Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus (Lucky Starr #3) ★★★☆½

oceansofvenus (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus
Series: Lucky Starr #3
Author: Isaac Asimov
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 174
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Science Council has had a call for help from the domed Cities of Venus. They sent in a top operative but they received a letter of recall from the Head of the Science Council on Venus accusing the man of corruption. Lucky knows this man and doesn’t believe a word of it. He heads to Venus but receives a radio communique from said operative warning him away.

Lucky and Bigman barely make it to Venues, as their pilots mysteriously black out and almost crash their craft. Lucky begins his investigation and is shown a whole slew of incidents where rational people have performed very irrational acts and then had no memory of it. The Head of the Local Council is convinced it is a Syrian trick so as to steal the rare Venus yeast formulas.

Lucky thinks otherwise and after some hair raising adventures in the oceans, finds out that telepathic frogs are the culprit! But the mystery doesn’t stop there. It turns out one of the engineers on Venus has learned how to control the v-frogs (venus frogs. Get it? Pretty clever right?) and has been planning to become dictator of Venus.

Thanks to Lucky and Bigman, said Engineer is brought to Justice and the benevolent rule of the Science Council continues apace. Heil Scyenze! * salutes *

 

My Thoughts:

Maddalena pointed out in the comments of the previous book that this was written for middle graders. So when I went into this, I deliberately kept that in mind and you know what? It worked wonders for my expectations and how I read the book itself. I had a lot more fun this time around. I could see myself as a 5th grader eating this up with a spoon. I wish I had known about these way back then but oh well.

A good rousing adventure tale. It also shows unabashedly, or perhaps unknowingly(?), just how strong a belief in science as a force for good permeated the society of the 50’s. Science was going to solve every problem, only the best of men would be scientists and they would all get along because obviously, once you know something you have to act rationally and logically to that knowledge. Phraaaaack, what a naive outlook. Makes me wonder what Asimov was thinking at the end of his life, as he was a humanist and from what I understand didn’t believe in God or any sort of afterlife.

Anyway, with that aside out of the way, this book gave me some hope that I was sorely lacking from the previous. I am now looking forward to the next couple of volumes instead of dreading them. Ha!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Worst Contact ★★★☆☆

worst contact (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Worst Contact
Series: ———-
Author: Hank Davis – Editor
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 384
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories about First Contact between Humanity and Aliens. Ranging from the humorous to the droll to threatening to the downright ironically twisted, this collection just about covers it all.

 

My Thoughts:

Overall, this was a good collection of short stories. I do like collections like this because you can read one or two, walk away for a day, come back the next day and not need to have remembered anything. Each story is self-contained.

The reason this didn’t get 4 stars from me is because the Editor, Hank Davis, has his own little blurb before each story. Mainly a ultra-mini biography or bibliography about the author of the story. I found they interrupted the flow of my reading and I really didn’t enjoy them. Also, there were 2 or 3 where he talks about the authors political leanings and without fail they were very liberal to the outright Communist. I felt like he was singling them out for special attention as no other political affiliation was mentioned for other authors. If I want to hear the praises of the Left sung, I’ll go read something about Barack Obama. Keep that stuff OUT of my SF please and thank you.

The humor, both wacky, ironic and menacing, all worked for me. Vaguely threatening is fantastic when it is pulled off correctly. Things get a little dated with some of the stories when ever “tech” is used. I remember one story talking about translating video being the easiest because pictures are “universal.” Anyone who uses digital video today and has to encode their own bluray/dvd’s and runs into different codex compatibility issues knows that “universal” is a crock of rotten milk. 50 years is a long time in terms of technology * wink *

I definitely would have enjoyed this more if the Editor hadn’t stuck his oar in on each story, but then, if he doesn’t, how is anyone supposed to know how great and smart he is? So depending on how you feel about editorial things, that might not be an issue at all for you.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (Lucky Starr #2) ★★★☆☆

piratesoftheasteroids (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids
Series: Lucky Starr #2
Author: Isaac Asimov
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 144
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

Something funny is going on with the Pirates who inhabit the asteroids. While they seem to be growing in number and strength, their attacks have become more focused, tighter and a lot more strategic. Lucky and others from the Science Council build a spaceship meant to be captured and then exploded in a Pirate base. It’s all a double, triple, never ending ruse though, as Lucky sneaks on board after alerting the Syrian Embassy anonymously of the “real” mission of the ship. The Syrians are in league with the Pirates and when everything in place, Earth will face a two fronted war.

Lucky uncovers just how far along the plans actually are and sets in motion events to prevent the war from ever starting. He comes across the man who had his parents killed 25 years ago who is the mastermind of the Pirates. While the Military is looking at dealing with the Syrians, the Science Council goes in secretly to the asteroid belt and using the information from the mastermind, clean out all the pirate nests. This collapses one front of the potential war, so the Syrians withdraw without a fight.

 

My Thoughts:

Yeah….this was rather boring. Also, Lucky wasn’t much of a Space Ranger at all. He only used the mask the aliens gave him, in the first book, as protection so he could fly closer to the sun and catch up with some bad guys. No cool fight scene with it.

There were a couple of “fights” but they took place mainly in space and were as slow and clunky as you would imagine. No space ninjas here! It really boiled down to Lucky figuring things out last minute but not willing to tell his mentors because he didn’t have all the “facts” to back them up. Then he’d race off to get facts.

I must have glossed over it in the first book, but apparently there is another Galactic Empire of the Syrians, from Sirius. I felt like I was stumbling over them without knowing who or what they were. Are they humans or aliens? What is their beef with Earth? This should have been dealt with a little more clearly.

If the series stays tonally the same as this book instead of the first, it is going to be real easy to understand why this series never became very famous. Even Andre Norton wrote more exciting stuff.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Red Nails (The Essential Conan #3) ★★★★☆

rednails (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Red Nails
Series: The Essential Conan #3
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 295
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another collection of stories about Conan with the final part of the book being a “history” of the Pre-Cataclysmic world and the post-Cataclysmic world leading up to our own known history.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book the most of all 3 of these Essential Conan books and I think it was a combination of slightly longer stories coupled with not having as many. The final part of the book, the “History” part was boring as all get out but I expected that as History and me are acquaintances by circumstances instead of friends by choice.

The History definitely showed up Howard’s racial bias more than anything in the stories. Purity of blood and the continual references to racial superiority or inferiority really began to grate.

The titular story, Red Nails, was probably the best Conan story of all I’ve read with these. From the killing of a monstrous lizard to an enclosed city with near insane inhabitants to a sorceress who feasts on live sacrifices, it just had it all. You could probably read that story alone and get enough of everything to decide if more Conan was for you or not.

I’m pretty pleased with this Essential omnibus that I read. I felt like I got a real taste of who and what Conan is about, what kind of author Howard was and it was just the right size so I’ve had enough without having too much. There are more Conan stories by Howard, and tons by other authors, but this has sated me so I feel no need to seek out more. I’d highly recommend this if you wanted to try out Conan or even simply wanted a better understanding of Fantasy from the early 1900’s. You are never going to go wrong by reading works that are foundational to the genres we have today.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The People of the Black Circle (The Essential Conan #2) ★★★☆½

peopleoftheblackcircle (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The People of the Black Circle
Series: The Essential Conan #2
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 220
Format: Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

4 stories involving Conan. While not exact, they do seem to move backwards in time, so while he’s king of the Hetman in the first story, by the time we get to the final story he’s a Sword for Hire.

Conan fights something, whether wizards, peoples or monsters, rescues nearly naked women and usually makes off with a boatload of treasure.

 

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure how this Conan read would go so soon after the first instalment. Thankfully, moving away from a full novel to shorter, more serialized stories worked rather well.

The first thing I noticed is just how well Howard can write. While the Conan stories are not in any way deep character sketches, Howards writes him in such a way that while sparse doesn’t feel flat. Conan was a real barbarian and Howard brings that to light with a deft touch. He also describes things in such a way as to evoke whatever emotion he is going for in the scene. He knows how to describe things precisely so as to guide you yet it never fell into purple prose territory either. It was a delicate tightrope and I thought he did a fantastic job.

However, the short story format fails us the readers. While all varying enough that they aren’t identical, in either scene or foe, the overall plotlines run almost along identical tracks. That wouldn’t be a problem if you read one story every other month or so. But reading 4 in a matter of weeks, well, it becames a little difficult to ignore.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with Conan and how this Essential Series is working out. I’ve got one more to go and then I think I’ll be satisfied with having tried this particular Hero out.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The Hour of the Dragon (The Essential Conan #1) ★★★☆☆

hourofthedragon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hour of the Dragon
Series: The Essential Conan #1
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

4 Conspirators, using a mystic gem of unimaginable power, resurrect a long dead wizard, Xaltotun. They plan to use his power to further their own aims. What they so carelessly forget is that Xaltotun might have plans of his own, like the resurrection of his whole nation of 1000’s of years ago from the Age of Dark Wizards.

One man stands in their way. Conan, king of Aquilonia. A fierce Cimmerian who took the throne by force, Conan is no innocent when it comes to the ways of wizards. After being overthrown by magic, secretly being taken captive by Xaltotun and then escaping, Conan tries to take back his country. Problem is, Aquilonia is rift with factions and Xaltotun, through his puppet, is playing those factions against each other. And should Conan unite the country, Xaltotun will just use his magic to destroy them all again.

With the help of the priests of a cultic god and a wild witch woman from the hills, Conan learns he must find the Heart of Ahriman and use its powers to overthrow Xaltotun. Only then will sword and spear be enough to route the human element. After several adventures, including pirates, a voluptuous vampire and priests of the dark god Set, Conan recovers the jewel.

Xaltotun is unaware and blithely goes to his doom. Every Aquilonian suddenly turns patriot and Conan takes his country back and paddles the backsides of the other nations that did him wrong.

 

My Thoughts:

This is actually an omnibus edition put out by the Science Fiction Book Club back in the late 90’s or or early ’00’s. It contains 2 other Conan books, which all consist of a series of short stories. This one, Hour of the Dragon, is the only novel in the book. There are forwards and afterwards by some editor who appears to be a big Conan fan and while slightly interesting to a big Conan fan, didn’t mean a thing to me. I don’t care about Howard’s personal life or that he was such a coward that he took his own life at 36. That doesn’t get sympathy from me but makes me despise him as a human. And that is just the type of thing I don’t want when going into a book.

Sword and Sorcery at its height, perhaps? This was Adventure pure and simple and there was nothing complicated about that. This is not about characterization or rich world building. Conan is a force of nature that hews and kills and fights against all odds and prevails.

While I enjoyed this, I also tend to enjoy crunchy Cheetos. I only eat Cheetos in the small snack packs now, as any larger amount makes me sick. This Essential omnibus is probably going to fulfill my Conan quota for quite some time. It is just the type of writing that you can enjoy but if you overdose, you’ll stay away from for the rest of your life. I want to be able to enjoy these stories even while realizing their inherent weaknesses. I mean, really, how many times can you read “mighty thews” and keep your eyes from rolling?

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 ★★★★★

sfhalloffame (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964
Series: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame #1
Editor: Robert Silverberg
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Trade paperback

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories voted by members of the Science Fiction Authors Guild (or something or other like that) as the best of. A popularity contest of stories from the 30’s to the 60’s. No author had more than one story and the book was presented chronologically, so we as the readers could see how things progressed storywise in 30 years.

 

My Thoughts:

Danielle from Books, Vertigo and Tea reviewed this recently and brought it to my attention. What a fantastic read.

First off, this was originally published back in 1970, I believe. It was released again in 2005 and then just released digitally in 2018. Obviously not a new book. I read this at lunch beginning sometime in March and just finished it this past week. Short stories really lend themselves to no pressure reading and going at a slow pace. Sometimes you need that in a busy, hectic book life like mine.

I had read over ½ of these 26 stories, as growing up in the 80’s and addicted to SF meant I was familiar with almost all of these authors, even if just by name. This was good stuff! If you’ve never read Vintage SF, this is a good place to start. Even if you don’t like every story (and I didn’t like every one either), you’ll get the flavor of what those years produced and if an author strikes your fancy, you can then go on and investigate on your own.

In many ways, I think that Science Fiction shines through the short story medium. Ideas are presented and there is no extraneous fluff or junk to ruin it. And if your imagination isn’t up to snuff to get you excited about ideas, then you probably shouldn’t be reading SF in the first place.

I bought this used in trade paperback through Amazon but I think the stories are good enough that I’m going to have to put the hardcover on my wishlist. In terms of Short Story Collections, this falls squarely between Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 1 and Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 2. I do plan on buying, in used trade paperback again, Volumes 2 & 3, which are the best novella’s of that time period. Hopefully they are as good as these stories.

★★★★★

 

 

bookstooge (Custom)