Thursday, December 1, 2016

Just Like Old Times by Robert J. Sawyer

44/150/2016

This is the strangest method to control the population that I've run across.

Chronotransference is a technology that can send a person's mind back in time to live out the life of a person long dead.  The person's mind cannot control the body he or she is in, only view the life until its conclusion.

The present day body dies and is no longer a burden on society.

Yikes!

In this story, a man convicted of multiple murders, convinces the authorities to transfer his mind into a tyrannosaurus rex.

It was an odd story but imaginative, well written and just plain fun to read.

Robert J. Sawyer - http://sfwriter.com/




It's A Good Life by Jerome Bixby - A Short Story Review

43/150/2016

This read like a Steven King novel.

A creepy little kid has special powers to control any living thing.  He can just "think" his way to another place or to kill anything or anyone that annoys him.

See how the small town, where he lives, deals with his abilities.

Yup, creepy.

Well done.

Jerome Bixby -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Bixby




Sunday, November 27, 2016

God Mode by Daniel H. Wilson - A Short Story Review

42/150/2016

This was a trippy little exploration of the interpretation of reality.

A young couple meet and fall for each other.  Meanwhile, strange things are happening all around them.  The stars are winking out, one by one.  Details of the city are turning grey.

And then there is a strange voice.

Nicely done.  I enjoyed my time with this story.

Daniel H. Wilson - http://www.danielhwilson.com/

Daniel H. Wilson


Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke - A Short Story Review

41/150/2016

The high lama of Tibet needs a computer to churn out every possible name of God.

Why?

Well, that doesn't matter when you can sell a new Mark V computer.

It's not long before we find out why and the results are very interesting.

Clarke had a knack.

This anthology continues to delight.




Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large by James Alan Gardner - A Short Story Review

40/150/2016

I really liked this story.

An odd little girl, Muffin, has knowledge of the future and strangers come to the house to get her guidance.

Meanwhile her uncle and brother try to make sense of her.

She is a good girl and has plans for the future.

I was very interested in knowing more about Muffin which kept me reading.

There was also a gentleness to the story that made me feel like everything was going to be all right in the end.

It's not Science Fiction.  Perhaps speculative fiction?  I really don't know what that means.

Urban Fantasy seems to fit.  Let's call it that.  But there's no magic or supernatural elements.

I know, let's just call it a good story.

James Alan Gardner's website - http://www.jamesalangardner.com/Welcome.html


Monday, November 21, 2016

Carpe Diem by Eileen Kernaghan - A Short Story Review

39/150/2016

I am Canadian.

Why am I not reading more stories from Canada?

I dug out this collection from On-Spec magazine.  You know, I've purchased many issues of the magazine and I am sure I haven't read even one.  They are all in a shoe box in my basement.  I think I will have to take a run at them.

This story was an odd one, with a twist ending that left me scratching my head.

We follow a group of senior women who are being monitored for something.  Blood tests, and all kinds of medical checkups are being performed regularly.

We are never told why.

But if you don't make the cut....

Eileen Kernaghan's website - http://www.eileenkernaghan.ca/index.html

How to Become a Mars Overlord by Catherynne M. Valente - Lightspeed Magazine

 38/150/2016

Great title.

But I found this one to be rather odd.

The author has a love of space opera and ancient mythology.

Take those two genres and fold them into a promotional/professional development seminar and you get a feel for how the story is presented.

Don't get me wrong, it was fun and I loved the author's sentences.  There is a real love of grandiose language that I found quite entertaining.

I just don't know how to label it.  Perhaps that is what makes it good.  I have not run into anything quite like it before.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surface Tension by James Blish - A Short Story Review

37/150/2016

The story begins with a crashed seed-ship on a new world that was meant to be a new human colony.

With the ship smashed and the cargo nearly destroyed the captain an crew come up with an inventive way of completing their mission.

The story then moves a pivotal moment in the history of these new life forms the human created.

I was, at first instantly bored by the story, it was just another "look how strange my aliens are" tale.  But then a very human adventure began and a familiar story of evolution repeated itself on this new world.

In the end I found the story to be very interesting indeed.

I kept reminding my self of what the influential editor, Gardner Dozois once said; "The nice thing about short stories, even the bad ones, is that they are short."  (Or something along those lines.)

This kept me reading and I am happy I did.

It awoke the sense of wonder of how incredibly big this story was.

Terrific.  A highlight of the collection.







Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Amaryllis by Carrie Vaughn - A Short Story Review

36/150/2016

This was another podcast of one of issue #1 of Lightspeed magazine.

The story was lovely.

Was it post apocalyptic?  Who knows.  Society is certainly different than it is today; much more planned and community centered.

It was a joy to listen to as Gabrielle De Cuir had a wonderful delivery.  She captured the emotion of the piece. 

This was a story about people, their past and letting go of it. 

The future demands it.

Wonderful.




Dinosaur Killers by Chris Kluwe - A Short Story Review

35/150/2016

What would it be like to witness the annihilation of Earth from your perch, in orbit, on a space station?

Here the narrator is trying to make sense of it and decide what he should do next, when a voice from another station asks, "Where are the others?"

The sentences are choppy.  The narration stuttered.  As we try to grasp with what it all means.

It is a unique view of a post apocalyptic world.

I liked it.

It sure makes you think.



The Quest For Saint Aquin by Anthony Boucher - A Short Story Review

34/150/2016

A post apocalyptic story of a priest on a mission to find the tomb of St. Aquin.

It is a strange journey through the fringes of the blasted landscape of the western coast of America.

The role of religion has changed.  Technology has progressed.  Attitudes may not have.

Interesting friends are made and the ultimate discovery needs contemplation.

It's not surprising that there are so many dystopian entries in this volume; we are only five or six years post World War II and the Cold War is dominating public thought.

As I work my way through the pages I find myself sighing whenever I come across this kind of story.

I read them, and they are all excellent, it's just I miss the sense of wonder that I like best about science fiction.

In any case it was a good story and I felt it would have made a damn good novel.  I liked Father Thomas and felt he was good company in this strange environment.


Hard Cover
Paperback

Anthony Boucher

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You In Reno by Vylar Kaftan - A Short Story Review

33/150/2015

I decided to go as far back as the Lightspeed podcast archives would allow me.

Right to the beginning, as it turns out.

This was an expression of love as told through physics.

Such an inventive idea.

I liked it.

Vylar Kaftan - https://vylarkaftan.com/

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson - Book Review #165

16/15/2016

Oh, what fun!

Every once in a while it's good to take a step back and to have a bit of fun with a pillar of the science fiction genre.

I'm talking about Star Trek.  In this book we have a "Federation" and a rogue young captain who has no trouble breaking the rules to accomplish missions to his own satisfaction.

It took me a couple of chapters before I understood the author's voice in this story.  It was a crazy cacophony of geek-speak and twisted references.  Once the plot revealed itself I could sit back and enjoy what Erikson was doing.

Each chapter read like an episode from the series with an over-arching plot line to give it good continuity.

My favourite part of the book was when the crew went back in time old Earth circa 2015, to a comic convention.  This being a complete lift of the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where that crew went back in time to 1986.

I loved the banter and the observations of life as we know it today.

There is no way to talk about this book without referencing Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Yes.  It's a lot like that.  I really admire how Erikson was able to twist the Star Trek structures, add ridiculous characters and circumstances and have it make sense. 

Like Adams he was also able to make a serious statement about how we live our lives and to deliver that while making me laugh.  We are dealing with a very smart author here.

This is the second book in a series.  I believe my struggles with the first couple of chapters had more to do with the author expecting the reader to have been there for the first book.  I respect that; when I am reading a series I find the effort writers make to help the first-time reader to be tedious.

I found myself stealing moments to read a page or two and bringing the book along just in case I had a few minutes to dive back in.  Most books I read do not captivate me like this one did.  I had the book with me as if it was my cell phone.

I want to thank Tor for giving me the opportunity to enjoy something so fresh and fun.

Steven Erikson -  http://www.steven-erikson.com/

Steven Erikson


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Shooting Gallery by J. B. Park - A Short Story Review

32/150/2016

My recent dive into the world of audio books has lead me to my other interest - short stories.

Lightspeed Magazine has been in my circle of magazines since it launched in 2010.  John Joseph Adams is the editor and anthologist who has been making quite a splash in the world of short fiction.

The Magazine has always been an interesting hybrid, half the issue is available online for free.  For the complete issue you only have to drop $3.99 which is a real bargain.

They also podcast the free stories which is something I really appreciate.

I have often thought it would be a cool idea to go back into the archives of Analog or some other, now-defunct pulp magazine and podcast the stories.

But what about this story?

It's about a down-on-his-luck undead teenaged boy who is trying to earn a little bit of rent money for his down-on-her-luck mother.

He decides to leverage his "undead-ness" to do so.

It really was an interesting idea.  It was also touching and deeply rooted in humanity.

It was a good read.

Lightspeed Magazine November 2016 issue.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber - A Short Story Review

31/150/2016

Set in a post World War Three United States, we follow a British man visiting what is left of New York city.

While on the street he intervenes to help a young woman from an attempted hit and run.

From that moment on we are treated to a story that reveals how much American society has changed.

It was so strange that it reminded me of the Judge Dredd series.

The protagonist does his best to help the woman but circumstances are much more complicated than first thought.

It was a good story but the open-ended conclusion left me wanting a bit more.

Fritz Leiber
Galaxy Science Fiction - November 1950

Monday, October 31, 2016

Rogue Star by Michael Flynn - Boor Report #164

15/15/2016

I am not sure how I feel about meeting my reading goal for the year.  I goodly chunk of it has been from audio books.  Does that make it wrong?  It's not like I didn't "consume" it, it's just that I didn't do so with my eyes.  It feels a little bit like cheating.

Audio books are certainly trending with the public, it is a real growth area of literature.  Amazon's Audible, and audio books in general, have enjoyed a 20% increase in sales in 2015 over 2014.  So I guess I am on-trend in that regard.

Okay, that said how was the book?

Fantastic!

I must say that Flynn has mastered the "literary" hard science fiction genre.  His characters are brilliantly true-to-life, they feel like real people; driven and flawed like all of us.

The book continues from the first seamlessly even though it skips ahead a bit, with the Far Trip mission nearing its destination and the construction of the LEO space station in full swing.

Throughout the book are the messy, human shenanigans that are so common in life.

I have to say that Flynn's depiction of humanity in space was a far better read than Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.  But it occupies the same, distinct part of science fiction that cannot be ignored; that of the well-researched and plausible speculation that is so important in sparking the imagination.

Flynn's ability to keep the plot moving is what sets his work above Robinson's as he was able to keep my attention.

This book is nearly 20 years old and the only detail it departs with reality is the level of sub-orbital and low earth orbit activity that takes place.  Nothing in the book is out of the realm of the possible.

I was simply captivated by the story.

I must say something about the narrator, Malcolm Hillgartner.  This guy was terrific, his ability with voices and accents was staggering.  There are so many characters in these books that I was completely impressed with how he was able to keep them straight and to recall them.

He brought the whole thing to life.

Michael Flynn

Malcolm Hillgartner


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Born of Man and Woman by Richard Matheson - A Short Story Review


30/150/2016

This was a horrid little tale.

By that I simply mean the writing was crisp and brought me right into that little, terrible basement where the story takes place.

It was stark and unapologetic and brilliantly written.  But, being confronted with the cold hatred of the two antagonists, made me hate being human.

The author had skills to make me feel so strongly in only three and a half pages.

Excellent read.

It will stay with you.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Beyond: Our Future In Space by Chris Impey - Book Report #163

14/15/2016

I found this book to be a page-turner.  The subject of space exploration; past, present and future has always captured my imagination.

Impey did a nice job of informing the reader on how we got to here without getting bogged down in the details of the history of space exploration.

These broad strokes of background expertly puts today's program, both government and private, into focus.

The near future looks to be held back only by money and a bit of engineering.  I found myslef wishing that it's five years from now.  I want to know how it all turns out.

Where the book lost my interest was the final section, which looks at the far future.  One where we are no longer content with our solar system but are now making moves to interstellar travel.

My own personal interest is in the near future; how do we go back to the moon and then Mars?  Asteroid mining and generally moving human activity off the face of Earth, that's what really intrigues me.

The book would have felt funny if Impey did not tackle the subject of voyages beyond the solar system.  Most science fiction is based on this type of journey.

The book is very approachable, well written and makes a complex subject come into focus.  There is no doubt about where we are going, the sub-title says it all:  Our Future In Space.

I enjoyed the book very much and I am glad I was able to read it.

Chris Impey's website -  http://chrisimpey-astronomy.com/

Chris Impey

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Soyuz Files - A Podcast Review

This may seem like a bit of a departure but I assure you it really isn't.

I have included audio books mostly because they have been readings of actual books.  But I am also a fan of good story telling and The Soyuz Files is definitely a very good story.

Any good science fiction will try to answer the question, "What if?"

What if the Soviet Union won the race to the moon?

What would that have looked like?  What would the ramifications have been?  How different would the world be?

In this wonderful audio drama the Soviets land on the moon on October 31, 1968.

Through a series of investigative reports from November 1, 1968 to July 18, 1969 (right in the middle of Apollo 11's actual mission, by the way) we learn of a conspiracy surrounding the Soviet landing.

The whole story is told over six episodes.  Podcasts are well suited for serialized stories and I found myslef binging on this one.  The sound quality is terrific and the acting is top notch.

I highly recommend this series.

The official website is here:  http://www.soyuzfiles.com/

You can also find it in iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-soyuz-files/id1122132725?mt=2

If you are interested in real space adventures you should check out Planetary Radio, also a podcast, there you will learn all about what is happening in space right now.   There is a lot going on.

Planetary Radio can be found here:

http://www.planetary.org/multimedia/planetary-radio/

Ad Astra people!







Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Little Black Bag - A Short Story Review

29/150/2016

A little bit of time travel coupled with a little bit of dystopian present.  With the present being the 1940's

What happens to a down-on-his luck family doctor when a highly advanced doctors' black bag is sent to him from the future?

At first the author sets up a pretty bleak future for mankind but then never really follows up on it.  He does, however, present us with a hopeful look at what can happen when a person's self-esteem is restored.

A good read.



C. M. Kornbluth