readingtrance

book reviews by Althea


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Nebula Awards 30: SFWA’s Choices For The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year – Pamela Sargent ****

The 1996 annual from the prestigious awards committee.
includes:
7 well-known authors weighing in on the year in sf&f…

Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge – Mike Resnick
A team of alien anthropologists are at the alleged birthplace of
Man, Africa’s Olduvai Gorge, to study the extinct species. By
“assimilating” artifacts, one of the aliens is able to relive events associated with
that item. Different items, arranged in chronological order, give insight
into humanity and its demise.

Inspiration – Ben Bova
A time traveller conspires to have a depressed young Albert Einstein
meet H.G. Wells, in order to be inspired. The jaded scientist Kelvin
is also present at the informal meeting – as is a bigoted waitress
and her son…

Virtual Love – Maureen F. McHugh
A handicapped woman is a talented virtuoso in the VR environments
that are the social networking sites of the future – but when she meets
an equally talented man online, she is afraid to admit what she is in
reality…

None So Blind – Joe Haldeman
A socially inept genius falls in love with, and eventually marries, a
blind woman. But when he turns his intellect onto the problem of her
handicap, the world is in for a shocking change to the very fabric of
society.

Fortyday – Damon Knight
In this rather inconclusive story, Knight postulates a society where
people only age until their 40th birthday – then reverse the process and start
growing younger, until they simply shrink away.

A biographical sketch/memorial to Robert Bloch.

The Martian Child – David Gerrold
A partially autobiographical story about Gerrold adopting a young boy
who believes that he is literally a Martian.

3 poems

Understanding Entropy – Barry Malzberg
A memorial, (or indictment?) it seems, to a gay friend who died of AIDS.

I Know What You’re Thinking – Kate Wilhelm
A telepathic woman finds that her ability is driving away her husband
and those around her. Can she strive to be ‘normal’? Or can she find a use for her
ability, or others like herself?

A Defense of the Social Contracts – Martha Soukup
OK, this story is weird. I can’t quite figure it out. It posits a world
in which individuals legally register their sexual habits – are they monogamous,
in a group marriage, a swinger, celibate, etc. A woman becomes obsessed with
her registered-non-monogamous lover, hacks his personal records, and
without his assent, forces him into a legal “marriage” to her. Things go
from bad to worse – she basically ruins his life, and he flips out.
However, I get the impression that the author wants us to have sympathy
for the woman, because she is “in love.” The problem is – I have none. The
character is well and truly crazy, disrespectful, and really a horrible person. Her
actions are unconscionable and inexcusable.
It’s also not such a sci-fi kind of premise – plenty of people in
today’s world negotiate open relationships, and someone who would create an
elaborate lie to make someone’s other lovers believe he had agreed to a
monogamous marriage with you, when they hadn’t, would be a crazy jerk in this
world as well as in some theoretical future!

essay on sf & f films

The Matter of Seggri – Ursula K. LeGuin
An exploration of a society that springs up in a situation where women
outnumber men 16 to 1. Shows the world through a number of vignettes from
different characters’ perspectives.

an excerpt from Moving Mars – Greg Bear
This excerpt deals with a student protest on Mars – which ends badly. (I’d read the book before.)

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