Book Review

Sci-Fi 101: Running Out Of Space

EW evaluates four new sci-fi novels

TO THE STARS, L. Ron Hubbard

Shanghaied from a New Chicago spaceport, Alan Corday joins a crew of rascals on a long inter-galactic trip at nearly the speed of light.

Source of Angst ''This ship and her sisters in the stars and on the passage are, without the slightest help from Earth, the only means which shall cause man to survive as a race and triumph everywhere.''

Key Concepts Relativity, off-world colonization.

Lowdown Scientology founder Hubbard first published Stars in two 1950 issues of Astounding Science Fiction. Aside from Corday's old-fashioned naïveté, the story is still pertinent today. A-

BANNER OF SOULS, Liz Williams

An assassin from planet Nightshade confronts a warrior from the female-ruled Mars who is protecting Lunae, a young girl who alone can time-shift reality and save humanity.

Source of Angst ''The last of humanity want a last chance at life: possessing the bodies of the living, holding sway over the worlds.... Some seek power, but most just want the amusements of the flesh.''

Key Concepts Haunted technology, matriarchy.

Lowdown Williams' finely wrought, femme-powered battle deftly blends fantasy and sci-fi. B+

MARQUE AND REPRISAL, Elizabeth Moon

The Vatta trading company is decimated by a sneak attack that cripples an intergalactic communications network. As the sole surviving captain, Kylara must reopen shipping routes and avenge her family.

Source of Angst '''My mission priorities are what you'd expect,' Ky said. 'Survive, find other surviving Vattas and protect them, find out who's doing this and how, and intervene.'''

Key Concepts Rental armies, wireless brain phones.

Lowdown Moon resolves too many conflicts with tech shortcuts, but the intrigue-filled plot lends a marque of distinction. B

SAUCER: THE CONQUEST, Stephen Coonts

UFO pilot Rip Cantrell and gal pal Charley Pine fly to the moon to rescue his uncle Egg from a Francophile egomaniac bent on world domination.

Source of Angst ''A beam generator on the moon that could strike any spot on planet Earth was the ultimate weapon, against which the nations of the earth had no defense.''

Key Concepts Anti-gravity beams, space planes.

Lowdown Coonts crosses 1950s saucer kitsch with Bruckheimeresque dogfights to achieve a shallow but enjoyable liftoff. B+

Originally posted Oct 29, 2004 Published in issue #790 Oct 29, 2004 Order article reprints
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