Reviews #2

Recently I have been thinking that my reading has been too focused on SF, so in the last month I have read books by Raymond Chandler, The Marquis de Sade, Lothar- Gunther Buchheim (Das Boot) and Arthur Conan Doyle. So is there time for Science Fiction? - of course!

Blackburn - Bradley Denton
This is not really an SF novel either - more a psychological thriller by the chap who wrote Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede. This is a violent and disturbing satire about a serial killer who kills people who are not very nice to him. Have you ever thought of teaching the mechanic who ripped you off a lesson. A violent and painful lesson. Well Blackburn does just that and for twenty other inconsiderate types as well. What makes this book most disconcerting is the matter-of-fact and even humorous way in which the "hero" tells his story. It is actually a very funny and readable book - quite sick really - I loved it, but it leaves a chill.

Amnesia Moon - Jonathan Lethem
Strange. Strange but fun. Imagine a (post-holocaust) future where your dreams become reality - but only if you are a kind of power dreamer. A man calling himself Chaos travels through a number of dream zones on a personal journey to recover his memory. How do you find your way around in a world where the air is an opaque green colour. Chaos goes from dream zone to dream zone recovering his memory and doing interesting stuff until he gets to San Francisco and an inconclusive ending.

The Wall Around Eden - Joan Slonczewski
Another post-holocaust novel. This time small pockets of humanity are trapped inside protective domes protected from the wastelands outside. The protective domes are created by aliens and it is the relationship between the mysterious aliens and the small religious community. Its all been done before, but Slonczewski is a very good world builder and character developer. Its a pity she is not so good at plot development. The promise of the first part of the book as the world view is developed is lost as the book really fails to develop a strong storyline.

Total Eclipse - John Brunner
This book is 20 years old but it has not lost anything over time. In fact in our more monetarist times it has a greater point to be made than when it was written. Not that this is obvious as the book starts out. The basic plot if the story is a mystery - why did the alien species die out? To a background of politics and personal conflict the pieces are drawn together to a rather sombre ending. This is an excellent book and its a pity it took me so long to find it.

Earth Abides - George R Stewart
This book is even older - this famous work was first published in 1949. I first read it when I was at school and decided to re-read it to see if it was as good as I remembered it. And it is - this is one of the greatest of post-holocaust stories. It is the story of a small group struggling to survive as most of humanity is killed off by a disease. It is a very personal tale - a great disaster reflected in very human efforts to just survive. The only question - why are so many SF stories set in San Francisco?