It's a busy few months, hence my recent absence. Apologies to all. At least we've finally gone live at Somerset's Information Superhighway Central, and (shock horror) doubled in size (if you count the summer students). That and helping Mary fight recalcitrant laser printers as we struggled to finish Evolution's special Intersection book have managed to eat time. It's at the printers now, and looks really nice. [start plug] 40 or so pages about our various guests (hi Maureen and Paul!) from Neil Gaiman, Geoff Ryman, Michael Moorcock, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Marvin Minsky, Jim Burns, and Chris Priest and Dave Langford. Illustrations are by SMS, Jim Porter and Jim Burns - so collect your copy from the Evolution desk! This book will only be available at Intersection...[end plug]
Pottering round by the lake at work today I saw something wonderful. No fairies at the bottom of the waterfall here, UK Online's ammonite strewn world remains distinctly antediluvian. In the warm waters of a shallow pool primeval monsters lurk: crustacean masters of all they survey. I'd never seen crayfish before - and these were big! At least 10 inches long, with powerful claws to match. It's nice to know that at least in the Mendips the water is clear and clean again enough to allow these beautiful (and they are - wonderful salmon pinks) creatures to recolonise their old homes.
So, on with the show...
I've been a bit too busy recently to sit down and produce a long piece, so I'm going to try and pack in as many capsule reviews as possible. Hopefully I'll have time to work on the extended Mike Scott Rohan piece before the next mailing.
Seasons Of Plenty: Colin Greenland.
Another Acnestoid offering for SFX, and as they pay for your soul, all I can say is that this is a really really good book, and if you haven't read it by now you should read it as soon as possible.
Cold Allies: Patricia Anthony
This was a Confabulation "looks interesting" purchase that has finally made its way to the top of the to-be-read bookcase. This is a strange, distant, tale of alien intervention in a post Global-warming war. Anthony's sparse prose gives the strange blue lights a sense of mystery and threat that I found enthralling. She writes as well as Robert Charles Wilson or Robert Reed. Highly recommended.
Vanishing Point: Michaela Roessner
I was ten when I read George Stewart's Earth Abides, and his image of a deserted world, where nature is beginning to reclaim its own has never left me. Michaela Roessner's House has the same feel. 90 percent of the human race disappeared one night, and the children of the survivors are something very different. This is an unusual melange of speculative quantum physics and survivor novel. It's a pity that a book like this is almost unlikely to ever be published in Britain...
The Texas-Israeli War: 1999: Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop
Howard Waldrop is the master of High Weirdness (and Kim Newman is his only prophet), and I'm an addict. I'll often be found in second hand bookshops scouring the magazine racks, hunting for elusive copies of Shayol, just to find first appearances of his short stories. For a long time this, his first novel, was near the top of my most-wanted list. The anticipation, the delight on finding it, the crushing disappointment when I finally read it. Thank goodness for Them Bones and A Dozen Tough Jobs: with novels like them I can forgive him this pot boiler...
Flies From The Amber: Wil McCarthy
The Net liked his first book, so I took a look at his second. Not bad, not bad at all. This is nineties rethink space opera. In a precarious colony system a mining ship finds a strange mineral on a shattered asteroid. An STL research ship is sent from Earth, only to find every specimen of the mineral used as jewelry. Meanwhile, in the nearby black hole a forever war is about to peek its head above the event horizon, and it's going to be a miracle if anyone survives. McCarthy has written a novel full of that ole sensawunda stuff. A welcome dose of good old fashioned Sf with a 90s kick.
Nimbus: Alexander Jablokov
This is Jablokov's third novel, and it's a worthy successor to A Deeper Ocean. A group of hot-housed scientists is brought back into contact by the death of one of it's members. Jablokov's sympathetic treatment of people who in any sane world would be war criminals is thought provoking. The world of Nimbus certainly isn't sane, still reeling from the chaos of a thousand Bosnias. It's a place where it's as easy to change your mind as it is your face. There's a theme in Jablokov's works, an exploration of what it is in war that drives people to extremes. I look forward to more of his books.
Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder, The Nano Flower: Peter Hamilton
Rutland Weekend Science Fiction. Sci-fi techno thrillers with a psychic private eye in post-Warming Peterborough. It seems rather trite, but Hamilton works very hard at his storytelling, and you can't help but want to read more of Greg Mandel's adventures. This loose trilogy would probably make a good set of holiday books...
In The Cube: David Alexander Smith
Future Boston isn't the home of Cheers. It's a shared world that's produced one anthology and this novel. I first came across the project in the Dozois Best Sf Of The Year collections, and have enjoyed watching it achieve critical acclaim. Smith's novel is a Chandleresque pot-boiler that explores the links between guilt, remorse, hate and love. A remarkable book that transcends the shared world concept.
The Unwound Way: Bill Adams and Cecil Brooks
Masonic rituals and drama are the heart of this rather fun little space opera. A playwright returns from a hundred year journey to find that his old university club now rules the known stars, and he's the only man who remembers the one true way. I'm still not sure how to judge this book, but apparently there's a sequel, so I'll give it a try... I'd like to see what happens next...
Lion's Heart, Lion's Soul: Karen Wehrstein
Two more volumes of the Fifth Millennium shared world, a rather entertaining little Canadian project, which brought us the Flecker-quoting closet liberal S. M. Stirling. (I'm always amazed at the way that right wing Pournelle clones take his anti-fascist alternate history Draka novels as a paean for their "one true way". Takes all sorts I suppose...) But I digress. Wehrstein's diptych is an interesting study of the effects of power (in all its manifestations) on a doomed young ruler. Not as fun as their swashbuckling companion volumes, these were still an interesting read.
Resurrection: Katherine Kerr
This novella is an alternate world tale of brain damage, love and redemption. Slim, well written. It's worth an evening of anyone's time.
Groundties, Uplink, Harmonies Of The Net: Jane S. Fancher
Oh dear. It's never a good idea to pick up all three volumes of a series in one go. It's also probably not a good idea to plow through all three in the hope that there might be something there. Unfortunately there wasn't. I can't really get to grips with a bunch of unsympathetic cardboard characters bouncing around in a pseudo-Cherryh cyberpunkish world. Avoid.
What Entropy Means To Me: George Alec Effinger
Effinger's first novel is a Laffertyesque tale of religion and politics far removed from the tales of Muffy Birnbaum (Barbarian Jewish Princess) and the hard-boiled Marid Audran. I can't praise it too highly - Effinger's brave mix of narrative and story-telling points at what he sees as the flaws at the heart of Western society. Stylistically, it's Tove Jansson meets William Burroughs, all mixed up with the unreality of classic Dick. This is one to scour the second-hand bookshops for.
His Kisses are Dreamy...But The Hairballs Down My Cleavage...
Bill the Cat and Opus march across the landscape of politics in the latest collection of Outland cartoons. Doonesbury taken to Herriman's extremes, this is a surreal exploration of the contradictions at the heart of 90's America. The Bill the Gates sequence is also rather fun - a strange melding of the Fly and Microsoft...
Diamond Age: Neal Stephenson
Another SFX review! This is a more mature novel than Snowcrash, a Victorian sprawl of a book that follows lives through a post-nanotech world. But is that Y.T. I see? Can this be (gasp) a Sequel?
And on the to-be-read-shelf this week are:
Legacy, Greg Bear; Gun With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem; Pasquale's Angel, Paul McAuley; Demon Night, J.M. Straczynski (yes - a novel from the creator of the lucious Babylon 5); Silverlock, John Myers Myers - and sundry others... Not forgetting this weekend's planned trip to Hay On Wye...
This was another Acnestis contribution from:
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