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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 31st March 2011

The Big Nine - Japan Earthquake on 11th March 2011

When our office building in Tokyo started shaking on the afternoon of March 11, it was clear it was a big quake, and as the aftershocks that afternoon continued we donned our hard hats; grabbed our emergency bags and for the bigger quakes dived under our desks.

That was nothing to the shock of what was unfolding on the TV screens in our office Ė the giant tsunami washing across Northeast Japan.

Iím without words to express the horror we felt as we saw the sea sweep across the lands in Tohoku. In the past our Japanese fellows had visited there and returned with omiyagi for their friends and co-workers. They'd grown up there as children. Their families had come from there. Their parents, their great aunts and uncles and their distant cousins still lived there.

My inexpressible sympathies go to all affected.


In Tokyo, the phone system - mobile networks and many landlines - collapsed under the weight of desperate callers. Only an occassional text or voice call connected to let you ascertain that your loved ones were unhurt and where they were. With the trains and buses stopped, once it was safer to travel, the hundreds of thousands of people began the long walk home: three hours to the kidís nursery; four hours to oneís wife at home; eight hours walk through a night of aftershocks to reach your parents.

It was easier for the Max family. Iím very pleased to say that Max, miniMax and Mrs Max are all in a state of maximal fineness. Without reliable phones it took a while to track each other down. I regret to admit that I might have spent some of that time in the local bar. Reinforced with Dutch courage (more correctly liquid Mexican, I ventured out onto the streets on the long journey home. So I walked. I walked with everyone else, starting off on the long hike home. My massive fifteen minute trek was quite exhausting carrying as I was the emergency helmet and backpack. I ducked into my apartment building embarrassed that my departure might be noticed.

The quake was less than pleasant. However, my confidence in the Tokyo infrastructure was reinforced (after a few minutes of wavering) as stations, apartment blocks, private houses, office towers and even the massive Tokyo Skytree stood up to Japan's biggest earthquake ever.

Fukushima Power station

Hit by both the earthquake and the tsunami, Fukushima power station is in a disastrous state. Tepco and the Government have struggled against an increasing string of massive problems in the light of global publicity. My admiration and thanks to those involved in bring the faciltiy and its reactors under control.

Now Ė writing on Friday 18th a week after the quake Ė it looks increasingly promising; a critical situation coming slowly under control. It must have been, and continues to be, a traumatic experience for everyone who lives within the evacuation zone, now in temporary accommodation and fearful about their future.

Science Note 1 - Radiation

With a bleak humour, I can smile that us Tokyoites have worried about radiation levels in the capital. The maximum radiation in Tokyo received as a result of the Fukushima leakages, while double the normal Tokyo background radiation is still less then you would expect if you lived in Cornwall, England. Fingers crossed, Fukshima will be fully under control in a few more days.

I will say itís easy to read the daily radiation report once (i) youíve got the difference between microsieverts and millisieverts straight and (ii) youíve realised that early morning queasiness and vomiting relate more to the cheap tequila you were drinking the previous night.

Let me tell you, Iíve had my fill of radiation for now. (Is that badly phrased?) Especially since this year is SF Reviews tenth birthday

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?"

The Big Ten

SF Reviews is 10 years old. In fact itís ten years and two months. In January 2001 I turned the site on with its first fifty reviews . Many of you joined me soon after. My great ambition was to know which books I had and what I thought of them. Having that information on the web gave me the chance to hack around with some progamming. However, my great ambition remains unfulfilled: my collection has grown faster than Iíve published reviews. Ambition is stronger if unsatisfied and the long struggle continues.

We will hit 1000 books together. And soon if I can cut down the length of each review. I have plans; I shall twitterize the reviews down to short but apt phrases and the title will become the longest component of a review.

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

Science Note 2 - NASA Probe reaches Mercury

Mercury probe

After a six year journey the Nasa Mercury probe has reached itís destination and is in orbit around Mercury. Nasa Mercury Probe

Surburbia: where they tear out the trees and name streets after them

Science Note 3 Ė Computer viruses

I was reading the history of computer viruses in an article by Eugene H. Spafford in the August 2010 CACM, "The first use of the term "computer virus" occurred forty years ago in Venture Magazine, in a science fiction story by Gregory Benford involving computer code and a corresponding vaccine program. Benfordís friend, David Gerrold, later incorporated some of these ideas into his novel, When HARLIE Was One" from 1972.

John Brunner also mentioned them in 1975 in the excellent "The Shockwave Rider".

On the subject of David, Iíve been re-reading the "War Against The Chtoor" and boy thatís pretty good, if a bit didactic (as he warns us) and a bit sloppily romantic (as he doesnít).

If a man is standing in the middle of the forest speaking and there is no woman around to hear him... is he still wrong?

Best Books This Month

These are the best books reviewed this month, and a lovely set they are too.

Note that "Across Real Time" is simply "The Peace War" published in an edition together with "Marooned In Realtime".

I was impressed with Chris Moriatyís novel. Heís not as accomplished as writer as Charles Stross, but between "Spin State" and "Glasshouse" I plump for Moriaty;s novel.

But please note, ranking just below "Glasshouse" is each of David Gerroldís four books in his excellent War Against the Chtorr". As a quadilogy, itís absolutely fabulous.

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

Science Note 4 - Destroyer of Planets

Heartbreaking news that the remote and aloof Pluto is no longer classed as a planet. Words fail me. What about the Plutonians? Has anyone thought for a moment how they feel? Donít they have rights the same as the rest of us. All of us have struggled and fought for our rights to achieve some level of dignity. Has no one heard of Magna Carta? I knew her, what a women. Even now the minute amoeba or the lanky polymers of Pluto are wriggling up to ther full height, in unison waving their frothy tentacles and shouting forth as one "We will not be deplanetized! Say NO to planet destroyers!"

Atheism is a non-prophet organization

Worst Books This Month

These two were the worst of the batch:

So much of A E Van Vogtís writing was mediocre but with some astonishing and wonderful exceptions. However this is not one of exceptions.

As to "Texas On The Rocks" itís hard for to imagine that I would even have enjoyed this as a pre-teen, but hey who knows? I may have thought it rocked. But probably not.

If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear

Movies - Hot Tub Time Machine

Nothing to do with science fiction really, but I loved it and I loved hearing "(I Want To Be) Jesseís Girl" again.

One day two blondes decided to drive to Disneyland. When they saw a sign that said "Disneyland left" they turned around and went home

This Month's Reviews

I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is getting better

Science Note 5 Ė Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon)

JAXA Hayabusa

The Hayabusa mission was launched from the Kagoshima Space in Kyushu, Japan, in 2003 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). It travelled 2 billion km to reach its destination an asteroid named Itokawa. and returned to Eatch, safely jettisoning its sample capsule in June 10th 2010. It uses an ion-engine propulsion system. JAXA Hayabusa mission

My wife ran off with my best friend. Boy, I'll miss him.

Science Note 6 - Hayabusa

The new Hayabusa shinkansen (bullet train) debuted on March 5th 2011. Itís not a radical development over existing models, itíll will probably edge the speed up to 320 kpmh. For me, pah, bullet trains are boring, Iím waiting for the Mag-Lev to go commercial.

My husband said if I don't quit shopping so much he'll leave. Lord, I'll miss that man.

Science Note 7 Ė Hayabusa

On Monday February 28th Bandai launched its Hayabusa space probe model. Check it out here: Bandai Hayabusa mobel

Of course Tomy already make the Plarail Hayabusa Shinkansen model train, so can the train with the same name as well.

I used to have a handle on life, but it broke

Next Month's Reviews

Having now determined that I am a bottom feeder in the great puddle of live, I have no real hope that Iíll surface for long enough next month to deliver another batch of reviews and a scintillating newletter. The last update was about 18 months ago. If I do expect congratulatory emails, and if I donít, then please send your supportive and encouraging emails telling me that, yes, I can do it.

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.

Don't sweat petty things or pet sweaty things.

Take care



Take care




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