Monthly Archives: September 2015

Firing Slow Bullets

SlowBullets-140x220Slow Bullets
Alastair Reynolds
Tachyon Publications
Paperback, $14.95
ebook $9.99; audio $21.95

Slow Bullets is a short novel (180 pg) in an intriguing far future setting.  I read it in one afternoon when I was in the mood for big idea space opera.

Scur is a soldier in an interstellar war.  She’s captured by a notorious war criminal just after peace is established, who injects a slow bullet into her leg and leaves her to die a slow painful death.  Slow bullets are little devices that are inserted in all soldiers.  They not only contain biographical information from before the soldier entered the military.  Insertion under normal conditions is quite painless.

What Scur is experiencing will kill her.  She manages to cut the slow bullet out of he let, then passes out.  When she wakes up, she’s coming out of hibernation on spaceship.  The spaceship is carrying mostly war criminals, which for reasons Scur doesn’t know includes her.

Only there’s a problem.  They are at their target planet, but hundreds if not thousands of years later than when they should be.  The planet is now in an ice age.

That’s not the only problem.  Continue reading

Robert Buettner’s Overkill is a Top-Notch Adventure

Robert Buettner
Baen Books
Mass market paperback $7.99
ebook $6.99

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Baen title, and I’d forgotten how much fun they could be.  Baen has a large number of series books, and I wanted to start with a series that didn’t have a dozen or more novels in it.  So I chose Overkill, not realizing that it’s the first volume in a new series that’s a sequel to another series from a different publisher.  (Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.)

Jazen Parker has been hired to help a wealthy businessman hunt a creature called the grezzen that’s reputed to be the most dangerous animal in the universe.  He’s got a gorgeous guide to help, which is about the only plus to the situation.

Parker comes from a world where his very existence is illegal, since his birth wasn’t authorized.  Simply existing is a capital crime.  He’s been hiding from bounty hunters since the day he was born.  He knows nothing about his parents.  In order to keep him alive the midwife who raised him enlists him in the Legion, a group of government sanctioned mercenaries.

When a person’s term of service in the Legion is up, they have one year of amnesty before they can be pursued for any crimes they’ve committed.  Parker’s year is almost up.  He’s only got a few weeks to establish a new identity.  If he doesn’t, he’s bounty hunter bait.  He needs the paycheck from this job to pay for that kind of fresh start.  Until he gets paid and establishes his new identity, he’s got to keep his secret.

But Parker isn’t the only one with a secret.  His employer has one.  The guide his employer hired has one.  And the grezzen may have the biggest one of all. Continue reading

Kuttner Unkollected: “Trophy”

Henry Kuttner writing as Scott Morgan
Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944

As I mentioned in my post on “A God Named Kroo”, this is the second of three stories Kuttner had in this issue of Thrilling Wonder. Unlike “Kroo”, “Trophy” isn’t a humorous yarn. It’s a science fiction story with a nice little horror ending.

Like “A God Named Kroo”, this story concerns the Japanese theatre of operations during WWII. This time the viewpoint character is a Japanese officer who is also a Western trained surgeon. In fact he’s one of the best surgeons in the world.

The backstory is that he and his men are marooned on a remote island in the Pacific when they see a US plane. They attempt to lure the plane to the island one evening and are almost successful when a flying torpedo shaped object zoomed by, causing the plane to crash. The airmen aren’t the pushovers the Japanese soldiers are expecting. A gun battle ensues, and the surgeon and a single airman are the only survivors. Continue reading

A Look at Vulcan’s Dolls by Margaret St. Clair

Startling-Stories-Vulcans-DollsVulcan’s Dolls
Margaret St. Clair
Startling Stories Feb. 1952, p. 10-73

When I posted my essay “The Women Other Women Don’t See“, I said I would be reading and reviewing the works of some of the women whose contributions to the field have been neglected.  “Vulcan’s Dolls” and Margaret St. Clair are a perfect example.

Margaret St. Clair (1911-1995) was active in the field from the late 1940s through the early 1980s, but most of her work was published in the 1950s.  Stories that appeared in F&SF carried the byline Idris Seabright.  Today, to the extent that she’s known at all, she’s remembered for a handful of short stories.

“Vulcan’s Dolls” was billed as a novel on the cover of the issue of Startling Stories in which it appeared.  Stories published as “novels” in the pulps usually weren’t long enough to be considered novels today or long enough to be reprinted in book form.  Book length work, as a general rule, was published as serials.  Consequently, “Vulcan’s Dolls” has never been reprinted.  Startling Stories isn’t a highly sought after pulp, so copies shouldn’t be too hard to come by.  I picked mine up at Half Price Books for $3.

Startling Stories, and to a lesser extent its sister publication Thrilling Wonder Stories, mixed fantasy in with the science fiction, sometimes blending the two together.  “Vulcan’s Dolls” draws on Greek mythology (St. Clair had an educational background in the classics) but is inarguably science fiction, although the science doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.   Continue reading