Pohl, Frederik. Heechee Rendezvous.

NY: Ballantine Books, 1984.

This is the third volume in what turned out to be a four-decker featuring the now-aging Robin Broadhead, who, decades ago, turned a lucky strike as a prospector of alien artifacts into an immense fortune, with which he has been trying ever since to save the world from itself. When they vanished a few hundred thousand years ago, the Heechee left a lot of interesting stuff lying around the galaxy (deliberately, it turns out), and some of it may help our world solve its starvation and poverty problems.


Published in: on 29 October 2010 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pohl, Frederik. Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.

NY: Ballantine, 1980.

The first installment in this inevitably multi-volume saga was Gateway, which justifiably won every award available. This second round suffers (also inevitably) from a certain amount of sequelitis (also known as “playing it safe”), but it’s not a bad story. Robin Broadhead, thoroughly neurotic prospector for alien treasures, struck it lucky — while also losing his (maybe) true love though gaining a different one — and is now a ridiculously wealthy tycoon on a mission: He’s determined to find a way to rescue the lady and the rest of his friends from the black hole in which he was forced to leave them.


Published in: on 26 October 2010 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cherryh, C. J. Tripoint.

NY: Warner, 1994.

Cherryh has developed a number of fictional universes over the years — and done it exceptionally well — but the favorite of many of her readers, and the one where she has spent the most time, is the Union/Alliance future, where the major players are the scattered space stations built to orbit far stars, first by Earth and then by Earth’s rebellious colonies, plus the mostly independent merchanters, the long-haul freight-carrying ships that hold everything together.


Published in: on 24 October 2010 at 12:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pohl, Frederik. Gateway.

NY: Ballantine, 1977.

Fred Pohl is, without any argument, one of the half-dozen most important, most creative, most productive, most readable science fiction authors since World War II — though he was editing pulps even before that. The man is over 90 now, and still working. But at the time of its publication, he said himself that he thought Gateway was his best work to date. Everyone else agreed, and he won not only the Hugo and the Nebula, but also the Campbell Award. (Later, he even won the National Book Award for Jem — a rare feat for an sf novel.) And why is this such a great book?


Published in: on 20 October 2010 at 7:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Powers, Tim. Earthquake Weather.

NY: Tor, 1997.

Ordinarily, when I write a review — and I write a great many of them — I try to summarize at least the salient points of the story and the plot, both to identify the book and to try to rope in potential readers. But I’m having a hard time doing that with this book; there’s just so much story here. It’s the third volume of a trilogy: Expiration Date was not a sequel to the award-winning Last Call but a work parallel to it; Earthquake Weather is very much a sequel to both the earlier works at once. (more…)

Published in: on 18 October 2010 at 5:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Wooster, Robert. The Civil War Bookshelf.

NY: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing, 2001.

Anyone who proposes to recommend the fifty “must-read” or “core” books in any field is going to start arguments — but that’s probably a good thing. Wooster is a long-time professor of U.S. history with a string of publishing credits of his own having to do with the Civil War, and his opinions are certainly worth considering. The problem, of course, is that the War is undoubtedly the single most popular publishing topic in American history, more than 50,000 works having been written to date. A couple dozen of those have been big sellers and controversy-magnets among the general reading public, and have won Pulitzers and National Book Awards.


Published in: on 13 October 2010 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Pope, Dudley. Ramage’s Diamond.

NY: Simon& Schuster, 1976.

The book before this seventh one in the generally excellent and highly enjoyable Napoleonic naval series was not one of the author’s more successful efforts, focusing as it did on Lieut. Lord Nicholas Ramage’s undercover mission into Boulogne to spy out the French preparations for the invasion of Britain. Ramage did well out of it, however, being made post into a frigate by the First Lord himself.


Published in: on 11 October 2010 at 12:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Powers, Tim. Expiration Date.

NY: Tor, 1996.

There are two cities in the world where it’s easy to believe that almost anything might happen. One is London, and Neil Gaiman and China Mieville can tell you all about what happens there. The other is Los Angeles (with Las Vegas, perhaps, as a distant psychic suburb), and Tim Powers (who lives in Orange County) is its resident expert. To anyone who knows the City of Angels, it doesn’t seem that farfetched to be told that most of its wandering street people are actually solidified ghosts, too crazed to know they’re dead.


Published in: on 5 October 2010 at 7:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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Hughes, Kathryn. The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton.

NY: Knopf, 2005.

Many years ago, in pursuit of a graduate degree in history, I took a colloquium in “Nineteenth Century Domestic History” (for the simple reason that it fit into my schedule) and have been fascinated ever since by the Victorian household, the upstairs-downstairs dichotomy, the manner in which the “service” way of life affected the architecture of the private home, and all the other aspects of middle-class domestic existence in Britain a century and a half ago that would seem irredeemably alien to most people now.


Published in: on 2 October 2010 at 1:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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