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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914

LAST UPDATE 1/21/20

Return to Pal-Ul-Don by Will Murray, Altus, 2015   

This is a Tarzan novel set during World War II. Lord Clayton has begun a fighter pilot and while on a rescue mission in Africa, he is forced down by pterodactyls and finds himself back in the prehistoric land he visited in an earlier adventure by Burroughs. He is befriended by the turtle people, menaced by dinosaurs, and battles against a kind of poisonous spider that is highly aggressive. I enjoyed the book, but it did not feel to me like an actual Tarzan novel, although this is possibly because I havenít read any of the original in something over forty years. Maybe I should rectify that. 1/21/20

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, Little Brown, 2012 

This young adult novel is translated from the Norwegian. In some ways it is quite good, but in others, itís a complete failure. The pace is very slow initially. The author takes over a hundred pages to tell us that a secret base was established on the moon during the Nixon administration, but it was assembled robotically and while stocked with supplies, it has never been visited by humans. This is because something hostile was found on the moon, but no one except one man in a sanitarium seems to remember this. So a new expedition is sent, four adults and three teens, the latter chosen by lottery so that they are Japanese, Norwegian, and French. This is supposed to help revive human interest in space travel. Once they arrive, things go wrong almost from the first. There is some kind of alien intelligence Ė never explained Ė which does not want us there. Equipment fails, locks jam, power goes off, and a computer delivers cryptic messages. Ultimately disappointing. 1/19/20

The Mindblocked Man by Jeff Sutton, DAW, 1972  

The inhabited solar system is a dictatorship. The last ruler resigned and is undergoing treatment on the moon. His replacement discovers he has a fatal disease and has only weeks to provide for a smooth turnover of power. Meanwhile, it appears that the ex-dictator has developed the ability to teleport and is back on Earth with amnesia, causing trouble. Except thatís not what is really happening. Suttonís early interesting near space fiction had given way to turgid, implausible dystopias during his later career, of which this is a sad example. 1/15/20

The Essential Captain America Volume 6, Marvel, 2011 

This is a collection of Captain America comics from the late 1970s and I found them to be decidedly inferior to his earlier adventures. The Red Skull and Magneto are the only major villains. Most of his opponents are minor ones like Constrictor, Americadroid, the Swine, the Night Flyer, and a robot version of himself. In many of the stories, he works with the Falcon. As usual Marvel finds convoluted ways to pit one hero against another, so he also battles the Hulk, the Human Torch, and Nick Fury. 1/13/20

Whisper from the Stars by Jeff Sutton, Dell,    

Two centuries from now the world is divided into Orwellian power blocs. A scientist who is looking into the basic nature of matter and human existence goes on the run when a mysterious government department decides to kill him, and does kill several of his associates. A science writer decides to track him down and find out what is going on. Slow moving, overly talky and technical, and so superficial that I never had any real concept of the world in which all of this was happening. Thereís also a lot of nonsense about destiny and fate. The heroes escape by means of rationalized magic. Pretty bad. 1/11/20

Altonís Unguessable by Jeff Sutton, Ace, 1970 

A very minor short novel about a survey ship that lands on a planet where a discorporate alien has been trapped and seeks to possess them in order to escape and spread its kind to supplant human civilization. Itís sort of The Thing, but without anything actually interesting taking place. The climax comes aboard the ship as they are heading home and realize they have been infiltrated. The characters are pretty much interchangeable and readers will not care which of them live and which do not. 1/8/20

Muddle Earth by John Brunner, Del Rey, 1993  

Brunnerís last novel. Itís a not very funny satire in which a man is revived from suspended animation to discover that Earth collapsed and is now being restored Ė not always very accurately Ė by an alien race contracted to recreate history. He has a series of episodic adventures, none of which are particularly interesting. It feels as though Brunner was trying to write a Ron Goulart novel but did not quite have the hang of it. Not the greatest end to a long and honored career. 1/7/20

The Programmed Man by Jean & Jeff Sutton, Putnam, 1968 

One of several decidedly bad SF novels packaged as for young adults even though there are sometimes nothing but adults in the story. This one is about attempts to steal the nova bomb which an interstellar empire uses to control its subjects. It is not clear who is the villain and even worse, youíre not likely to care about it. The plots within plots are not well constructed and the plot lacks any real momentum. Sutton seemed to lose all focus when not writing about near future space travel. 1/5/20

Embers of War by Gareth Powell, Titan, 2019  

This is an unabashed space opera that feels almost like a comic book at times. In the aftermath of an interstellar war, a self-aware starship is repurposed from military to more constructive purposes, but there is reason to believe there is some kind of hidden threat in the galaxy. There is,of course. The human characters never really piqued my interest and the situations were not novel enough to carry me along without them. I didnít care for the ending at all and I gather there is a sequel out, so perhaps the author has taken care of that problem. 1/4/20

A Maze of Stars by John Brunner, Del Rey, 1991  w1231 

A self-aware seed ship is caught in a time loop that causes it to revisit its hundreds of colonies at various points in their history. Under certain conditions it is able to take passengers and resettle them on more appropriate worlds. Most of the novel is a series of generally depressing vignettes about failed colonies, often the fault of the settlers, with the ship trying to unravel the secret of its own programming along the way. Thereís not enough real focus to make this successful. 1/1/20

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