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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       

Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 25th January 2007

To celebrate the inoffensive introduction of Google advertising last month, I'm including a few completely irrelevant quotes down the right of this newsletter. They're all apparently from adverts, and thanks to Doug Alder. e.g.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00

Happy New Year

Welcome, one and all, to the excitements and extravaganza of 2007. Forget about the tired old trivia of 2006, that's a year over and gone, defunct, departed, expired, extinct, lifeless, passed away, perished, snuffed out, stiff and unanimated. It's past. We think about the future in SF Reviews. [OK here it is: Pining for the fjords]

I'm starting to write this newsletter on the 1st of January after a very enjoyable Japanese osechi breakfast. Osechi is the particular combination of dishes served on New Year's day. It is of course delightful, especially in that it includes both a side dish of kuromame (black beans) and the drinking of nihonshu the Japanese rice wine we call saki and a subsequent drunken doze on the sofa. A very pleasant way to start the New Year. Apart from the kuromame, I also enjoyed a vast selection of delectable dishes including: sweet potato & chestnut; thin-cut beef rolled into small rolls each the size of a thimble and soaked in a shoyu, millin, sake and sugar sauce and finally slices of chicken soaked in a entirely different combination of shoyu, millin, sake and sugar sauce.

I am interested to know what traditional New Year food is served in Mexico and whether it includes Tequila.

For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Web Site Revisions

We continued with some changes to the layout of the web site over Christmas and the New Year. These were to divide the author, title and copyright listings into multiple pages (the original single long pages are still available).

There have also been some changes to correct a layout problem that prevented simple copying and pasting.

Since I assume only software engineers could be reading this paragraph with any interest, let me recommend to you the inspiring IT variant of Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? at man.compare(summer, thee).

Wanted: 50 girls for stripping machine operators in factory.

Birthday Time Again

SF Reviews is six years old this month. Astonishing to think it has been so long and that I've managed to get so few reviews are online. Astonishing, also, to realize the site still has the same murky green background.

Thanks to everyone who visits the site, and especially to our subscribers.

There's no big birthday party this year, so put your party togs away for now. But do decide what you're wearing for next year's. That is expected to be back at the very same bar as the first couple of parties, coincidentally in the very same country as Nippon 2007, so make a point of attending at least one. I'd recommend Nippon 2007 rather than the SF Reviews 7th Birthday Party. The former is likely to much more fun.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

Another Birthday

There's another sixth birthday coming up later in the year. That's TM Wagner's www.sfreviews.net.

Our American cousin presents a slightly younger but much more serious site than mine. He provides quality reviews more respectable and much longer than I could ever dream or imagine. However, his site lacks, of course, the refined superficiality of the original SF Reviews. And oh my God, he's done a redesign as well.

Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it.

Science Note 1 -The fastest spinning neutron star yet

Scientists at McGill University in Canada this January discovered the fastest spinning neutron star yet. It is in the globular star cluster Terzan 5 and has the texty sounding name of ter5ad. It spins at 716 times a second and is less than 16 kilometres across.

That is fast.

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover.

Science Note 2 - Walking Robots

Tao Geng's biomechatronic robot, Runbot, is very impressive. Look at this entertaining video: Runbot walking. The technical information is at Runbot.

2 female Boston Terrier puppies, 7 wks old, Perfect markings, 555-1234.Leave mess.

Best Books This Month

Three books from this month's reviews are well worth a mention

These books are pretty good. That's very good indeed in the case of "Accelerando". My, how Charles Stross has improved! This is an exhilarating book.

Greg Bear's "Hegira" is a book I'd somewhat underrated. It's not brilliant but it is a stimulating read and does imbue you with a sense of wonder, which after all is what it's all about.

Elizabeth Bear won the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer 2005 and she's lived up to that promise. "Carnival" is great. A 21st century version of "Virgin Planet", perhaps. I look forward to reading more by her.

3-year-old teacher need for pre-school. Experience preferred.

Hidden Dimensions

For the first time in many years, I have 80% of my book collection back together in a purpose built storage system in Wing 0 (thanks to a vast investment in equipment from Muji ). Almost all the remaining books are securely stored in Wing 1 which at least is in the same country. I hope to get those back in the new few months. However, the book collection is currently unordered they're randomly shelved - so the chance of finding any particular book among the myriad silos is remarkably low. After a few weeks sorting into alphabetical order, I'll finally be able to find whether I actually own "Dimension Of Miracles" by Robert Sheckley. Vincent has suggested I read this and that seems like a good idea to me.

Illiterate? Write today for free help

Worst Books This Month

The two worst this month were:

I'm too disappointed about "Trouble And Her Friends" to write about it. All I can do it to cry out "Melissa, what went wrong with this book?"

I picked up "Eternity" at the old Forbidden Planet in Denmark St, London. This was the original location of the shop before the move to New Oxford Street and to larger premises in Shaftsbury Avenue. This dreadful book was representative of the sort of paperback they stocked. Well, maybe that's not exactly true, but I'm still simmering at the fact that the deeply-cool Dark They Were And Golden Eyed in Berwick Street had closed down and I had to trudge across to the rival but seriously unhip Forbidden Planet. Does anyone remember when that happened? No, not my trudge to Denmark Street, of course, but the closure of Dark They Were And Golden Eyed. This was of course, some time ago (!).

Forbidden Planet improved substantially (and got a lot bigger).

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Science Note 3 - UK moon trip

I'm sure you've heard that the UK are planning a couple of moon trips. However, it is the UK that has submitted the plans but it is European Space Agency that would be going. That means it's a bit more likely to actually happen.

It is getting quite busy out there. Space.com reports in Moon Race: U.S. Not Alone in Future Lunar Exploration that the ESA is finishing up a moon survey, and India, China and Japan will be moon bound before NASA's 2008 mission. However, it also looks as though Japan may have cancelled its moon trip.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

Obituary: Robert Anton Wilson

I'm sad to see that Robert Anton Wilson died on 11th January 2007 I loved reading his Illiminatus Trilogy (co-written with Robert Shea) "The Eye in the Pyramid", "The Golden Apple" and "Leviathan" but have to admit I haven't read them again. I've a feeling they encapsulate their time wonderfully but haven't aged well.

He cowrote a couple of books with Timothy Leary, including "The Game of Life" Wow. He led an exciting life, he knew many interesting people and he will be sorely missed.

Science Note 4: Optical Materials

New Scientist has an interesting article on the possibility of materials made out of light, entitled Engaging photons in light conversation:
"Photons are notoriously unsociable. They pass like ships in the night even going through each other. Yet if they could be made to interact they might be compelled to form a peculiar new kind of quantum material one made of light."

Apart from many uses in understanding quantum materials, it may also lead to efficient quantum computers.

It's a good thing that light doesn't interact well with itself. You don't want two torch lights pointing at the same spot to bounce off each other and illuminate the surround but not the object.

These experiments are pretty heady stuff: capture a single photon between two mirrors, add a supercooled atom of caesium and shoot another photon at this. The new photon is forced to recognise that the old photon existed because the caesium atom having absorbed one photon can not absorb another because it was no longer in a resonant state.

Somewhere during that I realised that I was losing the thread a little, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting-off-head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.

Musical Accompaniment Note

I felt this time that it was important to let you know what the music is playing while I write this newsletter. It is the astoundingly good if extremely old "Just Be Good To Me" by the SOS Band. One of the few soul tracks that always blows me away, picks me up, spins me round, lands me on my feet and forces me to dance. It is hard to write with this playing of course, especially at such a high volume. But what's more important?

To my amazement, I see that Youtube have a copy of the SOS Band in a Soul Train performance of Just be good me to me" and that is so enjoyable I think I'm going to play it again. Here we go.

Used Cars: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!

This Month's Reviews

Next Month's Reviews

We'll have reviews of a varied range of books by James Blish, Tony Ballantyne, Michael Weaver, Frank Herbert and David Brin. Heck, I may throw in a Tepper or a Gibson.

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.

Man, honest. Will take anything.

Take care

Max

(max@sfreviews.com)

 


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