(Visit the Great Pratchett Reading Project page for links to more Discworld reviews.)
Terry Pratchett hits on all cylinders with Maskerade, a send-up of Opera in it’s many forms, Discworld style. Now that Magrat Garlick has become queen, the witches coven is short a member. Granny and Nanny set their sights on Agnes Nitt, who has natural talent for ‘headology’. The trouble is, Agnes wants to sing and has headed off to Ankh-Morpork to join the opera. Unfortunately for Agnes, even though she can sing a duet with herself, she doesn’t have the figure for a prima donna, and is forced to into covering for the female star of the show. All the while, a mysterious masked man is killing people associated with the opera company, which, though making money hand over fist, seems to be losing it even more quickly.
Theoretical Physicist Dr. Michio Kaku (author of the non-fiction book Hyperspace) hosts Visions of the Future, premiering this week on the BBC. The show takes a look at the real direction of science and talks with some of the current pioneers. Dr. Kaku offers us a sneak peek into the show and the technology behind it, with a focus on growing human organs:
But one highlight of the trip was a visit to Dr Anthony Atala’s lab in Wake Forest University, North Carolina, where he is unleashing a revolution in medicine: growing entire organs of the body from your own cells.
In the future, we might very well have a “human body shop” that can replace ageing and diseased organs at will.
Dr Atala first creates a plastic sponge-like mould of the organ. Then he inserts cells from our own body into the mould, which are then treated so they grow into the scaffolding.
After the organ is fully grown, the plastic scaffolding dissolves, leaving a perfect organ. Already, skin, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, wind pipes, heart valves, ears, and noses have been grown.
Dr Anthony Atala; Tissue engineering a bladder (BBC)
Tissue engineering promises “off the shelf” organs
His lab made headlines last year when he grew the first human bladder, which was inserted into seven patients suffering from deformed bladders.
Dr Atala told me: “What we can foresee in the future is having a ready-made supply of human organs off the shelf that you can simply plug in, as needed.”
This is way cool. We’re witnessing the stuff that used to be science fiction. The implications of such technology could mean longer life spans and a radical change to our way of life. I love Kaku’s question about using “the wisdom of Solomon to control this power.”
I wonder…can organlegging (as envisioned by Larry Niven in his Known Space stories) be far behind? At least growing them artificially solves the problem of the decreasing supply of donors….
Winners of this year’s World Fantasy Awards (for works published in 2006) were announced this past weekend.
LIFE ACHIEVEMENT: Betty Ballantine and Diana Wynne Jones
NOVEL: Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe (Tor)
NOVELLA: “Botch Town” by Jeffrey Ford (The Empire of Ice Cream, Golden Gryphon Press)
SHORT FICTION: “Journey Into the Kingdom” by M. Rickert (F&SF May 2006)
ANTHOLOGY: Salon Fantastique edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (Thunder’s Mouth)
COLLECTION: Map of Dreams by M. Rickert (Golden Gryphon Press)
ARTIST: Shaun Tan
SPECIAL AWARD, PROFESSIONAL: Ellen Asher (for work at the Science Fiction Book Club)
SPECIAL AWARD, NON-PROFESSIONAL: Gary K. Wolfe (for reviews in Locus and elsewhere)
See also: The nominees and past winners.
[via Locus Online]
Here are the results of the latest SF Signal poll.
Would you like to see your favorite book turned into a movie?
A few comments this week:
“After seeing the disaster they made of ‘The Dark Is Rising’, I pray Hollywood never gets its hands on ‘The Anubis Gates.’ My heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.” – Misty
“I think there oughtta be a 5th choice here – a qualified yes – yes, but only if the right director made it and put the right amount of time and effort into it.” – bloginhood
“Starship Troopers is my favorite book and I hated the movie. I think my high expectations ruined it for me.” – Kristen
“While there is a definitive chance that Hollywood will mess it up, a chance to see some of my favorite books on screen is certainly worth it. OR My/our imagination has the best production values possible. Pick one. My mind is split.” – General X
Be sure to visit our front page and vote in this week’s poll about Heroes season 2!
I’ve been horribly remiss in my reviews, or lack thereof, for the the SF magazine Interzone. I just finished reading issues 211 and 212 and thought I’d toss together a quick post on my thoughts for issues 210 – 212.
First things first, most issues, aside from the short stories, have the same columns and such in them: book reviews, movie reviews, the occasional anime review, plus author or artist interviews. I’m not going to go in depth on any of these, unless it happens to be something unusual. The meat of each issue is the stories, and I’ll be looking at those.
BitTorrent.com sends us word of another special offer that might be of interest to some of our readers. They have the movie Day Watch available to download for $.99, good until November 6th.
Day Watch is a Russian horror/sci fi movie, the second movie (after Night Watch) of a series that has been receiving lots of accolades around the movie-sphere. I’ve seen the first movie and it wasn’t my cup of tea. Then again, horror movies aren’t really my thing, unless Kate Beckinsale appears in it wearing form-fitting leather outfits. Sadly, she doesn’t appear in Day Watch.
But for less than a buck, I’m thinking of giving it a shot.
Rudy Rucker Has released his new novel, Postsingular, under a Creative Commons License. Available formats are HTML and PDF, though more are sure to follow…
Here’s an excerpt:
Two boys walked down the beach, deep in conversation. Seventeen-year-old Jeff Luty was carrying a carbon-fiber pipe rocket. His best friend, Carlos Tucay, was carrying the launch rod and a cheap bottle of Mieux champagne. Gangly Jeff was a head taller than Carlos.
“We’re unobservable now,” said Jeff, looking back down the sand. It was twilight on a clear New Year’s Day in Stinson Beach, California. Jeff ‘s mother had rented a cheap cottage in order to get out of their cramped South San Francisco apartment for the holiday, and Carlos had come along. Jeff ‘s mother didn’t like it when the boys fired off their homemade rockets; so Jeff had promised her that he and Carlos wouldn’t bring one. But of course they had.
“Our flying beetle,” said Carlos with his ready grin. “Your program says it’ll go how high? Tell me again, Jeff. I love hearing it.”
“A mile,” said Jeff, hefting the heavy gadget. “Equals one thousand, six hundred and nine-point-three-four-four meters. That’s why we measured out the fuel in milligrams.”
“As if this beast is gonna act like your computer simulation,” laughed Carlos, patting the thick rocket’s side. “Yeek!” The rocket’s tip was a streamlined plastic cone with a few thousand homegrown nanochips inside. The rocket’s sides were adorned with fanciful sheet metal fins and a narrow metal pipe that served as a launch lug. Carlos had painted the rocket to resemble an iridescent blue-green beetle with toothy jaws and folded spiky legs.
“We’re lucky we didn’t blow up your mom’s house when we were casting the motor,” said Jeff. “A kilogram of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and powdered magnesium metal mixed into epoxy binder, whoa.” He hefted the rocket, peering up the beetle’s butt at the glittering, rubbery fuel. The carbon-fiber tube was stuffed like a sausage casing.
[via Quasar Dragon and ManyBooks.net]
The Hanging Mountains is the third book in Williams’ Books Of The Cataclysm series, but in many ways it feels like the second book in a trilogy. The Hanging Mountains picks immediately after where the previous book, The Blood Debt leaves off. A flood of epic proportions has inundated the Divide and the group of Sky Wardens, along with the Homunculus containing the souls of Seth and Hadrian from The Crooked Letter head upstream, to the Hanging Mountains to discover the source and the reason for the flood. They discover an ancient evil, long thought vanquished, is stirring and has big, nasty plans for Earth.
I have not hidden that fact that I have a love/hate relationship with Heroes. I warmed up to the show in Season 1 despite my early annoyance and later misgivings. But in season 2, all my fears are becoming realized. The show is officially lame.
Jeez…where do I start?
REVIEW SUMMARY: Schroeder delivers an action-packed hard science fiction story that isn’t afraid to go as deep with the characters as it is with ideas.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Hayden Griffen lives in the world of Virga – a balloon of air supported by artificial suns. He is out to avenge the death of his parents and ends up working for his sworn enemy. What follows is a romp through the world-let of Virga complete with pirates, intrigue, and a quasi-steam punk world.
PROS: Characters evolve and grow, the science is interesting but not overwhelming, excellent wold-building ideas
CONS: The only thing I can think of is that it probably isn’t a book for those who don’t enjoy science fiction. It isn’t universally accessible, maybe.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent hard science fiction that any fan of the genre would enjoy.