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1995 - Year in SF&F: October



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
1995: October

Read other issues here

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Allen Steele
"The Death of Captain Future"
(Captain Future series)
© IASFM, Oct 1995
--novella : 1996 Hugo W
--novella : 1996 Locus /6
--novella : 1996 Asimov's Reader Poll /7
--novella : 1996 SF Chronicle /2
--novella : 1997 Nebula
--foreign short fiction : 1998 Seiun W


A noble effort. This is genuinely heart-warming! Somebody not only remembers Captain Future, but sets out to write a tribute to the old "salty dog of the spaceways". On top of that, this somebody is not some novelty or one-shot-parody producer like Silverberg or Mike Resnick or such, but a toughened space fiction professional Allen Steele. No wonder I started to read this novella with a pleasant goosebumps of expectation, waiting to lap up the successful entry like a grateful puppy. But this was not to be. I was disappointed. The adventure is there, the aliens and villains are more sophisticated and street-smart, the polit-correctness (in the form of pervading cynicism) is there as well, and the charm is irrevocably gone. I am not even speaking of yellowed pulp pages charm and cheesy dialogue and primitive plot charm, which would be a good riddance after all, but the romance of the spaceways and the gleam in the eye of an intrepid space explorer are gone... Supressed by smooth (and quite unexciting) story-telling, run-of-the-mill "reality show" dialogue and the general contemporary feel - which in its "Ikea" enthusiasm did away with the fancy baroque embellishments of Forties pulp fiction. Still it's a good effort (it even won a Hugo award), but it will not be added to my "Captain Future" collection, even as a successful parody. To be a parody, or even a pastiche, it needs a good deal more excitement and humour. However, as it stands, it's quite flat and unmemorable (like eating tofu cheese). Alastair Reynolds would've done a better job, with more flair and colour.
review: 14-Oct-06 (read in 2005)



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David G. Nordley
"Alice's Asteroid"
© IASFM, Oct 1995
--short story : 1996 Locus /15
--short story : 1996 Asimov's Reader Poll /5 (tie)

--/ cool sf story

This is a prime example of how easily a "hard science fiction" space story can change into showcase of a writer's scientific knowledge, losing the excitement in the process. More and more of such competent and dry novellas are getting published nowadays, obviously being encouraged by editors and spear-headed by modern "hard sf" giants in the field. Even Larry Niven writes significantly "tamer" and "scientifically/boringly correct" nowadays. Which makes the literature of fantastic imagination a slave to scientifically-proven standards, almost a world- and physics- "syndication" in sf publishing. I know, I know, there is the fantasy genre, theoretically unbound by any science. But what of the space adventures? To my mind, Outer Space is just as wild and unconstricted by any "human scientific dogmas" as Gandalf's fireworks. Go and prove me wrong in the comments. ( I know I'm exaggerating, but I am mightily starved for fresh and non-conforming space fiction)
review: 14-Oct-06 (read in 2003)

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Geoff Ryman
"Warmth"

© Interzone, Oct 1995
--short fiction : 1996 British SF
--fiction : 1996 Interzone Poll


When I went to write this review, I typed Greg Egan instead of Geoff Ryman, subconciously noting the similarities between these two writer's styles, and differences. Geoff Ryman imbued this story with more "warmth" (pun intended) than Egan ever would. (or Asimov, for that matter) The subject matter of this story is pure Asimov - it's about an emotional attachment that a child develops toward its robot nanny. Nothing new, but handled well and smoothly written.
review: 14-Oct-06 (read in 2003)

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Nancy Kress
"Evolution"
© IASFM, Oct 1995
Beaker's Dozen, 1998
--novelette : 1996 Locus /5

One Amazon reader summarizes this tale nicely:""Evolution" takes a very serious topic, antibiotic-resistance in bacteria, and turns it into a bland, Shirley Jackson-esque tale of people becoming uncivilized. I kept thinking after the first few pages, "Ok, I get it. Why should I keep reading?" Yeah, same here. Of course the subject matter is frightening, but the tale is sleep-inducing at most.
review: 14-Oct-06 (read in 2003)

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James P. Hogan
"The Immortality Option" (nv)
(Code Of The Lifemaker 2)
© 1995, Ballantine Del Rey
--series: 1984 Locus /26
--overseas long fiction : 2000 Seiun

--/ cool sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ idea award


This one is a curious literary "fish": on one hand it's a sharp and very competent (and well-researched) epic about the possibilities of robotic evolution, life-codes, AI power games and such. But on the other hand, it is an ungodly mess. The writer mixes the themes, ideas and extrapolations like a retired IBM maniac, or a typical pulp "mad scientist", little caring for the readability or even a slightest character development (in fact I doubt there were even human characters at all, throughout its 400 pages). It reads as an article, as a tractate, or as a Ph. D. thesis, but I cannot call it a novel. Granted it has a tremendous scale and exciting visions of robot cultures and AI domains - but it only serves to re-inforce the "mad scientist ramblings" impression. It's lofty stuff, but after a few chapters you will feel as though your head were cooked in an alchemist's bubbling alembic vessel, and be very fortunate indeed to escape to fresh air.
review: 14-Oct-06 (read in 2003)

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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


All major OFFICIAL AWARDS are highlighted in BLUE
("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

Our PERSONAL AWARDS (ratings) are highlighted in RED and PURPLE:
--/ first place :
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--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
ALL "BEST OF" LISTS ARE LOCATED HERE

These awards are given in the following categories:
- novel :
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- story :
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Also, there are our personal STYLE / GENRE SPECIFIC AWARDS. These reflect the story's content and the lasting impression on the reader:

--/ wonder award
sense-of-wonder, "visual intensity" and inventiveness

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--/ style award
outstanding literary qualities, inimitable style

--/ romance award
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