1937


Inland Deep: Tooker times two

Inland Deep by Richard Tooker

Of the nine books that I have read over the last year or so from Armchair Fiction’s current Lost World/Lost Race series, which runs to 24 volumes, no fewer than three of them have involved the discoveries of hitherto unknown civilizations far beneath the Earth’s surface. In Rex Stout’s truly thrilling Under the Andes (1914), three unfortunate Americans go through a hellacious experience at the hands of a lost race of Incas beneath the mountains of Peru. In S. P. Meek’s The Drums of Tapajos (1930), a quartet of American adventurers discovers the descendants of both the 10 Lost Tribes and ... Read More

Star Maker: The grandest vision of the universe

Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Star Maker is perhaps the grandest and most awe-inspiring vision of the universe ever penned by a science fiction author, before the term even existed, in 1937 by the pioneering Englishman Olaf Stapledon.

Although some readers might think that Star Maker was only outstanding for its time, it remains an amazing tour-de-force today, and has clearly inspired many of the genre’s most famous practitioners, including Arthur C. Clarke, with its fountain of ideas about galaxies, nebulae, cosmological minds, artificial habitats, super-heavy-gravity environments, an infinite variety of alien species, and telepathic communications among stars.

This may be the only novel I’ve read that essentially has no individual characters. A nameless narrator sits on ... Read More

Star-Begotten: A “must read” for thinking adults

Star-Begotten by H.G.Wells

Released 39 years after his seminal sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, and just two years before Orson Welles scared the bejeebers out of U.S. listeners with his radio play of that same novel, 1937's Star-Begotten finds its author, H.G. Wells, returning to the Red Planet to tell us more about those mysterious and pesky Martians. Written when Wells was 71, this latter work — rather than being a tale of action and mayhem and a truly groundbreaking instance of the then-still-new science fiction (or, to use the term that Wells preferred, "scientific romances") — is more a novel of ideas and speculation, of satire and bitter condemnation, and, I have a feeling, is a largely unknown work today. And that is a shame, as it is obviously a deeply felt work; an appeal to reason in a wo... Read More

The Silmarillion: More enjoyable than LOTR

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

I'm going to come right out and say what will make most people think I'm slightly crazy: I enjoyed reading The Silmarillion more than I enjoyed reading The Lord of the Rings. Why? I haven't the faintest idea. Maybe I was too young to properly appreciate The Lord of the Rings. Maybe my love of mythology made The Silmarillion a shoe-in. Maybe the lack of three-dimensional characters was more understandable in a book this vast. Maybe I'm just weird.

In any case, The Silmarillion is challenging, beautiful, epic reading and well worth the time and effort it'll take to fully appreciate the work Tolkien has put into his secondary world. Published after Tolkien's death and edited by his son C... Read More

The Hobbit: Good clean fun

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is just good clean fun, delightful for children and adults. If you've read LOTR and wondered how Bilbo got the ring, here's the story. I enjoyed Tolkien's omniscient narrator style in this book — somewhat like Thackeray's Vanity Fair, and more recently Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell -- which I suppose he adopted because he was writing for children. I think it's charming.

I highly recommend the audiobook, read by Rob Inglis. He's a Royal Shakespeare company actor and the best audiobook reader I've ever heard (and I've heard a lot of them). He has a different voice for each dwarf, and he does a great Gollum, too. He actually sings the songs (nice voice!) and he even belches up ponies. The scene with the trolls is es... Read More