Book Review: Second Contacts

So what happens after first contact? Leaving aside War of the Worlds scenarios where one race is completely destroyed, after the initial shock, what’s it like five or fifty years into  a universe where we know we’re not alone? Human history provides several possible outcomes: ranging from genocide to colonization to occupation to friendship and political alliance to the innocuous missionary outposts or even lone, Marco Polo figure.

Each of these come up in Second Contacts at one point of another, but this is a Canadian anthology . . .

Read my full review at AE.

Book Review: The Affinities

Wilson imagines how a series of neurological, psychological and physiological tests might determine a sort of modern-day Zodiac, sorting humankind into “affinities” based on their deepest truest selves. Early on, he makes the point that the families we’re born into might be arbitrary, but he does suggest that being loved because you’re part of the same affinity with someone rather than because of a shared genetic lineage comes with its own problems.

Read the full review at AE.

Back to School, Belatedly

Well, time for some updates. I’ve still been writing, just not here. For this September past I penned a little essay for AE, appropriately, on education-themed science fiction. Perhaps just as appropriate a topic as the school year draws to a close.

You’ll notice my opening paragraph refers to the proverbial cocktail party. Often, when a person is going to pontificate on their career, and especially public perceptions thereof, they start off with, “When I meet people at cocktail parties . . .” I don’t actually go to a lot of cocktail parties, but in fine speculative as well as Einsteinian tradition: assume a perfectly spherical cocktail party. . . .

No, I’m half-kidding. But really, if I’m at the proverbial cocktail party, or some near analogue (gas-station nacho bar), and introduce myself as a teacher, I really do find it gets people talking. But I’m more interested in the deep thinking of smart writers on the topic than your typical non-educators. Thus, the essay. Please read it here.

Book Review: Blind Lake

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.

Book Review: Homeland

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.

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.