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(These were never posted to USENET. This winds up the `classic' series)
%T Starliner %A David Drake %I Baen %D June 1992 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 314 %G ISBN 0-671-72121-6
More carnographic trash from David Drake; sadly, it's probably the kind that will sell well because of its flaws rather than in spite of them. Ran Colville is the Toughest Bastard In The Universe (his, anyway) and a Man Running From His Past, and he's determined to Make Good in his new job as Third Officer of the luxury starliner Empress Of Earth. Many pages of violence, joyless predatory sex, gaudy explosions, and ham-handed prose construction follow. At times this wretched novel achieves a sort of twisted unintentional humor, as when Colville's fanatical boss lectures him on the sacred trust to maintain the integrity of interstellar civilization they've assumed by signing on as glorified deck stewards in a floating palace for the excessively rich. Trouble is Drake seems to mean it. I've read good carno before; this isn't it.
%T Free Radicals %S The Black Hole Travel Agency %V Book 3 %A Jack McKinney %I DelRey %D May 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 369 %G ISBN 0-345-37078-3
O.K., Jack. It's starting to wear thin. Event Horizon (RR#125) was quite funny; Artifact of the System (RR#138) was tolerable; but after three books of overdone plot and underdone characters I'm not sure I want to stick around for the blow-off any more. The satirical bits and funny aliens are too thin now amidst the tangle of twisty little plot strands, all alike. You know what you're doing; you've done series before and even spoofed your own work as part of a subplot in this one. Cut to the chase.
%T Dark Sky Legion %A William Barton %I Bantam %D August 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 404 %G ISBN 0-553-29616
This novel is that rarest of treats for the hard-core fan, a wide-screen hard-SF novel with a truly original idea at its core. Barton paints a convincing (and sometimes horrifying) picture of a genuine galactic empire held together with slower-than-light starships. He also explores the fullest ramifications of people-duplication as practiced by a society that uses it as a fundamental technology. Strongly recommended.
%T Sky Road %A Ann Tonsor Zeddies %I Del Rey %D February 1993 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 434 %G ISBN 0-345-37865-2
It's annoying that this book isn't labelled as a sequel to the earlier Deathgift, but it's a competently-written tale of war between different groups of lost colonists on a far planet. If you enjoyed Deathgift, this should not disappoint.
%T Far-seer %A Robert J. Sawyer %I Ace %D June 1992 %O paperback %P 257 %G ISBN 0-441-22551-9
If the shade of Robert Heinlein were to collaborate with Poul Anderson, it might read like this. This novel is a corker, a shameless and wonderful they-do-write'-em-like-they-used-to homage to SF's Golden Age. On a far-off world inhabited by sentient saurians, the young astrologer Afsan fights religious obscurantism as he discovers astronomy and the scientific method. Do not miss this one!
%T Starseed %A Spider & Jeanne Robinson %I Ace %D September 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 247 %G ISBN 0-441-78360-0
This sequel to Starseed and Stardance has all the trademarks of the previous books --- affecting characters, a fascination with love in all its forms, high ethical concerns, authentic sex scenes, a vision of transcendence, pathos, and a dash of Zen. Unfortunately, it has the flaws as well --- a naive earnestness and a melodramatist's oversimplification of the nature of evil. The Robinsons' stuff tries very hard to be likeable and uplifting, and generally succeeds. I sometimes wish the effort weren't so obvious...
%T The Outskirter's Secret %A Rosemary Kirsten %I The Outskirter's Secret %D Del Rey %O paperback, US$3.99 %P 333 %G ISBN 0-345-36885-1
This sequel to The_Steerswoman makes me kind of want to find the first book. The careless reader might think it a fantasy, but it isn't; it's SF with good worldbuilding, set on a human colony world long after the partial success of a terraforming project. Rowan of the knowledge-seeking guild of Steerswomen struggles against natural perils and the intrigues of wizards to make sense of the ecological puzzle that is her world. Recommended.
%T The Venom Trees of Sunga %A L. Sprague DeCamp %I Del Rey %D November 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 211 %G ISBN 0-345-37551-3
Yet another frothy confection from deCamp, a spoofy and wry adventure on the world of Kukulcan. Kirk Salazar is a naturalist out to unravel the life cycle of the stump-tailed kusis. His shortage of funds throws him in with a tour group that mixes fuddled incompetents with a few truly dangerous characters, like the man-eating cult priestess Alexis Ritter and the timber-mogul Cantemir, who's aiming to clear-cut the kusis's habitat. Will Kirk survive? More importantly, will he ever finish his thesis? A fun read-once.
%T The Ship Who Searched %A Anne McCaffrey %A Mercedes Lackey %I Baen %D August 1992 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 312 %G ISBN 0-671-72129-1
The two previous "shellpeople" books (The Ship Who Sang and PartnerShip) gave us a clever twist on the traditional romance novel. McCaffrey's heroines get to be bodiless and powerful, romancing their brawns without the risk and emotional exposure of actual sex. This sort of thing was well-calculated to appeal to nervous adolescents and sexually insecure women of all ages. Now McCaffrey and Lackey give us yet another adventure-romance --- but the punch line this time is that the heroine gets to re-enflesh herself in the body of her choice and embrace her brawn as a physical woman. I'd say this is at least a step towards a more mature kind of love story, but the whole drama is so blatantly manipulative that it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
%T Codgerspace %A Alan Dean Foster %I Ace %D July 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 309 %G ISBN 0-441-71851-5
Alan Dean Foster is a hack writer, but he's a good hack writer --- he delivers reliable entertainment, as he demonstrates once again in this book. An accidentally-created artificial intelligence and a gigantic, ultra- powerful alien starship buried under upstate New York collide --- with an old folks' home right in the middle. It's up to a handful of senior citizens to save the galaxy! This is a fun read-once.
%T The Ragged World %A Judith Moffet %I DelRey %D June 1992 %O paperback, US$3.99 %P 276 %G ISBN 0-345-37500-9
Some will praise this book for good writing. It wasn't my cup of tea; I've had a bucketful of ecological cautionary tales, and if Moffet's alien Hefn came to Earth with the fix-your-ecology-or-die ultimatum she has them give, I'd tell them to mind their own damn business and leave us to ours. Furthermore, intensely personal narratives about people laboring under crushing personal problems and handicaps don't thrill me; I have one of those (congenital cerebral palsy), and the last thing I want to read is fiction that dramatizes utter powerlessness. Ms. Moffet, if you really believe the world is like this, please slit your wrists now and save us from your next novel.
%T Michelle Shirley Crean %A Dancer of the Sixth %I Del Rey %D March 1993 %O paperback, US$3.99 %P 314 %G ISBN 0-345-37912-8
There's a kind of immature writing in which the entire universe seems to have been set up as a sort of combination therapy-session/wish-fulfillment for a protagonist who's a projection of the author. Sadly, this first novel is of that kind. Dancer is a hot pilot in the spook service, in love with her perfect man (the unit commander, natch), when the past she thought she'd surmounted comes back for another round, forcing her to face The Truth About Herself. Sigh. This one nearly fell into the how-hard-can-I-bounce-it-off- the-wall category, but there are some signs that Ms. Crean may someday learn how to be write. I'll be looking for improvement in her next.
%T Stopping at Slowyear %A Frederik Pohl %I Bantam %D June 1992 %O paperback %P 151 %G ISBN 0-553-29487-3
This book is evil. Don't buy it. I say that because I think an SF author is breaking his implicit contract with the reader when he walks his characters into a buzzsaw they couldn't forsee, had no way of avoiding, can't fight or adapt to in any way, and it kills them. Life isn't usually like that and novels shouldn't be either. When the Slowyear plague killed all the crew of the starship Nordvik, everything that had gone before in the novel became a pointless bummer. Avoid this one.
%T The Sails of Tau Ceti %A Michael McCollum %I Del Rey %D August 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 261 %G ISBN 0-345-37108-9
Michael McCollum is good at space opera, and he gives us another satisfying one in this book. Humans make contract with a refugee starship fleeing a nova event at Tau Ceti. The alien Phelans seem humanlike and friendly as they petition for living space in the human solar system. But their alien faces hide a deadly secret...and if that cheesy hook didn't utterly turn you off, you'll probably enjoy this book.
%T Jaran %A Kate Elliot %I DAW %D June 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 494 %G ISBN 0-88677-513-2
An uhappy woman sheds her past and find excitement and romance among horse barbarians on a distant world...well, thankfully, there's more to this novel than that. The author displays an acute grasp of human psychology and more world-building skill than is usual in books of this kind (though, admittedly, the latter observation could be construed as damning with faint praise). This is a big, meaty novel with writing that lifts it out of category. Enjoy!
%T The Inquisitor %A Cheryl H. Franklin %I DAW %D May 1992 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 544 %G ISBN 0-88677-512-4
This novel is partly a meditation on what it means when the quest for revenge becomes a way of life. Half a lifetime ago, passion and betrayal shattered the warrior clans of the Rea. The last Rea have waited, gathering their strength to confront the renegade Birkaj. He has built a new life on a planet called Stromvi; when the Rea strike, its natives may be destroyed. The Inquisitor is a judge called in on an apparently routine murder case who becomes involved in the effort to prefent the destruction of Stromvi. Fun stuff, and some interestingly-realized aliens.
%T Slay and Rescue %A John Moore %I Baen %D January 1993 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 226 %G ISBN 0-671-72152-6
If you like the kind of campy fantasy world in which magic mirrors have vertical-hold screws and there Evil Fairy Godmothers have union rules, this book is for you. Pity Prince Charming; he's 17, handsome, daring, an expert swordsman, slays a dragon a week and has princesses swooning all over him. Trouble is, all these princesses are the lovely, chaste, pure-as-the-driven- snow variety...and Charming is sick and tired of chaste and pure! He's a healthy teenage boy and craves, not to put too fine a point on it, hot sex. A grand confusion of heightened hormones and fairy-tale motifs ensues. Will the damsels get rescued? Will the witch queen and evil fairy godmother be confounded? Will poor Prince Charming *ever* get laid? Read and see...
%T A Bad Day for Ali Baba %A Craig Shaw Gardner %I Ace %D September 1992 %O paperback %P 248 %G ISBN 0-441-04676-2
In this sequel to The Other Sindbad, Craig Shaw Gardner brings his slapsticky, pun-filled, deliberately-dumb style to bear on the tales of Arabian Nights. Don't be looking for depth or sensitive characterization here, OK? However, you will find quite a few laughs. And, just occasionally, a touch of wit.
%T Retro Lives %A Lee Grimes %I AvonNova %D March 1993 %O paperback, US$4.50 %P 196 %G ISBN 0-380-76913-1
Lee Grimes has hold of a dandy premise in this novel --- it's too bad he does so little with it.
Robert Widdick is the victim(?) of a mutation which causes him to begin growing younger when he reaches a biological age of 60. There's a drawback, though; he loses all his memories, then spends 25 years as an amnesiac unable to form long-term memories until he youthens to age 25 and resumes the "normal" phase of his peculiar life cycle. And --- this is the kicker --- he loses all his memories after age 25.
The trait is heritable, carried on the Y chromosome like hemophilia. Thus, it begins to show up in his male descendants. They must work to conceal the trait from a normal population they fear would be jealous of their longevity. The task becomes more difficult after the foundation of the Gene Police, and more difficult still when one of Widdick's sons gets a dose od Christianity and goes renegade.
Grimes could have written a truly remarkable novel. Unfortunately, neither the plot nor any of the characters ever really come to life. Many conflicts and ironies implicit in the working out of the Widdick R-Factor are explored, but all rather clinically, at a distance. Mostly, Grimes has his characters tell us about them rather than showing them; and the one major exception is too pat, too neat, and too easily tied off.
Part of this is poor characterization; it's difficult to distinguish many of Widdick's descendants from each other, let alone identify with any of them. Also, the action of the novel goes by very quickly; this multi-generation story is a lot to try to pack into 196 pages.
This has the feel of a first novel. I'd guess that Lee Grimes had a terrific idea but lacked the skill to exploit it properly. At least he manages to avoid cliche. If he's more than a one-idea novelist it may be interesting to see where he goes next.
%T Heir To The Empire %S Star Wars %V Volume 1 %A Timothy Zahn %I Bantam %D June 1992 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 404 %G ISBN 0-553-29612-4
There's really no way to save a book-based-on-the-movie from seeming pale and derivative, but Timothy Zahn gives it a good craftsmanlike try in this book. It's set five years after The Return Of The Jedi; Luke Skywalker has begun training a new line of Jedi Knights, and Princess Leia is happily married to Han Solo and expecting twins. Naturally, there are remnants of the evil old Empire lurking in the wings, and naturally one of them gets it together enough to put our heroes and the Galaxy in peril --- and all without closing out any potential plot lines for the next movie! Still, the result is readable, and I guess that's as much as we could have expected.
%T Warstrider %A William H. Keith %I AvonNova %D February 1993 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 340 %G ISBN 0-380-76879-8
This is generic how-much-hardware-can-we-trash military fiction aimed straight at the Battletech crowd. It even includes drawings of the warbots up front, whoopee. It plays a lot with brainlinks and virtual reality, too --- in fact the sex scenes all take place in VR (a bow to the AIDSophobic '90s, one supposes). Hah. The best thing I can say about this turkey is that it's not quite the utter gobbler it should have been; the author actually displays a glimmer of intelligence and originality on occasion. Still, you shouldn't bother unless you already know you like this kind of trash.
%T Sherwood %A Parke Godwin %I AvonNova %D July 1992 %O paperback, US$5.50 %P 529 %G ISBN 0-380-70995-3
AvonNova listed this as fantasy so it'd sell more copies, but it's really a straight historical novel --- but it's a cracking good one, folks, so ignore the genre labels and enjoy. Godwin moves Robin Hood out of Hollywood's twelfth century to the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest a century earlier. Robin's struggle with Ralf FitzGerald becomes a microcosm of the conflict and eventual adaptation that went on between Saxons and Normans. Enjoy!
%T In The Wrong Hands %A Edward Gibson %I Bantam %D May 1992 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 362 %G ISBN 0-553-29567-5
Reason #523 for wishing the U.S. had more space missions flying: so it'd keep astronauts like Edward Gibson not writing novels. This one is an embarrassingly bad potboiler featuring a German mad scientist busily breeding an Aryan superrace on the Moon. Bleagh. Avoid.
%T A Srtrange and Ancient Name %A Josepha Sherman %I Baen %D January 1993 %O paperback, US$5.99 %P 386 %G ISBN 0-671-72151-8
Hauberin, Prince of the Faerie Realm, sits uneasy on his thrown. His half-human parentage damages his prestige, inviting plots by would-be usurpers. The death-curse of one such forces him onto a quest to uncover the secrets of his ancestry. In this tale, Josepha reshapes some familiar fantasy elements to startling and unfamiliar ends. Her view of Norman France through the eyes of an elf-prince displays both historical grounding and wit. Reccommended.
%T Labyrinth of Night %A Allen Steele %I Ace %D October 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 340 %G ISBN 0-441-46741-5
There's something under the Face on Mars that eats explorers. And plays weird, alien music. Mankind has made the long-awaited First Contact with extraterrestrials, but no communication --- until a burned-out folksinger gets drafted to try where intrepid astronauts have failed. But what he finds may be the set-up of a much larger and nastier trap. This bleak, atmospheric novel is Steele's strongest yet, but still suffers from some of the flaws of Clarke County, Space (RR#100) and Lunar Descent (RR#154); Ateele telegraphs his moves, and most of the plot turns are too easy to see coming. I expect better from hard-SF writers. Maybe Steele will deliver someday.
%T Inside the Funhouse %E Mike Resnick %I AvoNova %D August 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 246 %G ISBN 0-380-76643-4
This is a theme anthology of SF stories about science fiction. Now, any collection weighted down with not one but two Barry Malzberg stories is close to sinking, and these are even more depressing examples of the man's masturbatory pseudo-profoundness than usual. However, quite a number of the other stories are really funny, and one (The Curse Of The Mhondoro Nkabele) is both hilarious and terrifying --- nearly worth the price of admission by itself.
%T Distant Friends and Others %A Timothy Zahn %I Baen %D Augyst 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 314 %G ISBN 0-671-72131-3
Timothy Zahn must have emptied his trunk into Jim Baen's computer. It features the three parts of a fixup novel, Distant Friends, plus six unrelated short stories (most of which appeared in Analog in the early '80s). They aren't Zahn's best, but he's a strong enough writer that they're entertaining and thought-stimulating anyway. Buy this if you count yourself one of the we-like-it-with-rivets hard-SF crowd.
%T Lightwing %A Tara Harper %I Del Rey %D July 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 261 %G ISBN 0-345-37161-5
Coming from the author of the Wolfwalker (RR#58) and Shadow Leader (RR#122), this novel is a disappointment --- a shallow wish-fulfillment fantasy for adolescents. Our plucky heroine, Kiondili, has exceptional psychic powers and must struggle against prejudice on Corson Station. And naturally she's the only person who can save the station's vital FTL research project...aargh. Give it a miss.
%T Dragon Fantastic %E Roland H. Greenberg %E Rosalind H. Greenberg %D May 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 299 %G ISBN 0-88677-511-6
Yet another cute fantasy theme anthology. This one is almost redeemed by Esther Friesner's hilariously spoofy Take Me Out To The Ball Game and Karen Haber's Home Security.
%T The Modular Man %A Roger McBride Allen %I Bantam %D Jume 1992 %O paperback, US$4.99 %P 306 %G ISBN 0-553-29559-4
Roger McBride Allen gives us a thought-provoking inquiry into the consequences of improved prosthetic, AI, robotics and VR technology. It's themed around a most unusual murder case, a man killed by his own robot who may nevertheless be alive --- as a download in the robot's brain! This novel has none of the glitz or trendiness of cyberpunk writing, but it probes deeply into the issues cyberpunk is fascinated with. Recommended.
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