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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews


Tentacles The SF Reviews newsletter, 7th March 2020

Master of the Universe

In the last newsletter I was feeling pretty optimistic about the prospects of space exploration and exploitation. Boy, have I been proved right! India in space! China on the dark side of the moon! SpaceX testing their Falcon Heavy and Dragon capsule! Japan and the US scooping dust from comets! The Parker probe to the sun!

This very week back in 1970, the UK successfully launched its first space rocket, the Black Arrow, from Woomera in Australia. Check out this excellent video Black Arrow : The Lipstick Rocket - A Very British Space Program

We gave up space flight shortly afterwards but, damn it, I'm still celebrating the 50 anniversary of Britain in space. I'm playing Hawkwind's Master of the Universe from the "In Search Of Space" album, cover shown below

in Search Of Space album cover.jpg

I told my wife she was drawing her eyebrows too high. She looked surprised.

Why the joke footnotes? I needed cheering up and these got me chortling happily. I hope they'll do the same for you.

On the move again

After an all-too-comfortable four years in Singapore Max, Mrs Max, Max Jr and Maxette have returned to Japan. We came back to our old haunting ground, Nihombashi. It is extremely good to be back. I don't know quite why I love Japan so much. Perhaps it feels more energetic than Singapore. If so I hope that'll result in more frequent reviews and newsletters. Oh, and Japan has a space program.

And the Lord said until John, "Come forth and you will receive eternal life." But John came fifth and won a toaster.

Best of the reviews

You may notice more reviews that are quite short in length, one-liners, barely a twitch of my writing hand. There are also a high percentage of reviews of very old novels. Well, hey, I am very old. Please accept my apologies but nowadays I lack the time to linger over the reviews. Also, I had a bit of an eye problem a few years ago and that has slowed down my

"Ancillary Justice" blew me away and I immediately got hold of and read "Ancillary Sword", following up somewhat later with "Ancillary Mercy". What a gift to the SF world was Ms Leckie's decision to persevere through the years of writing that first novel.

I'd sort of given up on reading Wil McCarthy's novels. They were all very enjoyable, thought-provoking and exciting. But it just seemed they were being published every week. I might even have been jealous of the ease with which he appears to write. However, I decided to reread "To Crush The Moon" as I had a spare few hours and the book was at hand. Damn it! He's so good. What a great novel.

Hal Clement was a prolific writer of hard SF. He wrote the classic "Mission of Gravity". Twenty-five years, after writing numerous other novels, he wrote the beautiful "Half Life". I've read this novel several times and treasure it.

My wife accused me of being immature. I told her to get out of my fort.


I like https://www.teepublic.com/. I bought two t-shirts from them. One t-shirt says

     "Science is like magic, but real"

and the other, even more importantly, says

     "In my defense I was left unsupervised"

When I wear these Tees I walk proudly and confidently. Well aware that everyone I pass in the street wishes they could, even for a moment, be like me, be me, be Max. Sometimes, I even loosen my tie.

Women only call me ugly until they find out how much money I make. Then they call me ugly and poor.

Sadly missed

So many writers have passed away in the years since my last newsletter. I have to mention some.

  • Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. I'm so proud to have met Stan Lee when he lectured in London back in the '70s.

These are just some of the masters of SF that have passed on

  • Brian Aldiss
  • Iain M. Banks
  • Octavia Butler
  • Harlan Ellison
  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Vonda N. McIntyre
  • -Mike Resnick
  • Lucius Shepard
  • Sherri S. Tepper
  • Kate Wilhelm
  • Gene Wolfe

I have a step ladder because my real ladder left when I was a kid.

The Avengers

Let me mention a final death, that of Patrick McNee. Besuited and bowlered, Patrick with Diana Rigg as the inimitable Mrs Peel were the epitome of cool in the Avengers. No not that Avengers. The original Avengers - the British TV series.

Gosh I loved that as a kid.

But with regards to the Avengers, it's been sensational watching my childhood superheroes serialised on the big screen. Just amazing.

My grandfather has a heart of a lion and a lifetime ban at the zoo.

Worst of the reviews

These two weren't bad, just not very good.

Working in a mirror factory is something I can totally see myself doing.

The Expanse

I'm a double-plus idiot. Three years ago in Singapore, I watched the first two seasons of "The Expanse" on the wonderful Netflix. I thought they were OK but not totally gripping. I had no idea they were derived from the magnificent Expanse series by James A. Corey. What a delight to find those novels. I binge-read them from "Leviathan Wakes" straight through to "Tiamat's Wrath". Absolutely brilliant! I'm also, now, very pleased that I'll be able to watch the TV series on my accidental Amazon Prime subscription.

Isn't it astonishing that you can order something online and receive it the next day, and this has already become passe! And isn't astonishing how much profit is being made from that and similar enterprises.

I came up with a new word yesterday. Plagiarism


Just as I moved to Singapore, the PMD burst on the market over there. PMD stands for Personal Mobility Device and covers electrically-powered devices such as scooters; hover-boards and Segways, all used on the pavement not the roads. To my eyes, this is a wonderful revolution. I saw a senior citizen taking his granddaughter to Kindergarten on such a scooter. It had a seat for grandfather so he didn't need to stand, and a smaller seat in front of him for the child. They were cruising along the pavement at around 5 mile.

In Shanghai it's different. Throughout the city there are electric cars (so many Teslas) and electric (motor) scooters. I was over there the year before last for a few days and even then it was sometimes unnerving with these scooters zipping silently along the roads.

I expect there may be no new petrol or diesel cars sold by major car manufactures in five years' time.

And in Canada, the first, fully-electric commercial airplane takes off.

eplane first flight

I took the shell off my racing snail, thinking it would make him faster. If anything, it made him more sluggish.

The Reviews

I feel bad for the homeless guy. But I feel really bad for the homeless guy's dog. Because he must be thinking "Man, this is the longest walk ever"

Thanks to Bored Panda

Thanks to Bored Panda for their 52 Of The Funniest Two-Line Jokes Ever, from which this hilarious selection was pulled.

To the handicapped guy who stole my bag. You can hide but you can't run.


The web framework behind the site has finally made the transition from Python 2 to Python 3. Remarkably easy, so easy in fact that I took the opportunity to rewrite some of the appalling code I'd written to get the site live. I also migrated to sqlite3 as the database used in the creation of the static pages and for searches. I expect it will handle the load quite nicely. It's substantially faster than the inverted-text database which I'd written in pure Python. I'm still firmly convinced that Python is best language bar none for general-purpose coding.

I wrote the web framework back in 2000 and SF Reviews went live in January 2001. Gosh, I've been coding in Python for over twenty years (since 1999). And hold on a minute, this means it's almost time for the SF Reviews twentieth anniversary - January 2021. Free drinks on the 21 January 2021 at Geronimo's Bar, Roppongi. If it's still open (I've been in Singapore).

My friend gave me his Epi-Pen as he was dying. It seemed very important to him that I have it.

Next Month's Reviews

The Expanse series of novels. Unfortunately I expect to be able to pen only one line reviews for each of these novels, even though they deserve far more.

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 read and review.

You know what they say about cliffhangers...

Take care




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