Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

“This contravenes every known law of nature!” “Did I not say it represents a new way of looking at the world?”

Anthology of short fantasy fiction. Most are expanded one-liners: starting with a slight deviance from normal and ending with an ironic, even horrible twist. Foster writes better than most of his contemporaries.

“You could say that Morty’s very good at foreign languages.” “For instance?” “He can speak chocolate.”

The farther you read, the more terrible the twists. I am not a fan of horror. I skimmed the last two stories. Creeped me out.

“Alas, there seems to be a problem.” A catch. There was always a catch. “What problem?” “You are not a cat.”

Book Review: Swords and Saddles by Jack Campbell (four stars)

Book Review: Swords and Saddles by Jack Campbell (four stars)

An anthology of three unrelated Campbell/Hemry stories.

“Greeting death with smiles.”

“The Rift” retells the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa as science fiction. (1964 movie Zulu) Excellent. If only for this story, read this. How do we get the idea we can communicate with aliens when we can not communicate among ourselves? Indeed. Campbell/Hemry also skewers academic orthodoxy as an impediment to learning … and survival. (Campbell demonstrates he knows nothing about milk cattle.)

“The orthodox, prevailing view in my field is that myths and religions are just window-dressing, not really fundamental to world-views and not regarded by cultures as serious explanations for how the universe works.” “Where did anyone get that idea?”

“Swords and Saddles” another variation of the lost army unit story. Been done—and done better—many times.

“We’re not in Kansas, that’s for certain.”

 “Failure to Obey” is weakest. Trial drama, not a favorite. Tie-in to other Paul Sinclair stories, which I haven’t read. Opens with a little setup action, then shifts to the court room. Yawn. In a classic court martial scene that rivals the best in American literature, Paul has to work behind the scenes to save Ivan’s military career,” from the blurb is a blatant lie to suck in fans of Sinclair.

“In the final analysis we need to ask ourselves what we want defending us – machines which kill without hesitation on order, or humans who sometimes hesitate, sometimes think, sometimes decide that the order they’ve received may be unlawful, may be wrong.”

Book Review: East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (Three Stars)

Book Review: East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon with Other Norwegian Folk Tales, Retold by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (Three Stars)

A compendium of Norwegian folk tales: some familiar, some not, published by the Gutenberg Project. Most stories have a shaggy-dog-story format with repetitive iterations numbing the reader’s mind.

Excellent illustrations by Frederick Richardson.

(post on blog 7 April 21)

Book Review: Borrowed Time by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

Book Review: Borrowed Time by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

“Playing god isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

An anthology of time travel short stories “Campbell” wrote 1999 through 2007. Variable quality. Nice cover art.

“Some details changed, that’s all.” “But . . . but . . . someone once said God is in the details!” “They did? They were wrong. God doesn’t care about details. Neither does the Universe. Ask a quantum physicist. Historians used to care about details, which is why all the inconsistencies in the historical record drove them crazy.”

My favorite was “Crow’s Feat.” “Joan” was disappointing. As was the “Betty Knox …” story; rife with errors. (Campbell confuses the 50s with the 60s; I was in high school circa 1960-1964.) “These are the Times’ ended exactly where it should have, but only after a tangled web was woven.

“It’s not my fault causality is circular through time.”

Book Review: Thieves’ World® Robert Lynn Aspert and Lynn Abbey, editors (Three Stars)


Book Review: Thieves’ World® (Thieves’ World #1) Robert Lynn Aspert and Lynn Abbey, editors

(Three Stars)

“We hold where I come from that no man can flee his weird, so he may as well meet it in a way that’ll leave a good story.”

A better than average anthology, perhaps because the editor enlisted first-rank fantasy writers of that day (the 70s) to write related stories. The set-up is a common fantasy world inhabited by an ensemble of shady characters with stories written by various authors.

“The sole traffic on the Avenue of Temples was a night breeze, cold and sibilant.”

While it works better than many “Best … of 20XX” anthologies, the quality is mediocre. The reader suspects Continue reading

Book Review: Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Four Stars)


Book Review: Mission Critical, edited by Jonathan Strahan

(Four Stars)

“Chance wouldn’t save them. If she left this to chance, they would die.”

The best SF anthology I’ve read in years. Most anthologies trade on famous names or unlikely “best of” claims; this one focuses on short stories and novelettes about what happens after a disaster. Admittedly inspired by Andy Weir’s The Martian. Nice cover art.

“It’s easy to make a ‘hard’ choice when the price is paid by someone else.”

No story rates less than three stars; a few are outstanding. “This is not the Way Home” harks back to the Golden Age of SF but with Continue reading

Book Review: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: edited by John Joseph Adams (Four Stars)

19386511Book Review: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by John Joseph Adams

(Four Stars)

“Speculations about the mental state of suspects are rarely so fruitful as concentration on the salient facts of the case.”

This anthology breaks the curse of mediocrity which bedevils the category. Worth reading to see how accomplished authors of various genres breathe new life into the familiar tropes of the classic detective duo.

“I wish you all the happiness you deserve.”

Each author puts his or her spin on Holmes, of course, but some manage to turn Holmes and Victorian England upside down. Often to entertaining effect. We find Holmes as a famous serial killer, homosexual, virgin, mystic, and a concert violinist, not to mention Continue reading

Book Review: The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun by Aliette de Bodard (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe by Aliette de Bodard

(Three Stars)

“Everything is a lie. Everything is a fragment of the truth.”

The collection contains the titular story plus “Ship’s Brother,” and “The Frost on the Jade Buds.”

“… seemed to be perpetual mourning, as if some spring within them had broken a long time ago.”

Well-written, but lacks depth. Presumably much backstory is developed in earlier Xuya Universe novels. This is not a good place to start.

“Tales for children. Bedtimes stories: the only narratives that can be stomached.”

(Illustration from deBodard’s website, not from collection.)

Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories (Three Stars)


Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories, Evan Filipek, Editor

Three Stars

An eclectic collection of early science fiction works selected for their seminal impact on Anthony. Some good science fiction: some good stories; some neither. Don’t read the Introduction by Piers Anthony: spoilers. Not all strictly SF, some stray into urban fantasy aor horror.

“Equalizer” by Jack Williamson (1947) “Man lives at the mercy of blind chance, surviving only through a peculiar combination of improbable factors.” Utopian twaddle we all sighed over. Well written and daring for that day. No, cold fusion (or whatever) is not the answer to world peace.

“Breaking Point” by James Gunn (1953) A psychological thriller. “For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and of the mind, bear reference to man and not to the universe; and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects … and distorts and disfigures them …. For every one … has a cave or den of his own which refracts and discolors the light of nature.” Francis Bacon (1561-1626) “Reality is what it is, and not what it seems to be.” “… using a game whose rules he knew to relate to the one whose rules he didn’t know,”

“Vengeance for Nikolai” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1957. Urgh.

“Wherever You May be.” James Gunn 1957. “There was something about machines and the things they made which was basically alien to the human spirit. They might disguise themselves for a time as willing slaves, but eventually, inevitably, they turned against their masters. At the psychological moment, they rebelled.”

The only one I recommend skipping is “Ground Leave Incident” by Rog Phillips. It involves a rape and many of the archaic and offensive attitudes toward it of the twentieth century.

Book Review: Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon (Four Stars)


Book Review: Deeds of Honor (Paksennerrion #10.5) by Elizabeth Moon

(Four Stars)

“Something would go wrong; something always did in war.”

Set in the world of the Paksennerrion tales, these short stories as less backstory as background. Each stands alone, concerning some minor or bridge character in the greater timeline. As the number implies, there’s a lot to cross connect.

“You can’t undo what is done or unsay what is said.”

I have only read The Farmer’s Daughter, but missing many connecting threads enhances the quality, if not the enjoyment, of these fragments. In fact, I enjoyed these short stories–because each was a self-contained whole–better than the sluggish longer work.

“Sometimes young men learn only from old men … willing to teach the hardest lessons the hardest way.”