the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2012

Wow, what a month we’ve had!  Wow, what a month YOU’VE had!

Teh Vintage Science Fiction not-a-challenge was more successful than I could have ever imagined it would be.  That little red badge was plastered all over the place,  twitter was on fire, and occurring at the same time as the Science Fiction Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings didn’t hurt much either.  We revived a love for pulp fiction, golden age dreaming, alien invasions, time travel, and true Vintage science fiction stories that were written as follies of the imagination before the year 1900.  We met the forefathers and foremothers of the stories that would be come the genres that enrich our lives so much.

ten-plus bloggers, over 25 authors read, and over 30 Vintage titles, including a radio show!  Ladies and Gentlemen, you rocked this out!  Massive thanks and shout outs to Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf, The Written World, Geeky Daddy, The Edwardian Adventurer, Dark Cargo, Snake Oil Review, Stainless Steel Droppings, Beyond the Brush, Books Without any Pictures, Lynn’s Book Blog, Science Fiction Times, Stories Geek, and Geek Banter !

There was so much going on, I couldn’t even keep track of it all, and my promises to comment on everyone’s reviews went unfulfilled. (note to self:  next time, read less books, and comment on more posts!!)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Confusion give away for a copy of the Limited Edition of The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi.  It’s a beautiful little hard-back novella, sure to please any Scalzi fan.

and the winner is. . . .



Congrats Stephanie, please watch your e-mail for a message from me.


Vintage SF wrap up coming soon. . . in the meantime, let’s learn a little more about one of my favorite science fiction authors, Frank Herbert.

I’ve been reading Frank Herbert (1920 – 1986) my entire adult life. I picked up Dune sometime when I was in high school, and never looked back.  Yes, he is famous for the Dune series, but Frank Herbert wrote a ton of stand alone science fiction as well.  Most of his works carry at least some of his trademarks: dialog and plots on many levels, commentaries on ecology and how society responds to it’s environment, and (mis)communications between disparate groups.

Although he’d been selling pulp adventure short stories starting in the mid 40’s, Herbert’s first science fiction sale wasn’t until 1952, and like many of his contemporaries, his earliest sales were to short story magazines. His first novel, published in 1955 was The Dragon in the Sea (also published as Under Pressure), about the crew of a submarine who suspect one among their number is a traitor. I read this novel a few years ago, and I remember it being incredible tense and suspenseful.

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Hellstrom’s Hive, by Frank Herbert

Published in 1973

where I got it: purchased used

There will be spoilers in this review, if only because they show up early in the novel, and it would be impossible to tell you anything about the plot without spoiling a few surprises. But don’t worry, there are many more surprises I didn’t tell you about.

If you’ve read Dune, you’ll be familiar with Herbert’s odd style of telling a story in third person, yet showing nearly everyone’s internal monologues and thoughts processes as if it were first person.  For people who have never read a Herbert before, it is a strange style, and you’ll get used to it fairly quickly.

Something very strange is going on in a rural valley in the Pacific Northwest. An unnamed government agency has a file on the documentary maker Nils Hellstrom. They know something subversive (probably communism or a religious cult) is happening on his rural farm slash movie studio, but they can’t seem to catch him in the act. And every agent they send in as a lost backpacker or hiker disappears without a trace.  When an agent finds a secret Hellstrom document partially outlining some kind of super weapon, the agency knows it’s time to up their game. We get to know a handful of agents, and in only a few pages (sometimes a few sentences), Herbert digs deeps into their personas to flesh them out into full developed characters with hopes and fears. If you ask me, Herbert has always been a master of subtle character development.

And then we get the story from Nils’ point of view. He’s not harboring communists or making dirty movies.  He’s desperately trying to save the human race. More a culture than a cult, he has helped created a utopian society, one free of fear, jealousy, hunger, and anger. A society where everyone is peaceful and happy, where everyone works in harmony to help the larger group. This perfect society, the only way to save the human race, is based on another on of Earth’s creatures, albeit on most humans find unsavory.

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Yesterday I posted a review of Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed. Let’s learn a little more about this fascinating man.

Anthony Burgess (1917-1993, birth name John Burgess Wilson) was an English literature teacher throughout the 1940s, and worked for the British Colonial Service in the 1950’s, travelling to Malaysia and Brunei.   Although gainfully employed during his travels, he often wrote short novels that were openly quite critical of the regimes he was living under. Some books never saw publication due to libel suits.

This multitalented author, linguist, critic, satirist and musician,  is considered one of Britain’s greatest contemporary writers.

In the United States, we mostly know Anthony Burgess because of the movie A Clockwork Orange. A cult classic, if you’ve seen the movie, I highly recommend the book. It’s much easier to swallow than the movie, and is an amazing read. Famous for his biting satire of contemporary society, Burgess was always more proud of his works of philosophical literature, literary criticism, and his music. Talented in linguistics as well, Burgess was fluent in French and German at a young age, and during his time overseas he taught himself Malay, and Farsi. You can see his love for languages while experiences the strange slang in A Clockwork Orange.
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Vintage Science Fiction Month Returns!!

The Wanting Seed, by Anthony Burgess

published in 1962

where I got it – garage sale

In this Dystopian futuristic London, Earth’s population has exploded,requiring government involvement to keep population under control. Solutions include limiting families to one birth, allowing a high infant mortality rate, and doing anything to discourage pregnancy. Energy is scarce, so nothing is wasted, and dead bodies are used as fertilizers and energy. Most people subsist on government supplied rations of artificially created foodstuffs.  Burgess writes so perfectly smoothly that you don’t even feel the disturbing qualities overtake the story. By the time you realize what’s happening, it’s too late to put the book down.

The story follows Tristram Foxe and his wife Beatrice-Joanna. Tristram is a scholar and school teacher, and Beatrice-Joanna  is having an affair with her brother in law, Derek, who is a government official.  in a future where procreating families are looked down upon, homosexuality is a highly promoted lifestyle choice as a way of having a perfectly healthy sexual relationship where children are impossible. Many heterosexuals act homosexual in public, as overt homosexuality has become a way to further one’s career opportunities. Derek, for instance, flirts with men all day long, but visits Beatrice-Joanna as often as possible. Beatrice-Joanna becomes pregnant by Derek (after purposely misusing her government supplied contraceptives), and when Tristram finds out the child may not be his, he kicks her out, and she goes north to find shelter on her sister’s farm.

Their marital troubles aside, society is falling apart around Tristram and Beatrice-Joanna. The government has started to threaten random blood testing  of women for pregnancy, further enforcement of government supplied contraceptives, and social pressures for sterilization.  Ranks of the angry unemployed are hired as junior police officers and general goons to keep the populace terrorized.

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Congrats!  You survived my EpicConFusion posts, as full of geekery, author stalking and horrible photos as they were. (BTW, thanks for all the comments, I am slowly getting to respond to them.  too slowly. it’s all twitter’s and my day job’s fault)

But you survived! You deserve a prize!

How about a hard cover Limited Edition of John Scalzi’s The Sagan Diary, with stunning cover art by Bob Eggleton?


here’s the blurb:

Fans of John Scalzi’s “Old Man” universe, prepare yourselves: there’s a long new story in that universe, told from the point of view of one of the series’ most intruiging characters.

Subterranean Press is proud to present The Sagan Diary, a long novelette that for the first time looks at the worlds of the Hugo-nominated Old Man’s War and it’s sequel The Ghost Brigades from the point of view of Lieutenant Jane Sagan, who is a series of diary entries gives her views on some of the events included in the series. . . and sheds new light into some previously unexplored corner. If you thought you knew Jane Sagan before, prepare to be surprised.

If you’re a fan of his Old Man’s War series, you’d probably be interested in this.  I’m interested in it too, but as husband and I both received copies, even if I give one away, I’ll still have one to read.

This contest will be open until the evening of Sunday, Jan 29th, Eastern Standard Time.  It’s open to anyone living on planet Earth, however if you live outside the US the shipping might take a while.

Sounds great you say?  How do I enter, you ask?  All you have to do is leave a comment in this post telling me an author you’d love to meet at a convention.    The winner will be contacted within a few days after the give away closes.

Good luck!

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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.