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© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
Editor:  Ernest Lilley
Associate Editor: Sharon Archer

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Aug02 Contents
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Columns:
Editorial License
US Books
UK Books
Can Books
Comics
DVD

Events/Cons:
CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday, this must be TOR

Feature Interview:
Ken Macleod

Feature Review: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

BBook Reviews
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
Alternate Generals II
ed by Harry Turtledove
Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by
Michael Marshall Smith
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Graphic Novel:
Murder Mysteries. Original short story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P. Craig Russell
Zine: The Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives

SFMedia:
Film:
Austin Powers: GoldMember

Metropolis (2002) Restoration
& Metropolis Essay
PowerPuff Girls
Reign of Fire
Signs
Simone

 

Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Tor Hardcover: ISBN 0312877269 July 2002
Review by Ernest Lilley
336 pages List price $25.95  Purchase this book at Amazon.com

Analog Editor Stan Schmidt’s first book in 16 years is good solid SF, but not inspired. Basically it’s 1950s (or earlier) Aliens-in-orbit-deliver-ultimatums-to-humanity story, set in a near future in the NYC/Hudson Valley area, at least at the start. Schmidt has added cell phones, the internet and nanotechnology (mostly the alien's) as well as changed (arguably) the mix of characters. The human who makes first contact by getting stung by an alien probe imitating an insect is a retired engineer, the bug expert he goes to "could almost qualify as a fossil herself" and the heroine is a Hispanic woman in her thirties who had once wanted to be an astronaut, but settled for medical technology…Even the president is a melting pot of America, though he seems to have missed the black vote in demographics.

Still, the bright young Nanotechnologist is your basic 50's geek guy, though married (evidentially there will be no romance in the future), and the rabid military type appears to still a middle aged white guy. Some things never change.

The story begins on on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, in a public garden a few hours north of New York City and a few decades in our future.  Lester Ordway, who always wanted to discover something, sees what looks like a hummingbird, or a big bug, but like none he's ever seen before. As he wonders about it, it's wondering about him too, and it stings him between the eyes, knocking him unconscious and downloading his memory at the same time, but not before he grasps it in his hand, from which it's pried in the emergency room. There is repeats the performance on a smaller scale, zapping all the staff in the area.

Though most of the hospital personnel don't want to admit anything happened, medical technologist Pilar Ramirez agrees to help Lester hunt for an explanation, a hunt that Takes Lester and Pilar back from the Hudson Highlands to the relative safety of a Science Fiction Convention (Where better to talk openly of alien invasion?) to the bowels of Washington…where much of the action is conducted in a 1950s style dialog in a sealed "war-room".

The aliens seem to know ever move we make, every breathe we take, as they're watching us. Their nanobots can scramble computers, rewire brains, and wreak havoc on biological, ecological and technological systems at will. Just how do you fight an enemy like that? Especially one that claims to just want to watch, wants to be left alone?

How indeed.

So the story becomes a tale of how us plucky monkeys turn the tables on an alien invader and what we gain, and lose, in the process.

The epilogic ending makes the book a bit more twisty, and a bit more fun, but otherwise it's solid construction keeps it from reaching for the stars as far as one might have hoped.

Ernest Lilley is Editor and Publisher of SFRevu. He also writes about technology in his publication TechRevu (www.techrevu.com) as well as being a frequent contributor in online and print publications like Byte.com, Digital Camera, Pen Computing and others. He likes station wagons with stick shifts, PDA's with keyboards, and SF with ideas.