…SF addict …

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Next up, following on nicely from the James Blish environmental disaster story in 3 For Tomorrow below I'm going to read Richter 10 by Arthur C.Clarke and Mike McQuay. OK so Clarke only provided an 800 page synopsis and the author MQuay died just after the book was complete, but I'll give it a go!
Well I finished this book yesterday (5 January) and it wasnt bad. The first part of the book introduces the characters-Lewis Crane, the emotionally scarred and partially disabled seismologist who survives an Earthquake attack aged 7 in 1997, his asistant Dan Newcombe who is working on his own project, and Lanie King, the de facto love interest. We also meet Islamic fundamentalists and Chinese enterpeneurs and the middle section gets a bit bogged down with politicing-I was beginning to get bored with it all-but then it picked up as more Earthquakes were predicted and Crane's staus became ever more elevated as we enter the mid 21st century. Things get heated up quickly until we reach the strangely uplifting conclusion. Not a bad read-certainly better than I was expecting!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another cool book haul!

Got this from bookmooch this morning-possibly my last book haul for 2009!

Vertigo by Bob Shaw

Thursday, December 17, 2009

3 nice book hauls!

Took a trip into town yesterday to spend some of my birthday money and droped into the book stall on the market! After a good rummage I found a couple of classic SF paperbacks, Tau Zero by Poul Anderson which I've been after for ages and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, an author I've yet to read! Deciding I was done I turned around and saw a huge book with the name Arthur C Clarke on it, it was The Snows of Olympus and I had to have it!

Quite appropriate as it would have been his 92nd birthday yesterday!
Long live Sir Arthur!

Monday, December 14, 2009

3 Tomorrows!

Next up an anthology based on an idea by Clarke, an idea of how our future might go drastically wrong!
In this book we have  3 novellas;
How it was When the Past Went Away by Robert Silverberg
The Eve of RUMOKO by Roger Zelazny
We All Die Naked by James Blish

The Zelazny piece will be the first work of his I've read.
Well I read the Silverberg story, very good story about a city brought to its knees by an amnesia epidemic!
Now onto the Zelazny piece...which has a strange, fast paced style similar to the Stainless Steel Rat books of Harry Harisson-but the dialogue is very choppy-I'm not sure I enjoyed that one.
Then Blish's We All Die Naked. It seems they saved the best till last with this book-it is a true Earth disaster story with a very abrupt and unusual ending!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Palace of Eternity

Next up is a book I knew nothing about until someone mentioned it on SFF Chrons Forum. I got curious and managed to find one on BookMooch. I've only read one Bob Shaw book before, Fire Pattern which is about spontaneous human combustion or SHC.
This book is totally different and is set in the distant future, when humanity has spread over many star systems in faster than light ships called "Butterfly Ships" named for the shape of the intense magnetic fields which spread for hundreds of miles around them.

The writing in this book  is fabulous,very stylish-definitely a keeper! I'll be keeping my eye open for more from this under-rated author!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A bit of Lovecraft

I've never managed to find any Lovecraft and yet everyone raves about his works, so I was amazed when a copy became available on bookhopper!
The book is called 'Dagon and Other Macabre Tales' and so far I've read the first, and title, story. Quite a short story at about 7 pages and not nearly as scary as I was expecting!
Well this was an interesting journey! Though most of the stories in this volume were pretty unremarkable there were one or two gems. The title story is quite creepy, if far too short,but there's a much longer story in there called Herbert West, Re-animator which makes it worth owning this book! Its creepy and humorous at once!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wild dogs and americans...

Next up another Jack London story, again on the Nintendo DS. This time the much shorter Call of the Wild written 5 years earlier in 1900. This is a story about a dog named Buck and his adventures in the Klondike gold fields.
Another enjoyable dog story from Mr London. I suppose I should have read this novella first but it was only after I was halfway through White Fang that I realised that this story was part of the '100 classic Novels for the DS'!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Wolf's Tale!

Now for something completely different!
I'm now reading White Fang by Jack London, reading it on my Nintendo DS so no pic, and am enjoying it so far!
This was quite an interesting read. Not your average animal tale but one written with panache. When reading the book and seeing the world through the wolf's eyes you get the feeling the author spent time studying wolves, as well as a good deal of time around dogs!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The birth of Space Opera!

Now reading Triplanetary, the 'first' Lensman book by E.E. 'Doc' Smith, a food technician turneed SF writer!

This book originally appeared as a serieal in early magazing amazing stories in 1934 and was put into novel form later. There are two forms of this book it seems. The most common version has extra material dealing with Earth history. Thankfully the edition I'm reading, a 2007 copy from Wildside Books, has this extra material omitted.
There is news that a TV series is planned based on these books(there were provisionally 6 in the series), produced by the guy who gave us Babylon Five!

Well this book took me by surprise! It wasnt what I was expecting at all. I found it quite tedious past the halfway mark, but stuck with it and kind of enjoyed it in the end. I've been informed that its not the best Lensman book by far so there is the hope that things get better with the rest of the series!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An early Clarke

Next up is Islands in the Sky, an early novel from Arthur C. Clarke.
16 year old Roy Malcolm wins a TV quiz, the prize being a trip to anyhere on Earth. Being a clever kid he reasons that the low-Earth orbits of the space stations are technically still part of Earth and so he gets the trip of a lifetime, becoming part of the crew aboard the Inner Station. During his stay young Malcolm will encounter  everything from a space voyage, gun smuggling pirates, the making of a TV show in space and a monster in a lab! All gripping stuff with each short chapter ending on a cliff,keeping the reader interested!
Its actually a juvennile novel, aimed at '11 and over' and yet its not childish in its writing, and although a lot of the facts are now out of date (it was written in the early '50s!) there's a lot of stuff in here thats still very relevant!
For a juvennile book we get a good idea of what its like up there in space-not your average kids book (though the kids were probably different in the 50s!)


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Next up a classic from a lesser known SF and Fantasy author, Jack Vance.
Vance had his own breed of SF that as far as I can make out is strongly influenced by fantasy, but as I've not read any of his books I can't comment.
Well I was not that impressed with this book at all. The first half is very much fantasy-I didnt see it as SF at all, then just after the halfway point it changed and became an SF adventure. Much better but by then it was too late.
Not bad but not brilliant either.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There'll be tears....

Next up another Philip K Dick novel, this time one of his more famous efforts.
'Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said' is from 1974 and is about a well known and highly respected TV star and singer whose records are suddenly erased, making him a man with no identity,living in a police state where everyone is closely monitored.
The writing in this book, as a contrast to other PKD books I've read, is very clear, direct, accessible, and deals with the protagonist's mission to get his identity back and his life back on track. He has gone from being a household name, on everyone's TV screens daily, to being a nobody, a face in the crowd and then a suspect. The novel deals with paranoia, confusion, and the dangers of drug abuse. But also it is somewhat prophetic.
Though it was written in 1974 there is mention of Gridders, people addicted to communicating and engaging in sexual deviancy via a phone line, who spend so much time in that activity that they become mentally ill or worse. Surely that is a foretaste of the internet! The people are an early form of net junkie! (Cyber sex?) So does that mean its an early taste of cyber-punk?

As usual with Dick there are moments where he deals with sex and drugs, particularly the latter half which made me feel he was obsessed with those themes!
But on the whole this was a fabulous book, I really enjoyed it, easily the best PKD read so far, and i would strongly recommend it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the Golden Age of SF.....

...comes a classic space travel story from Canadian A.E van Vogt.
The Voyage of the Space Beagle is a fix up, that is a novel put together from stories previously published in magazine format,in this case Astounding Stories. Asimov follwed a similar path with his Foundation novels. This book concerns a group of explorers travelling through space,encountering strange lifeforms, very much in the mould of Star Trek which would come much later.

Also part of the book is said to have been the inspiration for the movie Alien. In fact there was a lawsuit involved,van Vogt settling out of court apparently.
By the way, I have read Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle many years ago-this is not a sequel ;)

Well now that I've read it all that I'll add is I loved this book! There were parts of the book that were a bit wooden in the descriptions but well, this IS golden age stuff (the stories were first published in a magazine in the 1940s,and 'assembled' in book form in 1950)
Superb read!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healing pots with Philip K Dick!

Next up another library find, Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K Dick, which has to be one of the strangest titles for a SF book ever!
But then again the man wrote a book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep which thankfully got filmed as Bladerunner!
Dick is a cult figure in the US and I've yet to find a book of his I can really gel with. He deals more in the softer sciences and often uses strange devices in his stories to drive the story along. This one is a story about a pot healer in the futuure, that is a mender of broken ceramics who is called upon to work on a projext on Plowman's Planet,inhabited by strange creatures,one of whom are called the Glimmung.
Hmmm I was left with a sense of 'what the hell is going in in Dick's mind when he wrote this!'
There's an engaging adventure in there but its hidden amongst his pseudo-scientific ramblings. And at end I was left thinking, what was the point of this book?
I'm not done with PKD yet though, I will come back to him....

Friday, June 12, 2009

Discovering a classic!

While at the library the other day I came across The forever War by Joe Haldeman, a book I'd heard of before, often spoken highly of but which I'd never managed to find. I had to give it a read!(It won major awards upon publication)
Its kind of military SF. Many people make allusions to the Vienam War but for me it seems closer to Starship Troopers (I've not read that book by Heinlein but I have seen the film). It was written in 1974 and originally serialized in Analog magazine with the central part changed-this version I am reading restores the story to the authors original. Only read a few chapters so far but its shaping up nicely!

This book is a war story that covers both space and time.
William Mandella is a soldier drafted in to fight an ongoing war with an alien race known as the Taurans. They're called Taurans because, well, "Aldebaraniams is a ,little hard to handle!" That is from the book and is just one example of the subtle humour that runs throught this book.

Dont read this book expecting big space battles, this is no space opera; its far more significant than that! There are battle scenes against the Taurans but its far more than a simple war story; its about the human condition as much as anything else, about relationships and evolution (the character was born in the 1970s and the book ends in the 32nd century!!)
I may be making it sound boring but thats because I'm not too good at reviewing a book without giving away spoilers! There's some fun and interesting tech in this book. Like organ regeneration, the depiction of which was particularly good because it is a total surprise to the main character Mandella!

Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam vet and it shows, but he is also a physicist and astronomer which makes for good science throughout the book without being heavy or inaccessible to the lay person.

The story is at times brutal, at times funny, and the rest of the time a wonderful study on the nature of humanity and the perils and pointlessness of war and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to, and I loved the ending!

There are two sequels to this book but I dont need to read them. All the story you need is in this one book!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A new Aldiss novel

As well as dipping into Aldiss's first short story collection, 'Space Time and Nathaniel', I am also reading HARM, which I borrowed from the library.
A rather unusual book, at first it doesnt sound like science fiction at all yet I've seen it compared to Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' or Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly' on various review sites.
Basically its about Paul,a muslim SF writer who is arrested by the Hostile Activities Research Ministry(HARM) because he wrote a book in which two characters joke about the assissination of the Prime Minister.
He is thrown into a prison in Syria I think(Paul is not sure where he is) and after a rough and often violent interrogation his mind begins to wander and he imagines another world, a planet called Stygia populated by an insect like race,colonised by a cult like group with a ruthless and charismatic leader. As Paul's imprisonment continues his mind spends more time on Stygia than the here and now and the lines begin to blur....
This one is definitely not one for the kids-there are many violent scenes and strong language-the imprisoners are reminiscent of the Gestapo!
Strangely the cover has the author's name shown in his usual incarnation,Brian Aldiss but inside, on the fly page and at the top of each page, the middle initial W is added, something that Brian dropped from his name years ago.
Having finished I can say that this was not an easy read for me. Apart from the often violent depictions in the prison(tho to be honest the scenes as depicted were fairly mild compared to many films I've seen) there's the fact that book exists on two seperate threads and it was rather like reading two books at once. There were parts of it that were well written, as I'd expect from Aldiss, but on the whole it didn't work for me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A first novel by a major author!

Now I'm onto 'The Jewels of Aptor' by Samuel R Delany. It was written in 1961 and as well as being the author's first novel it is also the first book of his I've read.
It initially sounds like a fantasy adventure story, being about basically a jewel quest to appease a high priestess but is apparently set after a nuclear holocaust.
Well I found this book OK once the characters and the mission had been established. Some interesting post~apocalypse ideas here but I found the writing a bit odd in places. I wasnt sure if it were typos or idiosyncracies of Delany's style. Apparently thats typical of Delany and things only get stranger.
An OK book, but not really a keeper.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Modern Classic?

Time for a much more modern book,albeit one written in 1987!
This is Iain M Banks' first SF novel (and the first of his Culture books) and although I've just started it I'm enjoying it-its good space opera somewhat reminiscent of Alan Dean Foster's Thranx books or Larry Niven's Ringworld. Good stuff, and quite accessible!
Well I finished it, took me a while but it was well worth it! My initial comparisons with ADF's or Niven's books stil holds, though the stuff in 'Consider' is much more hard edged, with a different lyrical approach, probably down to the fact that the author is British! Life with Horza is rough, its tough and often dirty but thats how life often is!
On the whole this is brilliantly written book, and even though it was written in 1987 its very 'now'!
Will definitely be reading more of his SF books in the future!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Going further back in time....

I thought I'd give Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea a go.(Publication date 1870,Published in English 1872)

I don't have a hard copy myself but I have it in electronic form as part of the '100 Classic Novels' on the Nintendo DS.
Verne was a French author and was in fact the first professional science fiction author, the only one of his books that I've read is 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' in a Cassell Children's Illustrated edition that I was given as a child and still have. I'm not sure what 20,000 Leagues is like but I've been informed it can be dull. Oh well,we'll see!

Well I've just finished it. Has taken me a while but that's more down to me than the book. It certainly was a slow read and nothing like any movie version I've seen. One might say that not much happens and its not really very 'SF' but on the whole I quite enjoyed the ride!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Kraken Wakes

Sticking with Wyndham I thought I'd give this novel from 1953 a go. I have tried to read it before but for some reason gave it up.
Well I think I know why I gave up before-its not so much the content but the style. His writing in this is quite heavy and over elaborate. The book is divided into 3 parts and things only really get going part way through the second part. It plods along with little excitement and well, I was glad when I'd finished it! If this had been my first Wyndham book I probably would be put off picking up any others!
An interesting idea handled poorly!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The year begins with something from the late 50s!

This year I begin my adventures in the world of SF with John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos. I've only read one Wyndham book previously, The Day of the Triffids which believe me is nothing like the film, but I got this book from Bookmooch (click to see my books listed there) and thought I'd give it a go.
It was written in 1957, the year Sputnik was launched,but it reads rather like how I would imagine a H.G.Wells story would. Its seems to be like what I might call 'quiet SF' -it doesnt shout its story from the rooftops but is just good writing in an easy style.
It concerns itself with a quiet country village that suddenly becomes changed by something out of the ordinary happening-in some ways it resembles the novella by Brian Aldiss, the Saliva Tree, which is a homage to H G Wells.
Well, I finally finished it!(I'm a slow reader, I rarely get the time to myself, not that I'm complaining!)
It was an OK read, not exactly thrillling, kind of quiet SF, which I believe is typical of the author-understated. It got a bit of a chore in parts, being written in the 50s the language was a bit long winded compared to modern standards but it was reasonably entertaining.
This book formed the basis of the horror movie 'Village of the Damned'
Not bad!