Reviews in General Publications
Salon, March 24, 1999
Andrew Leonard's 21st Log notes the appearance in the new issue of Amazing Stories (due out next week) fiction based on the Starcraft computer game. The story, by Starcraft game designers Chris Metzen and Sam Moore, ''reads more like an advertisement for the game than a work of intrinsic literary merit.
The basic races -- engaged in bloody combat -- are introduced in vivid, competent prose (significantly better than your average Starcraft fan fiction effort). But there's no reason for the story to exist other than Starcraft's popularity as a game. Die-hard science-fiction fans can be excused for feeling that Amazing Stories is diluting the majesty of its venerable brand.''
(Wed 24 Mar 99)
Washington Post, March 22, 1999
Mike Musgrove reviews Mark Dery's The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium (Grove).
San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1999
Andy Solomon reviews Jerry Jay Carroll's Dog Eag Dog (Ace): the author's third novel ''instills a sense of Stephen King meets Spinoza, a scary page-turner that occasionally pauses long enough to ask: Just whose metaphysical fingers hold the shears of destiny?'' Also: a review of Donald A. Norman's The Invisible Computer (MIT): the book ''is a splendid object that meets all of Norman's criteria for good design: It's simple, clear, useful and fun.''
New York Times Book Review, March 21, 1999
A paragraph review of Jack Zipes' When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition (Routledge).
Globe and Mail, March 20, 1999
Margaret Anne Doody reviews Marina Warner's No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock (Chatto & Windus [in Canada]), an ''amazing new book'' that ''takes an encyclopedic view of the violence that our literature and culture cannot do without''.
Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1999
Jonathan Levi reviews Amos Oz's The Story Begins: Essays on Literature (Harcourt Brace), a book that considers how stories should properly begin, examining the openings of 10 novels and short stories. Levi says the essays are not so much works of criticism or lessons in creative writing so much as ''they are worthy introductions to the public at large on the Art of Reading''.
(Mon 22 Mar 99)
Entertainment Weekly, March 19, 1999
Megan Harlan calls Anne Rice's latest, Vittorio, the Vampire (Knopf), lackluster; ''...the plot roams haphazardly around the familiar vampiric universe, which seems to bore even Rice this time around. ... C-''
San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 1999
Michael Berry's science fiction column covers five books by new talents, including J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic), Michael H. Payne's The Blood Jaguar (Tor) -- ''In a time of overblown fantasy sagas that comprise half a dozen volumes or more, ''The Blood Jaguar' displays exemplary subtlety and concision and deserves a wide audience.'' -- Holden Scott's Skeptic (St. Martin's), J.G. Passarella's Wither (Pocket), and writer Steve Darnall and artist Alex Ross's graphic novel Uncle Sam (DC/Vertigo).
New York Times Book Review, March 14, 1999
Tanya Luhrmann reviews Marina Warner's new book, No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a sequel of sorts to her 1994 From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (which won the Mythopoeic Award). That book was about women and fairy tales; this one is about men in fairy tales: ''Why do we tell children stories about monsters, ogres and wild beasts to send them to sleep?''. The reviewer finds the book intriguing and charming but ultimately wonders if the book's questions are timely: ''For most people, the world is no longer alive with occult malevolence. ... And so it is perhaps harder to feel stirred by the issue of defanging horror, because horror, at least in its supernatural form, no longer exists.''
Also: a short review of Mark Dery's The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium.
Washington Post Book World, March 14, 1999
Michael Dirda takes a long look at Peter Conrad's massive study of life in the 20th century, Modern Times, Modern Places (Knopf). And David Segal reviews Alex Heard's Apocalypse Pretty Soon (Norton).
(Tue 16 Mar 99)
Entertainment Weekly, March 12, 1999
Vanessa V. Friedman on Ann Arensberg's Incubus (Knopf), a literary horror novel in which demons possess the women of a Maine town in the 1970s: ''Indeed, this novel resembles nothing so much as one of those old horror movies, couched in literary pretensions. It's carefully constructed and sometimes original, but frankly, the movies were more fun. B-''
USA Today, March 11, 1999
A review coupling Alex Heard's Apocalypse Pretty Soon (Norton) with Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger's The Year 1000 (Little, Brown) notes that millennial weariness is setting in: ''one book due this May, 2000 Reasons to Hate the Millennium, is drawing favorable attention for its title alone.''
New York Times Book Review, March 7, 1999
Margot Livesey reviews Joyce Carol Oates' The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque (Dutton). Also, a review of Alex Heard's Apocalypse Pretty Soon (Norton); a review of a literary fantasy novel, Ann Arensberg's Incubus; and notices of new paperback editions of Ballard's The Day of Creation and War Fever (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
(Fri 12 Mar 99)
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 7, 1999
Susie Linfield reviews Wendy Lesser's The Amateur: An Independent Life of Letters (Pantheon) and, like the New York Times review quoted below, discusses Lesser's passing interest in science fiction:
''...[F]or the child of the suburbs, there is no imaginative echo surrounding real places, no literary ancestry infusing the objects of everyday life. Especially for the California suburbanite, there is a distinct separation between the real and the fictional.'' Thus the adolescent Lesser became addicted to science fiction, the ultimate ersatz reality, which she slyly describes as ''the opiate of the atheists.''
It was real novels and real cities that cured her of sci-fi, opening up ''[t]he possibility of drawing together the imaginary and the real, of finding places in the mind that were also places on earth.''
K.C. Cole begins her review of Brian Greene's book about string theory, The Elegant Universe (W.W. Norton), with a nice analogy to an orchestra:
Consider the well-orchestrated physics behind your favorite symphony. Each instrument produces a specific set of harmonics, determined by its three-dimensional form: the buxom bulges of the violin, the brassy coils of the horn, the straight-laced flute, the angel wing-shaped harp, the pancake-flat cymbals.
All together, they can produce an elegant piece of artistry. And if a rapidly growing chorus of physicists is right, the universe is created in much the same way. Everything in it--from gravity to grapevines--is the direct result of resonances sent forth from the bulges and curls and holes in the geometry of six unseen dimensions. Tiny beyond belief, these multidimensional vibrating strings and membranes produce the whole of the cosmos--six-dimensional flutes and horns and violins singing out the whole shebang.
Washington Post Book World, March 7, 1999
David Streitfeld contributes this month's Science Fiction and Fantasy column, with reviews of trade paperback reprints of two Theodore Sturgeon works, More Than Human and To Marry Medusa (both Vintage), and the fifth volume of Sturgeon's collected stories, The Perfect Host (North Atlantic Books). Also, another new Avram Davidson collection, The Investigations of Avram Davidson (St. Martin's) -- ''not a great book, perhaps, but a very pleasing one'' -- and Neil Gaiman's Stardust (Avon Spike): ''a charming piece of work'' except that ''Gaiman keeps breaking his own spell''.
Also in this Book World: a review by Marcia Bartusiak of Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe (Norton). And Tim Sullivan reviews thrillers.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 7, 1999
John Perry reviews David J. Skal's Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture (W.W. Norton).
CNN, March 1, 1999
Jim Argendeli reviews F. Paul Wilson's short story collection The Barrens and Others (Forge): ''just perfect if you want to turn off the television but don't want to get caught up in the time it takes to fully enjoy a novel.''
(Tue 9 Mar 99)
Washington Post, March 2, 1999
Elizabeth Hand reviews Andrei Codrescu's Messiah (Simon & Schuster). ''It's at once intelligent and flippant, unabashedly ambitious even as it revels in the baser elements of late-century pop culture'' but Hand concludes that the book ''has too many loose ends, too many cute characters introduced and then abandoned, too many plot strands by far to weave a cohesive and satisfying tale.''
New York Times Book Review, February 28, 1999
In his Science Fiction column Gerald Jonas considers Bruce Sterling's Distraction (Bantam Spectra) an example of why SF is so difficult to get right. Sterling's mid-21st-century America is impressive but ''the very detail that Sterling has provided undercuts the story he wants to tell and reduces the players in the drama to bloodless puppets of the authorial imagination.'' Also covered, William Shatner's Step Into Chaos (HarperPrism) and Robert Sheckley's Godshome (Tor).
A review of Wendy Lesser's memoir The Amateur: An Independent Life of Letters (Pantheon Books) includes this:
Lesser is most revealing about herself when she is examining her response to art; this is doubly fortunate, because she has the gift of enabling a reader to grasp the deeper workings of art forms, both high and low, in the act of describing how they affect her. Take Lesser's reflections on her childhood discovery of fading copies of Unknown Worlds magazine in the family garage. They offer the most concise account I have come across of both science fiction and adolescent anomie: ''As a denizen of the California suburbs, I grew up feeling the absence of something, knowing that a deeper layer of significance ought to lie behind the flatness of my surroundings. My first response to this longing was to immerse myself in science fiction, which made up the bulk of my reading from age 10 to age 16. . . . The reason much science fiction seems banal is that it is so obviously a search for significance. . . . It gives those who believe in rationality the assurance that something larger than randomness or human ineptness is at the root of our existence.''
San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 1999
Jeff Love reviews Martin Amis's Heavy Water: ''...far more to recommend it than most other current short fiction.'' Also: a review of Paul Davies' The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life (Simon & Schuster).
New Scientist, 27 February 1999
Liz Sourbut reviews three SF novels, Mary Doria Russell's Children of God (Black Swan), Headlong by Simon Ings (Voyager), and Alexander Besher's Chi (Orbit). [Amazon.uk links]
CNN, February 25, 1999
Neil Gaiman is interviewed by Jonathan D. Austin, and Neverwhere is reviewed by David Mandeville. Gaiman describes this book and the current Stardust as fairy tales for adults, not to be taken as metaphors. The interview includes several videoclips that require Microsoft's Mediaplayer to view.
New York Times Book Review, February 21, 1999
A short review by Christopher Atamian of Kathe Koja's Extremities (Four Walls Eight Windows): ''But while 'Extremities' makes a strong contribution to both the horror and sci-fi genres, Koja's most successful stories are the ones most grounded in reality.''
(Fri 5 Mar 99)
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