Modernmoonman. Science Fiction book reviews.

Science Fiction Book Reviews and Stuff...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk RIP

Peter Falk passed away this week...this isn't sci-fi, but here's a great scene from the Wim Wenders' classic film "Himmel Uber Berlin" ("Heaven over Berlin" is how it translates, but for some reason in the U.S.A. it is known as "Wings of Desire"):

So great!

Stars My Destination

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my Nation
Deep Space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination

Stars My Destination was written by Alfred Bester and Published in 1956.  Many consider it to be the best sci-fi book ever written.  It's in the top ten, surely.

This book is like a Jack Kirby Comic; so much vitality, nobody can keep up with it.  Pages 228-235 are so great.  Here:

"You pigs, you.  You goof like pigs is all.  You got the most in you, and you use the least.  You hear me you?  Got a million in you and spend pennies.  Got a genius in you and think crazies.  Got a heart in you and think empties.  All a you.  Every you..."  "Take a war to make you spend.  Take a jam to make you think.  Take a challenge to make you great.  Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you.  Pigs, you!  All right, God Damn You! I challenge you, me.  Die or live and be great.  Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men.  I make you great.  I give you the stars."

"He hung in space for a blinding moment, as helpless, as amazed, and yet as inevitable as the first gilled creature to come out of the sea and hang gulping on a primeval beach in the dawn-history of life on earth."

This book is a classic among classics; for 1956, this book slays....and is better, perhaps, but not necessarily, better,  than his 1st one: The Demolished, Alfred Bester should be a household name by now, cos he had some style, and more importantly, some substance to his contributions to sci-fi literature...

He also came up with the oath for comic book hero Green Lantern:

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night,
No Evil Shall Escape My Sight,
Let those Who Worship Evil's Might,
Beware My Power....Green Lantern's Light! 

Alfred Bester.  Fantastic.


Spin is a novel written by Robert Charles Wilson and published in 2005.  Stephen King calls him "a hell of a storyteller" right on the cover, yo, so if King says it, it's just gotta be true...and it is to a degree.  This book is the "Secret History" (by Donna Tart) of Sci-Fi...but not as good...and not as bad....but still, it won the Hugo for 2005, so it's gotta be good right?  It's pretty good, glad I read it, and the scene at the end with the brother receiving transmissions from the stars.....that's a quality scene; haunting even......but still, I just can't wait to get to my next review...seems that the Hugo, a sci-fi popularity poll, not a critical one.... in 2005 and the Hugo in 1965 whatever...well they are different times now, eh?  If you see this and have to sit on a beach, make it a groovy sci-fi beach read.....

Modernmoonman song of the day: Life on Mars by David Bowie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Modernmoonman song of the day: Whitey on the Moon by Gil Scott Heron, RIP

Dig it:

Out Of Bounds

Out of Bounds was written by Judith Merril and published in 1960.  Ms. Merril was Frederick Pohl's first wife, an "Anthologist" who edited the "Year's Best S-F" series in the 60s, and creator of the world's largest sci-fi library (in Toronto,Canada.)  She is a highly regarded woman writer in the male dominated field of sci-fi.  Out of Bounds contains 6 sci-fi short stories (including the mutant classic "THAT ONLY A MOTHER"), and one creepy gothic horror story (written with Algis Budrys) that takes place in Dutchess County, New York.  She writes about the military with authority, and voices her concerns about human connections and communication with aplomb; it's a pretty impressive collection of readable stuff....  Here's a sample of the text, from her telepathy (mind-reading) tale "Connection Completed":

     "A man lives all his life inside the wall of his own skull, making words into sentences, moving muscles to form gestures, so that he can make his existence and purposes known to others; and in the same way, absorbing his perceptions of the people and things around him, trying to interpret as best he can, so as to understand some part of their meaning for himself.  But he never gets outside the bony barriers of his own head, or past the hardening defenses of others.  For every human being, the word or the gesture has some slightly different meaning.  No two people ever meet completely without some slight or great distortion of intent or understanding, occurring in the jangled complexity of living cells that make up the expressive and interpretive mechanisms of the man."

Here's a video clip about Judith Merril:

And here's another clip from an annoying Canadian T.V. interview, Ms. Merril is quite interesting, though:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Modernmoonman song of the day: Common People by William Shatner

Dig it.

Space Plague

The Space Plague was written by George O. Smith and published in 1956.   It reads like 1956, as in it's dated as hell, but in the best way.... It's a pretty good pulp yarn about a disease from outer space that either kills you or turns you into a superman; it's very Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with some veiled political content probably having something to do with some 1950's conception of an anti-communist underground railroad, but it mostly reads like a hard boiled 50's X-files.  Telepathy (Mind reading) and E.S.P. (Extra Sensory Perception) are also convincingly explored here.  This was a good clean fun read, and with prose like:

"Nurse Farrow made a wry face as though she'd just discovered that the stuff she had in her mouth was a ball of wooly centipedes..."

Man, the wooly is what seperates good writing from great, and I'd have to say that this book really needs a sequel, especially with some serious-ish content sprinkled in there like:

"The entire human race is lambasted by one form of propaganda or another from the time the infant  learns to sit up until the elderly lays down and dies.  We're all guilty of loose thinking...."

Blah, blah, blah, it goes on, and it's all over the place pulp.  1956.  Not quite all there; pretty vital, not essential, but still kinda neat.  And the cover design is a real winner!  Viva sci-fi pulp!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed

Modernmoonman song of the day:  Metal Machine Music, by Lou Reed, released in July 1975, and ahead of his time...:


 "I laugh at what you call dissolution-
  for I know the amplitude of time."
                        -Walt Whitman

Timescape was written by Gregory Benford and published in 1980.  It won a Nebula award and John W. Campbell award  in 1981.  I had this one in my to read pile for a while, and it's a hard science tour-de-force that I wish I had read sooner.  50% hard science and 50% character development, and utterly realistic all the way through, mainly about time-traveling-faster-than-light-tachyon-particles as a means to send messages to warn the past to prevent the present catastrophe of world-killing bacterial ocean bloom caused by fertilizer and chemical runoff into the oceans.  (Phew!) Certainly plausible stuff.  Plus there is a lot of stuff about class struggle to make this a relatively contemporary update of Wells' archetypal Time Machine.  Connie Willis' Doomsday Book certainly owes a lot to this book as well...can anyone tell me why is Cambridge the center of time travel in the world of Sci Fi?  Is it cos of Wells?  So Class issues can be discussed here?, so much more easily than in America?, and does the continent matter cos America has no class (but of course we do)?  Of special interest is his conception of time itself as the great unknown topic in physics, in that those tachyons travel faster than the speed of light, so like they can travel to the past and warn them about our ever fucked up present, and we can avoid all of this environmental nonsense, and a doom straight outta Day of the Triffids....

"The past is not ever dead,
 it's not even past"
                -William Faulkner  

Sure, Mr. Benford name drops all the coolies like Philip K. Dick, Herbert Marcuse, and Richard Feynman, but what he really excels at doing is creating that elusive sense of wonder...and making physics dramatic, poetic, and mind blowing... I folded many pages over by the halfway point (to re-read)....and the final pages of this novel are fantastic and moving, and this book has been one of Modernmoonman's faves since I started this blog.... Here's a taste of the text:

     "Look, the point here is that our distinctions between cause and effect are an illusion.  This little experiment we've been discussing is a causal loop --no beginning, no end.  That's what Wheeler and Feynman meant by requiring only that our description be logically consistent.  Logic rules in Physics, not the myth of cause and effect.  Imposing an order to events is our  point of view.  A quaintly human view, I suppose.  The laws of physics don't care.  That's the new concept of time we have now--as a set of completely interrelated events, linked self-consistently.  We  think we're moving along in time, but that's just a bias."

     "But we know things happen now, not in the past or future."

     "When is 'now'?  Saying 'now' is 'this instant' is going around in circles.  Every instant is 'now' when it 'happens.'  The point is, how do you measure the rate of moving from one instant to the next?  And the answer is, you can't  What's the rate of the passage of time?"

     "Well it's--" Peterson stopped, thinking.

     "How can time move?  The rate is one second of movement per second!  There's no conceivable coordinate system in physics from which we can measure time passing.  So there isn't any.  Time is frozen, as far as the universe is concerned."

This is a great Book, and a great introduction to the "Hard Sci Fi" writing of Gregory Benford.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Can Build You

We Can Build You was written by Philip K. Dick and published in 1972.  Rolls along nicely for this is the book written directly after Man in the High Castle, I was like, man he's taking it easy here; this is normal robot stuff, but then, wham! the usual robot maker stuff..."why do you do the things you do; why do you want the things you want...who is programmed? who's the robot?" is augmented by a serious case of the patented Philip K. Dick "Things are not as they seem, sour milk masquerades as cream..." jacked up by a heavy dose of this nice little book isn't quite so nice now, izzit?  The woman as love interest in here bites, too, if she in fact, uh, exists!  A portrait of living hell; the kind that makes a man feel alive!
Dick has a lot to say here about the program of love here, and man it hurts...this nutcracker is recommended!