually go there, but can observe from the safety of your own armchair.

When the wizardly faculty of Unseen University sets off to find the missing Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, they have no idea how far their search will take them. Stepping through an open window in his study and out onto a tropical beach seems like a good idea, and explains the tan he often wore, especially if they prop the window open behind them. Of course, leaving a sign on the prop warning against the dire consequences of closing said window guarantees just that act. Soon the Archchancellor, assorted Chairpersons, Deans and Professors, the incomparable Mrs. Whitlow and the morphically-challenged Librarian, now an orangutan, now a rather hairy dolphin, but always something useful, are stranded long ago and far away in a tropical paradise determined to evolve plants to fulfill their every need. Escape is naturally the first order of business.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the book, Professor Rincewind, the object of their search, has made the unfortunate mistake of coming to the attention of a local god. Worse, the god has a heroic mission for him to go on. Rincewind is no dummy -- immediately after his encounter with the deity, he takes off at high speed. Sadly for him, he’s following the hero’s path even as he attempts to flee it. With a mutable kangaroo and the suddenly-acquired ability to find jelly sandwiches under rocks in the desert, Rincewind journeys across the barren landscape meeting colorful natives and discovering that beer is easier to find than water.

These two story-lines muddle along peripetetically as the author illuminates the improbable landscape of The Last Continent. It’s funny stuff, as only the British imagination can conjure humor, and it’s a delightfully skewed Down Under, as only Terry Pratchett could conjure the land of giant hopping mice.

Although the book is just coming out here, Doubleday released TLC in Great Britain last year . This nifty timing should make it eligible for a Hugo at the World Science Fiction Convention in Australia this summer. Since it’s about a land that looks, sounds, and tastes like the land down under, that’s a right handy thing.

If you haven’t read any of Pratchett’s Discworld novels before, don’t fret. Not a lot makes sense anyway in this eccentric universe, so you can chalk your confusion up to having too much common sense. Your first mistake was not leaving common sense at the door, anyway.

The problem with real life is that it makes all too much sense, often of a dismal sort. Discworld affords one just the respite that reality makes requisite. So, by all means, pour a cold one, put a shrimp on the barbie (what a dead crustacean would want with a plastic fashion doll is beyond me) and enjoy a visit with the denizens of The Last Continent, while the author sends up everything Australian with humor thick enough to cut with a knife. A really big knife.

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Finity is a wild, sexy, enjoyable ride through a uinverse that won't stand still.

Finity by John Barnes
ISBN: 0312861184 / Tor March '99 Hrdcvr / Review by Paul Giguere

Lyle Peripart is an American expatriate living in New Zealand in a world where the Axis powers won World War II a century ago and most of the world is ruled by eleven Reichs. Peripart's talent for statistics brings him to the attention of Geoffrey Iphwin, head of a large multi-national corporation. After interviewing with Iphwin and taking a job with his company, Lyle is attacked by a dangerous Gestapo operative named Billie Beard for apparently no reason. Lyle also discovers that it appears while he was in his interview, he was also flying his fiancee to Saigon - and the fuel tanks and records reflect that.

After an encounter in a restaurant in Saigon where Lyle's gentle historian-fiancee, Helen Perdita, suddenly pulls a virtual armory of weapons out to thwart an assassination attempt on Lyle's life, Lyle begins to look for answers as to why his reality and everything he knows about it is constantly shifting. Each of the dozens of realities that Lyle finds himself shifting through contains not only subtle changes to what he knows of history but also different versions and personalities of the people in Lyle's life (each with their own remembrance of history). Lyle's investigations bring him (and a very different version of Helen) back to Iphwin for the answers.

Iphwin informs Lyle that quantum electronics (phones, computers, and extra-atmospheric vehicles) are causing those individuals using them to slip into other realities and that Iphwin is an artificial intelligence that can jump between the realities to try and bring the realities in line with each other and thus make sense of what is happening. Iphwin assembles of team of individuals to make a dangerous trek (against a seemingly unending number of Billie Beards) on land into what was once known as America to unravel the mystery of the malleable cosmos.

In many ways Finity is reminiscent of the hard-hitting style of his Timeline novels (Patton's Spaceship, Washington's Dirigible, Caesar's Bicycle) and the cerebral stories found in A Million Open Doors and Earth Made Of Glass.

Finity is a wild, exciting and occasionally kinky ride through a uinverse that won't stand still.

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...there are limits to even Immortal endurance and friendship.

Rampaging bears, blizzards, wolves, treacherous ice and even more treacherous men—their journey to the Alaskan frontier is fraught with peril beyond their imagining...

Highlander: White Silence by Ginjer Buchanan
ISBN 0-446-60634-0 / Warner Books March '99 Ppbk / Review by EJ McClure

After three movies, a TV series that ran for five years, with a spin-off series in its first year of production, and eight tie-in novels on the shelf: Highlander is an undeniable success. The complex story web that weaves through four centuries offers plenty of grist for the creative mill. Ginjer Buchanan has chosen Duncan MacLeod for her hero in White Silence, a crisp adventure story set in the early years of the Klondike gold rush. Buchanan is a disciplined writer who has done her research. She keeps Duncan rigorously in character, but to my disappointment he spends most of the book as a supporting character. The narrative focuses instead on the charming but egocentric Hugh Fitzcairn and his pupil, the idealistic and tormented young Danny O’Donal. Against his better judgment, Duncan is drawn into Hugh’s grand scheme for a trek to the Yukon. Amanda makes an insouciant appearance in the early chapters, which are a tie-in to the popular episode "Double Eagle." Danny falls in love with a saloon girl, and Duncan charms a wealthy woman into financing their venture, but at its core the book is a straightforward saga of survival.

Buchanan realistically depicts the appalling risks and hardship endured by those early gold miners. Even Duncan’s experience, Hugh’s facile cunning and Danny’s stubbornness are no match for the implacable forces that rule the Great White North. Our three heroes have the advantage of Immortality, and are able to survive that which would kill lesser men—a fact that does not escape their shrewd Indian guide. But they discover that there are limits to even Immortal endurance, and friendship. Rampaging bears, blizzards, wolves, treacherous ice and even more treacherous men—their journey to the Alaskan frontier is fraught with peril beyond their imagining. What gold they find has less value than they expected, and comes at a greater price.

Hugh’s mournful reminiscing about the women he has left behind and his quicksilver attachment to his difficult pupil punctuate the grim travelogue with moments of humor. Danny’s brief, simple mortal life didn’t give him an adequate foundation of experience to prepare for the privations they endure on the journey, or the unexpected burden of Immortality. Duncan was no better prepared by his childhood in the clans, and might have intervened to help Danny, but for his rigid moral code which requires him to honor Hugh’s role as Danny’s teacher. However inept and inattentive a teacher Hugh might be. Buchanan deftly handles the rising tensions among the trio, and paces the story smoothly to its violent climax.

White Silence is a briskly engaging story that should please Highlander fans, yet also prove enjoyable for those who know nothing of Immortals or the deadly challenge that can consume them as swiftly as an avalanche.

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The city of Helor sits in the shadow of Jebel Quirana, a mountain that contains the final resting place of Keerana Dost...Some say the Dost has been reborn and is about to take back his vast empire...

Eyes of Silver by Michael Stackpole
ISBN 0-553-56113-8 / Bantam Spectra Dec ’98 Ppbk / Review by Asta Sinusas

The city of Helor sits in the shadow of Jebel Quirana, a mountain that contains the final resting place of Keerana Dost, the greatest warrior the world has ever known. Some say the Dost has been reborn and is about to take back his vast empire. Others ignore the prophecies and focus on the strategic location of Helor, which they want to control for their own greedy purposes. Suddenly, this small town in the desert commands the world's attention.

The book is strongly character driven and each individual, during the course of the story, confronts their own limitations. Malachy Kidd has to overcome his eyes of silver and realize that blindness doesn't necessarily mean a loss of sight. Amanda Grimshaw is the pretty young thing who attracts soldier Rob Drury's attention. However, her father is involved in a power struggle for control of a colony, and she must choose which loved one to give her loyalty to. Uriah Smith has very strong magical powers, but is a classic underachiever. His case is one of "too little, too late," and he might lose everything as a result of his easygoing  attitude. Each has to realize what is holding them back and how to overcome their faults in order to become a better person. The whole point of the story is that the characters, through their struggles, can change for the better, and so can the reader. Because of the scope and cast of characters, the plot is full of surprises and miniature cliffhangers right up to the end.

Knowing that the author has written many Star Wars novels, the traces of "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" were easy to pick out. There are definite parallels between the teacher/pupil relationship of ObiWan and Luke and that of Malachy and Uriah, especially in the similarities between the Force and the Martinist relationship of battle techniques and religion. Princess Leia's independence and political ability can be seen in the Stranan King's daughter Natalya, who is willing to put her country before love. As well, the struggle between good and evil in Grigory Khrolic, as his lust for power eventually corrupts him, is reminiscent of Darth Vader.

What is interesting is how Stackpole uses modern politics and religion to create his fantasy world. Nations in the novel correspond to countries like America, France and Ireland. History buffs would certainly be interested in finding parallels between the situations in this book and past events. For instance, in Strana, which closely resembles Russia, "guarding snowdrifts in Murumyskda" is mentioned as a punishment. Aran is a dependent of Ilbeoria and the descriptions of the setting and situation are as colonially British as Indian tea.

Overall, the book is a superbly conceived epic adventure. However, while I was intrigued by the issues raised, I wished that Stackpole would commit to writing either a Fantasy or an Alternate History novel. The unreality of his world makes a safe venue for the arguments his characters have about religion, politics, and philosophy. Nevertheless, I think the discussions would have worked better in a parallel universe. The moral, that people can change makes this story more than fluff and in the end, Eyes of Silver is both entertaining and thought provoking. 

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"Six enticing stories of science fiction/fantasy for those who seldom, if ever, read it." - Rosebud

Rosebud (ISSN #1072-1681) is published quarterly by Rosebud, Inc., a nonprofit organization. Single issue $5.95, Canada $7.50. Subscription $22 for four issues, $36 for eight issues. Canadian and foreign subscribers add $7 per year for surface mail. For subscriptions, address corrections and other orders call 1-800-786-5669 or write: Rosebud, attn: Bill Lubing, N 3850 Tipperary, Poynette, WI 53955.      It's a quarterly anthology magazine of fiction and creative nonfiction.

ZineScene: Rosebud #15Publisher John Lehman / Editor Roderick Clark
Review by Ernest Lilley http://www.hyperionstudio.com/rosebud/rosebud/rosebud_pages/issue_number15.html

Rosebud is not your usual small press zine. As a matter of fact, it’s not a SF zine at all, at least not usually. I ran across it on one of my Barnes and Nobles forays, and there, lurking furtively (me, not the mag) amongst the "literary" magazines, stood a cover that popped out at me with a cheesy flying saucer swooping down on a village of toy figures. That was enough for me, and faster than you could say Roswell, New Mexico, I abducted it for further study.

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"It was times like this that Matt wished he had done a little less daydreaming in Dr. Zarkoff's intergalactic linguistics. He'd Just Have to let his Atomic Helium pistol do the talking."- The Paleolithic Spaceman,
Alex E. Raymond, 1934

Though Rosebud isn’t a SF zine, for this one Winter 98 issue they were willing to make an exception. "Six enticing stories of science fiction/fantasy for those who seldom, if ever, read it," the back cover promises. Inside the promise is kept, with a mix of excellent short stories, cool SF toy montages and quirky humor that really turned me on. The production values are great. Crisp stock and clean layout make Rosebud a pleasure to look at as well as to read.

The content is intriguing, from the short stories to the one minute play, though I wish they had stayed with the issue theme and done a little abduction piece for the play. The stories are all short, interspersed with poetry, and for this issue, some of it was taken from SF venues. Leafing through Rosebud an uncomfortable sensation rose in my breast. Though green, it was no alien…I’m jealous of the job Rosebud is doing.

In addition to numerous features, stories and poems, Rosebud has collected a thought provoking collection of stories from our SF past and present. They’ve also done a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the first saucer sightings by reprinting Kenneth Arnold’s 1948 saucer sighting report, which kicked off the saucer craze of the 50s. Also reprinted is a description of the 1950 Air Force proposal, Operation Lure, in which mock saucers and buildings full of educational materials were proposed to be built and monitored to see if they generated any alien interest. Finally, there is George Adamski’s "Contact is Made", a 1952 first person abduction account. More than anything in recent years, these accounts awakened those childhood fears I always had about flying saucers. As for the rest, often the challenge is to determine which stories are Science Fiction and which are not. Good writing is like that.

Also throughout the issue there are wonderful Golden Age SF landscapes constructed by Eric Nesheim (co author of Saucer Attack!, by Eric and Leif Nesheim, General Publishing Group, $16.95/$22.95 Canada, ISBN 1-57544-0660) out of toy robots, aliens, dinosaurs and flying saucers. Each is accompanied by what pretends to be a text exerpt from a classic SF novel, and the sum of the parts evokes a sense of the whole time and genre when SF was younger and the future was ahead of us. A future we have to look back to find now.

"Eidelman's Machine" by Dale Bailey, originally published in Fantasy and SF, is a disturbing tale about unprovable events when a supermarket clerk builds a machine to stop an earthquake.

"The Emerald City" by Carrie Richerson. Dorothy looks out the window of a plane departing Chicago…or is it Oz she sees behind her?

"Hurlyburly" by David Pnewski. Perfection, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Especially when it comes to finding the perfect partner for a waltz.

"Meet Me in the Moon Room" by Ray Vukcevich, also appeared in Fantasy and SF. It’s definitely not SF, but it’s what I like. It’s just a story about two people who promised to meet 30 years from then on the moon. Sadly, I remember a promise I made like that myself, when I was 12, and I told my grandmother I’d take her to the moon. At least the characters in Ray Vukcevich’s story come closer than I did.

In "The Future Is Here" by Michael Berg SF readers will recognize the plot immediately in Michael Berg’s out of control space ship as an astronaut recounts his last days. For all that, it’s written in a compelling voice.

Make sure you read "The Compassionate Smothering-Death Of The Universe" by Kandis Elliot. The author’s father worked in a shoe factory by day and pounded away on a typewriter trying to create a story for the pulp magazines of the 40’s and 50’s. "If he ever got published, I never knew it." A generation later Kandis pays tribute to his father with a short story that would have fit comfortably within the pages of those pulps, about an alien peace envoy, a telepathic interrogator and secrets to keep.

There are a number of other non-SF stories in the issue, and all are worth reading. The most notable of these is the "Girl who made it with Kennedy," by Charles East, in which different people are trapped in the same moment in our history.

Rosebud bills itself as a cross between The New Yorker and the old Saturday Evening Post and comes out quarterly.

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Recommended Reading

To see what SFRevu had to say about these recently published in trade or paperback editions click on the SFRevu back Issue Number

Now in Paperback! Reviewed in Sfrevu as new releases.
Click on title to go to Amazon.com to order the book (SFRevu is an Amazon Assoicate )

Review Issue

Title

Author

Pub

Form

Released

2.6

Earth Made Of Glass

John Barnes

Tor

Paperback

Mar-99

2.5

Ports Of Call

Jack Vance

Tor

Trade

Mar-99

2.4

Someplace To Be Flying

Charles de Lint

Tor

Paperback

Mar-99

2.6

Komarr

Lois McMaster Bujold

Baen

Paperback

Apr-99

2.8

Newton's Cannon

J. Gregory Keyes

Del Rey

Paperback

Apr-99

2.4

Rogue Star

Michael Flynn

Tor

Paperback

Apr-99

2.6

Secret Realms

Tom Cool

Tor

Paperback

Apr-99