Simon Morden’s Metrozone trilogy first caught my attention back in 2011 with its seriously brilliant covers – a quite literally eye-catching style (and stylishness) which the publisher unfortunately abandoned for the trilogy omnibus as well as for this fourth volume of the series in favour of some considerably more conventional (and considerably more boring) SciFi-cover.
Empty Space is – after Light and Nova Swing – the third installment in M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy. Nobody who has read the previous volumes (and I strongly recommend doing so before tackling this one) will expect any major reveals or a neat tying-up of loose threads from this, but even so, the lack of closure here is quite amazing, and I for one can not discern any reason why the author should not continue the series, should he feel so inclined.
Firebird is volume six of Jack McDevitt’s “Alex Benedict” series of archeological mysteries in a Science Fiction setting, a series that found its formula in its second volume and has stuck to it very closely since then. This novel, too, chugs along smoothly and comfortably along the rails laid down by previous volumes in the series – some things, however, are different this time round, and if Firebird doesn’t exactly deviate from the established formula it does expand on it somewhat.
The Fractal Prince by Finnish-born author Hannu Rajaniemi (who according to his author biography now lives in Scotland and has a Ph.D. in string theory, whatever that is (I can’t help but imagine a guy in an academic gown and wearing a mortarboard playing Cat’s Cradle, but I suppose that this is probably slightly off the mark)) is the second part of a trilogy; the first part, The Quantum Thief, received a huge amount of attention (almost all of it positive, most critics were positively ecstatic about the novel) when it was published, while the release of the second one for some reason seems to have barely gotten noticed. I really have not the faintest clue why the novel appears to have ended up below anybody’s radar, and it is even more of a mystery to as I think the second volume is even better than the first (and I already liked that one considerably).
Joachim Boaz of the excellent blog Science Fiction and Other Ruminations has been hosting a series of guest posts on the work of Michael Bishop. He kindly asked me to contribute something as well, and of course I did not have to think twice to accept (this was the first time ever anyone asked me to do a guest post, after all); so now you can read my post on Michael Bishop’s novel A Little Knowledge here.
With this third volume of Robert Silverberg’s Collected Stories (you can find my posts on the previous volumes here and here), spanning the years from 1969 to 1972, we finally get to the really good stuff. While there were some excellent stories among his earlier output, the period from ca. the late sixties to mid seventies marks the high point of Silverberg’s Science Fiction witing and sees most of his major works published, among them acknowledged classics like Dying Inside and The Book of Skulls. In fact, I’d argue that this period is much more deserving of the epitheton “Golden Age of Science Fiction” than the fifties to which it is usually applied, because from about the middle of the sixties onwards Science Fiction stopped (for the most part, at least) to naively and unknowingly project the present into the future: instead, the genre became self-aware when authors found out that they had something meaningful to say beyond pulp adventures and and began to use the future to consciously examine the present.
Science Fiction and Romance seem on first sight to be pretty much incompatible genres: the first is based on supposedly “hard” science, based on facts and concerned with what is plausible, the second on supposedly “soft” emotions, based on feelings and concerned with reaching a Happily Ever After ending, no matter how unlikely. And, of course, the first is quintessentially male, the second quintessentially female. And if you think that latter statement is behind the times and that surely we’ve moved beyond that kind of moronic sexism, then think again. And check out some of the blatantly sexist stuff exploding all over the SFF fandom with depressing regularity, or just read up on Ann Aguirre’s own experiences as a female Science Fiction author.