Friday, July 26, 2013

Mimsy Were the Borogoves by Lewis Padgett - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I

That's another one that escaped me.

An inventor creates time machines about the size of a breadbox.  He sends two, packed with his kids' discarded toys, back in time.  The first being sent to the present day (meaning the 1940's.  This story was published in '43, where much of the story takes place.

A young boy, Scotty, finds a strange box by the side of the river.  He opens it and discovers some strange and interesting toys within. He brings it all back home where he and his younger sister begin playing with them. 

It doesn't take long before the parents see these strange objects and begin to take an interest in them.  There is something very strange about these toys; the kids take to them naturally but the adults are baffled by them. The parents begin to worry that these toys are affecting the children. 

The parents bring in a child psychologist to analyze them and the children. It's then they discover that the underlying logic is completely different from our own.

This all gets quite confusing, to me the reader, and in the last few pages the author brings the second box into the story, which was found by Alice Liddell while on a picnic with Lewis Carroll.  She sings a strange song to him and he promises to include the verse in his book, Through the Looking Glass.

Scotty and his sister come across the book which was the last ingredient they needed to cross over into the realm of the inventor who sent the boxes back in time.

It just didn't work for me.

Astounding February 1943

Lewis Padgett was a pen name for the married writing team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore

Henry Kuttner 

C. L. Moore

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Report #65 - The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont

What a HOOT!

Being a lover of pulp fiction what could be better than a pulpy adventure involving the authors of some of the best known titles?  Walter Gibson (aka Maxwell Grant - The Shadow) and Lester Dent (aka Kenneth Robeson - Doc Savage) find themselves ensnared in a mystery involving the death of H.P. Lovecraft, poison gas and Chinese warriors.

There is a wonderful rivalry between these two giants of pulp fiction which walks the line between fiction and fact and is used very cleverly to have them confront the peril from opposite ends.

Malmont did a fine job of including other up-and-coming luminaries of genre fiction of the time (1930's) into the story.  He also managed to include and make very important to the story, Lester Dent's wife and Walter Gibson's love.  Both these ladies played critical roles in pushing the story further.

Once you read this you'll want to dig up as many Doc Savage and Shadow books you can get your hands on.

It took a little while for the story to get going (a function of today's fiction market expecting books of a certain length) which I had to struggle through.  The book was divided into five "Issues" that were roughly the length of the magazines of the day, this was a nice nod to that era's fiction.  It would have been nice if each of these issues would have had stronger cliff-hanger endings but that is a very minor criticism of the work.

I could feel the respect, depth of knowledge and love of the pulps that Malmont brought to this first novel.  Which was confirmed in his tender epilogue.

Yup.  I'm a fan.

Visit Paul Malmont's web page HERE

Paul Malmont

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Weapon Shop by A. E. van Vogt - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame,Volume I

 This one didn't work for me.

I was unsympathetic to the main character who was a small town conservative taking action against a weapon shop that has suddenly opened in his town.

His life and career come unraveled as he tries to get the place shut down.

But there is more to the shop; it's actually a front for an anti-government resistance. 

In the end, I don't understand how this made the list.  Of course, they won't all appeal.

Astounding December 1942
A. E. van Vogt

Friday, July 12, 2013

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume I

The planet Lagash is situated in a star system containing six suns.  Consequently the people living there have never experienced night.  Darkness is completely unknown however, every 2,000 years the stars align and are eclipsed by another planet.

We take for granted knowing the night sky which makes for an interesting twist to discover people who've never known stars.

We are told the terrible history of this solar cycle and it's effect on the inhabitants of Lagash.

Written 72 years ago it is still fresh and relevant today.

September 1941

Isaac Asimov

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Report #64 - World War Z by Max Brooks

I read this in anticipation of the big Brad Pitt movie and after Nathan Fillion suggested it at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.

It is not the usual linear narrative, instead it is a collection of interviews with key players who survived the events of the zombie plague.

At first this felt like a collection of short stories but after a little bit I started to get into, not so much the rhythm of the book, but how each interview would raise questions in my head and succeeding passages would go to answer them.

This was my first zombie book, I'm not usually a fan of this kind of thing.  I have to admit that this novel is a step up from the, "Man meets zombie, man runs from zombie, man gets eaten by zombie" type of thing.  If you take the "idea" of a zombie plague and run with it a bit; how would society react and deal with such a calamity?  Would law and order survive?  How would our daily lives be affected?  Would there be an economy left behind?  Would functioning governments maintain order and power?

What's fun is that the solution is very easy - kill the zombies.  It's not like waiting for some lab somewhere to discover an antidote will end the conflict.  Each person has the power to "remove" the infected.

What humanity had to deal with was the overwhelming numbers of infected and this was made more interesting by showing how individuals dealt with a loved one who'd fallen to the disease.

If you get over the whole zombie thing, then you are reading a fantastic mental exercise that intelligently delves into serious matters while being a ripping good yarn at the same time.

Looking forward to the re-imagining the movie will present. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Microcosmic God by Theodore Sturgeon - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume I

First published in the April 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction tells the tale of a modern-day Thomas Edison who lives in seclusion on a small east coast island.

His inventions take the world by storm and fundamentally change society in positive ways.  He gets so rich, in fact, that money loses its meaning - only the quest for knowledge drives him on.

However the true villain in this story is - his banker!

Very well done.  It could have been expanded into novel and would have made for a fantastic read.

Theodore Sturgeon