Piper In The Woods by Philip K. Dick (1953)

Piper In The Woods

If you have never read classic science fiction, but don’t want to tackle an entire novel, try reading one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. Some call his stories surreal fantasy rather than science fiction. Whatever label you want to put on his work, the author has given us a wealth of both short stories and full novels, many of which have been utilized by Hollywood. Some of the movies/television based on his writings include “Total Recall”, “The Minority Report”, “The Man In The High Castle”, “Blade Runner” and “A Scanner Darkly”.

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The Kindly Isle – by Frederik Pohl (1984)

Platinum Pohl    Year's Best

“The Kindly Isle” is a Cold-War-era short story written by the prolific author Frederik Pohl. The main character, Jerry Wenright, works for a hotel chain, which sends him to resorts that are up for sale. Jerry inspects the properties, assesses their worth, and makes recommendations to the company about whether it is worth buying or not. In the story, he is sent to an island in the Caribbean area to check out a vacation resort that was started but never finished. On the island, he spots a scientist that he suspects of biological terrorism, which makes him very uneasy. But he also meets a lovely woman who has arrived on one of the cruise ships.

The tale ended with a twist that I totally did not suspect. I quite enjoyed this little gem of a story! Where can you find this story? It is included in the book “Platinum Pohl”. Check with your local public library. If they no longer have a copy, you can buy it as a Kindle e-book.
https://www.amazon.com/Platinum-Pohl-Collected-Best-Stories-ebook/dp/B008YHUTNY/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=platinum+pohl&qid=1568822212&s=books&sr=1-1

The story can also be found in “Year’s Best Science Fiction: Second Annual Collection”, compiled by Gardner Dozois. You can get it from Barnes & Noble’s website:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-years-best-science-fiction-dozois-gardner/1111742882?ean=9781466807310

You can also get it as a Kindle e-book:
https://www.amazon.com/Years-Best-Science-Fiction-Collection-ebook/dp/B006ZMR68Q/ref=sr_1_10?keywords=the+year%27s+best+science+fiction+second+annual+collection&qid=1568821904&s=books&sr=1-10

Anyway you can find it, this is a sweet story.

Am I Really Always Reading?

Asimov SF magazine.jpg

I have been obsessed with reading ever since before I could actually read. As a preschooler, my parents often observed me holding a book and “reading” the story aloud to my toys. When I learned to read, I took off like a rocket, devouring longer children’s books and quickly moving on to full-length hardcover books. Then came real adulthood, with things like jobs, parenthood, and volunteer opportunities, which rendered me unable to read as much as in childhood. But I still take time nearly every day to read for the sheer pleasure of it. In that sense, I am always reading.

Last night I chose to read one of the little 25-cent science fiction magazines I bought at the last library book sale – “Asimov’s Science Fiction” from September of 1982. In it, Isaac Asimov recalls how he used to read the small amount of science fiction that was available in those days. Then he began writing his own science fiction, with little time left for casual reading. When the science-fiction field exploded with new authors, it became impossible to keep up with all the new books being written. Mr. Asimov said:
“The result is that, since 1960 or so, I have been able to read only a small portion of the science fiction that has been published, and I have been falling steadily farther and farther behind. So it has come about that I am no longer an expert in the field of SF. This, however, is not a situation unique to myself. No one, these days, can keep up with the field, or would even think of trying to do so, unless it were his job – unless he were a full-time science-fiction critic, collector, or anthologist. Could you do it if you have a job, or other interests?”

No one can keep up with the books which have been published in the past 50 or 60 years. We are living in extraordinary times. In the history of the world, there has never been so much reading material from which to choose. It can be frustrating to realize that you will never have the time to read every book that grabs your attention. But each day has at least a little sliver of time to read something, and that is one of life’s most enjoyable gifts.

 

Found – by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2008)

Found

From time to time, I take a departure from my regular adult-level books, and read a book that is supposed to be for teens or even kids. What I often find is a great story, one I wish had been there when I was in middle or high school. Such is “Found”, the first book in author Haddix’s “The Missing” series.

The novels opens with two 13-year-old friends, Jonah and Chip, getting identical letters in the mail that just say: “You are one of the missing.” They think it’s just some kind of joke – until they both get another letter than says: “Beware – they’re coming back to get you.” The friends try investigating on their own, and discover that they don’t know everything about their early life. They – along with 34 more people – have actually been stolen from other times and places. Someone is trying to locate and return them to their correct place in history.

I loved the conversations and the disagreements between Chip, Jonah, and Katherine (Jonah’s sister). They did indeed sound just the way siblings and close friends would react in this situation. Katherine isn’t quite one of the “missing”, but she tags along, and adds a interesting character to the mix. Jonah’s parents were very believable as well. This book is a great suspense/science fiction read that can enjoyed by just about anyone.

The Day Of The Triffids – by John Wyndham (1951)

Triffids_Pair

 

In this classic science fiction novel, triffids are plants that have been bio-engineered to produce a high-quality oil extract. They give off a poison, however, and have to be handled carefully. Catastrophe strikes when their spores are released into the atmosphere in what looks like a beautiful meteorite shower. Every human who sees it is left permanently blind. To make matters worse, the triffids have somehow learned how to walk!

The main characters are Bill Masen, a biologist who used to work with the plants, and Josella, a popular writer. The two of them are among the fortunate who did not see the triffid shower, and therefore still have their vision. They have to provide for themselves and the blind around them, while fending off the increasingly-aggressive triffids.

The story actually fits with today. We live in a world where science is constantly looking to alter nature. Animals are bred for specific traits. Our vegetables and fruits are genetically modified to produce higher yields. Chemical fertilizers are mixed into the soil to enrich it. New types of flowers are developed. Genes are spliced. Animals are cloned. When you consider all this, the idea of the triffids is not all that far-fetched.

This was a fun read for me. It was ridiculous and horrifying at the same time, much like a crazy dream that wakes you up with a pounding heartbeat. There was nothing very gory or graphic in the story, which was fine with me, as I have a very good imagination. I also liked the way the author focused on just a few characters, which kept the storyline simple and clean. If you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned sci-fi, this is your book!

Jurassic Park – by Michael Crichton (1990)

Jurassic Park

You’ve probably seen the movie – but have you read the novel? There is so much more detail in the book – the investigation after the little girl is bitten, Alan Grant’s career in paleontology, John Hammond’s eccentric personality, and many more monologues by the philosophical Ian Malcolm. You get to see into the minds of the other characters, like Henry Wu (the geneticist), Mr. Gennaro (the financier), John Allan (the chain-smoking computer guy), and the annoying Dennis Nedry.

For those not familiar with the novel or the movie, the characters are part of a team that is dispatched to an island off the coast of Central America, where extinct animals have been artificially re-created. All sorts of things go wrong, and the characters find themselves hiding, fighting, running, and trying to outsmart the animals. It’s hard to put this book down because there is constantly a crisis.

My favorite character is Ian Malcolm. His non-stop talking and sarcastic comments about science, chaos theory, and how smart or stupid people and dinosaurs are, added depth to the story. It definitely makes one think about scientific research, and how far is too far.