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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a few months ago

Russian history through indirection in “A Gentleman in Moscow”

When historians look back at the twentieth century, they invariably designate the Russian Revolution of 1917-20 as one of the seminal events of the period. And it’s hard to dispute that judgment. Arguably, the Bolshevik takeover in Russia set in motion other world-shaking episodes, including the Nazi defeat in World War II, the arms race […]

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a few months ago

Political philosophies clash in this new space opera

Violations of the laws of physics notwithstanding, there is a truly excellent reason to read this intriguing new exercise in space opera. It’s one of the best explorations I’ve ever come across in the genre about politics and political philosophy. (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy offers much the same.) Oh, the book is about […]

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6 months ago

An alternate history of the Manhattan Project

Three-quarters of a century after the conclusion of World War II, debate still rages about the nuclear weapons program that was one of the war’s most shocking aspects. Continuing controversy about the bomb’s first use, of course. Still unresolved questions about the extensive Soviet espionage that delivered the secrets of the American Manhattan Project and […]

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6 months ago

Alternate feminist history by a gifted science fiction author

What is history, and how does it work? We know, of course, that history isn’t fixed and immutable. It’s subject to the revision and reinterpretation of successive waves of scholars. Sometimes the fresh approach is based on new information that comes to light. But more often what we call history is merely a story historians […]

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