I came across this particular text when I was browsing through an actual bookstore, and added it to my list almost entirely because of the author on the cover; everything I've read of Asimov's, from his Robot books, to two massive compilations of his short stories, to Foundation, which is one of my most frequently referenced books, has been enjoyable, so I figured I was pretty safe to add Fantastic Voyage to my reading list, even though the description didn't sound very compelling to me. It's surprising, therefore, that I mostly found this story disappointing.
Rather than lamenting the decline of science fiction, we should probably spend time talking about how wonderful Rocheworld is, and why you should absolutely go find a copy as soon as possible. Granted, that may be a little difficult, because it's no longer in print. However, I was able to find a lightly used copy without much difficulty, so I imagine you can, too. Just be sure you look for the complete Rocheworld, and not one of the earlier versions, sometimes titled Flight of the Dragonfly. The book is from back in the days when many science fiction novels were published in short, serialized form in magazines, so Flight of the Dragonfly is about a hundred thousand words shorter than the complete Rocheworld.
Every time I pick up one of these classic-style science fiction novel, like Ringworld or Double Star, I find myself saying that a) I should read these sorts of books more often, and b) I wish that books like these were still written today.
Though I've read Timothy Zahn before, and enjoyed his books, this wasn't a book that I sought ought to read. In fact, it wasn't even on my extensive reading list. After finishing Back to Methuselah, nothing on my reading list was really calling out to me to be read, and I happened to see that this piece was in Prime reading on Kindle, which meant I could read it for free. A short, free, light read seemed the perfect thing coming off of a heavier piece like Back to Methuselah, while trying to think of what I actually wanted to read next.
Science fiction seems to have faded. At least, when I go to a library, or a bookstore, or more likely browse the Amazon Kindle library, I find a lot more good, really original fantasy being put out by new names and in modern times than I do science fiction. I can’t claim to know why this might be, but I do know that it hasn’t always been this way; my dad has often said that when he was younger it was the opposite, with fantasy in a kind of rut, and science fiction the blossoming flower. This present situation is perhaps why I find that I read today much for fantasy than I do science fiction, which is really shame, since every time that I pick up one of these older science fiction novels I invariably enjoy it.
The world is a dangerous place. That's true any time, and at any point in history, but certainly this year the point has been emphasized repeatedly. Although it is often easy to imagine that either it is hubris to think that we live in important times, or alternatively that what is happening right now must be a matter of grave and unprecedented significance, the objective truth is that this year has already seen more uncertainty and tumult than usual. So, naturally, I read a book written to scare people.
There are certain novels that you can read again and again, and you’ll always get something a little different out of them. It can be because you’re at a different point in your life, or because you’ve read other things and are approaching the story with a different context, or simply because the story is that intricate and beautifully written that, like any other great work of art, there are always more mysteries to be revealed. When it comes to literature, these are often the books that first got you into the genre, and that you come back to time and time again. These are the books that are thumbed through and dog-eared and well-worn. There might be pages trying to fall out, maybe even a tear here and there. These are well loved books.
I don't read a lot of Stephen King, not because I don't like his writing, but because I'm not a big fan of horror. I actually very much enjoyed one of his fantasy novels, Eye of the Dragon. My own horror writing tends to not remain in the genre for long, as you may recall from reading Zombies, and I don't especially enjoy reading it from others. To me, reading is usually about escaping to a better world of the imagination, not a darker one. However, a friend recommended this book to me, as it was rather topical, and so I figured I would give it a read.
I love classic, hard science fiction (we've talked about the difference between hard and soft science fiction before). Verne, Wells, Asimov: I've read most of what they wrote. These stories, exploring scientifically rigorous possibilities and ideas, hold a unique place in the huge volume of work classified as science fiction. To use the MICE quotient, these are idea stories, through and through. I'd heard about Ringworld in a few different places, and decided that this was something I needed to read.
I know, I know. I only do one review a week, and Tuesdays are reserved for other thoughts and writings and musings, so that you don't get bored of reading my reviews. Reviews are supposed to come out on Thursdays. Well, don't worry: you'll have your book review on Thursday. I think I deserve a pass, though, since this isn't a book review. Now, I don't review a lot of shows or movies, mostly because I don't watch a lot of shows and movies, but also because this is supposed to be a writing website, not a video production website, and therefore book reviews seem more appropriate. Shows and movies are still story-telling, though, and exceptions can be made.