the Little Red Reviewer

well, you’re month doesn’t need to be interrupted, but mine is going to be!

As I always do in mid January, this weekend I’m headed to ConFusion, a science fiction and fantasy convention held in the suburbs just outside Detroit.  If you find yourself over there, head on over to the Sheraton at 8 Mile and I-275 to hang with 900 (or more?) of your closest friends.   If your comment gets stuck in moderation, it’s because wifi will be iffy.

I’ve even got some panels!

Friday: 6pm – Panel on Alternate History

Sunday 10am:  Scifi Fantasy All Stars! Draft a team and beat the existential crisis!

Sunday 11am: How the F*** do I make this?  Answering your cosplay prop questions!

For a few hours on Saturday, I will be walking around the hotel cosplaying a My Little Pony.   Making papercraft ears is fun!

 

Lessons I’ve learned from attending previous conventions:

dress in layers. one panel room will be freezing, the next will be boiling.

haven’t worn high heels in a year? Probably not a good idea to wear them to a convention.

drink as much water as you can. the humidity in convention hotels is approximately minus a million percent.

bring snacks to stash in your hotel room, and to have in your tote bag. snacks are your friend.

People watching is THE BEST.

 

 

uncharted-stars-nortonUncharted Stars, by Andre Norton

published in 1969

where I got it: purchased used

 

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My favorite Andre Norton is The Zero Stone.  A fun space adventure story with a scifi twist (and an alien cat!), there’s everything to love about that book. So of course I had to read the sequel, Uncharted Stars.   Taking place shortly after the events of the first book, Murdoc Jern has purchased his own spaceship, now he just needs to find a pilot to fly it. Already down on his luck, Murdoc can barely come up with the docking fees for the ship, let alone money for a pilot’s salary.  Even worse, any pilot he hires might just be a spy for the Patrol.

 

He ends up hiring Ryzk, a man with his own secrets. Why is such a talented pilot wasting away on this backwater planet willing to work for pennies?  A question Murdoc files away for another day, as he is too busy ensuring Eet stays out of sight and keeping Ryzk from knowing the goal of their flight plan is to find the origins of the Zero Stone.

 

Eet knows a lot more about the zero stones than he’s willing to share, but he does share that the stone allows him to shapeshift at will, and that if he concentrates and practices, Murdoc can do it too.   After a while, Murdoc gets half way decent at holding a different face, and tries his new found skills out on Eet, turning the critter back into a normal cat. Miffed  beyond belief, Eet gives Murdoc the silent treatment, and they both realize after a while they are better off friends than enemies. But can Murdoc be trusted with the supreme power of the stone?

 

The plot felt very episodic, with the characters having one adventure after another.  They try to sell gems on a planet, fail and leave;  they visit a secret and famous pirate base, steal a star map and are able to escape;  they rescue an alien archaeologist who is forever in their debt; and other various adventures and escapes. I wonder if this novel is a fix-up of Murdoc and Eet short stories? Because that is what it felt like.  Not to say this is a bad novel, I was just hoping for better because I loved Zero Stone so much.

 

There were quite a few things I did enjoy about Uncharted Stars. It takes place in Norton’s “Forerunner” universe, which includes a whole ton of loosely related novels and short stories. If you’re familiar with any of those stories, you’ll find a ton of easter eggs in Uncharted Stars.  The story also has a really adorable twist  at the end, something I never saw coming but I’m happy it was there.

It’s time for another Blind Date with a Book give away!  but this time, they are all Vintage science fiction books!

I’ll tell you a little about the book, but not the title or the author, and you get to decide if the book is worth a blind date! Here’s how the give away works:

  •  put in the comments what number book(s) you’re interested in. put #1, #2, etc. You can enter for more than one.
  • if WordPress doesn’t prompt you to enter your e-mail address, please give me some way to get a hold of you, such as twitter, e-mail, facebook, or to use  a contact page on your website
  • Give away ends on Friday Jan 27th, with winners being announced shortly thereafter
  • due to the costs of international shipping, unfortunately this is a US only give away. I love you everyone else, I just can’t afford to mail things to you!

 

Ermagerd I’m such a nerd, I typed up the descriptions on my circa 1940 typewriter.

vintage-bdwab-1

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we-zamyatinWe by Yevgeny Zamyatin

written in 1921

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve owned this little paperback for years, and I’ve always been intimidated by it. Because the introduction is 20 pages long? Because the story was considered so subversive that it couldn’t be published in Zamyatin’s native Russia until 1988, fifty years after the author’s death? Maybe. And maybe because I was nervous that what was a riotious dystopian political satire in 1922 wouldn’t hold up, that I’d be too far removed from what the story referenced to understand the satire.

 

I should never have been intimidated.  The story is not subversive to my modern eyes,  and the all-inclusive satire holds up very well, with Zamyatin going after everyone he possibly can in an unsubtle fashion – Christians, a helicopter-parenting government, Authoritarianism, Big Brother, and anyone who agrees tacitly with a majority without bothering to analyze what’s happening. I solved my problem with the introduction by leaving it until after I’d finished the novel.  The “utopia” of We is reason taken to the nth degree,  protection of the people by removal of all choice,  a society built around the concept that humans can only be happy if when when all choice, all worryor concern of making a misstep, all need of something out of reach, all creativity, all freedom is taken from us.   Citizens are referred to as numbers, not as people. This is a society madly in love with math, reason, and rationalism, and terrified by question marks, the unknown, and the imagination.   Dissidents are publicly executed.

 

“When a man freedom equals zero, he commits no crime. That is clear. The only means of ridding man of crime is ridding him of freedom”

 

Not only is choice and freedom gone, but so is privacy. Homes and buildings are constructed of clear glass, the concierge in your apartment building reads your mail and registers your visitors, and privacy blinds may only be drawn if the proper paperwork is product with the partner you have registered for that day.

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The first week of Vintage SciFi Month has flown by, and the reviews and photos and instagrams and comments and twitter conversations are flying in!  Here’s an incomplete round up of blog posts, reviews, give aways, read alongs, and other goodies from the first week of Vintage month:

a review of Transfinite – The Essential A.E. Van Vogt  at Tip the Wink

The Tritonian Ring by L. Sprague de Camp review posted at Castalia House

Mervi’s Book Reviews discusses End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov

Join and catch up with the Dorsai! read along at Red Star Reviews

While you’re over at Red Star Reviews, learn how you can win a copy of The Book of Frank Herbert, a fantastic little collection of Herbert short stories

Ian Sales has a really excellent guest post at Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations about scifi writers Leslie Perri, Alice Eleanor Jones, and Sonya Dorman.

 

Have I missed you?   Click the “Vintage Science Fiction” tab at the top of the screen and ad your link in the comments!

crashing-suns-edmond-hamiltonCrashing Suns by Edmond Hamilton

first published in Weird Tales in 1928

where I got it – Three volume Hamilton set was a gift

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That cover art looks familiar, doesn’t it?

 

Yep,  “Crashing Suns” by Edmond Hamilton is the cover art I screen-grabbed years ago for a Vintage SciFi image. At the time, I had no idea who Edmond Hamilton was, and I was too busy with my own things to start meaningful conversations with people who took a look at the badge I’d photoshopped and said “Hey, I know that book!”.   In my old age, I’m trying to get better.

 

A few years ago, I was gifted with a gorgeous three volume set of The Collected Works of Edmond Hamilton. The way our living room is set up, this is one of the first things you see displayed on top of the bookshelf when you walk into that room.   The back of the volumes feature cover art of novels, chapbooks, and magazines in which these novels, novellas, and short stories were originally published, and as I was flipping through, I saw artwork that looked mighty familiar to me (because I stole it). So OF COURSE I had to read the story!  The story behind the cover art is “Crashing Suns”, which is Hamilton’s first story in his Interstellar Patrol sequence of interrelated stories.

 

This was such a fun pulpy story! So many exclamation points, so many characters shouting, so many big bold adjectives. This is a story of big brassy sounds, saturated primary colors, and massive stakes (no there weren’t actually any brassy sounds or primary colors, but that’s my weird brain for you. But there are earth shatteringly large stakes for our heroes). At the beginning of the story, Earth gets news from an observatory that there is a star on a trajectory path towards our sun! And if it reaches here, obviously everyone will die!

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voyage-of-the-space-beagleVoyage of the Space Beagle, by A.E. Van Vogt

published in 1950

where I got it: purchased used

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A sci-fantasy, the title of this fix-up novel is a direct reference to Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, an exploratory voyage that lasted longer than expected and that hoped to discover and research new and different species and learn more about our natural world. I call it a sci-fantasy, because while there is plenty of science in this story, and the solutions to all their challenges are science derived, there is also a lot of “hand-wavium” that functions as overly simplified technobabble.

 

The scientist who becomes the main character as the story progresses is Elliott Grosvenor, who is a nexialist scholar. Nexialism is akin to interdisciplinary applied sciences – Grosvenor doesn’t study only chemistry or engineering or physics, he studies all of them, often under hypnosis to learn faster. The use of hypnosis has added an element of the studies of how the human mind works, allowing Grosvenor to both induce and rebel hypnosis and psychic attacks. Nexialism is a new science, and the other scientists aren’t sure what to do with the young Grosvenor. Some of them ignore him, others are outright antagonistic and aim to sabotage his work.  It’s neat how the scientific departments on the Space Beagle have the feel of a university, complete with different labs, work areas, and politics.

 

What makes this fix-up novel so famous is that one of the novellas, “The  Black Destroyer” is considered an official inspiration for the movie Alien (the screenwriters of the movie never admitted to plagarism, but were happy to quickly settle out of court for a chunk of change), but it’s a little more complicated than that.  “The  Black Destroyer” was first published in 1939 and is considered the beginning of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The premise of this novella is that The Space Beagle touches down on an abandoned planet, and among the ruins finds a cat-like creature called Coeurl. Assuming Coeurl to be harmless, they allow it access to the ship, where it slowly tries to kill the crew with the intention of taking over the ship and traveling to where more of its food can be found.   Horrible things happen, people die, and the scientists have to come up with some method of tricking the beast which includes a life boat and an airlock.

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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.