I had read this as a teenager, and was very interested to find out how it stood up on rereading. It remains rather good - the protagonist is a mid-century American kid with the innate gift of time-travel, which he controls rather better than the husband in The Time-Traveller's Wife. There's a lot of politics here, as a white supremacist time-traveller tries to set up a racist principality at the end of time; can he be stopped, given that time appears to be immutably set in its tracks?

This was also the book from which I learned about the Fourth Crusade; somehow I simply hadn't heard of it before, and Anderson's portrayal of the brutal rupture of Christendom was a vivid historical eye-opener. All the good bits were as good as I remembered, and the bits I didn't remember were not bad at all.

January Books 15) Tau Zero

15) Tau Zero, by Poul Anderson (, .com)

Another of my reading resolutions, one of those sf classics I had never got around to. The fifty-strong crew of a colonisation starship hit a technical problem - they can't shut the drive off, so the ship will keep accelerating towards lightspeed, where the relativistic factor τ approaches zero (hence the title). Although this is billed as one of the hardest of sf books, I suppose because of the importance of the Bussard ramjets to the plot, I found the treatment of the relationships between the crew members very sympathetic and believable, and indeed it's really a story about them than about the technology (which to me moves it off the hard end of the sf spectrum). It's certainly way better than the Heinlein/Robinson Variable Star, which at one point features a similar situation.

Although the crew leave Earth at the very beginning of the book, there too Anderson has designed an interesting background, a post-nuclear war world in which the rest of humanity has agreed to put Sweden in charge (I think he refers also to this setting in There Will Be Time). So the leading members of the crew are Scandinavian and occasionally mutter in Swedish to each other. I would be interested to know if any of the Swedes on my f-list (I know there are at least two of you) has read it, and if you felt Anderson had got it right.

Top UnSuggestion for this book: The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger.

January Books 5) Dangerous Visions

5) Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison

Tried emailing this to LJ as well, but no sign of it. Meantime I posted the gist of it also to a relevant thread on RASFW.

I've bought and reread this because the next story on my list of joint Hugo and Nebula winners is in it, and also in the name of my continuing sfnal education. It's a great collection, 33 stories, the majority of them still fresh.

However, only the Anderson and the Sturgeon stories still qualify as "dangerous"; although homosexuality is now much less of a taboo subject than when Anderson wrote, his portrayal of it in the context of a clash of cultures I think remains valid. Likewise Sturgeon's portrayal of incest, though that if anything is probably even more of a taboo than it was in 1967.

Perhaps my brain has turned to mush, but I found both the Farmer and Emshwiller stories incomprehensible.

I'd classify the Del Rey, Hensley, and Knight stories as of the "Shaggy God" category, along with the Brand; making points about religion and/or God that seem pretty trivial now, but perhaps were more "dangerous" at the time of writing. Perhaps I have just been spoiled by Philip Pullman.

I would rate the Aldiss, Ballard, Brunner, Delany, Dick, Lafferty, Leiber, Pohl, Sladek, Spinrad and Zelazny stories as good to excellent samples of their writing, if not necessarily "dangerous". I also thought the Bunch, "Cross", Dorman, Eisenberg, and Rodman stories were pretty good though I'm less familiar with the authors' oeuvres (indeed the various databases assert that these were the only sf short stories ever published by "Cross" and Rodman, though both published other material).

I did not enjoy the Silverberg and DeFord stories (which both turned out to be about the same future development in the criminal justice system), nor the Bloch/Ellison riffs on Jack the Ripper, because the violence was too gratuitously nasty for my taste.

I thought the Laumer, Neville, Niven and Slesar stories were very weak, taking in each case a silly premise and then failing to do much with it. Actually the Niven is promising enough for most of its length but is then killed by the punchline.

But basically, money well spent. The standout stories for me were Howard Rodman's "The Doll's House", Anderson's "Eutopia" and Dick's "Faith of Our Fathers".

New review

Way way back four years ago I decided to compile a list of the stories which have won both Hugo and Nebula awards. Then I decided it wasn't enough to list them, I should buy them and read them again, or for the first time if I hadn't already. This took a good eight months, with Poul Anderson's "Goat Song" the last story I was able to track down. Finally, I decided that I should do something a bit more substantial, and try writing pieces of around 1000-2000 words about each story, trying to delve a bit more into the background if possible, and at least explaining their impact on one reader, ie me.

listCollapse )

So now I have reached Poul Anderson's "Goat Song" - 23 reviews done, 32 to go. At some more significant point, like the 28th review which will be the half way mark, I shall pause to think about what if anything I have learnt from the process.

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