Archive for September, 2010

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“Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury

September 4, 2010

The Book: “Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in 1946 in Planet Stories as “The Creatures that Time Forgot.”  The edition read is in R is for Rocket, published by Bantam Books in 1978.

The Setting: A distant planet.

The Story: A spaceship crashed on a distant planet where night and day are harsh enough to kill within minutes, and only the hour at dawn and dusk is habitable.  The survivors of the spaceship live in caves in cliffs.  The extreme radiation has accelerated human life so that a full life cycle is lived in only 8 days.  Sim is born, grows, and decides to reach the crashed spaceship (a little more than an hour’s run away) or die trying.  He doesn’t die.

The Science: The science in this story is so, so bad.  Let’s look at the life cycle issue.  Life is 8 days long, okay?  This is because, according to the story, the heart is beating at about 2000 beats per minute, accelerating everything.  Cognitive ability is not impaired because everyone is born with a racial memory going back to the crash.  It’s just…. impossible.  A heart beating that fast is going to explode.  A body growing that quickly is going to overtax itself, even if the owner of that body is eating constantly.  It just doesn’t work.

The Reaction: As bad as the science is, it’s a great story.  Bradbury is an ideas man – the science part of the fiction is just incidental.  And this idea is really good.  Again, slightly disappointed in the ending, but really enjoyed the ride.

The Cover: Same as last time.

Next Up: “Uncle Einar” by Ray Bradbury.

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NSF Double Header.2 “The Miracles of Jamie” and “One Timeless Spring” by Ray Bradbury

September 3, 2010

The Book: “The Miracles of Jamie” and “One Timeless Spring” by Ray Bradbury.  Both originally published in magazines in 1946, they were read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Earth, middle America

The Story: “Jamie” is about a boy who thinks he can do miracles, but he can’t.  “Spring” is about a boy who thinks he is being poisoned out of childhood.

The Science: Not Applicable.  Well, maybe child psychology stuff, but, meh.

The Reaction: Both stories start with the thought that there could be sci-fi or fantasy in the stories, but bring you to the eventual conclusion that these are just kids who don’t understand the world yet.  Or who refuse to see it with adult eyes. Which is fine.  But not what this project is about.

The Cover: The subtitle of the book reads “22 Hauntings and Celebrations.”  The cover art has clearly decided to focus on the hauntings side.  Not one of those creepy faces is wearing a party hat.

Next Up: “Frost and Fire” by Ray Bradbury.

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“Chrysalis” by Ray Bradbury

September 2, 2010

The Book: “Chrysalis” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in Amazing Stories in 1946.  The edition read was published in S is for Space by Bantum in 1970.

The Setting: Earth.

The Story: A guy turns green and petrifies, but isn’t quite dead yet.  Two doctors argue about whether or not he should be destroyed.

The Science: Radiation is pretty amazing isn’t it?  One of those pesky little catchalls which can do anything you want it to in a story.  Here, Bradbury wants it to make a man’s body into a chrysalis for the next stage of evolution.  So he does.  Science says…. No.  Not gonna happen.  Radiation might give you cancer and mutate some cells, but mostly that’s gonna kill you and deform your babies.

The Reaction: A neat little story, but with a rather disappointing ending.  The guy hatches and…  it’s the same guy.  But he can fly off into space.  So he does.  And that’s it.

The Cover: Ray Bradbury squints at a spaceman doing the backstroke.  It’s a bit silly, but you’re buying this book for Bradbury, aren’t you?

Next Up: NSF double header, take 2, courtesy of Bradbury.

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That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups by C.S. Lewis

September 1, 2010

The Book: That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups by C.S. Lewis.  Originally published in 1945, the edition read was published by MacMillan after 1965.

The Setting: England, more or less after WWII

The Story: A husband and wife find themselves on opposite sides of a show down between the forces of good and evil.  Featuring: Tame bears, talking heads, bureaucracy, Merlin, and an institute.  It’s complicated.  Short version: Man and wife aren’t all that in love.  Man wants to be in circles of power, wife wants… something else.  He pursues new job at the Institute.  She has… bad dreams.  He gets embroiled at the Institute (it’s evil, by the way) and she wanders over to Camelot where Ransom from the previous books is the Pendragon.  Both get deeper at their places, then it all explodes, and they are re-united happily.  Not as boring as I made it sound.  I swear.

The Science: The Institute has taken a decapitated head, stuck it in a tank with some tubes, and made it live again!  It’s like a Frankenstein’s monster, but with less tedious mucking about in the graveyard.  Fortunately, such a thing should be impossible.  Sure, you could pump blood and air into a dead head, but the brain is really all about the synapses and the neat little electrochemical signals running around in there.  And those?  Those end when you die.  And there’s no bringing ’em back.  Not for 10 more years, anyway.  It doesn’t really work out for the Institute anyway.

Besides, this book mostly deals with straight up magic.  Not so much with the science.

The Reaction: Man, I had a hard time getting into this book.  Whether it was because of summer being glorious or the flashbacks to meetings I’ve sat in or the references to a woman being obedient to her husband, it took a while to get rolling.  By the final third of the book, I was getting into it, but it all came to a head so quickly that I didn’t really feel satisfied.  I mean, it’s a fine story and a very nice book, but I enjoyed the first two books far more.

The Cover: No credit for the cover, but it’s signed BES.  The cover is a grab bag of literal things from the book and representations of others.  Like the building.  That’s in there.  And the chess pieces are more about the action in the book.  The hole face thing with the spinny colors?  I don’t know what that’s about.  To lend an air of the supernatural/extraterrestrial, I guess.   The cover is ridiculous.

Next Up: “Chrysalis” by Ray Bradbury.