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1999 by Ernest Lilley

SF Bookshelf
New Releases:  Silver Birch, Blood Moon / Far Horizons / Rockets, Redheads and Revolution / Stars Asunder / Colonization: Second Contact Now in Paperback: Star Trek:Ship of the Line / Ship of Magic

ZineScene: Analog June '99 

Contents  Contact  Focus   Bookshelf   Media Art in SF

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Bawdy, sensual, gruesome and delightful, Silver Birch, Blood Moon makes wonderful bedtime reading—for adults.

Silver Birch, Blood Moon Ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
ISBN 0-380-78622-2/ Avon Mar 1999 / Review by EJ McClure

Datlow and Windling have added a fifth book to their triumphant series of adult fairy-tale anthologies (see sidebar). While Some of the retellings are quaint and charming, others are sharply modern in their clarity and cynicism. By turns whimsical and horrifying, the fairy tales are closer to the originals than the pastel Disney versions. The plots usually hinge on a magical working or a wondrous event, a common theme of the folk tales captured by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. Bawdy, sensual, gruesome and delightful, Silver Birch, Blood Moon makes wonderful bedtime reading — for adults.

The frog prince is a popular theme. Patricia McKillip’s "Toad" gives us a pond’s eye view of the Princess. Why would any self-respecting toad put up with such a spoiled brat? Tanith Lee’s poignant "Kiss Kiss" brings the princess to the verge of womanhood, where innocent romance is replaced by the heart-breaking disappointment called "growing up." Garry Kennilworth transplants the tale to rural England, updates it to include a self-assured spinster in place of a princess, and gives us "The Frog Chauffeur."

Nancy Kress has published a story in each book of this series. Her contribution to this volume, "Clad in Gossamer," is a shrewd revisitation of "The Emperor’s New Clothes." Embarrassment takes on a whole new meaning as an arrogant and jealous younger prince plots to humiliate his despised older brother. Then there is "The Sea Hag," one of my favorites. Have you ever wondered about the mother of all those silly little mermaids, and why she let her daughter go gallivanting off to dry land? Melissa Lee Shaw’s turnabout tale of maternal love and trickery is a delight. The little mermaid is silly and self-absorbed, as only a teenager in love can be. In contrast, her mother becomes a tragic heroine.

Mysterious and marvelous, each of the 21 stories in Silver Birch, Blood Moon is a masterpiece in its own right. The delicate cover art by Tom Canty illuminates the fine craftsmanship that went into yet another superb anthology by Datlow and Windling.

amzn-crt.gif (3625 bytes) Previous editions from this series of reinterpreted and retold fairy tales for adults (CLICK on the titles below to order from Amazon.com or on the Issue # to go to a SFRevu review of book)
Snow White, Blood Red (Paperback - 1995)

Black Thorn, White Rose (Paperback -  1995)

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (Paperback -  1996) 

Black Swan, White Raven ( Paperback - 1998) reviewed in SFRevu 2-11

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Far Horizons presents all new stories - nice, long stories - based in eleven of the most enduring serial universes in Science Fiction and written by the authors who created those universes.

Far Horizons : The Great Worlds of Science Fiction by Robert Silverberg (Editor)
ISBN: 0380976307 / Eos Hrdcvr May 1999/ Review by John Possidente

Far Horizons presents all new stories nice, long stories based in eleven of the most enduring serial universes in Science Fiction and written by the authors who created those universes. As soon as I saw the table of contents, I said to myself, "This is gonna be good."

Science Fiction is awash in imagined universes. Some well constructed and some shoddy. Many are memorable, others best forgotten. In the introduction to the Far Horizons anthology, Editor Robert Silverberg also points out that some just entertain while others offer deeper insights.

Every piece is thoughtfully introduced by the author with a brief overview of the relevant universe, its main characters and events. I found this helpful not only for those few of the universes to which I was a newcomer, but also as a refresher course on those I hadn’t visited in some time. Anyone who’s completely unfamiliar with these worlds should not be put off; this book could be a great introduction to some of the best work out there.

First up is Ursula K. Le Guin’s haunting "Old Music and the Slave Women," set in her Ekumen universe. In it, she shows the mastery of character and feeling that helped earn her reputation in the first place. In fact, the entire book is just one example after another of masters of the craft returning to find new flowers in well-worked beds. Joe Haldeman fills in a untold story from the time of his Forever War (and confirms that a sequel, Forever Free, is in the works). Orson Scott Card recounts the first meeting between Ender Wiggin and Jane, his computerized companion. David Brin revisits the Uplift Universe and the fugitive dolphins left behind by their human partners on the off-limits world of Jijo. Silverberg himself contributes, adding a thoughtful and interesting piece to his Roma Eterna alternate history.

We find the Amoiete Spectrum Helix pilgrims of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion books interrupted in their long quest for a new home far from human influence; both Raul and Aenea’s son Petyr and the Shrike make appearances. Nancy Kress tells a fine story set in her world of the genemod Sleepless. Frederik Pohl returns to one of my personal favorites, the Gateway asteroid, and tells of the very first mission to make contact with the Heechee. The Mantis is one of the most intriguing villains in Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series, and in "A Hunger for the Infinite", we get some insight into its thoughts and goals. Anne McCaffrey’s Ship Who Sang returns to Ravel (sort of) to save the residents (well, not exactly) from some pirates (definitely pirates). Lastly, Greg Bear’s sometimes dead Olmy Ap Sennen finds the more-infinite-than-you-can-imagine Way threatened by a gate into total order and (I am not making this up) allows the universe to be born.

Anthologies are too often a mixed bag, throwing a few gems or big names in with a lot of less than stellar material. This one, I am happy to say, does not follow that pattern. Mr. Silverberg has put together a solid book filled with high points and no lows. For me, this was like a series of visits with old friends. How quickly I became comfortable again in each of these universes says something about how well crafted they were in the first place.

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rrandr.jpg (7679 bytes) Rockets, Redheads and Revolution by James Hogan
ISBN 0-671-57807-3 / Baen Ppbk Apr '99 / Review by Ernest Lilley

R, R, & R is an engaging mixture of essays and short stories in which James Hogan makes himself perfectly clear on a number of issues - from the economics of space travel and how they can be used to bring down a government to the hypocrisy of entrenched science.

Readers of the author's books won't be surprised by the his opinions, including a much livelier solar system than traditionally believed and the belief that rational people could create sane societies. What may surprise even Hogan's  fans is the amount of thought that has gone into his beliefs and the facts he has amassed to back them up.

The stories are funny and sobering, old and new, but all thought provoking. Some have come out of magazines and at least one updated to include the author's current awareness of the state of science. This happens to be very close to his core belief. Hogan maintains that you should always be willing to change your mind if the facts warrant it. This may seem simple, even obvious, but after you've read his tales of scientific dogma you will begin to appreciate its significance.

When I ran into the author at I-Con (see Contact) I asked a question he's evidentially heard before. No, he doesn't know who the redhead on the cover is, though there is first person tale inside that includes his encounter with a tall, long legged, kinky, redhead at a con. I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

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The Stars Asunder by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
ISBN: 0-312-86410-8 / Tor Books Jun '99/ Review by Paul Giguere

Space Opera has come a long way since the days of E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman stories, where scientific accuracy and great writing took a back seat to the action and adventure, where a blaster was a blaster, and you always knew who the bad guys were.

For those of us who miss the blaster-toting good guys, the really bad bad guys, topped off by the space battles and interstellar war that Smith's Space Operas gave us, we have been blessed with the Mageworlds series, by Debra Doyle and James Macdonald (a wife/husband writing team). The first three novels, Price Of The Stars, Starpilot's Grave and By Honor Betrayed, follow the exploits of Beka Rosselin-Metadi, daughter of Perada Rosselin, Domina of Entibor, as she hunts down her mother's assassins (and in the process, uncovers a new plot to take over the galaxy). Aided by Beka's brothers (one of whom is an Adept, a wielder of a magic-like force) and the mysterious Professor ('Rekhe), we are treated to fun, enjoyable and well-written stories that contain many of those elements that we found so enjoyable in Smith's sagas. A fourth novel, The Gathering Flame, is a prequel to the trilogy in which Beka's parents meet and, together, forge an interstellar alliance to battle the Mageworld menace.

The Stars Asunder is a another prequel to the trilogy that is set before the events related in The Gathering Flame. In it, we learn of the Professor’s origins as a young Mage, and in the process, we learn much about the origins of the Mageworlds before they came into contact with other civilizations and societies. This is a departure from traditional Space Opera, because Doyle and Macdonald give us insight into the motivations of the supposed bad guys of the previous novels and in the process, they make the Mages more human.

'Rekhe (a.k.a. "the Professor") is a member of the new Mage-circle trying to bridge a great gap in space past which, it is rumored, the sundered branches of humanity exist. He is thrust into the position of having to make some difficult decisions that may result in the loss of everything he holds dear, and could result in a fundamental change in the society of the Mageworlds.

With each successive novel, the Mageworlds universe gives us a depth of character and plot that simply weren't in the Space Operas of yesteryear. Doyle and Macdonald give us insight into the Mageworlds without sacrificing the air of mystery that we have come to expect.. This kept the book fresh and exciting and made the novel a real page-turner. If you like your Space Opera soft-boiled, then the Mageworlds universe may be just what "Doc" Smith ordered.

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amzn-crt.gif (3625 bytes)  Books in the original  Harry Turtledove   Wordlwar series (CLICK on the titles below to order from Amazon.com )

Worldwar : In the Balance Vol 1 - (Paperback 1996)

Worldwar : Tilting the Balance - (Paperback 1996)

Worldwar : Upsetting the Balance - (Paperback 1997)

Worldwar : Striking the Balance - (Paperback, 1997)

Colonization: Second Contact by Harry Turtledove
ISBN 0345430190 / Del Rey Hrdcvr Feb '99

Readers of Harry Turtledove who enjoyed the Worldwar series will be at home with his new book, Colonization: Second Contact, after all, it picks 20 years after the last book left off. This gap in time allows the publisher to present the book as the first in a new series and new readers can join in without feeling that they've missed the first half of the movie.

In the original Worldwar series Earth was invaded by "The Race" -- intelligent, lizard-like aliens who came from a world where society and technology remained static over many centuries. Relying on data from a probe sent to Earth during the Roman times they were not prepared to find humans as advanced as they were by World War II, a nasty surprise that kept them from dominating the planet.

The story picks up in this new novel after two decades of truce in the semi-successful invasion of Earth. The new series revolves around the arrival of the "Colonization Fleet" and the impact this has on both the humans and the aliens occupying Earth who have been living with an uneasy truce for years.

There are a number of political issues that underline the story. There is tension and mistrust between the three major human "not-empires" of the U.S., Germany and the U.S.S.R., as well as between the empire of The Race and humans. The lizards are also at odds over the failure to conquer the entire planet, with the new arrivals and veteran aliens each looking askance at each other.

What makes Turtledove's stories interesting is to watch how the author warps history in the face of alien invasion. How does the presence of The Race, affect the racial and religious themes of the twentieth century? What becomes of the Jews in a Europe where Nazi Germany survives? How would American Civil Rights issues turn out?

Then there are changes that parallel the modern world, but in Lizard skin. The domination of the Middle East and China by aliens may seem unreal, but could the author be making a point about the alien nature of the real cultures?

There is a smattering of historically significant characters, but they are used sparingly to set the stage for the much stronger fictional characters. Turtledove manages to convey the differences in thought processes not only between human and alien, but between the aliens that have been on Earth for the last four books and the crop that just blew in. The occupying forces had learned over the years that in order to survive, they must adapt. Change being foreign to their culture, the second wave of invaders finds this hard to accept.

This book is an interesting blend of Alternate History and SF and should appeal to readers of both. With Colonization: Second Contact Turtledove, master of the genre, has begun another intriguing new series.

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...the Big Double E is taken out for its inaugural spin by…Frasier? Yeah, sort of...
Largely, this is his story, and it turns out to be a darn good one at that.

The author gives Picard a virtual mentor to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of command, and a pastime that we can all relate to :   watching old Star Trek episodes.

Star Trek: Ship of the Line by Diane Carey
ISBN 0-671-00925-7 / Pocket Ppbk May '99/ Review by Ernest Lilley

I had false expectations about Ship of the Line, and when the book first came out in hardcover, I didn't look beyond them. Now it’s out in paperback, and I'm hooked.

Ship of the Line is the story of the U.S.S. Enterprise E's maiden voyage. The EE, (has anyone noticed that we're ripe for a "Doc" Smith pun here?) is the ship first featured in the movie Star Trek: First Contact, after the any-landing-you-can-walk-away-from demise of the Enterprise D in Star Trek: Generations. What it isn't about, for the most part, is Jean Luc Picard. He's there, but only as the "B" plot. Instead, the Big Double E is taken out for its inaugural spin by…Frasier? The TV series radio shrink? Yeah, sort of.

You may remember a Star Trek:TNG episode where Kelsey Grammer had a brief appearance as a starship captain whose ship was on a collision course with the Enterprise D as his ship emerged from a "temporal distortion". It was a clever episode in which the same events kept repeating as we watched the ships repeat their doomed encounter in an endless temporal loop. The loop is broken when the Next Gen crew becomes aware of the temporal repetition and send enough clues forward to the next cycle to alter the chain of events and avoid destruction. The ship coming out of time at them thus survives, and its captain contacts the Starfleet monstrosity he nearly ran into, only to find that he and his crew are stranded in the future.

Largely, Ship Of The Line is his story, and it turns out to be a darn good one at that.

The story starts out with a visit to the USS Bozeman, a Starfleet border patrol vessel, by the USS Enterprise B, Captain James T. Kirk commanding, on his way to the Neutral Zone border. The Bozeman's Captain, Morgan "Bulldog" Bateson, is a man of his times,  smart, tough and ready to defend the Federation against hostile aliens or human smugglers. Bateson has few illusions about kinder and gentler times to come. A student of history, he knows that peace is something you have to be ready to fight for. Thrust suddenly into the genteel restraint of the 24th century by the temporal distortion, he sees what Starfleet cannot - that the Klingons are readying themselves to attack their neighbors - an attack that he and his ship thwarted a century ago by sounding the alarm even as they were being hurled into the time stream.

Meanwhile, Picard has been wondering about life, liberty and the pursuit of command while the double E was being built. Perhaps it's time to give up the big chair, he thinks, and go off on a long archeological dig. Or to accept an Admiralty from Starfleet. Either way, he's not ready to take the new Enterprise out, and that singular honor falls to the Captain that who oversaw her construction: Morgan Bateman. Thanks to a loophole in Starfleet Regulations regarding time travel, Bateman is the most senior captain in the fleet, and once he gets re-certified on current command protocols, welcome to his pick of assignments. The one he picks is captain of the Enterprise.

While Picard is sent off to Cardassian Space on a rescue mission, Bateman takes off on a private crusade. He wants to provoke the Klingons into showing their hand and revealing their massing forces along the border of Federation space. Along for the ride, with misgivings, are Riker, Troi and LaForge, who had elected to stay with the new ship, not imagining it would get a new skipper. Also along is Captain Montgomery Scott, fully up to speed on the latest ways of warp, and the entire crew of the Bozemann, sticking together in a time not their own.

Using an inspired device, the author gives Picard a virtual mentor to discuss command, and a pastime that we can all relate to: watching old Star Trek episodes.

Just before the merchant vessel Picard is riding on leaves spacedock, Riker sent Data and LaForge to install a holodeck projector and with a virtual reenactment of an earlier Enterprise mission, entitled "Romulan Incursion at the Neutral Zone," featuring an interactive and very young James T. Kirk. This gives fans of The Original Series a chance to see one of their favorite episodes through Picard's eyes, and even watch the two captains debate the reasons for Kirk's moves. Not only is it clever, but it's nicely done.

Diane Carey has also done a fine job creating Batesman. Imagine Fraiser without the streak of buffoon that the popular TV show injects into the character, and you get a savvy, cultured spacefarer with a deep concern and affection for his crew and a keen appreciation of his old Klingon nemesis. Batesman is a man with a sense of history and tradition who sees that no matter wherever in time you go, the same truths await you.

Evidentially, Klingons live a long time, because Kozara, the captain of the Klingon vessel that Batesman's efforts thwarted, is still around. He’s hungry to reclaim his honor, the last shred of which disappeared when it was discovered that he had not destroyed Batesman…but merely allowed him to escape in time. For Klingon captain Kozara, it's not enough to kill and disgrace Batesman, he's going to make sure that the new Federation Flagship ends its brief career in disgrace, ending that lineage forever.

I thought I wasn't going to like this book because it’s largely about a bit character who added little to the overall Star Trek universe, and ultimately has the story taken away from him by Picard anyway. I was wrong.

Diane Carey has used Batesman's story to point out the weakness of the Next Generation's focus and to present a captain courageous and cunning. She has also managed to pay fitting tribute to both this bold ship and all who have captained her down through the alphabet.

I salute this Ship of the Line, and wish her, and all who sail her, fair winds and following seas.

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Final Frontier (Star Trek Novel) by Diane Carey ISBN: 0671696556 \ Ppbk Jan '88 \ Out of Print

Diane Carey has a history with first voyages of the Enterprise. Back in 1988 she wrote a novel I loved as much as her latest. Final Frontier (not to be confused with the movie or episode) takes us back to the launching of the first Federation Starship, a constitution class vessel without even a name…yet. Under the command of Captain Robert April, who Trek historians will recognize as the first Captain of the Enterprise, this untried ship is the only hope for colonists trapped in a derelict vessel in a high radiation area. Shanghaied to be the new ship's weapons officer is Cmdr. George Kirk, James T.'s dad, along with his engaging sidekick Drake.

The story of this still unfinished ship, Romulan spies and James T. Kirk's dad are required reading for fans of the early series. Diane Carey is a terrific author and the characters she creates are as much fun as anyone in the series. - Ernest Lilley

shipofmagic.jpg (7411 bytes) Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
ISBN 0-553-57563-5 / Bantam Ppbk Feb 1999 / Review by EJ McClure

Brashly confident of her father’s favoritism and her own abilities, Althea Vestrit eagerly anticipates the day she will take command of Vivacia, the family liveship. She is sick of her brother-in-law Kyle Haven’s arrogant and abrasive leadership. On the other hand, Kyle sees it as his job as acting captain of Vivacia, and man of the household, to get Althea under control before she disgraces the family by drunken carousing with disreputable sailors. While he’s at it, he’s got to get Wintrow, his son, back from Sa’s priesthood, never mind that he was pledged as a child -- Kyle needs him back, now. The Vivacia will not sail without a member of the Vestrit family aboard; better the coward Wintrow than the brash and outspoken Althea. Unfortunately for Kyle, Wintrow makes up in determination what he lacks in boldness.

Meanwhile, buccaneer Captain Kinnet dreams of becoming the pirate king. He has a prophecy from one of the mysterious Others to guide him in his ambitions, a wizardwood charm for luck, and no scruples to hamper his pursuit of loot and glory. Slave traders and merchant ships alike fall prey to his cunning schemes. He is even lucky enough to be loved, though he does precious little to deserve it. Everything is going his way. To crown his success, all he needs to do is capture a liveship.

Robin Hobb’s luxurious epic of sailing ships, family politics, and magic makes a wonderful vacation book. The nautical details are carefully accurate, but they never overwhelm the flow of the narrative. The characters, even unlikable ones such as Kyle, are fully fleshed. We can sympathize with Malta’s teenage conniving and her mother Keffria’s indecisiveness even while we deplore the consequences. Althea creates a good deal of her trouble with her hot pride and quick tongue, but learns both fortitude and seamanship as she labors to undo her mistakes.

Though the dialogue is not as salty as I hear on the waterfront, the prose is as polished as a ship’s brass bell. The complex plot takes us from Bingtown at the mouth of the mysterious Rain Wild River to decadent Jamaillia. Along the way we experience storms at sea, attacks by fierce sea serpents, slave auctions, mutinies and clandestine kitchen meetings wherein more than recipes are exchanged. Toward the end of Ship of Magic, I began to suspect that the plot was too complicated to resolve in a mere 800 pages, so I was not surprised to find that there is a sequel, Mad Ship, is due out in hardcover in April. Sign me up to go aboard when the ship pulls into port.

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Copyright 1999 by Dell Magazines, a division of Crosstown Publications

ZineScene: June 1999 Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Review by John Klima

Analog's main feature of the month is the second part of Catherine Asaro's "The Quantum Rose." The story, which concludes in the July issue, is an interstellar Love Space Opera. What does that mean? The main characters, Argali Rose, Havril Lionstar and Jax Ironbridge, form a love triangle that encompasses distant worlds and disparate technology. Much like her novels, Asaro blends real characters with exciting action throughout the course of the serial.

Wolf Read's "Trees of Verita" features two sisters in a future society that allows children to progress at their own rates through school. Accordingly, the sisters are both teens, but working at full-time research positions. After the loss of their mother, the younger sister travels to the distant planet of Verita to help study the enormous trees that have lived for millions of years. The sisters are able to bond with each other and get past their mother's death through a biological miracle involving the massive trees.

Don D'Ammassa's "Karma Sutra" is the funniest Probability Zero that I've read in Analog in quite a long time. I'll just give you the set up: in the future someone figures out how to copyright dreams so you have to pay a royalty to dream certain images or people. Wacky. Also on the humor front, is F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre's "Time Lines." The protagonist takes on the age-old problem of traveling back in time to kill Hitler before the Holocaust. Except, there are rules and regulations to time travel that the protagonist does not initially understand, but eventually learns well enough to profit from. Last year's Hugo Winner, Bill Johnson, takes the reader down a strange path of power sources and cold fusion generators. Suffice it to say, sometimes a little ignorance can go a long way in the realm of public utilities. Geoffrey Landis flies the reader to Mars in his science fact article, "Onward to the Pole!" Landis proposes a polar landing for whenever mankind makes a flight to Mars. Knowing Landis' connection with NASA (he works there) this could be a strong predictor of what's to come. Of course, the projected time frame is still some dozen years from now.

Perhaps the only downfall to an otherwise strong issue of Analog is Rick Shelley's "At the Zoo." Maybe it's just me, but the story, an interstellar zoo with new creatures and strange events after they arrive, feels rather self-evident from the opening pages, and then seems to linger on too long to reach its obvious conclusion. I could forgive this if the story had ended differently from what I thought, but it didn't. Alas, not everything can be perfect, and one weak story does not, like a rotten apple, spoil the whole bunch.

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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

Review Issue

Title

Author

Pub

Form

2.7

Factoring Humanity

Robert Sawyer

Tor

Paperback

2.9

The Centurion's Empire

Sean McMullen

Tor

Paperback

2.7

The Great War: The American Front

Harry Turtledove

Del Rey

Paperback