Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: “Out of Orbit” by Carole Wilkinson (Originally published as “Phenomena” in 1999)

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Recently, I’ve been reading the Republispawn bedtime stories from the “Fact Meets Fiction” series. These are books that are aimed at grade schoolers, and attempt to introduce real science, history, and whatnot in to fictional stories, thereby educating and entertaining kids at the same time. It’s a noble idea, but thus far I’ve found the ‘fact’ side of the fiction to be a little disappointing. Just the same, as many of our readers are parents, and as this entry in the series was an actual Science Fiction book, I thought ‘why not review it?’

PLAY BY PLAY:

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BOOK REVIEW: “Serenity - The Official Visual Companion” by Joss Whedon (2005)

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Once upon a time there was a show called “Firefly” which was too brilliant and beautiful to live, and so it died. Like many genre shows before it and since, it was banished to the Fox Friday Night Death Slot to quietly starve for want of sustenance. Even then, it didn’t die fast enough for its master’s liking, so they put a bullet in its head and never even bothered to air the last three episodes. Two years later, the show rose from the dead, transformed in to a big screen movie; the first - it was hoped - of many.

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BOOK REVIEW: “For Spacious Skies: The Uncommon Journey of a Mercury Astronaut” by Scott Carpenter and Kris Stoever (2002)

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One of the unsung problems about biographies about astronauts - particularly the early ones - is that they’re all essentially supermen. It’s sometimes hard for audiences to fully identify with these people simply because they were, to a man, better, stronger, faster, smarter, and luckier than damn near everyone who ever lived. And they were specifically chosen for these qualities.

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Last Mimzy” by Henry Kuttner (2007 - originally printed as The Best of Henry Kuttner in 1975)

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I was in a mood to read all of Lewis Padgett’s “Robot” stories, which are fine examples of both comedic SF and really tight little SF mystery stories as well. Unfortunately, the omnibus edition of those is long out of print, and I couldn’t find ‘em for less than $200. That seemed a little steep for nostalgia, so I settled for this anthology instead, and of course just now I found “The Proud Robot” online for about $40, which is better, but still pretty steep.

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Invincible” by Stanislaw Lem (1964, English Translation 1973)

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What we’ve got here is your basic “Mysterious Planet” kind of storyline, a basic puzzle-box mystery where weird shenanigans are going on, and we’re given specifically odd facts with which to figure out exactly what’s what. It’s a popular Science Fiction Mystery format, which dates from the Victorian Proto-SF “Mysterious Island” novels which date from even earlier fictional travelogues, which themselves no doubt descended from the whole gaggle of “Crazy lands across the western ocean” stories that have been replete in literature since time immemorial.

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SCRIPT REVIEW: “Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever,“ Part II: The Original Teleplay (1995)

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Yesterday we reviewed Harlan Ellison’s awkwardly titled 1995 tome, “Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, The Original Screenplay that Became the Classic Star Trek Episode, With an Expanded Introductory Essay by Harlan Ellison.” There were essentially *two* issues going on in that book - on the one hand we had the struggle between the Artist par excellence, and The Man Who Would Be God; and then you also had this script thing tossed in there.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, The Original Teleplay That Became The Classic Star Trek Episode

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Harlan Ellison is my hero. I just love the guy.

I’ve got no real illusions about that, mind you: I doubt he’d like me, I doubt it would take five minutes for me to run afoul of his famous rages, easily half the things the man has ever said piss me off, and I don’t even like a lot of his fiction all that much - but - my hero he remains.

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BOOK REVIEW: “Voyage” by Stephen Baxter (1996)

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Best. Alternate. History. Novel. Ever.

Seriously: Best. Alternate. History. Novel. Ever. Period. End Sentence.

I love alternate history novels. I like a window in to worlds where established history traveled down a different road from our own. I love visions of the myriad different ways the modern world could have turned out. I adore the questions of identity arise when you see how people could have turned out differently had they lived through altered circumstances.

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BOOK REVIEW: "Sam Gunn Forever!" by Ben Bova (1998)

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Ben Bova is sort of a modern-day pulp writer. I read some of his stuff in the early 80s, and was not wowed by it. In those days, I kept my overflow books in my parents garage along with my old issues of Omni (Edited by Bova, coincidentally enough) and Starlog and Future Life, and what have you, and I’d paw through them while I was waiting for the glue to dry on whatever models I was building at the time. Most of my memories of Bova involve models of the Cygnus from Disney’s “The Black Hole”, and a lot of shivering.

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