The Ragged Astronauts (1986) by Bob Shaw

“The background was a familiar one to anybody who lived in those longitudes of Land – flawless indigo sea, a sky of pale blue feathered with white, and the misty vastness of the sister world, Overland, hanging motionless near the zenith,” (Loc 42)

 

Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts won the BSFA Best Novel Award in 1986. The Northern-Irish author also won the award in 1975 for his novel Orbitsville. Interestingly, he picked up the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 1979 and 1980. The British author Christopher Priest described Shaw’s fan writing as being “fluent, amusing, intelligent, personal and pertinent.” Despite these accolades, I wasn’t aware of Bob Shaw’s work until I found his name on the BSFA winners’ list.

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The Ragged Astronauts is the first book in the ‘Land & Overland’ trilogy, followed by The Wooden Spaceships (1988) and The Fugitive Worlds (1989). The story opens on a world called Land. A feudal system is in place, with the people being ruled by King Prad and his royal family. There is a second world, Overland, orbiting only a few thousand miles away. Both worlds share the same atmosphere. As the author builds his world, we learn that the inhabitants of Land are struggling with the planet’s dwindling resources.

What resources they have are limited. Land is a world without any kind of metal, which makes for some engaging ideas and descriptions of the technology, transport and weapons of the world. The people are also plagued by a strange enemy called “ptertha”. These are small, airborne spheres that release a toxic dust when they burst. Unable to communicate with the ptertha, it is assumed they are not sentient. But when the attacks appear to lose their randomness, the Landians must make some tough decisions regarding their future. Continue reading

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Black Amazon of Mars (1951) by Leigh Brackett

“My name is Stark. Eric John Stark, Earthman, out of Mercury.”

 

From 1949 to 1951, Leigh Brackett wrote three short stories set on Mars: “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, “Enchantress of Venus” and “Black Amazon of Mars”. They each featured her Mercury-born hero, Eric John Stark, and were published in the pulp magazine Planet Stories. Pulp adventure or space fantasy, “Black Amazon of Mars” is an entertaining adventure story that both tips its hat to, and outshines, the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard.

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At the beginning of the story, Stark is travelling across the cold “Norlands” of Mars with Camar, his Martian friend. They are being pursued and Camar has been mortally wounded. He has stolen something of great value, a “talisman”, which Stark promises to return to his friend’s city of birth, “Kushat”. Camar is pleased but fears for Stark’s safety if he continues on alone. Continue reading

RIPXII Challenge

I’m a sucker for a reading challenge, especially when it coincides with one of my own. The last two years in October, I’ve taken my own *All Hallow’s Read challenge (*from an idea by Neil Gaiman). I limit my October reading choices to tales of the supernatural.

Two years ago, I read Richard Matheson’s Hell House and Stephen King’s The Shining. Last year, I chose Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Bag of Bones by King, again, and Nightmare Magazine#37: Queers Destroy Horror!

This year, I am joining the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII Challenge which runs from September 1st to October 31st. Here is a link to the sign-up page. Continue reading

Acadie (2017) by Dave Hutchinson

“What if I were to offer you a way off this howling nightmare of a planet? Right now?”
     “You have some kind of magic spaceship that takes off through seven-hundred-kilometer-an-hour blizzards?”
     She wrinkled her nose and grinned coquettishly. “Oh, I have something better than that.” (Loc 219)

 

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Art by Stephen Youll

Back cover blurb: “The first humans still hunt their children across the stars.

The Colony left Earth to find utopia, a home on a new planet where their leader could fully explore their genetic potential, unfettered by their homeworld’s restrictions. They settled a new paradise, and have been evolving and adapting for centuries. Earth has other plans.

The original humans have been tracking their descendants across the stars, bent on their annihilation. They won’t stop until the new humans have been destroyed, their experimentation wiped out of the human gene pool.

Can’t anyone let go of a grudge anymore?


John Wayne “Duke” Faraday, president of “the Colony”, is recovering from his 150th birthday celebrations when he is rudely awakened. An unidentified probe has been picked up on the scanners; a probe which could be from Earth. This is not good news for the Colony as they have no intention of being found. Will they shoot first and ask questions later? Or is the probe’s technology too valuable to simply destroy?

Part of Tor’s “Summer of Space Opera”, Dave Hutchinson’s new novella “Acadie” explores themes including genetic modification, artificial intelligence, and the colonization of new worlds. Being a Dave Hutchinson story, it is replete with crisp, flowing dialogue and a biting sense of humour. Continue reading

What happened to Summer Reading?

Hello September! Where did the summer go? It’s finally cooling down at night over here on the west side of Japan. Which means autumn is just around the corner, I’m happy to say. I love the heat of the summer over here, but you can take the humidity, please, no really, please take it away! Can you imagine working at a school in 35+ degree-heat with over 70% humidity, without air conditioning? It’s like working in a sauna.

But enough moaning from me. I hope your summer was fantastic. Did you get a lot of summer reading done?..

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I didn’t. Continue reading