Giant Killer

“Giant Killer” by A. Bertram Chandler
from The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction ed. Asimov, Waugh, Greenberg
Carroll & Graf, 1989
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, October 1945
Price I paid: $3

During the 1940s, the great names emerged in an eruption of talent. They formed the mould for the next three decades of science fiction and their writing is as fresh today as it was then.

Continue reading “Giant Killer”

Battle for the Stars

Battle for the Stars by Edmond Hamilton
Paperback Library, 1967
Originally published by Dodd, Mead / Torquil, 1961
Price I paid: 90¢

CLUSTER WORLD N-356-44

“It was no place for a man to be.

Men were tissue, blood, bone, nerve. This place was not made for them. It was made for force and radiation. Go home, men.

But I can’t, thought Jay Birrel. Not yet…I have to go on into this place where a human being looks as pathetic as an insect in a furnace.”

And so begins Edmond Hamilton’s most fascinating inter-planetary adventure—BATTLE FOR THE STARS.

Continue reading “Battle for the Stars”

2020: And That’s the Year That Was

Hi, friends! Beloved readers, longtime and firsttime! I’m so happy to see you!

We made it!

I’m sick of hearing and I’m sick of saying that 2020 was a rough year for all of us, so I hope this is the last time I do it. And let’s not just hope that 2021 is better, let’s actively work to make it better! That’s my resolution and I’ve got a couple plans in place to make it happen. Let’s see how well they work!

But first, I wanted to take a little look back at that longest, most tumultuous year of my life, and see what good can be scraped from it. Most importantly, I want to look at it in terms of what I read.

First off, stuff for the blog:

The Funnest

Last March I read John M. Ford’s remarkable Star Trek tie-in, How Much for Just the Planet? It was a heck of a ride! I kind of want to read it again, just to see if the madcap zaniness will be a little clearer, a little more, um, followable, for me this time. Despite it being lighthearted, I think it deserves another look, on its own merits and as a piece of Star Trek lore.

The Disappointingest

This one’s actually a tie, for different reasons.

In April I did a revisit of a book that I dearly loved as a teenager, Eric Idle’s The Road to Mars. It’s a book I read over and over again, you might even say it was formative. Upon a revisit, however, I found that the plot was lacking and overly convoluted, the jokes were stale at best and nonsensical at worst, and the things that I thought were important life lessons were, in fact, not all that deep. Let’s chalk a lot of that down to the fact that I was a teenager when I first read the book, and it’s okay that some things just don’t hold up! Life goes on, moves on, carries on, etc.

On the flippo, I finally got around to reading Theodore Sturgeon’s Killdozer!, and I just hate to say that it left me cold. It was so unlike any of the other Sturgeon works I’ve ever read, and it had none of the warmth and charm that I’d come to expect from him after reading such shorts as “Microcosmic God” or novels like Godbody. I still love him dearly as an author and as a person, and I hope to finally just finish reading everything he ever wrote. I have a copy of More Than Human just waiting for me to crack it open, and I hope that’ll happen soon.

The Best

Pierre Boulle just never fails to impress me, and I’m so, so glad that I read the book upon which one of my favorite movies is based. Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece of a book that got turned into a masterpiece of a film, and it’s amazing to me because they’re so different, with wildly different narratives and goals for those narratives, and yet they end up working very well on their own. These aren’t two things that complement each other so much as exist from the same root and happen to have planets with apes on them. Many of the names are the same—with the chief exception being the human protagonist—but don’t let that fool you.

I really wish I knew how to read French to get the original experience. Maybe that should be a 2021 goal?

Nah

The Worst

THE CLONES. Oh my freaking god. Anybody who has been following along this year probably won’t be surprised to hear me claim this book is the nadir of my reading for this year.

This book made so little sense, and yet occasionally my mind drifts back to it, like a dream I had once that I like to pick at to see if maybe some new understanding will arise. As if somehow it will come together and not only make sense, but be revelatory. I think that sums up this book pretty well, actually: It’s so bad that I want it to be deep and meaningful. But, no. It never will be. This is a book that is utterly asinine in its mad science, its evil machinations, and its nonsensical, self-contradictory plot. In fact, it’s almost giving it too much credit to call it self-contradictory, as if there was ever some kind of internal logic for it to contradict.

This is a book where a mountain explodes and the pieces fly up and literally hit the stars. It’s a book where some aliens fly at 100,000 miles per hour to another galaxy in a matter of hours. It’s a book where the words clone and alien are synonymous, as are words like galaxy, universe, world, and constellation.

Big props to reader Alan Hopewell for recommending it to me.

Outside the Blogoblog

As usual, I read a good few books and works that I didn’t blog about (although I might have mentioned them) and have enjoyed, so I reckon I’ll toss them out as a recommendation in case they capture anybody else’s eyes.

The Ministry for the Future

I spent a lot of this year feeling pretty hopeless. Part of that is because of, well, everything, but another part of it is just that the general state of my mental health went down the crapper. These things are probably connected, but on the plus side, I have finally started seeing a therapist and making progress there, as well as taking some medications to keep my anxiety and depression under control. It’s been a journey toward getting better and finding hope.

But part of that journey was definitely aided by Kim Stanley Robinson’s newest book, The Ministry for the Future. It’s a book that starts pretty dark, with a heat wave in India killing millions of people, but gradually grows in scope and brightness to bring forth ideas for a world where we can work together to mitigate the damage that will definitely come from climate change, as well as working toward justice for all of humanity, not least by beginning to dismantle the tight grip of capitalism.

It’s a book about the first tiny steps in building a utopia, and for that, I’m grateful. Many of the ideas in the book were not just plausible, they were downright “well, let’s get started with that, then!” It’s a book of ideas, yes, but like all KSR, it’s a book with wonderful characters and sparkling humanity.

I don’t want to talk the book up too much—I definitely had a few little problems with it here and there—but on the whole, it was about 570 pages that I utterly devoured.

Walt Simonson’s Thor

Kinda cheating because I’m not quite done yet, but I’ve been catching up on some old comics and getting around to Walter Simonson’s 1983 to 1987 run on Marvel’s Thor, and holy crap, y’all, this might be some of the best comics out there. I know this isn’t exactly a controversial opinion or anything, but dang, I’m loving this.

It is, of course, the series that gave us my favorite Marvel character, Beta Ray Bill, so it’s kind of a shame it took me this long to read it. I knew all about Bill’s origin and stuff, I’d just never seen it for myself, firsthand, and now I’m glad I did.

October

Another cheat because I’m still in the middle of it, but China Miéville’s history of the 1917 October Revolution has got me gripped, y’all. I admit I’ve never read any of Miéville’s fiction, and I need to fix that, but this history is written better than most fiction I’ve read anyway. The historical figures feel real, the events are breathtaking, and the scope is magnificent. Czarist Russia has never felt so alive for me, and watching it crumble and fall has made for a very, um, interesting end to the year.

Just a Whole Bunch of Robert Anton Wilson

At some point around the middle of the year I decided I wanted to read everything Robert Anton Wilson ever wrote, so I got around to a bunch of it that had been on the back burner. Cosmic Trigger I was a deeply personal story that had me crying at the end, something completely unexpected. I figured it would just be more of Wilson’s usual conspiracy-laden gurudom, and yeah, there’s a lot of that, but it’s also his autobiography, for a certain level of truth, and I enjoyed it deeply.

Ishtar Rising failed to grip me quite as much. It’s some of his earlier work and, honestly, he went over a lot of what he says in this one a lot better later, in books like Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology. It’s neat reading some early RAW, but it’s more of a curiousity than anything.

The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, on the other hand, is hella good stuff if you’re a fan of The Illuminatus Trilogy. I don’t want to give too much away…

Finnegan’s Wake

I got a whole three paragraphs in, which is a new record for me.


There’s probably a lot more that I meant to say and forgot, but that’s gotta be most of it. Despite the world falling apart, I did have a lot more time on my hands to read, and that’s certainly not a bad thing in and of itself.

I’m looking forward to reading a lot more interesting stuff as 2021 develops. But before then, I want to hear about what you read last year! Let’s hear it! What was good, what sucked, what helped get you through, what tempted you to give up? Fill up my comments, people!

Lone Star Planet

Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire
Gollancz, 2015
Originally published in Fantastic Universe, March 1957
Price I paid: 99¢

New Texas: its citizens figure that name about says it all. The Solar League ambassador to the Lone Star Planet has the unenviable task of convincing New Texans that a s’Srauff attack is imminent, and dangerous. Unfortunately it’s common knowledge that the s’Srauff are evolved from canine ancestors – and not a Texan alive is about to be scared of a talking dog! But unless he can get them to act, and fast, there won’t be a Texan alive, scared or otherwise!

From the SFGateway sale page
Continue reading “Lone Star Planet”

Texas on the Rocks

Texas on the Rocks by Daniel da Cruz
Del Rey, 1986
Price I paid: $1.45 + S&H

LONE STAR REPUBLIC TO THE RESCUE!

In 2008, when the Russians ruled most of the world and the United States was suffering from a catastrophic drought, most everybody went to bed a little hungry every night.

But out in the South Atlantic Ocean, a Texican named Ripley Forte was riding herd on the answer to America’s deadly water shortage, hauling toward Matagorda Bay the only natural resource that could make the Republic of Texas rich again.

And while he was at it, Forte would teach the Russians a thing or two about surprise attack.

To save the civilized world, all he had to do was live long enough.

Continue reading “Texas on the Rocks”

No Woman Born

No Woman Born by C.L. Moore
from The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction ed. Asimov, Waugh, Greenberg
Carroll & Graf, 1989
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1944
Price I paid: $3

During the 1940s, the great names emerged in an eruption of talent. They formed the mould for the next three decades of science fiction and their writing is as fresh today as it was then.

Continue reading “No Woman Born”

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: Centauri Dawn

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: Centauri Dawn by Michael Ely
Pocket Books, 2000
Price I paid: $14 + S&H

After a forty-year journey from an Earth left teetering on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, the United Nations colonial starship Unity reaches the lone habitable planet orbiting Alpha Centauri’s primary star, bringing with it the hope of a new beginning for the human race.

Hope turns to ashes when, on final approach to the new world, a mysterious malfunction damages the ship, triggering a crisis that results in the death of the captain and a rash of infighting over the ship’s undamaged colony pods. The Unity breaks apart in space and seven colonial factions are scattered across the surface of the planet.

As the Unity survivors struggle to rebuild human civilization on this strange and mysterious alien world, old tensions resurface and one man sets in motion forces that may destroy any dream of a lasting peace.

Continue reading “Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: Centauri Dawn”

Star Trek: Phaser Fight (Which Way Books #24)

Star Trek: Phaser Fight
Which Way Books #24
by Barbara Siegel and Scott Siegel
Pocket Books, 1986
Price I paid: $3.50 + S&H

Welcome aboard, ensign! You’ve been assigned to duty on the Starship Enterprise. Your mission: Investigate a mysterious meteor belt with Captain Kirk…or help Bones combat a deadly disease…or fight an alien race with Mr. Spock. You choose—you can beam over to a phantom ship overrun with fierce mirror creatures, or match wits with a giant alien who wants to crush the Enterprise like a bug. But choose carefully, or the Enterprise and you could be lost forever!

Continue reading “Star Trek: Phaser Fight (Which Way Books #24)”

Killdozer!

Killdozer! by Theodore Sturgeon
from The Mammoth Book of Golden Age Science Fiction ed. Asimov, Waugh, Greenberg
Carroll & Graf, 1989
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, November 1944
Price I paid: $3

During the 1940s, the great names emerged in an eruption of talent. They formed the mould for the next three decades of science fiction and their writing is as fresh today as it was then.

Continue reading “Killdozer!”

Bibblings

Bibblings by Barbara Paul
Signet, 1979
Price I paid: $2.50 + S&H

Lodon-Kamaria, a planet in a perpetual state of war. No one in the Federation of United Worlds knew what the Lodonites and Kamarians were fighting about, nor, in the normal course of events, would anyone have cared. But this was a world rich in alphidium, the most precious substance in the galaxy—and so, Lodon-Kamaria would have to become a member of the Federation. And it was up to the Diplomatic Corps team, nicknamed the Anglo-Saxon Invaders, to do the recruiting.

It should have been an easy assignment. Either make peace between the Lodonites and Kamarians, or figure out which side would be easier to deal with and see that it won the war. That would have been the reasonable, rational approach. But on a world where everyone is insane, reason just doesn’t apply…!

Continue reading “Bibblings”