Dollhouse, Season 1, Episode 1, created by Joss Whedon

[So, tadalafil a TV review. There will be more in the future, more about but not every day. Enjoy!]

I love Firefly. I haven’t watched any Buffy (or its spinoff) to date, approved for various reasons (mostly an irrational dislike of Sarah Michelle Gellar), but I’ve seen Firefly and I thought it was an awesome show. Joss Whedon is the creator of both of those series, plus the movie Serenity (based on the first episode of Firefly) and a new series that started last Friday on FOX entitled Dollhouse. Some think he’s a genius; whether he is or not, the general hallmarks of his writing (as far as I can tell) are great one-liners, humor, weird random things happening, and hypothetically strong female characters. The show is available at the moment on Hulu.com, and I’m sure there will be reruns in the future.

Dollhouse starts with an older woman trying to give a younger woman all the information she needs before she signs a release form. We’re informed that it has to do with wiping away one’s entire personality, and I doubt there are very many people going into the show who didn’t read the press releases that have been coming for a year now. The base idea is that there is a group of scientists who have discovered how to erase personalities in women and implant them with new ones, either from a single person or a conglomerate. These women are used hired by men with insane amounts of money for nearly everything: assassins, secret agents, and whores. Continue reading Dollhouse, Season 1, Episode 1, created by Joss Whedon

Only Human (Missing Link, book 2), by Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson: Irish. She writes a lot of books set in Ireland, viagra 40mg and I’ve introduced her three times before. I’ve got no new information on her, patient but I will provide these links: The New Policeman (the first book I read of hers and reviewed); Switchers (the second, an unrelated but vaguely speculative novel as well); Fourth World (the first volume in this series, in which we meet Christie [a boy] and his brother Danny and are introduced to their particular world of Ireland during an awful economic crisis).

Since this is the second book in the trilogy, and because there are a few big reveals in the first volume, I’m cutting plot discussion. Continue reading Only Human (Missing Link, book 2), by Kate Thompson

The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F, edited by Judith Merril

So I was on jury duty this week, apoplectic and the way they do it in my county is to pen up 300 people in a room for seven hours a day for a week straight, just in case some of them might be needed. Needless to say, I ran out of books the first day, and a copy of this (it’s from 1964, by the way) was sitting on a random end table. Judith Merril is apparently referred to as the mother of science fiction, and I assume that’s because of her anthology-editing. She wrote three books, two of which were under the pen name Cyril Judd, and numerous short stories, in addition to editing a few dozen anthologies. She was also instrumental in founding one of the first s-f cons, this one intended for the writers as a sort of business convention, and she was married to Frederik Pohl for many years.

The stories in this collection are all fairly hard science fiction; they generally deal with aliens, alien technology, space exploration, and the military applications of the above. The authors include many I’ve heard of and many that I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down the table of contents before I left the book on the table, and I can only find a few of them mentioned on the internet: Bernard Malamud, Fred Saberhagen, Andre Maurois, Walt & Leigh Richmond, Cordwainder Smith, Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson, and Hal Clement. Continue reading The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F, edited by Judith Merril

The Ladies of Nell Gwynne’s, by Kage Baker

I actually very much liked the first three or four Company books by Kage Baker. I remember most of her biography, somnology too: she lives in California, information pills knows more about Elizabethan England than is healthy, viagra and has done a good deal of theatre in her day. Her Company series, which starts with In the Garden of Iden, is about cyborgs — but in an interesting way. The Company has discovered how to go back in time, and once there, they make local kids who would be dead into cyborgs who then take and hide artefacts so that they can be discovered at some point in the future. It’s actually a lot better than I’m making it sound — tons of intrigue and fascinating characters.

Anyway, this novella is tangentially related, in that way where there’s a secret gentleman’s society (the Gentleman’s Speculative Society) that will, in about three or four hundred years, become the Company that is involved. Nell Gwynne’s is a house for ‘fallen women,’ and Lady Beatrice is one of them. These women, however, aren’t just ladies of the night — they’re also rather intelligent spies who retrieve information from the powerful men they service. The information, which goes to the GSS, is used to manipulate their world, which is England in the early Victorian era. When one of their contacts disappears, Lady Beatrice and three compatriots are dispatched to a house party in order to find out what’s going on. Continue reading The Ladies of Nell Gwynne’s, by Kage Baker

Fourth World (Missing Link, book 1), by Kate Thompson

Kate Thompson is the author of The New Policeman and Switchers, stuff both of which I have (obviously) reviewed before. When she was a child, more about and even into her adult years, thumb she spent a good deal of time with horses, first riding and then training. After deciding that she needed more human interaction, she tried law school and then went on several trips to India, volunteering in various capacities. All this athleticism gave her a love of hiking, and her current residence in County Galway (Ireland) gives her much opportunity to indulge it.

Fourth World, also called just The Missing Link, is set in Ireland and Scotland during an economically troubled time. There are gas and food shortages, and this causes problems for our main characters, who are Christie (who is nonetheless a boy) and his stepbrother, Danny. Danny is considered a special-needs child; he doesn’t do terribly well in school, what with remembering things and fitting in to society, and his temper is uncertain. Christie is pretty good at managing him, though, until Danny gets it into his head that his mother, a scientist, is not only alive, but wants to see him. They leave — essentially running away — to go find her, Christie following to keep Danny out of trouble. Continue reading Fourth World (Missing Link, book 1), by Kate Thompson

Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

Robert Bloch is probably best known for writing the novel Psycho, hygiene that would eventually become the most famous Hitchcock thriller of all time, cardiology but he also wrote a lot of other novels, side effects stories, essays, and other forms. He was a protege of H. P. Lovecraft, probably one of the greatest horror writers of the century, and also wrote science fiction, fantasy, and crime novels. He also wrote a handful of scripts for Star Trek (the Original Series) in the sixties. For a short period of time, he was involved with making campaign spectacles — balloons and the whole shtick — for a political candidate in Wisconsin. He was born in 1917 to a family of German-Jewish descent, and passed away in 1994.

Many of Mr. Bloch’s early stories were only published in pulp and other transitory magazines, and they have not been collected. Therefore, Subterranean Press has been putting out volumes of what they call The Reader’s Bloch, of which this is volume 2. The stories in this volume are slightly more science-fiction-y, rather than crime stories, and it includes such titles as “Never Trust a Demon,” “The Last Plea,” “The Strange Island of Dr. Nork,” “Skeleton in the Closet,” “The Bat is My Brother,” “The Hound of Pedro,” “Iron Mask,” “The Red Swimmer,” “Curse of the House,” “Pink Elephants,” “Unheavenly Twin,” “Tooth or Consequences,” “The Tchen Lam’s Vengeance,” “Satan’s Servants,” and “Fairy Tale.” Continue reading Skeleton in the Closet and Other Stories, by Robert Bloch

Gunpowder Empire, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is a renowned historian; he’s an expert in Byzantine history, ask and I’ve been told that there aren’t very many of those in the U.S., total. The title of his dissertation, produced at UCLA, is (according to Wikipedia) The Immediate Successors of Justinian: A Study of the Persian Problem and of Continuity and Change in Internal Secular Affairs in the Later Roman Empire During the Reigns of Justin II and Tiberius II Constantine (AD 565–582). (Yes, really.) He’s also a renowned alternate historian, and has written volumes upon volumes of alternate-history books which use different parts of his Byzantine knowledge (by which I both mean ‘of the Byzantine era’ and ‘labyrinthine’) to imbue his works with incredible historical accuracy.

Gunpowder Empire is set towards the end of the twenty-first century, mostly. Jeremy Soltero and his family live most of the year in southern California, where Jeremy and his sister Amanda attend school, but during the summers they live and work in one of the ‘alternates,’ an alternate reality where the Roman Empire still exists and things have not gotten significantly more technologically advanced than they were around 500 C.E. There, they trade things like straight razors and Swiss army knives for grain, which cannot be grown in the amounts needed in their normal reality. Everything is fine, until Jeremy’s mom gets sick and Jeremy’s dad has to take her back . . . and then the transportation and communication setup mysteriously stops working. Are Jeremy and his sister stuck in the alternate? Continue reading Gunpowder Empire, by Harry Turtledove

The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

[Happy birthday, syringe Ben!]

Subterranean Press has introduced me to quite a large amount of the science-fiction authors of the 1980s and 1990s that I missed the first time around, view either due to youth or a predilection for fantasy over sci-fi. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. This, side effects which appears to be Allen Steele’s fifth collection of short stories, was no exception. Allen Steele, a native of Nashville, was educated at New England College and the University of Missouri, and worked as a journalist for some years. He started publishing short stories in 1988, and has won the Hugo Award twice, in 1996 and 1998. He has published quite a few novels and short story collections, and one collection of essays.

This collection consists of ten stories; the first is a young-adult novella entitled “Escape from Earth,” about a young man who runs into a handful of people from the future, complete with spaceship, and helps them get back to their time. The other stories include “The War of Dogs and Boids,” “An Incident at the Luncheon of the Boating Party,” “The Teb Hunter,” “Moreau^2,” “High Roller,” “World Without End, Amen,” “Take Me Back to Old Tennessee,” “Hail to the Chief,” and “The Last Science Fiction Writer.” The topics range from time travel to teddy-bear hunting, and the lengths range from quite short to the aforementioned hundred-page novella. Continue reading The Last Science Fiction Writer, by Allen Steele

Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn

[Uh, pills this review is actually from last week. Sorry.]

Sharon Shinn is an award-winning (the John W. Campbell Award for Best First Novel, for The Shape-Changer’s Wife) and best-selling author; she has written a handful of spec-fic series for adults, and one for children published by Firebird, the first volume of which I reviewed here. One of the series starts with Archangel; I recommend it, unless one hates cliffhangers. Another series starts with Mystic and Rider; that one is more recent. She lives in Missouri, to my knowledge, and attended Northwestern University in Evansville, Il. Most of her novels are popular with those who read romance novels as well as those who read science fiction and fantasy; she manages to blend elements of all three into her works.

Jenna Starborn is a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, set in the distant future, when humans have terraformed and colonized a good deal of other planets, apparently without meeting any aliens. The story will be familiar to most readers: a young woman, without friends and family, takes a job in a remote area in a Gothic-ly appropriate manor, with a fascinating owner who, unfortunately, is many social levels above the poor young woman. She falls in love with him, discovers something unfortunate, and leaves. The conceit in this novel is that Jenna Starborn was a child conceived in a tank for a childless woman, who eventually finds herself able to get pregnant and basically abandons Jenna, leaving her without official citizenship in a world highly stratified by citizenship classes. She gets a scholarship to a technical academy and becomes a nuclear technician, eventually landing a job at the mining operations of the erstwhile Mr. Rochester (Mr. Ravenbeck), and the story proceeds. Continue reading Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

[Hello, breast readers! I hope all of you (at least, website in the US) had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Now we’re back to our regular review schedule.]

Margaret Atwood doesn’t write science fiction or speculative fiction; that, ailment of course, is a genre, and what she writes is high lee-tra-cha. Yeah, whatever. A book set in a near-future dystopia is a very common spec-fic trope, and in the mid-to-late ’80s, she sure as heck wasn’t the first one to write one. She wasn’t even the first one to write one and call it literature. Therefore, I’m reviewing this book as speculative fiction, not a Great Work of Literature. Born in 1939, she has won a good deal of literary prizes (including the Arthur C. Clarke Award) and has taught at a great number of universities. She also writes poetry, some of which has also won awards. Currently she is working on the libretto for a chamber opera, to be produced in Toronto, hopefully sometime in the next couple years.

Our unnamed narrator is a Handmaid; she wears all red, except a white wimple of sorts; she is barely allowed to talk to anyone, and we are unclear as to what she actually does until quite late in the book. It turns out that because she has already born one child who lived and who had no health issues, she is expected to be a surrogate mother of sorts (without the artificial insemination) for older infertile couples who need an heir. The Handmaid (called Offred, of Fred), through a series of flashbacks, recounts her life. At first, she lived in what we would recognize as the late 20th century and went to college; after some point, the government was taken over by a theocracy who determined that women would be much safer if all their rights were taken away. The novel explores the friction between the two halves of her life, and also between what she wants and what she actually does. Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood