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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 27th December 2002

Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year

OK, thatís that then.

Thereís yet another R. A. Heinlein book in the reviews this month. It may look like Iím some fan or something of Bob, but in fact (i) he wrote a lot of books and (ii) I happen to have a number of his books on hand. Iíd happily review some R. A. Lafferty books, for example, if I could get hold of them. Alas, they are deep in the crates back in Wing One and well out of reach at present. On the other hand, I have a copy of Heinleinís "Friday" in a pile of books by the sofa and Iíve no intention of reviewing that in the near future. Mainly because I canít get past the first thirty pages, I just canít face reading the whole thing. Still love the cover though.


On the subject of R. A. Lafferty, Iím very sad to say he passed away on the 19th of March this year. He was an excellent writer. I fondly remember "Fourth Mansions" and "The Reefs Of Earth" and look forward to rereading and reviewing them in the near future. If "Fourth Mansions" is as good as I remember it to be it will be rated up there in my top 20 books.

"Take your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human"

The original Planet of the Apes movie was shown on Star Channel this month. Itís a classic movie with wonderful dialogue (see heading above). I also managed to catch the sequel Beneath The Planet Of The Apes a couple of nights later. Great ending, almost as good as the last episode of "Z-Cars" (stumped? I should hope so). "Beneath" was so stylishly 1960s, and rather put me in mind to consider how movies of the í90s and í00s will be considered in the future. Perhaps an aberrant period in its depiction of graphic violence? Or perhaps the birth of the Philip K. Dick Renaissance century during which all major Hollywood movies will be based on short stories by the master.

Come Up And See My Etchings

Transorbital Inc plan to deliver a craft to the Moon in 2003. It is to be launched from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazahkstan. Itíll take some pictures as it crashes into the Moonís surface. Plus you can send personal messages etched into a micro-etched as images onto a Norsam Tecbnologies HD-Rosetta nickel disk. Check out Mission to the Moon.

Best Books This Month

The best books this month were, best first:

Heinleinís masterpiece remains as good today as it was in the Ď60s (Oh what an original, excellent start Ė I wrote this same words last month in reference to "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress"). What particularly struck me about that novel, apart from its controversial subject matter, was that the characters and their relationships were convincing. The story rolls in my head like a TV drama rather than a comic book.

"Foundation" and the two (original) sequels are of course required reading for any SF enthusiast. Theyíre worth it Ė excellent story-telling and with a subject matter that can get a young lad thinking about society, science and culture without him even realizing it. Not that that happened with me of course. I thought about almost nothing as a young lad except whether I was a robot, how could robots get acne, were my parents aliens and why all girls were too shy to tell me that, yes, they had spotted that I was irresistibly cool.

Worst Books This Month

Andersonís "Winter Of The World" is pretty good for its future-medieval-historical-romance-with-battles genre but itís not my cup of tea.

"Heads" is just a bad novel. Itís short and unsatisfying. It feels like there are two real novels in there that could, with a lot more work, have been brought honestly out into the open and published separately.

"Gilpinís Space" deserves an honorable mention for being only the second book on SF Reviews that I have been unable to finish reading.

This Monthís Reviews

    Looking up "Downbelow Station" on Amazon gave me an amusing clothes shopping list:

    Customers who wear clothes also shop for:

    • Clean Underwear from Amazon's Target Store
    • Ladybug Rain Boots from Amazon's Nordstrom Store
    • Pet Socks from Amazon's Urban Outfitters Store
    • Puppy Footed One-Pieces for Newborns from Amazon's Old Navy Store
    I expect Amazon cleverly parsed "Downbelow" as referring to clothes worn below the waist. Or perhaps they know more about me than I expected?

    Iíll let you know what I think of the Ladybug Rain Boots when they arrive.

    Next Monthís Reviews

    Right at the top of the reviews to be completed are two books by Susan R. Matthews and Katherine Kerr. As separate authors, of course, I donít mean two books each jointly by Susan R Matthews and Katherine Kerr.

    Still Getting Nowhere With Dhalgren (II)

    The review of Dhalgren still wonít be appearing next month. However, Iím pleased to tell you though that I spotted a very smart new paperback edition out in the shops this Christmas. Inspired by that Iíll try to complete the review while itís still in print. Heck, go ahead, buy the book without even reading my review.

    Best Book Of 2002

    Only two of the books Iíve reviewed were copyrighted 2002, so thereís not so much choice. Hereís the total selection:

    Well, the answer is pretty straightforward then. Neal Asher wins the SF Reviews Best Book of 2002 award for "THE SKINNER" which is, as it happens, an outstanding book.

    Science Notes

    Japan has developed a human-sized robot that can lay down and stand up. This really is a step forward, or more correctly a lay down, stand up and step forward for robotics. Check out AIST humanoid robot.

    If you were bored enough to follow up my reference to Claude Levi Strauss and Noam Chomski last month, you may want to read the New Scientistís article "You are what you speak" in their 30th November 2002 issue. The article considers what effect, if any, language has on thinking. Apparently British English language is expressive in describing action (presumably as a compensation for our general inactivity). American English focuses on form, whereas Mayan concentrates on content.

    Craig Ventner of Celera plans to create the first artificial life Ė an artificial microbe. It may not be of that much use in itself, but if he is siccessful then there is a chance we will be able to create meaningful artificial life and that would be deeply cool.

    Room Service

    I had the pleasure of staying in the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, this month. I annoyed everybody for days afterward by repeatedly quoting the classic lines delivered by Keanu Reeves in the SF movie Johnny Mnemonic (from Gibsonís short story). Reeves as Johnny Mnemonic, frustrated beyond endurance at the collapsed society in which he is forced to live, declaims:

    I want room service
    I want a club sandwich and a cold Mexican beer
    I want my shirts pressed like they do in the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.
    Unusually for Keanu Reeves he delivers these with some emotion Ė probably he has also stayed at the Imperial. A powerful moment in an otherwise mediocre movie.

    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.

    Take care




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