Archive for the 'Science fiction' category

Henry Kuttner's The Well of the Worlds

Sep 16 2010 Published by under Science fiction

Have I mentioned how much I love Henry Kuttner's writing? I've reviewed quite a few of his books here -- Elak of Atlantis, Thunder Jim Wade, The Time Axis, Destination Infinity -- and have greatly enjoyed all of them. Kuttner (1915-1958) was a versatile writer of the pulp era who could easily jump between styles. He wrote fantasy, horror, science fiction and adventure stories and managed to compose classics in each genre, though some of his greatest work was written in collaboration with his wife, C.L. Moore. His science fiction is what he is most remembered for, and the stories are a joy to read, often employing mathematical and scientific concepts in clever, even poetic ways. Though I've been sidetracked by other things of late, I've been eager to read all of his novels.

The most recent book of his I've gone through is The Well of the Worlds (1952):

(Picture of early edition via Fantastic Fiction.)

So what can I say about 'Well? I actually had a hard time getting through the first few chapters, because I found it initially somewhat erratic and unsatisfying, but it picks up significant speed about halfway through (it's only 125 pages) and I enjoyed it much from then on. It isn't quite the same caliber as The Time Axis or Destination: Infinity, but it is still an enjoyable book.

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Jeff VanderMeer's Finch

May 19 2010 Published by under Horror, Science fiction, Weird fiction

I've had the good fortune to read many good works of weird fiction since starting this blog -- in fact, one of the major motivations for starting the blog was to "force" myself to get back into reading strange and creepy stories such as those that had captured my imagination as a youth.  Every once in a while, though, I come across a work so wonderful and fascinating that it will permanently haunt the depths of my psyche.  Case in point: I was absolutely blown away by Jeff VanderMeer's recent novel, Finch (2009):

The novel defies easy characterization: it is part detective novel, part science fiction novel, part war novel, part fantasy novel -- and part horror novel.  Even with that mixing of genres, VanderMeer manages to tell a very serious, intricate, and mesmerizing tale.

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Henry Kuttner's Destination Infinity

Nov 13 2009 Published by under Science fiction

Henry Kuttner is, for me, one of those authors who never disappoints, and is always thought-provoking.  He had an incredibly vivid imagination, and each of his works is absolutely unique, seamlessly blending pulp adventure with science fiction.  I've discussed a number of his stories previously on this blog, and I've loved each one of them.  Most recently, I sat down to read Destination Infinity (1956), originally published with the title Fury (1947):

destinationinfinity

(Image taken from fantasticfiction.co.uk.)

This novel is the first of Kuttner's that I've read that is wholeheartedly science fiction; it is also the first novel of his that features an anti-hero!  However, it still retains the flavor of Kuttner's earlier pulp adventures, and is a lot of fun.

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The Man Who Rocked the Earth, by Arthur Train and Robert Williams Wood

Oct 21 2009 Published by under Science fiction

A few posts ago, I noted that physicist R.W. Wood was one of the earliest scientists to contemplate issues of invisibility.  While researching his work, I noted that he was also a science fiction author, having penned two books with Arthur Train, The Man Who Rocked the Earth (1915) and The Moon Maker (1916).

I was immediately intrigued; scientists are often stereotyped as unimaginative and humorless types, and are certainly not considered to be artistic enough to write a novel!  This of course is an unfair generalization; there are plenty of science-types who can write a great science fiction story.

So what about Wood -- did he have the skills to write science fiction?  I would say yes!  I really enjoyed MWRE; it captured my interest from the first moment and kept it throughout.  The writing is crisp and to the point: it probably didn't hurt that Wood's coauthor Arthur Train was already established as a writer of legal thrillers.

The novel tells the story of world-changing events influenced by a mysterious and seemingly all-powerful scientist known as "Pax".  Pax gives humanity an ultimatum: either change its ways and end all wars, or face worldwide destruction.

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