Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 19th December 2006
Bursting Into The 21st Century, Belatedly
SF Reviews has crashed through the barriers of bureaucracy and bad coding to renew itself as a modern and stylish website. No more murky green background, no more yellow text, no more menus dribbling down the left hand margin.
Yes, friends, we've made some changes to the web site layout – the menu runs along the top now, the background is white, the fonts are smaller, the logo has been revised and old newsletters are included (or not, depending on how much time is left).
Oh, and there's Google advertising down the righthand side. Almost forgot to mention that. I hope that doesn't bother you too much. You can always put an eyepatch over your right eye. I don't think that will work but SF Reviews will supply a limited number of eyepatches on a first-come, first-served basis. Email me, Max, at sfeviews.com.
For the propeller heads among you, here's some technical info about the site: It's a simple CGI website using software written in Python. The application is the SF Reviews custom Gallery application. Gallery uses its proprietary full text database to index the website contents and builds the various static or dynamic web pages. Gallery also provides the built-in search engine.
And it's slowly moving from HTML to XML and there's already a little less blatting of HTML tables all over every page and an increasing use of balanced, refined and more modern <div>.
Science Note 1 – Mars Rocks!
You'll remember ALH 84001, of course. The Meteorite from Mars that back in the 90s was thought to contain proof of life. Nowadays, scientists mostly dismiss that theory.
But there's another rock and it's looking increasingly likely that there is – or was – life on Mars. Check out new Scientist: Hunting Life in Martian Rocks.
And here's a brand new article on the same topic: Meteorite brings alien life to earth.
Science Note 2 – Flowing water on Mars
But forget about boring old rocks. Based on photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor, scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows on Mars. T hey believe there must have been liquid water within the past seven years. And where there's water, there's life.
Check out NASA and get the latest news.
Best Books This Month
Four books of this month's reviews are worth more than a mention:
All of these books are classics. If you haven't read them you simply must. "Pavane" is a one-off alternate universe masterpiece. Keith Roberts was a good writer but I don't believe anything else of his came close to that amazing book.
I belatedly reviewed Gibson's first two novels in the last upload, and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the next two. What an amazing writer.
Lafferty's "Fourth Mansions" is such an odd but brilliant novel. I hope you enjoy his fabulous flights of imagination as much as I do.
Worst Books This Month
The two worst this month were:
I didn't like "Black Sun Rising" because I rather felt I'd been tricked into reading fantasy. "Sunstorm", however, was simply so boring. Don't read either. Buy used copies for someone you don't like this Christmas.
This Month's Reviews
Thanks to Cindie for recommending the author Karen Traviss. As you can see I continue to review Traviss' books this month.
Raise Your Glasses, Gentlemen And Ladies, In Memory Of A Champ
A time of morning, and especially so for sophisticated party people around the world:
On Tuesday 19th September, Chuck Rio died,
Chuck Rio wrote the song and sang that song's one word lyric. The song was "Tequila" and Chuck Rio of the Champs was Daniel Flores, singer, saxophone player, guitarist and songwriter.
He will be fondly remembered.
I think it may be about that time to have a small one.
Once more for James Van Allen
The photo above shows William H. Pickering, James Van Allen and Wernher von Braun.
James Van Allen was Head of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa University from 1951. On the 31st January 1958, the American satellite Explorer 1 carrying Van Allen's cosmic ray detector, was launched, and the eponymously named "Van Allen Belts" were discovered and were immediately the stuff of furious excitement a mong the informed public.
James Van Allen passed away on 10th August 2006.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your glasses once more in memory of a Biggleswade Bus Driver
I was sad to note that Philip Empson High has died. I've read two of his books "The Time Mercenaries" which was an exciting romp through a future world. The title of the other book escapes me – it has been almost thirty years! He wasn't my favourite writer but I enjoyed his writing.
I'm pleased that he returned to writing in the 1990s and I look forward to reading some of the new short stories.
I also enjoyed the fact that Philip remained a Biggleswade bus driver until he retired in 1979.
Let's raise a small Tequila in a toast to Philip E High.
And finally, to Jack Williamson
Jack Williamson died this November aged 98 . He was one of the fathers of American SF. Frederik Pohl said of him, in 1958 "If your father read science fiction he very likely counted Jack Williamson among his favourite writers" and this statement would be true even now.
Williamson's writing career spanned several generations – his first story was published in 1928 and he continued to write and publish until 2005.
Apart from the vast extent of his writing – he suffered a writer's block for 20 years but wrote for 30 years once that short interlude was over – he had an effect on our language and culture. He introduced the modern usage of the word android in 1935. He invented the word and concept of terraforming and he was the first to use the "genetic engineering" in fiction.
Read his "Darker Than You Think" or some of the "Starchild" books written with Frederik Pohl.
Clearly too many obituaries and heading into the depths of cold and grey December
Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection
I've got soul but I'm not a soldier, of course.
Don't worry. However hard it gets, however impossible it all seems, however much pain you are forced to endure, SF Reviews is here for you. It's a strong soothing balm to life's ills, and it is constant in its loyalty. If not in regularity. Nor if you are seeking any help other than what are the SF novels that you simply have to read. Remember, SF Reviews is here for you, because you deserve it.
And Anyway, It Is Christmas
So raise another Tequila or two, smoke a little and settle back to read the reviews, then order the books for yourself for Christmas.
After all, you deserve it.
Next Month's Reviews
I've got the following lined up: the review of "Accelerando" another fab book by Charles Stross. There's another Charles Sheffield review. My God, there's even one of Melissa Scott's "Trouble And Her Friends". And astonishingly, in the same month, there'll be a couple of classics by Keith Laumer and by James Blish.
What a fantastic package, and it's all for your reading pleasure. Because you deserve it, of course.
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.