Category Archives: Book Review

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

First Meetings in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card

Enderverse Cover

New York, NY: Tor Books, 2003; $17.95 hardcover; 208 pp.

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

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

The Ender universe, hereon referred to as the Enderverse, seems irresistible to both creator Orson Scott Card and its many fans. At this point, Card has written seven novels in the universe, each a bestseller. Along the way, Hollywood has flirted with the idea of turning Ender’s Game, the first of the Ender novels and an expansion of the “Ender’s Game” novella, into a movie; a recent announcement on Hatrack River (Card’s official Web Site) stated that “Warner Brothers also recently announced that it has made a deal for director Wolfgang Petersen.” In addition, last year Card released through Subterranean Press First Meetings: Three Stories from the Enderverse, a self-explanatory collection of novellas. Most recently, he has added another novella to the saga and has reissued the collection through Tor Books as First Meetings in the Enderverse.

Continue reading

The Best Military Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century edited by Harry Turtledove with Martin H. Greenberg

Best Military SF Cover

New York, NY: Del Rey Books, 2001; $18.00 trade paperback; 544 pp.

Reviewed by Matthew Appleton

This review originally appeared in the October 2001 issue (#158) of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

The need to wage war is a trait that nearly every human culture shares. As the ultimate extension of politics, acts of warfare wholly or partially define many of the turning points in human history. Writers throughout the ages, building upon and sometimes even borrowing from our oldest recorded myths, such as Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and The Iliad, prominently display this aspect of society. Of course, writers of military fiction pursue various agendas with widely differing results. Some celebrate war and the warrior-king, finding noble truths and actions on the battlefield, while others, at the other end of the spectrum, pointedly portray the horrors of war and the acts of individual depravity that occur during warfare. Yet, throughout that spectrum there is a constant: You learn about the human condition when you study individuals at war.

Continue reading