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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       

Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 14th August 2005

The Big Three-Oh-Oh continued

SF Reviews hit its 300 reviews over a year ago and promptly collapsed through overwork.

More correctly, the site itself remained up, dutifully serving you, the faithful reader. I, exhausted by the dual efforts of (a) actually thinking about what I was reading and (b) writing those thoughts down in various degrees of coherency, slacked a little. If you've read the previous newsletters you can probably also understand that, with the disruption of the return to London - what's more, to a suburb of London – I actually slacked a lot.

I continued on reading dutifully but with insufficient time to publish the reviews. Or actually to write them, mostly.

One useful side-effect of the return was that I regained access to the first silo in Wing One. This logically enough contains books by A to B authors, which explains the alphabetical bias of the current and subsequent reviews.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.

But that was then and this is now (or at least November 2004)

Inspired by an extra-strong Vodka Martini, and an imminent move out of the boondocks back into the centre of London. It's not Bangkok, it's not Tokyo, it's not Hong Kong, but being in the centre has to count for something, I've returned to revising the previously-prepared reviews, and to catching up those books that I've read but not yet reviewed.

So this is the bumper edition, after a long absence.

And these reviews are even more superficial, and frankly more brief, than previously.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you call Suicide Prevention, and they put you on hold./p>

But that was then and this now (barely eight months later)

I got darn close last time, but this time I am really going to do it. Reviews - some so brief they'd be better termed brieviews - are ready and the newsletter is probably as good as it's going to get this time around.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you call your answering service, and they tell you it's none of your business.

How you could have passed the time waiting for the reviews

Scientific American magazine talks about Suspended Animation in its June 2005 issue. The article suggests that it may be possible to induce suspend animation in humans and appear already to have succeeded with smaller lifeforms. Interestingly there is a whole range of suspended animation shown in nature's hibernation and aestivation processes, ranging from slowdowns in heartbeat, to suspension of heartbeat, to cessation of cellular activity (as observed through a microscope).

This gives hope of course for SF's dreams of travel to the stars, but also in the more immediately practical area of organ transplants.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you turn on the news, and they're showing emergency routes out of the city.

Sub-orbital 1 - SpaceShipOne

Well, a lot has happened this year. The wonderful SpaceShipOne has won the X-prize. Back when I started SF Reviews, I was hopeful, but certainly didn't expect to actually see that so soon. This is from the press release: />X Prize:

"On October 4th, 2004, the X PRIZE Foundation captured the world's attention when the Mojave Aerospace team led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen flew SpaceShipOne to 100KM to win the $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE."

A belated "jolly well done" to Scaled Materials.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you wake up face down on the pavement.

Sub-orbital 2 – The Flying Taxi

The Register reports that Brits roll out jam-busting airtaxi.

Of course, we didn't actually roll it out. But someone has clearly done some work on it. However, it won't really be the sort of Taxi you jump in when you're too drunk to walk. And of you really won't be any of them around when when it's raining.

Check out Avcen Limited.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you want to hang up the clothes that you wore home from the party, and there aren't any.

Back To Space – The Shuttle Flies Again

What a relief. We can get out there again. I have a lot of sympathy for NASA. The past couple of years match closely to my life in the suburbs - excitement and adventure are so close, yet so far away. Still the shuttle has safely returned, and my latest reviews have managed to crawl across to the website.

I'm waiting for the manned trip to Mars. That has glamour, excitement and great potential, plus I'll be able to pick up a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs cheaply.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your car horn goes off accidentally, and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway.

Yet Another Planet

Let's say a big hello to our new planet. I've lost track of what's it's called. I know there was Sedna, or 2003 VB12, and last year there was the planetoid Quaoar. To be honest I'm getting worried about this. Will we find more and more planets at greater and greater distances, simply depending on how closely we look? Are we going to have to find new names for them all? Are we going to have to colonise all of them? Frankly, much as I hate too much sun, I don't fancy trying to strike it rich on Quaoar. I can picture myself, sweaty and tired, nauseated by the smell of the recycled air from the spacesuit I'll have been wearing for the previous three months, swinging my axe away at the rocky ground, "chop, chop, chop", and finally finding some sparkling crystal fragment. "What's this then, this brilliant fragment of ancient days? Ice. Bugger. Not even enough for a shower".

Ah, it's 2003BS313, perhaps to be known as Zena. Personally, I favour Azumi.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your twin sister forgot your birthday.

Cold (Bubble) Fusion

It is a slow path to Cold Fusion. It's almost as slow as the path to commercial (hot) fusion. It's been sixteen years now and there are some developments.

The previous news release I came across was Sonofusion.

I wait with bated breath.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your wife says, "Good morning, Bill," and your name is George.

Hugo and Nebula Awards

"Paladin of Souls" by Lois McMaster Bujold won both Hugo 2004 and Nebula 2005 Best Novel awards. I want to read that, but it's Fantasy, so good though it may be, it's not necessarily something I'd cover in SF Reviews. Unless it's really good, which it probably is, so expect to see a review in a few months.

If you didn't go to Glasgow for the World Science Fiction Convention, you've left it too late, and if you're as out of touch as I am you'll probably want to know that the nominations for Hugo Awards Best Novel 2005 were:

  • "The Algebraist" by Iain M. Banks
  • "Iron Council" by China Miéville
  • "Iron Sunrise" by Charles Stross
  • "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke
  • "River of Gods" by Ian McDonald

And the winner was Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell". Darn, it's a another fantasy. I can't start reading fantasy novels. I can make one exception for Bujold, but two exceptions are simply a trend and I'll end up reading Eddings and floating around in a world of fairy lights and multi-coloured capes. And that's not going to get us to Mars is it?

But what if it's even better than the wonderful "River Of Gods"?

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your wife wakes up feeling amorous, and you have a headache.

Best Books This Month

The best books reviewed this month were old, but I'm working through Silo One somewhat alphabetically. Here they are, in my order of preference:

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.

Worst Books This Month

These are disappointing novels because they are amongst the weakest of their authors' works. However, with the exception of "Wyrms", these were all early works and subsequent works were much improved. Of course in the cases of Aldiss and Blish, the authors went on to produce some of the classic works of Science Fiction. Orson Scott Card seems to have reversed that process.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you wake up to discover your waterbed broke, then you remember that you don't have a waterbed.

This Month's Reviews

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when your pet rock snaps at you.

Next Month's Reviews

Well, I doubt there will be any next month. At the rate I'm going, it'll be the New Year Reviews. I have just finished the excellent "River Of Gods" and will endeavor to produce a review of that pronto.

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.

You can tell it's going to be a rotten day when you wake up to the sound of Armed Police/FBI agents /Armenian Nationalists breaking down your door.

Take care

Max

(max@sfreviews.com)

 


Uploaded on the 14th August 2005
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