Harlan Ellison - Ellison Wonderland.
Whenever people ask me how I first got hooked on reading science fiction, I tell them it was short fiction. Whenever they ask which authors, I invariably list Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Moorcock. But this is a very short list and there are many, many other fine authors who were each in their way responsible for my addiction.
This collection gets off to a superb start with the opening tale "Commuter's Problem"—a tale focused around two neighbours who commute to work, one going just a little further than the other. The standard is maintained with the second tale "Do-It-Yourself", about a mail order murder kit.
Each time I started a new tale I felt that I was about due for a stinker—most collections I have read have had below-average stories. In this case, it simply did not happen.
A couple of the stories particularly appealed to me: "The Sky Is Burning", a first contact story with an alien race who've travelled all the way to Earth just to burn up in our atmosphere, is particularly poignant. "Battlefield", a dark and somewhat disturbing tale of a war that is going on and on, is all too believable to anyone living in our current times.
But I could've picked any of the stories from this book; it's a great set of stories. Go find out why Harlan Ellison built such a reputation for his short stories—you are not likely to regret it.
Harlan Ellison - Ellison Wonderland SF Short Story Collection PS Publishing http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/ (Re-)Release late 2007 Hardcover ISBN - 978-1-905834-95-2 206 pagesEric Brown - Starship Summer
David Conway has left Earth, intent on rebuilding his life after the death of his daughter and subsequent end of his marriage. He makes his way through the Telemass teleportation relays to the colony on Chalcedony where he intends to settle.
It also does a couple of things I really like in a story. The characters and worlds in this tale on page come into the tale with a back-story. Events that happened before the book starts are included in dialogue when needed but without the need for a prologue setting the scene. This definitely suits my tastes. So often when a book has a prologue I find it is jarring, often in a completely different voice to the rest of the book and serves no useful purpose.
The second is that it leaves the end open, it doesn't feel the need to wrap up every loose end, and lead the characters into a form of retirement. Yes, it completes the tale and concludes the main story threads but in such a way that you know these characters' worlds and lives will continue.
This is the third Eric Brown novella I have read and I can confirm that he is an author who has mastered the form. His prose is clear, his descriptions efficient without obscuring the plot and his ideas are fresh and interesting. He leaves you wanting more.
Eric Brown - Starship Summer SF Novella PS Publishing http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/ Release late summer / autumn 2007 Hardcover ISBN 9781905834495 119 pages
Australia and science fiction are not two things that you would usually expect to hear together. There are, of course, Australian sf writers but I do not expect they would be the first on many people's lips if you should ask. It's much more likely that you would hear the name of an English or American writer.
In 1901 Melbourne they encounter three teenagers and enlist their help in changing history.
This is very definitely a young adult novel, the protagonists are all in their mid-teens, including the soldiers from the future. I mention this because it is not immediately apparent from the book's cover. I'm not saying that it is unsuitable for adult readers, far from it. But it is a book that should cause no concerns for parents of teenage readers.
The story is absorbing, the characters engaging and the writing style so very comfortable. Yes, as a book for young adults its characters, themes and language are not as challenging as some adult sf can be. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I've read books where the word use is wonderfully descriptive and elegant, but at the end of the book I've looked back and thought, "What was that actually about?"
This book tells a story. It gets on with it, and it entertains.
Sean McMullen - Before the Storm SF Young Adult Novel Ford Street Publishing (Hybrid Publishers Aus) http://www.hybridpublishers.com.au/fordst.html Released June 2007 ISBN - 978-1-876462-50-5 262 pages
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