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The News At SF Reviews

Seems Like A Long Time

Rod Stewart and Ron Wood

I met a guy recently who didnít know that Rod Stewart was in a rock and roll band. He knew he was an old crooner of course but hadnít realized Rod was once a rocker. "Let me tell you", I said, rising to my feet. Reconsidering, I went home and played "Seems Like A Long Time" and then some of the Faces unforgettable tracks.

And it seems like a long time since the last newsletter came out in 2012. So, okay. It has been. Iíve been busy.

"One thing vampire children have to be taught early on is, don't run with a wooden stake.""
-Jack Handey

Sprite as hangover cure

Out of a number of substances, including infusions and teas, tested for reducing or preventing the effects of hangovers Sprite was found to be the most effective. In my view this is further justification for the increased consumption of Tequila Pops (a.k.a. Tequila Slammers) and not only in the evening. Consider it as your regular breakfast drink. Put away that orange juice. It doesnít work. Throw back a Tequila Pop each morning with your cereals. Any hangover you may have had will rapidly be swept away on a giddy wave of joyfulness. This assumes you make your Tequila Pop the way I do, with Sprite. And Tequila.

"I think a good gift for the President would be a chocolate revolver. And since he's so busy, you'd probably have to run up to him real quick and hand it to him"
-Jack Handey

Drop dead in your tracks, foul Prions

A drug-like compound has been used to halt brain cell death in mice for the first time.

The compound works by blocking a faulty signal in brains affected by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, which shuts down the production of essential proteins, leading to brain cells being unprotected and dying off.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was carried out at the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester.

"I remember how my great-uncle Jerry would sit on the porch and whittle all day long. Once he whittled me a toy boat out of a larger toy boat I had. It was almost as good as the first one, except now it had bumpy whittle marks all over it. And no paint, because he had whittled off the paint."
-Jack Handey

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

The anniversary was last year. Yes of course. How time flies. But have I seen the Christmas edition yet? No. Have I seen all twelve Doctors stand up against threats unknown? No. Because living in a foreign country, the BBC allows me only to watch BBC World Service. Have I bought the DVDís? Well, no. Iím not sure Iíd got that far for the Doctor.

Either way, Iíve rather missed the last few years of the Doctor. Apparently it is now the longest running Television series ever, globally. I count myself lucky to have been in the UK for the stunning 2005 reboot of Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper.

"If you go flying back through time and you see somebody else flying forward into the future, it's probably best to avoid eye contact."
-Jack Handey

Best of the reviews

The best book this time around are all by authors I've never previously read. "The Recollection" is Gareth's second novel and, boy, has he got up to speed. It's brilliant. I love the scale of it. Simon's "Theories of Flight" is also his second novel, following on from "Equations of Life". I'm not sure why i liked this novel so much. i think it's that it just comes straight at you, engines roaring and guns blazing. Paolo's "The Windup Girl" is somewhat more gentle and meandering,

Read them all, they're great fun.

"Most of the time it was probably real bad being stuck down in a dungeon. But some days, when there was a bad storm outside, you'd look out your little window and think, 'Boy, I'm glad I'm not out in that.'
-Jack Handey

Sadly Delayed Obituaries

Iain Banks died on 9th June 2013. He was a great writer. Like so many others I read Espedair Street and fell in love with his writing.

Richard Matheson died on the 23rd June 2013. He was the author of "I Am Legend" and so many other stories and movies scripts

Frederik Pohl died on 3rd September 2013. He was on 93. His website \http://www.frederikpohl.com/ doesnít yet reflect this sad event. A wonderful writer famous of course for the "Gateway" series but what Iíll always remember (because I read it as a young teen) is "A Plague of Pythons". Oh and "The Age Of The Pussyfoot" and "Jem". Oh and "Man Plus". And of course, "The Space Merchants". Farewell, Mr Frederik Pohl. You made us think about difficult stuff and you made it so darn exciting and enjoyable to do so.

Daniel Keyes died June 15 2014. He wrote the lovely and thought-provoking short story that became a novel "Flowers for Algernon". He also worked with Stan Lee at Atlas Comics, from which the wonderful Marvel Comics was born.

Now, apologies for drifting away from SF, but some mentions of some musical departures.

Kevin Ayers died in February 2013. He certainly wasnít an SF writer but was a singer/composer of extraordinary imagination. He wrote some astonishingly beautiful music. A member of the very first band I ever saw: "Soft Machine" (with my mate Alan Isaakson) band. He wrote and sang one of my personal all-time favorite oddities: "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes".

Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013. Of course his music had a massive impact on so many, me included. The music of the Velvet Underground has been an inspirational source for over forty years. His solo albums were astoundingly innovative and powerful. My condolences to his wife, Laurie Anderson, and those who knew him well.

Bobby Womack died in June 2014. Another sad loss. For some stupid reason, I remember Womack and Womackís Teardrops above everything else, which I suppose is apt.

Joe Cocker has just died. He passed away on 22 December 2014. Itís his performance at Woodstock that will linger always with me. Iím lost for words.

"If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is, 'God is crying.' And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is, 'Probably because of something you did."

Space exploration

What a fantastic couple of years it has been for space exploration! Probably the most important since the Moon landing back in 1969.

Weíve finally got commercial Ė albeit sponsored - companies attempting space flights. Richard Bransonís Virgin Galactic should be carrying its first space tourist next year.

Weíve got new engines; weíve landed on Mars with the Curiosity robot explorer. Weíve had two Asteroid Mining companies announce themselves. ESA has sent a craft to a comet thatís on its way to the sun, and landed on that comet.

On February 15th 2013 we had both the asteroid impact in Ukraine and the DA14 asteroid speeding passing the Earth just 27,700km at its closest. Perhaps those have helped us concentrate on escaping the gravity well.

SpaceX's Grasshopper

SpaceXís Grasshopper is inspiring. Ascending and descending on a pillar of flame was fantastic. The more the technology becomes reliable and cheap, the more possibilities unfold.

Space travel has so far proven safer and more endurable than the historic voyages undertaken by those brave crews of the Spanish Empire as they began to explore the new world,

I think weíre getting up and out there. I think it is really beginning to happen. Twelve years ago I said in an early SF Reviews newsletter that it would be about thirty years. I think that was right Ė within twenty more years weíll see an explosion of space activity and Iíll go so far as to say thereíll be permanent encampments on both the Moon and Mars.

Whatís this big worry about astronauts going crazy on a long Mars journey? I could happily spend a year cooped up in a space capsule. Tequila takes up very little storage space. And Iíll know exactly what books to take. Oh hold on, can you smoke in space?

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."
-Jack Handey

Software

An admission of idiocy: for the first 12 years of SF Reviews I scanned book covers as jpegs (all well and good). I manually resized them to save as .GIF paw prints for the smaller images show alongside each book review. For most of those years my todo list reminded me to look at generating the GIFs automatically. Iíd always assumed it was likely to be a bit complicated. Finally last year I decided to check to up on how to do tha in Python (still, in my view, the worldís best programming language). Oh, itís so easy. Using PIL, the Python Imaging Library, itís just eight lines of code to check if the GIF already exists and if it doesnít, to create it.

Oh boy, wish Iíd look at that a while ago.

Still, the software that generates SF Reviews website includes this code now. In fact Iím slurping my early evening Tequila and listening to "Do all you want to do" by Eddie and the Hotrods, while watching the site regenerate all the GIFs automatically. Itís turned into a rather good day. And, hey, Eddieís now doing "The Power and the Glory". Pretty darn cool.

"Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words 'mank' and 'ind.' "What do these words mean? It's a mystery and that's why so is mankind."
-Jack Handey

Worst of the reviews

Greg bear goes adrift when he steps outsie the SF genre an "Vitals" is cvertinly not SF. Similary, "Impact" is not |SF, just a near-future thriller. However, Alastair Reynold's "Terminal World" had a great concept. It was an enthralling, puzzling world but te plot was dismal, meandering and dull.

"I believe in making the world safe for our children, but not our children's children, because I don't think children should be having sex."
-Jack Handey

Hardly SF but - Kamen Rider

Kamen Rider Double image For those fans of the Sunday morning Japanese Superhero hour television, I should mention that the Kamen Rider series seems to have been in a bit of a rut for the past two or three years. The glory days of Kamen Rider Double (Television series and fab toys) are long gone. That glamour and excitement didnít last through the flip-to-be-hip style of "Kamen Rider OOO" (pronounced "owes" not "o-o-o") and Kamen Rider Forze, even with the spaceship.

Mini Max, one-time fervent fan, has lost interest and spent the programme timeslot throwing failed origami at the screen.

The series successor was Kamen Rider Wizard who was; Iím disappointed to report, equally naff.

However the current incarnation, Kamen Rider Gaimu, rises above the basic idiocy of naming the ranges of weaponry and armour according to a fruit theme. Thereís orange armour, grape armour and rather fetchingly-named banana armour (almost cued for a hit from the 80s there, but I wonít).

I rather miss "Doctor Who", actually.

Oh heck, the new Kamen Rider starts in October. Heíll be "Kamen Rider Drive" and with some sort of super car, not the traditional motorbike. Whatís going on with the world? Drat, it's already December and I've missed the new incarnation due to my relocation (see below).

"For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness?"
-Jack Handey

The reviews

"When I found the skull in the woods, the first thing I did was call the police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering who this person was, and why he had deer horns."
-Jack Handey

On the Move

And thinking of Doctor Who and things English, hereís the breaking news, The Max family has relocated from Japan to Singapore. No more ivory tower in Tokyo. Oh no, itís the condominium lifestyle in Singapore. The apartment buildings surround the open-air swimming pools. Thereís a gym for exercising a little after lounging by the pool all day. Singapore is English-speaking and although it will be sad, of course, to abandon my impressive Japanese language skills, it is good to understand to what Iím agreeing.

Singapore skyline

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."
-Jack Handey

Next Month's Reviews

There's no chance that the next reviews will be out in a month. Just sit back. Donít read the reviews. Get the books and read those instead.

That's all for now. As always, tell me what you think about the books, the reviews and the site. Do let me know if there are books you think I should review.

"Consider the daffodil. And while you're doing that, I'll be over here, looking through your stuff."
-Jack Handey

Take care

Max

(max@sfreviews.com)

 


Uploaded on the 26th August 2012
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Uploaded on the 30th March 2013
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Uploaded on the 10th October 2013
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Uploaded on the 31st December 2014
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