Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fire and Sleet - James Enge


Morlock has a bit of a poker faced ex-wife Phoenix save.

4.5 out of 5

Monday, March 30, 2009

White Christmas - Sean Williams


A comet brings what seems like really bad weather, but with no Stargate program or Asgard to help, replicators are much, much worse than that.

4 out of 5

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12 - Scott H. Andrews

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12 : The Orangery - K.D. Wentworth
Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12 : Unrest - Grace Seybold

Hot and snakey-necked.

3 out of 5

Troll dead, woman dead, or any combination thereof.

2.5 out of 5

1.5 out of 5


The Orangery - K. D. Wentworth

Hot and snakey-necked.

3 out of 5


Unrest - Grace Seybold

Troll dead, woman dead, or any combination thereof.

2.5 out of 5


Beneath Ceaseless Skies 13 - Scott H. Andrews

A usual sort of issue, one 3, one 3.5

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 13 : The Five Days of Justice Merriwell - Stephanie Burgis
Beneath Ceaseless Skies 13 : Haxan - Kenneth Mark Hoover

Albion defence.

3 out of 5

Toothpuller drilling.

3.5 out of 5

3 out of 5


Haxan - Kenneth Mark Hoover

Toothpuller drilling.

3.5 out of 5


The Five Days Of Justice Merriweather - Stephanie Burgis

Albion defence.

3 out of 5


Lucky Day - Elizabeth Bear and Emma Bull

Witchy Pocatello pyre person.

3.5 out of 5


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dust Of Dreams Prologue - Steven Erikson

"A final war had begun. Facing an enemy against whom no defense was possible. Neither words nor deeds could fool this clear-eyed arbiter. Immune to lies, indifferent to excuses and vapid discourses on necessity, on the weighing of two evils and the facile righteousness of choosing the lesser one – and yes, these were the arguments he was hearing, empty as the ether they traveled.
We stood tall in paradise. And then called forth the gods of war, to bring destruction down upon ourselves, our world, the very earth, its air, its water, its myriad life. No, show me no surprise, no innocent bewilderment. I see now with the eyes of the Abyss. I see now with my enemy's eyes, and so I shall speak with its voice.
Behold, my friends, I am justice.
And when at last we meet, you shall not like it.
And if irony awakens in you at the end, see me weep with these tears of jade, and answer with a smile.
If you've the courage.
Have you, my friends, the courage?"

4 out of 5


Friday, March 27, 2009

Countdown - Jonathan Maberry

Zombie SWAT surprise.

4 out of 5


Patient Zero 1-4 - Jonathan Maberry

" “So...is this going to turn out to be some kind of cornball Men in Black thing? Thin ties, black suits, and a little flashy thing that’ll make me forget all this shit?”

He almost smiled. “No MIB, nothing retroengineered from crashed UFOs, no rayguns. The name, as I said, is functional. Department of Military Sciences.”

“A bunch of science geeks playing in the same league as Homeland?”

“More or less.”

“No aliens?”

“No aliens.”

“I’m no longer in the military, Mr. Church.”


“And I’m not a scientist.”

“I know.”

“So why am I here?”"

4.5 out of 5


The Devil In Mr Pussy - Paul Haines

Catfood drug cocktail up the duff block christ of a crackup.

4.5 out of 5


Anywhere There'a A Game - Greg Van Eekhout

Freaky five feedback.

4.5 out of 5


History Not Quite Repeating Itself - Paul J. McAuley

He has posted a list of all the Quiet War stories :-


‘Second Skin’ (Asimov's Science Fiction, 1997)
‘Sea Change, With Monsters’ (Asimov's Science Fiction, 1998)
‘The Gardens of Saturn' (Interzone, 1998)
‘Reef’ (Sky Life ed Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski Harcourt Brace, 2000)
‘Making History’ (PS Publishing, 2000)
‘The Passenger’ (Asimov's Science Fiction, 2002)
‘The Assassination of Faustino Malarte’ (Asimov's Science Fiction,2002)
Dead Men Walking’(Asimov’s Science Fiction, 2006)
‘Incomers’ (The Starry Rift, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Viking, 2008)

Mind Meld: The Funniest Writers in the History of SF/F - John DeNardo

A range of impressive authors and editors give their lists. Looks good to m3.

5 out of 5


Rhetorics Of Fantasy Introduction - Farah Mendehlson

"In this book I argue that there are essentially four categories within the fantastic: the portal-quest, the immersive, the intrusive, and the liminal. "

4.5 out of 5


Lester Young And The Jupiter's Moons' Blues - Gord Sellar

All that Space Jazz.

3 out of 5


Chartreuse Mansions - Mike Resnick

Maybe too many chicks.

3 out of 5

Chartreuse Mansions - Mike Resnick

The Island Of Annoyed Souls - Mike Resnick

Animal crime hideout talk.

3.5 out of 5

The Island of Annoyed Souls - Mike Resnick

The Dragon's Tears - Aliette de Bodard

Name concept boon end.

3.5 out of 5


The Triad's Gift - Aliette de Bodard

Snakes, big, old, wet.

3 out of 5


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obsidian Shards - Aliette de Bodard

Knife in heart insertion murder magic.

4 out of 5


Through the Obsidian Gates - Aliette de Bodard

Lords of the Underworld immortality ball game.

3.5 out of 5


The Dancer's Gift - Aliette de Bodard

Bloody way out, I feel.

3 out of 5


The Egan Thief - Gord Sellar

Greg's my ideas man.

4.5 out of 5


Breed Of Battle - Robert E. Howard

Costigan is plenty mad when someone kidnaps Mike for dirty dog fights.

4.5 out of 5


Epic Pooh - Michael Moorcock

A high fantasy hobbit bash.

4 out of 5


Poor Superman - Fritz Leiber

Power of the mind not funny.

4 out of 5


Exhalation - Ted Chiang

Brain dissection end of universe equilibrium optimism.

5 out of 5



Devil Car - Roger Zelazny

Autokill relations decision.

3.5 out of 5


Auto-da-Fe - Roger Zelazny


4 out of 5


Citadel Of Cobras - Aliette de Bodard

Forest hermit end.

3.5 out of 5


Volume Paa-Pyx - Fred Saberhagen

Political disease cure.

3.5 out of 5

Volume PAA-PYX - Fred Saberhagen

For A Daughter - Aliette de Bodard

Ghost miscarriage.

3 out of 5


The Naming At the Pool - Aliette de Bodard

Forest riddle game.

2.5 out of 5


Sea Child - Aliette de Bodard


Kid change wizardry, no stabbing.

4 out of 5

A Book Of Silences - James Enge


Life story toasted, thanks.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Autumn's Country - Aliette de Bodard


Immortal arrangements, no thanks.

2.5 out of 5

The Lost Xuyan Bride - Aliette de Bodard

(the zip's ok, I have looked, and Aliette is a computer geek, besides.)

White Lotus investigation Doc Smith aided Mexica escape.

4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Control Group - Roger Dee


Didn't find the Bees again, just some old fashioned humans.

3.5 out of 5

Nano Comes to Clifford Falls - Nancy Kress


Nano technology is available to all, so people that don't want to work in crappy jobs, like, say, sanitation, or underpaid jobs like teaching and the police don't have to.

3.5 out of 5

This Is How It Feels - Ian Creasey


Bad driver implants.

3.5 out of 5

Polity Books Order and Timeline - Neal Asher


Finally! :)

4 out of 5

Floating Over Time - Robert Reed

Floating Over Time - Robert Reed

Long storybot.

3 out of 5

Running Water For LA - Eric Witchey

Running Water to L.A. - Eric Witchey

Whale tunes water run rescue piracy takedown.

3.5 out of 5

Ted - Tom Van Natta

Ted - Tom Van Natta

Stuffybot surprise.

4 out of 5

Swing Time - Carrie Vaughn

Swing Time - Carrie Vaughn

Dancing caper cutoff.

3.5 out of 5

Free Space - Carrie Vaughn

Free Space - Carrie Vaughn

Robots, guns and money.

3.5 out of 5

Waking Ophelia - E. Catherine Tobler

Waking Ophelia - E. Catherine Tobler

Stasis spacejacking nookie attack.

3 out of 5

Premature Emergence - Eric James Stone

Premature Emergence - Eric James Stone

Hyperspace me, AI baby.

4 out of 5

The Super - Bud Sparhawk

The Super - Bud Sparhawk

Race Southern whale doubleplusright.

3.5 out of 5

Pumpkin - Bud Sparhawk

Pumpkin - Bud Sparhawk

Jupiter storm mining no more.

3 out of 5

Primrose and Thorn - Bud Sparhawk

Primrose and Thorn - Bud Sparhawk

Salvage race scare.

4 out of 5

The Rings Of Ragnaran - J. Simon

The Rings of Ragnaran - J. Simon

Space lizard Vygor stop.

3.5 out of 5

War Machine 1 - Andy Remic


Terminus reactor tangle trap.

3 out of 5

The Long Way Home - Fred Saberhagen

The Long Way Home - Fred Saberhagen

Ship walking survivors.

3.5 out of 5

A Date With Patti Pleezmi - Chuck Rothman

A Date With Patti Pleezmi - Chuck Rothman

Sextape self advice.

4 out of 5

Christmas Eve At Harvey Wallbanger's - Mike Resnick

Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger’s - Mike Resnick

Rigging the reindeer game.

2.5 out of 5

Honorable Enemies - Mike Resnick

Honorable Enemies - Mike Resnick

Blue beachball buddy bludgeoner trackdown termination tradeoff.

4 out of 5

Article Of Faith - Mike Resnick

Article of Faith - Mike Resnick

Churchbot analysis bust.

3.5 out of 5

Virtually A Cat - Jody Lynn Nye

Virtually, A Cat - Jody Lynn Nye

Moggie freak not suited.

3 out of 5

Mars A Traveler's Guide - Ruth Nestvold


Areological technological assistance breakdown.

4 out of 5

Tradition - Elizabeth Moon

Tradition - Elizabeth Moon

Chain of command blame.

3 out of 5

Astralis - L. E. Modesitt

Astralis - L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Clearing out the city.

3 out of 5

Indomitable - Jack McDevitt

Indomitable - Jack McDevitt

Interstellar SETI giveup scrapheap.

3 out of 5

Tribute - Todd McCaffrey

Tribute - Todd McCaffrey

Station hacker crackdown.

3 out of 5

Darwin's Suitcase - Elizabeth Malartre

Darwin’s Suitcase - Elisabeth Malartre

Origin observation visit destruction.

3.5 out of 5

Making Alex Frey - Marissa Lingen

Making Alex Frey - Marissa Lingen

Simulacrum release.

3 out of 5

Loki's Net - Marissa Lingen

Loki’s Net - Marissa Lingen

Like to be blokier.

3 out of 5

At the Watering Hole - Edward M. Lerner

At the Watering Hole - Edward M. Lerner

SETI FTL arrival zap.

3 out of 5

A Stranger In Paradise - Edward M. Lerner


Colonist rediscovery is repellent.

4 out of 5

Misfits - Sharon Lee and Steve Miller


Weathering the conflict.

3 out of 5

The Temple Of Thorns - John Lambshead

The Temple of Thorns - John Lambshead

""Oh, I believe that you are a Maryannu lady, no one else would mangle Achaean quite so prettily, but a princess normally has a retinue."
"I did have a retinue but I lost them." She actually stamped a foot.
He pulled a branch back for her to pass. "That seems careless. How did it happen?""

and more fun for Perseus : "The damn girl was chanting something now and could make out the words "Father Zeus." Why had the silly girl not run when he told her to? He stabbed his sThe Temple of Thorns - John Lambshead

""Oh, I believe that you are a Maryannu lady, no one else would mangle Achaean quite so prettily, but a princess normally has a retinue."
"I did have a retinue but I lost them." She actually stamped a foot.
He pulled a branch back for her to pass. "That seems careless. How did it happen?""

and more fun for Perseus : "The damn girl was chanting something now and could make out the words "Father Zeus." Why had the silly girl not run when he told her to? He stabbed his sword into a mummy where it stuck and, before he could free it, another dead warrior pulled his shield down."

3.5 out of 5
3.5 out of 5

Last Plane To Heaven - Jay Lake

Last Plane to Heaven - Jay Lake

"Great. Terrific. Psychic-psycho mercenaries in the Gobi desert. Film at fucking eleven."

With spacegirls.

3.5 out of 5

The Good Son - Naomi Kritzer

The Good Son - Naomi Kritzer

Dead sort of mum, mortal.

3 out of 5

Fleas - Dean Ing


Nipple knife predator upgrade.

3 out of 5

Scraps Of Fog - Sarah A. Hoyt


Kingly couple counselling.

3 out of 5

Discards - Nina Kiriki Hoffman


ReWork it.

2.5 out of 5

Spiderweb - David Gerrold


The more you Oort, the more you wheel, The Baked Bean weighs more with every meal.

3.5 out of 5

Thin Ice - Dave Freer


Electromagnetic skating escape.

3 out of 5

Weredragons Of Mars - Carl Frederick


Tropeship reality trouble.

3.5 out of 5

Food For Thought - Carl Frederick


Learning transfer, the pointy end.

3.5 out of 5

Concentration Of Dogs - Carl Frederick


Fatal canine gestalt.

4 out of 5

Double-Secret Weapon - Tony Frazier


The perils of merchandising yourself, the hero. With added supervillain annoyance.
'"Listen, kid," I say. "When you get trapped in an alternate dimension by a resurrected god, and have to watch all your friends die while you barely escape, and then spend two freaking years trying to fight your way back to Earth, only to find out that they've turned your life into a cartoon while you've been gone, then I might listen to what you have to say about my authenticity or lack of same. Until then, watch the damn show, buy the damn toys, and shut up!'

3.5 out of 5

Quasi - M. Alan Ford


Planet Of the Apes? Moon a lot fishier though.

3.5 out of 5

Moon Race - Ben Bova


Win like a walking turtle.

3 out of 5

An Ocean Is A Snowflake Four Billion Miles Away - John Barnes


Energetic documentary avalanche accident.

3 out of 5

Demonstration Day - Ian Creasey


Whacky gear.

3 out of 5

I Could've Done Better - Gregory Benford and David Brin


Modern man finds past Pharaoh harem life can pall, priestesse are bloody annoying, and the beer isn't cold enough.

4 out of 5

The Smartest Mob - David Brin


Airship hydrogen-helium switcheroo discovery goes down like a Led Zeppelin.

3.5 out of 5

Shopping Spree - Beth Bernobich


Help me drop a new one, Rhonda.

3 out of 5

Manumission - Tobias S. Buckell


Flatbread memory takeout departure.

4 out of 5

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Screaming - J. A. Konrath


A couple of robbers discover an undead Van Helsing, still wanting to get rid of all vamps.

3.5 out of 5

Suffer - J. A. Konrath


Snuff save.

3.5 out of 5

We Haven't Got There Yet - Harry Turtledove


Shakespeare future observation.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Broken Hourglass - Andy Heizler



3 out of 5

Black Cars - J. L. Comeau


Hooker pickup skin.

3 out of 5

Siren - J. L. Comeau


She made me all girlie.

3.5 out of 5

Five Seconds - J. L. Comeau


Knitting needle kill count.

3.5 out of 5

Firebird - J. L. Comeau


SWAT the witch.

4.5 out of 5

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Third Eagle 1 - R. A. MacAvoy


"Wanbli himself preferred a good Arena Theatrical, even if it meant clearing a room of furniture. He had spent whole days watching AT behind Tawlin's chair or, more likely, couch. It was all in the call of duty. He was interested in all types of AT, because they gave him new insights into people, and even better, into the places they came from. (Wanbli had never been off Neunacht; only a handful of Wacaan had been out for one hundred and fifty years.) Most of the ATs contained some episodes of fighting, which was Wanbli's clan destiny and his occupation. From what he gathered, the standards of personal combat on New Benares, where most of the entertainments originated, were either much lower or much higher than those on Neunacht: lower because the actors moved so slowly and with so much useless flailing. Higher because the moves were so complex, and because it seemed to take so very much punishment to drop them. Considering the matter reasonably, Wanbli thought that probably the local standards were high, but that the actors were not sufficiently trained to carry out the technique.

He preferred the sex-oriented shimmers anyway. Wanbli prided himself as much upon his bedroom games as he did upon the gold tattoo under his breechclout--and wasn't that often called the seducer's eagle? Not that a Wacaan had to try very hard to seduce anyone; all the world knew they were good."

3.5 out of 5

Friday, March 20, 2009

Where Do You Go When the Lights Go Out - Mark Chadbourn


Quantum girlfriend fade.

4 out of 5

Concept Sci-Fi Interview With - Alastair Reynolds

From Concept Sci-Fi - new book coming called Terminal World, a 'sort of Steampunk Planetary Romance', plus a future history further down the track.

4 out of 5


Deathworld - Harry Harrison


A psionic gambler decides that the punter lifestyle isn't so exciting anymore.

He has a chance to go somewhere else that might be a bit more of a rush, and that somewhere is Deathworld.

No paranoia needed here, they are out to get you.

So, much blowing stuff up.

2.5 out of 5

Birds - Jean-Claude Dunyach


Magician replacement people.

2.5 out of 5

Bat Durston Space Marshal - G. Richard Bozarth


Gotta go get Black Bart, Miss Mary.

3.5 out of 5

Serial Murders 1 - Kim Newman


"Apart from making fun of long running pommie soap operas, Jeperson has to deal with more of the supernatural on set of the sort of tv he loathes.

Liasing with a 'stunning' professor, as he thinks of her, helps to cheer him up somewhat, as he tries to solve a poltergeist problem on the set, and a voodoo problem off the set."

3 out of 5

Serial Murders 2 - Kim Newman


"Apart from making fun of long running pommie soap operas, Jeperson has to deal with more of the supernatural on set of the sort of tv he loathes.

Liasing with a 'stunning' professor, as he thinks of her, helps to cheer him up somewhat, as he tries to solve a poltergeist problem on the set, and a voodoo problem off the set."

3 out of 5

Serial Murders 3-4 - Kim Newman


"Apart from making fun of long running pommie soap operas, Jeperson has to deal with more of the supernatural on set of the sort of tv he loathes.

Liasing with a 'stunning' professor, as he thinks of her, helps to cheer him up somewhat, as he tries to solve a poltergeist problem on the set, and a voodoo problem off the set."

3.5 out of 5

By the Hair Of the Head - Joe R. Lansdale


Witchy doll dead.

3 out of 5

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Basil Wells: A Tribute and a Bibliography - Richard Simms


A look at an obscure writer, a couple of whose stories I stumbled across online, after finding one under Planet Stories at pulpgen.

"A typical science fiction story by Wells is fast-paced, exciting and full of weird and wacky ideas. Many of his stories deal with the theme of space exploration and Wells had a gift for describing strange alien worlds. He was also adept at conveying the peculiar psychologies of his superbly imagined alien life forms. A good deal of Wells' stories are in fact told from the point of view of aliens. Examples of this are "Quest of Thig" (1942), "Barren World" (1951) and "Exiles of the Forbidden Planet" (1951). Another common theme running through his sf work is that of one creature possessing the mind of another. Wells' stories often told of parasitical aliens taking over the minds and bodies of human beings, though in some stories the situation was described in reverse. One series of stories features the space explorer Balt Donner, who through the use of a device called a mentrol (an idea used in other stories) is able to enter and control the synthetic brain of a super-human android named Cass!"


"However, his most important set of inter-connected stories are those tales that are set on the parallel world of Thrane. Thrane is an alternative world that exists alongside our own and others in a multi-dimensional universe. The stories that make up this series represent some of his best and most original writing. Stories in the Thrane series include "Fog of the Forgotten" (1946), "Gateways" (1949), "The Singer" (1951), "Ship of the Fog Seas" (1955) and "Tinikin" (1976)."

Fog Of the Forgotten is on the web, well worth a look for those to whom this sort of story appeals, you'll find the link here.

5 out of 5

Moment Of Truth - Basil Wells


Don't want a new room!

2.5 out of 5

New Moon - Basil Wells


Nope, not a barbarian. Got subs and stuff.

3.5 out of 5

Top It Off With Death - Basil Wells


"Forbes lowered the rod to the fireplace. With his periscope and the revolver attachment he could fire into the library."

3 out of 5

The Girl In the Golden Atom - Ray Cummings


This is from the early twenties, and I think it shows.

The premise being size changing, a la the later DC hero The Atom - when a Chemist (with capital C) comes across a girl, he is intrigued enough to follow her, size changing pills and all.

There's a strange style method here, the characters are called by type The Big Business Man, The Very Young Man, The Doctor, etc. apart from the Girl herself, and her son and other inhabitants of her world. While it clearly divides the characters, and might be ok in a short story, all that capitalisation gets very tedious.

Eventually, after visiting, the primitive society she is from grows suspicious of the outsiders and their ability to become giants, etc., so it is time to move on.

2.5 out of 5

With the Lightnings - David Drake

With the Lightnings - David Drake

If Robert Lynn Asprin's Phule's Company was serious, that would be the kind of guy that Lieutenant Leary is, or whatever rank he may get up to.

Laid back for the military, with his people liking him.

Team him up with an highly intelligent space librarian and you have an interesting partnership, in this space navy sort of story.

No broadsides as such, but plenty of missiles, and even masts used for travelling large distances via other than normal sublight methods.

They are thrown together during a hostile takeover type situation - which is bad news for their opponents.

3 out of 5

Example - Tom Pace


Sacrifice mission.

2 out of 5

Fog Of the Forgotten - Basil Wells


Drogs or not, I think we'll stay.
(There's a whole bunch of crazy planetary romance style space adventure in this one.

3.5 out of 5

Patch - William Shedenhelm


Pop's Mercury repair.

3 out of 5

Out Of This World - Henry Hasse


Prison planet revenge.

2.5 out of 5

Last Night Out - Lee Gregor


Call me Joe, and get me a beer.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Resonance - Chris Dolley


A high functioning autistic type meets a woman, and realises he is not alone. There is close to an uncountable number of him, and her, too.

Resonance waves, ParDim organisations trying to gather information across multiverses and other razy to be found here.

Of course, all that information can be used to make really, really, deadly stuff, and it is guaranteed someone will have that sort of idea.

3 out of 5

Hunt At the Well Of Eternity - James Reasoner


Before she could reply, the waiter who had stopped her on her way across the hall appeared behind her sleek, bare left shoulder. "Excuse me, ma’am, but I believe you dropped this."

With an annoyed look again on her face, she turned toward the red-jacketed man and said, "I didn’t drop anything—"

But what the waiter was extending toward her was a pistol, aimed directly between her ample breasts. He reached out with his other hand to snatch the bundle she was carrying.

Mariella jerked back and said, "No!"

Incredulous and instantly tensed for trouble, Gabriel stepped between Mariella and the waiter. "Hey, buddy, put that thing down. This is a museum, not a firing range."

"This is not your concern," the waiter said, and swung the pistol at Gabriel’s head.

Instinct brought Gabriel’s left arm up to block the blow. His right fist shot up and out in a short, sharp punch that rocked the waiter’s head back and bloodied his nose."

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On Geodesica - Sean Williams


How it came about - there's also a second part.

3.5 out of 5

The Loaded Dog - Henry Lawson


Explosive fishing, and one slobbering mutt.

5 out of 5

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ships From the West - Paul Kearney


"'Well, captain, I believe we may come to an arrangement. I have spoken to my partner and we have hit upon a suitable sum.' A coil of paper was produced from Grobus' sleeve. 'I trust you will find it satisfactory.'

Hawkwood looked at the number written thereon, and his face did not change.

'You're in jest, of course.'

'Oh no- I assure you. This is a fair price. After all-'

'It might be a fair price for a worm-eaten row-boat, not for a high-seas carrack.' "

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Duke In His Castle - Vera Nazarian


Blueblood creation game.

3.5 out of 5

The Best Monkey - Daniel Abraham


Asymmetrical design advantage discovery.

4 out of 5

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This Is Not A Game 1 - Walter Jon Williams


"“What are we going to do tonight, Brain?” Charlie asked.

Pickups caught his words; software analyzed and recognized his speech; and the big plasma screen winked on. The Brain’s jutting, intent face took on a sinister, underlit cast.

“What we do every night, Pinky,” said the computer in the Brain’s voice.

Welcome, Charlie, to your lair."

3 out of 5

Bernardo's House 2 - James Patrick Kelly


Architecture sexware's new girl.

4 out of 5

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Time Trap - Hannu Rajaniemi


Half-mummy detective superhero serial.

3.5 out of 5

Hot Rain - Gareth L. Powell


Clone kill poison incentive.

3.5 out of 5

The Caryatids - Bruce Sterling


"Poisons, pumped down here at enormous pressure, had oozed deep into the water table. The seamy stone was warped and twisted. All around her, toxin miners scuttled like crabs.

The toxin miners pried the poisoned rock apart, slurped up toxins with busy hoses, then deftly reassembled the stifling walls in a jigsaw mess of glue. In their exoskeletons and filter suits, the miners looked like construction cranes wrapped in trash bags."

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seeds Of Earth Prologue - Michael Cobley


‘Ready aft turrets . . . acquire targets . . . fire!’

Streams of heavy-calibre shells converged on the leading Swarmers, knocking them off their spidery legs. Then the Sergeant cursed when he saw them right themselves, protected by the bioarmour which had confounded Earth’s military ever since the beginning of the invasion two years ago.

‘Pulse rounds,’ the Sergeant shouted. ‘Now!’

Bright bolts began to pound the Swarmers, dense knots of energised matter designed to simultaneously heat and corrode their armour. The enemy returned fire, their weapons delivering repeating arcs of long, thin black rounds, but as the turret jockeys focused their targeting the Swarmers broke off and scattered. The Sergeant then ordered his men to open up, joining in with his own carbine, and the withering crossfire tore into the weakened, confused enemies. In less than a minute, nothing was left alive or in one piece out on the rocky slope.

The defending marines exchanged laughs and grins, and knocked gauntleted knuckles together. The Sergeant barely had time to draw breath and reload his carbine when the consoleman’s urgent voice came over the comm:

‘Sergeant! – airborne contact, three klicks and closing!’"

3.5 out of 5

Thicker Than Water 1 - Felix Castor


"‘Asmodeus,’ the woman answered, dipping her head in acknowledgement. ‘It’s been a long time.’

The man’s head sagged. He was fighting a big enough dose of the drug to kill a small herd of elephants. OPG was a neurotoxin, cleared for clinical use only in a very narrow range of situations. This patient, Rafael Ditko, was explicitly one of them. ‘Bitch,’ he muttered thickly, sounding like a wet-brained alcoholic. ‘Hell-bitch.’

‘Does he know you?’ the duty manager asked, curious.

‘We met,’ said the doctor. ‘A long time ago.’"

3.5 out of 5

Flurb 7 - Rudy Rucker


A more cyberpunk, less whacky bunch of stories in this lengthy issue, which is quite solid at 3.32.

Flurb 7 : Off Track Betting - Madeline Ashby
Flurb 7 : The History of the Internet - Charlie Anders
Flurb 7 : Billy and the Flying Saucer - Terry Bisson
Flurb 7 : The Squonk Hunt - Cody Goodfellow
Flurb 7 : Clouds in the Night - Alex Hardison
Flurb 7 : Trembling Blue Stars - Richard Kadrey
Flurb 7 : Cobalt Imperium - Kek-W Kek-W
Flurb 7 : And They Will Not Be Stopped - Simon Logan
Flurb 7 : Growth Industry - Adam Rothstein
Flurb 7 : All Hangy - Rudy Rucker and John Shirley
Flurb 7 : Initiation - Robert Guffey

Mote communication market framing insider.

4 out of 5

Nasalsex.net, the end.

3.5 out of 5

Smoking turkey girlie mag, forget it.

2.5 out of 5

New man woman howl.

3 out of 5

Party games, babe.

3.5 out of 5

Alien guest ride.

3.5 out of 5

Going black and blue fast postal.

3.5 out of 5

Infojection resistance futility.

3.5 out of 5

Organic construction conception.

3.5 out of 5

Ascenscion movement.

3 out of 5

Keep on searching for.

3 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All Hangy - Rudy Rucker and John Shirley


Ascension movement.

3 out of 5

Growth Industry - Adam Rothstein


Organic construction conception.

3.5 out of 5

And They Will Not Be Stopped - Simon Logan


Infojection resistance futility.

(call it 3.75)
3.5 out of 5

Cobalt Imperium - Kek-w Kek-w


Going black and blue fast postal.

3.5 out of 5

Trembling Blue Stars - Richard Kadrey


Alien guest ride.

3.5 out of 5

Initiation - Robert Guffey


Keep on searching for.

3 out of 5

Clouds In the Night - Alex Hardison


Party games, babe.

3.5 out of 5

The Squonk Hunt - Cody Goodfellow


New man woman howl.

3 out of 5

Billy and the Flying Saucer - Terry Bisson


Smoking turkey girlie mag, forget it.

2.5 out of 5

The History Of the Internet - Charlie Anders


Nasalsex.net, the end.

3.5 out of 5

Off-Track Betting - Madeleine Ashby


Mote communication market framing insider.

4 out of 5

Precision Set - L. E. Modesitt


I'm some sort of artificial intelligence.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dinosaur Summer 1-8 - Greg Bear


"Shellabarger walked with the struthios for a while, wearing dark aviator glasses and a cloth cap. To Peter he seemed older, most of the enthusiasm gone out of him. But as the afternoon wore on and they had to gather up the dinosaurs, the chase seemed to enliven the trainer. They managed to guide each struthio back into its cage and the boom delivered them safely back into the hold, where Keller and his men tied them down again.

That evening, Peter fed the avisaurs seeds and scraps of ground meat and helped Shellabarger and Ray inspect the Aepyornis's claws for fungus. Shellabarger painted the claws with a smelly purple concoction.

'I didn't know keeping animals was so much work,' Peter said, watching from outside the cage.

Mrs Birdqueen jerked her foot vigorously. Shellabarger grunted and continued painting.

'I thought dinosaurs were really tough . . . You know, monsters.' He didn't really think that, but he wanted to give Shellabarger something to react against. He hated to see Shellabarger gloomy. The trainer shrugged but took his bait.

'In their own place, they're a lot tougher than we are. In Chicago or New York, I might feel tough, but on El Grande, none of us is going to be very tough. These beasts will be back in their element. Then we'll see them shine.'

'Dad says we'll be in port tomorrow evening.'

The Aepyornis stared down at them with her beady black eyes, then pushed Shellabarger away with a casual flip of her leg. He came out of her cage with the brush and bottle, rubbing his back where he had bumped against the bars. 'Had enough, eh, Mrs. Birdqueen?'

She shook her head vigorously. A cloud of neck feathers swirled through the air."

3.5 out of 5

Blood Music 1-8 - Greg Bear


"Each hour, a myriad of trillions of little live things—microbes, bacteria, the peasants of nature—are born and die, not counting for much except in the bulk of their numbers and the accumulation of their tiny lives. They do not perceive deeply, nor do they suffer. A hundred trillion, dying, would not begin to have the same importance as a single human death.

Within the ranks of magnitude of all creatures, small as microbes or great as humans, there is an equality of "elan," just as the branches of a tall tree, gathered together, equal the bulk of the limbs below, and all the limbs equal the bulk of the trunk.

We believe this as firmly as the kings of France believed in their hierarchy. Which of our generations will come to disagree?"

3.5 out of 5

Beyond Heaven's River 1-9 - Greg Bear


""When were you born?" Elvox asked.

"Christian year one thousand nine hundred and eighteen."

"When were you captured?" Nestor asked.

"Christian year one thousand nine hundred and forty-two."


He shook his head and glanced between them, then looked down at his feet. "Forgive me, do not wish to offend, but I have many things of asking, perhaps will trade, point for point, neh?"

"Fair enough," Nestor said. "You'll have to understand the situation clearly before you make any commitments." She pressed her tapas and the device translated her speech into Japanese. "You're very important now. Many people will want to talk to you."

"Why?" he asked. "I have lost."

"By no means," Nestor said. "You're very lucky. You probably own this planet now."

"He may not know what that means," Elvox said.

"I am not ignorant," Yoshio said defensively. "I was let to read, many years."

"It means that for a time you were the only being on this world. That probably makes you the owner."

"Cannot own all this," Yoshio said. "They own it."

"They're gone." Nestor swept her arms around the empty prairies of concrete. "They took everything but you and your habitat."

"I am desolate," Yoshio said, hanging his head. "I have lost.""

3.5 out of 5

Anvil Of Stars Prolog - Greg Bear


"At the end of The Forge of God, the Earth is dead, murdered by self-replicating spacefaring machines. A few thousand humans have been saved by other robots, machines sent by the Benefactors to defend primitive worlds and civilizations from the depredations of planet-killing probes. The Benefactor machines have succeeded in wiping out these probes within the solar system, but not before Earth's total destruction.

Kept aboard a huge Central Ark while Mars is made ready for their habitation, the humans are informed of the Law, a galactic code that governs the behavior of civilizations. The Law demands that civilizations which make self-replicating killer machines be punished—with extinction. Humans must carry out this punishment, with the help of the Benefactors. Younger occupants of the Central Ark volunteer, and their journey begins.

This is how the balance is kept."

3 out of 5

Queen Of Angels 1-9 - Greg Bear


"She could not wash away the sight of eight young comb citizens in various stages of disassembly. Last night, the first investigation team had gone to the third foot of East Comb One in response to neighborhood medical detectors picking up traces of human decay. In the first two hours the team had mounted a sniffer, performed assay and scanned for heat trails. Then the freezers had come and tombed the whole apartment. Senior in her watch, Mary had been assigned this rare homicide at seven hundred. Spin of the hour.

Layer by cold solid layer, forensics would now study the scene corpses and all and take as long as they wished. From the large scale to the microbial everything would be sifted and analyzed and by tomorrow or the day after they would know something about everyone who had been in and out of the apartment during the past year. There would be lists of skin flake, hair and spittle traces to match with medical records now fair game under the Raphkind amendments, bless the bastard; she could track suspects through microbe population deviances and projected points of origin as fine as rooms in a suspect's apartment, bless evolution and mitochondrial DNA.

With eyes closed she saw again the corpses hard and still, covered with a thin layer of rime, their blood clotted in dark cold lakes lives and memories fled. A grisly meat puzzle for masters to riddle.

Mary Choy had been a pd for five of her twenty eight years. Competence and the laws banning discrimination against voluntary transforms (bless the libs before Raphkind) had moved her on the sly spin to full lieutenant in supervisory investigation in three and a half years. She had remained an investigator by choice, specking this to be her slot in life. She did not love death. She loved mystery and capture. She loved finding the social carnivores, the parasites and untherapied misfits."

3.5 out of 5

Eternity 1 - Greg Bear


"Farren Siliom's dress—white African cotton pants and a tufted black sleeveless shirt of Thistledown altered linen—emphasized his responsibility for two worlds: Recovered Earth, the Eastern hemisphere of which rolled into morning beneath their feet, and the orbiting bodies: Axes Euclid and Thoreau and the asteroid starship Thistledown.

Olmy stood to one side of the apparent void in the outer shell of the precinct. The Earth passed out of view. He picted formal greetings to Farren Siliom, then said aloud, "My trip was smooth, Ser President."

He had waited patiently for three days to be admitted, using the time for the awkward visit to Suli Ram Kikura. Countless times before, he had waited on presiding ministers and lesser officials, fully aware, as centuries passed, that he had developed the old soldier's attitude of superiority over his masters, of respectful condescension to the hierarchy.

"And your son?"

"I haven't seen him in some time, Ser President. I understand he is doing well."

"A whole crop of children coming up for their incorporation exams soon," Farren Siliom said. "They'll be needing bodies and occupations, all of them, if they pass as easily as I'm sure your son will. More strain on limited resources."

"Yes, Ser."

"I've invited two of my associates to attend part of your briefing," the president said, hands folded behind his back.

Two assigned ghosts—projected partial personalities, acting with temporary independence from their originals—appeared a few meters to one side of the president. Olmy recognized one of them, the leader of the neo-Geshels in Axis Euclid, Tobert Tomson Tikk, one of Euclid's thirty senators in the Nexus. Olmy had investigated Tikk at the start of his mission, though he had not met with the senator personally. The image of Tikk's partial looked slightly more handsome and muscled than his original, an ostentation gaining favor among the more radical Nexus politicians.

The presence of projected partials was both old and new. For thirty years after the Sundering, the separation of Thistledown from the Way, orthodox Naderites had controlled the Hexamon and such technological displays had been relegated to situations of extreme necessity. Now the use of partials was commonplace; a neo-Geshel such as Tikk would not be averse to casually scattering his image and personality patterns about the Hexamon.

"Ser Olmy is acquainted with Senator Tikk. I don't believe you've met Senator Ras Mishiney, senator for the territory of Greater Australia and New Zealand. He's in Melbourne at this moment."

"Pardon the time delay, Ser Olmy," Mishiney said.

"No fear," Olmy said. The audience was purely a formality, since most of Olmy's report was contained on record in detailed picts and graphics; but even so, he had not expected Farren Siliom to invite witnesses. It was a wise leader who knew when to admit his adversary—or adversaries—into high functions; Olmy knew little about Mishiney.

"Let me apologize again for disturbing your well-deserved retirement." Earthlight flooded the president. As the precinct rotated, the Earth again seemed to pass below them. "You've served this office for centuries. I thought it best to rely on someone with your experience and perspective. What we're dealing with here, of course, are largely historical problems and trends . . ."

"Problems of cultures, perhaps," Tikk interposed. Olmy thought it brash for a partial to interrupt the president; but then, that was neo-Geshel style.

"I assume these honorables know the task you set for me," Olmy said, nodding at the ghosts. But not the whole task.

The president picted assent. The moon slipped beneath them, a tiny bright platinum crescent. They all stood near the center of the platform now, the partials' images flickering slightly to indicate their nature. "I hope this assignment was less strenuous than the ones you're famous for."

"Not strenuous at all, Ser President. I've been afraid of losing touch with the details of the Hexamon—" or indeed the human race, he thought, "—living so calmly and peacefully."

The president smiled. Even for Olmy, it was hard to imagine an old warhorse like himself living a life of studious leisure.

"I sent Ser Olmy on a mission around the Recovered Earth to provide an independent view of our relations. This seemed necessary in light of the four recent assassination attempts on Hexamon officials and Terrestrial leaders. We in the Hexamon are not used to such . . .extreme attitudes."

3.5 out of 5

Sisters - Greg Bear


Designer defect death

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Agony Column - Kim Newman


An interview going over all sorts of things Anno Dracula-verse and movie related.

5 out of 5

Some Inguruki Myths - Marta Randall


Snow Wolf, Raven and a bear in there.

3 out of 5

Dragonsdawn 1 - Anne McCaffrey


"“Oh, I don’t know. It’s one more procedure which gets us nearer to the surface. Of course,” she added dryly, “we’re sort of stuck with whatever’s reported, but I expect we can cope.”

“We’ll have to, won’t we?” Paul Benden replied a trifle grimly.

The trip was one-way—it had to be, considering the cost of getting over six thousand colonists and supplies to such an out-of-the-way sector of the galaxy. Once they reached Pern the fuel left in the great transport ships would be enough only to achieve and maintain a synchronous orbit above their destination while people and cargo were shuttled down to the surface. To be sure, they had homing capsules that would reach the headquarters of the Federated Sentient Planets in a mere five years, but to a retired naval tactician like Paul Benden, a fragile homing capsule did not offer much in the way of an effective backup. The Pern expedition was composed of com- mitted and resourceful people who had chosen to eschew the high-tech societies of the Federated Sentient Planets. They expected to manage on their own. And though their destination in the Rukbat system was rich enough in ores and minerals to support an agriculturally based society, it was poor enough and far enough from the center of the galaxy that it should escape the greed of the technocrats."

3.5 out of 5

The Ship Who Saved the Worlds 1 - Anne McCaffrey


"The scroll lifted out of the wizard's hand and floated toward Keff. Hovering in the air, it unrolled slowly. Keff squinted at what was revealed within: spidery tracings in fading brown ink, depicting mountains, roads, and rivers. "A map!" he breathed.

"Hold it," the wizard said, his voice unaccountably changing from a cracked baritone to a pleasant female alto. "We're in range of the comsats." Door, rats, and aged figure vanished, leaving blank walls.

"Oh, spacedust," Keff said, unstrapping his belt and laser epee and throwing himself into the crash seat at the control console. "I was enjoying that. Whew! Good workout!" He pulled his sweaty tunic off over his head, and mopped his face with the tails. The dark curls of hair on his broad chest may have been shot through here and there with white ones, but he was grinning like a boy.

"You nearly got yourself spitted back there," said the disembodied voice of Carialle, simultaneously sending and acknowledging ID signals to the SSS-900. "Watch your back better next time.""

3.5 out of 5

The Skies Of Pern 1 - Anne McCaffrey


"In his careful clearing of debris in the ancient dwelling place, he had found the initials SK carved or etched on several surfaces: on the metal worktop in the garage of the ancient sled and on several drawers. No other inhabitant had defaced or initialed anything. The only SK not listed as going north in the Second Crossing—when the Thread-beleaguered colonists had resettled at Fort—was Stev Kimmer. Previous research revealed that the man had disappeared with a sled after Ted Tubberman's illegal launch of an appeal for help from old Earth. Kimmer had not been seen again. The loss of a functional sled had been officially regretted; Kimmer's absence had not."

3.5 out of 5

The Masterharper Of Pern - Anne McCaffrey


"" Who are you talking to?" Libby asked, her eyes still wide with fright for Robie's presumptuous behavior toward the huge and powerful creature.

"The dragon, a' course," Robie said, having no real sense of doing something unusual. "You'll be careful with them, won't you, dragon?"

Of course!

Robie was certain the dragon was laughing inside. "What's so funny?"

I have a name, you know.

"Oh, I know that all the dragons have names, but I've only just met you so I don't know your name." Robie turned his head ever so slightly to be sure his friends were observing how brave he was. And courteous.

Cortath is my name. What is yours, little one?"

3 out of 5

Dragonflight 1 - Anne McCaffrey


"Lessa woke, cold. Cold with more than the chill of the everlastingly clammy stone walls. Cold with the prescience of a danger stronger than the one ten full Turns ago that had then sent her, whimpering with terror, to hide in the watch-wher’s odorous lair."

3 out of 5

Big Dome - Marta Randall

Big Dome - Marta Randall

Planet Run sign.

3.5 out of 5

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold 1 - John Le Carre


"Where's the American gone?" asked Leamas.


"The CIA boy. The one who was with me."

"Bed time," said the elder man and they all laughed.

Leamas put down his mug and said:

"What are your rules for shooting to protect a man coming over? A man on the run."

"We can only give covering fire if the Vopos shoot into our sector."

"That means you can't shoot until a man's over the boundary?"

The older man said, "We can't give covering fire, Mr...."

"Thomas," Leamas replied, "Thomas." They shook hands, the two policemen pronouncing their own names as they did so.

"We can't give covering fire. That's the truth. They tell us there'd be war if we did.""

4 out of 5

Call For the Dead 1 - John Le Carre


"The effect of Lady Ann's departure upon her former husband did not interest society -- which indeed is unconcerned with the aftermath of sensation. Yet it would be interesting to know what Sawley and his flock might have made of Smiley's reaction; of that fleshy, bespectacled face puckered in energetic concentration as he read so deeply among the lesser German poets, the chubby wet hands clenched beneath the tumbling sleeves. But Sawley profited by the occasion with the merest of shrugs by remarking partir c'est courir un peu, and he appeared to be unaware that though Lady Ann just ran away, a little of George Smiley had indeed died.

That part of Smiley which survived was as incongruous to his appearance as love, or a taste for unrecognized poets: it was his profession, which was that of intelligence officer. It was a profession he enjoyed, and which mercifully provided him with colleagues equally obscure in character and origin. It also provided him with what he had once loved best in life: academic excursions into the mystery of human behaviour, disciplined by the practical application of his own deductions."

3.5 out of 5

The Honourable Schoolboy 1 - John Le Carre


"Afterwards, in the dusty little corners where London's secret servants drink together, there was argument about where the Dolphin case history should really begin. One crowd, led by a blimpish fellow in charge of microphone transcription, went so far as to claim that the fitting date was some sixty years ago, when "that arch-cad Bill Haydon" was born into the world under a treacherous star. Haydon's very name struck a chill into them. It does so even today. For it was this same Haydon who, while still at Oxford, was recruited by Karla the Russian as a "mole" or "sleeper" -- or, in English, agent of penetration -- to work against them. And who with Karla's guidance entered their ranks and spied on them for thirty years or more. And whose eventual discovery -- thus the line of reasoning -- brought the British so low that they were forced into a fatal dependence upon their American sister service, whom they called in their own strange jargon "the Cousins." The Cousins changed the game entirely, said the blimpish fellow, much as he might have deplored power tennis or bodyline bowling. And ruined it too, said his seconds.

To less-flowery minds, the true genesis was Haydon's unmasking by George Smiley and Smiley's consequent appointment as caretaker chief of the betrayed service, which occurred in the late November of 1973. Once George had got Karla under his skin, they said, there was no stopping him; the rest was inevitable. Poor old George: but what a mind under all that burden!"

4 out of 5

A Small Town In Germany 1 - John Le Carre


"Once upon a time, Cork remembered wistfully, panics came singly. You had a scream on the Berlin corridor, Russian helicopters teasing up the border, an up-and-downer with the Four Power Steering Committee in Washington. Or there was intrigue: suspected German diplomatic initiative in Moscow that had to be nipped in the bud, a suspected fiddle on the Rhodesian embargo, hushing up a Rhine Army riot in Minden. And that was that. You bolted your food, opened shop, and stayed till the job was done; and you went home a free man. That was that; that was what life was made of; that was Bonn. Whether you were a dip like de Lisle, or a non-dip behind the green baize door, the scene was the same; a bit of drama, a lot of hot air, then tickle up the stocks and shares a bit, back to boredom and roll on your next posting."

3.5 out of 5

A Perfect Spy 1 - John Le Carre


"Going great guns was the answer. On his right sat the dread Frau Oberregierungsrat Dinkel, a woman so plain and rude, even by the standards of official wives, that some of the toughest troopers in the Embassy had been reduced to stunned silence by her. Yet Magnus had drawn her to him like a flower to the sun and she could not get enough of him. Sometimes, watching him perform like this, Mary was moved to involuntary pity by the absoluteness of his dedication. She wished him more ease, if only for a moment. She wanted him to know that he had earned his peace whenever he chose to take it, instead of giving, giving all the time. If he were a real diplomat, he'd be an Ambassador easily, she thought. In Washington, Grant Lederer had privately assured her, Magnus had exerted more influence than either his Station Chief or the perfectly awful Ambassador. Vienna -- though of course he was enormously respected here and enormously influential too -- was an anticlimax, obviously. Well it was meant to be, but when the dust settled, Magnus would be back on course, and the thing here was to be patient. Mary wished she was not so young for him. Sometimes he tries to live down to me, she thought. On Magnus's left, similarly mesmerised, sat Frau Oberst Mohr, whose German husband was attached to the Signals Bureau at Wiener Neustadt. But Magnus's real conquest, as ever, was Grant Lederer III, "he of the little black beard and little black eyes and little black thoughts," as Magnus called him, who six months ago had taken over the American Embassy's Legal Department, which meant of course the reverse, for Grant was the Agency's new man, though he was an old friend from Washington."

3 out of 5

Single and Single - John Le Carre


" "We are calling this `exemplary punishment,'" Hoban was declaring, in a prepared statement from his prayer book.

"Louder," Monsieur François ordered laconically from up the hill, so Hoban said the sentence again.

"Sure, it's a vengeance killing too. Please. We would not be human if we did not exact vengeance. But also we intend this gesture will be interpreted as formal request for recompense." Louder still. And clearer. "And we sincerely hope, Mr. Winser, that your friend Mr. Tiger Single, and the international police, will read this message and draw the appropriate conclusion.""

3.5 out of 5

Smiley's People 1 - John Le Carre


"Two seemingly unconnected events heralded the summons of Mr. George Smiley from his dubious retirement. The first had for its background Paris, and for a season the boiling month of August, when Parisians by tradition abandon their city to the scalding sunshine and the bus-loads of packaged tourists."

3.5 out of 5

The Looking Glass War 1 - John Le Carre


""Did you get any pictures?" Taylor asked. He must get the film and go.

Lansen shrugged, put his hand in his raincoat pocket and, to Taylor's horror, extracted a zinc container for thirty-five-millimetre film, handing it to him across the table.

"What was it?" Lansen asked again. "What were they after in such a place? I went under the cloud, circled the whole area. I didn't see any atom bombs."

"Something important, that's all they told me. Something big. It's got to be done, don't you see? You can't make illegal flights over an area like that." Taylor was repeating what someone had said. "It has to be an airline, a registered airline, or nothing. There's no other way."

"Listen. They picked us up as soon as we got into the place. Two MIGs. Where did they come from, that's what I want to know? As soon as I saw them I turned into cloud; they followed me. I put out a signal, asking for bearings. When we came out of the cloud, there they were again. I thought they'd force me down, order me to land. I tried to jettison the camera but it was stuck. The kids were all crowding the windows, waving at the MIGs. They flew alongside for a time, then peeled off. They came close, very close. It was bloody dangerous for the kids." He hadn't touched his beer. "What the hell did they want?" he asked. "Why didn't they order me down?""

3.5 out of 5

A Murder Of Quality 1 - John Le Carre


"I think I shall die if ever I have to watch one of those beastly rugger games again. The noise is fantastic," said one. He was tall with fair hair, and his name was Caley.

"People only shout because the dons are watching from the pavilion," the other rejoined; "that's why each house has to stand together. So that the house dons can swank about how loud their houses shout."

3 out of 5

The Constant Gardener 1 - John Le Carre


""Well, I don't think it can really — no, it can't," Mildren replied, gathering conviction as he spoke. "It's Tessa Quayle, Sandy."

A different Woodrow now, hackles up, nerves extended. Tessa. "What about her?" he said. His tone deliberately incurious, his mind racing in all directions. Oh Tessa. Oh Christ. What have you done now?

"The Nairobi police say she's been killed," Mildren said, as if he said it every day.

"Utter nonsense," Woodrow snapped back before he had given himself time to think. "Don't be ridiculous. Where? When?"

"At Lake Turkana. The eastern shore. This weekend. They're being diplomatic about the details. In her car. An unfortunate accident, according to them," he added apologetically. "I had a sense that they were trying to spare our feelings.""

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Russia House 1 - John Le Carre


"That she was Russian went without saying. Only a Russian woman would have a plastic perhaps-bag dangling from her arm in readiness for the chance purchase that is the triumph of everyday life, even if most perhaps-bags were of string. Only a Russian would be so nosy as to stand close enough to check a man's arithmetic. And only a Russian would preface her interruption with one of those fastidious grunts, which in a man always reminded Landau of his father doing up his shoe laces, and in a woman, Harry, bed.

"Excuse me, sir. Are you the gentleman from Abercrombie & Blair?" she asked.

"Not here, dear," said Landau without lifting his head. She had spoken English, so he had spoken English in return, which was the way he played it always.

"Mr. Barley?"

"Not Barley, dear. Landau."

"But this is Mr. Barley's stand."

"This is not Barley's stand. This is my stand. Abercrombie & Blair are next door.""

3.5 out of 5

Absolute Friends 1 - John Le Carre


""Humph," says Mundy aloud, brows furrowed. During his tour, Mr. Blair will make a brief stopover in Iraq. The emphasis will be on reconstruction rather than triumphalism.

"I should bloody well hope so," Mundy growls, his glower intensifying.

Mr. Blair has no doubt whatever that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction will shortly be found. U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, on the other hand, speculates that the Iraqis may have destroyed them before the war began. "Why don't you make up your stupid minds then?" Mundy harrumphs."

3 out of 5

The Little Drummer Girl 1 - John Le Carre


"It exploded much later than intended, probably a good twelve hours later, at twenty-six minutes past eight on Monday morning. Several defunct wristwatches, the property of victims, confirmed the time. As with its predecessors over the last few months, there had been no warning. But then none had been intended. The Düsseldorf car-bombing of a visiting Israeli arms-procurement official had been preceded by no warning, neither had the book bomb sent to the organisers of an Orthodox Jewish congress in Antwerp, which blew up the honorary secretary and burnt her assistant to death. Neither had the dustbin bomb outside an Israeli bank in Zürich, which maimed two passers-by. Only the Stockholm bomb had a warning, and that turned out to be a completely different group, not part of the series at all.

At twenty-five minutes past eight, the Drosselstrasse in Bad Godesberg had been just another leafy diplomatic backwater, about as far from the political turmoils of Bonn as you could reasonably get while staying within fifteen minutes' drive of them. It was a new street but mature, with lush, secretive gardens, and maids' quarters over the garages, and Gothic security grilles over the bottle-glass windows. The Rhineland weather for most of the year has the warm wet drip of the jungle; its vegetation, like its diplomatic community, grows almost as fast as the Germans build their roads, and slightly faster than they make their maps. Thus the fronts of some of the houses were already half obscured by dense plantations of conifers, which, if they ever grow to proper size, will presumably one day plunge the whole area into a Grimm's fairy-tale blackout. These trees turned out to be remarkably effective against blast and, within days of the explosion, one local garden centre had made them a speciality."

3.5 out of 5

The Quiller Memorandum 1 - Adam Hall


"“I was flown out from London this morning with orders to make contact in strict hush. I wasn’t allowed to go to your hotel or meet you anywhere in public, so Local Control had a difficult task. Your phone was tapped sometime before noon in the hope that we could find out your program for the day and somehow provide contact for me, and it was most fortunate that we heard you telephone for a box at the Neukomödietheater.”
“Played into your hands, like a fool.”
I was pleased to see his look of mild pain. I was acting the rebel. Tomorrow I was being let out of school, so tonight I could cheek whom I chose, and he was handy. Also he was a stranger and might be a top kick of some kind very high in the echelon, out here in the field to chuck his weight about incognito. If so I could be saucy and get away with it until he identified himself. The show wasn’t turning out so badly after all.
He said: “This is all fully urgent.”
It was the big signal, then. “Fully Urgent” was Control’s phrase for covering most of the other ones from “Top Secret” through “Action at Once” to “Priority Red.”
He could keep it.
“Find someone else,” I said. “I’m homeward bound.”
I felt better now. The big signal wasn’t for monkeying with, and I’d monkeyed."

4 out of 5

The Bourne Supremacy 1 - Robert Ludlum


"Get out! Now!"

The guard had no chance. Swiftly the priest pulled a razor-thin, double-edged knife from the folds at his waist. He slashed the man's wrist, half severing the hand with the gun from the guard's arm, then arced the blade surgically across the man's throat; air and blood erupted as the head snapped back in a mass of shining red; he fell to the floor, a corpse.

Without hesitation, the killer-priest slid the blemished knife into the cloth of his caftan where it held, and from under the right side of his robe he withdrew a thin-framed Uzi machine gun, its curved magazine holding more ammunition than he would need.

3.5 out of 5

The Bourne Ultimatum Prologue - Robert Ludlum


"Medusa. The bastard battalion from Vietnam, the unlogged, unsanctioned, unacknowledged collection of killers and misfits who roamed the jungles of Southeast Asia directed by Command Saigon, the original death squads who brought Saigon more intelligence input than all the search-and-destroys put together. Jason Bourne had come out of Medusa with David Webb only a memory--a scholar who had another wife, other children, all slaughtered.

General Norman Swayne had been an elite member of Command Saigon, the sole supplier of the old Medusa: And now there was a new Medusa: different, massive, evil incarnate cloaked in contemporary respectability, searching out and destroying whole segments of global economies, all for the benefit of the few, all financed by the profits from a long-ago bastard battalion, unlogged, unacknowledged--nonhistory. This modern Medusa was the bridge to Carlos the Jackal. The assassin would find the principals irresistible as clients, and both camps would demand the death of Jason Bourne. That had to happen! And for it to happen, Bourne had to learn the secrets concealed within the grounds belonging to General Swayne, head of all procurements for the Pentagon, a panicked man with a small tattoo on his inner forearm. A Medusan."

3.5 out of 5

The Scarlatti Inheritance 1 - Robert Ludlum


""In your judgment if we delivered the file to Major Canfield, would he produce . . . April Red . . . for this meeting with Kroeger?"

"I believe he would."

"Why? It's a cruel thing to do to an eighteen-year-old boy."

The general hesitated. "I'm not sure he has an alternative. There's nothing to prevent Kroeger from making other arrangements."

Hull stopped pacing and looked at the brigadier general. He had made up his mind. "I shall have the president sign an executive order for the file. However, and frankly I place this as a condition for his signature, your suppositions are to remain between the two of us."

"The two of us?"

"I shall brief President Roosevelt on the substance of our conversation, but I will not burden him with conjectures which may prove to be unfounded. Your theory may be nothing more than a series of recorded coincidences easily explained."

"I understand."

"But if you are correct, Heinrich Kroeger could trigger an internal collapse in Berlin. Germany's in a death struggle. . . . As you've pointed out, he's had extraordinary staying power. He's part of the elite corps surrounding Hitler. The Praetorian Guard revolts against Caesar. If you're wrong, however, then we must both think of two people who will soon be on their way to Bern. And may God have mercy on our souls.""

3 out of 5

The Paris Option 1 - Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds


"The black van rolled to a stop outside L'Institut Pasteur, cut its engine, and turned off its headlights. It remained there, silent, until the young couple, oblivious in their bliss, disappeared inside a building across the street.

The van's doors clicked open, and four figures emerged clothed completely in black, their faces hidden behind balaclavas. Carrying compact Uzi submachine guns and wearing backpacks, they slipped through the night, almost invisible. A figure materialized from the shadows of the Pasteur Institute and guided them onto the grounds, while the street behind them remained quiet, deserted."

3 out of 5

The Cry Of the Halidon 1 - Robert Ludlum


""I'm really very sorry for the inconvenience, meeting like this. Old Julian has his quirks, I'll grant you that."

McAuliff decided he might have misjudged the Dunstone man. "It was a little confusing, that's all. If the object was precaution--for what reason I can't imagine he picked a hell of a car to send."

Preston laughed. "True. But then, I've learned over the years that Warfield, like God, moves in mysterious ways that basically are quite logical. He's really all right. You're having lunch with him, you know."

"Fine. Where?"


3 out of 5

The Matarese Countdown 1 - Robert Ludlum


""You're not only suggesting, but you're also actually stating, that we're all related!" cried the attorney from Boston. "What proof do you have?"

"Buried six feet in the earth on the northeast acreage of this property was a small vault, an oilcloth packet inside. It took me five months to find it. In the oilcloth were the names of the Baron's children and their new homelands. He was, if nothing else, precise in all things.... Yes, my Bostonian guest, we are all related. We are cousins, whether we like it or not. Collectively, we are the inheritors of the Matarese.""

3 out of 5

The Apocalypse Watch 1 - Robert Ludlum


"Thirty-two months of grueling serpentine work were about to bear fruit, thought Latham. Nearly three years of building a life, a life that was not his, were about to come to an end. The incessant, maddening, exhausting travels throughout Europe and the Middle East, synchronized down to hours, even minutes, so he'd be at a specific place at a given time, where others could swear on their lives that they had seen him. And the scum of the world he had dealt with--arms merchants without conscience, whose extraordinary profits were measured by supertankers of blood; drug lords, killing and crippling generations of children everywhere; compromised politicians, even statesmen, who bent and thwarted laws for the benefit of the manipulators--it was all finished. There would be no more frenzied funneling of gargantuan sums of money through laundered Swiss accounts, secret numbers, pectrograph signatures, all part of the deadly games of international terrorism. Harry Latham's personal nightmare, as vital as it was, was over."

3.5 out of 5

The Hades Factor 1 - Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds


"Because the police were involved, only four hours later the medical examiner prepared for the autopsy of the late Mario Dublin, address unknown, in the morgue on the basement level of the hospital.

The double doors of the suite flung wide. "Walter! Don't open him!"

Dr. Walter Pecjic looked up. "What's wrong, Andy?"

"Maybe nothing," Dr. Andrew Wilks said nervously, "but all that blood in the patrol car scares the hell out of me. Acute respiratory distress syndrome shouldn't lead to blood from the mouth. I've only seen that kind of blood from a hemorrhagic fever I helped treat when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa. This guy was carrying a Disabled American Vets card. Maybe he was stationed in Somalia or somewhere else in Africa." Dr. Pecjic stared down at the dead man he was about to cut open. Then he returned the scalpel to the tray. "Maybe we'd better call the director."

"And call Infectious Diseases, too," Dr. Wilks said."

3 out of 5

The Cassandra Compact 1 - Robert Ludlum and Philip Shelby


"The caretaker stirred when he heard the crunch of tires on gravel. There was barely any light left in the sky, and he had just made coffee and was reluctant to get up. But his curiosity got the better of him. Visitors to Alexandria seldom ventured into the cemetery at Ivy Hill; the historic town on the Potomac had a brace of other, more colorful attractions and amusements to offer the living. As for the locals, not many came out on a weekday; fewer still on a late afternoon when the April rains lashed the sky."

2.5 out of 5

The Altman Code 1 - Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds


"There was a saying in Washington that lawyers ran the government, but spies ran the lawyers. The city was cobwebbed with intelligence agencies, everything from the legendary CIA and FBI and the little-known NRO to alphabet groups in all branches of the military and government, even in the illustrious Departments of State and Justice. Too many, in the opinion of President Samuel Adams Castilla. And too public. Rivalries were notoriously a problem. Sharing information that inadvertently included misinformation was a bigger problem. Then there was the dangerous sluggishness of so many bureaucracies."

2.5 out of 5

The Prometheus Deception 1 - Robert Ludlum


" Only a trained engineer with highly rarefied expertise might have noticed a few anomalous details—the fact, for example, that every window frame was equipped with a piezoelectric oscillator, rendering futile any attempt at laser-acoustic surveillance from outside. Or the high-frequency white-noise "drench" that enveloped the building in a cone of radio waves, sufficient to defeat most forms of electronic eavesdropping.

Certainly nothing ever attracted the attention of its K Street neighbors—the balding lawyers at the grains board, the grim-faced accountants in their ties and short-sleeved shirts at the slowly failing business consulting firm. People arrived at 1324 K Street in the morning and left in the evening and trash was deposited in the alley Dumpster on the appropriate days. What else did anybody care to know? But that was how the Directorate liked to be: hidden in plain view.

The man almost smiled to himself when he thought about it. For who would ever suspect that the most secretive of the world's covert agencies would be headquartered in an ordinary-looking office building in the middle of K Street, right out in the open?"

4 out of 5

The Sigma Protocol 1 - Robert Ludlum


"In his right hand Cavanaugh gripped his blue-black pistol, the ten-inch-long tube of a sound suppressor threaded to its barrel. Ben, flashing back on target-practice memories from twenty years ago, saw that it was a Walther PPK, a .32.

Ben held his breath, terrified that his gasping would give him away. He drew back into the alcove, clutching the iron light fixture he had just torn from the wall, flattening himself out of sight as Cavanaugh made a sweep of the restaurant. With a sudden but sure movement of his arm Ben flung the iron lantern fixture, smashing it into Cavanaugh's skull with an audible thud.

Jimmy Cavanaugh screamed in pain, his cry high-pitched like an animal's. His knees buckled, and he squeezed the trigger.

Ben could feel a flare of heat, a fraction of an inch away from his ear. But now, instead of drawing back farther, or attempting to run, Ben lunged forward, slamming himself into his enemy's body, pummeling him to the ground, Cavanaugh's skull cracking against the stone floor."

3 out of 5

The Road To Gandolfo 1 - Robert Ludlum


""How the hell can they?" Symington removed a piece of glass from is little finger. "What the hell are they saying? 'We interrupt this program to announce that the American military representative, General MacKenzie Hawkins, shot the balls off a ten-foot jade statue in Son Tai Square'?—Bullshit! Peking wouldn't allow that; it's too goddamned undignified."

"They're phrasing it a bit differently, sir. They say he destroyed an historic monument of precious stone in the Forbidden City. They say it's as though someone blew up the Lincoln Memorial."

"It's a different kind of statue! Lincoln's got clothes on; his balls don't show! It's not the same!""

3.5 out of 5

The Janson Directive 1 - Robert Ludlum


" Harnett was an international construction firm, but not the kind that put up skyscrapers in American metropolises. Most of its projects were outside the United States; along with larger corporations such as Bechtel, Vivendi, and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, it contracted for projects like dams, wastewater treatment plants, and gas turbine power stations—unglamorous but necessary infrastructure. Such projects posed civil-engineering challenges rather than aesthetic ones, but they also required an ability to work the ever shifting zone between public and private sectors. Third World countries, pressured by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to sell off publicly owned assets, routinely sought bidders for telephone systems, water and power utilities, railways, and mines. As ownership changed hands, new construction work was required, and narrowly focused firms like the Harnett Corporation had come into their own. "

2.5 out of 5

Shards Of A Broken Crown 1 - Raymond Feist


" Dash flexed his gloved fingers and slowly pulled his sword from his scabbard. If the previous conflict had taught him nothing else, it was to always be ready. There were no safe positions outside the fortress that was the city of Darkmoor.

In the distance he dected motion, and he focused on it. A single figure trudged along the road. He was moving at a plodding walk, and as Dash watched, he hurried to a slow trot. Dash knew he was walking one hundred paces, then trotting one hundred paces, a practice drilled into Dash and his brother by their arms teachers as boys. For a man without a mount it could cover almost as much distance as a horse could in a day, more over the course of weeks.

Dash watched. The figure resolved itself into a man wrapped in a heavy grey cloak; clothing designed to make it difficult to see the wearer from any distance in the gloom of winter. Only on the bright days when the sky was clear would the wearer be easy to spot.

As the man on foot came closer, Dash saw he was without a hat, but had his head covered in a thick cloth, a scarf or torn remnant of another piece of clothing. He carried a sword at his side, and his hands were clad in mismatching gloves. His boots were filthy with mud and ice.

The crunching of snow under his tread became louder by the moment, until he stood before Dash. He stopped and looked up, and at last he said, "You're in my way."

Dash moved his mount aside and swung the horse's head around toward Darkmoor. He put his sword away, urged the animal forward and walked beside the man on foot. "Lose your horse?" he asked.

Jimmy, Dash's brother, hiked his thumb over his shoulder. "Back there."

"That was pretty careless," said the younger brother. "That was an expensive horse."

Jimmy said, "I know. But I didn't feel like carrying him. He was dead.""

3.5 out of 5