17. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Russell, Science Fiction

Freedom! by Martin H. Greenberg & Mark Tier (editors), read by Russell, on 07/14/2013

Freedom book cover      This book is a compilation of two previous anthologies: “Give Me Liberty” and “Visions of Liberty,” containing 17 short stories in total. They contain a mixture of old classics by renowned science fiction writers, and newer stories with the same theme: the pursuit of freedom and liberty in the near and distant future, both on Earth and in outer space.  The stories tend towards a libertarian or anarchist outlook, though are not limited to those philosophies.  Some of the stories show how a truly free and cooperative society could operate, and these speculations, though not always practical in the real world, are intriguing.  Other stories show how a “primitive” society could successfully resist a large Empire.

Most of these stories were new to me, though several of them (“And Then There Were None” by Eric Frank Russell, and “The Weapon Shop” by A.E. van Vogt) are old favorites and are some of my favorite stories of all time.  The quality of the stories in this collection is consistently high, and other featured authors include Lloyd Biggle, Jr., Vernor Vinge, Murray Leinster, Frank Herbert, Robert Sawyer, Michael Stackpole, Jack Williamson, and James P. Hogan.  I highly recommend this collection!

10. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Dystopia, Fiction, Russell

Good News: A Novel by Edward Abbey, read by Russell, on 07/08/2013

Good News - A Novel by Edward Abbey  Edward Abbey is best known as the author of the novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang” and the non-fiction book of environmental essays “Desert Solitaire.”  He is also known for the 1956 novel “The Brave Cowboy” which was made into the 1962 film “Lonely Are the Brave” starring Kirk Douglas as Jack Burns, a loner cowboy who disdains modern society and the destruction of natural resources in the Southwest.  Jack Burns made cameo appearances in several of Abbey’s novels, and was a major character in “Good News.”

“Good News” takes place in the near future of the USA in which the government and economy have collapsed due to an unspecified disaster, and chaos reigns in most places.  Most of the action is in Phoenix, Arizona, which is under the control of a quasi-military dictatorship.  A group of rebels is attempting to undermine those who wield the power.  Jack Burns is on his way there with his Native American friend Sam and together they are looking for Jack’s son, whom he has not seen in over 20 years.  Jack makes contact with the rebels, and together they attempt to overthrow the dictator who runs the city, and who wants to expand his power across the country.

Although the scenario is a bleak one, this novel was quite an enjoyable read, and shows how a small group of under-equipped freedom fighters can make a difference against overwhelming odds.  The characters in this novel are realistic and charming, though the bad guys are almost cartoonish in their villainy (not unlike real life!).

I highly recommend this book as a companion to “The Brave Cowboy,” “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” and “Hayduke Lives!”

Crossovers-2 coverThe two volumes of “Crossovers” are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with each other and real people throughout history.  The premise of the book was inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England, in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he explored the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by Win Scott Eckert and others to become the “Crossover Universe.”  Mr. Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe. Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  (Mr. Spock himself claimed Sherlock Holmes as an ancestor of his!)  There are 2000 entries in this chronology and 300 illustrations. Reading these two books is fun and will send you scurrying to find many of the stories and books that are referenced.

 

Crossovers-1 cover

The two volumes of this book are a fascinating and highly enjoyable read for anyone interested in the interactions between various pulp, mystery, adventure, and science fiction characters with real people throughout history.  The premise of this book is inspired by SF writer Philip José Farmer’s “Wold Newton” concept which he developed in the 1970s:  a “radioactive” meteorite crashed near Wold Newton, England in 1795 and affected several carriages full of people who were passing by.  Their descendants became highly intelligent and powerful heroes (or villains) such as Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, Dr. Fu Manchu, Doc Savage, Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan), and many more.  Farmer wrote popular and detailed biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage in which he detailed the family trees of many “Wold Newton Family” characters.  Over time, the concept has been expanded and continued by others into the Crossover Universe.  Win Scott Eckert has done a fantastic job of compiling references to literary heroes who have met each other (or “crossed over”) and had adventures together, and thus co-exist in the same fictional universe.  Volume 1 covers the dawn of time up through 1939, and Volume 2 covers 1940 into the far future.  Reading these two books is a fun and highly addictive experience!