2001 Series – Arthur C. Clarke

This series started as a one-off book released in conjunction with the Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name. The series consists of:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 2010: Odyssey Two. (Also made into a film)
  • 2061 Odyssey Three
  • 3001: The Final Odyssey

The first and second books are enthralling. 2061 is more of the same, and thus decent but somewhat pointless as part of the arc. 3001 is an attempt at closing up all the loose threads, and does so in a satisfying way.

For a long time, these books frustrated me because I just didn’t get them. On the surface, they are hard SciFi, but there is quite a bit of existential pondering about the nature of life. When I finally just relaxed and accepted the fact that there are mystical things going on, I realized that this is the whole point. The reader is supposed to be in awe, and there are some things that mankind is not meant to know (yet). Just remember to accept the mystery and embrace the sense of wonder.

 

The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke

One of the great classics of science fiction, this novel is set in a city that holds the last remnant of humanity. The inhabitants of the city while away the millennia in eternal bliss. But there is trouble in paradise (of course). A young boy finds that he wants more out of existence than merely existing. I found this a bit slow paced, but it is an interesting investigation of utopia and eternity.

Without Remorse – Tom Clancy

In this novel, Clancy takes a step back in time to tell the story of how John Clark became… Well, how he became John Clark. Solid stuff, but not Mr. Clancy’s best work.

Venus – Ben Bova

One again, a planet book from Bova and part of his Grand Tour of the Solar System. This one is not quite as good as Jupiter but heroism and high adventure abound. Bova is seemingly attempting to tie many of his works together, just as Asimov did near the end of his career. Neither effort seems particularly well executed, as it is rather difficult to bend old novels into new meanings. Still, Venus as a standalone s not bad.

Moonrise and Moonwar – Ben Bova

Fairly interesting tale about the colonization of the moon. Although he might not have planned it that way originally, Moonwar kicked off Bova’s “Grand Tour of the Solar System” series. All in all, the Moon books are enjoyable, but not outstanding. The rather bleak ecodisaster future for the Earth often used as a backdrop by Bova is, I think, first portrayed here.

As on a Darkling Plain – Ben Bova

Mysterious Big Dumb Objects have been found on Titan. It appears that they have been placed there by the “Others”, who will return to threaten mankind. Although somewhat disjointed and lacking focus, I nevertheless enjoyed this story of mankind under an unknown threat. The novel is vaguely connected with the Orion series.

Slant – Greg Bear

I am still not entirely sure what this novel is about. It is a near future tale, with few traditional SciFi space trappings. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and my final conclusion is that Bear is writing about societal trends that may appear in the future, in particular the impact of the very rich wanting to live for a very long time. Not nearly as epic as Eon and Eternity, it is nevertheless a solid work.

Silverhair – Stephen Baxter

After I started to read this, I discovered that this was actually aimed at “young adults”. No matter. I quite enjoyed this tale of intelligent mammoths surviving until our time and having to accept that they would have to allow contact with humans.

Raft – Stephen Baxter

Baxter always thinks big, but his stories often revolve around small communities on the edge of the main action in his universe(s). Raft is about such a human community living in a universe where gravity is much stronger than in our universe. The ancestors of the community somehow crossed over into this universe about five hundred years prior to the action. It is a solid story of courage and determination, and the need to face one’s destiny.

Nightfall – Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg

An expansion of an earlier story with the same name by Asimov. Very interesting novel about a planet with six suns. This astronomical oddity results in a world that (almost) never knows night, and has never seen the stars. Astronomy is all about calculating the orbits of the suns. An astronomer figures out that night is going to fall soon, for the first time in 2049 years. Chaos and madness follow.

The Return – Buzz Aldrin & John Barnes

After the fantastic Encounter with Tiber, I was hoping that Aldrin and Barnes would pull off another great epic story. In this respect, I was sadly disappointed. The Return is still a good SciFi yarn. It’s a near space, near future story which fictionalizes what I assume to be Aldrin’s hopes for humanity’s return to serious space travel. Worth picking up if you’re into this sort of thing, but nothing very special.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Until Adams’ untimely demise, this series kept expanding and expanding. I have read up to book four, that is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of The Universe; Life, the Universe, and Everything and finally So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. While many SciFi fans see this as the be all and end all of satire, I seem to have missed most of their point. Granted, the series is  good, but not quite so ultimately engrossing that I feel the need to read it over and over again. To be quite honest, I find some of the parts quite sad, especially the repeated failures of Arthur Dent to find happiness. I think that this book reflects Britishness in a very unique way, mixing equal parts dry humor and melancholy. Having said all that, definitely read the first two parts. They ARE classics (and now I sound like an English teacher…) If nothing else, you’ll be able to keep up when other SciFi readers reference them.

Threshold (Boundary II) – Eric Flint & Ryk E. Spoor

Our friends from Boundary are back in a pretty direct sequel to the first book. The race is on to find more Bemmie bases. The Ares Project, despite having managed to get a foothold on Mars, is strapped for cash and resources. With some clever maneuvering they manage to get both, and set off towards first Ceres, then Enceladus.

The first book was nicely crafted, with excellent character development. This second one feels much more forced, especially the first half. I really enjoyed going back and seeing what the gang was doing after the previous story ended, but was a bit disappointed at the lack of a strong story. This series will never be “heavy” but it needed a bit more than this effort. That being said, it harkens back to adventure science fiction from an earlier time, before all the dark and broody bits that are so in vogue nowadays. And so I still liked this book more than it perhaps deserves. The ending wasn’t quite a cliffhanger but certainly lacked resolution, leaving the door wide open for a sequel. Yes please.

Dune Roller – Julian May

A 1950s short story about a terrorizing creature that lives in a big lake.

Cute story with nice characters. It is very interesting to read something that is not only from the 1950s, but is also SET in the 1950s. Just the whole ham radio thing was quirky from a contemporary viewpoint. May wrote this with skill, foreshadowing the great things that were to come for her.

The Five Fists of Science – Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders

This graphic novel sees Mark Twain join forces with Nikola Tesla and Bertha von Suttner, using technology to bring about peace. The antagonists are J.P. Morgan, in this book a demon-worshipping wizard by night, Thomas Alva Edison and Guglielmo Marconi.

This is a fun little piece. A bit too short perhaps, but not atypically so for the genre. I did find the art, while gorgeous, a bit too dark and often hard to decipher. The action scenese in particular were somewhat confusing.