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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 28th February 2007

The Big 4-0-0

Yes! SF Reviews has hit 400 reviews. Didn't really expect it would take so long when I started. Still that puny target is past. Five hundred is trivial, our ambitions are far higher than that. We're going for the thousand.

Well actually, the objective is to get reviews of my entire SF collection online but that is a long way off.

Still 400 is a lot more than the 50 we started with. SF Reviews is clearly turning into a monster!


What's that coming over the hill?
Is it a monster? Is it a monster?
What's that coming over the hill?
Is it a monster? Is it a monster?
What's that coming over the hill?
Is it a monster? Is it a monster?
What's that coming over the hill?

Confused, mind bruised, it seeps out
It seeps out, it seeps out
Face down, home town looks so grey
Looks so grey, looks so grey

                                The Automatic

Ah, there was me thinking it was horrible grey overcast weather, but it was only the colour of the asphalt. Clearly time for an early morning Tequila.

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

Monster Continued

On the subject of monsters I was quite taken with the story ii the Independent Newspaper on Friday 23rd February 2007. The "Sun Aspiring" a New Zealand fishing ship hunting for Patagonian Toothfish, landed not only a toothfish, but also the Colossal Squid which had been feeding upon it.

Not this wasn't that boring old species, the Giant Squid. This was a real monster of the deep, the Colossal Squid.

Colossal Squid grow to 15m (or more, the newspaper article is a bit confused about this) similar to Sperm Whales. Now a double-decker Routemaster omnibus is 8m in length, and using that as example allows you to also think of a Colossal Squid wrapped around a red bus during a horrifying attack by alien Squid monsters come to rescue their terrestrial cousins. This is the sort of thing you might expect to see on Dr Who. But is terrestrial the right word, I wonder? Any land-based squid to be rescued will probably find the rescue a little too late.

According to the more coherent Wikipedia - a source with which I normally exercise caution the Colossal Squid is also known as the Giant Cranch Squid. It's a vicious brute with swiveling hooks on clubs at the end of its arms. And it's got eight of these arms plus two tentacles.

Of course, it is suggested that the Colossal Squid might have been the origin of the various Kraken stories.

Here's the BBC's take on this news: Super squid surfaces in Antarctic.

And here's a connected, but clearly adrift, report on the second species of colossal squid.

This is believed to be the first adult male that has been landed. An immature female was caught in 1981 and the first evidence of the species was discovered in 1925 when two unusually large arms were found in a Sperm Whale's stomach. Not what one expects, apparently.

Now if that's a terrestrial lifeform, what are aliens going to look like? Please don't tell me they'll resemble Neal Asher's Prador - that would be too depressing as they're really are repellent (I've just read "Prador Moon" and I'm off shellfish for the month now).

What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

Best Books This Month

Five books of this month's reviews are well worth a mention. All but one are by famous authors.

"The Jagged Orbit" is another of John Brunner's brilliant novels. Yawn. He just made it seem so easy. I particularly like the way that his protagonists exhibit the flaws of the damaged society they inhabit.

Another author who makes it seem easy is Larry Niven. Of course, I loved "Ringworld's Children".

Same darn thing with Frank Herbert

And James Blish.

Now "Capacity" really was a surprise. It was exciting and with a wonderfully imagined world, or rather set of worlds.

What an enjoyable month it's been!

I started out with nothing & still have most of it left.

Science Note 1 Press The Reset Button

New Scientist reports that Ketamine the horse tranquillizer and club drug famous for its "out of body" experiences may be useful as a "reset button" for various mental imbalances such as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and certain chronic pain conditions. It doesn't relieve the symptoms while the dose of ketamine is active, rather, once the ketamine experience is over, the brain seems to recover from the aforementioned problems. See Tackling Depression With Ketamine

I'm more interested in the idea of a rather faster-acting brain reset button, especially if positioned, say, on the forehead and if I were able to press other peoples' repeatedly if they are being particularly annoying.

If I throw a stick, will you leave?

Worst Books This Month

The three worst this month weren't terrible, just not as good as one would expect from these authors

Three top authors again. Gosh these master wordsmiths sure are a fickle bunch.

How do you kill a circus? Go for the juggler.

Musical Accompaniment Note

The background for much of this month's newsletter is the incredible Joan Osborne's classic album "Relish". What an astonishing, evocative voice. See the Rolling Stone review.

A personal favourite is "Pensacola" but hey that's far too much personal stuff for this month's news. Let's get back to real manly stuff. Here's an article about Greek sailors.

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

Science Note 2 When Men Were Gods

New Scientists reports : When Men Were Gods about whether Athenians (not Atlanteans) were tougher and stronger than even our top athletes. Possible, I suppose, but I thought the stuff about Triremes (so called because of the three banks of rowers), the engineering of the rows and row positions engrossing.

If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

This Month's Reviews

Thanks to Graeme Nichols for recommending "Direct Descent" by Frank Herbert.

I went to a bookshop and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

Science Note 3 Railway Physics

Like the author, I thought this was entertaining An object in motion.

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up

Next Month's Reviews

As I mentioned earlier, I've just read Neal Asher's "Prador Moon" and it's great.

I should have reviews ready for some old cyberpunk (in particular "Hot Head" by Simon Ings) and some steam punk ("The Difference Engine") novels, plus the review of some new psychological SF by Tricia Sullivan. Also, possibly even reviews of the various novels by Kristine Smith, Kevin O'Donnell and Melissa Scott.

Oh and let me give belated thanks to Peter Tillman for his nice usenet comments.

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.

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?
(Tony Hancock, of course)

Take care




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