October 11, 2008
I can sum up this anthology of Russian scifi stories in one word: дрянной. With a capital ‘д’. Most of them are written by and told from the point of view of scientists who, despite their depiction on NBC’s Scientists In The City as promiscuous, self-narrating singles who sip cosmopolitans from Erlenmeyer flasks and wear $30 Manolo Blahnik arch-support loafers, aren’t as thrilling and sexy as you may think. This makes for what I call a ‘burnt toast book’: edible but dry. Pass the butter.
On a scale of guys ranging from to Aiden to Big, this book is: Berger.
September 7, 2008
James Tiptree writes like a girl, because he was one. Alice Bradley Sheldon assumed a male nom de plume to avoid the discrimination faced by female writers in the early days of scifi (it was not uncommon, for example, to see a leering Isaac Asimov chasing a busty, short-skirted Ursula K. Leguin repeatedly around a desk while imploring her to ‘prove you’re not a robot, sugar pie’). But as this excellent anthology shows, any fear Tiptree had about not being taken seriously was unfounded; her scifi hammer hangs lower than most male writers’. Highly recommended.
On a scale of famous men who were really women ranging from Pope Joan to Billy Tipton, this book is: Samus Aran.
1991: The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories In Honor Of Ray Bradbury edited by William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg
September 5, 2008
Reading Bradbury’s short story catalogue is like taking a highly-addictive, euphoria-inducing drug. It’s a glorious, almost spiritual experience while it lasts. But there’s a limited supply, and eventually you run out. In desperation, you buy some Asimov from a guy you don’t really know and read it by yourself in the bathroom at the bus station. Soon you’re watching Will Smith in I Robot through half-closed eyes and telling yourself you can stop any time you want. The Bradbury Chronicles is like methadone for everyone jonesin’ for more of the master’s works; a series of stories that aren’t the real thing, but will tide you over until you can get some help. Recommended.
On a scale of Bradbury-related withdrawl symptoms ranging from Dandelion Wine D.T.’s to S Is For The Shakes, this book is: A fever of Fahrenheit 451.
July 11, 2008
Pooker the Betelgeusian clown teams up with H0W-D the cyborg cowboy and a wise-cracking gelding to stop the wicked Space Sheriff from closing the ol’ theme park. But will Sally’s first period prevent her from winning the roping competition and reveal her true identity to the dreamy Venusian ranch hand? Such is the synopsis of my tween coming-of-age novella The Star Rodeo. And if it’s anything like this book, I’ll sue.
On a scale of things found on the side of the road ranging from an empty can of grape soda to a single shoe, this book is: a hitchhiker who just got out of jail.
For some reason, this anthology’s index abbreviates the sources it culled its stories from, and the magazine Analog Science Fact & Fiction is abbreviated as Anal. I’m not joking. Now, a lot of guys are embarrassed to purchase Anal at the store, or worried their wives will find their copies of Anal at home. Personally, I buy Anal for the articles and have been a dedicated Anal subscriber for years, and this book pounded my imagination raw with blistering, white-hot stories by some of the most hardcore writers in the biz. Perfect for consenting adults looking to spice up their reading routine.
On a scale of puerile innuendo ranging from April Wine’s ‘If You See Kay’ to ZZ Top’s ‘Tube Snake Boogie’, this book is: David Wilcox’s ‘Layin’ Pipe’.
June 11, 2008
This book has something you don’t see in contemporary scifi: a cigarette ad. Between pages 128 and 129 for Kent Menthols. I haven’t seen such shameless shillery since Ray Bradbury’s Doritos-sponsored novella Something Zesty This Way Comes. This crass commercialization of an otherwise fine collection of stories left me cold. Almost as cold as a delicious glass of Mug Root Beer. Put a Mug In Your MugTM!
On a scale of military ad mascots ranging from Cap’n Crunch to Colonel Sanders, this book is: Sergeant Pain, Anacin’s Migraine-Inducing Drill Instructor.
Of all the hideous creations in Lovecraft’s pantheon, the visually-impaired, mentally-challenged deity is my personal favourite, so The Azathoth Cycle was like music to my ears. Music comprised of the beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes, but music nonetheless. This book, however, should in no way be confused with Azathoth-ciclesTM, the frozen treat kids go horribly, irreversibly mad for. Recommended.
On a scale of fictional New England towns ranging from Derry, Maine to Arkham, Massachusetts, this book is: Madeupville, Rhode Island.
April 14, 2008
From the authour of Planet Of The Apes, Bridge Over The River Kwai and Bridge Over The Planet Of The Apes comes a short story collection that, to be frank, was disappointing. For one thing, Boulle was French, so strike one. And none of these stories had talking apes in them, so strike two. And the translation was somewhat inept, which isn’t really his fault, but I’m looking for a reason to discount this book entirely, so strike thr – oh shit! I beaned Pierre Boulle! Right in the temple! Is he hurt? Is he bleeding? Yeah, he’s bleeding. Well, fuck him. He shouldn’t have crowded the plate.
On a scale of business ranging from funny to risky, this book is: monkey.
If you don’t think the real WWII was bad enough, this book is for you; eleven stories portraying a victorious Nazi menace looming like a dark cloud over the world. The forecast? Stormy, with a chance of heil. If you’re a Hitler buff, you’ll definitely want to read this book. Also, if you’re a Hitler buff, you probably shouldn’t go around describing yourself as a ‘Hitler buff’. Very highly recommended.
On a scale of rooms in Hitler’s house ranging from the schlafzimmer to the küche, this book is: the lebensraum.
Fans of Brian Lumley know him as the authour of the Necroscope series (Necroscope is also the leading brand of zombie mouthwash). But he’s also a devotee of the Cthulhu mythos, having added Shudde M’ell the Prime Burrower to H.P. Lovecraft’s foul pantheon. This anthology contains stories by writers inspired by Lumley’s Lovecraft-inspired creations, which is kinda like someone parodying a Weird Al song that parodies a song that wasn’t very popular to begin with. Like if you took ‘I Want A New Duck’ and changed it to ‘I Want A New Truck’. Y’see how silly that sounds? Okay, then.
On a scale of Weird Al albums ranging from Weird Al In 3D to Alapalooza, this book is: Dare To Be Stupid.
February 28, 2008
Dunsany is like Eminem. He writes with a simplicity and style that makes you think, ‘I can do that.’ But when you sit down and try, you realize how tight, mad and crazy his science, flow and skills are, respectively. And you hate him for his talent, but you don’t want to dis him because you’re afraid he might write a skit about you fellating Insane Clown Posse. So you squash the beef and read this collection of stories, most of which are about how much he hates his ex-wife. Highly recommended.
On a scale of D12 members ranging from Bizarre to Kuniva, this book is: Kon Artis.
February 5, 2008
Cartoonist Gahan Wilson proves he’s a man of many talents (okay, two) with this offbeat anthology of stories. What I like about this book is that every story is told in a different voice. In ‘The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be’, Wilson does a Robin Williams ‘black guy’ voice. In ‘Them Bleaks’ he does a Richard Pryor ‘white guy’ voice. And in ‘The Marble Boy’ he does a ‘what if John Madden and Cher had a baby? I think it would sound a little like this’ voice. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes humourous, sometimes whimsi-rous, The Cleft will delight your literary palate. Recommended.
On a scale of things cut in half featured on thingsihavecutinhalf.blogspot.com ranging from a teabag to a pocket comb, this book is: an alarm clock.
January 11, 2008
Larry Niven is such a good writer that he could, if he wanted to, act like a total jerk and get away with it. He could yell at waiters, molest people’s sick pets, ash a cigarette into the hair of the girl blowing him, and you’d still say, ‘Convergent Series is an awesome collection of stories from one of scifi’s masters; I’m gonna look the other way on the pet-molesting.’ Of course, Larry Niven would never do those things, because he’s too classy. Also, it’s hard to molest pets; they bite you unless they’re wearing one of those cones around their necks. Recommended.
On a scale of jerks ranging from Charlie Sheen to Russell Crowe, this book is: Christian Bale (dude; your sum contribution to Batman was a raspy voice; where do you get off yelling at people?)
January 7, 2008
I’m a huge fan of B.W.A., but many of the stories in this fantasy anthology are altogether incomprehensible, narrative-wise. Overall, this book is like a hot girl with a stutter: beautiful, well put-together, but very difficult to understand. The book says, ‘C-c-can I come out with y-y-you and your f-f-friends tonight?’, to which you reply, ‘Only if you undo a couple buttons on your blouse and keep quiet.’ Eventually you come to resent the book so much you wait until its birthday to break up with it, just so you’ll hurt the book’s feelings that much more. God, I hated it. Great body, though.
On a scale of imaginary lines ringing the globe ranging from the Tropic Of Cancer to the Tropic Of Capricorn, this book is: the Antimeridian.
January 4, 2008
A book is always more exciting when exclamation points are added to the title: The Old Man And The Sea! To Kill A Mockingbird! Absalom, Absalom!!!!!!! This book is no exception. It’s a series of stories set in S.M. Stirling’s Domination timeline, where British South Africans who call themselves ‘the Draka’ have enslaved humankind (you don’t have to have your body and spirit broken under the yoke of servitude to work there, but it helps). While interesting, the premise itself is far-fetched: only in science fiction could South Africa be an intolerant dystopia where an elite few withhold basic human rights from the masses. Recommended for fans of the Domination series.
On a scale of spin-offs ranging from The Golden Palace to Archie Bunker’s Place, this book is: Frasier.