Starship Troopers: A 250-page lecture on the ethics and morals of war, violence and race

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

As part of my reading routine, I like to go to the way-back machine and catch up on genre classics. Within sci-fi, a few years ago I reread Frank Herbert's Dune, which is as heavy and awesome as I’d remembered. I discovered and loved Walter M. Miller's wonderful Canticle for Leibowitz.

Robert Heinlein, of course, is one of the heavyweights of the genre, but I'd never read anything of his and my only previous exposure to Starship Troopers (1959) was from the 1997 sci-fi film of the same title. Now keep in mind, the book has only the barest rese... Read More

A Case of Conscience: A Catholic priest faces aliens with morality but no religion

A Case of Conscience by James Blish

Great A-side, dreadful B-side. A Case of Conscience is James Blish’s 1959 Hugo-winning SF novel, expanded from the1953 novella. Part One (the original novella) is set on planet Lithia, introducing a race of reptilians with a perfect, strife-free society and innate sense of morality. However, to the consternation of Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez, they have no religion of any kind. Their morality is inherent, and they have no need of a religious framework to direct their actions.

As a Catholic, Ruiz-Sanchez cannot make heads or tails of this. Without religion, do the Lithians have souls? If so, are they fallen into sin like humans, or still in a state of grace like Adam and Eve? He struggles with this conundrum, as well as the purpose of the expedition to Lithia, which is to determine whether the planet should be exploited for its lithium or quarantined sin... Read More

The Sirens of Titan: An early Vonnegut classic about the randomness of life

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Sirens of Titan is a tough book to review. And it’s not really SF at all though it adopts the trappings of the genre. The thing about Kurt Vonnegut’s books is that they are so deceptively simple. The prose is spare, humorous, ironic, and to the point. And yet the story is very ambitious, as it seeks to provide answers to some very basic questions. Why do we exist? What is the universe for? Do we have any free will to determine our lives? Should we have chicken or fish for dinner?

The story focuses on Malachi Constant, the richest man in America; Winston Niles Rumfoord, an older wealthy man who travels throughout the solar system with his dog Kazak, manifesting in various locations in space and time; Unk and Boaz, two buddies in the Martian Army preparing to invade the Ear... Read More

Nine Tomorrows: You’ll wish there were twenty tomorrows!

Nine Tomorrows: Tales of the Near Future by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov may very well be the most prolific author in modern history. With over 500 books to his credit (506, to be exact... go to asimovonline.com for the full list, if you don't believe me!), covering just about every subject in the Dewey Decimal System (except philosophy, I believe), the man was a real marvel. One of these 500 volumes, Nine Tomorrows, is a collection of short stories that Doc Ike first had published in various magazines during the period July 1956 to November 1958. As the title suggests, all nine tales deal with possible futures that may face mankind, and all feature the wit, erudition and clarity that are the hallmarks of every Asimov story/novel that I've ever read.

The collection kicks off with the longest tale, "Profession," in which Asimov presents a 65th century when one's vocation is determined by a kin... Read More

6xH: Six Stories By Robert A. Heinlein

6xH: Six Stories by Robert A. Heinlein by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein, certainly one of the most influential authors in science fiction history, was also one of the most celebrated. As reported in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Heinlein was the guest of honor at three World SF Conventions, received the first Grand Master Nebula Award, and was selected "best all-time author" in many readers' polls. His four Hugo awards for Best Novel is a record that stands to this day, and in his long and prolific career, the man wrote 32 novels (13 of them juveniles) and 58 short stories. In 1959, six of those shorter pieces were collected in what was to later be appropriately titled 6xH, consisting of tales written between 1941 and 1959. Most of these tales are rather fantasy-oriented and not really science fiction, and indeed, all six appear in a larger collection called The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein.

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A Canticle for Leibowitz: A must-read for any true SF fan

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr

It’s the Dark Ages again. A 20th century nuclear war spawned a “Flame Deluge” which destroyed human civilization’s infrastructure and technology, killed most of the people, and created genetic mutations in many of the rest. Then there was a backlash against the educated people of the world who were seen as the creators of both the ideas that started the war, and the weapons that were used to fight it. They were persecuted and killed and all knowledge was burned up. After this “Simplification,” people took pride in being illiterate and the only institution that seemed to come through intact was the Roman Catholic Church, just as it did during humanity's first Dark Ages.

Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is divided into three parts, which were originally published as three separate stories. In the first story, “Fiat Homo,” which... Read More