Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 31st January 2003
I'm particularly happy to finally have a review of a Philip
K. Dick novel. Dick's stories get made into movies more
than Frank Herbert, who's also in the reviews this month.
On the subject of movies, let's segue into Dr Strangelove
with a few seconds of Edwin Star's
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
on cable last night. Now that is a superb movie. However, I have to say I'm still confused about this war stuff.
I thought we were fighting a war against Islamic fundamentalist
terrorism, a war outside the bounds of the Geneva Convention,
a war in which we do not take POWs. Now I find out that we're
actually going to attack a tin-pot secular dictator who has no
links with religious terror. I'm sure the oil will be useful
but I don't see how it's going to stop terrorism. Still, back
to the SF.
Best Books This Month
The best books this month were, very best first:
And following somewhat further behind:
It's so great to review novels by Dick and Herbert. Dick was
my favorite writer for many years, a writer of stunning
imagination and wonderful skill. Frank Herbert was so much
more than simply the writer of the Dune series. Yes, of
course Dune was very good, but there's more to life than
I do not understand how I have managed to miss David Gerrold for
the past thirty years. He even did a book with Larry Niven
and I missed that. Still he's achieved great things with
his Dingillian family trilogy, of which "Bouncing Off The Moon"
is the second volume.
Macleod continues to churn out novels that are stimulating
and enjoyable. They're very good and sometimes he breaks
through, for a few pages, to something quite brilliant. He
manages this in "Cosmonaut Keep" but not in "Dark Light".
Worst Books This Month
"The Fountains Of Paradise" and "Passion Play" are mediocre.
That's not so bad for Sean Stewart since "Passion Play" was
his first novel. However the leaden "The Fountains Of Paradise"
should be an embarrassment to Arthur C. Clarke, normally a
writer of superb fiction. "Fountains Of Paradise" is about
space elevators and I seem to recall that the late Bob Shaw
wrote a novel about a one? All I can remember about him at
present is the "Orbitsville" trilogy. If anyone remembers,
drop me an email.
It's astonishing that David Brin, the writer of "The Postman",
could produce a book like "Earth". It was boring, lacking
in tension, a jumble of plot-lines and uninteresting characters.
This Month's Reviews
Next Month's Reviews
Last month I all but promised the Susan R Matthews and
Katherine Kerr reviews. Ha! How could I have been so wrong!
They were and still are at top of the pile, but I didn't
even get close to the pile, I didn't even get into the same
room. And "Dhalgren", pah, Dhalgren's up there on the
shelf, the sunlit cover shining down at me, but has a page
been turned this month? Nope, there's even a fine trace of
dust sparkling across the page edges which looks quite pretty
so I may allow it to develop for a while.
So who knows about next month? Maybe there will be some Kerr and
Matthews, and probably James Alan Gardner's "Commitment" and
Wil McCarthy's "Collapsium".
Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
Ever since I first saw Rocket Man at Saturday morning pictures, I
wanted a jetpack. I watched the movie The Rocketeer and thought it was a technological tour-de-force.
I wanted to strap a jetpack to my back and blast off into the upper atmosphere. Something along the lines of the Rocketbelt would have been a good starting point.
But I never expected my personal flying machine to look like the
When the Solotrek XFV just doesn't cut it, upgrade to the
thousand-fold speed boost of the
NASA nuclear-powered spacecraft.
Science Note – Far Out Physics
NASA does some research into leading edge science topics. The
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Research Task Summaries
includes some astounding, mind-bending ideas.
Now these projects are just so great, so wonderfully exotic,
I just have to highlight some points from the summary:
- Using Mach's Principle to provide propellant-less spacecraft
- MEMS devices whose very shape generates the quantum
vacuum forces to power them.
- "Electromagnetism dynamically coupling to spacetime and
producing propulsive effects"
But of course I read the sentences "The theory predicts
that an intense, external electrostatic potential should
measurably shift the internal clock of a charged particle
analogously to the gravitational red shift. The internal
clock refers to time as seen by a particle of charge-to-mass
ratio, e/m, in its rest frame."
as clearly implying stasis fields, but that's just me
- "Gravity modification through Josephson junction effects
in magnetized, high-Tc superconducting oxides"
question of course, but that this is H. G. Wells' fabulous
- "superluminal group velocities for tunneling photons"
even I know that 'superluminal' means faster than light
Most of us accept that we live in a world explicable by science. After all everything pretty much works as we expect. But these projects are looking into the dirty little mouse-holes of reality, where things don't work quite as expected. Sometimes these projects will simply patch
up the hole, but sometimes they'll tear the wall down.
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.