Reviews and Articles in General Publications
Monday 20 November 2000
§ Salon November 15, 2000
John Clute reviews Theodore Sturgeon's Selected Stories from Vintage Books, asking "Why did Theodore Sturgeon's great love stories languish in the ghetto of science fiction?"
§ San Francisco Chronicle Book Review November 19, 2000
This week's issue is devoted to the "Tops of 2000", with lists of best books in various categories, including Michael Berry's picks of Science Fiction [which appear to be in more-or-less alphabetical order by title]:
(As we did last year, Locus Online will compile the various published best-of-the-year lists into a single cumulative list -- stay tuned.)
- Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass (Knopf)
- Andy Duncan, Beluthahatchie and Other Stories (Golden Gryphon)
- Ed Brubaker, Deadenders (DC Comics/Vertigo)
- Brenda Clough, Doors of Death and Life (Tor)
- Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant (HarperCollins)
- Greg Costikyan, First Contact (Tor)
- James Stevens-Arce, Soulsaver (Harcourt Brace)
- Graham Joyce, Indigo (Pocket)
- Peter Straub, Magic Terror (Random House)
- Kage Baker, Mendoza in Hollywood (Harcourt Brace)
- Warren Ellis, Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
- Jan Siegel, Prospero's Books (Del Rey)
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Telling (Harcourt Brace)
§ New York Times Book Review November 19, 2000
A big Children's Books section includes a review of Francesca Lia Block's The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold (Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins); a review by A.O. Scott of Madlenka, written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux), and -- among many others -- a long review by Brian Alderson of Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass (Knopf).
Interestingly, the American editions of these books are published as plain text. In the British versions, each chapter of the first two books begins with a pictorial emblem, drawn by the author, while each chapter of ''The Amber Spyglass'' has a framed quotation lettered to look like an incised inscription. Thus, for instance, William Blake and ''Shew you all alive the world where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.''
Also in this week's NYTBR, a short review
by Jon Harlick of Bruce Sterling's Zeitgeist (Bantam Spectra).
§ Washington Post Book World November 19, 2000
Michael Dirda takes a long look
at Terry Pratchett's The Truth (US: HarperCollins).
Much as I enjoyed The Truth, honesty nonetheless compels me to admit that the novel didn't seem quite as zippy or fresh as most of the Discworld books (though still offering more entertainment per page than anything this side of Wodehouse). But Pratchett doesn't just spew out jokes and puns (photographs as "prints of darkness"): He implicitly defends a liberal humanism, one that loathes bigotry, jingoism, easy answers and any kind of zealotry. (The staff of Hugglestones--William de Worde's old school--"prized keenness, believing that in sufficient quantities it could take the place of lesser attributes like intelligence, foresight and training.") At the close of The Truth, he also speaks up plainly for political and cultural diversity: "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions." Pratchett seems a man, as well as a writer, one can admire.
And he concludes with a plug for Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature [no Amazon link available], edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (UK: The Science Fiction Foundation, 22 Addington Road, Reading, RG1 5PT, England; $20 paperback, which includes shipping costs), with essays by the editors, John Clute, and others.
Tuesday 14 November 2000
With Ray Bradbury scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Foundation tomorrow evening (November 15) in New York City, the veteran SF writer is getting some coverage by the East Coast press.
The visionary whose stories foretold the Sony Walkman, who imagined virtual reality at a time when there were 400 television sets in the entire state of California, does not own a computer. He does not like the screens. "Computers are for people who make mistakes," he says. "I don't make mistakes." He types his work on an IBM Selectric. But if not for writing, surely Ray Bradbury surfs the Internet? "There is nothing on it that I can use," he declares. "I'm not a researcher. I am an emotional hand grenade."
A few years ago you said: "I don't understand this whole thing about computers and the superhighway. Who wants to be in touch with all of those people?" Still feel that way?
Sure, why should I be in touch with all these people?
You don't use e-mail at all?
I don't have a computer. A computer's a typewriter. I already have a typewriter.
Monday 13 November 2000
§ New York Times Book Review November 12, 2000
Gerald Jonas's SF column
covers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen's Wheelers (Warner Aspect), James Stevens-Arce's Soulsaver (Harcourt), and Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon (Vintage). Jonas's most interesting comments are about Stevens-Arce's novel:
[I]t is not science fiction -- at least not by any definition I would recognize. ... [Plot summary] Then comes the surprise ending. While I usually go to great lengths not to give away such surprises, I make an exception here because the ending so completely violates the trust that the author has previously established with his readers...
§ CBS News November 7, 2000
This interview with Caleb Carr, author of Killing Time, contains a familiar disclaimer.
Carr would describe Killing Time as a futuristic book, not a technobook. "It's not necessarily science fiction because the emphasis is not on science. It's much more about the social and political implications of what's going on with information technology."
Tuesday 7 November 2000
§ Publishers Weekly November 6, 2000
Dorman T. Shindler visits and interviews Dan Simmons about his background, future plans, and current novel Darwin's Blade (Morrow).
Simmons freely admits that the company run by Lawrence and Trudy Stewart in Darwin's Blade bears an uncanny resemblance to that of his brother, Wayne (owner of Simmons Adjusters and Accident Investigation in California). For background, Simmons's brother supplied some case files (all closed), and Simmons read publications such as The Accident Reconstruction Journal and talked to other accident investigators. "The accidents in Darwin's Blade weren't always exact re-creations of real accidents, but were often amalgams," says Simmons. "Usually, however, I had to tone down rather than exaggerate the details."
§ New York Times November 7, 2000
A profile of Philip Pullman, "The Man Who Dared Make Religion the Villain".
Mr. Pullman's book offers an explicit alternative to C. S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia," with their pervasive Christian message. ... Instead, Mr. Pullman argues for a "republic of heaven" where people live as fully and richly as they can because there is no life beyond. ... At a time when even the Harry Potter books have been accused of promoting black magic and Satanism, it seems unlikely that Mr. Pullman's theology could fail to provoke. Already, The Catholic Herald in Britain has condemned the trilogy as "truly the stuff of nightmares."
§ Los Angeles Times Book Review November 5, 2000
You can read Bruce Sterling's introduction to the new edition of Ernst Jünger's The Glass Bees, first published in 1957 in German and in 1960 in English, now reprinted by New York Review Books, printed without credit as a review in this week's LAT Book Review.
Publishers Weekly October 30, 2000 [not online]
SF, fantasy, and horror reviews include starred reviews of Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld novel The Truth (HarperCollins) --
"longtime fans are sure to call this Pratchett's best one yet"; and of Stephen Jones's anthology The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: Volume Eleven (Carroll & Graf) -- "A worthy reflection of the diversity and high quality of contemporary horror and dark fantasy".
Other reviews are of Robert Jordan's Winter's Heart (Tor), Bruce Sterling's Zeitgeist (Bantam) (a "leaden sinker"), P.N. Elrod's Lady Crymsyn (Ace), and David Herter's Ceres Storm (Tor). And in general fiction, Joe R. Lansdale's The Big Blow (Subterranean), an "often vulgar, sometimes bittersweet, patchwork novella depicting a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah"; and under nonfiction, S.T. Joshi's anthology Atheism: A Reader (Prometheus).
Entertainment Weekly November 10, 2000 [not online]
ET gives Caleb Carr's Killing Time (Random House, 7 Nov), a "hackneyed, geeky, ungrammatical... noirish bit of apocalyptic sci-fi" a grade of D.
Wednesday 1 November 2000
§ Salon October 30, 2000
The Ambivalent Cyberpunk by Gavin McNett is a profile of Bruce Sterling, considering the history of cyberpunk and 'slipstream' fiction, and a review of his new novel Zeitgeist (Bantam Spectra).
It's a fast, dense, complex fin-de-siècle novel, rendered as a pileup of telling details, that tries to encompass the entire world. It's an epic human tragicomedy like Tom Wolfe might've done if he were a bit younger and could notice something besides korina wood tea carts and duvet covers. "Zeitgeist" is what Douglas Coupland could do if he could stop sniffing his fingers and checking his hair. You could call it Pynchonesque for its playfulness, or compare it to Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" because of all the poststructuralist theory sandbagged around its pilings and the grad-school references spilling out into the dialogue. It's a really smart book and a gleefully dumb, breezy book, both at the same time. Big in scope; fairly small in heft. What it ain't, however, is a stock science-fiction offering, or a blind paean to technology.
§ Washington Post Book World October 29, 2000
Lots of items in this week's review:
Le Guin can be a subtle writer, and a very good one, when she is not subordinating her art to the urgency of her ethical convictions. But the presence of bad guys in her fiction makes the good guys intolerably good. Never strong at expressing imaginative sympathy for individuals whose beliefs she disapproves of, Le Guin has refused or failed, throughout her career, to portray people who believe in military virtues or God or sexual arrangements other than monogamy except as cartoons. ... [Yet] if one regrets her refusal to allow true imaginative play in her conception of character--one will never see a Le Guin protagonist show genuine human complexity, such as admitting an attraction to her neighbor's spouse or an occasional guilty taste for Starbrew--it is her novelist's strengths that lead one to engage these issues.
[L]iterature flourishes best, remains truly healthy, only when its practitioners sometimes go Too Far. Many grown-up readers of Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass, the earth- and heaven-shaking conclusion to the long story that started with The Golden Compass and continued with The Subtle Knife, are likely to bristle at its theological and ontological daring: This so-called young adult novel takes on the central religious tradition of the West and finds it wanting—not only wanting, but downright evil. Think of this trilogy as a counterblast to C.S. Lewis's Christian science fiction and his celebrated chronicles of Narnia. Pullman is of the Devil's party, William Blake's party, and he knows it. He has also written the best, deepest and most disturbing children's fantasy of our time. By comparison, the agreeable and entertaining Harry Potter books look utterly innocuous.
§ Times of London, October 29, 2000
Nicolette Jones reviews Philip Pullman:
The book's message is that we have only one life and it is on earth, and that by being "cheerful and kind and studious and brave" we can make this earthly life a heaven. But this sits awkwardly with a creation that has made us believe in several parallel universes, and which can imagine so comprehensively the land of the dead. The theme of the book suddenly seems at odds with its method.
Amy Bloom, in an exclusive essay on Amazon.com, Love, Death, and Ursine Kings, describes the deep dark power of Pullman's trilogy, especially in contrast to the sunnier Harry Potter.
These books are not for normal boys and girls; they are for old souls in young bodies, for the twisted little weirdoes who worry about things other people can't even imagine, and they are for the adults we have become.
§ Newsweek October 30, 2000
This profile of Phillip Pullman says he "is quite possibly a genius, but he is certainly tough to sell."
§ Time October 30, 2000
And speaking of J.K. Rowling, in this last-page essay in Time Magazine she discusses what children should know about good and evil, feedback from her readers, and censorship of books.
§ CNN, October 24, 2000
Here's an AP profile of T. Coraghessan Boyle.
§ San Francisco Chronicle October 29, 2000
Michael Berry reviews Stephen King's On Writing (Scribner), which
offers both too much and too little. It's a shambling wreck that, like Boris Karloff's version of Frankenstein's monster, somehow manages to win you over with its clumsy sweetness.
§ New York Times Book Review October 29, 2000
J. D. Biersdorfer reviews Kit Reed's novel about Internet life, @expectations (Forge).
§ New York Times October 26, 2000
Janet Maslin reviews Merrick (Knopf), Anne Rice's 17th story "of what the beautiful vampires see and wear and do", making fun of Rice's prose:
Among the bewitched are editors, those meant to know the ancient laws of reason and the dark secrets of grammatical construction. None questioned "What mysteries we are, human, vampire, mortal, that we can love and hate simultaneously, and that emotions of all sorts might not parade for what they are not." None would challenge "He was very startled when I laid down this part of the story, but wouldn't have me pause just yet but encouraged me to go on." None wondered what was amiss "as the sky grew ever more lighter." But those are the labors of mortals. What mortals would dare?
§ January October 2000
Aaron Blanton is less critical of Rice: "The book may not be riveting, but it's as sensuous and well-realized as anything Rice has done."
Also in January, Claude Lalumière reviews James Stevens-Arce's Soulsaver (Harcourt). "For the most part, it's a fun, if somewhat light, read"; but by the end, "James Stevens-Arce's dystopic satire has no teeth, only dentures that were removed so the bite wouldn't really hurt."
Claude Lalumière also surveys the contemporary horror field, with thumbnail profiles of writers Blumlein, Carroll, Codrescu, Lansdale, Lee, Shepard, and others.
An essay by Dianna Wynne Jones, The Magic of Narnia.
Publishers Weekly October 23, 2000 [not online]
Not categorized as a genre novel, Dan Simmons's new novel Darwin's Blade (Morrow) gets a starred review. It's about "accident reconstruction specialist" Dr. Darwin Minor: "A breezy writing style, rollicking humor and ingenious descriptions of weird accidents make this action-packed thriller a real winner." Also reviewed: an "appallingly written right-wing 'satire' " of Orwell's 1984 called 2084: The Year of the Liberal by David L. Hale; and in nonfiction, The Ethics of Star Trek by Judith Barad with Ed Robertson (HarperCollins).
previous Field Inspections