Mike’s Prattle



Posted by Mike on April 2, 2006

Will fill in the blanks in later, but I have been getting some reading done, mostly short fiction. I do want to mention first, though, that I have spent nearly 20 minutes trying to get a certain paragraph moved to where I wanted with the horrible editing tool here without success. It insists on putting it right in the middle of this paragraph or in the middle of the Egan paragraph below, no matter what I try. It's utterly baffling, although ultimately not as baffling as why I spent 20 minutes trying.

  • Greg Egan – "The Planck Dive" (Asimov's Feb 98) Hard SF in the far future, this story demands one's full attention on its extrapolation through quantum physics, as post-human scientists attempt to plumb the mysteries of a black hole. What I found impressive about this story was how the mechanics of the science became part of the setting and environment, how the descriptions through science became picturesque art.
  • Kelly Link – "Vanishing Act" (Stranger Things Happen) Unusual fantasy, as a gifted young girl separated from her family seeks to return to them. Like all of Link's stories, it suggests rather than defines, the impacts detonate like scattershot, without descending into melodrama.
  • Jeff Vandermeer – "Dradin, In Love" (City of Saints and Madmen) Vandermeer writes like he has an exotic fever, the miracle is that every time you doubt he's got his hands on the reigns, you feel the bit tug in your mouth. Dradin is deliriously in love as the story begings, intoxicated, and you feel the potential palpably. As soon as you're comfortable, you realize you're already mesmerized and then things go terribly wrong. By this point you're sucked along to the end.
  • Michael Swanwick – "The Very Pulse of the Machine" (Asimov's Feb 98) One woman's emergency pilgrimage over Io. The nature of the accident and her attempts to survive, play neatly into the science fictional idea.
  • Robert Silverberg "To the Promised Land" (Omni May 89; What Might Have Been Volume 1, Alternate Empires ed. Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg; Roma Eterna) An alternate history of an Exodus delayed by millenia. Notable for reflecting a spirit even hardier through its longer suffering, but creating a climax more suggestive than profound.
  • Kelly Link – "The Survivor's Ball, or, The Donner Party" (Strange Things Happen) Link deals with cannibalism on an extremely suggestive level and as such, succeeds where the graphic has so often failed, through the vibrancy of the secondary characters.
  • Robert Reed – "Sister Alice" (Asimov's xx/xx; Sister Alice) Reed has long been one of my favorite return writers in Asimov's, but I'd never read this sequence, as it wasn't out in book form at the time and I didn't own the whole sequence. This is the first of five novellas featuring a future humanity not terribly unlike Egan's above, except reoganized into a family/caste system whose higher ranked members possess the powers of gods without their omniscience. A greater tragedy is alluded to, numbed quite a bit by the revealing on the back cover of the book, that becomes intensely poignant as the picture slowly becomes clearer. It reminded me a little of Leiber's "Ship of Shadows" in that the protagonist misses a lot of what is going around him while there are clues given to the reader to keep you one step ahead of him.
  • Robert Silverberg "Tales from the Venia Woods" (Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct 89; Year's Best Science Fiction Seventh Annual ed. Gardner Dozois; Roma Eterna) A look at one aeon's turn into another through the eyes of children and the first major story on the Roma Eterna sequence. In just a few pages, this one brings the epic in scope down to the personal level and asks truly interesting questions about the nature of fate.

Also spending considerable time with One Hundred Years of Solitude. Got in a few new things in the mail:

  • Gardner Dozois – The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eleventh Annual Collection (Another bookclub hardback arrives when a trade paperback was ordered? I'd say more but this is the paragraph that I could not get to move to where I wanted to originally. How weird is that?) 
  • Avram Davidson – The Adventures of Doctor Eszterhazy  It felt somewhat cathartic to get this finally, although a mini tear in the bottom from shelf wear muted my enthusiasm a split hair. But only a bit since it was otherwise a flawless copy and it's a nice book with a great painting of a satyr playing on the cover. I've wanted a copy since the late 90s, never wanted to settle for the shorter, original paperback, The Enquiries of Dr. E., as it has only half as many stories. In fact it was actually Mr. Dozois over at Asimov's who said it would be worth getting if I was an Avram fan, so that clinched it for me. (I'd have to have a screw loose to doubt that man. In fact asking a question at the Asimov's forum is a lot like asking a question in a physics forum and having Hawking and Feynman help out). Anyway when the rest of the world figures out that Avram is one the literary masters of the 20th century (if the praise of people like Michael Dirda, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe aren't enough, I'm not sure what is) it should be worth a lot more than what I paid for it. But by then I probably will never want to part with it.)
  • Joe R. Lansdale – Savage Season (Can you believe this southern suspense novel, about as downhome as Lansdale gets, is only available in England right now?)
  • Robert Anton Wilson – Masks of the Illuminati (I'm trying to get all of Wilson's books and thinking right now just how many they are.)

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