Book Review: Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg (Four Stars)

Book Review: Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg

Four Stars

“We (archeologists) are enemies of entropy; we seek to snatch back those things that have been taken from us by the years.”

Classic science fiction. Considering it was written in the 1960s, this book’s science fiction works better than many current offerings. It flunks sociology, as do many contemporaries.

“The first rule of archeology is be careful with the evidence. No, that’s the second rule. The first one is find your evidence.”

Twentieth century attitude towards rape; twenty-first century attitude toward inter-species sex. Some cringe-worthy moments. Our “hero” is meant to be clueless, but he’s also a chauvinistic ignoramus (at best).

“It’s unhealthy to gulp down a surfeit of miracles; gives one indigestion of the imagination.”

Topics of interest: Silverberg invented believable slang, acknowledging that languages evolve in four hundred years. Worked. Twenty-fourth century Israel includes the former United Arab Republic (Egypt, Iraq and Syria). Androids are an emancipated minority.

“Communication by pantomime isn’t terribly satisfying.”

Telepathic communication is discussed as “a full meeting of the souls. It is the end of secrecy and suspicion, of misunderstanding, of quarrels, of isolation, of flawed communication, of separation.” That was holy writ in the 1960s. Not so long as humans have greed and pride, not to mention psychopaths. Those who control those impulses would be censored regardless of the mitigating factor of their behavior. Communication is good; knowing each other’s every thought, not so good.

“If we haven’t succeeded in blowing ourselves up by A. D. 2376, we’re probably to make out all right. Maybe.”

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Book Review: City by Clifford D. Simak (Four Stars)

Book Review: City by Clifford D. Simak

Fours Stars

“Until it can be proved that Man did, in fact, exist, argument that the discovered fragments originated with Man can have but little point.”

The first short stories which became City were written in 1943. The collection was first published in 1952. Simak’s future history positing a world populated by dogs and robots was cutting edge social commentary as well as science fiction. (The transistor hadn’t been invented, and atomic power was till magic: albeit black magic)

“Since we are machines, we must be scientific. We can’t dream. Facts are all we have.”

Unlike much science fiction of that time, Simak’s stories aged well. Despite the advances in technology, his robots and communications devices aren’t jarringly wrong. His posited domed bases on the surface of Continue reading

Book Review: Catseye by Andre Norton Four Stars

Book Review: Catseye (Dipple #1) by Andre Norton

Four Stars

“Knowledge could be both a weapon and a defense.”

Slow start, but Norton delivers. Her character and world building are leisurely, but do the job. Satisfying end to this story with hooks into the next. A skill rare among today’s writers.

“Look, listen and keep your thoughts to yourself—the law of survival”

One can’t help but think Norton was writing about more than man’s relationship with animals formerly kept as pets when this was written. (I’ve tried to say more three times, but quit because anything more would be spoilers. Just read it and enjoy.)

“Belt knives shift from one wearer to another without losing their edge.”

No female humans appear in this story written by a woman. I find that odd.

“Few men are going to accept readily a co-partnership with creatures they had always considered property.”

Awarded an extra star because, though first published in 1961, this story weathers the last half century of technological innovation very well. Many stories written only twenty years ago sound dated. Perhaps it’s because the people, creatures and relationships are so real.

“One does not throw away a new thing merely because it is strange.”

Book Review: Triplanetary by E. E. “Doc” Smith (Three Stars)

Book Review: Triplanetary by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Three Stars out of Five

“In which scientific detail would not be bothered about, and in which his imagination would run riot,” Smith’s biographer Harry Smith said of the Lensman stories. And how.

Interesting more as a historical document than as literature, this includes the 1934 story which was the first Lensman story of classic science fiction. The writing is over-the-top, the characters heroic and chauvinistic, but it’s all great fun. The books influenced military development and future science fiction. (George Lucas enjoyed the Lensman series as a youth.)

Three stars is a gift. I wouldn’t have finished such an outlandish tale if written today, but it was hot stuff back then.

Thanks, Doc.