Proto Zoa – Lois McMaster Bujold

ProtoZoaCollecting five of McMaster Bujold’s early works, Proto Zoa is a lovely little gem, even though the stories have all been published before. “Barter”, “Garage Sale” and “The Hole Truth” are cute little vignettes in a suburban setting, one of which is not even science fiction. Bujold’s skill at finding the amusing and the ironic amidst the mundane shines in these three stories. The novelette “Dreamweaver’s Dilemma” is ostensibly part of the Vorkosiverse, but only in as much as Beta Colony is referenced. Aftermaths is a nice vignette about the dead and their relationship with the living (or is it the other way around?). It later formed the epilogue for “Shards of Honor” but started life as a short story.

As a big fan of Lois McMaster Bujold, I loved this book despite its brevity.

4½Rosbochs

Armored – Edited by John Joseph Adams

This anthology of short stories deals with armored fighting suits (mecha, what have you) from many different perspectives. Some stories are pure action, while others delve deep into sentient machines and man-machine interfaces. There’s even romance.

The stories range from excellent to passable. And there is quite a bit of thought-provoking stuff.

The John Varley Reader – John Varley

This collects all of Varley’s short fiction to date. What really makes the book shine, though, are the introductions to the stories. Eminently readable little anectodes from the author’s interesting life. Even with only the introductions and no stories, this would have been a great (albeit rather short) book. The stories are wide ranging from drama to action, with Varley’s sublime characterization always front and center. A great book.

The Persistence of Vision – John Varley

This short story collection showcases Varley at his most Varley. Not a lot of action, but quite a bit of character driven plotting. Light reading but nevertheless enjoyable and in some cases thought provoking. I did find it uneven, and some of the stories were maybe a little bit too focused on just showcasing the Eight Worlds Universe. The title story, “The Persistence of Vision”, is a departure and a wonderful tale of identity seeking.

Alternate Generals – Harry Turtledove (Editor)

Alternate military history anthology. The quality is mixed, and it requires at least a passing knowledge of the incidents the stories are based on in order to extract full appreciation. A passable light read if you’re into military science fiction.

Rude Astronauts – Allen Steele

This is a collection of short stories and articles. Steele’s has a journalistic style and tends to describe the actual “normal people” protagonists of an event as opposed to the powers that be. He is seldom grandiose, but his stories tend to be very crisp and relatable. The articles are from Steele’s time as a science reporter in Florida.

Manhattan in Reverse – Peter F. Hamilton

This short story collection contains mostly previously published material, among others the stellar “Watching Trees Grow“, which it was a pleasure to re-read. There are three more standalones, one of which is a very short vignette. The last three stories are set in the Confederation Universe, with the two longer ones featuring investigator extraordinaire Paula Myo. (The third is Blessed by an Angel.) Myo is a very interesting character and could easily be the protagonist of a novel two of her own. Hamilton’s treatment of clinical immortality and crimes committed in an environment with such is stellar as always.

I was left wanting more.

A Martian Ricorso – Greg Bear

This short story is about Mars “the way it once was”, with canals and Martians. An expedition with three crewmembers has landed and finds itself in the way of hordes of “Winter Troops”, a new breed of Martians that feeds off the remnants of the fallen civilization that created the canals.

Told as journal entries, this story isn’t anything special. If it had been any longer I would probably not have finished. it.

A Rose for Ecclesiastes – Roger Zelazny

In this classic short story, a mercurial genius poet linguist is on Mars as part of an expedition. He delves deep into the mythos of the ancient (and still existing) Martian civilization.

Zelazny’s story is astonishing in its beauty. The use of Book of Ecclesiastes to illustrate the ennui felt by the Martians is genius. The prose is masterful and gorgeous. It is not a long story, but it lingers.

The full text can be found here.

Scatterbrain – Larry Niven

Well, he certainly is a scatterbrain, as he readily admits in the introduction. Although I feel that Niven’s writing has been in a steady decline for the past couple of decades, his short fiction and especially his articles are always great fun. Like N-Space and Playgrounds of the Mind this is a mix of new and old short fiction, book excerpts and articles. Enjoyable reading for the Niven fan.

 

N-Space and Playgrounds of the Mind – Larry Niven

If you’ve never read Larry Niven, these two collections are a great place to start. They are both a mix of essays, short fiction, and excerpts from novels. If you’ve already read practically all of Niven’s work, there is not a lot of new material, but the convention essays still make the books worth the read.

A Hole in Space – Larry Niven

This outstanding short story collection mostly contains stories that are set in deep space, as opposed to his other collections where the setting tends to be planetbound. The first is the excellent “Rammer” (which formed the basis for A World Out of Time), in which a man revived from cryogenic sleep is forced to pay his debt to society by going on a centuries long mission to “seed” potential colony worlds. There is also an essay on space habitats, including Niven’s Ringworld concept.

Niven’s Laws – Larry Niven

This little hardback volume doesn’t contain a lot of new stories, but it does give a good insight into the mind of Larry Niven. The hilarious stories from science fiction conventions are priceless. Recommended only for the hardcore Niven fan.

All the Myriad Ways – Larry Niven

This short story and essay collection contains some of my favorite stories of all time. For example Becalmed in Hell is about a man and his machine partner exploring Venus. It has a very clever psychological twist. Inconstant Moon, which won the Hugo in 1972, is about a couple of people inferring a great disaster on the far side of the world. Epic stuff. Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a hilarious essay about the problems Superman would have mating with the hypothetical woman “LL”. It may be one of the funniest things ever written. You can read it here in its entirety.

Man-Kzin Wars volumes I-XI – Created by Larry Niven

A long running anthology series with stories set during the Man-Kzin Wars in Larry Niven’s Known Space universe. Niven started this thing up because while the Wars were very significant in the history of Known Space, he himself was not adept at writing about conflict. Niven has written some of the stories but most are by other authors. The writing ranges from average to excellent. Recommended if you are a fan of Known Space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flatlander – Larry Niven

All the Gil “The Arm” Hamilton stories collected in one volume with a previously unpublished story. These are good SciFi murder mysteries set in the Known Space universe. It just goes to show that Niven has a devious mind. As he says himself, SciFi murder stories are tricky since the reader must know all the “rules” of the environment in order to have a shot at solving the mystery himself.

Note: Most of the stories were previously published in “The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton”.

Diamonds are Forever – Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

This novelette from the anthology “Mountain Magic” deals with a young man from Kentucky taking his fiancee, a New Yorker, home to meet the parents. Little does she know that the Slade family hides a secret centuries old, about strange beings who live underground.

While not stellar, this story is entertaining enough to while away a few hours. Flint and Spoor have an easy style and a lovely wit.

Bolos – Created by Keith Laumer

Bolos are huge self-aware robotic battle tanks/mobile fortresses. Throughout a very long history of wars and conflicts, they have served humanity selflessly.

After Laumer’s death, Baen thought to resurrect the Bolos with a series of anthologies featureing a variety of authors. There is some excellent, some good, and some less good, but the overall quality is surprisingly high. It is military SciFi in a very pure form, and many will probably be put off by this. I have read the first four books:

  • Bolos Book 1 – Honor of the Regiment
  • Bolos Book 2 – The Unconquerable
  • Bolos Book 3 – The Triumphant
  • Bolos Book 4 – Last Stand

Grantville Gazette II – Eric Flint (Editor)

This is the dead tree edition of the second volume filled with “user generated content” in the Assiti Shards Universe. It continues Flint’s experiment with not only opening his universe, but letting other writers actually add to the stories and developing landscape in a major way. Flint does not set strict guidelines, allowing other writers to take his own creation in totally unexpected directions.

The book is a mixed bag. Some of the stories are cute, some are more serious. The novelette about setting up a medical school that fills a large part of the compilation is engaging but fails to pull out all the stops and ends up rather flat. The non-fiction is mostly interesting. None of the content is bad but there isn’t really anything that stands out as particularly good either. It’s interesting if you’re into the other books, but cannot be read as a standalone.