Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Cure - Marianne De Pierres

Dead feral implant boot shoot.

4 out of 5

Making Contact In Skin Tight Duds - Marianne De Pierres

Rough, early, Parrish Plessis genesis. Funny, though. If there's a time travelling sequel you could have Stone Wash Jeans In Fuck Me Boots.

"Loz oozed babe, from the tip of her ebon, Turttown dreads, to the slashed nylon and kevlar of her skintight duds. She hired out for sex when lucre was short, but earned most of her coin from low-class hits. Domestic stuff"

3 out of 5

The Green Odyssey - Philip Jose Farmer

The titular character's spaceship crash lands on a planet.

This one is inhabited, but the tech level is very, very low.

Think cannibals, gods an flintlocks and sailing ships for about where they are.

This is very frustrating for him as no one believes his story of coming from the stars of course, and they have a completely different mindset.

So he has to find a way to fit in without being executed, and hopefully find a way to get off the planet, even after having a family.

Pretty lighthearted and optimistic, this one.

3 out of 5

The Silver Pigs 1 - Lindsey Davis

She was a slight thing. I liked them tall, but I was prepared to compromise. She was wickedly young. At the time I lusted after older women—but this one would grow up, and I could certainly wait. While we sashayed on the steps, she glanced back, panic-struck. I admired her shapely shoulder, then squinted over it myself. Then I had a shock.

There were two of them. Two ugly lumps of jail-fodder, jellybrained and broad as they were high, were pushing through the crowds towards her, just ten paces off. The little lass was obviously terrified.

“Get out of my way!” she pleaded.

I wondered what to do. “Manners!” I chided thoughtfully, as the jellybrains came within five paces.

“Get out of my way sir!” she roared.

4 out of 5

The Dain Curse 1 - Dashiell Hammett

"It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick wall. It was small, not more than a quarter of a carat in weight, and unmounted. I put it in my pocket and began searching the lawn as closely as I could without going at it on all fours.

I had covered a couple of square yards of sod when the Leggetts' front door opened.

A woman came out on the broad stone top step and looked down at me with good-humored curiosity."

3 out of 5

The Maltese Falcon - Dashiell Hammett

"Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down-- from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan."

4 out of 5

Two Birds - Chris Roberson

I'm the Ranger Boy from Company D, where's my killer?

3 out of 5

The Golden Globe 1 - John Varley

"There had been talk of bringing in an understudy in view of La Smithson's recent behavior, but this was not the Schubert Traveling Shows, ladies and germs, this was The Crocker Players, and if you haven't heard of them it's probably because you live within a parsec of civilization. We were chronically undercapitalized (read "dirt-poor") and it fell to the ASM to understudy all the female roles. And while I'm sure Dee would have provided yeoman service as Ladies Montague or Capulet, and could probably have taken a creditable swing at the Nurse, the prospect of Juliet had turned her pale green."

3.5 out of 5

The Region Of Unlikeness - Rivka Galchen

Grandfathered avoidance.

2.5 out of 5

Matter Prologue - Iain M. Banks

"‘I’ll synch the scout to the knife, follow it in behind,’ the drone said. In moments, the flat circular base of the knife missile appeared as a dot in the centre of the scout missile’s view, then expanded until it looked like the smaller machine was only a metre behind the larger one. ‘There go the warps!’ Xuss said, sounding excited. ‘See?’

Two arrow-head shapes, one on either side, detached from the knife missile’s body, swung out and disappeared. The monofilament wires which still attached each of the little warps to the knife missile were invisible. The view changed as the scout missile pulled back and up, showing almost the whole of the army ahead.

‘I’ll get the knife to buzz the wires,’ the drone said.

‘What does that mean?’

‘Vibrates them, so that whatever the monofils go through, it’ll be like getting sliced by an implausibly sharp battle axe rather than the world’s keenest razor,’ the drone said helpfully."

3.5 out of 5

The Crooked Letter - Sean Williams

I had no idea that this was what he had in mind when I started reading The Stone Mage and the Sea. One of those fantasies that is a little science fiction, as you learn and go further on.

Ancient god types, questors with horrible things to do. He really should have a few beers with Mark Chadbourn, perhaps. I really liked this book, now I have to find one, and read any others.

In later books, it appears, the pre and post events are explicitly linked by way of characters, I presume this was not made clear in the marketing of this first book to prevent spoiling of the story? Anyway, very good, different fantasy with an Australian setting which is very, very refreshing. These are a bit more adult than The Stone Mage series, as the characters are grown up.

4 out of 5

Evidence Of Love In A Case Of Abandonment One Daughter's Personal Account - M. Rickert

Friday night mum executing lights.

3.5 out of 5

The Art Of Alchemy - Ted Kosmatka

Carbonised razor-sharp corporate competition.

4 out of 5

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spider-Man 1 - Peter David

""No, Peter," Ben told him, as gently as he could. "They were killed in an airplane crash. It was an accident."

"No," Peter said flatly. "It wasn't."

"It wasn't?" said Ben curiously.

Peter shoved his hand into one of the bags and extracted a stack of comic books. "They were secret heroes. Like ... spies. And they were helping their country, and a bad guy, like the Red Skull, killed them." He held up an old issue of a comic, spine-rolled and tattered."

3 out of 5

Before the Dawn 1 - Max Allan Collins

"Her bare feet pounding, breaking the crust of ice on the snow-packed ground, her thin blue hospital-style smock hiked high over pumping legs, nine-year-old X5-unit 332960073452 barely noticed the February cold. Neither did she have any knowledge that in other parts of the United States, Valentine's Day was less than forty-eight hours away; that was part of a mundane, ordinary life as unknown to her as her controlled existence had been to the outside world.

Though she had learned much at Manticore, all the girl knew, at this moment, was that she was running for her life."

4 out of 5

After the Dark 1 - Max Allan Collins

"The Familiars were universally white, racial purity being one element of the breeding recipe that had been perfected over countless centuries. And, of course, the U.S. government, particularly the ironically dubbed black ops agencies, weren't exactly renowned for their Rainbow Coalition hiring practices. So, for the time being anyway, White felt-if not safe-prepared to meet any difficulty, in this tiny Canadian burg.

Of course, White's whiteness had its downside. Among this dusky population, he stuck out like a failed Manticore experiment-he wouldn't have looked any more out of place had he been that imbecilic Dog Boy or that psychotic Lizard Man. While this would make him easy for his pursuers to spot, over all he maintained a certain peace of mind knowing that anyone hunting him would likely be in the same Caucasian-or at least non-Native American-boat."

3.5 out of 5

Solomon's Jar 1 - Alex Archer

"Despite sweating in the heat, she breathed normally, dodging thicker stands of brush, crashing through the thinner ones. Late-season insects trilled around her and in sporadic spectral clouds tried to fly up her nose and into her mouth. The birds chattered and called to one another in the trees. The woods smelled of green growth and mostly dried decayed vegetation, not at all the way she imagined a true rain forest might smell, lower down in the Amazon basin proper. Up in the watershed of the Amazon's tributary the Río Marañón, in eastern Peru, the early autumn was drier and cooler, the growth far less dense.

Her heart raced as much as any person's might have after running at high speed for over two miles, up and down steep ridges. It had little to do with the exertion, though.

She ran for her life."

3.5 out of 5

Inferno 1 - Alex Irvine

"Bruce Wayne has never figured himself for a power-tool enthusiast, but the fact is hard to deny. He blames Lucius Fox, which is a dodge, like blaming Tsunetomo for his love of physical discipline as expressed through the martial arts. It has always been there, latent. Waiting for the shriek of the lathe and the brutal seduction of the pneumatic drill. Today it’s the jackhammer, pulverizing a bulge in the cave wall. Smoothing, leveling, squaring. He will bring order and regularity to the cave the way he brought order and regularity to his fear: through planning, diligence, and the necessary application of force. Where millennia of water had meandered and eroded and precipitated, leaving an organic and irregular labyrinth, a few weeks of work will yield a haven, a completed base of operations from which a man with the right kind of courage and dedication could save his city from those who would corrupt it and do it harm."

3.5 out of 5

Dead White 1 - John Shirley

"“I tell you I saw the Bat myself! About a year and a half ago, a little less, just when he started showing up, before I was working for the Brotherhood—we had a chop shop set up, ten new cars in there waiting to be stripped, and the window explodes and down he comes like black lightning, man, wham!, that fast, three guys go down before the Bat even lands on the floor, two more in the next second, he moved so fast—just like that!—and his face, man . . . he ain’t got a human face! He’s some kinda genetic crossbreeding thing, like a mutant—he’s half animal! He’s got bat genes, I figure, and he’s got this look in his eyes, make your blood run cold, dude, and I don’t ever wanna see that again . . . I ran for my life, and I was like half a block away, and whack! he shoots something or throws something and it hits me in the back of the head . . . Woke up cuffed to the wheel of one of those Jags. My lawyer got me off ’cause there was a witness says I went down on the street instead of in there with the cars, but I tell you what, I don’t ever want to see the Bat again. I know at least one guy died of a heart attack just looking in the Bat’s face!”"

3.5 out of 5

Batman Begins 1 - Dennis O'Neill

"Something stiff and scratchy rasped across his forehead and in an instant he realized-he did not know how-that the thing was alive.

The thing, the dark, horrible thing, flew from the gap and spiraled upward and was followed by other things, a swarm of them, hundreds of them, flapping and screeching, tearing at Bruce's clothing and hair. Bats, he realized, and Bruce felt himself, his personality, his very being, shrink and vanish and only a voice that shrieked and shrieked remained ...

Then the bats were gone. The shrieking stopped. Bruce lay atop the dirt, gasping and sobbing."

3.5 out of 5

X-Men 2 1 - Chris Claremont

"The man rounded on him—and Karp gasped, goggle-eyed, to find himself face-to-face with a demon. Skin so dark a blue-black it was as if the man were cloaked in his own personal shadow, the only points of color his gleaming yellow eyes. The ears were pointed, the teeth had fangs, and the hand that grabbed Karp’s wrist possessed two fingers instead of the normal four.

Training took over. Without a conscious thought, Karp went for his gun—and a forked tail wrapped tight around his throat, cutting off his cry of alarm. The tail spun him like a top into the alcove, and he felt a blinding pain as the side of his head cracked hard into the arched stone. After that he never felt the blow to the side, chop to the neck that finished the job of knocking him unconscious."

4 out of 5

The Last Stand 1 - Chris Claremont

"Too much power, too fast! It burst outward like a star going supernova, impossibly—for that single flash of time—turning a totality of darkness into an absolute of light. Against such a display, Annie was too small to even quantify.

For Jean, this was beyond revelation. She understood none of it, on any level. The emotions were too primal for a child’s mind to comprehend, and she had no resources of intellect or spirit that could give her even a hope of coping. She’d been cast into a maelstrom and knew only enough to hold fast to herself until it ran its course, praying fate was smiling on her enough to survive."

4 out of 5

Down These Mean Streets 1 - Keith R. A. DeCandido

"Especially when he saw that Javier's complexion had changed from its usual dark skin tone to an emerald green.

There is absolutely no way this can be good. Super strength and green skin was a combination that generally meant enhancement by gamma radiation -- the most spectacular example being the Hulk. How does a street kid from Queens get gamma-irradiated? Peter asked himself, but saved it for later. Maybe he got bitten by a radioactive wombat--worry about that when he isn't about to tear up the street and the students."

3.5 out of 5

The Grey King 1 - Susan Cooper

"The music of the harp was the only magic within his reach that would release Pen from the power of the warestone. In any case, it was time now to bring the harp to the pleasant lake, to accomplish its deeper purpose. Everything was coming together, as if two roads led to the same mountain pass; he could only hope that the pass would now be blocked by some obstacle able to hinder both at once. This time more than ever, the matter of holding the Dark at bay depended as much on the decisions and emotions of men as on the strength of the Light. Perhaps even more."

3.5 out of 5

Trouble and Her Friends 1 - Melissa Scott

"“The Evans-Tindale Bill codifies the various provisions of the Nunberg Act, and creates a new entity within the Treasury Department that will have enforcement responsibility on the nets, replacing the patchwork system currently in place. In a nutshell, Evans-Tindale, like the Nunberg Act before it, redefines so-called cyberspace as a particular legal jurisdiction, and establishes a code of law governing these electronic transactions.”
Which means, Cerise thought, that we’re all screwed. She sat for a long moment, staring at her screen, at the distorted image displayed in its central window. That map no longer mattered, because now there was no reason to keep those secrets, at least not in the legal world of the bright lights: there was a new law out there, and one that could be enforced in the real world. And for the shadows—the illegal world of crackers and grey- and black-market dealers, the world where she had lived ever since she’d run away from her home, her true name, and the secretarial school that had been her second home—it meant the end of an era. It would no longer be possible to dodge the law in one jurisdiction by claiming that you, or your machines, or your target, were located elsewhere; it would no longer be possible to argue that there was no theft where there was no real property. All that had been decided, and by fiat, not the nets’ own powerful consensus. And Evans-Tindale also meant that there was no longer any possibility of legalizing the brainworm. The old-style crackers and the legal netwalkers had proclaimed their innocence by blaming everything on the brainworm and its users, and no one in authority seemed to know enough to know that they were lying."

4 out of 5

Perseus Spur - Julian May

"It's a given: if the Hundred Concerns are determined to destroy you, fighting back is hopeless. But I was a proud and pigheaded man. I never doubted that I'd be vindicated, because justice and righteousness were on my side; so I fought. And of course I lost.

When my final appeal to the Interstellar Commerce Secretariat disciplinary tribunal was denied and I was Thrown Away, some important part of my personality shattered, plunging me beyond despair into a deadly apathy. My marriage to Joanna DeVet had ended, and I'd managed to alienate most of my family, my few remaining friends, and the handful of colleagues at the Secretariat who had stood by me during the scandal. I had no money left, no possibility of earning an honest livelihood, and as a Throwaway, I was eligible for only the most meager public assistance. My spiritless inertia made even the obvious solution impossible."

3 out of 5

Orion Arm 1 - Julian May

"Many of the folks on Eyebrow Cay are Throwaways, and quite a few others have personal histories that don't bear close scrutiny. I definitely fit into the latter category; and if Rampart's personnel office was on the ball in upgrading their database, I would already have rejoined the former group after a brief sojourn among the franchised citizenry of the Commonwealth.

Two friends share the cove where I live. To the south, half visible through the palm grove, is the deceptively modest bungalow of Mimo Bermudez, who may be the wealthiest man on Kedge-Lockaby. He is certainly one of the most enigmatic. My neighbor on the other side is Kofi Rutherford, another dive charter skipper, whose tumbledown dump lies out of sight behind a small rocky rise."

3 out of 5

Saggitarius Whorl 1 - Julian May

"The poor happy schmuck in the tank is me.

Drifting and dreaming.

Tap tap tap.

Someone spoke, an alien voice filtered through a translator device. "How interesting. It looks as though he is waking up."

Someone else: "This is the template individual, Servant of Servants. The original. The transformed human object is recovering in another room, attended by one's technicians. We will interview him shortly, just as soon as he is lucid."

"Let's see if this creature recognizes one."

Tap tap tap."

3.5 out of 5

Fool's Fate 1 - Robin Hobb

"I paced a restless turn around its perimeter path, and then forced myself to stand still. The boy was not late. I was early. That the minutes dragged was not his fault. Anticipation warred with reluctance as I awaited my first private meeting with Swift, Burrich's son. My queen had given me responsibility for Swift's instruction in both letters and weaponry. I dreaded the task. Not only was the boy Witted, but he was undeniably headstrong. Those two things, coupled with his intelligence, could carry him into trouble. The Queen had decreed that the Witted must be treated with respect, but many still believed that the best cure for Beast Magic was a noose, a knife, and a fire."

3.5 out of 5

Royal Assassin Prologue - Robin Hobb

"The predilection for a certain type of magic is either inborn or lacking. For instance, the ability for the magics known as the Skill is tied closely to blood relationship to the royal Farseer line, though it may also occur as a 'wild strain' amongst folk whose ancestors came from both the Inland tribes and the Outislanders. One trained in the Skill is able to reach out to another's mind, no matter how distant, and know what he is thinking. Those who are strongly Skilled can influence that thinking, or have converse with that person. For the conducting of a battle, or the gathering of information, it is a most useful tool.

Folklore tells of an even older magic, much despised now, known as the Wit. Few will admit a talent for this magic, hence it is always said to be the province of the folk in the next valley or the ones who live on the other side of the far ridge. I suspect it was once the natural magic of those who lived on the land as hunters rather than as settled folk; a magic for those who felt kinship with the wild beasts of the woods. The Wit, it is said, gave one the ability to speak the tongues of the beasts. It was also warned that those who practiced the Wit too long or too well became whatever beast they had bonded to. But this may be only legend."

4 out of 5

Assassin's Quest 1 - Robin Hobb

"Chade came back one day. He had grown his beard long and he wore a wide-brimmed hat like a peddler, but I knew him all the same. Burrich wasn't at home when he arrived, but I let him in. I did not know why he had come. "Do you want some brandy?" I asked, thinking perhaps that was why he had come. He looked closely at me and almost smiled.

"Fitz?" he said. He turned his head sideways to look into my face. "So. How have you been?""

4 out of 5

Living Next Door To the God Of Love 1 - Justina Robson

"A Batmobile cruises along Avenue of the Kryptonites. It’s one of the early models, all white-wall tyres and fins. There’s no rush for him: he’s obeying the traffic signals and his jets aren’t lit. I wonder where he’s going to that he couldn’t go as a Bruce Wayne. Maybe he’s off to that bar the witches wanted to get into, where the good guys and the bad guys drink together, roll their sleeves and complain about the price of Active Spandex."

4 out of 5

The Lost Pilgrim - Gene Wolfe

Time's myth labours sealed.

4 out of 5

Conan Of Venarium 1 - Harry Turtledove

"A sudden, horrid certainty blazed in Conan, fueling fury fierce as his father’s forge. “Tarla!” he burst out.

“It seems so, yes,” said Mordec unhappily. “He sniffs around her, sniffs around Balarg’s house like a hungry hound after meat.”

“I’ll kill him!” raged Conan. “I’ll cut his heart out and feed it to swine. I’ll drape his guts over the roofpole. I’ll—“"

2.5 out of 5

Orion 1 - Ben Bova

"I am not superhuman.
I do have abilities that are far beyond those of any normal man’s, but I am just as human and mortal as anyone on Earth.
The core of my abilities is apparently in the structure of my nervous system. I can take completely conscious control of my entire body. I can direct my will along the chain of synapses instantly to make any part of my body do exactly what I wish it to do."

4 out of 5

Stiff 1 - Shane Maloney

" The Bell Street lights had changed and I was halfway across the intersection when my eye caught a name buried in a two-paragraph news brief at the bottom of page seventeen. That was when I first encountered the name Ekrem Bayraktar. Not that it meant anything to me at the time. It was the other name that got my attention. I snatched up the page, draped it over the steering wheel and turned my concentration away from the road long enough to constitute a serious threat to public safety. This is what I read:

Police have identified a man found dead last Friday in a freezer at the Pacific Pastoral meat-packing works at Coolaroo in Melbourne's outer north as Ekrem Bayraktar, 42, a shift supervisor at the works. It is believed that he suffered a heart attack and was overcome by cold while conducting a routine stocktake.

Pacific Pastoral has announced an immediate review of its procedures in light of the incident which coincides with the state government's attempts to gain Upper House approval for its controversial industrial health and safety legislation. Informed sources at Trades Hall believe the matter will be considered when the THC Executive meets late next week. The Minister for Industry, Charlene Wills, was unavailable for comment."

4 out of 5

Nice Try 1 - Shane Maloney

" The Olympics, I thought, pulling on my jocks. My big chance.

Brian Morrison had been insistent but tantalizingly vague when he rang and suggested we catch up. An old mate, Brian had wangled himself a berth with the Melbourne Olympic Bid, Incorporated, the organization running the city's candidacy to host the 1996 Olympic Games. "Let's have a bite," he said. "I might have a job for a man of your experience."

I wasn't really in the job market. But I was curious. To exactly what aspect of my experience, I wondered, was he referring?

Surely not my current situation as Senior Adviser to the Minister for Water Supply, formulating policy options on the privatization of the Mordialloc Main Drain, negotiating staffing levels with maddies from the Missos and making sure that Angelo didn't fall out of the boat while inspecting the catchment facilities.

Nor, I thought, had Brian been referring to my brief sojourn at the Arts Ministry, my employer's other area of current responsibility, where I'd briefly grappled with transgressive postmodern cultural practice. Perhaps he meant my time at Ethnic Affairs, Angelo's previous portfolio."

4 out of 5

Farewell My Lovely 1 - Raymond Chandler

""Some guys," the big man said, "has got wrong ideas about when to get tough." He turned to me. "Yeah," he said. "Let's you and me nibble one."

We went over to the bar. The customers, by ones and twos and threes, became quiet shadows that drifted soundless across the floor, soundless through the doors at the head of the stairs. Soundless as shadows on the grass. They didn't even let the doors swing.

We leaned against the bar. "Whiskey sour," the big man said. "Call yours."

"Whiskey sour," I said.

We had whiskey sours."

3.5 out of 5

The Same In Any Language - Ramsey Campbell

Getting some Greek tongue.

3 out of 5

Oceanspace 1 - Allen M. Steele

"Downward the machine glides, the forward end of its long form backlit by thallium iodide lamps: a pair of enormous, multijointed manipulators mounted above a titanium sphere, itself connected by a slender collar and thick steel trusses to a long cylinder, on top of which was mounted an open-top cargo bed. Two barrel-shaped maneuvering thrusters are positioned along its port and starboard sides; at the aft end, recessed within a cone-shaped cowling, is the lazily rotating propeller of its main engine. There's no color down here—even within close proximity of the halogens, everything is rendered in muted shades of greenish gray—so there's no way of telling that the submarine is painted bright fluorescent yellow, interspersed with bands of reds and white.

At the front of the sphere, below and between the arms, is a single, cyclopean eye: a Plexiglas window, two inches thick. Dim light glows within the porthole, silhouetting a vague form. A creature not born in this dark universe, yet, due to a long series of evolutionary processes stretching back millions of years, a distant cousin nonetheless."

3.5 out of 5

Chronospace 1 - Allen M. Steele

" "So ..." Steepling his fingers together, Ordmann leaned back in his chair. "Tell us why you think UFOs may be time machines.""

3.5 out 5

Judgment Of Tears 1 - Kim Newman

""This is my `niece,'" Count Kernassy referred to the vampire woman in the window seat next to him, "Malenka."

A glance suggested what species of niece Malenka was to the Count. She was dressed for an entrance, in a floor-length scarlet evening gown, cut to display an enormous outcrop of bosom. The neckline was more like a nipple-line, with a deep valley that almost reached her navel. Diamonds sparkled on the upper slopes of her breasts. Her growth of bright blonde hair was equaly enormous, and her razor smile was a credit either to bloodline or Swedish dentistry. Her maroon eyes sparkled and dazzled with boredom, contempt, and amusement.

Kate chided herself for unfairly detesting Malenka on sight. She had her down as a nouveau, one of those new-born vampiresses who attach themselves to convenient elders and try to pass among gentlefolk three hundred years their senior.

She waved tiny fingers at the woman. Malenka arched plucked eyebrows.

They were the only three vampires on the flight. Kate had an idea she might like the old rogue of a count, who was on some level aware of the impression Malenka made. Kernassy paused sufficiently in a recitation of his part in several centuries' of court intrigue to ask her what she did and why she was going to Rome. She avoided the latter question by answering the former.

"I'm a journalist. For the Manchester Guardian and the New Statesman."

" Journalisti," Malenka spat, the first word Kate had heard from her. "Ani- malss!"

Malenka smiled as if she were fond of animals, and enjoyed killing and eating them.

"My niece has been pursued by your press. She is highly visible.""

4 out of 5

The Zenith Angle 1 - Bruce Sterling

"No way, thought Van. Kubrick's movie 2001 was all 1968! Now that it really was 2001, all that futuristic stuff was completely old-fashioned. Van sampled his scrambled eggs. They were very tasty indeed. "Magnesium! Wow, no one in the world can tool that stuff, and now it's in chairs!"

3 out of 5

Holy Fire 1 - Bruce Sterling

"When her gloves were nicely done, Mia pulled a wrist-fan from a slot below the basin. She cracked the fan against her forearm to activate it, then opened it around her left wrist and buttoned it shut. The rainbow--tinted fabric stiffened nicely. When she had opened and buttoned her second wrist-fan, she had two large visual membranes the size of dinner plates radiating from the ends of her arms.

The plastic gloves came alive as their circuitry met and meshed with the undersides of the wrist-fans. Mia worked her fingers again. The wrist-fans swiftly mapped out the shape of the gloves, making themselves thoroughly familiar with the size, shape, and movements of her hands."

3 out of 5

The Black Company 1 - Glen Cook

"He hemmed and hawed in that way he and his brother One-Eye have. If you don’t know, they figure it’s a secret worth keeping. Wizards! “There’s a rumor that the mutineers broke the seals on the tomb of the forvalaka while they were plundering the Necropolitan Hill.”
“Uh? Those things are loose?”
“The Syndic thinks so. The Captain don’t take it seriously.”
I didn’t either, though Tom-Tom looked concerned. “They looked tough. The ones who were here the other day.”
“Ought to have recruited them,” he said, with an undertone of sadness. He and One-Eye have been with the Company a long time. They have seen much of its decline.
“Why were they here?”
He shrugged. “Get some rest, Croaker. Don’t kill yourself. Won’t make a bit of difference in the end.” He ambled away, lost in the wilderness of his thoughts.
I lifted an eyebrow. He was way down. I turned back to the fires and lights and disturbing absence of racket. My eyes kept crossing, my vision clouding. Tom-Tom was right. I needed sleep.
From the darkness came another of those strange, hopeless cries. This one was closer."

4.5 out of 5

The Voyage Of the Shadowmoon 1 - Sean McMullen

"The walls of Larmentel had withstood the invading army of Emperor Warsovran for five months. Stone gargoyles poked tongues and bared buttocks at the besiegers beyond the outer walls, as its nobles sipped wine from glazed pottery goblets shaped in the likeness of the severed head of the invading emperor. Their confidence was justified. Larmentel had stood unconquered for the entire six hundred years since its foundation."

4 out of 5

The Centurion's Empire 1 - Sean McMullen

""There's Gentor, the Icekeeper," he said. "He's very particular about the quality of the blocks, and the packing of the ice chamber."

"It's one of the few times I have seen him away from Vitellan."

"This snow harvest ceremony is very important to the people here, and nothing would make him miss it. It's old, very old."

"Perhaps as old as Vitellan claims, in fact," said Alfred, frowning. "Do any chronicles give a clue to its age?"

"I once read a chronicle by Augustine of Canterbury describing a village hereabout where they did this - the harvesting of snow into blocks to preserve meat through summer. I'm sure he was talking about this place. It was written two hundred and seventy years ago."

"I would like to see that chronicle.""

3.5 out of 5

To Your Scattered Bodies Go 1 - Philip Jose Farmer

"For a while, he stared. Then he began counting bodies; he had always been
a devoted enumerator. But when he had counted 3,001, he quit. After that
he gazed at the cataract of flesh. How far up, how immeasurably far up,
were they stacked? And how far down could they fall? Unwittingly, he had
precipitated them when his touch had disrupted the force emanating from
the rod.

He could not climb up the rod, but he could climb down it. He began to let
himself down, and then he looked upward and he forgot about the bodies
hurtling by him. Somewhere overhead, a humming was overriding the
whooshing sound of the falling bodies.

A narrow craft, of some bright green substance and shaped like a canoe,
was sinking between the column of the fallers and the neighboring column
of suspended. The aerial canoe had no visible means of support, he
thought, and it was a measure of his terror that he did not even think
about his pun. No visible means of support. Like a magical vessel out of
The Thousand and One Nights."

4 out of 5

The Fabulous Riverboat 1 - Philip Jose Farmer

""Resurrection, like politics, makes strange bedfellows," Sam Clemens said.
"I can't say that the sleeping is very restful.""

3.5 out of 5

Worldwired 1 - Elizabeth Bear

"I 've got a starship dreaming. And there it is. Leslie Tjakamarra leaned both hands on the thick crystal of the Montreal's observation portal, the cold of space seeping into his palms, and hummed a snatch of song under his breath. He couldn't tell how far away the alien spaceship was-at least, the fragment he could see when he twisted his head and pressed his face against the port. Earthlight stained the cage-shaped frame blue-silver, and the fat doughnut of Forward Orbital Platform was visible through the gaps, the gleaming thread of the beanstalk describing a taut line downward until it disappeared in brown-tinged atmosphere over Malaysia. "Bloody far," he said, realizing he'd spoken out loud only when he heard his own voice. He scuffed across the blue-carpeted floor, pressed back by the vista on the other side of the glass."

4 out of 5

Hammered 1 - Elizabeth Bear

"I never sleep if I can help it.

So when somebody starts trying to kick down my door at 0300 hours on a rank hot summer night, it isn't quite the surprise for me that it might be for some people."

4 out of 5

Scardown 1 - Elizabeth Bear

"The Montreal has wings.

They unfurl around her, gossamer solar sails bearing a kilometers-long dragonfly out of high Earth orbit and into the darkness where she will test herself, and me. She’s already moving like a cutter through night-black water when Colonel Valens straps me to the butter-soft leather of the pilot’s chair and seats the collars. I’m wearing the damned uniform he demanded; it’s made for this, with a cutout under my jacket for the interface.

Cold metal presses above my hips, against the nape of my neck. There’s a subtle little prickle when the pins slide in, and my unauthorized AI passenger chuckles inside my ear.

Gonna be okay out there, Dick?

“With a whole starship to play in? Sure."

4 out of 5

The Coming 1 - Joe Haldeman

" "Parallax, yeah. Re lax. Sit down, you make me nervous." He gestured at the wallscreen. "This is it?"

She nodded. It was a neat column of words: WE'RE COMING, repeated sixty times.

"Well ... by itself, it doesn't exactly make one—"

"Norman. The signal came from a tenth of a light-year away. In English."

"Oh." He sipped his coffee. "We don't have anyone that far out?"

"Of course not."

"Creatures from outer space."

"Something from outer space.""

3 out of 5

X-Men - Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith

""In recent years," Jean said, "and for reasons which are still a mystery, we have seen this latent DNA in our bodies mutating. These mutations manifest at puberty, and are often triggered by periods of heightened emotional stress."

With a glow of pride, the professor knew that-at this moment-with the exception of a few of the closed-minded senators, Jean had her audience. Despite the heat, they were paying rapt attention.

"The new DNA strands caused by the mutations are producing some admittedly startling results. In other words, this previously unused DNA is not 'junk' DNA at all, but rather a vast storehouse which contains the almost limitless potential for human advancement.""

3.5 out of 5

Tomorrow and Tomorrow 1 - Charles Sheffield

"Drake looked at her. She was thin and fragile, but she had never been more beautiful. Beautiful and brave and loving. At the idea of living without her his chest tightened. He felt as though he could not breathe.

Ana was his life, without her there was nothing. How could he ever bear to lose her?"

3.5 out of 5

Dark As Day 1 - Charles Sheffield

"Alex swore and glanced back to the media corner. They were handling the return of the Seine as the event of the century, bigger even than the war that had disrupted and dispersed the original Seine. Maybe they were right. The original pre-war version of the Seine had linked the System, but it was primitive compared with its quantum logic successor. And Alex needed every bit of computing power he could lay his hands on.

The media corner switched without warning from a shot of the worried computer engineer. Kate Lonaker's face appeared, and the sound level changed. "Sorry to pull an override on you." She grimaced out at Alex. "But Mrs. Ligon is on the line."

"Shit. Will you tell her that I'm not-"

"No, I won't. She knows that you're here."

"Tell her I'm working."

"You're always working. Come on, sweetheart, you can't refuse to talk to your dear old mother.""

3.5 out of 5

Starfire 1 - Charles Sheffield

"I opened the door and confirmed my first impressions. Outside the threshold stood a stranger, a man of uncertain age and nondescript clothing, long-haired and full-bearded, four or five inches shorter than me. He was not smiling, but there was an expectant look in his brown eyes.

"Good afternoon," I said. "Can I help you?"

"I don't know about that." He raised dark eyebrows and took a step closer. "But I sure as hell hope so, Doc. Because if you can't, I'm beat to say who can."

The voice and West Virginia accent provided the link, far more strongly than the casual "Doc." It had been twenty-seven years, but I knew who he was-and I knew that he knew me. My instincts shouted, "Kill him!" but instincts are highly unreliable. Moreover, I lack a talent for unpremeditated murder."

4 out of 5

Catwoman 1 - Elizabeth Hand

"His hazel eyes widened. "You weren't kidding."


"You went out there"-he gestured at the window, shaking his head-"to get your cat?"

"No. I mean, yes, I did-but it's not my cat."

"You climbed out there to rescue somebody else's problem?" The man stared at her, then shook his head, impressed. "Huh. That's ... something else."

"Why? You came out to rescue me.""

3 out of 5

Pilot - Scott Westerfeld

"Master Pilot Marx tilted his Intelligencer’s rotary wing forward and increased its power. His ship rose above the interceptor, barely missing collision with the enemy’s lifting screw. Marx grimaced at the near miss. Another interceptor came into focus before him, this one a little higher, and he reversed his wing’s rotation, pushing the ship down, dropping below its grasp.
Around him, the other pilots cursed as they pitched their craft through the swarm of interceptors. Their voices came at him from all sides of his cockpit, directionally biased to reflect their position relative to his.
From above, Hendrik spoke, the tension of a hard turn in her voice. “You’ve seen these before, sir?”"

3.5 out of 5

Evolution's Darling 1 - Scott Westerfeld

" He accesses all his input ports. They are deeply unassigned. Not really empty, just not ... there. A mechanical fault? An override? His questions find no purchase. Internal diagnostics are frictionless, like praying to some false god.

He searches his firmware for device protocols, the drivers for sensory organs, communications, a motile body. All absent. But at least that's something. He's sure now that there's something missing.

Namely: everything."

4 out of 5

The Jackdaw's Last Case - Paul Di Filippo

Kafka finds his supervillain.

3.5 out of 5

Tunnel In the Sky 1 - Robert A. Heinlein

"Rod slipped into the second row. The Deacon’s eye flicked at him as he went on talking. “I don’t understand the complaints,” he said jovially. “The test conditions say ‘all weapons’ so you can protect yourself any way you like . . . from a slingshot to a cobalt bomb. I think final examination should be bare hands, not so much as a nail file. But the Board of Education doesn’t agree, so we do it this sissy way instead.” He shrugged and grinned.

“Uh, Doctor, I take it then that the Board knows that we are going to run into dangerous animals?”

“Eh? You surely will! The most dangerous animal known.”

“Doctor, if you mean that literally—”

“Oh, I do, I do!”

“Then I take it that we are either being sent to Mithra and will have to watch out for snow apes, or we are going to stay on Terra and be dumped where we can expect leopards. Am I right?”

The Deacon shook his head despairingly. “My boy, you had better cancel and take this course over. Those dumb brutes aren’t dangerous.”"

4 out of 5

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress 1 - Robert A. Heinlein

"I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect—and tax—public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure. I see also is to be mass meeting tonight to organize “Sons of Revolution” talk-talk.
My old man taught me two things: “Mind own business” and “Always cut cards.” Politics never tempted me. But on Monday 13 May 2075 I was in computer room of Lunar Authority Complex, visiting with computer boss Mike while other machines whispered among themselves. Mike was not official name; I had nicknamed him for Mycroft Holmes, in a story written by Dr. Watson before he founded IBM. This story character would just sit and think—and that’s what Mike did. Mike was a fair dinkum thinkum, sharpest computer you’ll ever meet.
Not fastest. At Bell Labs, Bueno Aires, down Earthside, they’ve got a thinkum a tenth his size which can answer almost before you ask. But matters whether you get answer in microsecond rather than millisecond as long as correct?"

3.5 out of 5

Have Spacesuit Will Travel 1 - Robert A. Heinlein

"Since Dad did not want to go to the Moon, the problem was mine. I got down college catalogs I had collected and started listing engineering schools. I had no idea how I could pay tuition or even eat -- but the first thing was to get myself accepted by a tough school with a reputation."

3.5 out of 5

Marrow 1 - Robert Reed

"Washen's first aliens were dubbed the Phoenixes.

That was when the ship was still outside the Milky Way. Washen was more a child than not, and her parents—engineers who had come on board the first starship—were part of the large unhappy team who fashioned a habitat for the Phoenixes.

Those aliens were unwelcome. They had tried to conquer the ship, after all. It was an ineffectual invasion, but people found it difficult to forgive them anyway. Washen's father, usually charitable to a fault, openly stated that his work was a waste, and worse, it was a crime. "Give the shits a tiny catacomb, enough water and some minimal food, then forget they're there. That's my little opinion.""

3.5 out of 5

Ancients Of Days 1 - Paul J. McAuley

"PANDARAS ENTERED THE shadowy arena of the Basilica just as one half of the defense force charged at the other. Tamora led the point of the attacking wedge, screaming fearsomely; Yama ran up and down behind the double rank of the defending line and shouted at his thralls to stand firm.

The two sides met with a rattle of padded staves against round arm shields. Shadows shifted wildly as fireflies swooped overhead like a storm of sparks. For a moment it seemed that the attack must fail, but then one of the thralls in the defending line gave ground to Tamora's remorseless blows. Instead of closing the gap as the man went down in the press, the first rank wavered and broke, stumbling backward into the second. Yama shouted the order to regroup, but his thralls fell over each other or simply dropped their shields and staves and ran, and the wedge formation of the attacking force dissolved as thralls began to chase each other around the Basilica."

3.5 out of 5

X-Men the Return 1 - Chris Roberson

"Kitty kicked the bat away as the top hat dropped to the pavement, just as the Mohawk regained his composure. She set her feet, arms held lightly to either side, and smiled sweetly at him. "Ready for another go?"

The Mohawk looked at his friend, moaning semiconscious on the sidewalk, and without another word turned and ran.

Kitty shrugged, and started to head up the avenue in the opposite direction. Logan would have been proud. She hadn't even had to use her phasing powers.

"This is too easy," she said to the empty air. "I was expecting something a bit tougher."

Just then, a hulking metal figure rounded the corner of 71st Street, blocking her path. It was roughly man-shaped, but towered over her, taller than the two street thugs combined.

"Okay," Kitty said, whistling appreciatively. "That's tougher."

Kitty's first thought was that it was some sort of robot. A bit clichéd, perhaps, but more of a credible threat than the Village People rejects of a moment before.

No, she thought, seeing the very human eyes in the faceplate, high overhead. It's a powered combat suit, like Iron Man on steroids."

4 out of 5

The Shadow Of the Torturer 1 - Gene Wolfe

"All this took place in dark and fog. I saw it, but for the most part the men were no more than ambient
shadows—as the woman with the heart-shaped face had been. Yet something touched me. Perhaps it was Vodalus’s willingness to die to protect her that made the woman seem precious to me; certainly it was that willingness that kindled my admiration for him. Many times since then, when I have stood upon a shaky platform in some marketplace square with Terminus Est at rest before me and a miserable vagrant kneeling at my feet, when I have heard in hissing whispers the hate of the crowd and sensed what was far less welcome, the admiration of those who find an unclean joy in pains and deaths not their own, I have recalled Vodalus at the graveside, and raised my own blade half pretending that when it fell I would be striking for him.
He stumbled, as I have said. In that instant I believe my whole life teetered in the scales with his.
The flanking volunteers ran toward him, but he had held onto his weapon. I saw the bright blade flash up, though its owner was still on the ground. I remember thinking what a fine thing it would have been to have had such a sword on the day Drotte became captain of apprentices, and then likening Vodalus to myself."

3.5 out of 5

Conjure Wife 1 - Fritz Leiber

Norman Saylor was not the sort of man to go prying into his wife’s dressing room. That was partly the reason why he did it. He was sure that nothing could touch the security of the relationship between him and Tansy.
He knew, of course, what had happened to Bluebeard’s inquisitive wife. In fact, at one time he had gone rather deeply into the psychoanalytic undertones of that strange tale of dangling ladies. But it never occurred to him that any comparable surprise might await a husband, and a modern husband at that. A half-dozen handsome beaux hanging on hooks behind that door which gleamed so creamily? The idea would have given him a chuckle in spite of his scholarly delvings into feminine psychology and those brilliant studies in the parallelisms of primitive superstition and modern neurosis that had already won him a certain professional fame."

3 out of 5

The Witches Of Karres 1-4 - James H. Schmitz

"It was around the hub of the evening on the planet of Porlumma when Captain Pausert, commercial traveler from the Republic of Nikkeldepain, met the first of the witches of Karres.

It was just plain fate, so far as he could see.

He was feeling pretty good as he left a high-priced bar on a cobbled street near the spaceport, with the intention of returning straight to his ship. There hadn't been an argument, exactly. But someone had grinned broadly, as usual, when the captain pronounced the name of his native system; and the captain had pointed out then, with considerable wit, how much more ridiculous it was to call a planet Porlumma, for instance, than to call it Nikkeldepain."

3.5 out of 5

An Alien Agony - Harry Harrison

Native superstition addition.

4.5 out of 5

The Streets Of Ashkelon - Harry Harrison

Native superstition addition.

4.5 out of 5

The Island Of Doctor Death and Other Stories - Gene Wolfe

Wait just a Moreau and the story will be with you again.

4 out of 5

Fevre Dream 1 - George R. R. Martin

"York’s eyes were gray, startlingly dark in such a pale face. His pupils were pinpoints, burning black, and they reached right into Marsh and weighed the soul inside him. The gray around them seemed alive, moving, like fog on the river on a dark night, when the banks vanish and the lights vanish and there is nothing in the world but your boat and the river and the fog. In those mists, Abner Marsh saw things; visions swift-glimpsed and then gone. There was a cool intelligence peering out of those mists. But there was a beast as well, dark and frightening, chained and angry, raging at the fog. Laughter and loneliness and cruel passion; York had all of that in his eyes.

But mostly there was force in those eyes, terrible force, a strength as relentless and merciless as the ice that had crushed Marsh’s dreams. Somewhere in that fog, Marsh could sense the ice moving, slow, so slow, and he could hear the awful splintering of his boats and all his hopes."

3.5 out of 5

The Armageddon Rag 1 - George R. R. Martin

"It's pretty kinky," Jared said. "Somebody busted into his place up in Maine, dragged him into his office, and offed him there. They tied him to his desk, and, like, sacrificed him. Cut his heart out. He had one after all. Remember the old jokes? Ah, never mind. Anyhow, the whole scene was kind of grotesque. Mansonesque, y'know? Well, that made me think of the series you did back around the time that Sharon Tate got offed, you know, that investigation of . . . what did you call it?"

"The dark side of the counterculture," Sandy said dryly. "We won awards for that series, Jared."

3.5 out of 5

Thirteen 1 - Richard Morgan

"“That’s it, Frank. Game over.”

Gray turned slowly, deliberately and, fuck, yes, he had a weapon, a big black cannon of a handgun that seemed welded in the fist at the end of his right hand. A tiny part of Carl, a subroutine immune to the mesh and the betamyeline flooding the rest of his system, identified it as the murder weapon, the ’61 Smith caseless. Better than forty years old, but they said you could lockvoid that gun in orbit, swing around, pick it back up, and it’d still kill things like it just came out of the factory. For the first time in quite a while, he was grateful for the chilly bulk of the Haag in his own hand.

It didn’t help when Gray smiled at him.

“Hello there, UN man.”

Carl nodded. “Put the gun down, Frank. It’s over.”

Gray frowned as if seriously considering it. “Who sent you? Jesusland?”

“Brussels. Put the gun down, Frank.”

But the other man didn’t move at all. He could have been a holoshot on pause. Even the frown stayed on his face. Maybe deepened a little, as if Gray was trying to work out how the hell it had all come to this. “I know you, don’t I,” he said suddenly. “Marceau, right? The lottery guy?”

Keep him talking.

“Close. It’s Marsalis. I like the new face."

4.5 out of 5

Market Forces 1 - Richard Morgan

“Conflict Investment, here we come,” he muttered, and got in.

He got the bulletins on the radio. They started Promotions & Appointments as he hit the Elsenham junction ramp. Liz Linshaw’s husky tones, just a touch of the cordoned zones to roughen up the otherwise cultured voice. On TV she dressed like a cross between a government arbitrator and a catered-party exotic dancer, and in the last two years she had graced the pages of every men’s lifestyle magazine on the rack. The discerning exec’s wet dream and by popular acclaim the AM ratings queen of the nation.

“—very few challenges on the roads this week,” she told him huskily. “The Congo bid play-off we’ve all been waiting on is postponed till next week. You can blame the weather forecasts for that, though it looks from my window as if those guys have blown it again. There’s less rain coming down than we had for Saunders/Nakamura. Still nothing on the no-name orbital call out for Mike Bryant at Shorn Associates, don’t know where you’ve got to, Mike, but if you can hear me we’re anxious to hear from you. And so to new appointments this week—Jeremy Tealby makes partner at Collister Maclean, I think we’ve all seen that coming for a long time now; and Carol Dexter upgrades to senior market overseer for Mariner Sketch following her spectacular performance last week against Roger Inglis. Now back to Shorn again for word of a strong newcomer in the Conflict Investment division—”

4 out of 5

Maximum Light 1 - Nancy Kress

"By the time they truck us to the staging area, which is the parking lot of some old church, the train has been burning for two days. It's one of new Korean maglevs that isn't supposed to derail ever, no matter what, but there it is in some DC suburb, burning like a son-of-a-bitch. Carrying some sort of fuel canisters; somebody says that it could burn for a week if the scientist-types don't figure out what to do. Which I guess they haven't, because the area is evacuated and glow-marked, and we jump off the truck a couple thousand feet away from the wreck. Other trucks are bringing in civvies, some of them crying.

"You have entered an area electronically cordoned by the United States Army," the truck is saying over and over. "Unless you are authorized to be in this area, turn around immediately and leave. You have entered an area electronically—" My NS sergeant reaches into the cab and slaps it off. She goes to report in to a regular-army sergeant, so I sort of slouch over to a soldier and say, "On. What we got?""

3 out of 5

Beggars Ride 1 - Nancy Kress

"It immediately uncoiled and spread itself in a dense net of fine synthetic neurons over his face, disappearing under the collar of his silk pajamas and reappearing over his feet. A crawling probing cocoon. Ellie Lester looked away. The monitor showed no break or other indication of intrusion anywhere on the skin, not even the smallest of puncture wound. All feeding tubules were fully functional.
“When did you discover Mr. Wayland’s body?”
“Just before I called you. I went in to check on him.”
“And you found him as he looks now?”
“Yes. I didn’t touch him, or anything in the room.”
The dermalyzer web retracted. Jackson snaked the lung hose into Wayland’s left nostril. As soon as it touched the mucous membrane, the hose took over and disappeared down the bronchial tree into the lungs."

3.5 out of 5

Probability Moon 1 - Nancy Kress

"Pek Brimmidin. I have an informant job for you." Pek Nagredil never wasted words. He was only middle-aged but so solid, so immovable, that Enli wondered if he even needed pills to talk with her. Was that possible? Could Pek Nagredil be so coarse that he didn't feel the large, dull pain in the soul, like gravel grinding inside the skull, or even that sharp hard shock between the eyes, when it became evident that two people did not see World the same way? No. Not possible. To be a Worlder was to share reality with other Worlders, or to suffer the physical pain of not doing so. Pek Nagredil was a man; he could be no different from anyone else. He had a soul. He must use the pills."

3 out of 5

Crucible 1 - Nancy Kress

"Two groups of Chinese kids faced off across the room. Cages surrounded them, and half the noise came from a pair of lions, the only predator on Greentrees dangerous to humans. Tree dwelling, the lions had the long sleek bodies of cats but with tentacled forelegs and a powerful prehensile tail to wrap around branches. Like so much else on Greentrees, their skin was purplish blue. Alex knew that the geneticists were trying to modify the lions’ genome to make them less aggressive without disrupting Greentrees’ food chain. So far this had failed.
The female of the experimental breeding pair screamed in her cage. The male stood in the middle of the floor, baring its teeth at the unarmed group of kids huddled against a side wall.
“Get out of here, Alexandra Cutler,” one of the others said. That group stood beside the door Alex had just burst through, their leader armed with a laser gun he should not have been able to obtain."

3.5 out of 5

Probability Space 1 - Nancy Kress

"The vug. A sparkling cave on the planet World, like Aladdin's cave in the story. Her father and Dieter Gruber had taken her and Sudie there, just once, when her father was making his important physics discoveries on World. Dieter had let Amanda and Sudie take double handfuls of the diamonds and gold nuggets on the cave floor and walls. Sudie had only wanted to play with them, but Amanda had been interested in how the gems got there. "Once this was the caldera of a volcano, right here," Dieter had said. "The gold precipitates out from circulating water heated by magma." It seemed so long ago. She'd been such a child."

3 out of 5

Crossfire 1 - Nancy Kress

"Gail Cutler loved the Ariel. That astonished her, because after Lahiri’s death she had not expected to genuinely love anyone or anything again.
As Gail walked the narrow passageway that led past the tiny sleeping chambers to the wardroom, she shot out one hand and stroked the gray metal bulkhead. It was a quick, tentative stroke; she didn’t want anyone else to know how she felt about the ship. For one thing, it was damn silly, this affection for a huge hunk of metal. For another, the Ariel would be disassembled and converted once they reached Greentrees. Who could love, say, a sewage-purification vat?"

3.5 out of 5

The Shining 1 - Stephen King

""I asked if your wife fully understood what you would be taking on here. And there's your son, of course." He glanced down at the application in front of him. "Daniel. Your wife isn't a bit intimidated by the idea?"

"Wendy is an extraordinary woman."

"And your son is also extraordinary?"

Jack smiled, a big wide PR smile. "We like to think so, I suppose. He's quite self-reliant for a five-year-old.""

3.5 out of 5

Starfarers 1 - Poul Anderson

"Ricardo Nansen was floating weightless, looking out a viewscreen, when the alarm shrilled and the words followed. He never tired of this sight. As the ship orbited into morning and the sun rose red from a peacock band along the edge of the planet, blue-and-white marbled beauty drove night backward across the great globe. He could almost have been at Earth. But the sun was Epsilon Eridani, there was no moon, and here Sol shone only after dark, a second-magnitude star in Serpens Caput. That fact turned splendor into a miracle.
The call snatched him from it. He took off, arrowing along a corridor. Captain Gascoyne’s voice rang from every intercom: “Pilot Nansen, prepare to scramble.”"

3.5 out of 5

Woken Furies - Richard Morgan

"I skirted the action as best I could, shielding my injured side. Beneath the coat, my hands closed on the smooth curve of the last hallucinogen grenade and the slightly sticky hilt of the Tebbit knife.

Never get into a fight if you can kill quickly and be gone.

Virginia Vidaura—Envoy Corps trainer, later career criminal and sometime political activist. Something of a role model for me, though it was several decades since I’d last seen her. On a dozen different worlds, she crept into my mind unbidden, and I owed that ghost in my head my own life a dozen times over. This time I didn’t need her or the knife. I got past the fight without eye contact, made the corner of Pencheva, and melted into the shadows that lay across the alley mouths on the seaward side of the street. The timechip in my eye said I was late.

Pick it up, Kovacs. According to my contact in Millsport, Plex wasn’t all that reliable at the best of times, and I hadn’t paid him enough to wait long."

5 out of 5

Broken Angels 1 - Richard Morgan

"For a while I just lay there, content to let the endorphin booster relieve me of both pain and consciousness, all with the suave alacrity of a butler taking a hat and coat. A small part of me was wondering whether the body I was wearing was going to be salvageable, or if I’d have to be resleeved. I knew that Carrera’s Wedge maintained a handful of small clone banks for its so-called indispensable staff, and as one of only five ex-Envoys soldiering for Carrera, I definitely numbered among that particular elite. Unfortunately, indispensability is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gets you elite medical treatment, up to and including total body replacement. On the downside, the only purpose of said treatment is to throw you back into the fray at the earliest possible opportunity. A plankton-standard grunt whose body was damaged beyond repair would just get his cortical stack excised from its snug little housing at the top of the spinal column, then slung into a storage canister, where it would probably stay until the whole war was over. Not an ideal exit, and despite the Wedge’s reputation for looking after their own, there was no actual guarantee of resleeving, but at times in the screaming chaos of the last few months that step into stored oblivion had seemed almost infinitely desirable."

4.5 out of 5

Eternity Road 1 - Jack McDevitt

"There was something equally poignant in the wreckage the Roadmakers had left behind. One does not normally equate concrete with beauty. But there it was, formed into magnificent twin strips that glided across rolling hills and through broad forests, leaped rivers, and splayed into tributary roads in designs of such geometrical perfection as to leave an observer breathless. And here, in glittering towers so tall that few could climb them in a single day. And in structures whose elegance had survived the collapse of foundations and roofs."

3 out of 5

For Love and Glory 1 - Poul Anderson

"She halted. "What the chaos? Have you any idea what that might be?"

Karl stopped too. "None," he said. "I do not recall any such artifact from my experience or other sources of information. A slight resemblance to some dwellings of the Orcelin civilization." The tip of his tail gestured at the camp near the shore. "Obviously it is not the work of yonder persons. I presume they are studying it. They may have learned something.""

3 out of 5

The Boat Of A Million Years - Poul Anderson

"Well, the suffetes now speak of an out-and-out blockade. If they win this war, or at least fight it to a draw, I suspect they’ll lack the resources for some time afterward; but eventually they’ll do it. Your expedition will take a pair of years at least, likelier three, very possibly more. The earlier you set forth, the earlier you’ll come home—if you do—and not run into a Carthaginian patrol. What a shame, after an odyssey like that, to end at the bottom of the sea or on an auction block.”
“We’ll have an escort of warships.”
Hanno shook his head. “Oh, no. Anything less than a penteconter would be useless, and that long hull would never survive the North Atlantic. My friend, you haven’t seen waves or storms till you’ve been younder. Also, how do you carry food and water for all those rowers? They burn it like wildfire, you know, and resupplying will be chancy at best. My namesake could explore the African coasts in galleys, but he was southbound. You’ll need sail. Let me counsel you on what ships to buy.”"

3.5 out of 5

Mother Of Kings 1 - Poul Anderson

"Gunnhild had seen northlights before, though none like these. “I heard—Father told us—it’s the watchfires of the gods.”
“Troll-fires, I think,” growled Yngvar. He drew the sign of the Hammer.
Seija stilled her spellcraft and led the way down the path from the hall and its outbuildings. While no moon was aloft, one could see almost clearly. They reached the strand. The woman walked to and fro, hunched, head bent so that the cowl made her faceless, casting about."

2.5 out of 5

Virgin Planet 1 - Poul Anderson

"Corporal Maiden Barbara Whitley of Freetoon, hereditary huntress, wing leader of the crossbow cavalry and novice in the Mysteries, halted her orsper and peered through a screen of brush. Breath sucked sharply between her teeth."

3 out of 5

The White Wolf's Son 1 - Michael Moorcock

"MY NAME IS Oonagh, granddaughter of the Countess Oona von Bek. This is my story of Elric, the White Wolf, and Onric, the White Wolf's son, of a talking beast in the World Below, of the League of Temporal Adventurers, the Knights of the Balance and those who serve the world; of the wonders and terrors I experienced as the forces of Law and Chaos sought the power of the Black Sword, found the source of Hell and the San Grael. All this happened several years ago, when I was still a child. It is only now that I feel able to tell my story."

3.5 out of 5

The Dreamthief's Daughter 1 - Michael Moorcock

"My name is Ulric, Graf von Bek, and I am the last of my earthly line. An unhealthy child, cursed with the family disease of albinism, I was born and raised in Bek, Saxony, in the early years of the century. I was trained to rule our province wisely and justly, to preserve the status quo, in the best traditions of the Lutheran Church.

My mother died giving birth to me. My father perished in a ghastly fire, when our old tower was partially destroyed. My brothers were all far older than I, and engaged mostly in military diplomacy abroad, so the estate, it was thought, would be my responsibility. It was not expected that I would wish to expose, any longer than necessary, my strange, ruby eyes to the light of common day. I accepted this sentence of virtual imprisonment as my due. It had been suffered by many ancestors before me. There were terrible tales of what had become of twin albino children born to my great-grandmother."

3.5 out of 5

The Skrayling Tree 1 - Michael Moorcock

"I am Oona, the shape-taker, Grafin von Bek, daughter of Oon the Dreamthief and Elric, Sorcerer Emperor of Melniboné. When my husband was kidnapped by Kakatanawa warriors, in pursuit of him I descended into the maelstrom and discovered an impossible America. This is that story.

With the Second World War over at last and peace of sorts returned to Europe, I closed our family cottage on the edge of the Grey Fees, and settled in Kensington, West London, with my husband Ulric, Count Bek. Although I am an expert archer and trained mistress of illusory arts, I had no wish to follow my mother's calling. For a year or two in the late 1940s I lacked a focus for my skills until I found a vocation in my husband's sphere. The unity of shared terror and grief following the Nazi defeat gave us all the strength we needed to rebuild, to rediscover our idealism and try to ensure that we would never again slide into aggressive bigotry and authoritarianism."

3.5 out of 5

Endymion - Dan Simmons

"WHERE TO START? With a death sentence, perhaps. But whose--my death sentence or hers? And if mine, which of mine? There are several from which to choose. Perhaps this final one is appropriate. Begin at the ending.

I am writing this in a Schrodinger cat box in high orbit around the quarantined world of Armaghast. The cat box is not much of a box, more of a smooth-hulled ovoid a mere six meters by three meters. It will be my entire world until the end of my life. Most of the interior of my world is a spartan cell consisting of a black-box air-and-waste recycler, my bunk, the food-synthesizer unit, a narrow counter that serves as both my dining table and writing desk, and finally the toilet, sink, and shower, which are set behind a fiberplastic partition for reasons of propriety that escape me. No one will ever visit me here. Privacy seems a hollow joke."

4 out of 5

Ilium 1 - Dan Simmons


Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus' son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die, sing of the rage that cost the Achaeans so many good men and sent so many vital, hearty souls down to the dreary House of Death. And while you're at it, O Muse, sing of the rage of the gods themselves, so petulant and so powerful here on their new Olympos, and of the rage of the post-humans, dead and gone though they might be, and of the rage of those few true humans left, self-absorbed and useless though they may have become. While you are singing, O Muse, sing also of the rage of those thoughtful, sentient, serious but not-so-close-to-human beings out there dreaming under the ice of Europa, dying in the sulfur-ash of Io, and being born in the cold folds of Ganymede."

3 out of 5

The Rise Of Endymion - Dan Simmons

"Once out through the main vehicle gate of the Arch of Bells, the news accelerated to the speed of electrons, then leaped to the speed of light, and finally hurtled out and away from the planet Pacem at Hawking-drive velocities thousands of times faster than light. Closer, just beyond the ancient walls of the Vatican, phones and comlogs chimed throughout the hulking, sweating Castel Sant'Angelo where the offices of the Holy Office of the Inquisition were buried deep in the mountain of stone originally built to be Hadrian's mausoleum. All that morning there was the rattle of beads and rustle of starched cassocks as Vatican functionaries rushed back to their offices to monitor their encrypted net lines and to wait for memos from above. Personal communicators rang, chimed, and vibrated in the uniforms and implants of thousands of Pax administrators, military commanders, politicians, and Mercantilus officials. Within thirty minutes of the discovery of the Pope's lifeless body, news organizations around the world of Pacem were cued to the story: they readied their robotic holocams, brought their full panoply of in-system relay sats on-line, sent their best human reporters to the Vatican press office, and waited. In an interstellar society where the Church ruled all but absolutely, news awaited not only independent confirmation but official permission to exist."

3.5 out of 5

Hardcase 1 - Dan Simmons

" "Who's there?" Eddie called from just the other side of the door.

Kurtz stood away from the door and said something in an agitated but unintelligible mumble.

"What?" called Eddie. "I said who the fuck's there?"

Kurtz made the same urgent mumbling noises.

"Shit," said Eddie and undid the police lock, a pistol in his right hand, opening the door a crack but keeping it chained."

3.5 out of 5

Prelude To Foundation - Isaac Asimov

"CLEON I-- . . . The last Galactic Emperor of the Entun dynasty. He was born in the year 11,988 of the Galactic Era, the same year in which Hari Seldon was born. (It is thought that Seldon's birthdate, which some consider doubtful, may have been adjusted to match that of Cleon, whom Seldon, soon after his arrival on Trantor, is supposed to have encountered.)"

3 out of 5

Foundations Edge 1 - Isaac Asimov

"The First Galactic Empire was falling. It had been decaying and breaking down for centuries and only one man fully realized that fact.

He was Han Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, and it was he who perfected psychohistory-the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations."

3.5 out of 5

Pebble In the Sky 1 - Isaac Asimov

"Two minutes before he disappeared forever from the face of the Earth he knew, Joseph Schwartz strolled along the pleasant streets of suburban Chicago quoting Browning to himself.

In a sense this was strange, since Schwartz would scarcely have impressed any casual passerby as the Browning-quoting type. He looked exactly what he was: a retired tailor, thoroughly lacking in what the sophisticates of today call a “formal education.” Yet he had expended much of an inquisitive nature upon random reading. By the sheer force of indiscriminate voracity, he had gleaned a smattering of practically everything, and by means of a trick memory had managed to keep it all straight."

3 out of 5

The Gods Themselves - Isaac Asimov

""Don't finish, Pete. I've heard it all before. All I have to do is decipher the thinking of a non-human intelligence."

"A better-than-human intelligence. Those creatures from the para-Universe are trying to make themselves understood.""

3 out of 5

Foundation and Empire 1 - Isaac Asimov

"Bel Riose traveled without escort, which is not what court etiquette prescribes for the head of a fleet stationed in a yet-sullen stellar system on the Marches of the Galactic Empire.

But Bel Riose was young and energetic--energetic enough to be sent as near the end of the universe as possible by an unemotional and calculating court--and curious besides. Strange and improbable tales fancifully repeated by hundreds and murkily known to thousands intrigued the last faculty; the possibility of a military venture engaged the other two. The combination was overpowering."

3 out of 5

Foundation and Empire 1 - Isaac Asimov

"Bel Riose traveled without escort, which is not what court etiquette prescribes for the head of a fleet stationed in a yet-sullen stellar system on the Marches of the Galactic Empire.

But Bel Riose was young and energetic--energetic enough to be sent as near the end of the universe as possible by an unemotional and calculating court--and curious besides. Strange and improbable tales fancifully repeated by hundreds and murkily known to thousands intrigued the last faculty; the possibility of a military venture engaged the other two. The combination was overpowering."

3 out of 5

Childhood's End 1 - Arthur C. Clarke

"Then Reinhold Hoffmann knew, as did Konrad Schneider at this same moment, that he had lost his race. And he knew that he had lost it, not by the few weeks or months that he had feared, but by millennia. The huge and silent shadows driving across the stars, more miles above his head than he dared to guess, were as far beyond his little “Columbus” as it surpassed the log canoes of paleolithic man. For a moment that seemed to last forever, Reinhold watched, as all the world was watching, while the great ships descended in their overwhelming majesty—until at last he could hear the faint scream of their passage through the thin air of the stratosphere.

He felt no regrets as the work of a lifetime was swept away. He had labored to take man to the stars, and, in the moment of success, the stars—the aloof, indifferent stars—had come to him. This was the moment when history held its breath, and the present sheared asunder from the past as an iceberg splits from its frozen, parent cliffs, and goes sailing out to sea in lonely pride. All that the past ages had achieved was as nothing now: only one thought echoed and re-echoed through Reinhold’s brain:

The human race was no longer alone."

3.5 out of 5

Silence Please - Arthur C. Clarke

Negative feedback showstopping blowup.

3.5 out of 5

Earthlight - Arthur C. Clarke

The Monorail was losing speed as it climbed up out of the shadowed lowlands. At any moment now, thought Sadler, they would overtake the sun. The line of darkness moved so slowly here that, with a little effort, a man could keep abreast of it, could hold the sun balanced on the horizon until he had to pause for rest. Even then, it would slip so reluctantly from sight that more than an hour would pass before the last dazzling segment vanished below the edge of the Moon, and the long lunar night began.

He had been racing through that night, across the land that the first pioneers had opened up two centuries ago, at a steady and comfortable five hundred kilometers an hour."

3.5 out of 5

Rendezvous With Rama 1 - Arthur C. Clarke

"The object first catalogued as 31/439, according to the year and the order of its discovery, was detected while it was still outside the orbit of Jupiter. There was nothing unusual about its location; many asteroids went beyond Saturn before turning once more toward their distant master, the Sun. And Thule II, most far-ranging of all, traveled so close to Uranus that it might
well be a lost moon of that planet.

But a first radar contact at such a distance was unprecedented; clearly, 31/439 must be of exceptional size. From the strength of the echo, the computers deduced a diameter of at least forty kilometers. Such a giant had not been discovered for a hundred years. That it had been overlooked for so long seemed incredible.""

4 out of 5

The Baxter Effect 1 - Dave Stern

"Ben Grimm flipped past the spread on page six, headlined "Web-Slinger Now a Web Menace," and turned to page fourteen, as the cover of the Bugle had told him to. And there it was, in black-and-white: "Yancy Street Demolition Scheduled."

He read the article. It was true, he saw; a whole block of Yancy Street brownstones, the block between McGraw and Stanton, was coming down, a new multiplex was going up. He shook his head. Those old buildings were falling apart, it was true, more of the windows had boards over them than glass, the only people who lived there now were the old ladies and the gang members, but still . . ."

3 out of 5

Manifold Space Prologue - Stephen Baxter

"It started with a simple question:

Where is everybody?

As a kid I used to lie at night out on the lawn, soaking up dew and
looking at the stars, trying to feel the Earth turning under me. It felt
wonderful to be alive--hell, to be ten years old, anyhow.

But I knew that the Earth was just a ball of rock, on the fringe of a
nondescript galaxy.

As I lay there staring at the stars--the thousands I could pick out with my
naked eyes, the billions that make up the great wash of our Galaxy, the
uncounted trillions in the galaxies beyond--I just couldn't believe, even
then, that there was nobody out there looking back at me down here. Was it
really possible that this was the only place where life had taken
hold--that only here were there minds and eyes capable of looking out and

But if not, where are they? Why isn't there evidence of extraterrestrial
civilization all around us?"

3.5 out of 5