Monday, November 29, 1993

The Queen And I

by Sue Townsend

The royal family is made to live like commoners.  Rather shoddily written compared to some Townsend books, but very, very funny. The fact that the whole story was the Queen's nightmare was obvious from line one – but then, it couldn't have been anything but a nightmare, and it couldn't have been anything but obvious that it was. The ending was also spotted a mile off, but who cares? It was a fun, funny book. The premise (royals become commoners) wasn't dealt with realistically at all, and that made it all the more enjoyable. 

Tuesday, November 23, 1993

Sophocles 1: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone

by Sophocles
440-430 BC
translated by David Grene, Elizabeth Wyckoff, Robert Fitzgerald

"Oedipus the King": Fascinating, and amazingly human, amazingly visual. I could practically picture the emotions flitting over Oedipus' face when Jocasta was telling the story of his birth without realizing what it meant to him. Oedipus blamed himself & everyone else, but took control of his life only when he gouged out his eyes. Creon, meanwhile, started out innocent & obeisant but was eager to give orders at the end. A thrilling psychological drama. One subtle part that really shows Sophocles' talent was how it just hinted that Jocasta knew (or more than suspected) the truth long ago, and just hoped quietly that things would stay the way they were. Now that's brilliant psychological writing.

"Oedipus At Colonus": Another wonderfully modern play. This edition had stage notes (Fitzgerald's?) that were irritatingly superfluous due to the superb and already explicit dialogue. But the play itself was wonderful: not quite as psychologically intense as the first, but as dramatic as the plot (the exile suddenly becomes crucial to his homeland) allowed.

"Antigone": Very good. The conflict arises from hubris (Creon not wanting to obey Antigone, "a girl", or Haemon, "a young boy", or even Teiresias – "to yield is dreadful") opposed to humble piety (Antigone's unlawful but just burial of her brother). Although last in series, Sophocles wrote this one first, & the drama does not have as tense & terribly inevitable a build-up as Oedipus the King.

five stars

Friday, November 19, 1993

The Alcoholics

by Jim Thompson

Different from the typical Jim Thompson thriller, this book is more funny, less dark, and with a much more sympathetic hero.  Plus, it was ahead of its time (1953) in more ways than one --- competent, capable black characters, for one thing, but also in its whole treatment of alcoholism, before A.A. was a well-known concept.  In parts, it read like a warning tract against alcoholism written by an old-timer A.A. man, but it was mainly very good. 

three stars

Wednesday, November 17, 1993


by various authors, edited by Mike Resnick,

"True Faces", Pat Cadigan. The suspects of a murder are all aliens who are compulsive liars. Great.

"Gut Reaction", Jack C. Haldeman II. It was short & funny, like all JCH2 I've read.

"Loss Of Phase", Anthony R. Lewis. The detective is a dolphin a human society! Interesting.

"Its Own Reward", Katherine Kerr. Probably the most complex, yet subtle, story in the book. Great.

"Monkey See", Roger MacBride Allen. This story was very funny; an alien tries to prove that chimps are murderers.

"Heaven's Only Daughter", Laura Resnick. A bit of nepotism, but an enjoyable, simple story.

"Heaven Scent", Virginia Booth. Very good. The plant did it. Could've used more explanation tho.

"Lost Lamb", Barbara Delaplace. A good story. The only one I figured out before the ending.

"Cain's Curse", Jack Nimersheim. Different in that the 'detective' is a time-traveller sent to observe & confirm facts. Great court-room dialogue. One of the best.

"Murder On-Line", John DeChancie. I love DeChancie. Not quite what Resnick asked for, but different (a world where only the internet flourishes). Good.

"Color Me Dead", Sandra Rector & P.M.F. Johnson. Used all of Resnick's clues; interesting & entertaining.

"Signs And Stones", Judith Tarr. Very entertaining. The victim died simply because of its alien nature; the catalyst of its death had no intent.

"Murder Under Glass", Bob Liddil. A good story, using Resnick's clues & a little more. Slightly sexist.

"It's the Thought That Counts", Michael A. Stackpole. Not what Resnick specified, but a good story.

"The Colonel And the Alien", Ralph Roberts. An OK story; relied too much on futuristic devices & not enough on character power.

"Obscurocious", Ray Aldridge. An ingenious solution to impending destruction by aliens.

"An Incident At the Circus", Rick Katze. This man is not a pro writer. It shows. Bad syntax, incorrect grammar, total absence of character development, total absence of character feeling. AWFUL.

"Dead Ringer", Esther M. Friesner & Walter J. Stutzman. Again, not what MR specified, but very good and complex.

three stars

Sunday, November 7, 1993

Future Earths: Under African Skies

by various authors, edited by Mike Resnick

A collection of science fiction stories with African themes, mostly quite good:

"For I Have Touched the Sky", Mike Resnick. Innocent curiosity beaten down by tradition. Good.

"Apartness", Vernor Vinge. The last Afrikaaners after a Northern World War are found in Antarctica. Great.

"Termites", Dave Smeds. The solution to world hunger and the solution's problems. Good.

"The Finger", Naomi Mitchison. Not really SF; a young boy escapes from his evil father, the witch doctor. I liked it.

"The Lions Are Asleep This Night", Howard Waldrop. An alternate history, but really about a boy writing a play. Good.

"Etoundi's Monkey", Judith Dubois. An alien baby is found, and the ownership disputed among a medicine man, an old woman, & a Japanese exchange student. Very good; a surprise ending!

"Dry Niger", M. Shayne Bell. A possible future Africa; my favorite story.

"A Transect", Kim Stanley Robinson. On a train, two worlds collide. Great.

"Of Space-Time And the River", Gregory Benford. An actual Sf story: aliens steal Egypt. Good, but could've been about any ancient civilization.

"Still Life With Scorpion", Scott Baker. A tourist gets a taste of African magic. Good.

"The Quiet", George Guthridge. An African tribe is placed in a conservation preservation on the moon. Very good; very sad.

"Dinner In Audoghast", Bruce Sterling. A prophet foretells African downfall. OK.

"A Passive Victim Of a Random Genetic Accident", Janet Gluckman. A diseased exile is given new hope by a female doctor. Also OK.

"The Pale Thin God", Resnick. Jesus meets the African gods. Good, for three pages.

"Toward Kilimanjaro", Ian McDonald. An alien jungle is attacking Earth. I disliked it for the use of quirky metaphor, the absence of commas in lists, & other literary irritants. Also, could've been about any place, especially since all three protagonists were Irish!