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 11, 2008
Every human who ever lived is resurrected along the banks of a mysterious river where they are fed, clothed and made impervious to death by an outside force beyond comprehension. That’s on page three. From there, the authour pits a reanimated Sir Richard Burton against a revived Hermann Goring as the two of them compete for supremacy and understanding of a paradise that may be anything but. If scifi is a what if? genre, then Farmer is a why not? writer, bound by no convention whatsoever. Recommended, if only for the sheer bravado of subject matter and storytelling.
On a scale of things that come back to life ranging from the African lungfish to Jesus, this book is: zombie John Dillinger.
August 11, 2008
This ‘speculative’ tale of an environmentally ravaged world is so chilling in its accuracy you’ll pray for accelerated global warming. Seventy-five percent of the environmental disasters Brunner foretold in The Sheep Look Up have already come to pesticide-riddled fruition. The rest are bearing down on us like a leaking, lead-lined tanker of crude. Read it, then T-bone a Hummer with your Prius. Recommended.
On a scale of environmental disasters ranging from vanishing bees to radioactive pandas, this book is: using whale meat as dolphin bait.
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.
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.
May 11, 2008
If only there was a book in which a young Merlin is instructed in ‘magic’ by a race of aliens who seek to unite a balkanized post-Roman Britain and use humankind as weapons in a millennium-long war against their own enemies. Wait a minute…there is! Merlin’s Mirror is a seamless combo of Chariots Of The Gods and The Sword In The Stone that both entertains and gives pause for (dare I say it?) reflection. This book is one of the reasons Andre Norton was nicknamed ‘The Giant’ by her opponents. Recommended.
On a scale of famous magicians ranging from David Blaine to Circe, this book is: the Silver Age Dr. Strange.
April 11, 2008
A time traveler named Scop tries to thwart the JFK assassination and prevent America from turning into a horrific dystopia by 2045. And a dystopia is worst kind of topia, except for Fruitopia, which is like fruit stomping on a human face, forever. Anyway, he fails and humankind goes down the ol’ crapper. As an avid JFK assaniation fan, this book blew me away. I found it on a shelf at the local library and read it in one sitting, then I put it back and left. Back and left. Back and left.
On a scale of Presidential assassins ranging from Charles Guiteau to Leon F. Czolgosz, this book is: John Schrank.
March 11, 2008
This is the third installment in Farmer’s Riverworld series, in which an all-star cast of both real people (Hermann Goring) and imaginary (Jesus) are resurrected on a mysterious planet and join forces to discover its secrets. Kinda makes you think about what you’d do if you met Herman Goring and Jesus. Personally, I’d say ‘Your life’s work is inspiring to me,’ and walk away, leaving the two of them to figure out who I was talking to. Anywho, the Dark Design is engaging, entertaining and (dare I say it?) illuminating. No. I’d better not. That’s just what they’ll be expecting me to say.
On a scale of third installments of things ranging from Return Of The Jedi to Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, this book is: Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, Volume 3.
February 11, 2008
Crompton Divided: A novel written by Robert Sheckley. About a man with different personalities. He takes a big trip. On a space ship. And starts a story that’s exceptionally well-knit. This guy’s certifiably a schitzo. But he’s gonna try to cure himself of it, though. The authour goes off on a tangent like that. With a style that’s in its very own class. The writing is the best. Ain’t no tellin’ when he’s down for a plot twist. There’s a dénouement to keep y’all reading. Cuz you don’t know where the story is leading. The novel is exciting but it doesn’t end well. Cuz the protagonist is crazy as hell. The voices in his head revile and haunt him, but by the final chapter, they’re driven straight out of Crompton.
On a scale of things you can use to keep cool during the summer ranging from air conditioning to an oscillating fan, this book is: ice cubes.
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?)