the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘aliens

madonna and starshipThe Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow

published in June 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tachyon!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

.

.

.

With a cover like this and promises of provocative satire, how could I not read it?

 

Kurt Jastrow has the best day job a science fiction writer could ask for. In the 1950s, at the peak of live television, he’s the lead writer for Brock Barton and his Rocket Rangers.  A show every nine year old loves, Jastrow writes three shows a week (with Monday and Wednesday’s shows ending in cliffhangers, of course), and squeezes in a few minutes of actual science at the end of every episode.  It’s not a glamorous life to be sure, but Kurt has plenty of time to polish his science fiction stories, harass his shellshocked editor, and try to convince fellow writer Connie Osborne to go out on a date with him.

 

Everything was going swimmingly (if rather ho hum) for Kurt, until he gets a visit from extra terrestrial ultra-rationalists, who want to thank him for doing such an amazing job promoting scientific enlightenment via Brock Barton and the real science demonstrations at the end of the show. The aliens want to give Kurt his award on live TV! And oh, they want to punish anyone who isn’t rational like they are, namely the few million people who tune into the network’s religious programming every Sunday morning. Almost sounds like the alien invasion script someone like Kurt would write for a much better TV show than Brock Barton . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

childhoods endChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

published in 1953

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

There’s going to be some spoilers, because I don’t feel bad about spoiling a book that was published the year my Dad went into kindergarten.

 

The novel opens with a momentous event: the day the aliens come.  Their giant ships hover over every major city, but they came in peace. Forced peace, actually.  The Overlords announce they will be taking over all of Earth’s governments, they will be stopping all wars, stopping hunger, disease and poverty, they will be making sure us Earthlings live peaceful lives.  This is the first step towards Earth joining a galactic community, and the Overlords have been tasked with making sure we take this first step.  The Overlords give us no choice in the matter, and any earthly warlords or take it upon themselves to violently disagree are shamed into submission.  No choice at all, really.

 

But no one has ever seen an Overlord, and humans aren’t known to be trustworthy of anything we can’t see. The Overlord spokesperson, Karrelen, tells us that in fifty years they will show themselves to us, it will take that long for us to be ready.  And they were right.

Read the rest of this entry »

survivalSurvival (Species Imperiative #1), by Julie Czerneda

published in 2004

where I got it: purchased used

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

.

..

.

.

Just because we’ve traveled to the stars and met with aliens doesn’t mean everyone wants to travel to the stars and hang out with aliens. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Mackenzie Connor  is perfectly happy to study salmon at the Norcoast research facility, working with other quirky research scientists and grad students.  Why should she care about aliens, outlying human colonies, or a dead spot in the galaxy, when all her salmon are doing just fine?

Let me save you a lot of reading by simply saying Julie Czerneda’s Survival is damn near perfect. There is no possible way to cram all the awesome of Survival into one review, so I won’t torture us by trying. But by all means, keep reading. Excellently researched and presented hard science fiction, characters in difficult situations, betrayal, aliens, and genocide, it took me a while to write this review because my brain was so Wow’d by the implications of what I’d read.

As there’s a big blue alien on the cover of the book, it’s no spoiler to tell you that an alien, a Dhryn to be specific, visits Norcoast. Instead of being flattered that the first Dhryn to ever visit the Earth has chosen her research facility to visit, Mac is less than thrilled to have her meticulously timed research interrupted by a huge alien name Brymn.  When I first met her, Mac reminded me of Dr. Ellie Arroway from Carl Sagan’s Contact. Both women are so very focused on their fields of research, that they take it as a personal insult whenever someone tries to interrupt their studies.  And it’s not just an alien who visits Norcoast, it’s the entourage of political hanger ons and the media, all stomping all over the place. So much for this season’s salmon spawning research.

Read the rest of this entry »

exodus towersThe Exodus Towers by Jason M. Hough (Dire Earth, book 2)

published in 2013

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

.

.

This is the second book in Jason M. Hough’s Dire Earth Cycle, and due to some very important plot points revealed at the end of the first book in the series, The Darwin Elevator, there will be unavoidable spoilers in this review for the first book.

 

The Darwin Elevator was fun, but it certainly wasn’t my favorite book. Friends of mine kept telling me to give The Exodus Towers a try, that the series got better.  And they were right.  This second novel is far and away better than the first. The pacing is tighter, the characterization is better, the alien technologies are described better, the stakes are higher, the tension is built in a more effective way, it’s just a much better written book all the way around.

 

At the end of the first book, a second elevator plunged to earth, landing in Belem, Brazil.  The stations and levels that escaped the Darwin elevator were able to attach to this new elevator, and since then, Tania Sharma and Skyler Luiken have been slowly but surely building a new colony.  Hampered by a low population but helped by  mobile towers that protect from the Subs virus, it’s slow going.  Skyler spends most of his time on the ground scouting, and Tania is up in the elevator.  She takes comfort in group decisions, being cautious with their limited resources, and not taking action until a sure course is decided on. Skyler on the other hand, is comfortable making snap decisions with incomplete information.

 

Tania has lived the protected life of an orbital scientist, where if it takes two weeks to come to a decision it won’t really matter, whereas Skyler is more used to running from Subs and needing to grab scavenged cargo as fast as possible.  I enjoyed watching the two of them play off of each other, and I appreciated the time Hough took to really develop their personality differences.  So many times, they are both right, or both wrong, and sometimes they even see it.  There is some obvious chemistry between the two of them, but Hough keeps their relationship complicated instead of taking the easy route of allowing them an easy or simple romantic relationship.  

Read the rest of this entry »

bowl of heavenThe Bowl of Heaven, by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Science fiction adventure? A strange bowl shaped structure in space? Bird-like aliens that “adopt” species they come across? An alien planet that sends out confusing information? Shut up and take my money!  Right?  Not so much, as it turns out.

The Bowl of Heaven starts out as you’d expect a science fiction adventure story to start: we’ve found a planet that could be another Earth, a new home for a humanity that’s quickly outgrowing Earth. Nicknamed Glory, a large expedition is put together to sleep most of the way, and assess the situation when they reach Glory.  And they wouldn’t have awoken biologist Cliff Kammesh if it wasn’t an emergency.  The ship’s computers have found something, something they can’t explain: a star that just winked into existence.  They couldn’t see the star before, because it was hidden behind a structure nearly the size of our solar system.

Captain Redwing is awakened as well, along with biologist Beth Marble (she and Cliff have a relationship), and a handful of other crewmembers. They need to understand this giant structure, but they also need to reserve the dwindling food and air stores they have on the ship.

The structure is a gigantic bowl like structure, the “bottom” is mirrors aimed at a star, and the “sides” are all biome. There’s a magnetized hole in the bottom, and the mirrors cause ripples and disturbances in the star’s surface, and the magnetized hole pulls a jet of agitated plasma away from the star, propelling the huge machine forward through the cosmos. The scene where Beth pilots the ramscoop ship through the plasma jet absolutely blew me away, and I will forever remember it as one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever come from across in a hard science fiction novel. Once through, and into the inside of the bowl, it would be a crime not to explore further.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vintage Science Fiction months owes part of it’s existence to my friend Andy. We met a few years ago through the local bookstore, and became fast friends. Over lunch discussions and a few beers, we traded books back and forth, me trying to get Andy on the “new weird” band wagon, and him getting me into Andre Norton and making sure our local scifi book club read the classics (See Andy? This is what happens when you don’t send me a bio. I write one for you!).

Andy is also a typewriter collector, and although we live in the same city, we write letters to each other, him on his typewriter(s), and me by hand. Hand writing and typewriting a letter is a completely different experience than firing off a quick e-mail.  He even typed me this guest post. See? To keep the pages loading fast, I’ve only scanned in a few typewritten paragraphs.

AR first paragraph

Fortunately the trauma was short-lived and soon after I discovered the films of George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. Pal’s The Time Machine and Harryhausen’s First Men in the Moon are still great favorites in the DVD collection, much to my family’s despair. TV beckoned too and no science fictional kid growing up in the Sixties could miss Lost in Space or Star Trek as well as the proto-steampunkiness of The Wild, Wild West. Sad to say, all but the last haven’t aged well for me. The camp value of pasteboard sets, pedestrian scripts, a now-hilarious lack of actual science, and acting that is adequate at best only takes nostalgia so far. Many SF movies of the time suffer from the same defects yet command greater affection for reasons I can’t explain.

My introduction to written science fiction came more gradually. First there was the discovery of the paperback cache in the upper drawer of my parent’s bedroom dresser. My paternal grandfather, a diehard fan from SF’s “Golden Age” of the Thirties and Forties, sent them to his son but my father wanted nothing to do with the genre. Fortunately for me, the unwanted collection included such treasures as Mark S. Geston’s now-classic Lords of the Starship. The book isn’t really about a starship and its ideas were way beyond anything I would have understood then. No matter, I was arrested by the cover image of a golden armored vehicle with a skeleton hanging out of the turret swimming through a sandy desert toward the huge, bluish, winged vehicle of the title. Not long after, a friend turned me on to the author who really turned  me into a fan.

The Stars Are Ours-Star Born Read the rest of this entry »

I met Rinn of Rinn Reads when she hosted Science Fiction Month back in November. What a great event!  Not only because science fiction is near and dear to my heart, but because Rinn did an amazing job of getting authors and publishers involved AND getting bloggers who weren’t so sure about science fiction to pick up a few titles.  People, this is what I love about the blogosphere. Someone says “hey, I’d like to do this, who wants to join me?” and suddenly a hundred people are raising their hands.

 

Why H.G. Well’s classic The War of the Worlds is still today, by Rinn

 

“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater  than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” (page 1)

 

And so H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds begins, with these immortal and haunting words. To me, it is up there with those fantastic opening lines that include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. But it’s not just the opening line that really has an impact – the entire book was, at the time, a brand new concept and something really quite shocking, and over one hundred years later it still grips and surprises: it is a timeless classic. It has been adapted time and time again, for the screen, stage and radio, and has influenced so many other authors and works, and even an entirely new genre of invasion fiction.

 

The War of the Worlds has been interpreted in many ways. Commentary on British imperialism, or perhaps Victorian fears, Mars was a very apt planet to use either way. Mars is the Roman god of war, equivalent to Greek Ares; where better for these alien soldiers and destroyers to come from? Wells was not the first to have this idea: it was used as early as 1880 in Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac.

 

One of the scariest parts of the book is how the human race is completely and utterly powerless against the alien invasion – at least in in the tradition way. Weapons barely make a dent, and even taking down a tripod or two requires some sacrifices. The people watching the HMS Thunder Child fight a tripod believe that they are seeing progress, only to have the ship sink in front of their eyes.  Their weapons include the Heat Ray, which burns people up instantly, the Black Smoke, a poisonous gas which chokes people to death, and the Red Weed. Were those aliens to invade today, when we’ve made so many technological advances, would we fare any better? Some people may look upon our ancestors of the nineteenth century with scorn, and have no doubt that today’s modern warfare would annihilate the Martians – and perhaps we would stand more of a chance – but it doesn’t just come down to that. Another factor to come into it is how we would react.

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Hugo Awards

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

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,124 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along

Local Friends

Categories

FTC Stuff

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.