REVIEW: The Dragon’s Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

REVIEW SUMMARY: A well-crafted blend of world-building, characterization and storytelling.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Nine disgraced military rejects are assigned a suicide mission to destroy an enemy base located inside an asteroid.


PROS: Interesting setting; consistently high level of drama; believable action; well-crafted, layered storytelling; absolutely no padding.

CONS: None that I can think of.

BOTTOM LINE: Believable, lean-and-mean, military sf that offers dramatic tension every chance it gets.

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Filed under: Book Review

Is Reading Better For You Than Watching TV?

A New York Times article (Study Links Drop in Test Scores to a Decline in Time Spent Reading) says there is an association between young people reading less and a decline in test scores. It’s based on the report To Read or Not to Read [PDF link] by the National Endowment for the Arts, whose chairman is Dana Gioia. Here’s an excerpt from the NYT piece:

Americans — particularly young Americans — appear to be reading less for fun, and as that happens, their reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.

In an interview Mr. Gioia said that the statistics could not explain why reading had declined, but he pointed to several commonly accepted culprits, including the proliferation of digital diversions on the Internet and other gadgets, and the failure of schools and colleges to develop a culture of daily reading habits. In addition, Mr. Gioia said, “we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.”

So, what I’m wondering – and this is partly based on past discussions – is what people are really doing instead of “reading for fun”. Surfing the web? Watching TV?

There is an widely-accepted (or at least often stated) assumption that reading is a “smart” activity and is better for you than, say, watching TV or web surfing. I suppose that all depends on what you’re watching and where you’re surfing. I was told time and again while growing up (by teachers, parents, and TV commercials probably sponsored by NEFTA) that reading makes you smarter. This recent NEFTA report seems like some sort of proof. (I’m sure other proof exists out there — I haven’t gone looking. I also suspect there might be contrary evidence as well. Feel free to Google…)

Is reading better for you than watching TV? Does it matter what you watch, or is all casual reading a better activity?

Filed under: BooksTV

SF Tidbits for 11/20/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Here’s Harlan Ellison talking about writers being compensated for work. He’s talking specifically about Warner Bros. and their production of the Babylon 5 DVD, but it seems appropriate for the current WGA strike.

*** Language Warning***

For those who may not know it, Harlan Ellison is usually synonymous with NSFW.

[via Core Dump]

Filed under: TV

Monday YouTube: Dogstar

Chris Roberson points us to the animated Australian scifi TV series Dogstar! Check out the show’s cool promo…

Filed under: TV

SF Tidbits for 11/19/07

  • Free classic reads: “Unwise Child” Randall Garrett (1962) at Also, Quasar Dragon points us to The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner (1948)and Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham (1936).
  • Brian Aldiss discusses global warming and environment in Our Science Fiction Fate in the Guardian: “Science fiction writers find difficulty in dealing with the global threat, never mind recycling. There has always been a journalistic flavour to science fiction.”
  • The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Michael Berry names the best SF books of the year: The Sons of Heaven by Kage Baker, One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak, Territory by Emma Bull, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff, The Terror by Dan Simmons, and Halting State by Charles Stross. [via Locus Online]
  • The Kansas City Star‘s Top 100 books of the year includes SF titles: The Guild of Xenolinguists by Sheila Finch, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer, Halting State by Charles Stross, and Ha’penny by Jo Walton. [via Locus Online]
  • By way of Amazon List, Lou Anders offers us a sneak peek at Pyr’s 2008 Spring-Summer Season.
  • Geekerati podcast interviews Tim Minear (Angel, Buffy, Firefly) about the ongoing WGA strike.
  • The CBC’s November 16th episode of Sounds Like Canada featured a smackdown between Star Wars and Star Trek. Robert J. Sawyer speaks for Star Trek. [Podcast link via Bloginhood]
  • The latest issue of Newsweek features the cover story The Future of Reading which talks about Amazon’s recently-announced eBook reader, Kindle and the future of paper books. “Microsoft’s Bill Hill has a riff where he runs through the energy-wasting, resource-draining process of how we make books now. We chop down trees, transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks on them, then cut the sheets and bind them and ship the thing around the world. ‘Do you really believe that we’ll be doing that in 50 years?’ he asks.”

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 11/19/2007

  • With the movie Cloverfield on the horizon, speculation is running rampant that it might be a monster movie. Why not feed your monster passion with this Godzilla Collection set to be released tomorrow? 7 movies, over 20 hours of Godzilla goodness, and includes Gojira, Mothra, Ghidorah and more. Find out more at their official site.
  • File this away under ‘things you didn’t know': Apparently Firefly isn’t science fiction. Why? Because it’s space opera you big silly! I never realized that space opera wasn’t science fiction. Someone better tell Peter Hamilton his works are mis-labeled as SF and need to be moved into a completely new section at the book store entitled ‘Space Opera’. The problem here, really, is Booberfish’s misunderstanding of the terms space opera and science fiction. Quite clearly, Firefly is science fiction and borderline space opera at best. But at least we agree it’s a good show.
  • Masi Oka among the ‘sexiest men alive‘? So says People magazine. I’m not in a position to actually judge this statement. Heck, Chuck‘s Zachary Levi makes the list too. Is this the year of the geek/nerd?
  • What could be better than a TV production of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather? How about a production where Pratchett makes a cameo as the Toymaker? Those of you lucky enough to get ION can enjoy Pratchett on Nov. 25th at 7pm. Which means channel 7 for those of us with Comcast in Houston! Yay!

Filed under: Tube Bits

POLL RESULTS: The Hollywood Writers Strike

Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.

Do you support the WGA Strike?


(174 total votes)

Comments this week:

“H-E-double hockey stick NO! If they won’t work, they can go to hell!” – Peter

“If these new media outlets (iTunes, streaming video, etc.) are generating revenue, then the writers ought to be compensated for it.” – Bill

“This seems to me (from WAY outside Hollywood) to be a crucial strike for the future of those writers that create works that I love. Clearly, the internet will become the dominant distribution mechanism in the not too distant future. Writers *must* be paid when their work is viewed on this medium. I wholly support the strike and hope the writers prevail!” – Kathy

“Not a big fan of unions and the powers that the state has endowed upon them.” – Joshua Corning

“I would really like to see somebody explain to me why they would NOT support the writers. With a straight face. Please.” – General X

Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about the new posters for The Sarah Connor Chronicles!

Filed under: Polls

SF Tidbits for 11/18/07

  • Here’s a 1982 interview with John Sladek by David Langford. “To my mind, the best SF addresses itself to problems of the here and now, or even to problems which have never been solved and never will be solved — I’m thinking of Philip K. Dick’s work here, dealing with questions of reality…”
  • Jay Tomio lists his Best Reads of 2007.
  • This holiday, bake your own Dalek Cupcake Army. [via Evil Mad Scientists Laboratories]
  • Something Awful offers more Photoshop chuckles with Anagrammed Video Games Part 2.
  • The List Universe lists Top 10 Dragons. How Puff the Magic Dragon (#1) beats out Smaug (#4) is beyond me…

Filed under: Tidbits

Perry Rhodan: The Adventure Game

Perry Rhodan is a 46 year-old, unapologetic space opera started in Germany that’s still running strong, spanning thousands of volumes. Ace published an English run of the series, headed by Forrest J. Ackerman, beginning in 1969 and lasting for 118 novella-sized installments. Previolsy, I confessed having Perry Rhodan as one of my guilty pleasures.

Now the long-running space opera series is coming to life as an adventure game!

For more Perry Rhodan info, see:

  • The official game trailer (in English).
  • Wikipedia entry for Perry Rhodan.
  • The 1967 Perry Rhodan movie, Mission Stardust, on YouTube. It takes Perry 26-and-a-half minutes to start making out with the alien, Thora.

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Filed under: Games

SF Tidbits for 11/17/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Once again we visit the Trailer Park to bring you trailers of SF-ish movies that may be of interest to you, our loyal readers.

First up, Southland Tales, a near future SF drama from Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and stars Dwayne Johnson and Sarah Michelle Gellar. You know it’s SF because someone chose to nuke El Paso and Abilene. Abilene?! Southland Tales opens in limited release today.

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Filed under: Movies

Charles Stross on the Writers’ Strike

Charlie Stross weighs in on the WGA Writers strike, and offers this summary of the situation:

Right now, the scriptwriters are on strike. They’re not striking because they want more money, but because the big studios they work for want to cut off their residuals. That is: when you write a script you get paid some money, and when the TV program is eventually made and broadcast you get a bit more money, and when it’s turned into a DVD you get some additional money (residuals) or when it’s converted to some other medium and made available again. Forget “information wants to be free”, this is how these folks make their living. Now Viacom and the other large studios are telling the authors that they don’t deserve to get any money for internet rights to their work, because the internet rights are merely used to promote the TV shows and are of no commercial value. (Meanwhile, they’re suing YouTube for a billion dollars for using their TV shows, and their CEO says the internet rights to their IP portfoilio are set to earn $500M this year.)

Filed under: TV

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself is Joe Abercrombie’s first novel, and it’s a darn fine one at that. And as a self-professed fantasy hater, that’s saying something. Abercrombie has forgone the intricate trappings of modern day fantasy, A Song of Ice and Fire and the Malazan Empire spring to mind, and instead focuses his efforts on the characters. The lack of a detailed, epic setting allows Abercrombie to construct some very interesting and unusual characters, and focus on writing very frenetic, violent fight scenes.

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Tube Bits For 11/16/2007

  • Dragonball and Dragonball Z are hugely popular anime in both Japan and the US. And, like most things successful, Hollywood has come knocking and wants to create a live-action film based on the series. Stephen Chow of Kung Fu Hustle will produce and James Wong of The X-Files will direct. Could be interesting, if it doesn’t descend into the development hell that Neon Genesis appears to have ended up in.
  • The Vancouver Sun discusses the impact on Vancouver of the writers strike. It’s really amazing how many shows are shot there, with Galactica and Bionic Woman being the biggest. There’s a lot of people now out of work with little hope for the near future.
  • The Reporter Times attended Tuesday night’s show of Star Trek‘s ‘The Menagerie’. The showings were supposed to highlight the digital enhancements for the new DVD release. However, they left the theater feeling letdown and ripped-off. I wonder if it didn’t translate well to the big screen and would look better on an HDTV.
  • Could the Bionic Woman be the first cancellation of the new season? Sy Fy Portal seems to think so and has the ratings to back them up. I don’t know anyone who is watching this show. Much like Heroes, Jaime Summers isn’t a heroic character like she used to be. Are people getting tired of ‘darker, edgier’ lead characters?
  • E! Online speculates that the new Heroes site, Create Your Hero, will replace the limboed Heroes: Origins spin-off. The payoff for NBC being that the fans get to design the heroes they want to see without all those messy and aggravating writers to get in the way.

Filed under: Tube Bits

Friday YouTube: “Re: Your Brains”

A video for a laid-back song about zombies.

[via Neatorama]

Filed under: Music

SF Tidbits for 11/16/07

Filed under: Tidbits

New Posters for The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Entertainment Weekly gives us a look at the new posters for The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series. There are four of them and they all feature babes and metal.

All I can say is that any poster that can make the angelic-looking Summer Glau look that creepy is a job well done.

Filed under: TV

Review: Saturn Returns by Sean Williams

Saturn Returns is the first book in Sean Williams’ new space opera series, Astropolis. It has all the things you’d expect from New Space Opera: postumans, galaxy spanning cultures, conspiracies and imminent threat to humanity. The setting has some of the feel of Alastair Reynolds’ Inhibitor series, but with Williams’ own additions to space opera.

The back cover blurb says: “Dark experiments, dangerous ruins, fleeting ghosts and deadly conspiracies…” That’s enough to get me interested, and thanks to John, I had the opportunity to read it. The verdict: Saturn Returns has some good points and some bad points, but overall it’s a good space opera story that falls just short of being great.

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Filed under: Book Review

Wizards of the Coast to Launch New Line of Novels in 2008

Wizards of the Coast will launch a new line of adult speculative fiction books in January 2008 under the imprint Wizards of the Coast Discoveries. The original titles under the new imprint will offer a variety of themes and genres that are not part of the shared worlds of WotC’s current books.

Inaugural titles include:

  • Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky – a Southern gothic ghost story about “one man’s struggle to honor the past without being destroyed by it, and finding the courage to face the future.”
  • Last Dragon by J.M. Mcdermott – A literary fantasy “in the tradition of Gene Wolfe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.”
  • The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem (cover art not yet available) – A horror story based on the novella that won the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and the World Fantasy Award – the only work ever to win all three.
  • Devil’s Cape by Rob Rogers – A gritty, noir-ish story of believable superheroes.

Filed under: Books

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