lunes, 27 de abril de 2020

Secret Under the Sea, by Gordon R. Dickson

(I know there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)
I admit it may surprise you that my first Gordon R. Dickson’s novel is this one. Secret Under the Sea (1960) is undoubtedly a minor novel by the author, but I can not resist an underwater science fiction adventure, so why not start with this and later, "in the future," with the intention of read, for example, his best-known Dorsai series.

Cover courtesy of Goodreads
I have enjoyed this classic science fiction book with its naive vision of the future that is actually our past -the story is set in 2013-, so we can consider this novel with the label retro futurism.The adventure takes place in an ocean station located in the Caribbean. In this aspect, we must remember that in the sixties the seas were part of the promising future of humanity.

In this adventure Robbie, a twelve year old boy, and his genetically altered dolphin will see how his father's advanced ocean laboratory will be compromised by a kind of terrorists (they are called Vandals in the novel) and they must try to survive and call for help, with the aid of an ugly and eccentric super agent.

It is a pity that in our present we do not have the fabulous atom powered water lung that can extract oxygen from the wateer indefinitely. Or that we have not yet discovered aquatic life in the caves of Mars, although I admit that we would be more careful to bring species from other planets to our oceans. This is something that the Vandals oppose, making them in a curious way a kind of supremacists of terran biology. Well, why not? This is science fiction : )

In summary, an interesting juvenile novella -our present young adult literature I understand that it is a bit different- of aquatic adventures that I have enjoyed and whose two sequels I also intend to read.

jueves, 23 de abril de 2020

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

(I know there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks) The main premise of War of the Maps is simply fascinating: an artificial world, a Dyson sphere and the human beings inhabit its surface, although for them the origin of the giant planet, its creation by supposed deities and their subsequent departure leaving them abandoned to their fate a long time ago, is ceasing to be history to increasingly becoming a myth. Thus, they have some technology, some ancient devices, that they continue to use it as much as possible, being aware that this knowledge does not belong to them. As a result it is a society equivalent to our 19th or early 20th centuries. In other words, a sort of steampunk society, but without “steam”.

In a Paul McAuley’s story everything is very accurate, precise: well thought-out arguments, which far from seeking the spectacularity of another type of science fiction offer to the reader a great amount of details but at the same time without neglecting to offer us a share of the sense of wonder. At some point of the book, during a journey by the main protagonist, it made me think of Jack Vance’s novels. I commented this to the author via Twitter, who kindly replied that it was not the case, that he admires Jack Vance’s novels (especially he had great regard for The Dying Earth stories), but that he had not been inspired by this work, at least consciously. As I moved further into the novel I understood my mistake in making the comparison: Paul McAuley's works actually have an individuality of their own, making them hardly comparable to other science fiction works.

Of course, in War of the Maps you will find some of the the preferred themes by the author: the characters have little control of the situation but they try to survive and achieve their purposes, unleashed biology (The title of the novel partly refers to this), incomprehensible technologies and capricious entities insensitive to human life: in this case the so-called godlings, that maybe are AIs abandoned by the creators, but who knows.

As a flaws or aspects that I do not liked, The stubbornness of the main character is a bit tiresome, although I must point out that all the characters are well depicted. On the other hand, a subject that complicates the plot is that some of them have a gift, a kind of power -for example, the gift of the main character is to nullify other powers-; This topic is interesting and has some importance in the story but it seems somewhat arbitrary and for me it is not entirely well justified. 

As usual I will not reveal anything about the plot, you can read the synopsis of the book. Mr. McAuley develops his adventure in his “quiet” way, taking his time to narrate the adventures of the protagonist - who by age could well be him himself -, which in turn makes the reading a bit cold, including in the action or violence scenes, but in return the style is more realistic. Although the book is very speculative in some parts, it also has an hard science fiction component. A curiosity about the main character. We know his name, although at the same time throughout the novel it is seldom used to refer to him. Instead, we know him as the lucidor, a sort of policeman at the service of ethics rather than of the laws or the state powers. 

It is only my guess, but I think that if this book have success, this great planet imagined by the author could hold a lot more of adventures, more discoveries or intrigues in its possible sequels. I really like this author and I've read many of his books since Fairyland totally captivated me, but I think that this quiet and rational style, likewise makes him an author not for everyone. But as I said in a previous review, I consider that Paul McAuley is one of the best contemporary authors of science fiction.

domingo, 5 de abril de 2020

Patron of the Arts, by William Rotsler

(I know there could be some mistakes in this review. I’m trying to improve my English, thanks)

Cover art by Tom Adams
I did not know nothing about William Rotsler (1926-1997). His name did not even sound familiar to me in science fiction, despite Patron of the Arts was and Hugo and Nebula awards finalist. So I discovered him in this book. His biography can be a novel itself, because  he appreciated life and knew how to consume it intensely with a lot of friends, adventures or creating art: he was a novelist (including two Star Trek books), a comic book illustrator, a photographer, a sculptor, a porn movies director and above all he was a devotee of life, sex and loving.

You can read his bio in the Wikipedia, or in the IMDB, or better in this blog: But the best is the preface written by himself on this Kindle edition, where in a few pages he tells fervently his memories.
Cover of the Kindle edition. 

This novel is very unusual, a piece of art itself. It deals - of course- about (future) modern art… and about women. The main character of this novel is a very wealthy person, a future mogul and a playboy, but he is also -and maybe above all- an art collectionist and a mecenas. Because one of the countless meanings of art is understanding our universe, o maybe others universes, this novel is science fiction and it has its quota of sense of wonder. Well, I don’t want to tell you more, you can read the sinopsis if you want.

About love (there is art without love?) and about sex too, this is the point of view from a man. A man very respectful of women I must say, but as an experimental thought I wonder how would be this novel written by a woman and I think it would be equally respectful.

Patron of the Arts is a novel written fifty years ago, in 1972, and it has some temporal issues. In my opinion it is not a novel for all tastes, of course not. But I enjoyed it and better, the book changed something inside me, and this is what we demand of art, isn't it? 

So… you dare?