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Trying to keep up with the best new SF/F/H books, but have time to read only a couple books a month? Locus Online selects two books each month, based on reviews in Locus Magazine, as first reading choices for the time-impaired. Full reviews of these and many other books are published in the magazine.


Greenhouse Summer, Norman Spinrad
(Tor 0-312-86799-9, $24.95, 317pp, hc, November 1999)

Norman Spinrad's new novel is set a generation from now, when global warming has turned the US heartland into desert and drowned some countries entirely. Multinational corporations are giving way to syndics, and tensions run between various color-coded ecological/political interest groups. The setting is a UN conference in a newly tropical Paris.

Gary K. Wolfe writes in the December 1999 Locus:

''Greenhouse Summer is not only a very good novel, but perhaps one of the best to date on both the political and sociocultural aspects of global warming. ... [The book] makes its greatest impact as what I've begun to think of more as futurist fiction than as science fiction: fiction that's out to remind us that what happens to the world is not only a matter of extrapolation from initial conditions, but of complex political tradeoffs made by seriously flawed decision makers.''

Russell Letson's review in the same issue notes that the book's humor, and particularly Spinrad's opening chapter, owes a lot in attitude and technique to Pohl and Kornbluth's satiric masterpiece The Space Merchants.

''The plots marries the complexities of the French bedroom farce with those of the intrigue thriller, making it either an intrigue farce or a bedroom thriller. Both forms require mistaken or concealed identities and motives, misunderstandings, overheard conversations, elaborate misdirection, and a precision-clockwork synchronization of all these devices. ... For all [that,] Greenhouse Summer has some serious things to say about means and ends, about taking responsibility and doing the necessary. It's a book that wants to rub our noses in some unpleasant facts, but it also wants us to laugh at our foolishness. Funny, sexy, hardboiled, soft-hearted -- Grandpa should be proud of this kid.''

Science Fiction of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History, Frank M. Robinson
(Collectors Press 1-888054-29-8, $59.95, 256pp, hc, October 1999)

Robinson's history of SF is in many ways a companion piece to his earlier volume (with Lawrence Davidson) Pulp Culture. The book is less a formal history than a personal one; Gary K. Wolfe, in his review in the January 2000 Locus, notes the book's ''limited value as history'' but also describes its strengths:

''Robinson clearly views the history of SF primarily as the history of SF magazines, with major chapters devoted to Amazing, Astounding, Startling Stories, one that covers Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy, and Asimov's, two chapters on minor magazines, and one on British. Paperbacks, hardbacks, and media get one chapter each. As with Pulp Culture, the illustrations are immaculately and brilliantly reproduced... Robinson is so wholly, so likeably in love with the great gaudy facade of SF's publishing history that his passion is infectious, and all those old covers hold endless fascinations of their own.''

In same issue, art book reviewer Karen Haber calls the book

''a valentine to the SF field from a longtime fan and pro. This seductive celebration of both imagery and commercial history will keep you turning the pages. Especially strong pictorially, the book shows the transformation of the SF field from its crudest early imagery to 21st-century state-of-the-art pyrotechnics. Regardless of when you began reading SF/F, there are pictures in this book guaranteed to transport you back in time to breathless moments at the newsstand or bookstore. ... [I]t's the the perfect book with which to close out the 20th century: the Science Fiction Century.''

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.