the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

You can read “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” over at Tor.com, and really, you should.  It’s a quick story, but that doesn’t really matter, because you’ll be hooked right away. But you might want to read it at home, with tissues handy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Such a beautiful, but painful story to read.  On a happy note, I got a kick out of the nods to  a The Wizard of Oz, which gave the story an ethereal, almost nostalgic feeling.  A little funny to read a scifi story about a Mars colony, and getting a feeling of nostalgia! But that’s all that is funny about it. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” has a gravitas to it, a maturity, a wordless something I don’t often get to see in science fiction. It’s about a husband and a wife who love each other, who want to help each other, and they both understand one of them is dying.

 

It was nice to read a speculative fiction piece that stars an aging woman. We get male characters of all ages, teens, young men, 20s, adults, retired guys. But those female characters always seem to be in that nineteen to thirty two sweet spot – old enough to kick some ass, but not, like, old. And Elma York? She’s old.  She’s retired. No one recognizes her anymore. Her  body is not taught, her back is hunched, her arms and legs jiggle. But she still dreams of flying. Back in the 1950s, Elma was known as The Lady Astronaut of Mars. But that was thirty years ago. Now, living on Mars, Elma has a new life.  Yes, she still keeps in shape as best she can, yes, she keeps up with the physicals and the tests, anything to keep her name on the active list of astronauts, but she knows she’s not going anywhere.  She’s retired. Her dreams haven’t changed, but her priorities have.

 

Elma’s in good health, but her husband Nathaniel, his health is failing rapidly. Their life rotates around his medication schedule, when the nurse visits, how his tests come back, when the doctor expects the paralysis to set in. There are some undignified moments, but Kowal lays their story bare, gives us everything. Because that’s love, you know? It’s in sickness and in health, for better for worse.  Signing up for love means signing up for everything. You know those stories that after you read them, you suddenly find yourself across the room, holding your partner’s hand, and they when they ask if everything is ok you tell them you love them? This is that story.

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In case you ever need to talk me into doing something, the magic words are Iain M. Banks.

Kamo over at This Is How She Fight Start is organizing a read along of Banks’ Inversions for later this month. Join Kamo, Two Dudes in an Attic, and myself, as we convince the rest of the universe that Iain M Banks was the best thing to ever happen to said universe.  Because you’ll be joining us, tweet Kamo or comment on his announcement and let him know you want the deets. Come on, it’ll be fun!

The first sentence of the Wikipedia for Inversions page states

Banks has said “Inversions was an attempt to write a Culture novel that wasn’t.”

I didn’t scroll down any further, didn’t want spoilers.

inversions

I’m only about 50 pages in so far, and at least twice I have already audibly exclaimed “damn I love you Banks” while reading.  If I don’t respond to tweets or e-mails for the next 24 hours, this book is why.

 

people have been posting Vintage SciFi reviews and discussions all over the place!   While I’m battling airport traffic today, you should enjoy these links to Vintage SciFi goodness all over the blogopshere!   it’s like a giftbox of chocolate truffles. where do I start?  with the caramel? with the white chocolate? with that sparkly one?

Found a link I missed?  Post it in the comments and I’ll update the list as soon as I can.

Howling Frog Books offers up a selection of reviews, including Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clark, We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick.

Sheila Williams has a heartfelt editorial in Asimov’s about remembering Frederik Pohl

My Readers Block reviews Dangerous Visions #3, edited by Harlan Ellison and including short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, and more, and Angels and Spaceships by Fredric Brown

Books Without Any Pictures reviews The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, with some great cover art!! Also a great review of Flatland by Edwin Abbot.

Lynn’s Book Blog reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

50 Year Project reviews The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Genre-Bending discusses The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

Some timely posts on SFSignal recently, one on Reading More Older SFF, and another on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1970s

I can always count on Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations for Vintage goodies. In the past week he’s posted an extensive cover art gallery, and a review of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire  by Michael Bishop.

AQ’s Reviews discusses Marooned on Mars by Lester Del Rey

I Read Therefore I Am discusses The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham

Today’s guest post is from  Kamo, who blogs at this is how she fight start.  If that’s not an alluring enough blog name for you,  Kamo posts about speculative fiction, life in Japan, and food with a quippy wry style.

The Future Was Now, by Kamo

kamo blogs about books, Japan, and cake (in precisely that order) at this is how she fight start and sporadically twitters as @tihsfs. He doesn’t really own a cape.

“Vintage Science Fiction.” There’s an oxymoron right there.

In my day job I teach English to Japanese high school students. At night I don a sentient suit of armour (with cape) and deal out vigilante justice to the scum of the city in a psychologically disastrous attempt to displace my raging alcoholism and avenge the death of my parents at the hands of Big Mo’s henchmen when I was naught but a child. But I’ve been asked to write about Science Fiction here so I’m going to talk about the day job instead.

In addition to the linguistic aspects of English teaching, there are also certain cultural considerations that accompany the role. As such, I’m expected to be something of an ambassador for the entire Rest of the World. Me. This is hilarious.

I am patently unsuited to many roles, but perhaps none more so than Ambassador of the World (Ambassador OF THE NIGHT, maybe). But I’m getting paid real money for this so I may as well give it a go, eh? Thus we watch a lot of dvds and clips I’ve ripped off youtube. This year my students have been subjected to Jane Eyre (the BBC TV adaptation), Mad Men (the AMC mega-phenomenon), and The Matrix (the movie, singular. There is only one Matrix movie).

In preparation for their final presentations I’ve also shown them a couple of famous speeches: Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech (obvs) and JFK’s speech at Rice University launching the Apollo programme. I must have watched the same clips about fifty times by now, and the part that still surprises me is when JFK poses the question, “Why, 35 years ago, did we fly the Atlantic?” Thirty-five years ago. The speech was made in 1962. We are now further away from Armstrong’s moon landing than Armstrong was from Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight.

Let’s all just take a moment to consider that.

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Wow. Where did November go?  For that matter, where did summer go?  This year flew like the devil was chasing it.

Lucky for us, December and her wintery sister months offer some excellent blogosphere and realsphere events.  Such as:

On the heels of Rinn’s Science Fiction Month is Carl’s SciFi Experience, at Stainless Steel Droppings which runs during December and January. Over 25 bloggers are already signed up, go check it out!

This week starts The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin read along, hosted by Dab of Darkness, Violin in a Void, On Starships and Dragonwings and yours truly. It’s not too late to sign up if you’d like to get the discussion questions early.

On Starships and Dragonwings has also started a most excellent friday feature, it’s called Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fridays, where bloggers are invited to post links to recently posted reviews of speculative fiction books and give aways.

I’ll be posting my top books of the year later this month. The top three or four are easy. After that, it gets a little dicey.

January brings Vintage Science Fiction Month. 1979 is the magic year, Project Gutenberg is your friend, and I’m on the lookout for Science fiction from 1938.  I have some guest posters signed up, but I’m still looking for more.  Topics are pretty open, can be books, authors, tv shows, the Moon landing, cover art  . . .  if it’s science fiction, fantasy, or real science related, and it’s from before 1979, I want you to talk about it here.

January also brings ConFusion, my favorite local Science Fiction convention. Guests at the con include Ian Tregillis, Jacqueline Carey, Cherie Priest, Mike Carey, and many, many more.  There’s not much on their website yet, but I’m hoping they’ll post some preliminary programming soon. I’ll  be cosplaying as . . .  well,  if you’re the rightest sort of Right People, you’ll recognize me.

February brings another fun bloggy project, I’m organizing the Book of Apex Volume 4 blog tour.  This anthology offers 33 original pieces that were published as part of Apex Magazine (if it counts for anything, my favorite recent story over there was a dark Sesame Street parody by Jim Hines).  Let me tell you, this is a great opportunity to read award winning authors such as Catherynne Valente, A.C. Wise, Ken Liu, Elizabeth Bear, Alethea Kontis, Alex Bledsoe, Rachel Swirsky, and more.    I’ve gotten positive feedback about this from nearly everyone I’ve e-mailed about this.  And I’m kinda curious about how many more bloggers I can get on board. Sooper Speshul stuff awaits the participants! if you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, let me know.

and after all that, maybe I’ll take a vacation.  #yeahright

scifi month header

Thanks to the amazing organization skills of Rinn over at Rinn Reads, we’re right in the heart of  Science Fiction Month. And I’ve noticed something. Something wonderful: lots of folks who are participating in SciFi Month are completely new to science fiction.

This is fantastic!  That so many people who have never picked up a science  fiction book are interested in giving some weird stuff a try, it warms my heart.  Getting into science fiction isn’t always easy.   Strange names, alien planets, technobabble, far future technologies. . .  it can be a bit much.  Luckily, there are plenty (countless, actually) of “gate way” books, books that take place right now, or maybe a few years in the future, or even a few years in past. Books that don’t leave the solar system, maybe don’t even leave the Earth. You don’t need to be fluent in technobabble or have a degree in astronomy to enjoy these. You just need to turn the first page. . .

to help you on your journey into scifi, I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  If you have any suggestions for other gateway books, let everyone know in the comments!

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett – After her parent’s death, Mona inherits her Mom’s old house in a sleepy town in the southwest. It’s one of those old fashioned towns, where everyone knows everyone else, and the oldsters remember all the family secrets. there are family secrets, and then there are Family Secrets. How will Mona react when she learns her own?

In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. I love Kage Baker, it’s as simple as that. This novel is the first of her Company Series. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you won’t feel sucked into reading another long series. Mendoza is an operative with a company that collects historical artifacts, and they’ve turned her into an immortal cyborg, of sorts. She spies on people, but can’t tell anyone who or what she is. Really sucks, when she falls in love with someone on her first mission. This book is as heartbreaking as it is funny. By the way, I’ve got a review of some Kage Baker Company short stories that’ll be posting in a few days.

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Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold

published in 2012

where I got it: Hugo Voter’s Packet

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The umpteeth entry in her famous Vorkosigan saga, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance takes place very late in the Vorkisigan chronology, in fact, we only briefly meet the famous Miles Vorkosigan, and he’s semi-retired and chasing toddlers. Never read a Vorkosigan novel, or only read the first one? Have no fear, you really jump in (or back in) at this one.  Bujold does her world building in my favorite way – through interactions between characters.  Relatives and friends show up from time to time to let everyone know how things are going back home, which also lets the reader know about “back home”, and how it fits into the chronology. There’s no infodumping, just characters have an easy going and often inadvertenly funny conversation.

Right off the bat we meet Ivan Vorpatril, and his buddy Byerly Vorrutyer. These young men are effectively rich wastrels – extra heirs in a hierarchical militaristic society. They have wealthy parents, a title, and maybe some inheritance, but no one expects much from them because they’re so far down the line from the throne. Ivan spends his free time chasing women and promising his mother he’ll settle down one day, and Byerly uses his reputation as an idiot cad to his advantage in his career. It’s easy to think at first that these two playboys are exactly what they seem.

Ivan does a favor for Byerly, and ends up tied to a chair in a beautiful woman’s apartment, while the real kidnappers are breaking through the window.  The beautiful woman, Tej, happens to be the on-the-run daughter of a deposed Major House of Jackson’s Whole, a planet on the other side of the wormhole.

In a last ditch effort to protect her from the local authorities, Ivan offers her instant entry into High Vor society, via becoming his wife (in name only of course, with a promise of a divorce once he’s seen her safely to her destination).  A few hastily spoken sentences later, and poof: Tej is now Lady Vorpatril.  She’s only know Ivan a few hours, but he seems earnest in that he’s just interested in helping her.  And besides, if he tries anything (which he swears he won’t), Tej’s blue skinned companion will beat the shit out of him.

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.