to SF Reviews

of SF Reviews

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

LAST UPDATE 8/25/08 

Razor Girl by Marianne Mancusi, Shomi, 9/08, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52780-6 

Iím not sure how to describe this odd little novel.  Itís set in a post-apocalyptic world, but itís sort of a cross between the old television series, Millennium, Stephen Kingís The Stand, and a stack of graphic novels.  The protagonist is a young woman who is adept at martial arts and possessed of a few other physical advantages Ė sheís a kind of cyborg - who emerges from a bomb shelter into a world devastated by plagues and disasters.  There are monsters abroad as well and the people who survived the end of the old world have been forever changed.  She finds a handful of survivors, including a boy she once knew Ė now a man Ė and seeks with mixed success to form an emotional bond with them.  Thereís also a quest, a perilous journey to Disneyland, which might be an island of safety in a sea of disaster and danger.  The writing is a bit rough around the edges at times, but there are certainly some bizarre bits and pieces to hold your interest.  8/25/08

Judge by Karen Traviss, Eos, 2008, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-088240-2 

This is the sixth and apparently final adventure of Shan Frankland, who started as a police officer in this saga of aliens and interstellar travel.  In her previous adventures, she was involved in the conflict causes by the emigration of humanity to the stars and the tensions this caused with other races.  She also became infected, if thatís the right term, by an alien parasite that has prolonged her life, among other side effects.  Although she had decided never to return to Earth and expose the population there, recent developments have altered her decision.  Yes, powerful aliens have decided to determine whether or not humanity should be allowed to continue expanding into space.  It all has a reasonably happy ending and winds things up reasonably well.  Other than a couple of annoyingly unpronounceable words, I thought this wound things up quite well.  It was probably a good idea to bring things to a close before the series overstayed its welcome. 8/23/08

Afro Samurai Volume 1 by Takashi Okazaki, Tor, 2008, $10.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-2123-7 

Tor joins the Manga world with this new title, the first graphic book theyíve done as far as I can recall.  The premise is a bit like the Prisoner crossed with Highlander, set in a high tech future.  Contenders for world power are delineated by their headbands, but only the person wearing #2 can challenge #1.  The last #1 to die left a son behind, and this story is about his accession to #2, his quest to find and revenge himself on the usurping #1, and the efforts by various parties to prevent him from succeeding.  The artwork is all black and white but itís quite rich in detail, much better than most similar work Iíve seen, and the dialogue is at least as good or better.  This was also the basis of an animated television series, which I also have not seen.  Too many things to do, too little time.  8/23/08

Going Under by Justina Robson, Pyr, 9/08, $15, ISBN 978-1-59102-650-1 and Gollancz, 11/08, £18.99, ISBN 9780-575-07866-6 

Iíve always had a problem enjoying stories that mix fantasy and SF, at least on a major scale, which is the case in this series, the Quantum Gravity sequence.  A fundamental shift in reality has led to a future in which it is possible to visit the world of magical creatures.  The protagonist is a cyborg, a woman enhanced with all manner of technological augmentations, and her latest mission is in the land of Faerie.  Despite my aversion, I thought the first in the series was quite good, and the second nearly so.  The third is still entertaining enough that I finished it without losing interest, but I could feel myself disconnecting from the narrative at times as this one becomes so clearly fantasy that Iím only including it under the SF reviews because thatís where its predecessors appear.  Not that itís a disappointing fantasy, but the switch in my perception of whatís going on is sometimes distracting. 8/20/08

Omega Games by S.L. Viehl, Roc, 2008, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-46224-4

Dr. Cheriho Torin returns in this new installment in the Stardoc series.  The series seemed to run out of steam a while back, but then picked up momentum again and this is the second in the row that I found quite good.  Fresh from having saved an entire race from a mysterious plague, Torin and her husband have a fresh mystery on an even larger scale, the appearance of unusual crystals all over known space.  A tip leads them to a disease ravaged planet and another alien culture, where the tensions of society are taken out in staged games  in the mode of the Roman arena, but with higher tech.  There has been a series of murders, and each of the bodies of the victims has disappeared, leaving behind only their skin.  If that's not grisly enough for you, there's plenty more inside.  But, as is almost always the case, there is more going on than is apparent, and the actual explanation is likely to catch you by surprise.  For alien cultures and other worlds' adventures, there are few writers writing at the same level as S.L. Viehl when she's on top of her game, as she is with this one.  8/19/08

Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter, Black Library, 2008, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-84416-549-0

This one's a Warhammer novel, part of a subset involving a kind of civil war.  In this latest, the bad guys have decided to pre-emptively strike at a critical planet which produces some of the most impressive warriors among the good guys.  The solution is to send someone to intercept the attacking force, but there aren't many in a position to respond quickly enough.  Fast paced military SF, actually the
SF equivalent of sword and sorcery.  Not much effort is spent on characterization and the plot is pretty linear and predictable, but if you're just looking for fast paced action and mindless violence, Counter is one of the better contributors to the Warhammer saga.  8/17/08

Slanted Jack by Mark L. Van Name, Baen, 2008, $24, ISBN 978-1-4165-5549-0 

Last yearís One Jump Ahead introduced Jon and Lobo, a cyborg and an artificial intelligence who travel from planet to planet performing odd, sometimes distinctly odd, jobs.  Theyíre back in the authorís second novel, this time rather unwisely agreeing to help with the latest project of a con artist who happens to be an old friend.  Needless to say, things donít go exactly as planned.  Jon ends up freeing a female prisoner with secrets and an agenda of her own, and that makes things even more complicated.  The interplay among the threesome is quite entertaining and the author unravels his mysteries in good form.  This is obviously an old fashioned space opera with no pretensions toward serious literature, but the author has a good sense of storytelling and his characters are interesting enough to draw us into the story.  I suspect Jon and Lobo will be back again in the near future. 7/25/08

Zoeís Tale by John Scalzi, Tor, 8/08, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7653-1698-1

John Scalzi returns to the universe of the Old Manís War with this new story about Zoe Perry, who is bound for a colony planet with her family when something happens and the ship ends up orbiting the wrong world.  They set down on Huckleberry, not knowing what to expect, and Zoe soon attracts a mob of alien creatures who become her devoted servants and who eventually lead her into a pivotal role in an even more significant first contact event.  Since Scalzi is often compared to Heinlein, itís inevitable that this one is going to be compared to Podkayne.  The stories are entirely different, the characters bear only superficial resemblances, but in some ways the comparison is valid.  Zoe is certainly a feisty young woman who is proactive rather than passive.  The story itself feels much like the better Heinlein young adult novels, and thatís most certainly a compliment.  In some ways, I think I enjoyed this more than any of his previous books. 7/24/08

Laugh Lines by Ben Bova, Baen, 2008, $22, ISBN 978-1-4165-5560-5

 The latest omnibus from Baen contains most, if not all, of Ben Bovaís humor and satire to date, including two complete novels.  The Starcrossed is a cross eyed look at the television business and was inspired in large part by the ill fated television series The Starlost.  The discovery of a new process of three dimensional projection leads to unexpected difficulties.  The second novel is Cyberbooks, which anticipated many recent developments in electronic publishing, mixing technological speculation with a murder mystery.  Both novels are quite readable although neither are among the authors better work.  The six short stories are similarly light.  I am particularly fond of ďThe Great Moon HoaxĒ and ďThe Supersonic Zeppelin.Ē  Bovaís humor tends to be more cerebral than slapstick, but thereís a little of both. 7/22/08

By Schism Rent Asunder by David Weber, MacMillan Audio, 2008, $69.95, ISBN 978-1-4272-0429-5

I recent read and reviewed the print version of this long novel here so I won't repeat the plot summary.  This is an unabridged recording running over 25 hours, read by Oliver Wyman.  There are a lot of interesting plot elements in the novel but there is such a bewilderingly large number of characters that I was constantly referring to the appendix when I read it, and this problem must certainly be aggravated in an audio version where that resource is lacking.  For my earlier reviews, click here.

The Age of the Conglomerates by Thomas Nevins, Del Rey, 8/08, $14, ISBN 978-0-375-50391-7 

The premise of this interesting though thoroughly depressing first novel is that the traditional government of the US collapses under the weight of the national debt and other problems.  A new party, the Conglomerates, comes to power and as their name suggests, they consist of business interests who treat much of the population as just a collection of assets and liabilities.  The older generation, who should have been supported by social security, are on their own, as are those younger people who donít fit into the new, corporate patterned power structure.  All of this is revealed to us primarily from the viewpoint of one family, an elderly couple and their two grand-daughters, one successful, the other labeled a ďDyscardĒ, not valuable to society.  This is a cautionary novel, obviously, suggesting what might happen if weíre not diligent in protecting our rights.  I wasnít entirely convinced by the political transition, but once we accept that such a situation might arise, the author follows with a decidedly unfunny mixture of serious and satirical without descending into too much preachiness. 7/19/08

Pirate Sun by Karl Schroeder, Tor, 8/08, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-7653-1545-8 

Karl Schroeder continues his tour of the mini-universe of Virga in his latest.  The setting is so unique and interesting that it sometimes overshadows the characters and story, but not for long.  We resume our acquaintance with Chaison Fanning, military officer and prisoner, although he regains his freedom early in this new adventure.  He returns to his home world this time, determined to confront the man who disregarded his loyalty and betrayed them to his enemies.  Heís still looking for his wife, who went off on her own series of adventures, but that doesnít stop him from a bit of dalliance when the opportunity arises.  Although I suppose one should think of this as hard SF, filled with technological wonders and physical wonders, it has a lot of the atmosphere of the old style space opera.  Although itís part of a continuing story, it stands well alone and you donít have to have read the previous volumes to follow this one.  On the other hand, why would you want to deprive yourself of that pleasure? 7/18/08

City at the End of Time by Greg Bear, Del Rey, 8/08, $27, ISBN 978-0-345-44839-2 

Greg Bearís novels almost always surprise me because each of them is different from the ones that went before.  This is sometimes a disadvantage for a writer because many readers prefer the predictable, even in SF.  For other readers, however, it is the unpredictable that is the most satisfying, even if that means that sometimes a book by a favored author might not resonate as well as his other work.  In my case, this one did just the opposite, and itís probably going to be among my favorites of his work.  The premise is that there are three people in contemporary Seattle who have similar dreams about a distant future in which the world and civilization are decaying.  The threesome initially are unaware of one another, and each of them suffers from some odd form of amnesia.  When they respond individually to a newspaper advertisement, they are recruited into an effort to literally shape the form of the universe to come. Bear introduces us to some really strange future societies and some fascinating characters in this one.  The story is surprisingly unmelodramatic given the sweep of the concept.  This is a fascinating journey and Bear invites us all along.  Be alert.  Things are not always as they seem. 7/17/08

Project Barrier by Daniel F. Galouye, Sphere, 1968

This is the second and, so far, final collection of the short fiction of Daniel F. Galouye.  It is slightly better overall than The Last Leap, but still fails to live up to my memories.  It opens with "Shuffle Board", in which a world plagued with nuclear waste spawns children with a spontaneous adaptation.  Ok construction, dreadful science.  "Recovery Area" is the story of intelligent Venusians, so the science is also rather dated here, but it's also overly long, the weakest in the collection.  "Rub-a-Dub" is much better.  Weight constraints aboard an experiment starship result in its sole crew being a young girl into whose brain three adult male personalities are imprinted.  But after the voyage is over and they are to be erased, questions arise as to whether or not they deserve to be preserved.  "Reign of the Telepuppets" is also pretty good.  A team of exploring robots sent to another planet undergo some unexpected changes and become self reliant, self motivated, and hostile to human intervention.  "Project Barrier" is an early uplift story.  Humanity creates an isolated environment in which intelligent bears create their own civilization, which closely mirrors human civilization.  Galouye generally seemed to be better with longer fiction.  His short stories are often rushed.  7/15/08

The Last Leap and Other Stories of the Super-Mind by Daniel F. Galouye, Corgi, 1964

I am sorry to say that the first collection of short stories by Daniel F. Galouye does not hold up well.  He has some interesting ideas but the prose feels as though it was hastily written, skips through scenes that needed more depth, and sometimes repeats itself.  "The Last Leap" is about an experiment in teleportation.  The first two subjects disappeared and we eventually learn that the urge to teleport becomes reflexive.  They happen to glance at the sun and poof.  "Kangaroo Court" treats an interesting subject superficially, one similar to Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man.  In a society where everyone is telepathic and cannot keep secrets, how do you commit a murder?  Galouye's solution is painfully contrived.  Telepathy is also featured in the plodding "Sanctuary".  "Deadline Sunday" reads like a Twilight Zone episode.  All the kids in the world indicate they're going away on Sunday.  This coincides with UFO sightings.  Comes the fatal day and they all disappear.  The first part is good, but the logic falls apart.  Why bother with all the elaborate buildup if the aliens could just dematerialize all the kids in an instant anyway?  "Fighting Spirit" is a very confusing story about war with aliens which turns out to be best fought by the ghosts of dead soldiers.  The science is pretty wonky in "Jebaburba", which shows how difficult it can be to have a child who can teleport, but the story is kind of cute, if predictable. The final story, "Seeing Eye Dog", is nicely done, but predictable and once again the science is bogus.  I'm not surprised that this was not reprinted in the US. 7/15/08

Eve by Tony Gonzales, Gollancz, 2008, £12.99, ISBN 978-0-575-08035-5

 A number of writers have returned to the panoramic space opera in recent years, including a high percentage of British writers.  Gonzales is one of the latter, setting his story in a vast interstellar civilization where Earth is little more than a legend.  The action opens with the creation of a clone for purposes which are not immediately clear.  He is almost immediately the target of dangerous people for reasons which he has not been told.  His life intersects that of several others, and the chemistry of the whole situation creates a crisis that could alter the entire nature of human civilization.  This feels like the beginning of a series.  It is, however, a bit too unfocused for me.  There were just too many characters and I had trouble keeping some of them straight.  At times I felt as though the author was trying to rush through things to show me what he wanted me to see, but without building an adequate background so that I could witness events in some kind of credible complex.  An interesting effort but not entirely successful. 7/14/08

The Infinite Man by Daniel F. Galouye, Bantam, 1973

This was the last and, regrettably, the least memorable of Galouye's novels.  It opens with scientists exploring one aspect of the steady state theory of universal creation, then moves to the plight of a man with unusual problems.  He's seeing a psychiatrist who has found a godlike entity living within the man named Milton Bradford, a force which can change the very laws of nature.  There is also evidence that others - particularly those using drugs - can detect his godlike powers as well.  There are conspiracies, a romantic affair, pursuits, growing awareness of his link to a form of infinite power, a religious cult that springs up, murder and suicide, and eventually he becomes a sort of god himself and destroys the universe, apparently so that he can remake it in a different form.  I have long suspected that this was an old trunk novel because it lacks almost all of the attributes of his better, earlier fiction.  I didn't like it in 1973, and I found it almost unreadable in 2008.  7/12/08

A Scourge of Screamers by Daniel F. Galouye, Bantam, 1968

Galouye's fourth novel was, alas, pretty dreadful.  A new plague afflicts the Earth, turning its victims into tortured, screaming victims most of whom die.  This triggers a limited nuclear exchange after which the Bureau of Security quietly becomes the supreme power on Earth.  The Bureau reveals the existence of the Valorians, an alien race living secretly among us whom, they claim, are attempting to take over the planet.  It's not hard to figure out that the aliens are actually trying to help and that the Bureau is involved in a power play to become world dictators.  There are lots of awkward scenes, clumsy constructions, and serious problems with pacing and plot resolution in this one.  To say nothing of the scientific nonsense.  Among other things, why would an entire species have evolved an organ to use a sense that never even existed until the present?  Embarrassing. Also published as The Lost Perception. 7/11/08

Simulacron 3 by Daniel F. Galouye, Bantam, 1964

Galouye's third novel was the basis of a German television miniseries in 1973 and became the feature film, The Thirteenth Floor, in the 1990s.  It is one of the earliest and still most interesting treatments of virtual reality.  I didn't remember much about this one and I was surprised to discover how much it reminded me of the early work of Philip K. Dick.  The protagonist is a computer expert involved in a project to eliminate live opinion polling with a simulated electronic world in which the artificial personalities have become self aware and don't suspect that they aren't "real".  He is troubled when his predecessor is killed, and another acquaintance disappears, quite literally, both physically and from everyone's memory.  Reading it today, it's quite obvious that the hero is himself living in an artificial world, but back in the 1960s, it probably caught a great many readers by surprise.  Even knowing what's going on, the book is extremely good.  In fact, I may have liked it better this time because I did know what the secret was.  The premise is summed up in one comment.  "You can hardly stuff people into machines without starting to wonder about the basic nature of both."  Eventually the protagonist switches places with his counterpart in the real world and we discover that the artificial one is our reality.  I think, however, that he missed a beat by not leaving with a suggestion that this was not a real world either. 7/11/08

Dark Universe by Daniel F. Galouye, Bantam, 1961

Daniel F. Galouye has been chosen as this year's overlooked writer at Readercon, coming up in a week or so, which gave me an excuse to re-read his work, most of which I haven't read in more than forty years.  This was his first full length novel, one of the many after-the-bomb stories, although very unlike its fellow.  The protagonist, Jared, lives in an underground society which has forgotten what light and vision mean, although Light is revered as some sort of force of good.  They negotiate the tunnels by means of smell and hearing, the latter augmented by clickstones which they use to create echoes and pick out details of their environment.  An outcast tribe are the Zivvers, who have a different sense, an ability to detect and interpret heat signatures.  Various subplots develop as the underground culture is assailed by monsters which are clearly surface dwellers armed with flashlights.  I'm not sure that humans could adapt hearing quite as effectively as described here, or that they could adjust to having vision as quickly, but the sound based society is quite nicely thought out and the book holds up very well.  Galouye's work needs to be reprinted. 7/10/08

Lords of the Psychon by Daniel F. Galouye, Bantam, 1963

Galouye's second novel is a prequel to his earlier novelette, "Cities of Force", in which enigmatic aliens consisting of spheres of force have conquered the Earth and set up cities in which humans live essentially like rats in the walls, a theme that was done later in novels by Rob Chilson and William Tenn.  The novelette concerns a young man who travels to one of the cities in an effort to communicate with the aliens and convince them humans are intelligent.  He does so, but that only makes the invaders more determined than ever to exterminate them.  The novel takes place much earlier and rethinks some of the background.  The remnants of a US Army group have been making ineffectual efforts to attack the cities while the aliens periodically initiate a global Horror Day, a bizarre phenomenon that is extremely painful, even fatal, to the few humans who have survived.  The overall tone is of despair.  Even as the army attempts a new tactic, making use of the fact that the energy of the cities responds to thought, it is clear the situation is deteriorating.  The civilian population is engaged in petty politics and even attacks the soldiers, who are no longer unified themselves.  Their scientific adviser is drunk more often than he is sober.  A group of religious fanatics indulges in sadistic practices and a petty dictator launches a violent attack, both of which the author characterizes as "depravities" even worse than those committed by the aliens.  The story is very choppy, not nearly as well organized as Dark Universe.  Big chunks of time pass with virtually no mention, characters appear and disappear, and some subplots wander off and are not resolved in a timely manner.  In due course the protagonist discovers that mental communion with the malleable force that the aliens use is altering his mind, even his subconscious, and perhaps for the better. Unfortunately, the sections dealing with their mastery of this power are drawn out and dilute the effect of the climax.  Thought provoking ideas and considerable inventiveness, but the novelette covers most of the same territory more economically.  7/10/08

Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, Tor, 8/08, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7653-1826-8  

There was a time when I looked forward to each new issue of the SF prozines because there was a chance that there would be a new Known Space story by Larry Niven.  He developed that universe in a series of early novels, the best known of which is Ringworld.  Other than occasional sequels to that novel, which didnít feel as though they were really in the same series, Niven pretty much abandoned Known Space for a number of years.  Last year he returned with Fleet of Worlds, also with Edward Lerner, and now he continues the history of that universe prior to the discovery of Ringworld with this story.  The Puppeteers are an older, wiser, but very strange alien race who have been quietly manipulating things behind the scenes, affecting the futures of entire species.  Their most significant characteristic is their racial paranoia, so itís a logical step to choose a man who is also paranoid to act as a spy against them.  Thatís the role chosen for Sigmund Ausfaller, whose career is studded with success until he encounters Nessus Ė who would later appear in Ringworld and who remains behind even when his entire race suddenly picks up and moves on to places unknown.  This doesnít entirely evoke the original atmosphere, but that could well be a consequence of the fact that Iíve changed during the intervening decades.  That doesnít mean it doesnít succeed in creating the old fashioned sense of wonder that made me such an avid SF reader during the 1960s.  Beowulf Shaeffer is back as well, and the reappearance of familiar names tempts me to dig out those older paperbacks and return to a simpler and more awe inspiring time. 7/9/08

Mars Life by Ben Bova, Tor, 8.08, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7653-1787-2

 Ben Bovaís ďGrand TourĒ books arenít really a series, although within that general sequence of stories about the exploration of the solar system there have been subsets.  This is the third in the Mars series, set a few years after the events in Return to Mars, wherein a scientist discovered the ruins of a primitive community on the red planet, indicating that intelligent life had existed there millions of years in the past.  Another scientist uncovers a fossilized Martian in this one, which has far reaching repercussions because the power structure on Earth is now dominated by essentially fundamentalist religious groups who are unwilling to accept that intelligent life could exist elsewhere under any circumstances.  They would prefer that the truth remain hidden, even if that means an end to all future scientific study of the Martian civilization.  The story alternates between Mars and Albuquerque, the latter the home of the man who made the initial discovery and who now finds himself on a battlefield that isnít just intellectual.  Despite the upbeat conclusions, Bova paints a depressing picture of the human desire to dwell in ignorance rather than face uncomfortable truths or long cherished beliefs.  It is particularly depressing because weíve had ample evidence in recent years that it is not a minority viewpoint. 7/6/08

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman, Ace, 8/08, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-441-01595-5 

Joe Haldemanís latest is in many ways an old fashioned story of space exploration.  Some time in the future, Earth has a space elevator by means of which ships are launched to a permanent colony on Mars.  Carmen Dula is a teenager accompanying her family on the six month voyage and several year stay, but sheís having second thoughts at the last minute.  That contributes to her shaky emotional state and subsequent love affair with the shipís pilot, although he turns out to be a really nice guy.  Once they reach Mars, she makes a troublesome enemy and gets into trouble herself when she gets lost outside the settlement.  She is injured, but rescued by a hidden colony of aliens, who turn out not to be native Martians at all.  I wonít tell you exactly what they are or where they are from because thatís the whole point of the novel.  Haldeman has put together a well paced, low key story that evolves into high drama, and the characters Ė particularly Carmen of course Ė are appealing and convincing.  This is a coming of age story that could almost be marketed as a young adult novel.  Itís also an example of how good traditional SF can be in the hands of a skilled practitioner. 7/5/08

Classics Illustrated: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, adapted by Rick Geary, Papercutz, 2008, $9.95, ISBN 978-1-59707-106-2

When I was a kid, I collected the Classics Illustrated comics, but alas they all got thrown out while I was away at college.  This is part of a new series in much the same manner, although they are hardcovers, full color throughout, a loyal retelling of the original prose classic.  Rick Geary's artwork and text are eye catching and entirely appropriate to the tone of the story.  The book itself is handsomely bound and includes a brief history of the original comics and some other material.  The copyright is 1991 so I assume that this particular one was previously published in some format, part of a program by First Comics apparently.  I hope this new program proves to be successful because for me at least it introduced me to a number of novels that I then went out and read.   7/3/08 

The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature by David Niall Wilson, Bad Moon, 2008, no ISBN

The Scrubs by Simon Janus, Bad Moon, 2008, no ISBN

Bad Moon Press is your basic no frills publisher, no cover art, no ISBN, no fancy blurbs.  That doesn't mean the contents aren't quite good.  Although I generally connect that name with horror fiction, and these could both be called horror, it's rationalized rather than supernatural in both these cases so technically they're SF and that's where I'm putting them.  The first is by a long time favorite of mine and it involves the discovery of a dead man in a swamp, but a very peculiar dead man.  A stag's head has been grafted onto his body, and it appears that the transplant may have been - briefly at least - a success.  Shades of Dr. Moreau!  Wilson takes us on a crazy ride through a cast of frequently crazy characters this time.  One of the stronger novellas I've read recently.  The second title is almost as good, a shorter piece by mystery writer Simon Wood.  A prisoner volunteers for a research project and discovers that another inmate has developed the mental power to open a gateway to a created world of his own.  There is a lot of bizarre and fascinating imagery in this one, some visceral violence, and a rousing climax.  I was never quite convinced that such a project could be undertaken in the context the author suggests, but my cavils didn't seriously interfere with my enjoying the story.  These are two pieces you should take the time to track down.  7/3/08

The Ashes of Worlds by Kevin J. Anderson, Audiobook, Brilliance, 2008, $39.95, ISBN 978-1-4233-5751-3

This is the unabridged audiobook, 17 cds, 20 hours, read by David Colacci.  I just read and reviewed this book (here) so I won't recap it.  It brings the Saga of Seven Suns series to a close. 7/2/08

The Viper of Portello by James C. Glass, Fairwood Press, 8/08, $17.99, ISBN 978-0-9789078-7-7 

I remember enjoying a couple of novels by James Glass back a few years ago, but since then his output has been limited to short stories.  This new novel is a good one, following the career of Eduardo Cabral, a brilliant soldier who served a planetary government that didnít deserve his loyalty.  They betrayed him and his fellow soldiers and even after the war had ended, he was treated in a manner that resulted in his emigrating to another world.  His exile is cut short when a revolution breaks out against that government and he returns, after which he has to balance power and responsibility under these new circumstances.  Cabral is an interesting character and I wanted to find out more about him than to just follow his adventures, so I was of two minds about the second half of the novel, which was more traditional melodramatic SF, and good at what it was trying to do, but which might have been much more interesting if the main conflict had been inside the man rather than external to him. 7/1/08