Book Review

Review: Sentenced to Prism (4/5 stars)

Foster is one of my favorite authors, in large part because of books like this. The book is about a man who is sent to Prism to investigate the problems an outpost is having. Prism is potentially a very profitable, but is very hard to work on, planet. The fact they have to keep what it is and where it is secret makes it all the more hard (partly because they are operating on a gray area legally, partly to stop competition).

To that end he is given the best mech/survival suit that money can buy. He does not know a lot about the situation, but he is a jack of all trades and is being sent because no one really knows what is going on. He is sure he can figure it out without too many problems.

I won’t spoil more, the book is one of the best optimistic (without stopping being realistic) exportation books I have read. Prism is a fully realized world with it’s own way of doing things and it’s own life.

On Goodreads

Review: World Swappers (4/5 stars)

World Swappers is an early work by Brunner. It is short and dense in the same way a lot of books written in the forties or the fifties tend to be. It has several threads, and a fast pace but does not leave you behind.

I will say that the characters do sometimes lack depth, it is definitely an early work, none the less it is a good book that I have re-read a couple times over the years.

The book is set several centuries past us developed the first FTL ships, and when dozens of worlds were colonized.

It’s about two people/organizations who are both trying to solve the same problem, even if one does not realize it.

The first is Bassett, a business man who under normal conditions would be the top guy on earth after he puts in his time (a few more decades) he could then spend the latter half of his life as the de-facto ruler.

The second is Counce, centuries before the book started, just as humans were going in the stars, he discovered how to build the Transfax by accident. The Transfax is a teleporter then can go between stars, and can even change matter to other forms. It could end hunger, and disease, providing anything anyone ever wanted for practically nothing.

However he realized quickly after he build the first one that it could also end mankind, even in theory you could not shield from someone sending a bomb to you via Transfax. So long as you know where your enemy was you could kill him, and once the Transfax was out you could easily make more of them. To let everyone have it could mean the end of mankind, to let no one have it would be a breach of his duty to his fellow man.

He decided to compromise. He founded an organization, selecting the best people he could find to use the Transfax to help in what ways they could without revealing that it exists. They could play the long game because they could use it to come back from death and to reverse old age. They also used psychological modeling to make sure they got no bad eggs.

It is a very interesting book, partly because it has such a optimistic view of mankind via Counce and his people. Yet on the other side you have Basset and other such horrible people. It shows that a book does not need to be wholly optimistic or pessimistic, it can be both.

on Goodreads

Review: Space Doctor (4/5 stars)

Space doctor by G. Harry Stine was published in the eighties (at least according to my copy) but it reads more like the fifties or late forties. Not saying that is a bad thing, although it is different from what you would think.

This kind of story is a lot more rare today then it was in the fifties, it was very refreshing to read. Rather then be about something epic in scope it’s about one man who is doing some very interesting things, almost slice is life-ish.

The story is about a doctor who is hired by a senator/business owner who is trying to get power sat’s working (solar panels in orbit beaming power down to stations on the earth). There are two sets of stations, one is in high orbit where the sat’s themselves are being built.

The main character is hired to be the head doctor on the upper satellites. That high up they can’t send people down if there is a medical problem, they have to deal with it then and there. He is in practice starting a new area of medicine, doing it all by feel and trial and error.

For example they have to invent IV bags that will squeeze themselves because there is no gravity. He has to talk the engineers into making sure he and his people can get around quickly when they are needed ect.

Its a very good relaxing and interesting read.

On Goodreads

Review: Barsoom Series (4/5 stars)

If you have read much science fiction you at least know of John Carter and Barsoom (AKA Mars).

The stories are not really science fiction as we would think of it today, but sword and planet. I find them interesting partly because they show how far science fiction has come.

While the books do not have the deepest characters what they do have (particularly the first couple) is a level of world building I hope I will one day approach.

The stories have people that are often brutal, different in ways its hard to imagine but who you feel sorry for. They invoke a feeling of wonder, of meeting people you can admire, or hate but will never really understand.

Honestly its hard to quantify how Burroughs did it, but it works and it does so with seaming effortlessness.

The main character, John Carter, also does something I wish more characters did in fish out of water type situations, he accepts the people he finds as they are and acts according to their value system when he has to. If this means killing that is what it means

On Goodreads