Thursday, May 24, 2012

Science/Speculative Fiction Review #2

To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #1 click here.

I spend a great deal of my time every day reading speculative science fiction.  The rest of my time is spent asking the questions and questioning the answers that the science fiction I read creates. All of the stories I post contain elements of profound contemplation, varying philosophy, metaphysics, and theoretical pondering. The authors that create these stories are among my heroes in this reality, and I very much want to share them with you.   Although I read a great deal more than the stories I will post in these short reviews, I only want to share those pieces of text/audio that really stick with me and force my mind to ponder life, the universe, and everything. While I am delighted with nearly all that I read in this genre, I will make an attempt to only present the best of the best.   

Writing - The quality of the writing.  I specifically rate the writing on how well it is able to convey to me the action, thoughts, emotions, etc. of the story. 

Creativity- Simply put, this rating is a measure of the degree of imagination that exists in the writing.  How unique and new was the story? Is it something I have seen done over and over again? I also factor into this rating category interesting literary techniques such as stylish ways to present chapters or different parts of the story.   

Intrigue- This rating represents the stories ability to keep me interested.  Did I get bored and have to fight my way through to the end?  Or did I lose myself and end up somewhere else entirely?

Overall- My general impression of the story. How much I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and/or how much it affected me.

Spar by Kij Johnson - short story-

  Writing 5                      Creativity 5+                    Intrigue 5 

Overall 5

Imagine endless, brutal, slimy rape with a totally alien creature in a space the size of a closet without any chance of escape,or even death. This story puts you into the mind of a woman in this exact situation, and leaves you with an awesome sense of wonder and simultaneous filth. You will read nothing else like this one!

"The alien is not humanoid. It is not bipedal. It has cilia. It has no bones, or perhaps it does and she cannot feel them. Its muscles, or what might be muscles, are rings and not strands. Its skin is the color of dusk and covered with a clear thin slime that tastes of snot. It makes no sounds. She thinks it smells like wet leaves in winter, but after a time she cannot remember that smell, or leaves, or winter.

Its Ins and Outs change. There are dark slashes and permanent knobs that sometimes distend, but it is always growing new Outs, hollowing new Ins. It cleaves easily in both senses.

It penetrates her a thousand ways. She penetrates it, as well

The Star by Arthur C. Clarke -short story-

 Writing 5                   Creativity 3.5                 Intrigue 4 

Overall 4

A classic, quick read that includes a powerful mix of star flight and religion.  In the midst of religious ideology, a priest travels thousands of light years to discover the remains of a species not so different from our own.  The ending is what truly hits home for anyone who has ever had any dealing with christian ideology, even if only remote.

"The pylon must have been a mile high when it was built, but now it looked like a candle that had melted down into a puddle of wax. It took us a week to drill through the fused rock, since we did not have the proper tools for a task like this. We were astronomers, not archaeologists, but we could improvise. Our original purpose was forgotten: this lonely monument, reared with such labor at the greatest possible distance from the doomed sun, could have only one meaning. A civilization that knew it was about to die had made its last bid for immortality."

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein -novel-

 Writing 5+                      Creativity 5+                     Intrigue 5+

Overall 5+

In the 20th century a wealthy and intelligent family, through selective breeding, prolongs the average length of their lives to 150 years, though some live well over 200. After a mass exodus from the war-torn planet Earth (documented in the book Methuselah's Children) the Howard family, led by Lazarus Long (born in the early 1900's as Woodrow Wilson Smith) spreads across the galaxy, eventually followed by the rest of humanity who have developed rejuvenation techniques so that once a person becomes old, they can become young again. Nearly three thousand years later, Lazarus Long is sick of life, and attempts to die dirty and alone in a flop house. He is picked up by one of his progeny (Lazarus Long is directly or indirectly related to most of humanity due to his...well, his libido and ability to 'get around.') who keeps Lazarus alive for the sake of the continuity of the Howard family. An extraordinarily epic tale that involves time travel, riches, loss, entire life spans, and computers turned into true humans.  One of the best, most well rounded and well written pieces of literature I have ever laid my hands on. Perfect score and then some! 

FYI- Lazarus Long appears in other Heinlein stories as well.  He is easily one of the most memorable characters ever created by a human mind.  

"Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil." -Lazarus Long

The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov -short story-

 Writing 4.5               Creativity 5                Intrigue 5+

Overall 5

This story is driven entirely by a dialogue between two characters, a dead man and... something that has always existed. A haunting, chilling philosophical discussion that will adhere to your thoughts for days, weeks, maybe forever.  How long is forever anyway?  

"The Voice said, “You have promise. You answer my paradox with a paradox – except that mine is not a paradox. Consider. I have existed eternally, but what does that mean? It means I cannot remember having come into existence. If I could, I would not have existed eternally. If I cannot remember having come into existence, then there is at least one thing – the nature of my coming into existence – that I do not know."

Hello Said the Gun by Jay Lake -flash story-

Writing 4.5            Creativity 4            Intrigue 4

  Overall 4

A charming, quick read set in a desolate and vague world with a cold present and persistently grim past. This story actually leaves you feeling sympathetic toward a talking tool of destruction. I thought the author also did a great job of conjuring a fictional world in such a short amount of space.

"The Girl began to back away, stepping into her own footprints with the automatic caution of anyone who'd survived long enough to be twelve years old. "I don't know who 'Username Here' is, but that's not me."
The Gun's tone changed. "Please don't go. I have been neglected for so long." Almost whining now, it said, "I believe you would say I am lonely."

No comments:

Post a Comment