Category Archives: Sci-Fi & Fantasy


I do not know J.S. Johnson, author of A Door to Truth but there is what you could call an indirect family connection. Without that connection I probably never would have read the book simply because the title does not appeal to me at all. So perhaps I shouldn’t judge a book by its title? But if you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge a book by its title how does one choose which books to read? Anyway, I am glad that I read this one. It is an interesting story.

Because of the connection I mentioned, I feel hesitant to write very much about the book. It honestly is a very good story so that’s no problem. It’s just, you know… talking about a book written by someone I could very likely end up sitting next to at a family picnic someday. This situation really lights up the “what if I say something stupid?” node in my brain.

You can read a little bit about the book in the author’s Introduction. Here there is something that bothers me and, though I am very reluctant to say anything, at the same time I have to because trying to make people understand what science fiction is is sort of a cause for me. Johnson writes:

“A Door to Truth” can be loosely defined as a science-fiction story. I’ve struggled with categorizing it from the moment I knew what I wanted to write about. The story has to be called science fiction, because it requires some science and is certainly fiction.


But it is a story of “why” vice “how,” and this is where I struggle to justify it as science fiction.

I have been reading science fiction for well over three decades and I have read hundreds of books. Science fiction is very much about “why”, far more so than “how,” though “how” certainly plays a part. So many people have this mistaken idea that science fiction is all about space ships and blasters and cartoon-style heroes and that it’s full of techno-babble. Science fiction is as much about spaceships and blasters as mainstream best sellers are about houses and furniture. Science fiction explores human nature, culture, and the “why” of things by putting people in situations that could not happen (at least not yet) in the real world. It explores possible futures and speculates about the ways people might behave in those futures. Sometimes it questions what we are doing in the present and warns about where it might lead in the future. Science fiction is an extremely broad and inclusive genre. Sometimes it’s just for fun but it is often serious and often very political.

A Door to Truth is unquestionably classic near future science fiction. And it’s good. Read it.


It’s been a long time since I mentioned the books I’ve been reading so here, briefly, are the three most recent.

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin – This is a novel about a small group of Turkish Muslims helping Turkish Jews escape from France during WWII. I’m generally not a big fan of WWII stories but this one was very interesting to me. It is about a side of WWII that I had not read or heard much about.

When we were in Eureka Springs earlier this month we saw a little bookstore and since I hadn’t brought anything to read we stopped. It turned out to be a used books store and they did have a few science fiction novels. I picked two and a non-fiction book by Isaac Asimov, Of Time and Space and Other Things.

Heads, by Greg Bear, is set in a future Moon colony that has a social hierarchy based on important business families. A younger member of one of these families impulsively buys a cryogenic company and becomes responsible for over 300 frozen human heads. There is no hope of reviving the heads but there is a possibility of accessing their memories. The powers that be, including a religious cult with members in high places, are not happy about the situation and are determined to make things difficult for the young entrepreneur. Meanwhile her husband, a scientist, is trying to achieve a temperature of absolute zero. The one thing that annoyed me about this book is that the author partly gives away the ending on the very first page. I really hate it when authors do that. If someone sitting next to you said, “Oh, I’ve read that book [so and so] dies at the end,” you’d want to choke that person but for some reason some authors think it’s a good idea to hint at or just plain give away the ending at the very beginning of the story. But anyway, there are still big surprises and overall it was a worthwhile read.

Tau Zero, by Poul Anderson, is about a colony ship with fifty colonists bound for a star system about 30 light years from Earth. (if I remember correctly) But stuff happens on the way there – big, bad stuff – and they miss their target. And every time they figure out a solution to one problem another pops up and for a while in the middle of the book I was starting to get annoyed at the “one thing after another” nature of the story but it turned out to be quite unexpected and amazing. This is really not like anything I have ever read before.

I have to admit that the science in Tau Zero was a little beyond me. Not that the author spent too much time explaining the science (he didn’t) but the ship, which could not travel faster than the speed of light yet somehow traveling millions of light years in a few weeks ship time… well, I sort of understood how it worked in this story but it wasn’t the way I had always previously understood relativity. (not that I understand that at all) But I dealt with it the same way I deal with transporters, replicators, star gates, and the force: just accept it and keep going. Generally, I prefer books written by people who are not quite so damned smart (Please note that “so damned smart” is not at all the same thing as intelligent. One can be both at the same time or only one or the other.) I happen to like warp drive and artificial gravity and transporters and such and I don’t care if they couldn’t ever possibly exist. That’s why they call it fiction. But in this case the science was an essential part of the story and, as I said, it turned out really amazing. Stunning. I really can’t find adequate words to describe it. It’s a short book, less than 200 pages, but so much happens in those pages.

A Very Mixed Review

The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter was on Amazon’s list of monthly (or was it weekly?) Kindle specials. It was very cheap, and it looked like my sort of thing. It is a more or less average colonial rebellion story. In this future all the nations on Earth have been consolidated into just three nations and there is a Council, which has its own military “to keep the peace.” Alden, a member of an elite unit in the Council military, ends up working with Lunar colonists who are fighting for independence. It’s actually a reasonably entertaining story. Not great but it is a kind of story that I enjoy.

On the negative side, this book needs some intensive editing. It is full of obvious mistakes that made me feel that the author was a high school student who struggles to maintain a C average in English. Just a few examples: He used the word “formerly” when he meant “formally,” “disposed” when he meant “deposed”, “diffuse” when he meant “defuse”, and, most hilariously, “yolk” when he meant “yoke”. There are a number of awkward or confusing sentences, especially near the beginning of the book. Worst: “They moved past him towards the large windows that faced the street.” There are only two people in this scene. If “they” refers to those two people, as it must, then who is the “him” that they move past? Another problem was that transitions between flashbacks and the story’s “present” are handled rather awkwardly. There are also what are clearly just typos, the most frequent being failure to leave a space between words, as in “itwas” or “threedozen”.

The ending leaves readers with a big mystery. There will be a sequel and I will probably read it in spite of all the very annoying flaws in the first book because, you know, I have to know what happens next. I just hope the author discovers the value of proofreading, editing, and correct vocabulary before he publishes the second book.

Star Trek Continues

The coolest Star Trek reboot you’re probably not watching. How come I did not know about this until now? Of course, only the original is the original but this looks, possibly, not bad. (I know, glowing review, right? “Not bad”) Unfortunately, due to our primitive Internet situation we have to limit the amount of video we watch but I might try an episode one day when I’m not planning on doing anything else online for the whole day.

Back to Back Neal Asher

The last two books I read were both by Neal Asher and both were sequels. I always hate trying to “review” Asher’s books. I don’t ever quite know what to say because I feel like anything I can say will make the uninitiated go, “Huh? What?” And there’s always so much going on in his books that I just don’t know how to give a good idea of what they’re about. But if you have never read anything by Neal Asher and you’re interested I recommend that you start with Gridlinked. At first you may find it rather shocking but once you get into it it’s great fun. Anyway… on to my two most recent reads.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech is a sequel to The Skinner. I have been wanting to read this for several years and I have a sort of funny confession to make. For all those years I thought the title was The Voyage of Sable Keech. Do you see what I did? I missed the second “the” and totally changed the meaning of the title. I didn’t realize my mistake until sometime after I had the book and started reading it. Sable Keech was a character in The Skinner and in the sequel it is an ocean going ship named after that character. Both books are very good. The setting is an ocean planet with lots of huge, hungry, very dangerous sea creatures, as well as some insane humans and AI’s of varying levels of sanity, but mostly more sane than the humans.

The Technician is a sequel to Line of Polity. That book deals with an evil Theocracy and, as in most of Asher’s books, a lot of large hungry, very dangerous creatures. In the sequel, a former member of the Theocracy has a secret to what happened to the original inhabitants of the planet Masada locked up in his brain. People who formerly would have been trying to kill him now have to protect him from other people who are still trying to kill him. This might be my favorite of Asher’s novels. In addition to the usual kind of action, it contains a lot of insight into human nature and a number of very quotable lines, a couple of which I have already quoted.

And now I have started reading something entirely different, which I will tell you about eventually.

Two Quotes

These are both from The Technician, by Neal Asher.

“I think, Shree, that you’ve lost sight of what we were fighting for.”
I haven’t, it’s freedom.”
An airy concept often used by people who are really saying: I’m fighting for the freedom to tell you what to do.”

Too true in the real world. Then there’s this one, my favorite of the two, although I do somewhat understand the appeal of mysticism.

“That everything can be analysed, catalogued and understood does not destroy its value. Mysticism is the function of a mind looking for alternatives to reality.”


A few days ago I finished Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. Some time in the distant future, human civilization is destroyed by vicious alien invaders who will not negotiate, nor even communicate. A group of humans escape to a world they name Safehold. To insure they will not attract the attention of the aliens, they establish a low-tech civilization and to insure it will stay that way the leaders establish a religion in which progress is a sin. Fast forward almost 900 years and a survivor of the war, a cybernetic avatar awakens and sets out to change things.

I liked the book, did not love it. It’s an interesting enough story once you finally get past the “introductory” stuff. Fully two thirds of the book was primarily conversations about politics. Some of this is necessary to establish the political situation but I would have preferred to get to the main action much sooner. That action, when we finally get to it, is mostly an old style naval battle. A familiarity with sailing terminology would have been useful but, lacking that, I still found it interesting.

My biggest complaint, even worse than the several hundred pages of politics, is that the characters are not particularly well-developed. Mostly there are generic good guys and generic bad guys. The main characters are almost interesting but what little the author gives me about them just frustrates me and makes me want more. Even with all its faults though, I think I might read at least one more in the series because it’s really not all bad.

Oooo! A List!

And a pretty darn good and useful list: The Top 101 Science Fiction Adventures. These start with very early science fiction and are listed chronologically. Not surprisingly, I have read very few of these. Here are the ones I have read:

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. – Edgar Allan Poe – This one is bizarre and quite interesting, especially the part about Antarctica. It makes you realize that at that time in history Antarctica seemed as far away as Mars.

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells – After having seen two movies based on this, I have to admit that the book was a bit of a disappointment.

The Lost World – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs – I need to read the rest of the Mars books.

At the Earth’s Core – Edgar Rice Burroughs

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

1984 – George Orwell

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Stranger in a Strange Land(?) – Robert A. Heinlein – I think I read this one but I’m not sure. I really don’t care much for Heinlein except for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress so the other books of his that I’ve read all just sort of blend into one thing that I think of simply as “Heinlein”.

Dune – Frank Herbert – The first three books in this series are awesome beyond my ability to describe. The later books became tiresome.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. LeGuin – Meh. Not one of my favorites by this author, who is not one of my favorite authors though there was a time when I really wanted to like her work.

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin – Sort of interesting even though very dreary.

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin – Probably my favorite of LeGuin’s novels.

Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – Loved it.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – I read at least part of it. I can’t remember if I finished it.

So that’s 16 or 17 out of 101. Could be worse, I suppose. I want to read more of the books on the list and not just so I can say I read them. Some are old enough to be on Project Gutenberg, which makes it easy.

Oh, That’s Where They Were!

My books! They’re here! (As I mentioned before these are both by Neal Asher.) And there were two surprises. These are both used books and I would have sworn the seller was in Florida but they came from the UK! Which explains why they took so long to get here. Actually it wasn’t long at all considering how far they had to travel. That was the first surprise. The second is that The Technician is a hardback. Either I had thought it was a paperback or I just forgot.

Anyway, both books are in very good condition, just as advertised. I am so tempted to start The Voyage of Sable Keach even though I’m only about a third of the way through Off Armageddon Reef (David Weber). Number Two Son is in the middle of Anathem (Neal Stephenson) and it looks like he will finish that before I finish OAR.

Wait! This Is Not a Cat Blog


Uh oh. That was two cat posts in a row. We are in danger of being overwhelmed by the cute. So let’s just babble incoherently for a while. Or something.

So it’s November. The last couple of days have been rainy and cool but not really cold. It’s not bad. I prefer warm weather but this isn’t bad. It feels right for November. The fall colors peaked late. Until just a few days ago trees were still mostly green but now they’ve changed and leaves are falling rapidly. This colorful part of fall comes and goes so fast.

I found this collection of gorgeous steampunk images the other day. I have this one on my desktop now but it was really hard to decide which one I wanted to use.


We watched the Face Off (SyFy) season finale was last night. This was the first time I had watched an entire season of it. I normally avoid any kind of elimination competition show like a flesh eating virus but my son got us into this one and I actually enjoyed it. All of the competitors got along with each other very well and mostly had excellent attitudes. There were a couple of whiny women that I kept wanting to slap, or shake or something, but compared to most such shows this was a very pleasant group of people. And it was interesting to see their creations. The guy I was sort of rooting for (Tate, from Tulsa) did not win but I wasn’t dissatisfied with the outcome. The final three (of which Tate was one) really were the best three. I’ll probably watch this show again when it returns in January.

I have recorded two episodes of Naked Vegas, which was heavily advertised during Face Off. The rest of the family doesn’t seem to be very interested in it and I’m not sure when we will get around to watching it. We have quite a backlog of recorded shows to watch. That’s okay though. So far we are keeping up enough that we haven’t filled up the recorder and we will have a few shows to watch later when football is over and “Oh No There’s Nothing On TV” season starts.

It seems like most of the shows we’re watching (or recording) right now are on CBS: Elementary, Person of Interest, NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI and Big Bang Theory. Besides those, we watch Castle (ABC) and Grimm (NBC) And I think that’s just about all on the “Big Four”. We have nearly an entire season of Hell on Wheels (AMC) on the recorder and several episodes of Torchwood. (BBCA) Our former favorite cable/satellite channels (Discovery, History, Animal Planet, Nat Geo, Science) are mostly showing crap and re-runs right now. Of course HGTV and DIY are still my Saturday morning TV. Like a kid and cartoons, I can’t miss my Saturday morning home remodeling shows but most of the good shows are gone and the few that are left mostly show the same six episodes over and over and over and over and over.


Yes, I have been sewing and have a few things I want to show off but getting out the camera and setting up the tripod seems like such an ordeal for the lousy pictures I always get. But I will get around to it sometime.


I decided to try reading Andre Norton’s Witch World series again. I read the first two books years ago and lost interest with the third. I just finished the third book, Three Against the Witch World yesterday and I do intend to read them all (or at least all that I have) but I want to read something else now. I have ordered two more books by Neal Asher, which should arrive today or tomorrow so I want to wait and read one of those but I hate to not be reading anything. Because of the TV show, Grimm, I decided a while back to download Grimm’s Fairy Tales and I’ve been reading those, just one once in a while and I read another one last night to fill in the time between books.

Via The Middle Stage, an infrequently updated blog about Indian literature, I learned about This Is Not That Dawn, which looks very interesting to me. Since I discovered The Middle Stage, years ago, I have wanted to read an Indian novel simply because I haven’t ever read one, but it’s been very much a back-burner want and I had no book or books in mind. Well, this is the one. I plan to download it soon because the Kindle version is waaaay less expensive.

Oh, almost forgot… I also ordered the first book in David Weber’s Safehold series, thanks to this conversation. I was actually going to start This Is Not That Dawn next but then the linked discussion prompted me to order a few books and now I’m eager for those so I’ll probably read all three of them before I get around to TINTD. Or maybe I’ll try reading two books at once. I know some people do that but I never have.

UPDATE: I received Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef this afternoon but not the two Neal Asher books. (The latter are used.) I was planning to read The Voyage of Sable Keach first (kinda wanted to get to it before Number Two Son) but since OAR is here and I need something to read now, I started that one. You know… there is something extremely pleasing about being the first to read a brand new paperback – the unbroken spine, the clean, untouched pages, that new feeling. But used books are fine too. It’s what’s printed on the pages that counts.

Books and Movies

I have been seeing TV commercials for the new Ender’s Game movie and I have to admit, the first time I saw one I kind of groaned a little and thought, “Why that book?” But after seeing a few more of the commercials I’m starting to think it does look good.

It’s strange… I had actually forgotten that I liked Ender’s Game. (the first book) I read, I think, the first four books in the series and I think maybe I should have quit with just one, or maybe two. Right now I can’t even remember much about the later books but I have this impression in my mind of them being overwhelmingly dreary and that’s what I thought of when I first learned about the movie.

By the way, I know some people have such a problem with Orson Scott Card’s politics that they won’t read his books. That sort of thing usually doesn’t bother me. As long as the politics doesn’t completely overwhelm the story I don’t much care what goes on in the author’s mind. Sometimes I would rather not know but talent is not limited to those we agree with.

Anyway, this movie – I do want to see it but it is far from being the first movie I would have chosen if it had been up to me to decide, “Which science fiction book should we make a movie of next?” When this subject comes up between my sons and I Neal Asher’s books are at the top of our list, along with Larry Niven’s Ringworld. I understand there has been talk of a Ringworld movie for decades. Now it looks like there might be a Mini-series on SyFy but I am inclined to be skeptical until I actually see it.

I’m not sure though, whether any of those would be my first choice if I really thought about it. I don’t normally read a good book and think, “This needs to be a movie.” I’m perfectly happy with books being books, but it’s true that some books have the potential to be great movies. Looking at my bookshelves, Lucifer’s Hammer sort of leaps out at me. Then I think of Ben Bova’s Grand Tour novels. (some of which are better than others) And Jack Chalker’s Well World books could be a great, quirky TV series. It seems too much for just a movie.

So, science fiction fans, what book(s) would you like to see as movies?

Science Fiction Art

Daniel Rocal has a very nice photostream, which includes some artwork as well as photos. I love Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy. He has turned off sharing and I understand. I really do. You want to make money with your art and you don’t want random people posting it all over the Internet. But it’s disappointing. It’s kinda like when you’re a little kid and you point to a person who’s dressed funny and say, “Look!” and your mom just says, “It’s not polite to point,” and you’re all hurt and offended because you weren’t doing anything wrong, you just wanted to show her something interesting. It feels a lot like that when someone won’t let you share their stuff on the Internet. (See update below)

Anyway, I wanted to post a picture so here’s something totally unrelated except that it also came up when I searched for “science fiction” on Flickr.

Science fiction 1440 x 900 pixels desktop wallpapers

Lots more on Subarunio’s Photostream

UPDATE: (11/19/13) Apparently there was some kind of technical problem at the time I posted this. In fact, Mr. Rocal’s pictures are sharable.

Pointing to a Picture (and changing times)

I like this.

I suppose this is evidence that nobody cares about blogs anymore: You can share that picture on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google Plus but the old-fashioned embed code is not provided. Of course I could hotlink but that seems rude since they don’t offer the option. Even though I think not offering the option, since they do offer those more modern options, is rude.

All the Starships

This is very neat. Starship comparison chart. Lots and lots and lots of starships from Star Trek, Star Wars and more, including video games as well as TV and movies. The thing that strikes me is how small the Star Trek’s Enterprise and other ships are in comparison with many of the others. There are some really huge ships out there in the various fictional universes.