Card, Orson Scott (ed.). Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Century.

NY: Ace Books, 2001.

“Best of” anthologies by multiple authors are a good way to catch up on above-average stories you might have missed the first time around, or to revisit those you haven’t seen in some time. But while there’s some superior writing among the twenty-seven short pieces in this volume, “best of the century” considerably overstates the case.

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Published in: on 20 June 2017 at 4:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Feintuch, David. Challenger’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1995.

This is the second volume of the “Seafort Saga,” featuring young Commander Nick Seafort of the UN Naval Service in the late 22nd century, and it’s natural to compare it with the first volume, in which an eighteen-year-old midshipmen suddenly finds himself in command of — and responsible for — a passenger-carrying warship. Nick triumphed over a long list of a wide variety of adversities on that first voyage, even while developing a pretty low opinion of his own abilities.

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Fialkov, Joshua Hale & Joe Infurnari. The Bunker, Vol. 1.

Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2014.

Imagine five friends just graduated from college who decide to put together a time capsule to commemorate their friendship before they separate to pursue their careers. And imagine that, when they start digging the hole to bury it, they discover a concealed underground bunker that holds letters addressed to four of them written by their future selves.

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Pratchett, Terry. Johnny and the Bomb.

NY: HarperCollins, 1996.

This is the third adventure of thirteen-year-old Johnny Maxwell and it’s also the closest to a classic science fiction plot. Johnny has been working on a project for school (telling adults you’re “doing a project” will get you in almost anywhere you really ought not to be) on the bombing of his little town of Blackbury by the Germans during World War II. It was all a mistake, the Luftwaffe thought it was somewhere else, but an entire street was destroyed and all its residents killed.

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Corey, James S. A. Cibola Burn.

NY: Orbit Books, 2014.

This writing team has recently been turning out some of the best hell-for-leather space opera I’ve read in years, and this fourth volume in the “Expanse” series maintains both the quality and the pace. The cumulative plot has become very complex (don’t even think of starting this epic anywhere but at the beginning), and I won’t attempt to summarize what came before, but suffice it to say that the Protomolecule hasn’t disappeared. Or at least its legacy is still around.

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Anvil, Christopher. Pandora’s Planet.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

Anvil never really hit the big time, but he was a popular author in the 1970s and ’80s, when he was a regular contributor to ANALOG. His signature style was wry and ironic observations and commentary about those irritating humans, and this novel (his third) is filled with that sort of thing. It’s an original on the “invasion of Earth” theme, in that the Centrans (who somewhat resemble humanoid lions) conquer our planet — but just barely.

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Pratchett, Terry. Only You Can Save Mankind.

NY: Doubleday, 1992.

Terry Pratchett requires no introduction, being one of the most-read authors in English, and for very good reasons. The Discworld novels have a wide, enthusiastic fan base of all ages (including me for many years), but his other books may not be so well known, especially those written specifically, theoretically, for adolescents. Still, being Sir Terry’s work, they’re still very much worth reading — and, naturally, very, very funny.

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Published in: on 27 April 2017 at 4:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 2.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2016.

The first volume, in which we met Hachi Hoshino, orbital garbage man, and the debris-collection crew of which he is a part, was an amazing combination of plot, narrative, characterization, philosophy, and nicely done, very clean art to support it all. The overarching theme there was the preparation for the seven-year exploratory voyage to Jupiter, and Hachi’s determination to be a part of it, no matter what.

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Yukimura, Makoto. Planetes. Vol. 1.

Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2015.

It’s 2075 and Earth orbit is just another place to earn a living. Hachirota Hoshino — known to his cohorts as “Hachimaki,” because he often wears one — has been a professional astronaut for three years now, but any lingering romance that might still attach to working in space and living on the Moon has been squelched by the fact that he’s essentially a garbage man. He’s part of the three-person crew of an old, rather junky ship that collects dead satellites, broken-off booster parts, and other debris from the orbital traffic lanes near Earth.

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Feintuch, David. Midshipman’s Hope.

NY: Warner Aspect, 1994.

Everyone says this opening volume of the “Seafort Saga,” which won the Campbell Award, is based heavily on Horatio Hornblower, but those people apparently don’t actually read Napoleonic naval adventures. The set-up is actually much more like Dudley Pope’s first novel featuring Lieut. Nicholas Ramage, in which the youngest and least experienced officer aboard a British warship suddenly finds himself thrust into command in the middle of a crisis. Because that’s what happens here, more or less.

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