Astral Projection: "On Wings of Song" by Thomas M. Disch

On Wings of Song - Thomas M. Disch

(Original Review, 1980-07-27)

A paperback edition of Thomas Disch's "On Wings of Song" has come out, just in time to miss the Hugo balloting deadline. Although most of the novels that get nominated seem to be available in hardback, few seem to hit the mass markets in time for the voting. The shorter categories are even more inaccessible, particularly the nominees that appear in hardback anthologies like Orbit that are only bought by libraries.
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Sexual Mores: "Podkayne of Mars" by Robert A. Heinlein

Podkayne of Mars - Robert A. Heinlein

(Original Review, 1980-08-06)

I was not a Heinlein fan before. I've probably read most of his work, but there are only 3 of his books I've kept to enjoy reading again. I've kept more than 3 of a LOT of other authors, such as Leinster, McCaffrey, Dickson, James White, and even Philip E. High. Nor did I "cut my teeth" on RAH, so I've no sentimental associations or long-standing loyalties. To me, he's just another SF-writer, though more competent than most.



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Swashbuckling Tradition: "Galactic Patrol" by E. E. "Doc" Smith

Galactic Patrol - E.E. "Doc" Smith, John Clute

(Original Review, 1980-08-08)

I also picked up a couple of the Lensmen books after reading about them here in the SF-Lovers newsletter. Umm, as one of those narrow-minded types who happens to think the Golden Age of Science Fiction is right now, I recommend that anyone else who is tempted to do so scour your local used book stores before laying out real cash money for them.



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Realistic SF: "Floating Worlds" by Cecilia Holland

Floating Worlds (Sphere Science Fiction) - Cecelia Holland

(Original Review, 1980-08-05)

"Floating Worlds" by Cecilia Holland is a terrific book, and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention. Maybe the reason a lot of people don't like it is that the world and the characters it portrays aren't at all nice;
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Hyperspace Shunt: "Protector" by Larry Niven

Protector - Larry Niven

(Original Review, 1980-07-29)

Some apparent anomalies in Niven's "Protector".

I am reasonably comfortable with Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe, however I have just finished rereading "Protector" for the umpteenth time and I am somewhat disturbed by the apparent incompatibility with other "Known Space" stories.




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Ultimate Freudian SF: "Golem-100" by Alfred Bester

Golem 100 - Alfred Bester

(Original Review, 1980-08-15)

Some months ago I made the mistake of purchasing a copy of Alfred Bester's GOLEM-100. I quickly found out that the only redeeming feature of this book is the art inside, and you can get that for free by simply opening the book at the bookstand. I have never finished GOLEM-100, I got 150 pp or so into it, gave up, and went back to reading ATTACK OF THE ANT MEN (don't ask....) which, by comparison, is almost decent reading.




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Malthus: "Make Room! Make Room!" by Harry Harrison

Make Room! Make Room! - Harry Harrison

(Original Review, 1980-08-19)

Pournelle's virulently infectious optimism is severely misplaced. Other people have already pointed out that his strategy involves the probable abandonment of Earth and the bulk of its population (what-the-hell, they're just gooks anyway); I'll just add that even RAH [2018 EDIT: Heinlein] saw this approx. 30 years ago (in FARMER IN THE SKY a character acknowledges that even with the huge ships in use they can't possibly take off more than a fraction of the population increase -- or absorb it in a colonial world; they're simply hoping to have some racial survival after Earth is ruined).




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Gentleman-in-waiting: "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love - Cal Newport

"Working right trumps finding the right work."


In "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport

After having finished "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck", I wanted to read this one to work as a counterpoint. I'm glad I did.

When I was younger, I watched Jurassic Park one and two, and I wanted to be Steven Spielberg! Doing well in my dance classes made me want to be a professional tap dancer. Watching Top Hat and West Side Story made me want to combine both aspirations to become a director of musicals, both film and theatre! By the time I was in secondary school, the arts were not viewed as a viable career option, and out of law, engineering, and other traditional subjects, I choose to become a Computer Scientist. I was in my final year at university studying Computer science, and I'd happily have remained a gentleman-in-waiting for several more years to save up and see the world! (I didn't have a career goal that I was passionate about).



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The Art of Unfuckdness: "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life - Mark Manson

Ah, that reminds me of an old joke: Two guys meet their former colleague at a street corner and one of them says: “ Joe, we have a good laugh every time we talk about the day you told the boss you were fed up of daily project meetings and unmet milestones”

It is an invariable fact of life that the vast majority of people that go around declaring to the world at large that they don't give a fig about others opinions actually care more about them than those that stay quiet on the issue.

The author has just taken the title of a best-selling book (“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and chosen an alternative that will stand out in the bookshop and encourage newspapers to run excerpts that look good in bookshops. I think it's an attempt to piggyback on the success of Marie Kondo's book by being "inspired" by the title and hoping people will pay money without looking too hard at the contents of the book.
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Mechasm: "The Reproductive System" by John Sladek

The Reproductive System - John Sladek

(Original Review, 1980-08-18)

A few years back, I picked up John Sladek's "Mechasm" as part of a special series of "forgotten classics" by some publisher. (this series also included L. Frank Baum's delightful "The Master Key"). "Mechasm" has been reprinted in paperback, so I thought I'd review it here.




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Beams of Energy: "Waldo & Magic" by Robert A. Heinlein

Waldo and Magic, Inc - Robert A. Heinlein

(Original Review, 1980-08-21)

My chief objection to models which suggest we will be much better off with satellites beaming down power to the ground comes in several pieces:

1. I have been told that solar flux in the bands used by solar cells is no more than twice as high in orbit as in, for instance, the American Southwest. Granted, there is some advantage to having the power available for longer periods but even a synchronous satellite would be shadowed for ~2.3 hours a day which would not be at the minimum demand time;
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Minimum of Bloodshed: "Dorsai!" by Gordon R. Dickson

Dorsai! - Gordon R. Dickson

(Original Review, 1980-08-24)

On the question of Dickson's Dorsai or Childe cycle: I understand that originally there were to be 9 books. 3 historical fiction, 3 present day fiction, and 3 SF. I also read that publishers were unwilling to put out SF books of the size of the 3 proposed so they were each split in half. So far only 4 books have been published (or so I believe, correct me if I am wrong). These are "Necromancer", "Tactics of Mistake", "Dorsai!", and "Soldier Ask Not". That is the order of their internal chronology (i.e., read them in that order), not the order of their publication. Dickson is said to be working on at least two more books in the cycle at this time.



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R(t) = sqrt(r**2+dr**2-2*r*dr*cos(t)): "Ringworld" by Larry Niven

The Ringworld Engineers - Larry Niven

(Original Review, 1980-08-26)

A short analysis of the (in)stability of a Ringworld (digging deeper into the Math):

Let the Ringworld have radius r, mass m, and mass/length p. Let the parent sun have mass M. Put the center of the Ringworld at the origin, with the axis of rotation along the z-axis. Now, place the sun at dr along the x-axis (a small perturbation in the plane of the Ringworld). Call the distance from the sun to the part of the Ringworld at angle t, R(t). By one of the triangle formulas, we know that

R(t) = sqrt(r**2+dr**2-2*r*dr*cos(t))

Using the well known formula for the gravitational potential energy between two masses, we find that the potential energy in the ringworld-sun system is:

/ 2 pi
| r dt
U = | --------------------------------- * (-GMp)
| (r**2+dr**2-2 r dr cos(t))**(1/2)
/ 0




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Pak: "The World or Ptavvs" by Larry Niven

World of Ptavvs - Larry Niven

(Original Review, 1980-08-25)

In response to the idea that perhaps the Pak were actually tnuctip, I think it very unlikely. The Pak date back about 2.5 Million years, while, according to “The World or Ptavvs”, the 'Sea statue' (Kzanol, last of the Thrint [slaver] race) dates back about 2 Billion years. Also according to World or Ptavvs, the tnuctip were wiped out in the war with the Thrints some 2*10^9 years ago.



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Non-Sexist Rip-Roaring SF: "The Number of the Beast" by Robert A. Heinlein

The Number of the Beast - Robert A. Heinlein

(Original Review, 1980-08-31)

Robert Heinlein's agent had hoped to get $1 million for his latest novel, "The Number of the Beast." What he had to settle for was half that, and not from his accustomed publisher nor from any of the houses with heavy SF publishing programs. The U.S. book rights went to Fawcett Columbine, and the resulting trade paperback is $6.95 per copy. Is it worth it? Very likely not. It's full of science fiction community in-jokes. Its payoff depends heavily on your being able to recognize not only the bylines, but also the principal characters and personalities of a fair number of other science fiction writers.
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Hold a Universe Together: "Flatlander" by Larry Niven

Flatlander - Larry Niven

(Original Review, 1980-09-04)

Niven has linked many of the Known Space stories with genealogy.

In "World of Ptavvs" and some other stories focused on the Belt, we meet Martin Schaeffer, nicknamed "Little" or "Lit" because he is around seven feet tall. He has some marital problems: his wife doesn't get to Confinement Asteroid in time and the baby she is carrying hypertrophies and has to be aborted. Lit promises her that she can stay in Confinement until she gets pregnant again.



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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