Category Archives: Author

Future Americas edited by John Hellers and Martin H. Greenberg

Future Americas Cover

ISBN-13: 978-0756405083
ISBN-10: 0756405084
Publisher: DAW
Pub. date: June 2008
$7.99, 320 pages,
paperback

Reviewed by Danny Adams

[Editor’s Note: The following review was originally written for the October 2008 issue of Some Fantastic, which was never published. This marks its initial publication.]

Cory Doctorow has made a point of explaining his stories by saying that he doesn’t predict the future — he predicts the present. He wasn’t necessarily following any slippery slopes to someday conclusions, but rather extrapolating all of the potential consequences for things happening right now. While most of the stories in Future Americas aren’t quite that immediate, many if not most do take that next logical step. If you can genetically tailor your children, what happens if the child still doesn’t meet the standard you wanted? Are there alternatives to burial in an environmentally-challenged land? Is forensics becoming too technical at the expense of human instinct?

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Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi

Zoe's Tale Cover

ISBN-13: 978-0765316981
ISBN-10: 0765316986
Publisher: Tor Books
Pub. date: Aug. 2008
$24.95, 335 pages,
hardcover

Reviewed by Danny Adams

[Editor’s Note: The following review was originally written for the October 2008 issue of Some Fantastic, which was never published. This marks its initial publication.]

When I was first given the opportunity to read Zoe’s Tale, I had bought a copy of Old Man’s War just weeks before but hadn’t yet started reading it. And after some thought, I decided I wouldn’t read OMW — at least not yet. I realized that I would be missing out on a lot of substance and nuance from Scalzi’s universe if I skipped ahead to Zoe herself, but I’d heard that Zoe’s Tale worked as a standalone novel. So, I grew curious to judge that for myself.  The review that follows thus is written from the perspective of someone who really doesn’t know what the heck was going on before (aside from generalities from the world of OMW) but nevertheless discovered that Zoe’s was a good read in itself without its predecessors after all.

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A Deposition Regarding The Dispossessed

By Matthew Appleton

In his introduction to the 20th anniversary edition of Neuromancer, William Gibson discusses the challenges of reading classic sf when you start reading it in your teens. In particular, the very nature of the genre means that unforeseen technological innovations or the unanticipated consequences of correctly projected technological evolution will eventually rip away the referential moorings of a particular work as it progresses into its imagined future. Thus, a reader encountering for the first time a classic work of sf will need to compensate, thus “shouldering an additional share of the imaginative burden.”

When I recently finished reading Le Guin’s classic, The Dispossessed, it was the first time I read it. However, I don’t believe that merely knowing that I read a 40-year-old novel gives the proper context. To provide perspective by way of example, when I was a teenager, I read reprints of two Groff Conklin Golden Age anthologies: The Omnibus of Science Fiction and Treasury of Science Fiction. At that time, the majority of the stories were of the same relative vintage as The Dispossessed currently displays. Although the experience of reading a novel written when I was still a toddler required less of an imaginative burden than reading short fiction from the ‘40s whilst in my teens, at various times I contemplated whether, technological issues aside, my perspective must be far different than that of a contemporary reader when The Dispossessed first appeared in bookstores.

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Jennifer Government by Max Barry

Jennifer Government

ISBN-13: 978-0385507592
ISBN-10: 0385507593
Publisher: Doubleday
Pub. date: Jan. 2003
$19.95, 321 pages,
hardcover

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

This review originally appeared in the October 2003 issue (#184) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

I.

Imagine a novel where two umbrella organizations battle for control of consumers’ hearts and minds with ubiquitous and sometimes misleading advertising. These two groups will use any method to increase sales, even if it is questionably legal. In fact, the battle between the two groups gets downright nasty at times, with corporate warfare literally taking place. The government is little more than a figurehead, its power usurped by corporations. Elements of society toward the bottom of the economic totem pole are starting to rebel, attempting to change the system. It sounds an awful lot like Frederik Pohl’s and C. M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants. It also happens to sum up Max Barry’s Jennifer Government.

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Red Moon by Michael Cassutt

Red Moon Cover

ISBN-13: 978-0312874407
ISBN-10: 0312874405
Publisher: Forge
Pub. date: Feb. 2001
$25.95, 352 pages,
hardcover

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

This review originally appeared in the September 2001 issue (#157) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

Most Americans are familiar with the basic details of the American space program in the 1960s and its climatic finish in beating the Soviets to the moon in July of 1969. Conversely, it’s probably safe to say that other than Sputnik, Mir, and putting the first man in space, most Americans couldn’t tell you much about the Soviet program as a whole, if anything at all. In fact, the closely-guarded press of the Soviet Union made sure that they only reported the details highlighting the successes of the program. As a result, most Americans lack the capability to tell you why NASA succeeded in its goal of putting a man by the end of the decade and why the Soviets never actually made it there despite strenuous efforts. However, thanks to accomplished historian Michael Cassutt, who has written and compiled the three editions of Who’s Who in Space and is also a regular columnist for the Science Fiction Weekly webzine, we now have a highly engaging fictionalized account of the Soviet space program in the 1960s and their ultimate failure in beating the Americans to the moon.

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Snare by Katherine Kerr

Snare Cover

ISBN-13: 978-0312890452
ISBN-10: 0312890451
Publisher: Tor Books
Pub. date: April 2003
$27.95, 592 pages,
hardcover

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

This review originally appeared in the September 2003 issue (#181) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

One of the primary definitions of the word ‘snare’ in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “something by which one is entangled, involved in difficulties, or impeded.” With that in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if Katherine Kerr was attempting some sort of bold statement with the name of her most recent novel, Snare. Was she trying to convey that the world of this novel might just entrap the reader just as it has entrapped its occupants?

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Balshazzar’s Serpent by Jack L. Chalker

Balshazzar's Cover

Riverdale, NY: Baen Books, 2000; $24.95 hardcover;
291 pp.

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

This review originally appeared in the January 2001 issue (#149) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

After reading the first 50 pages or so of Jack L. Chalker’s Balshazzar’s Serpent, you find yourself in something of a shock. Here you are reading a book published by Baen, the leading publisher of militaristic sf, complete with the obligatory cover art denoting it as part of the militaristic subgenre, and there isn’t even the threat of a battle looming on the horizon. What gives? Well, in religious terms, patience is a virtue if you’re looking for the standard Baen fare of a macho military leader taking a group of hardened men into glorious battle in which they utterly smite the enemy and then move on to their next conquest.

After a lot of setup, that finally happens around page 150.

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