Book Review: The Rolling Stones

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.

Book Review: Iterations

2002’s Iterations contains 22 stories written over 22 years. That’s quite a swath of [Sawyer's] career that this collection covers. We see his love of dinosaurs, space opera, the shift to near-future character-driven stuff in the later ’90s and early ’00s. There are a few good mysteries. Sawyer even dabbles in both fantasy and horror on a few occasions, something he’s never touched in his novel-length works.

But is it good? Or, rather, are they good? If so, how many? And how good? That’s the problem with collections. You’re not buying one book-length story, but dozens of smaller ones. Or, rather, it’s a problem if they aren’t good. So read my review at AESciFi to find my judgement on the matter.

Book Review: Starplex

Starplex has everything: a galactic empire; several human-comparable alien species; hints of at least one god-like, far-advanced race of beings; hyperspace travel and wormholes; space battles and time travel and the secret of the universe . . .

So by all means, read all about it (before reading “it”, itself, that is), in my review at AE.

Thanks, Baen

Somewhat out of the blue last week, I found myself thinking of picking up some Heinlein. Maybe it was because I’d recently started a re-read of Jumper (just finished tonight). I went back through my own reviews and realized the last couple of Heinlein books I’d read (a novel and a double-collection) were a good two years ago, when I went on a review request spree just before leaving for Costa Rica, and spent the next few months working through it all during the rainy, tropical days.

The Heinlein books I had requested from Baen Books, which does a lot of military fiction, but after covering those, I haven’t asked for anything from them since. (I was assigned Bujold’s latest some time after that but didn’t get it from directly contacting the publisher myself.)

I went back to Baen last week to see the new Heinlein releases they’d made available in the last couple years, and fired off a quick email requesting five books. I found a mid-sized package in the mail today and there was every single thing I’d asked for.

Baen, I think I love you.

I have a pretty decent-sized Heinlein collection already, including a couple of omnibuses from the Science Fiction Book Club which sometimes contain two, three, or four short novels in one volume. But I wish now that all of them were Baen editions, because with their steady release of new editions, they also get some nice intros and closing remarks, the latter from various individuals, the former from Heinlein’s biographer, William Patterson, who always has some interesting tidbits about the history of the writing of the work in question.

I started reading one of the juveniles tonight. With this latest batch, I have nearly every Scribner book, and the one major middle-period work my collection was missing. Expect to see reviews over the next few months as I’m able to cram the reading in. The old grandmaster has a way of fitting into the smallest cracks of time, so I don’t expect it will take long.

The Hugos! and Death

It’s Hugo nomination season again. That’s fairly coincidental to my perusing one of my more frequently-consulted Wikipedia pages: The Hugo Award for Best Novel. The reason I come back to this page again and again is that one of my long-term reading projects is to read all the best novel winners of the last 61 (and counting) years, as well as any notable books that were nominated as well.

I’ve read none of the handful of winners (and just one 1959 nominee) from the first decade. Half of the winners from the ’60s and ’70s (plus another half-dozen that were nominated). Only a handful of winners and nominees from the ’80s and ’90s. But almost every winner since 2000, and as many nominees.

It’s not an overwhelming task. The trick is to grab a book and read, and not let it go into a pile that I won’t touch in awhile. I’ll have to be equally careful for epubs, now that I’m making regular use of my new reader (a basic Kobo, if you’re wondering). It’s easy to quickly thrown a dozen digital books on there. Humble Bundles and all that. How long will it take to read them all, or will I?

This is the great tragedy of the reader who is also an existentialist: knowing you will never manage to read all those books. Sometimes counting the remaining years of my life in the books I could optimally read brings home the frailty of human life in a more immediate way than anything else.

This took a turn for the morbid, didn’t it?

When Nerds Collide: Grammatical and Mathematical Geekery

I stumbled upon this exchange while double-checking something on hyphen use. The full debate is here:

@whoa: It is relevant in that it was an example of where dozen isn’t really considered a number: All of math. 2 * 6 = 12 When choosing to write it out, you would write “two times six equals twelve” not “two times six equals dozen.” You could say “two time six equals a dozen” but now you have an article in there. If you feel comfortable calling that a number, so be it. I was just pointing out that it may be misleading to consider dozen the same kind of number as twelve much like a six isn’t the same “kind” of “number” as six or 6. –  MrHen Jul 26 ’11 at 22:35
@mrhen, That’s preposterous. “Jimmy has a dozen eggs, he gives Sally half, how many does he have left?”. Answer: 12 * 1/2 = 6. According to your logic, ‘half’ wouldn’t be considered a number either? A dozen is a real number, even in Math… –  whoabackoff Jul 26 ’11 at 22:50
@whoa: I am simply trying to point out the difference between dozen and twelve with regards to their qualifications for the label “number”. There is a difference and just calling dozen a “number” may be misleading. And yes, it would be just as misleading to refer to “a half” as a number. Or “a whole” or “first”. Do they technically qualify as numbers? You tell me. My point is that even if they do, there is a difference between those and numbers like 9, 10, pi, i. –  MrHen Jul 26 ’11 at 23:02
@whoabackoff: So, according to your definition of number, pair times pair times few equals dozen? Nevermind that you are ignoring the fact that pair, few, dozen, score, hundred, gross, etc. are commonly used as units of measure. –  Patrick87 Jul 27 ’11 at 1:05
Did you read the Wikipedia article? Clearly I’m not the only person alive who thinks calling “dozen” a “dimensionless unit of measure” is acceptable. If you accept this Wikipedia page to be at all authoritative, I don’t see how you can come to any other conclusion than that you are incorrect in this matter. –  Patrick87 Jul 27 ’11 at 15:13

Book Review: Lockstep

Karl Schroeder makes a living plausibly guessing at the future. This might seem like it should be true of all science-fiction writers, but it’s really not. Some use fantastic situations to put the human soul under the lens; others dream up future settings, not because they’re likely, but because they make good jumping-off points for obliquely considering present-day societal issues. Others just want laser blasts and space battles. Few are professional futurists.

As fans know, however, Schroeder actually is a professional futurist, which is perhaps why he’s the one who works out plausible (albeit, yes, futuristic) new ways of reordering all society instead of writing an adventure story on Mars and calling it a day. You can read about which long-standing conundrum in space opera Schroeder has solved by reading my full review at the Free Press.

Skip the Book?

Today on AE, five books you can forgo in favour of the film. I’m a die-hard bookworm, so when I say the movie’s better, well, opinion is still opinion, but you might pay a little closer attention. Of course, the films in question are all genre (with Fight Club perhaps straddling the line a bit). Here’s one more that wouldn’t have fit on the list at AE:

Non-genre Bonus Example!

Into the Wild. The film is a dramatized version of the true story of Christopher McCandless, a thoughtful, adventurous young man with an inspiring zest for life. The book is a stunning example of long-form journalism by a master of the craft. Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction account of the McCandless story grew out of an article he wrote for Outside magazine. The book is a mix of narrative, interviews, the history of adventure travel, and some of Krakauer’s personal anecdotes.

In fine journalistic fashion, speculations are clearly labelled as such, multiple theories are floated and batted around. But in the movie version, a single interpretation is taken, a single cohesive narrative emerges, and it really feels like we see things from Chris’ perspective. In the film, we have a protagonist. In the book we have a subject. Most of us would choose the former.