Robots for Asimov

i-robotI apologize for the campaign-esque sound of the title.  I’m still trying to get 2016 out of my head.  Anyway, I said yesterday at Adventures Fantastic that I’m going to be reading more of the classics of the field.  Furthermore I specifically named Asimov’s robot stories as one of the things I’ll be reading.

It’s Asimov’s 97th birthday today.  He was born January 2, 1920, in Russia.  I first read the robot stories in 7th grade.  It’s been more than a decade (going on two decades now) since I last read one of them.  I’ve read a few Asimov stories over the past year; I’m about a third of the way through The Winds of Change right now.

The robot stories have all been collected in The Complete Robot.  I’ve got a copy around somewhere, if I an ever find the darn thing.  I’m looking forward to diving into them.  Robots used to be pretty  ubiquitous in science fiction, but you don’t see them that much these days.  They’ve been supplanted by AIs.  Still, I like the old-fashioned robots, and Asimov did them better than anyone.

Guest Post: Adrian Simmons Reviews The Cosmic Eye by Mack Reynolds

the-cosmic-eyeThe Cosmic Eye
Mack Reynolds
ebook $2.99

We’re going to start 2017 with a guest post.  Adrian Simmons is the probably best known to readers of my blogs as the editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  He’s also an accomplished author and a man who has a deep and abiding love for science fiction and fantasy.  He shares with us this thoughts on Mack Reynolds’ novel The Cosmic Eye.  Reynolds was a prolific science fiction author in the 1950s and 1960s who is sadly pretty forgotten today.

Here’s Adrian and what he thought of The Cosmic Eye: Continue reading

A Review of The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015

years-best-militaryThe Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF 2015
David Afsharirad, ed.
Baen
Trade paper $16
ebook $8.99

My project to read all the Year’s Best anthologies from this year (those covering 2015) has stalled again, but I’m going to try to get through at least one more before I call it quits and move on to other things.

This time around it’s a science fiction only anthology, the second in a new series focusing on military and adventure sf.  I met David Afsharirad at Armadillocon this past year.  I hadn’t realized he was going to be there or I would have taken my copy for him to sign.

But that’s not what you want to hear.  You want to know about the book. Continue reading

Alfred Bester and “Fondly Fahrenheit”

alfred-besterAlfred Bester was born on this date (December 28) in 1913 in New York City.  He was in many ways one of the most brilliant and innovative science fiction writers of the 20th Century, having an influence that was disproportionate to his output.  His novel The Demolished Man won the first Hugo Award for Best Novel.  Dealing with telepathy, it was a wild and stylistically innovative book.  The Psy-Corps in Babylon 5 was modeled after portions of this novel, and Walter Koenig’s character in the show was named Alfred Bester, an obvious homage. Continue reading

How to Divide and Rule

Divide and Rule
L. Sprague de Camp
originally serialized in Uknown, April and May 1939

Unknown, arguably the greatest fantasy magazine after Weird Tales, did publish some science fiction during its run. Not too surprising given the editor was John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction.

Case in point, Divide and Rule by L. Sprague de Camp, who was an accomplished writer in both fantasy and science fiction. I enjoyed this one more than I have some of the other de Camp titles I’ve read in the last few years.

The story takes place a couple of hundred years in the future.  Earth has been subjugated by an alien race known as hoppers.  They’re a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.  After studying Earth’s history, they concluded that the best way to keep humanity from uniting was to divide them up into feudal territories. Continue reading

Reading “The Merchants of Venus” to Observe Frederik Pohl’s Birthday

Fred PohlFrederik Pohl was born on this date, November 26, in 1919.  He passed away in 2013.  Pohl was one of the top science fiction writers of the Twentieth Century.  In addition to writing such classics as The Space Merchants (cowritten with C. M. Kornbluth)  and the memoir The Way the Future Was, as well as editing Galaxy magazine and being a founding member of the fan group The Futurians, he was an active author until the day he died.

The 1970s was a productive decade for Pohl.  Beginning with “The Merchants of Venus”, his Heechee series was highly successful.  The first novel, Gateway, won the Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell awards.  Continue reading

A Look at Poul Anderson’s “To Outlive Eternity”

anderson-to-outlive-eternityTo Outlive Eternity
Poul Anderson
Baen
mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $6.99

This post isn’t about the entire collection, but the title story.  “To Outlive Eternity” was serialized in Galaxy in 1967.  An expanded version was published in 1970 as the novel Tau Zero.  I read the novel approximately 25 years ago.  Today being Anderson’s birthday, I wanted to read something of his that was longer than a short story, but not too long.  “To Outlive Eternity” was perfect.

Anderson was a master at many forms of science fiction and fantasy.  He had a degree in physics; not surprisingly, much of his hard science stories revolve around physics and astronomy concepts, one of the many reasons I like his work.  “To Outlive Eternity” falls into this category. Continue reading

Step into The Burning Light

burninglightThe Burning Light
Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler
Tor.com
Paperback $14.99
ebook $2.99

This short novel went on sale about two weeks ago.  I’d like to thank Brad Beaulieu for sending me a review copy.  I’d also like to apologize for not getting it read and reviewed closer to the release date.  Life has been happening, and I’m still adjusting to some new time constraints.

I’ve not read Ziegler but I’m a big fan of Beaulieu’s work.  And while most of that work has been fantasy, he has written some science fiction.  That’s what The Burning Light is.

Set in a future where the ocean levels have risen, New York has been flooded and taken over by squatters.  The wealthy and powerful live in enclaves further inland, and everyone has implants that allow them to communicate nonverbally through a type of cybernetic web.

Something called the Light is starting to erupt in places.  It produces an addiction that leaves its victims burned out junkies who eventually die.  Colonel Chu is trying to find the source of the Light and destroy it.  Years ago the Light manifested through her twin sister.  Although her sister survived, and Chu was touched by the Light, everyone else in the vicinity died.  Now Chu has become obsessed with vengeance. Continue reading

When the Echoes Symphonize

a-symphony-of-echoesA Symphony of Echoes
Jodi Taylor
Night Shade Books
Hardcover $24.95
Trade Paper $12.99
Ebook $3.99

I’d like to thank Brianna Scharfenberg of Night Shade Books for not only providing me with the review copy but also introducing me to this series. It’s become one of my favorites.

A Symphony of Echoes takes up pretty soon after the ending of Just One Damned Thing After Another (reviewed here).

Things haven’t slowed down.  Early in the book, Madeline Maxwell and her associates end up going to the future to save St. Mary’s from an attack.  This is highly irregular, and by highly irregular, I mean Not Done At All.  You never go to the future.  Too many risks.

But these are unusual times, no pun intended.  Max ends up being the director for a while.  I’m not sure how far in the future they go.  It doesn’t seem to be too far, but none of the people there are members of Max’s version of St. Mary’s except Mrs. Partridge, the assistant to the director.  The implication is that they are all dead. Continue reading

Cordwainer Smith at 113

cordwainer smithThis is going to be a quick post, because the second summer term starts in the morning, and I’m teaching an 8:00 AM class I’m still doing last minute preparations for.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, who wrote science fiction under the pen name of Cordwainer Smith.

If you haven’t read him, you’ve missed one of the most unique voices the field has ever seen.  Much like Avram Davidson and R. A. Lafferty, no one has ever really written like him.  (Although the first part of Robert Silverberg’s Nightwings comes close.)  And he is nothing like Lafferty or Davidson.

best of cordwainer smithBorn in 1913, he was an expert on East Asia and psychological warfare and spoke at least six languages.  His future history, The Instrumentality of Mankind, contains a number of unique terms Linebarger created just for his fiction.  His works contain a greater depth than most fiction of the 1950s and early 1960s.  Many of his stories have religious overtones, and he’s been compared to Tolkien and Lewis.

Linebarger/Smith suffered a fatal heart attack in 1966.  His daughter maintains a detailed webpage about him here.