Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lazy Book Reviews of April 2015

#19: The Collapsium – Wil McCarthy (2000) – 3/5
I read this book back in 2009 and loved it – 5/5. It was idiosyncratically silly and perfectly witty while also being a hard SF novel. It was, according to my memory that seems to have a loose wire, a great and unique novel. I picked it up again hoping to relive the quirkiness ; alas, I relived very, very little of that—so much for nostalgia! Little remained true of my memory: there was a batty, isolated scientist, he was rich and did interesting things in his isolation, and there were silly scenes and witty dialogue... but it was as pervasive as I had remembered. The silly tone quickly took a backseat to a serious, almost somber tone. The theoretical physics was kinda cool but, ultimately, it gets put in the donation pile.

#20: Administrator – Taku Mayumura (1974/2004) – 5/5
A long while ago, perhaps again in 2009, I became interested in Japanese science fiction even though I hadn't read any of it. So I researched the titles of some novels and made a list... and kept that list for five years with coming across a single title—so frustrating! Eventually, I just sent a project proposal to one publisher (Kurodahan) and asked for some titles in return for honest reviews. Having whet my appetite with some short Japanese SF fiction, I plunged into Administrator with gusto. As the title suggests, the crux of the novel (linked short stories actually) hinges on accepting responsibility for ones actions—in this case, it's the responsibility of an entire planet with both its native inhabitants and its colonists. The schism between policy and policing was an insightful glimpse into the mind a salayman, be it far away in space and time. (full review)

#21: The Sheep Look Up – John Brunner (1972) – 4/5
This was also a re-read, a book I had read in 2008... one of my first Brunner novels. It remained etched into my mind, the primary scene(s) in which the choking fumes of the air outside squeezes tears from the man's eyes and sears his throat. The toxicity of everyday life in The Sheep Look Uphave remained locked in my mind as the singular novel where pollution has run its course, leaving humanity gasping in its wake. Even after reading Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar, I liked Sheep more for its simplicity, direction, and portrayal (call me old-fashioned). Sheep, for me, was a bit hard to digest. Neither Sheep nor Zanzibar is my favorite novel; that honor resides within... well, I don't think I actually have a favorite Brunner novel. Hmm.

#22: Recall Not Earth – C.C. MacCapp (1970) – 2/5
To me, a new author, a new book; an unknown author, an unknown book. This kind of gamble at the secondhand bookshop—some turn out to be classics, most end up or mediocre, and a few are so forgettable that, two months later—now—you can barely recall (pardon the pun) any detail. Something along these lines: Aliens destroy Earth, a legion of spacemen were off Earth and escaped with their lives, they all now live on remote planets where most men foster forlorn hope that a cache of women are being held somewhere. Think along the lines of we need our women for breedin' purposes... that's it.

#23: The Long Run – Daniel Keys Moran (1989) – 4/5
I had seen this book on Amazon for a while. Since it had always had rave reviews (nearly all 5s with two 4s), I was compelled to track down the novel. The book is actually a sequel (to Emerald Eyes [1988]) but many have said thatThe Long Run provides enough detail to get by, with which I agree. There's a lot of reference to earlier times in the earlier book, but the reader can understand pretty well. Most parts are thought out well and there's a consistent string of peaks and lulls of action, but the repeated action feels like it getting dragged along thereby wearing itself out through gun battles, ship crashes, and computer hacking.

#24: The Book of John Brunner – John Brunner (1976) – 4/5
It's no secret I'm a big fan of John Brunner. Yet, after reviewing this—my 30-something-ish—book of Brunner's, I realized that I don't actually have a favorite novel of his. I really liked Meeting at Infinity (1961), The Long Result(1965), and Total Eclipse (1974), but none of them has stood the test of time as I can vaguely remember each. Brunner's short story collections are pretty tight—Entry to Elsewhen (1972) and From This Day Forward (1972). Is this collection highlighted, Brunner offers a few original short stories, a few very brief translations, and a cornucopia of literary smatterings, including limericks and poems. It's a great snapshot of a literary and intelligent man. (full review)

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