Rude Astronauts – Science Fiction Book Review

Rude Astronauts“Rude Astronauts” is a collection of short stories written by Allen Steele between the mid-1980s to early 1990s, so there are a few anachronistic bits of technology. The note about the author gives a good idea of the elements you’ll find in these stories: Steele was a journalist whose work took him to the Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers, he lives in New England, and collects vintage science fiction.
The stories offer a range of topics and styles; the “rude astronauts” of the title make only a cameo appearance. The antics of construction crews on space structures are the most comical (though I bet these could have been set in the Antarctic or on the sea floor just as well), there is a more serious space adventure, a spy thriller, and some less personal, third-person stories that read like history. (These are just the sort of stories that worm their way into my brain, confusing my memory of truth and fiction.) His “alternate history” stories are my least favorite: The plots don’t depart far enough from real history to be striking.
Overall I liked the collection, though I doubt I’d read the book twice.

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Danger and Adventure in Delightful Science Fiction Classic Set Downunder #ScienceFictionBook #Review #scifi

Dolphin Island

Arthur C. Clarke is a classic master of hard science fiction, but for anyone who thinks that means hard-to-read stories dense with complex technology, this book is a delightful surprise.  There is danger and adventure and futuristic technology told from the view point of a teenage boy who does not need to explain everything.  The author’s note at the end reveals why the images of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where most of the story is set, are so vivid.  They are based on Clarke’s own explorations.

So many sci-fi books are apocalyptic epics that read like narratives of video games.  Clarke’s story is gentler and more rational.  The story feels like it could really happen as the diverse characters encounter dangers, help each other, and also just have fun.  The research on dolphins that is the center piece of the story could be underway somewhere today and the contributions of the teenage characters are plausible.  The future technology seems so feasible that it’s rather disappointing to realize it’s been fifty years since Clarke wrote and his visions haven’t been realized yet.  That also means the book is not outdated or obsolete.

Dolphin Island, by Arthur C. Clarke, was first published in 1963.  It is now available as an ebook. This short book is fun to read and all ages can enjoy it.

Old Man’s War – scifi in classic style of Heinlein #sciencefiction #bookreview #review #scifisat

Old Mans WarThis book is advertised as “continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein… reads like an original by the late grand master.”  I’m no expert on Heinlein, but that seems true (middle-period Heinlein, without the later pedagogical discussions of government, sex, and religion.)

Scalzi starts with foreseeable technology, briefly explained, and then goes far beyond, allowing his characters to accept it all with a shrug.  What Scalzi wants the reader to know is often provided by the characters directly hearing or reading an explanation. The main character talks directly to the reader a couple times.

Today’s editors say this is old fashioned and readers will hate it. Ha! This book is very popular. Take that! editors.

The characters share an optimistic outlook and a wise-cracking sense of humor.  They are ready to take a one-way trip as soldiers in a space war based on very little information, but without regret.  This type of character does remind me of Heinlein.  Also like Heinlein, in Part I the characters have sex for fun (without being pornographic) and the women have remarkable libidos.

fire fly

Earthly firefly – weird as any alien

Part I is fun with Scalzi’s universe.  The war promised in the title arrives in Part II (and the sex disappears). Quite the opposite of Star Trek, the characters’ “job is to go meet strange new people and cultures, and kill [them] as quickly as we possibly can.”  The humans aren’t especially noble, and while a friendly alien race is mentioned, generally everyone wants to kill everyone else to acquire worlds to colonize.  Apparently, one battle on each planet is all that is needed, so the characters see many different aliens, and fight and die in a many different ways.  The f-bomb is used a lot.

Battle scenes have never been my favorite reading, so I skim through them in most books.  But I read Scalzi’s battles; they are not overly long and not simply gore fests designed to pack the book with pages.  In addition to presenting varied action, due to the large variety of alien and human opponents, the battles contribute to the story.  Part III delivers depth to relationships and to the war: some planets do require more than one battle.

While this is the first book in a series, there is an ending to the story.  Wikipedia says there are a total of eight books set in this universe.

What others are saying
Old Man’s War is highly ranked on Amazon with 4.5 stars from reader reviews, generally liked as a fun space opera. Those who didn’t like it found the war unexplained and pointless, and noticed that the first and second halves of the book were quite different in tone and topic, or didn’t relate to the characters. True, but most readers aren’t turned off by that.

Building a Science Fiction Library? Here’s a ‘Wow’ List #scifi #scienceficiton #books

The University of Kansas takes science fiction seriously. Check out their list (100 titles strong) for a basic science fiction library. http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/sflib.htm The site has news, courses, and other resources.

4-books-on-mars-white-backgroundIf you’d like to give a newbie a chance, consider my science fiction at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

Read Chapter 3 of Science Fiction Book Glitch

Here is an excerpt from my science fiction ebook, Glitch, wth illustrations you’ll only find here.  You can read starting at Chapter 1 here. 

Glitch is available now for $2.98 at Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Apple, Inktera, Versent, Kobo, Diesel, and on Smashwords.  Coming soon to Flipkart, too!

Chapter 3 Helios

Trisha sat forward in her chair, concentrating; elbows on the desk with her jaw resting in the splayed-out fingers of one hand. “I’ve been sending a series of pings in all directions, and I’m getting pings back,” she said.

“I’ve got one ping counterclockwise of MEG1, relative to Mars’s orbit.  That’ll be an asteroid preceding MEG1 in Mars’s orbit, but still in the L4 node.  Wait.  Two.  I’ve got two pings; two small asteroids.”  She paused, staring intently at the screen.

Everyone sat quietly, barely breathing, waiting for more data.

“And here’s a third ping, clockwise from MEG1 now.  An asteroid trailing our position.”  Another pause.

“MEG1 should have received a ping back from the blob in front of the sun by now.  Even if it’s too far for topography.  We have all the large Trojans plotted, and our…”  Lee waved towards the wall screen.  “Our blob is none of them.  It’s got to be small, so it’s got to be close.”

“But there’s nothing there,” he said with finality.  Trisha was nodding her agreement.

Rob looked over at Lee.  He has rolled his shirt sleeves up past his elbows and lifted his mic away from his mouth.  He spread his hands out, empty, for emphasis.

“What?” Rob said, pointing to the screen.  “We see it.  There’s got to be something there.”

“Nope.  Nothing.  At least, nothing solid.”

“Even a dust cloud would give some kind of echo,” Trisha said, looking over her shoulder at them.

Rob was about to ask the Arizona crew, yet again, if their imagers were operating properly, when something else changed.

314px-Dawn_Flight_Configuration_2

NASA’s spacecraft DAWN

“Our problem is getting worse,” Lee said as he turned back towards the front of the room.  “Look at the visible-light image.”

Rob jerked his head up and looked at the left wall screen.  Half the sun’s disk was now scooped away.  But Lee was right that something was changing.  At the left side of the screen, opposite the remains of the sun, a bright point of light had appeared.  Rob quickly pulled the image to his work station and replayed the clip from the last few seconds.  A tiny point of light appeared and began to grow.  He looked back up at the wall screen.  The point of light was a little bit brighter.  The spectrum display on the right-hand screen was changing too.  The intensity had been dropping as the sun was blotted out by whatever was happening.  Now the intensity was slowly increasing.

Rob turned his mic on. Continue reading

The City of Ember #ScienceFiction #BookReview #review

city of ember

In this science fiction story, people live in a small city inside some sort of enclosure they do not understand.  All their light is artificial and most of their food and other supplies come from storerooms left by the mysterious “Builders”.  The lighting system is breaking down and supplies are running out.  Authorities deny the problems, so two teenagers try to solve the mystery.

This book would be suitable for youngsters as well as adults.  I enjoyed it and read it quickly.  DuPrau establishes her world quite well.  I liked the main characters and wanted to see them succeed.  Even though the ending sets the reader up for another book, it was satisfying enough as a stand-alone book.

The City of Ember – By Jeanne DuPrau

Europa May Be the Best Place to look for Neighbors

Europa InteriorA new science fiction movie, Europa Report, is out this summer.  Early reviews say the movie makers have tried to present a realistic depiction of this Jovian moon.  In real life, NASA is trying to develop a cryobot that could penetrate Europa’s ice-covered surface and search for life.  Reports have said that Europa’s ocean could harbor life, and some have theorized that it is the most likely place to find life in the solar system.  Life on Earth in deep ocean vents could offer a model of life in Europa.  The tidal forces Jupiter creates in its moons would offer plenty of energy for chemosynthetic life to exist far removed from sunlight.

Europa model - Champagne_vent_white_smokers

Earthly deep ocean vent

Robotic missions don’t seem to be exciting enough for Hollywood movies, but I would love to see a real cryobot submersible swimming through Europa’s oceans searching for life.  That would be exciting enough for me, especially if the mission found life.