Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thompson, Entanglement (2012)

Douglas Thompson, Entanglement. Elsewhen Press, 2012. Pp. 288. ISBN 9781908168054 print/9781908168153 e-book. $15.99/$3.99.

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Caveat: My own Exaggerated Press published Douglas Thompson’s novel Apoidea in 2011. I have endeavoured to offer a fair and unbiased review of this novel.

Entanglement is an intelligent, adult science fiction novel that blends the new with the old. Like all good SF, its futuristic technologies are founded on present day developments and theories. Its foundation, therefore, is solid. At the same time, Entanglement is imbued with a Golden Age sense of wonder. There are moments when it possesses an almost Wellsian feel, moments that are Swift-like in their satiric incisiveness, then others when it reminded me of the great Robert Silverberg.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cronin, y1 (2012)

Sherrie Cronin, y1, Cinnabar Press, 2012. Pp. 338. ISBN 978-0-9851561-1-4. $9.99.

Reviewed by Martha Hubbard

y1, the second of a projected six-part series of novels by geophysicist and seismologist Sherrie Cronin, is a complex and deceptive book to describe. On the surface, it is about the struggle of people who are physically, sexually and emotionally different to find a place and be accepted in that place. Also a murder mystery, several love stories, as well a kidnapping and an exposé of the pharmaceutical industry unfold during the course of the novel. This complex plot, which seems too much for a single volume, is nonetheless interesting and readable, spoiled only by infodumps of propagandist social and economic theory, and poor portrayal of women.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bogle, Frank Herbert (2012)

Bob R Bogle, Frank Herbert: The Works. Self-published, 2012. Pp. c.760. ISBN 978-0-9855893-0-1. $6.50.

Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Of one thing, there can be no doubt, this biography is a labour of love. Frank Herbert: The Works is an overview of the life and written output of one of the most influential of post-war science fiction writers. Written in a clear, readable style, it is at once a fascinating account of the main points in Herbert’s life and an astonishingly in-depth analysis of his stories.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tassie, Green Blood Rising (2012)

Lea Tassie, Green Blood Rising. Smashwords, 2012. Pp. 239. ISBN 978-0-9864709-5-0 (e-book)/978-0-9864709-4-3 (print). $2.99/$16.00.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

In a tale of ecological threat, for the protagonists of Green Blood Rising, the world ends not with a bang of explosive force, but the soft, quiet sound of trees, growing fast and far beyond their natural rate.

This book merrily follows in the tradition of more ‘intimate’ emergencies, following a select group of people through a major upheaval; a trend begun with the founding fathers of ‘sci fi’ in the 1890s. The themes may relate to far wider concerns, but the action centres on just a few individuals, and there is much explication—the science in the fiction as important as the drama of the events. There is a considerable amount of explication in this book, rather than being simply an emotional roller-coaster ride. It harks back to a subtler style of slowly increasing menace and creeping unease. For the danger comes not from the ‘threat’ (vegetative overgrowth disrupting human society), but the reactive panic and violence that the fall of society triggers. The real threat is human in origin, and remains so. It also belongs to the sub-genre of ‘nature has turned.’ Whereas a lot of doom-laden apocalyptic scenarios rely on bombs, wars (again, the human threat), these present a blasted world on which humans scrabble to survive. This time it is the solid overgrowth of trees that brings society to its knees in a world rendered a great deal more green and pleasant than before. And one cannot escape Tassie’s implicit commentary on the fragility of modern life, divorced as it is from the natural world and its resources. With transport down and food lines disrupted, life on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, as well as odd reports from further afield, inserted in as the characters learn them, show that the world—human society, that is—is going to hell in a hand-basket.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren (2013)

Nisi Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. Carl Brandon Society, 2013. Pp. 442. ISBN 978-1-61138-237-2. $8.01.

Reviewed by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (the second of two reviews of this title)

Bloodchildren is a collection of stories by past recipients of the Octavia E. Butler scholarship to the prestigious Clarion and Clarion West writers’ workshops. The Hugo and Nebula-award winning Butler is one of the most well-known and best-loved African-American writers of Science Fiction. In her (comparatively) short life, she left a rich and brilliant body of work. This eclectic, electronic anthology, edited by Nisi Shawl, is a fund-raiser for the foundation that continues the work Butler did promoting under-told styles and perspectives. It is a welcome reminder of how essential it is to provide alternative voices in writing, particularly in genre writing—providing a balance to a mainstream whose focus is invariably the Anglophone male’s point-of-view.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Murrain, The Right Asteroid (2012)

Michelle Murrain, The Right Asteroid: The Cassiopeia Chronicles (Book 1). Ursa Minor Publishing, 2012. Pp. 262. ISBN 978-1-4776093-2-3. $10.00.

Reviewed by Margrét Helgadóttir

The Right Asteroid, the first book in The Cassiopeia Chronicles by California-based author Michelle Murrain, was published late in 2012 by Ursa Minor Publishing. This fast-paced adventure story with a strong flavour of grandiose space opera and Wild West narrative tells of a future world where humans have lived in colonies for generations on Mars and Moon and want independence from Earth and the company SolGov. When an alien probe is discovered and the aliens are heading for Mars, it sets off a chain of events that have an strong impact not only on the human colonies and their relationship to Earth, but also on the individuals who fight their own struggles: the loss of a son and not knowing how he died, editors who censor your stories before publishing them, the military leader who has ethical doubts about following orders, or the woman who realizes that her lesbian lover isn’t in love with her, but with the exploration of Space. The book is entertaining and builds complex and realistic worlds. It also has a colourful palette of characters, from lesbian protagonists to a Baptist preacher and the black politician. The book has some minor flaws, but is all in all well worth reading for open-minded science fiction fans.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Keeton/King, Nimbus (2012)

B.J. Keeton and Austin King, Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel (Part One). Amazon, 2012. Pp. 106. ASIN B007YJ5A82. $2.99.

Reviewed by Steven Pirie

I’ve a confession. For personal reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve sat on writing this review for ages. When I took the review on, Nimbus: A Steampunk Novel Part One was the first instalment of a four part work with the other three parts not yet written. Now, all four episodes are written and available for your reading pleasure, and in many ways I’m happy with my delay. I didn’t watch any of the Lord of the Rings until all three films were ‘out there’, and I’ll do the same with The Hobbit. I like to look at completed works—that’s my excuse, anyway.

Nimbus is billed as a Steam Punk novel, and given it’s a tale of steam-powered airships and wheelchairs there’s some truth in this. But the technology is not forced upon the reader. Instead, it forms a subtle background to a tale (so far) of isolation, but there’s more going on than the whir of cogs and the hiss of steam.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren (2013)

Nisi Shawl (ed.), Bloodchildren: Stories by the Octavia E. Butler Scholars. Carl Brandon Society, 2013. Pp. 442. ISBN 978-1-61138-237-2. $8.01.

Reviewed by Peter Kaptein (the first of two reviews of this title.)

Bloodchildren, an anthology being sold to raise money for the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Clarion Fund, is available only until June 22, 2013—Octavia Butler’s birthday—from Book View Café for the price of $8.01 for the EPUB or Mobi e-book. Each of the eleven new authors has been a recipient of the Octiavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship which enables writers of color to attend one of the two yearly Clarion writing workshops. A story by Octavia Butler herself brings the anthology to twelve. In Bloodchildren you will find augmented people running faster than humanly possible, performing ritual dances to the rich and the clueless. You will find female, homosexual, Indian and black protagonists. There is the occasional heterosexual male in two stories—and only one of them is white. You will find hunger. Demi-gods. Airships, monkeys and mutiny. Stories from the point of view of the dispossessed and the subjected. Stories about outsiders. Stories of magic, escape and slavery. Stories in outer space and on earth. Stories of loneliness and love. Eight out of the twelve stories in “Bloodchildren” are really close to amazing, but the anthology feels almost rushed in its release.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Koponen, World SF in Translation (2012)

Jari Koponen, World SF in Translation: Bibliography. Avain/BTJ Finland Oy, 2012. Pp. 429. ISBN 978-951-692-944-9. €48.00.

Reviewed by Kathryn Allan

Sometimes things get lost in the mail. It happens. When the journey from point A to point B crosses two continents and the Atlantic Ocean, it is understandable that a few packages will lose their way. I like to believe that my review copy of World SF in Translation was lost in the icy, wintery sea. Or, perhaps, it fell into the hands of a lonely, SF-loving mail carrier who was too taken by the happy little robo-astronaut on the bibliography’s cover to pass it on. I will never know what happened to my lost book, but the publisher of World SF in Translation, Avain, was gracious enough to provide me an e-book copy. Whether in paper or digital format, at first glance, Finnish SF scholar Jari Koponen’s bibliography is overwhelming. Written in three languages—Finnish, Swedish, and English (with translation of the Preface by Ben Roimola [Swedish] and Elina Koskelin [English])—the bibliography is not a resource for the casual reader of SF. World SF in Translation is a text for the serious student or scholar, in particular those interested in non-Anglo-American utopian literature and SF. Once I was comfortable with the sheer number of entries (around 3,500, give or take a hundred), it was a lot of fun skimming through the book to occasionally find a familiar name and be impressed by SF’s prodigious reach across the globe.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nayman, Welcome to the Multiverse (2012)

Ira Nayman, Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the inconvenience). Elsewhen Press, 2012. Pp. 336. ISBN 978-1-908168-19-1 (e-book)/978-1-908168-09-2 (paperback). $3.99/$15.99.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

Speculative fiction is all about the extension of debates on humanity and its many facets, an open field on which authors may use parable in multiple genres. For the most part, this means taking the reader on a flight of fancy into which ideas or arguments are divvied out and brought forward as points of narrative interest, underpinning and structuring the plot like a… really well-fitting bra. If this is the case, then Multiverse is more of a corset of a book; one never forgets the structuring, clearly visible so close to the surface, and the dialogue between reader and narrative is not so much a creative discussion as an exercise in self-reflexive cleverness. It’s a flashy number, but not without its moments of fun.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Flynn, Messiah Game (2012)

Tom Flynn, The Messiah Game: A Comedy of Terrors Part I. See Sharp Press, 2012. Pp. 246. ISBN 978-1-9372760-4-1. $11.95.

Reviewed by Brian Eisley

Part I of The Messiah Game: A Comedy of Terrors presents a complex and fascinating interstellar society with a rich and little-understood history, and uses it as the backdrop for a cutting satire on religious belief. The author, Tom Flynn, is a prominent figure in the atheist and secular humanist movements, as executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine. In this book—previously published in 2002 as the first part of a single novel, Galactic Rapture—he uses many of the standard tropes of science fiction to ruthlessly skewer religious leaders and believers of all types.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Sivertsen, Shianshenka (2011)

Rowen Sivertsen, Shianshenka, the Rise and Fall of the Perfect Creation. Birch Tree Road Publishing, 2011. Pp. 366. ISBN 978-8-2998770-0-8. $10.00.

Reviewed by Kate Onyett

This lengthy and involved narrative is the epic of the Zhongzi—their culture’s rise and fall, as the title tells us. They are little man-made life forms, no bigger than a palm of a hand. They are made to be ‘perfect’ by their human bioengineer; to never need to be violent, never to suffer excessive pain, never to fear for food or a partner to reproduce, never to question their existence, as they all carry specific Callings (drives towards specific intellectual pursuit). These critters are dropped onto a planet, wild with geothermic activity and toxic to humans, as an experiment in survival. Thus begins the Zhongzis’ existence, as we follow first one, and then another as they awaken to consciousness high above the ocean, the main land mass and the geysers of the planet, which will be the three main stages for their play.