Lou Beach: 420 Characters

I expected that limiting the length of a short story to 420 characters — as counted by Facebook’s software, spaces and punctuation included — would come off as a gimmick rather than an artistic constraint, but this collection of a hundred and fiftyish micro-stories is pretty amazing, in several dimensions. The first thing I noticedContinue reading “Lou Beach: 420 Characters”

Lawrence Watt-Evans: The Final Folly of Captain Dancy and other Pseudo-Historical Fantasies

It’s a bit tricky to describe The Final Folly of Captain Dancy without sounding like I’m damning it with faint praise, so maybe I should say up front that I definitely enjoyed this enough to read more. Watt-Evan’s stories have a bit of an old-school vibe; it’s easy for me to imagine him as aContinue reading “Lawrence Watt-Evans: The Final Folly of Captain Dancy and other Pseudo-Historical Fantasies”

George Mann: The Immorality Engine

I read The Immorality Engine even though I didn’t think much of the first two novels in Mann’s “Newbury and Hobbes Investigations” series, of which this is the third. Somewhat to my surprise, I liked it better than the other two. I still found the prose a bit repetitive and the plot low on surprises,Continue reading “George Mann: The Immorality Engine”

George Mann : The Osiris Ritual

The second of Mann’s “Newbury and Hobbes” steampunk/mystery/adventures (following The Affinity Bridge) struck me as stronger overall than its predecessor, with a bit more depth of character. I found the tone a little inconsistent — there are a few moments that veer into excessively broad parody of pulp/adventure conventions and require a greater level ofContinue reading “George Mann : The Osiris Ritual”

Philip Reeve : Predator’s Gold

Mortal Engines left me so eager for more that I scoured all three bookshops in the town we were staying in for a copy of the sequel, Predator’s Gold, even though I suspected I was setting myself up for disappointment. Sequels aren’t usually as good, perhaps particularly in genre fiction, in part because the criticalContinue reading “Philip Reeve : Predator’s Gold”

Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines

Reeve’s young adult steampunk novel is set in a dystopian future where steam-powered cities literally roam the blasted earth on enormous tractor treads, devouring each other in the practice of “municipal Darwinism.” After you get past the willing suspension of disbelief required by the premise, Reeve’s world-building has a lot of lovely little details. There’sContinue reading “Philip Reeve : Mortal Engines”

Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime

It seems a little odd that I never read anything of Vinge’s before; several of his books have won or been shortlisted for major SF words, and the second half of this volume — written way back in ’86! — is apparently the first explicit reference to “technological singularity” in the modern sense — aContinue reading “Vernor Vinge : The Peace War/Marooned in Realtime”

Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity

Beyond Infinity is a curious mix of old and new. In several specific chapters it struck me as not only reminiscent of several Arthur C. Clarke works, but also evocative of older and less cerebral earthlings-struggling-to-comprehend-and-survive-a-strange-environment tales (Farmer’s “World of Tiers” Burroughs homages, in particular). But it’s also firmly in the post-Singularity sub-genre of scienceContinue reading “Gregory Benford : Beyond Infinity”

Michael Reaves and Steve Perry : Death Star

The first part of Reaves and Perry’s novel is set immediately before the original 1977 Star Wars movie; the second section is set during the time frame of the film, and interleaves most of the scenes set on the Death Star into the new story. (It’s a bit structurally similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern AreContinue reading “Michael Reaves and Steve Perry : Death Star”

Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)

In the first novel of Smith’s “Escape from Furnace” series, young Alex Sawyer finds himself incarcerated in a future super-prison with imagery and events reminiscent of Nazi medical experimentation and death camps. Lucky for Alex, the future super-prison’s security policies would embarrass any present-day medium-security penitentiary; I had major suspension of disbelief issues throughout. ForContinue reading “Alexander Gordon Smith : Lockdown (Escape from Furnace 1)”