Posts

Showing posts from January, 2021

Galactic Derelict

Image
 Galactic Derelict, by Andre Norton (both stories in one volume) I squoze in one final SF title, so here's my wrapup! I enjoyed Time Traders so much that I wanted to find out more, and read Galactic Derelict, book #2.  Now I'm really hooked! Out in the badlands, Travis Fox is looking for a spring -- he works for his brother's ranch and is the only one interested in listening to old stories.  Fox's people lived here long ago and he's fascinated by the history.  Just as he's getting to the spring, a helicopter lands and...government people start setting up some strange equipment.  Fox is nabbed by our old buddy Ross Murdock, and he finds himself part of a time travel team -- this time they're going back to prehistoric America to find a crashed alien ship. Fortunately, the team finds not only a crashed ship, but a small, intact scout sort of ship -- they can even take it forward in time for study!  Unfortunately, something about the time trip (or maybe the st

CC Spin #25: Lorna Doone

Image
 Lorna Doone , by R. D. Blackmore I am happy to report that I enjoyed Lorna Doone quite a bit!  It's an exciting historical romance of a story, very much like something by Sir Walter Scott.  And it is not set in Scotland at all; I was completely wrong about that.  It is set in Exmoor, which I had to look up on a map -- I have helpfully included one near the bottom of this post, so you can see where Exmoor is too.  Much of it is now a national park.  Also, Porlock is one of the larger towns in the area, so I kept thinking of Coleridge, who is not in this story. R. D. Blackmore had a long writing career (which was a side gig to his main interests of classicism and fruit farming!), and he wrote a lot of varied stuff.  I'm going to have to get Erema , which is set in California!  Lorna Doone was his big smash hit of a novel, published as a triple-decker -- not in a serial format.  It was hugely popular, everybody read it, and the foreword says that in 1906 the all-male student bo

The Coming of the Third Reich

Image
 The Coming of the Third Reich, by Richard J. Evans I figured I ought to kick off the WWII Reading Challenge right, with a big fat Serious History Tome that has been sitting around and waiting for me for too long.  And, this is a really great work of history, and the perfect book to start with. Most readers probably know that this is the first book in a three-volume work that covers the entire Nazi regime.  Evans' goal was to produce a solid, detailed history for the layperson that would give an overview of the whole thing.  He wanted it to feel immediate and relatable, so many terms that would usually stay safely foreign in German, such as F├╝hrer or Gauleiter, are instead rendered in English.* This first volume deals mainly with a lot of background, and the development of the Nazi Party.  It ends in mid-1933, once Nazi power is consolidated.  This means that Evans actually starts -- pretty much -- with Bismarck, filling us in on such events as 1848 attempts at revolution and the c

Alpha Centauri -- Or Die! and Legend of Lost Earth

Image
Alpha Centauri -- Or Die! by Leigh Brackett Legend of Lost Earth , by G. McDonald Wallis It's my Ace Double for the month!  (I might read more, but one turned out to have mildew problems, boo, and the other has two stories by MZB, who I don't love.)  I had fun with both of these tales, which were published in 1963. Alpha Centauri -- Or Die! is set in a future where humans have colonized the solar system....and then, in an attempt to keep everything very stable and safe, have forbidden almost all movement.  You can't change planets or even areas of planets, and only empty robot-run ships travel the distances between.  Well, Kirby (an aging space pilot) and his friends are tired of being chained to Mars, and for years they have been getting an old, hidden rocket ready to go.  They'll take their families and head to Alpha Centauri, which is known to host an earth-like planet. So there's lots of danger to dodge!  If they can get away from Mars, it means over five years

The Time Traders

Image
The Time Traders, by Andre Norton  As we found out last year, I am pathetically ignorant of Andre Nortons's works.  I didn't know what the Time Traders were or anything; I just had this book.  I lucked out -- this is the first volume in a long series of time-travel intrigue books!   It was published in 1958. Ross Murdock, hardened juvenile delinquent, figures he can outsmart anybody, but he got caught this time.  To his surprise, the judge offers him a choice: jail time or volunteering to be part of a government experiment of some kind.  Ross picks the mystery experiment, assuming he can easily escape.  But the next thing he knows, he's in the Arctic, living on a base and learning new skills.  What are these people even up to, anyway? Ross discovers that time travel is possible, and that the US is playing a giant game of spot-the-spy-bases all over pre-history.  The Soviets are up to something , and they want to find out what it is.  So Ross becomes a Bronze Age trader, po

The Forgotten Door

Image
 The Forgotten Door , by Alexander Key As a kid I enjoyed the books of Alexander Key, who I don't think was terribly well-known for anything besides the Escape to Witch Mountain books, which were turned into not-very-good Disney movies.  But he wrote quite a bit of other stuff too, and I remember this one.  Some years ago I picked up an old school library copy, but I hadn't actually read it since I was a kid. Little Jon is out watching the stars with his family and neighbors when he stumbles over some rocks and falls -- right into a different world.  The door had been sealed up long ago but something broke. Jon lands in an unknown mountain area, with a cracked head and a busted ankle.  He follows a deer down the mountain and winds up being taken in by a kind family, but suspicious neighbors, frightened by Jon's oddness, become more and more intolerable.  How can Jon ever make it home? The Key stories that I've read all feature a world of people who are human, but nicer

Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine 3

Image
  Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine 3 , ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas I had forgotten that my mom has a whole pile of old Best of F&SF paperbacks stashed away, and I borrowed a few!  This volume was published in 1954 and consists of the best stories from the previous year, so that's pretty vintage.  This far back, most of the names are not familiar to me; I only recognize three out of 16.  All of the stories were pretty good; some are funny, others sad or romantic or spooky, but I'll just pick out three or four. "Maybe Just a Little One" is a comedy in which a physics teacher develops home atomic power from plain old beans -- the crucial element being called frijolium .  But nobody takes him seriously -- reporters make him a joke and the government won't even see him.  Until the leaders of a tiny little country ask him to come and help them lift their people out of poverty with this great invention.  They won't want any bombs....

The Entropy Effect

Image
 The Entropy Effect, by Vonda McIntyre Hippie Sulu! This Star Trek novel is from 1981, but I'm counting it anyway.  I've never read many Star Trek novels except for the stuff James Blish wrote, and last year I did Spock Must Die! which was the first one.  The Entropy Effect is still pretty early on in the whole thing. So, the Enterprise has been in orbit around a singularity for weeks, so Spock can study it.  It's the first and only singularity ever seen, and it just appeared in space!  So it's a big deal.  But the Enterprise is called to a super-secret-emergency on a nearby space station, so Spock's work is incomplete and practically worthless.  To add insult to injury, the super-emergency is no such thing; they're just needed to take a prisoner to a rehab center -- but this prisoner is Spock's favorite physicist, Dr. Mordreaux, who's been sending people back in time to live. Then Mordreaux escapes, and kills Kirk!  And also Sulu's new girlfri

The Time Masters

Image
 The Time Masters, by Wilson Tucker What would an SF book from 1971 be without a weird psychedelic cover?   It's a necessary ingredient! An accident to an exploratory spaceship leaves most of the crew dead, but at least one survivor manages to aim himself at the nearby planet.  He's pretty sure his wife must have survived too, and hopes for other crew-mates.  Maybe they can find each other once they land... ...and we switch to 1970s Knoxville, Tennessee, where some FBI types are investigating one Gilbert Nash, a PI who hardly ever works, but subscribes to every scientific journal there is, and who just happened to move into town right before a governmental research lab was established.  And one of the scientists there has this wife who seems to know more about his work than he does, and then he turns up dead. This was a fun read (though it does make me wonder just how many PIs are in old SF novels!  That's two in a row!  I guess because you can make them do almost anything)

The Blazing-World

Image
The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle Here we have a thing we could probably call a proto-science-fiction novel.  It's got a story and a plot, but it also has massive amounts of talk about natural philosophy.  It was written in 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London!) to go along with her serious scientific work, the Observations upon Experimental Philosophy.    Margaret Lucas Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne   The story features a young woman who is taken captive on a ship, and travels to another world via the North Pole: But alas! Those few men which were in it, not knowing whither they went, nor what was to be done in so strange an Adventure, and not being provided for so cold a Voyage, were all frozen to death; the young Lady onely, by the light of her Beauty, the heat of her Youth, and Protection of the Gods, remaining alive: Neither was it a wonder that the men did freeze to death; for they were

Watchers of the Dark

Image
 Watchers of the Dark, by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. Happy January!  For my first vintage SF pick, I went with this mystery title -- meaning I didn't know a thing about it -- which I got off the donation table some time ago.  It's a 1st edition from 1966 in near-perfect condition; I'm not sure it's ever been read.  I didn't expect it to be very good, but in fact it was really fun, a combination of a hard-boiled private eye story and interplanetary SF. Jan Darzek is a New York private eye in 1988, which is just like 1966 except you can teleport instead of taking the subway, which sounds very handy.  A Mr. Smith offers Darzek the job of a lifetime -- very dangerous, will take years at best, but the client will pay anything.  Darzek's secretary, Shluppy, insists on coming along (she is Miss Schlupe, a tough little lady in her 60s who is worth reading the book for all by herself) and they find themselves on a space transport, headed for the center of the galaxy. There are zi

Reading goals for 2021

Image
For a New Year's Day post, this is coming in pretty late, given that it's 10:30pm and I live in California.  Most folks are on to a new day by now.  But I thought I'd like to write out my goals for Howling Frog in the coming year.  In 2020 I enjoyed focusing on history and Russian things, but of course reading anything that required brainpower got more difficult as the year slogged on and I lost energy in the last few months.  In fact, if I look back at early 2020 I'm pretty amazed at what I was managing to read, compared to lately!  This year my goals are not too different: Continue to work on Reading ALL Around the World and my Classics Club list .  I love these two, and I wish I was making better progress. Read as much history as I can cram into my brain, with a focus on WWII.  But other history is good too! Also and at the same time, read whatever I want. I always believe in starting new projects on the first day of the year, so I started reading The Coming of the