Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 1st June 2003
War In Iraq
Very pleased the war is over. It was fought for the wrong reasons at the wrong time but at least some bad men are out of power, and people have a chance, but not a guarantee, of a better life, a life with less evil compromises. Let's not make a mess out of the peace.
And how about staying out of Iran at least until some rebuilding has been done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti?
The Concorde Retirement
Unless Richard Branson manages to persuade BA to hand it over, it's goodbye to Concorde, still the only supersonic passenger craft. Concorde is a beautiful aircraft and a potent technological symbol. It's hard to believe that to believe that it is being retired with no replacement in sight. This reminds me of the Alpha microprocessor from Digital/Compaq/HP, but that's another saga of waste and disappointment. I find this lack of vision depressing. We're introverting, turning away from space, the sky and anything big and dangerous. We're concerned with smaller and smaller detail, with refinement rather than revolution, seeking only a softer tissue, a finer knit on our sweater and a greater granularity in our virtual world.
"Child, when I was your age we could fly from London to New York in under four hours."
"Pull the other one, grandpa, next you'll be telling me you flew to the moon!"
Science Note I: Pioneer 10
Pioneer 10 was launched 30 years ago and has travelled more than 12.2 billion kilometers from Earth. The final radio signal was received from it on the 22nd January:. I was lucky enough to get hold of a transcript.
"Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I'm quite dizzy with anticipation...
Or is it the wind?
There really is a lot of that now isn't it?" *
Check out NASA says last goodbye to Pioneer 10.
Best Books This Month
The best books this month were:
Well, blow me down with a feather and brush me into the corner. What a great selection of books! I can't believe how good Vernor Vinge's "Marooned In Realtime" is! It is much better than I realized when I first read it years ago. This really is an SF masterpiece.
Another SF masterpiece may well be "Light" by M. John Harrison. I'm not quite sure yet whether it is one of the great works of SF or merely brilliant. A rereading in a couple of years should clarify that. Either way is an astounding book. Welcome back M. John.
"The Star Fraction" is the first of MacLeod's books and - I'd forgotten this - is somewhat cyberpunk, but it leads us into the series of "The Stone Canal", "The Cassini Division" and "The Sky Road". It's great.
And then there is the excellent John Barnes with "Orbital Resonance" doing a Heinlein for the '90s with little Melpomene coming of age on Earth's first starship.
Worst Books This Month
This was a month of wildly varying quality. There were the excellent books mentioned above and then there was the truly awful:
"Fallen Dragon" was a terrible offering from so talented a writer. I wasted days reading through this novel and was thoroughly frustrated at the end to discover that there was nothing really there. shokkudeshita , as one says.
This Month's Reviews
Next Month's Reviews
I fully expect to review two great books: Robert Sawyer's "Hominids" and David Brin's "Kiln People".
I've got Nancy Kress, Michael Swannick, Greg Bear and Neal Asher books piled up waiting to be read, but will I get these reviews completed in time for the next newsletter? I've no idea.
Science Note II: Bacteria In The Brain
The March 2003 issue of Scientific American contains an immensely interesting article about bacteria in the brain. Here's a quote:
some microorganisms can manipulate neural circuitry better than we can
This is a stimulating and wide-ranging article. It talks about rabies and why the disease is associated with aggression. Why do rabid dogs bite? So rabies can spread itself through the saliva. Amazing. So why do I dribble when I sleep on a train?
Science Note III: DNA Computing
The article is over-exuberant, but still there is an exciting promise of continuing Moore's Law even past silicon computing. Computer Made from DNA and Enzymes .
How To Recognise An Alien
Clearly it's important to be able to recognize aliens, especially if they are Invaders. The excellent Unofficial Web Site And Episode Guide very thoughtfully provides some tips, gleaned from careful examination of the old ‘Invaders' ‘60s TV series.
Well, I thought the site was great. Of course it is possible that the series itself is no longer quite as grippingly convincing as I saw it when I was a lot shorter.
Chewing on life's gristle? Don't grumble, just whistle
Now for something completely different, Monty Python's Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life from the movie Life Of Brian is just playing on the radio. Check out the lyrics and a couple of pictures from that powerful movie , that epic human drama.
Life's a piece of shit when you look at it
You come from nothing, you're going back to nothing.
What've you lost?
And of course the immortal last line, barely audible as the track fades:
Bernie, I said, they'll never make their money back
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.
* yes well of course, this is the whale hurtling towards the planet surface from "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", but I really, really wanted it to have been Pioneer 10's last message. Back to quote