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

LAST UPDATE 10/11/19

Bombs in Orbit by Jeff Sutton, Ace, 1959 

A routine paranoid near space thriller in which the Russians have placed three nuclear bombs in orbit and American astronauts have to go up and disarm them, which nearly precipitates a nuclear war. It’s never clear why three bombs would make that much difference, given that there are dozens of nuclear missile armed submarines patrolling off our coasts. And the “secret” war involves launching nuclear warheads at American facilities. Our heroes manage to dismantle them all. No explanation why the Russians don't just send up some more. Surprisingly boring. 10/11/19

Timescoop by John Brunner, Dell, 1969  

A billionaire’s company invents a machine that can take a microsecond cross section of items from the past and bring them to the present where they acquire permanency. This leads to plans for an across the ages family reunion as a publicity stunt to promote the new device. Unfortunately, all of those selected have noticeable character flaws that lead to a series of mildly comical results. This was a rather minor effort that probably should have been half its length. 10/8/19

The Fossil by Greig Beck, Severed, 2019 

This novella is, unfortunately, rather silly. Time travelers from the far future are searching in our present for a missing bit of their technology. They consider us monsters and the reader is not supposed to realize that they are much smaller than we are, although they have fearsome weapons. It turns out that they are now the “little people” of legend, which is not only scientifically nonsense but also blatantly obvious almost from the outset.  There is no suspense about the various deaths in the present because we know who is responsible and why. 10/7/19

News from Nowhere by William Morris, Penguin, 1890     

One of the classic Utopian novels. The protagonist wakes up more than a century in his future to find that London has been replaced for the most part with parks, money no longer exists, along with formal schooling, prisons, and class distinctions. No one is poor. Everyone works for its own sake and gives away whatever they produce. Like most utopian fiction, it fails to explain how such a society could evolve and how humans could make it work without a complete change in human nature. The protagonist decides he likes it and settles down with a woman – the woman’s role in society has not changed much, apparently because they enjoy serving males. 10/6/19

The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, Ace, 1969    

This is a long and rather depressing novel despite the upbeat ending. The future America – actually 2014 – has black enclaves and an increasingly well armed public. The government has by necessity grown both more repressive and less effective. Against that backdrop, we have an arms company planning to seize control of the country by means of a super computer, the director of a mental institution whose influence is changing human nature, a young woman who has genuine visions, and various other characters caught up in the conflict. The computer develops the ability to send messages back and forth through time, but one of the characters has a new mental power – she can cause electronic interference – and she interferes with the process, which eventually causes the conspiracy to collapse. This came out the same year as Stand on Zanzibar, which is probably why it did not win Brunner a second Hugo. 10/4/19

Double, Double by John Brunner, Del Rey, 1969

A group of musicians are having a picnic on a remote English beach when a man stumbles ashore. But he is not breathing, although he is moving, and has terrible wounds. When he disappears in the darkness, they notify the police, who are understandably skeptical. A local woman disappears and is then apparently seen in two places at once. This is a monster story, reminiscent of a 1950s SF movie. The world is in danger if the creatures are not destroyed because they reproduce by fission every two days. And naturally the authorities don’t believe a word of it. Suspenseful and generally well done. 10/2/19

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