…SF addict …

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 a Clarke Odyssey!

Continuing to mark the passing of my favourite author and science writer I'm reading his 2001 anthology The Space Trilogy. This contains 3 early novels, the first of which is 1952's Islands in the Sky which I read last year and you can read about Here

It also contains The Sands of Mars which is one of the few novels of Clarke's I've never read! I read somewhere that Jimi Hendrix really 'dug' this 1951 book! Martin Gibson is a science fiction writer and he decides to spend his money on a trip to the red planet which is now becoming colonised. Gibson seems lacking in knowledge of space travel and how things work up there and so Jimmy, a young apprentice, is assigned as Gibson's teacher as it were. The two become friends and soon Gibson is accepted as part of the group (at first he is looked down upon, as just another writer of space adventures). He is invited along on a mission across the planet in a jet and after an accident discovers something going on and decides to investigate. It seems there are plans afoot that could affect the future of both Earth and Mars.
 Sands is a great little story but you can really tell its an early Clarke! Apart from Mars's strange (to us) geology, sorry aerology, it was notable for me in using the old form of the word connection, with an x! I think the last time I saw the word 'connexion' was in a Dickens novel!
Still, all good stuff with drama (a sandstorm), adventure (young Jimmy being amazed by Mars's aerology) and humour, not to mention a bit of relationship controversy!

The final book is Earthlight from 1955 which I read a couple of years ago and which depicts an early space battle on the moon!
The volume itself contains some interesting side pieces-a general introduction written in 2001 and Forwards by Clarke and others.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A tour of Arthur C Clarke's office

I just came across this and thought I'd share it on this day, the second anniversary of the great man's passing-I will admit it brought a tear to my eye!

Arthur C Clarke's Office: Colombo,     Sri Lanka from Sam Coley on Vimeo.

Farewell Sir Arthur!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time for some Aldiss stories

Last night I began reading The Canopy of Time, a collection of 11 stories from 1959 (previously known as Galaxies Like Grains of Sand). This NEL edition from the '70s has a rather nice Bruce Pennington cover.
To quote Aldiss "they are all slices off the enormous carcass of the future, arranged chronologically from a date a century or two ahead, right up to the end of the galaxy"
The stories tentatively chronicle the future of mankind, short pieces between each story forming a tenuous connection.
The first one, Three's A Cloud, didnt really impress me-I think it just went over my head. It seemed to be set in present time and was about a quiet,semi reclusive guy who uncharacteristically befriends a couple he sees in a pub, and it seems he and they are a gestalt entity-very strange!
The next one, All The World's Tears was much more satisfying, being about a far future time in which mankind has turned against Nature and now everything from the bee's pollination to the weather is minutely controlled, and people have become afraid of one another. Unable to breed normally they use a Mating Centre. One man rebels...
Who Can Replace a Man? portays a future of sentient serving machines in which man is dying out. It poses a question, if a machine fails it can be replaced, but if a man dies, well, who can replace a man?
The next story, Blighted Profile concerns Chun Hwa, an old man living in a post apocalyptic era longing for better,greener times. There are time machines but they can only take you to the past. Hwa is determined to visit the future at any cost…
Judas Danced was an odd one! I was scratching my head thru it until I neared the end and I had an 'Oh I see!' moment! Basically its about Alexander Abel Yo,a guy accused of murdering Parowen Scryban over and over, each time the victim is restored to life by using the time machines. Abel Yo's depiction is quite bizarre and I kept thinking, is he mad or was Aldiss on drugs or what? Very confusing until the very end.
The eponymous character in O Ishrail! tells of how he is witness to an alien race and how a war is being waged in a neighbouring galaxy. No-one believes his story and, considered insane he is taken aboard a Mental Hospital ship. Only one man, Davi Dael believes Ishrail, but how to prove the man's story?
Incentive follows on from where O Ishrail left off, albeit with different characters (and lemmings!)
Ferro Westerby is part of the Isolationists, a group fihting to keep Earth independant of the Multi-Planet Federation. An almost unpronounceable Jandanagger Laterobinson is the enigmatic leader of the Federation and he sets out to convince Westerby that it is in Earth's best interest to become a part of the Galactic group. Laterobinson's race speak a language called Galingula which is also a method of travelling thru the galaxy. Parts of this story are reminiscent of Asimov's Foundation unfortunately, with political rangling which goes over my head! And one scene reminded me of a scene from the Lawnmower Man or the Matrix-Laterobinson has a device that the user wears like a helmet and it allows the wearer to enter a different world-it is like an early description of Virtual Reality! Sounds great but this being an Aldiss story its all vague ideas with little substance. Nothing concrete.
Gene Hive is much better. A man is injured and a woman doctor comes to his aid. In doing so they meld into one another,and then begin absorbing other people (and animals) into a large amoeba-like entity. But only those humans who believe themselves to be part of nature can be absorbed;only those who know the language of Galingua. A very odd story that somewhat reminded me of Greg Bear's excellent novel Blood Music
Secret of a Mighty City was one of those neither here or there stories, rather like water-tasteless- only unlike water its not essential to life!
Basically it was about a 3D film-a Solid- being made about the city Nunion (in previous stories the city was called Union, then New Union) but nothing really happens and I was left feeling, What was the point of that?? Great title, pointless story!
The penultimate story, They Shall Inherit was one of the better ones! It concerns an age in which genetic modification is commonplace and presents two different characters. Tedden,on Earth is experimenting on enhancing humans, and Djjket, part of another faction off world experimenting on animals. Each finds the others work repulsive and morally wrong-Tedden shows the other a creche in which new born babies are able to stand upright, while Djjket has a 'portcase' which is like an automaton derived from camel genes. Each is shocked by what they see. The story builds until a very dramatic and disturbing conclusion, which reminded me of something from Tales of the Unexpected, or a story you might find in a horror compilation,perhaps by Ramsey Campbell or Ray Bradbury. The amazing part is that this story was writteen in the 50s and yet clearly Aldiss shows us the inner workings of genetic material with a hint of the DNA structure! All new and exciting back in the day! Very good that one!
The final Visiting Amoeba,is by far the longest and in fact is better described as a novella-it is divided up into 8 chapters! Basically a man comes across a strange planet between galaxies where space should be empty,and then dies. The new man then goes on a mission to warn the humans of an impending event-the only way to do this is to rally opposing forces to unite against a 'common enemy',which is really a trick to get both sides united in a common front to resolve this event. Its a hard story to review without giving too much away and is rather quite good- I felt that this one would have made a good novel.
The collection over all is quite uneven,some stories rather bland,some quite good,and insightful for 1959.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another DNF!

That is, Did Not Finish!
This time I'm really annoyed with myself because its an Alastair Reynolds novel!
I picked up his 2007 novel The Prefect from the library as others had said good things about it, so I thought I'd give it a go. At first it sounded interesting but it soon became apparent that were was a lot of politicing in the novel, centred around the Panoply, which is kind of an ethical policing group. At first I thought, ah that sounds like Neal Asher's Polity, but in this case its all talk, no action.
I hate not being able to get into a book but at page 90, with the thought of another 300 odd pages to go, I just couldnt go any further, I'd had enough. Not only is there a lot of politics involved but also diverse threads that I just couldnt get a handle on.
I was looking forward to another AR book because,unlike many, I thought his 'Pushing Ice' was superb-must re-read that!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My first story!

An idea came to me one night while walking the dog. I've always loved trees and there is a long tradition of creepy stories concerning them,and I came up with my own....
I Don't Have a Wooden Heart

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Island life...

Next up, a book by Greg Egan, an Australian  author I've tried before but failed. (Permutation City, need to re-try that one)
This one, Teranesia, is about a tiny island and a 9 year old boy named Prabir Suresh, and his discoveries there. His parents are entomologists studying the buttterflies on the island but the boy, bored, begins to imagine his own creatures living there. Years later his younger sister Maddy returns with news of strange new insects and plants on the island, and Prabir, now an adult, must investigate...
Strange cover by Rebecca Devereux, not the best I've seen!
Cant quite pin this book down-its not SF even tho its set partly in 2012, but its not fantasy either, and yet its not quite a contemporary novel. I suppose one could categorise it with the likes of Empire of the Sun, I'm not sure.
It is an enjoyable story though, very much easy reading-so far...
One interesting thing about this book is it was originally published in 1995, before the internet was established (wasnt that 1997?), and yet the author describes the net, websites, message boards and laptops!
Well I'm just past halfway thru and I'm bored! Sure this one is easy reading but its just so well, dull! I find myself constantly waiting for something to happen!
Time to crack out a Alastair Reynolds book I borrowed from the library!