SF Reviews and Articles in General Publications
CNN, July 28th
L. D. Meagher reviews Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia, giving away much of the plot as he does. He likes it: ''Too often, science fiction novels provide either a really big idea (Arthur C. Clarke's "3010" is an example) or a grand adventure (any "Star Wars" tie-in). In "Darwinia", there is room for both.''
(Tue 28 Jul 98)
Washington Post, July 27th
Michael Dirda reviews Terry Pratchett's Jingo: A Discworld Novel, first of all wondering why Pratchett is not more popular the US. American prejudice against comic novels (and fantasy)? His books' popularity among 14-year-olds? The series structure? In any case Jingo '' is an ideal book to start with. Like the other novels in the City Watch group ("Guards! Guards!," "Men at Arms," "Feet of Clay"), it is a well-crafted mystery, but one with touches of the spy thriller and the Middle Eastern adventure story.'' And it ''never forgets to be very, very funny.''
(Mon 27 Jul 98)
Entertainment Weekly July 31st
A feature article on readers' book clubs includes this sidebar description:
Second Foundation members in Minneapolis analyze their favorite sci-fi authors and meet their heroes at local conventions. ''Science-fiction fandom tends to be made up of social outcasts -- people who were not popular in high school,'' says founder Eric Heideman, a sci-fi columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ''[Our members] tend to be tolerant because they know what it feels like to be excluded.'' But not too tolerant. During a heated discussion about military science fiction, one former member asked Heideman, ''Suppose I was to cross the room and start pounding you?''
(Mon 27 Jul 98)
USA Today, July 22nd
Yet another review of
Thomas M. Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, by Michael Jacobs. Jacobs is unconvinced by Disch's thesis (that the US is uniquely a nation of liars and thus SF is the literature it deserves) but is amused by Disch's characterizations of Heinlein, Le Guin, Dick, and Hubbard.
(Mon 27 Jul 98)
USA Today, July 19th
Michael Jacobs reviews J. Gregory Keyes's Newton's Cannon (Del Rey), an alternate history in which Isaac Newton's experiments in alchemy lead to the harnessing of nature's four basic elements: lux, phlegm, damnatum, and gas. Jacobs says the book ''features the classic elements of science fiction: high-tech gadgetry, world-threatening superpower conflict, a quest to save the world and a teen hero who's smarter than most of the adults. The historical setting gives this book something extra, but Keyes falls short of his potential by resorting to angels and magic to propel the plot.''
(Tue 21 Jul 98)
Washington Post Book World, July 19th
Associational interest: Paul Skenazy's Mysteries column includes Nicola Griffith's The Blue Place. Skenazy is impressed by ''its precision. You constantly feel like you're getting the inside dope on new worlds, including those of martial arts, woodworking, Norwegian foods and dress styles, ice hiking and burglar alarms.''. And ''Griffith has already won herself Lambda and Nebula awards for earlier science fiction, and she seems destined to add to her laurels with this swank turn on the detective genre.''
(Mon 20 Jul 98)
The New York Times Book Review, July 19th
Two short reviews. Enid Shomer looks at Kit Reed's Weird Women, Wired Women (Wesleyan University/University of New England), 19 stories about changing circumstances in women's lives. ''While Reed calls these stories 'speculative fiction,' they are less fantastic than visionary, uncovering humor and horror where others have seen only clothes, make-up and recipes snipped from the newspaper. Bill Hayes's take on Jack Butler's Dreamer (Knopf): ''Michael Crichton meets Carlos Castaneda meets Danielle Steel in this cheesy New Age thriller-cum-bodice-ripper set in Santa Fe, N. M.''
(Mon 20 Jul 98)
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, July 19th
A column by Michael Berry covers four books. Patricia Anthony's Flanders ''ranks close to ``All Quiet on the Western Front'' in its impact.'' Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia starts ''at a brisk clip and never slackens the pace. What starts as a variation on Conan Doyle's ``The Lost World'' develops into an intricate meditation on mortality and duty.'' Howard Waldrop, author of Going Home Again, ''isn't for every taste. His erudition and love of the obscure can leave readers scratching their heads and feeling as if they've missed the joke. But his stories are usually well worth the extra effort.'' And Scott McCloud's graphic novel The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln (Homage Comics) is a follow-up to his nonfiction Understanding Comics. ''Featuring cartoonish characters rendered against highly detailed digital backgrounds,'' the book ''cannily explores the ways in which symbols of history are employed to obscure the facts.''
(Mon 20 Jul 98)
New Scientist, July 4th 1998
Elizabeth Sourbut reviews several new books that challenge the reputation of British SF as ''downbeat and depressing''. Stephen Baxter's collection Relics is ''brimming with ideas'' though with ''little to hook the reader's emotions''. Iain M. Banks's Inversions concerns court intrigue in a society resembling 17th century Europe, with a visitor from a far off land who has knowledge ahead of her time. It's an ''intriguing and powerfully realised tale''. Sourbut is also impressed by Ken Macleod's The Cassini Division, set in a populated solar system several hundred years in the future: ''an excellent novel, intelligent, witty, and politically challenging''. Finally, Humphrey Hawksley's first novel Ceremony of Innocence is an ''intriguing, if violent, vision of the near future'' set in Hong Kong and China.
(Fri 17 Jul 98)
USA Today, July 15th
William F. Nicholson writes a brief review of Ronald Wright's A Scientific Romance.
(Fri 17 Jul 98)
Washington Post, July 14th
David Nicholson opens his review of Howard Waldrop's short story collection Going Home Again (St. Martin's) with ''Howard Waldrop is one of the best writers America's got.'' In fact, his stories are really too good to be considered science fiction or fantasy: ''Because Waldrop's stories regularly include fantastic elements, it's tempting to dismiss them as fantasies (one reason, perhaps, he hasn't enjoyed the success he should). They're much too intelligent for that.''
(Tue 14 Jul 98)
Wired 6.07 July 1998
Go around the world with Bruce Sterling on a tour of mega-engineering projects, from spiritual ancestor Eiffel Tower to a collider at CERN, Hong Kong's airport, Shanghai's skyscrapers, a Chinese dam project (not Three Gorges, a different one), and the US's failed Superconducting Super Collider. Other SF bylines: Charles Platt on the digital living room; Richard Kadrey looks at building Venice in Las Vegas. Steve Silberman surveys forthcoming electronic books -- SoftBook, RocketBook, and Everybook -- all scheduled to market this Fall. The new generation of digital reading machines abandons the protocol of scrolling in favor of the codex, displaying entire pages at a time. And readers who can't bring themselves to mark up pages of a book will welcome the built in stylus of two models for easy annotating. A brief interview with Gore Vidal includes a question about digital books; any concerns? ''Yes! How do we -- the creators -- get paid?''
(Mon 13 Jul 98)
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, July 12th
Andy Solomon reviews Jerry Jay Carroll's Inhuman Beings (Ace): ''Raymond Chandler meets Rod Serling'', a mix of comedy and terror about aliens invading San Francisco. Solomon is impressed by Carroll's literary gifts to the point of wondering if he's slumming in a commercial genre: ''It does, though, make us wonder what Carroll might do if he pushed himself. 'Inhuman Beings' feels like watching Mark McGwire take batting practice: lacking full commitment, but still well worth the price of a ticket.''
(Sun 12 Jul 98)
The New York Times Book Review, July 12th
Gerald Jonas's Science Fiction column raves ''There is no finer writer of science fiction today than Kim Stanley Robinson, and he is at the top of his form in Antarctica''. The book is ''distinguished by two elements all too rare in modern science fiction: a sense of character and a sense of place.'' Robert Charles Wilson's Darwinia ''represents a triumph of style over substance''; a ''mess of born-again clichés'' redeemed by ''Wilson's utterly confidant prose, which is as clear and level-headed as the plotting is murky and overexcited.'' Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, winner of Warner Aspect's First Novel Contest, is about spirit-calling in near-future Toronto, but works as SF ''under the spell of Hopkinson's [Caribbean] island-accented prose''.
A. O. Scott reviews J. G. Ballard's Cocaine Nights, a book infused with ''a curious blend of deadpan detachment and almost comical self-consciousness''. Scott compares it to a Pinteresque episode of ''Colombo''; ''A sharp, nasty crime novel languishes in this hothouse of self-importance.''
(Thu 9 Jul 98)
The Atlantic, June 1998
Phoebe-Lou Adams reviews Thomas M. Disch's The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. She finds Disch's coverage of SF well done, but feels the author's central question is one that hardly needs asking: see Quote Page.
(Tue 7 Jul 98)
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Sunday July 5th
Robert Sheckley reviews Thomas M. Disch's much-reviewed The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of. Sheckley finds it ''sharp, provocative'' and ''highly readable'' but does express some misgivings about the state of modern SF: see Quote Page.
(Tue 7 Jul 98)
CNN, Monday July 6th
L. D. Meagher reviews Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica. The reviewer is impressed but daunted: ''If you choose to take up the challenge that is "Antarctica," be prepared for some heavy sledding. You will learn much more than you wanted to about surviving the harsh climate, about the technology that makes such survival possible, and the people who use that technology to feed their addiction to extremes. Antarctica may be like no place you've ever been. That may be reason enough to make the journey.''
(Mon 6 Jul 98)
Washington Post July 5th
Michael Dirda picks the dozen most ''influential stylists'' of the century and includes Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, George Orwell, and Philip K. Dick. (Others: Ronald Firbank, Hemingway, Perelman, Faulkner, Chandler, E. Nesbit, J. D. Salinger, Georgette Heyer.)
(Mon 6 Jul 98)
Washington Post Book World, Sunday July 5th
Tim Sullivan writes this month's science fiction column. Its origin as short stories is the reason Resnick's Kirinyaga ''seems so episodic, despite its many strengths and a moving final chapter.'' Frederik Pohl's O Pioneer! is ''a rather slight addition to his impressive list of excellent novels and stories published during the past half century.'' Paul J. McAuley's Child of the River ''ends on a cliffhanger, but it's a strangely satisfying conclusion all the same, as the spectacle becomes colossal and the action reaches fever pitch.'' Sullivan relishes Kit Reed's collection Weird Women, Wired Women, especially its lead story, ''The Wait''. And Alice K. Turner's anthology The Playboy Book of Science Fiction is ''a large but ultimately rather ordinary sf anthology, in which few of the writers display their best work.''
Also in this week's Book World: Thomas M. Disch reviews Richard Powers's novel Gain: ''the largest compliment any author has paid to the American reading public in decades, for the author assumes that we will take in his meaning, which is large, elusive and mortifying, without his offering a word of explanation.''
(Sun 5 Jul 98)
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