Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fantasy & SciFi Magazine Review – March 2006 Issue

It’s that time of month, folks… time to review the new Fantasy & SciFi issue, just like I did last month, and you said I should continue (and by “you”, I mean El Sid)! But first, let me show you what I bought last night:

That’s right… noise-canceling headphones! *sticks tongue out at yakky guy in next cube* Yak away, my friend, I can’t hear you!

I'm expecting to get them next week. I'll let you know if they work.

Anyway, back to the review. Just as a reminder, here’s the scale I’m using:

5 = This is a masterpiece. I want to bind it, put it on my nightstand, and re-read it every night before I go to sleep, instead of my Bible.
4 = Very good quality work. If this guy has a book out, I want to read it.
3 = Not bad, pretty decent in fact.
2 = I died inside a little from reading this stuff.
1 = Wow what a putrid piece of crap! You don’t want to read this, unless you’re masochistic.
0 = Ewww! I need to have my stomach pumped.

The March, 2006 issue contains these outstanding works of the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre:

“Shambhala”, by Alex Irwine – 3.5 Good quality writing, but I wouldn’t stay up all night to read this. The main idea is the one my son LilProgrammer had been toying with at one point – he wanted to invent what he called a “virtual brain”, that would give its user a complete impression that they are in a virtual world. This is a great idea, assuming that nothing will ever go wrong with the hardware and software… and that some mad scientist won’t try using your body while you’re out in your virtual realm. These and a few others are the questions raised in “Shambhala”. On second thought, I recommend it – especially to the potential virtual brain inventors amongst you.

“The True History of the Picky Princess”, by John Morressy – 3.5 Cute, very well written, but predictable if you have read more short stories by this author. “The True History…” is essentially “Sleeping Beauty” with a twist, and who hasn’t tried to put a twist on “Sleeping Beauty”? (Think Shrek.)

“The Revivalist”, by Albert E. Cowdrey – 4.5 I really enjoyed this one. Edward, the main character, born in the late 1890’s, is plagued with a mysterious disorder that disrupts his education and career, and causes his father to disown him and kick him out of the family home. Edward is devastated until he realizes that he is, in fact, the world’s first and only Hibernating Man. He comes up with a plan to use his unusual skill to his advantage… but the plan backfires. Having narrowly escaped death, Edward arrives in our times, where he proceeds to review his life strategy. The story is thought-provoking and action-packed at the same time – just the way I like ‘em!

“From the Mouths of Babes”, by Trent Hergenrader – 2.0 A toddler with a chip in his brain, his horrified Dad, and the evil Russians come together in this short story. It embarrasses me to say that I didn’t get it.

“The Capacity to Appear Mindless”, by Mike Shultz – 4.0 The story is set in a school for goblins, that also has a few human students attending. Both the students and the teachers have to learn how to work side by side with a species that is very different from them, to practice tolerance and open-mindedness. I initially gave this story a 3.5, but, after re-reading the part about the staff meeting, changed to 4.0. Check this out:

“Let us begin,” Thunderballs (the principal. – G.) called. “You know what High Goblin Command Ordinance Eleven is. Say it for me.”
“No Goblin Left With a Mind,” they said in unison.
“Yes. Our government wants mindless goblins capable only of regurgitating memorized information. On the surface, that’s what we must seem to produce. But we still value some real teaching here, don’t we?”
“Absolutely!” someone called.
“Right. We must help our students think independently while giving them the capacity to appear mindless. You can’t survive in today’s world without the ability to turn off your brain…”

Wow, it must be really difficult for the poor mindless goblins. Luckily, our educational system is not like that. No, not at all! Read this story if you can. It is good. It is also based upon the author’s own experiences as a high school teacher.

“Czesko”, by Ef Deal – 1.0 What is worse than an uneducated guy talking street? A middle-class educated woman trying to sound like an uneducated guy talking street.* This sad excuse of a short story gets a 1.0 from me, which would be an all-time record this far.

“Intolerance”, by Robert Reed – 3.5 How far would a mother go to protect her wayward teenage child and save his ass from jail? This mother went way, way farther than I ever would even in my scariest nightmare.

In addition, I have read a few book reviews in the last two issues, and checked out a few of the books.

Neil Gaiman, “Anansi Boys” was the one I read first, and was highly impressed. This is a witty fantasy story with references to African folk tales that keeps you glued to the book until you’ve turned the last page. Now I need to read more by this author, ‘cause I’m hooked! If there’s anything in particular you’d like to recommend, please leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Another pair of books that had great reviews were “Tithe” and “Valiant”, both by Holly Black. The reviewer referred to them as cutting-edge. Sadly, I had less luck with these two than with Neil Gaiman. The books may be great, they’re just not my cup of tea. As I read through “Tithe”, I realized that I am not into faeries. “Valiant” confirmed it for me. I haven’t been able to finish either book – they are just too girly for me. It is hard to explain, because the main characters are these really tough, tomboy girls that have really tough lives, all the way up to living in the New York subway… and the books still manage to come across as girly, to me, anyway. And what is it with a token gay character in each of the books? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but these characters just pop into the story line for no good reason and loudly declare their orientation before anybody even asks. And there’s always one per book – no more, no less. It’s like the author has this checklist where, somewhere towards the end, it says: “35. Add gay dude to story” – check, the book is now complete!

I hope this helped. I hereby remain, your loyal Fantasy&SciFi guinea pig,

* Mamacita, this does not apply to you… when you talk street on your blog, that’s pure art!

The Goldie has spoken at 8:44 AM

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