Review of Valis by Phillip K. Dick

“Valis” isn’t so much a novel as it is a descent into someone’s mind. Who that someone is, really is anyone’s best guess. It could certainly be the mind of Phillip K. Dick himself, or it could be a character. PKD often circles back to the idea of a split mind. Two halves of the same entity working against itself. Normally I make some sort of attempt to avoid discussing the author, to take them out of the equation, but that is entirely impossible here. Even so, I will avoid making assumptions about the man himself. I will use the book as a buffer. There is so much that can be said about “Valis,” the Vast Active Living Intelligence System, its pink laser, and its victims. Perhaps victims is the wrong word. Perhaps chosen people, or messiahs, is more accurate. This book has a touch of the alien world in it, a touch of the super natural or super advanced, but as with most PKD novels, this book is about people. Let’s take a dive and see where it all goes. Continue reading

Review of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

“Cloud Atlas” is a difficult mistress. It straddles the line between novel and short story collection. Hopefully you enjoyed it as much as I did. The structure is beautiful, though in the beginning it can feel harsh, coarse even, like sand in teeth. It is best to go into these things blind. Without preconceptions or expectations. If you have the chance to read this creation on its own, without the weight of other people’s words and ideas, then I highly recommend it. Continue reading

Review of “Footfall” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

You can’t go too far in the world of written science fiction without coming across the name, Larry Niven. He has had his hands in so many science fiction novels that you would be hard pressed to find a bookshelf without his name proudly displayed in any self-respecting science fiction enthusiast’s home. No we are not diving into Ringworld, though maybe one day that universe would be worth a look. Instead, I am turning to the bestselling novel, “Footfall.” Of course, since I am pointing my spyglass in the direction of this novel, I cannot forget the addition of Jerry Pournelle. I have limited experience with this author (though I may have to change that in the coming months), but I have a large amount of experience with Niven. I do believe that Pournelle adds a lot of fantastic complexity and interest into this tale, but that is a matter to be debated elsewhere. I will let the author, or in this case authors, disappear into the ether, and focus my efforts on the words, as I usually do, albeit with sometimes limited success. Continue reading

Review of “The City” by Clifford D. Simak

Did you find a copy of The City by Clifford D. Simak? I hope you did. Please tell me you did. I don’t want you to read on if you didn’t. Clifford D. Simak is my guilty pleasure. His short stories are amazing, and always manage to push into new territories. Territories, that I might add, few dare touch even now. Where he really excels is in the novel. Technically our novel today is a collection of short stories, assembled in a neat framework and involving an interlinked cast of characters. I picked this book not only because it’s a classic, and usually regarded as his best, but also because the structure shows off what he does best. Continue reading

Review of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

This time we are looking at Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. What can be said about such a classic? Ray Bradbury has his own unique style and sensibilities when it comes to crafting a story. I must recognize the quality of writing here. Take this random sampling for your reading pleasure, “He ran on the white tiles up through the tunnels, ignoring the escalators, because he wanted to feel his feet move, arms swing, lungs clench, unclench, feel his throat go raw with air.” There is a delicate pacing here. All kinds of people, teachers, writers, and readers talk about pacing. It is important, but they are usually referring to plot. Here is a different kind of pacing. Bradbury is controlling how you read and interpret the sentence. He is making you feel the words. Can you feel them? Do they resonate? Does it make for something more than a sentence? It communicates so much purely through its pacing. We can almost feel Montag start to run. His language is simple, because it can be. Simple language is conducive to this movement. Bradbury thinks about his words and what they mean where he uses them. Continue reading

Review of “Perry Rhodan #1 – Enterprise Stardust” by K.H. Scheer and Walter Ernsting

Perry Rhodan is itself a very strange creature. There is a lot of things that it is, and a few things that it is not. Starting with what it is not, it is not a piece of fiction that will grab you and slam you around, it is not something that is going to take you on an emotional roller-coaster, and it is not something that is going to push the limits of what science fiction can be. Of course, as of now, I can only speak to the first two stories on those accounts. But, does all that mean that it can’t be good? I don’t think so, but to enjoy it now takes a special perspective, and one that I would rarely ever want to impose on a piece of fiction. Continue reading

Review of “Imperial Earth” by Arthur C. Clarke

This is a strange novel. Brave, but different, strong, but without much backbone. First off, I must address something that struck me as so odd and surreal. It hit me personally in a very odd way. At one point, we have Duncan enjoying a chorus of songs being sung by a group of tourists. These are old Earth songs. It’s the way he highlights the songs that is interesting. He highlights them from Duncan’s point of view. A person who is really a fish out of water, but we will get to that in a moment. He has no idea what these songs are about for the most part, and he certainly hasn’t a clue as to their age. Let’s take a look at what I am talking about, “He was not quite sure what had befallen Darling Clementine, but that song was crystal clear compared with one recounting the exploits of Waltzing Matilda.” It is very interesting that Clarke picks these two songs to give Earth a history. Darling Clementine is a very sorrowful song, usually sung in an upbeat and bouncy voice. I know you have heard it somewhere. The song is tragic, as Duncan puts it. It speaks of a girl who drowns back in the old mining days of the 1800s. Her love gets over her, and her father kills himself. Like I said, it is tragic, and probably not too far from something that could have happened. Waltzing Matilda however is a reference to a somewhat more obscure song for some of us. It is an old Australian bush song that also speaks of tragic events similar to Clementine’s song albeit with a lot more cryptic Australian language.  At first I believed that Waltzing Matilda might actually be a reference to a Tom Waits song, but alas I was mistaken. Continue reading

Review of “Children of Men” by P.D. James

For a change of pace I would like to open with a quote, “If from infancy you treat children as gods are they liable in adulthood to act as devils.” There is a period at the end of that quote from Children of Men by P.D. James, by the way, and in an attempt at a close reading, I believe the lack of a question mark to be important. It turns the question into a statement, the “if” at the beginning, would force the reader to assume a question, but instead the sentence ends with a period which makes an implication of an assumed “then” in the quoted statement. If you have any familiarity with programming, then you should be pretty familiar with this format. If something, then something. It is an absolute. If the first half of the statement is true, and you, of course, had the gall to ask it, then the second part of the statement is going to run, it is going to happen. Now I know, usually I include a spoiler warning in here somewhere before I get too heavy, so if you are one to heed those, you better do so now, read the book, it is good, read the book, or even watch the movie if you are so inclined. Last warning. Continue reading

Review of “From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne

One-hundred and fifty years ago some French guy named Jules published a book. The book was filled with human hubris and pride all surrounding the idea of somehow reaching the moon. The setting that this French guy choose for this fantastical feat of human engineering, imagination, and courage was none other than the United States of America. This book, as I am sure you all know (if the last post wasn’t a big enough hint) is “From the Earth to the Moon,” and our friend Jules had the full name of Jules Verne. Continue reading

Review of “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

Buckle up, your in for a trip. Neuromancer by William Gibson is a fast paced thrill ride that holds up incredibly well, long after its creation, and this reviewer honestly does not see any signs of aging on the horizon. This can only be achieved through great forethought, and delicate speaking. I know what you are thinking, William Gibson is far from a delicate speaker. This is a novel that pounds at you that shoves you before you get your bearings and keeps you lost in the dark with just a glint of light at the end of the tunnel. But, for all this, the words he uses to describe the technology and the inner workings of his world are very careful, very deliberate, and as delicate as a flower. Continue reading

Review of “The Stainless Steel Rat” by Harry Harrison

Okay, well, this was, a read. It is hard for me to say too much about this one. The novel sets us all up nice and neat. We have a well laid plan going sour, stealing government supplies right from their warehouse at a continuous rate was comical enough, and we have the plan’s exit being executed perfectly. This is our introduction into what, or whom, a stainless steel rat is. Then our rat sets off on another plan, one that goes off nearly perfectly until he, his name his Slippery Jim by the way, gets corralled into a meeting of sorts. To put it bluntly the story starts off interesting enough. It has all the satisfying bones of a beautiful plan that the reader doesn’t get to see the full scope of until they all fall into play. Like any good heist story really, but then the novel turns and puts a sour taste in my mouth, real sour. Continue reading

Review of “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

What a read, what a read. My blind spots have become frightening, so I hope that you, of all people, dear reader, will continue to join me on my journey into this spine tingling darkness that is Foundation by Isaac Asimov. As always, you should already be aware, that the spoilers are coming, and nothing contained within this novel is off limits. Continue reading

Review of “Riding the Bullet” By Stephen King

A first person narrative structure is often the first structure that we try as children. It is the structure that is most commonly used verbally throughout anyone’s day, and yet it is actually quite difficult to pull off effectively. Here I will posit a review of sorts for Steven King’s Ride the Bullet, but in actuality I will be utilizing his excellent, yet brief, first person narrative to explore the difficulties present in such a narrative. Continue reading

Review of “The Color of Magic” by Terry Pratchett

Firstly let me apologize for what I must consider to be too long of a delay. I have not abandoned you. Of course I cannot feel too guilty as I have not promised to a deadline of any kind, quite on purpose I might add, nor have I much of an audience to apologize to. Well now that any pretense has been drowned out of the conversation let us move on to the topic that has been derailed, Discworld: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Continue reading

Review of “WASP” by Erik Frank Russell

I would like to consider this my first review proper, and as such I will share with you, my trusted reader, what these “reviews” are intended to be.  There is a reason for those pesky quotation marks as these are reviews not in the modern interpretation of the word, but more so a re-viewing, or a look back at what has been read. I will not try to tell you what to buy, or what not to buy, instead I will look at each story through an angle of my choosing in an attempt to glean interesting information and bring it to light in a way that will hopefully, at the very least, be entertaining. With all that being said I will, for the most part, not be reviewing new books. Instead I will seek out works that are obscure, forgotten, or perhaps classics that have escaped my reader’s eyes. At the end of each review I will offer up the title of the next book I am to read and review so that if one were so inclined they could read along. Sort of like a book club. Unfortunately as this is my first real review (that other one down there can be considered a test case) you will not be given any head start.  The name of the book is “WASP” by Erik Frank Russell. So if your life permits it stop reading this right now and read that, then keep reading this. Again I’m not telling you to buy anything, but you have been forewarned. Continue reading