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.

The Ultimate Threshold of BOREDOM, maybe. Snap!

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.

Published in Canada as 'Oot Of The Everywhere'.

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.

Some primo stuff.

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.

Under construction until 2147.


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’.

Gaping SF action!

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.

"The aliens are attacking!" cried the captain....

...."Got a light?"

 

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.

Hint: Spell AZATHOTH on a Triple Word Score for an easy 122 points.