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© 1999 by Ernest Lilley

SF Bookshelf
New Releases:  / Nimisha's Ship / Enchantment / Earthweb / Get a Life / The Iron Giant: A Story in Five Nights
ZineScene: Cemetery Dance

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Nimisha's Ship by Anne McCaffrey
List Price: $25.00 Amazon Price: $17.50
Hardcover - 388 pages (February 1999) Del Rey; ISBN: 0345388259
Other Editions: Audio Cassette (Abridged), Audio Cassette (Unabridged)

Review by E.J. McClure

Nimisha was a precocious youngster. She was barely out of the nursery before it became obvious that she had inherited her sire’s mechanical aptitude, much to her dam’s dismay. Is this grubby tinkering really a suitable pastime for a scion of one of the First Families, the privileged leisure class of Acclarke City? Undaunted by social disapproval, Nimisha inherits her sire’s shipyard and wins lucrative Fleet contracts with her brilliant innovations. While on a solo test flight of the Mark Five space yacht, she gets sucked into a wormhole and deposited in the Delta Quadrant, light-years from home. She has only her three trusty AIs for company, each programmed with suitable personalities: Helm, Cater, and Doc.

Some stranded pilots would take refuge in cold sleep and await rescue. Not Nimisha, not with a whole new sector of space to explore. After shooting off a beacon to announce her safe arrival to the folks back home, she charts a course for the nearest M-class planet, where she discovers that she is not the first voyager to have that bright idea.

Nimisha’s body-heir, Cuiva, is a charming child, a comfort to those left behind when Nimisha disappeared. But When Family politics threaten Cuiva’s life, Nimisha’s mother reluctantly decides that the girl will be safer in space. Accompanied by a small crew of super-talented volunteers, Cuiva sets off in search of her mother. Then a space station commanded by the narrow-minded Captain Nesta Meterios gets sucked into the wormhole, and leapfrogs Cuiva’s team to the Delta Quadrant.

Nimisha’s Ship is billed as Science Fiction, though its science is of the Star Trek variety, but it reads better as a Robinson Crusoe fantasy of castaways in space. In brisk, straightforward prose, McCaffrey details the salvage efforts, explorations, and ingenuity of Nimisha’s band of colonists. There is plenty of action, most of it bloodless. The characterization is simplistic; the villains are cartoons, played for comic effect rather than true threat. Suitable for young adults of all ages, Nimisha’s Ship is a pleasant vehicle that revisits themes familiar to the fans of McCaffrey’s popular Dragonriders Of Pern series.

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enchantment.jpg (21972 bytes) Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
List Price: $25.00 Amazon Price: $17.50
Hardcover - 400 pages 1 edition (April 1999) Del Rey; ISBN: 0345416872
Other Editions: Audio Cassette (Abridged)
Review by E.J. McClure

Enchantment is an intriguing blend of the modern and fantastic handled with the deft grace and fluid prose that has won Orson Scott Card so many awards. The hero, Ivan Smetski, is a Russian Jew brought up in the Ukraine in ignorance of his heritage. Bewildered by his father's sudden decision to emigrate to America in 1975, Ivan runs away from Cousin Marek's farm. Deep in the Carpathian forest, he finds a sleeping princess atop a pedestal amid a lake of dead leaves, and wakes her dreadful guardian. Like a sensible boy, he takes to his heels, and leaves both princess and mystery behind.

After the Berlin Wall comes down in 1991, Ivan returns to the Ukraine to research Slavonic folklore for his dissertation. He is irresistibly drawn back to the clearing in the wood. No longer a frightened boy, but now a skilled athlete, Ivan challenges the sleeping beauty's protector and claims the traditional kiss that breaks the spell. For his reward, he is transported with her into a country that vanished a millennium ago. Good thing he speaks Old Church Slavonic! He is welcomed, somewhat dubiously, by the people of Taina, but rebels against their expectation that he marry Princess Katerina and save them from the terrible witch, Baba Yaga. After all, he has a fiancée back home, and a dissertation to write. When he discovers that he is in mortal danger, he decides he has had enough of field research. He once again takes quite sensibly to his heels.

But Ivan did not count on Katerina's stubborn gallantry, or on her desperation. Katerina knows that if she returns to her village without her husband, Baba Yaga and her minions will have the excuse they need to invade the little country of Taina. She must disappear with her husband in order to keep her people safe, even if it means crossing the magic bridge and leaving behind everyone she knows and loves. Encumbered by a wife he does not want, Ivan goes to Cousin Marek's farm for refuge. Marek promptly sends both Ivan and his new wife to America, thinking the young couple will be safe there, a thousand miles across the water in a new land. But they have all underestimated Baba Yaga's malevolent cunning and terrifying power. Fortunately for them, Baba Yaga underestimates the resourcefulness of Ivan's mother.

Orson Scott Card has a sly sense of humor and a sympathetic understanding of human nature. His young lovers are appealing in their bemused and hesitant discovery of their affection. Their dialogue is droll and cutting by turns. Katerina is impetuous, competent and shrewdly practical; hardly your usual fairytale princess. Ivan's mixture of fatalism and ingenuity is part of his heritage, and makes his reactions to his bizzare and sometimes absurd adventures entirely believable. The dismay of Katerina's father at the strange son-in-law his daughter drags home rings true, as does the baffled rage of Ivan's jilted American fiancée. The unusual juxtaposition of Slavic and American culture provides both amusement and illuminating insights. Every action in the plot is driven by the heart-felt choices of the characters, and the narrative moves swiftly and unerringly toward its powerful conclusion.

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earthweb.jpg (23092 bytes) Earthweb by Marc Stiegler
List Price: $6.99 Amazon Price: $5.59
Mass Market Paperback - 320 pages (May 1999) Baen Books; ISBN: 067157809X

Review by Paul J. Giguere

Earthweb is the first of what may be a series of novels set in the mid-twentieth century. It begins after Earth has fought off a series of automated planet-killers, losing millions of lives in the process. In the fondly anthropomorphic way of humans, we named them Shiva, after the Hindu God of Destruction. When the second Shiva arrived five years after the first, genius Morgan MacBride convinced the military that the only way to defeat it was from within. Leading a team of five people, he accomplished his mission and escaped with his life, but not his team. When Shivas III and IV arrived (each of which was more sophisticated and difficult to destroy), MacBride added the power of the Earthweb (a successor to the World Wide Web) to the global defense system, uniting the abilities and talents of billions of Earth's inhabitants to form a kind of meta-talent phenomenon that embodies itself in each team member that enters a Shiva. But that's all backstory.

The novel picks up with Shiva V just days away from Earth, and MacBride's latest team soundly defeated. MacBride must now direct another team into Shiva V, but with only a few days left before the planet-killer arrives at Earth, the military feels that he may not be up to the job. Jessica Travis is recruited to be his replacement. She must overcome her fears and rise to the occasion to replace MacBride and become the new savior of humanity.

Earthweb is full of interesting and colorful characters. Jessica Travis struggles with her new-found importance to Earth, and with the knowledge that she may be Earth's last hope. The new Shiva V team contains five unique personalities, including an expert in demolitions and one in martial arts. On the periphery is MacBride, a living myth after surviving Shiva II and directing the destruction of Shivas III and IV. In reality, MacBride is a crippled and broken man (having barely survived Shiva II) who must deal with the fact that the new Shiva may be more than even he can handle. The real star of the novel is the Earthweb, and Stiegler spends a good amount of time explaining it.

Earthweb is an idea-driven novel in which the quest to defeat Shiva V is sometimes overshadowed by Stiegler's need to get his concept of the Earthweb across. Stiegler risks creating a novel that is mere window-dressing for his idea of the Earthweb. The novel slips into a sort of quest-based story similar to various Fantasy novels where a small group of very different individuals are gathered to defeat the evil enemy (Lord Of The Rings is a famous example). I also found parallels between Earthweb and the The Guns Of Navarone, in which a small group of unlikely comrades try to find a way into a seemingly impregnable fortress to destroy it. Stiegler pulls off this high-wire act with great competence and skill, which makes Earthweb an enjoyable novel -- and makes Stiegler an author I look forward to reading again.

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Get a Life by William Shatner, Chris Kreski (Contributor)
List Price: $24.00 Amazon Price: $14.40
Hardcover - 320 pages (May 1999) Pocket Books; ISBN: 0671021311
Other Editions: Audio Cassette
Review by Ernest Lilley

Once upon a time, William Shatner found himself with nothing to do. He'd killed off James T. Kirk, dissed Trek Fandom on national TV, annoyed the heck out of the TOS cast, had a prime time show cancelled, and had been dumped by his wife. Even his dog threw up on him. He was a prime candidate for a twelve step program. "Hello, my name is Bill."

Which is to say, he needed a life.

His agent, sensitive and supportive, pointed out that he might not have a life, but bills were still pouring in from the one he used to have, and he might as well take a Trek Convention up on their invitation to speak. And he did. And he found that it was fun.

Thus began the Kirkapalooza tour, recounted here with sidetrips into the history of Star Trek, and augmented by interviews with fans. William Shatner recounts a period where he went to speak at every Trek Con that would have him, and along the way, he went in search of fandom. And (as often happens in these sorts of stories) he found himself.

Now, after skulking through Cons in a silly rubber mask, after braving the home of a dreaded Trek Fanatic armed only with a tri...er...tape recorder, after nearly puking his guts out on countless airline flights, now when William Shatner looks out at fandom and says "Get a life!" he is acknowledging the life that Trek has brought him, the King Trekkie.

Perhaps we've always felt we knew William Shatner better than he did. Loud, self absorbed, vain, a little sleazy...unfit to wear Kirk's command tunic. But for all that, he's a likable cad. We want him to be the best of James T. Kirk and we find him to be more human than we care to allow. After reading Get A Life, the uncanny realization steals across you that William Shatner is just another not very good Kirk impersonator. He is a lot of fun at a Con and Get A Life is a lot of fun too.

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Soon to be a major motion picture...Iron Giant stomps onto the silver screen
August 6th.
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The Iron Giant: A Story in Five Nights by Ted Hughes
Andrew Davidson (Illustrator)
List Price: $16.00 Amazon Price: $11.20
Reading level: Ages 9-12 Hardcover - 80 pages (May 1999) Knopf; ISBN: 0375801677 Other Editions: Paperback (July 1999)

Review by Ernest Lilley

In the not-too distant future, The Iron Giant will be coming to our planet, at least as a motion picture. You can prepare yourself, and your kids, by picking up a copy of the 30th aniversary edition of this engaging children's SF Classic.

The Iron Giant is about a spacefaring robot that falls to Earth, picks himself up, puts himself back together, and makes friends with a boy. Earth's armies try to destory him, until a bigger threat comes along in the form of a giant space bat/dragon, and the Iron Giant stands up to it on our behalf. True, we may have treated him badly, but without mankind, where would all that wonderful steel junk the Giant loves to eat come from?

I got turned on to this story when I saw the trailer for the movie in a mall, and Warner Bros. is doing its best to create some advance buzz for the film with free webspace and email for kids on their Iron Giant website.

It seems to me that in a summer in which the biggest SF film's message is that nice little boys can grow up to become dreaded masters of evil, a story about making friends and pulling youself together might be a good thing. Besides, it's never too soon to start the next generation on robot stories.

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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

(click on the title to go to Amazon.com)

Review Issue

Title

Author

Pub

Form

2.7

Kirinyaga

Mike Resnick

Del Rey

Trade

2.9

Quest For The Fallen Star

Piers Anthony, James Richey and Alan Riggs

Tor

Paperback

2.10

The Ghost of the Revelator L.E. Modesitt Tor

Paperback

2.7

The Silver Wolf

Alice Borchardt

Ballantine

Paperback

cdance.jpg (20991 bytes) ZineScene: Cemetery Dance, Issue #31
Review by John Kilma

"Why is a horror magazine getting reviewed in SFRevu?" I asked...our zine reviewer tried to flummox his editor with the following answer. Well, at least I agree that it's a good mag, though not what I normally look for in SF zines. - Ernest

Why, you may ask, is a Horror magazine getting reviewed in the SF-themed pages of SFRevu? Good question. Cemetery Dance is known for cutting-edge horror. It is the one place where fans of Horror can find consistently good fiction and reviews for the stuff they love. Well, that's why I read the magazine. Now I'll tell you why you should read the magazine, this issue in particular.

This issue of Cemetery Dance features a number of old-time science fiction writers. Writers whose fiction straddle the line between Horror and SF. Writers like Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, Robert Bloch, and even newer writers like Dan Simmons and Michael Marshall Smith.

Maybe the connection is still not there for you, eh? The kick-off story, "Relics" by Richard Matheson, is a true-to-form 50s SF story about the horrors the future will hold for us. The William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson pieces, "Silk and Fire," and "Little Screams," respectively, are horror blended with humor and hard-boiled detective mythos. For those of you who don't know, Nolan and Johnson wrote a little story and screenplay called Logan's Run that did pretty well for itself.

Of course, everyone knows who Robert Bloch is, but if you need a refresher: Psycho. Bloch also wrote a few original Star Trek episodes and some Twilight Zone material. The interview featured in the magazine was one of the last ones he did before he died. It is filled with the twisted humor that was typical of conversations with Bloch. Norman Partridge's column, "It Came from the Drive-In" features a George Clayton Johnson-penned Rat Pack movie, but I suspect that future installments will bring up some good ol' campy SF classics, maybe Night of the Lepus?

The last connection to the SF world I'll make for you is the magazine's regular "Spotlight on Publishing" column. Columnist Bob Morrish interviews a new small-press mogul for every issue. This issue, he spoke with Barry Hoffman of Gauntlet Press. Not only has Hoffman's magazine, Gauntlet, featured many of SF's greatest writers, Bradbury and Matheson to name a few, Hoffman also publishes a line of limited-edition classic Horror/SF novels. Books include; Psycho, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Hoffman has published several Bradbury and Matheson works, and plans on publishing more in the future.

The remaining sections of the magazine may appeal more to the Horror fan than to the typical SF fan, but the SF-related authors and articles are more than worth the $4 needed to take the magazine home with you.