Reviews: Science Fiction Fantasy
April 22, 2005
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl is brilliant, inventive, cunning, devious, and the mastermind of a vast criminal empire. He is only twelve years old. His father lost and presumed dead, his mother suffering from a nervous breakdown, Artemis sets out to restore his family's fortune by trapping a fairy from the underworld of magical creatures and holding her ransom for fairy gold. Unfortunately for Artemis, he picks the wrong fairy to kidnap - Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaisance) Unit. When Holly's comrades come to rescue her, things don't exactly meet up with Artemis' plans, or theirs.
I had little choice. Knowing how much I love Harry Potter (having read each book at least five times) and scifi/fantasy, my friend Suzanne and her three kids handed me their copies of the Artemis Fowl series and insisted that I read them. Well, it pays to have friends who know you well. These books by author Eoin Colfer are a hoot! Colfer describes his book as "Die Hard with fairies." Yep, that sums it up pretty well. Sort of like James Bond, Encyclopedia Brown, and Grimms all rolled up in one. Highly entertaining. Artemis Fowl is the first in an ongoing series. In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident Artemis teams up with Holly and the LEP to save his father from the Russian "Mafiya" and fight off a goblin rebellion. In Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code Artemis gets the whole world into trouble by using secret fairy technology to try to extort money from a evil industrialist.
November 26, 2004
The Light Ages - Ian R. MacLeod
Imagine that at the dawn of the Industrial Age, a powerful and magical substance was discovered that allowed craftsmen to employ spells to charm materials to be stronger and machines to work more smoothly than they would naturally. In The Light Ages, an alternative vision of history unfolds, starting perhaps a few hundred years ago. Author Ian MacLeod introduces his main character Robert Burrows at the closing of the third century of this age of aether. Society doesn't really progress much as those with power and wealth, secure in their position, live off the labors of the workers who mine the magical aether, and suffer its effects. Innovation is stifled, as it really isn't needed, as long as there is a supply of aether to keep the machines running. Problems arise when the aether begins to run out...
October 26, 2004
Tales of the Otori - Lian Hearn
Across the Nightingale Floor, by Lian Hearn, is the first of three books in the Tales of the Otori trilogy, a fantasy epic placed in feudal Japan. Young Tomasu is rescued from a massacre of his village by Lord Otori Shigeru who gives him the name "Takeo" and adopts him into the Otori family. Takeo's village is destroyed by the evil warlord Iida because the villagers are members of a secret, peaceful Christian-like sect. Otori Shigeru, Iida's sworn enemy, discovers powerful ninja-like talents in young Takeo and together they plan to take revenge on Iida. Meanwhile, beautiful Shirakawa Kaede is held hostage by another warlord, an ally of Iida's. Betrothed to Otori Shigeru as a pretense for Iida to lure Shigeru into his castle, Kaede and Takeo meet and fall in love.
July 31, 2004
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Seven or eight years ago I had the privilege of hosting Douglas Adams at my home in San Francisco for a brainstorming meeting on a game project (which eventually became Starship Titanic). I had heard of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, aka H2G2, but hadn't read it. What I had heard was that it was very funny - Monty Pythonesque humor applied to sci fi. Wanting to get a rise out of Douglas, I made him some tea and served it in a ceramic mug from Japan with a little ceramic frog hiding in the bottom of the cup. Douglas sipped his tea coolly, and when the frog emerged from the depths of the tea Douglas gave a little startled grunt, caught my eye and laughed, and continued to drink his tea. As I expected, unflappable.
Now years later, and three years after Douglas' untimely passing, I am finally enjoying what brought Douglas his initial fame. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the first book in a five book trilogy in which our unsuspecting hero Arthur Dent narrowly escapes the Earth seconds before it is demolished to make way for an interstellar highway. Arthur escapes with his colleague Ford Prefect, who reveals to Arthur that he is actually from another planet and was working on a guidebook to the galaxy before getting stranded on Earth. Catching a lift with the cooking crew of the Vogon ship that destroyed Earth, Arthur and Ford are subjected to the torture of Vogon poetry before being ejected into space, only to be picked up by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the galaxy's BMOC, with his Heart of Gold improbability spaceship.
July 24, 2004
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card revolves around a young boy, Ender Wiggin, who is selected to train to become a fleet commander to protect earth from an alien invasion. The training takes place at a distant Battle School in space where the young and brilliant Ender is repeatedly pushed to his limits to mold him into what he is needed to be, to become the next commander and win the war against the invaders.
I've read Ender's Game 5 or 6 times in the last 15 years, and recently listened to the audiobook. I honestly think that Ender's Game is the best piece of science fiction I have ever read. Card is unusual as a science fiction writer in that he delves deeply into the psychology of his main characters and their complex inter-relationships. Nothing is as black and white as it may seem. There is goodness and honor in Ender's enemies as well as a willingness to manipulate and kill in Ender. Ender is constantly faced with hard choices upon which his survival and the fate of the planet depend.
May 12, 2004
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L’Engle
I still remember getting Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time from the book mobile library when I was probably around 11 years old. As my first introduction to science fiction, I devoured it. The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature sums up the story well:
Juvenile novel by Madeleine L'Engle, published in 1962. It won a Newbery Medal in 1963. Combining theology, fantasy, and science, it is the story of travel through space and time to battle a cosmic evil. With their neighbor Calvin O'Keefe, young Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace embark on a cosmic journey to find their lost father, a scientist studying time travel. Assisted by three eccentric women--Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which--the children travel to the planet Camazotz where they encounter a repressed society controlled by IT, a disembodied brain that represents evil. Among the themes of the work are the dangers of unthinking conformity and scientific irresponsibility and the saving power of love.
April 26, 2003
Mind Parasites - Colin Wilson
In Colin Wilison's classic The Mind Parasites scientists discover that alien parasites have infiltrated the minds of humans, creating self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and robbing humans of their powerful, innate creative abilities. The search to understand and destroy these aliens is a dangerous one, driving insane almost all who attempt it. I don't know why this book is out of print. It's a classic. The spookiest thing is that the symptoms described for alien occupation of one's mind are emotions that we all have, and are the thoughts and ideas that keep us from stepping into our own power. What if there are alien beings taking up residence in our unconscious? Trippy, great science fiction book. Used copies are hard to find. Here's a review that goes more into the Heidegger philosophy behind the book. And here is a transcript of an interview with Colin Wilson. Here's more info from Amazon.com and how to get used copies...