EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #944 (July 20, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith

For Fans of… Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting.

Bottom Line: This moving parable delivers strong psychological insights into a child’s powerlessness and anger.

Grade: B+

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

For Fans of… Gattacca‘s DNA-driven dystopia; the subversive fury of Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go.

Bottom Line: Morgan’s bare-knuckle procedural plot makes room for provocative takes on race, gender, and religion.

Grade: A-

Exposure by Kurt Wenzel

For Fans of… Philip K. Dick; Neil Postman.

Bottom Line: Lots of alarming ideas – some fresh, many stale – and too many late-game twists. Exposure is intriguing, but often as artless as the culture it decries.

Grade: B-

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

For Fans of… Adult Swim’s Venture Bros. cartoon.

Bottom Line: Although too affectionate to be an effective parody, Grossman’s book has it’s fun moments, as when Dr. Impossible bemoans, “Henchmen are no use in a situation like this. Don’t get me started about henchmen.”

Grade: B

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REVIEW: Lords And Ladies by Terry Pratchett


(For more Pratchett reviews, see The Great Pratchett Reading Project Table)

After misfiring a bit in the previous Witches novel, Witches Abroad, Pratchett returns to form with Lords And Ladies, the story of the return of the Elves to the Discworld. Everyone thinks they know what elves are like. Sprightly, pointy ears, and prone to hug trees at any opportunity. The reality is, however, much different. The elves are self-absorbed bastards who love to torment humans and leave them with nothing. As the fabric between realities thins, the elves attempt to break out into Discworld and take over the kingdom of Lancre. Opposing them are the eponymous witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlik, who is about to become Queen of Lancre.

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SF Tidbits for 7/14/07

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Friday YouTube: I Lived on the Moon

Here’s a musical video clip by Yannick Puig inspired by the The Kwoon song “I Lived on the Moon“, a song from their album Tales and Dreams.

[via Milk and Cookies]

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SF Tidbits for 7/13/07

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Summer SF Escapism

Alan Boyle over at MSNBC’s CosmicLog offers his recommendations for summer science fiction escapist reading. Given the dust-up over falling readership numbers, I thought this might be an interesting article to look at.

First up, Alan recommends The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks (SF Signal review). Now, I haven’t read it yet, but I’m not sure that the term ‘escapist’ fits here. But then again, maybe I’m thinking of book two on the list.

Which is The Dark River, sequel to The Traveler. Boyle manages to use this book to plug the new Douglas Hofstadter book, I Am A Strange Loop and a book on biblical mysteries. Both sound interesting, but I had no idea Hofstadter had a new book. He has a way of making even difficult idea readable. See his awesome Goedel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Third on his list are two books by Heinlein: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and The Man Who Sold The Moon. Both are strong stories and show the power of early Heinlein.

Lastly, Boyle mentions the upcoming summer series, Masters Of Science Fiction, on ABC. Singled out is the episode, Jerry Was A Man, based on the Heinlein story of the same name.

So there you have, one columnists idea for escapist SF. Looking at the list, I think all of the items may actually be a bit deeper than just ‘escapist’, but that’s a good thing.

The comments are a different story. Dan Simmons as escapist SF? Yikes.

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Ragamuffin Giveaway: We have a Winner!

We have a winner for our giveaway

Ashley J. is the proud owner of a shiny, brand new, autographed copy of Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell. Congratulations, Ashley!

Thanks to all those who entered.

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Readership Numbers…More or Less

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, there is a decline in reading despite the success of Harry Potter.

As The New York Times puts it in their article Harry Potter has a limited effect on reading habits:

…some researchers and educators say that the series, in the end, has not permanently tempted children to put down their Game Boys and curl up with a book instead. Some kids have found themselves daunted by the growing size of the books (“Sorcerer’s Stone” was 309 pages; “Deathly Hallows,” will be 784). Others say that Harry Potter does not have as much resonance as titles that more realistically reflect their daily lives. “The Harry Potter craze was a very positive thing for kids,” said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who has reviewed statistics from federal and private sources that consistently show that children read less as they age. “It got millions of kids to read a long and reasonably complex series of books. The trouble is that one Harry Potter novel every few years is not enough to reverse the decline in reading.”

David Mehegan at The Boston Globe also notes the NEA study:

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SF Tidbits for 7/12/07

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On last night’s Eureka, SciFi debut the teaser trailer for the upcoming Battlestar Galactica movie Razor. Razor details the story of the Pegasus shortly after the Cylon attack on the 12 colonies. Take a gander below:

Just watching that gets me excited about the movie. It reminds of the first, and best, season of BG. Razor looks to get back to what made BG great in the first place: humankind’s desperate fight for its very existence. Hopefully Razor will remove much of the politics and allegory that have entangled the later season, causing them to lose focus, and return to the raw emotions of desperate people doing desperate things to survive.

Razor debuts in November. The fourth, and last, season of Galactica starts in 2008.

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Continuing our clearly groundbreaking series of chat-like reviews, John and JP discuss Karl Schroeder’s second Virga novel, Queen of Candesce.

Queen of Candesce is Karl Schroeder’s second Virga book and follows the hugely popular Sun of Suns. In it, Venera Fanning, last left sailing through the air-filled world of Virga, comes to Spyre, one of Virga’s oldest nations. Venera is fueled by revenge for the husband she presumes to be dead and with the powerful key of Candesce in her possession, she may just be powerful enough to change the face of Spyre forever.

John: Woo-hoo! Schroeder has finished the follow-up to his space pirate novel Sun of Suns. I was really looking forward to more space piracy in Queen of Candesce.

JP: Unfortunately for you, there is little space piracy here.

John: Agreed. It was off-putting that the story focused on Venera Fanning and only her.

JP: I didn’t mind it at all; I thought it was a nice change from the previous novel.

John: That was a real downer for me. I wanted to know about the other characters and the universe as well.

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SF Tidbits for 7/11/07

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Eureka! New Season Starts Tonight

SciFi’s original series, Eureka, returns for its second season starting tonight. I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it for its SF aspects and the fact it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I know I’ll be watching.

And if you’re a Battlestar Galactica fan, there will be a sneak peek of the Gaglactica movie, Razor, sometime during Eureka’s premiere. Razor will tell the story of Cmdr. Cain and the Pegasus right after the Cylon attack. That sounds good too.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Don’t like your name in Middle Earth? Make up a new one; but don’t expect your luck to change!



PROS: The story of Turin Turambar is one of the best stories from the First Age of Middle Earth. Christopher Tolkien has done an admirable job of fleshing out this tale.

CONS: Readers of The Silmarillion may be distracted as they pick out the familiar phrases from the original text.

BOTTOM LINE: A nice read, especially for those not familiar with The Silmarillion.

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SF Tidbits for 7/10/07

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Is A Cloverfield Lucky?

J.J. Abrams sure hopes so. His newest movie production is called Cloverfield and the publicity machine is in full force. A teaser trailer for the movie is running before each showing of Transformers, and is generating quite the buzz.

From what little we know, the movie looks to be some sort of monster movie, or possibly a disaster movie. It has a Blair Witch shaky-cam vibe and is supposedly told via the viewpoint of the people on the ground. This could be interesting, although two hours of shaky-cam would become nauseating quickly. However, any movie that shows the Statue Of Liberty’s head being used for home run derby grabs my attention. Tim is hoping its a re-make of Gamera. I’m just hoping its not another Godzilla re-make.

There is also an Alternate Reality Game going on to help build the hype (you can find the links in the second USA Today article linked above). Currently, there isn’t much there, and no additional information. However, as the ARG for the movie A.I. (dubbed The Beast) shows, these type of things, if done well, can be very successful in building anticipation. It remains to be seen if Cloverfield will be more successful than A.I.

Cloverfield is definitely on my radar, but tempered with the fact that Abrams also did MI:3, which blew.

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Mars in Early Science Fiction

Is there Life on Mars?” – David Bowie

Quick! Name the first science fiction story to feature Mars…

Many sf fans would likely cite H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1898) or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars (1912) but not so! Even Wells beat himself to the punch with his 1897 short story “The Crystal Egg”. But he’s still not the first…

Inspired by Quasar Dragon (who mentions Edwin L. Arnold’s 1905 novel Gulliver of Mars as a precursor to Burroughs), I set out to find exactly when Mars first became part of the science fiction landscape.

[...pauses while he pulls out Clute's Encyclopedia of Science Fiction...]

According to the EoSF, it began in the 17th century with scientists who dabbled with speculation:

Mars was visited by the usual interplanetary tourists – Athanasius Kircher, Emanual Swedenborg, W.S. Lach-Szyrma, George Griffith, et. al. – but it became important in the late 19th century as a major target for specific cosmic voyages because the Moon, known to be lifeless, seemed a relatively uninteresting destination .It is the home of an advanced alien civilization in Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac (1880) and a setting for lost-race-type adventures in Mr. Stranger’s Sealed Packet (1889) by Hugh MacColl. Robert Cromie’s A Plunge into Space (1890) is an interplanetary love story and sociological tract, as is Gustavus W. Pope’s A Journey to Mars (1894). Kurd Lasswitz’s Aud Zwei Planeten (1897, [translated as] Two Planets 1971) provides another elaborate description of an advanced civilization and discusses the politics of interplanetary relations. H.G. Wells published a brief vision of Mars in “The Crystal Egg” (1897) and followed up with the archetypical alien-invasion story, The War of the Worlds (1898), which cast a long shadow over the sf of the 20th century.

Since those early days, there have been plenty of other books about Mars. Which of these is your favorite?

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Writers and Self-Promotion

Walter Jon Williams has some interesting things to note about the changes that have occurred in the publishing industry in the last 20 years.

“Writers of mid-list fiction — which is pretty much everything but the best-sellers — are more or less obliged in these sub-lunary times to shoulder the burdens of publicity and promotion ourselves. We are expected to have web pages, we are expected to have blogs. It’s not that I don’t enjoy communicating with my readers, or that I don’t have fun on this blog, but I have to wonder how much profit actually accrues from this use of my time.”

See also: How Innovative Authors are using the Internet to Increase Their Profiles and SF/F Writers Who Blog.

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 7/9/07

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REMINDER: Autographed Ragamuffin Giveaway

This is a reminder that our signed Ragamuffin Giveaway ends in a couple of days – Wednesday July 11, 2007.

There’s still time to enter!

Filed under: Contest

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