“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I first read Dune some years ago, probably in my later teens. I really enjoyed it and it left a strong impression on me. I remember going to see David Lynch’s film version at a cinema in Manchester back in the winter of 1984. This was before I read the book. I also remember the hype building up to the film’s release and the focus on the special effects of the sandworms. Lynch’s movie; I know how much it gets slated but there’s something about it that I’ve always loved. Parts of it look and feel completely alien and strange. And those sandworms still look great today, I don’t care what you say!
But on to the novel.
There are so many reviews of Dune already out there that I wonder what I can add to the conversation. Only my opinion and what I liked about the story. I’m not going to attempt a critical reading or interpretation of the novel. If you want to read one of those, I highly recommend you check out fellow book-blogger Bart’s rich and thoughtful review over here at “Weighing A Pig Doesn’t Fatten It“. I can only dream of writing such a thoughtful and intelligent review. Continue reading →
‘This war is the Change War, a war of time travelers–in fact, our private name for being in this war is being on the Big Time.’
Artwork by Hoot von Zitzewitz
Fritz Leiber’s Hugo Best Novel winner The Big Time is sixty years old. Have you heard of it? I’ve had this on my TBR list for a couple of years and was inspired to read it by the Little Red Reviewer. She holds a Vintage Science Fiction Month reading event every January, and this was my choice for it.
One of the questions she has asked Vintage SF Month participants is: “Why did you choose to read a vintage title?” It’s an important question. I was looking through my reviews from last year and was shocked to find that I had only read two SF titles written before 1980: The Dispossessed and The Ginger Star. Apart from simply wanting to read more vintage titles this year, I want to see how well these stories stand up today. Vintage SF can offer readers a window into the past but it’s fair to say that they often age poorly. When we read them with modern eyes, we need to be aware of the time period they were conceived in.
‘Time did not pass. There was no time. He was time: he only. He was the river, the arrow, the stone.’ (p.9)
Winner of the Nebula, Hugo and Locus awards for Best Novel, The Dispossessed is a book that demands reading. I first read it some years ago, but for some reason it left me cold. I think I got a bit lost in its many themes as Le Guin explores the ways in which an anarchist utopian society might be made to work. The level of detail in her world building as she constructs this society is very impressive, but it could put some readers off. At times, it reads more like a work of anthropology than a “science fiction” novel. Continue reading →
“In the nonspace of the matrix, the interior of a given data construct possessed unlimited subjective dimension; a child’s toy calculator, accessed through Case’s Sendai, would have presented limitless gulfs of nothingness hung with a few basic commands.” (p.63)
Harper Voyager 2015 edition
As part of my 2017 William Gibson Read-Along, I reread Neuromancer in February. This was my third time to read it. (I posted a review on this blog in November 2015 after reading it for the second time.) So, this is more of an update than a new review.
Am I crazy to read the same book 3 times? Maybe, maybe not. What I will say is that after my third reading I’ve upped my rating of the novel from 4 to 5 stars. In my opinion, Neuromancer is a staggering piece of fiction that deserves all the praise and plaudits it has picked up since its publication all those years ago. But instead of waffling on with my own thoughts on this seminal work, I will post some quotes about the book by critics and authors made over the last 30+ years. Continue reading →
“On some other world, possibly it is different. Better. There are clear good and evil alternatives. Not these obscure admixtures, these blends, with no proper tool by which to untangle the components.” (p.227)
Folio Society Edition
Often considered to be Dick’s best work, as well as his most mainstream, The Man in the High Castle imagines a future in which Germany, Italy and Japan won the Second World War. America is occupied by both the Germans and the Japanese. The story concentrates on events occurring in California, now part of the ‘Pacific States of America’ controlled by the Japanese. As is common in a lot of Dick’s writing, ordinary people dealing with unusual or extraordinary events are the focal point of TMITHC.
These everyday people make up the main characters of the book. Thus we meet Mr. Tagomi, a Japanese trade official, Bob Childan, an antiques dealer, Frank Frink, a jewelry maker, Frink’s ex-wife Juliana, a judo instructor, and Joe Cinnadella, a truck driver. In the background lurks Hawthorne Abendsen, the author of an alternative history novel popular at the time, despite it being banned by the Nazis. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a book within a book, an alternative history within an alternative history. Dick soon has everyone questioning what is real… Continue reading →
“I’m going to dissect your every thought, your every wish, every dream. I’m going to find out what happened to you, what made you separate yourself from your sisters, what made you decide to become an individual, and when I find out we’ll know how never to allow it to happen again.” (p.122)
The story begins as civilization is on the verge of collapse. The causes, pollution, disease and climate change, are briefly touched on by the author but she keeps them in the background. Instead, her focus falls on one extended family, the Sumners, and their attempts to survive. They have wealth and education on their side. Their isolated setting near the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia shields them from the worst of the global meltdown until a problem develops with their livestock. They are found to be infertile. When this infertility spreads to the people, the end really does seem nigh. Facing extinction, some of the survivors begin experiments in cloning, first on animals then later on themselves.
Kate Wilhelm’s dystopian novel on cloning won both the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novel in 1977. The title of the book is a quotation from William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73. This sonnet focuses on the theme of old age:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. (The first four lines of Sonnet 73)
“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor.”
“The bugs are not like us. The Pseudo-Arachnids aren’t even like spiders. They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman’s conception of a giant intelligent spider, but their organization, psychological and economic, is more like that of ants or termites; they are communal entities, the ultimate dictatorship of the hive.”
-Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
I’ve picked two random quotes from this book to open with. I think most people reading this review will already be aware of this novel and what it’s about; also the controversy that still surrounds it. It is only my third Heinlein book after Stranger in a Strange Land and The Door into Summer. I’m not very familiar with his work, but I know he is considered to be one of the Big SF writers of the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction. This book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960.Continue reading →
“I’m not so sure he’s mad, Father. Just a little devious in his sanity.”
Published in 1959, ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ won the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel. It has since been described as “the first major post-holocaust SF novel.” It is the only novel its author Walter M. Miller, Jr released in his lifetime. The sequel, ‘Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman’, was completed by the author Terry Bisson and published posthumously in 1997.
I’d never heard of it until a fellow blogger recommended it to me via the wonderful Worlds Without End website. It is a novel made up of 3 novellas which Miller originally released individually. Each novella focuses on a different period in the future after there has been a planet-wide nuclear holocaust. The story is told from the point of view of an order of monks whose task is to preserve any surviving texts or “memorabilia” from before the war. Continue reading →
This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It is usually rated very highly in “Best of Science Fiction” lists and reviews. It is well written and easy to read. Some parts of it are exciting, other parts are emotionally moving. A lot of praise has been heaped on it. But something about it just didn’t work for me.
Ender is only six years old at the beginning of the story. He is just a young child and it is (mostly) written from his point of view. Being a child and undergoing the experiences he does is one of the main themes of the story. It’s the fact that he is a child that is supposed to make his treatment all the more shocking. Yet for me, he doesn’t feel like a child. He is too intelligent, too calculated, too strategical to ring true. I realise he is supposed to be advanced for his age but I couldn’t connect with him. Continue reading →