the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2013

Vintage SF badge
I knew Vintage Month was going to be awesome, but ya’ll broke the mold this time!

20 bloggers posted over 40 reviews and discussions, there were guest posts, a giveaway (which still has a few hours left in it, go win yourself some goodies!), and new bonds formed in the blogging community. Wow people, is there anything we can’t do?  The only bad thing was that there was so much going on I couldn’t keep up with it! I wasn’t even able to comment on all the reviews, and I do apologize for that.

And I couldn’t have done any of this without YOU.  Give yourselves a round of applause for rocking it out AGAIN. Here’s a listing of everyone I know of who participated. If you should be on this list, and aren’t, shout at the top of your lungs in the comments, and I’ll fix it up.

tomtificate
Marvelous tales
Over the Effing Rainbow
Nashville Bookworm
Bitter Tea And Mystery
Coffee Cookies and Chili Peppers
There’s a right broad
Pan Spectrum Analyzer
Two Dudes in an Attic
Lynn’s Book Blog
Impressions of a Reader
Stainess Steel Droppings
The Finch and Pea
You Can Never Have Too Many Books
Ready When You Are, C.B.
Geeky Daddy
Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations
Geek Banter
Dab of Darkness
Science Fiction times

Whether you posted one book review or ten, or did a discussion post or a guest post, or tweeted or retweeted or simply lurked and enjoyed what you saw on other people’s blogs, I give you my heartfelt and sincerest thanks for spending the darkest days of winter with me and being willing to read some crunchy paperbacks by authors we’d never heard of.

I got some totally sweet stuff coming up in February too. A little less in the crunchy-dead-person department, but still, rockin’ cool stuff is heading our way! (also, spring might be heading our way, which is also damn cool)

Vintage SF badge

You probably know Frank Herbert from his masterpiece, Dune. or perhaps you are more familiar with his son, Brian Herbert, who has been involved with continuing  the series. But Frank Herbert did so much more more than just epic space opera involving secretive sisterhoods and sandworms.  Many of his stand alone  novels took place in the present (which would have been the 1960’s and 70’s) and could be easily be considered mainstream suspense novels.  When I’m at the used bookstore, if I see a copy of a Herbert I don’t own, I grab it, and rarely have I been disappointed.   In my mind, Frank Herbert is a little like George R. R. Martin – sure, their famous series blow my mind every time, but I’m missing out on the bigger picture if I don’t read their other works too.

SantarogaThe Santaroga Barrier, by Frank Herbert

written in 1968

where I got it: bought used

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Something very strange is happening in a valley in Southern California. Or perhaps, it’s nothing strange at all, just a close knit, old fashioned community famous for its cheese production.  Doctor Gilbert Dasein of the Psychology department of the University of California has been sent to the Santaroga Valley.  It is true that he’s hoping to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend Jenny, a resident of Santaroga, but Dasein has another mission, one which killed the last two men who took it on. He’s being paid to do market research and find out what exactly is going on there. Why won’t the Santarogans allow national businesses to build in their valley? Why don’t they have a single reported case of mental illness? Why doesn’t anyone ever leave the valley for good? Are they innocent survivalists? is it a cult? is it something more?

It’s not that Santaroga doesn’t like outsiders, it’s that they don’t need them. They produce plenty of their famous cheese, and they also produce everything else their residents need, from furniture and wine, to independently sourced auto parts and canned food. Most Santarogan-made products never leave the valley, and all residents work together to make everyone has enough, newlyweds have houses, and that everyone is taken care of. And everyone sure gets excited when a wheel of Jaspers Cheese is brought out.

The good news is that Gilbert does find Jenny, and they do patch things up to the point where she’d like to get married as soon as possible. But the more time Gilbert spends in the valley, the more he wants to leave and take Jenny with him. Santaroga is an odd place, to say the least. Salespeople are brutally honest about what’s wrong with the used cars in the lot. No one ever seems frustrated or depressed or angry, words between Santarogans are never misunderstood, and the smell of the famous Jaspers cheese is everywhere. And children? There’s not a single child to be seen in the valley.

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Maybe you just read your first oldy moldy book, maybe you’ve loved classic, golden age, and vintage scifi for as long as you can remember. Either way, this give away is for you.   Some of these I have duplicates of, others I don’t think I’ll read again, so I want to share them with my friends, and that means YOU!

The lucky winner gets all FIVE books!  even better, this give away is INTERNATIONAL. You must be a resident (or visitor) of planet earth.

Behold the 1950s/1960s wonderfulness!

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We’ve got:

Mission to the Stars by A.E. Van Vogt (1952)

Regan’s Planet by Robert Silverberg (1964)

The Case Against Tomorrow by Frederik Pohl (1957)

The Green Brain by Frank Herbert (1965)

The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert  (1968) I’ll be reviewing this one shortly.

 

Be aware, these are all older printings, which means they are in good (but not great or perfect) condition. Some pages are yellowed,  there is minimal damage to some of the covers.  Some have prices written inside or stamps from the used bookstores they came from.

How to enter the giveaway? Easy! Just leave a comment below and make sure in your WordPress sign in to put your e-mail or twitter or some other way I can reach you. This give away will close at midnight, eastern time, on Friday February 1st.

zero_stone_1969_95960The Zero Stone, by Andre Norton

published in 1968

where I got it: borrowed

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Can someone please tell me why it took me so long to read this book?  Nearly every Andre Norton I’ve picked up has been excellent, and The Zero Stone is no different. Skillfully written and wonderfully imaginative, I think this is my favorite Norton so far!

The story gets rolling right away when Murdoc Jern’s patron is assassinated.  Raised by a gem dealer with shady connections and then apprenticed out to the legitimate gem merchant Vondar Ustle, Murdoc knows everything there is to know about gems and stones, but he’s woefully naive about everything else. When Ustle is murdered Murdoc finds sanctuary and then takes the first available ship off planet.

All this time, Murdoc has been in possession of a singularly strange ring. Too large for any human finger, the ring holds a weird lusterless stone. It was found on a corpse in space, and it seems to offer guidance to specific people. What does the ring point to? Is this why Ustle was killed? Is Murdoc in danger?

Befriended by the ship’s cat, Murdoc accidentally allows the cat to eat a strange pebble. The pebble impregnates the cat (don’t worry, this isn’t my favorite horror scifi movie), and a weird little mutant cat is born.  The mutant cat, who calls itself Eet, is telepathic, intelligent, and refuses to tell Murdoc anything about it’s origin. Eet helps Murdoc escape from those who would do him harm, and a partnership is formed between the two. Not quite trusting friends, they do need each other.  Eet is stuck in a tiny feline body and needs a strong person to help, and Murdoc could certainly use some help avoiding certain death and learning more about the powers and origin of the ring.

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Vintage SF badge

Guess what? the universe doesn’t implode if you are wearing a Doctor Who t-shirt while sipping coffee out of a Doctor-Who coffee mug while reading a Doctor Who novelization!

I’m a huge fan of the new-ish Doctor Who, but the old episodes (available on Netflix!) just aren’t that fun for me. It’s not their fault they haven’t aged well. Luckily, nearly all the story arcs were turned into novels, often by writers who were involved in the show. Terrance Dicks was a script editor on the show and also an editor at Target Books, who published the novelizations, and he would pen the book if the original script writer was unavailable. The Three Doctors was televised in December of 1972 and January of 1973, and the novelization was published in 1975.

 

SAM_2496Doctor Who and the Three Doctors by Terrance Dicks

published in 1975

where I got it: bought used

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Like many Doctor Who stories, the opening is deceptively simple, but things get complicated fast. A scientist researching cosmic rays accidentally beams an unwitting observer to an antimatter universe.  The Doctor, his assistant Jo, and U.N.I.T. investigates, and are soon surrounded by humanoid shaped blobs of anti-matter.  Meanwhile, back on Gallifrey, the Time Lords are experiencing a massive loss of power in the universe. Their only hope is the exiled Doctor, but he too has been trapped by a force powered by antimatter.

The surviving Time Lords agree they must break the first law of time: they must allow the doctor to cross his own time stream.  The successfully bring back an earlier incarnation (referred to as Doctor Two), and are only semi-successful in bringing back a yet earlier version.  The banter between The Doctor and Doctor Two is hilarious.  Because of who they are, they are both completely weird, and there is much in the way of pot calling kettle black.

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SAM_2431The Lost Continent, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (also published as Beyond Thirty)

published in 1916

where I got it: either bought used, or borrowed. it has my friend’s name stamped in the front, so I am not sure!

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Originally titled Beyond Thirty, and printed only once in an obscure magazine in 1916,  The Lost Continent wasn’t available to the masses until the late 1950s. In the introduction to the novel, the Ace editor mentions the only copy he saw until this printing was a fan’s typed version that had been laboriously cribbed from another fan’s typed version or the original magazine printing. For decades, this was the lost manuscript of a master.  To add to the mystery, the copyright page in this Ace printing contains only 4 lines, none of which specify the actual year this version was printed. If anyone can tell by the Frank Frazetta cover art or the suggested retail price of 60 cents, I’d appreciate knowing.

Since the outbreak of The Great War (that would be WWI, for those of us aware of its second incarnation), America has cut off contact with the other continents. For two hundred years Pan-America has kept it’s activities between 30 and 175 degrees longitude.  War ships watch the waves, prepared to slaughter anything that comes across. But nothing, and no one, ever does.

Lieutenant Jefferson Turck grew up reading hearing his grandfather’s stories of England and Europe and studying his grandfather’s forbidden maps.  Not everyone onboard the aero-sub agrees with Turck’s curious thoughts about the outside world or appreciates his ability to move up the military ranks. During a storm while patrolling The 30, his sub is sabotaged, and Turck soon finds himself stranded in a small motorboat with a few other seamen.  And they are, most certainly, beyond the 30.  With no possible way to survive the trip west over the Atlantic, the men row east towards England and the unknown.

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By Sunday morning I managed to figure out the best settings on my camera, so for every photo i post here, there were 10 that caused tears.

Good thing Doctor Who and Captain Jack were floating around, as there was a Dalek invasion:

This was partially animatronic. A guy climbed in a drove it around a bit, to the cheering squeels of little kids.

This was partially animatronic. A guy climbed in a drove it around a bit, to the cheering squeels of little kids.

This one was full of Liquid Nitrogen. In a previous life it had been filled with cow semen. I really wish I was kidding.

This one was full of Liquid Nitrogen. In a previous life it had been filled with cow semen. I really wish I was kidding.

Also, multiple Tardises (Tardisii? Tardisae? help please. ) You could climb inside both of these, but alas, they were pretty little inside.

I know what my Sukkah is going to look like next fall!

I know what my Sukkah is going to look like next fall!

Tim Thurmond the balloon sculptor was there, and he made a few things. This was the bigger of the things. I think it took him about 2 hours to put it together. I’m not sure if that’s 2 hours of  blowing up balloons, 2 hours of hyperventilating, or two hours of twisting balloons, but apparently they were auctioning off the opportunity to pop it.

it stood up straighter when the door was closed

it stood up straighter when the door was closed

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Long story short – It was ah-maz-ing.   another weekend of my geekgirldreams brought to us by the very hardworking folks at Stilyagi.

but, in case you are interested in the short story gone overly long, here ya go:

Last year at ConFusion I was about authors, authors, authors, and just for good measure more authors (also, one particular author, but that’s a different story). But this year I wanted to branch out a bit and see what else was going on. Luckily, the programming made that even easier for me. The sheer variety of programs and panels was amazing. There was an entire Science track, a Doctor Who track, lots of guest artists doing artwork in the hotel atrium,  and a Studio Ghibli movie marathon on top of all the amazing author readings and “such-and-such in Sci and Fantasy” panels.  And the best part? I was totally cool about this year. A little bit less of the running up to authors and babbling ohmygodIloveyourbookssomuchwillyoucomehomewithmecanicookyoudinner going on. Also, I cosplayed for the first time. Now that I’ve worn a tail, I can see why people don’t want to take them off.

Friday afternoon was saying hi to friends, hitting up the dealer room, finding the consuite (on the first floor, down the hall from all the panel rooms = WIN) and playing “spot the famous person” (omg, there’s John Scalzi! and he has a ukelele!). I made it to 2 panels on Friday, Fun with Liquid Nitrogen, and the Opening Ceremonies of the Con.

Liquid Nitrogen with Dr. Jennifer Skwarski.   I always thought if the stuff touched you, that part of your body would shatter off. not so! (wait, scifi movies lied to me??) Apparently you can splash it all over your hand and be OK, although I don’t recommend trying that.  Also, it makes a really neat snapping noise when splashed all over the floor. Demonstrations included the amazing whirring around ping pong ball, frozen vodka, frozen soap bubbles, crunchy expanding balloons, and of course making ice cream!

The epic immersion blender of awesome.  Also, liquid Nitrogen ice cream! Epic brain freeze.

The epic immersion blender of awesome. Also, liquid Nitrogen ice cream! Epic brain freeze.

Not too much to say about the Opening Ceremonies, except that Mary Robinette Kowal had the best ever marionette story.  I’m hoping she posted it on her blog somewhere, because if I try to tell it I’ll mess it up, and also it’s not my story to tell.  And, Yes, she had her Hugo. Perhaps it was a prop for this?   Also, Charles Stross has a really cool accent.

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Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation.  Please welcome Carl!

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(Image Credit)

The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.

Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That  being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:

“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”

My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.

And perhaps more to the point, do you care?

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Hey peeps, I’m off to ConFusion in Dearborn Michigan, and will be eeeeek!  internet free for a few days. But I do love you, so  I’ve a stunner of a guest post scheduled for tomorrow so you have something to enjoy while I’m cosplaying, listening to panels, stalking Saladin Ahmed and Charlie Stross, drinking, and generally having a crazy good time.

Long story short, if your comment gets hung up in admin pending stuff, I WILL approve it as soon as I see it, I promise.

have a good weekend everyone! And yes, I will post photos and do some ConFusion wrap up posts next week.

 


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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.