The Ophiuchi Hotline: Full of interesting ideas

The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley

Dr. Lilo Alexandr-Calypso, a brilliant geneticist who lives on the moon, has broken the law by fiddling with the human genome. Just as she’s about to be executed, she is saved by a group of vigilantes who want to use her skills to help them free the Earth from the alien invaders who’ve taken over and kicked the humans off.

Lilo doesn’t want to serve anyone, but their leader, a former president of Earth, has captured a clone of her and says that either she or the clone will be executed for Lilo’s crime. It doesn’t seem right for the clone to live on, so Lilo agrees to participate, thinking she’ll escape. She’s taken to a secret hideout located on a Jovian moon and set to work for the Free Earthers. She doesn’t like the work, which involves experiments designed to discover how to kill the invading aliens, but every time she escapes (or dies trying), she just gets cloned again. Now ... Read More

Lord Foul’s Bane: A character study of alienation and vindictiveness

Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

Stephen Donaldson’s opening volume in THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANTLord Foul’s Bane, is divisive for fans of fantasy. It strictly follows Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, which some readers may see as comfortably familiar, and others may see as unoriginal, especially when set alongside the plethora of epic fantasy available today. Parallels to THE LORD OF THE RINGS may also entice or put off readers. What’s not discordant, however, is the moral message burning at the heart of Covenant’s story. Still poignant today, it and the quality of the writing are the main reasons Donaldson’s series was once king of the fantasy charts.

Lord Foul’s Ban... Read More

The Shining: An amazing character study

The Shining by Stephen King

Stephen King’s The Shining is an amazing character study that drives mood-heavy, emotionally deep, and unrelenting literary horror. The story centers on Danny Torrance, a young boy with a unique ability, termed the 'shine.' Danny can sense the future, and communicate mentally and emotionally with his inner self and other people, alive, and sometimes less so.

Stephen King writes ‘childhood’ masterfully. He's able to tap into the emotions of youth, and create evocative realism in their thoughts, dialogue and action. Also found in his magnum opus It, King places children in extraordinary circumstances; yet still creates very realistic, thoughtful and down-to-earth reactions and behavior.

Also like It, King uses The Read More

A Spell for Chameleon: Stay away!

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

You know that delighted little feeling you get when a package arrives on your doorstep? And with how excited you are, you just can’t wait to unbox whatever it is? Imagine you’ve just received a mysterious package, perhaps one you’ve been anticipating for a long time. Except, you’re so thrilled that you forget to check the name on the shipping label… and when you open it up, it’s not for you… Whoops.

You see, I’d heard so many things about Piers Anthony’s XANTH series, and as far as I was concerned, its popularity virtually guaranteed that A Spell for Chameleon, the opening novel of the series, would be spectacular… right? Wrong. In fact, just about every aspect of this book rubbed me the wrong way, and I really felt as if the novel I had just finished couldn... Read More

Gateway: Science fiction with depth and purpose

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

At heart a psychological drama which explores one man’s attempts at dealing with the negative aspects of existentialism (what Sarte called “nausea”), Gateway nonetheless utilizes the tools of science fiction for effect. Less than 300 pages, the tropes of each are blended perfectly in succinct fashion so as to satisfy the readers of both genres.

After finding an abandoned alien base deep in an asteroid, humanity has learned the basics of piloting the remaining spaceships. Emphasis on the word “basics,” not all the important details of light speed have been mastered, with the result that people are sent shooting into space as “prospectors,” not knowing where the coordinates they’ve set will lead or if they’ll even make it back to the base. For those who do come back, reward is not a guarantee, either. Alien artifacts can help a person become rich, but a... Read More

Charmed Life: Rich in detail and cleverness

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones's novels, Charmed Life is possibly her most famous, and her most read. It is the first published of her Chrestomanci novels, and it stars many of her most famous characters with her requisite twisting plot and quirky sense of humour. Set in a parallel world ripe with magic, wizards and magical creatures, DWJ's Chrestomanci quartet were clearly inspirational to J.K. Rowling in her creation of Hogwarts and her wizarding world — a lot of comparisons can be made between the two. Ultimately Harry Potter is the deeper and more intricate series, but DWJ's novels are stand-alone, can be read out of... Read More

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Highly recommended


Stephen R. Donaldson’s Land (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever) series is one of the earliest reactions against the carbon-copy Tolkien-like works that proliferated soon after the success of The Lord of the Rings and stands in start contrast to another book published the same year — Sword of Shannara —which simply rewrites Tolkien rather than responds to it.

The first series is known as the Chronicle... Read More

The Sword of Shannara: Too derivative

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The Sword of Shannara was a very popular book back in the 70s right after the huge success of THE LORD OF THE RINGS when everyone wanted to read more fantasy. I wasn't old enough to read it back then, so I came to it much later. I read part of the first book and, knowing how popular it had been, and feeling like it was a classic, I was prepared to enjoy it. About half way through I gave it to my ten year old son.

The weird thing is, it's so like THE LORD OF THE RINGS, at the same time that it's not. I don't mind a few common fantasy elements (especially in works written before they were cliché), but Brooks' plot and characters come almost straight out of Tolkien. This may have been acceptable if the writing had come straight out of Tolki... Read More