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The Paranoid Squint of Tim Powers

Tim Powers is my literary hero. He creates secret histories in which historical events are “explained” through fictional embellishments which completely alter history’s meaning. Secret histories have been written by Alexandre Dumas, Gore Vidal, Umberto Eco, and they are especially associated with genre writers like Elizabeth Bear, Steve Berry, and above all, Tim Powers.

Powers’ approach is rigorous. He never allows his fiction to contradict any known historical fact (and he knows a lot). He does, however, allow his fictional additions to make full use of magical and science fictional elements.

Book Review: Neil Gorsuch’s A Republic, If You Can Keep It

Wanted: Civics and Civility

If we are fortunate, the Civil War will be the last time we face destruction by a fire set with our own hands. The threat is now dry-rot, that spreads like a fungus from our lack of understanding of our nation’s fundamental principles, and the lack of communication skills needed to convey them to our fellow citizens. A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch is a plea on both counts.

Book Review: Mistress of the Waves

Amanda Kirasdotr, the main character, grew up on the colony world of Goddard. Enough time has passed that her people are natives of the world and generations behind Earth in technology. It makes the interstellar visitors an incredible novelty, though they have little interest in the colonists. That is, until Amanda saves on who had the misfortune of going sailing without knowing how to swim on a world that lacks the many safety systems they’re accustomed to. This one act turns her life upside down, and it may change her world. And that is the beginning of the book Mistress of the Waves by George Phillies.

Rereading My Favorite Novel: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

In 2019 I read again my favorite novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The experience only hardened my adoration of this book. It’s so full of wonderful descriptions and crazy characters.

Book Review: ‘Spoiler Alert’ by Richard Greene

Spoiler Alert by Richard Greene is, no spoiler here, about spoilers. This philosophy book by Open Court Press is unusual for discussing the ethics, the ethos, the philosophy and many other details about spoilers.

As a science fiction fan and author, I found the concept intriguing. And as a periodic book reviewer, I wanted to know where others thought the line between blurbs and spoilers, trailers and big reveals were.

Reviewed: The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF

I picked up the “The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF” out of curiosity because I read, write and review science fiction, especially apocalyptic science fiction.

The book contains a mix of new and classic science fiction stories grouped by type of apocalypse. For example, there are plague stories and catastrophic global warming stories are grouped together. Then there are classics like “A Pail Full of Air”, “Fermi and Frost” and “When We Went to See the End of the World”.

The stories themselves are hit and miss, and unfortunately, the classics are often better. One notable exception was “The Clockwork Atom Bomb”. A post WW3 Kinshasa has weaponized black holes, and a poor country hit by biowarfare will make use of every resource it has. Another was Cory Doctrow’s “When Sys Admins Ruled the Earth”. Of course a working IT clean room is a safe place to hide during a biowarfare strike. And as XKCD has joked, there are sys admins who will crawl over glass to maintain 99.999999% uptime.

The Psychology Underlying Robert Heinlein’s ‘Friday’

The titular character “Friday” in the novel of the same name is an artificial person. She’s quite human, but she was created in a lab, born via an artificial uterus and raised in a corporate crèche. Her society sees her as inferior, and she sees herself as inferior. That is despite her greater speed, strength and intelligence. I spent a while wondering why, and then it hit me. It is as much due to her upbringing as the much vaunted “conditioning”, though both are by design. Furthermore, social engineering (or a good PR campaign) of broader society has been undertaken for the same purpose.

Sci-Fi Book Review: ‘The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories’

“The Green Leopard Plague and Other Stories” by Walter Jon Williams encapsulate his expectations for a post-scarcity, post-Singularity world. These are worlds where you can upload your mind to a permanent virtual reality or raise children in them to be downloaded later. Nearly every one consists of worlds where nano-beds can scan your body, your mind and maybe even your soul to be downloaded into the body of your choice. Whether a gorilla body on Earth or adapted body on an alien colony world is up to you. Each story asks a different question while seeking to answer it.

Sci-Fi Book Review: ‘Friday’ by Robert Heinlein

“Friday” is one of Heinlein’s last science fiction novels. It isn’t as well known as “Starship Troopers” or “Stranger in a Strange Land” though it shares more with the latter than the former. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Robert Heinlein novel? And where did Heinlein hit the bulls-eye predicting the future in this novel?

Jazz VS. the Nazis: Esi Edugyan’s Extraordinary Half-Blood Blues

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 13: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

So as our series on major Canadian writers draws to a close, it’s time to ask the big questions that hang over everything: Who or what is to blame for the current state of Canadian literature? Why the tiny clique of writers who must content themselves with being the “Canadian Twain” or the “Canadian Bronte” or the “Canadian Faulkner”? Why the over-reliance on over-hyped creations like Atwood or Boyden? Where is the counterculture pushing for change, any change?

After spending more than a decade enmeshed in Canadian politics and culture, the only conclusion I can draw is: There is no impetus for change. Canadians simply don’t care whether they have a robust culture or not. Because if they did, there would be artists and funders and a homegrown Canadian counterculture movement, just like there is in every other country.

But, as the case of Esi Edugyan proves, there is no interest in building such a counterculture movement, even when the perfect leader of that would-be movement is right there.

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