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

LAST UPDATE 6/30/15

Beyond the End of Space by John W. Campbell Jr., Armchair, 2014. Magazine appearance 1933.  

Although Campbell wrote a few good stories before switching to editing, this was not one of them. A scientist discovers a powerful new energy source and naturally the existing companies want to suppress his discovery. Even worse, one of them has plans for seizing control over the entire planet, which will be thwarted in due course by our hero and his friends, who stand for freedom of information and from tyranny. Very old fashioned and actually rather slow moving for a story of its type. 6/30/15

The Sixth Glacier by Marius, Armchair, 2014 (magazine appearance 1929)

This pseudonymous author wasn’t too bad a writer but he didn’t know much about science. The Earth periodically passes into a cold zone in space – and there’s no explanation of what that could be – which brings on ice ages. The ancient Mayans knew when the next one is scheduled – no explanation for that either – and the discovery of ancient records leads one man to warn the world, which is of course ignored. Then it happens, and London is under one thousand feet of ice within weeks, which is impossible. The author apparently doesn’t understand that in order to have ice, you have to have water. Eventually the survivors find a way to heat the steam and melt the ice in order to recover the land – despite the fact that it would still be just as cold with the ice gone. Really bad. 6/30/14

What Lurks Beneath by Ryan Lockwood, Pinnacle, 2015, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-7860-3289-1   

Sequel to Below, which I liked a lot. Valerie Martell takes a break from her tempestuous relationship with Will Sturman, who seems to be sinking into alcoholism. Her specialty is marine crustaceans and a mysterious photograph of a tentacle connected to two missing divers in Bermuda has attracted her attention. With the aid of her uncle, a professional diver, and a colleague who deals with remotely operated undersea vehicles, she begins exploring a series of caves. Although she doesn’t know what’s there, the reader is aware of the fact that a gigantic octopus is in the area, feeding on whales and humans alike. Eventually the giant animal stumbles into a major resort, with chaotic consequences. Not as melodramatic as it might sound, though definitely suspenseful, and the characters are all well drawn and interesting. 6/29/15

The Weave by Nancy Jane Moore, Aqueduct, 2015, $19, ISBN 978-1-61976-077-6 

Space opera seems to be enjoying a surge at the moment, which is good news for those of us who are still moved by a sense of wonder. Humans are planning to place a colony on a world whose inhabitants appear to be too primitive to provide any real resistance. Unfortunately they are unfamiliar with the history of the world. Part of the problem also arises because of difficulties of communication between the two peoples, and the protagonist is a woman who is determined to bridge that gap, and who suspects that resistance is going to be more determined than do her superiors. The chief alien protagonist is attempting to prevent open violence but it seems inevitable. This is a good metaphor about the problems of communication that face us even among ourselves here on Earth. It's also a remarkably good first novel. 6/28/15

Before the Asteroids by Harl Vincent, Armchair, 2014 (magazine appearance 1930) 

A document found on Mars reveals the origin of the asteroids. It was formerly a planet and a high civilization rose there and on Mars, both somehow having evolved humans who were indistinguishable from each other. Unfortunately the fifth planet tended to be more aggressive and eventually a war breaks out. The peace loving Martians develop a superweapon that causes the entire planet to break  up. Vincent had a better prose style than most of his contemporaries in the 1930s pulps, but his story is banal and this continued throughout his career, which ended with one forgettable paperback. 6/25/15

Cosmic Kill by Robert Silverberg, Armchair, 2014. Magazine appearance 1957. 

Originally published as by Robert Arnette, this is a sequel to an earlier story by Paul Fairman using that pseudonym. Silverberg wrote it in two days at Fairman’s request even though it really wasn’t his style at all. The setting is a solar system where Plutonians, Mercurians, Martians, and Venusians all evolved intelligence, but they all lust after Earth women. The primary character is an assassin sent to Mars from Earth to kill a warlord before he launches an interplanetary war. His job is complicated by a second assassin with a different agenda and the presence of a captured Earth girl. Although it’s better than most stories of its type, it really isn’t characteristic of Silverberg’s usual style or subject matter. 6/24/15

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois, St Martins, 2015, $22.99, ISBN 978-1-250-06552-4

I ran out of superlatives for this annual series quite a few years ago. I suspect that if you had a complete set, you would effectively own virtually all of the significant short SF for the last three decades. As usual, the editor selects from the prozines, anthologies, and various electronic publications. Some of the magazines are not specific to the genre. I think this volume includes the highest percentage of stories I had not already read since the series started. There is the usual mix of new and well established writers, the latter including Ian McDonald, Michael Swanwick, Alastair Reynolds, Nancy Kress, Ken Liu, Susan Palwick, and others. And no best of the year anthology could possibly be without a Robert Reed story. There is the usual incisive, informative, and entertaining summary of the year in SF, and a substantial list of honorable mentions. This is a regular must read for me and should be for everyone else. 6/23/15

Hunters in the Dark by Peter David, Gallery, 2015, $16, ISBN 978-1-4767-9585-0

A Halo novel. Based on the computer game, this involves an epic interstellar war between humans and the Covenant. Although the conflict appears to be ebbing, the discovery of alien technology from a now extinct civilization threatens to disrupt the entire galaxy. The only solution is to penetrate into the heart of a gigantic alien artifact. The basic plot - exploration of an alien environment - is one that I almost always enjoy and this wasn't one of the occasional exceptions. David provides a tense story with a reasonable number of wonderful revelations and plenty of excitement to keep the reader turning the pages. It is not necessary to be familiar with the game - I am not - to enjoy the tie-ins, particularly when as well written as this one. 6/23/15

The Tentacles from Below by Anthony Gilmore, Armchair, 2014 (Magazine appearance 1931)

Gilmore was a pseudonym used by Desmond Hall and Harry Bates, notably for the Hawk Carse series. This short novel involves a series of attacks on shipping by a mysterious submarine. Our heroes have the most advanced submersible humans have ever built and they try to engage the enemy, which turns out to be a race of intelligent octopi whose civilization was confined to a single cavern until recently. It is never explained why a unified race who believed themselves to be the only intelligence on Earth would have developed an advanced weapons system, but otherwise this is a slight but mildly enjoyable adventure story. 6/20/15

The Justice of Martin Brand by Raymond A. Palmer, Armchair, 2013 (magazine appearance 1950)  

The Martians are planning to attack Earth but the human government refuses to recognize the danger. Martin Brand is a soldier who joins a secretive spy organization after being jilted by the woman he loves in favor of a dastardly type. Working undercover he discovers that the latter, believed dead, is still alive, and when the woman is cured of insanity spontaneously (!) he renews his romance. But in order to save the Earth, he must allow himself to be branded a traitor. Despite the silly plot, this was quite readable for a pulp adventure. 6/20/15

Bring Back My Brain! By Dwight V. Swain, Armchair, 2013 (magazine appearance 1957)

This is another of Swain’s short, implausible novels. This time it involves a race of alien shapechangers. The hero is being held prisoner because it is believed that he is one of the aliens – apparently there is no physical way to tell the difference. He escapes and after various dull adventures exposes the real alien infiltrators. Just as bad as the title would suggest but it gets an honorary mention for having one of the silliest titles in the history of the genre. 6/20/15

Extinction Bomber by S.B. Hough, WDK, 1956  

Hough is better known to the SF world as Rex Gordon, author of First on Mars and a few other novels.  He wrote thrillers under his own name, of which this one is the only to be marginally SF. International tension crackles as it is discovered that the Russians have developed a new form of aircraft engine that could make them temporarily masters of the world. The British has to decide whether or not to bomb the factory where they are made and risk World War III. Most of the story is told from the points of view of the chief pilot and his wife. It’s potentially a very suspenseful story line but the plot moves so slowly and awkwardly that it is actually rather boring. 6/19/15

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb, Putnam, 2015, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-399-17087-4   

The latest Eve Dallas thriller has a few SF frills – android policemen, references to offworld institutions, a few electronic devices – but it still reads much like a contemporary police procedural. This time it gets very personal as a crazed killer convinced that she is helping Dallas right wrongs begins executing her “enemies.” The obsession eventually turns from adoration to hatred and Dallas realizes that everyone she loves has just become a potential target. A solid but unremarkable entry in a series that I have found uniformly entertaining even though it is formulaic and has run to better than three dozen books already. Engrossing, fast paced, witty, and exciting. 6/17/15

The Big Eye by Max Ehrlich, Bantam, 1949 

When I was haunting bookstores as a teenager, I found copies of this everywhere, apparently because it was one of the “free” selections if you joined the SF Book Club. It’s a sort of disaster novel. The world is on the brink of a nuclear war, astronomers announce that a rogue planet is going to destroy the Earth, but it turns out to be a fake. The author’s knowledge of how gravity would work was not extensive, and the peaceful transition to a world government and the banning of war is totally unbelievable. What I hadn’t remembered was the strong religious element. Lifelong atheists become Christians – of course – moments after hearing about it, and the collision is scheduled to take place on Christmas Day. There are minor structural problems as well. The narrator is sent to a conference to explain a briefcase full of notes – but he has no idea what the notes are about. Why would the head of the US military visit an astronomer in the middle of an international crisis? If there are only a few thousand people left in Manhattan, why are the bridges, airports, etc. all jammed with a backlog of weeks? The very strong anti-science not at the end is also unfortunate. 6/16/15

InterstellarNet: Enigma by Edward M. Lerner, FoxAcre, 2015, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-936771-64-6

Third in the InterstellarNet series. I had never heard of the series or the publisher until this arrived, so I haven't read the first two in the series, which put me at a decided disadvantage. Apparently they deal with the invasion of the solar system by an alien race, and the eventual victory by human defenders. Remnants of the invasion force are kept imprisoned on a moon of Uranus, although they are restive and thirsty for revenge. But the interstellar community is larger and more diverse than any of the characters realize and the future of human civilization is about to change in a profound way. This is mostly a space opera set in an interesting variation of the standard solar civilization. There's a little bit of military SF, some intrigue, some wondrous revelations, and some gritty conflicts. Fun, but I strongly recommend reading the first two books before trying this one. 6/15/15

A Pattern for Monsters by Randall Garrett, Armchair, 2015, bound with Star Surgeon by Alan E. Nourse. Magazine appearance 1957)

A reporter notices some strange events surrounding a fire at a nursing home. He hears rumors of unusual people – four arms, two heads – and discovers that the ambulance company servicing the home is similarly bogus. Although this story is simplistic and implausible – the government is hiding groups of children of atomic scientists who have mutated because of their parents’ exposure to radiation – Garrett was a skillful storyteller and almost makes this all seem almost possible. 6/14/15

The Mind Master by Arthur J. Burks, Armchair, 2014 (Magazine appearance 1932)

Sequel to Manape the Mighty, which has never been reprinted. The hero has recently returned to his own body after having his brain transferred into that of an ape. The mad scientist responsible is believed to be dead, but actually returns to terrorize a city with his newest schemes. Now he has a disintegration ray and can control minds from a distance. Where is Batman when you need him?  Burks has a readable style but this is so awkward and sometimes silly that it has little value to modern readers. 6/14/15

Floyd L. Wallace Resurrected by Floyd L. Wallace, Resurrected Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1937022273  

Although his writing career was short, Wallace turned out a number of very good stories, most of them for Galaxy magazine. This collection opens with the shorter version of the novel, Address Centauri, followed by an amusing space adventure, “Delay in Transit”, in which the protagonist discovers that stranded spacer travelers and preying upon one another. “Student Body” is one of those stories where colonists discover a lifeform on their new world that was not reported by the earlier surveys, but this one has the ability to compress major evolutionary steps into weeks. The science is rather hokey, but the story holds up well. “Tangle Hold” follows the adventures of a minor criminal who discovers that his entire body has become a spy device operated by the police. “Forget Me Nearly” is the encounter between two people, both of whom have had their memories erased, and their efforts to discover why that happened. “The Deadly Ones” is very minor; vampires hijack a flying saucer. “The Impossible Voyage Home” is about adapting to radiation in space. “End As a World” suggests the world is ending, but what is really meant is that the first interplanetary voyage has opened up the universe. “Bolden’s Pets” involves an alien animal that provides a cure for a deadly disease. “Mezzerow Loves Company” is a humorous story making fun of bureaucracy. Quite good overall. 6/12/15

The Giants from Outer Space by Geoff St. Reynard, Armchair, 2014, bound with Black Man’s Burden by Mack Reynolds. (Magazine appearance 1961)  

St. Reynard, better known as Robert Krepps, takes us along on an expedition to a distant star system that finds what appears to be an ancient Martian in a state of suspended animation in an advanced spacesuit. They revive him but things are not what they seem. The fact that his given name is “phony” spelled backward might give you a clue. He is actually one of a race of shapeshifters who apparently gave rise to the legend of djinn when they visited Earth in the distant path. They outwit him eventually. Feels like an inferior Star Trek adventure.  6/10/15

The Last Revolution by Milton Lesser, Armchair, 2014, bound with First on the Moon by Jeff Sutton. Magazine appearance 1952.

A man from our time is revived in the distant future when only three highly evolved humans are left on Earth. They need his help to lead a robotic war against animals have similarly involved into intelligent beings. But all is not as it seems. Mercifully this dreadful story is quite short. Lesser was respected for his mystery novels but even his best SF is barely tolerable. 6/10/15

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds, Tachyon, 2015, $14.95,  ISBN 978-1616961930 

A conscript soldier in an interstellar civilizations finds herself wakening from suspended animation in a starship full of frozen people from both sides of the conflict. It appears that the ship malfunctioned and was lost for a thousand years or so and is just now reviving its passengers and crew. There is some understandable conflict, including her own discovery that the man who tortured her is aboard. The story moves quickly and fluidly as we discover not only what happened to them but to the universe at large during the interval. Very entertaining. 6/9/15

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, Morrow, 2015, $35, ISBN 978-0-06-219037-7   

An unknown force breaks up the moon and scientists predict that the ensuing fall of fragments will render the Earth uninhabitable in two years and keep it that way for five thousand more. A desperate effort is made to plant an orbiting colony, but there is tension among the refugees and as a consequence most of the males are killed. Through cloning, seven strains of humanity survive over the millennia, eventually organizing to explore Earth when it is safe to do so. But it is a very different race by then. The first and last thirds of this were very gripping. The middle made my attention wander at times because while I enjoy hard SF, the elaborate and lengthy descriptions of how people adapted to their new circumstances did not have enough forward thrust to keep me riveted to the book, and that’s the first time I’ve ever said that about anything Stephenson has written. It is so long, however, that it really provided me with two very good and very different novels, sandwiched around an okay one. 6/7/15

The Alien Intelligence by Jack Williamson, Armchair, 2013, bound with Into the Fourth Dimension by Ray Cummings. Magazine appearance 1929. 

I read this short lost world novel a long time ago and didn’t remember a single thing about it. The protagonist responds to a radio message and travels into the unexplored interior of Australia, where he finds a lost race living in a contained environment in a mountainous region. The locals have some advanced technology, including flight, but the truth is that they are slaves of in inhuman intelligence whose origin we never discover. After the usual running around, our hero destroys the aliens, frees the humans, and walks off with the beautiful young virgin. No surprises and decently written. 6/5/15

Death from the Skies by A. Hyatt Verrill, Armchair, 2014, bound with The Brain Sinner by Alan E. Nourse (magazine appearance 1929)

Earth comes under bombardment by meteors, initially landing at random but eventually clearly targeted at cities. Additionally, the meteors are vectors for some sort of ray that kills anyone within a mile of the landing. An American scientist theorizes that they are directed by a hostile alien intelligence and that this has happened before, explaining the collapse of ancient civilizations. He also designs protective equipment that shields people from the rays, although the meteors themselves are destroying population centers and manufacturing facilities. Eventually a method is found of sending the projectiles back to Mars to destroy the attackers. Although the science in this is outdated or just plain nonsense, the story holds up surprisingly well given its age and lack of sophistication. 6/5/15

The Stars, My Brothers by Edmond Hamilton, Armchair, 2014, bound with The Pirates of Zan by Murray Leinster. (Magazine appearance 1962)

The protagonist is wakened from suspended animation – he’d been frozen to death in an accident in orbit – a century later to find that humans had spread to the stars. His rescuers are criminals who want to use him as a figurehead to liberate a race of primitive humanoids who are kept on reservations by a reptilian intelligent race. He discovers instead that the humanoids are marginally intelligent and are protected by their benevolent overseers, so he turns against his companions. This was quite against the usual tradition of space adventures at the time. 6/5/15

The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher, Tor, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-7640-4

The Spider War continues, but humans are retreating from the automated, planet destroying starships created by an alien civilization. Unhappy with the way things are going, a faction within the military organizes a clandestine coup fueled by murder. The prime suspect is a soldier believed to have been killed. The man investigating traces him back to the solar system and uncovers a sinister plot that may mask another danger even more secretive. There are levels within levels of intrigue in this one, and readers are cautioned not to let their attention wander before the climax. 6/4/15

The Power of Kroll by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1980  

The Doctor arrives on a plant whose primitive indigenous inhabitants are being used as virtual slave labor by a group of offworld human entrepreneurs. Although there is a resistance movement, it is being used by those same interests to justify extermination. They also warn that the outworlders are disturbing Kroll, a mysterious giant creature that lives below the swamps. My recollection is that I thought this particular adventure was substandard but if so, the author has smoothed over most of the rough spots in the novelization. 6/3/15 

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher, Tor, 2014, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3509-8

First in the Spider War series, which bears a good deal of resemblance to the Berserker stories of Fred Saberhagen. Humanity is locked in a battle with robotic starships that literally dismantle planets, destroying any inhabitants along the way. A space captain who was injured in a recent battle is reassigned to what appears to be a milk run, overseeing the dismantling of an old space station. But something peculiar is going on, both there and in nearby space, and his boring new assignment may turn out to be of major importance. This was a pretty good space opera despite occasional problems with pacing, particularly early on. 6/2/15

Land Beyond the Lens by S.J. Byrne, Armchair, 2014, bound with Diplomat At Arms by Keith Laumer. Magazine appearance 1952.   

Byrne was a prolific but rather pedestrian writer who rarely tried anything out of the ordinary. This isn’t one of those tries. A group of brilliant scientists are involved in a flight to the moon, and inevitably have to deal with swarms of meteors along the way.  They eventually arrive and one of their number – who has been having visions of another world – finds a gateway to his dream land, which is filled with barbarian tribes, strange creatures, and people with silly names. He has a series of adventures and realizes that this is where he was meant to be.  Not good at all. 6/1/15

Dead of Winter by James Goss, BBC, 2011 

The Doctor and his companions arrive in 18th Century Italy at a seaside resort/rest home where something very strange has been going on. Some of the people there don’t act exactly like people and there is a mysterious fascination with the ocean that seems contagious. The Doctor figures out what is going on in short order in one of his more mystical exercises.  Less violent and more reflective than most of the Doctor Who adventures, with a fair degree of mystery. 6/1/15

Sphero Nova by Berl Cameron, Curtis Warren. 1952 

This was a house pseudonym, in this case used by John Glasby and Arthur Roberts. Humans dominate a small interstellar empire, but an alien race from another dimension has invaded and is using telepathic mind control to seize the governments of the various planets. Our hero is a high official who escapes into space and eventually closes the gateway between universes. The bad writing and plotting can be summarized by reference to an early scene where the fugitive keeps having people near him taken over remotely and suddenly becoming enemies. The aliens never make any attempt to take him over, which would solve their problem instantly. 5/1/15

Blood of the Cosmos by Kevin J. Anderson, Tor, 2015, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3300-1

Sequel to The Dark Between the Stars, which I have never seen. I don't recommend reading this without the first because I was quite frankly lost for most of the first third of this one. There are too many races, locations, characters, and subplots to pick up in the middle. Various races from our galaxy and others are engaged in an epic battle with another form of life that seems inimical to all others and which has the power to throw the conflict into doubt. The story is filled with richly inventive ideas and sweeping action sequences. The individual characters don't develop as fully, partly because there are so many of them. It's a panoramic story that bears some resemblance to his earlier Saga of the Seven Suns, but with plenty of new plot elements to keep the concept fresh. 5/31/15

Marauder by Gary Gibson, Tor, 2013, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-330-51984-7   

I have what I call the tether theory of reading. Within the first fifty or so pages of a book, I need a tether of some kind, something I can identify with and use as an anchor as I take in whatever follows. Usually this is the main character, but sometimes there are multiple characters or, as in this case, the character never took on enough depth that early for me to be comfortable with her. Sometimes it’s the setting, but this one changes quickly and is not really explained until later in the book. And sometimes it can be the physical action, although this is tricky because without another tether, action is likely to be disorienting. The protagonist is on an interplanetary search to rescue a man held prisoner who may hold the key to diverting a disastrous attack by aliens.  Because I had no tether, I never really cared whether or not she succeeded.  5/30/15

Depth by Lev Ac Rosen, Regan Arts, 2015, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-941393-07-9  

A couple of centuries from now, much of the world is underwater. Manhattan survives as a combination of the upper stories of skyscrapers and old naval vessels, all linked with sometimes not very safe bridges. Simone is a private investigator in this setting who has two clients. One is a woman who says she suspects her husband is cheating on her, and the other is a European academic searching for air spaces below the water level. When the presumed wayward husband is murdered while Simone is following him, she takes a more personal interest in the outcome of the case, which grows increasingly complicated and dangerous. This was an excellent blend of the two genres and another of those rare books that I devoured in a single sitting, unwilling to stop until I knew what was going on. Very highly recommended. 5/28/15

Adjacent by Christopher Priest, Titan, 2015, $14.95, ISBN 978-1783292172  

The central device of this longish novel is that scientists develop a way to use quantum physics to divert objects into alternate realities. It is seen as the perfect shield against missiles, but of course it doesn’t take long for someone to figure out how to turn it into a weapon. We see this by skipping among three time frames – past, present, and future. There’s even an extended cameo by H.G. Wells. I found the concept intriguing but the delivery below par for one of my favorite writers. This is the first of Priest’s novels which did not hold me riveted throughout. It meanders a great deal – the whole section about a magician visiting an airfield in World War II France was designed to illustrate a point but it goes on for far too long. It is also one of the more depressing futures you’ll ever visit.  Originally published in 2013. 5/24/15

Cry Chaos by Dwight V. Swain, Armchair, 2014, $12.95, ISBN 978-1612872117  (magazine appearance  1951)

Although Swain wrote some entertaining space adventures – and the plot of this one suggests it might have been another – it is actually one of his weakest pieces, in large plot because too much happens too quickly and rarely very convincingly. The solar system is largely settled by a variety of indigenous peoples and human colonists, including an inhabited rogue planet that has become part of the system since a thousand years before the story opens. The hero is captured by pirates but eventually escapes, gets involved with a mysterious woman from the rogue planet, and has some frenetic adventures before finally outwitting the chief villain.  5/23/15

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child, Doubleday, 2015, $26, ISBN 978-0-385-53140-5

Jeremy Logan is a psychic investigator brought in when a member of a secretive think tank commits suicide, complaining of voices in his head. His investigation uncovers a sealed room in the sprawling mansion which houses an enigmatic piece of equipment. He also learns that other employees have heard voices, and he himself hears music inaudible to anyone else. The device appears to be a method of detecting ghosts and it was probably first used during the 1930s before being sealed up. On top of everything else, someone within the organization is in contact with an outsider who tries to murder Logan before he can find out too much. Despite some hints of the supernatural, this is science fiction and a pretty good thriller, although I figured out who the villain was sooner than I was supposed to. 5/22/15

The Androids of Tara by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1980   

The fourth installment of the Doctor Who story arc known as the Key of Time is a kind of rehash of The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. Romana takes the lead on a planet of androids – actually robots – who initially think she is one of them. The Doctor is elsewhere dealing with a group who want to build an android duplicate to replace the current heir to the throne, who is an organic being. There are eventually duplicates of more than one person, leading to some light humor, and a more than usually exciting ending with battles, chases, and escapes.  The Key of Time was a good period in the Whoverse and the novels capture some of that enthusiasm. 5/21/15

The Fold by Peter Clines, Crown, 2015, $25, ISBN 978-0-553-41829-3  

I sat down to read a few chapters of this at 9:00 in the evening and didn’t put it down until I had finished in the wee hours. The protagonist is a genius with an eidetic memory who is hired to report on events at a secret scientific project developing a method of bending space so that one can literally walk long distances in seconds.  The staff understandably resents his presence but it does appear that something is slightly off. This is one of those books where I can’t say too much about the plot without spoiling things, but as you might expect, things begin to go wrong – slowly at first and much more quickly toward the end. I had a couple of minor problems that I also can’t mention without revealing too much, but they didn’t mar my enjoyment of the story. This is quite suspenseful and once it sinks its teeth into you, it doesn’t let go easily. 5/19/15

The Liminal War by Ayize Jama-Everett, Small Beer, 2015, $9.95, ISBN 978-1618731029   

This quite short novel appears to be the second in a series in which various people have developed rationalized superpowers and live in what is essentially a subculture within our own. When one man’s daughter is abducted, he suspects that this is an artifact of the rivalries and conflicts within that subculture and he sets out to get her back. The plot is a good one. I was less happy about the execution. The writing is fine but the story skips forward in a series of very short scenes that did not, as may have been intended, ratchet up the story flow. Instead it forced me to adjust after each jump – sometimes only a page – and mentally fill in what had been bypassed. I had no real sense of the world around the characters or how they fit into it. This style works in a sedate novel but when the plot is supposed to be suspenseful, it just doesn't feel right. 5/18/15

The Silence by Tim Lebbon, Titan, 2015, $14.95, ISBN 978-1781168813 

Explorers break into a contained cave system in Eastern Europe and unleash a fast breeding predator somewhat resembling a bat. Swarms of them attack people as they spread rapidly around the world. I had mixed feelings about this one. Parts of very good, other parts have problems with pacing.  I was also mildly bothered about the premise that the deaf protagonist has an advantage because the creatures hunt by sound. If anything, this would be a disadvantage because she wouldn’t be aware that she was making noises. Her family’s familiarity with sign language would be helpful, of course, but I was never convinced that it would have made that much of a difference. It would make a great horror movie although technically this one is science fiction. 5/17/15

Last Call for Doomsday by Edmond Hamilton, Armchair, 2015, bound with The Huntress of Akkan by Robert Moore Williams. Magazine appearance 1956. 

The unlikely premise of this short novel is that an asteroid is about to destroy all life on the Earth so the entire population is being evacuated – over the course of five years – to the planet Mars to wait for the home world to recover. Our hero has various adventures among the few who refuse to believe the truth and are trying to take advantage of the chaos around them. The story isn’t bad if you can accept the initial premise, but it peters out toward the end without a particularly interesting resolution. 5/16/15

Emergence by John Birmingham, Del Rey, 2015, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-345-53987-8 

First in the Dave vs the Monsters trilogy. Dave is safety officer aboard an oil rig that is attacked by orclike creatures who have escaped from another reality. He manages to kill one of their leaders, as a consequence of which he develops superstrength and acquires detailed knowledge of their nature and culture. He foresees that they are a major threat to the world because they are martial and vicious by nature, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. A far smaller number manifest themselves in the opening volume, which includes a pitched battle in New Orleans. This was an enjoyable adventure but not much happens in the first two hundred pages and at times even during the melodramatic climax that the prose seemed a bit slowly paced for the subject matter. I’ll be reading the two sequels though. When the author explains what's going on this may turn out to be fantasy.  5/15/15

The Stones of Blood by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1980   

Third installment in the Key of Time sequence. The Doctor and Romana visit contemporary Earth in their quest for another segment of the key. His attention is drawn to a set of standing stones in England and an archaeologist who is investigating them. There is an attack by a secret cult of druids who want to sacrifice him to the stones, which are actually a form of alien life that lives off the energy of other lifeforms. An alien disguised as a human turns up and things get rather complicated after that. The book is less confusing than the television serial was. 5/14/16

The Ribos Operation by Ian Marter, Target, 1979   

This is the novelization of the first in the six serial arc, the Key of Time. The Doctor and another timelord, Romana, are recruited by the White Guardian – a mystical super being – to retrieve the six scattered components of the key of time from their hiding places around the universe. On the first leg of their trip, they encounter a flim flam artist who is trying to sell an entire planet to a rapacious businessman, and there are plots and counterplots revolving around the sale. This initial story is a bit slow, but some of the likeability of the Romana character shows up in the book. 5/13/15

Kingdom of Darkness by Andy McDermott, Dell, 2015, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-345-53708-9   

Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase are back for their tenth archaeological adventure. This time they are investigating the tomb of Alexander the Great in conjunction with their discovery of a man who has apparently shed several decades of his age. Yes, it’s another quest for the fountain of youth, this time with yet another roadmap. They team up with agents of Mossad but quickly learn that a group of former SS men, all rejuvenated, are determined to kill anyone who threatens to expose their secret. Much of what follows is formulaic and sometimes hard to believe – the villains never kill the good guys even when they have the chance – but this was a pleasant sort of comic book adventure and even though it’s the same plot as the previous nine novels in the series, it was kind of fun. 5/12/15

Forgotten Worlds by Howard Browne, Armchair, 2015, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-61287-256-8  

This 1948 serial appeared as by Lawrence Chandler and is now available in book form for the first time. Although labeled as a Lost World novel, it is not. It’s an alternate world story in which a World War II pilot goes through an anomaly and finds himself on a barbaric alternate Earth. He has the usual round of adventures, told with a complete lack of imagination, and ends up saving the day and thwarting the villains. I frequently feel as though Browne believed that writing science fiction was below him and he makes little attempt to give this any kind of realism or plausibility. I wouldn’t have published it under my own name either. 5/12/15

The Venusian Gambit by Michael J. Martinez, Night Shade, 2015, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-59780-819-4

Third in the Daedalus series, of which I'd read the first but missed the second. It's set in the future of a steampunkish alternate world where France has used alchemy/science to raise the dead for its armies. But England has dominated space and explored the solar system. Unfortunately, a contagious parasitic lifeform is found when they reach Saturn. The alien is intelligent and it wants to destroy the human race. There is a lot going on in this book and at times I thought the author might be losing control of the story, but he always reins it back in. This is an interesting hybrid of old style SF mixed with newer twists and it's very entertaining. There's a nice ironic twist at the end. 5/9/15

Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Broadway, 2015, $15, ISBN 978-0-8041-3870-3

I never quite got into this novel of clashing civilizations on a distant planet. Part of that may be because I didn't read Dark Eden, which apparently introduces us to the planet, because I was frequently confused. There are so many viewpoint characters that this was particularly bothersome. Although settled by humans, the colony collapsed and now there are small, separate, very disparate cultures. One of the characters goes through some coming of age experiences and gradually rises to a position of considerable power. That said, not a lot really happens on the physical level and some of the rumination about political and social issues is interesting, but some is not. I'd recommend trying the first book before picking this one up. 5/7/15

The Invasion of Time by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1979  

The Doctor returns to his home world of Gallifrey and his behavior is unusual. He demands to be made planetary president, and he appears to have a secret alliance with a mysterious alien. Having forced the council to give in to his demands, he sabotages the planetary defenses and allows an alien fleet to invade. The aliens can dematerialize, so this is all a clever plot to get them to take physical form so that they are vulnerable. His plans seems to be going well and the bad aliens are on the ropes when another race, the Sontarans, shows up determined to take advantage of the situation. This is one of the best of the Doctor Who stories from the Baker era, and the book version is nicely done. 5/6/15

Battle in the Dawn by Manly Wade Wellman, Paizo, 2011 

I read a couple of the Hok adventures back in my teens and wasn’t much impressed. This collects them all in one volume. Hok is a caveman type who has some atypical adventures including a visit to Atlantis and an encounter with a Martian. They’re not bad adventure stories but I wasn’t very impressed with any of them. This really wasn’t the type of story Wellman excelled at and I found myself impatient to reach the end. Your mileage may vary. 5/3/15

The Forbidden Garden by John Taine, Fantasy Press, 1947 

A somewhat mismatched trio are sent on an expedition into the Himalayas as agents of a seed company looking for an area supposedly covered with magnificent flowering plants unknown to the outside world. The expedition goes through a typical series of adventures before reaching its goal, with no real surprises, although the interplay among the three main characters is sometimes interesting. There are a few low key surprises when they arrive and a reasonably entertaining conclusion but the story really isn’t very compelling. 5/3/15

The Godwhale by T.J. Bass, Ballantine, 1974 

The Rorqual Maru is a cyborg/whale hybrid, perhaps the last of her time, stranded in a dead ocean in the overpopulated world introduced in the author’s previous novel, Half Past Human. She becomes the rallying point for a primitive undersea population hunted by the hives of the Nebishes, the devolved humans who dominate the Earth. The Nebishes breed a special warrior to hunt down the rebels but he becomes captain of the Rorqual and leader of the rebellion. Escalating attempts to put down the revolt just strengthen the opposition. I liked this slightly less than its predecessor, but still more than the vast majority of SF novels I’ve read. Alas, Bass never wrote a third book. 5/1/15

Corsair by James L. Cambias, Tor, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-7910-8

The description of the plot for this one did not strike me as very appealing, but I was mistaken. The story alternates mostly between two people who were at one time a romantic couple but who drifted apart after college. Both of them are computer experts but they drift into associated but opposed camps. He works for a group of international criminals who divert loads of ore brought back from the asteroids so that they can claim them as salvage while she works for the corporations doing the actual work, trying to protect the shipments from diversion. Eventually she decides to take a more proactive role in stopping the criminals but it isn't long before her initiative and other factors puts both of them in jeopardy. How they resolve that is, of course, something I can't tell you. I don't think I ever saw a copy of this author's first novel, A Darkling Sea, but I'll be looking for one. 4/30/15

The Suicide Exhibition by Justin Richards, Thomas Dunne, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-250-05920-8

During World War II, agents of Adolf Hitler dig up tombs of two Vril, the ancient superhuman race mentioned in The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Although the information is suppressed, there is a small unit in the British government which has been tasked with countering whatever advantages this and other occult interests might give to the Germans, and also to determine the nature of mysterious airships spotted over Great Britain. Most of the story is told from the point of view of three people - a spy for the British, a minor official in the Foreign Office who suspects something is up, and a civilian female aviator with a powerful curiosity. I don't want to give away too much but since there are flying saucers on the cover, you can safely assume that aliens are a part of it. This was quite suspenseful and effective but since it is the first in a series, the conclusion necessarily leaves a lot of questions unanswered. 4/29/15

Mirage for Planet X by Stanley Mullen, Armchair, 2014, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-61287-209-4 (magazine appearance 1955)

This novella is about a manhunt across the solar system for an escaped criminal who apparently has possession of the only known matter transmitter, stolen from its inventor who has now conveniently lost his memory. The protagonist is the fugitive’s half brother and the two of them hate each other intensely. There is, naturally, a mysterious woman, some aggressive policemen and even more aggressive private thugs, captures and escapes, and a climactic confrontation. Readable but very derivative. 4/29/15

Vostok by Steve Alten, Rebel, 2015, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-68102-000-6 

This SF thriller got off to a shaky start for me. A scientist in Antarctica receives a Dear John letter from his wife in which she mentions that she sold their house.  While it is remotely possible that the house was solely in the wife’s name, it is extremely unlikely and the house could not be sold without his permission otherwise. It’s a small point but I find that writers who ignore the small things often screw up the bigger ones as well. The discovery of frozen fossils leads to an expedition to an Antarctic lake that is locked under thousands of feet of ice. The action is slow to start – it takes over one hundred pages just to get them at their embarkation point and ready to travel by submersible into the lake. When they finally arrive, they’re off course and promptly attacked by giant eels – one measuring almost a hundred feet long.  There is a very good sequence in which they are chased by predators, but then Alten introduces UFOs and a secret cabal ruling the world and the story begins to fall apart. They make contact with an alien intelligence and the suspense all leaks out of the plot. Nice start, mediocre follow through. 4/28/15

The Image of the Fendahl by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1979 

Scientists uncover a human skull which is carbon dated to a period millions of years prior to the rise of the human species. Understandably, this is quite upsetting. The skull is also connected to some unusual phenomena including the discovery of a dead body. The other scientists are apparently being stalked by a creature that is supposed to be a galactic myth but which is clearly real. The Doctor arrives in time to figure things out, and deal with a coven of black magic practitioners who are mysteriously linked to the skull.  The first half is reasonably suspenseful but the story deteriorates toward the end. 4/27/15

The Sunmakers by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1982 

Pluto has been made habitable thanks to a handful of small, artificial suns. Unfortunately, the government is a rigid dictatorship and the Doctor and Leela find themselves on the run, separately and together, as the underground tries to engineer a revolution and the dictator seeks to exterminate the opposition. Although the story is a fairly standard one, the politics are better contrived and in the book version the cheap sets aren’t a drawback. Average or slightly better as a book although it was average or slightly below as a television show. 4/27/15

The Underworld by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1980 

The Doctor stumbles onto a space mission to rescue artifacts left over from an extinct race whose planet is about to be destroyed. There’s another planet, a space wreck, and a society based on slavery, so it’s pretty obvious what the Doctor’s job is going to be this time. He also helps the explorers retrieve the materials they are looking for. The story starts out well but quickly deteriorates into an inferior version of one of the more common Doctor Who plots. 4/27/15

Where by Kit Reed, Tor, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-7982-5

One of the advantages of picking up a new Kit Reed novel is that you never know what to expect. This one has an intriguing premise. The entire population of a town disappears mysteriously, transported to somewhere else. Unraveling that mystery takes up most of the plot, so I can't say much about it without spoilers, so I won't.  The mystery itself is intriguing. I would have liked it better, however, if it hadn't been told in present tense, which sucked all of the suspense out of it for me. And it could have used some editing because right in the middle of several paragraphs, there's a past tense construction that obviously was overlooked. I wasn't even looking for these and found several and I can't think of any possible reason why this would be intentional. 4/26/15

Weapon from the Stars by Rog Phillips, Armchair, 2013, bound with The Earth War by Mack Reynolds (magazine appearance 1950)  

All of Earth except the US is run as a benevolent slave camp by advanced aliens. The US is providing labor to build a gigantic structure in the ruins of Europe but there are subversives whose motives are unknown, and our protagonist is working undercover to discover their identities. None of this makes much sense and the author’s political and economic descriptions are convoluted and just plain senseless.  The story proceeds very slowly through a series of encounters with the saboteurs and then the alien overlords, with a perfunctory ending that feels so abrupt that I thought I might have skipped a few pages of explanation. But I hadn’t. 4/24/15

Half Past Human by T.J. Bass, Ballantine, 1971 

Thomas Bassler only wrote two SF novels, both in the same unpleasant future and both excellent. Four centuries from now, most humans live in underground warrens where they are chemically held in permanent pre-puberty unless they are needed for breeding purposes. The surface of the planet is reserved for agriculture by means of self aware robotic machines, although small groups of outlaws live there as well, frequently hunted by the hunters or security patrols. Life is cheap and dead bodies are often left lying in the corridors. One couple have an illegal child and escape to the outside to avoid its destruction.  The story moves back and forth among various characters to provide a panoramic view of a static society doomed to mediocrity. I have long believed that this was one of the most underrated SF novels of all time, and returning to it after more than forty years, I found it more powerful than ever. 4/23/15

The Talons of Weng Chiang by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1977 935 

Since this Doctor Who adventure is set in Victorian London, it almost had to be one of my favorites. A mysterious Asian named Weng Chiang has recruited a horde of minions from the underworld – literally – a sewer system inhabited by giant rats and other improbably creatures. No one knows the real identity of the head villain but the Doctor is suspicious of a stage magician who has an unusually effective act. The magician is in fact a time traveling alien who survives by sucking the life force out of people and his secret organization has been kidnapping victims for him. There is a rather creepy ventriloquist’s doll which also turns out to be an alien life form. This was very effective on the screen and almost as atmospheric in book form. 4/21/15

The Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1977  939 

Despite some cheesy effects, this was one of my favorite Tom Baker episodes of Doctor Who. One of the keepers of a lighthouse is killed mysteriously and another is acting strangely. Survivors of a shipwreck take refuge on the island, but they start dying, struck by an unseen force. There are some good scenes in the novel as the suspense is ratcheted up, but eventually the alien – a bloblike creature – is discovered and destroyed. The Doctor then turns the entire lighthouse into a kind of laser beam – sure, that would work – and shoots down an alien spaceship.  More fun than most. 4/21/15

The Invisible Enemy by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1979  945 

The Doctor has to battle a space traveling sentient virus which takes possession of several people aboard a space station, planning to infect the entire human race. The Doctor himself becomes infected, is soon incoherent and presumably dying. He is instantly cloned and the clone is then miniaturized so that it can be injected into his body and fight the virus directly. This is one of the sillier episodes and Dicks can’t do much to salvage the story. It was also, I believe, the first appearance of K-9, the robot dog. 4/21/15

Worlds for the Grabbing by Brenda Pearce, Dobson, 1977

People of the Rings by J.W. Schutz, Hale, 1975 

These two obscure British SF hardcovers are an interesting contrast. The first has a good story that isn’t very well written; the second  has an atrociously bad story that is technically executed fairly well. Pearce follows the episodic adventures of a seasoned spaceman and an emotional scientist as they travel around the solar system having various adventures, including a good sequence on Mercury. Unfortunately there is little structure to the novel, the interplay between the two protagonists is often clumsily done, and there really wasn’t much about it that was memorable. Schutz writes better prose, but the story reads like something from the 1930s. The first expedition to Saturn finds that the rings are filled with floating human bodies. They are taken prisoner by the – human – inhabitants of Saturn, which turns out to be hospitable despite the findings of astronomers. The Saturnians believe the dead bodies can be reanimated and that is is blasphemous to interfere with them. Much nonsense follows. If the two had collaborated, they might have come up with something worthwhile. 4/18/15

The Cosmic Kings by Edmond Hamilton, Armchair, 2014, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-61287-225-4   

First published in 1956 under the name Alexander Blade, bound in this edition with Lone Star Planet by H.Beam Piper & John J. McGuire. Two men are on the run from alien space pirates when they take refuge in what is supposed to be an abandoned underground city. Almost immediately they sense that they are not alone. They eventually contact a hidden population of telepathic humans who are hiding from an enemy force even though they have spectacular powers and technology. Very little of the plot makes any sense. It is full of implausible statements and contradictions which may explain why Hamilton did not publish it originally under his own name. 4/16/15

The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson, Tor, 2015, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3262-2

A new science of personality analysis allows people to be grouped in Affinities, that is, organizations of people with whom they are far more likely to interact well. Initially this seems like just a social development, but as the affinities become larger and better organized, they begin to take on extranational characteristics including internal legal systems, private police forces, and elite financial and medical services. It is inevitable that those not in an Affinity begin to resent what they see as snobbery but there is also a growing element of violence between the different groups and an alignment into two alliances that contend for world power. I'm not entirely sure I accept the premise of this one, but other than that, it's another of Wilson's predictable excellent novels, quieter in some ways than most of his other novels, but with tension seething under the surface. 4/14/15

The Time Projector by David S. Keller & David Lasser, Armchair, 2013, bound with Strange Compulsion by Philip Jose Farmer (magazine appearance 1931) 

 This short novel is based on the assumption that a man could invent a machine that would show him the future, allowing him to project warnings in the present. He runs a secret operation and some believe that he is actually causing the disasters to match his predictions. The time projector itself is not very well thought through – there is no reason why it would be drawn to disasters and the discussion about predestination is superficial and contradictory. The inventor is trying to convince the protagonist to join his organization, which he says intends to save humanity by showing it the consequences of rash acts.  He is talked into it and the conspiracy gets more complicated, eventually causing him to imprison a young woman who sees too much. Eventually the device precipitates the disaster it is meant to avert, the protagonist has a change of heart, and its inventors destroys the machine and himself. Although superficial in its treatment of the issues involved, the story at least attempts to consider something serious. The prose is mostly quite good but Keller’s style is much more suited for short fiction and in fact this would have been a much better story at about half of its length. 4/10/15

Space Venturer by Donald S. Rowland, Hale, 1976 

Second in a series about a man who uses a kind of teleportation machine to visit an alien world. Since he never travels through space, the title is rather a misnomer.I have never read the first in the series, Master of Space, and after finishing this one I would avoid it like the plague. The author seems to have no concept of science, human behavior, political structures, or much of anything else and the prose is so stunningly bad that I stumbled through its mercifully short length in a kind of daze. 4/9/15

Planet of the Small Men by Murray Leinster, Armchair, 2014, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-51287-220-9   

Magazine appearance in 1950, bound in this edition with Masters of Space by Edward E. Smith & E. Everett Evans. The human race has found no intelligent race in the galaxy except for traces of one which is apparently extinct. An exploratory ship is therefore completely surprised when it is attacked by a non-human vessel and forced to crashland on an uncharted planet. Some mysterious force slowed their fall and what should have been suicide becomes, at least temporarily, an escape. The lost race turns out to be ancestors of humanity, who committed racial suicide in order to avoid becoming monstrous creatures like ourselves – but they found time to wipe out all other intelligent races along the way.  Anyway, the castaways find that the diminutive human population has a science far ahead of anything they know, and within days they build a fleet of ships that defeats a major attack by the hostile aliens. There’s a little bit too much explication toward the end, but Leinster as usual tells a good story. 4/8/15

Path to Savagery by Robert Edmond Alter, Avon, 1969 

This was one of the flood of after the bomb novels from the 1960s. Falk is a loner, preferring to keep  his own company as he picks through the ruins, avoiding the barbarian Neanderthals and the decadent Flockers. It’s a dangerous life, although mostly because of aggressive humans. Alter did not understand much about nuclear warfare. Not only are the cities largely intact despite being bombed, but the radiation has quickly disappeared and there is no problem looting or living in them. Anyway, Falk runs into a small group occupying a partially drowned department store and, despite the obvious tension between him and the group leader, agrees to stay with them for a while.  And unfortunately the leader’s policy is that if someone wants to leave, he or she is quietly killed to protect the secrecy of their little colony. It’s a depressing story, with a predictable ending, but well written. 4/7/15

The Five Doors by Jack Rhys, Readers Union, 1981 

An enormous metal cylinder appears in a farmer’s field one night. Inside there are gateways to other planets, some of them radioactive, others home to an invulnerable virus. Scientists conclude that the cylinder is a test prepared by an alien race to measure humanity’s intelligence and ability to adapt, but it takes them a while to figure out how to overcome the problems inherent in the situation. Although not a classic, this is a pretty good story with an interesting problem to be solved logically, vaguely reminiscent of Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys. 4/5/15

Under the Triple Suns by Stanton Coblentz, Armchair, 2014, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-61287-216-2   

Fantasy Press published this late Coblentz novel in 1955. It did not enhance his reputation. Three survivors of the final war on Earth use an experimental starship and get lost in space, arriving finally on a planet with two intelligent races, one of which can fly. They are accepted with little trouble by the winged people despite their own wariness, but get embroiled in a conflict between the two native species. The writing is all right at times but frequently lapses into cuteness. One of the races is called Ugwugs. Everything works out well but this is no more than a curiosity and certainly not a lost classic. 4/5/25

The Robots of Death by Terrance Dicks, Target, 1981 

One of the better Doctor Who episodes was this mystery set on a mining colony planet. The miners use a variety of robots of different types in their work, but the robots are simply machines and have not even the simulation of intelligence. When someone starts committing a series of murders, the robots are therefore above suspicion. The culprit has been reprogramming them to use as murder weapons for the somewhat shaky reason that he believes them to be superior to living things. The Doctor figures it all out and thwarts the villain through means of a fairly clever device that alters the villain’s voice so that the speech activated robots will no longer respond to his commands. 4/2/15

Mary’s Country by Harold Mead, Michael Joseph, 1957   

I had been looking for a copy of this book for years. It was one of only two novels by the author, the other being Bright Phoenix, which I remembered fondly. It is set after some vaguely referenced war and it appears the world has been reduced to two countries – the Dems and the Totes. The Totes are totalitarians. The characters are mainly a group of children who were being trained in a rigid school to become aristocrats in the Tote society, but they are thrown upon their own devices when a plague – which might be a biological weapon –wipes out nearly all the adults. The title refers to an imaginary world that one of the children has created to entertain the others. Where much of early SF had good plots but bad writing, this has the opposite problem. The prose is excellent but the plot wanders and drags and really never goes anywhere. 4/1/15

The Night of the Death Rain by Luan Ranzetta, Digit, 1963 

Scientific illiteracy meets bad writing in this atrociously awful novel. Earth has been ravaged by extreme weather conditions which culminates in a storm so powerful that it scours the Earth’s surface. A handful of people who survived in glass walled shelters are inexplicably transported to the planet Jupiter where they have to integrate with an English speaking, humanoid race with totalitarian tendencies. This is as bad or worse than anything published in the American pulp magazines and it amazes me that it ever appeared as a paperback. 4/1/15

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