quarta-feira, outubro 29, 1980

Masquerading: "All the Lies That Are My Life" by Harlan Ellison





(Original review, 1980-10-29)



At WorldCon, Harlan discussed this story a bit, and read an hour's worth of it to us. The story is pseudo-autobiographical; i.e., bits and pieces of Harlan's and Bob Silverberg's personalities and lives are entwined into both of the "main" characters (Bedloe and Crowstairs). For example, we all know Silverberg's books to be rather "restrained and conventional" compared to Ellison's stuff, but in the story Crowstairs says to Bedloe:

"You know I'm a better writer than you, don't you? Not just sales... BETTER. There's heat in my stuff; it works, it pulls the plow. BETTER. For Christ's sake, Larry, there's nothing but cold dead air blowing through your books. They ought to hand out wooly mittens with every copy of your stuff."

Now, Bedloe is the narrator and thus should supposedly correspond to Ellison if the story were purely autobiographical ... yet the roles seem to be reversed here, with Bedloe's writing more like Silverberg's. Thus, the ghost writer theory might apply to either Silverberg or Ellison or both; more likely, neither ... I think it's just something Ellison threw in to spice things up. Just because there are bits of real people in the story doesn't mean that EVERYTHING in the story is based on reality. Ellison is a "fantasist", remember? As a fantasy/character study, the story is spellbinding even if the reader doesn't follow Ellison the Real Person and his escapades.

Does it appear, as it does to some of us, that the "intensely personal" aspect of the story means that Harlan himself is masquerading as one of the main characters? And if so, does anyone feel, like several of us do, that Harlan is actually Kercher Crowstairs, (the deceased...) Among the evidence, aside from the descriptions of Crowstairs which seem to fit Ellison quite well, is the fact that Ellison did have a maid who wore a transistor radio which looked just like a hearing aid, just as it is in the book.

Well, if you assume that the Crowstairs character *is* more-or-less Harlan Ellison, that leaves one disturbing question ... Is he trying to tell us that someone else actually ghosted several of his books? O.K. Who? And which ones? Or then again, is Harlan just foolin'?


[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

terça-feira, outubro 28, 1980

Brainstormers: "Scavengers" by David J. Skal



(Original Review, 1980-09-28)


"Scavengers" by a newcomer named David Skal is good stuff. Maybe a little overheated, but that only shows that there's fire inside. Remember those old experiments where they cut up flatworms and fed them to other flatworms to see if any memories got transferred? (Aside: you might want to find "The Wormrunner's Digest" in the periodical section of your local library. It'll be way in the back next to the "Journal of Irreproducible Results".) The thesis here is that the same process can be extended to human beings. By grinding up someone's brain and injecting bits of it into your own you can almost become that person for one night. So what happens is that the most creative and most adventurous people get beheaded in the night and their brains are fed to the colorless masses. It's highly illegal, of course, but it's the ultimate escapism: better than television, better than LSD, better even than science fiction.

In a way, too, it's the ultimate art form, direct contact between the artist's mind and that of the audience. The protagonist is in love with an artist who is fascinated by these "brainstormers". She (the artist) gets taken by them, but he is not about to let a Mixmaster stand between him and his love. He searches the city for the syringes containing her and then finds a girl roughly like her physically. He plans to inject the girl with enough of his old lover's memories that she will be recreated in a new body.  The girl is a brainstorming addict and so doesn't mind, at least not at first. Gruesome, eh? Yep. It's a fresh idea, though, on an old piece of science. He gets into a lot of kind of sophomoric discussions of spontaneity vs preservation in art, but, hey it hasn't been so long since I was a sophomore. Recommended.



[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

Gothic SF Romance: "Glass Tower" by Robert Silverberg





(Original Review, 1980-10-28)


If it is in fact Silverberg's intention to make the sexual encounters uncaring in order to give an indication of the interpersonal encounters of the society in general, then why attribute them to the androids in "The Glass Tower" since it seems that he is trying to make the point that the androids CAN care and that they should therefore be considered equal to the humans? Is this contradiction his intention? Has he thought things out far enough that he even notices the contradiction? Or is this whole idea about his conscious decision to make the encounters uncaring simply a rationalization made by certain parties who would not like to see this type of cheap filler taken out of certain SF novels. In any event, I will admit that certain authors have used the technique of including uncaring sexual encounters in SF novels in order to show just the type of decadent society that considers such encounters typical. A notable example is "Brave New World". However, in order to make such a point, the number of such encounters need not be inordinately high. I highly doubt that this is what Silverberg had in mind when he wrote "The Glass Tower". My thanks go out to MD@XX for his remark about the coverless paper-back rip-off (no pun intended). I was not aware of this practice. The place at which I purchased this and other books in the same condition is not a book store at all, but merely a corner convenience store in Lisbon.

My parting comment is that this discussion of "The Glass Tower" is rapidly becoming more boring than the material in the book that I was initially remarking about. Let us cease and desist and get on with another discussion.

Some of you may recall that about 6 months ago I made a title/author request for which the winning answer was "The Man in the Maze" by Robert Silverberg. Recently, I re-read the book for the first time since I was 14. The book was still excellent. Good plot, execution, even good sociological commentary. However, to appease my curiosity about the general quality of Silverberg books, I then read "The Glass Tower" which happened to be the only other book by him that I happened to have on hand. I was severely disappointed. He raised several conflicts early in the book (the messages from space; his own ensuing mental breakdown; the building of the tower; his differences with his son; and the android equality issue) that led me to a point of eager anticipation. However, he then spent the next 100 pages continuing with characterizations that were not getting any deeper as well as several (read "too many") somewhat boring sexual encounters. And then as the topper, he finishes up with an ending that only resolves one and possibly two of the conflicts. The others are simply sidestepped as if to say, "They really weren't important ones anyway".

I am not the type that objects to sex in SF. I am even willing to have a lot of sex in the book and enjoy having it there (for example, Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love"). However, I am not willing to have another boring sexual encounter on every other page. I began to feel as if I was reading a gothic romance! The sexual encounters should ADD something to the characterizations, or should be an integral part of the plot, in order to justify their existence.

I realize that this is not a new book by Silverberg, but I felt so strongly about this one that I just had to write this post. I will not take this as a final comment on Silverberg, either; I intend to read more in the hopes that other of his works will be better.



[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

segunda-feira, outubro 27, 1980

RIP Daniel L. Weinreb: "The World Inside" by Robert Silverberg




(Original Review, 1980-10-27)




Gee, Danny, I don't recall saying you don't enjoy sex, but, "please don't squeeze the Charmin!" More to the point, I found you missed the point of the "boring sexual encounters." [2018 EDIT: Daniel L. Weinreb, Danny to his friends, my American friend died on the 7th of September of 2012; so many talks through the wires, he in the US and me in Portugal, that would fill many posts if one day I’m willing to put them on "paper"…the first time I started doing stuff in Lisp in college he was there to help me out; RIP My Friend.] 

To Wit:

"His sexual encounters are SO boring and SO devoid of any semblance of warmth or caring that I find them not just a waste of time but positively DISTURBING."

You see, that is precisely the point!  "The Tower of Glass," and "The World Inside," both describe a FUTURE devoid of any really personal caring, and, consequently, sexual encounters are simply for the sake of sexual satisfaction - between consenting adults – and given the empty existence of the characters in the environment in which Bob portrays, "boring sex" just might not be so boring for THEM.  It goes without saying, that one might find this POSSIBLE future very disturbing, and, if so, the "boring sexual" episodes have indeed succeeded doing exactly what they were intended to do.

And, of course, if Greg prefers to use as TP pages covered with detailed descriptions of boring sexual encounters, and apparently, shredded in flaming rage from the innards of a COVERLESS paperback no less, well, who am I to deny him such delights...shred on!

The careless sexual encounters in "The World Inside" (I have not read "The Tower of Glass" yet) would make a valid point about that society, if that were what Silverberg had in mind. But consider "The Stochastic Man". We are told how much the main character loves and treasures his wife, and so on, but the encounters are STILL the same. You might say this is to tell us something about the main character; could be, but as far as I can tell, Silverberg is ALWAYS like that. So it is my suspicion that he isn't doing it to make points; he just always writes them that way. I could be wrong, of course.




[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

quarta-feira, outubro 22, 1980

Saturnalia-like SF: "Heritage and Exile" by Marion Zimmer Bradley





(Original Review, 1980-10-22)



Boy, are you going to get answers to \this/ query! (Darkover tends to arouse very strong opinions). The Darkover stories comprise about a dozen novels and a few shorts by Marion Zimmer Bradley, plus a lot of (fortunately) mostly unobtainable fan fiction. Darkover is a harsh world with a few cities and a basically feudal/manorial social structure complicated by the presence of psionic faculties ("laran") in most of the aristocracy and many of the commoners. (Bastardy is common not much thought of, especially since there are two Saturnalia-like festivals, at midsummer and midwinter, so the abilities get well spread but are frequently unrecognized or untrained.) Much of the tension of the stories comes from the fact that laran and sexual energy derive their power from the same inner resources; this means that use of laran is bound up with a variety of social codes and patterns of behavior --- Darkovans are a long way from Campbell's wise psionic supermen. The driving force in most of the plots is the conflict between Darkovans (who, Bradley has decided, were shipwrecked from a Terran colonial vessel some 2000 years before most of the stories and crossbred intermittently with the elusive natives) and the Terrans who have established a foothold on Darkover; frequently a Terran is called upon to bridge the gap of bilateral ignorance and misunderstanding. There are also tensions within Darkovan society, which is visibly evolving; the mysticism and strict codes surrounding laran are gradually disintegrating and the bloodlines of several of the aristocratic families are thinning. 

There is also a wild card: the comii'letziya ("Free Companions" (feminine form), vulgarly called Amazons), who are self-sustaining feminists. A large number of readers of uncertain stability find this world attractive (especially for this last feature) and do their best to live in it.
Bradley puts a great deal of herself into all of the books, and her improvement over the 20+ years she's been writing them is visible. Several of the later ones (HERITAGE OF HASTUR, THE FORBIDDEN TOWER, THE SHATTERED CHAIN, TWO TO CONQUER) are well worth reading.

Notes:

- Darkover isn't really a series.  No book depends upon your knowing the others, and characters and/or features of Darkover change between books;

- It is harder than it sounds to tell what books are part of Darkover and what aren't. Pieces of her SF that have no apparent connection with Darkover still use Darkovan mythology as the basis for their idioms (most commonly Zandru's nine hells). And one novel ("Door Through Space"?) took place on a planet that was essentially Darkover (complete with the "dry-towns" and their characteristic attitude towards women), but the planet was called something else (Wolf, I think);

- Bradley has a preoccupation with sex (most of it unconventional, e.g. explicit sex scenes between human and alien, group sex, and homosexuality). I find it all tasteful, and I am a Puritan (in the technical sense - Calvinist theology and traditional Christian catholic ethics). But if you are very sensitive about these issues you may consider some of it pornographic. (But if you are looking for traditional Christian views in science fiction you unfortunately will have a very short reading list.

If you like her writing (as opposed to liking it because of its science fiction aspects), you might also want to look for "The Catch Trap" which is a long novel about two male homosexual trapeze artists during the 1940's and 1950's. Presumably it will not be filed in the science fiction section of your friendly bookstore. (Indeed my usual local US import bookstore didn't have it at all.)




[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

sexta-feira, outubro 17, 1980

TAU: "Lambda I and Other Stories" by John Carnell




(Original review, 1980-10-17)


TAU transportation system.

Since the subject of transportation has come up, I thought I'd recommend the short SF story, "Lambda I", by Colin Kapp. It appears in an OLD anthology I have around here (1964) called "Lambda I and Other Stories", edited by John Carnell. The story involves a transportation system (called "TAU") which managed to wipe out virtually all other forms of medium to long range transport systems. The TAU technique involves taking very large ships, and "resonating" them in such a way that they can pass right through sub-atomic spaces.  Thusly, TAU ships "slide" through ordinary matter. They are given a "push" at the originating terminal and travel in a straight line through the earth to their destination. The plot involves the major disaster that occurs when a large TAU craft becomes trapped in TAU space, and the possibility appears of its power failing before it could be freed (in which case it would return to normal space sitting inside solid matter.)
I recommend it highly.


[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

segunda-feira, outubro 13, 1980

Numenor: "Unfinished Tales" by J. R. R. Tolkien


(My own later copy bought in 1992)




(Original Review, 1980-10-13)


The new Tolkien book is out. While I haven't read even half of it, I think I've read enough to produce a helpful review, so here goes. This book ("Unfinished Tales" by JRR Tolkien, $15 from Houghton Mifflin) is definitely not a book for a general readership, nor even for the mass Tolkien consumer, who thinks that Lord of the Rings is a swell story, but all that linguistic and historical stuff is just a lot of window-dressing. Rather than a narrative, it's really a sort of organized memory dump of Tolkien's filing cabinet [2018 EDIT: “filing cabinet” indeed!!!]. It includes a much longer version of the tale of Turin, a large fragment of the story of Tuor, substantial information on Numenor and the line of kings, various versions of the history of Galadriel and Celeborn, some fascinating fragementary material on the Five Wizards, and jillions of footnotes and appendices to all, which describe variant versions, point out apparent contradictions, and provide fascinating supplementary information. Because of its fragmentary nature, you can pretty much start anywhere in the book, which has its advantages.

For the true Tolkien fanatic, the sort of person who wants the names for the other two Istari, who is fascinated by the explanation of the Teleri dialect of Elvish, or who was curious as to just why the cats of Queen Beruthiel were proverbial, this book is an absolute gold mine, even more "fun" in its way than the Silmarillion. For the reader interested in a dramatic narrative, "Unfinished Tales" will be somewhat of a disappointment (although what narrative there is quite good). The $15 tag will probably deter all but the hard-core anyway, however.

"Unfinished Tales" is for those who have not yet sufficiently explored Middle-Earth -- its languages, its legends, its politics, and its kings. Here are narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Rings [2018 EDIT: sic; LMAO] and comprising such various elements as Gandalf's lively account of how it was that he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag-End. The book contains the only story that survived from the long ages of Numenor before its downfall and all that is known of such matters as the Five Wizards, the Palantiri, and the legend of Amroth.

The collection has been edited by Christopher Tolkien, who explains in his introduction the variety of treatments these writings have demanded and has provided a commentary on each of the tales. He has redrawn the map accompanying "The Lord of the Rings" on a larger scale and with the addition of new features and names and has reproduced the only map of Numenor J.R.R. Tolkien ever made.

CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN has, like his father, taught at Oxford and now devotes himself full time to editing the papers of J.R.R Tolkien.


[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

Conveyor Belts: "The Past Through Tomorrow" by Robert A. Heinlein

(My own later copy bought in 1986 featuring tRMR as the 2nd story, one of my favorites by Heinlein ever)




(Original Review, 1980-10-13)


People have complained about roads as conveyor belts as represented in Heinlein's THE ROADS MUST ROLL as being an inefficient means of transportation because of a number of reasons, some of those being energy efficiency and the problems of handicapped people using them. Instead of building them as a single conveyor belt, how about building them as a variable speed conveyor belt (by this I mean a conveyor belt that at different locations on it can have different speeds). This can be done by building them as a number of small conveyor belts, each of them having its own speed and controls. This immediately eliminates the problem of expending lots of energy dragging the whole road behind you. I don't know if the energy needed to drag lots of little roads is less than that of dragging one big road. Anyone with more knowledge care to speculate? These smaller belts could be sensor controlled, operating only when there is a chance that someone is close enough to use them. This could be done by stopping any belts with people too far away to use them, and when people get somewhat close start speeding the belts up to a waiting speed, and if people are very close speed the belt up to its normal running speed. This should save a lot of energy at nighttime or for places such as the middle of Kansas with very small people to area ratios.

An analogous construct to on-ramps on freeways could be developed by creating on-belts which would gradually speed the rider up to the speed of the lane that he was entering. If this was done gradually enough, the rider should not even notice it and handicapped people in wheelchairs should have no problems using it. This would preclude needing the agility to ride the walkways that was demonstrated in Asimov's THE CAVES OF STEEL. Off-ramps could be done the same way but on- and off-ramps could only be unidirectional (come to think of it, they already are on freeways.) This setup of multiple belts might preclude on-line steakhouses. Seats could be done as portable affairs, picked up upon entrance to the roadway and dropped off on leaving it.  Balance however might be a problem with non-fixed chairs. An interesting thought just occurred to me. What if you rode a bicycle on one of these roads? Think of the speed-up that would give you.

Another advantage of a multiple belt roadway is that it is a simple matter to curve the path of belts to get a curved road without needing a special material. One safeguard necessary for one of these roads is for the situation (a la tRMR) of one belt somewhere in the middle stopping. Belts leading to that belt should have a gradual slowdown so that passengers don't go flying because of accumulated momentum. Belts leading away from that belt should gradually speed up so that the passengers are brought back up to standard cruising speed. This feature would also have the effect of stopping any problems such as those that arose in tRMR.

The question then becomes "HOW MUCH energy is lost to friction, compared to the energy costs of acceleration?" (I have heard that fairly effective regenerative braking systems (i.e., brakes which slow the vehicle by acting as generators, converting kinetic energy into electromotive energy) are available, but I have no figures for their net efficiency.)

With regard to wheelchairs, it seems to me that motorized models can already go fast enough to make a smooth transition --- and un-motorized ones (admittedly rolled by people in good condition) have in the past few years been beating the best times on foot for the Boston Marathon. A bigger problem would be people on crutches (my guess is that a large fraction of these are temporary rather than permanent, but that would mostly affect the social (as opposed to technical) factors of the problem); a short, parallel, accelerating belt would help these onto the slowest conveyor but after that there'd be problems.

Guess what: the SAME conveyor can be moving at different speeds at the same time. All that is required are elastic links. Consider that the requirement for equilibrium is simply that the speed in LINKS-PER-SECOND be the same for every point on the conveyor. Thus, if we want to go twice as fast over one section of conveyor, we simply double the length of the links! Of course this implies that objects such as chairs, freight pallets, steak joints, etc., can only be fastened down at one end. I've seen this phenomenon employed somewhere or other; it may have been in a baggage-handling system.

Note that the closest current technology to "rolling roads" is railroads, and that they are more efficient than cars and trucks. If you could get theoretical mechanical optimality, the rolling road would be more efficient than any vehicle that has to start and stop. A good way to get on and off is to have the road mesh with the edge of a, say, 1000 foot radius circular platform turning at 1 rpm. You come down onto the middle of the platform and move out to the edge, where you have a minute to step over the invisible line (the road goes around the loop, and disengages near where it engaged).

a) My personal favorite for short-range personal transportation would be a jet-belt or antigrav equivalent.  I commute 8 miles and one would be ideal for this. Build another one into my suitcase and I'll be all set to hop over to the nearest RR (rolling road).

b) I am given to understand that the most dangerous activity commonly engaged in is bicycle riding (on streets where there are cars). Now danger of death or maiming may add spice to your commuting, but my last two bikes were stolen, so I don't do it anymore.

Given that the main objection to "rolling Roads" is all the excess road that has to be transported, how about roads that are stationary of themselves, but move the object to be transported? I can think of several ways -- a road of numerous computer-controlled electromagnets and a steel cart to sit in, for instance -- the cart could be moved from one side of the road to the other, adjusted for other carts, and sent down off-ramps, with the only power expended going entirely toward transportation of the cart. That would involve a hell of a lot of wiring, though.

Or how about a liquid approach?  A standing wave, like, a flexible surface under the cart, rows of plastic tubes beneath and them connected to hydraulic pumps -- the cart would "surf" a continuous "wave" generated beneath it, and could either be steered by the front wheels or guided by wave variation. Again, you wouldn't have to move a lot of excess road, but I’m not sure whether it's all that efficient. Just playing with ideas...

First, both of the stories Weinreb mentions ("The Roads Must Roll" and THE CAVES OF STEEL) show extensive provisions for seating on the strips.  Asimov specifically mentions that being seated on the strips is the prerogative of higher (job) classifications, while there is a chain of steakhouses on the rolling roads. Unfortunately, neither of them considers the problems of getting a material tough enough for the job and flexible enough that it can be brought around in a loop rather than simply brought under for the return trip the way an ordinary conveyor belt is. (It could be argued that such a reversal is not necessary in Asimov's design; the seats could collapse like the steps of an escalator --- but that would make a mess of one of Heinlein's steakhouses, to say nothing of requiring twice as much material (from internal evidence Heinlein's road runs in a dog bone layout).

Also, tRMR is not the story of a mechanical failure, although mechanical failures are mentioned in the story; he specifically states that when shutdown of all of the driving rollers in one of the twelve sectors caused excess tension on the belt, safety interlocks caused the belt to come to a smooth stop (although he does note the absence of an obvious safety device to force the speed of any belt to approximate that of its immediate neighbors). tRMR is the story of a management failure, which is a horse of a different color (which has been proved to be impossible by means of the pejorative calculus (- )).




[2018 EDIT: Still no conveyor belts in 2018; just the crappy escalators; I remember thinking at the time conveyor belts would be just a matter of time. Now I’m not so sure…I won’t see it in my lifetime. Maybe my children will.]  


[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

quinta-feira, outubro 09, 1980

Magic Undercover: "The Amber Series" by Roger Zelazny




(Original Review, 1980)


1 - The Amber series has had a great impact on the field they say.

I have serious doubts about whether that is true.  I will leave someone else to develop those arguments. However, in any case Farmer's WORLD OF TIERS series does NOT support this contention. The AMBER series is derived from the WORLD OF TIERS series. The primary difference is that TIERS uses a technological background for the basic structure of the universe and AMBER uses a magical background.

2 - The AMBER series is technology/para-psychic abilities presented as magic.

Zelazny's work often includes a technological underpinning for the traditional concepts of magic. Indeed his work raises the throwaway pseudo-science/technical explanation of the 1940's pulps to high art.  LORD OF LIGHT with its automated prayer wheels, native aliens as demons, and electronic mental encoding as the essence of a soul is one of the best examples. So is the juxtaposition of magic with technology in JACK OF SHADOWS and the marriage of magic with technology in the recent CHANGELING. However, the technological underpinning for AMBER is not merely less explicit, its non-existent. In AMBER we have the pattern, the Jewel of Judgement, Tir'na Nogth, Rebma, and the cards all without any type of background justification such as we see in his other mixed works. Indeed, it is the WORLD of TIERS series that provides a technological underpinning to the background. In AMBER we have the exact opposite of TIERS and Zelazny's other works. Here technology does not masquerade as magic, but magic masquerades as technology. Neither can I readily accept parapsychic abilities as the non-magical "science" justification. AMBER differs widely from the customary assumptions of this class of works. For example compare AMBER with Bixby's IT'S A GOOD LIFE. Further, even if we accept the parapsychic abilities argument, it only covers the ability to manipulate Shadow.  What about Rebma, Tir'na Nogth, and of course the Unicorn?

I consider NINE PRINCES IN AMBER (Book 1 of the series) an excellent fantasy. It is an entertaining reworking of the story of "the lost monarch in search of himself and his place" using a modern setting. Unfortunately the rest of the series does not match NPIA. THE GUNS OF AVALON is a simple action/adventure fantasy. SIGN OF THE UNICORN improves over TGOA in that it begins to examine events more closely.  However, it never comes close to equalling NPIA. THE HAND OF OBERON and THE COURTS OF CHAOS simply elaborate a more complex background of motivations and abilities which are never fully developed. Instead they are brusquely tied up and chopped off in TCOC. Too long in length and the time taken to write it, Zelazny would probably have done better if he had started with FOUR PRINCES IN AMBER.

In summary, the AMBER series is neither science fiction nor a landmark and I vote against 1 but I agree with 2.

[2018 EDIT: This 1980 review corresponds to the first volumes. At the time the omnibus edition with the 10 volumes was still not available; I read it later on.]

[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]

quinta-feira, outubro 02, 1980

Maxwell's Demon: "Master of the Five Magics" by Lyndon Hardy


(Original Review, 1980-10-02)


Just out from Del Rey is MASTER OF THE FIVE MAGICS by Lyndon Hardy (who "became interested in fantasy while wandering through the fringes of fandom as an undergraduate at Caltech"). My skepticism was challenged by the cover blurb's claim, "one of the most logical detail of the laws of magic ever to appear in fantasy". But said claim-- mirabile dictu! --turned out to be legitimate. Can't say how much, if any, he regularized or imposed structure, for he went well beyond what was in the folklore and anthro courses I've had. A lotta things make sense, now, that were just sort of a mishmash, before. (I particularly appreciated the little covert jokes, not just the now-not-unusual employment of Maxwell's demon, but the use of painted-daisies in a magical preparation to rid a barbarian of lice, and willow bark in one to relieve pain.)

Definitely recommended for a real good overview of traditional Western European magic, wrapped up in a not very well done story.


[2018 EDIT: This review was written at the time as I was running my own personal BBS server. Much of the language of this and other reviews written in 1980 reflect a very particular kind of language: what I call now in retrospect a “BBS language”.]