Sunday, July 22, 2012

Science/Speculative Fiction Review #8

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
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #5 click here
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #6 click here
To view Science/Speculative Fiction Review #7 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.

Ponies by Kij Johnson -flash story-

Writing 4.5                        Creativity 4                         Intrigue 5  

Overall 4.5

This is less of a science fiction story and more of a gruesome fairy tale. A girl and her pony are just trying to fit in, even if it means bloody amputation! A story that will take a few minutes to read and will never leave your mind afterward.

"And then it’s time. TheOtherGirls and their silent Ponies collect in a ring around Barbara and Sunny. Barbara feels sick.

TopGirl says to Barbara, “What did she pick?”

Sunny looks scared but answers her directly. “I would rather talk than fly or stab things with my horn.”

TopGirl says to Barbara, “That’s what Ponies always say.” She gives Barbara a curved knife with a blade as long as a woman’s hand."

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley -novel-

     Writing 5                        Creativity 5+                        Intrigue 5  

Overall 5

Huxley presents to the reader a world that can be viewed as a utopia within a dystopia, depending on who you are in the book's society and your perspective. The citizens of the world are controlled through a euphoric drug that creates complacency in an existence without freedom or choice.  Even birth and the raising of children is fully controlled and regulated.  No one seems to complain about the caste system; no one seems to care much about anything at all, and the society functions perfectly and efficiently.  Until...
A highly influential novel still applicable to contemporary society.

"At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.
"… all wear green," said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, "and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta."
There was a pause; then the voice began again.
"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able …"
The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows.
"They'll have that repeated forty or fifty times more before they wake; then again on Thursday, and again on Saturday. A hundred and twenty times three times a week for thirty months. After which they go on to a more advanced lesson."

1984 by George Orwell -novel-

Writing 5+                        Creativity 5                        Intrigue 5+  

Overall 5+

An unforgettable, highly influential novel set in a dystopic world controlled by the government called Big Brother. The story focuses on Winston Smith, a man that, unfortunately for him, recognizes the hypocrisy and problems associated with the constant surveillance, propoganda, and harsh punishment of his government. All of these totalitarian facets result in the control and restriction of every action and thought, whether the denizens know it or not. Nothing is as it seems.  Big Brother is always watching.  The similarities with our own world are stark and terrifying.  An eye opening, hair grasping adventure.

"The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs."


The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke
-short story- 

  Writing 4.5                        Creativity 4                        Intrigue 4.5  

Overall 5

A group of monks believe the entire purpose of the universe is to conceive, discover, and list every name of God. Because of the vast quantity of names, they hire two computer technicians to create a program and install it in a computer that functions algorithmically to create all possible combinations of language until all the names of God are created. So, what happens when they actually come up with all the names?

"“This is a project on which we have been working for the last three centuries — since the lamasery was founded, in fact. It is somewhat alien to your way of thought, so I hope you will listen with an open mind while I explain it.”


“It is really quite simple. We have been compiling a list which shall contain all the possible names of God.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“We have reason to believe,” continued the lama imperturbably, “that all such names can be written with not more than nine letters in an alphabet we have devised.”

“And you have been doing this for three centuries?”

“Yes: we expected it would take us about fifteen thousand years to complete the task.”"

Distant Replay by Mike Resnick -short story-

Writing 5                        Creativity 3.5                        Intrigue 5  

Overall 5

This one has all the charm and wit that makes a great story.  I wouldn't exactly consider it sci fi, but it contains many paranormal and speculative elements.  An old man waiting for death thinks he sees his wife, but she's been dead for years. He slowly builds a very strange relationship with a young woman who is identical to his dead wife of nearly fifty years in every conceivable way.  A truly touching and uplifting read.

Read it here.

"But she was sixty-eight when she’d died, and now she looked exactly the way she looked the very first time I saw her. I tried to smile at her as I passed her table. She looked right through me.

I got to the men’s room, rinsed my face off, and took a look in the mirror, just to make sure I was still seventy-six years old and hadn’t dreamed the last half century. It was me, all right: not much hair on the top, in need of a trim on the sides, one eye half-shut from the mini-stroke I denied having except in increasingly rare moments of honesty, a tiny scab on my chin where I’d cut myself shaving. (I can’t stand those new-fangled electric razors, though since they’ve been around as long as I have, I guess they’re not really so new-fangled after all.)

It wasn’t much of a face on good days, and now it had just seen a woman who was the spitting image of Deirdre.

When I came out she was still there, sitting alone, picking at her dessert.

“Excuse me,” I said, walking up to her table. “Do you mind if I join you for a moment?”"

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