From the Earth to the Moon and ‘Round the Moon Review

Imagine that the year is 1869.  Heavier-than-air powered flight is a distant fantasy for reckless dreamers and adrenaline junkies willing to throw themselves off of cliffs to test their contraptions.  The American Civil War only recently ended, and the transcontinental railroad is not quite complete.  Steam-powered ships are just beginning to replace sailing vessels for oceanic travel.  This is the context in which Jules Verne, one of the grandfathers of science fiction, told the story of the Apollo program.

Dialogue Short Stories Reviews

I made an exception this past week for a pair of short stories (they could almost be called flash fiction) that Brandon Sanderson recommends for studying dialogue.  Since the stories were fine examples of both storytelling and writing craft, I decided to share a review for them, along with a review for Sanderson’s contribution to this technical style.

Foundation Review

It was actually a television adaptation of Foundation that prompted me to realize how long it had been since I last read this science fiction classic, and that it was probably time for a revisit.  My wife and I recently watched AppleTV’s interpretation of Asimov’s novel, and so I decided it was an opportune time for a reread.

Elder Race Review

Yet for all the attention that the equivalency between science and magic seems to take, it was not to me really what drove this book or made it enjoyable. I think this book was really all about perspective and communication, and the evidence is in the very structure of the book. It is written primarily from two perspectives: the “magic” perspective and the “science” perspective, and it is the contrast between the two that makes this book distinct from any number of other riffs on the interaction between more and less “advanced” civilizations.

The Variable Man Review

The Variable Man’s description included references to a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth, and a man from the past.  Whatever I expected from that sparse summary, it was not what the story proved to be.  The fact that the Earth set piece happened to have undergone a nuclear apocalypse (at least five of them, actually) is really something of a footnote, one of those throw-away world-building tidbits, like villius flowers, that don’t really add to the plot or the substance of the story, and exist only to create a more full-fleshed world.  As for the man from the past…that’s where things got interesting.

Heavy Planet Review

I don’t think this was quite as strong a science fiction story as Rocheworld or Inherit the Stars, but it was nonetheless enjoyable.  If you’ve enjoyed the other, similar science fiction that we’ve reviewed here on the site, then I would recommend you consider visiting Heavy Planet.  Or, alternatively, sending your favorite, pre-industrial, centipede friend to do it for you.

Wild Seed Review

This book reminded me of Ursula K Le Guin's writing. Something about the descriptions, the pacing, the plotting, the characters, echoed that author's mode and style. Not that I think Wild Seed is derivative in any way - it is one of the most unique stories I've come across recently - merely that the author happened to have similar style and preferences to Le Guin. Also like Le Guin, Butler takes a fairly common concept - that of immortals interacting with mortals - and follows through on it in a way that makes it compelling and original. This is, in many ways, what I've always wanted to see in a book that tackles that concept.

Blindsight Review

If I had to distill Blindsight down to a single, central theme, it would be that of self. What is the concept of self? How does it relate to the concept of what is human? What is the origin, function, and cost of self-awareness? How does it relate to free will, and does free will exist, or is it merely an illusion? Watts seems to have created the entire novel as a thought experiment to explore these concepts, and he leverages two lenses to accomplish that: the various neuro-atypicalities of his characters, and the distinctively intelligent but unaware aliens. Either of these ideas alone could have easily been the foundation of a compelling novel. Combining them together made this one both more compelling, and more challenging, and is in many ways at the core of my personal dichotomy over Blindsight.