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.