a few months ago

A gripping tale about the early American labor movement

For several decades in the mid-twentieth century, America’s middle class prospered and grew. A vigorous labor movement gained livable wages and steadily expanding benefits for millions. To some extent, labor owed its central role in the economy to the reforms of the New Deal and the social change wrought by World War II. From an […]

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a few months ago

On a starship, an art heist, a murder, a coverup

The premise is familiar. The remnants of the human race crowd aboard a spaceship en route for centuries to a new home amid the stars. Somehow, far behind them in space and time, the Earth’s billions have perished. Yet never before have I come across a rendering of this story that I can believe without […]

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a few months ago

The alien invasion is coming, and we even know when

Ever since the origins of the genre in the 1920s and 30s, American science fiction writers have imagined military conflict between humans and aliens. Amazon lists more than 60,000 books of military SF. To my mind, the best of the lot (at least among those I’ve read) is Joe Haldeman’s 1974 classic inspired by the […]

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a few months ago

Racist stereotyping dominates this award-winning Hollywood satire

There’s a world of hurt in the best satire. At times, it’s inescapable. And that’s certainly the case with Charles Yu’s widely acclaimed second novel, Interior Chinatown. Couched as a filmscript, the book is the tale of a young Chinese-American man struggling to gain a foothold as an actor in Hollywood. The story is entertaining […]

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a few months ago

The human race comes off poorly in this insightful First Contact novel

Few writers have thought more deeply about how First Contact with extraterrestrial intelligence might unfold than the Australian science fiction author Peter Cawdron. To date, Cawdron has published fifteen novellas and novels on the theme (with three more due out in 2021). And in Xenophobia, the second book in the series, he demonstrates what might […]

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a few months ago

A climate change science fiction novel that runs amok

Climate change has claimed a sub-genre of its own within science fiction. Outstanding examples include Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. No doubt there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others. So, any less prominent author must offer up something truly innovative to get noticed […]

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a few months ago

A brilliant novel dramatizes life under Jim Crow

In 2020 American society lurched a little closer toward a reckoning with the deeply entrenched racism that has poisoned our history ever since 1619. But with our attention rightfully drawn toward police murders of young Black men, many of us have lost perspective on how much worse conditions were for people of color a mere […]

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a few months ago

Wacky science fiction from a master of hard SF

If there’s a sub-genre that might be called wacky science fiction, then surely John Varley’s novel, Red Thunder, is a prime example. Oh, it’s not zany like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Doctor Who. But as the story’s protagonist and narrator notes, the technology at the center of the tale is “outrageous, goofy […]

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a few months ago

A fanciful and light-hearted tale of a jobless future

Prominent and knowledgeable people including Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have been warning us for years about the danger of artificial general intelligence. They envision a point at which AI will surpass the cognitive abilities of the smartest human and start becoming even smarter at an exponential rate. Other observers see a more immediate threat […]

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