I remember reading books by Pournelle and Niven back in the 80s, and though they were more "hard" science fiction than I generally read by that time, I really enjoyed them. RIP JP.
Obituary Note: Jerry Pournelle
Jerry Pournelle http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz34136605, a prolific author, editor and columnist on a variety of topics, including science fiction,
military matters, space, technology and politics, died on Friday. He was
84. He also had positions in the aerospace industry and was a political
His first novel, Red Heroin, an action/adventure mystery, was published
in 1968. Among his best-known books were Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer,
both written with Larry Niven, two of many collaborations with Niven,
one of several writers with whom he collaborated. He received five Hugo
and three Nebula nominations and, in 1973, was the first winner of the
John W. Campbell Award for best new writer (when the finalists included
George R.R. Martin!).
Pournelle contributed for years to BYTE magazine and continued to write
his Chaos Manor column/blog <http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz34136606>,
maybe the first that looked at computers from the user's point of view,
until his death. He also was science columnist for the National Catholic
Press, a columnist for Analog SF Magazine and science editor/columnist
for Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine. He was a past president of the
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and last year won the
National Space Society's Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award for lifetime
achievement in "promoting the goal of a free, spacefaring civilization."
Cat Rambo, president of the SFWA, commented: "I frequently interacted
with Jerry, sometimes agreeing, other times not so much, but always
knowing our arguments were motivated by a mutual love of SFWA and the
genre. As someone seeing behind the scenes of the Emergency Medical Fund
(Jerry was one of the stewards), I came to realize how much generosity
lurked in him, each time brought out by an applicant's situation. I will
definitely miss Jerry and think of him with fondness."
I am so excited about this magnificent classic being mounted as a stage production again, and the premier is the day after my 58th birthday. Oh, if only I could visit Broadway!
On Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird
A new stage production of Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a
will arrive on Broadway December 13, 2018. Playbill reported that Aaron
Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing) has written the new adaptation.
Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (Golden Boy, The King and I, South
Pacific) will direct the Broadway premiere, which is produced by Scott
Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of mine, and I am delighted that lately, her books are being made into Netflix series (like the recent series of the Handmaid's Tale) and now Alias Grace, which tells a completely different story. I can only hope that Cat's Eye and Blind Assassin are next on the list!
Netflix has released a trailer for its upcoming six-part limited series
based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. Variety reported that the trailer
introduces Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), "who explains she has been an
inmate for 15 years. She, along with stable hand James McDermott (Kerr
Logan), has been accused of the infamous 1843 double murder of her
employer Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross), and his housekeeper Nancy
Montgomery (Anna Paquin)."
The miniseries, which also stars Zachary Levi and Edward Holcroft, was
written and produced by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron. It
streams on Netflix November 3.
Another great light of literature and theater is extinguished. This has been a terrible year for losing authors and theater legends.
Obituary Note: Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall
who staged the English-language premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for
Godot and the world premiere of Harold Pinter's Homecoming, and "was the
single most influential figure in modern British theatre," died
September 11, the Guardian reported. He was 86. "As a director of plays,
especially Shakespeare, Pinter and Beckett, he was very fine.But it
was through his creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the early
1960s and his stewardship of the National Theatre from 1973 to 1988 that
he affirmed his passionate faith in subsidized institutions. If we now
take their existence for granted, it is largely because of the
pioneering battles waged by Hall and his visionary enthusiasm," the
Oberon Press went on to publish numerous works by Hall, including The Peter
Hall Diaries; Making an Exhibition of Myself; and Sir Peter's
Shakespeare's Advice to the Players. "Fifteen years ago when this titan
of the theatre put his trust in us to publish his work I was of course
overjoyed and privileged," Hogan said. "Peter was meticulous about his
books, ever patient and never wrong.... As we know, among his many great
qualities was his devotion to the works of Shakespeare. He knew each
play by heart line by line. But he was equally devoted to new
writing.... Most of all I miss his generous advice on theatre and
publishing which I treasure to this day."
The Dispatcher, Miniatures and Unlocked by John Scalzi are all short works that if combined, would make up enough word count to be a regular novel of 300 pages or so. I realized, after reading a post on Scalzi's hilarious and wonderful blog, Whatever, that while I'd read many of his major works, I'd neglected to read much of his short fiction because it was only available at first in either e-book format, which I dislike, or in magazines as an article/short story. What this boils down to is that I missed some really good stuff. So, with judicial use of the local library, I snagged these three books and read them in rapid succession. They were each amazing and wonderful in their own way, but since I have two other books to review, I will try to summarize.
The Dispatcher takes place in a world where suddenly (and for no reason anyone can discern) people who have been murdered (not suicides or those who die of natural causes) or killed by accident, such as a bad surgery or the wrong medication, disappear after they die, only to reappear almost immediately in a place they feel safe, unharmed and naked. It's like a cosmic reset button. There develops an industry of professional men who are assigned to hospital operating rooms or ERs who are equipped to shoot and kill patients who "die" due to doctor error or for whatever reason on the table, so they can be resurrected at home. Of course, the rich immediately find a way to misuse these "dispatchers" and therein lies the tale, with Scalzi's protagonist, Tony Valdez, unwinding a mystery of what happened to his fellow agent, after said agent goes missing when a dispatch goes wrong and the patient dies. The prose is mostly dialog and the pace of the plot blistering, as Valdez works with a sassy police officer to get to the truth. There are some excellent questions and quick meditations on the way humanity views death and how we process death and dying as a society here, but for the most part, reading the Dispatcher was like watching a great movie on Netflix. You get in, you enjoy, you get out. A definite A, recommended to everyone.
Miniatures was like a box of chocolates without the inevitable coconut one that everyone despises. Each story was it's own hilarious nugget of fun, and some were so short that you feel like you're reading Scalzi's Twitter feed for a day. Though every chapter/story was delicious, I did have some favorites, mainly Denise Jones, Superbooker, and The Other Large Thing, while The State of Super Villainy took a close third. Honestly, if you're not howling with laughter (or at least chortling) by the time you finish these stories, there is something wrong with you. I nearly wet myself halfway through "Denise Jones..." and I had a coughing fit during the State of Super Villainy. Scalzi has the best sense of humor of any science fiction/fantasy writer alive, and his recent success in securing a multi-million dollar contract for future work is just one example of what fans of his work have known for years, that he's taken up the torch of the late, great Ray Bradbury when it comes to writing brilliant short fiction. Another A, with a recommendation to anyone and everyone.
Unlocked is the prequel or background book to Scalzi's landmark post-epidemic apocalyptic novel, Lock In. Unlocked tells the tale of how Haden's Syndrome, a horrific virus that kills millions before it leaves others with completely paralyzed bodies, but still healthy, active minds, makes its way from a global epidemiologist's convention (and the irony that a bunch of virus doctors spread a plague is lost on no one) to the White House, where it strikes down the first lady who gives the plague it's name. Since this is a fictional "oral history" it is told through the POV of everyone from doctors and scientists to a prison inmate who was one of the first to survive volunteering for experimental treatment. These voices seem so authentic, that it's hard to believe that Haden's Syndrome isn't real, and that there aren't "threeps," or robotic avatars with the Haden's patients conscious mind controlling them, walking around. Still, I would only hope that any president would react to a global epidemic with the same monetary and scientific force that this president does, because he gets the job done in terms of helping scientists to find a way to get those who are locked in back out into society and living their lives, even having children. Well done, Mr Scalzi. Another A, with the same recommendation.
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (author of the Divergent series) is the start of a new YA dystopian series that is darker and even more violent than her famed Divergent books. After the betrayal I felt with Divergent, (SPOILER, Roth kills off her female protagonist and leaves the douchebag father of the male protagonist alive), I wanted to believe she'd gotten her head straight and was ready to create a world where heroines don't have to become martyrs to love or to the world to be effective. While her protagonists in Carve aren't as smugly perfect as Tris and Four, they're still too "star crossed" and saddled with the terrible and/or dead parents to really separate them from the legacy of the Divergent Duo. Here's the blurb:Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?
Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.
Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another. Publisher's Weekly: Roth (the Divergent series) returns with a gripping space opera about two individuals who share a planet but come from very different worlds. Cyra belongs to the ruling family of the Shotet, a people wrestling for planetary power against the gentle, prophetic Thuvhesit. Like all people, Cyra has a “currentgift” bestowed by the galactic current that connects all living things, but hers is darker than most: she lives in debilitating pain, eased only when she unleashes it on another—a fearsome spectacle that her cruel, power-hungry brother often forces her to employ. Akos, raised among the Thuvhesit and kidnapped by the Shotet, has a similarly singular currentgift: his touch relieves Cyra of her pain. Forced together, the two become hesitant friends and unlikely allies as the simmering tension between their two nations reaches new heights. Roth’s worldbuilding is commendable; each nation is distinct, interacting with the current in ways that give insight into her characters’ motivations. Amid political machinations and forays into space, Roth thoughtfully addresses substantial issues, such as the power of self-determination in the face of fate.
While the blood, pain and death never seemed to let up, I still wanted to like this book and the characters in this new series. However, I am not a fan of horror, or political machinations, or of martyred female protagonists, as Cyra seems to be, though she's so abused that it seems inevitable that she will sacrifice herself for the one person to show her any kindness or compassion, Akos. Meanwhile, Akos comes off as an idiot who won't let his brother go, even when it becomes obvious to everyone that his brother Eijeh has been brainwashed, in a literal sense, by Cyra's evil brother, ruler of the Shotet people. Eijeh even kills an innocent childhood friend, and, while Cyra has been telling Akos that there is no way back from the mindwiping/memory-swapping currentgift that her brother has used on him, Akos still insists that Cyra keep her evil brother alive and save his brother so that his brother might be healed in some fashion. This puts Akos clearly in the "too stupid to live" category, and I found myself losing even more interest in this depressingly dark and ugly book. Ironically, Veronica Roth looks, in her author photo, like everyone's idea of the perfect wee fairy princess, or manic pixie dream girl out of an 80s rom-com. It begs the question (also out of a 90s romcom) "What is your damage?" Either she has had to endure horrible parents and constant physical pain, or Roth is enamored of the idea of those things, enough to make them the foundation of this book. It bothered me that even Cyra's psychopathic brother is blamed on their evil psychopathic father, who raised them as killers. So, while Roth's prose is good, and her plot strong, I can't really give this book more than a B-, and I would only recommend it to those who like military science fiction with very dark and grim worldbuilding beneath it.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan is a delightful and charming debut novel. Having been a fan of British literature since I was 12, I was eager to read this novel, which was touted as being in the same realm as books like the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Me Before You, both of which I adored. Here's the blurb:A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.
Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.
Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.
Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.
Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.
Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.
As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?
Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.
I find it odd that no one mentions, until very late in the book, that Sunshine has Down Syndrome. To any but the most obtuse reader, this will be obvious when we first meet Sunshine, but annoyingly, the author never seems comfortable with coming right out and saying it. That it makes her character no less annoying by avoiding giving her handicap a name is telling. Still, I loved Laura and her ridiculous romance with gardener Freddy. I also adored the story of Boomer and Eunice, whose wit and tenderness was refreshing. Between all this are the stories behind the lost things, some tragic and most heartbreaking, but all fascinating. I was riveted to this story the moment I opened the book and read the first page. Hence, I'd give this page-turning tale an A, and recommend it to anyone who likes Sarah Addison Allen's magical realism or insightful novels like Mrs Queen Takes the Train (which I read and loved, BTW).