E. E. “Doc” Smith: Triplanetary; First Lensman

Strange but true: I never read any E. E. “Doc” Smith before. (It was Michael Kaminski’s assertion in The Secret History of Star Wars that Smith’s Lensmen were a key influence on Lucas’s Jedi Knights that convinced me to take the plunge; mostly I hadn’t read the Lensmen books because I thought I knew exactlyContinue reading “E. E. “Doc” Smith: Triplanetary; First Lensman”

George Saunders: The Braindead Megaphone

The least of the essays* in The Braindead Megaphone are “merely” entertaining and informative, even enlightening. But the best, with “The United States of Huck” at the top of the pile, are flat-out magnificent: beautifully clear-headed thinking, elegantly expressed, and driven by a passionate need to make the world a better, more humane, place. (TheContinue reading “George Saunders: The Braindead Megaphone”

Charles Stross: Wireless

I finally figured out that I like Charles Stross better when he’s being funny than when he’s being preachy. His short fiction collection Wireless offers both. My favorite entries were “Rogue Farm” and “Trunk and Disorderly.” The former is a sly future backwoods noir that almost lives up to its killer opening: It was aContinue reading “Charles Stross: Wireless”

Tom Standage: The Neptune File

In The Neptune File, Standage expertly balances personal drama and the intellectual excitement of a radical new idea. The new idea rests on the notion that the eccentricities of Uranus’s orbit can only be explained by the gravitational pull of another planet. What makes it so radical is that mathemeticians work out where the newContinue reading “Tom Standage: The Neptune File”

Robert Sheckley: The Alternative Detective

I saw it opined in several places that the third of Sheckley’s mysteries featuring Hob Draconian was so good it would make me want to go back and read the first two — and since I’m a “save the best for last” kinda person, I opted to read them in chronological order. I found TheContinue reading “Robert Sheckley: The Alternative Detective”

Sean Stewart: The Night Watch

I’ve never read anything quite like The Night Watch. It shares a background with Stewart’s earlier novel Resurrection Man, but it’s not a direct sequel; it takes place roughly a century later. Stewart’s novel is set after the cataclysmic return of magic to the world — the Dream — ended civilization as we know it.Continue reading “Sean Stewart: The Night Watch”

Sean Stewart: Resurrection Man

I loved Stewart’s Perfect Circle so much that I bought several more of his novels, and then didn’t read any of them for a while for fear they wouldn’t live up to the expectations Perfect Circle had set. I’m glad I waited to read Resurrection Man, partly because it isn’t quite as good (it’s oneContinue reading “Sean Stewart: Resurrection Man”

Wen Spencer: A Brother’s Price

A Brother’s Price is a fantasy novel with a nifty feminist twist: it’s set in a world where male children are much rarer than female children. Spencer posits that this leads to a matriarchal society in which men are valuable chattel — or, in other words, occupy a similar role to women in the vaguelyContinue reading “Wen Spencer: A Brother’s Price”

Wen Spencer: Endless Blue

I enjoyed reading Endless Blue, but it requires more than the usual amount of willing suspension-of-belief and tolerance for sloppy editing. The premise is fun: there’s a sort of “Sargasso Sea” of space where ships get marooned when warp jumps go awry, and aliens mingle more freely than in the “normal” universe. Four centuries orContinue reading “Wen Spencer: Endless Blue”