Archive for February, 2011

h1

“Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury

February 6, 2011

The Book: “Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in Planet Stories in Spring, 1950, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Earth, 2257

The Story: A failed author/independently wealthy eccentric gets some scientists to make time travel work so he can bring Thomas Wolfe forward in time to write stories about space and space travel, since no contemporary writers seem to manage it.

The Science: Time travel is always sketchy at best in these books, and more so in this one, where, at one point, Tom Wolfe manages to stay in the future through sheer force of will.  Science, however, is not really the main point of this story.

The Reaction: An interesting conceit, bringing an author from the past into the future to commission him to write stories. Despite that, I didn’t really care one way or the other. Maybe I would care more if I’d ever have read any Wolfe.

The Cover: Still the same.

Next Up: The Synthetic Man by Theodore Sturgeon.

Advertisements
h1

“Punishment without Crime” by Ray Bradbury

February 5, 2011
The Book: “Punishment without Crime” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published by Other Worlds Science Stories in March 1950, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.The Setting: Earth, a near future.
 

The Story: A man murders a shockingly realistic marionette of his estranged wife and is in turn put to death for it.

The Science: One of the things which shocked the main character in this story was how realistic the blood was of the murdered marionette. We have, since the 1950s, made astounding strides in visual effects. I mean, I just saw 127 Hours and the blood and tissue effects were pretty freaking impressive, so to have a robot with realistic flesh and blood is totally conceivable.

The Reaction: I wasn’t feeling this story either. The ending was all too… 1984 thought police-y. The premise of intentionally misplaced murder is nice, but I didn’t feel that the follow through lived up.

The Cover: Same as before.

Next Up: “Forever and the Earth” by Ray Bradbury

h1

“The Blue Bottle” by Ray Bradbury

February 4, 2011

The Book: “The Blue Bottle” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published by Planet Stories in Fall 1950, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Mars.

The Story: A man seeks for an ancient and mysterious blue bottle.

The Science: I mean, it’s set on Mars, but it’s not really science fiction, it fantasy. A bottle that contains whatever you most desire? That’s fantasy.

The Reaction: Even at only 12 pages, I felt ripped off by this story. It was kind of dull and simplistic. I wasn’t really feeling the characters and the magical blue bottle kind of annoyed me. Bah.

The Cover: Still the same as before.

Next Up: “Punishment without Crime” by Ray Bradbury

h1

NSF: “The Great Fire” by Ray Bradbury

February 3, 2011

The Book: “The Great Fire” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in 1949 by Triangle Publications. Story was read in The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting: Middle America.

The Story: A young lady enjoys going on dates.

The Science: Meh.

The Reaction: Meh.

The Cover: Same as usual.

Next Up: “The Blue Bottle” by Ray Bradbury

h1

Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak

February 2, 2011

The Book: Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak. Originally published in 1950 as a novel (based on a serial in Astounding published in 1939), the edition read was published by Paperback Library (52-498)  and printed in 1967.


The Setting: Space, Pluto, and a planet at the far end of the Universe. The year: 6948.

The Story: Oh good golly, where to begin. Two newspaper men, somewhere near Pluto, find a thousand year old prison ship and a lovely young scientist in suspended animation within it. They wake her and learn that her lovely smart brain has been working for those thousand years and is now way beyond most normal human brains. Just then! A call from Pluto where scientists have intercepted signals from across the universe – thought signals! And the young woman, Caroline Martin, is able to communicate with the advanced brains! These advanced creatures, the Cosmic Engineers, need help. So the humans build a stargate and get to the Engineers to learn that our Universe will collide with a different Universe, destroying both. As they try to work out what to do, they come under attack from the Hellhounds, a hateful race that would just as soon have the Universe end. The humans have to travel forward in time to a distant future earth to get some science answers, which they do, but are sidetracked on their way back by an insane, omnipotent intelligence. Then they get back, defeat the Hellhounds, and save the Universe. Phew.

The Science: The science in this book all seemed pretty sketchy as presented. The idea of multiple universes is something that physicists are pretty cool with, but have no way of proving, since, of course, they are not within our universe. So that’s something. But I’m afraid that’s all I feel like talking about.

The Reaction: At first, I was really excited about this book. Oh! Another smart female scientist! How lucky! But then the book became one insane incident after another. I was forced to step back and realize what a mess this book was. There was too much story and not enough craft. The front cover has a quote “…enough thrills for five sequels.” Enough thrills for five separate short novels, more like. It was like a series of unfortunate Star Trek episodes, but without the characters.

The Cover: The cover is a definite high point. There’s a metal man with a ray gun, rocket ships, and people in space suits. It’s pretty awesome. That metal man? That’s a Cosmic Engineer, depicted quite nicely.

Next Up: NSF: “The Great Fire” by Ray Bradbury

h1

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

February 1, 2011

The Book: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.  Originally published in 1950, the edition read was published by Fawcett Crest (M1966) in 1970.

The Setting: Throughout the Solar System, around 2057

The Story: An interviewer convinces the world’s foremost robopsychologist to tell him tales about the development of robotics. She obliges.

The Science: Robotics is a science which is all around us and yet still the stuff of legend. New robots and smarter computers are being developed every year, and yet we cannot hope to match the expectations set by this book in our life times. I think we are still a long way from robots which are self aware, or which serve as nannies, but the spark is there, and it will probably come. Someday.

The Reaction: At its core, this is a book of short stories held together by the life of a character. And I loved it. I loved the stories within the book; I loved that the central character is a strong, smart woman (finally!); I love the imagination of the situations of the various stories. If this book was three times as long as it is now, I would love it as much. Asimov really has his shit together.

The Cover: Not actually that thrilled by the cover. There are some random robot looking things, but they’re not doing anything and they don’t even look that cool. An enthusiastic Meh is the best you’re going to get from me on this one.

Etc: I was trying very hard to remember the move I, Robot starring Will Smith, but I was unable to identify more than a passing resemblance to the book. Which is a darn shame. There are some good films to be made from these stories.

Next Up: Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak.