Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 31st October 2002
Here we are again with a mixed bag of new, old and very, very old SF reviews. I hope the reviews stimulate you into reading or rereading these novels, Iíve certainly enjoyed doing so.
Right, straight into it. Iím determined, for this newsletter, to stick to the reviews and not waste time on irrelevant side-tracks.
Best Books This Month
The best books this month were, best first:
"The Forever War" and "Gateway" are, of course, classic SF. Both of them assume manned space travel at least within the solar system to be happening around now. Thatís what really jars reading these books (apart from a throwaway mention of microfiche in "The Forever War"). Isnít it totally embarrassing that mankind has lost its big ambitions for space travel? Good Grief, we donít even have a modern commercial supersonic airplane. All thatís left running is the thirty-year old Concord. Even the USSRís TU-144 "Concordski" was abandoned. And of course, the British government, running for more than a generation in run-down mode, refused further funding for BAE Hypersonic HOTOL.
In fact it looks to me that the only work that has a chance of jump-starting space development is Japanís plan to develop a next generation space shuttle. Even that is only going to up the competitive tension a little. Still, well done to Japan - Gambatte kudasai!
But back to the books:
The big surprise this month was "THE SKINNER" which, apart from the excessive capitalization in the title, was a tremendously exciting and satisfying novel. Thereís certainly some excessive violence in this novel but what do you expect when youíve got immortality and full bodily regeneration.
Worst Books This Month
Having just spent a late night watching Jean Luc Godardís Sympathy For The Devil on cable, baffled by it somewhat (but then I always have been, though I might not have admitted it back then), I was however gripped by watching the scenes of the Rolling Stones in the studio slowly developing their superb "Sympathy For The Devil" into its final classic version.
I have to say the Rolling Stones are clearly the greatest rock and roll band in the world. Itís always rather surprised me that theyíre the band that still blow me away. Other bands come and go, but the Stones keep on rocking.
On that subject, and with another tequila downed and one more on hand, letís me mention "Strength Of Stones" by Greg Bear. Like Godardís movie it baffled me Ė I still donít understand what the ending is about Ė and completely unlike the Stones, it was rather mediocre.
However, it wasnít as bad as these books:
"Fallen Angels" and "The Practice Effect" were entertaining and amusing in their different ways but trivial. Trivial though Brinís "The Practice Effect" may be, I have surprisingly remembered its central thesis all these years, and was quite looking forward to rereading it. However, second time around it was a disappointment Ė thereís little to it apart from this one fun idea and once you know it, the rest of the novel gets a little boring.
"A Hidden Place" was essentially fantasy with token aliens thrown in to add a misleading flavour of SF. It was well written, but just depressed me, and thatís no good at all.
This Monthís Reviews
Next Monthís Reviews
This month I read and thoroughly enjoyed Asimovís "Foundation" but was dismally unable to write a review in time for this newsletter. Perhaps Iíll be able to get it together for next month. But who knows? There are so many unfinished reviews piling up on the desk. For example the following reviews are in progress: two novels by Sarah Zettel; two by Susan R. Matthews; two Maxine McArthurs; one Severena Park; a Sherri S. Tepper; a Linda Negata and a Katherine Kerr. Thatís just, as you may have noticed, the girlies. Perhaps next monthís newsletter will be dedicated to female SF authors. But perhaps not as I doubt Iíll manage to finish all of these reviews in time, not with the spelling checking as well. Iím not even sure Iíve spelt their names correctly above.
Iím trying to get started on rereading Samuel R. Delaneyís "Dhalgren", probably the best SF novel ever. My problem is that this book needs a bit of concentration and thatís something Iím lacking at present. What I need is a nice long holiday to settle into this stunning book. But then, given a holiday, Iíd probably lounge by the pool spending my time drowsily doodling on an old issue of the FT. Iíve got to get in gear for this book, got to get the right attitude, the correct consciousness, the correct clothes for exploring Dhalgrenís Bellona, the ruined, distorted city of a disorganized future. Doff this polo shirt, these straight-creased long shorts and don the CP black jeans and drag the leather squeaking and creaking out of the closet. Away with the iced tea and in with the liquor. Damn it, have an expresso, a smoke and a couple of shots, now. Have pad-see-yew for lunch, play the Stones and Mad Capsule Markets till dusk, party and prepare.
Then maybe tomorrow I can start again on Delaneyís masterpiece. I donít know, though, whether wearing my Calvin and Hobbs Bangkok bootleg T-shirt is really quite suitable, quite in the mode, or whether itíll prove to be another subconscious distraction, delaying the reread once again.
Nanotechnology Science Note
Itís not quite nanotechnology but itís getting there. Sandia Labs have done some amazing work on microelectricalmechanical (MEMS) technology. You can watch a live video feed of a MEMS machine that is more than 10,000 times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Yes, that period.
Now that is seriously small. That is about the same size as the shrunk-down Proteus craft in the Ď60s movie "Fantastic Voyage". I was intending to include a photo of the real star of that movie Ė the amazing Raquel Welsh Ė but couldnít find any appropriate shots from the movie. However any aged dudes among you can quickly check out her interesting biography at Swingin' Chicks.
Swingin' Chicks referring to the Wayback Machine for the last copmplete archive of that site
Happy birthday to artistic director, and loyal supporter, Jane. Yes, Jane, yes, SF Reviews will get rid of the murky green background one day real soon now. Till that time.
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 (after Iíve read Dhalgren).