the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2018

 

Sorry about the radio silence, it’s been a long week!   I haven’t written formal reviews for these books, but here’s what I’ve been reading recently for Vintage Science Fiction month!

 

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (1957) – I’ve been meaning to read this forever. It’s one of those books that can spark never ending conversations, in a good way! It’s a sort of space opera version of The Count of Monte Cristo.  Gully Foyle is just a regular guy, and he gets marooned in space, the only survivor of a nearly destroyed ship.  A ship comes to salvage, and sees Foyle. But instead of rescuing him, the ship leaves. Foyle vows to find the people who left him behind, and destroy them.    Things I enjoyed about The Stars My Destination included the explanation of how people discovered how to teleport themselves and how teleportation drastically changes how society functions, how Foyle survives a few minutes at a time on the dying ship, his tiger tattoos and the lunatics who tattood him, and I really loved the revelation at the end about WHY certain people want to get their hands on Gully Foyle. The last chapter was absolutely brilliant. Things I didn’t like about this book were basically all of the characters.  Maybe upon reread I’ll connect with the characters more, but I didn’t care for any of them, and I couldn’t buy into Foyle’s insta-relationship with Olivia.

 

9th Annual Year’s Best SF, edited by Judith Merrill (1964) – I’ve been dipping in and out of this anthology. I started with one of my favorite Cordwainer Smith short stories, “Drunkboat”, what a great story! I mean, everything Smith wrote was fantastic!  And then I got laugh out of “Double Standard”, by Frederic Brown. Told from the point of view of  a person who lives inside a television set, who acts towards the window, and wonders about the people he sees on the other side of the window, different people every night. This hilariously rated G story originally appeared in Playboy.  Other fun stories I enjoyed included  “Mrs Pigafetta Swims Well” by R. Bretnor, “Poppa Needs Shorts”, by Walt & Leigh Richmond, and “Ming Vase”, by E.C. Tubb.  I expect to dip into this anthology more, as there are stories by Alfred Bester, Fritz Leiber, and Hal Clement I’d like to read.

 

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953) – So, I do consider myself a Heinlein fan. And many people list Starman Jones as their favorite Heinlein juvenile. But it fell completely flat for me. Maybe I would have liked it more if I’d read it as a pre-teen? It seems like something a pre-teen could really get into.   The characters felt very flat to me, and Max Jones, the main character, he doesn’t seem to have any personality. Things happen around them, he responds to them in whatever way the story needs, the story moves on. So, the less said about this one, the better.

 

 

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Nearly a week into January and I’m just now getting up my first Vintage Science Fiction post? What is the world coming to?  Thank you to everyone who is participating in Vintage Science Fiction Month, make sure you link back to your posts in the comments of the Vintage Scifi tab up top so everyone can find everything.  On twitter? follow @VintageSciFi_ and #VintageSciFiMonth for Vintage goodness all month long!

I may have gotten started a little late, but wow this first novel I read for Vintage Month was incredible!!

Nova, by Samuel R. Delany

published in 1968

where I got it:  from Richard at Tip the Wink

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Mouse grew in up a traditional culture that didn’t encourage pilot training or getting cybernetic plugs.  Raised in the school of hard knocks, he often stole to eat. His prized possession is a rare musical instrument that produces not only sound but also images and scent. Lorq Von Ray’s youth was the opposite of Mouse’s in every possible way. A child of wealth and privilege, he knew from a young age he’d be inheriting a business that controlled half the transportation of the known galaxy.

 

When an aged, scarred, and obsessed Captain Von Ray plunges into a portside bar looking for a crew for a trip that if successful could mean fame, infamy, societal disruption, or more likely death for everyone involved, Mouse signs up.  The Captain doesn’t explicitly say this is a trip designed around a long game of revenge, but those who listen closely, those who know where that disfiguring scar came from, they know.

 

What is Nova?  It is a quest story, a revenge story, a coming of age story, it’s the edge of every ending simply being another beginning. It sounds overweight and dangerously ambitious, but it reads smooth and weightless. The plot feels narrow at first, but it expands like a light cone,  pulling in what it needs, and easily setting aside what it doesn’t.  And there is plenty in this book that isn’t in this book  – what I mean by that is Delany has put a lot of subplot between the lines. The glances characters give each other, the words they don’t use.  It’s hard to believe this novel is less than 250 pages long!

 

The plot never sprawls, but the possibilities of everything else that happens and may happen to these characters just outside the confines of this story are endless.   The main characters are fully fleshed out, and even side characters are given just enough screen time that you start filling in the blanks of their lives yourself. For instance, I know there is so much more to Tyy, and I’d love to learn more about the twins and their other brother.

 

I loved everything about Nova, I don’t even know where to start talking about it. So I’ll just start, and hopefully this all makes sense.

 

Von Ray’s rag-tag crew is a lot of fun, they put me in mind a little bit of the TV show Farscape. Mouse and his shipmate Katin are perfect foils for each other, Katin reminds me of one of the nerdy guys on The Big Bang Theory, Mouse is the wide eyed kid going on his first Star Run. These two bond over being the least strange members of Captain Von Ray’s  crew.

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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.