Monthly Archives: October 2013

Titan – John Varley

John Varley is an American Sci-Fi author born in Austin, Texas.  He has written several novels and quite a few short stories, many in the future after a race of aliens have killed and eliminated humans on Earth and they have had to take refuge elsewhere.  Unlike many post apocalyptic novelist, his stories are less dystopian and more of humans just getting on and surviving.

Titan was one of the first of his novels I read and was wowed.  Our hero, Cirocco Jones who has made a career in NASA on a scientific expedition near Saturn discovers a massive ship in orbit almost entirely black and non-reflective completely hidden from view.  As her ship approaches, it is captured and swallowed by the ship.  When she and her crew emerge in the interior, nude and separated from each other.  The ship has a world inside divided into multiple zones with life and intelligent creatures.  The prominent intelligent creatures are the Titanides, creatures with humanoid torsos on top of large horse bodies.  These creatures speak in music and Cirocco understands them although no one else does.  They’ve all been changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic ways as they emerged into the interior.  The Titanides speak of their god, Gaia in a very real sense…they live within her, the ship is a living creature.

Cirocco and Gaby, one of her crewmates and close friend begin a journey to the hub of the ship far above them by climbing up one of the massive spokes that holds the ship together.  The journey is perilous but she believes that “God” must answer for what she’s done.

This is the first of a trilogy and is quite massive in scope and breadth.  The descriptive vision is incredible and quite believable.  I have read the entire trilogy several times and each time I find things I have forgotten or overlooked.  They are written rather timelessly so I don’t see them ever becoming unreadable.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Wizard
  • Demon

Gateway – Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl was an American Sci-Fi writer with an impressive volume of work with pretty much very award possible being garnered.  He passed away last month at the age of 93.

This book is the first of the Heechee series of which there are 6.   A future in which man indentures themselves to travel to space stations that have been discovered existing in large meteors for a chance to strike it big in traveling out in on of the ships still docked to the station.  Traveling out is a huge gamble.  No one really knows how to control them or where they’re going or even if their per-programmed destination even still exists.  The destination may be an untapped resource of exotic materials, knowledge and technology.  If the ship returns and if the destination had something worthwhile, then the “gaters” return heroes and wealthy and with more than enough money to leave the station, the problem is that not every ship returns.

The story follows Robinette “Robin” Stetley Broadhead who wins the lottery which earns him enough money to get onto Gateway, but, getting there and getting off are two different things.  To get off you have to travel out and earn enough to leave; however, he quickly looses nerve and instead puts it off as long as possible.  He eventually runs out of money, but, the first trip out results in nothing and the second nets him nothing.  The third is an experiment sending two ships to the same destination.  The end up in the gravitational pull of a black hole.  In a desperate attempt to escape everyone empties out one of the ships and tries to escape in that ship; however, Robin sacrifices himself in the second ship.  Things don’t go as planned and instead Robin is thrown free of the black hole and is the sole survivor and receives the bonus intended for all of those that were sent on the mission making him very wealthy but suffering from survivor guilt.

The entire story is essentially told in his “therapy” sessions with his artificial intelligence analyst which he dubs “Sigfrid von Shrink”.

I’ll admit, this was not my first story of this series I read, instead I read Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and was instantly hooked.  The stories are less about the technology than they are about how people would react when faced with impossible situations and the human spirit to survive in the face their own mortality.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Beyond the Blue Event Horizon
  • Heechee Rendezvous
  • The Annals of the Heechee
  • The Gateway Trip: Tales and Vignettes of the Heechee
  • The Boy Who Would Live Forever: A Novel of Gateway

We’ll Always Have Parrots – Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews is an American mystery writer and winner of numerous awards, and justly so.  This is the fifth of the Meg Langslow series of novels.  Meg is an talented, passionate, amateur blacksmith with a quirky family.   While her family are not central, they are very successful providing comic relief.

In this story, Meg and her fiance, Michael, are attending a fan convention for a fictional fantasy television series in which Michael is an actor, Porfiria: Queen of the Jungle.  Someone has killed the Queen B (short for bitch) who owns the rights and portrays the queen herself and the only witness is a talking parrot that has escaped one of the many cages of birds brought in by the convention organizers.  Cages which were opened by the monkeys which opened their own cages.  The hotel is overrun by wild animals, including a tiger.

The suspects are running rampant.  Could it be Michael’s agent?  The aging femme fatale that was fired by the Queen B?  The cast, which all hated her?  And who is this man who is this man that the organizers claim is the original author of the graphic novels from the 70’s that the series is based?

While the police investigate, the convention must go on.  Meg and a casual acquaintance have chosen to sell swords in the vendor area of the convention, but that doesn’t stop her from getting involved with the investigation…a decision that nearly cost her her life.

Donna Andrew’s novels are funny, bright and engaging.  The characters are interesting and quite believable in motivation.  The one thing that I really have an issue with is that the story did go on a bit.  Possibly because she thought that every character needed further expansion and there are LOT of characters in this story, but, it’s only a minor gripe.

If you enjoyed this:

  • Try one or all of the 13 other novels in the Meg Langslow Series.

The Sex Gates – Darrell Bain, Jeanine Berry

Darrell Bain is a Texas based author living in a very rural area on a Christmas tree farm with his wife.  He’s written and/or co-written numerous books in eBook form as well as printed manuscripts some of which are fictional, and Sci-Fi, recounting of his medic experiences during the Vietnam war.

I’ve not been able to find much about Jeanine Berry other than she has written and published two fantasy novels which are currently out of print, at least that is what is mentioned on Amazon.com.

This was one, if not the very first, eBook I ever purchased.  What intrigued me was that it was a Texas author and the scene is primarily set in the Houston are, my home…well, at the attractive nude females on the cover, of course.  At the time, it was one of the most purchased eBooks sold by FictionWise (later acquired by Barnes & Noble and then fully absorbed and closed).

What a story…arches begin appearing all over the world very mysteriously.  Some adventurous souls enter the arches and when they do the re-appear on the opposite side of the arch, except now they are nude, of the opposite sex, beautiful and completely clear of any medical or mental defects…..well, at least most of them re-appear.  Some people never re-emerge, so it’s a gamble, but to some a very worthwhile gamble particularly if they are critically ill or maimed even though the likelihood is greater of not re-emerging the worse the defect.

Having changed genders, the pioneers struggle understanding how to deal with their bodies, clothing, even balance.  Relationships are forever altered, and so is the world.  Countries want to control access to the gates, the “gaters” are treated with suspicion “Why did they make it through and others not?” and violence escalates.

I can only believe that it was necessary for this to be a collaboration between a male and female as I there are things that woman goes through that I as a man can only imagine and vice-verso.

This is only the first of the series of a trilogy of novels and a worthy introduction.

If you enjoy this, please read:

  • Masters of the Sex Gates
  • Worlds of the Sex Gates

Naked In Death – J. D. Robb

J. D. Robb is a pseudonym for author Nora Roberts at the behest of her publisher.  The story goes that her publisher couldn’t keep up and handle the advertising for her massive volume of output.  Known for her romance novels, under J. D. Robb she again writes a massive volume of work however, this time in a combination of Sci-Fi, Murder Mystery, Procedural, Romance.

Eve Dallas, a feisty no-nonsense police detective is involved in the investigation into the brutal murder of a legal prostitute who has been shot to death with an antique pistol in a time where only a select few can afford licensed weapons and even the police can only use non-lethal solutions.  Eve is a troubled woman, she doesn’t really remember much of her past and even her name is made up based on where she was found (i.e. Dallas).  She has fleeting nightmares of her possible past and keeps focusing on a recent case where, despite everything, a young girl is killed by her hopped up father.

To make matters worse, one of the few people who is licensed for the type of weapon used is the mysterious multi-billionare, Roarke.  He’s charming, debonaire and is known for the women he keeps.  Eve is initially convinced that he is the culprit, partially because so little is known about him and suspicion of his privileged wealth…but, then she begins to suspect that despite everything, he’s not her man….well, at least not for murder.

The story is complex, much more than I would have expected with bits of humor, drama and a well constructed mystery.

If you enjoy this:

  • Read any of the 40+ In Death series of books.

 

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon – Spider Robinson

Spider Robinson is a American-Canadian Hugo award winning writer.  His stories are mostly magazine articles that have been collected into volumes although he does have a few books that have been written specifically as novels.  His stories tend to start funny but then get rather serious closer to the end of each.  Mostly they take place, much like this book, in Callahan’s Place.  Callahan’s is a place unlike any bar I’ve ever known in that everyone knows each other, think Cheers, and everyone is in pain in some way; however, Callahan’s has a policy and belief, that a pain shared is lessened and a shared joy is magnified.

This collection has several of his best stories with one in particular being a stand-out, “The Time-Traveler” in which the newcomer refers to himself as a time traveler, but, not the typical Sci-Fi kind.  He’s been imprisoned in South America during a revolution and locked away with little contact and forgotten.  When he is finally released, it has been many years now.  Much has changed in the world, several presidents have come and gone, man has made it to the moon, etc…  so, in his own way, yes he has traveled in time.

I know it sounds depressing and in some ways, it is; however, there’s much humor as well with “Doc” Webster and Jake Stonebender and their pun battles and a whole slew of interesting characters.

Everyone is welcome…share your joy, share your pain.  There’s just one rule, don’t pry.  If someone is not willing to share, that’s their business.

Callahan’s is a fascinating combination of sci-fi, drama, humor, and some understanding of what drives people and what makes them who they are.

If you enjoy this, try all the others:

  • Time Travelers Strictly Cash
  • Callahan’s Secret
  • Callahan’s Lady
  • The Callahan Touch
  • Callahan’s Legacy
  • Callahan’s Key

The Eternal Champion – Michael Moorecock

I received this novel in my early to mid teens from the Science Fiction Book Club when I signed up like so many of us did after seeing the ad in the back of a comic book.  The novel isn’t terribly long, but, the writing is rather cinematic in nature, the entire time I read it I kept imagining this done as a movie.  Moorecock’s volume of work, much of it that is considered to be classics, spans more than 40 years and several critical and commercially successful series.

This entry is not really the first of the “Eternal Champion” and multiverse mythos that Moorecock created; however, it is a very good starting point.

John Draker unexpected (and even though he doesn’t want to) finds himself transported into a different world and time to fulfill his destiny as the defender and protector of the human race, called by the use of a deadly, magical sword which can only be wielded by the current incarnation of Erekose (i.e. The Eternal Champion)…which just happens to now be John Draker.

The humans describe their plight to Erekose/Draker as being overrun and in a battle with a non-human race, Eldren also living on the planet.

Erekose, despite having doubts, leads a battle against the Eldren and capture an Eldren princess Ermizhad.  In retaliation, the Eldren attack the humans and capture Erekose.  Erekose proposes a trade which prompts the prince to explain the realities of the situation.  The Eldren are not the vicious creatures bent on domination that Erekose is told they are.

The story, while being an introduction to Moorecock’s worlds and the concept of the Eternal Champion, it successfully stands on its own as well.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Phoenix in Obsidan
  • Elric of Melnibone
  • The Knight of Swords
  • The Queen of Swords
  • The King of Swords
  • The Ice Schooner
  • Etc…