Title – Author – Genre – Year – Rating
The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn – Strugatsky Brothers – Mystery / SF – 1970 – 7 of 10
Generally I love the Strugatsky brothers and had only been aware of their science fiction writing. I have not read many mysteries so when I found this book by authors I love I figured I’d give it a try. Most of the story was entertaining and somewhat absurd. The tale is about a group of people, supposedly all on vacation up in the snowy mountains, who are blocked in by an avalanche. A murder ensues and then things get continually stranger. An inspector who happens to be staying at the inn takes on the case and tries to piece together the events through a series of weird interviews with the other patrons. For ninety percent of the book it is a mystery then is wrapped up quickly with a bizarre science fiction explanation of events. My problem with the book is that it ended rather abruptly and all the loose ends were tied up in a hurry with preposterous explanations. The ending led me to believe that perhaps this book is a parody of mystery fiction, but I am not well versed enough in the genre to fully get the joke. A fun story, but if you haven’t read the Strugatsky brothers yet I would start with Roadside Picnic.
I Rode a Flying Saucer – George Van Tassel – Channeled – 1953 – 8 of 10
Here in the hi-desert George Van Tassel is part of our local history and folklore. This is his first book of messaged channeled from the “Saucer Beings”, described as beings of light, in ships made of light which can pass through one another. Many of the messages warn of the use of the hydrogen bomb and refer to hydrogen as a form of sentience. The messages also claim that the government is covering up the existence of extraterrestrials. Some of the messages are followed by his commentary but these passages do not add much to the overall text, merely confirming vague predictions of weather and other mundane occurrences. An interesting read but not much meat here for the UFOlogist other than a vaguely Christian interpretation of obscure messages sent from our non-corporeal brothers in outer space.
The Philadelphia Experiment – Moore / Berlitz – Conspiracy – 1979 – 6.5 of 10
As with a lot of books of this nature it is written with many statements that end in question marks and exclamation points, suggesting that most of the material is a fanciful invention. Also common of many conspiracy books, it jumps around a lot and can’t seem to get too deep into any particular aspect of the story. Another thing that detracted from me buying the story is that the authors often refer to themselves in third person, giving the book an air of pretentiousness. However, this book was an entertaining read and hard to put down despite the schlocky writing and flawed inductive reasoning. The Allende letters, which sparked the whole conspiracy, are included in the text and a fun read, although it is hard to believe that anyone would dedicate such energy to attempting to decipher these text. In my opinion the letters read as a prank written by a science fiction writer. Having seen the film I was expecting some time travel, but apparently that element of the film was just to spice up the story and is not included in the book.
The Day of Creation – J.G. Ballard – Fiction – 1987 – 8 of 10
Ballard is by far one of my favorite authors, and while this book was my least favorite of his novels that I have read so far, it was still an amazing and challenging book. While many of his novels focus of the deterioration of urban environments this one takes place in the deserts of Africa during a disastrous irrigation project. Thematically this book felt like a hybrid between Heart of Darkness and Lolita, so it probably goes without saying that it was a dark story. Most of the Ballard novels that I have read have been on the dark side but feel as though they expose some deeper, reluctant truths about humanity. Ballard is the master of cognitive dissonance and this book is no exception – he often has me routing for things that I find appalling, without being sure how he got me there. I find that no matter what he is writing about his prose style is eloquent and shocking, unusually succinct and often times cold. Day of Creation reads like a fever while still making sense, allowing the reader to experience the mental collapse of the characters. This feverishness is a difficult thing to accomplish and brings to mind some other great novels such as Ana Kavan’s Ice and Katherine Dunn’s Attic. I recommend reading this one but if you haven’t read Ballard yet I probably wouldn’t start with this here. If you’re new to Ballard do yourself a favor and pick up Concrete Island.
About Time – Paul Davies – Science – 1995 – 9 of 10
As with most books on the physics of time this was a complicated and thought provoking read. Davies makes most of the material accessible to the layman but even avoiding most of the math the subject remains as dense as any. One of the things I love about reading on this subject is that most ideas surrounding time lead to deep philosophical implications. Davies covers not only ideas about time that held up but also covers many trains of thought that were ultimately proven false, giving a well-rounded picture of the evolution of ideas concerning the nature of time. A most interesting aspect of this book (while a bit dated) is that we have little consensus on the true nature of time, we simply cannot answers if time is truly an external process or if it is a completely subjective phenomenon, or some hybrid of the two. I have read many books on the subject of time and they all leave me pondering the true nature of our existence for many months to come, I know that this book will be no exception. Highly recommended for those who enjoy the philosophical implications of physics.
68 Cantos – William Weiss – Science Fiction – 2019 – 8 of 10
An abstract and feverish tale of worldly disintegration. This book is a nonlinear narrative that takes us through post-apocalyptic wastelands and teases us with whether the war has just finished or is about to begin. If read as a novel it can feel a bit meandering but when viewed as poetry one feels, and is dragged through, what is occurring in this hellish and deteriorating world. Fans of the cut-up technique will appreciate this book. The characters are generalized, I.E. Control, Everyman, Mutants etc. – and stand for ideas rather than typical people doing things in an invented world. With moments of vivid poetry and startling imagery this book will appeal to fans strange and non-traditional stories.
2019 Rhysling Anthology – David C. Kopaska-Merkel Ed. – Speculative Poetry – 2019 – 9 of 10
One of the things that I love best in poetry is when it is used as a form of storytelling. Speculative poetry tends to tell stories, not always, but often, and this is the reason that I gravitate towards reading and writing poetry with these themes. If you’ve read my reviews before you will know that I am somewhat biased in my views of fantasy and horror. I usually don’t care much for the genres in general and typically just want straight science fiction. That being said I really enjoyed this collection even though most of the collection was not in my opinion sci-fi. If you’re interested in speculative poetry I highly recommend this collection and looking up the SFPA (the organization that puts this collection together). While there are too many poets in the anthology to mention them all, here’s a list of my favorite poems included in the anthology: Generation Ship by David Barber, Station Rain by Erik Burdett, Consumption by Jennifer Ruth Jackson, The Southern Lady by Marge Simon, Dead-Eye Girl by Holly Lyn Walrath, If You Would Seek a Seeress by Rebecca Buchanan, The Last Transport by Frank Coffman, Misstep by David C. Kopaska-Merkel & Ann K. Schwader, Atomic Numbers by D.A. Xiaolin Spires. And congratulations to this year’s winners: Beth Cato & Sarah Tolmie.
Now and Forever – Ray Bradbury – Science Fiction – 2007 – 9 of 10
This book consists of two novellas: Somewhere a Band is Playing & Leviathan ‘99. As usual Bradbury delivers great stories and wonderful storytelling. You really can’t go wrong with Bradbury. The first novella is about a town filled with immortal writers who try to remain undetected by the world at large, living a simple and peaceful existence until an outsider brings them the news that the town will be bulldozed to build a new highway. As with a lot of Bradbury’s work the story is nostalgic for a rapidly disappearing past. The second novella, Leviathan ’99, is essentially a science fiction retelling of Moby Dick. Instead of the ocean the story is set in space and the whale is replaced with the largest comet ever discovered. Both are highly enjoyable tales and I recommend them along with the rest of Bradbury’s catalog.
A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller Jr. – Science Fiction – 1959 – 10 of 10
I had intended to read this book for a long time and I wish that had not put it off for so long. Strikingly beautiful writing and a profound story about the cycle of human folly. I often gravitate to science fiction that deals with spiritual issues (there is not enough of it) and this book delivers in that regard. The book is written in three sections, each centuries apart. This structure has the interesting effect of not really having a main character, not a human one at least. The story focuses around an abbey and the building is essentially the main character. This device becomes even more interesting when you read Miller’s bio. During the war he was involved in the destruction of one of the oldest western monasteries. In a chilling way one cannot help but think that this beautiful book was written as an atonement for the crimes of war. Some of the passages I had to read and reread because of the density and depth of the ideas being expressed. This is one of those stories that will have me contemplating its meaning for a long time. Do yourself a favor and read this one.
Poetics – Aristotle – Non-Fiction – 330 B.C. – 10 of 10
Essential reading for all writers. Aristotle breaks down the dramatic and epic forms and gives us guidelines for the successful execution of proper plays / fiction / poetry. I first read this book at nineteen years old and it had the effect on me of ruining most books and films for a while. It had this effect because all good drama follows certain patterns. As a young man this disturbed me because I thought that art was there to transcend these “boundaries”. It was not until much later that I was able to see the beauty in the fact that certain patterns are built into the human spirit and that is what makes great art. If you are interested in theater or are a writer yourself then you must read this short volume.
Destination Moon – Robert A. Heinlein – Science Fiction – 1950 – 7.5 of 10
A fun short novella adapted from the Destination Moon screenplay. I imagine that when this story was first published, long before we made it to the moon, that it was terribly exciting, especially since the technical progress was being made to make the moon shot a reality. The story doesn’t have much characterization and is mostly about the technicalities and politics of the first moon launch. It is interesting that Heinlein chose to make the endeavor from the private sector instead of a government effort. It is also interesting that he chose the Mojave Desert, specifically Lucerne Valley as the launch site, because today Space X isn’t too far off from that location. All in all this wasn’t my favorite of Heinlein’s work but it was an enjoyable read and an interesting companion piece to the film. The original screenplay was adapted from one of Heinlein’s juvenile novels Rocket Ship Galileo, and I’ll have to read that as well to look further into how this story developed.
My View of the World – Erwin Schrodinger – Metaphysics – 1961 – 6.5 of 10
I was somewhat surprised when I found this book because it isn’t about quantum physics but rather metaphysics. I was only familiar with Schrodinger as a physicist and most famously for his thought experiment where cats may be alive and dead simultaneously. But perhaps I should not have been surprised because when one studies quantum physics many philosophical questions arise. I guess the reason it was shocking to me is that I find it difficult to imagine how his peers in science would respond to such philosophical speculations. He addresses this fact in several passages in the book and is usually dismissive of such criticism. Most of the book is what I would have expected from a metaphysical text, long winded sentences that circle back on themselves without ever reaching a concrete point but rather just giving rise to more questions. However, despite my jaded attitude to such meanderings there was a passage that I found life changing and a few other ideas that I found particularly compelling. I am still digesting this as it becomes part pf my worldview, “consciousness is bound up with learning in organic substance; organic competence is unconscious.” This is a particularly profound statement because it makes the subconscious a decision instead of something that one has no control over throughout life. That once a behavior is learned it enters the subconscious and becomes automatic (think driving home but not remembering the drive). It makes me think that we have the opportunity to make all of our behaviors learning behaviors and be consciously aware at all times, since automatic functions are a means to conserve energy and we are no longer faced with this problem thanks to agriculture. The book also had some really interesting things to say about the origins of language. All in all this book wasn’t a terribly entertaining read but nevertheless worthwhile.
The Starry Rift – James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) – Science Fiction – 1986 – 7 of 10
This books was much lighter subject-wise than I was expecting. While it is loosely one story it read more light three novellas connected by a small and inconsequential fourth narrative. The three stories take place around the same star base and an area of space relatively free of stars called the Rift. Two of the tales are about first contact and one of them is about being torn between a clone of the woman you love and the real thing. One interesting thing about the book is that the stories are all from a library of infotainment that dramatizes human history for alien races, whereas human have perished sometime in the distant past. It also featured microscopic aliens that embed themselves into human physiology, loved that concept. Over-all it was a fun read but not amazing. I think I had higher hopes for Tiptree based on the short stories that I have read. I enjoyed the first two stories much more than the last, which was the longest of the three. If you’re looking for some fun light reading thins would be a good one to pick up.
All My Sins Remembered – Joe Haldeman – Science Fiction – 1977 – 5 of 10
I wish that I had started my exploration of Haldeman with Forever War, as I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. However my first experience with him is All My Sin Remembered and while I didn’t hate it I found it disappointing. The story follows an agent who frequently goes through body modification and hypnotic imprints of the personalities of his marks. The book jumped around from mission to mission without much correlation between scenarios making me wonder throughout reading it when it was going to get to the point. I kept waiting for a payoff that never came. Parts of the book were enjoyable and there was nothing wrong with the story it just didn’t really go anywhere. A few days after finishing the book it occurred to me that perhaps Haldeman was attempting, buy jumping around so much, to make the reader feel the disorientation of the protagonist, who essentially loses his identity because of the nature of his job. While this could have been a clever devise it failed to produce the desired result.
Pro – Gordon R. Dickson – Science Fiction – 1978 – 6 of 10
In the future I will probably remember nothing about this book. A completely schlocky read without memorable characters or plot. However I’ve been braindead because of the summer humidity and have had a hard time focusing on anything, so I intentionally picked up a book that wouldn’t be a demanding read and this one sure wasn’t. Despite it being nothing special I still enjoyed the short time it took me to burn through this one. I found it to be more of a fantasy novel than science fiction and this aspect was a bit disappointing to me but the pacing was just right for my mood and the book was full of cool illustrations (which I usually don’t care for but enjoyed this time). It served its purpose and got me through an otherwise wasted day.
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman – Fantasy – 2010 – 6.5 of 10
I’ve been meaning to read Neil Giaman and have American Gods waiting on the shelf but then I can across this audiobook and was curious about the inclusion of a string quartet. It’s an interesting approach to the audiobook form, treated more like an album than a standard reading. The reading was done by Mr. Gaiman himself and accompanied by the ForePlay Quartet. I always appreciate hearing work in the author’s voice as they are usually the only one who fully understands the inflections intended but I can’t help but feel that perhaps the reading was a bit too affected at times. The music was interesting and a good fit for most of the scenes though occasionally was a bit distracting to the story. Overall I wasn’t blown away by the music and the ForePlay Quartet didn’t really stand out from most modern quartets. The story itself was a fun one somewhat in the vein of the Monkey’s Paw, a classic tale of be careful what you wish for with a few twists thrown in. Worth a listen if you have a drive ahead of you.
Stories of Your Life and Others– Ted Chiang – Science Fiction – 2002 – 10 of 10
I have read in several places that Ted Chiang is one of the most important voices in modern science fiction and after reading this book I fully agree with this statement. Stories of Your Life is a collection of short stories that for the most part were originally published in magazines. Each of the stories dealt with wildly different subjects, proving Chiang’s versatility as an author. And each story was deeply compelling and filled with truly original ideas. My favorite kind of science fiction is the kind that forces you to put the book down occasionally and ponder the implications of the ideas being presented. This collection had no shortage of these moments. Another one of my favorite issues in science fiction is linguistics and communication difficulties, the title story that was made into the film Arrival, did a wonderful job at addressing this issue and presented fresh concepts that I will be considering for some time to come. The best books are the ones that keep you thinking for months on end and I have no doubt that this book has had that effect on me. I don’t want to give away the premises of these stories because I found them surprising throughout and wouldn’t want to deprive you of a similar experience. Highly recommended!
The Diagnosis – Alan Lightman – Fiction – 2000 – 6 of 10
I picked up this book because I had read Einstein’s Dreams and found it to be a charming book. This novel was so different in nature that it was almost surprising. The Diagnosis is a story about losing one’s way in life and experiencing psychosomatic illness (although the book never delivers that this is actually the case). It is written in a tedious, almost obsessive compulsive manner reminiscent of American Psycho. At times too tedious with many epistolary interruptions into email correspondence. The book states that its genre is psychological fiction, but I would redefine it as yuppie existentialism. While it was an interesting read I found it difficult to relate to the first world problems experienced by the characters. I also found the ending to be unsatisfactory if judged as a traditional narrative but acceptable in existential terms. Many loose ends were left and I walked away not certain if I really found the book that compelling.
The Evolution Man – Roy Lewis – Science Fiction – 1960 – 7 of 10
A silly little fun read. Anyone who has taken anthropology class will enjoy the satirical humor of this story. The books is about the evolution of thought in early humans but takes a sardonic approach where the characters are aware of their evolution and trying to force it to progress. The tale is written in modern language with the characters aware of what period of history they are part of, what countries they inhabit, and what creatures have gone extinct or will do so soon. This approach makes the book somewhat odd because it straddles prehistory and modernity. While I blew through this book and had fun reading it, I cannot say that it was by any means spectacular. If you feel like reading something light and humorous this one will be a good one for you. Not my favorite book but I do always appreciate science fiction that has a sense of humor.
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel – Science Fiction – 2014 – 7.5 of 10
An enjoyable tale of post-apocalyptic survival surrounding a traveling group of musicians and actors. The books spans many decades and covers the lives of many main characters, I liked how it jumped around through time but it was a bit much for a book of only three hundred some pages. I also felt that it could have used a few less characters. The depictions of what humans would have to go through after a major plague are vivid and at times realistic, yet I couldn’t help but feel that the author overlooked human ingenuity and capacity for engineering. It was interesting to follow a group of artists through the barren world, but surely this wouldn’t be the only cultural endeavor left. It was neat how she populated the world with religious zealots but again twenty years after the collapse I would think that many of the technical problems avoided in the book would potentially be resolved. That being said it was a very human story and a fun read.
Kindred – Octavia E. Butler – Science Fiction – 1979 – 10 of 10
Damn! This is one powerful book. Before reading this novel I had only read short stories of Butler’s and I had enjoyed them but this book was next level. While it was a difficult read because of the subject matter I couldn’t put the book down and the writing was beautiful. Never before have I encountered such a vivid depiction of what the realities of slavery were like. Of course we all know that chattel slavery, or any slavery for that matter, is horrific and inhuman, but we seldom stop to think of how damaging it is to the human psyche. How Stockholm syndrome plays into it, or how fear of death will make one tolerate severe abuse. In America we should be ashamed that this is part of our history and I think that everyone should read this book to get the feeling of just how terrible the racism actually was. I don’t want to talk too much about the story because I don’t want to spoil it for readers, but I defiantly consider this book obligatory reading, particularly for Americans.
Deeper than the Darkness – Gregory Benford – Science Fiction – 1970 – 6 of 10
Overall this book had an interesting story line and cool, very foreign aliens. Yet the book didn’t really do a good job of holding my attention. I found that Benford spent too much time on superfluous details and brushed over the parts that I was enjoying. It also jumped around a lot. I did enjoy how it dealt with differences in culture, but it started off slow and confusing and then at times moved too quickly. It had the feel of being written in sessions separated in time and I couldn’t help but feel that the style of writing changed throughout the story. I’m curious to read another one of his novels to see if this is indicative of his style or if he was still developing his chops at the time this was written. I didn’t hate this book but I also didn’t love it.
Eye for Eye – Orson Scott Card – Science Fiction – 1987 – 7 of 10
I listened to this novella as an audiobook which certainly livened up a long drive. The story suited itself well to audiobook format because it is written in first person and is structured kind of like an interview or interrogation. The story had a bucolic feel somewhat in the vein of Zenna Henderson or Clifford Simak and I was impressed by Card’s usage of language that fit this setting. The usage of language was much different from what I’m used to in his Ender’s Games and Alvin series, proving that Card is a versatile author. However I didn’t enjoy it as much as his other work, it was entertaining but lacked some of the depth of his other work, still it was well worth a listen.
Slan – A.E. van Vogt – Science Fiction – 1940 – 9 of 10
Super fun golden age action. This wonderful novel was first published in Astounding Magazine and was awarded the Retro-Hugo for best novel of 1941. I don’t know why it took me so long to read van Vogt but I know this won’t be the last of his books that I read. I tore through this in a few days because it was really hard to put down. While the plot had a few twists and convenient technologies fall out of the sky that were quite frankly ridiculous, it didn’t really matter that things seemed implausible solely for the fact that this was such a fun story. I have heard that Philip K. Dick was a big van Vogt fan and Slan made it clear that this must be the case, as the movement of the story has a very Dick feel, especially how the book wrapped up (trying to avoid spoilers). If you are interested in Golden Age science fiction classics this book from the highly prolific Grand Master is not to be missed.
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes – Science Fiction – 1961 -10 of 10
One of the best and most heartbreaking books I’ve read in a long time. The story of a man who is mentally handicapped and goes through an experimental surgery to make him smart. It works and he becomes a genius, but only temporarily. Just long enough to give him a taste of what he has been missing, realize that people always laugh at his expense, fall in love, and generally be a respected human being. But he finds his genius more isolating then when he was dim, both ends of the spectrum being ostracizing and causing him to think differently than others. This book started as a short story, which won a Hugo award, and then was expanded into a novel, which won a Nebula – well deserving of both. It was also adapted into film in 1968 and is worth seeing and almost as touching as the book, the film version is called Charly. There have been many other radio and film adaptations, but I am unfamiliar with these. I don’t want to reveal too much of the story but I will say that the last fifty pages had me crying.
Desert Oracle #8 – Ken Layne Ed. – Reference / Folklore – 2019 – 10 of 10
Another gem for Joshua Tree’s Desert Oracle. This issue covers possible civilizations of lost races of giants, desert tortoises, Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, new additions to protected lands, bats, and more. As usual it is a well written easy read, at times sardonic, and generally chock-full of facts and folklore of the Southwest deserts. This long awaited issue is a must for desert dwellers and visitors alike. For those that care about America’s deserts and our local history I recommend subscribing to the magazine and listening to the podcast, or if you’re local listen on Friday nights at 10pm on 107.7 FM. The radio program is a perfect sister to the magazine, taking up where Art Bell left off, yet colorfully infused with a healthy dose of the Mojave landscape, coyote howls, wind storms and all. Get your boots dirty with issue 8 of this wonderfully opinionated field guide.
Synths – James C. Glass – Science Fiction – 2018 – 8 of 10
A fun new book from Writers of the Future winner James C. Glass. It’s a tale about the creation of synthetic human beings modeled after people who had lived in the past, namely the creator’s daughter, who goes on to be a television star. They cannot share with the world that they are synthetics but a rumor is leaked and the religious right and big businessmen come together to hatch a plot to kill the synths and discredit the company making them, while at the same time bringing down the government. The book moves fairly quickly and gets more entertaining as the story unfolds.
Hauser’s Memory – Curt Siodmak – Science Fiction – 1968 – 6 of 10
The science fiction element of this book is medical but the majority of the story is a cold war spy thriller. I love medical sci-fi, espionage, not so much. The medical aspect concerns transfer of a dying man’s memory to another individual through the extraction and injection of RNA, which unwittingly transfers his manic-depression and emotions, causing all kinds of problems for the guinea pig. The book moves through West and East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and the States, all along followed by cold war spies. The story is certainly the type that could only have been written post-World War II cold war era and does a great job addressing the paranoia of those days.
An Alien Heat – Michael Moorcock – Science Fiction – 1972 – 10 of 10
A wonderfully brilliant and hilarious books! This one had me laughing out loud at times. It’s the first book of the Dancers at the End of Time trilogy and I can’t wait to read the others. Satirical and sardonic, sassy and sarcastic – the book pokes endless fun at the bourgeoisie. It is tempting to include this in the canon of decadent literature instead of science fiction as it brings to mind Huysman’s “Against Nature” although much lighter and without the dark side or tedious passages. Time travel, aliens, the end of the universe, this book has it all. Highly recommended!
New Worlds Quarterly #1 – Michael Moorcock Ed. – Science Fiction – 1971 – 9 of 10
New Worlds magazine started in 1936 and was taken over by Moorcock’s editorship in 1964. It sparked the New Wave movement and was known for publishing controversial material. Reading this collection one understands why. Almost fifty years later many of the stories contained in this collection retain their edge. While I didn’t care much for the fantasy included in this collection (personal bias) the science fiction is top notch. Ballard and Disch never let down and their stories in this collection are no exception. John Sladek and David Redd’s stories are fun and more light hearted then the others, but for me Barrington Bayley’s “Exit From City 5” is the jewel of the anthology. I had not read him before and greatly enjoyed his existential look at the universe shrinking before our eyes, that space is truly nothing without containing matter. The book also contains some great illustrations by R. Glyn Jones. I highly recommend this one and look forward to reading the follow up volumes.
Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis – Science Fiction – 1965 – 8 of 10
This is the first book in the ambiguously named Space Trilogy. I haven’t yet decided if I will continue the series but I immensely enjoyed the first instalment. A man is kidnapped and sent to Mars as an apparent sacrifice to the sentient beings of the planet. Once arriving and escaping the protagonist discovers that there are multiple sentient species and attempts to overcome the present language barriers. I always find this an intriguing premise and love books that deal with language and communication. I also love the idea of multiple sentient species developing together on a planet and sharing cultures. Great aliens and a great story overall.
Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor – Speculative Fiction – 2014 – 7 of 10
At first I found the use of dialect and Nigerian slang difficult until I discovered the helpful glossary in the back of the book. I recommend familiarizing yourself with the glossary before diving into the book. The aliens in this book are a neat variation on the shapeshifter and I enjoyed the ambiguity of whether or not they are visiting as friends or foes, as any alien contact would have many communication barriers. Okorafor has a breezy casual style to her writing that makes it quite readable if you can get past the Pidgin English passages. Towards the end of the book some of the characters start to have super powers that pushed the book into the fantasy realm and I found that the further it got from science fiction the less I was enjoying the story. However it was interesting how the book revolved heavily around Nigerian social issues and it makes a strong case for stories taking place outside of the western world. Science fiction is a wonderful avenue for exploring societal problems and issues and certainly these vary from place to place. I find that fiction is the emotional history of the people, so I was pleased to be reading the unique perspective of this book.
The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies – John Scalzi – Reference – 2005 – 8 of 10
Normally I wouldn’t read a book about films but since Scalzi wrote this one I had to give it a shot, and I’m glad that I did. The introductory chapter that discusses the history of sci-fi films was particularly illuminating and I’m grateful to this book for turning me on to so many films that I hadn’t previously seen (I thought I was well versed in SF films). The Canon section of the book, which goes into detail about 50 films, is certainly not the list that I would have chosen, but nevertheless covers a lot of ground. Unfortunately this book came out in 2005, so the list doesn’t include more recent films but overall this book is a great resource for the history of SF films both the greats and schlock. If you are interested in the genre I recommend this book, it’s a unique perspective offered by one of the contemporary greats of science fiction.
Pilgrimage – Zenna Henderson – Science Fiction – 1961 – 6 of 10
This book was fun but not my cup of tea. While billed as science fiction I felt that it read more as a fantasy novel, evoking magic rather than science. I enjoyed how the book was set up as a series of oral histories, slowly unfolding what is happening almost as an epistolary, but that being said it was a little on the slow side. What I did like about this book is that it all took place in rural settings, almost in the vein of Clifford Simak. There isn’t enough pastoral science fiction out there, and one can tire of cities and futuristic settings.
The Hate Poems – John Tottenham – Poetry – 2018 – 9 of 10
Years ago I discovered a logic loop for the path toward success. If you make your goal to fail, then if you fail – you succeed, and if you succeed you still succeed. A full proof attitude toward achieving success. John Tottenham seems to have harnessed this logic loop for the creation of poetry. This book is full of beautiful and honest failure, a litany of things that most people leave unsaid. But Tottenham doesn’t hold back and lays it all down on the table, while allowing the work to be sardonically funny. What looks like uncertainty and self-loathing strikes me as an elaborately planned ruse in the name of comedy. Even the introduction looks down upon the work, and instead of praising the book criticizes it heavily. While I would have given the book a 10 rating it self-consciously falls just shy of making it… so 9 it is.
On the Beach – Nevil Shute – Post-Apocalyptic – 1957 – 5 of 10
This book is a post-apocalyptic tale about waiting for nuclear fallout from a war that was so devastating and quick that no one really knows what happened or why. While the story is bleak it isn’t negative. In fact, the main thing that struck me about this book is the human attempt to stay positive and hopeful even when faced with impending doom, even to the point of deluding oneself. While not much really happens in the book the characters type of engagement with each other suggests that while everyone has really lost hope, they do their best to keep it alive as a communal thing. Knowing something to be untrue but believing it anyway because it’s easier. In this way the book really speaks to the human condition and I think that is one of the responsibilities of a good novel. However, I’m still on the fence as to whether not I really enjoyed this book. Sad and beautiful at times, it does a great job of expressing the fear in the 1950s surrounding the possibility of nuclear attack.
Mockingbird – Walter Tevis – Science Fiction – 1980 – 8 of 10
Reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World but with Tevis’ brand of sad romance. As with The Man Who Fell to Earth this book is about becoming human, but instead of an alien discovering his humanity this story is about humans rediscovering their heritage in a world where reading has become illegal and robots keep mankind in a stupor of drugs and entertainment, discouraging any emotional interaction between people. Privacy has become the most important thing in people’s lives and even making eye contact is discouraged. And this is the world in which unfolds a love story about regaining human dignity. There are vivid scenes of comradery, of ignorance, and the absurdity of allowing machines to run the show, about the future being placed in the hands of one individual. A terrible responsibility that no one could possibly be prepared for, certainly not using machine logic. Overall this was a wonderful book, not quite the tear-jerker that was The Man Whole Fell to Earth, but well worth reading. I’m looking forward to reading more of Tevis’ books as he has proved to be a consistently wonderful writer.
The Hunger – Whitley Strieber – Horror – 1981 – 7 of 10
Generally I am not a reader of horror, but this book came highly recommended by a customer, I loved the movie (anything with Bowie), and when I found out that Whitley Strieber was the author I had to read it. One of the better vampire stories I have read, a fresh and original take to the trope while including a science fiction element explaining what vampires are, and dealing with the physiological elements of aging. While not exactly scary, this book had some wonderfully horrifying scenes of not just eternal life but of eternal death. I particularly enjoyed the flashbacks in this book to previous times in history including the downfall of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages (skipped over in the film). I don’t want to give too much away about how this book unfolds but I will say that I loved the descriptions of the vampires need for blood, treated as almost an addiction / withdrawal scenario, vividly portrayed, undoing many of the romantic notions of vampirism.
Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds – Science Fiction – 2000 – 8 of 10
A grand epic space opera. For the first hundred pages of this book I wasn’t sold. It developed slowly and was slightly difficult to follow because of the relativistic time differences between the characters and unfolding sub-plots. But I am glad that I held out and kept reading. Right after page 100 the book started to get more and more interesting. Truly alien cultures begin to emerge and as the sub-plots come together the book gets more and more exciting. I applaud Reynolds for his super creative invention of ancient alien civilizations and a history of the galaxy explaining why we don’t encounter more civilization like our own. The scale of this book way truly immense and included not only great aliens, for instance an intelligent ocean that can absorb your thoughts and connect you with the thoughts of other aliens, but also great action, philosophical implications, and many unexpected twist that I did not have seen coming. I’m looking forward to reading more of his novels and finding out if he always writes on such a grand scale. Recommended for all fans of space opera.
Spin – Robert Charles Wilson – Science Fiction – 2005 – 8 of 10
This book won the 2006 Hugo award and in my opinion was completely worthy of the prize. A massive galactic story but with plenty of action grounded on earth and great character development. Super interesting use of relativity and time alteration are an integral part of the plot and makes the space travel more plausible and fascinating. This is another one of those massive scale stories but not difficult to follow because of the way that it is handled. I enjoyed how this book took on huge concepts that effect all mankind and its place in the universe but at the same time kept it human, about human reaction to incredible events, and didn’t get too lost in the technicalities while still utilizing science as a major plot point. It also addressed philosophical and religious issues making it a truly well rounded read.
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson – Science Fiction – 1954 – 9 of 10
Many of you have probably seen at least one of the three movies adapted from this short novel. All three of the films pale in comparison with the book and leave out its most compelling aspects. I Am Legend is a story about vampires but takes a fresh science fiction interpretation of the classic monster. What struck me as the most important element of this book was the way that emotion was handled and this is where the films truly lacked. The situation that the protagonist is in is vividly and accurately expressed, a perfect portrayal of what one might go through under the circumstance of being alone and being surrounded by perceived monsters. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of why vampires are afraid of crosses, Matheson develops a perfectly plausible explanation for all of the classic vampire tropes and does so in such a way that pushes the book from the territory of horror into science fiction. I won’t give away the ending but it really brings the horror and existential crisis home in a gruesome way.
Blood Music – Greg Bear – Science Fiction – 1985 – 10 of 10
Greg Bear is quickly becoming one of my favorites. This particular book is medical science fiction, which in my opinion is a sub-genre that deserves more exploration. By far this book contains some of the most original ideas that I have encountered in a long time. For a small book the scale of the story is tremendous. Without spoiling the book I’d like to mention one of the most interesting ideas proposed within the story. In quantum physics it has been proven that the observer of an experiment alters the outcome of said experiment. In this book when observation is concentrated to a large degree the universe has a difficult time adjusting to the observation, and therefore warps the fabric of space-time. I won’t go further into it so as not to give away too much of the story, but this book will have you pondering the mysteries of the universe long after you read it. I highly recommend this book and am greatly looking forward to reading more of his novels. On a side note I also recently listened to the Greg Bear story “Webster” from the Mindwebs radio program, and I highly recommend that too.