Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers – Grant/Naylor

Grant Naylor is the collective writing name of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.  They gained quite a bit of notoriety for writing the hilarious long running BBC SCI-FI/comedy series  Red Dwarf.  This collaboration, unfortunately ended in the 1990s, when Rob Grant left due to the age old euphemism “creative differences”, although the series continue(s) on through series VII, VIII, IX and X.

The Red Dwarf series had it’s ups and downs, sometimes side split-tingly hilarious and sometimes just OK with series X airing in 2012 with a much aged cast, but closer to how some of the previous seasons were.

Grant Naylor wrote several Red Dwarf novels that, in some ways, were better written and “acted” than the actual series since some things just could not be done on the meager budget and technologies available.

This is the first of the novels and is very, very funny and an excellent way to get to know the series.  It takes elements of much of the first few series and combines them into a novel that is one part SCI-FI, one part comedic masterpiece and all parts entertaining.

If you’ve never seen the series is about one human, Dave Lister, who due to an infraction on board the Jupiter Mining Corporation ship Red Dwarf is put into suspended animation as punishment. During his hibernation, the ship had a radiation leak and all of people on board died.  Holly, the ship’s intelligent computer, sped the ship into the deep outer space for millions of years to prevent others from dying from the radiation and finally woke Dave after the radiation levels were acceptable.  Sounds funny?  Well, oddly it is….Dave’s infraction was bringing aboard a cat, named Frankenstein, which escaped into the holds and survived the radiation and somehow bred and over the millions of years evolved into a humanoid race which has many cat tendencies…they all left except for the dying and the “terminally stupid”.  This leaves Dave with a companion, aptly named “Cat”.  Holly, who has pretty much gone insane over the millions of years, creates a hologram of Dave’s cabin mate, Arnold Rimmer, an officious but completely inept career Space Corp member who’s main job before death was as a food dispenser cleaner and who now is supposed to keep Dave sane.  Finally, a “nanny” type android that was near the end of the first season named Kryten who cooks, cleans, etc…

These are their bizarre, hilarious adventures, hurtling though space in a ship piloted by an mixed up computer, manned by a lager, curry, and chili sauce consuming Human, a creature evolved from his pet cat, a hologram of the Humans long dead roommate and a vaguely human shaped android.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Better than Life
  • Backward
  • Last Human

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

An English writer, humorist and writer of many BBC radio and television pieces, Douglas Adams was head and shoulders above the rest not only in his body of work, but, his shear height (i.e. 6′ 5″).

This book, written after the comedic radio sci-fi piece he wrote for BBC Radio in 1978.  The book is actually rather small at about 180 pages or so and reads very quickly; however, it is jam packed with humor, action, Earth destruction, stolen space ships, space chases, etc…

Arthur Dent is an “every man” who wakes up to find that his house is scheduled for demolition to make way for a freeway bypass.  His friend, Ford Prefect, convinces him to the local pub for several pints of beer where he explains that he’s not from Earth after all but an alien who is desperately trying to get off Earth because it’s scheduled to be demolished….today.  “It must be a Thursday,  I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”.

Arthur and Ford escaping from one frying pan and into another, and into another.  Along the way they meet “Trillian”,  a beautiful fellow Earthling that Arthur once completely failed to hit it off with at a party years earlier and Zaphod Beeblebrox, self-kidnapped, President of the Galaxy who picked Trillian up on a visit to Earth years earlier and who stole the one-of-a-kind space ship the “Heart of Gold”.  They travel the galaxy, time, and still have time for dinner at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (well, that’s a different story).

Completely irreverent, caring little for any of the sacred cows of the  sci-fi genre that will have you rolling with laughter and amazed that the book is so short.

Highly recommended, this is by far the funniest of the series and has the heaviest sprinkling of footnotes of the books as well (but not to distraction).

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  • Life, the Universe and Everything
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
  • Mostly Harmless
  • And Another Thing… (written by Eoin Colfer)

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

Beginning his career in the British film industry on such films as Quills, GoldenEye, The Mask of Zorro, The Saint and Entrapment as the first assistant camera who’s primary responsibility as a member of the film crew is to maintain image sharpness on the filmed subject.  His first novel, the one being reviewed here, is the first to be published.

The Eyre Affair follows the exploits of Thursday Next a member of the SpecOps (Special Operations) 27 (i.e. Literary Crime) division of the police department.  Thursday assists in the capture of her former professor and known terrorist, Acheron Hades.  Acheron evades capture by use of his superhuman abilities allowing him to withstand gunfire and in the process kills Thursday’s entire team.  Thursday would have been dead as well if it weren’t for a copy of Jane Eyre which stopped a bullet.  A stranger helps her while waiting for the paramedics leaving behind a monogrammed handkerchief embroidered with the initials E. F. R. and a 19th century jacket.

Thus begins a fast, action-packed, hilarious adventure spanning the alternate reality in which Thursday lives to the literary world of Jayne Eyre. The story is rife with puns, literary references both commonly known and obscure (or sometimes just forgotten).  The story is a genre-bending mix of Sci-Fi, Super-hero, Procedural, Mystery, Romance, and just about any other type of story imaginable and completely engrossing.

Note: The series is described as actually two series, the first story essentially wrapped up with Something Rotten and the second on-going series beginning with First Among Sequels.

If you enjoy this, try the rest of the ongoing series:

  • Lost in a Good Book
  • The Well of Lost Plots
  • Something Rotten
  • First Among Sequels
  • One of Our Thursday’s is Missing
  • The Woman Who Died a Lot

 

Rendezvous with Rama – Arthur C. Clarke

Born in Somerset, England, Arthur C. Clarke was a prolific and celebrated English Sci-Fi writer and television host.  He’s probably most famous as the co-writer and collaborator with Stanley Kubrick of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  He’s won numerous Hugo and Nebula awards in his career and along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov were frequently called “The Big Three”.   Clarke’s stories are often prophetic if not always accurate.  He is credited with inventing the concept of the artificial satellite; however, his vision of the moon being a sea of dust was, well, let’s say unrealized.

In this story, which is the only one in the Rama series written solely by him, the future Earth’s solar system is visited by a massive cylindrical ship.  Sending a ship to investigate, it docks with the ship. It’s discovered that the ship is a incredibly huge spinning “tin can” with a frigid but breathable atmosphere.  As the astronauts investigate, the ship begins to waken.  Three “cities” are found and the “cylindrical sea” which encompasses Rama like a band. The far, southern, end has seven massive cone shaped objects which are believed to the the engines.

Before long, it’s discovered they may not be alone inside Rama…

The story is quite chilling and shows how we can be inventive and given the right impetus can put aside our differences and investigate the unknown and overcome the dark and fear.

It’s been said that Clarke was less interested in people and relationships but only used them to push forward the science in the fiction; however, it’s not quite as obvious in this story. The personal ambitions, desires, fears and unerring quest for knowledge are beautifully portrayed here.

So impressed was Morgan Freeman, that he has owned the rights since the early 2000’s and has been trying to turn it into film form ever since and by 2012 said that he’s still moving forward with it and is still trying to come up with a good script.  Personally, I cannot wait, I cannot imagine it being anything other than incredible, but, likely less than my own imagination.

If you enjoy this, read the other stories co-written with Gentry Lee:

  • Rama II
  • The Garden of Rama
  • Rama Revealed

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

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