Category Archives: Sci-Fi Saturday

Do You Darmok?

Okay, here’s one that’s been sitting in my Drafts folder since 2012. The last time I even edited it was back in 2016. (Wow. Four years ago already?) The problem has been turning it into a post. At this point it’s like a lazy twenty-year-old who won’t move outta the house.

If you were a serious fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the post’s title might ring a bell. It involves an episode with a very interesting idea about a communication problem between different species despite a “universal translator” that makes the words clear.

It isn’t a matter of language, but of metaphor.

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Storyteller Yin-Yang

One of the older notes on my board just reads: Armageddon (1998) vs Deep Impact (1998)”. On weirdness points, the note could just as easily have read: Antz (1998) vs A Bug’s Life (1998)”.

The coincidence that both coincidences take place in 1998 (ah, the good old days) does makes it a bit weirder, but weird coincidences aren’t the point of my note or this post. The point is how audiences reacted to the films.

For this Sci-Fi Saturday, I thought I’d ramble about some SF Yin-Yang pairs that have struck me over the years.

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Stephenson: D.O.D.O.

Neal Stephenson, like Greg Egan, is a hard science fiction author who never fails to delight me with something new and tasty. Both Stephenson and Egan seem able to leave footprints in otherwise well-trodden ground. Stephenson, in particular, often makes me LOL.

That’s not an acronym I use very often, but it seems especially appropriate here given this post is about The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. The book has so many tongue-in-cheek military acronyms (DODO, DTAP, DEDE, MUON, etc) that it has a glossary at the back.

The story concerns parallel worlds, wave-function collapse, and witches.

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Manifold: Trilogy

Recently I posted about Manifold: Time, the first book in a trilogy by Stephen Baxter, a writer new to me. As I wrote, I wasn’t very whelmed, but a bad meal at a new restaurant can be a fluke — it’s only fair to give the chef at least one more chance. (A single data point doesn’t mean much.) And I did find the overall themes a little intriguing.

As it turned out, I rather enjoyed the second one, Manifold: Space. The story stayed grounded and engaged me throughout, plus there were several cool science fiction ideas I’d never encountered before (which is kinda the point of reading hard SF). So a definite thumbs up on book number two.

Unfortunately the third book, Manifold: Origin, didn’t do much for me.

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Stephen Baxter: Manifold

Yesterday, courtesy of Cloud Library, I finished Manifold: Time (1999), by Stephen Baxter. It’s my first exposure to Baxter, who has written 60 science fiction novels — none of which I’ve read. Per his Wiki bibliography, he’s written only a half-dozen short stories, also none of which I’ve read. (There are SF authors I’ve only met in short story collections. He isn’t one of them.)

Time is the first of the Manifold trilogy (which has a fourth book, Phase Space); the second and third books are Space (2000) and Origin (2001). Each of the books tells a separate story in a separate universe.

I enjoyed the first book, but I can’t say I was hugely whelmed.

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Cloud Library

Here’s yet another unplanned post, mostly because there was something important I forgot to mention yesterday, but also because I started watching three different Netflix shows (or maybe call it two-and-a-half), and all three are fit for a Sci-Fi Saturday post, so here I am again.

I dither about three because one of them was wasn’t new, it was season two I started of Siempre Bruja. But I hadn’t yet seen any of Lost in Space or the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I’ve been suspicious of the former, and the latter isn’t quite my cup of tea on several counts.

But first you should know about (Your) CloudLibrary!

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Alien Eyes

I’ll get to the delightful alien eyes later, but I want to start this Sci-Fi Saturday post with a different delight: A Trick of Light, a novel by Stan Lee. Yeah, that Stan Lee. Along with Kat Rosenfield. And no, there are no pictures, comic or otherwise.

What is there is a fast, breezy, comic-book-like story about a guy and a gal and some interesting stuff that happens to them. I read the whole thing in one long afternoon, night, and into the AM, because it was hard to put down. “Just one more chapter” grew to reading the whole thing. It was a lot of fun.

There is also an interesting but somewhat less delightful book (a trilogy, actually) to tell you about. I have some definite mixed feeling about the author and his books.

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Fall: or, Dodge in Hell

I finished Fall: or, Dodge in Hell, the latest novel from Neal Stephenson, and I’m conflicted between parts I found fascinating and thoughtful and parts I found tedious and unsatisfying. This division almost exactly follows the division of the story itself into real and virtual worlds. I liked the former, but the latter not so much.

Unfortunately, at least the last third of the book involves a Medieval fantasy quest that takes place in the virtual reality. The early parts of the story in the VR are fairly interesting, but the quest really left me cold, and I found myself skimming pages.

I give it a positive rating, but it’s my least-liked Stephenson novel.

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Neal Stephenson

I’ve been a fan of Neal Stephenson since Snow Crash (1992), his third novel. I’ve read much of his work — the big exception being The Baroque Cycle, descriptions of which haven’t captured my interest yet. I like his writing enough that I’ll probably enjoy them if I ever take the plunge.

Stephenson writes pretty hard SF, which I love, and he explores such interesting ideas that I’m generally quite enthralled by what some see as fictionalized physics books. The thing is, I’d enjoy reading those physics books, so having it come coated in any kind of frosting is a win in my (pardon the pun) book.

I’ve just gotten started on his most recent novel, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell.

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A Bit of Huang and Laurie

For a Sci-Fi Saturday post, this started as a stretch and then some. While Zero Sum Game (2018), by S.L. Huang, has at least a science fiction flavor, The Gun Seller (1996), by Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie), is more fantastical than science fictional. They do have in common a protagonist beyond capable as well as action hero thriller plots.

I can redeem the post now that I’ve read The Android’s Dream (2006), by John Scalzi (whom I’ve praised here before for Redshirts). Here, too, is an extremely competent protagonist in an action hero thriller. (As an aside, the two written by men feature a love interest. (While I’m at it, guess which of the three does not have a Wiki page.))

The bottom line: I thoroughly enjoyed all three!

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