Reading log

Picofarad #6 contents | Next: Scintillations

All the Hugo nominees in the Short Story, Novella, and Novelette categories: My top votes went to "Singing My Sister Down", "Magic For Beginners" (tough call between that and "The Little Goddess"), and "Two Hearts".

Spaceballs: I had the same reaction to this as to every Mel Brooks movie I've seen except the first, which is that it has its moments, but it's not as good as Silent Movie. I think I've finally put my finger on why, though: they tend to get bogged down in dialogue, and Silent Movie was forced to limit dialogue to just the good lines.

The Fabulous Riverboat by Philip Jose Farmer: I continue to like this series, but I find it ominous that the author promises the story will end in book 3 whereas I think I've heard of around 5 titles...

Imaginary Magnitude by Stanislaw Lem: This starts of as a collection of introductions to books of the future but then switches over to a series of essays from the standpoint of a hyperintelligent computer, with notes by two of its main tenders. Tough going in places, but an interesting read.

Space Doctor by Lee Correy: The flavor of this book can be best illustrated with a quote. Tom is our title character, and Dan Hills is the brilliant engineer who has spent years designing the space station.

"But, Dan, do we have a storm cellar?"

"Storm cellar?"

"I've talked with the NASA people at Johnson Space Center, too," Tom explained. "GEO Base is beyond the Van Allen Belts. If the Sun coughs up a pretty good flare, we'll have a severe radiation problem and only minutes to get behind shielding. We'll need a storm cellar."

Dan Hills thought about this for a moment. "Why the hell didn't those idiots at NASA tell me that when we started the design of GEO Base?" he erupted, slamming his hand down on the desk.

And there's lots more where that came from.

The Deadly Sky by Doris Piserchia: A very Piserchian novel about a few people trying to save the world from some kind of war machine which is breaking into our dimension.

Between the Strokes of Night by Charles Sheffield (revised version from 2002): The introduction explains that the author feels the true sf novel is the one where, if you take away the science, there is no story. He definitely succeeded there, but there is one huge physical blunder hanging over the main sf idea in the story.

A Secret Atlas by Michael A. Stackpole: My first criterion for high fantasy these days is that the world not be drawn from the generic northern European Middle Ages. So far, so good (it mostly uses the generic Chinese Middle Ages, with a side trip to Mesoamerica).

The Schemes of Dragons by Dave Smeds: This goes on the very short list of books I have never managed to finish reading. It's not that it's the worst book I've tried to read lately, because it isn't by a long shot, but I just wasn't gripped, and after a week of eyeing it nervously and being unable to pick it up again I had to admit I wasn.t finishing it.

X-Men 3: I don't normally like superhero movies, but heard from several directions that this one was really good. Well, it's about as good as it can be for the Cliffs Notes version of a long and complicated comic-book saga. I also hear that there's a lot of debate somewhere out there about what the scene after the credits means. I can tell you exactly what it means: there's going to be another sequel.

Eureka: Imagine a world consisting entirely of annoying white people, except for the token annoying black guy and the token annoying Hispanic woman. A world in which the men and boys are super-geniuses and women exist only to provide sex and incompetence. A world without chemistry, where everyone communicates in the same hostile, sarcastic monotone. This is Eureka, or at least the first 40-some minutes of it, after which I gave up.

Batman Begins: Which I expected not to like (see above about superhero movies), and was pleasantly surprised.

Serenity: There's a terrific movie struggling to get out from under the vague characterization, too much cute dialogue, and a few other things that would have been fixed if Joss Whedon had had to justify the script to an editorial presence of some sort before shooting it. As it is, I don't see that the popular veneration of Mr. Whedon is justified. Maybe the TV show was better.

Narabedla Ltd. by Frederik Pohl: A neat story of intergalatic intrigue and opera performance.

Angel at Apogee by S. N. Lewitt: A young woman of mixed cultural heritage sets out to reconcile both her worlds nd dig up the truth behind how they came to be... which actually turns out to be pretty interesting.

Chanur's Legacy by C. J. Cherryh: A re-read to see if it looks different in light of now having read the earlier books. The main thing is that the shouting and cursing gets repetitive faster, but I still love the ending-saving the universe with a ittle diplomacy, a whole lot of marriage, and the occasional volatile objet d'art.

Doctor Who: Inferno DVD: Clocking in at close to 3 hours, it's a good thing this story is as good as I remember. Commentary was not so good-- I like commentaries more the more of the commentators are actors, and here it's mostly Nicholas Courtney versus a script editor and the producer-- but one does learn a lot about the complicated lives of stuntmen.

Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars DVD: This one's good too. Unfortunately, after watching the accompanying mockumentary Oh Mummy, the words "plaything of Sutekh" are now and forever giggle-inducing for me.

Doctor Who: Earthshock DVD: Another one to add to your list of pre-9/11 examples of stories in which flying things are hijacked with the intent of crashing them into something full of people to score a psychological victory. I question the taste of including "Episode 5" (a short animation which is basically Adric vs. Godzilla) as an extra, but I realize I'm one of only five or six people who never hated Adric.

Bugs by John Sladek: This looks suspiciously like a very early draft of Roderick, before it was made funny.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons: Had to read this after discovering via one of Dave Langford's SFX columns that it is actually sf. And, indeed, it is: the movie turns out to be unbelievably close to the book, having only removed the few markers of being set in the future (written in 1932, it's set about 20 years later), such as videophones, regular recurrences of pandemic flu, and such a profusion of small private planes that one suspects it of being a heretofore uncredited inspiration for Crimson Skies.

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