Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Science/Speculative Fiction Review #5

To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #1 click here
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #2 click here
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #3 click here
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #4 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.

(Just as a note, the stories in these reviews range in publication date from earlier than the 1920's to the present)

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.

The Edge of the Sea by Algis Budrys -short story-

 Writing 5                      Creativity 4                     Intrigue 5

Overall 4.5

This story is a classic. A determined man finds something strange in the sea under an expressway that links islands. Nothing will stop this man from understanding what he has found, not the police, not the hurricane, not even himself! I was on the edge of my computer chair the whole time I read this!

Read it here.

"Dear God, he thought, am I doing this for money? No, he thought, as a wave
filled his nostrils, no, not any more. When that thing turned its light on and I didn't
jump in the car with that cop, that's when we found out I wasn't doing it for the
money. For what? God knows.
He floundered half over on his side, arched his neck, and looked at the violet
arrow through the clouds. Signal, you bastard! Go ahead and signal! Do anything.
As long as I know you're still there. If you can stay put, so can I."

The Silence of the Asonu by Ursala K. Le Guin -short story- 

                          Writing 5                 Creativity 5                 Intrigue 4.5

Overall 5

This short story from one of the masters of science fiction, Le Guin, seems like more of an anthropological documentary than anything else. There must be some reason the children of the Asonu people speak, while all the adults are invariably silent.

Read it here.

"The silence of the Asonu is proverbial. The first visitors believed that these gracious, gracile people were mute, lacking any language other than that of gesture, expression, and gaze. Later, hearing Asonu children chatter, the visitors suspected that among themselves the adults spoke, keeping silence only with strangers. We know now that the Asonu are not dumb, but that once past early childhood they speak only very rarely, to anyone, under any circumstances. They do not write; and unlike mutes, or monks under vows of silence, they do not use any signs or other devices in place of speaking."

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag by Robert Heinlein -short story-

Writing 4.5                 Creativity 5                  Intrigue 5

Overall 5

Jonathan Hoag visits a married couple of private investigators with an odd request: he wants them to follow him, because he has no idea what he does each day.  The book is part fantasy, part horror, and part pulp detective. A discussion and speculation on the nature of art, aesthetics, and reality itself. A speculative and somewhat eerie tale of the unknown. I also just found it is being made into a movie set for release in 2013.

"Dr. Potbury brought the slip of paper closer to his vest and looked at Hoag over his spectacles. Any particular reason, he asked, why you should find blood under your fingernails?

No, that is to say- Well, no- there isn't. But it is blood-isn't it?

No, Potbury said heavily. No it isn't blood.

Hoag new that he should have felt relieved. But he was not. He knew in that moment that he had clung to the notion that the brown grime under his fingernails was dry blood rather than let himself dwell on other, less tolerable, ideas. He felt sick at his stomach. But he had to know- what is it doctor? Tell me.

Potbury looked him up and down. You asked me a specific question. I've answered it. You did not ask me what the substance was; you asked me to find out whether or not it was blood. It is not.

The Ghost Pit by Stephen Baxter -short story-

Writing 4.5                  Creativity 4.5                  Intrigue 4.5

Overall 4.5

Baxter presents a story set far into the future in which members of humanity choose to hunt a now rare and dangerous type of alien known as a ghost. Ghost hunting is the only true way to become rich anymore. The protagonist Raida, decked in a living space suit and marooned on a planet filled with bones, has more to worry about than a hostile alien species. An action packed story that keeps up a fast pace the whole way through.

Read it here.

"The key resource you get from a Ghost is his hide - a perfectly reflective heat trap, with a thousand applications. Now that Ghosts are so rare, wild hides are a luxury item. People sell little squares and triangles of hide for use as charms, curios: this was, after all, a lucky species that survived the death of its sun, so the story goes.

Anyhow if you come at a Ghost with a jabbing weapon, you should get your spear into the carcase along the spin axis, where the hide is a little thinner, and you won't rip it unnecessarily. Ghosts don't leave spoor, my mother used to say. So you have to cut him an asshole. You just follow the trail of excrement and blood and heat until he dies, which might take a day or two.

Someday by Isaac Asimov -short story-

Writing 5                  Creativity 3.5                 Intrigue 4

Overall 4

The story is set in a future where computers control most of the organizational and decision making roles of society.  Two young boys attempt to program their 'bard,' a robotic toy with the sole purpose of generating fairy tales, to tell a fairy tale about computers. A charming, contemplative, and ultimately eerie story.

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