Happy Washington's Birthday, everyone.
Every once in a while (OK, once before) I like to give mini-reviews of the books sitting beside my bed. This time it's all science fiction:
Radio Freefall, by
Matthew Jarpe: A first novel. It's got sex (a bit). Drugs (a
bit more). Rock and Roll (lots). It's also somewhat cyberpunky,
since everyone and everything is connected to the web. And,
finally, it pays tribute to Heinlein, what with a moon colony that's
Despite all that, the novel most reminds me of George R. R. Martin's The Armageddon Rag, what with a mysterious old rocker called Aqualung raising and obscure band to world-wide fame, with potential world-wide catastrophe looming.
As a first novel it's not bad, though it does require the Evil Villain to be Phenomenally Stupid at just the right moment. Worth looking at, and looking for the next Jarpe novel.
End by Vernor Vinge.
You think of Vinge as a hard SF writer, but he does often does
something that resembles cyberpunk. This one takes place around
2030, and it's pretty much believable that we'll be as connected as
he says here. It's also pretty much believable that the geezers at
that time (meaning us) will be pretty much out of it. Great
plotting. A little confusing at the end, and I never did figure out
who Rabbit was. But worthy of the Hugo it won.
Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna
Clarke. Another first novel, and another Hugo winner. Set in
the Napoleonic era, it's the story of the magician Mr. Norrell and
his partner/apprentice/rival Jonathan Strange. It's definitely not
cyberpunk. To me it reads like Vanity
Fair, but it's probably technically Georgian, it's just
that I'm lot more familiar with the Victorian era. The paperback
copy is over 1,000 pages long, and I'm only half finished, but it's
worth looking at.
Kornbluth is probably best known for the short story The
Marching Morons and his collaborations with Frederik Pohl.
Share of Glory has all of the short fiction written solely
by Kornbluth, either under his own name or a pseudonym.
I want to like this book. I really do. But the stories are dated, sexist, racist (see The Education of Tigress McCardle, which manages to be both), and just not fun. It would have been nice to see if Kornbluth could have grown in the 1960s, as Asimov, Pohl, Anderson and Heinlein at least tried to do (though they started from a far higher level), or if his output would have just slowly wound down into total hackdom. Unfortunately he died young, so we'll never find out. Recommended only if you really like 40s and 50s SF, and then you'll want to take it in small doses.