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March 3rd, 2014

At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft

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The classic pulp horror tale of the Old Ones and the awful truth about penguins.


At the Mountains of Madness

Astounding Stories, 1936, 128 pages



A master of terror and nightmarish visions, H.P. Lovecraft solidified his place at the top of the horror genre with this macabre supernatural tale.

When a geologist leads an expedition to the Antarctic plateau, his aim is to find rock and plant specimens from deep within the continent. The barren landscape offers no evidence of any life form - until they stumble upon the ruins of a lost civilization. Strange fossils of creatures unknown to man lead the team deeper, where they find carved stones dating back millions of years. But it is their discovery of the terrifying city of the Old Ones that leads them to an encounter with an untold menace.

Deliberately told and increasingly chilling, At the Mountains of Madness is a must-have for every fan of classic terror.


Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!




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'Steaming like raw meat dropped onto a hot stove'

Image: Cover of The Departure, by Neal Asher

It's not news that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have a soft spot for space opera; I confess, the big space base (which I initially mistook for a starship of some sort) adorning the cover of Neal Asher's novel, The Departure, helped sell me on it.

As it turned out though, The Departure hardly qualifies as space-opera and only squeaks by as science fiction pretty much the way Superman does: on technicalities only.

Though it's set in the future and some of the action takes place in orbit and on Mars, the book is really just a narrated first-person shooter dressed up in some SF tropes — a corrupt and incompetent world government, artificial intelligence, robotic weapons and a transhuman genesis.

But all that is only window-dressing. That spectacular cover is a gateway to lugubrious dialogue, sophomoric libertarian philosophy, hackneyed world-building and, especially, to one pornographic blood-bath after another.

The Departure is one of the worst books I have read in a very long time. More boring than Atlas Shrugged (which I reviewed a while back), it drips with just as much contempt for ordinary human beings. Unlike Rand's John Galt though, Asher's superman does much of his killing at first-hand.

Does this novel have any redeeming qualities? The short answer is "no". The long answer lives behind this link.

February 25th, 2014

Insofar as he is remembered at all Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) is remembered mostly as a writer for film and television. He wrote many episodes of the original Twilight Zone series (including quite a few that are generally considered to be among the best ever episodes of that series) as well as contributing to most of the other suspense/horror anthology series of that time such as Thriller, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He also wrote some excellent film scripts, his credits including horror classics like Night of the Eagle, The Premature Burial, The Haunted Palace, The 7 Faces of Dr Lao and Masque of the Red Death. His very promising career was cut short by his death from Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 38.

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Yonder

February 13th, 2014

In his 2007 book on human evolution, Before the Dawn, New York Times science write Nicholas Wade makes an interesting observation on science fiction. He says that the thing that science fiction most often gets wrong is that it disregards evolution, that it assumes that human evolution has stopped. People in the distant future may be very different from us, so different that they may have changed to the point of being a different species.

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February 8th, 2014

Are there any scholarly (or semi-scholarly) books on the subject of science fiction that you'd recommend?

January 17th, 2014

I've noticed that no-one else has posted a list of the best science fiction they read in 2013. Does anyone want to share their list with us?

January 16th, 2014

It's 2014...

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exploud
Has this community been migrated over to the Facebooks?

I ask since LiveJournal has more users than Google+.

January 14th, 2014

Necessary Evil, by Ian Tregillis

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Nazi supermen vs. British warlocks in a do-over to save the world.


Necessary Evil

Tor, 2013, 384 pages



May 12, 1940, Westminster, London, England: the early days of World War II.

Again.

Raybould Marsh, one of "our" Britain's best spies, has travelled to another Earth in a desperate attempt to save at least one timeline from the Cthulhu-like monsters who have been observing our species from space and have already destroyed Marsh's timeline. In order to accomplish this, he must remove all traces of the supermen that were created by the Nazi war machine and caused the specters from outer space to notice our planet in the first place.

His biggest challenge is the mad seer Greta, one of the most powerful of the Nazi creations, who has sent a version of herself to this timeline to thwart Marsh. Why would she stand in his way? Because she has seen that in all the timelines she dies and she is determined to stop that from happening, even if it means destroying most of humanity in the process. And Marsh is the only man who can stop her.

Necessary Evil is the stunning conclusion to Ian Tregillis' Milkweed series.


Let's do World War II again, because it was so much fun the first time!




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January 6th, 2014

My favourite science fiction reads of 2013:

J. J. Connington, Nordenholt’s Million. Early example of post-apocalyptic science fiction, with some challenging ethical dilemmas. Published in 1923.

Dennis Wheatley, The Man Who Missed the War. How Atlantis almost won the Second World War. Totally crazy but great fun. Published in 1945.

A Merritt, The Moon Pool. One of Merritt's best lost world tales. Published in 1919.

Max Pemberton, The Iron Pirate. A mighty ironclad battleship threatens the world. Published in 1898.

Donald E. Keyhoe, The Vanished Legion. Science fictional aviation adventure stories, published between 1932 and 1934.

November 15th, 2013

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

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A revenge-epic space opera that's almost as clever as it's trying to be.


Ancillary Justice

Orbit, 2013, 416 pages



On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

From debut author Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice is a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.


Artificial intelligences working for evil Space not-Romans, gender ambiguity, and the Dumbest. Revenge. Plan. Ever.




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