Tag Archives: Science Fiction

The Identity Matrix by Jack L. Chalker

The Identity MatrixThe Identity Matrix by Jack L. Chalker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a considerable stack of Jack Chalker that I never seemed to find the time for before I lost them all five years ago – I always fall back on his Well World and Four Lords of the Diamonds series as comfort books rather than dig into his other series or standalones. So this belongs in Books I Should Have Read Already – not the “literature” that I may or may not ever decide to read, but books/series by authors I’ve wanted to get to, but never have.

Odd beginning, and odd execution, I liked this well enough but Chalker was uneven with his pacing – drawn out too much, and jarringly accelerated, also too much. The story seems cliché now and was back in 1982, but Chalker tells a good story regardless. I liked how he sliding a couple of ferry references, as his other passion was ferries. The twist ending was mildly surprising – I hadn’t engaged enough to think there would be one – but interesting nonetheless.

As Chalker is a preferred author, when I need/want a side read to balance the heavies, I’ll try to hit some of his other series that I’ve read one of long ago…

…I hope.

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Ringworld by Larry Niven – the Classic revisited

RingworldRingworld by Larry Niven

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t remember when I read this originally. Long time ago. It broke another reader’s block spell, which is another plus to one of the best science fiction novels written. I don’t reveal plot in my fiction reviews, because I think that’s selling the authors short (even the ones long past), but I will note a few things…

The vegetation, as Louis had remarked, was eerily Earth-like. There were bushes where one wold expect bushes, bare spots where one would expect bare spots. According to instruments in the scooters, the plants were earthly even at the molecular level.

One of my complaints about modern science fiction, like the 2018 three-boot of Lost in Space, is this…but there’s a reason here that Niven craftily teases at. With respect to non-creative television series, I know it is to save money…thus “universal translators” and other silliness. (Maybe the LiS writers are leading to something like Earth started “out there first”?? Nah. They aren’t that imaginative.)

There is one part (no spoiler) that involves something distinctly human, distinctly earth, and distinctly pre-digital and though Niven dresses up his narrative with futuristic references, he had no idea that “test patterns” would become obsolete…

A forgotten interchange (it has been a very long time, will go into the mental toolbox:

Prill laughed. “You foolish child! You have told me yourself that your ships move very quickly next to ours.”

“They do,” said Louis. “They move faster than light.”

“I think you improve the tale,” she laughed. “Our theory says that this cannot be.”

“Maybe we use different theories.”

…”different theories”…!! Love it!

Anyway, …, superior science fiction. I’ve not read more than the next, I think. Maybe…

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The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak – finally read

The Goblin ReservationThe Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

File this under Books I Should Have Read Already. I carried around for more than 30 years (probably lots more) a worn paperback I got from a used bookstore, and it sat on a shelf next to Clarke, Anderson, Williamson, Blish, …unread. I started it a number of times, but never got that far and lost my well-traveled copy to a fire in 2013.

A decidedly odd book. Dated elements, but not overly so, given its oddness. I got a kick out of a subplot line involving the Goblins (actually, Little People…the traditional Irish type) and beer:

Scuttling down the path toward them came a tiny goblin, his multicolored, too-large shirt whipping in the wind of his headlong running. “The ale!” he screamed. “The ale!” He skidded to a halt in front of the three toiling up the path. “What of the ale?” panted Mr. O’Toole. “Do you mean to confess to me that you have been the sampling of it?” “It has gone sour,” wailed the little goblin. “The whole bewitched mess of it is sour.” “But ale can’t go sour,” protested Maxwell, grasping some sense of the tragedy that had taken place. Mr. O’Toole bounced upon the path in devastating anger. His face turned from brown to red to purple. His breath came gushing out in wheezing gasps. “It can, bedamned,” he shouted, “with a spell of wizardry!”

In 1969, Simak probably had no experience with Flanders ales, but then, if he’d ever had Guinness, well, that stuff is nasty sour and not in a good, intentional way.

I like Simak’s language he used for his Goblins:

“But these,” he said, “are dolorous topics on which to waste so glorious an autumn afternoon. So let us fasten our thoughts, rather, with great steadfastness, upon the foaming ale that awaits us on the hilltop.”

And a dig on fools who would chug:

He [O’Toole] put the mug to his mouth again and emptied it in several lusty gulps. He slammed it down on the table and looked at Maxwell’s mug, still full. “Drink up,” he urged. “Drink up, then I fill them yet again for a further wetting of the whistle.” “You go ahead,” Maxwell told him. “It’s a shame to drink ale the way you do. It should be tasted and appreciated.” Mr. O’Toole shrugged. “A pig I am, no doubt. But this be disenchanted ale and not one to linger over.”

Lost, for most readers I’m sure, among the narrative, Simak writes something I’ve been saying for much of my adult life…his main character Peter Maxwell observes:

“I do not like the word `intolerant,’ Mr. Marmaduke, because it implies that there is ground for tolerance and there is no such thing-not for you, nor me, nor any other creature in the universe.”

Wisdom in classic science fiction. It is there, you know.

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