We have the potential, each of us individually and in our species and society as a whole, to do great good as well as great evil. Anyone can be a slave or a master if we allow the liberal values and civilized trappings we’ve painstakingly built up over human history to slip back just a little. It takes effort and slow, steady social improvement to overcome our worst natures. [And there's] nothing natural or inevitable about one ethnic group being on top and another being on the bottom, as even a cursory study of the history of nations makes clear.
For a taste of Heinlein’s dark side, read on for a little about Farnham’s Freehold.
This is the last juvenile I’ll be covering for the time being, however, I do have two more Heinlein reviews coming up. Today we have my review of The Star Beast. Read the post first if you like and then you can click through to the review.
Continuing my Heinlein series: you can read my post at Green Man Review for a little context on where the novel sits in the grandmaster’s corpus and the particular point he was at in his career, or you can dive straight into the review here.
It’s true. Science fiction by its very nature has a political stance, one which, hypothetically, can vary infinitely with the author, but which is, in practice, overwhelmingly rationalist, humanist, and socially progressive (though a bastion of conservative and libertarian voices also exists).
Read my full review of the modern political science fiction anthology at AE.
If the soul of a country is in its people (and where else could it be?), then one of the defining qualities of the United States (and Canada) is that it is a nation of nations. . . . akin to a patchwork quilt, and The Book of Unknown Americans is a view of just one patch.
Read my full review at the Winnipeg Free Press.
I’ve said plenty about the heart-breaking humanity of Wilson’s writing. All that goes without saying here; the writing and story are both up to the standards set in The Chronoliths and Spin. What I’ve emphasized less are his bona fides as a deep-thinking, hard science fiction writer. It’s almost invisible. Because of his very literary style — showing not telling, focusing on human actions, interactions, and reactions — the poorly camouflaged info-dump simply doesn’t exist here.
Read my full review at AE.
So, Doctorow writes a near-future sequel to a near-future novel that was actually about right now. And this sequel, set maybe a year or two after the events of the first novel but written in a real world five years removed, is also about right now, although, really the political environment of right now would, logically, have to precede the events of the first book. So, which takes priority? The internal logic and continuity of the books, or the topical nature of its themes and subject matter?
Read my full review at AE.
What if a person could live two lives — not a dual life, but two full, separate and irreconcilable life histories? In her old age, could she look back and ask herself which was true and which a fantasy? Who were her real children?
Read my full review of Jo Walton’s latest at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Starman Jones, another rousing adventure tale with nevertheless a bit more edge to it, as bildungsromans must needs have. Romance! Danger! The caprices of fate! No guarantee of a happy ending!
I’ve previously posted about this, but with my current limited series on Heinlein at GMR, it made sense to shine the spotlight again on a review from a couple of years ago. Therefore see here for a little sketch of where Starman Jones fits in the scheme of Heinlein and the Scribner juveniles, which comprise much, though not all, of the material I’m reviewing there over the next couple of months. That brief introductory post ends, of course, with a link to the review proper, also available right here, should you fear switching domains for some reason.
There are a number of influences and traditions to parse in this novel. Obviously, it’s Golden Age, 1950s hard science fiction, which means rocket ships, other planets, aliens, et cetera. The technical details are explored with relish. Modern literacy research suggests young males are more likely to be reluctant readers than girls, and one solution is to let them read what they want, which is often technical non-fiction about vehicles or space rather than fictional stories about people and emotions. Heinlein apparently already had that figured out 60+ years ago.
Green Man Review will be publishing my coverage of the recent batch of Heinlein novels I requested from Baen, and will be making it an ongoing series. First read my introductory post, then my first review, quoted above, of The Rolling Stones.