Phyllis Gotliebs Violent Stars is the sequel to her Flesh and Gold (reviewed here in May 1998), at the end of which the criminal
organization known as Zamos had had a serious monkey wrench tossed
into their system of brothels, casinos, and genetically engineered
slaves. Zamos is on trial now, with long processions of dinosauroid
Khagodis, humans, amoeboid Lyhhrt (superlative bio and mechanical
engineers long enslaved by the evil, insectile Ix), and others.
Violent Stars, Phyllis Gotlieb, TOR, $23.95, 284 pp. (ISBN: 0-312-86953-3)
Now meet Tom Bullivant, Terran Ambassador to Khagodis, just arrived
with Verona, the daughter of his late wife. The wife, long ago,
was kidnapped and tormented. Bully married her, knowing she was
pregnant, and watched helplessly as she spiraled downward into
madness. Now it is Veronas turn, for there she is, safe in her
room on Khagodis, when an Ix breaks through the roof and carries
her off. The message for her father is: "We have lost the bitch
but we have the whelp. If you do not stop prosecuting and persecuting
our people the whelp will suffer nine powers of six times what
the bitch did."
Zamos and Ix, allied evils bestriding the civilized worlds, do
their utmost to stop the trial and maintain their grips. Ned Gattes,
hero of the last book, has been summoned to aid the trial; now
he must rescue Verona. Skerow, the Khagodis judge we met before,
must shield her against Ix rapacity, while Hasso, child of Skerows
late lover, uses his talents as a master of archives to unearth
disturbing links between Verona, her mother, and Zamos.
And so it goes. This is an active, violent, exciting tale of conspiracies
and schemes, and a very satisfactory conclusion to what began
in Flesh and Gold.
French-Canadian Joel Champetiers The Dragons Eye appeared in French in 1991. Now Jean-Louis Trudel has translated
it into English, and TOR is offering it to the American market
with a blurb calling Champetier "a stunning new talent."
The Dragons Eye, Joel Champetier, TOR, $23.95, 301 pp. (ISBN: 0-312-86882-0).
Some of thats hype, of course. Champetiers better than many,
maybe even better than most, but my socks stayed on. Eye is set on the distant colony world of New China, most of which
was turned over to the Chinese for colonization. An island enclave
was retained by Earths dominant European-Japanese economy, which
had backed the colonization effort with many gigabucks. Here are
based the military forces meant to ensure repayment of the debt
and a number of secret agent groups keeping eyes on each other
and the New Chinese, who are rebuilding ancient China and muttering
about declaring independence from Earth and repudiating their
massive debt. The echoes of Earths own China, flanked by European
outposts at Hong Kong and Macao, is surely deliberate. Todays
reader may think of Chinas recent reassertion of hegemony over
Hong Kong, but there are earlier parallels as well.
At any rate, Earth wants to know what is going on. Thus the latest
ship brings Commander Wang Zhong, on a secret mission, and Réjean
Tanner, new man for the local European Bureau. Alas, an apparent
assassination attempt on the New Chinese head honcho puts Wang
in the hospital. Tanner inherits the mission: infiltrate the mainland,
find the mole in the New Chinese government, who has gone unaccountably
silent, and bring him back for debriefing.
And now begins the magical mystery tour through a China that might
once have been, reborn on a strange new world flooded with ultraviolet
by a green binary known as the Eye of the Dragon, and peopled
by ordinary folks busily adapting and learning to thrive. Theres
plenty of local color, the characters are satisfying, and the
games Champetier plays with our own history are interesting. The
book is a clear success, and youll surely enjoy it.
But to call it stunning seems a bit of a stretch.
Jerry Jay Carroll made a hit with Top Dog, in which Wall Street takeover shark Bogey Ingersol was magicked
into another world to help Satans local minion, Zalzathar, stomp
the Forces of Good. Zalzathar had been trying for someone else,
Bernie Soderberg, an even more kindred spirit, but Bogey was what
he gotin the form of a dog who, in due time, switched to the
side of the angels. Zalzathar lost even though Satan himself got
into the act to help. Bogey went home, and his body woke up from
Dog Eat Dog, Jerry Jay Carroll, Ace, $12, 295 pp. (ISBN: 0-441-00597-7)
And he was a changed man. He served his time, lost weight, quit
ripping off widows and orphans, and moved to California to take
in stray dogs and give his money away. But its a Dog Eat Dog world. Soderberg seems to have changed toohes lining up for
a run at the White House, hes spending money on consultants like
it was popcorn, news photos show a Mr. Dark who looks a lot like
Zalzathar whispering in his ear, and Pig Faces (Zalzathars shock
troops in the other world) are slaughtering Bogeys neighbors.
Whats a reformed wolf to do but go to psychiatrist Alex Epperly,
who thinks Bogeys story is classically delusional, just dreams
from a coma, until he shows up on her doorstep as a chihuahua
and enlists her in the battle to save the Earth with the aid of
an angel or two, a lawyer of flexible ethic$, a private security
agency, and a political consultant with a knack for some hilarious
dirty tricks. The end is never, of course, in doubt, but Carroll
gives you your moneys worth of entertainment on the way.
When I reviewed Don DeBrandts Steeldriver a year ago, I said that anyone who enjoys Mike Resnicks use
of tall tales in SF should have fun with it. That novel used the
myth of John Henry, the steel-drivin man, and wound up saying
that the eternal struggle is to escape not the bonds of the machine,
but the bonds of the machines masters, the human monsters whose
drive is to enslave their fellows.
Timberjak, Don DeBrandt, Ace, $5.99, 370 pp. (ISBN: 0-441-00626-4)
In Timberjakstarring Paul Banyan and his sidekick Bob the blue Shinnkarien
OxDeBrandt tackles environmental protection. The survivors of
the previous taleHone, the cyber-enhanced "repo man" who killed
Jon Hundred; Mike, who now has no body and dwells in hyperspace;
Melody, an AI; and a stowaway Tooliehave been fleeing a fleet
of Manticores, death machines sent to destroy the traitor Hone.
Now they have reached Shinnkaria, whose forests yield a wood that
generates force fields and is essential to interstellar travel.
Part of the forest is the Indigo Wild, where both minds and electronics
stop working and assorted nasty beasts defend the premises. So
does Johnny Rainforest, who wants Paul Banyans logging operation
shut down and sends those nasties to make his point. Theres also
a slimeball lawyer who wants to set up a corporate takeover and
shave the planet bald.
Among the things driving Johnny are the knowledge that Paul has
been upping production and the suspicion that Paul is a planet-shaver.
Paul, however, has a different agenda, and when our Manticore-bait
heroes show up, he hires them to stop Johnny. They succeed, of
course, but they also discover that alien technologies underlie
the planets peculiarities, save the planet itself, remove the
lawyer from the scene, rehabilitate the misguided environmentalist,
and come up with a quite dreadful terminal pun.
A nice action story that gains a nice degree of added charm because
it reminds us of a childhood favorite.
Ginny Greylock and Steve Matuchek are back in Poul Andersons
Operation Luna, the sequel to Operation Chaos (1971). Shes a witch, and hes a werewolf and a spacecraft engineer
who works with "goetic" (magical) instead of electronic forces.
That is, heres a classic Unknown-type blend of magic and rationalism, a world drawn to seem as
parallel as possible to our own, with many a sly dig and witty
reminder. The situation is this: Faerie has apparently moved to
the Moon, and the U.S., using a spacecraft scientists acquired
after war with the Caliphate (instead of Germany), is constructing
an Apollo equivalent. Alas, despite a profusion of magical protections,
it malfunctions shortly after launch and it quickly emerges that
malign forces are at work.
Operation Luna, Poul Anderson, TOR, $22.95, 316 pp. (ISBN: 0-312-86706-9)
With the NASA (National Astral Spellcraft Administration) effort
dead, any future trips to the Moon must be up to Steves own low-budget
Operation Luna. He gains the assistance of Fjalar, a Norwegian dwarf, and soon
has a high-tech broom, as lean and mean as a home-built jet. But
the forces of evil have winded him, and he and Ginny, with the
help of a Zuni Priest of the Bow and Fjalar, must fight off the
diabolical taxman, cleanse the soul of Ginnys brother, rescue
a child trapped on a one-way voyage to the Oort Cloud, and save
the Fair Folk from the demons.
If you recall the earlier novel, this is a suitable sequel, every
bit as satisfying as one expects from the master.
Stephen Pagels Meisha Merlin Publishing looks like a winning
operation. Its still small, but it has a nice roster of authors,
the titles in hand look like winners, and Pagels table in the
Boskone dealer room was quite busy.
Plan B, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Meisha Merlin (P. O. Box 7, Decatur,
GA 30031), $14, 335 pp. (ISBN: 1-892065-00-2)
Sharon Lees and Steve Millers Plan B is the long awaited continuation of their Liaden Universe series,
which began in the late eighties with Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, and Carpe Diem (reviewed here in April 1990). The publisher dropped the series
just as it hovered on the cusp of great developments, and for
a decade Liaden fans have pestered Sharon and Steve for more.
Happily, they have found another publisher in Meisha Merlin, who
plans to reissue the earlier books in the omnibus volume Partners in Necessity; there will also be other books.
Liaden is a world organized by clans, one of which is Korval,
quirky and independent enough to be a special target for destruction
by the nefarious Department of the Interior, which once had Val
Con yosPhelium thoroughly under its thumb. Fortunately, Val Con
got loose, together with his lifemate Miri. Clan Korval decided
it was under attack and it was time to put the long-plotted "Plan
B" into action, meaning to disperse and hunker while Val Cons
brother Shan arms his merchant ship, and Val Con and Miri visit
the world of Lytaxin to nail down her identity as a long-lost
scion of Erob, a clan long and intimately allied with Korval.
Of course, while theyre there, the Yxtrang (something like a
horde of giant Mongols or wild Dorsai) attack Lytaxin and must
be resisted until all the various friends and relations of Val
Con and Miri can converge on the battle zone to bestow whatever
coup de grace remains unbestowed.
When I reviewed Carpe Diem, I had both praise and reservations. The latter centered in part
on a certain murkiness owing to the tales dependence on preceding
volumes. The dependence remains, but the murkiness is gone. Sharon
and Steve used their time between publishers to good advantage,
honing this one into an exciting romp that promises their fans
a great deal of fun with future volumes.
Allen Steeles Sex and Violence in Zero-G collects all of his "Near-Space" stories except "Red Planet Blues,"
including "The Weight," a novella previously published only by
Englands Legend and reviewed here in August 1996 ("it centers
on the voyage of the Medici Explorer, a deep-space shepherd for a convoy of automated freighters,
from lunar orbit to Jupiter, where it will pick up a shipment
of Helium-3 for Earths fusion power plants. . . . quite descriptive
of the ship, its procedures, and its crewan extended family
of a sort Heinlein would have liked. For drama, Steele tosses
in a bit of resentment of media interest in the familys sex life,
the rescue of a marooned space-wreck survivor, and an insurrection
at the Helium-3 depot. The overall effect is thoughtful but light.
. ."). There are also a few new items, including "0.0G Sex: A
Users Guide" (instructions for use of the fornicatorium on a
deep space liner), a "Near-Space Timeline," and sketches of ships
and space stations.
Sex and Violence in Zero-G, Allen Steele, Meisha Merlin (P. O. Box 7, Decatur, GA 30031),
$16, 431 pp. (ISBN: 0-9658345-9-X)
A "must-have" for Steele fans.
Last February 22, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
(SFWA) announced their choice of Hal Clement (Harry Clement Stubbs)
for the 1998 Grand Master award, representing "the pinnacle of
peer recognition in the genres of science fiction and fantasy."
This award is given "by SFWA in recognition of a lifetime of achievement
in science fiction and/or fantasy writing. . . . Previous Grand
Masters include Robert A. Heinlein (1974), Jack Williamson (1975),
Clifford D. Simak (1976), L. Sprague de Camp (1978), Fritz Leiber
(1981), Andre Norton (1983), Arthur C. Clarke (1985), Isaac Asimov
(1986), Alfred Bester (1987), Ray Bradbury (1988), Lester del
Rey (1990), Frederik Pohl (1992), Damon Knight (1994), A. E. van
Vogt (1995), Jack Vance (1996), and Poul Anderson (1997)." Hal
began his career with an Astounding short story ("Proof") in 1946 and went on to write seminal works
of hard SF such as Mission of Gravity, which "typifies Clements imaginative creation of scientifically
plausible but truly weird worlds, a recurring theme of his work.
A clean, spare writer with an ability to dramatize complex scientific
ideas in a compelling way, Clement invariably leaves the reader
with the sense that the universe is a fascinating and wonderful
placeand the laws that govern its behavior are equally fascinating
and wonderful. Consequently, his work has influenced and inspired
a whole generation of scientists and engineers as well as a whole
generation of writers." [quotations from the SFWA press release]
If you think that sounds like so much nostalgic hype, youre too
young to remember Hal and his work. You should therefore get on
the stick and immediately order a copy of The Essential Hal Clement, Volume 1: Trio for Slide Rule & Typewriter, which includes the novels Needle (1949) (symbiotes as cops and robbers), Iceworld (1951) (heat-lovers visit Earth), and Close to Critical (1958) (survival in question on a high-gravity, high-pressure
world), all once Astounding serials and still eminently readable.
If youre familiar with Hals work and know that press release
tells it true, you will be delighted to know that NESFA plans
two more attractive hardbounds to replace those ratty old paperbacks
on your bookshelves.
NESFA also brings us The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy
of Anthony Boucher. Boucher, whose real name was William Anthony Parker White, was
the co-founder of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction way back in 1949, was a well-known mystery writer, edited popular
SF anthologies, and in the 1940s wrote a great deal of SF&F for
Unknown Worlds and Astounding.
Youll find the storiesforty-five of themhere, beginning with
the one editor Jim Mann calls his best, "The Quest for Saint Aquin."
Many are short, witty, and as readable as ever even if styles
have changed in the last half-century. One item is particularly
tasty: Boucher was also a critic, opera fan, and gourmet chef,
and to prove that last, Mann caps the book with his "Recipe for
Curry De Luxe."
Its technology, this is a science fiction magazine, and Library Journals review said, "This fascinating and exquisitely referenced true
story reads like twisted science fiction," so please bear with
me as I tell you about Rachel P. Mainess The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Womens
Sexual Satisfaction, no matter how vigorously your eyebrows are denting the ceiling.
The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Womens
Sexual Satisfaction, Rachel P. Maines, Johns Hopkins University Press, $22, 184 +
xx pp. (ISBN: 0-8018-5941-7)
First, the preface is a hoot and a half, for the author displays
a very nice sense of humor as she recounts the receptions her
talks and papers on her books topic have received.
Second, the book is quite serious and extraordinarily illuminating
and thought-provoking. Maines tells us that "hysteria" is an ancient
ailment whose symptoms have occasionally been recognized as those
of sexual excitement unrelieved by orgasm. Our culture has long
focused on the "androgenic model" of sexuality, meaning penetration
and male orgasm, and assumed that what satisfies him should certainly satisfy her, despite data showing that "androgenic" sex leaves most women
high and dry. Her resulting condition has been defined by male
doctors as an illness. The treatment was pelvic massage, generally
by hand. Treatment was an office-visit cash cow for physicians,
and despite the prurient giggle the idea may arouse in us today,
few of those physicians seemed to find much thrill in it. Indeed,
stimulating female patients to relief of their symptoms of orgasmic
deprivation was "the job nobody wanted"; physicians palmed it
off on interns and midwives, and when technology produced substitutes
for the hand, they welcomed it.
In the nineteenth century, one popular technology was hydrotherapy,
meaning the use of water under pressuredouches and hosesto vibrate
the pelvic tissues. The major problem with it was apparently keeping
the patients from overindulging.
Other techniques included steam-powered massagers and electrically
powered vibrators, some of which looked Rube-Goldbergy enough
to scare a modern into orgasmic incapability. The mechanisms quickly
shrank in size, and when they appeared in stag films such as "Widows
Delight" in the 1920s, they stopped appearing in physicians offices.
Instead, they went home, with even Sears, Roebuck advertising
"Aids That Every Woman Appreciates" (the attachments included
a mixer and a fan, among other things).
Maines has a good deal to say about the "medicalization" of womens
sexuality, male blindness or obtuseness (which by her account
is quite phenomenal) and selfishness, and "social camouflage,"
which means the immense unconscious effort we can go to to keep
from calling a spade a spade, or a vibrator an orgasm-producer.
In the twenties, she says, the camouflage was ruptured. Advertising
to both the medical and home markets vanished, for the undisguised
vibrator was no longer respectable. By the sixties, however, "the
modern vibrator [had] resurfaced . . . as a frankly sexual toy.
. . [and] few efforts were made to camouflage its sexual benefits."
At least until 1998, when Alabama banned the sale of "sex toys,"
notably including vibrators, as part of its effort to eliminate
sex shops (the penalty if caught is a $10,000 fine and a year
of hard labor). As I was reading Mainess book, the news that
week was that the American Civil Liberties Union and a number
of local women were asking a federal court to strike the state
law down as unconstitutional.
And the camouflage remains intact: Even in Alabama, you can pop
down to Wal-Mart and pick one upthe label says its for massage
and muscle relaxation, and the picture on the box shows it held
against the side of a lovely ladys neck.
But everyone still knows what its really for.
"The Reference Library" copyright 1999, Tom Easton