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!


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.

There was a Farmer wrote a book, and Philip was his name-o.

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.

17 trees died to print this.

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.

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?"

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.

Sit down for a spell and read it.

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.

“It’s a nice day,” said the President, “let’s put the top down.”