John C. Wright’s “non-review” of E.E. Smith’s Galactic Patrol is a worthy read for fans of space opera. http://ow.ly/pNia2
Tagged: review RSS
The Daily Mail’s early review of Star Trek Into Darkness review is short on gravitas, but long on praise. http://t.co/8ULrM5VlS3
Anyone who’s followed Star Trek: The Next Generation for any period of time will surely be familiar with the names Michael and Denise Okuda.
He was the show’s lead graphic designer and she served in several consulting roles with TNG and other Trek incarnations. The couple have come out with a book called On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise which is a perfect introduction to the fabled NCC-1701D helmed by Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
It’s an oversized coffee-table book that is colourfully illustrated with photos from the show and computer-generated images to explain the workings of the Enterprise.
The book starts out with a brief history of the vessel, highlights of some memorable voyages, introductions to the main characters and a section-by-section breakdown of the ship. It covers:
- The bridge
- Tactical systems
- Transporter room
- Science labs
- Living quarters
- Ten Forward
- Cargo bay
- Ship’s services
There is also a variety of illustrations showing views of the ship from different angles, including some multi-page foldouts.
The book also comes with a DVD that contains three-dimensional views of all of the ship sections listed above which you can explore with your mouse. My only gripe is that there isn’t more explanatory text in these images. You can click around all you want, but you’re not always sure what you’re looking at.
So who is this book for and why now? In the introduction, the Okudas mention they are working on a project to remaster the Next Generation episodes so I would guess this book is meant to tie into that and serve as a reference to new fans.
The content is very top-level so long-time fans won’t find much new in this book. It appears to be geared at younger fans who are just getting in to the show. I’ve always felt that Star Trek has done a poor job of cultivating a new generation of fans compared to Star Wars. George Lucas’ creation has always had toys and cartoons aimed at younger audiences while Star Trek rarely did. This book would certainly be the sort of thing you would use to try to convert your own kids to Trek fandom.
Sadly, neither of my kids want anything to do with Star Trek. If Dad likes it, then it can’t be cool. Maybe I’ll sneak in a copy of On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise on to their bookshelves and keep my fingers crossed.
A review copy of the book was provided to us by Barron’s.
The great thing about technology is it is now possible for anyone to publish their own book. You could also say the bad thing about technology is that it is now possible for anyone to publish their own book.
Because it is now so easy to create, publish and sell your own book, there has been a veritable explosion of self-published titles. The runaway success of books like Fifty Shades of Grey has only helped to fuel the Gold Rush.
Undoubtedly, a lot of the books that people are flogging online are mediocre and will probably never find an audience. More disappointing is that there are some great books that are being drowned in that sea of mediocrity and will also never find a substantial audience.
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur is a book that will help you rise above that mediocre sea so that your book has a fighting chance.
Co-authored by Guy Kawasaki, former Apple evangelist turned author and web entrepreneur, and Shawn Welch, a developer and author of programming books, the book is a step-by-step manual for anyone interested in self-publishing. As the title suggests, it teaches you about the three hats you need to wear as a self-published writer.
The author part of the book explains the nitty-gritty of what it takes to write and prepare your text for publication. If you’re one of those writers who spends more time reading books about writing than actually writing them then you’re probably familiar with some of this, but what is different is that the information is updated for the internet era.
The publisher part of the book outlines the steps needed to sell a book online, whether it be an electronic or a physical book. Like the author portion preceding it, this book goes into great detail about the many services available online today to help you in this process. In many ways it goes into too much detail so you may find yourself only skimming large portions. That’s okay, because the authors suggest you don’t get too caught up on the details when first reading the book, but to instead familiarize yourself with its contents so you can go back to it as a reference when you are actually ready to publish.
The entrepreneur portion of the book explains how to use the internet and social media to help spur sales. I’d imagine that the advice is good if you actually have a product worth selling. I don’t think any amount of social media is going to get people to buy something that is a boring read. Word spreads pretty quickly if something is poor quality.
As I read APE, I couldn’t help but think that large portions of the information contained within had a short shelf life. There were detailed descriptions of services offered by Amazon and others which is great stuff, but would it still be pertinent two years from now? Maybe, but web years go fast so who knows what disruptive services might come along by then?
They do have a website which is part promotional and part practical as it contains resources mentioned in the book so it’s possible that the authors will update its contents over time as the self-publishing landscape changes.
If you’re at all interested in skipping the traditional publishing process and want to sell your own book directly to your readers, then APE is a great place to start, but, be forewarned, you have to be ready to work three jobs: author, publisher and entrepreneur.
John Brunner is a science fiction writer who should be exalted among the genre’s giants, but has instead fallen out of fashion. A new biography of the British writer might not restore his reputation, but those who read it will find a new-found respect for a man who was ahead of his time. Unfortunately, those who do read it probably already know that.
I first became aware of Brunner while I was in university and was working my way through all of the Hugo-winning novels, novellas and short stories, figuring they would be wheat already separated from chaff. The one book that stood out from all the rest was the novel Stand on Zanzibar by Brunner. To this day, I count it among my favourites.
The book led me to his other groundbreaking novels, The Sheep Look Up and The Shockwave Rider, the former of which is a novel of a coming ecological disaster and the latter which is a prototype for the cyberpunk novel.
The impact of these books is fully covered in the biography John Brunner by Jad Smith. The Eastern Illinois University professor explains how Brunner carefully crafted books that stretched his own writing abilities and the limits of the science fiction novel.
While he was a contemporary of the New Wave authors in Britain, Brunner was never part of that movement, but stood apart and was frequently the target of abuse from them. As the biography describes it, it almost sounds like professional jealousy. Brunner sold his stories where he could make the most money and that was in the U.S. magazine market, not the smaller British outlets. His style was a fusion of the best of the American and British science fiction traditions. (I must confess that before reading this biography, I always thought Brunner was an American!)
Brunner had a handle on what editors wanted and was able to write stories that sold. While some of his stories might have been formulaic, he was always looking for inventive ways to tell them so he was not the sell-out that the New Wave purists might have believed. Brunner didn’t think the idea of the starving artist was all that romantic and instead chose to make money from his work. Despite that, you couldn’t say he got rich from doing it. He had financial problems of his own and his output, while prolific by many standards, was only ever enough to keep him solvent. His output slowed more as he matured as a writer and chose his stories and markets more carefully.
Smith’s biography charts Brunner’s career from start to finish with great detail. While Brunner may have had a reputation as a bit of an egotist, Smith portrays him sympathetically and you wonder if some of that bad reputation may have been the work of disinformation spread my his New Wave rivals.
There isn’t much about his personal life in the book, although you learn about his marriage to Marjorie and there various ups and downs and how his own health declined after her death. He remarried later in life, but died only a few short years afterwards.
The book concludes with a Q&A with Brunner and it is effective as it reinforces a lot of what is explained previously and acts as a sort of summary of the author’s life.
As a fan of both Brunner and literary biographies, I found this book entertaining and informative. I learned a lot about a writer about which I knew virtually nothing. I learned more about some brilliant books that I admired and now have a line on even more Brunner books that I have not yead read, but will do at the next opportunity.
I recommend this book to anyone who is an admirer of John Brunner or is a fan of science fiction history.
By Jad Smith
University of Illinois Press
Price: $21.95, paper; $80 cloth
Neal Stephenson’s non-fiction is collected in “Some Remarks: Essays And Other Writing,” but it doesn’t sound worthwhile http://t.co/jpTp64rY
A review of The Time Ship, an intriguing early time-travel story that precedes H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. http://t.co/lP6isUXy
Once again this year, I endeavoured to read the Hugo nominees for best novel. I was mostly successful, although I skipped one book because it was book 5 of a series and another book I couldn’t finish. Here are my capsule reviews:
EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville
China Mieville novels are not easy reading, but they are stories that will stay with you for a long time and Embassytown is one of those.
On one of mankind’s most distant worlds sits a group of ambassadors who are our race’s only means of communication with an alien species which is one of the most alien ever imagined.
These aliens have a language which is almost beyond human comprehension. It requires two humans to speak simultaneously, with each making different sounds in order for the words to be heard and understood. Ambassadors are twinned with each other at an early age so they can perfect this speech and live together as if the two are sharing one brain and thinking simultaneously.
The story is told through the eyes of a woman who grows up in Embassytown, but leaves to be a star-faring space pilot, only to return years later with a lover who is a linguist fascinated by the language of the aliens.
As the story unfolds, it seems that the aliens are addicted to the words and concepts that they hear and learn from the humans they speak with. Things go bad when one faction begins to break away from their addiction and clashes with those who remain hooked.
It’s really a hard book to explain which is probably why you’d have to read it for yourself to grasp its complexities.
It’s clearly not a book for someone seeking escapist entertainment, but if you’re looking to have your mind expanded and give your brain a workout, Embassytown is worth a read
LEVIATHAN WAKES by James Corey
The best way to describe this book is that it is a film noir space opera.
With the backdrop of a war that spans the solar system, a weary, street-savvy detective from one of the asteroid colonies attempts to get to the root of the cause of the conflict and maybe save the Earth in the process.
It is a time when Mars, the asteroids and moons of our solar system’s outer planets are colonized and there is as a thriving trade between them all, accompanied by the rivalries that come along with that as each vies for advantage over their economic competitors.
Our hero works security on an asteroid colony and gets word that an heiress has gone missing and may be involved with a revolutionary group of nogoodniks. He sets out to find her and ship her back to Earth.
During the investigation, he discovers a body that has been transformed beyond recognition by some sort of pathogen that may be powerful enough to destroy humanity if allowed to spread across the colonies.
In a separate story line, a salvage crew discovers a lifeless spaceship near a tiny asteroid and board it to investigate. They find evidence that it may have been attacked by Mars’ navy. They are themselves attacked and manage to escape on a smaller, armed pinnace. They broadcast their findings to the solar system and nations start blaming each other and it quickly escalates into war.
Meanwhile, back to our detective friend. He does some digging and finds a link with our disappeared heiress to the pinnace that was used by the crew in our other story line to escape. He tracks them down to whatever space rock they are hiding at and the two groups link up.
What is the link between the war, the disappeared heiress and the deadly pathogen? That is the mystery that they set out to solve and that keeps the reader glued to their book as they watch them have one obstacle after another thrown in their path.
I found Leviathan Wakes immensely satisfying as a good, old-fashioned science fiction novel. In some ways, the style and content reminded me of a book like Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, but that’s a good thing since that was an excellent novel.
AMONG OTHERS by Jo Walton
This year’s Nebula Winner by Montreal-resident Jo Walton was a surprise because it was a lot better than I expected.
It’s the first book of hers that I have read and found it hard to put down.
It is a fantasy story set in Wales, Walton’s homeland, about a teenage girl who sees fairies. She is sent off to England to study at a boarding school. Because she’s Welsh, has a handicap from a car accident that hinders her walking and is a big reader of science fiction, I couldn’t help but wonder how autobiographical a story it is consdiring Walton is Welsh, walks with the help of a cane and is a frequent and excellent critic of science fiction.
The book is written in a first-person, diary form and is set in 1979-1980. It recounts how our diarist is sent away after her sister dies in the car accident which leaves the writer with her disability.
The two of them would frequently see and interact with fairy-like creatures that lived in the Welsh countryside, mostly found near the abandoned structures of mines.
After the accident, the girl is sent off to a boarding school. Her tuition is paid for the aunts of her father, who she has never met since her parents split up a long time ago and now takes a more active role in her life. They bond because both are science fiction fans.
One of the amusing parts of the story is the ongoing book reviews that the girl jots down in her diary of the different science fiction titles she reads over the months she’s at school. If you isolated just that part of the book, you’d be left with Jo Walton’s canonical list of science fiction!
Because it is written as a diary, the story is very episodic and it may not appear to have a clear plot. As you read it, the story mostly deals with the day-to-day life of a schoolgirl with the usual concerns about friends, rivals and boys.
The only difference is there are sporadic references to the fairies and magic being used by her mother against her.
Considering that her sister has died, you start to wonder if these fairies are real or some sort of illusion created by her sick mind. For me, that ended up being the plot. Is this girl crazy or does she really see fairies? Finding the answer to that question was enough to keep me reading.
DEADLINE by Mira Grant
I y learned that this was book 2 of a trilogy, so set off to read the first book, Feed, which was nominated for a Hugo last year.
Sadly, I could not finish it. It’s yet another zombie apocalypse book which I found too self-conscious to be interesting. I got about a third of the way through and said “who cares?”
I’m sure it is beloved by many, but it was not my cup of tea and it’s extremley rare that I bail on a For the most part, I will slog through a book, no matter how dull or poorly written.
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Having not read the previous 4 Game of Thrones books, I wasn’t going to plow through those just to read this book. I am sure it is a worthy title for nomination, but fear that it’s only here because of the success of the Game of Thrones mini-series. My bigger fear is that the name recognition is enough to propel this book to victory.
Capt. Xerox is discussing. Toggle Comments
Genre comedies are hard to pull off. Judging from the horrible reviews, The Watch failed badly. http://t.co/wUizuhiR
World War Z told the story of a world overrun by zombies and how humanity fought back. Each chapter told the story of the war through the eyes of different participants as interviewed by the author. My biggest beef was that I could not distinguish one person from the next as they all spoke in the first person and seemed to be the same person.
Robopocalypse is similar, but it limits itself to a few people so the number of viewpoints is not so numerous that it becomes disorienting. Another positive result from that is that you get to see the characters develop over time and come to sympathize with them.
As the story spools out, we see mankind of the near future being attacked by the technology he has created and come to rely upon. Cars become killing machines that hunt people down if they are caught in the street. Robots get smarter and ordinary domestic appliances turn deadly. Who, or what, is coordinating these attacks?
Survivors flee the cities and regroup to mount a counterattack, minus much in the way of modern technology, against the robot forces, aided and led in large part by a band of Native Americans who must journey to Alaska for the final battle that will end the war.
I can see why this book was so popular. It’s quite a page turner and a fun read. It’s got some flaws, but nothing that can’t be overlooked in the pursuit of reading enjoyment.
Robopocalypse and World War Z are being turned into feature films. Now that sounds like a good double-feature.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s new book, 2312, sounds great, but so did his Mars trilogy which I found to be beyond turgid. http://t.co/shtKzzCw
Robert Sheckley’s ‘Store of the Worlds’ is reviewed by The Washington Post. http://t.co/dIzlYKFO
Don’t know if calling The Drowned Cities “one of the most brutal pieces of YA fiction” is a bit overboard. http://t.co/9BpCaQYl
This review introduced me to Fatherland, an alternative history book that was previously unknown to me. http://t.co/9OIt8Jz0
The Globe and Mail reviews three strong speculative-fiction books from Canadian writers. Beauty, eh? http://t.co/rrjhhtA2
As a lifelong Edgar Rice Burroughs fan in good standing, I could not live with myself if I didn’t haul my butt out to the theatre to catch the movie based on his first story, A Princess of Mars. Non-ERB fans would know the movie by the uninspiring title John Carter.
Despite the lacklustre showing at the box-office and its inevitable failure to make money for Disney, I think that the movie is a success for anyone who bothers to actually see it. It could be my standing in the ERB fan club which has coloured my opinions, but I don’t think so.
Many critics have complained that the story is unnecessarily complicated and I’d have to agree with them. I think the scriptwriters worked hard to create a backstory to explain how a 19th-century American ends up on Mars, but they were perhaps a bit too clever. They could have stuck closer to the source material which may not be as sophisticated for today’s audience, but would certainly simplify the story.
If you ignore some of the more convoluted plot points, the movie delivers on visuals and action that should have made this a slam dunk for the blockbuster-loving masses, but I guess the poor marketing couldn’t save it.
For those of you not familiar with Burroughs’ Mars series, it is a sequence of adventures of a former Confederate soldier on Mars. The lower gravity on the Red Planet gives him near-super-human strength and he uses this advantage to great effect in various battles that pit him against monsterous foes.
Along the way he befriends an 8-foot-tall, green-skinned, four-armed Martian and falls in love with a red-skinned Martian princess. In the movie, and in the book, he has encounters there is much swashbuckling as John Carter slahes and swordfights his way across the dying planet, wheter it be in the vast deserts that are now dried-out seas or high in the air in ornate flying machines that more closely resemble flying sailing ships.
Some of the scenes are reminiscent of the most recent round of Star Wars movies, specifically an arena battle and some of the flying sequences which look like they could have been outtakes from the Phantom Menace pod race. I don’t take that as a negative and you have to take into account that Burroughs’ stories pr-edate Star Wars and, pretty much every other, science fiction story by several decades so the reality is that most of them were stealing story ideas from ERB and not the other way around.
I’d readily recommend this movie to any science-fiction fan who wants to turn their brain off for a few hours and be entertained by a grand spectacle that will transport them magically to another planet.
Here’s the first review I’ve read of the John Carter movie. It is favourable and that seems to be the consensus. http://t.co/OQM2kSBX
On the web, there is something for everybody, such as book reviews about nudism as reviewed by nudists. Lot’s of scifi! http://t.co/vU9ccerE
Loved this review that skewers Any Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a novel which I have never had the displeasure of reading. http://t.co/QkbfIUY5
A page-by-page review of the novelization of Back to the Future? That’s ambitious and ridiculous all at the same time! http://t.co/YAj5qH6i
Just finished Ready Player One. Enjoyed it, but thought the 80s nostalgia was a bit too intense for “modern” readers. http://t.co/2UKwjACe
Don't be fooled by the title. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is a science fiction book, not just a book about video games, although they are certainly very prominent throughout the narrative.
I am sure that readers nostalgic for video games of the 80s will love Ready Player One, but wonder if it will resonate with a more modern audience.
In brief ,the plot is about a contest among gamers to win the fortune of a deceased technology magnate by solving various riddles that he has left scattered about a futuristic version of the internet which is called OASIS.
OASIS is a sort of a massive multiplayer online simulation game that is a a type of virtual reality universe which is completely immersive and difficult to distinguish from the real world. You could liken it to the holodeck from Star Trek.
Our hero is a geek named Wade who is in competition with a horde of other gamers who commit themselves full-time to the quest of finding the clues for the fortune.
The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, is a product of the video-game universe of the 80s so the gamers questing for his fortune immerse themselves in tech and pop-culture trivia from that time in attempt to decipher his clues.
If you ever played D&D's Tomb of Horrors module, played the arcade game Joust or watched the movie War Games, then you'll be tickled that these, and many other touchstones from that era, figure prominently in this book. If none of those things mean anything to you, then Ready Player One may seem like a series of "in" jokes.
Our hero's quest becomes complicated with a love interest with whom he is in competition with online as well as a conglomerate which is throwing a lot of money and resources at the contest in order to reap the profits of Halliday's fortune.
I found myself doubting the plausibility of a VR universe as convincing as the one portrayed in the book, but didn't try to let it lessen by enjoyment of the story.
Enjoy it I did, but to a point. While it was fun to relive some of those 80s moments, I thought the story was perhaps a bit too predictable.
I'd heartily recommend it to anyone who's spent evenings spending quarters in the arcades of yore, but think the kids of today might find this one a chore.