the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘classic


Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) Directed by Byron Haskin, written by Ib Melchior and John C. Higgings, starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West, 110 minutes long.


I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Robinson Crusoe on Mars.  I knew this movie was from the 60s,  I knew it was a modernized/scifi version of Defoe’s 18th century novel Robinson Crusoe, and I knew this movie filmed and released before we actually knew what the surface of Mars was really like.  And that’s all I knew. 



I wasn’t expecting a good movie. 


And you know what? Compared to movies that came out in the last ten years, well, yes, Robinson Crusoe on Mars sucks.  BUT. like many classic works, you have to adapt your lens, to see it the way people at the time may have seen it.   Once I realized this movie wasn’t about about being stranded on a realistic Mars, but a movie about a man who was stranded somewhere inhospitable, and what he went through to survive, the movie and the story gets far more enjoyable. And the special effects were pretty darn good for the time! So check your 2020 expectations at the doors, folks.


Did you read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in high school? I didn’t, and had to look it up on Wikipedia.  The big plot points of the original are fairly straightforward – experienced sailor gets shipwrecked and makes it to an island where he believes he is alone. How to survive if no one comes looking for him because no one knows he’s alive? Yeah, anyway, he finds that cannibals are using this island to kill their prisoners. One of their prisoners escapes, and he and Crusoe become allies. Not being able to understand the man’s language, Crusoe names him Friday and starts trying to convert the guy to Christianity. Friday is viewed as a loyal servant. They save more of the prisoners and kill the cannibals.  Eventually they are rescued.  


Knowing the plot of the original Robinson Crusoe makes plot moments in this movie make SO MUCH MORE SENSE, I’m just sayin’! 


What Robinson Crusoe on Mars does very, VERY well, is showing the desolation and loneliness that Kit Draper is facing on Mars.  With only the friendly monkey Mona for company, Kit has to stave off the fears that no one knows how to find him, and that he may never hear another human’s voice again, or see another human again, and there’s a very high chance that he will die alone and far from home.  The scenes of him just walking, and walking, and walking, on desolate plains that are completely devoid of life were quite effective.  The hobbies he invents, to cope with all the nothingness, were relatable in this current day and age of social distancing.

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Of all the authors I’ve read and will be reading for Vintage month, Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988) is the one I’m most familiar with. Yesterday I shared with you my love for Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and today I’d like to share my journey through Heinlein’s works with you.  I haven’t read everything he wrote, although one day I hope to. He’s a writer that’s been with me for my entire adult life, and I like to think that my worldview was in part shaped by his writings.

Sometime near the end of high school, maybe the beginning of college, I picked up a battered copy of Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d heard of it, it had neat cover art.  The beginning blew me away. The end confused me. I didn’t grok what I was reading, but I knew I wanted to.  It marked the beginning of my quest to read Heinlein title I could get my hands on: Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Puppermasters, Friday, Job,  The  Sixth Column, Starship Troopers, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Glory Road,  Farnham’s Freehold, the list really does go on.  He wrote over 30 novels and nearly 60 short stories, so I’m not going to run out of material any time soon.

Every story was different – some followed families in dire straights, others were political responses to a world gone mad, some were pure fantasy or pure hard scifi, or social science fiction, and nearly all focused on the philosophies of non-conformity and individuality. For a 20-something, this was pretty mind blowing stuff.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlien

published in 1966

where I got it: own a very well loved copy

why I read it: tanstaafl









The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my absolute favorite Heinlein. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. So this review will surely jump the shark into fangirl gushing eventually. Or at least into in-joke territory.  The quick version of this review is “go read this book”.

In this near future story, the Moon has become a penal colony – Earth’s dumping ground for it’s undesirebles. Referred to as Luna by it’s “guests”, it’s residents are known as Loonies. It’s been about a hundred years since prisoners were first sent up, and although all children born on Luna are born free, few of them can ever hope to return to Earth due to irreversible physiological changes that occur in humans that spend too much time in low gravity.  Luna is managed by the prison Authority, who have placed their Warden in charge of all Loonies. With a population of over three million, and most of them “free”, the population of Luna is still required to do business through Authority: sell their hydroponic crops, buy water and ice, buy air to breathe. Is only game in town.

As Manuel Garcia’s grandfather liked to say “Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules – and no need for them”. The moon isn’t any place for bravado or machismo. You learn how to use your p-suit and live civilly with others or you have an accident.

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This post is part of Stainless Steel Dropping’s Foundation read along, and coincidentally enough, works into my Vintage Sci Fi month as well. Written by Isaac Asimov as a series of short stories in the 1940s and published as such in Astounding Magazine, they would not be bound as the trilogy of novels we know today until the 1950’s, and then to far more fanfare in the 1960s. In 1966 the Foundation series won the Hugo for “best series”. Forty years after Asimov started typing that first Foundation story, he was paid one of the largest advances ever to write a fourth  Foundation series, which was published in 1982 as Foundation’s Edge.

A story of a galactic empire in ruins, and one man’s mission to save it. A mission that couldn’t be started until long after he died. Hari Seldon knew what he was getting himself info, but Isaac Asimov couldn’t have possibly guessed in 1941, what he was getting himself into.

When Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings told me a while ago he would be doing a Foundation read along in January, I was thrilled. What better way to introduce people to the masterpiece that is Foundation than through an easy to follow yet casually guided read along? He’s split the book in half, and since the whole thing is barely 300 pages long, that’s some easy readin’.  I seem to (re)read Foundation every ten years or so, sometimes going forwards or backwards in the chronology, sometimes not. Last time I read the books I was in college (and still living on campus!) so it was certainly time for me to be reading Foundation again.

Carl provided some conversation starters to use as a jumping off point, lets see where this takes us, shall we?

For those who have read it before, how has it held up to your memory/feelings about previous reads?

Like I said, it’s been about ten years (yikes, maybe longer!) since I last read Foundation. I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t hold up, that I’d be bored, or underwhelmed, or annoyed by the characters.  I shouldn’t have worried my pretty little head. Foundation is so far even better than I remember it. In fact, I feel like I’m finally old enough to understand it.

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The Fuzzy Papers (includes Little Fuzzy and The Other Human Race) by H. Beam Piper

originally published in 1962 and 1964

where I got it: off the bookshelf


When my husband and I got our first apartment, one of our first purchases was a bookcase, for we both showed up with boxes and boxes of books. I had a lot of Heinlein and Herbert and Asimov and random chick lit, he had a lot of McCaffrey and Herbert and Heinlein and Tolkien, and lots and lots of H. Beam Piper, who at the time, I’d never heard of.

I’m embarrassed to say it’s taken me this long to pick up a Piper. The volume we own is called The Fuzzy Papers, and it includes the first two Fuzzy novels – Little Fuzzy (originally published 1962) and The Other Human Race (originally published  in 1964 and later titled Fuzzy Sapiens). No one should have to wait this long to read Little Fuzzy, one of the cutest books ever written. I suppose it should be considered Young Adult, as there is no overt violence or sex or danger.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock and never, and never go to the movies, you’re sure to recognize some themes here.

Little Fuzzy

Taking place on the planet Zarathustra, in a future where humanity has colonized the stars, Jack Holloway is a freelance sunstone miner.  The planet is fully owned by the Chartered Zarathustra Company, whose chief export is the highly valued sunstones – the fossilized remains of ancient bioluminescent sea creatures who went extinct eons ago.

Holloway gets the surprise of his life when he returns home to his cabin one day to find a small, fuzzy, golden creature sitting on his bed. Naming the creature Little Fuzzy, Holloway immediately adopts it, and treats it like a treasured pet.  It’s not long before Little Fuzzy brings his entire family to live with Holloway. It quickly becomes obvious that the fuzzies are more than just animals. They communicate with each other and build tools and hunt.  They know what foods they like, and what to avoid because it will make them sick. They might be adorable and cuddly and playful and have the mind of a child, but they are smarter than they look. Holloway introduces his Fuzzies to anyone he knows who might be interested in them – Ben Rainsford and Gerd van Riebeek, xenobiologists;  Ruth Ortheris a psychologist, and a handful of local constables.

And thus we get to the crux of the matter: are the Fuzzies sapient people, or just really smart animals?  Even more complicated, what is the definition of sapience? By the time Holloway and his mining friends realize what a native sapience race will do to the company’s charter (void it), the company has already started campaigning against the sapience of the Fuzzies.  During an altercation with The Company, a Fuzzy is killed.  The story culminates in a large trial to determine their sapience, and further, if killing one is considered murder.

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The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance

published in 1950

where I got it: borrowed from a friend








In preparation for Vintage month, a friend lent me Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth, a beautiful volume that includes the four novels of the Dying Earth series: The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel’s Saga and Rialto the Magnificent. For this review, I’ll only be discussing the first book, The Dying Earth, originally published in 1950. Hopefully I’ll eventually have time to read the other three novels in this volume.

First, a word on what the Dying Earth is. Like many of Vance’s works, The Dying Earth takes place on a far future Earth, where the sun is old and reddened, the Earth starved, whithered, and nearly empty of population. Residents of the doomed planet are strange, nihilistic and fairly amoral. Why worry about the future, or anything, for that matter, when the Sun is expected to burn out at any moment, followed by darkness and starvation? In this far future, magic and science are identical. Much knowledge has been lost, and wizards roam the planet, using ancient words to create and destroy. Spells must be memorized, and once used they are instantly forgotten. A wizards power depends on how many spells are owned, and how many can be memorized at a time.   The world may be ending, but knowledge is still power.

Less a plot driven novel, and more a collection of interrelated short stories, Vance wrote most of The Dying Earth in the 1940s while serving in the Merchant Marines. Each chapter, a story unto itself, follows a character and their unique adventures.  I noticed a recurring theme of one character trying to trick or trap another character, which made the adventures feel a bit like sci-fantasy Grimm’s fairy tales.  A perfect blend of science fiction and fantasy, it’s no surprise that The Dying Earth was so inspirational to the countless people who read it, many of whom grew up to become writers themselves.

While reading the The Dying Earth I was reminded of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (which he says Vance was of great inspiration) and M John Harrison’s Viriconium stories.  The writing, and especially the dialog is on the formal side, but trust me, it’s worth getting used to.

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Ok, so I mixed my metaphors just a little bit. ..

Planning to join me for Vintage SF Month this January?  (wait, what?  click for introduction and faqs and plenty of recommendations)

Here’s a spiffy badge-y thing for you to use. Put it in your sidebar, in your reviews, whatever you’d like. And if you don’t need no stinkin’ badges, that’s OK too.

Closer to January I’ll also set up a tab up at the top where everyone can post their review links in the comments so we can all see what everyone else is up to.   It’s gonna be just swell!

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve come up with so far that I’m planning to read in January:

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper
The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess
The Stars are Ours by Andre Norton
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Space Lords by Cordwainer Smith
City by Clifford Simak
The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Regan’s Planet by Robert Silverberg
Something by A.E. Van Vogt
Something by Jack Vance
something by Robert E Howard
And if I get through that list, it’s not like I don’t have stacks and stacks of other Vintage goodies to read.

Remember, this is a not-a-challenge. no sign ups, no e-mails, no reminders, no contests or points or winners. Just old fashioned pulpy fun.

oh, and btw, I’m working on my “best of 2011” list, really, I am.  😉

Witch World, by Andre Norton

Published in 1963

Where I got it: borrowed from a friend









Andre Norton, the woman who has not one, but two literary genre awards named after her.  She broke glass ceilings left and right, has a near endless list of books to her name, and is rightfully so a legend in the science fiction community.  Her Witch World series started with a few stories, and grew exponentially to cover over 20 novels and novellas known as the Estcarp Cycle and the High Hallack Cycle.

What I’m getting at here is that if you style yourself a science fiction fan, read yourself some Norton. She may not use the flashiest guns or the shiniest spaceships, but these are the stories your favorite authors grew up reading. These are the stories that influenced many of the authors who are influencing you.

If there is such a thing as traditional sci-fantasy, Witch World is it.  Simon Tregarth, soldier turned bootlegger is running from the law. Approached by a gentleman who promises he can hide Simon forever, Simon doesn’t have much of a choice. Offered a doorway to the “world his heart desires”, Simon finds himself someplace. . . strange.  After saving a woman who is being hunted, Simon slowly learns about this new world. Escarp is a country ruled by women who have the Power (witches), and the surrounding countries are primarily male dominated cultures who wish to take over Estcarp.  Estcarp’s highly trained guardsmen (assisted by Simon) can take care of most of her enemies. But the soldiers of the Kolder, that’s a different story all together. Once they are on the march, no amount of guns or arrows will stop the creatures of Kolder.

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The first post on my January Vintage SciFi not-a-challenge got so much comments/conversation, I figured it was time to do a teeny bit more planning and organizing for this thing. Cuz thanks to everyone’s (that’s YOU by the way!) excitement , it looks like it’s gonna be big and awesome.

let’s get right to the FAQs.

What counts as vintage?   I’m gonna say anything Science Fiction that was published before 1979.  Sword and Sorcery counts. Sci-Fantasy counts. short stories count. Jules Verne and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein count. Anthologies count. If it was published before I was born and you consider it Science Fiction, it counts.

What’s a not-a-challenge?  Exactly what it sounds like.  This isn’t a challenge, it’s just a fun thing to help garner some attention to all that wonderful classic, golden age, vintage SF that influenced many of your favorite contemporary writers. Other than Herbert, Asimov and Heinlein,  I’m woefully underread in the classics, so this is my chance to make up for some of that. There are no sign ups, no points, no contests, no prizes. Read one vintage SF book or 10, or 50 or Zero. Actually, don’t read 50, that would make me look like a total slacker. and then I’d cry.

How can bloggers who are participating identify themselves?  I’ll come up with some kinda badge-y jpg thing, soon, I promise. you can put it in the side bar, or in the post, or whatever you feel like doing.  If I’m really smart, I’ll start a Vintage SF tab up top on the page and you can post your links in the comments section.

On Twitter? use #vintageSciFi

Need some suggestions? There are plenty in the comments of the original post, and feel free to post in the comments what you plan to read, hope to read, or types of stories you’d like to read (first contact, space opera, YA, etc), and I’ll bet others will offer plenty of suggestions to help you out.  In fact, I already took a few suggestions from Richard:

Ok, he didn’t suggest Regan’s Planet by Silverberg, but it’s a Silverberg!  Resistance is Futile.

Welcome to our read along for J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Most of us just started reading The Two Towers (some of us, who messed up the dates, started reading it 2 weeks ago, and finished the section yesterday).  This week’s questions were supplied by Clint of Geeky Daddy, and he came up with some great ones!

What is your favorite part of The Two Towers, thus far into the book?
What were your thoughts of Boromir trying to defend Merry and Pippin from Orc archers?
Would thoughts would have been going through your mind if you were approached by Treebeard?
What were your thoughts and reactions of the battle at the Hornburg?
Do you like it that Tolkien has split the Company into three mini-quests? Do you wonder if the company will be together throughout the quest again?

Answers and discussion after the jump!

Other Blog discussions:
(post your link in the comments, or tweet it with #LOTRreadalong, and I’ll add your link)
Geeky Daddy
Stainless Steel Droppings
The Written World
The Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf
Lynn’s book blog
Book Den

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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.