Thursday, March 31, 2011

Troubled Waters

Today’s review of Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters was written by Marie Enud, a new contributor to this blog.

Readers of historical fiction and lovers of Royal family sagas who want to venture into the world of Science Fiction will enjoy this crossover novel.  Within the first few chapters, it is immediately evident that a woman is telling this tale, and I mean that as compliment.  Shinn’s writing style allows her main character to blossom as a result of circumstances and reflection.  Many male writers of this Science Fiction prefer to ascribe leadership traits to women without explaining how they arrived at that particular perspective.  As a reader, I trust a character more when I know how they’ve evolved into the person they are when I first meet them in the narrative.  Shinn does this wonderfully.  Zoe is believable, first as the reluctant heir to a legacy she believed long abandoned, and then as a woman who embraces her future, learning as she goes.
Earth elements and Random Blessings play a critical role in the beliefs of these characters. Bestowed as horoscopes of guidance and good will, these traits shape both personality and circumstance within the story. This helps the novel to embrace the magical/fantasy side of science fiction, and allows Zoe to experiment with her own special powers.
                And then, of course, there is Darien. Steadfast and loyal, a Hunti man to the core, he provides the perfect balance to Zoe’s Coru tendencies of impetuous decisions and emotional responses.  As two characters whose fates intertwine because of a promise, these companions, first burdened with responsibility, eventually evolve into equitable partners for each other.  Along the way, there are Royal lineage betrayals, a flood of epic proportions, and interweaving storylines with townspeople who both befriend and betray the main characters. 
                This is a novel that moves quickly, explains things well, and leaves the reader wondering what happens next in the lives of Darien and Zoe.

Marie Enud

Thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.
-Adam Delaura

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Early Work of PKD

One of our frequent contributors, Tom C. Smith, offers this review of The Early Work of Philip K. Dick Volume 1: The Variable Man and Other Stories.

Picking up The Early Work of Philip K. Dick you might mistakenly think that it’s going to be light reading.  After all, it’s just a bunch of short stories, no heavy weight novels.  Hah!  Partially because the reading is easy, no prolonged descriptions, no academic vocabulary.  More likely though, the short story format makes for immediate action and dialog that leads you on.  Until you get to the end of the story and you find yourself re-reading the last several pages, making sure that you ‘get it’.  Take for instance the first story, Beyond Lies the Wub, within two or three pages your curiosity grabs hold.  You think the Wub, a giant pig in appearance, is an amusing creature whose primary interest for a spaceship crew is dinner.  But that’s before the Wub starts talking about Ulysses and his quest to get back home.   How could an alien pig know about Ulysses you ask?

Story number two, The Gun, is also a space tale of a seemingly dead planet that had been the sight of a devastating nuclear war.  A war that had left the planet bereft of life a ‘pitted, fused, slag’ with nothing to say for itself.  Or was that truly the case?  After all, museums are full of culture but with no animated movement. Nasha, Tance and Dorle (typically off beat Philip K names) must make the call on this surprisingly fruitful exploratory trip.    

The 13th story, The Adjustment Team, is the basis of the recently released movie, The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon & Emily Blunt.  The Adjustment Team is about as paranoid a tale as most writers can approach, but as we all know, Philip K was not ordinary writer.  His books were the first sci-fi books published by the Library of America.  That’s right, entertaining and literary.  In many ways, although there’s no drugs in evidence here, The Adjustment Team is a baby step towards dark internal horror sci-fi such as A Scanner Darkly, Ubik, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich.   That being said, there is a kernel of romance (Ed & Ruth) in this well-constructed short story.  Although nothing to compare to the Damon and Blunt chemistry that sustains the worthwhile movie.  But then, the twist in the Movie is small potatoes compared to the ending of The Adjustment Team.

Read On!
Tom C Smith

If you enjoy The Early Work of Philip K. Dick then stop by the library to check out some of Dick's other writings:

Confessions of a Crap Artist
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Reviewed Here)
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
The Man in High Castle
The Man Whose Teeth were all Exactly Alike
A Scanner Darkly

And check out some films based on his work:
Minority Report

As always, thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.
-Adam Delaura

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pluto on My Mind...

Today’s review is a bit of science fact rather than science fiction.  If you’re mildly interested in the night sky, outer space, or the Solar System, Pluto: Sentinel of the Outer Solar System by Barrie W. Jones is worth reading. It tells the story of the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto while explaining some basic principles of astronomy. What I enjoyed most about this book was the way in which it was written. The author’s explanation of astronomical concepts compliments the overall story of discovery. Better still are the sections of more complicated concepts; these are optional and not required to understand the rest of the story.

Overall I recommend this short non-fiction book to anyone who has a fleeting interest in astronomy, the Solar System, or scientific discovery. Stop by the library or place it on hold today. 

Thanks for reading. Questions and comments encouraged below.
-Adam Delaura

Interested in Pluto? Check out NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.