Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lazy Book Reviews of May 2015

#25: Collision with Chronos (1977) – Barrington J. Bayley – 3/5
In essence, this was a rather forgettable, male-dominant romp through time and space. On future Earth, evidence of reverse chronological time appears in the form of an ancient ruin that doesn't erode with time; rather, the ruin ages in reverse. In fact, a secret base has been investigating their finding of an intact time machine, with which they are able to visit the future... where there be aliens and be not humans. There are a few sociological twists for the future humans (in two times and spaces), which is the most interesting bit, but there's far too much deus ex machina for it's own good. Forgettable book; forgettable author.

#26: Lamb (2002) – Christopher Moore – 4/5
Non-genre... but an entertaining novel, nonetheless. 

#27: Eight Against Utopia (1967) – Douglas R. Mason – 2/5
Another new author and another forgettable unfolding of a so-called plot. This novel is just an indulgence in writing about the inner-workings of a domed city. Every character is emotionally hollow, their motivations impulsive, and their relationships superficial. The end result is an escape plan laden with technological glamour and repeated fight-or-flee scenes... about as dry and starchy as the pages its printed on.

#28: The Disestablishment of Paradise (2013) – Phillip Mann – 4/5
Phillip Mann is an author from New Zealand. I've read two of his older novels—The Eye of the Queen (1982) and Wulfsyarn (1990)--and have been blown away by both. By “blown away” I don't mean from action or twists; rather, I mean by the penetrating insight into the human condition. In Disestablishment, Mann compounds this human perspective with that of a planetary perspective. Humans have been living on Paradise for decades and while their initial foray was successful, something has turned the tables on the efforts of establishing a sustainable colony: crops fail, flora stalk them as prey, and once succulent fruit now poison their bodies. When efforts are made to disestablish the planet, one woman makes a swansong out of her personal and intimate experience with the planet, of which is causing havoc with near-space.

#29: Japan Sinks (1973/1976)– Sakyo Komatsu – 3/5
Mention Japanese novels translated into English and, if they can name one, they'll probably list Japan Sinks. At the height of disaster novels and disaster movies, America imported a favorite Japanese novel to quench their thirst for disaster. This novel has enough geological chaos to sate any disaster palate, but the novel is also heavily geocentric; there are many place names for island, mountains, faults, and villages. It's laden with such geographic proper nouns that it distracts from what should be the primary importance—Toshio Onodera, who is at qualms with his allegiance between his profession and his humanism. The story ends on a humanistic note, but the heap of disaster in the novel distracts from what have been an important piece. (full review)

#30: The Great White Space (1974) – Basil Copper – 4/5
I thought this novel was going to be a horror story about the great depth of outer-space, but it turned out to be a horror story about the great depth of inner-space. Basil Copper is renowned for his Lovecraftian storytelling and this novel epitomizes this skill. There are mysterious hieroglyphics, a deep mission into dark mountains, and a subterranean voyage down into the earth... all in order to confront he Great White Space. Extrinsic monstrosities await the team and intrinsic fears boil over when confronted with the terror in the deep of the earth. I'm not a big Lovecraft fan, but this story had all the right elements to make it a dark and creepy read.

#31: Mandrill (1975) – Richard Gardner – 2/5
Yet another new author for me this month and, with it, an unheard-of novel... the author's only SF novel among his thirty publications. Regardless of experience, the novel comes off as sophomoric. Deforestation has wiped Africa of much of its wildlife and the remaining band of mandrills are enclosed in a laboratory where they can be studied. Though the enclosure presents a natural setting, the alpha male eerily stares into the hidden camera while twitching his face. The scientists are competing for the resource of the mandrills—one wants to decipher its yet-to-be-found language while the other wants to makes drones of them for household use. Among the scientists, the women are the wildcard: one a domineering vixen with spastic swings in allegiance, the other a meek Asian doll carrying the onus that is her mother. Aside from the pre-established sex roles, the rest of the plot is as predictable as the rear cover synopsis makes it.

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