Archives

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Format: Paperback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I picked the book up (not for the first time, I should add) after watching the movie with our 6yo daughter. She had loved the movie – particularly Marvin, the depressed robot – and asked to have the book read to her.

We loved reading it. It was described as being “like a crazy dream”, and indeed, when the impossibility drive is in action, it certainly is very much like that. Completely wacky and unpredictable, it’s an excellent, entertaining and thought-provoking read. Very much enjoyed in this household.

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Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I clearly wasn’t paying attention when I picked up this book to read, as I hadn’t realised it was a GE tale. So I was delighted to discover I was in a corner of the Foundation empire, albeit a very distant, small corner. Nonetheless, this book, while focussed on Earth, retains the vastness of the GE, and so it was perfect for me.

Joseph Schwartz, in the 20th century, picks up his foot and puts it down in GE 827. Disoriented and confused, he finds himself at a farmstead among people who speak a language incomprehensible to him – as his is to them. Soon he finds himself the subject of a scientific experiment, the Synapsifier, purported to make people very, VERY clever.

Meanwhile, Bel Arvardan, an archaeologist from Sirius, arrives on Earth, intent on proving once and for all that it is the planet origin of the human race. He has his suspicions, but proof would be appreciated.

It doesn’t take any kind of degree to realise that, in Joseph Schwartz, Arvardan has the proof he’s searching for, but more problematic is the Society of Ancients, the rulers of Earth and their hide-bound prejudices – not to mention their intent on wiping out the rest of the Galactic Empire with some nasty bug they’ve developed – and other obstacles that stand in the way of Arvardan even knowing of Schwartz’s existence.

I always love a good story from Asimov, and this is no exception. I didn’t see the resolution coming, and to that I doff my proverbial cap to this master of deception and storytelling.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Format: Paperback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I’ve known of this book for many years, and though people have recommended me, I just never got around to reading it – until now.

Bill Masen, a biologist who works with triffids, is in hospital, recovering from an accident with a triffid. On the day he is due to have bandages removed from his eyes and find out if his sight has survived the attack, he awakens to silence. Certainly, the whole world is different to how it was when he went to sleep the night before. Discovering that he is one of the fortunate ones to have not been blinded when green lights appeared in the night sky, he soon ventures out into the new world.

This story is of how Bill acclimatises to the new world, the people he meets and how he survives. It is also a story of the menace of the triffids.

I really enjoyed this tale. Although it may appear gentle and somewhat primitive relative to more contemporary post-apocalyptic tales, the menace of the triffids is especially chilling, and Masen’s assessment of life is, I felt, quite spot on. I really appreciated how Wyndham really got into Masen’s head and asked (and perhaps answered) genuine questions about how life would be following an apocalypse.

A very good read. Why did it take me so long to pick it up?

Palimpsest by Charles Stross

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Palimpsest. Noun. a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text. (link)

Stasis. Noun. a state or condition in which there is no action or progress. (link)

Agent Pierce is a member of Stasis, an organisation of time travellers who have tasked themselves with the preservation of humanity and the recording of humanity’s history. His initiation into Stasis was to murder his grandfather – effectively writing himself out of the history books. When he survives an ambush, he is contacted by a doctoral researcher he eventually marries. But things fall apart when he travels through time to the Final Library and finds no record of the time line in which he marries the researcher.

I really really enjoyed this story. It certainly was a great way to end off my travels through The Time Traveller’s Almanac. In Palimpsest Stross creates an explosive cocktail of some of the themes I love best from scifi: deep time, time travel and the time travel paradox. While this novella is somewhat complex, at the same time it’s relatively simple. I could definitely see scope for it being expanded considerably, but I also like that Stross leaves some of the story to my imagination to fill in.

Definitely a huge thumbs up to this story from this scifi fan.

If Ever I Should Leave You by Pamela Sargent

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The narrator of this story remains nameless. Her husband is Yuri Malenkov, and when we meet them, Yuri is dying – having cheated death for around three hundred years – apparently that’s what people do. In the last six months Yuri has made many time travel trips, and he dies the night after he returns from his final trip.

The reason Yuri made those many trips was so his wife could travel to meet him again after he has left her. And eventually she does make use of the time slots he logged and visits with him as time passes.

It isn’t explained how people in this setting cheat death, but apparently they can rejuvenate – but only for so long. Then they age rather rapidly.

This was a really lovely, gentle story of timeless love, and I enjoyed it very much. And there’s a bit of a plot twist that just put the cherry on top of the cake.